Thursday, 24 November 2016

-mut vs -mik

I've been noticing for a long time, even before I studied linguistics, that those from my generation on get confused about the grammatical differences and use of the case endings: -mut and -mik.

A case ending, in Inuktitut, is a syntactic marker that specifies a noun in the Direct Object slot of a complete sentence (ie, these markers normally indicate that the phrase is transitive and requires another phrase to complete its grammaticality).

The case ending, -mut, occurs like this:

ilinniarvingmut   'to the school'

ilinniarvingmut isiqtuq              'he went into the school'

Jpt-mut   'to Jpt'

Jpt-mut tuniguk                         'give this to Jpt'

Ottawa-mut   'to Ottawa'

Ottawa-mut aullalauqtuq          'she left for Ottawa  (ie, travelled to)


the case ending, -mik, is used this way:

inungmik   'a person'

takujunga inungmik                  'I see a person'

qilliqtumik   'a shiny thing'

qilliqtumik piuksaqtuq               'he likes the shiny thing'

aqugiuqsanirmik   'the ability to drive (a vehicle)'

aqugiuqsanirmik ilinniaqtunga   'I'm taking a driving course'


What prompted me to write this is that I just heard on the CBC radio an announcement in Inuktitut:

qarisaujalirinirmut illiniarniq   'a course to operate computers'

when the intended meaning was:

qarisaujalirinirmik illinniarniq   'a computer course'

The differences are somewhat subtle, especially when 'a course to operate computers' sounds ok to Inuktitut and English ears, but these differences are significant. That is, there is an unintended shift from "grammatical space" into "physical space".

What I mean is that 'to operate computers' doesn't mean 'to learn how to operate computers' but refers to a direct object (ie, a single noun element) labelled "operate-computer(s)" that one can actually, physically go to.

Mind you, the grammatical meaning (in Inuktitut) may be reclaimed by changing the notion/idea of "operating a computer" (denoted by [-nir-]) into an actual physical space (denoted by [-ving-]):

qarisaujalirivingmut    'to the computer lab'

but, then again, (learning how to) operate a computer, is clearly different from a computer lab.


Friday, 4 November 2016

The "outsider"

In this US presidential campaign, we've seen the Donald bare all his glory. What a freak (hold on, I don't mean 'freak' in its normal sense, but in the sense of "a very unusual and unexpected event or situation").

Apparently, the Donald—I assume this appellation is a German version of 'the don'—doesn't read nor write all that much. I read on Huffington Post himself admitting that he doesn't even type out his own countless tweets but shouts out his vitriol to one of the 'girls' in his office (even at 3am) to be posted. Wow.

He reminds me of Derek Zoolander, only darker and malignant—ie, not funny at all. Zoolander is a movie character played by Ben Stiller, a character who is almost completely, hopelessly self-absorbed, living as he does as a big fish in a very small pond of male modelling.

I said 'almost completely, hopelessly self-absorbed' because at one point in the movie Stiller's character actually tries to make a difference by proposing to build a school, a "school for those who can't read good and want to do other stuff good too". But he gets mightily upset that the school he envisions is too small to even fit a person in (it's an architectural model).

There is something endearing and lovable about Derek Zoolander; there is nothing warm about Donald Trump, not even his apparent cluelessness—excuse me: his "outsider" status. He is all out there in his apparent authenticity: sophomoric, mean and ignorant.

He is like Stephen Harper, only more real in the still-birth of his humanity—remember well Harper, after making a formal apology for the aboriginal residential school experience, came out of the green chamber and said that (thank God) Canada doesn't have a history of colonialism.

I only hope that, like Harper, he'll lose interest in politics (ie, go back to the rarified air of the board room) once he loses. He's used to losing, only he calls it "winning".


Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Carlo Rovelli's Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Physics was once my obsession. I even attempted to come up with an Inuktitut taxonomic scheme for the periodic table of the elements based on the Inuit legend of the grandmother/mother of the sun and the moon, and Buckminster Fuller's notions of existence as verb (I Seem to be a Verb, 1970). With the luxury of grateful hindsight of allthe work that's been done before the system could work beautifully.

I was travelling recently where I picked up a book by Carlo Rovelli called, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, 2014. It is written by a poet (well, actually, he's a physicist). To wit:

Plain words can be utterly beautiful when they tell a thrilling story. Carlo Rovelli's words take us on a great adventure as the human mind reaches out to understand the universe. The book is a joy.
-ALAN ALDA, actor, director, and author of
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed

I'd highly recommend this little book to everyone who appreciates poetics, science and beautiful ideas even if only on a good day. This book is not a romanticized, mystical gibberish as some (if not most) popular science books tend to become. It is based on real scientific insights—plain and unadorned in all their glory.

It is not a confused mass of scientific/religious/mystical couching and massaging of disparately unrelated ideas into a chimera but a real briefing from a person who knows what they're talking about. Even having spent years thinking about and reveling in the scientific principles of physics, I found the book to reorganize and place these wonderful concepts onto a more solid grounding.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
John 1:1-4

Jay Arnakak

Sunday, 2 October 2016

A confession

I have a confession to make: I was angry for a long time. I hurt people I love because I couldn't deal with nor handle my own hurt.

Like many of my generation, of my gender, I've suffered just about every kind of abuse and humiliation starting with being the youngest in class. In school I was bullied and ostracized for being 'different', for being a 'retard' simply because I wasn't allowed by my grandma to go hunting like the other boys my age. I loved my grandma and have never felt the need to forgive her for anything. She was often my only source of security and unconditional love. Most times I'd just go and stay there for peace and quiet because we lived in an overcrowded house.

Outside of school was hardly any different from school: we, the younger boys, were often victimized by the older boys, and, even by adults who spewed out ugly things. One of their favourite games was to have us boys wrestle each other to take the pants down so the spectators could compare our penis sizes. Sometimes they'd just intimidate us into taking our pants down and put us in compromising and humiliating positions.

Once I was sleeping in my cousin's house when a man thought it a great joke to tie my genitals to my big toe with a string. He, then, woke me up, shouting "bloody murder!!" to watch me fall down on the floor from the (self-inflicted) pain. Some were pretty bad but this guy was merciless in taunting me, and with another man, often told me that I should consider myself very lucky to be alive today else they'd have murdered me without a second thought in the older times.

Because my dad was from south Baffin Island, he was never really accepted as being part of the community. I was told constantly that I was "Jaypeetee Arnakak, Kinngarmiut". I often wondered where this "Kinngaq" was and if our relatives were there, and if they loved us.

I know that the older boys that tormented and picked on us were themselves victims of psychological, physical and, yes, sexual violence - themselves, having only recently been relocated with people they ended up with and thought strangers and therefore very worthy of their resentment.

Recently I had a breakdown. Everything came to a head all at once brought about a trigger who has been harassing and tormenting me for years. After that episode I finally gathered up the courage to not exactly confront him but to be the monotonous, emotionless body I'm capable to becoming and asked him pointed questions about his chronic homelessness, and whether he'd been keeping out of trouble with the law. I think he got the message that I was not, never was, his friend.

I confessed to a loved one and confessed to a colleague. I don't know if things have changed but I certainly feel that I have changed fundamentally. I'm no longer as ashamed as I was of myself.

Monday, 15 August 2016

The glory of God

In the darkness of my funks insights come to me. Epiphanies come floating up; geometric, physical-like. Spiritual. This time of year (a turning) brings its own weight and gravity, the season of my youngest's birth. I often give in to its tumult and twists of bleary-eyed tortures if only to live the long ago and far away: before the intrusion of feeling, when I touch the face of God and saw.

I was recently commissioned to interpret Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. I think I nailed it.

I used Poe's meter to coincide with rhyming pronominal-/case- endings of Inukt. but in an uniquely Inuit elocution - ie, my patterns fit within the stanza but obey their own beat. I did some readings of random sections and recorded the first stanza. Everything seems to fit so far. we'll wait and see...

The 'darkness' of the Raven is in the uncertainty of comprehension/apprehension of 'the moment'. Is it we who are unawares or the bird that can only repeat what it's heard? Does the Raven mean anything in its reproductions of human speech? Do we?

Of course we do (disregarding the bird for the moment).

We create art. We create representations of not so much the physical rendition of our subjects but its psychological archetypes that figure large therein. And in there they live and breathe, these ideas. Penny's (big bang theory) rolling-of-eyes mean different things at different times precisely because she's at play and responsive to the context. Go figure.


Sunday, 10 July 2016

15 Dogs

by André Alexis, 2015. it.

-All I can say is that it is an adult version of The Lord of the Flies à la Alexis' genius, mix in Socratic/Hegelian dialectic, then mix in variously-thus discourses on "deism/theism" (ie, ironic- and serious-like).


Friday, 20 May 2016

Confessions of an Americanophile

I'm a huge fan of revolutionary America, and the music and literature—especially American gothic and smattering of modern American literature, you know, Kurt Vonnegut, Daniel Keyes, short story anthologies, etc.—that that great nation has produced for all humanity.

As a consumer of thoughts and ideas, I started watching Moyers & Company on PBS and slowly began to realize the extent of the damage that the "military-industrial complex" has wrought on what-I-thought-was-then the true paragon of democratic values and principles (at the least, of its remarkable history), and how powerless normal Americans ("normal Americans" is all of us ) really are in the governance of their lives. I grieved for the "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" that may have truly perished from the earth in this age of Trump and the so-called twitterverse. And, I grieved especially that the untold millions who have died in the name of liberty and justice may indeed have died in vain.

I'm currently reading a biography of John Adams by David McCullough who says of the founding fathers that "we must never forget, when they pledged 'their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor,' it was not a manner of speaking." John Adams, especially, seem to have been a true believer in the cause of justice and good government, and that persons in leadership like him should hold:

...that concealment of one's dislike for another was not a form of dishonesty or deception, but an acceptable, even wise way of conducting the business of life.

"There are persons whom in my heart I despise, others I abhor. Yet I am not obliged to inform the one of my contempt, nor the other of my detestation. This kind of a necessary branch of wisdom, and so far from being immoral...that it is a duty and a virtue."

But this, he was quick to add, was a rule with definite limitations, "for there are times when the cause of religion, of government, of liberty, the interest of the present age of posterity, render it a necessary duty to make known his sentiments and intentions boldly and publicly." (McCullough, 2001, p. 208)

Adams was a mensch through and through; a person of the protestant ethic in its broadest, most personal terms:

One learned early in New England about the battle of life. Father and mother were hardworking and frugal of necessity, as well as by principle. "Let frugality and industry be our virtues," John Adams advised Abigail concerning the raising of their own children. "Fire them with ambition to be useful," he wrote, echoing what had been learned at home. (ibid, p. 32-33)

Contrast this great man with what we have today in the likes of Harper, Trump, the Religious Right, the Tea Party, which have all been emboldened by each others' unanswered incursions into our democracies, our sense of decency and decorum (ie, what we all thought America embodied once). Remember well that Harper really did try to do away with public and environmental safety and security measures of longstanding in Canadian society, obsessed over the Canadian criminal justice system in the interest of the "private" sector, publicly tried to engage a serving Supreme Court judge in a childish spat, set up a snitch line for "barbaric cultural practices" (on Muslims) during the last general elections in Canada, etc, etc.

Do you also see a pattern? Shameless. And morally oblivious.

Neocons everywhere have this quality of a decidedly impetuous immaturity. Petulant children is what they really are. Shameless because they do not seem to know better and so think everyone should be satisfied with "the natural order" of things in which their narcissistic ineptitude and apparent ignorance are celebrated for posterity.

In truth, I'm somewhat iffy about the viability of those United States of America south of us. Uncle Sam seems, apparently, to have grown old and tired, and whose lapses of presence and memory are becoming longer in duration and more violent in each iteration. If Trump is the death knell I grieve for the whole species.