Archives for the month of: September, 2010

Observations on new Korean pop star G.NA’s song, “꺼져 줄게 잘 살아 (I’ll Back Off So You Can Live)”:

I. Having natively acquired English (she was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada) has obviously affected how she speaks Korean. She does not seem to have [g] and [k] as her allophones for ㄱ; that is, she only pronounces ㄱ as [g] and not [k] throughout the song. I’m not sure if that’s also true for her regular speech, but it’s something I’ll look out for if I see her on reality TV. I should pay attention to how she uses ㅂ too: Will she use both [p] and [b], or just [b]? *

* For those of you not in the field, this basically involves the following concepts:

  1. In English, whether you choose to use [g] and [k] is important, because it causes a change in word meaning. For example, “GATE” and “KATE” mean two very different things.
  2. In Korean, whether you choose to use [g] and [k] is unimportant. So if you said “GATE” or “KATE”, they would both mean the same thing. It wouldn’t matter which form you used at all. If it makes it easier to understand, it’s kind of like the different ways you could say “POTATO” (although that’s actually a different phenomenon in linguistics): “po-tay-to” and “po-tah-to”. The “ay” and “ah” doesn’t make a difference in meaning.
  3. In G.NA’s case, being a native speaker of English has biased her to differentiating between [k] and [g], even in Korean. In contrast, people who only learnt Korean as their native language will never make that differentiation.

II. The title of the album containing this song is “Draw G’s First Breath”. At first, I assumed  “Draw G” as a proper noun; that is, “Draw” is an adjective describing “G”. But today, I somehow was enlightened of a second interpretation of the entire phrase: Perhaps it’s an instruction! It’s telling me to draw G’s first breath (whatever that looks like). It’s a real-life example of syntactic ambiguity, with a preference towards parsing “draw” as an adjective (since verbs don’t usually occur as the first word in a sentence).

That I feel happy after picking apart a Korean song for linguistic analyses kind of scares me. It’s irrefutable proof  that I’m a total nerd.


I spent a good part of the afternoon with a headache today, thanks to my lengthy quest to find used textbooks before classes begin on Monday.

I had stayed up late the night before, crawling book exchange sites, craigslist, and Google, trying to find sellers that I could actually meet without driving 300 km and offer me books that weren’t falling apart. I emailed half of them last night, and then the rest this morning… And I spent the rest of the time either replying to emails or calling up other sellers.

However, the most trying part of the entire search was keeping track of who offered which book at what price, and would meet me at what time and place. You have no idea how confusing it is when you’re messaging seven different people from four different (but nearby) cities about three unfamiliar books — Who was selling that book about phonetics again? Wait, was she the one from that city or that one…or did she say she could come to my campus to meet me? Did anyone I contacted about that personality theory book even reply to me yet? I can’t remember…

This, plus waiting anxiously for people to reply to me (so that I can decide whether I should meet seller A or B, because they either offer different prices or could possibly get the book to me sooner than the other person), resulted in a very jumpy and stressed cereal eater. (I should note that I was absent-mindedly snacking on cereal while writing all my emails.)

It didn’t help that I was also stuck in a traffic jam after contacting my potential sellers too. Especially since I was in a rush to get to my university’s bookstore before it closed to buy a stats textbook, which I could not buy used (darned access code).

But it seems like my book exchange dates are set now, so all I can do is hope for my sellers to turn up and have the proper book in hand… And that I have enough money to actually pay for the pile of overpriced papers.

I don’t usually buy anything to drink when I’m out, because I always bring a water bottle from home with me. But, while I was out exploring the city with my transit pass, my water bottle ran dry, and so I went in search of something to drink in Wal-Mart. (Yeah, I happened to be in a mall. Which, sadly, had no water fountains, as far as I knew.)

I ended up purchasing Aquafina’s plus+ Vitamins 10 CAL. yumberry pomegranate, a vitamin-enhanced water only available in Canada at the moment . I didn’t choose this because I needed the vitamins (I eat enough veggies and whole grains to get my nutrients, thank you); rather, I bought it because it cost only $1 — the same amount that a regular, 500 mL bottle of re-filtered tap water would’ve cost me. “Why not spend that $1 on something new instead?” I reasoned. And besides, this bottle has 91 mL more liquid — my economics professor would tell me that this gives me more consumer surplus.

The nutrition information for this water sounded promising. (Well, actually, they called it “Medicinal Facts”, probably in an attempt to tap into the public’s general desire to be healthier these days. All it did for me was remind me of horrible bitter tasting liquids… So much for that marketing campaign.) For the entire bottle, you will consume:

  • Calories: 10
  • Carbohydrates: 16 g / 5%
  • Sugars: 0 g
  • Vitamin C: 148 mg / 250% DV
  • Vitamin E: 7.8 mg / 80% DV
  • Vitamin B5: 5.3 mg / 80% DV
  • Vitamin B3: 5.0 mg / 20% DV
  • Vitamin B6: 0.7 mg / 40% DV
  • Vitamin B12: 2.3 mcg / 120% DV

A tasty drink with that many vitamins for only 10 calories and no sugar? It sounded too good to be true. I read on to the “Non-Medicinal Ingredients” list:

Water, erythritol, natural yumberry and pomegranate flavours, citric acid, xanthan gum, calcium lactate, potassium citrate, Reb A (PureVia brand natural pure stevia extract), modified corn starch, red colour, calcium phosphate dibasic, gum arabic, ginger extract, dandelion root extract.

…Wha? What is all this stuff doing in water? Water should not contain that many unpronounceable ingredients, nor should it contain xanthan gum or corn starch! (And it even dares to call itself a “natural health product”?) I was a bit hesitant to buy it after reading this, especially seeing the use of a non-sugar sweetener (I don’t trust any sweetener other than sugar, even if they say it’s an natural extract), but it was either this fancily-packaged and potentially tasty concoction, or a bottle of tap water. Let’s just say, there was little competition.

At first, I thought it tasted okay. Maybe I was just thirsty. Or maybe it did taste good. In any case, I could taste some kind of fruit flavour. However, after a few more sips, I began to recognize the off-taste that the artificial sweetener gave. Sure, it’s not asparatame, it’s not Splenda, but the sweetness just didn’t taste right. It left an odd aftertaste. I didn’t really want to finish the remaining half of the bottle, but I was thirsty. Although I was beginning to question whether the drink itself was causing me to be thirsty once I drained the bottle — why did I feel almost thirstier than before?

The label recommended that people 12 years and older should drink a bottle one to two times a day. I’m thinking, “Why should I fill myself with weird chemicals to get my vitamins, when I can eat real food?” Granted, a bottle of Aquafina plus+ does provide quite a lot of vitamins for very little calories, which is good for our weight- and health-conscious society, but how much of these vitamins do we actually absorb from such enhanced waters? A Google search yields conflicting results. What articles tend to agree on though is that we absorb nutrients better from real, solid food.

But I suppose this is a good substitute for those downing three Cokes a day, AND don’t mind the unusual taste of artificial sweeteners. After all, since you’re going to put so many man-made substances into yourself anyway, why not drink something that will somewhat nourish you instead?

Not until yesterday did I truly understand the torment of losing a USB flash drive.

I haven’t been using my USB drive recently, since, without school, I don’t really have any files to move around. So, when I decided to clean out my drive last night, I realized that I had no clue where my drive was. I checked all the obvious places — near my computer, in my bags/pockets, my miscellaneous bundle of headphones/USB cables/camera chargers — but I just couldn’t find it. While I did have most of my files backed up to my computer, there were still some new files on it. Granted, they weren’t that important, but still, I disliked the fact that I didn’t know whose hands my files were in, and that I would need to hurry and buy a new drive before school started. I went to sleep with my head in my hands, trying to think of where I could’ve placed it.

I woke up today, as clueless as the night before. I went through my belongings again, looked under furniture, and even cracked open the huge, imposing vacumn my parents use. Search yielded no results, except for a bundle of hair and dust that threatened to give me a sneeze attack.

I gave up on searching. Temporarily. I knew the drive had to be at home, because I hadn’t taken it out anywhere. My biggest worry was that I threw it out accidentally with other junk during my recent cleaning spree. I tried not to think about that — the thought that other people could be reading my files (mostly old school work, but still) was not particularly comforting.

In the end, I discovered that my USB was hiding under the cover for my Yamaha keyboard. I probably left it there when I was cleaning out my other shelves. Jeez. Never again am I going to put my USB in random places, even if I’m carrying three boxes of junk at once and have my path blocked by a pile of papers.

Interestingly enough, while I was randomly surfing the internet, I found a comic by PHD Comics on the stages of data loss. I think I really did get to stage 4: I was considering looking up where USB drives were on sale this week.

There is never a time when I can actually blog properly.

Where I live, I’m constantly surrounded by chatter and distracting noises — my parents talking, the news broadcaster yapping away, the people living upstairs running around and causing a ruckus. Honestly, it is all I can do sometimes to not scream at the top of my lungs to tell everything to give me just one minute of peace and quiet.

I can’t think with the noise. I can’t think right now either — I was writing another blog post, but no matter how I phrased things, nothing sounded right. The only reason I can write this right now is probably because this is the only topic that has a strong enough grasp on my mind… Not a good thing, of course, since it’s likely raising my stress levels.

Let’s just hope my ideas, ability to write, and some quiet time rendezvous soon. I didn’t start this blog just to have it wither away into digital dust.

I received another video pop-up after my previous post on 1000 Song Challenge! This time, WordPress’ Fun Mode whacked me with a video of Canadians screaming in celebration as they watched the Canadian Olympic hockey team score the winning goal against the United States during the 2010 Winter Games.

I wonder if WordPress sent that video selectively to Canadians only? While it certainly gave me a smile, I’m not sure hockey fans in the States would appreciate this random “gift” from Fun Mode.

The video:

As an avid fan of Korean pop music, I highly enjoy watching clips of my favourite singers on 도전 1000 곡 (1000 Song Challenge), a variety show in which artists must correctly sing a random song. Through Challenge, I’ve come across a lot of great old songs, and this thankfully adds a bit of variety in my otherwise monotone collection of current K-pop.

Another good thing about Challenge is that you find out which singer can actually sing. Nowadays, many Korean pop groups lip sync through a lot of their live performances, as demonstrated by the times when CDs start skipping, or the weird fact that they can do aerobics on stage and still sing without sounding laboured. But even during the times when they sing live, you usually don’t hear more than a couple of lines from each member, especially if the member is

  1. in a large group, like Super Junior (13 member) or Girls’ Generation (9 members);
  2. not a main vocalist (e.g. Yoona in Girls’ Generation or Sunhwa in Secret); or
  3. performing on a stage with horrible sound systems, which is pretty common, believe it or not — mics are often set too quietly compared to the background music.

But on Challenge, none of these problems exist. Everyone sings alone, and because it is a television show with a live audience, it has sound recording AND you know that there is no way they could’ve prerecorded the singers in a studio.

Generally, I’ve found that most K-pop group members sing okay. They’re not musical prodigies, but they sing pretty well for overworked kids who can also dance/model/act. There are also some who sing beautifully — Sunny and Tiffany of Girls’ Generation, as well as Narsha and Ga-in of Brown Eyed Girls are a joy to listen to. In fact, I’ve been so floored by Narsha’s voice (until recently, I paid little attention to her group) that I’m almost desperately seeking out more clips of her singing solo. Honestly, she’s not given enough singing parts in her group’s songs.

I haven’t found a place that provides Challenge episodes in full yet, but you can watch clips of individual performances by searching for “challenge 1000” on YouTube. Who do you find performs best?

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