Native English-speaking people are either really lucky or really lazy, and I can never make up my mind which it is. Because every time I attend some kind of international gathering... a meeting, a trade show, an exhibit, or an event of some kind... it never ceases to amaze me how many non-English speaking people are fluent in several languages. And, of course, everybody knows English, which makes it the "lowest common denominator" for the internationally-minded traveler. I guess that puts "American-English" just one level above grunting and making obscene gestures, but at least you can watch the latest Julia Roberts movie once you've mastered it.
Since I am already fluent in English (which is debatable, I grant you) the incentive to learn a foreign language for practical purposes is quite low. Sure I can make basic conversation in Japanese, and know a smattering of helpful phrases in Spanish, French, Italian, and German, but that's a long way from fluency. In fact, unless the conversation is about finding a toilet, saying "thank you", or ordering a cheese sandwich, then I am pretty much useless.
And I hate that about myself.
Seriously... the kid clearing my lunch table here today knows German, French, Italian, English, and some Dutch. And I don't mean that he has memorized a few phrases so that he can ask "may I take your plate" - this guy can actually discuss the finer points of nuclear fission and the perils of using low grade uranium and light metals for the process, all in your choice of tongues.
And there you have one of the cultural differences that set us apart. In the USA, any native who is fluent in a foreign language is considered a genius and should be working as a translator at the United Nations to bring about world peace. In other countries, if you know five foreign languages, you are considered average and are qualified to handle dirty dishes in a restaurant.
I guess that makes native English-speaking people both lucky that we don't have to learn another language and lazy in that we so rarely bother. I feel really stupid today.
Oh, and before I forget, I received five emails about Hotel im Wasserturm, so I'll try and address the questions y'all have about it here in an extended entry (though, you should really try leaving comments so everybody can get involved... it's painless, and you don't have to even provide any personal information if you don't want to!).
Last night I received a phone call from my good friend Meagan who I have not spoken to in a very long time (she's responsible for the little photos of me you see before each entry). It's always great to catch up, but I find my jealousy soaring because she's been mucking about Asia for the past month and I've been stuck at home. She then tells me that her next vacation will absolutely include the UK, which (oddly enough) is someplace she has never been, despite a lifetime of extensive international travel.
Dave: Well, just be careful when you go... I don't want your picture turning up on the internet from a "Happy Slapping" incident!
Meagan: What the heck is "Happy Slapping?"
Dave: Haven't you heard? It's all the rage in the UK... angry youths run about slapping people in the face and recording it with their picture-phone. Then they pass the best photos along from phone to phone.
Meagan: Whaaaaaat? Are you kidding?
Dave: Oh no. It's a serious deal. They're apparently banning phones in schools to stop "Happy Slapping" bullies.
Meagan: That's so... strange. Can you imagine just walking along and somebody runs up and slaps you in the face?
Well, of course I can. And being in the UK, it's probably all very civilized after somebody has slapped you...
But it's when you start thinking about what would happen if something like this were to become popular here in the good old U.S. of A. that it starts to get interesting, because the reaction could end up being very, very different...
And please don't think that I'm making fun of the British here... on the contrary, I think it must be liberating to live in a place where you can go around slapping people and not have to worry about somebody pulling a gun on you. Heaven only knows I'd be bitch-slapping a heck of a lot more people if I weren't so worried about having a cap popped in my ass from some trigger-happy redneck.
Oh well. It looks like I'll have to travel abroad to do all my slapping. I wonder if there are organized tours for things like that? Or at least a guide book... "How to Slap in Europe on Just $50 a Day" and "A Bitch-Slapper's Guide to London" for example. I'll have to give Frommer's a call.
And, in other news... dang I look good in a bowler hat!
I've decided to recover from three weeks of doing nothing but work... by doing nothing much at all. I fully plan to stay in bed surfing the internet most of the day. At most I'll be catching up on the tremendous backlog of blog-reading and maybe watch my News Radio DVD set. I have no plans to leave the apartment today... even for a motorcycle ride, which will tell you exactly how lazy I plan on being.
One thing that has already caught my eye (via an entry on Boing Boing) is a Japanese artist named Toru Kanamori who was an illustrator for Star Trek novels back in the day. He is retired now, and unable to take on book assignments as he once did. But, since he still needs to make a living, he is looking for some kind of licensing or publishing deal for his stunning collection of original art...
Amazing. And there are at least 400 more illustrations sitting in a cardboard box in a suburb of Tokyo just begging to be seen. I mean, holy crap! Somebody get Kanamori-san a book deal or a gallery showing A.S.A.P.!
It is rare that I just dump a news story here for linking purposes, but I had to make an exception for this. To read more about the artist and his work, there is a web site up.
I just hope the blood-sucking licensing department over at Paramount will respect the fact that Kanamori-san is responsible for selling a bunch of their books in Japan, and not hassle the guy if somebody is smart enough to want to publish his works.
I woke up sick this morning for no particular reason. I don't get sick very often, so it was a bit disorienting to be feeling all queasy (especially after only four hours of sleep). Not knowing what to do about it, I decided to make sure I wasn't going to puke then take some Pepto Bismol. Good old Pepto Bismol! During my younger days, I was convinced that it could cure most anything.
It was my intention to go back to bed and see if I could get some more sleep... thus allowing the Pepto Bismol to do its thing. But that wasn't happening, so I grabbed my laptop off the night-stand and thought I would see what's happening in the world.
Finding out that the London Underground was suffering terrorist attacks made me go from "queasy" to "totally nauseated" within a heartbeat.
My mind flashing back to Madrid, I struggled to understand exactly how such an act could possibly benefit a terrorist organization. It certainly isn't going to make anybody sympathetic to their cause. If anything, it only galvanizes the world's resolve to strike out against terrorism. I guess that's the "senseless" part of "senseless violence."
What truly mystifies me is the target of the attacks. I mean, LONDON? These are the people who would not buckle under the horrors of never-ending bombing raids during The Blitz! If history tells us anything, it's that Londoners will not cave. Ever. So, while this is certainly a sad day for London, for England, for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and for the world... there should be no doubt in anybody's mind that London will endure. Always.
My thoughts are with my friends in the city and their countrymen today. Remember your history. Remember your resolve in the face of adversity. Remember you are not alone. God save the Queen.
So now it looks like anybody visiting the US who is not a US or Canadian citizen will eventually be required to carry a wireless device when entering the country (if a test program at the Kingston border crossing is "successful"). Holy crap. As if the "Real ID" card wasn't stupid enough, this is something monumentally asinine.
Who are the deluded morons making these decisions?
What is going to keep terrorists from ditching or trading these devices? What is going to keep terrorists from stealing these devices from law-abiding visitors? What is going to keep terrorists from modifying or forging the devices? How does it help track people who have snuck across the border without using a crossing station?
Dumbass ideas like this are always going to rely on terrorists being tech-ignorant morons who will do exactly what you ask them to. We've learned the hard way that this is simply not the case. The only people you can safely rely on to not abuse the system are the people who don't pose a danger in the first place.
Which begs the question... does anybody think this shit through before spending billions in taxpayer dollars?
Get a clue already. Orwellian shit like this DOES NOT MAKE US MORE SECURE!! All it does is give us the ILLUSION of being more secure, which is far, far worse than nothing at all. Anybody who thinks otherwise is either a tech-ignorant old fool of a politician, or is trying to sell you a billion-dollar "security system."
WTF?!? Does nobody watch movies anymore? Does nobody read books or the newspaper? There is only ONE thing you can rely on in today's world: THERE IS NO SYSTEM SO SECURE THAT IT CANNOT BE AVOIDED OR EXPLOITED!! This is not to say we should do nothing... the valiant effort to keep our borders secure and US citizens safe is a worthwhile endeavor. But spending billions on something that has no hope of actually working and makes us less safe is beyond stupid. I'm sure that well-financed, tech-savy terrorists would disagree but, what can I say, they're terrorists.
If I were a law-obiding foreigner intent on visiting the USA, I'd be scared shitless that somebody would hunt me down and kill me so they could steal my "US Visit Tracker" and use it to more easily cross the border for their terrorist activities. And who can blame them?
I swear, pretty soon the only foreigners visiting this Nation will BE terrorists, because everybody else will want to avoid the risk and hassle. That's sure to do wonders for our security. And our economy. I can't help but wonder what's coming next.
Despite an occasional Davetoon here on Blogography indicating otherwise, I am about as non-violent a person as you are likely to meet. I don't even kill spiders that wander in my home, preferring instead to take them back outside (after feeding them tea and cakes, of course). The power to destroy is so easy... it's the pussy's way out, really. Those who instead choose to cherish life and find a non-violent path to follow are far stronger in my eyes. That's not to say I don't enjoy violence in my entertainment but, when it comes to the real world, violence should be a last resort, and despised as an act of desperation and weakness.
I tell you this so that you can fully understand that when I say I'd like to make MP George Galloway suck on a stick of dynamite so I could happily light the shit up and blow his f#@%ing head off... well, you'll know exactly how bad I feel about having said it...
The only surprising news here is that this time the idiot in question is not an American politician. I'd say it's a pleasant change of pace for it to be some other country's turn to be embarrassed by a politico-asswipe, but I'm trying to be diplomatic here.
As a "Member of Parliament" in the UK, you'd think that he would have even a semblance of respect for his British countrymen who were ordered to serve in the Iraqi war... but he has absolutely none. I mean, once your own government has elevated the enemy to martyrdom, it's kind of a morale killer, if you know what I mean.
I am, for the most part, not happy with the idea of war. But this has absolutely nothing to do with whether you are pro-war or anti-war... it's about supporting some brave soldiers who are in serious danger not because they love the idea of treading into a war zone and possibly getting killed... but because they are just doing their job. Right or wrong, YOU f#@%ING SUPPORT THOSE WHO ARE BRAVE ENOUGH TO FIGHT FOR YOU AND YOUR COUNTRY! Even when you disagree with the politics that guide them. I mean, this may not be the war that these guys signed up for, but they're still your home team, and kicking them from the sidelines while they're struggling to survive and you're safe at home makes you a total pussy.
As a soldier trying to stay alive, there's nothing quite like your enemy getting a pep talk from your own government to ruin your day. I shudder to think what sort of mayhem this might incite against allied troops as they try to get through this horror. I hope they know that for every totalasslickingdumbassfucktard that has no concern for their well-being, that there are legions of others who support them. Be safe. Come home soon.
I love languages, even though I pretty much suck at learning them. I'm incredibly envious of anybody who is able to speak beyond their native tongue. But, as I mentioned once before, it seems as though native English speakers just don't care. They already speak the most popular language on the planet, so why bother to learn something else? Everywhere you go, people speak English anyway, so who cares?
Well I do. And it's not for lack of trying that I'm not multi-lingual...
I think to truly become fluent and really have the opportunity to remember a new tongue... I'm going to have to move to a foreign country for a year and just immerse myself in nothing but the language I choose for the entire time. Sadly, the odds of this happening are quite small. So while I can always hope to one day become comfortable with something other than English, I may just have to be content in my love of languages rather than my ability to speak them.
It seems that every day is turning out to be "one of those days." I was planning on a trip to Korea in two weeks, but found out this morning that I have to leave this weekend. Bummer.
So there I was trying to find last-minute airfare to Asia at a price that doesn't cost more than the buying my own plane. Eventually I find a rather decent fare from Northwest, but then decided that I don't want to "get a full-body skin rash that itches like hell and doesn't respond to any medical treatment." So instead I booked a cheaper fare with United, where I have no frequent flier status and cannot get upgraded from coach. Thanks a lot Peggy!
I have mixed feelings about the whole Northwest Airlines mechanics strike. On one hand, yeah, I think it sucks to put in 20 years and then have to lose money and benefits that you've worked so hard to get. But, on the other hand, I think it's really, really lame that the mechanics union thinks that they should be immune to financial hard times. Workers EVERYWHERE are having to take pay cuts and face layoffs so that companies can survive. What makes $70,000 mechanics so special that they shouldn't have to take a hit like the rest of us?
And then I read where the union spokesman is saying "the mechanics would rather see the airline go into bankruptcy than agree to Northwest's terms," and have to wonder exactly who this moron is representing. If Northwest goes bankrupt, and the airline goes under, then nobody has jobs. Isn't it better to save what jobs you can, even with a pay cut, than losing everything? I mean, it's not like Northwest is thrilled with the prospect of cutting jobs and salaries... they're just doing what they have to do to stay afloat in this horrendous financial climate where they're losing millions. It's sad, but that's reality in today's business world.
Of course, when it comes to saying outrageously stupid things, the union spokesman has a long, long way to go before he can top the senile ramblings of dumbass televangelist Pat Robertson, who wants us to assassinate the duly elected president of Venezuela. This kind of crazy pseudo-religious rambling sounded really familiar, and that's when everything suddenly became clear to me...
Strange. We've got kind of a "separated at birth" thing going on here.
Anyway, I could be wrong, but assassinating foreign leaders seems like it must be against the United Nations charter... doesn't it? We are still a member of the United Nations aren't we?
I just don't get it. People actually give money to this idiot. Has the "religious right" truly become so powerful that they don't feel the need to follow rational thought? Is this kind of outrageous, uninformed, and flat-out stupid commentary actually being taken seriously?
This is just what we need... whack-job televangelists influencing our foreign policy. As if the USA didn't have enough problems already.
Those who effect positive change in a negative world full of hate and violence have my upmost admiration and respect. That pretty much sums up Rosa Parks for me.
But I never really understood that until a few years ago.
I've always known what Rosa Parks had done... she refused to give up her seat to a white man, was arrested because of it, and is credited with being the founder of the Civil Rights Movement... that's taught in school and is an ingrained part of American culture. But it wasn't until 2002 that I found out she was so much more than just an act of defiance. That's when CBS television aired The Rosa Parks Story.
And the strange thing was that I didn't tune in because I was wanting to know more about Rosa Parks, I tuned in because the movie starred Angela Bassett, of which I am a huge, huge fan.
But Angela Bassett, despite her incredible performance, turned out to be the least important part of the film. Rosa Park's story was amazing enough all on its own...
After seeing the film, I became obsessed with her. I read her book, tracked down interviews, and started reading books about the Civil Rights Movement. She was a fascinating piece of history, a living legend, and was made even more so because she never set out to be the icon she eventually became.
Most people have the idea that Miss Parks was just tired from work one day, and made the snap decision to be stubborn when told to give up her seat. It didn't really work like that. Yes she was tired from work, but not so much so that she wouldn't have given up her seat to somebody who was handicapped, pregnant, elderly, or whatever... she was tired of the treatment she had to endure on a daily basis, and that's what motivated her to defy a horrible law which defined her as less than a person because of the color of her skin. This was the culmination of years of systematic abuse... not some wacky stunt because she had a hard day at work. It always infuriates me when people diminish what happened because they think she was "too tired to know any better" or thought she had PMS or some other excuse that explains away her behavior that day. Make no mistake, Miss Parks knew full well the consequences of her actions, and deserves to be called a hero for standing up for equal rights under the law.
It just so happens that "standing up" meant sitting down this time.
The Rosa Parks Story is available on DVD, and well worth a rental at your local video store. Her book, Quiet Strength is also worth a read, and could quite possibly make you take a new look at the world around you, much as it did me. If you want to read something right now, Scholastic has a site available for their children's book My Story, by Rosa Parks which is terrific, and they also have a really good interview online (even though it's written for kids, it's still great stuff).
Rest in peace Miss Parks... and thank you for being one of those rare persons effecting positive change in a negative world, and making things better for all of us because of it.
Yesterday morning I needed to make a business call to a guy I know who is anti-Bush. And I mean really anti-Bush. Every time I have to call, I get an earful about the latest Bush happenings and how the world is sure to end soon because of the latest thing President Bush has done or said. Usually I don't mind listening to him going on with his ranting, because it's a nice source of free entertainment. But yesterday I wasn't really in the mood for it, and just wanted to get the information I needed to do my job and move on.
Naturally, this proved impossible. When somebody is passionate about President Bush... pro or con... you simply cannot stop them...
Guy: HA HA HAH! DID YOU HEAR BUSH TRIED TO ESCAPE A PRESS CONFERENCE IN CHINA AND WAS FOILED BY A DOOR!!
Dave: Uh... no.
Guy: I'LL SEND YOU THE VIDEO LINK! IT'S HILARIOUS! A DOOR!!
Dave: Uhhh... he forgot how to open a door?
Guy: NO... NO... IT WAS LOCKED! HA HA HAH!!
Dave: And he ran into the door and fell down or something?
Guy: NO! HE JUST WENT TO THE WRONG DOOR AND IT WAS LOCKED!
Dave: Ah. Well that's not so bad is it? I mean, it's not like he accidentally started a war with China or anything.
Guy: NOT YET! BWAH HA HA HAAAAAAH!
Well, whatever. I mean, it is a bit embarrassing... but if Bush didn't have an exit strategy for Iraq, why would he have an exit strategy for a press conference? Shouldn't people be accustomed to this kind of thing by now?
Hey, as long as Bush doesn't declare war on Canada or nuke the moon or something... I say it's all good. Run into doors or make up all the non-existant words you want, just don't get us into any more trouble than we already are, and I'll pretend to be happy.
Embarrassed, but faux-happy.
(Uhhh... there is still a two-term limit on the presidency isn't there?)
BLOGOGRAPHY FLASHBACK ENTRY: Leather Jackets
BLOGDATE: April 7, 2004
In which Dave attempts to find a place to buy a leather jacket via Google and discover that "leather" can mean very different things to different people... and there are plenty of freaky people out there.
Click here to go back in time...
One of the things that I find so fascinating about the internet is the way it breaks down barriers. No longer is the world out of reach... now you can visit far away places and make friends in foreign lands from the comfort of your own home. Lines on a map and political barriers disappear. And, as if that weren't enough, online language tools can even eliminate language barriers.
Well, kind of.
Every once in a while, I check my error logs to see if there are any bad links I need to fix, pages missing, or anything else that makes Blogography a poor experience for my visitors. While I'm there, I also like to take a look at popular links to see where people are going. And every time I look, I see more and more translation links showing up. Visitors are regularly translating my pages into foreign languages, and I find that very cool.
But today I actually took the time to see what they were translating.
And now I'm freaking out just a little bit.
The most translated entries all seem to be the most bizarre.
Take for instance my entry from June 28th, which has been translated numerous times in various languages. I'm guessing it's a popular search result with foreigners because I am bitching about the Bush administration not addressing the "Downing Street Memo" or doing anything to explain the "apparently false" pretenses that sent us to war. No big deal. BUT later in the same entry, I have this freaky rant against all the news coverage of people finding body parts in their fast food. And, to make my point, I decide to invent my OWN "body part in food scenario" -- the Penis Salad.
In my native English, it's a little disturbing. And the fact I felt the need to draw a cartoon to illustrate matters doesn't help much...
"Uhhh... excuse me, but the menu said nothing about chopped penis in my garden salad, and I'm a vegetarian."
I was immediately curious to know how this translated into other tongues. So I used online translators (like Google's) to see what happens. I then take the result and translate it back into English...
Some of the translations are not so bad (though "penis" has become a proper noun for some reason?)...
Uhhh... entschuldigen mich, aber das Menü sagte nichts über gehackten Penis in meinem Gartensalat und mich sind ein Vegetarier.
"Uhhh... excuse me, but the menu did not say anything about chopped Penis in my garden salad and in me is a vegetarian."
But other translations are downright frightening...
Uhhh... 나에게를 용서 한다, 그러나 메뉴 말하지않았다 나의 정원 샐러드안에 잘게 자 른 남근에 관한 아무것을,및 나는 이다 채식주의자.
"Uhhh... In me it forgives, the vegetarianism which is anything the penis which but the menu my regular staff salad which it does not talk and or cuts small inside regarding it sleeps."
Still other translations vary in quality... from strange to incomprehensible...
Uhhh... m'excusent, mais le menu n'a indiqué rien sur le pénis coupé dans ma salade de jardin, et moi suis un végétarien.
"Uhhh... excuse me, but the menu did not indicate anything on the penis cut in my salad garden, and me am a vegetarian."
Uhhh... me excusa, pero el menú no dijo nada sobre el pene tajado en mi ensalada del jardín, y mí es un vegetariano.
"Uhhh... excuses to me, but the menu did not say anything on the penis sheer in my salad of the garden, and me he is a vegetarian."
Uhhh... lo scusa, ma il menu non ha detto niente circa il penis tagliato nella mia insalata del giardino ed in io sono un vegetariano.
"Uhhh... the excuse, but the menu he has not said nothing approximately the penis cut in my insalata one of the garden and in I am a vegetarian."
Uhhh... desculpa-me, mas o menu não disse nada sobre o penis chopped em meu salad do jardim, e no mim é um vegetariano.
"Uhhh... forgives me, but the menu did not say nothing on the penis chopped in mine salad of the garden, and in me it is a vegetarian."
Uhhh... 私を許すが, メニューは 言わなかった私の庭サラダ及び私の切り刻まれた陰茎についての 何もである菜食主義者。
"Uhhh... I am permitted, but, the menu word trap concerning the penis where my garden salad which is applied is chopped up what, and the vegetarian where am I."
Uhhh... 劳驾, 但这份菜单认为无事关于被砍的阴茎在 我的庭院沙拉, 和我是素食主义者。
"Uhhh... excuse me, but this menu thought the safe about the penis which chops in mine garden salad, with me is the vegetarianism."
Uhhh. förlåta mig, utom menyn sa ingenting omkring hacket penis i min trädgård sallad, och Jag er en vegetarian.
"Uhhh. excuse me, except menu said nothing about chip penis in my time garden salad, and I'm a vegetarian."
Uhhh. afsakið, en the matseðill ómerkingur óður í kjötöxi getnaðarlimur í minn garður salat, og Myndað af I am a grænmetisæta.
"Uhhh. excuse me, while the menu nobody crazy about cleaver phallus into my park tossed salad, and Alluvial with I am a vegetarian."
Uhhh. ddiheura 'm, namyn 'r ddewislen eb ddim am faledig penis i mewn 'm ardda salad, a fi m a vegetarian.
"Uhhh. I excuse' ores, except' group menu said anything about ground was miscarrying in' ores I plow worst, I go I ores I go vegetarian."
So much for knocking down barriers. I'm fairly certain that I'm setting back foreign relations a hundred years all by myself.
I guess when the Welsh declare war on the United States, I have nobody to blame but myself.
CHAPTER 23: It's Beginning to Burn a Lot Like Christmas.
LEGO ADVENT CALENDAR TOY OF THE DAY: Pizza Oven and Cook's Paddle.
Lego Dave has finally caught up to the evil Lego Buzz, but things are looking grim for our hero as he is about to be beaten to death with a frying pan...
"Time to die!" shouts Lego Buzz as he moves in for the kill with his cookware.
"Barky, I've failed you!" Lego Dave says despondently. "Forgive me!"
As he backs away from Lego Buzz and the cast-iron skillet of death, Lego Dave suddenly finds himself backed against the pizza oven. Out of desperation, he starts flailing wildly... searching for anything to defend himself with.
Miraculously, his hand soon finds itself grasping the pizza oven cooking paddle. With all his strength, he whirls the paddle in the air and catches Lego Buzz's chin in a vicious uppercut, knocking him to the floor!
"ARRRGH!" screeches Lego Buzz. "You'll pay for that!"
But Lego Dave is undeterred. Gathering all his strength, he circles around the evil Lego Buzz and strikes him with all his might. The force is enough to send Lego Buzz flying forward... right into the mouth of the oven! With a roar, the oven erupts with a violent burst of fire, consuming Lego Buzz in an a flaming inferno!
Within moments, the screaming subsides, and Lego Buzz's body goes limp...
"At last... he's gone." says Lego Dave with a sigh. "Rest in peace Barky, my best friend."
And then, just as Lego Dave is catching his breath, a dark, menacing voice resonates through the air...
"I'd like my hand back, if you don't mind."
Holy crap! It's Lego Buzz Junior... FLYING IN THE AIR! What could this possibly mean?
FIND OUT TOMORROW WHEN DAVE'S "A VERY LEGO HOLIDAY TALE" FINALLY CONCLUDES!
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