Monthly Archives: February 2015

I'm Going With Goat

There's some confusion as to whether this Chinese New Year is the Year of the Goat, Sheep, or Ram.

There is some cultural variation which might contribute to the confusion:

In Vietnamese, the sign is mui, which is unambiguously goat.[7] In Japan, on the other hand, the sign is hitsuji, sheep;[7] while in Korea[8] and Mongolia the sign is also sheep or ram. Within China, there may be a regional distinction with the zodiacal yáng more likely to be thought of as a goat in the south, while tending to be thought of as a sheep in the north.[9]

According to a scholar cited on SCMP.com, Goat is likely more accurate for Chinese New Year:

The Chinese word yang in oracle-bone script – the ancient characters found on bones used for divination in the Bronze Age – looked like an animal with two horns and a pointy face, said Professor Ho Che-wah, head of the department of Chinese literature at Chinese University.

But the character could be translated to goat, sheep or ram in English.

Ho said that while sheep had a long history in Chinese society, the country's culinary past suggested the goat as the most likely animal to have been included in the zodiac.

In modern Chinese, the two-horned word in question is 羊 (yáng), which Wiktionary translates as "caprid, eg. sheep, goat, antelope". (My scientifically-minded friend Roger calls this year the Year of the Caprid.) As of this writing, an image search for "羊年" (yáng nián, "year of the 羊") returns mostly goat- and antelope-like depictions of the animal. Here are the first two search results:

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GpJxpyZpsn2VraphlbGqUcGyQwm2XZ5aX3mRmlJLCZJWPYZLBo6eX

Based on all the above, I would go with "Year of the Goat", but I don't feel strongly enough to get religious about it.

The SCMP article mentions that the Hong Kong Tourism Board is thinking "outside the box" and going with Sheep-of-non-specific-gender:

[O]ne character appears to be male with blue wool and the other is female with pink wool, a dress and heels, meaning it could also be the Year of the Ram or Year of the Ewe.

We could think even further out of the box and leave this planet altogether. How about Year of the Tauntaun?

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Eddie Murphy

I didn't pay much attention to SNL's 40th year celebration until I saw a discussion on Facebook about Eddie Murphy's brief appearance. I learned that to many observers he had seemed nervous, awkward, downright afraid. Some people thought the cameras had been cut off early to spare him from further embarrassing himself.

After watching both edited and unedited versions of the video, I say: bullshit.

Chris Rock's introduction was 100% excellent. It was heartfelt, it was funny, it was beautifully written, it was delivered with perfect energy and timing, and it honored Eddie without getting sentimental.

When Eddie came out and spoke he didn't seem afraid to me at all. He seemed mature, dignified, and respectful. Did he have it in him to electrify us like he used to? Did he have the desire? Maybe, maybe not. It doesn't matter. He wasn't there to perform for us but to speak to us as himself, which in a way I value even more. Anyone who thought Chris Rock was the intro to The Eddie Murphy Show had it wrong. Chris Rock was the show. He presented Eddie with a verbal lifetime achievement award, and Eddie accepted it graciously.

As for being cut off early — it seems to me that in the unedited version Eddie was cut off late. He says "Let's have some more show," gets the audience applauding by clapping his own hands, and turns to direct our attention to the stage as if to bring on the next thing. It seems clear to me the camera was supposed to cut away during the applause. Of course I don't know for sure, but it looks a lot like the editing covered up the director's failure to cut away on cue rather than any fault of Eddie's.

I don't get why so many people are treating Eddie like a sick, broken man. If he is, I don't see it. And I reject the notion that Eddie Murphy needs to get on some road to artistic salvation that happens to consist of making us all happy like he used to. He doesn't owe us his old laugh, he doesn't owe us a few gags and impressions, he doesn't owe us thrills of any kind.

Eddie Murphy was huge to me growing up. I'm glad stratospheric fame didn't do to him what it did to Michael Jackson and Elvis. I attribute that to discipline and impulse control, maybe combined with a lack of certain self-destructive impulses in the first place. Eddie Murphy has taken care of his body, his mind, his finances, and as far as I know his family. (I consider it a good sign that I don't know.) If he chooses to give us more of himself I'll be delighted. Until then, I respect him for living life on his own terms, and I refuse to join the pity party.

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The Arrest of Sureshbhai Patel

NBC News:

An Alabama police officer was arrested on an assault charge Thursday and could be fired for slamming a 57-year-old Indian man to the ground last week, leaving the grandfather partially paralyzed.

I try not to rush to judgment about cops' use of force, but in this case it seems clear that what Officer Parker did was excessive. Watch the video and see how fast Patel's feet flew out from under him. One foot was almost at shoulder level at the moment when his face hit the ground. Although one grainy, silent video is no substitute for having been there, it's hard to imagine that Officer Parker perceived a degree of threat that warranted that amount of force.

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As far as I know the Madison police department is handling this properly so far. Of course it's terrible that this happened in the first place, but I'd like to believe this police department is setting a positive example by showing it has standards that it takes very seriously.

This all started with a civilian calling 911 while following Patel in his car — a grimly familiar scenario. I suppose it's also a positive that this time no one got shot.

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