Saturday, 28 June 2008

I think I bit off more than I can chew with my Esperanto post...?

I think if I continue investigating language, lingusitcs etc. I'll be biting off more than I can chew. I have a degree in English but that was a while ago now and I definitely don't have the most informed mind when it comes to these things - good reason to find out more, I guess.

It won't stop me, but I guess if I'm going to put myself out there I will stick to the maxim, "There are no stupid questions" and then hopefully I can navigate the blogsphere ok. Anyway, I'm all for being educated, so feel free all to put me right :-D

I quit my job this week, and from August I will have a lot more time to devote to starting my new business, promoting Paolo's music and learning more about language (including Esperanto, which sounds REALLY interesting - more than I had thought it would be actually), music and all sorts. I hope to resume my study of Italian and, if it proves possible, I think I'd quite like to have a shot at learning Esperanto. (Although as I have an active toddler zooming around, this could be rather ambitious! Nothing wrong with ambition I guess!)

So lots of things I want to achieve - I'm impatient to get going but will have to do things piecemeal until then.

Paolo is very busy right now - too busy to give me much stuff to blog about so I will continue to blunder through the subject matter his music has opened up to me, finding out things for myself in the mean time.

Anyone who fancies pointing me in the direction of particularly simple Esperanto learning tools (ideally online), I'd be very grateful. Of course I can research things for myself, but a little direction from those who know is never a bad thing. Thanks also to all the people who commented!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

The End of Gay Culture

It's late and I don't have time to write anything about this article but I found it and I wanted to post a link to it so here it is:

The End of Gay Culture by Andrew Sullivan.

I found it while reading another blog which I will be going back to, as the writer[The Accidental Activist] has good taste in music and seems to be writing about stuff I'm interested in including Sigur Ross, Bjork, gay issues, atheism and I'm sure there's more...[yawn...stretch...very tired.]

Why not check it out at:

Must go to bed now.

Gravita - Some inside insights into it's creation from p[ aolo]

So I was chatting to Paolo recently and I found out some stuff about the song Gravita that I thought I would share with the blog.

In case you haven't seen/heard Gravita yet, here's your opportunity:

1:.The Title

The song is in English but Paolo chose to give it an Italian title as an homage to a question that was often put to him when he lived in London, namely as to whether his dreams were in Italian or in English. Paolo says he doesn't actually know for sure and guesses that it's probably a mixture of both. I know from experience that if you wake Paolo suddenly he is more likely to speak to you in Italian but hey...

Anyway, knowing that he had probably given all sorts of answers to the same question he decided to reproduce this inconsistency between the title (i.e. what he thought his dreams were like) and the actual content of the song.

2. The syntax of Gravita's made up dream language

Apparently this made up language is not as random as it may sound at first. In fact this made-up language of dreams, as featured on the track, is, I am reliably informed, made up of universal phonemes, and it also has a syntax.

The "words" come back in different combinations, but they are [theoretically at least] recognisable as independent words, not just random sounds. There, you see, method behind seeming madness!

3. The events behind the song: Not being able to fall in love

I always want to know what a song's supposed to be 'about'. I'm sure that most people imprint their own 'abouts' onto songs, whether it's a positive or negative feeling/event/etc. is by the by. The song and the video both impart a sense of unrequited love - the video does so in what I can only assume is an intentionally controversial portrait of unrequited love. And a very beautiful portrait it is too.

But knowing what a song is about - i.e. what it means or what it meant to the artist at the time of writing sometimes adds extra dimensions to my listening pleasure so it may please you [or not] to know what I know of the 'about' for Gravita:

Back in 2001, Paolo was torn between falling or not falling in love with a guy called Francesco. He was in Cairo and Francesco was in Berlin. I knew that Paolo was going through something difficult with this relationship but he didnt seem keen to really talk about it much at the time. I have since been told by Paolo that he found himself caught between surrendering to his feelings and obeying his misgivings about the relationship - at that time he didn't feel that he could give himself to the relationship without sustaining real damage to his dignity. More than that I don't know, except that the pink shirt in the video is a visual reference to Francesco, who was apparently wearing a shirt of the same colour the first night he and Paolo went out together.

I don't know if anyone else is interested in things like this, but for me, I always like to know new things...[except when I don't] :-D

Esperanto - a changing [but not evolving] language?

My previous post had a comment from someone I don't know [thanks for stopping by Bill, it's lovely to know that someone has read something I wrote, especially as I only just started this blog! :-D]
He wanted to chat about Esperanto, and why not? I do remember that people used to [and may still] laugh at Esperanto. I think that much hilarity seemed to come from the fact that it was a 'made up' language - but what's wrong with that - aren't all languages 'made up'?

Anyway...he wrote:

"I am confident that people can and do succeed in intervening consciously to ensure the survival and expansion of particular languages. The birth and growth of Esperanto are examples. As most people know, Esperanto is a planned language which belongs to no one country or group of states."
Nothing wrong with a planned language in my opinion. No problems there then. He talks about the use of Esperanto and includes a link to and I have visited it and will go back for a more thorough inspection when I get time [more time, more time NEED more time!] but his last comment has me befuddled a bit:

"Esperanto continues to change - the word evolve seems to imply inevitability, so I won't use it."

Which brought me up short and confused. I thought that the word evolve meant to change gradually, over time. I suppose there are Darwinian connotations and maybe that's what he means by implied inevitability. But what's wrong with inevitable change in language? And anyway, maybe I'm being really obtuse [in which case please forgive me,] but isn't change inevitable in all languages? Even constructed languages?

And either way, what's wrong with the concept of inevitable change in language? I find it reassuring to know that as we change, our language will inevitably change to accomodate and reflect that. Maybe I'm just splitting hairs, or missing the point or, I don't know, failing in some way.

I genuinely don't know - I'm not trying to be cute or clever I just don't know. But inquiring minds want to know! Bill, if you're still reading, please do tell! :-D

Language Evolution - Should we oppose linguistic natural selection?

I was surfing around the web, as one does, and came across an article by Michael Erard, who has written a couple of times (that I know of anyway) for Wired Magazine ; firstly about the spread of the Chinese language (The Mandarin Offensive, issue 14:04) and then more recently contemplating the tranformative effect that English's success as a world language may have/is having on the languagse itself (How English Is Evolving Into a Language We May Not Even Understand). Have a read, it's kind of interesting, I think.

And it set me wondering if this is a good thing or a bad thing - the evolution of language. And either way, since languages seem to just go ahead and change, regardless of the fuss such changes may cause, is what appears to be an academic question worth getting all hot and bothered about? I think the answer to my last question is - definitely - otherwise where's the fun? As for the first, hmmm, I don't know...yet...

I remember from the small amount of old English that I studied at university, followed by looking at Chaucer and Shakespeare that the more recent the writing, the easier it was to approach without translational footnotes. These linguistic changes seem to just happen and over time - what passed for 'plain English' moves through 'old-fashioned' to 'quaint' to 'belaboured' to 'pass me the Cliffs Notes' to 'where's the library?' to 'whoa what the hell is that?!'

This would seem to indictate that almost any language, particularly one as widely spoken as English, is going to be subject to huge change. I know that the French have (in the past if not recently,) kicked up a fuss about English words creeping into their language and that they did have (and may still have, for all I know) at least one society that was campaigning to have words like 'weekend' removed from their dictionaries for good. I remember that my Dad laughed about this and posited that the French lost a great chunk of their elevated vocabulary when they sliced off the heads of their aristocracy, and, through his guffaws, remarked that they could do with a few new words from somewhere.

I don't know if it's true but he may have a point - perhaps the French do need a few more words and decided to borrow from English. And why not? We have so many words that we have borrowed from other cultures - so at what point should we resist change? When does ignorance of say spelling and grammar (and yes, I know that mine isn't anywhere near perfect) stop being ignorance and simply become common usage? Is there ever a case where this trend is destructive to language and the culture it communicates?

Lynne Truss, the lady that wrote Eats, Shoots Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, "uses amphibology, a verbal fallacy arising from an ambiguous grammatical construction, and derived from a joke on bad punctuation as her title" [ps I didn't already know that this was the linguistic, technical term for it, I looked it up - on Wikipedia - that was a quote from Wikipedia and who knows, it may even be wrong! But anyhoo..]

The joke goes like so:

"A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

“Why?” asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
“Well, I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Apparently Ms. Truss has had several of her own grammatical idiosyncrises (and even mistakes) held up to ridicule, parody and debate. That's not what I intend to do here but apparently you can find some here, here , here, here, here and here [on the popular blog, Language Log] as well as many many more all over the shop.

So yes, improper use of language can be funny, it can be misleading and I suppose there are instances where it could even be fatal. But I am inclined to venture that there is a delicate balance to be struck between observing the rules of the language games we play to facilitate the best possible quality of communication, and becoming so slavishly devoted to the rules that we care only for semantics etc. and nothing for what is being said. [And no, I don't think this is some inspired idea - I'm pretty sure it's common sense and hopefully you are too!]

When I'm not ranting 'Truss-stylie about using possessive singular apostophes to express plural nouns, I am genuinely thinking, " this is the way it should be done now?" Especially as such usage is so common (and in my experience I would say over 95% of CVs from the lowest paid to six figure salaries carry at least one and often all of the mistakes I talked about in my previous post,) then maybe the rules are just silly.

I don't know. I need more than an hour to think about it but the baby will wake up soon.

I'll think about it some more and edit this post then.

In the mean time, if anyone [including you, Paolo] has anything to add, please feel free to comment.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Promotional p[ ostcards]


These are the proofs for the flyers/postcards that I have been designing to promote Paolo in the UK. I like them - what do you think?

I am having some problems with his square brackets on this blog however:

1) I have been using them wrong half the time - apparently it's supposed to be p[ aolo ferrrarini] so that the mind's usual use of punctuation is challenged (brackets in the wrong place, spaces in the wrong place, no capital letters etc.)

2) The second problem I have with the brackets is that if someone Googles Paolo Ferrarini, this site won't come up. I had thought this was because the site was so new that the search engine bots hadn't had a chance to find it yet. But actually it's the P[aolo] or p[ aolo] factor so I may remove them altogether from my posts - make a conceptual sacrifice. I suppose as it's me making the sacrifice [and not paolo] then it's less of an issue. As much as I enjoy his concepts, I'm going to be a rubbish promoter if I let the concept get in the way of the search engines.

If anyone knows how to stay true to the concept - use p[ aolo ferrarini] and make sure the search engines can still find this blog if someone searches under paolo ferrarini, please speak up now!

So at some point I am going to have to go back through the posts and remove every P[aolo] and p[aolo] and replace it with a Paolo. That will be my other correction - removing capital letters. It's so strange - those captial letters are ingrained in me. Names, titles and starting a sentence. It's going to be a tough habit to break. One of the top three things that drives me nuts about looking though CVs at work is the number of people that don't know when to use a capital letter. [*I have sinced decided to keep capital letters, conventionalist slave that I am]

Many people (even top director level people) seem to think that they want to communicate their own emphasis upon a certain word or words, then they should employ captitalisation.

So they may write:

"I am an experienced Programme Manager with a proven track record and a Dedication to Honesty, Integrity, and Ethics."

It makes me want to scream but I don't even correct them anymore. It's so widespread among candidates and clients it seems pointless. I stick only to the entirely pointy.

The other things that drive me wild are an inability to use apostrophes - so I see a lot of plurals expressed as possessives - CV's, for example.

The final thing that makes me gnash my teeth is people who can't spell (which is bad enough) but then can't be bothered to use a spell checker. The word most often spelled incorrectly is:


That extra 'i' get's em every time.

And it isn't that unusual to get all three of those things, over and over in a CV of someone earning anything from £20K - £120K.

How sad.

Well, enough of my ranting, it's not like I don't make mistakes, it's true. My grasp of commas is intuitive at best, I admit.

Anyway...I'm still waiting for Paolo to decide what he would like to change [I'm pretty sure there will be something] and then I can get to work. Or I'll just bored waiting and go ahead and make an executive decision! ;-D

Sunday, 22 June 2008

A Bit of Fry and Laurie...Tricky Linguistics

What can I say, I've had my fill of lingusitcs today and needed a laugh...

Linguistics, Music and Rebuilding The Rights of Statues (The RE-TROS)

I have just been reading a very interesting post on a blog called Crispy Quips, which is written by an American Linguistics major called Chris, who wants to teach English as a foreign lanaguage after graduation.

Chris has two sites, Cripsy Quips, which is a more general blog, and then one which is appears to be devoted to a more formal look at lingusitics - which is interesting for me to read, but not something I can really participate in as meaningfully as I would probably like to as I have never really studied linguistics.

(It occurs to me that this may become necessary if I'm going to be promoting Paolo's music but hey, one step at a time, right?!)

Anyway, while looking to find out what the Internet has to say about the relationship between music and linguistics, I found Chris's blogs, via one post in particular, that talks about a Chinese band called "Rebuilding the Rights of Statues (or the RE-TROS, for short,) who apparently circumnavigate government censorship by singing in English and submitting fake translations of their lyrics to the authorities.

Below is one of their videos, called Hang Police and if you would like to find out a little more about how they got away with that particular title, read his post about them here.

I thought they were definitely worth posting about for the audacity of their idea alone, (not the mention the fact that their tactics are not only bold and clever but working - so far). I will reserve judgement about their music for now, as it's not a sound that I can profess to love right away, but often that is the case for me with many new artists, so I will live with the music for a little while and see if it grows on me.

The point is, whatever you think of their music, their success appears to indicate that Paolo is not alone in believing that a strategic marriage of music and linguistics may indeed present many opportunities that a more ordinary communication does not - opportunities that in turn may offer the potential for explosive, and one hopes, enduring change - for the better?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

New Video - Producer Max Titi talks about working on Paolo Ferrarini's forthcoming album "Paradigmi Gnoseologici"

This video is very interesting for many reasons, but, if I may say so, (and I may because it's my blog,) it will live in my heart forever by way of a line that occurs very early on:

"Can you give me the sound of a moth?"

Which is only topped by a following comment:

"Of course there are no moths in the studio"

How can Max be so sure? Did he check? Did he mothball the place against such an eventuality?

Seriously, although quite technical it's a great insight into the process that Paolo (and his collaborators) have gone through in order to come up with this album, which I am still awaiting, very impatiently. There will be eight tracks, I hear, and I have six. Give me the other two!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Paolo Ferrarini: An Introduction: Parts 1 & 2

This is Paolo, explaining what he's all about.

Just to give you an idea of what to expect, he talks about the following:

* [Linguistics] (including music as language)
* [Philosophy]
* [Catholicism]
* [Atheism] (including music as a way to atheism)
* [Sexuality], [homosexuality] and [gay identity]
* [Activism]

These are some of my favourite quotes from the interviews:

[concerning his artistic vision]

“In my artistic and also my activist’s vision [...] [I want] to transform the general perception [of homosexuality] in such a way that strolling in a park, hand in hand with another boy will finally become a gesture of affection, and no longer a political provocation, a slap in the face of the silent majority. I’d like to get to the point of doing it with total nonchalance, without even worrying about peoples’ gazes. I doubt I will live to enjoy such a privilege.”

"One thing is certain, I couldn’t have been gay and a catholic! I would have felt like a black guy with a subscription to the KKK, or like a Jew, perversely serving in the SS."

[what is [god]?]

"We are talking about a linguistic label devoid of entity, a fancy wrapping without a product, a nothing around which we build a sophisticated, folkloric structure that is metaphorical in nature. It is strongly delusional, to the extent that only a few get to the point of questioning what that metaphor really refers to. As a linguist with an interest in cognitive sciences, the label of atheist does not really fit me, in that I don’t consider [god] to be a mystery or a matter of faith. I know exactly what [god] is and where it dwells. [god] is a metaphor with no referent, a nothing that exists in the skulls of people who use it as a conceptual category to interpret reality."

I'll let you find the other gems for yourselves!

The subtitles are a work in progress - they were dictated by P[aolo] over the phone to another Italian speaker. When you bear that in mind, it's a pretty good job! I understand that this issue will be addressed at some point but in the mean time, they get the point across well enough, to my mind.

So settle back, listen and enjoy! Feel free to comment too, we like interactivity!

The difficult first post....

Ok so you should know right off that just because I consider Paolo to be one of my best friends, it doesn't automatically follow that I would praise just anything he did. I am not, after all, his mother. [Actually in Paolo's case that's not the best comparison, but let's not go there...] In fact, P[aolo] will probably be the first to confirm that I have been as quick to laugh at some of his earlier musical forrays as I have been to compliment them.

When he told me that he was really focussing on his music, I must admit I was a bit dubious. This is the guy who used to have-at his guitar like a mad man, and the howling that sometimes accompanied this instrumental abuse was often a little alarming. When we lived in Edmonton in London we used to drive the neighbours nuts with seriously off-key renditions of Tori Amos songs, accompanied by scary guitar interpretations and some very dodgy piano playing.

So you can perhaps imagine why, when he told me he was doing some performing, I was as concerned for his audience's eardrums as I was for what their reaction might be.

It's hard when a friend starts doing anything creative - you're either going to like it or you're not - and what do you do if you don't like it?

It was with a giant sigh of relief, then, that I listened to the first track, and then the next, and the next - relief first, and then unabashed delight and exictement at what I was hearing. Paolo and I have a few key musical influences in common, (Dead Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard, Tori Amos - up to and including To Venus and Back but not a lot further, I'm sorry to say, Bjork, Sigur Ross and so on,)and while I could hear some stylistic elements of those in his work, there was no musical plaigerism but rather a fusion that seems to have created something entirely new, and something which is, in my opinion, fabulous.

[Did I mention how bloody relieved I am?]

It's a little bit sad for me, to be here in the UK while all this exciting stuff is going on in Italy. And maybe it's a little bit sadder that my only real way to participate is to blog.

But I'll take any piece of this pi[e]I can get, participation-wise.

And my p[rognisis]? It's worth it!