Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Sign language from the world of Haibane Renmei

This wonderful Haibane Renmei website even includes a written alphabet and pictures of the sign language system used by the Tooga, the mysterious masked people who are the only ones allowed to speak to traders from outside the Wall of the town. The downloads section includes the font used in books in the town. Yes, this is the level of detail found in this anime series. Nifty, eh?

"...and fuddled the bell."

Like they say in the song,

Oh, what a parish, a terrible parish,
Oh, what a parish is that of Dunkeld.
They hangit the minister, drooned the presenter,
Dun doon the steeple and fuddled the bell.
The steeple was doon, but the kirk was still staunin'.
They biggit a lum whar the bell used to hang.
A still's what they got, and they brewed Hielan' whisky.
On Sundays they drank it and ranted and sang!

And they'd probably stolen the bell in the first place! From Belgium!

A HISTORIC church bell is at the centre of an Elgin Marbles-style ownership row between Scotland and Belgium.

For more than 300 years, parishioners of Kettins Parish Church near Dunkeld in Perthshire, have believed the 16th century bell, which proudly sits in the church graveyard within a stone turret, is their rightful property.

However, representatives from the Our Lady of Troon monastery in Grobbendonk, near Antwerp, claim the bell originally belonged to their abbey and was stolen in 1572 by mercenaries.

A delegation from Grobbendonk recently visited the kirk in Kettins in an effort to resolve the dispute. Paul van Rompaye, a Grobbendonk councillor, and Martine Paelmon, a member of the Belgian parliament, want the bell to complete the restoration of the 600-year-old monastery.

But although the bell’s inscription reveals a Flemish connection, the Kettins parishioners are reluctant to part with the 485-year-old antiquity.

The inscription, which reads ‘My name is Marie Troon and Mr Hans Popenuyder made me in 1519’, identifies it as the work of the famous German cannon-maker

who armed the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s favourite warship, and had connections with Grobbendonk.

Now a compromise has been reached which may prevent the row souring relations between the two congregations. The Belgian delegation is willing to accept a copy of the bell made from a cast.

Van Rompaye said: "We believe it is our church bell, looted from the priory of Troon. Our local records show that the bell was taken to Kettins in 1572. Other than the inscription on the bell and our church documents, we can find no other connection between the two villages. Also, the bell-maker Hans Popenuyder had a local connection with Grobbendonk, as he was a personal friend of Desiderius Erasmus, the Dutch humanist who lived in the area."

How Popenuyder’s bell travelled from the Continent to Scotland is a mystery that began to unfold 30 years ago after a Grobbendonk native visited Scotland.

Van Rompaye said: "Everyone in Grobbendonk knows the story of the lost bell. Many people have travelled across to Scotland to see the Kettins bell, but it was only 30 years ago that any serious attempt to have it returned was made."

Theories on the bell’s journey are numerous. One suggests it was once used on a ship before it was stolen as the vessel lay moored in a Scottish port. According to local folklore, the bell was then gifted to the Kettins church after the thief dumped it in a nearby field, where it was discovered in 1697.

However, another theory says that the bell actually belonged to the Cistercian Abbey of Coupar-Angus, 10 miles from where it was found.

Theorists believe the bell could have been secreted away to the Baldinnie bog by monks during the turmoil of the Reformation, and then placed in the church at Kettins for safekeeping.

But historical records state the abbey was destroyed during the Reformation in 1559, 13 years before the bell was taken. A third theory claims the bell was stolen by Dutch soldiers after they attacked and looted the Flemish monastery in 1578.

Local historians believe the soldiers then sold the bell to Scottish traders and it may have fallen into the hands of Dundee merchants the Hallyburton family, who could have presented it to the kirk as a gift.

What is not disputed is that the bell was standing in a belfry atop the Kettins church by the late 17th century, before it was taken down and placed in the churchyard in 1893.

The Rev Linda Stewart, the minister of Kettins Parish Church, said: "The church records show the bell was given to the church in 1697.

"But as far as I understand, a church in Belgium claim it belongs to them."

Russell Miller, head of Kettins Community Council, added: "We think the bell became the property of the church after it was found in a nearby bog.

"It was used as the church bell for over a 100 years, until a steeple was built in 1893. It was then taken down and placed in the graveyard, where it has remained ever since."

Okay, so it's Kettins and not Dunkeld itself, so it's probably not the famous befuddled bell in question. But it certainly does indicate what sort of things those folks up by Dunkeld got up to! Via

Fushigi Yuugi Anime Song Translation

Another singable translation, this one from the opening song of the series Fushigi Yuugi (The Mysterious Play). It's an interesting show in which two modern Japanese girls fall into an old Chinese fantasy novel. Unfortunately, one gets trapped there in a very bad situation and falls in with the villains, while the other is rescued by her true love. The two girls end up in an epic struggle between kingdoms, each wavering between friendship and hate as they try to do the right thing. It'd be a good show for older teenage girls, I'd say, except for the presence of a couple genderbending characters (but nothing worse than you'd find in an old Chinese martial arts fantasy novel).

And no, I don't know why I'm on a roll with these, but I am. Enjoy!

Itooshii Hito no Tame ni
(For the Sake of My Beloved)
Fushigii Yuugi opening song
Lyrics: Aoki Kumiko
Music: Kiyo'oka Chiho
Singable translation: Maureen O'Brien, 4/26/04
(after Takayama Miyuki at and the album)

(O Phoenix, fly high,
Suzaku --
Miracle dancing....)

Legends waken. I feel the stir of destiny.
I can feel it -- inside unfurls the re-al me.

(Far off the echo of "Wo ai ni")
With you to lead me upon the path to go,
(My soul awakening inside me)
Another world is shimmering bright to see
And I see....

That for the sake of the one I love so true,
Now what can't I do,
Now what can't I do?
There never was a dream that did not come true.
Believe it's true --
Wholeheartedly, I do.

Caught between them, earth and the starry heaven's sky,
Sucked into this -- adventure that could blow my mind.

(Show me your smile, please, say "Ni hao ma")
With you to watch me, and always at my side
(Bright constellation of Love we saw)
Another wonder comes back into my mind --
You remind

Me of the once-in-a-lifetime way we met --
Carved in your spirit,
Please don't you forget --
Whatever else love may be, I know I'd bet
It's good to get --
I'm sure of that yet.

That for the sake of the one I love so true,
Now what can't I do,
Now what can't I do?
There never was a dream that did not come true.
Believe it's true --
Wholeheartedly, I do.

(Open up to In-
Mysterious Play-y)

Another translation where I had to spin things out a bit to get the sound right. Not much, though. "Wo ai ni" means "I love you", and "Ni hao ma" means "Hello" or "How are you?" If you ever watch the series, these Chinese phrases will be engraved on your brain; so I didn't translate them.

Mr. Dooley, Petroleum V. Nasby, and Friends

Lileks linked to an Ohio U. article on New Yorker humor today which, just in passing, mentioned Petroleum V. Nasby. I vaguely remembered having to memorize the name of this character in Ohio or American history, but hadn't realized he'd supposedly been a Kentuckian or appeared in fake letters to the editor in the Toledo Blade. (But the Findlay paper first, apparently. Typical big city reductionism.) I felt annoyed at myself, because if I'd known when I was in Toledo, I probably could have read entire collections of the guy. So to repair my error, I Googled.

Indeed, the letters of Petroleum V. Nasby during the Reconstruction period seem to be pretty funny, so I'm sure his war and ante-bellum letters were equally so. Unfortunately, just as the political humor appears to be in the school of Mr. Dooley and his many predecessors, so does the dialectal humor. In other words, it's hard as heck to read the dang thing. My dad (a patient and scholarly man) thinks Mr. Dooley is really funny and has a book of his pronouncements. I've never made it through the whole thing, just because it's too bloody slow to read silently. Mark Twain and Kipling are the only ones I manage to slog through. (And the Dayton poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar, but he was doing serious regional poetry after the style of Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley.)

Usually, I'm all for authorial intentions. No doubt there's linguistic analysis that could be done on both characters. What the heck kind of weird Kentucky accent is Nasby saying, and where in Ireland birthed Mr. Dooley before he came to this country? Where did the authors screw up on the accent? Etc cetera. But ... wouldn't these characters be a lot easier to read today if we got rid of the dialectal spellings? (Of course, this would make the Reverend Nasby's favorite term for African-Americans stand out rather glaringly. I seem to recall this being Mr. Dooley's as well. Satire or no, I doubt that would go over well; but I suppose that it's really a dialectal misspelling of "Negro", and could be treated as such.)

But that does seem kinda weasel-y, doesn't it? Not only overeager editing of the sort I deplore in Baen Books' Eric Flint, but the kind which looks down the editorial nose at what the past was really like. It's very easy to deplore the casual racism of those times...but we only have the kinder casualness of our times because the Civil War was fought and more than a hundred years of opinion-making done. By people like the creator of "Petroleum V. Nasby".

So I guess the ideal presentation of dialectal characters from the past would be as an audiobook. If an actor read the dialectally-spelled words in the indicated accent, we would hear only a whimsical reading of what the author wrote, without having to worry about whether dialectal spelling is intrinsically a put-down of the people who speak that dialect. (A rather problematic allegation about folks like Dunbar, Whitcomb, and the Irish-American author of Mr. Dooley.) But it would have to be a very thick-skinned actor; while there are many people willing to say profanities in the service of art (or otherwise), I think most people would have a lot more problem with saying "n----r" than "f--k". But I guess if you could get an African-American to do the reading, and put enough warnings on the box about this being satire and inappropriate language, it might get sold unsued.

I think that would be a good thing. It's a shame to let the thoughts and humor that influenced millions of Americans go silently into the night, read only by bored graduate students who think they're big intellectual stuff for reading something so obscure, when they're really reading Bloom County. Also, it'd be a good present for my dad.

It would also not be too far from the intent of the original authors. They almost certainly meant their work to be read aloud to one's family or co-workers for the humor of it. They also went on lecture tours, just as Mark Twain did, doing dramatic readings of their works. In fact, Twain apparently really liked Locke's performance of "Cussed Be Canaan", according to this article. (The Library of Congress apparently has a picture of
David R. Locke as his character Petroleum V. Nasby
from one of these tours). So audiobooks would not just be more suited to today's popular tastes; they could actually be pretty authentic.

Here's a few more links. Mr. Dooley on golf, as presented by the scholarly golfers of Myrtle Beach, and on temperance, as presented by some kind of anti-anti-drug crusaders. Also, here's Artemus Ward on visiting the Tower of London. Josh Billings seems to be represented on the Web mainly by quotes (in normalized spelling, of course....)