Monthly Archives: February 2014

20 Talks that could ‘change your life;

An oldie but a goodie from the Guardian here – talks/webinars and videos are a great way to listen to insight. Education by provocation is in its truest sense, the internal squirm that forces us to reckon with what we already know, what we choose to fade into the background and sometimes, what is blindingly obvious, if not important. The Guardian provides a roundup of some talks from Amanda Palmer on the music industry to Bertrand Russell on Christianity and Terry Pratchett on coming to terms with death. I also like the TED talks on Global Issues and the drop down bar when you can click Most Viewed/Informative/Inspiring etc. 

Knock yourselves out.

Hollywood Linguistics – the art of inventing languages

Khal Drogo Khaleesi Daenerys
Dothraki King Drogo & Queen Daenerys © HBO

Nautilus | Jennifer Ouelette

Seven hundred people gathered at the University of California, San Diego, one day this spring to hear the creators of three fictional languages talk about how linguistics has infiltrated Hollywood, particularly when it comes to building believable make-believe worlds. When it comes to building make-believe worlds, inventing a language makes it seem that much more real to the audience, fueling the willing suspension of disbelief that lies at the heart of entertainment.

“The days of aliens spouting gibberish with no grammatical structure are over,” University of Southern California linguistics professor Paul Frommer told the New York Times in 2011. Frommer invented the Na’Vi language spoken by the tall blue native inhabitants of Pandora in Avatar, and was on the San Diego panel, along with David J. Peterson, who invented the Dothraki language for HBO’s smash hit series, Game of Thrones, and Mark Okrand, who created the Klingon language forStar Trek III: The Search for Spock.

People who create new languages as a hobby—a very serious hobby—are called “conlangers.” The oldest and most successful invented language is Esperanto, dating back to 1887. It hasn’t yet ushered in world peace, as it was intended, but between 10,000 and two million people speak Esperanto today, mostly concentrated in Europe, East Asia, and South America, with as many as 1,000 native speakers who learned it from birth. There is also a tradition of inventing languages in the science fiction and fantasy realm. J.R.R. Tolkien invented an Elvish language while writing The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Disney’s John Carter featured an invented Martian language called Barsoomian. Continue reading

Singapore through Headlines (And some Arctic Ice)

Interesting read from Remembering Singapore    – while the headlines were largely dominated by some sensational murders (I recall my mother being terrified of me talking the public bus home in the late 80s and early 90s), some give us a sense of our tenuous, checkered history and the palpable threat against our nation in its earlier days.

Here’s another event that seems to have missed the headlines from last year (by-election loss, population white paper, corruption trials, haze, little india riot) –

Polar politics and the melting Arctic

A comparison between use of the North East Route (blue) and an alternative route through the Suez Canal and Singapore (red)

Polar Politics – TODAY Online

Singapore’s recent accession to the Arctic Council as an observer has, understandably, raised eyebrows, given how it is more familiar with monsoons than frost. That said, there is good reason why this city-state at the Equator is casting its eyes so far northwards.

The Republic was one of six countries — the others being China, India, Japan, South Korea and Italy — whose applications for permanent observer status were accepted on May 15, at the annual ministerial meeting in Sweden of the Arctic Council — comprising Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland.

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and melting of the glacial ice has accelerated over the last decade through natural variation, greenhouse gas emissions and other human-induced changes.

According to scientists, the vast majority of ice in the Arctic today is “first-year” ice. The long-term implications of these environmental changes for Singapore, whose highest point is the 163m Bukit Timah Hill, cannot be over-emphasised.


Why we like watching rich people


Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”Mary Cybulski/Paramount Pictures, via Associated Press

Several Academy Award contenders like “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “American Hustle” glorify white-collar criminals and scammers, and many reality TV shows embrace the wealthy, too. A new series, “#RichKids of Beverly Hills,” is the latest example of our enthusiasm for “ogling the filthy rich.”

Why are we so obsessed with watching the antics of the 1 percent?

NY Times, Feb 2014 | Alyssa Roseberg | Read more here 

America’s fascination with the ill-behaved rich, expressed in both reality television and this year in many movies that are contending for major awards, isn’t limited to the current recession. But the particular incarnation of our fascination seems intended to do something very specific: help us manage our covetousness, at a time when even basic financial security feels out of reach for many people.

It’s been fascinating to watch Bravo, which more than any other network drove the idea that programming should be “aspirational,” shift its brand from shows like “Project Runway” and “Top Chef,” which taught viewers about fashion and food, toward reality programming about the rich.

In “Blue Jasmine,” Cate Blanchett plays a wealthy socialite who falls on hard times.Jessica Miglio/Sony Pictures Classics

The purchasing power of the people who appear on the “Real Housewives” franchise may be enviable. But part of the appeal of those shows is the opportunity to judge their casts’ consumption choices and their conduct. If we had their money, we think, we wouldn’t spend it on hideous hotel suites and closets full of wigs. And when it turns out that Teresa Giudice, a star on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” is financing her lifestyle on debt and fraud, we can congratulate ourselves for not sharing her desperation to appear wealthy.

When rich people we actually envy turn out to be criminals, the idea that wealth is inherently corrupting helps take the sting out of our envy. Gordon Gekko may have declared that “greed is good” in the movie “Wall Street,” but by chasing his example, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen’s character in the film) contributes to his father’s heart attack and earns himself a prison sentence, examples that help us map the limits of what we’d do for more money. We tell ourselves that we’d never be as pathetic or myopic as the heroine of “Blue Jasmine,” who ruins her own life by marrying a scammer. And we’d never be so foolish, as the titular hero of “The Great Gatsby,” remade again this summer by Baz Luhrmann, to think that wealth, no matter how it’s acquired, can purchase class, or ease, or revise personal history.

We may never stop wanting money, the worries it eliminates and the ease it can bring. But pop culture can issue very effective reminders that we value things like our freedom and our self-respect just as much.

Should we boycott the Olympics?

The Sochi Olympics in Russia has attracted enough attention to detract from the Games. Russia’s track record of human rights violations and the 2013 controversy of enacting a slew of anti-gay laws have been deemed incompatible with the Olympic ideals. There is also criticism against the Putin government for using the Olympics to elevate the prestige of its regime. This was the reason President Vladimir V. Putin “personally lobbied the International Olympic Committee and Russia offered to spend $12 billion on preparations, twice as much as the nearest competitor.” Others meanwhile believe that a boycott of the Games is nothing new – throughout history, athletes have been used as pawns in a political war. These critics claim that the real sacrifice is that of the athletes careers at the pedestal of Lost Causes.  They cite the example of the Moscow Olympics, as well as the Soviets’ boycott of the Los Angeles Games which eventually achieved minimal effect in driving change.

What is your perspective? Have sporting platforms been hijacked? What would your response be to those who advocate the boycott of the Sochi Olympics and why? 

NY Times Room for Debate this this on here 

Here is one view: Human rights violations in Russia are incompatible with Olympic values. But I am against a boycott.

First, boycotts are an indiscriminate sanction that punishes hundreds of millions of innocent people. Second, there are other, more targeted and more effective, actions. Third, given the censorship in Russia, participating in the Olympics may be more effective in spreading Olympic values than boycotting the Games.  Continue reading

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