I must admit that occasionally I succumb to the tempting siren calls of brain crack. The past couple of weeks have been so very busy that I haven’t had much time for creative stuff, to the point that it’s fermenting into brain crack whether I like it or not. I’ve been trying hard to relax at least a bit each day and push a couple of ideas out into the world, lest my head explode.
It’s a Wednesday. (That doesn’t mean anything particular. I just wanted to point it out for those of you who hadn’t noticed.) I haven’t posted a new blog post in a while, so here’s something I wrote a little while ago and never got around to posting.
I first read about this in an issue of TIME magazine covering the best inventions of 2007. Recently it was featured in an episode of Daily Planet, so I thought I would share its existence with those of you who haven’t heard of the Digital Water Pavilion.
The Digital Water Pavilion is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a pavilion, built in an outdoor space, with a floor and a roof supported by a couple of columns that double as an information point and office. Water running off the roof forms “walls” along the pavilion. But that’s not the cool part. By controlling the flow of the water, the pavilion operators can actually use these water walls as a display device:
The entire surface becomes a one-bit-deep digital display continuously scrolling downwards. Something like an inkjet printer on a huge scale…. The water itself is dynamic: it can display graphics, patterns and text. But, most importantly, it can almost become alive with patterns that are generated in real time, replicated from one point to another and which respond to the nearby environment. The presence of people can be sensed by the DWP and this plays an important role in the dynamic process, allowing waves and other distortions to be generated.
Admittedly, you probably wouldn’t want to live in a house with walls made of water. But it’s certainly an example of science and architecture creating something unique and awesome.
My reading week has suddenly left me swamped with things I‘m normally doing but don’t feel like doing right now, things I don’t normally do and don’t feel like doing right now, and things I wish I normally did and wanted to do this week but can’t do right now. Still, I managed to go see Coraline last night, and I’ve managed to find some time right now to write a short blog post with my reflections.
Let me get this off my chest first: I have never watched The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’ll pause for a moment to let you gasp.
As such, this is my first experience with the work of Henry Selick, and indeed, my first mature experience with stop motion animation. I don’t watch Robot Chicken (more gasps); I’ve never seen any Wallace and Gromit; and I was too young to appreciate Chicken Run.
The production quality on Coraline is amazing; indeed, if you didn’t know it was stop motion, you could mistake it for CGI. The amount of artistry and craftsmanship required for such a production boggles my mind. The doll for Coraline had numerous different faces that could be switched out as required to create any expression they wanted. Someone knitted the tiny outfits for the puppets! There’s something so romantic about stop motion animation; it is truly a labour of love. And while there’s nothing wrong with CGI—what we can do with computers is amazing—I‘m glad to see that some people are keeping the older art forms alive.
Henry Selick’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel is brilliant, although not as amazing as the production itself. The movie doesn’t patronize children: it is scary and intense, but its theme is powerful and deep. It uses fear to fright and delight—younger children might not enjoy some aspects, but older children will definitely enjoy the combination of adventure and fear. I have to confess that it won’t earn a spot in my list of favourite movies. However, if you haven’t already seen it, you should certainly check it out.
Our government came close to dissolving. It looks like that won’t happen, however, now that the Liberal party has a new leader who’s decided he’ll support the Conservative budget. Many people are upset with this about-face by Michael Ignatieff.1 Since I don’t understand economics and don’t know how to manage money, the best I can do is shrug and hope that our government isn’t planning to do anything silly.2
Meanwhile, I plan to switch back to the barter system. Think about how much the barter system benefits from the digital world! I don’t have to trade chickens; I can just trade electrons with you. It is, by definition, electronic currency. If you prefer a rarer commodity as a currency, you may also trade positrons. Be careful with those, however, as they are liable to annihilate electrons—so I‘d keep my bank accounts separate, if I were you.
Now that we are indubitably living in the End Times, we should kick back and relax. The world’s ending, so it’s not like there’s much of a tomorrow to worry about, now is there? Regarding the afterlife, the majority of the world’s going to be wrong in any event. So pick a religion (or a non-religion) and stick with it; it’s not going to matter much in the end.
And since you won’t be around, this is a great time to take out more of those credit cards the banks eagerly thrust into your hands. You might be saying, “Wait, isn’t that how we got into this mess in the first place?” That’s true, but we’ve dug the hole so deep there’s no getting out of it, and when that happens, you might as well keep digging.
You can then use the credit cards to buy every one of those products advertised on TV. You know the ones I’m talking about: infomercial products, the kind with the toll-free number at the end and the fast-talking voice that informs you about doubling your offer for free (plus expensive shipping and handling fees). If you‘re like me, you’ve often wished your job consisted of ordering those products just to see if they really work as well as advertised. Well, thanks to your fraudulent credit cards, you can!
This massive buying spree using fake credit will keep the delivery companies going for the next ten or fifteen years until the evil army of robots rises up and destroys us. Survivors will be utterly and mercilessly destroyed, since robots aren’t evil overlords and don’t make the same mistakes.
So thanks a lot, Iceland.
Furious doesn’t even begin to describe it. Town councilors in Birmingham, England have decided to drop apostrophes from signage. This unilateral decision about signage grammar is nothing less than a declaration of war against the English language. I call for a retaliatory preemptive strike.1
I‘m appalled that people have the nerve to desecrate the English language in such a manner. It’s true that English evolves; we change the spelling of words, and we create new words to express new concepts. Yet this change is artificial and arbitrary, chosen because it supposedly clears up confusion around what a street name implies or how to locate it on a GPS.
Apostrophes seem to be a very controversial punctuation mark. Mind you, all punctuation marks have their little quirks. The comma is the overused youngest child; semicolons are the misunderstood middle child. As the oldest child, the colon tends to pick up the slack from its younger siblings. Periods are: final, definitive, and ubiquitous. Dashes and hyphens are like fraternal twins—similar-yet-different. None of these, however, attracts as much controversy as our friendly neighbourhood apostrophe. Some misguided people try to use the apostrophe to denote plurality, appending apostrophe s to the end of words. This, apparently, is called the “greengrocer’s apostrophe” (note the possessive apostrophe example).2
This annoys me.
And don’t even get me started on the debate between whether a plural possessive should be ’s or s’. I personally prefer the latter, as in “The monks’ cells were small and square.” Hardcore grammarians even debate it down to the plurality of the noun itself—i.e., “monks’” is OK, but “James’” is not, since James is a single person.
The Yahoo! news article quoted Councilor Martin Mullaney, who said:
Apostrophes denote possessions that are no longer accurate, and are not needed…. More importantly, they confuse people. If I want to go to a restaurant, I don’t want to have an A-level (high school diploma) in English to find it.
Let’s break that down into its component issues. Firstly, Mullaney contends that apostrophes denote obsolete possessions—i.e., the monarchy no longer owns “King’s Heath”, so it should just be “Kings Heath”. In other words, Mullaney wants to sacrifice historical context in order to save the cost of printing another character on a sign.
Secondly, and more troubling, is the idea that one needs a high school diploma in order to navigate streets that have apostrophes in their names. While I‘m certain that Mr. Mullaney was employing hyperbole with that remark, it implies that one needs a formal education of any sort to understand the use of an apostrophe. As far as I’m concerned, one really only needs to be literate in the English language. If you can‘t read English, you’re going to have trouble reading the street signs anyway.
If this decision stands, it sets a terrible precedent for future grammar legislation. Those of us who love the English language for the beautiful lexical syntax that it is are fast becoming an endangered species. We must stand strong and stand together in these dark times.