Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Boxing Day 2014 supplemental: that weird mug

I know, I'm sure you were curious about it as well. While washing it before use, the mystery deepened: From here, I was shuffling the hivemind crowdsourcing back and forth between Twitter and Facebook, where the trail heated up:
Jill - Hidden message! So cool!

Reset Survivor - It probably says 'CAUTION: DO NOT PUT IN DISHWASHER!'

Rowan - I sense a great setup to a tremendous punchline in the works.

Marlo - 2nd part definitely says "but not ugly"! I think the first part says "i am very gentle"? Correct me if I'm wrong, someone. When I try to Google the whole phrase (in Chinese), I don't find any elucidating results. Anyway, fun little thing to research! So yeah. "i am gentle, but not ugly."

Aaron - it's a lyric. your mug is not Japanese, not really about computers, and the character is ugly. see cup of lies.

Max - Yeah, it's Chinese. My wife says it's sort of from a song. The first part says "I'm very gentle" and the second says "But I'm not ugly".

Not bad, hivemind! Between when I posted this and had a full translation, including cultural context, a mere two hours elapsed. Maybe things would have even gone more quickly had I not saddled the initial inquiry with my cultural expectations: oh, something about computers written in an East Asian script. It must be Japanese! said the ugly American. So I don't know my Hanzi from my Katakana. Surely the character's lack of kawaii should have tipped me off that maybe it could have originated from somewhere else? Taiwan, as it turns out.

So you pull the mug out of the cupboard, empty, and it reads: "MY FIRST LOVE", the computer displaying the text "I AM VERY GENTLE". But then, upon filling the mug with hot coffee, the transparency of the screen shifts and the initial message is obscured, revealing a lower one saying "BUT NOT UGLY." What is the significance? It is a twist on "famous" song lyrics by Taiwanese singer Zhao Chuan, in which he sings

"I am very ugly, but I am very gentle and tender / Every night, in the wilderness of dreams, I am a proud giant;
Every morning, in front of the bathroom mirror, I discover that I am living on the razor's edge
In the forest of steel reinforced concrete, in the life of being called to come here and go there
Calculate the differences between dreams and reality"
And so forth and so on. So my ex-roommate Aaron speaks the truth: Not Japanese, not about computers, ugly character: it is, indeed, a cup of lies. An intriguing and compelling red herring, but the trail of understanding it in a context of my interests ends here. But to leave no mystery unexplored and unexplained, having achieved an answer to my question, I had to share it here. Rigor! Thanks to Mike, Marlo, Aaron and Max for helping me to put the pieces together.