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[EXCLUSIVE] “Like” by Mary Wong, Translated by Chris Song

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TH: “Like” 讚 is a short story collected in Mary Wong’s Surviving Central 中環人, which won the “25th Secondary School Students’ Best Ten Books Award.”

Chandler strolled into the sleek modern Haneda Airport, wearing a casual ensemble. He handed over his passport and air tickets to the counter clerk, and the check-in process proceeded swiftly, devoid of the usual crowds and hassle. With his boarding pass in hand, he made his way towards the lounge designated for business class passengers, sporting a stylish Comme des Garçons T-shirt. Even on a typically damp and chilly day in Tokyo, he felt a distinct sense of contentment.

“Have a pleasant journey!” the clerk chimed in politely, her eyes drawn to the colourful checked pattern of his T-shirt.

The view beyond the oversized glass windows seemed more vivid than any scene on a movie screen. Chandler had just sealed his first business deal at the age of twenty-eight. As he eased into a comfortable chair, he gazed out at the runway, savouring the moment. The lounge exuded an air of tranquillity, occasionally disrupted by the muffled laughter emanating from the television, only to be quickly absorbed by the serene ambiance. Though Chandler spoke Japanese fluently, he remained a bit distant from Japanese culture. Yet, at this particular moment, he had no desire to delve into the reasons behind the airport’s pervasive hush. He simply relished the sight of planes ascending and descending, lost in the visual serenity that the absence of noise provided.

Deep down, Chandler was aware that his command of the Japanese language wasn’t truly proficient, and he certainly wasn’t a qualified interpreter. His journey into interpretation had been triggered by his uncle’s misapprehension and his family’s expectation that he could earn a living at it. Accompanying his uncle to Tokyo to negotiate a business deal with a fashion company, Chandler found himself acting as interpreter for half a day, drawing upon all the knowledge of the Japanese language he had amassed during three years of college. He gave it his all, deriving contentment from his performance that would sustain him for an entire year without work. With over an hour remaining until boarding, Chandler eventually grew weary of the captivating airport views. He sipped his beer as he reached for his laptop, intending to peruse his Facebook feed. After a few days away from Hong Kong, nothing seemed to have changed, but he diligently clicked the “like” button for various posts as per his usual routine. He was neither opinionated nor inspirational; simply “liking” was the extent of his online engagement.

With ample time still on his hands, Chandler turned his attention to his somewhat neglected email account. After a couple of beers, he had nearly forgotten about his passport—a detail he quickly remembered and secured. However, his inbox was littered with emails he had grown to detest, most of them promotional. Despite his reservations, he opened them one by one in the faint hope of finding something remotely interesting. After a few minutes, his curiosity was piqued by the realisation that someone had been sending him an email every day for the past three days. The subjects of these emails were identical: “STEALING”. Intrigued, he decided to open the first one, and it left him stunned. Chandler rarely encountered such lengthy emails composed in Chinese. The sender was someone named Chuck Shum.

Chuck and Chandler had been students at the same college, though they never shared a classroom. Their only connection was their mutual preference for the same restroom on a specific floor of one campus building. They had bumped into each other a few times, engaging in casual conversations to alleviate the inherent awkwardness of these encounters. They had exchanged a few emails about concerts, but their interactions were limited. Chuck and Chandler were acquaintances who only ever conversed when they found themselves in the restroom simultaneously. Chandler’s mind was clouded by alcohol, which had a tendency to make his thoughts wander. He enjoyed these mental drifts and experienced them quite frequently. It felt like reconnecting with an old friend.

“Ah, Chuck Shum! The guy from the third-floor restroom!” Chandler exclaimed with a sense of familiarity. He ordered a coffee to clear his mind, and his attention shifted back to the laptop. It was as if he had stumbled upon a new, captivating toy. In the midst of the otherwise dull lounge, he had finally found something intriguing. The first “STEALING” email read:

Dear Chandler,

Do you remember me from our chance encounters in the third-floor restroom five years ago? It’s been quite a while since we last crossed paths at that music concert. How have things been for you? I’m reaching out to share an unsettling experience—someone has stolen two hundred dollars from me. I find myself wondering, why me? Why would someone target me in this way? What could be the reason behind it? For years now, I’ve been diligently working as a teacher at a rather challenging high school. I’ve put in more effort than most of my colleagues here. Just yesterday, something happened that left me perturbed. Miss Lin, who sits behind me, decided to put on a performance for our programme director. In the process, her paperwork ended up scattered across my desk. Instead of making a fuss, I took it upon myself to clean up the mess and complete the tasks at hand. You see, I’ve always been this way—I’ve never scolded my students and have always protected them. Even when they were caught up in plagiarism incidents, I opted to give them opportunities to make amends. And yet, these ungrateful youngsters seem to admire our rather uncouth physical education teacher above anyone else. They describe him as “hot” and “cool”. I can’t help but wonder, what have I done wrong? Why can’t they simply leave me be? Why would someone resort to stealing from me? I’m genuinely frightened, Chandler—the fear is real. Have I unintentionally offended someone? Are they seeking revenge?

Chuck Shum

Chandler finished reading the email. The airport lounge remained eerily quiet, now populated with more middle-aged men in suits. His heart began to race, its rhythm out of sync with the serene atmosphere around him. Why was Chuck so agitated over two hundred dollars? If he was unhappy at work, he could simply take a break, perhaps go skiing in Switzerland. Chandler had taken up skiing in recent years and often visited European slopes with friends he’d met online. These were acquaintances he only encountered in the snowy mountains. Chuck could join him in Switzerland, leaving his school troubles behind. It seemed so straightforward. Chandler didn’t respond immediately but continued reading.

Hi Chandler,

Someone has taken another hundred dollars from me! Why is this happening only to me? Let me fill you in on who I think this thief might be. I had lunch with Mr Chan, who works in the same programme, to gather more insights about the school. During our conversation, I vented about our programme director, knowing that they had a strained relationship. Mr Chan responded with great enthusiasm and talked non-stop throughout our meal. After we returned to our office, I went to the restroom to brush my teeth. While I was there, I overheard two individuals conversing right outside the door. I stealthily approached the door and pressed my ear against it. I am almost certain it was Mr Chan and the program director. There’s no doubt in my mind. I didn’t dare to open the door, so I waited for their voices to fade. The experience sent shivers down my spine. When I returned to the sink and continued brushing my teeth, I brushed until my gums bled, serving as a painful reminder that it was time for class. That’s when it hit me. They were plotting against me, driving me to paranoia and desperation…


Chandler began to question why Chuck had reached out to him about all this. They had never exchanged phone numbers, and even if they were to stand face to face at that moment, they might not recognise each other. Nonetheless, this email had stirred something within Chandler. He sensed there was more to the story than met the eye. He usually steered clear of complicated matters, but Chuck’s predicament piqued his curiosity. Who was behind the theft of Chuck’s money? As his anxiety grew, he opened the third email.

I’m delighted to inform you, Chandler, that another theft has occurred at the school. This time, I wasn’t the victim. Now I can sit back and focus on grading.

Chandler felt utterly disappointed. Was that all there was to it? Where were the complications he had anticipated? He headed for the cabinet and retrieved a bottle of local sake with a pronounced hint of bitterness. A few shots might be just what he needed to alleviate the tedium of his surroundings. Returning to the window, he attempted to while away the remaining half-hour by watching planes take off. Yet his thoughts kept returning to the image of bloodied gums dripping into the basin from Chuck’s mouth. He felt an odd sense of excitement amid the calmness and pushed back his screeching chair. Returning to his laptop, he clicked “Reply” and typed the word he knew best:


How to cite: Song, Chris and Mary Wong. “Like.” Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, 11 Sept. 2023, chajournal.blog/2023/09/11/like.


Mary Shuk-Han Wong 黃淑嫻 (author) is a Hong Kong writer. Her short story collection Surviving Central (中環人; 2013) received the “25th Secondary School Students’ Best Ten Books Award.” Her essay collections include How to Live the Sad Days (悲傷的日子如何過; 2021), Against the Grain (亂世破讀; 2017), and From Kafka (理性的遊藝:從卡夫卡談起; 2015). She has also published an online poetry collection, Cave Whispers (絕地抒情; 2022), in collaboration with Hong Kong composer and photographer. She was the co-producer and literary advisor of two literary documentaries: 1918: Liu Yichang (1918:劉以鬯紀錄片; 2015) and Boundary: Leung Ping Kwan (東西:也斯紀錄片; 2015).

Chris Song (translator) is a poet, editor, and translator from Hong Kong, and is an assistant professor in English and Chinese translation at the University of Toronto Scarborough. He won the “Extraordinary Mention” of the 2013 Nosside International Poetry Prize in Italy and the Award for Young Artist (Literary Arts) of the 2017 Hong Kong Arts Development Awards. In 2019, he won the 5th Haizi Poetry Award. He is a founding councilor of the Hong Kong Poetry Festival Foundation, executive director of the International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong, and editor-in-chief of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine. He also serves as an advisor to various literary organisations.

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151 days ago
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Language is not script and script is not language, part 2

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[This is a guest post by Paul Shore.]

    The 2022 book Kingdom of Characters by Yale professor Jing Tsu is currently #51,777 in Amazon's sales ranking.  (The label "Best Seller" on the Amazon search-results listing for it incorporates the amusing mouseover qualification "in [the subject of] Unicode Encoding Standard".)  I haven't read the book yet:  the Arlington, Virginia library system's four copies have a wait list, and so I have a used copy coming to me in the mail.  What I have experienced, though, is a fifty-minute National Public Radio program from their podcast / broadcast series Throughline, entitled "The Characters That Built China", that's a partial summary of the material in the book, a summary that was made with major cooperation from Jing Tsu herself, with numerous recorded remarks by her alternating with remarks by the two hosts:  https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510333/throughline (scroll down to the May 26th episode).  Based on what's conveyed in this podcast / broadcast episode, I think many people on Language Log and elsewhere who care about fostering a proper understanding of human language among the general public might agree that that ranking of 51,777 is still several million too high.  But while the influence of the book's ill-informed, misleading statements about language was until a few days ago mostly confined to those individuals who'd taken the trouble to get hold of a copy of the book or had taken the trouble to listen to the Throughline episode as a podcast (it was presumably released as such on its official date of May 26th), with the recent broadcasting of the episode on NPR proper those nocive ideas have now been splashed out over the national airwaves.  And since NPR listeners typically have their ears "open like a greedy shark, to catch the tunings of a voice [supposedly] divine" (Keats), this program seems likely to inflict an unusually high amount of damage on public knowledge of linguistics. 

     Throughline specializes in tracing the historical roots of events and situations of current concern.  It's produced by its two hosts, Mr. Ramtin Arablouei and Ms. Rund Abdelfatah, plus a staff apparently numbering almost a dozen.  Mr. Arablouei, who's Iranian-American (though he speaks with what sounds like an African-American accent, which I mention just to forestall confusion on the part of readers who might end up listening to the podcast/broadcast), holds a B.A. in Psychology and History from St. Mary's College of Maryland, a smallish liberal-arts college that offers little in the way of linguistics curriculum (though it has, interestingly, a language faculty member named Jingqi Fu who's recently worked on documenting the Lemo dialect of the Bai language of Yunnan province).  Ms. Abdelfatah, who's Palestinian-American, holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Spanish from Princeton, though she apparently never thought to incorporate any learning about linguistics into her study of either of those subjects.  Actually, on the evidence of this episode "The Characters That Built China", it'd seem that not a single member of the show's staff, or Jing Tsu herself, has ever heard so much as the first lecture of a Linguistics 101 course, the lecture in which it's explained that writing systems are not language and that confusing the two has historically been almost lethal to rational thinking about linguistics.  The two hosts do seem, however, to have one dominating NPR-style notion about language in their heads, namely the idea that if you or your parents or grandparents have a relatively recent immigrant background, then you should pronounce your own name with absolute native-language-phonology authenticity, no matter how elusive to the ears of your listenership that pronunciation might be (listen to the hosts' name pronunciations at the 47:43 mark); but that on the other hand, that respect should not be extended to the names and words of any other language, except possibly Spanish.  It follows that Mr. Arablouei and Ms. Abdelfatah, who'd probably dismiss as a racist anyone who questioned the wisdom of their native-language-phonology name pronunciations, make no serious effort to pronounce the Chinese names and words in the episode accurately, gleefully failing to render even an acceptable English-like approximation of many of the vowels and consonants, and of course ignoring the tones.  Ms. Abdelfatah even says "Beiʒing"!
     Here, in rough order of appearance in the episode, are some of the nuggets of ostensible wisdom that listeners to the episode are presented with, together with some square-bracketed, italicized commentary of mine (those nuggets expressed directly by Jing Tsu are marked "[JT]").  Note that the most frequent underlying fallacy appearing in these statements is the idea that the Sinographic writing system is "the Chinese language", to the point where doing away with the characters would actually cause "the Chinese language" to have died (wait, did Jing Tsu actually say that? did she actually mean that? well, yes . . . and no . . . and yes . . . and no . . . and . . . in any case, how are these cogitations of hers Yale-worthy?). 
          — [JT]  "[Chinese is] the oldest living language we have that is still used."  [She really means the Sinographic writing system, sort of.]
          — [JT]  "[The] Western alphabet has twenty-six letters.  And once you've learned these twenty-six letters, you can compose any word you want from basically all Indo-European languages.  [Speakers of some of those Indo-European languages should perhaps share their thoughts on this subject with JT.]  [Chinese, on the other hand, is] not made of letters, but is made of strokes".  [The hinted-at notions here that alphabetic writing is foreign to the true nature of "the Chinese language", and that such things as pinyin are at best a somewhat distasteful compromise with the demands of a Western-dominated world, come to be more fully developed towards the end of the program.]
          In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Western hostilities towards and incursions upon China threatened to "destroy" "the Chinese language", and in doing so destroy Chinese culture and the Chinese nation as well.  [Note the resemblance to General Jack D. Ripper's fears, in the film Doctor Strangelove, of an international communist conspiracy attempting "to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids".  Note also that JT avoids the corollary that if "the Chinese language" were to be "destroyed" by the depredations of the West, then it can only follow logically that the majority of the Chinese populace would be left with no language.  How would JT explain that reductio ad absurdum?  Her idea of a linguistico-political threat, which seems to particularly involve Westerners' suggestions of introducing alphabetic writing, comes to be a recurring theme in the program.]  The key to countering this linguistico-political threat was initiating a "fight to modernize Chinese as a language", mainly through proposed and actual writing reforms of various kinds as well as confirmation of Mandarin as the standard dialect, a fight that "represents the beginning of China's climb to being a superpower".
          — In the year 1900–which, according to Mr. Arablouei, was the first year of the twentieth century–the reformer Wáng Zhào 王照 (1859-1933) introduced his new, roughly-fifty-symbol writing system [the now-long-disused Mandarin Harmonic Alphabet] for "the Chinese language".  According to Ms. Abdelfatah, no one had ever before attempted a "purely phonetic representation" of Chinese characters.  [Did you hear that from your graves, Padre Lazzaro Cattaneo, and Thomas Wade and Herbert Giles, and all of your foreign-devil Romanizing kind?  You and your work have all just been cancelled by the wokesters at Yale and NPR!  Note, by the way, that the episode's repeated talk about "phonetic representation" is really referring to wholly or almost wholly phonemic representation:  none of these script innovators was actually contemplating a systematic representation of the allophonic variability of Mandarin (or other) phonemes.]  Wáng Zhào's system, we are told, constituted a "simplifying" of "Chinese", and a "new version of the language".  The system "would let people of other dialects sound out words in Mandarin" . . . but, says JT bafflingly, it would also help non-Mandarin-speakers "hear how [a character is] pronounced in their own dialect as well as the standard dialect".  [JT seems to have simply misspoken here, actually meaning "hear how [a character is] pronounced in the standard dialect in addition to merely already knowing how that morpheme is pronounced in their own dialect"; but the inclusion of her remark-gone-awry in the program just goes to show that someone linguistically knowledgeable should've been involved in the editing, so that the remark could've been excised.  As things stand, it's just one more thing that'll confuse both knowledgeable and uninformed listeners.]
          — [JT]  The only reason Mandarin came to be endorsed as the national standard dialect at the 1913 Conference on Unification of Pronunciation was the stubbornness and force of character of Wáng Zhào.  "It could've been any other dialect [that became] the national language, because [. . .] a language is a dialect with an army and a navy".  [Actually, the figurative army-and-navy issue is precisely a major reason it was unlikely that something other than Mandarin might've become the national language; the sentence is another of JT's misstatements.  And she seems to think that the facts that Mandarin was the dialect of the national capital, and already had a huge number of speakers, and was by long tradition already pretty much the national standard, were irrelevant to its being chosen.]
          — [JT]  All Western libraries, even the Library of Congress, are alphabetically organized.  [Has JT never noticed that the libraries of her alma maters U.C. Berkeley and Harvard, and of her current university Yale, predominantly use the subject-based Library of Congress system?]  Good library organization was a massive challenge for mid-twentieth-century China to overcome, a problem whose resolution was crucial for national renewal.  [This may actually be a legitimate point, but the program makes it seem slightly absurd by overstating it, and by failing to place it in the context of the PRC's push to vastly increase the number and accessibility of libraries nationwide.  There's also no explanation of why Dewey Decimal or some other already-extant subject-based system wasn't chosen; and the program seems to take the position that the radicals-and-strokes system didn't exist, with Ms. Abdelfatah claiming that "Chinese characters didn't have a distinct order like the A-B-C's".]  What JT calls the "Character Index Race" lasted three decades and was ultimately won by a new Sinograph-analysis-based system [one that's never fully explained] created by a librarian named Dù Dìngyǒu 杜定友 (1898-1967).  The two hosts tell us that his accomplishment went beyond librarianship, constituting a pioneering step in "organiz[ing] the written language" and in "fus[ing the Chinese language] with modern technology", with the former achievement in particular being "essential to the survival of the Chinese language".
          — When Mao came to power, he made simplifying Chinese a high priority.  [Referring, as always, not to the language itself but to writing:  specifically, character simplification and the development of pinyin.]
          — [JT]  Pinyin is "a standard Romanization system for Chinese [. . .] one single, unifying way of representing Chinese characters in Roman letters [. . . b]asically a first standardizable proposal and scheme for how you represent Chinese in letters", the main reason for whose creation was to achieve compatibility with global communications technology.  [Around this point the program admits that there were some pre-pinyin Romanization systems, but as can be seen here JT implicitly condemns them as somehow being not unifying and not standardizable.]  Pinyin [she continues] was an answer to the question "Do we build a modern technological environment for the Chinese alone, or do we find a way to coexist with existing alphabet infrastructure?"  [Again, the theme of alphabetic writing being a distasteful but necessary compromise with the outside world.] 
          — [JT]  In discussing the role of pinyin in elementary literacy education, JT switches, without signaling the switch, between discussing how Mandarin-speaking learners use it and how non-Mandarin-speaking learners use it, a switch facilitated by her indiscriminate use of the word "Chinese" to encompass both types of learners.  [A prime example of someone who could benefit from Confucius's doctrine of the rectification of names!  This passage in the program would, I assume, be almost impenetrably confusing to listeners not familiar with the subject.]
          — In keeping with Throughline's style of constantly alternating among different speaking voices, an unidentified Chinese-accented voice says "Sometimes people wonder if they can only learn Pinyin and ignore the actual [sic] Chinese characters. The short answer is no!".  [It's not explained whether this is supposed to mean "no, not at the present time" or "no, both now and in the future".  I suspect most uninformed listeners will assume the latter.]
          — [JT]  In conclusion, although the various twentieth-century writing reforms have caused a certain degree of loss to "the Chinese language", loss that's even comparable, though in a smaller degree, to the ongoing process of language extinction worldwide, in the end the loss was worth it because it helped "the language" "survive".  But if the characters ever go, the language will suffer that death that "outside pressure" already attempted to inflict upon it in the past.  At least, that's sort of what she seems to be saying.  But anyway, so far "the Chinese language" and Chinese civilization have survived.  Yay!
    So once again we have a mainstream- or near-mainstream-media setback to public understanding of linguistics, the Sinitic languages, and the Sinographic writing system.  In fairness, it’d be excessive to expect the Throughline production team to have learned about the science of linguistics and created a respectable linguistics-oriented podcast/broadcast in the relatively short time they presumably had available; but if even one member of that group had ever taken a linguistics course or read a serious linguistics book–remember, this is NPR, the intellectually superior radio network–that person might've been able to alert the others that Kingdom of Characters was not a respectable basis for an episode, and that if the team wanted to do an episode on this general subject they'd want to devote an unusually large amount of preproduction, production, and postproduction time to it, in order to get things right within what for most people is a pretty obscure field.

     As the program came to an end, there was an unintentionally humorous moment, namely the spoken credit "Fact checking for this episode was done by Kevin Volkl".  What does it mean to be the fact checker for a production that gets things so overwhelmingly wrong?  I was reminded of the story of how, for the chaotic, psychedelic 1967 James Bond parody movie Casino Royale, co-director Val Guest (one of five) declined the offered title of "Coordinating Director" because, he argued, accepting that credit for such a hopelessly uncoordinated production might be a professional embarrassment.  I wonder whether, if by some miracle public knowledge of linguistics improves in the coming decades, Mr. Volkl will live to regret taking the credit he took.


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597 days ago
This dunk has me in stitches.
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Rez and Rezlikes

Having taken some time to think about it (20 years) I can say with some confidence that Rez is my favorite video game.

After my recent PS3 shenanigans a friend had mercy on me and gave me their old PS4, which means that I was finally able to play the upscaled Rez Infinite for the first time. When it comes to gaming, I am nothing if not behind the times. I also picked up the Rez Infinite vinyl soundtrack, which includes two picturedisc LPs, a 7", and a gigantic coffee table book about the making of the game. It is a gorgeous artifact! And the game-development backstory is really interesting. A lot of time and love went into this game.

The look of Rez is just the most cyberpunk thing in the world, and I don't mean that in the "it's got some neon, and maybe a dork in a leather jacket" sense, but in the original Neuromancer phrasing: "lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data like city lights, receding". Objects have their own ghostly rules and often lack physicality. And of course there's the synesthesia aspect of the design: the music is a part of the game, and not in a DDR "you have to tap along with the song" way. The controller vibration is a separate audio channel. It's not testing you on your rhythm; you play the game to the beat not because you lose if you don't, but because it makes sense that way. An aspect of playing this game is that you are also sitting down to bop along to a favorite album.

Rez Infinite is the same game as Rez, but re-rendered in HD and with some slight graphical tweaks, and it includes one new level, Area X, which is absolutely gorgeous. Area X has no polygons, only self-illuminating particle systems. But it is unfortunately brief, and was clearly a pitch for "please let us make this game" that I presume went nowhere.

Anyway, I played the whole thing through, unlocked literally every secret level (there's some weird shit in there) and having sucked the marrow from that game, moved on to the sort-of sequel, Child of Eden. There was no PS4 version of Child of Eden, so that meant going back down to PS3.

The Child of Eden graphics lean more toward the "nature" levels of Rez than the "cyber" levels. The wireframe sandworms are back, but you're also de-lousing space-whales that, once properly pollinated, bloom into ghost-phoenixes. "BE NOT AFRAID." If you give the mecha-orchid a happy ending, you may be rewarded with an idoru music video. It's all pretty great.

And it's a really good game; I finished it. But it's not as good as Rez for several reasons. First, the soundtrack is... just ok? It's pleasant enough, but less techno and more j-pop, and it just doesn't grab me the way the Rez soundtrack did. Also the integration between the gameplay and the music isn't really there in the same way. But most frustratingly, the difficulty of the game just ramps up way too fast. Rez eased you into the upgrades but this game just kind of throws you off a cliff at around level 3. I almost gave up before completing level 5 ("Journey") because I was just getting sick of it. But I'm glad I pushed through, because level 6 ("Hope") gets fun again: it's clearly an unused, leftover Rez level, a trench run. And the "fire" noise is an 808 handclap.

I will now be accepting recommendations for other PS4 or PS3-compatible games that I should play.

Things I like:
  • Trippy visuals.
  • Puzzles.
  • Non-twitchy pacing.
  • Music that is part of the game.
Things I don't like:
  • Being a sniper.
  • Anything multiplayer.
  • "Talking" to an NPC.
  • An overabundance of plot.
  • In-game commerce, real or simulated.

Katamari Damacy was a big favorite. There's no synesthetic aspect, but the puzzles are good, the timing is non-twitchy, and it's just so goofy and hilarious. (BTW, the PS4 "Reroll" package of it upscales everything to HD without altering the gameplay).

One notable exception to the above lists is that I loved Portal. There's a lot of plot and exposition in that game, and in some ways it's a shooter, but it's also very puzzle-heavy and you can mostly take your time to solve them, rather than running and twitching and boom now you're dead. The game gives you the space to look around and think.

A friend kept advising me to try Bioshock again, and for the second time I gave up by like, level 2, I guess? The first basement medical facility. I love the look of the game, and I'm interested in hearing the story (anything that dunks so hard on Libertarians can't be all bad) but my experience with the game is: I'm enjoying exploring this weird, spooky environment, and then suddenly some zombie is shooting me from behind, and now I'm dead. After the third time in a row that happens, I realize that this is the opposite of fun and that I have completely lost interest. It's like I'm trying to read a comic book but every now and then it reaches up and smacks me in the face. I said to my friend, who is also a big fan of Cyberpunk 2077:

    "Look, the difference is that I like puzzle games that make me feel like I'm tripping balls. Whereas you like shooters where sometimes a chatbot tries to have sex with you."

Both Rez and Child of Eden have a "chill mode" where you can play the whole game but nothing shoots back. All games should have this.

I write screen savers, ok? I want to play games that are screen savers with puzzles in them.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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597 days ago
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Autonomous Murderbots are Going Great

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In a series of incidents, Cruise lost contact with its autonomous vehicles, leaving them frozen in traffic and trapping human drivers.

After a few minutes of bemused waiting, Hu says, he resorted to driving over the curbs of the street's median to escape. When he returned on foot a few minutes later to see whether the situation had resolved, the Cruise vehicles hadn't budged. A person who appeared to work for the company had parked in the intersection, Hu says, as if to indicate the street was closed, and was trying to direct traffic away from the immobile self-driving cars. Hu estimates that the robot car blockade, which has not previously been reported, lasted at least 15 minutes.

The Cruise vehicles that trapped Hu weren't the only autonomous cars holding up traffic in San Francisco that night. Internal messages seen by WIRED show that nearly 60 vehicles were disabled across the city over a 90-minute period after they lost touch with a Cruise server. As many as 20 cars, some of them halted in crosswalks, created a jam in the city's downtown. [...]

The June 28 outage wasn't Cruise's first. On the evening of May 18, the company lost touch with its entire fleet for 20 minutes as its cars sat stopped in the street, according to internal documentation viewed by WIRED. Company staff were unable to see where the vehicles were located or communicate with riders inside. Worst of all, the company was unable to access its fallback system, which allows remote operators to safely steer stopped vehicles to the side of the road.

A letter sent anonymously by a Cruise employee to the California Public Utilities Commission that month, which was reviewed by WIRED, alleged that the company loses contact with its driverless vehicles "with regularity," blocking traffic and potentially hindering emergency vehicles. The vehicles can sometimes only be recovered by tow truck, the letter said. [...]

Jeff Bleich, Cruise's chief legal officer [...] warned employees not working on that investigation to try and tune out crashes or related news reports, saying they were unavoidable and would increase in frequency as the company scaled up its operations. [...]

Testo, the Cruise spokesperson, said the company is "proud" of its safety record, "and it speaks for itself."

An Autonomous Car Blocked a Fire Truck Responding to an Emergency:

On an early April morning, around 4 am, a San Francisco Fire Department truck responding to a fire tried to pass a doubled-parked garbage truck by using the opposing lane. But a traveling autonomous vehicle, operated by the General Motors subsidiary Cruise without anyone inside, was blocking its path. While a human might have reversed to clear the lane, the Cruise car stayed put. The fire truck only passed the blockage when the garbage truck driver ran from their work to move their vehicle.

"This incident slowed SFFD response to a fire that resulted in property damage and personal injuries," city officials wrote in a filing submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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597 days ago
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599 days ago
Thanks Elon! Without you we wouldn’t believe we could do it. What’s a few dead bodies in yours and Silicon Valley’s attempt to create your dystopia for the masses?
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
598 days ago
Cruise, not Tesla.
598 days ago
I am aware, that’s why I also said “Silicon Valley”, but he is the guy who for seven+ years running is telling us that self-driving is real. Cruise would probably not have gotten the permit to run their cars alone if it wouldn’t have been for the consistent bullshitting by Musk as to how far along the technology is.
597 days ago
Cool, cool. I too often rationalise with counterfactuals.

Legal Sources for Not-a-Lawyers

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learn some law without totally warping your brain
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608 days ago
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A grammar of quickstick errors

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Chopsticks:  in cookery, designates:

a pair of thin sticks, of ivory, wood, etc, used as eating utensils by the Chinese, Japanese, and other people of East Asia
[C17: from pidgin English, from chop quick, of Chinese dialect origin + stick1]

Collins English DictionaryComplete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014

That's for the English word, now for the Chinese:

The Old Chinese words for "chopsticks" were zhù (OC *das) and jiā (OC *keːb).  Zhù is preserved in almost all Min dialects (Taiwanese , ; Fuzhou dê̤ṳ) and some other dialects, especially those in some contact with Min; it is also preserved in loans to other languages, e.g., Korean 젓가락 (jeotgarak), Vietnamese đũa and Zhuang dawh. Starting from the Ming Dynasty, the change to kuàizi 筷子 occurred in Mandarin, Wu, and some Cantonese dialects. The 15th century book Shuyuan Miscellanies (《菽園雜記》) by Lu Rong (陸容) mentioned this change:


As the mariners feared (“to stay”) […], they called zhù (“chopsticks”) kuàier 快兒 (lit. "quick + diminutive suffix").  [VHM:  alt. "As the mariners had a taboo against "lingering / staying", they called zhù (“chopsticks”) kuàier 快兒 (lit. "quick + diminutive suffix").

The bamboo radical (zhu [the sound is not relevant here) was later added to kuài to form kuài .

(source, with some additions by VHM)

Enough for the origin of the term.  How about the usage of the implement in Japanese?

A Japanese Glossary of Chopsticks Faux Pas
Culture Food and Drink Jun 28, 2022

An overview of chopsticks gaffes that are best avoided when eating in Japan.

From bad manners to taboo, there are certain ways of using chopsticks that are considered as going against dining etiquette. These various acts, known as kiraibashi, are listed below.

(Listed in Japanese syllabary order)

あげ箸 Agebashi

To raise the chopsticks above the height of one’s mouth.

洗い箸 Araibashi

To clean the chopsticks in soup or beverages.

合わせ箸 Awasebashi (also known as 拾い箸 hiroibashi or 箸渡し hashiwatashi)

!!! (Serious) To pass food from one pair of chopsticks to another. This is taboo due to the custom after a cremation service of picking up remains and passing them between chopsticks.

受け箸 Ukebashi

To hold out one’s bowl for more while still holding chopsticks.

移り箸 Utsuribashi (also known as 渡り箸 wataribashi)

To keep putting the chopsticks into the same side dishes. It is proper etiquette to first eat rice, move on to eat from a side dish, eat rice again, and then eat from a different side dish.

うら箸 Urabashi (also known asそら箸 sorabashi)

To pick up food with the chopsticks and then put it back without taking it.

拝み箸 Ogamibashi

To hold the chopsticks between both hands when expressing thanks for the food. It is considered rude to hold objects in your hands when in prayer and it is taboo to hold the chopsticks while saying Itadakimasu, a phrase said before eating, giving thanks for the life of the food.

押し込み箸 Oshikomibashi (also known as 込み箸 komibashi)

To use the chopsticks to push food deep inside one’s mouth.

落とし箸 Otoshibashi

To drop the chopsticks while eating.

返し箸 Kaeshibashi (also known as 逆さ箸 sakasabashi)

To turn the chopsticks around when serving food so that the tips of the chopsticks that have touched one’s mouth do not touch the food.

かき箸 Kakibashi (also known as かき込み箸 kakikomibashi)

To place one’s mouth against the side of a dish and push food in with the chopsticks. This can also mean to use the chopsticks to scratch one’s head or other parts of the body.

かみ箸 Kamibashi

To bite the chopsticks.

くわえ箸 Kuwaebashi

To take the tips of the chopsticks in one’s mouth.

こじ箸 Kojibashi (also known as ほじり箸 hojiribashi)

To use the chopsticks to pick something out from near the bottom of the dish.

こすり箸 Kosuribashi

To rub waribashi (disposable chopsticks) together to remove splinters.

探り箸 Saguribashi

To use the chopsticks to stir the food around to find something.

刺し箸 Sashibashi (also known as 突き箸 tsukibashi)

To use the chopsticks to stab food and skewer it.

指し箸 Sashibashi

To point at people and things using chopsticks.

じか箸 Jikabashi

To use one’s own chopsticks instead of serving chopsticks to take food from a large serving dish.

透かし箸 Sukashibashi

After eating the top half of a fish, to use the chopsticks to keep eating by poking between the bones instead of removing them.

せせり箸 Seseribashi

To use the chopsticks to keep poking food around.

そろえ箸 Soroebashi

To hold chopsticks together and tap them on a dish or the top of the table to align the tips.

たたき箸 Tatakibashi

To make a noise by tapping chopsticks on a dish.

立て箸 Tatebashi (also known as 突き立て箸 tsukitatebashi, 仏箸 hotokebashi)

!!! (Serious) To stand chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. This is taboo, as it is the way rice is presented as a Buddhist funeral offering.

違い箸 Chigaibashi

To use chopsticks that are made of different materials (for example, one made from wood and the other made from bamboo).

ちぎり箸 Chigiribashi

To hold one chopstick in each hand and use them like a knife and fork to tear or cut food into smaller pieces.

調伏箸 Chōbukubashi

To place the chopsticks on the table with the tips pointing to the right.

涙箸 Namidabashi

To allow sauce or soup to drip from the tips of the chopsticks when eating. Namida means “tears.”

握り箸 Nigiribashi

To grip both chopsticks in a fist.

ねぶり箸 Neburibashi

To lick the chopsticks.

橋箸 Hashibashi (also known as渡し箸 watashibashi)

To place the chopsticks like a bridge across the top of a dish to show one is finished. Chopsticks should be placed on the hashioki (chopstick rest).

はね箸 Hanebashi

To use chopsticks to push aside food that one does not want to eat.

振り上げ箸 Furiagebashi

To raise the tips of the chopsticks higher than the back of one’s hand.

振り箸 Furibashi

To shake off soup, sauce, or small bits of food from the tips of the chopsticks.

惑い箸 Madoibashi (also known as 迷い箸 mayoibashi)

To keep one’s chopsticks hovering over the dishes, unable to decide which food to eat.

回し箸 Mawashibashi

To stir soup with the chopsticks.

もぎくわえ Mogikuwae

To put chopsticks sideways in one’s mouth instead of placing them on the table when moving a dish.

もぎ箸 Mogibashi

To bite off and eat grains of rice that are stuck to the chopsticks.

持ち箸 Mochibashi

To hold both chopsticks and a dish in one hand at the same time.

楊枝箸 Yōjibashi

To use a chopstick like a toothpick.

横箸 Yokobashi

To line the chopsticks up together and use them like a spoon to scoop up food.

寄せ箸 Yosebashi

To pull a dish toward oneself using chopsticks.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)


Selected readings

"Chop-chop and chopsticks" (11/28/13)

"Character Amnesia" (7/22/10)


[Thanks to Don Keyser]

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608 days ago
Law breaker~
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