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Author Topic: EP422: Deshaun Stevens’ Ship Log  (Read 2221 times)
eytanz
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« on: November 16, 2013, 05:45:05 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!
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ArbysMom
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« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2013, 12:23:51 PM »

Loved it! Alasdair's spot on narration was perfect! Well done all around.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2013, 04:36:08 PM »

Given the law of averages, it's entirely possible First Contact will be made by some boob like this.....
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MarsGirl
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« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2013, 09:38:48 PM »

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*
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2013, 06:54:14 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.
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Varda
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2013, 07:31:11 AM »

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. Cheesy
« Last Edit: November 20, 2013, 10:02:48 PM by Varda » Logged

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ArbysMom
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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2013, 11:54:14 AM »

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....
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adrianh
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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2013, 01:22:08 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, 03:22:26 PM by adrianh » Logged
adrianh
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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2013, 03:48:55 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.
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Dem
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« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2013, 08:31:42 AM »

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!
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matweller
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« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2013, 09:19:00 AM »

Let's just all be glad it wasn't the poop.
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MarsGirl
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Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor not a critic!


« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2013, 09:40:43 AM »

I never thought of the whole Bridget Jones Diary correlation. Good call!
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jenfullmoon
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« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2013, 11:49:07 AM »

Oh, Bridget Jones is what I thought of first off. That made it all the more hilarious.
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Jhite
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« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2013, 12:10:23 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.

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PotatoKnight
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« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2013, 12:13:08 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.
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2013, 11:21:58 PM »

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?
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2013, 03:46:49 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.
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Varda
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« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2013, 06:42:17 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. Smiley 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!

Cheesy

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, 06:45:16 AM by Varda » Logged

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Jompier
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« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2013, 12:22:44 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.
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PotatoKnight
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« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2013, 01:03:28 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.
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