Monthly Archives: December 2005

txt msg litt

While I was in Manchester, I was surprised at how stunted and illegible the local students’ mobile phone text messages usually were. Every text message is limited to 160 characters or spaces, and if you exceed that, the phone company will charge you for two messages. Since the students are really cheap (except for when it comes to buying beer or clothes), they tend to compress their messages as much as possible. And this becomes such a habit that they do it, even when they don’t have to. So an typical text message would read:

“Soz4takn so long2getbak2u. un4tun8ly I dnt tink ill b abl2make it 2nyt”

Or: “Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it tonight.”

Apparently, people paid to be appreciative of the finer points of the English language are rather concerned with this steady deterioration of the language. And now, they’ll have even more to worry about, with an initiative by an English student telecommunications provider. They have introduced the concept of text education – the teaching of immortal English literature through the medium of text messages.

As their press announcement says, the service will start in January 2006 and will offer an easy way for students to learn or remember the classics.

Of course, in order to fit significant quotes from, or the central plot elements of such works as “Jane Eyre”, “Pride and Prejudice” or “Catcher in the Rye” into a single text message of a 160 characters, some cramming is needed.
I’m pretty sure that these messages will only help people who’ve read the books already, otherwise, any attempts to decipher the following might be severely impeded.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice:

5SistrsWntngHsbnds.NwMenIn Twn-Bingly&Darcy Fit&Loadd. BigSisJaneFals4B,2ndSisLizH8s DCozHesProud.SlimySoljrWikam SysDHsShadyPast.TrnsOutHes ActulyARlyNysGuy&RlyFancysLiz.SheDecydsSheLyksHim.Evry1GtsMaryd.

Translation: Five sisters wanting husbands. There are two new men in town – Bingley and Darcy. They are handsome and wealthy. Big sister Jane falls for Bingley, but second sister Elizabeth hates Darcy because he is proud. Slimy soldier Wickham says Darcy has a shady past. It turns out that he’s actually a really nice guy and really fancies Elizabeth. She decides that she likes him. Everyone gets married.

John Milton, Paradise Lost

devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war. pd’off wiv god so corupts man(md by god) wiv apel. devl stays serpnt 4hole life&man ruind. Woe un2mnkind.

Translation: The devil is kicked out of heaven because he is jealous of Jesus and starts a war. He is angry with God and so corrupts man (who is made by God) with an apple. The devil remains as a serpent for the whole of his life and man is ruined. Woe unto mankind.

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
FeudTween2hses–Montague&Capulet. RomeoM falls_Translation: A Feud between two houses ‚?? Montague and Capulet. Romeo Montague falls in love with Juliet Capulet and they marry secretly but Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin and is banished. Juliet fakes her own death. As part of the plan to be with Romeo she writes him a letter but it never reaches him. Everyone is confused and both lovers kills themselves.

The poetic value of sentences like “Evry1confuzd—bothLuvrs kil Emselves” should not be underestimated, and the service is being supported by John Sutherland, a professor emeritus of English literature at University College London, who states “Take the dot mobile ending to Jane Eyre for example – MadwyfSetsFyr2Haus – Was ever a climax better compressed?”

Indeed.

or in just-so-few-letters:

txtmsglitt cr8s nw ptry 4 the msd-up Brit-Yth&ofrs nsyt on tek-cult 2! chk-it!

Free Culture – remixed

Today, I happened on a site which has collection of remixes of Lawrence Lessig’s book, Free Culture. “Remix?” you say – well, yes. Lessig, a law professor, is one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Creative Commons licenses.

These are simple, easy-to-use licenses that allow people to make their works accessible and modifiable through a not-as-restrictive-as-proper-copyright-license – or some-rights-reserved license.

For instance, you can publish something under a CC license, and allow derivative works. That’s what Lessig has done with his book, and the page I’ve found has a long list of translations, versions in various formats, or even creative interpretations.

The one that I found most worthwhile was this flash-presentation – with the audio from one of Lessig’s talks at the Open Source Conference in 2002. It is a clear and simple presentation that combines the dynamics of flash with the passionate words of Lessig to good effect. So if you got half an hour to spare to learn about the issues of copyright since 1774, I recommend you check it out.

Men who look like Dieter Bohlen..

My friend and one time anthropology compadre, Tore, is finally getting his blogging act together, and have started a regular output of blogging. His definion of blog writing is “a narcissistic ride towards insanity where people who have nothing to say still torment their readers with their platitudes and empty banalities.” If I have translated it right.

Tore is known for emphatic sarcasm, especially with regards to pop culture. Not only has he featured a post on “Men who look like Dieter Bohlen” – he is also vice-president of the Chelsea Gloryhunter Club who only accept people as members if they haven’t supported Chelsea FC before 12:47 on the 25th of november 2005 (which was when the club founder and president decided to become a Chelsea fan, as he was sick and tired of watching his original true love, Hertha Berlin, getting trounced every weekend.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Tore will twist the everyday stories of blogging and the online experience to new levels of intrigue and danger.

Demotivational posters

John, an American anthropology student currently on exchange here in Copenhagen showed me a site selling demotivational posters today. Almost all of them are recommended for disaffected college students, so there might be something there to like.

Of course, this is a spoof on proper motivational posters which some business managers actually believe will work. Put up a poster and morale will soar. I have read enough Dilbert to know that that won’t work.

Here are some of the demotivational posters I thought were good:

Indifference
.

Inspiration
.

Irresponsibility.

Motivation.

Potential.

Worth.

A few films…

This week, I’ve had time – or, rather, taken time – to go to the cinema twice.

On Sunday, I went to see the new Danish documentary, Guerilla Girl. Two young Danish filmmakers were allowed access to one of the secret training camps of the Colombian Marxist Guerilla known as the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

This is the first time that a film crew has been allowed to film the way that the guerillas are trained, and it is quite fascinating. The film centers on a young girl, Isabel, who has left her life in the city behind – university studies, family, boyfriend, security – in order to fight with the FARC.

It is a well made film, and it fulfills a lot of the criteria set by anthropological film making as I’ve been introduced to it in Manchester: No speak, no interference from the film crew, no mediating or interpreting (only through basic cinematic means such as various montage techniques). Almost all of the words spoken are from dialogues between the relevant characters. And some of the images from the Colombian jungle are both breathtaking and disturbing.

Especially one scene where the experienced guerillas are trying to harden the young recruits to a life of violence by making them slaughter a cow. From a phenomenological view point, the scene is brilliantly done. The guerilla soldier shows Isabel where to stab the cow with the machete. She gives a weak try which only fuels the panic of desperate, tied-up cow. They make her try again. Same result. As a viewer you literally feel like you’re in Isabel’s position: Feeling the blade against the throat of the poor animal. Would you ever be able to kill something like that?

Isabel realizes that she hasn’t even considered that she might one day have to kill somebody. You’d think that would be the first thing you’d consider before joining a military guerilla group. Yet she persists.

It is very strange to watch such a film, because it seems to be strangely anachronistic: Here we have a group of people fighting for Sim√≥n Bol√≠var‘s vision of a Grand Colombia – though coloured in a Marxist hue. And I can’t help but think: Didn’t this sort of thing stop with Che Guevara? Are people really still doing this?

But after a bit of thought, I came to the conclusion that even though we ought to be in the age of flying cars and telepathic internet, most of the world is still stuck with semi-feudal societies, where people are indirectly bound by debt or tradition to a few rich families. Still, as the film carefully avoids taking sides and only shows the sheltered life of the training camp, it is very difficult for the viewer to know exactly what moved these young people to go to such extremes.

***

Last night, I saw Serenity which I have heard a lot about from the Internet geek grapevine where it had been hailed as the new king of Space Opera – continuing where the original Star Trek and Star Wars left off. It’s based on the tv-series Firefly which I haven’t seen – but it was apparently very good, even though it still got cancelled after one season.

The film is thus an extended episode of the series, much like the old Star Trek films of yore. All the cast from the tv show are here, but there are so many of them that there’s hardly room for any character development. I find it interesting, though, that the main characters are so much like the ones from Alien Resurrection which, incidentally was written by Joss Whedon who also did Firefly and Serenity (and Buffy the Vampireslayer (*rolls eyes*)).

Apparently, Whedon is becoming the new king of geek, and it is already possible to buy the shirt that confirms it.

The film manages to follow some celebrated clich√©s and still be a lot of fun. And, as is often the case with this kind of films, the bad guy was definitely the most interesting character. On top of that, there’s some nice cinematic effects and action scenes, as well as clear political stab at anti-depressive medicine.

Both films are recommended.