Image for post
Image for post
The father of Son Goku, Bardock, as he confronts and challenges Freeza just before he destroys Planet Vegeta and exterminates the Saiyans

One of the most beautiful and poignant episodes in the Dragonball franchise. This is an OVA (i.e. anime spin-off) which deals with the prehistory of the Dragonball story, namely Son Goku’s birth and his Saiyan origins, which he does not realise until the second half of the story ( Dragoball Z) from when he meets his brother, Raditz. This episode tells of the Saiyans’ destruction at the hands of Freeza, their eternal nemesis and one of the main villains in the franchise. This is also the story of Bardock, Goku’s father ( to whom he looks identical and from whom he inherits the responsibility to avenge the Saiyans), and how he discovers Freeza’s plot to exterminate the Saiyans once and for all. The episode begins with Bardock and his Saiyan companions on a mission to conquer and colonise another planet on Freeza’s orders (at this stage, the Saiyans, like the surviving remnants in present time (Vegeta, Nappa, Raditz) are working as mercenaries for Freeza and his clan, the ultimate conquerors and pirates of the universe whose desire is to subjugate every single planet and every single race under their command), and after they successfully (and brutally) destroy the indigenous population of the planet, one of the survivors, who possesses psychic abilities like foretelling the future, confronts them and passes his abilities onto Bardock in a last-ditch, desperate attack. This collapses Bardock and sends him into a coma in which he sees visions of Goku’s future living on Earth as well as some disturbing images of the explosion of his own Saiyan planet (Planet Vegeta, namely after the eponymous Vegeta, the royal family of the Saiyans, and Vegeta is their prince after all who makes a brief cameo in this OVA where he shows his inborn martial talent and ice-cold killer instincts). After he wakes, Bardock becomes continually plagued by images of the future in which he begins to see more clearly Freeza’s conspiracy to eliminate the Saiyans and the doom of the Saiyan race, and after a confrontation on Planet Meat (another wordplay with the etymology of Saiya (Japanese 野菜 ya-sai ‘vegetable’) which explains the origins of all the names of the Saiyan characters: Kakarotto (< ‘carrot’; Son Goku’s Saiyan name), Vegeta (< ‘vegetable’), Nappa (< ‘nappa’), Raditz (< ‘radish’), Broly (< ‘broccoli’) etc), Bardock finds his closest Saiyan companions murdered by Freeza’s men and finally realises that his fellow Saiyans only have moments to live as Freeza intends to destroy Planet Saiyan. …


Image for post
Image for post
Freeza and Cooler, two master villains in the Dragonball franchise

Toriyama Akira’s Dragonball is without doubt one of the most popular mangas in the world, having swept through Asia and the West with its unique characters and complex story-telling. Its popularity has not waned since making its manga in the 80s and its recent installments such as Dragonball Super and various movies show that its popularity is still on the rise throughout the world. Much has already been said about its literary composition, namely its precedence from the Chinese classic Journey to the West (西遊記), its eponymic symbolism as encouched in the characters’ names, and its literary allusions to Western Greek mythology. I have pointed out before that the life of Goku resembles the story of main characters in Greek tragedy and Christian literature, namely the time-honoured tale of the Prodigal Son who leaves his home while young and makes a fated comeback, let it be killing his father and marrying his mother in the case of Oedipus, or becoming king and ruler of the land in the case of Simba in Lion King (derived from Shakespeare’s Hamlet), all of which employ this classical literary framework of birth, fate and tragic irony. This was discussed with regards to Goku’s role as the avenger of his Saiyan race in his fight and victory over Freeza, the monster tyrant who exterminated the Saiyan race shortly after Goku was born. Goku was then raised on Earth (地球) and did not learn about his identity and origin as a Saiyan till many years later and subsequently confronted Freeza by chance on Namek Planet. Similar things can be said of a famous Dragonball OVA (spin-off) which is an offshoot of the Freeza saga: the Cooler saga. Cooler is the older brother of Freeza whose appearance and abilities are highly similar to his (indeed he is even more powerful than Freeza as he is capable of transforming one more time), and this makes Goku’s confrontation with Cooler a direct sequel to the Freeza story arc and its many themes. It turns out that Cooler has an early encounter with Goku as Goku is dispatched as an infant from the Saiyan Vegeta Planet just when Freeza destroys it, and even though Cooler is tempted to shoot down the capsule and in effect exterminate the last remaining Saiyan, he decides not to as he sees this as an ominous seed of trouble and ruin which Freeza has sowed for himself. Many years later, after Goku defeats Freeza, Cooler goes to Earth to seek revenge, and when he confronts Goku and realises that he is the child whose life he spared all those years ago, they engage in an epic battle where Goku ascends to Super Saiyanjin and defeats Cooler much like how he defeats Freeza, and as Cooler dies in a massive explosion with the Sun, he laments that it was not only Freeza who suffered in his own hubris in neglecting the capsule carrying Goku, he himself is also the perpetrator and victim of his own hubris by not shooting it down when he had the chance, and this has come back to seal his doom.


Image for post
Image for post
What constitutes a masterpiece, and how many works of art can be genuinely counted as such?

Success is what most of us strive for. Yet it is easier said than done, since the path to achieving success is always tough and arduous. This is universally accepted. The key to success is perseverance, and as we encounter failures on our way to achieving what we want, one just has to keep going, no matter what. One may reasonably think that the course to success is a linear upward curve, which probably is the case for the majority of success stories. However, there are also some striking examples where the way to success is by no means linear, let alone upward. …


Image for post
Image for post
There is so much happening on the road that one must be on guard at all times.

When one drives on the motorway, one is expected to go at top speed, which, in the UK, is capped at 70 mph. However, not all roads are motorways (and even on motorways there are speed cameras monitoring all vehicles, the miscreants of which are automatically tracked and sent speeding tickets for violation of traffic laws) and there are many types of roads that are filled with complicated layouts and potential hazards where it is practically impossible to drive at full speed. It is hence impractical to go at full speed throughout one’s journey, even if one wants to for the sake of arriving at one’s destination asap, and there are (many) times on one’s journey when one will have to go slowly and learn how to manoeuvre between small obstacles here and there. It is tempting to believe that when one is manoeuvring, one is not making as much progress as one would like, but this is an illusion, since, as explained, there are times when it is simply inappropriate to drive at full speed. Indeed, going at full speed all the time is not only an impractical but also a somewhat unsophisticated way of driving, since it shows that one is not aware of or sensitive to one’s surroundings (something for which I have been scolded repeatedly by my driving instructor), the many variations of which call for subtly different styles of driving for optimal effect. All this can be applied metaphorically to one’s work ethic, since, just as driving, one may feel guilty for not making as much progress as one would like when it is impossible to work at top speed all the time. Indeed, there are many atimes when one is physically/mentally ill fit for full speed working and has to adapt to a different mindset so as to navigate between one’s mental obstacles, just as one has to manoeuvre on the road in order to navigate between obstacles and hazards. This, as I have explained before, may be one of the keys towards beating procrastination, since a major cause for procrastination is indeed physical/mental unpreparedness. It is physiologically impossible to be prepared for each and every task all the time, and in times like these one may have to do things slow or even stop entirely just to catch one’s breath. In any case, there are many mental obstacles in one’s mind that make it impossible to work at full speed, and, unless one can find a way to remove such obstacles, which may be impossible as is the case with traffic obstacles on the road, one will have to learn to do things slow to negotiate one’s way through such potential hazards, ignoring which may not only cost you your vehicle, your mind, your body but also your life. One may feel that one is not at one’s most efficient when doing things slow, but on the issue of dealing with obstacles it may be obligatory to go a little bit slower so as to give one’s vehicle and one’s body a chance to regain top speed once the road and the mind become clear again. …


Image for post
Image for post
Honda: the most successful car and motor company in the world. What are some of their tips for success?

Much has been written about the importance of sleep, which is derived from the wealth of research by sleep scientists on the many benefits of good quality sleep. I would be the last person on earth to endorse the benefits of sleep, since I am a notorious nighthound who prefers to operate at night when I feel that I am at my most productive. I hence tend to avoid sleep as much as I can in order to maximise the number of woken hours when I am up and going. This all sounds perfectly intuitive, since why would one think that being unconscious in a state of slumber can yield productivity (though see my previous blog on the dichotomy between active and passive learning)? There is now good evidence, however, for believing that sleep is actually a highly active and therapeutic activity which can do our bodies a lot of good, much like doing physical exercise releases endorphins into our system. Common beliefs about heart regulation and body temperature abound, that sleep helps protect our vital organs and maintain good physiological and metabolic balance, without which we would be lying on the threshold of death at the calling of common deadly diseases such as cardiac arrest and cancer. Another common phenomenon closely connected to sleep is, of course, dreaming, which happens to us when we are in deep slumber. I have always found dreaming fascinating since it is a form of hallucinatory imagination which leaves our bodies in a very funny state. We have all had nightmares where the experience of a bad dream leaves us in cold sweat upon waking up, or good dreams which make us feel all rosy as if we were right in the scenario of the dream itself. We also tend to dream about the things that matter to us, let it be our problems, aspirations, demons etc, which takes us to the second meaning of the word ‘dream’ i.e. not the hallunations during sleep but our hopes and aspirations. It all fades the moment we wake up and return to reality and I can rarely recall the content of my dreams which, however pleasant or terrifying, dissipates from my mind as soon as I regain consciousness. I have now learnt, however, that the more (sur)real our dreams seem to be, the deeper the state of sleep that we are in, and it is during this state of deep incubation that the therapeutic effects of sleep kick in at the maximum level (contrast this to dosing or napping which only offers us brief and slight respite with no long-term health effects). As we traverse the dramatic contours of our dreams and run through the ups and downs of our somniac hallucinations, our bodies are undergoing some wonderful physiological processes which help heal and rebuild us, and just as we experience things in our minds that are tied to our goals and aspirations, we are preparing our bodies to take on the challenges in our lives when we wake. I have come to appreciate sleep a bit more now (though I still sleep less than the recommended amount of 7/8 hours p.d.), since I cherish the opportunity of getting into deep slumber and exploring the secret chambers of my mind while letting my body heal and bring itself to its optimal state in preparation for my daily battles. …


It is commonly believed that difficult situations tease out the best in human beings, and it is often at points of desperation that humans reach their creative and spiritual best.

The recent and ongoing protests against the extradition bill mark one of the most turbulent times in the history of Hong Kong (HK), and throughout the ongoing protests there have been some wonderfully creative and original uses of language, namely local HK Cantonese, that are worthy of mention, since, as with the Umbrella Revolution, these have added to the inventory of HK Cantonese, which is constantly evolving.

Many of these examples of wordplay have already been discussed, such as the slogan 返送中 “against extradition to the mainland,” which plays on the southern Chinese taboo of gifting clocks 送鍾 as it is homophonous not only with 送中 “extradition to the mainland” but also with the highly ominous phrase 送終 “to see someone off in death,” implying that extradition to the mainland is equivalent to certain death, or the prominent expression 光復香港,時代革命 “revive Hong Kong, revolution of our times” coined by the famous activist Leung Tin-Kei in 2016,which resembles US President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”, or the famous dictum “Be Water” once uttered by the famous Cantonese martial arts icon Bruce Lee, who encouraged creativity and flexibility in adapting to difficult situations. …


Image for post
Image for post
漢語包含無數地區方言,語言的特徵及演變當真是深不可測,化不可極。眾多方言中卻有沒有參數規律呢?

眾所周知,漢語的方言成千上萬,千變萬化,雖然眾多方言分享許多共同特徵,但仍能統核為單一語系(即漢語系 (Sinitic languages)),就個別地區的方言各有獨特的語法構造和表達方式,於形式語言學中(formal linguistics)可用形式變點(formal parameters)做形式分類(formal typology)。在此文章中從本人近年來教漢語的心得略解漢語語法中的一些主要變構,做為討論形式漢語語法學的出發點。

句子構造:

先從大型概括的語言結構說起。漢語方言均有密切的句子結構,現代普遍漢語(Common Sinitic)概有如下的句子結構:

COMP Subject Adv AUX Verb-Affix Object Verbal-Adv SFP

這均是普遍的語言學術語,在此略解: …


Image for post
Image for post
All Sinitic varieties are subsumed under the general pan-national notion of 漢語 which means ‘Chinese language’. Can parametric regularity be discerned between such a multitude of dialects?

As is well known, Sinitic varieties which are collectively known as Chinese dialects display a wide range of microvariations, some of which may be unified under the notion of pan-Sinitic grammar while others pertain to regional dialectalisation. Under current formal parametric assumptions about linguistic variation and change, it is possible to present and understand some of these microvariations systematically. Here are some important properties of Chinese dialects which have been noted in my teaching and research of Chinese language and linguistics:

Clause:

Let’s start with the big picture. Sinitic varieties obey a general clausal schema which may be represented thus:

COMP Subject Adv AUX Verb-Affix Object Verbal-Adv…


Image for post
Image for post
So many functions in mathematics, yet what do they really mean?

I mentioned in my previous post some key and fundamental elements of Chinese numerical superstition, namely the numbers four 4 (=’death’) and eight 8 (=’prosperity’) which permeate throughout our language and culture and have shaped our cultural understanding of numbers and portents. I also mentioned that it was possible to interpret these numbers in terms of their sequential positions and linear ordering. …


Is it really a good idea to do more than one thing at a time? Many say no, but I think yes.
Is it really a good idea to do more than one thing at a time? Many say no, but I think yes.
Is it really a good idea to do more than one thing at a time? Many say no, but I think yes, though only if you do it properly.

People often say that multi-tasking is bad for productivity. I appreciate what they say. In my understanding of the common criticisms of multitasking, it is better to focus on one task at a time and do it fully and thoroughly before moving on to the next because not only does this enhance the quality of your work in the particular task in question (full concentration and no distraction etc), it also minimises the amount of time needed to get back into it and re-adjust if/when you revisit the task after leaving it half-done. These are all good and intuitive reasons for doing things one at a time. However, I must admit (with guilt) that I rather enjoy doing more than one thing simultaneously, and I say this not because I like to have lack of focus in my approach towards my work, but rather I find myself working better when I am doing multiple things at the same time. When I maximise my concentration on one thing, I can only sustain it for a limited amount of time (say, half an hour), because after a certain period of time my internal system gets tired and bored of the task at hand, which constitutes what psychologists call ‘saturation’. At this point, I simply cannot proceed with the task at hand anymore and need to switch tasks just to keep my system alive and receptive (and keep my interest flowing). I hence enjoy alternating between important tasks one after another (and yes, there is ALWAYS more than one thing to be done at any given time), and I often get more than one thing done within a limited time. …

About

Keith Tse (MCIL CL)

#Linguist #DataScientist #Columnist #Balliol #Oxford #Manchester #York #Ronin #IGDORE #Scholar.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store