Saturday, May 31, 2008

Authentic language

Howard corrects his stand on storing and retrieving material by electronic means.

Howard: You can take anything you like off the web, from the BBC, from Gutenberg, from Wikipedia, put into a digital library like Greenstone, with no worries about copyright, and then generate exercises like scrambled sentences, fill in the gaps, image guessing using FLAX.

Question: Are BBC, Gutenberg and Wikipedia all copyright free and open source?

Howard: OK, I didn’t quite mean “anything you like.” There’s a lot of stuff that you can’t, I mean it’s copyright. And I’m not sure how Greenstone handles BBC but books on Gutenberg are classics, out of copyright. Wikipedia articles are classified creative commons.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pink poppies

Thousands of pink poppies bloom on readsides and in vacant lots all over Inokashira every year in May.


Mariko: Who planted them?

Satoru: Must mean something. Poppies are generally associated with sleep, oblivion. That sort of thing.

Mariko: But I seem to remember my flower teacher said pink poppies are given on ninth wedding anniversaries.

Satoru: That one looks a bit tired.



Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Pete comes up to Fred in the faculty lounge.


Pete: Can I have a word?

Fred: I have a class in five minutes.

Pete: It won’t take a minute. I told you before Golden Week my wife was pregnant.

Fred: You did. She was due during that week, right? Everything go OK?

Pete: Twins.

Fred: Boys? Girls? One of each?

Pete: Girls.

Fred: Hey, congratulations! Girls are always better. Boys, aah. They’re a problem.

Pete: So a friend of mine said.

Fred: Twins! Doing fine?

Pete: Doing fine. Just…

Fred: Just…?

Pete: Well, my wife had a Caesarean.

Fred: Oh no. Bit more complicated. She recovering OK? Always takes longer.

Pete: Well, she died, you see.

Fred. Died.

Pete: Just after they were born.

Fred: Pete.

Pete: It’s OK. You didn’t know.

Fred: In theater?

Pete: They don't really know why, maybe loss of blood. Anyway, suddenly, I’m a single father with two baby girls.

Fred: I - You – What are you doing?

Pete: It’s OK. My wife’s mother and father are looking after us. They live nearby. I’ve moved in there. Here, I got some pictures.

Fred: Pete, this is so, I’ve known you so long, this is such a shock…

Pete: I’m fine, I’m OK now. Things were a bit tough to begin with.

Fred: You’d just bought a house.

Pete: Yeah, well, don’t think I’ll go back.

Fred: Sell up?

Pete: Maybe rent. But Mayumi’s folks are looking after us all. Just great so far. My folks came over from Minneapolis. Friends helped out.

Fred: You need anything?

Pete: Now OK. Just tell everyone round here for me. It’s hard telling people. You do that for me?


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Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Antonio and Selvaggia ride into a neighboring village on the Ducati.


Antonio: I need a piazza.

Selvaggio: I’m a bit hungry too.

Antonio: No, no. Not pizza. A piazza. I need a place to drink coffee and talk to friends.

Selvaggio: There's no piazza here. And all your friends are back in Laguna.

Antonio: I used to know someone here. Made sandals.



Monday, May 26, 2008


Amanda is arguing with her aunt over where the knives are placed on the table.
Aunt: The knives go on the outside. The outside is where you start. You work inwards.

Amanda: That's a top-down approach. We don't always follow a top down approach nowadays. In a democratic workplace we're just as likely to begin at the workface. So I don't see anything wrong with putting the knives on the inside. Besides, working your way out, you make more space for the plates that are coming.

Aunt: Doesn't sound right to me. We always were taught to put knives on the outside and work your way in.

Amanda: Auntie, haven't read Paul Hogan's Taxonomy for Identifying Cutlery?

Aunt: Paul Hogan? Who's Paul Hogan?

Amanda: He's a crocodile hunter. He has a pragmatic approach to cutlery.


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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Do it yourself

Eric, helpless at doing it himself, drops in on Harry who is boatbuilding, to borrow some tools.


Eric: Have you got a measuring tape?

Harry: Do I have a measuring tape? Never go anywhere without one. Always something to measure.

Eric: Thought so. Just your sort. Gotta saw?

Harry: Might have. But what sort? A cabinet saw? Hacksaw? Pruning saw?

Eric: Just a saw.

Harry: Not all saws are the same. Jesus.

Eric: He was a carpenter too.

Harry: Most people do a bit DIY on Sundays. What do you do with yours?

Eric: Sundays? I shop.


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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Alter ego

On arriving in Chicago, Graham visits a friend and finds that he also has problems identifying himself.


Graham: In this book you just wrote, how much of the main character is you?

Syd: Nothing, not a jot. The real me is not the main character.

Graham: But you and he both come from the same country, you’re same age, you have the same values…

Syd: So…?

Graham: Well, I just wondered if it might not be a teeny bit autobiographical?

Syd: Absolutely not. No way, Not me at all.



Friday, May 23, 2008

Cultural identity and personal identity

Chatting on final approach, Graham explains to the flight captain, that he has problems identifying himself.
Chuck: Where you say you were from?

Graham: Auckland, originally.

Chuck: Oakland? I flown in there. California, right?

Graham: Auckland, New Zealand. Auck, as in awk!

Chuck: So you're a New Zealander?

Graham: I have difficulty with that. I can identify myself, someone asks me, "What do you do?" and I can answer, "I fly, I'm a pilot." That's part of my personal identity. But I don't think of myself as a New Zealander. I left 30 years ago. I'm not ethnically or culturally Maori. My father was English but I've never lived there so I'm not British.

Chuck: So what are you? Culturally, I mean?

Graham: Been asking myself that for years. Sort of mid-Pacific?

Chuck: Easter Island?

Graham: Closer to Pitcairn.


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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Good morning

Ironically, it is Sleepy with the blue hat who leaps up out, of the ground singing, first in the morning.

Sleepy: Hi Ho, Hi, ho, it's off to work we go...

Petunia: Be off with you.

Sleepy: There's a bright, golden haze on the meadow. The corn is as high as an elephant's eye, And it looks like it's climbing clear up to the sky. Oh, what a beautiful Mornin' Oh, what a beautiful day. I've got a beautiful feelin' Everything's goin' my way.

Petunia: No need to make such a song and dance about it. It's so out of character for you. Makes me think there might be a typhoon or summat coming on.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Going against the grain

Jake thinks he can start a new genre in painting.


Jake: I call it realism.

Pete: Realism?

Jake: Yeah. Painting what I see. Make it look like it looks like. Seeing it as it seems.

Pete: That’s new?

Jake: After all the impressionism, expressionism, cubism and all, think of it as a renaissance.

Pete: You go backwards and you call it progress? That's a shortcut to becoming unfamous.

Jake: Sometimes you have to go back to go forward.


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Monday, May 19, 2008

Are you sure?

Marilyn takes her cat to the vet. For the last time.
Marilyn: He won't take his medicine, he hasn't eaten or drunk anything for five days, when you put food in his mouth it just falls out, now he can't walk.

Vet: We can give him food intravenously, and continue the prednisone and interferon and antibiotics and anti-inflammatories on a drip also.

Marilyn: A kind of intensive care?

Vet: An ICU, yes.

Marilyn: But he won't recover?

Vet: No, we can't remove the virus. We can just try to improve his condition for a little longer. Then his decline will continue.

Marilyn: Or you could put him to sleep with an injection.

Vet: This is possible. Are you sure you want to do this?

Marilyn: I figure there's no point in prolonging his discomfort by putting him in ICU together with a dozen other sick animals, there's no hope of recovery, putting up with all the side effects of the drugs, taking him home where he might die alone while I'm out. Here I can be with him when he does go.

Vet: Are you sure you won't regret it?

Marilyn: I have the feeling I'll regret it if we don't.

Vet: We'll get things set up.

(20 minutes later, the vet removes the stethoscope from Leo's chest.)

Vet: That's it. He's... asleep.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bold gendarmes

Erik and John are perched waiting for prey.


Erik: There’s one.

John: You think?

Erik: Sure. (sings) We’re public guardians bold yet wary…

John: And of ourselves we take good care…

Erik: But if he does not seem to see it…

John: And give to us our proper due…

Erik and John (in unison): We run them in, we run them in, We show them we’re the bold gendarmes.



Saturday, May 17, 2008

The end is near

Dan and Beatrice are having dinner watching an episode of House, with Leo, the cat with FIP.

(on screen)
Dr. House: J'ever notice, how all the self-sacrificing women in history, Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa... can't think of any others, they all die alone? The men, on the other hand, get so much fuzz it's crazy.
Dr. Wilson: It's an unfair world.

Dan: You can say that again. Leo got a bad deal.

Beatrice: Is there any point in continuing the medication? Prednisone, antibiotics, painkillers, appetite enhancer, emetic. He knows it’s unfair for us follow the Hippocratic Oath.

Dan: I don’t think he could recite you the Oath. But he seems to know something is up.

Beatrice: Just sits with his legs tucked underneath.

Dan: It’s time.

Beatrice. I think so.

Dan: So when shall we do this?

Beatrice: You mean take him to the vet?

Dan: He’ll handle it. I wouldn’t know where to bury him.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Black cat dark night

Leo is watching a George Clooney DVD with friends Beatrice and Dan.

Dan: Movie's starting, any dessert?

Beatrice: We can't eat dessert when all those Chinese have died in the earthquake.

Dan: Oh. OK.

Beatrice: Not to mention Leo's condition. He's totally stopped eating.

Dan: Yeah. Right. OK. Ummm. Glass of water?

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Happy Birthday

Picture a white the snow...


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lear or baseball

Masaaki, lunching with Setsuko, brings up mention of a job offer acting in a King Lear production.


Masaaki: He asked me to play MacBeth.

Setsuko: Shakespeare?

Masaaki: A Shakespearean play adapted for Noh drama.

Setsuko: Stick to baseball. There’s at least a living in it.


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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What did he say?

Jack and Mari, after a picnic in the park with young Duncan, record the occasion.


Jack: Smile, Duncan, come on, come on.

Mari: There’s a good boy. Smile for daddy.

Duncan: Mmmmbba.

Jack: What did he say?

Mari: He was trying to say something.

Jack: Sounded like “More beer" to me.



Monday, May 12, 2008


Lost in Roma, Marilyn pulls out a map.


Eunice: You any idea where we are?

Marilyn: Give me a minute.

Eunice: We have five minutes before the bus leaves.

Marilyn: I’ll get us back. Trust me.

Eunice: Four.

Marilyn: Pretty map. Trouble is, they’re such picturesque deceptions.

Eunice: We’re going to miss it. I just know it.

Marilyn: Got it. It’s behind this fountain. We’re actually there.


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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Conducting interviews and conducting an orchestra

Larry and Bill discuss conducting.


Bill: I think interview film directors can learn something from Hollywood.

Larry: Hollywood?

Bill: Interviews are pretty boring if they are talking heads. Smart editing, archive footage, text inserted, this all helps move the story along.

Larry: It’s not always about stories.

Bill: Well, you as an interviewer, and the conductor of an orchestra, you’re both trying to control unruly sounds.

Larry: Right.

Bill: So I’m just saying, sometimes you have to control what happens at the beginning, and in the middle, and how it all finishes.

Larry: Right again. Know what you mean. Garrot the garrulous.

Bill: What do you do when someone grabs the mike and won’t let go? And they keep saying, “Oh and one more thing.”

Larry: Conductors have their baton. An interviewer has that cut dead question ready.


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Saturday, May 10, 2008


At the back of the market Frederich stumbles on a Raleigh Sports.

Frederich: Whose is this?

Somchai: The bicycle?

Frederich: Nicely preserved.

Somchai: It’s been restored.

Frederich: By you?

Somchai: Yes. All original. 1957. See? Raleigh Sports. Made in England.

Frederich: I think you’ve installed a back wheel brake off something else on the front wheel. And the saddle-bag seems Chinese.

Somchai: Well, yes.

Frederich: So it’s not exactly an original.

Somchai: Not… exactly.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Bean books

Miyako is reading a book, a very small book.


Shizuka: It’s so tiny. Cute!

Miyako: They are collectibles. Some are worth thousands.

Shizuka: And this one?

Miyako: Not valuable. One I made myself.

Shizuka: Nice though. Leather bound, too.

Miyako: Bookbinding… my hobby.

Shizuka: Nice. But why?

Miyako: It’s humble. Reading a bean book is like listening to someone whisper.


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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Victorian Internet encryption

Gerald may look young, but he already has two years of experience delivering (and decoding) messages.


Gerald: Here’s your telegram sir.

Country sheriff: You ain’t seen inside this envelope, have you now, sonny boy?

Gerald: No sir. Even if I could, sir, it’s all in code.

County sheriff: Now if you didn’t look inside the envelope, how’d you know it was encoded?

Gerald: Miss Harriet at the office, sir, she gets me to look up in the code book numbers she doesn’t know already like.

County sheriff: Jeeze, ain't no secrets round here.


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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Enigmatic answers

Stephanie is curious why Eric travels so much.


Stephanie: Why do you train so hard?

Eric: To make me strong.

Stephanie: Why do you need to be strong?

Eric: To climb mountains and go to the pole.

Stephanie: And why do you need to climb mountains?

Eric: Because they’re there.

Stephanie: Why do you have to go to Antarctica?

Eric: Because I’ve never been.

Stephanie: Couldn’t you be more specific?

Eric: I could, but my answers would reveal me in an even worse light. This way, I remain merely an enigma.


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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pit bulls, pirahnas and Venus fly traps

Ray, picnicking with his friend Lena in the park, chats about keeping a pet.

Ray: I'd like something with a bit of character.

Lena: A pit bull.

Ray: No way. Genetic manipulations. Not a dog. I was thinking a fish.

Lena: Piranha?

Ray: You sink a couple of glasses of chardonnay and you go more aggressive than me. Anyway, they get too ferocious and you can't put anything else in the tank with them. I couldn't toss them in the river like some punch-permed yakuza would.

Lena: Venus fly trap?

Ray: I could live with one of those. A plant housekeeper.

Lena: Hypocrite! They're all carnivores, just a question of scale.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Think down, not across

A buffalo proposes a break in the tradition of foraging migration.

Rebel buffalo: For ages we've traversed. West to east and back again.

Follower buffalo: Everyone does it.

Rebel buffalo: Maybe there's another way. I'm going down this time. North to south.

Follower buffalo: What will the herd think?

Rebel buffalo: No comment. The east coast is nice, the west cost is nice but there's just a vast expanse of nothing in the middle.

Follower buffalo: But if you go down from top to bottom, that vast expanse of nothing goes on even longer.

Rebel buffalo: Think of it this way. If you follow the coast all the way, the good bits last the whole journey.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Paint what you know, paint what you see

Two artists, a Chinese and a Japanese, are discussing what they paint.
Murasaki: What do you like to paint?

Yang Kuei Fei: Things that remind me of where I grew up, the coast, the jungle, the people.

Murasaki: You don't go outside that?

Yang Kuei Fei: I paint what I know. I can do that. I feel I get inside my subject that way.

Murasaki: You don't travel and see things you want to paint?

Yang Kuei Fei: I travel. I have to attend my exhibitions.

Murasaki: I like to travel and paint what strikes me as fresh and new.

Yang Kuei Fei: You never feel you have misinterpreted, or mistaken the subject?

Murasaki: Well, yes. I have done that. I once painted a combine harvester in a midwestern wheatfield. Someone told me I'd painted it backwards. Combine harvesters have big cutters on the front and I'd put them on the back.

Yang Kuei Fei: You see?

Murasaki: But not knowing too much detail helps me see the essential lines, the basic colors, and from there it's easy to step into impressionism.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cloning and much of a muchness

Eric and Wallace are having a drink on the balcony.

Eric: Today I met a charming young lady and paid her 900 for an hour's work. You can guess her profession.

Wallace: Charming young lady and 900 for an hour's work? Hmm. (a) a lawyer (b) a doctor (c) bank teller (d) reality show star. Hmm, good exam question.

Eric: If only it were only an exam question. But I kid you not. The price was painfully real.

Wallace: Joking aside, this sounds like your doctor. Had your burned leg turned to septicemia?

Eric: No, it was the fee to the process the condo title.

Wallace: Now, if you were a cat...

Eric: Which thank heavens I'm not...

Wallace: As I was saying, if you were a cat, your owner would take care of all the vet bills, the rent and legal fees.

Eric: I am not a cat.

Wallace: The medical fees you rack up make me think it'd be cheaper to register yourself as a cat.

Eric: Maybe it's be cheaper for me to clone myself then harvest the other me for body parts.

Wallace: Grow a clone of yourself? How do you plan on doing that? Pull a rib out of your side and water it? Ha!

Eric: They've done it in North Korea. Or is it just that everyone looks the same there?

Wallace: Hmm. Is it culturally insensitive to describe the denizens of Great Leader's country as all being much of a muchness?


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Friday, May 2, 2008

Panel member

Eric and Jessica discuss who should be the third member of their panel.

Eric: Patel? He talks too much. Goes on and on. Always goes way over his allotted time.

Jessica: Johanna is good, but culturally insensitive. Even when she is surrounded by Muslims, she’ll still order pork.

Eric: Geoffrey knows his stuff, but he’s prickly, won’t enter into discussions, just grunts and nods.

Jessica: If we have Patel talk after us, at the end, just brief him to summrize and comment on what we’ve said?

Eric: Might work. We’ll just have to put up with him shuffling his papers and looking at his watch and ostentatiously clearing his throat while we’re talking.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Gaelic football

Winston finds himself next to Rory watching the United vs Chelsea match.

Rory: Pah! Missed again.

Winston: You ever play football?

Rory: I played Gaelic football.

Winston: Gaelic?

Rory: Bit like Australian rules but a net in the hole in the goal posts.

Winston: Dublin?

Rory: There was no other option. If you played football, it was unpatriotic. It was like saying I support England. It could get you killed.

Winston: So the sport you played was a statement of nationality?

Rory: It was sheer peer pressure. Question of survival, man. There were no choices.

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