Escape Artists

News:

News

ATTENTION: NEW FORUM THEME Please see here for details: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=13188.0

Author Topic: EP422: Deshaun Stevens’ Ship Log  (Read 22287 times)

eytanz

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 6109
on: November 16, 2013, 10:45:05 AM
EP422: Deshaun Stevens’ Ship Log

by Marie Vibbert

Read by Alasdair Stuart

--

Personal Log — January 1

Crunches–one and a very near half.

Push-ups–none unless counting getting off floor

Calories–lost count, but all from alcohol, so okay

One year ago today I vowed I would not spend another year working on this stupid cruise ship.  One year ago my life was exactly as it is now, with exception of having a girlfriend.

Trying to have a good sulk about lack of gf, but general suckatude of life winning.  Have spent all adult years–five of them–treading the same tract of “unexplored” space with end trip to rings of Neptune tacked on by tourist company as apology for boringness of unexplored space.  Have also set lighting and sound cues for thousand ungrateful musicians with combined talent of medium-sized shrub.

(Is supposedly new tract of space each time, but how can anyone–especially easily-duped passengers who think cruise ship bands are good–tell the difference?)

Current misery doubled by working with now-ex gf.  Attempts to avoid said ex at New Year’s party largely consisted of going back to punch bowl repeatedly.  May have sung love ballad composed in throes of self-pity at end of night. Memory foggy.  Hope everyone else’s is, too.

Suspecting ship regulation against alcohol v. wise after all.  Hope they don’t read our logs.

Resolutions:

1. Get New Job

2. Avoid romantic complications with Lido Deck Staff, especially boss, xgf, and cocktail waitresses with unfairly attractive hair.

3. Somehow, bearing number 2 in mind, get a new gf.

4. Exercise and update personal log every day


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



ArbysMom

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 22
    • Twitter
Reply #1 on: November 16, 2013, 05:23:51 PM
Loved it! Alasdair's spot on narration was perfect! Well done all around.


InfiniteMonkey

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 483
  • Clearly, I need more typewriters....
Reply #2 on: November 16, 2013, 09:36:08 PM
Given the law of averages, it's entirely possible First Contact will be made by some boob like this.....



MarsGirl

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 4
  • Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor not a critic!
Reply #3 on: November 17, 2013, 02:38:48 AM
I'm a little biased. This was written by a friend of mine. Imagine my surprise when I played this in my iPod in the gym yesterday morning... I nearly fell off the elliptical. *shock, excitement*



Max e^{i pi}

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1038
  • Have towel, will travel.
Reply #4 on: November 17, 2013, 11:54:14 AM
Nice story, bad execution.
I like that first contact was made by people totally not equipped to deal with it, but I don't like the way the story dealt with it.
It seemed like the purpose of the story was to justify the atrocities being performed daily on the English language. I rlly h8 teh txt speak. And I also despise the "first-person-half-thought" approach to blogs and journals. But no, it's all good because that makes it easier for aliens to learn the language.</sarcasm>
Would you like to have a conversation with an advanced species that constructs sentences like a 16 year old girl? Or perhaps a lonely, bitter bachelor? Me neither.
This story touched on two delicate points with me:
1. Screwing up and then claiming it was done on purpose. There is a succinct phrase here which brings home the point but can't be translated. I hope you get my meaning.
2. You don't mess with our means of communication. That leads to misinformation, misdirection, miscommunication and misanthropy (I hate people who do that on purpose). Seriously though, we are who we are and what we are because of our ability to communicate complex thougts, ideas and emotions. When you break that system, it all just corrodes.
I'm sorry about the vitriol, but that totally ruined the story for me and I just had to get that off my chest.

On a different note: maybe Norm and Dave could coordinate story lengths. Because last week both EP's and PC's story was rather long (over 40 minutes in both cases) and this week they're both rather short. Just a thought.

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!



Varda

  • Rebound
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2710
  • Definitely not an android.
Reply #5 on: November 17, 2013, 12:31:11 PM
I love that the author has taken the format and themes of Bridget Jones's Diary and spliced them onto a single guy instead of a single woman. Pretty dang hilarious! You've got the general setup of a bigger story being told through the lens of someone's seemingly banal romantic woes, lots of slang and shorthand, and even the daily "counts" that open each journal entry, in this case pushups instead of Bridget's daily weigh-in and calorie count. I find this even funnier when I remember that Bridget Jones's Diary loosely follows the plot of Pride and Prejudice, and so does this story in a similar way, what with misunderstandings and eventual romantic success.

Given all that, I agree with Max e^{i pi} that the idea that the narrator's "minimal diction" would make human language easier for the aliens to understand doesn't pass the sniff test. In fact, the truncated language of this journal would make things much, much harder to understand even for another human who didn't speak English. In shortening the sentences, crucial information gets left out. We easily fill in the gaps because of our experience as English-speakers, but the "correct" information is not so easily supplied if you don't start with our vast amount of experience.

This is best understood with an example. Take the sentence, "Still the laughing stock of the ship". This sentence eliminates both the subject (I) and the verb [am]. For an alien, how does that make this sentence easier to understand? The missing subject and verb could be anything, if you don't know anything about human behavior in general, much less English idiom. The subject could be I, you, he, she, or they (and this is only thinking grammatically). While to us it's obvious the verb should be a "to be" verb, that's not necessarily an assumption an alien, or even a non-English speaker, could safely make without a greater understanding of the language. While we moan and groan about grammar as kids, and sometimes joke as adults that we don't need it, internally consistent application of grammar makes things less ambiguous and easier to understand, not harder, particularly for second language learners. (Please note I'm talking about grammar in the linguistic sense, not what we consider "proper" English grammar in particular. Dialects also have internally consistent grammar.)

All that aside, since this story was clearly supposed to be absurd, I'm willing to give the plausibility factor a pass. It's supposed to be a joke that a moron makes first contact because of, and not in spite of, his annoying journal. For me, the joke worked, especially given it's a Bridget Jones rom-com send-up. :D
« Last Edit: November 21, 2013, 03:02:48 AM by Varda »

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
http://rckjones.wordpress.com


ArbysMom

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 22
    • Twitter
Reply #6 on: November 17, 2013, 04:54:14 PM
P.S. The only criticism I have with Alasdair's narration is that Lido is pronounced LEE-DO, not LYE-DO. Years of watching The Love Boat....


adrianh

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 752
    • quietstars
Reply #7 on: November 17, 2013, 06:22:08 PM
P.S. The only criticism I have with Alasdair's narration is that Lido is pronounced LEE-DO, not LYE-DO. Years of watching The Love Boat....

It's a regional thing. I'd say the majority of the working/middle class of the UK would say lye-doe rather than lee-doe. It's certainly how it was always pronounced around me, and how I'd say it myself. I've almost never heard the lee-doe variant used in the UK.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2013, 08:22:26 PM by adrianh »



adrianh

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 752
    • quietstars
Reply #8 on: November 17, 2013, 08:48:55 PM
I'm a little surprised at the hate-on for the protagonist ;-) Apparently I was the only one who was an idiot in their twenties! I like seeing normal people in extraordinary situations. Entertaining things happen.

That said - while I found the story gently amusing it didn't really hit the spot for me. I don't know why but I was continually expecting the humour to take a darker turn and ended up being a little disappointed by the happy ending.

The narration was spot on though.



Dem

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 567
  • aka conboyhillfiction.wordpress.com
    • Suzanne Conboy-Hill
Reply #9 on: November 18, 2013, 01:31:42 PM
P.S. The only criticism I have with Alasdair's narration is that Lido is pronounced LEE-DO, not LYE-DO. Years of watching The Love Boat....

The open air one we went to in Scarborough (north Yorkshire) was a ly-do into which, if we were daft enough and stoked with anti-freeze, we would take our inflatable li-los. Learning under torture is effective!

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


matweller

  • EA Staff
  • *****
  • Posts: 678
Reply #10 on: November 18, 2013, 02:19:00 PM
Let's just all be glad it wasn't the poop.



MarsGirl

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 4
  • Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor not a critic!
Reply #11 on: November 18, 2013, 02:40:43 PM
I never thought of the whole Bridget Jones Diary correlation. Good call!



jenfullmoon

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 46
Reply #12 on: November 18, 2013, 04:49:07 PM
Oh, Bridget Jones is what I thought of first off. That made it all the more hilarious.



Jhite

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 47
    • Great Hites
Reply #13 on: November 18, 2013, 05:10:23 PM
I Really kind of enjoyed this story.  I am also one who really hates txt speak, but it was rather fun to listen to.   I just took it at face value and didn't question the logic.  The only thing that pulled me out of the story was the horror stories I have read and heard about how awful it is to work on a cruise ship.  I kept wondering if they had fixed some of these problems in the future.


Captain James T. Kirk
I'm sorry I can't here you over the sound of how awesome I am
http://GreatHites.blogspot.com


PotatoKnight

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 51
Reply #14 on: November 18, 2013, 05:13:08 PM
This reminds me a bit of a Sarah Vowell piece that was in this old This American Life episode:http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/329/nice-work-if-you-can-get-it , about the cartographer who was dragged on expeditions of the West. The day that the party discovered Lake Tahoe, his journal only mentions his joy that they were finally getting some salt.  History doesn't always happen just to those that fit our image of great heroes.

The simple diction thing didn't bug me--we are dealing with a fundamentally alien intelligence that may or may not even actually be understanding correctly. I will say going back that it might have added a fun layer to the story if the language followed some rule that would conceivably make it easier for an alien to read--for example not using any first person pronouns (pronouns are tricky for kids learning language and it's pretty plausible that by would be for aliens) or the sentences all being simple subject-verb-object, but the actual sentence structure is complex and there doesn't seem to be any completely consistent patern. Not a problem but if it could have been done without disrupting the flow it might have given an extra depth.



bounceswoosh

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 305
Reply #15 on: November 19, 2013, 04:21:58 AM
This is best understood with an example. Take the sentence, "Still the laughing stock of the ship". This sentence eliminates both the subject (I) and the verb [am]. For an alien, how does that make this sentence easier to understand? The missing subject and verb could be anything, if you don't know anything about human behavior in general, much less English idiom. The subject could be I, you, he, she, or they (and this is only thinking grammatically). While to us it's obvious the verb should be a "to be" verb, that's not necessarily an assumption an alien, or even a non-English speaker, could safely make without a greater understanding of the language.

But isn't this pretty similar to the way some human languages, like Japanese, actually work?



Max e^{i pi}

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1038
  • Have towel, will travel.
Reply #16 on: November 19, 2013, 08:46:49 AM
This is best understood with an example. Take the sentence, "Still the laughing stock of the ship". This sentence eliminates both the subject (I) and the verb [am]. For an alien, how does that make this sentence easier to understand? The missing subject and verb could be anything, if you don't know anything about human behavior in general, much less English idiom. The subject could be I, you, he, she, or they (and this is only thinking grammatically). While to us it's obvious the verb should be a "to be" verb, that's not necessarily an assumption an alien, or even a non-English speaker, could safely make without a greater understanding of the language.

But isn't this pretty similar to the way some human languages, like Japanese, actually work?
Perhaps. But this story was in English. And the personal logs were in English. And the aliens were learning English.
So it's very nice that other human languages would work like that. Just like it's very nice that there is good surfing in California. But neither has any bearing on the story.

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!



Varda

  • Rebound
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2710
  • Definitely not an android.
Reply #17 on: November 19, 2013, 11:42:17 AM
This is best understood with an example. Take the sentence, "Still the laughing stock of the ship". This sentence eliminates both the subject (I) and the verb [am]. For an alien, how does that make this sentence easier to understand? The missing subject and verb could be anything, if you don't know anything about human behavior in general, much less English idiom. The subject could be I, you, he, she, or they (and this is only thinking grammatically). While to us it's obvious the verb should be a "to be" verb, that's not necessarily an assumption an alien, or even a non-English speaker, could safely make without a greater understanding of the language.

But isn't this pretty similar to the way some human languages, like Japanese, actually work?
Perhaps. But this story was in English. And the personal logs were in English. And the aliens were learning English.
So it's very nice that other human languages would work like that. Just like it's very nice that there is good surfing in California. But neither has any bearing on the story.

Yes, exactly. To put it another way, think of a language's grammar as overarching patterns that give form, structure, and meaning to our vocabulary. Just what this grammar is will vary from language to language. Now simple sentences really do make a language easier to learn ("The cat jumped on the mat"), but making the grammar arbitrary and inconsistent doesn't ("Jump cat-ed the the mat on"). The journal follows neither written nor spoken grammar rules (ETA: well, it does follow most grammar rules but the ones it drops are more arbitrary). It's written in a shorthand we can all understand, certainly, but saying that it would make language acquisition easier because of its chaos doesn't really make sense.

But like I said, it really doesn't bother me in this story for the same reason MST3K doesn't bother me: It's supposed to be funny. :) Remember:

Quote
If you're wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science facts,
You should remind yourself it's just a show, and you really should relax!

:D

One nitpicky bit: I don't speak Japanese, but from what I've studied about it, the grammar does allow you to eliminate the subject of a sentence in certain circumstances where the speaker and listener both know who you're talking about. The verb always falls at the end of the sentence and to the best of my knowledge, is never, ever optional. Japanese-speakers, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about that.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 11:45:16 AM by Varda »

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
http://rckjones.wordpress.com


Jompier

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 35
  • From a galaxy far, far on the East Coast.
Reply #18 on: November 19, 2013, 05:22:44 PM
I had a hard time getting into this story, maybe because it is shot through with much more whimsy than I typically like. Or maybe I'm just too much of a grump and I should just lighten up.



PotatoKnight

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 51
Reply #19 on: November 19, 2013, 06:03:28 PM
Perhaps. But this story was in English. And the personal logs were in English. And the aliens were learning English.
So it's very nice that other human languages would work like that. Just like it's very nice that there is good surfing in California. But neither has any bearing on the story.

Not necessarily. Suppose that the aliens' language is highly contextual and they never include any subjects or verbs not needed to make the meaning clear. The fact that other human langugages are much more like this than English makes this plausible. Now say these aliens are reading journals of people who don't use any shorthand. The aliens are turning the color of frustration over what meaning they are missing in all of these journals. After all, why would someone waste time saying "I am still the ship laughingstock" when "Still the ship laughingstock" conveys the same meaning? There must be something to those first two words they are missing! And then they come across our narrators' log, and it's a wave of pleasingly smoky air. With the exception of a few odd references to "great tits" all the words have meaning. Only later do they realize that they happened to encounter a group of these weird clay creatures who speak a language called "English" that has some oddly specific rules about what words have to be used in what order even when the surrounding words make the context clear.

Do I think this was intended? No, I think it's a joke. I mean, there's also a line about how the aliens don't like the tourists' journals because tourists are boring and all the same. But it highlights the fact that when we're talking alien smoke creatures. I don't think we can make a lot of assumptions about what would and wouldn't make it easier for them to read English.



Varda

  • Rebound
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2710
  • Definitely not an android.
Reply #20 on: November 19, 2013, 06:44:58 PM
Perhaps. But this story was in English. And the personal logs were in English. And the aliens were learning English.
So it's very nice that other human languages would work like that. Just like it's very nice that there is good surfing in California. But neither has any bearing on the story.
Not necessarily. Suppose that the aliens' language is highly contextual and they never include any subjects or verbs not needed to make the meaning clear. The fact that other human langugages are much more like this than English makes this plausible.

But I am disputing the idea that other human languages lack subjects and verbs. Japanese does not lack subjects and verbs. In some instances, the subject can be implied by context if the speaker and listener both know what the subject should be. This is a feature of the grammar made possible once you already understand Japanese, but would certainly make it harder to learn (since implied information is more difficult than explicit information, for outside parties). Japanese does not eliminate verbs. Now the subject and verb might present differently in some languages. They may be part of the same word, or be implied through the grammar.

This is not the case in English because English relies quite heavily on SVO word order to carry meaning. If you change the order or eliminate parts of this equation, the meaning itself changes. "Dog bites man" and "Man bites dog" mean two different things because our grammar says so. "Bites man" and "Bites dog" are practically meaningless. In another language where word order isn't important, this wouldn't be a big deal.

Of course, if we really want to get into the implausibility question, we'd have to discuss how human physiology dictates our speech patterns (our preference for aural signals, lung capacity creating a need for sentence breaks, and limitations on the ear to pick up sounds), and how gaseous aliens would even begin to decode our aural speech, much less our writing, which is a visual representation of the sounds our meat produces.

Medical Microfiction: Stories About Science
http://rckjones.wordpress.com


Hilary Moon Murphy

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 76
  • Proving the inherent superiority of purple hair
Reply #21 on: November 19, 2013, 09:10:18 PM
I am going to say that I rather liked the young protagonist.  I liked his quest for self-improvement, and the self-effacing honesty with which he kept his journal.  It also did not matter to me that he used abbreviations and partial sentences in a document that was intended primarily for himself.  Abbreviations / shorthand are ubiquitous in 19th century letters -- This is often frustrating for modern day readers like myself, who are left trying to figure out the context of a statement which must have been obvious to both the sender and the recipient. 

I did wonder at his naiveté in assuming that no one else would read it, but many other people make the mistake of assuming privacy while they write something in work email.

The story was charming, funny and satisfying.  Thanks for running this!

Hmm


Carlos Ferreira

  • Extern
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Reply #22 on: November 20, 2013, 07:23:48 PM
I am going to say that I rather liked the young protagonist.  I liked his quest for self-improvement, and the self-effacing honesty with which he kept his journal.  It also did not matter to me that he used abbreviations and partial sentences in a document that was intended primarily for himself. 

Exactly. I especially like the fact that the protagonist is a male. This genre of diary fiction often involves female main characters (such as the aforementioned Bridget Jones), as if this sort of emotion and slightly self-pitying behaviour is an exclusively female trait. Nope, men do it too, and just as much as women. I have; it's one possible outcome of finding oneself a bachelor and in an unwanted/awkward situation. I wonder if a lot of the dislike reported isn't related to being told the story from the point of view of a male, cast as the proverbial airhead.

As to the relevance of the document, isn't historical research strongly based on personal reports from people living the events? I find it entirely plausible that if contact does happen, someone tangentially involved could be wallowing in this sort of emotions. The papers will try to outdo each other with booming headlines, scientists will scurry to provide the best hypotheses, explanations and predictions, the internet will glow red with an unstoppable arms race in metaphors, but the guy bringing the coffees will be wondering if so-and-so's attributes are natural or surgically enhanced. Human nature. The story captures it really well.

This is one of the funniest science fiction pieces I've heard in a while, and I really liked. And Alasdair's narration and tone were, as mentioned above, spot on.



Windup

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1226
Reply #23 on: November 21, 2013, 02:50:28 AM

Coming in late and not a lot to add, except to say this one cracked me up.  Though admittedly part of the reason it works for me is that my daughter and a couple friend's kids are at about that age, so I've had a lot of opportunity to hear about young adults and mentally revisit my own cringe-inducing behavior during those years. 

I've always been partial to the "worm's eye view" of almost any event, and this was definitely that.  That it was also hilarious was definitely a plus.  I got so wrapped up in the story I didn't really question how the aliens would process his journal text, and just went with it.  It probably didn't hurt that Alisdair was the perfect narrator for this.

I didn't think of it being like "Bridget Jones' Diary" until Varda said it, but the comparison is spot-on. 

"My whole job is in the space between 'should be' and 'is.' It's a big space."


Zelda

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 78
Reply #24 on: November 21, 2013, 08:33:25 AM
I was frustrated by how little information we got about the aliens. They had to have an agenda of some kind but we didn't get any clue what it was. I didn't think about the linguistic angle much in part because I suspected it was a pretext. The narrator was a perfect choice if the aliens wanted information to flow in one direction only. He would happily tell them whatever he knew and had no interest in figuring them out.

I couldn't believe that a human would be able to accurately interpret the "body language" of a cloud of gas which meant I couldn't believe the purple alien was genuinely flirting with the narrator. It seemed to me that had to be either a mistake on his part that the aliens took advantage of, or else a deliberate deceiption from the start. I was entertained by the narrator but I wish we had some additional diary entries. The jump from his first interest in the purple alien to the happy ending was too abrupt for me.

I really enjoyed hearing a lighthearted science fiction story. It was fun.