May 28, 2010

Wiki Friday: Jay-Z's rapping technique

Royce de 5’9’’ and Fredo Starr of Onyx both describe Jay-Z’s emphasis on flow in the book How to Rap – Fredo says that Jay-Z is “a master of the flow—he can flow fast, he can flow slow”. The book describes how Jay-Z uses ‘rests’ to provide structure to a verse and how he uses ‘partial linking’ to add more rhymes to a verse.

So, what is “flow”?

“The rhythms and rhymes” of a hip-hop song's lyrics and how they interact. 'Flow' is also sometimes used to refer to elements of the delivery (pitch, timbre, volume) as well, though often a distinction is made between the flow and the delivery.

Staying on the beat is central to rap's flow – many MCs note the importance of staying on-beat. MCs stay on-beat by stressing syllables in time to the four beats of the musical backdrop. 

Poetry scholar Derek Attridge describes how this works in his book Poetic Rhythm – “rap lyrics are written to be performed to an accompaniment that emphasizes the metrical structure of the verse”. He says rap lyrics are made up of, “lines with four stressed beats, separated by other syllables that may vary in number and may include other stressed syllables. The strong beat of the accompaniment coincides with the stressed beats of the verse, and the rapper organizes the rhythms of the intervening syllables to provide variety and surprise”.

May 25, 2010

Beginner Four

"Teacher, are you a vegetable?"

May 15, 2010

Life in translation

Sixteen hours of Darija down.

Where's the bus?
Fayn ilkar?

This is my brother. His name is Andy.
Hada khayi. Ismu Andy.


See you next week.
Nshufak l usbuwå limaji.

Maria's baby is really cute.
Beybi d Maria drif bzef.

I need more vocabulary.
Khasni l kelimat ktar.

We're going to go south, because there are a lot of flowers there.
Ghadi nimshiyu n l janub, Hit kayn bzef d zuhur tima.

I'll stay here for 10 months in total. For me, that's a long time in one place.
Ghadi nbqa hinaya åashara shuhur f l majmuwå. Lili, hada waqt tawil f waHid l makan.

I want to swim, but the pool here is closed.
Bghit nåum, walakin bisin hinaya mishdud.

I want to continue and learn different dialects in different Arab countries. In Canada, maybe I can help new immigrants who speak Arabic. That's the idea.
Bghit nkimil wa ntålam darijat mukhtalifa f l buldan l årabia. F Kanada, yimkin nqdar nsåid muhajirin jdadin li kaytklmu l årabia. Hadi hia l fikra.

Melodee is doing a Ph.D here, about illiterate women in government.
Melodee katåmal doktora hinaya åla lmara lumia f l Hukuma.

This is why I like Turkish: I only learned the things I live, to shop, to talk to people.
Hakda ålesh katåjbni turkia: tålimt ghir l hajat li kanHataj... besh nåysh, nshri, nhdar må nes.

I'm tired.
Ana åyana.

I feel bad, because I lived in Saudi Arabia for years and didn't learn more than 10 words of Arabic. I know, it's a real shame. But everyone worked for the same company, and the language of the company was English. 
KanHis qabih, Hit åisht f såudia khilel sanawat wa ma tålmt shi ktar min åashara d l kelimat d l årabia. Kanårif, liasaf shadid. Walakin kulhum khudmu f nefs sharika, wa lugha d sharija kanat l injilizia.

I go to Turkey every summer.
Kanimshi n turkia kul sayf.

I feel frustrated, because I'm learning Darija, but I'm not speaking a lot. I feel like if I stop, just for a few days, I'll forget everything.
KanHis bshwiya d inziåj, Hit kantålam darija, walakin ma kanhdar shi bzef. KanHis faHal ida waqaft shwia d l ayam, ghadi ninsa kulshi.

May 14, 2010

Wiki Friday: Prison

It's been around forever, right?

For most of history, imprisoning has not been a punishment in itself, but rather a way to confine criminals until corporal or capital was administered. Only in the 19th century, beginning in Britain, did prisons as we know them today become commonplace. The modern prisons system was born in London, as a result of the views of Jeremy Bentham. The notion of prisoners being incarcerated as part of their punishment and not simply as a holding state until trial or hanging, was at the time revolutionary.

It deters people, right?

Meta-analysis shows that prison sentences do not reduce future offenses, when compared to non-residential sanctions. This meta-analysis of one hundred separate studies found that post-release offenses were around 7% higher after imprisonment compared with non-residential sanctions, at statistically significant levels. Longer periods of time in prison make outcomes worse, not better; offending increases by around 3% as prison sentences increase in length.

It's only for pretty bad people, right?

As of 2006, it is estimated that at least 9.25 million people are currently imprisoned worldwide.

The leader in just about everything...

In absolute terms, the United States currently has the largest inmate population in the world, with more than 2½ million or more than one in a hundred adults in prison and jails. Although the United States represents less than 5% of the world's population, over 25% of the people incarcerated around the world are housed in the American prison system.

Approximately half of the U.S. jail population consists of pretrial detainees who have not been convicted or sentenced.

"Les plus beaux prénoms d'aujourd'hui"

A book of "the most beautiful" French baby names came under my possession today. The authors included all sorts of tidbits, from "origine" to "symbolique." Character descriptions are funny:

Passionné et nerveux, colérique et secret, Pierre n'est pa un homme facile.

I've heard that Mary means bitter, but the book describes Marie as coming from the Hebrew mar-yam, meaning "goutte de mer." Same idea, since the taste of the sea is indeed bitter, but that's much more poetic.

If I have a daughter, she's Margot: une indépendante-née. Elle entend bien faire respecter son besoin de solitude. Prudents dans ses amitiés, elle est exigeante et n'accorde pas facilement sa confiance. Elle a une forte personnalité, mais elle fuit l'aggressivité et les tensions qui la déstabilisent.

Plus, the authors say there is a connection between Margot and November 16th, which happens to be my birthday. Cool.

May 11, 2010

Belated Wiki Friday: Africa

How many countries, anyway?

The continent has 54 states, including Madagascar, various island groups, and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic whose statehood is disputed by Morocco.

Was everyone colonized?

In the late nineteenth century, the European imperial powers engaged in a major territorial scramble and occupied most of the continent, creating many colonial territories, and leaving only two fully independent states: Ethiopia and Liberia. Egypt and Sudan were never incorporated into any European colonial empire, however, after the British occupation of 1882, the country was effectively under British administration until 1922.

Is there a union?

The African Union (AU) is a 53 member federation consisting of all of Africa's states except Morocco.

May 3, 2010

This happened, so then that happened

"Called the Whorfian Principle of linguistics, after Benjamin L. Whorf, who proposed it, the theory (simplified here) contends that the language each of us speaks is a product of the society we live in. Our language, like our culture, to some extent predetermines what we can perceive.

...Thus, Whorf indicates, all cultures are linguistically--therefore perceptually--limited, because no one culture or language encompasses all the possible attitudes in the universe. English, for instance, predisposes its speakers to think and act in linear ways, to assume causality, logic, connectedness, and ordinal sequences, because there is such a preponderance of words in our language having to do with lines, points, edges, sequences, causes, and consequences: "line of sight," "point of view," "on the verge of," "chain of command," "sequence of events," and so forth. English speakers therefore are limited in their capacity to understand nonlinear ideas, such as those in Oriental philosophies.

...the reverse may also be true: the greater the stock, the greater the possibility of perception; the more words and structures available for reference, the better our chance of understanding and (we hope) the less likely we are to be trapped in a limited or jangled construction of reality. Vocabulary may extend the capacity to understand."

From How Language Works.

May 2, 2010

"Tenemos una problema con los pajaros"

Birds in vents, like bugs in dates or ants on the counter, are the little things that make expatriates throw temper tantrums. The housewife calls her husband in tears--"I'm not fucking living in this hellhole anymore!"--not because the new culture denies her opportunity to work, or requires her to cover her head, or takes her away from friends and family, but because there are weevils in the flour, which she discovered when she went to make cookies that morning.

I woke up to birds in the house, again. It's been a week-long saga, women vs. birds. It began when Alaina found two dead under the window; while we slept, they had battered and exhausted themselves in their efforts to escape. "But where did they come from?" we asked. Alaina identified the source--the vent in the kitchen above the water heater, which connects to the great outdoors. They had built a nest up there. Since then, one or two fall down the vent each day and must be guided out through a window or door.

It took a few days for an action plan to emerge. Alaina talked to The Haj, our neighbour. I haven't been keen on The Haj since he told me in Spanish that I didn't speak Spanish ("Pero..."). I've come back around, though, because we both agree on siestas. Anyway, Alaina and The Haj together bought a metal contraption to block the birds from entering from outside. Before we applied it, we had to to get the man who delivers the gas tanks to come up and clean out the nest.

As of this morning, the man who delivers the gas tanks had not come. Two birds had fallen through the vent and it was not even 11AM. I knocked on The Haj's door. "Tenemos una problema con las pajaros." He saw the wildness in my eyes (Plus, having woken to birds, I had not brushed my teeth or brushed my hair). He jumped into action.

And here is where the weevils and bugs and ants and birds are balanced by the humanity of dealing with such problems. In North America, getting someone to come and fix something for you requires a phone call, an appointment, maybe half an hour with customer service, and then a wait. The Haj went downstairs, found the man who delivers the gas tanks, and came back up, bringing his own ladder. Fifteen minutes and two full bags of nest later, the metal contraption was in place and sanity was restored to our home. The Haj suggested I tip the man who delivers gas tanks 10 dirhams ($1.10), which I already had in hand for the occasion. Bueno.

May 1, 2010

Damn you, Aristotle

"If our language is full of two-valued terms, like "up"/"down," "black"/"white," "good"/"bad," "either"/"or," "always"/"never," then will we not inevitably begin to think in such terms? Will we not perceive the universe itself, and human beings, and values, as being this or that, yes or no, A or Not-A, with only two choices possible? And--the universe, human beings, and value being rather more slippery and less divisible than that--will we not inevitably come to misunderstand, oversimplify, and reduce what we perceive?"

From How Language Works.