Ectopia /ek-TOH-pia/ (noun)
In medical usage the word ectopia refers to displaced or shifted organs. e.g.
Ectopia can be thought of as a state of being out of place, or being displaced from the natural or ideal location or setting; to be in a condition that deviates from the “normal” either in situation or in relation to other members.
c.f. Utopia or “the perfect state.”
Ectopian /ek-TOH-pian/ (adjective)
An object being in a state of ectopia. To be out of place or time, displaced, removed from natural habitat and placed into a new, different, foreign or alien situation.
Current usage patterns of this word, however appear to be limited to artistic and philosophical endeavours, the author being unable to find consistent examples of usage outside of these fields.
When thus applied, it appears to include a distancing from the norms of the genre. Moreover, many example uses imply the positive connotations without the negative implications.
For example, nuances include thoughtful solitude and contemplation, meaningful individuality, otherworldliness, timelessness and often constitutes a willful, conscious choice on the part of the subject to place themselves or their art in said situation without undue emphasis on the disharmonious and discordant aspects of such a choice.
I find it very exciting to be present at the very nascency of a word, especially a word that I feel applies so well to my current situation. For example, I’ve often considered myself as leading a rather ectopian lifestyle here in Japan as perhaps do most expatriates.
I also find that I am far more attracted to ectopians than others, since in my eyes its those very differences that make people special.
Hence I’ve discovered that my taste in music is also characterised by a taste for a juxtaposition different styles shifted into new genres.
Singers like Kate Bush (sheer unadulterated otherworldliness), late 60’s David Bowie introspectives (looking at himself and the world from a distant place), Bic Runga (half Malaysian, half Maori creating a unique style of music that stands alone), Magdalen Hsu Li (American Born Chinese singer who overcame all manner of hardships in the deep south to turn herself into living proof of the existence of positive energy) and most recently Emilie Autumn (A colossal, chameleonic talent for shifting between genres yet belonging to none) to name but a few.
I had been unable to identify what it was I loved about certain music when similar songs sung in a different context failed to turn me on.
It’s the ectopian nature or “ectopianness” (for want of a better word!) of the songs and the artists that make me listen time and time again.
Since the ascendancy of Greek philosophy it has been known that it is the very sophistication of the words themselves allow the human mind to grasp intangible concepts by giving it a firm handle to hold onto.
The words we know and the concepts they represent shape our very thoughts and without them, we are both vocally and mentally mute.
This is the second part of the second article in my series “Good Things Come in Threes”. In the previous article, I looked at
- Fayray, a Japanese singer and pianist brought up and raised in the US before finding major success in her home country, Japan with the album Hourglass.
The third article looks at
- Angela Ai, an American Born Chinese, raised in Columbus, Ohio who is and an actress, on Broadway, a singer and a talented pianist.
Angela Aki, Home
Angela Aki’s upbringing might be considered a mirror image of Fayray’s:Born to a Japanese father and Italian mother in Shikoku, Japan, she emigrated with her family to to the US, Hawaii at the age of 15. Later she moved to Washington DC where she attended and subsequently graduated from the George Washington University with a double major in Politics and Music.
More than anything else, Angela Aki is renowned for her no-holds-barred, powerful voice: with full control over its entire, wide range, who like many Asian pop singers has been influenced heavily by the queen of Canto-pop Wong Faye.
To a much greater extent than Fayray, piano or keyboard take the lead on her ballad laden debut album, Home. And although many songs have a string accompaniment, with minimal percussion and electronica.
The album starts Kiss Me Goodbye, the most well known single on the album, made famous for being the theme song to Final Fantasy XII.
“Kiss Me Goodbye”, although being popular and catchy enough to put it number 1 on the album doesn’t really show Aki’s voice off in its best light, and she drew criticism from some quarters for “shouting rather than singing.”
Certainly there are moments when all you hear is the power and nothing else, but it is still a fine Wong-esq pop song.
Incidentally, she performed a cover of Wong Faye’s Eyes on Me, the theme song to Final Fantasy VIII.
“Love is Over Now” is a more archetypal Aki affair and she is given much more room to explore the extents of her vocal talents which take centre stage in this, a far more emotional number.
“Kokoro no Senshi” has her shouting again for another powerful, bestselling single.
There’s no denying the impact of her orchestra backed pop and this, more than any other song on the album defines a young and energetic Angela Aki with a memorable number that stays with you long after the album has been put away.
“This Love” starts off suggesting a gentle ballad but progresses up the scale, much like Kokoro no Senshi into yet another shouty, full orchestral climax of the ridiculously catchy chorus.
Whereas most albums would be content with a 1, 2, 3 Punch. Aki outdoes them by adding her fourth single to the front loaded album. that made this album a 600,000 disc seller.
After the first four groundbreaking singles, “Music” the fifth song has a difficult job to feel anything other than a slight disappointment in its lack of distinctive hook and ends up as just a pop song.
Any feelings that the album may have lost steam however are blown out of the water by the dark, deep piano strings and heavy drum section that open “Uchuu,” the sixth song on the album. In terms of composition and orchestration alone, Uchuu is by far the tightest on the disc. It’s a one song opera, dark powerful and fearsome one moment transitioning to beautiful, drifting solitude the next with Aki taking on the role of the entire cast with her adept voice and pulling the whole ensemble together beautifully. It’s beautifully dramatic in the way songs by Queen tend to be and feels much fuller and longer than its sub five minute length would suggest.
Uchuu is probably the understated highlight of the whole disc.
“Onegai” comes as blessed respite after the heavy “Uchuu” and signals a pause for a breather before the start of the last half of the album as a slow, gentle piano solo ballad.
The last half is less remarkable than the first, which can’t really be helped considering how this album starts off.
“Rain” and “Kiseki” and “Hallelujah” return to Aki’s regular pattern of fully rounded and powerful chorus backed by strings and a band without ever loosing the piano from the front and centre, with the final song of the album, “Home” being a rather strong closing song to this pattern. There is a suggestion that she may have been struggling for inspiration at several points during the album with these four songs being very similar, pulling influences from late 90s domestic stars such as Onizuka Chihiro, Yaida Hitomi and others. Still, if you like one, you’ll probably like all four.
“Oogesa ni Aishiteiru” (“exaggerated love”) is stuck in amongst the above four songs at #10 on the album and takes a very different turn, ebbing and flowing at a gentle pace with Aki at the piano, where she belongs.
This song would do well as a showpiece for her voice and piano playing, displaying them both in their best light and would do as well on a stage in the East End or Broadway (were it sung in English) or backing up Tom Waits in one his more mournful moods. It is also slightly reminiscent of late 90’s Japanese group Hana*Hana’s acoustic numbers.
“Your Love Song” is a placid closing ballad in similar vein to “Oogesa ni Aishiteiru” above but is sung in English and makes a beautiful, restful close to the album.
Aki is a young powerful talent who hasn’t quite found her comfort zone, although perhaps its at the edge with songs like Uchuu, Your Love Song and Oogesa where she shines the most.
There are hints of brilliance on her album Home, but one gets the feeling that two or three songs could have been shaven off to lift the overall average.
Angela Aki – Home
- Kiss Me Good-Bye
- Love Is Over Now
- Kokoro no Senshi (心の戦士, “Kokoro no Senshi”? lit. “Soldier of the Heart”)
- This Love
- Uchū (宇宙, “Uchū”? lit. “Universe”)
- Onegai (お願い, “Onegai”? lit. “Wish”)
- Kiseki (奇跡, lit. “Miracle”?)
- Ōgesa ni ‘Aishiteru’ (大袈裟に「愛してる」, “Ōgesa ni ‘Aishiteru'”? lit. “Exaggerated ‘I Love You'”)
- Hallelujah (ハレルヤ, Hareruya?)
- Your Love Song
I think most people with analytical minds find the concept of palindromes a fascinating one. They’re symmetrical, regular, mathematical if you will.
Single palindromic words
The simplest palindromes are single words and are somewhat unspectacular. They are symmetrically spelt.
bob, bib, gag, dud, dad, did, pop, nun, tit, tat, tot, tut are all palindromes.
The longest single palindromic, non-medical English word is apparently redivider and although I can’t seem to find that word in my current dictionary of choice, I’m sure it means a person or device which divides something that has already been divided one or more times.
Next up are word pairs
These are two words which mirror each other when spelt backwards. They tend to be most interesting when the words contrast with each other.
live evil is interesting and can be interpreted in several ways, whereas straw warts just isn’t and can’t.
Since entire sentences of word pairs is not really possible given the limited number available, modern Palindromists have come to accept punctuation as invisible when judging the validity of a palindrome. Thus, creating sentences which are spelt identically when read from either back to front, if one ignores spaces, commas, apostrophies and full stops.
Even if a little strange, this has opened the door to a range of intriguing palindromes.
- Cain: a maniac.
- Dogma: I am God
- Madam in Eden, I’m Adam.
- Rise to vote, sir.
- Dammit, I’m mad!
- Drab as a fool, aloof as a bard.
- Golf? No sir! Prefer prison-flog.
- A man, a plan, a canal: Panama.
- A Toyota: Race fast, safe car. A Toyota.
- “Reviled did I live”, said I, as evil I did deliver.
- Doc, note I dissent: a fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod.
- T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad. I’d assign it a name: gnat dirt upset on drab pot-toilet.
These are nice, if a little contrived, so another form of palindrome was invented that opened up even more creative doors.
Word order palindromes
In these palindromes, the words are not themselves reversed, but the order of the words is symmetrical.
- Did I? I did!
- Am I therefore I am?
- You are so rich! And Rich, so, are you!
- Women understand men! Few men understand women!
I’ve always been fascinated by some of these more complex palindromes, I find them creepy. I think it’s the symmetry that scares me, the unnaturalness of them. Take this gem, an entire poem:
Love/Hate Relationship Love Mimics hate: Passionate always, forging forward. Unquiet rage screams Poetry. Tangled mercilessly; Emotion mirrors emotion, Mercilessly tangled. Poetry Screams rage, unquiet. Forward forging, always passionate: Hate mimics Love. - by Paula Brown
The way the patterns superimpose themselves onto words makes me feel that there’s something hidden inside them like a dark secret. You’re hearing one thing but sensing another, dissonant chord, which leaves you feeling a little unsure and unsettled.
Line by line palindroms
Instead of dividing the palindromic unit letter by letter or word by word, the unit of reflection is one line. Each line is reflected.
This is the final distinct type of palindrome which, although being about as far from the original precept as one can get and still maintain the sense of it being a palindrome, produces the most disturbing writing of all.
Down by the gaol As I was passing near the gaol I met a man, but hurried by. His face was ghastly, grimly pale. He had a gun. I wondered why He had. A gun? I wondered why His face was ghastly! Grimly pale, I met a man, but hurried by, As I was passing near the gaol. - Anon
The stilted language always makes me feel like its been penned by someone stepping over the edge of insanity or alien presence looking in from the outside.
They hold the same fascination for me as mirrors have done since I was a child. Somewhere in the poem, you lose yourself and come out the other side, or more insidiously are replaced by your reflection, with you being sucked helplessly into the mirror.
But this, this sums it up more than any other. It is embodies the scariest aspect of what a palindrome is. A reflection, an evil twin waiting beyond the mirror.
In this following poem, written by James A. Lindon and first published in Dmitri Borgmann’s Beyond Language in 1967, the writer discovers that the line that divides this side from the other can be broken on a whim. See how the main character finds himself excluded from his own life in a twist so subtle as to be almost undetected until its too late.
Entering the lonely house with my wife I saw him for the first time Peering furtively from behind a bush - Blackness that moved, A shape amid the shadows, A momentary glimpse of gleaming eyes Revealed in the ragged moon. A closer look (he seemed to turn) might have Put him to flight forever - I dared not (For reasons that I failed to understand), Though I knew I should act at once.
I puzzled over it, hiding alone, Watching the woman as she neared the gate. He came, and I saw him crouching Night after night. Night after night He came, and I saw him crouching, Watching the woman as she neared the gate. I puzzled over it, hiding alone - Though I knew I should act at once, For reasons that I failed to understand I dared not Put him to flight forever. A closer look (he seemed to turn) might have Revealed in the ragged moon A momentary glimpse of gleaming eyes A shape amid the shadows, Blackness that moved. Peering furtively from behind a bush, I saw him, for the first time Entering the lonely house with my wife.
It dawned on me about five minutes ago that the whole Mac versus PC thing is a lot like the UK versus US thing. At first, this might seem like an unlikely parallel
to draw between these two, totally unrelated concepts. But nevertheless, there is a parallel to be drawn, and I have my HB pencil at the ready.
I’m thinking as I’m writing, so this is likely going to be one of those “streams of consciousness” things.
The vastly different “Boss” characters from the Office, UK and US versions
First up, the British believe that, since they bloody well invented the English Language then the rest of the world – the Yanks especially – can sod off with their bastardised, “can’t spell to save your wife,” approach to the beloved tongue. They believe that this connection with the genesis of modern English gives them the birthright to lord it over the rest of the English speaking world.
Same too with Apple users. The WYSIWYG GUI concept is in their blood and in their bones. Apple users from the Lisa onwards have understood what it means to use a system that is solidly designed from the ground up, with a no compromise, unified approach to quality and integration rather than the IBM “all-comers” approach to “integration”.
But that raises the first problem with the whole argument. Apple no more invented the GUI than the English invented English. English is itself derived from many languages such as Latin, Greek, Germanic and Scandinavian tongues. And it’s unspoken, yet common knowledge, that the GUI was invented by XEROX, not Apple.
And they both know it, which is why they suffer from a strange, Superior Minority Complex.
The British feel it. This particular expatriate feels it in Japan, where every grammar read, all vocabulary used and every accent heard is American. What’s the point in being superior and knowing it, if you can’t hold your own against the unwashed masses for heaven’s sake? Why doesn’t the world speak proper, correct English, like wot I does?
The Apple Users feel it, too, surrounded as they are at work by countless Windows boxes, in the supermarket by Windows magazines and online with a plethora of Windows only networks / policies / websites / games / services and decent porn… despite “knowing” that their systems are superior in practically every way except market penetration.
And it’s this strangely paradoxical inferiority complex which gives rise to this next undesirable trait, the nasty smugness that comes of being “Born of Britannia” or having a predilection for the “Once Bitten Fruit”.
It manifests itself in many ways, the sarcastic dig at burger culture, the crow-barring of Bushisms into sentences, a sly remark about “Aluminum” or the self-consciously loud bark of sardonic laughter and condescending shake of the head when even a close colleague or friend proclaims their computer caught a virus and they’ve lost a week’s work and missed a critical deadline.
Yes, the very smugness of Brits and Mac “Fanbois” permeates the very ether around them. As an English Mac user, I find myself doing it on occasion, despite my best efforts. Cutting gems such as “See, I told you, If you’d got a Mac you’d have been safer, surfing without a virus checker,” or “Just get a Mac for heaven’s sake,” or “Don’t you guys know how to spell?” or “if Bush is a baboon, then the voters are monkeys,” and so on and so forth.
Worst of all though, these traits come at a time when most British people are abusing their own language in ways unthinkable a couple of centuries before and like their American brethren,similarly elected a bloke who turned out to have a predisposition toward indiscriminate bombing of foreign civilians as part of a misguided “War on Terror”, as their premiere… Even if he could pronounce “nuclear” properly and manage to put his ideas across coherently by stringing more than two words together at any given time without “misspeaking”.
Oops… Sorry… I’m at it again.
War On Terror… Putting the WOT into WTF?