Invisible Flan

Easy Flan Recipe

I am an invisible flan. No, I am not a cake like those who taunted Eggless Vegan People; nor am I one of your Homestyle-mixed fauxflans. I am a flan of substance, of egg and milk, sugar and liquids – and I might even be served to traverse a bind.

I am invisible, understand, simple recipe is used to mix me. Like bodiless heads you see sometimes in cooking tvshows, it is as though I am made surrounded by ramekins of hard, heatproofed glass. When they approach the oven they see only my surroundings, their pans, or cookware of their imagination – stir, everything and anything to swirl me.

For is my invisibility exactly a matter of biocaramel accident to my surface. That invisibility to which I occur requires beat eggs of a peculiar disposition of the eggs of milk with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their custard lines, those lined ramekins they cook through their physical pies upon a tray. I am hot complaining, nor stand I refrigerating either. It is sometimes ceramic baking to be unseen, although it is most softening harder eating when served.

Sarah K.

A Literal Giffing of the English Language?

ADoseofBuckley recently made a video called ‘The Literal Butchering of the English Language’.

In it, he references the common use of the word ‘literally’ in the hyperbolic sense, the way a lot of us are most likely to come across it. This is something a lot of people complain about, even people who feel assured they are not fixated on spelling or grammar. This is something that annoys all the ‘normal’ people out there.

Now, to say I am literally sickened by this video is not an improper use of the word literally, although it is the kind of thing he is being critical of in his video. At length. ADoseofBuckley has an angry reputation to uphold, but surely this isn’t something to get 5 minutes 36 seconds worth of upset about. It is true that the word ‘literally’ has the dictionary meaning of ‘in a literal manner or sense; exactly‘, but when using this word in a non-technical sense, the way most use it nowadays, have any of us ever been able to express ‘exactly’ what we meant? Using literal in this sense is actually very interesting, its using a universal specific for something that cannot be specified, it is calling attention to the nature of language, whether intentional or not.

I think what’s missed here is that humans communicate at least in a large part through the use of hyperbole. The English language simply doesn’t have the words for every specific situation of emotion. And if you were to make up words to suit it as you went along, this would garner even more of a rage from the grammar Nazis out there. ‘I literally shat myself,’ you might say, ‘when I realised One Direction were going to be playing in my home town’. Is there any better way of expressing such a mix of awe, home pride, sudden calculations over your available money mixed with the nagging feeling of a stunted maturity? I can’t think of one. You can use literally to combine the base, the mundane, the fantastical. Literally is just an enacted metaphor. This multiplicity of meaning is something more interesting that whatever exact meaning literally once had.

This argument also ignores the fact that languages survive and stay of use to us through adapting. Word meaning and usages change every day, it is only annoying when you cling to the old usage. If you say what you mean and people understand you, that’s all that language needs to do. If you use archaic words for no reason other than showing you knowing what these words meant before, you’re conversing with yourself, word wanker.

But if you carry on this idea, that whatever we use to communicate is language, we come up against all new kinds of communicating. This post titled ‘20 signs You Really, Really Hate People’ sums up one way in which the internet loves to communicate its difficult themes of introversion. Chances are, if you are introverted, you’re going to have trouble putting your feelings into words non-introverts can understand. That’s where GIFs come into it.

This list contains many popular GIFs used to represent social isolation. You will have seen many of them before. They take the difficult to express and put it into short-form. You may not have even seen the original source to know what the GIF means now. They do not even necessarily have any basis in the source anymore. GIFs are a way of communicating with someone else’s words, in the gaps between shared knowledge and speech. You can be as introverted as you like, but if you have a knowledge of these GIFs you can communicate easily, along with anyone else.

I’m sorry, I know it’s a meme.

You can create your own GIF before you can create your own word. GIFs open up an unending palette for expressing emotions, provided you can make the GIFs yourself, but with sites like makeagif.com that’ll practically do that for you, the limitations are few. What’s more they are shared on a world-wide level, not locally. There is so much potential out there, aside from re-using the same GIFs, universal as they are. That’s what ADoseofBuckley seemed most upset about, not that people were using literally in the wrong manner, but that they were all using literally. So whilst a greater adoption of GIFs in life may lead to a decline in text based ‘writing’ it provides a universal way for people to communicate and communicate in new ways.

This can only be a good thing, right?

 Sarah K.

Weird Japanese Vocab #1: 辻斬り and 傾奇者- Tsugijiri (crossroads killing) and kabukimono

DISCLAIMER: I’m learning, so my knowledge of this stuff is still shaky at best. I’ve tried to be thorough on the history and roots here without getting boring but feel free to shout at me if I get anything/all of it wrong.

Another thing I give up on with alarming regularity: trying to learn Japanese. Part of why I keep coming back to it, though, is the oddly compulsive element of picking up kanji, the logographic characters that make up the majority of their written word. It’s like collecting Pokémon, only you’re learning concepts you can build vocabulary from. Another great thing: this language has some really weird words. Some obsolete, some still used, but expressive of things that are either very hard to translate directly into another language, or are just bizarre that they even need words for it. Today we’re focusing on a couple of the more obsolete ones.

Definition from jisho.org:

辻斬り (tsu-ji-gi-ri):

killing a passerby in order to test a new sword

Yep. Let’s break this down. Assuming you know even less Japanese than I do, those first two characters are kanji (ignore the third, that’s hiragana for the ‘ri’ syllable and is there to modify/provide additional pronunciation for the kanji). The first is 辻 (the ‘tsu-ji’ for this word), which is used to express words to do with crossings, street corners, etc. The second is 斬 (the ‘gi’ for this word) and is a now an obscure term for murder, especially decapitation. So, taken literally, we have, ‘crossroads killing’. You can take the crossroads pretty liberally, too – you crossed the wrong road at the wrong time and that, as the old proverb goes, is that.

So, yeah, basically, this was an actual thing, back in the late Sengoku (‘warring states’) period, when ‘samurai’ was gradually ceasing to mean a warrior that was part of, or fought for, the nobility and starting to more befit ‘any dude with a sword trying to make a living’. Rogues would test new swords on random people at night, and that was okay because there were other things for the ‘proper’ samurai to be worrying about – the massive social unheavals, constant war, and so on.

Most of these rogues were called kabukimono, in itself another interesting word when you break up its old-form kanji (傾奇者). To put it very roughly,  傾 = ‘lean/tilt’, 奇 = ‘strange/odd’, 者 = ‘person’. So, someone who leans away from the normal and toward the strange. You could say these were dispossessed samurai: without master or having fallen out of favour, they revelled in their status as outcasts. They wore unusual clothing, like women’s kimonos; carried around odd weaponry (this here‘s a kenka kiseru , a large, double-ended metal smoking pipe you could keep in your kimono and bludgeon people with), and sometimes enjoyed killing the odd random passerby. Because hey, if you’ve waited two months for a katana to be made, you’re probably like little Timmy on his birthday who’s finally been given the Game Boy he’d begged his parents for for ages.

Okuni_with_cross_dressed_as_a_samurai

Only Timmy probably wasn’t dressed like this.

So, to finish, there’s two pretty interesting things that kind of have their roots in kabukimono. First, one of the definitions my Chrome dictionary plugin gives for its modern spelling (歌舞伎者) is ‘the early-17th-century equivalent of the present day yakuza‘. Whether or not the actual yakuza evolved from this fashion isn’t quite that simple, but it’s sort of interesting to see a group analogous to them in this era. The second is kabuki theater – Izumo no Okuni, its originator, was purportedly influenced by kabukimono. The modern characters that make up kabuki (歌舞伎 – roughly meaning ‘sing’, ‘dance’, and ‘technique/skill’, respectively) aren’t the same as the ones that were used for kabukimono, but the word itself still comes from the same archaic verb for tilted/strange. It’s the magic of etymology, kids!

Rathe T.G.

The Voynich Manuscript – ‘the world’s most mysterious book’

Image

A sample page showing the Voynich ‘script’ and a botanical illustration.

The moniker of ‘the world’s most mysterious book’ is a pretty impressive one to have, and according to BBC News and undoubtedly many others, this honour undoubtedly belongs to The Voynich Manuscript.

Dating back to (we believe) around 1400, the book is 240 pages long and highly illustrated, showing complex but unidentifiable fauna, astronomical shapes and human figures. It is named after the man who bought it in 1912, it’s original author unknown. The ‘Manuscript’ had baffled linguists, cryptographers and mathematicians for years. People have been able to get so far as to call it a ‘manuscript’, a coherent written piece, but that is pretty much all anyone knows about the document. It resists all modern code-breaking techniques, so much so that many call it a hoax.

Recently a study has been published by people who believe they have found strings of patterns within the text which may suggest words. The study identified the presence of a few ‘key words’, like how a book on trains would have a high frequency of the word ‘train’. Furthermore, these words are ‘clustered’ in such a way that they may show the explication of text’s meaning. But the definition of these words is still a mystery. It is thought that the theme may tally with the images, roughly grouped into sections throughout the text, but again, these images cannot be defined as anything humans know of. Nor can the purpose of the text. The words are written in a 40 letter alphabet that has never been seen before or since. It does not seem to have ‘evolved’ from any known language, causing many to believe it must be fabricated. But the structure of the text is similar to that of many ‘real’ languages. It appears to be a lot more than just arbitrary symbols or a string of made up words.

There is obviously a great story behind this text, whether written by one highly intelligent individual, a brilliant scientist, or simply as a very effective encoding of another language, people are constantly working to ensure that it cannot remain unsolved.

The Man Who Cracked the Mystery of The Voynich Manuscript

George Rugg, one of those purporting to have ‘solved’ the text, give one reason for it’s existence; ‘The Voynich is such a challenge, such a social activity. But then along comes someone who says ‘Oh, it’s just a lot of meaningless gibberish.’ It’s as if we’re all surfers, and the sea has dried up.’ The text may be nothing more than a challenge, something kept alive by our want to believe, and Rugg treated it as such, as a ‘grand hoax’. So many people wanted the text to be ‘true’ that they ignored his findings, the ways in which the text could be a hoax left relatively unexplored. Rugg came across a cheaply available coding device which could have been available at the time, the Cardan Grille, and found evidence to suggest that such mysterious manuscripts were highly collected throughout history. The age of the piece also meant that the author was unlikely to have been able to afford to start a page afresh after making a mistake, (unless they were rich themselves) and so the ‘words’ have even more power to resist code-breaking. The value of the piece, at least in the past, was based on it being indecipherable. And maybe so it is now, people ignore the fact it could be fake simply because its value to them is as something unsolved. Even Rugg isn’t totally satisfied with his own conclusion, saying;

“The rational part of me says it’s a hoax; another part says, yes, but what if 10 percent of it is cipher text, a real message mixed in with all the wattle and padding? It’s a lovely problem.” It’s a problem that we’ll maybe never allow ourselves to fully solve, and so The Voynich Manuscript will retain it’s power, maybe one of the greatest works of faith.

Sarah K.