February 28th, 2011 by Wordsman

No KYPC this week. The Wordsman is wrestling with computer difficulties. Sorry.

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The Called Part 2

February 25th, 2011 by Wordsman

Some people think cinema is an exclusive domain.  If it’s not filmed on a Hollywood sound stage, if it’s not based on a bestselling novel, if it doesn’t have a special effects budget with at least seven zeroes and star actors you can read about in magazines, then it’s not a real movie.  For the purpose of determining punishments, however, the Universal Court of Good Taste has decided to adopt the broad definition: any clip recorded on a camera is a movie.  Any movie that someone else has to watch is cinema.

Much of it is awful.

The fancy trappings of a “real” movie, while not required, certainly do help.  Your chances of producing something watchable are much better on a soundstage than they are in, say, your basement.  It’s considered good practice to hire some actual screenwriters instead of having your mom write the whole thing.  You’re much more likely to impress with CGI than by throwing a faded old bedsheet over an even older bookcase.  And, while you don’t have to go to the A-list, you’re always better off not using an actor just because he has some spare time on his hands.

“And . . . action!”

Unfortunately, most directors disregard this helpful advice.  Fortunately for them, the Cinema Bureau of the UCGT can’t keep up with the pace of new productions any more than an aged tortoise with a broken leg has a shot at catching a bullet train.  In fact, they’re so busy recording crimes that they never get around to enforcement.  They work 90-hour weeks, spend their brief breaks staring at the wall because at least it doesn’t move, and liken the coming of YouTube to the Ten Plagues of Egypt.

“You don’t have to say ‘action.’  I can see the red light go on.”

“Apparently I do, because you’re still not in character.”

“Character?  I have a character?”

“A character that’s in danger of being killed off if he doesn’t show up soon.”

“Sorry.  He’s distracted, wondering why he keeps talking to some mysterious off-camera voice.”

“Oh, I’ll edit this out later.”

“Are you sure you can do that?”

“Just . . . read.”

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This Day in History Entry #106

February 22nd, 2011 by Wordsman

First the Russians went up in a trice
In the third, the U.S. team scored twice
Left the Russians bereaved
Al asked if we believed
In miraculous vict’ries on ice

Event: The “Miracle on Ice”: the U.S. Hockey team defeats the heavily-favored Soviet team in the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York
Year: 1980
Learn more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_on_Ice

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #44

February 21st, 2011 by Wordsman

A. アイロン B. 靴 C. 乗馬者 D. シルクハット E. 指貫 F. 榴弾砲

In Monopoly, cheating is a way of life (and often the only way to make the game end).  Anyone who says, “I’ll be the banker” is as trustworthy as someone who proclaims, “I am not a crook!”  This being the case, I half-expected contestants this week to be looking up answers left and right, but it appears for the most part that people remained honest, or at least were skilled enough to be subtle about it as they slipped handfuls of $500 bills into their money piles.  Let’s see if that honesty paid off for you.

Theoman is correct in saying that both “horse” and “shoe” are one character (and “horseshoe” is two, but that’s a subject for a later puzzle).  So his kanji knowledge holds up.  Unfortunately, his Monopoly knowledge let him down.  The playing piece is not a horse but a man on horseback, which can be found at C.  Still, he was close; B is the shoe.  So we’ll say he had the right pair but put them on the wrong feet.

Shirley, however, spotted the shoe fairly easily, and she nearly pulled off the hat trick.  She correctly identified A and D as our two most stylish transportation options, but she picked D, the shirukuhatto (from “silk hat”), as the iron when it is in fact the top hat.  A is the iron.  These, by the way, are once again katakana rather than hiragana.  In the context of this game, if it’s used in conjunction with kanji, it’s probably hiragana, but if it stands on its own it’s probably katakana (that’s four correct uses of “its/it’s” in one sentence!  A new internet record!)

A Fan thought that A might be the boot because boots are old, and I suppose that’s true–the boot in Monopoly isn’t exactly shiny and new.  And iron is pretty old as well (call it 3,000 years or so).  The iron, however, is pretty new, and that’s the only thing that airon here can refer to.  Misfits this week include the poor, neglected thimble (E) and the Howitzer (F), which was perhaps too intimidating for its own good.

People may be wondering why I left the battleship, another classic Monopoly piece, out of last week’s challenge.  As a matter of fact, it was because I was saving it for this week.  It’s time for open warfare on the high seas, which, as my childhood taught me, consists primarily of random guessing.  So really, it’s the perfect topic for KYPC, which returns this week to its original all-kanji all-the-time format.  Can you sink my battleship?

A. 駆逐艦 B. 航空母艦 C. 巡洋艦 D. 戦艦 E. 潜水艦

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The Called Part 1

February 18th, 2011 by Wordsman

Day 61:

Officer Escobar didn’t go back into Simon Park Station after that day.  Now that his colleague was back on the job, the subway tunnels were as safe as they needed to be.  Maybe too safe.  Anyway, for all he knew the woman had finally accomplished whatever the hell it was she was trying to do and was no longer there.  He could almost believe that (Escobar had once witnessed a starving man breaking a window to go into a house and take a loaf of bread.  When the man said he lived there, Escobar took him at his word, but this was just too much for him to swallow).

So Escobar, who got impatient on public transportation anyway, took the subway out off his regular route.

He did not, however, put the woman out of his mind.  Mrs. Escobar, whenever she would see his eyes glaze over, simply assumed he was daydreaming about baked goods again.  And, often, she was correct: though the images changed as the weeks went by—from Leftover-Halloween-Candy Bars to Cranberry Chutney Strudel and Pumpkin Pie Profiteroles to the incomparable Bûche de Noël—her husband’s thoughts never went long before wandering back to the Dough-Re-Mi.  But a man’s mind cannot live on cake alone, and so, every now and then, he semi-voluntarily turned his mind to the woman in Simon Park Station.

She was still there.  He knew this, and grew more certain with every passing day.  Until he saw her outside with his own eyes (even though they had once been called “the least reliable pair of eyes in the Crescenton Police Department”), he would remain sure that she was still underground, still leaning against her concrete pillar, still addressing her pleas to whoever happened to walk by.  He was also fairly confident that the pedestrians she spoke to were continuing to give her a variety of responses ranging from mild curiosity to just short of physical violence.

Because picturing her failing over and over again was almost as depressing as watching her do so, Escobar often switched to imagining what the person who finally answered her call would be like.  He had several competing theories.  Rescuer Mark I, the first to surface, was essentially a younger version of Escobar himself.  In addition to being in better shape than the policeman had ever been he was also a world-renowned pastry chef and had a considerably smoother way with words, but other than that they were very much alike.  Mark I played the French horn, because he had always thought they looked cool.

Rescuer Mark II was her knight in shining armor.  Literally.  The lance was a safety hazard, and the logistics of getting the horse through the turnstiles were nothing short of a nightmare, but hey, the classics are classics for a reason.  Mark II, who had a flair for the dramatic, was most often pictured charging down the entryway steps, knocking over at least one watery coffee stand, picking up the old woman and lifting her onto the horse in one smooth motion, and riding off into the sunset without even pausing to catch his breath.  The knight was too busy jousting to learn to play an instrument, but he had a squire who accompanied him everywhere he went and who performed regularly on the coconuts.  Coconuts are an instrument, right?

But it was the third iteration that became his favorite.  Mark III—whom, in a burst of creativity, he had decided to name “Mark”—was an older gentleman, but not too old, perhaps halfway between Escobar and the woman.  He always dressed stylishly but subtly, and his silvery black hair looked like the work of a laser-guided comb.  Mark was a man of the world in every sense; there was no great city he’d never visited, no notable figure he’d never met, no country in which he’d never narrowly avoided being deported.  He could talk for weeks about all the things he had seen and done, but mostly he preferred to listen.  Mark was proficient in any number of instruments, but his signature sound was playing soft, jazzy riffs on the clarinet.

The woman in Simon Park Station had considerably more free time to devote to this problem, so it should come as no surprise that she developed designs for dozens if not hundreds of potential saviors (she lost count after Mark XXVI).  Still, none of these prototypes bore much resemblance to the man who ended up responding to her plea—though, like all of Escobar’s inventions and the majority of the woman’s, he was indeed a man.  He was no master baker, wore no armor, and his range of life experience was about as broad as the latest cell phone model.  He did have one thing in common with the woman, which was that he also lived in a place where Officer Escobar never went: the suburbs.

At first glance it might seem that the suburbs would have been an ideal posting for the man who prefers to police areas in little need of policing.  True, the crime rates did tend to be lower outside the Crescenton city limits.  However, this was not due to there being fewer crimes committed but rather to their being less obvious.  The crimes of the suburbs are harder to define, harder to prove, and much harder to stamp out, but that does not make them any less wrong.

On this particular day, a crime against cinema was being perpetrated.

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This Day in History Entry #105

February 15th, 2011 by Wordsman

At the time, most folks chose to blame Spain
But no one could completely explain
Just what happened that day
In the Havana bay
Simply put: what did blow up the Maine?

Event: Battleship U.S.S. Maine explodes in Havana harbor, one of the major events leading to the Spanish-American War
Year: 1898
Learn more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Maine_%28ACR-1%29

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Know Your Picture Characters #43

February 14th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 鉛管 B. 小刀 C. 燭台 D. 縄 E. レンチ F. 連発拳銃

Now that we have all gathered again in the Accusing Parlor, it is time for me to produce a startling series of revelations that will, with any luck, lead to a veritable storm of fainting and monocle dropping.

I aim my first J’accuse! at A Fan, for attempting to distract people from the matter at hand with unrelated information.  I do not recall mentioning a game called “Clue,” or even one called “Cluedo,” and I certainly did not reference any viridian clergymen.  I must also accuse him of being a less-than-stellar plumber, as he seems to think that the best tool to use is B, the knife.  Still, he’s probably better than the maintenance people in my building, who have chosen to address the problem of my leaky sink by wielding the twin guns of apathy and indifference.

Dragon is a little bit further along the road to master plumberdom, but she still has a long way to go, for while she seems to have correctly identified that the wrench and the pipe are key items to be concerned with, she cannot tell the difference between them.  She spotted E as the non-kanji outsider in this week’s lineup, but she called it the lead pipe when it is clearly the wrench.  Or, to humor A Fan, we can also refer to it as the スパナ (supana).  Dragon raises a good point, however: why would a language develop characters specifically designed to represent a lead pipe?  I mean, it’s not like pipes were made out of lead for centuries, nor is it even remotely true that lead’s atomic symbol Pb derives from the Latin word plumbum, also the source of the word “plumber.”  I mean, maybe if you had two characters, one that meant “lead” and another that meant “pipe,” but . . . oh wait, there they are.  They’re at A.  A is the lead pipe.

Finally, we accuse Shirley of actually being right about something.  Her “weapon of choice,” the revolver, is indeed found at F.  Her other shots were a little bit more off the mark, but hey, that’s why a revolver has six chambers.  We already know that A is not the candlestick, which is in fact found at C.  And while she correctly spotted that E is not written in kanji, it is katakana rather than hiragana.  To compare, the same sequence of sounds (renchi) would look like this in hiragana: れんち.  But if you wrote it in hiragana, it wouldn’t mean wrench.  Funny how that works.

But, unfortunately for you all, the crime was actually committed with D, the rope, by 紅さん in the 廊下.  Better luck next time.

Now that A Fan has insisted on introducing the theme of board games, I see no reason not to stick with it.  This week’s challenge concerns transportation: what is the best means by which to travel around a board?  Riding a horse is a popular traditional choice, but why not strike fear into your opponents cruising around on a Howitzer?  If money is a concern, you can always go with the beat-up old shoe or the thimble, and if you want to travel in style, don’t forget your top hat or your iron (to keep your tux wrinkle-free).  Note that this challenge features not one but two non-kanji entries!  That’s right: the title of this game is growing more meaningless by the week!

A. アイロン B. 靴 C. 乗馬者 D. シルクハット E. 指貫 F. 榴弾砲

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The Calling Part 11

February 11th, 2011 by Wordsman

Day 7:

The Week of the Swapped Shift was over.  Officer Escobar was free to return to his usual beat.  He had no work-related reason to visit Simon Park Station.  None at all.

To celebrate, he decided to mix up his routine a bit.  Rather than drive to work as he always did, he took the subway.  Because of his lack of familiarity with LCTA (Laragheny County Transit Authority) schedules, he chose to leave extra time for his commute.  Then, partway there, when he realized that he was on pace to arrive obnoxiously early, he got off the train to walk around.  The stop at which he happened to do so was Simon Park.

No one but an omniscient narrator could ever know that he had planned the detour all along.

Despite coming from a different direction than usual, he found the mystery woman’s pillar with ease.  For a moment he thought that, seeing him as a normal commuter rather than an observer in the shadows—in other words, seeing him at all—she would walk up and deliver her trademark line.  But it seemed she was dormant that day.  He found her with her heard drooped, as unaware of the world around her as she had been when he heard her working on her sales pitch.

As he leaned down to check on her, Escobar thought he heard something.  It sounded like, “Guess I’d better get used to being stuck here forever,” but that didn’t make any sense.  Surely no one outside of a folk song could get trapped in the subway.

A little later, the woman opened her eyes, looked around, and spotted a paper bag on the ground next to her.  An understated logo featuring a couple musical notes and some scent lines was printed under the words, “Dough-Re-Mi Café.”  Inside was a muffin.  Officer Escobar did not eat muffins; he considered them health food.  Since this muffin was the size of a boxer’s fist and covered in chocolate chips, caramel, and walnuts, it was about as healthy as cheesecake, but he believed she would appreciate it anyway.  No matter how good they are for you, broccoli and lettuce will not cheer you up.

Like most people who aren’t named Alice and don’t fall down rabbit holes, the woman knew better than to eat food that appears mysteriously.  After all that she had been through, however, something like that hardly qualified as mysterious.  And a hungry person will eat just about anything, even if it says “EAT ME” on it.  So she scarfed it down and was reminded that there is good in the world.

“It’s still too early to give up.”

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This Day in History Entry #104

February 8th, 2011 by Wordsman

Twenty thousand leagues under the sea-
A good start, but we’ve places to be
Round the world by balloon
Take a trip to the moon
Then get down with some geology

Event: Birth of Jules Verne, author of such works as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days, From the Earth to the Moon, and Journey to the Center of the Earth
Year: 1828
Learn more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jules_Verne

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #42

February 7th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 浮世絵 B. 歌舞伎 C. 狂言 D. 短歌 E. 能 F. 文楽

Dragon has returned to her old role of first into the fray this week, and she does it with style.  She correctly identified B as kabuki by noting that it had a lot of boxes in it and was therefore flashy.  Her logic may seem difficult to follow, but I will attempt to lead you through it: when you hear the word “box,” the first thing that naturally jumps to mind is a cardboard box.  Now cardboard, as we well know, is not one of the flashiest substances on Earth.  It is, however, something that is stored in large quantities in warehouses.  And what else was stored in a large warehouse?  That’s right: the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost ArkThat thing was pretty flashy when they opened it up.  Ergo: kabuki.

Theoman was tricksy in his response.  He correctly spotted the noh at E on the basis of shortness (I so desperately wanted to find a counterexample of a word with the same pronunciation that was two characters long, but I could not).  However, he failed to properly follow the instructions, which clearly stated that the object of the puzzle was to identify whichever art form sounded the most interesting, and there is noh way that noh could have been the most interesting-sounding thing on that list.  But he did stoop to making the obligatory pun, so all is forgiven . . . for now (for noh?).

Our newest contestant fell prey to one of the oldest pitfalls of KYPC: assuming that kanji are meant to help rather than to mislead you.  The shared character she identified in B and D can mean either “poetry” or “song” depending on where it is used.  In kabuki it refers to singing, but D is actually the classic tanka or “short poem.”  At 31 syllables, the tanka is almost twice as long as the early modern/modern haiku; the name comes out of comparison to the chouka or “long poem,” which had no set limit on length and was already dying out by the time major poetry collections were starting to be recorded.

A Fan took a clever approach.  And he’s right–the second character in F does look an awful lot like singer/songwriter Paul Anka, recognizable by the beams of light shining off his face and the single hair standing up at an angle on his head.  But, as we have already discovered, the elusive tanka was hiding out at D.  F is the puppet theatre of bunraku, made up of two characters that, sadly, have nothing to do with puppets.  And by way of explanation to TCGU: for reasons that cannot be explained, I have always thought it more fitting to refer to live theatre with the British spelling and to a movie theater with the American one.  It may have something to do with perceptions of classiness.

Shirley’s typically accurate shotgun misfired this week.  Even her last-ditch guess failed to pull through.  That wacky bunch in A is the ukiyoe, or “pictures of the floating world.”  I guess if everything were floating you might convulse in a strange manner, but I don’t think it would be with laughter.  The “crazy words” of kyogen can be found at C.

And now for something completely different.  A murder has been committed!  Who did it?  Where was it done?  And, most importantly of all, what was the murder weapon?  Was it the candlestick?  The knife?  The lead pipe?  The revolver?  The rope?  Or the wrench?  See if you can spot the deadly implement and help solve this heinous crime.  Clever detectives may also note that one of these items is not written with kanji.  Some may chose to ignore it, figuring that they have no chance of identifying something written with characters that aren’t even intended to represent meaning.  Others may be sick of all this kanji business and figure they have as good a shot with that as they do with anything else.  Theoman, however, is banned from guessing about that particular entry, because that’s just the kind of discriminatory jerk I am.

A. 鉛管 B. 小刀 C. 燭台 D. 縄 E. レンチ F. 連発拳銃

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