Monday, April 12, 2010

Did not post them till now...

Avatar, which seems to be the biggest-ever grosser, has fashioned its own language for the aliens. Called Na’vi, it is the brainchild of Paul Frommer, a professor of clinical management communication at the University of Southern California. Frommer crafted this language with nearly 1000 words for just seven characters in the movie to speak. Na’vi’s uniqueness lies in its use of a rare pattern of sounds called ejectives, which are letters blurted out when you hold your breath. Something like kx, px and tx that “require explosive bursts of breath.” Such sounds have another unique aspect as well. They are abetted by the hyoid, a special bone that is unattached to any other bones in the human body. But unlike the hyoid, Frommer wanted N’avi to stay as attached to English as possible. Maybe that’s why Avatar’s director, James Cameron did not let the precious mineral, unobtainium (humans had to mine to save the earth) retain its English flavour.


For long, many have criticized the way to measure a nation’s economic health exclusively through GDP growth. The social scientist, Riane Elsier wrote in YES! In mid October 2009, called not factoring in certain ‘productive’ tasks such as household chores as patho‘logical’. Sometimes, something like recession sets the agenda straight: that measuring happiness through ‘false gods’ like GDP is abdominal.

As The Guardian points out:

“Rises in economic output, a company's sales or house prices are invariably considered good, rises in petrol prices bad…

This is an area some economists have tried to deal with for several decades, by attempting to subtract from GDP figures the social or environmental consequences of growth. Cleaning up an oil spill counts towards GDP, but the environmental damage it causes does not; pumping the oil out of the ground counts as economic activity, but the resource depletion it implies is not accounted for…

One of the oldest advocates of an alternative approach is Herman Daly, an American ecological economist who decades ago developed a measure called the "index of sustainable economic welfare" and the idea of a "steady state economy", which argues that the world has to develop a way to live within its means and the limitations of its resources.”


A letter to a misguided writer...

Dear Mr. Chalapathi,

The moment I saw Lokmanya’s pic in today’s Magazine, I was excited to see some south Indian connection beyond the Nizam’s Hyderabad state (where Tilakji had several admirers). Thanks for lessening my ignorance and I found it really interesting to known about VOC. I have three things to write about your article:

1. Your naming of Tilak’s Congress faction as Extremist would have raised eyebrows of many today, not too well-educated about the freedom struggle. You could have written a line or two about why the faction was branded extremists. Finding little sense in meekly petitioning to the mute British greed, to free India, Lokmanya deployed the Gita to discover “salvation” in times of “national crisis” through concerted action. The father of Indian unrest’s extremism lies in awakening Indians to the wholesale transformation of their thought and systems, built over millennia, in no more than fewer decades. I don’t mean to say that change is not welcome, but to it must be blended with the current currents as much as possible. Maybe, a break with past and hostility to heritage are what gets you a JNU ticket.

2. How could the germ of Hindu communalism lie in Tilak’s thought? I’m fairly aghast at your partial reading of the Lokmanya. As mentioned earlier, he was a product of times who saw in education and mass journalism, two beacon-lights of hope for the demoralised Indians. Tilakji interpreted Gita to lay a moral foundation for the nationalist struggle and to prefer action to inaction (aka petitioning and pleading the rulers). His use of Maratha icons and Ganesha to rally people together would be as much a crime as was Bapu’s boycott (in any case, the Lokmanya’s idea). It was not religion, but a profound faith in the Gita that Tilakji deployed for unifying India.

3. In the middle of the article, you said VOC refers to Tilak always as a guru; but later, he address the Lokmanya as ‘Respected Brother’. Always was an overstatement, I presume.
In all, Lokmanya was not too easy to be tagged this or that and was among other things, a profound statesman. Please do not attribute today’s political attributes to yesteryear’s statesmen and thinkers.

Best Wishes

Here's a nice summary of Tilak's thought:

Tilak had three main concerns in writing the Gita Rahasya: (i) to revitalize his tradition, (2) to supplant the hold of Western philosophy in India, and (3) to legitimize political activism. To varying degrees all of these were accomplished, at least to Tilak's mind. By reinterpreting the major concepts of his tradition and by investing them with socio-political content, e.g., Lokasamgraha and Home Rule, Tilak believed he had revitalized his tradition.

He also asserted the universal applicability of the path of action (Karma-yoga) to all cultures and societies. This made his theory seem to have the same kind of power or authority enjoyed by the various Western social philosophies that had come into India. More importantly, with the tradition invested with political content, political activism was not only legitimized as an activity in itself, but this activism became a religious activity, nay obligation (dharma), for all Hindus in pursuit of a universal salvation which would be gained by striving for the highest good for all people (Lokasamgraha).

In effect, Tilak made Lokasamgraha the equivalent of Moksadharma in this world (society). Finally, in Tilak's reinterpretation of the Gita he was able to legitimize new norms and values in orthodox garb: broadly speaking, political ones as religious ones. These new norms and values provided both inspiration and guidance. Further, they served as the 'philosophical basis of universal action' and helped to 'underwrite and rationalize' the political activism of the Indian Nationalist Movement.

However, this type of rationalization had a dark side because with the rationalization based on Hindu texts and symbols Tilak alienated many non-Hindus, especially Muslims, who rallied around the British for security. On the one hand, Tilak utilized a powerful vehicle for mass propaganda, the reinterpreted Hindu tradition. While on the other, he lost support from non-Hindus by not making an appeal to more non- sectarian or secular symbols.

Mark J Harvey, The Secular as Sacred?—The Religio-Political Rationalization of B. G. Tilak Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2 (1986), pp. 321-331


Ever since humans started counting, many wondered if language is needed at all for it. Research indicates that language may not be in the starter kit of a budding mathematician. In Australian aboriginal kids—who hardly have any numbers or even gestures for them—a battery of tests were done. One involved counting by sticks and on it, the numeracy skills of the aboriginal kids were as good as their English-speaking counterparts. This may point to two things. One, that we are born with an innate math ability (not too strongly linked to language). Two, that language is not strictly needed for thought. We can still count even though we do not have words for it—so much to our relief.

What’s in the name, doubt many. Will our names affect how others perceive us? To an extent and often, fitting the stereotype, reveals the research of Brett Pelham, a Gallup statistical analyst. Pelham says that even people’s names sometimes decide their career paths as well; say Laura become a lawyer and Dennis often turns up to be a dentist. Further, even we unconsciously feel close to things representing our names or has letters of our name. In an experiment, Pelham showed number-name pairs. Numbers were randomly paired with names and shown for a millisecond on a computer screen. Subjects were shown these pairs for 70 seconds. Later, when asked to judge a woman wearing a soccer jersey, both male and female subjects gauged her affirmatively if the jersey number correlated with their names. The catch is that this was unconscious. So the next time, you start liking something, check up if it is hooked to your name in some way.

Very young children are good at learning both words and “baby signs” (gestures) as names for objects. They are also very picky about accepting only one word for an object, so if they know that something is an “apple”, they may have a hard time understanding that it can also be a “fruit”. In this study, Umay was interested in whether children who know a word for an object would show the same pickiness about learning a gesture for that object. He introduced children to two objects at a time. One object was familiar (for example, a hammer) and the other was unfamiliar (for example, a whisk).

He then introduced either a new made-up word (“blicket”) or a new made-up gesture (a dropping motion) and asked children which object they thought was being labeled.

As expected, children who heard the new word consistently picked the new object, refusing to accept the label as a name for something they already had a word for. But when children saw a new gesture, they tended to pick the object that they already knew a word for. This hints at the idea that children may understand that objects can be labeled by both words and gestures and they prefer to learn gestures for objects with which they are already familiar. This study helps us to understand how children’s use of “baby signs” relates to their use of words to name objects.


Brian Barker said...

And before "Avatar" and "Star Trek" there was Bill Shatner speaking Esperanto, in the horror film called "Incubus".


As an Esperanto speaker I found it terrifying! His Esperanto pronunciation that is, not the film.

Your readers may be interested in :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian. Can I add Globish to it?