මහින්ද රාජපක්ශ ලංකාවේ කීවැනි ජනාධිපතිතුමාද? – An Analysis on the Translation to English

Have you heard this phrase before? Chances are that you have – either as a purely intellectual curiosity and/or as validation of the supposed superiority of the mother tongue over the Sudda tongue. The challenge is to translate the phrase to English. Your translation is required to have grammatical form at least surpassing that of a lolcat.

My answer used to be ‘What position does Mahinda Rajapakse hold in the chronological order of presidents?’

It’s ugly, I know. But it gets the job done. Sort of. Which is what is important really – just ask Thilakaratne Dilshan.

But it’s rather unlikely that anyone would come up with that in a casual discussion. I’ve always wondered – how would a native English speaker deal with this conundrum when they needed to ask a question like this themselves – and not as a response to a challenge? Maybe their minds are incapable of forming such questions? (Because their language is deficient, not because they are dumb! duh). You think in your language, and if your language does not have the particular construct, maybe the very need to ask such a question never arises.

This was troubling me for some time until one day, God took pity over the amount of sleep I was losing over this and placed the answer smack in the middle of one of my long YouTube ‘Related Videos’ trails. This gift from heaven has been embedded below.

This is a short clip from the Ellen DeGeneres (remember Dory from Finding Nemo?) show, where Ellen interviews a ‘4 year old Presidential Expert’. The clip is adorable, entertaining, and has the answer to my dilemma.

So there we have it. What number president. I guess Grammar Nazis everywhere would throw their hands up in despair, but like I said, it gets the job done – and is a lot less unwieldy than my, what appears to be now, feeble attempt.

Before you leave – do you know what number president Mahinda is? I didn’t. Asked it from the oracle (aka Wikipedia :D). For the record – he’s the sixth.

Also for the record – I was kidding about losing sleep over this. 😀

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My Thoughts on Kony2012 and Internet Slactivism

So I watched Kony2012. It’s almost as if I didn’t have a choice. It’s Kony Kony Kony everywhere on the internets these days that it somehow feels almost rude to ignore all the references. The video had got 53 million YouTube views (in 3 days!) last time I checked, and I’m guessing almost everyone on the Internet and their dog has seen it by now.

So if you are still part of that endangered species who goes ‘huh, Kony?’, you really should watch it.

So what’s my take on all the drama? Frankly, I’m not too sure. One thing I am sure about, though, is that until I have the whole picture, I’m not going to allow a half an hour documentary convince me that the US needs to play world-cop to yet another internal conflict. Not only because US interventions generally prove to have less than desirable, hmm ok, catastrophically disastrous, outcomes, but because I got the feeling that Gavin and his dad are giving us an oversimplified version of the tale tailored to suit their objectives.

This is what I wanted to get out – not jumping to conclusions based on insufficient information. The level of influence that Internet slactivism is having on serious international issues has begun to grow to unhealthy levels, and it is cause for concern.

I wouldn’t be concerned if everybody who watched these videos did so with an open and critical mind. However the reality is that people have knee-jerk reactions to such powerful imagery. Once the first impression has them impassioned and infuriated, they rarely seek to learn the other side of the story, or the half-truths and exaggerations that are part and parcel of media manipulation.

For example, in this scenario Kony is undoubtedly a ginormous douchebag -(getting kids to kill their own parents is probably as screwed up as you can get). However people in the know are saying that the guys fighting him, who we are expected to support, are also douchebags, though of slightly lesser proportions, a fact conveniently left out of Kony2012. The people who made the video are also accused of not handling their finances properly, and being in bed with the lesser douchebags. Example – see Below.

Fighting for Peace with Bazookas

The problem is how many of the 53 million are aware of these facts.

Closer to home, see how similar the situation is to what we lankans faced with the Channel 4 video Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields? That video had enough bias in it to make a Fox News video producer feel inferior. But undoubtedly there would have been thousands who would have formed their opinion on Sri Lanka solely based on that video, and had Channel 4 managed to get it to go viral we would have been in a terrific fix.

The problem here is that people too easily allow their emotions cloud their otherwise good judgement. Folks need to realize this, as the web has made it so much easier to manipulate the emotions of millions. Social media nowadays has an almost frightening level of power, and it’s up for grabs by anyone who is creative and talented enough to touch people’s emotions. It has arguably not been used for dubious causes, yet, but we should be aware that the danger is ever-present of all of us being collectively duped into making a huge mistake.

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Probably the Best (Worst?) Beggar’s Story I’ve Heard on the Bus

I’m staring out of the window, and I’m getting increasingly annoyed  with the driver’s antics.  You know, that fine driving art of pulling ever so slightly forward – feigning to get a move on – and slamming on the brakes again? Yeah, that bugs me no end.

I’m on the bus at the Katubedda junction, which to anybody who has traveled on the hallowed 255 route is known to be the breather between one bout of maniacal driving and another round which makes the doomed bus on Speed look like a snail who gets picked last in a game of Tag.

So I’m waiting for the bus to get a move on, when a man gets on, probably in his forties and doesn’t hasten to find a seat. He breaks the silence with the beginning of his (sob?) story. Seeing as he had no obvious physical disability, I was curious to know what ill-fate had befallen our protagonist.

Turns out the man has a little son – he had the obligatory crumpled up photograph of the boy as ‘proof’- who the good doctors at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital had determined had a life-threatening disease.

And this disease is?

‘Cardio’

Yeah, Cardio. That’s what the man said. Obviously he pulled that term out of his rear end, and probably, I now begin to suspect, the entire story – but that’s not the weird part.

He claims that the boy recovered miraculously. Hallelujah! But then um, why the sad face?

So here’s his problem. Turns out he had promised the Kataragama Deity that he would save a cow from slaughter if his son was saved. Accordingly, said son was spared, but, wait for it, he doesn’t have money to pay for the cow, and that’s why he is begging for money!

Now it is not that I don’t respect the varied beliefs of people – I do. But a line has to be drawn somewhere. It boggles my mind how anybody could feel that a compassionate being would be hard on deadlines. Even more absurd is believing that begging, instead of working extra hard for the money to pay for this meritorious act would gain any credit. From anyone, let alone a wise powerful being.

His story ends, and the next thing I know is tens and twenties flashing all around me.  And here I was expecting that everyone would see through this obvious scam.

Don’t get me wrong – my personal principle on indulging beggars is to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don’t fret whether the coins I place in some guy’s hand will go into feeding his hungry kids or crack or any other unregistered ‘medication’. Most of us spend too much money on trivial stuff to be judgmental over a ten rupee note. So it’s not like I’m a miserly old Grinch.

It’s just that I wish that people’s money remained in their pockets and purses when approached by obvious con men.

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Variations on a theme – Justin Bieber Baby (or videos that will make you LOL)

Justin Bieber’s Baby. A masterpiece of our times. So potently expressive that it is able to effortlessly transform prepubescents of the female human form to hyperventilating beings sans a semblance of sanity. So absolute in its desecration of all that is good in music that it makes the previous defilers in chief – three wheelers and reversing vehicles blaring out the first few bars of Beethoven’s Fur Elise – hang their heads in the corner in shame.

It is no surprise that the classic has inspired many others to perform different impressions on it – most of which result in the viewer laughing his hind quarters off. What follows is an eclectic collection of these mini-gems spawned off the crowning jewel that is Baby.

First up is an oriental version compiled by a fellow Sri Lankan. You may find this more pleasing to the ear and an improvement on the original.

Beware. Danger of jaw dropping. Introducing…. Justin Bieber’s doppelganger. It’s a girl – and she sings (pretty well) too!

Clever lyrics. 32 million views.

Another by the same artist as the first video – this time with Sinhala lyrics added

Hope you enjoyed the selection. 😀

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How I Met Your Mother – Great Song in Great Scene

I’m a huge fan of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. On one of my many repeat viewings I noticed this song that blended in perfectly with the scene in the episode and also sounded real nice. A bit of Googling lead me to ‘Careful’, sung by a relatively unknown and in my view underrated artist Michelle Featherstone.

It’s a soothing song that fits right into the ‘easy listening’ genre. This is one of those songs for which the most fitting description is simply – beautiful. I thought of sharing the song because though not many people would have heard it before, I believe there will be people who will appreciate it.

Here’s the vid.

 

To How I Met Your Mother Fans

Aside from the fact that the song itself is highly emotional, the mood and the lyrics seem to be tailor-made for the scene in the episode. Go check out for yourself and you will see that I’m right 🙂 The song is at the very end of Season 4 Episode 23 where a deflated and jaded Ted looks disconsolately on as Stella’s SUV pulls out of the parking space.

 

If you haven’t watched How I Met Your Mother (yet)

Now I’m no movie buff, and if there were an IQ test on movies and TV series I’d probably rank between ‘imbecile’ and ‘idiot’. My opinion on a flick rarely extends beyond something in the range of ‘eh, that one was OK’.

Which means you should take my raves on this one seriously. This sitcom is truly hilarious and got me of all people hooked. Thankfully a pal at uni (bless his soul 🙂 ) introduced me to the crazy world of Ted and Co, and I have loved every second of it. (with more coming on the 19th of this month. Yay!)

Seriously, if you haven’t watched it, and you don’t mind laughing your head off, you really should give it a shot. I promise you, it will be legen….. wait for it….. dary. LEGENDARY!

P.S – As an added bonus you’ll understand the inside joke I used at the end as well 🙂

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Of the First Post and the Perfect Post

This post is not perfect.

It may not even strike you as being particularly good. This post was written with the sole intention of getting my blog up and running. To start somewhere. To join all the wonderful people in the blogosphere. A group of people for whom I have immense respect.

For I have come to realize that it’s not easy to start a blog. It is probably even harder to keep at it.

You see, it’s kinda awe-inspiring. You are aware that your blog will be readable by almost anyone on the planet, from sad souls pretending to be Nigerian Princes all the way up to Barack Obama – and you want to do your best. Granted most of the hits to your freshly baked blog would be accidental clicks – but you still would like to make a good impression on those click-happy ‘fans’ of yours. You want each of your sentences to have the wit of Oscar Wilde, the passion of Martin Luther King and the high-brow flowery language of Ranjit Fernando (hmm OK, maybe just the first two would do :D).

But heck, if you keep on searching for words that sound just right and combing the themes gallery looking for the perfect shade of blue for your blog you will never get anything done. As some wise man once said, it’s better to do something imperfectly than it is to do nothing perfectly.

So, PSA to any aspiring bloggers who are still pondering on how to write a perfect first post for their perfect blog. There is no such thing as a perfect blog, nor is there such a thing as a perfect post.

This post represents the closest you can get. 😀

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Curiosities of Sri Lankan Bank Notes

I’ve always been intrigued by the phrase appearing on the top of all Sri Lankan notes

‘This note is legal tender for the payment of any amount’

Seriously? Any amount? Do you mean to say that I can drive out in a new Mercedes by handing over a 50 rupee bill to a guy at a Dimo branch? A Mercedes may cost an insanely large amount, but even an insanely large amount is less than any amount, right?

Sure it may seem trivial, and only willful misinterpretation of the phrase results in my interpretation – but legalese typically is locked down tight and does not lend itself to different interpretations. Because there is a group of people who are trained and paid (again insanely large amounts) to perform willful misinterpretation. We call them lawyers. 😀

So you have to agree that I am not nitpicking when I point out that such phrasing in which even a laymen can find holes in is a little odd, considering the amount of care that would go into designing a bank note.

This first occurred to me quite some time ago. What rekindled my curiosity was seeing a photo of a rather old note on the interwebs.

Note that this one says ‘for any amount not exceeding 5 rupees’

Now why would they want to say that? What does the Government care if someone wanted to pay for their new Morris Minor using a truckload of 10 cent notes? More importantly, why did the Government change its position on the matter, resulting in a horridly ambiguous (at least to me) phrase being slapped onto every bank note of our Democratic Socialist Republic?

Also, coming back to the present, it is interesting to see that in the newer notes the equivalent phrase (again open to multiple interpretations) appears only in Sinhala. Almost all other wordings on the note are given in all three languages. So maybe this one is not that important. Maybe they just wanted to fill up some blank space on the note and couldn’t come up with a better idea.

So in summary, lots of questions. Not rhetorical questions, and not in the least sarcastic. I totally would love to learn the logic behind all this. If there is anyone out there who has a clue, please do enlighten me.

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