Friday, February 16, 2007

Haiku Syllables

Haiku is often described as having 17 syllables. However, while that may be linguistically correct, it's not the same as 17 English syllables. The Japanese actually count characters, and most of their characters do indeed count as syllables. E.g., ka, ki, ku, sa, ta, etc. However, there are a number of characters that would not count as English syllables. For example, 'n,' as in, 'joudan.' In English, 'joudan' has two syllables, but in Japanese counting, it has four - jo-u-da-n. Another such is a stop: 'matte' is a good example, with the second 't' representing a stop. In English it would be something like 'ma' (pause) 'te'. Two English syllables, three Japanese characters. Because of this, Japanese haiku tend to have about one third fewer words than English haiku, and the genre in Japan has a very different feel than in the English speaking world.

To use the most famous haiku as an example:

furuike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto

transliterates to:

old pond, a frog leaps in water's sound

Partly because of that different feel, and also partly because rhythm is important in Japanese haiku, some haikuists who write in English count accented syllables, using a 2-3-2 format. This much more closely approximates the length and feel of Japanese haiku.

This post was inspired by a post at Assistant Village Idiot, who often has interesting things to say about language.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Siesta for your Life!

Siesta cuts risk of heart disease, says study

Does life get any better? I mean, recently we’ve found that alcohol and chocolate are both good for you, and now siestas!

Allahu Akbar!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

neo-neocon

I've been spending a lot of my blog reading time over at neo-neocon lately. Neo's writings are insightful, well-written, and thought-provoking. Lately, I've enjoyed her series on the hatred of neo-cons, but her posts on Robert Frost have stirred the poet in me, and I've enjoyed just about everything of hers I've read.

Like Neo, I used to much more closely associate with the left/liberal side of the aisle. The barbarism of the 9/11 attacks initiated a series of changes that led Neo to try out neo-conservatism. Unlike her, my change in beliefs came gradually, over a period of years spent living outside the US and dealing both personally and professionally on a daily basis with an educated and international crowd, including Japanese, Europeans of various nationalities, Australians, New Zealanders, Chinese, Taiwanese, and various assorted Southeast Asians.

Having a high level of exposure to non-American media and socializing with a broad international crowd, I was well aware of the rising levels of anti-Americanism throughout the latter half of the 1990s and knew it did not originate with our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The cries of 'Bush is Hitler,' 'Bush lied, people died,' and 'No blood for oil,' were merely an outgrowth of an already well-established anti-Americanism that assumed the only reason the US does anything is for financial gain and that the US government, most particularly US presidents, are always lying and covering up for their capitalist imperialist buddies/masters in the corporate world.

One example of this was the campaign to demonize the US for its use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions in Desert Storm. This was an ongoing and increasingly important campaign even though the DOD, EU, UN, WHO and other agencies have confirmed that the only dangers from DU are pretty much the same as from any heavy metal, including lead. (DU is actually used as radiation shielding.) Nevertheless, activists intent on painting the US as a genocidal monster interviewed Iraqi doctors, took photos and video of deformed Iraqi infants and children, and spread these around the world via the Internet. The doctors, of course, claimed the deformities were clearly the result of the American use of DU in Desert Storm. Those spreading these stories never mentioned the Iraqi intelligence officials in the room, who were never photographed or otherwise noted. Desert Storm was portrayed as another Hiroshima, with the US inflicting a nuclear holocaust on innocent Iraqi civilians. Propaganda campaigns like these were a constant presence in my time outside the US. That was one factor behind my posts about anti-Americanism.

At the same time, I also watched events in the Middle East. Arafat, with the intifada, proved he had no intention of negotiating in good faith, that like the North Vietnamese his negotiations were only to get more support for his violence. And it worked. He controlled billions up until a couple of years before he died. The Arabs in general (there were exceptions), including Saddam, were clearly supporting Palestinian terrorism, not peacemaking, and seemed willing to fight to the last Palestinian rather than recognize Israel. They very successfully used the Palestinian conflict as a political tool against the US. That was its true value for them and why there would never be a negotiated settlement.

Iraq was actually quite similar. Saddam spent Oil-for-Food money on weapons, palaces, mosques, bribes, etc., rather than on food and medicine for his people. At the same time, he and many media sources blamed the US for the deaths of Iraqis who didn't have enough food or proper medical care. This was an increasing movement as well, with more and more coming out about the suffering of the Iraqi people, the blame being laid at the feet of America, and charges of genocide being hurled on a regular basis by America's more strident opponents. Saddam's unwillingness to honestly go through the disarmament process he had agreed to in the 1991 ceasefire agreement, culminating in Richard Butler's decision to leave Iraq, showed that Saddam most likely still had WMDs, or programs to build them, and that he would never give that up willingly. His well-documented ties to terrorist organizations and desire for revenge against the US made it probable that he would support future terrorism against the US. Bill Clinton and the US Congress made regime change in Iraq national policy, but did not do very much about it.

9/11 was a confirming experience for me. While abroad, I had heard over and over how much people (often put as 'everyone') hated the US, and watching the second tower get hit on CNN I saw the natural results of the propaganda campaigns, the millions in laundered funds sloshing around the Middle East, and the complicity of some government or governments.

I have never identified myself as a neo-conservative. After my experiences abroad, I stopped trying to fit myself into some movement, and have both benefitted and felt a lack from that decision. That said, I find it easy to empathize with Neo. Her writing has taught me things, clarified some issues for me, and provided an intellectual environment within which to think and discuss. Even her opponents in the comments tend to be intelligent and reasonable, a rarity it seems. If I don't seem to post much here at times, you can probably find me in the comments at her place.