Li Bai’s Moonlight Cantata

I learnt a new word: Cantata. Originally, I wanted to use “moonlight sonata” as part of the name, as a contrast. You know, that music piece by Beethoven. Then I realised that “sonata” means instrumental music (of sorts). “Cantata” means voice (of sorts). Go check the dictionary for the exact meanings.

Anyway, I’ve had that tune for the poem for a long time. It’s only with video that I finally found an outlet to express it. I could’ve created it as an audio file, but it would lack the impact I created in the above video.

I learnt how to shoot footage so I could do a cloning of myself in the video, and also how to edit that effect. That’s near the end of the video.

Here’s the poem in Chinese:
Li Bai poem

Note the visual elegance of the poem when written. Since each Chinese word is one syllable, a poem is visually compact. If the language has this one-syllable-one-word property, it will have this visual elegance. For example, a haiku in Japanese.

Also, each Chinese word carries meaning by itself, which is why much can be said in Chinese with few words. For example Chinese idioms or “Cheng Yu”
Cheng Yu - Chinese idiom
are 4 words each.

I’m not trying to raise Chinese superiority on language. Just giving an observation. Just so you know, that compactness comes at a price. Have you tried to write Chinese characters? Especially the complicated ones? And do you know how to pronounce an unfamiliar word? At least with English words, you can still get by with guessing. Unless it’s “chauffeur”. I pronounced it as chor-fi-ur (gluing the “fi-ur” to almost “fur”) when I was 10 years old. The English tuition teacher asked me to pronounce it in front of a class. Oh stop laughing…

Here’s the meaning of the poem:

There’s bright moonlight before the bed
Looks like frost on the ground
I raise my head and look at the bright moon
I bow my head and think of home

How many languages can you sing in?

My taste in music is varied. Generally speaking, I like instrumental music because there are no words. The way you think is affected by the language you know.

During the days when I was studying in university, I would be doing my homework at home, on the floor (I didn’t have a proper table to write on. I still don’t). I would play Kevin Kern (soft piano music) on the CD player. You remember CD players? I’d also pop in Westlife. Hey their songs are nice to listen to. Don’t judge me.

I’ve listened to classical (I remember Handel) to pop rock (Utada Hikaru). So what do I have now? *checks music library* I’ve got a few music pieces from demoscene (look for fr-019 and fr-025 by Farbrausch, Lifeforce by ASD), Michael Buble, Maksim, Enya, RyanDan, Celine Dion, Utada Hikaru, Backstreet Boys and Westlife, to mention a few of them.

“Wait, you said music with words affect your thinking. How can you still do homework while listening to Westlife?”

Well, there’s an exception. You see, the reason why instrumental music works well as “homework music” (as I’ll call it), is that the music gets the brain moving without interfering (much) with the thought processes. At least for me. To have songs with recognisable and understandable words have the same effect, I must have listened to the song many many many times. So often that the words hardly register in my brain. I still can sing or hum along, but they typically don’t disrupt thoughts. Unless I deliberately stop and enjoy the music.

Because of this, I also listen to songs from other languages. Well, if I don’t understand the words, they effectively become instrumental music, with the human voice as an instrument. With that, I thought it will be interesting to make the above video.

Behind the scenes

I thought I’d make a tribute to the demoscene, by including a song from a demo as the English representative. It’s called “The Popular Demo”.

For the Chinese song, I chose Wei Ai Feng Kuang by Tracy Huang. I actually heard this song only once when I was, I don’t know, 10 years old? How could I have remembered that song all these years? I don’t know. Somehow, the chorus part stuck in my brain. I only happened to find out the name of the song, uh, 1 year ago?

For Spanish, I heard “Amigos Para Siempre” due to the 1992 Olympics.

For Italian, I knew of “The Prayer” because of the movie “Quest for Camelot” (I bought the soundtrack CD).

For Russian, I knew of “Nas Ne Dogonyat” due to, surprisingly, a demo. Yes, the demoscene kind. I saw this physics simulation demo (which I can’t remember where to get it now… dang…), and the author used this song.

“Liberi Fatali” is a song written by Nobuo Uematsu for the video game, Final Fantasy VIII. And it’s in Latin. Awesome.

For Simlish (the language of the Sims, a video game), I used the title intro to my videos that I composed (that sounds strange. I “composed”. Hmm…). The original intro was too long, so I cut it short (using the last part). So for this video, I thought I’d sing the whole thing. The words don’t mean anything. Here are the lyrics in case you’re interested:

Vadomeh comahlosimei comahdorei
Comahlosimei boreidonei
Vadomeh comahlosimei comahdorei
Bundarah vehmidonei

And the cough during the singing of “The Diva Dance” was planned. I wanted the video to be both entertaining and educational, and hopefully injected a little humour into the mix. That song was from the movie “The 5th Element”.

So, how many languages can you sing in? Let me know.

Bilinear interpolation article referenced in another language

I’m thrilled. I’m also confused. I wrote an article on bilinear interpolation, specifically for image rotations, and it was provided as a link in a comment to this post. Thanks to vottini for referencing my article (it was used in a good light, right?)

I’ve got a problem. I don’t know what’s the language of the site! I think it’s French or Spanish, but I can’t be sure. If you know what’s the language, please let me know. Better yet, translate and summarise that article and tell me, because I only understood it as a example of how to expand an image and fill in the extra pixels. Thanks.

UPDATE: Thanks to an anonymous commentor, I finally found that the article (and site) is in Portuguese. I tried online translation tools and Portuguese-English yielded enough for me to understand what was going on. The commentor recommended the tool by Google, but I got barred with “automated request” error.

So I used the Babel Fish.

Excerpt of translated comment:

the solution, after all, was well simple. Instead of rotacionar pixels of the source, it rotacionava pixels of the destination and discovered in which place of the source would go to be. Joining with the technique of the bilinear interpolation or some most advanced one, the result is really impressive.

In the article, I suggested starting from the destination image, and find out what pixels to use from the source. This sort of assumes that both source and destination speak the same “language” (both are talking about RGB pixels).

The irony? In this incident, I don’t know anything about the source language (Portuguese), so I don’t know how to start from the destination (translated article in English).

UPDATE: Actually Christopher also commented that it’s in Portuguese (missed his comment in the diligent black hole SPAM processor…). Thanks Christopher!

And the owner of the site came to confirm that it’s in Portuguese! Wow. He (“o velho” means “old man” in Portuguese) apparently posted an English post about this, specially for me. Wow. Thanks.

Path of a Polymath Programmer Part 3

So I talked about beginner polymath programmers in part 1, and books on role playing games and computer spies in part 2. In store for you in this post are typewriters, juxtaposition and XT86 computers.

Teaching English and learning typing

Due to my prolific reading, I have a moderately good command of the English language. My neighbour wanted to improve her English, and approached me to help her. She’s an adult and I’m just 11 years old then. I told her I might not be up to it, but she insisted. She also offered me an exchange. I’ll coach her on English, and she’ll teach me how to type on the typewriter.

This was in the dawning age of the computers, and typewriters were still pretty cool then. Hmm…. interesting. So I accepted her offer. She’s already attending some English classes, so basically, I was there to help her with some grammar exercises, spellings and pronunciations. She’s also attending typing lessons, so after our language sessions, she’ll let me practise on her typewriter using her typing course materials.

Type “d” then “e” then “d”. Stuff like this. After a while, I got really into the typing, and got my own typewriter. I still borrowed her typing lesson materials, but I practised at home. Typing is a very loud activity and irritating to the ears, and I didn’t want to bother her family.

It was good fun and my fingers were practically flying over the keys. I got to the point where I had instances of typebars (those metal things with the letter imprints) clashing with each other. You know, I think I still have that typewriter around. Excuse me for a second…

Introduction to computers

So, around this period of time, my school started these computer lessons. Computers were a new thing then, and the government wanted to expose young students to computers. So I signed up for them.

The first few lessons were utterly boring. We learned what a monitor was, what a keyboard looks like, the functions of a CPU (central processing unit). Frankly speaking, the worksheets handed out felt like an insult to my intelligence. “Fill in the blanks, what is this?” Monitor. “What does CPU stand for?” Central Processing Unit. Yawn…

Luckily, the teachers also mixed it up with some computer games. One of them had alphabet letters falling from the top of the screen, and I’m supposed to type the bottom-most letter to score. It ends when a letter hits the bottom of the screen. I was phenomenal at that game. The teachers couldn’t believe how a 12 year old could type that fast. Lessons progressed, but I lost interest and dropped out of the computer class.

I graduated out of primary school and plunged into secondary school. Joining other 13 year olds, I struggled with the change of environment, additional study work load and expanded social circles. My friends got me into Chinese comic books, or what one of them termed as “intellectual sustenance”. I remember sneaking a comic book into one of my technical classes and surreptitiously reading it, when I was supposed to be sawing and filing wood pieces for a woodwork project. The memory still brings a smile to my face.

Well, one of my friends was into pencil and paper type role playing games too, and introduced me to the Palladium series. I didn’t exactly got to participate nor game master a campaign, but I love reading through the books and imagining what it’s like to have the power of flight or intangibility.

I was also into console games. In those days, it was the Nintendo or Famicom or Sega. I love the role playing games because I got to live out imaginary stories without the tedious dice throwing and stats management. It was also through this exposure to playing games that I self taught myself Japanese. It was out of necessity, and I’ll leave the details to a later post.

The J word

So what with math formulas, mixing chemicals and wood sawing, I had to take art class as well. And I suck at drawing. I can never quite mix up a particular shade of colour I need. I remember making a colour wheel. That was fun. Then the art teacher threw a humongous word at me: Juxtaposition.

It unbalanced me. Hearing the word for the first time, and outside the context of a typical language learning environment (as in not in class or not while reading a book), I didn’t know what he meant. Later, I think he meant placing two different shapes close together and seeing how it looked like. Much like a polymath bringing two unrelated concepts together and seeing what happens.

Despite my ineptitude at drawing, I persevered. There was this task where I was to draw an apple. I must express the texture of the apple, the play of light across its skin, its shadow falling behind it on a surface. With a pencil. I bought apples and studied them for minutes before laying my pencil on paper. The monochromatic sketchings of that rosy fruit sowed the beginnings of an appreciation of beautiful artwork in me. Although I still can’t draw to save my life.

Programming destiny

My inescapable link with computers caught up then. Everyone around me seemed to have a computer. My friends attended computer lessons, and had cool games on their computers (Double Dragon was my favourite). I was envious and sad and jealous and frustrated. That toy computer I had was fun, but paled in comparison with the real thing.

My father found out about my disappointment. By a stroke of luck, his friend was getting a new computer and offered to give my father the old one. Thus I got my first computer, the quintessential XT86. It was old, displayed green text on black background, and only command prompts were useful, but I was ecstatic over it.

I went crazy trying out all the programs from the Orion adventure books. There wasn’t much of a user interface, but I didn’t care. I think I tried coding a mini text adventure role playing game. It didn’t come into fruition, but I learned a lot from bringing the mechanics of game play into programming. Time went by, and there’s only so much one can do with command prompts, so the computer became obsolete.

Parting words…

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the post. Stay tuned for the next episode by subscribing to my RSS feed, where you will learn the connection between console games and self-taught Japanese.

Continue to part 4