Perry Rhodan – A Series that Challenges Me. (Challenge accepted!)

I was reading the Wikipedia article on Perry Rhodan today, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perry_Rhodan. In the section titled “Critical reaction”, I read that many English speaking critics thought the series “too juvenile”. Interestingly enough, they also indicated that the American run was canceled even though it was profitable…

I really don’t consider critical acclaim to be all the important when selecting a book. The real question is why do I like the Perry Rhodan series?

Its first strength is its incredible length! A series consisting of more than 2400 books in the primary series, with over 800 books in the Atlan spin-off series, has a lot plot development! The characters get more sophisticated and interesting as the series progresses. The aliens are varied. You can’t have a series for as long as this one has been around without a lot of character development. The plots in the individual books are solid. The overall story line is where the real action is. Since they have so many books, the authors don’t have to rush plot development. Perry Rhodan is to sci-fi space opera what the game of cricket is to sports, not just an event, but a campaign!

Its second strength is the fact that most of it has not been translated to English. One of the biggest reasons I am learning German is to make it through this series! The story is an epic and the challenge of making it through the epic, knowing that most of it is not in my language, makes it a genuine challenge of Herculean proportions! When I make it through this series, I will have accomplished a task worthy of a true sci-fi loving geek!

Its third strength is the affects of the surrounding real world on the story lines. The Rhodan books are, to a much greater extent than most other books, a product of their times. The series has been published since 1961 and it is still going! As the world changed from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, until now, so did the series. Back during the cold war days, the books had the feel of the cold war thinking and feelings. The books from after the fall of the Berlin wall have a completely different feel. There is a a more subtle balance between the galactic alliances.

Its fourth strength is its Euro-centric thinking. Because it is writen by Germans, the series has the typical European world view. While I am no fan of that thinking, it does make for a interesting change of pace. The way they often define and describe problems is sometimes quite educational. The solutions are sometimes very different than what an American would expect. If you want to find out how European thought has evolved over the last fifty years, this series is a nice way to do it!

Its fifth strength is its “pulp” feel. Anyone who has read the pulp scifi from the 1950s, will be comfortable with the feel of the Perry Rhodan stories. That pulp feel in there in the early series and makes the stores a relaxing read. I have not started reading the German editions yet, so I am not commenting on any of the non-English books… YET!

Its sixth, and final strength,ever increasing number of authors that write the stories. Since there a numerous authors, you never have to worry about a lack of change. The series doesn’t go stale, unlike some stories.

From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages

I’m just finishing a one week vacation. While I was on vacation, I did some reading. I read “From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages” by Michael Adams. He had some very interesting things to say about various invented languages. Newspeak, used in the book 1984, brought up the subject of the Sapir-Whorf theory. The theory has to do with the concept of changing human thoughts, and therefore actions, by carefully crafting language to eliminate or at least significantly reduce certain ideas. George Orwell had an appendix end of his book that discussed the framework of that language. This was a subject he found interesting and wrote about more than once.

Nadsat, from A Clockwork Orange, was also discussed in detail. Apparently, this language had eastern bloc roots. Ironically, the author really had not intended to highlight the glorified violence but merely to use it as a method of discussing how societies are affected by language. The movie, adapted from his book, went with the violence and completely changed the message. I also learned that there was an additional chapter omitted from the American release of the book . I had not known that.

There were quite a few references to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series and the languages that he invented. Tolkien’s languages are quite extensive and have very interesting histories. He did not just invent languages for his books he invented histories discussed their evolution and created a linguists fantasy world.

Klingon was also discussed, but I believe the book In the Land of Invented Languages, by Arika Okrent covered that language much more effectively. Her book was even referenced in this one a few times.

The subject of revitalized languages was discussed. The quick overview of the recreation of the Hebrew language was a fascinating read. The incredible lengths that they went to to standardize the language was interesting to me. The attempt to systematically eliminate Yiddish as much as possible was interesting decision. On one hand, they needed to have a standardized new Hebrew language. On the other hand, they needed to eliminate any competitors to that standardization. To put it another way, to revitalize the Hebrew language they had to attack the language used by those with Jewish heritage. Looking at revitalized languages, the only way revitalization succeeds is if there is a standardization and its standardization comes a cost. Even more interesting, the fact that there were so many things and concepts that have come into existence since the time of the historical language on which the modern day Hebrew language is based on, required the addition of quite a few new words. Put more simply, the modern day Hebrew language is only distantly related to the original, at best!

The subject of endangered languages also came up. There was discussion about the various reasons that native speakers of dying languages do not appreciate the attempts to revitalize and save their language heritages. The fact that those attempting to save the languages often create a new language was a fascinating insight. The Irish language has been going through this process for a while. Those learning the language in educational institutions are not learning the language spoken by those who learned the language in a day-to-day manner.

Those trying to save a dying language have two choices. They can either revitalize the language by creating a new one vaguely related on the original language or they can let that language die. Lets be blunt, languages die for a reason. Granted, history demands that we keep as much information about the languages as possible, but that does not require saving the language.

The politics behind some of the revitalization efforts was also discussed. Where someone is trying to revitalize a language, they are also attempting to create a group. That group is seen as politically useful, or the revitalization effort would probably not occur. One of the languages he touched on was the Hawaiian language. Based on what I have read from other articles about that effort, the politics behind the revitalization of the Hawaiian language could fill an encyclopedia.

The subject of languages used in computer games was also discussed. This was an entirely new area for me. Games that try to create languages must attempt to serve many conflicting goals. It’s worth reading the book just to see how messy this issue is.

An Etymological Dictionary

I ran into a book on Google books. It is a free download, so why not? This book is a lot of fun, in fact it so much fun it should probably be illegal.

An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language
Walter Willaim Skeat

3rd ed, 1898

Apparently, this is the same addition of the book used by James Joyce, a master of the English language. On a personal note, I am not Joyce’s biggest fan. I find his work far too obscure in its references to be interesting. I don’t know how accurate the dictionary is, due to its publishing date. But right or wrong, it is interesting. For day-to-day reference, it is close enough.

The one word I looked up, but I have always had questions about, is the word rabbit. In English it is rabbit, in Spanish to conejo, in German Kaninchen, in Latin lepus, and in Greek it sounds like “ko-neh-lee”. I have always wondered just how that word came about. Neither the aforementioned book, nor any internet site could give me a solid answer. The best I could come up with, looking at various sources, was “cony” or “coney”, from the Old French conis. Probably not something most people would find interesting, but hey, it’s free to look!

It is not lost on me that the one word I’ve had a question about and looked up did not give me a solid answer. No other source gave me a answer that was any better.

I Read The Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From Elvish to Klingon, The Anwa (Real) Origins of Invented Lexicons

During my vaction, last week, I read:

The Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From Elvish to Klingon, The Anwa (Real) Origins of Invented Lexicons

By Stephen D. Rogers

It is setup like an encyclopedia. Pick your language and read the details. I learned that Angoroj was the first Esperanto movie, beating Incubus by one year. See my blog posting, http://schreckschraube.com/btblog/late-breaking-esperanto-trivia/, for more details.

The language used in the Superman comics started out as a 118 letter Krypotnese alphabet. In 2000, D.C. Comics changed to the Kryponian language, with Kryptonian symbols with a one-for-one correlation with characters from the native language(s) of the buying public in each market country.
I found out that Rope is a line in English, French, and Spanish. I looked it up and found out it is Leine in German.

The Tenctonses Language has always been an interesting one to me. In the 1988 movie, Alien Nation, the used the following method to come up with the sound of the alien dialogue. Van Ling used Chinese, Samoan, and German.

In the television series, they were cheesy and used English words or backwards spellings. The Tenctonese signage, in the Fox television series, was based on Pitman Shorthand. What makes this interesting is that Pitman Shorthand was replaced around 1890 by Gregg Shorthand. Anyone trained in shorthand would probably not have been exposed to the older standard! Clever people those fox television signage guys!

The schism between the Esperanto and Ido people was nicely explained. The schism between the Loglan and Lojban is covered nicely.

I found interesting sites on the internet for various languages like Vulcan, Na’vi (which now has over 1,500 words and a grammar), The Divine Language (from The Fifth Element, has 400 official words), Encantadia (Filipino television series, do not ask!), and quite a few others.

I indicated that you shouldn’t ask, but okay, what is Encantadia? It is a Filipino series with magic and lots of music and dancing. They also toss in a little bit of the whole transformation thing, similar to Power Rangers but with robes and swords and a few more Earthy colors. Apparently, the Filipino language wasn’t challenging enough and was far too accessible, so they came up with a constructed language just to make things even more interesting. For those who don’t understand Filipino, don’t worry, they also have it in Tagalog! There may be an English version floating around somewhere. imdb.com says there is but I’m not finding it… What little I know, other than watching a couple of youtube videos is covered by: http://www.reference.com/browse/encantadia. Last piece of Encantadia trivia, it is related to Mulawin. Mulawin is a series with a many of the same characters but it is not linked with Encantadia… Yes, this is one of those deals.

On a completely unrelated issue, am I the only one who notices the country is named Philippines and its people are Filipinos? Why not Philiponos or the Filipines? Has anyone discussed standardizing the whole PH versus F in that country? Just an idea…

Constructed Languages are Not Foreign Languages

I categorize posts that contain information about constructed langauges, “conlangs”, as “Foreign Language”. Some less than charitable individuals might want to nit-pick the issue and point out that conlangs are not foreign languages… Okay, I can see that point. I could also point out that there must be a foreigner somewhere who may speak the conlang in question… One could then point out that that would be true of English as well, would I classify it as a foreign language?

Fine. I have now added a new tag, “languages”… I really hate imaginary theoretical nit-pickers!

Late-breaking Esperanto Trivia: Angoroj “Agonies”

Incubus, shot in 1965, was NOT the first film completely shot in Esperanto. The first was Angoroj, “Agonies”. Angoroj was shot in 1964. If you look around, you can find in on Youtube.

Since the title is “Agonies”, I’m not going to rush into watching it. It was shot in France in what I consider to be the classic French film style. I’ve seen of the first few minutes and it is not particularly interesting to me. Esperanto speakers have commented that the Esperanto accent in this film is wonderful. Esperanto speakers hated the accents in Incubus.

For a bucket-load of Angoroj information, go to http://www.factbites.com/topics/Angoroj

Windows 7 Speech Recognition

It has been a long time since I first tried speech recognition software. A few years ago, I used a version of dragon naturally speaking. I was very impressed with its accuracy. Until today, I had not tried the speech recognition features in windows 7.

I am dictating this text to my computer and it is working well. For those of you who have not tried the voice recognition features in windows 7, it is well worth looking into.

The one problem I have found however, it is the fact that it does not appear work with any language other than the primary language that the operating system is set up for.