Friday, 29 August 2014

how english sounds to non-english speakers

'Skwerl'. A short film in fake English.
I can't understand a word either:

How English sounds to non-English speakers - YouTube

But millions of people have watched it on YouTube...

Skwerl, A Short Film In Fake English 

kwerl is a short film directed by Brian Fairbairn and “written” by himself and Karl Eccleston. Why do I say “written?” Well, all of the dialogue in the film is complete gibberish, but it’s designed to sound like English to foreign speakers, or native speakers that aren’t quite paying attention; those familiar with English will probably find themselves slipping in and out of it in a really weird way.
The gibberish keeps in line with the common sounds in English, keeps out anything foreign-sounding and results in a weird sort of “could you repeat that for me?” effect. It’s generally referred to as Prisencolinensinainciusol after a (really awesome) music video that specializes in the same phenomenon. Check it out for an interesting, but sort of unsettling treat.
Skwerl, A Short Film In Fake English [Video] | The Mary Sue

With a long thread discussing the film here:
Language Log » What English sounds like if you have Wernicke's aphasia


Such things always make for a good discussion:
What have these got in common?

Rumsfeld shakes hands with Saddam (full video, no sound) - YouTube
GOP Rumsfeld Shakes Saddam Hussein’s Hand/ More | The Moderate Voice

Revisited - The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War in Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth, by William Clark, updated: Jan 2004
Iraq: Baghdad Moves To Euro
Foreign Exchange: Saddam Turns His Back on Greenbacks - TIME

The demise of the dollar - Business News - Business - The Independent

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Proposed Afghanistan Pipeline

How 'threat' was reported


Professor Alford was at the time of his death working along with his former student and Canadian scholar Dr. David Peerla on developing a new theory of misinformation, using Enron, other corporate scandals, and contemporary politics to examine what he considered an emerging phenomenon in our society. “On the one hand, more information is now produced and consumed than in any previous era. On the other hand, much of that information is fictitious and fraudulent,” he stated in Ideology and the Politics of Information: The Case of Enron, a paper jointly authored with Peerla. “The case of Enron, and subsequent corporate bankruptcies and scandals, is an example of the systematic falsification of information, or (to reverse it) the production of misinformation. What is striking is how little this phenomenon is recognized, let alone explained or theorized, in all of the theories of information that we have examined.” He went on to analyze the way in which the crisis in Iraq diverted media attention from the administration’s circumstantial connection to the corporate scandals.

We now know--from Harken, Halliburton, Enron, WorldCom, etc.--that the most basic data on the economic performance of corporations--costs, revenues, profits--have been and are systematically manipulated and distorted.

When the Enron scandal first broke in January 2002, Professor Alford discovered from his survey of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, the story received 1,137 mentions in those newspapers. At that time Iraq got only 200 mentions. By Spring the Iraqi story grew almost 100%. Enron declined by 50%. By early summer, Iraq had received 1,529 mentions. In sharp contrast, Enron had received only 310.
“Remarkable, ins’t it”, concluded Fisk, “how you can clear a messy economic scandal off the front pages by renaming your hate figure.. Of course, it is also a good idea to change hate figures when your closest ally, Israel, is in danger of producing one in the form of Ariel Sheron”.

So I owe my enlightenment to Professor Robert Alford of the City University of New York Graduate Centre. A series of tables he drew up shows something remarkable: that the Iraq story started growing - and the Osama saga diminishing - just as the Enron scandal broke.
In January, Enron was receiving 1 137 "mentions" in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, and Iraq only 200. Iraq stories grew almost 100 percent by early spring as Enron mentions declined by 50 percent to 618. After a dip in early summer, Iraq soared to 1 529 mentions, with Enron down to 310. Remarkable, isn't it, how you can clear a messy economic scandal off the front pages by renaming your hate figure? Of course, it's also a good idea to change hate figures when your closest ally, Israel, is in danger of producing one in the form of Ariel Sharon, its prime minister.
If we hadn't had Bin Laden and Hussein to worry about we might all have been taking a closer look at Sharon, who greeted the slaughter of one Hamas man and nine children in Gaza as "a great success".

Lay, of course, hasn't been charged with anything yet. But in the emerging court of public opinion he's become a radioactive character in a drama tailor-made for a class war. Democrats are poised to gin up every kind of Congressional committee they can think of this spring to very loudly look into the matter 

The Big Secret? Bush, Enron, And The Taliban
...And then there are the Enron coverups, as documents are shredded and the White House seeks to conceal details about meetings between Enron and Vice President Cheney.
The coverups are still very much a mystery. What were the documents that were fed into the shredder -- even after the corporation declared bankruptcy? What is the White House fighting to keep secret, even going to the length of redefining executive privilege and inviting the first Congressional lawsuit ever filed against a president? Were the consequences of releasing these documents more damaging than the consequences of destroying them?
Could the Big Secret be that the highest levels of the Bush Administration knew during the summer of 2001 that the largest bankruptcy in history was imminent? Or was it that Enron and the White House were working closely with the Taliban -- including Osama bin Laden -- up to weeks before the Sept. 11 attack? Was a deal in Afghanistan part of a desperate last-ditch "end run" to bail out Enron? 



The latest thing is video-blogging - or 'vlogging':

The biggest on YouTube is Zoella - or Zoe Sugg:
Zoella - YouTube
Zoella | Beauty, Fashion & Lifestyle Blog

Casper Lee has had quite a few hits too:

caspar lee draw my life - Google Search

It's getting very big:
Video blog - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And people are making a lot of cash out of it:

Meet the vloggers: Self employed and 'worth a fortune'

nullSome of the UK's top vloggers give Newsbeat their top tips for video blogging.

In theory, anyone can video blog, or 'vlog', as long as they have a camera, an internet connection and something to say.
But for the UK's top vloggers it has become a career where they can earn thousands of pounds for mentioning a product to their millions of fans.
Newsbeat has been to meet some of the most successful young vloggers.
Many started out as students, were unemployed or, in one case, earned £25,000 a year in an office job.
They changed all that by setting up business in their bedrooms - however making a career online is tougher than you might think.

(L to R) Lily Pebbles, JJ Olajide, Anna Gardner
(L to R) Lily Pebbles, JJ Olajide, Anna Gardner

None of the vloggers wanted to reveal exactly how much they earn.
However JJ Oladjide, who's known as KSI, left school two years ago to vlog and admits he's "a lot better off than he was two years ago" having built up 4 million followers on YouTube.
Anna Gardner, 24, who runs the Vivianna Does Make Up blog says it's not money for nothing.
"I wake up at six," she says. "I'm on my laptop working by seven and I probably finish at about six."

'Can't stop'

Lily Pebble, 25, spends her days tweeting, recording vlogs, writing blogs, researching beauty products, chatting with followers and negotiating contracts.
"You can't stop at the weekend. Twitter and Instagram are 24/7," she says.

Zoe Sugg
Zoella, 23, has 2.5million subscribers to her YouTube channel.

The vloggers know they are valuable to high street brands. Anna again: "I mentioned a brush set and online it had sold out by mid day."
Key to a vlogger's success is the trust they build with their audience. That relationship makes them valuable to advertisers.
"If a blogger endorses a product it gives it more weight than if it was just featured on the page of a magazine", says Jessica Walker, a digital marketing specialist.
"Some of the top bloggers we work with are very successful and can earn thousands of pounds a month. But it's nothing they have set out to do.
"It's something they've been really good at and grown their following by having really good content."
Jessica works for eight&four, whose clients include major health and beauty brands.

She says although most bloggers are upfront about which products are "sponsored", it is not always very clear.
"[Some] are quite clever about their language," she says. "They don't want their blogs to look like a catalogue."
"You'll notice they use words like, 'I was shown this product', rather than, 'I was sent this product by a PR'."
It comes as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have released a warning telling vloggers they must make it clear when they are being paid to promote something.
1.5 million unique visitors click on to Zoe Sugg's blog every month, which works out to around 6 million page views. She's one of the UK's most successful young vloggers.
She started when she was unemployed three years ago.

nullYoung vloggers have been warned to make it clear when they are being paid to promote something
"There are companies who would love our help," she explains. "But if I would never actually use that company or even if I just don't like the product I'm not going to even think about it.
"I try and stay true to what I like and what I believe in because people trust my opinion and I wouldn't want to jeopardise that."

Lily Pebbles says it's important vloggers don't go after the money: "I don't think we should be ashamed how much money we're earning. It's just important people know the money doesn't affect how we write our websites".
Some vloggers get professional representation to help negotiate contracts with big companies and advertisers. They take a cut of profits.

Earnings 'up 60%'

Another big earner is placing adverts at the start of their YouTube videos.

"If you have a very strong passion for a particular area, be it beauty, fashion, tech or gaming, I'd give it a shot," she says.
This type of earning capacity has gone up 60% in the last year - mainly thanks to mobile phones - according to Sara Mormino, a director at YouTube.
Sara believes the UK is one of the global leaders in vlogging and many rank among the top earners globally.
"These young people have really captured a new way of creating content and a new way of engaging an audience".
Follow @BBCNewsbeat on Twitter

Meet the vloggers: Self employed and 'worth a fortune' - BBC Newsbeat

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

movies to practice reported speech

From this very helpful website:
Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals

... there is a very nice little exercise on transferring direct speech as we hear it into indirect speech as we would report it, using a clip from this movie:
while you were sleeping - YouTube
Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals: While You Were Sleeping: Reported Speech

Here's another:
the purple rose of cairo - YouTube
Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals: reported speech

And another:
love actually - YouTube
Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals: reported x direct speach

There are some lovely animations from Story Corps - where ordinary Americans record their real-life stories, which are then made into little cartoons. Great for using in reported speech exercises!
StoryCorps | To R.P. Salazar, with Love

A nice piece from the British Council: Can you report it back?
LearnEnglish | British Council | How to tell if your boyfriend is a slob

More ideas on what to do with reported speech:
Reported Speech activities, ideas and links : A Journey in TEFL

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

story-telling: the art of framing

We've already considered how 'framing' can influence how we see certain issues:
Jay Doubleyou: story telling: creating narratives around climate change
Jay Doubleyou: story-telling: creating narratives around money and debt

And we've looked at how we can be 'manipulated':
Jay Doubleyou: how to spot media bias
Jay Doubleyou: positive power and influence

Looking again at the research:
How you frame it De Martino and his colleagues scanned the brains of 20 volunteers. At the same time, the researchers told the participants they received a sum of money and then repeatedly posed them one of two choices: Keep a chunk of money or gamble, or lose a chunk of money or gamble.
As expected, those told they could keep money or gamble were generally leerier of risk. On the other hand, volunteers informed they could lose money or gamble often were more risk-seeking.
The volunteers who were more susceptible to the framing effect showed greater activity in an emotion- and learning-related brain region called the amygdala.
People most immune to this framing effect had increased activity in other brain regions, the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex, "some of the most modern areas of the brain, the most different between us and the other primates," De Martino told LiveScience. When these are damaged, the resulting behavior can be driven completely by emotion and impulse.

Let's look again at how framing changes your decisions:

How Framing Changes your Decisions - YouTube

In other words, we are not entirely 'rational' when we come to making decisions:
Behavioral economics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Can we 'nudge' people to make 'the right decisions'?
Nudge theory - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness: Richard H Thaler, Cass R Sunstein: Books
Nudge (book) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nudge, the Video: Behavioural Economics in Action - YouTube

But this in turn has been heavily criticised as 'paternalistic':

The book draws on research in psychology and behavioral economics to defend libertarian paternalism and active engineering of choice architecture.[1][2][3][4]

Nudge (book) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Soft paternalism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A new book just out says that 'people are not stupid'...
Click on the interview at the bottom of the piece:
Nudge economics: has push come to shove for a fashionable theory? | Science | The Observer

story-telling: creating narratives around money and debt

We have already considered 'framing':
Jay Doubleyou: story telling: creating narratives around climate change

Let's look in more detail at one of the pieces:

By Special to LiveScience
updated 8/3/2006 3:08:42 PM ET
Is a pound of stones heavier than a pound of feathers? Of course they both weigh the same, but the decisions people make are remarkably susceptible to how choices are presented or framed.
Now scientists are pinning down the centers in the brain related to how this "framing effect" can influence decision-making. The findings could have a big impact on economics, among other things.
"Classical economics assumed humans are fundamentally rational and never really considered emotions quite important, but this shows emotions are embedded in our brain when it comes to making decisions," said Benedetto De Martino, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London.
How you frame it De Martino and his colleagues scanned the brains of 20 volunteers. At the same time, the researchers told the participants they received a sum of money and then repeatedly posed them one of two choices: Keep a chunk of money or gamble, or lose a chunk of money or gamble.
As expected, those told they could keep money or gamble were generally leerier of risk. On the other hand, volunteers informed they could lose money or gamble often were more risk-seeking.
The volunteers who were more susceptible to the framing effect showed greater activity in an emotion- and learning-related brain region called the amygdala.
People most immune to this framing effect had increased activity in other brain regions, the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex, "some of the most modern areas of the brain, the most different between us and the other primates," De Martino told LiveScience. When these are damaged, the resulting behavior can be driven completely by emotion and impulse.
Coping with emotions Emotions can help play a role in decision-making when information is incomplete or too complex, to serve as at times critical rules of thumb, the researchers said in their report in the Aug. 4 issue of the journal Science. However, in modern society, where making the best decision can often require skills of abstraction and examining problems outside their context, emotions can render decisions irrational.
De Martino stressed that people who could overcome the framing effect did not lack emotions.
"Some people think rationality is the opposite of emotion, but from our results, everyone had emotion, but some people were better at coping with their emotions," he explained.

© 2012 All rights reserved.

'Framing effect' influences decisions - Technology & science - Science - LiveScience | NBC News
The Framing Wars - New York Times

Let's look at money in a little more detail:

Framing the economy: the austerity story

Carys Afoko, Head of Communications
Daniel Vockins, Lead Organiser, New Economy Organisers Network
Well-framed, well-crafted and often repeated, the austerity story is the dominant political narrative in Britain today. It shapes how most of us think and talk about the economy. It has convinced most of the country of the need for huge public spending cuts and presents a coherent vision for the kind of society we should live in.
The austerity story
The Coalition tells a powerful story about the economy to make the case for austerity in the media and public communications. It is consistent, memorable, uses vivid images and emotional metaphors, and is simple enough to be understood and retold.
There are several frames that underpin it:
  1. Dangerous debt – the most important economic issue the UK faces is the size of public sector debt, caused by excessive public spending.
  2. Britain is broke – the UK’s public finances are like an individual household, which has spent all its money.
  3. Austerity is a necessary evil – there is no economic alternative to spending cuts.
  4. Big bad government – the bloated, inefficient and controlling government is getting in the way of progress, interfering in people’s lives and rewarding the undeserving.
  5. Welfare is a drug – like drug addiction, state support is tempting, but ultimately dangerous; benefit claimants are weak, reckless, undeserving and addicted to hand-outs.
  6. Strivers and skivers – there are two kinds of people in Britain: hardworking strivers and lazy skivers, we each choose which to be.
  7. Labour’s mess – all the faults of our economy can be pinned on the previous (Labour) Government and their out of control spending.
Most of the frames in the austerity story resonate with millions of people in the UK:
  • Polling data shows that month on month, no matter what people think about the Coalition, they continue to believe their spending cuts are necessary for the economy.
  • Attitudes to welfare have hardened over time so that half the country believe the unemployed choose to stay out of work.
  • Evidence indicates that more people may blame Labour for the economic situation we are in now than did three years ago.
This has tough implications for austerity’s opponents: when a frame is strongly held we tend to ignore facts that do not fit with it. The austerity story is a powerful narrative that is embedded in public consciousness. It cannot be challenged with facts. Only with new frames and a different story about the economy can it be dislodged.
Challengers to the austerity story
A number of organisations and individuals communicate alternative narratives to the austerity story. None have the coherence or appeal of the Coalition’s account of the economy, although each offers insights into how we might tell a different story. The challengers’ weaknesses tend to fall into similar traps:
  • Framing – opponents tend to accept Coalition frames or rely on negative and reactive frames that put forward no new vision for the economy. Where they do create new frames they often do not start where people are or resonate with what they believe about the economy.
  • Storytelling – none of the challengers tell good stories with simple ideas and powerful images, they are more likely to rely on academic language. There is little unity in the stories that oppose austerity, and few common threads.
  • Messengers – There are more people vocally supporting austerity in the media than opposing it, and those who do oppose the dominant story tend to be less confident or credible. The messengers for austerity seem more coordinated than those against it.
Towards a new story
The austerity story can be defeated, if its opponents identify and activate their own powerful frames. The frames must be developed from values and resonate with public opinion. They must be tested and refined based on what works. We outline some frames we believe could be used to build a new narrative, and a story that brings them together.
  1. Casino economy – our economy is like a casino, it is in need of reform so that it can be stable and useful.
  2. Treading water – we are not making any progress as a nation; we are running to stand still, struggling but not moving forward.
  3. Big bad banks – our current problems are the result of a financial crisis that we, and not the banks that caused it, paid for.
  4. Big guys and little guys – there are two types of people in Britain, the little guys who work hard and don’t get a fair deal, and the big guys who have money and power and play by their own set of rules.
  5. Jobs Gap – the biggest issue facing our country is the jobs gap: people who want to work but can’t, people who work hard but don’t take home a decent wage and young people who cannot be sure of a good job.
  6. Time for renewal – we need to rebuild and renew what made Britain great – from the railways to our education system. We need to invest.
  7. Austerity is a smokescreen – The Coalition uses the deficit as an excuse to do what they have always wanted to do like shrink the state and privatise the NHS.We cannot trust them; they aren’t out to help ordinary people.
The battle for the economic narrative will be won with stories, not statistics. It is time the opponents of austerity tell a story of their own. To win, they will need to do more than find their frames, they will need to be more coordinated, responsive to public opinion and find more credible messengers.

the economy: the austerity story | New Economics Foundation

Perhaps we could consider a fundamental question:

What is money?

Here is the classic explanation:
What Is Money?

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:
Money is any item or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a particular country or socio-economic context.[1][2][3] The main functions of money are distinguished as: amedium of exchange; a unit of account; a store of value; and, occasionally in the past, a standard of deferred payment.[4][5]

Money - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A very provocative book came out a couple of years ago challenging the ideas around money and debt:

Debt: The First 5000 Years is a book by anthropologist David Graeber published in 2011. It is a wide-ranging book, exploring debt's relationship with moneycashbarter,communitymarriagefriendshipvassalageslaverymoralityhonorlawphilosophy,commercereligiongreedcharityviolencewar and government; in short, much of the fabric of human life in society. It draws on the history and anthropology of a number of civilizations, large and small, from the first known records of debt from Sumer in 3000 BC until the present. It explores how debt has changed and been changed by the people and societies which have used it.
A major argument of the book is that when the imprecise, informal, community-building indebtedness of "human economies" is replaced by mathematically precise, firmly enforced debts, widespread impoverishment and violence are common results which only a few societies have managed to escape.
A second major argument of the book is that, contrary to standard accounts of the history of money, debt is likely the oldest means of trade, with cash and barter transactions being later developments. Debt, the book argues, has typically retained its primacy, with cash and barter usually limited to situations of low trust involving strangers or those not considered credit-worthy.
This book documents Graeber's argument that as far back as we can see in the historical and archeological record, people with power have often established rules to benefit them and impoverish and enslave everyone else. This trend has been occasionally interrupted when slaves or peons rebelled, often killing the existing elites.
To reduce the risks of rebellion, a Jubilee would be declared. This would cancel all debts but maintain most of the power and social status of existing elites.
Graeber insists that gift economies preceded barter and money, contrary to the popular claims of economists. Gifts incur debts, whose enforcement sometimes led to slavery, which occasionally led to rebellions.
He concludes that, "since Hammurabi, great imperial states have invariably resisted [Jubilees]. Athens and Rome established the paradigm: even when confronted with continual debt crises, they insisted on legislating around the edges, softening the impact, eliminating obvious abuses like debt slavery ... but [never] allow a challenge to the principle of debt itself. The governing classes of the United States seem to have taken a remarkably similar approach: eliminating the worst abuses (e.g., debtors' prison), ... but never allowing anyone to question the sacred principle that we must all pay our debts. [But] the principle has been exposed as a flagrant lie. ... [W]e don't "all" have to pay our debts. ... A debt is just the perversion of a promise ... corrupted by both math and violence. ... [N]o one has the right to tell us our true value, no one has the right to tell us what we truly owe."[1]

Debt: The First 5000 Years - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Here's a good introduction:

Are we slaves to debt? David Graeber on the history of spending more than we have

Almost forty years ago, on August 15, 1971 President Nixon took America off the gold standard, declaring, “We must protect the position of the American dollar as a pillar of monetary stability around the world” — which meant, among other things, that there were really no longer boundaries on the amount of money that could be printed.This began what anthropologist and author David Graeber says is the latest pendulum swing away from an economy based on hard currency to one based on virtual money, or credit, which can lead to debt spinning out of control —everyone’s favorite topic this summer.
Graeber’s new book, “Debt: The First 5,000 years,” traces the origins of owing all the way back to Mesopotamia, and explores how debt and morality became intertwined, among other intriguing details.  Need to Know’s Alison Stewart spoke with Graeber to help explain why being consumed by debt is nothing new.

Video: Are we slaves to debt? David Graeber on the history of spending more than we have | Need to Know | PBS

Here's another video to follow up:
Conversations w/ Great Minds - Dr. David Graeber Debt: The 1st 5000 years P2 - YouTube

And an hour-long video:
Authors@Google: David Graeber, DEBT: The First 5,000 Years - YouTube

To finish: in the West, the idea of 'the free market' has been framed in a very clear way, but Graeber points several things out, including:

Graeber also makes what I imagine will be a controversial argument about Medieval Islam and free markets. Throughout the book, Graeber points out that the common sense view of 'market' and 'state' as diametrically opposing forces is false, and that "historical reality reveals (...) they were born together and have always been intertwined." Consequently, he is dismissive of the economists' idea of the free market, since markets are underpinned by state force, and historically were created by state action (typically taxation to raise armies to wage war). However, in Medieval Islam, Graeber does identify something like a true free market, that is, a market without any state involvement. But here, without the force of the state, the only guarantee for commercial activity is honour and trust. In the absence of coercion, market relations tend to be reabsorbed in the web of social relations, a 'moral economy', regulated by custom and reputation, and thus based more on co-operation than competition. Thus, paraphrasing the work of the Islamic scholar Tusi (1201-1274 AD), he writes that...

Thoughts on David Graeber’s ‘Debt: the first 5,000 years’

Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history— in which we learn so many surprising facts, such as the information that Adam Smith had Latin translations of Al-Ghazali and Al-Tusi's works in his library, suggesting that the writings of the two Islamic thinkers may have been among his sources, for instance in his theory of the division of labour.

Book Review: “Debt - The First 5,000 Years” by David Graeber | Muslim Heritage