The Called Part 10

April 29th, 2011 by Wordsman

Dizzy, as satisfied as a director can be with the performance of a mere human actor—when will they perfect android technology?—emerged from behind the camera once more.  She nodded to her brother, pumped the keys on her well-worn trumpet, coasted easily through a couple blues scales, and charged straight into her audition piece.

Peter had his own audition to go to, and an important one at that.  Of the dozen or so law firms to which he had applied, Huston and Thomas was the only one that had called him back.  Crescenton had no shortage of law students looking to get their names out there, and a lot of them had fathers who “knew a guy,” so competition was fierce.  But when he heard his sister start to play, he plopped right back down on the old couch to listen.

This was yet another reason why he had trouble understanding the need for an introduction: whatever her personality might have been, he didn’t see how anyone could deny his sister’s talent.  Though he would never admit it, her playing always moved him deeply, and it takes a lot to pluck the heartstrings of a man who decided he wanted to be a lawyer at age ten.

Just as she avoided the cheap thrill of the four-letter word in her speech, her music did not rely on the simple attention-grabbers.  There were no blaring fanfares, no blindingly fast technical riffs (not that her technique was lacking); Dizzy’s specialty was smooth lyrical passages that carried the human soul as irresistibly as a river in flood season.  One moment he was almost choking up, and the next he was grinning inanely, and if you asked him why he could only say that it was all in the music.

But perhaps there was another reason.  Maybe listening to his sister play called up old memories, evoked nostalgia for . . . but that part of his life was behind him, and it was all for the better, probably.

Of course, it was only after she finished that they discovered that Dizzy, unaware that the camera had continued to record while she introduced her brother, turned it off when she meant to turn it back on.  This discovery led to a thorough examination of the camcorder, a veritable tempest of 100% original profanity, and a repetition of everything they had thought they accomplished.  The delay did not make Peter late for his interview, but, luckily for him, it did keep him from arriving until just before it started.  Sometimes all the preparation in the world is no match for a good old-fashioned adrenaline rush.

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This Day in History Entry #115

April 26th, 2011 by Wordsman

To debate is the big thing these days
Over who composed this or that phrase
But whatever you hear
You just can’t shake a spear
At the quality of the man’s plays

Event: William Shakespeare is baptized (birthdate unknown)
Year: 1564
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #51

April 25th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 足 B. 腕 C. 肩 D. 手 E. 膝 F. 肘 G. 指

I have suspected for years that Shirley and Dragon were in some kind of fiendish cahoots with each other.  Now, at last, I have incontrovertible proof.

But first comes Theoman, who once again brought his mighty logic to bear.  He had a good idea, but he got a little too specific.  That part which appears on the left side of B, E, and F (and also, in somewhat more squished form, in C) typically refers to parts of the body in general, and if you look closely, it is the same as the character meaning moon.  Now, before you get a bunch of crazy ideas about the ancient Chinese having come from the moon–which can’t be ruled out–I should probably point out that this is a fairly well-known simplification of another symbol meaning “meat” or “flesh.”  It might seem then that this marker would be useless for identifying specific types of parts of the body, but, in fact, Theoman did not do too badly.  E and F are joints, and F is even the joint that he thought it was: the elbow.

Unfortunately, this means that ShirDrag’s identification of F as the knee is incorrect; she might want to check her elbows to make sure that they don’t give out at any moment either.  The tricky knee is located next door at E.  As for her other guesses, A, which is one of about a dozen characters that kind of looks like a person but doesn’t mean “person,” is the leg (or the foot.  They don’t really differentiate them all the time).  D is the hand she runs through her hair in an attempt to keep it under control, and C is not the hips but the equivalent structures located at the opposite end of the torso, in other words, the shoulders.

We can tell that A Fan is quite bitter that he still needs to use his finger to turn on his TV and is eagerly awaiting a time when it can be remotely activated with one’s mind.  In this case his bitterness may be due more specifically to the fact that he broke his TV because he tried to turn it on with his shoulder instead.  On ladders, however, he is rock solid: he knows that it’s best to use B, his arms.  The elusive finger, by the way, is hiding at G.

This business of people masquerading as someone else really has me concerned.  How am I supposed to know who’s who?  Ah yes.  While the appearance and the name can be easily disguised, it is much more difficult to conceal one’s true personality.  With this in mind, I have prepared a short personality test so I can identify you all conclusively.  Are you impertinent?  An optimist?  Short-tempered?  Sociable?  Whimsical?  A worrywart?  Let’s find out.

A. 移り気 B. 社交的 C. 心配性 D. 短気 E. 生意気 F. 楽天的

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The Called Part 9

April 22nd, 2011 by Wordsman

“Hi.  I’m Pete, and this is my sister . . . okay, you’re going to have to give me a minute.  Our mother named her Louisa, but then halfway through her life she suddenly decided that she hated that name, and she started insisting that we call her Miley.”

“After Miles Davis,” the off-camera voice noted, as if this was a sore point.

“Right.  But then a few years later that Hannah Montana show became popular, and she decided she didn’t want to be Miley anymore.”

“Can you blame me?”

“So she changed her name again, this time to Dizzy, because she falls down a lot.”

“It is an homage to Dizzy Gillespie.”  It would not, however, be unfair to say that Dizzy was not a skilled athlete, or even a skilled walker, nor would it be incorrect to add that even an Olympic gymnast might have trouble balancing with that much hair.

“Yeah, and I’m sure he got the nickname by being a paragon of grace and coordination.  But enough about him.  My sister is the only member of our family for at least three generations to fail a class in high school.”

“Not bad.  No one likes an overachiever.”

“She despises machines, or they despise her; we’ve never been able to figure out which.  Either way, it’s not a healthy relationship.  Maybe things would go better if she used the normal method for dealing with computers or cars or calculators that don’t work, but she won’t.  My sister refuses to swear.”

“It is because—”

“Yes, yes, we’ve all heard the ‘because.’  The common swear word has been overused to the point where it has lost all meaning.”

“Exactly.  If I’m going to curse something, I’ll use words that have plenty of meaning.”

He could have argued, as he had many times before, that a sharp, senseless expression of pure frustration is precisely what is called for in some situations, but he was running out of steam.  The annoyed feeling that had driven him to overcome his camera frigidity was fading fast.

“I could go on about her obsessions, compulsions, and neuroses, but someone told me you were looking for musicians, not mental patients.  So from here on I’ll let her introduce herself.”

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This Day in History Entry #114

April 19th, 2011 by Wordsman

We’re at twenty-two as of this date
Of which six or so are truly great
Now we’re tired of Bart
But the brat got his start
In a short with remarkable fate

Event: The first of the Simpsons shorts airs on The Tracey Ullman Show
Year: 1987
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #50

April 18th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 砲口 B. 芳香 C. 縫工 D. 放校 E. 咆哮 F. 彷徨

First off, let it be known that Dragon has been awarded thirteen and three-quarters integrity points.

Now for things that actually matter: this week was another one of those rare occasions where Theoman was able to make quite successful use of his Japanese knowledge.  I doubt that he was already familiar with either of the words he guessed correctly, but I assume he was able to spot a character meaning “school” in D and one meaning “mouth” in A, which led him to properly identify them as expulsion and gun muzzle, respectively.  We salute him for taking a valiant stab in the direction of wandering, but unfortunately it was this last guess which kept him from batting 1.000.  That crazy business at the beginning of C refers to sewing, so this is our tailor or seamstress.

Luckily, not everyone was so stumped by the titular compound.  Dragon immediately spotted F as the noble wanderer, and then she made up some silly business about rain in order to justify it.

What does that character at the top of the page mean?  Hmm . . .

For a moment I thought that Shirley had managed to snag the fragrance out of the line-up, but then I realized that she had written her answers in the order “B, A” rather than “A, B.”  If she had stuck to alphabetical order she would have been right: B is the fragrance.  But she was able to make up for it by following Dragon in identifying our itinerant friend at F, which means that this is one of the very rare occasions when every single participant got at least one answer right.  You folks sure know your homophones.  You know them so well that no one even had to bother howling.  Just in case you had, you would have found it at E.

Some of you may remember that long, long ago we had a puzzle on parts of the body.  Others of you may still be trying to forget.  In any case, as that challenge only covered the head and face, I’ve decided that you need to expand your anatomical knowledge somewhat.  So here is the Body Parts Challenge 2: Limbs Edition.  The rest of you can try to find the simple stuff like arms and legs, hands and fingers, while Theoman’s task will be to sort out the various joints (shoulder, elbow, knee).

A. 足 B. 腕 C. 肩 D. 手 E. 膝 F. 肘 G. 指

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The Called Part 8

April 15th, 2011 by Wordsman

At first he let the abuse slide, channeling the Buddha as he sank slowly into the creaky old couch.  As the slander went on, though, he felt more need to interject.

If it was the director’s intent to motivate her actor by lighting a fire under him, she was doing a good job.

“He used to pretend he was allergic to foods he didn’t like so he wouldn’t have to eat them.”

“That was years ago.”

“And it took you years to figure out that you couldn’t have anything that had those foods as ingredients, either.  Too bad you can’t be allergic to cake and eat it too.  What else . . .?  His favorite movies are Disney films and chick flicks.”

The Princess Bride is not a chick flick.”

“But Love Actually?  What’s that?”

“It’s British.  It’s . . . different.  And you’re worse.  You refuse to watch anything other than indie films.”

“Independent cinema is the only true cinema.”  (As has already been pointed out, this isn’t true, but some people never listen.)  “Only outside the system are you free to make movies about real emotions, real people.  All Hollywood cares about is appealing to key demographics.  And speaking of appealing . . . my brother’s last girlfriend—”

The tiger was finally roused.  “I think I get the picture,” he said, rising from the couch and stepping back into the line of fire.  His sister returned to her position behind the camera and eyed him warily—had she gone too far?  “Let’s get rolling.”  Thankfully he was unaware that the camera had been rolling the entire time.

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This Day in History Entry #113

April 12th, 2011 by Wordsman

Try to put yourself in Yuri’s place
Just imagine what he had to face
But it must have been fun
Riding in Vostok One
And becoming the first man in space

Event: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human in space
Year: 1961
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #49

April 11th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 完全試合 B. 三振 C. 四球 D. 死球 E. 失策 F. 盗塁

G. 併殺 H. 本塁打

Theoman and Dragon both decided to be morbid and look for death omens this week, though they came up with different answers: the former focused on the actual, physical danger of the HBP, whereas Dragon sought out the soul-crushing shame of the strikeout.  They both looked to C, which starts with the character for “four,” which is indeed unlucky because it can be pronounced the same as the character for “death.”  But really, they should have been a bit less metaphorical and a bit more literal.  Whereas C starts off with a symbol that sounds like “death,” D starts off with the symbol that actually is “death.”  If they had realized this, then Dragon would have been correct; D is the Hit By Pitch.  C is actually a lot easier than it was made out to be: the second symbol means “ball.”  “Four balls” equals a walk.  C and D have the same pronunciation, which is interesting, because a walk and a HBP have the same result.  However, like most baseball terms, they also have equivalents based on English, and there they are differentiated: the walk is a foabooru (four ball) and the Hit By Pitch is a deddobooru (dead ball).

Well, we certainly know what part of baseball A Fan thinks is most important: offense (though this causes one to wonder why he roots for the team he does).  It is true that seeing the ball sail out of the stadium can stir the heart–though actually, the real drama is just after the bat connects, before you realize whether or not it’s going, going, gone.  But what could be more exciting than a perfect game, which has happened less than 20 times in the past 100 years?  This is A.

Shirley, not distracted by the fact that the first character meant four/death, correctly picked up on the fact that C is the walk.  However, while she told a good story, none of her other answers was right.  H is not the strikeout but the home run; the middle character it shares with D means “base,” thus yielding “home base hit.”  F, then, is the stolen base.  The actual strikeout can be found at B, with characters meaning “three” and “swing.”  The two characters she chose to ignore are E, the error, and G, the double play.

But that’s enough of baseball for now.  It’s time for another homophone challenge.  This week’s choices are all pronounced houkou and they mean: explusion from school, fragrance, gun muzzle, tailor or seamstress, roar or howl, and wandering.  Good luck!

A. 砲口 B. 芳香 C. 縫工 D. 放校 E. 咆哮 F. 彷徨

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The Called Part 7

April 8th, 2011 by Wordsman

Peter, the skillful compromiser, removed his jacket, draped it gently over the back of the couch, and loosened his tie.  “What’s the sample?”

“Simple.  I’m going to introduce you.”  The girl spun to face the still-rolling camera that she didn’t know was still rolling.  Even from the front her most notable feature was the monstrous quantity of hair.  It overshadowed her small frame like a poodle standing over a chihuahua.  Were you to get lost in that hair, you would have to hope that you brought string or bread crumbs; otherwise you were never going to get out.

He eagerly waited for his sister to succumb to the same stupefying power of the camera lens, but it didn’t happen.  And here’s why: though they both had a lot of experience putting their talents on display in public, their styles were completely different.  Peter was an orator; when speaking, even when debating, it was all one-way.  There was no interaction between talker and listener.  He could give the same speech in an empty room that he could on the floor of the House of Representatives.

But his sister was a performer.  Music is not unidirectional—it bounces of the walls, it echoes, it reverberates.  The audience was as much a part of her playing as her trumpet or her lungs.  So when the camera drove home the fact that her performance had a potentially limitless audience, it didn’t faze her as it did her brother.

“Hi.  This is my brother Pete.  He’s all dressed up because he’s applying to be a summer secretary—”

“Law clerk.”

“—at some big firm downtown.  He recently renewed his driver’s license even though he hasn’t driven a car since he was eighteen.  He was on the golf team in high school.  No joke: golf.”

His sister’s “interesting tidbits”—some might have called them accusations—were intended to be insulting, but that did not make them any less true.  The first was easy enough to explain: the driver’s license was an all but indispensible form of ID, and the car was an expensive, unnecessary (at least where he lived) hassle.  As for the golf team, well, it hadn’t been his first choice.  He tried out for basketball and soccer also, and they offered him a spot . . . on the junior varsity teams.  Peter wasn’t interested in playing anything he couldn’t excel at.

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