Winter’s Tale

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I’ve been to see Winter’s Tale, the adaption of the book of the same title by Mark Helprin.  It’s a book I’m fond of.  I think I first read it in a copy I borrowed from the Southland Polytechnic Library.  I later found a copy at the University Book Shop in Dunedin.  I rescued it from its irresistable drift into the sale books.  It’s a magical realist fairy tale, probably before that genre became popular, a homage to the city of New York, which in this age is the city most likely to be the capital of the world.  I have read it through a couple of times over the years and take it from the shelves every so often to read a few pages again.  It’s a dense fantastic book, just under eight hundred pages exactly that defies readers to consume its prose in large bites.

I have never felt drawn to investigate other titles by this author.  Some recent reviews I have read refer to his other career as a political writer.  By the sounds of things I would not find his politics attractive.  I’m best not to investigate.  I might find his day job was comparable to some of his villains.

I was interested to see the movie that came out in time for Saint Valentine’s Day 2014, good promotion there.  The casting made good choices.  Colin Farrell was obvious as Peter Lake.  The script makes explicit that Pearly Soames is a fallen creature and an agent of darkness, played by Russell Crowe.  Will Smith’s cameos as the dark lord beneath New York City were unexpected and an addition to the story.  I was less familiar with Jessica Brown Findley.  She  played Beverley Penn as more fragile than the magnetic dying consumptive from the book.  Yet I liked the detail that in a frozen mid-winter she wears beautiful summer dresses.

At the beginning I was enjoying spotting details and motifs from the book: Peter Lake’s origin story, his affinity for machines, Pearly Soames’ love of colour and light, the fin de siecle period pieces, Athansor the White Horse.  It works!  This is based on a book that is a love-song to a great city that borders on the edge of faery.

Which means I am disappointed with the last third of the movie which translocates the story to 2014.  In the book version it’s 1999, there’s a milennial fire-storm and an attempt to storm heaven.  Come on! How many times have we seen New York as the scene of this apocalypse!  Yet this time it’s written out!  Instead of being untimely ripped and lost in a modern age, Peter Lake is an amnesiac street artist.  The conventions of Hollywood romance require that good triumphs, the monsters are defeated, and lovers are reunited.  Literature is less certain of these conventions, which allows it greater freedoms.

Thank you for the afternoon’s entertainment.  It’s prompted me to get the book off the shelf again.

Future of Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice

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Professor Cecelia Bitz, University of Washington

This was a lecture by visiting Professor Cecelia Bitz.  I saw it listed in the open lectures on Thursday’s newspaper which was fortuitous as the lecture was on that evening, and gave me the first open lecture report of 2014.  Cecelia Bitz had been part of the University of Otago’s team to Scott Base in Antarctica.  For the first lecture of the year, just before the beginning of the university year, this was well attended by several hundred people.  I suspect a lot of the relevant sciences and students made sure to hear her, as well as interested members of the public.

Sea ice is different from icebergs.  Icebergs calve off from glaciers as huge masses of thick ice.  Sea ice is frozen sea water.  It loses its salt content over time.  In the Arctic sea ice is about one to three metres in depth.  Historically it has been thinner in Antarctic seas, between one to two metres in depth, a person’s height.

The Arctic is warming faster than the global mean, mostly during the polar night.  The Antarctic is warming less quickly than the Arctic.  It is warming fastest in the Antarctic peninsula.  In 2009 the first two cargo ships crossed the Arctic Sea, north of Russia, between Europe and Asia.  They  were accompanied by ice-breakers.  It is possible that the Arctic Sea could become ice-free in the future and cargo ships would be free to supply the North-West Passage.  The Arctic Sea could be ice-free in September within a lifetime, by mid-century.

This threatens the survival of top predators in the Arctic Sea, the Polar Bear and the Ringed Seal.  Both in different ways depend on sea ice to survive and flourish.  It is possible that human intervention in stalling climate change could allow the polar ice-cap to re-grow in scale.  It has not reached a tipping point yet.  This might not save the top predator species.

The Antarctic is less certain.  It is a different model.  Scientists need to catch up with its different circumstances.  The Arctic Ocean is nearly completely contained, except where it is fed by warmer water from the Atlantic Ocean, from the Gulf Stream.  Cold fresh water flowing into the Arctic Ocean from Eurasian and North American rivers form a layer on top of warm Atlantic Sea water.  The cold water cycles back into the Atlantic Ocean.  The largest ice-capped land-mass in the Arctic Ocean, Greenland is already subject to ice-melt.

Antarctica is a larger land-mass than Greenland.  Its ice-cap will decrease at a slower rate.  It may be more than a century away.  Increasing fresh water in the surrounding oceans will affect it.  Reduction of emissions will slow the rate of loss.  As always to do this there needs to be the will to act.

Introduction to Gaelic Language 3

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Things to remember:

Sin e That’s it! You have it!  Sin thu-fhéin Good on you! (or Onya! as the young people say)

Sin mar a tha e That’s the way it is.

Ma ‘s e do thoil Please, literally If it is your will.

Tapadh leat Thank you, literally success with you (very Klingon!).  Tapadh leibh in the plural, or using polite address.

‘S e do bheatha, You’re welcome, literally He is your life.

Cuideachd Also. A rithist! Again! A-nis Now.

Chì mi Di-luain See you on Monday.

Ciamar a tha do mhisneach? How’s your cheer?  (Misneach, cheer, courage)

Introduction to Gaelic Language 2

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Vocabulary:

Alba ‘Alaba’ Scotland

Alba Nuadh ‘Alaba Nooagh’ Nova Scotia, literally New Scotland.

Gaelic seems to like inserting an epicentric vowel after an L and R before another consonant.  I imagine it re-inforces the pronunciation of the first sound.

Sealan Nuadh ‘Sheylan Nooagh’ New Zealand.

Dùn Eideann ‘Doon Eydjen’  Edinburgh in Scotland, or Dunedin in New Zealand.  Need to be precise.

An t-Eilean a Tuath ‘an Cheylen a Tooa’, The North Island.

An t-Eilean a Deas ‘an Cheylen a Jess’, The South Island.

‘laa’ day  Math ‘ma’ (short a followed by breath) good, together Là math Good day, g’day

Feasgar math ‘fesker ma’ good afternoon, good evening

Madain mhath ‘madin va’ (dental d) good morning

oidhche mhath ‘aye-cheh va’ good night (at the end of the day)

Gaelic is VSO: Verb Subject Object.

Tha ‘ha’ am, is, are

Tha mise sona I am happy

mi ‘mee’ I, me                  sinn ‘sheen’ we, us

thu ‘oo’ you (thou)        sibh ‘shiff’ you (p0lite)

e ‘eh’ or ‘uh’ he, him, it iad ‘eeat’ they (becomes short in spoken language)

i ‘ee’ she, her, it

Gaelic has no neuter gender.  All nouns are either he or she, depending on what gender is chosen.

I wonder  if Gaelic has kept the initial letters from Indo-European *nos and *vos after a prefixed si– and dropped the ending.

(I need to come back to this post if I ever find a short-cut to formatting!)

tha mi ‘ha mee’ I am      tha sinn ‘ha shin’ we are

tha thu ‘ha oo’ you are tha sibh ‘ha shiff’ you are

tha e ‘ha eh’ he is            tha iad ‘ha’t’ they are

tha i ‘ha ee’ she is

It sounds to me as if the subject pronoun has become a verb ending.  It is dropped when a noun follows and tha is used alone.

As well Gaelic has emphatic and self pronouns and the speaker needs to be comfortable in using them.

mise ‘misheh’ I! me!                            sinne ‘shinnye’ we! us!

thusa ‘oosa’ you!                                  sibhse ‘shivsheh’ you!

esan ‘eshan’ or ‘essan’ he! him! it! iadsan ‘adsan’ they

ise ‘eesheh’ she! her! it!

mi-fhìn ‘mee-heen’ myself    sinn-fhìn ‘shin-heen’ ourselves

thu-fhéin ‘oo-hein’ yourself sibh-fhéin ‘shiff-hein’ yourselves

e-fhéin ‘eh-hein’ himself        iad-fhéin ‘ad-hein’ themselves

i-fhéin ‘ee-hein’ herself

The verb tha can be changed for:

chan eil ‘chan yeyl’ am not, is not, are not

a bheil ‘aveyl’ am? is? are?

nach eil ‘nach eyl’ am not? is not? are not?

The answer is tha, is=yes, and chan eil, is not=no.

The same verb is used with the preposition aig, at, to say ‘to have’, tha clas gàidhlig agam, I have a Gaelic class.

The question words in Gaelic are rather cool:

, who

, what, shortened from Coid e

Ciamar, how, literally what-like

Co ás, where from, literally out of what

Carson, why, literally what for, Cia + airson

Cuine, when, from what time, Cia + uine

Càite, where, from what place, Cia + aite

I know that there is more to write up.  However, obh obh, I’m coming to the end of Matinee Idle for Waitangi Day on the radio, and it’s still a fine day outside.

I can get the structure of the language.  I need to do more work in listening and parsing spoken Gaelic.

Beannachd leibh!

Introduction to Gaelic Language 1

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A bheil a’Ghàidhlig agaibh? Tha, beagan.   Tha beagan a’Ghàidhig agam.

I have been doing the paper, Introduction to Gaelic Language with Catriona Parsons at the University of Otago Summer School.  This is a six day course over a week.  Tomorrow is a fallow day as Waitangi Day is a national holiday.  This is a good time to write up some of the study material so far.

An Aibidil – The Alphabet

A, a  B, b C, c D, d E, e F, f G, g [H, h] I, i, L, l M, m N, n O, o P, p R, r S, s T, t U, u

A, E, I, O, U are pronounced with European values ah, eh, ee, oh, oo.  A, O, U are “Broad” vowels.  After these vowels D, T, L are pronounced the tip of the tongue pressed against the back of the teeth, rather than against the alveolar ridge behind the teeth.  S is  a sibilent hissing sound.  E and I are “Slender” vowels.  L is pronounced with the tongue pressed against the ridge behind the teeth as in English.  D, T, S sound like Dj, Tch, Sh after Slender vowels.

1. beag, small, sounds like ‘bek’.  glé bheag, very small, sounds like ‘gley vek’

2. mór, big, sounds like ‘mohr’.  glé mhór, very big, sounds like ‘gley vohr’

3. còir, kind, gentle, sounds like ‘kor’. glé chòir, very kind or gentle, sounds like ‘gley chor’, as in the German ach-sound.

4. duilich, difficult, sorry, sounds like ‘dulich’.  That last sound like the German ich. glé dhuilich, very difficult or sorry, sounds like ‘gley ghulich’

5. gaothach, windy, sounds like ‘gø-och’. glé ghaothach, very windy, sounds like ‘gley ghø-och’.  Both DH and GH sound like the gargled soft-G heard in Spanish.

6. fuar, cold, sounds like ‘fooer’. glé fhuar, very cold, sounds like ‘gley ‘ooer’

7. prìseil, precious, sounds like ‘preeshel’. glé phrìseil, very precious, sounds like ‘gley freeshel’

8. sona, happy (content, blessed), sounds like ‘sonna’. glé shona, very happy, sounds like ‘gley honna’

9. toilichte, happy (pleased, glad), sounds like ‘tollitcheh’. glé thoilichte, sounds like ‘gley hollitcheh’.

L, N, R don’t change.  After jumping up and down in them several times there’s not much the language can do to them.

At the end of words voiced sounds BH, D, and G become unvoiced.  BH (‘v’) sounds like ‘ff’, D like T or Tch, and G like ‘K’.

Once you get used to the sounds it’s very consistent in its sound-changes and pleasant on the ears, a lovely fricative language.

Catriona Parsons