Category Archives: language

Everyone Talk: The Language Blog That Has Everyone Talking

Just over two years ago, I started blogging. I was going to have one blog with three sections: humour, languages, and generally causing trouble (yeah, take that, corporate overlords). But I remembered the adage, “Don’t put all your obsessions in one basket.” So I set languages aside for later. Now is later.

Good Evaning, the blog that is the change I want to see in the world, is a thriving two-year-old, so I now turn to my second born (which we all know is always the best). Everyone Talk, “The Language Blog That Has Everyone Talking”, has been sitting there in cyberspace almost completely ignored for 23 months (as often happens to second children).

International Phonetic Alphabet chart of English sounds

International Phonetic Alphabet

Everyone Talk came out of hibernation in the first hour (in some time zone) of this month and has been up and running like a gazelle ever since. If you are one of those people who communicate through language, please sift through my blog posts on Everyone Talk, leave some comments, questions, suggestions, corrections, or smutty photos, and please don’t consider not subscribing to Everyone Talk.

Why am I doing this and why should you care? It is my profound belief that the vast majority of human unhappiness can be resolved through effective communication, especially listening. And even if not, it’s fun as hell to be able to talk with people from all over the world and read their ideas, news and literature in their beautiful and fascinating languages.

Most often, I will write in English — about English, about other languages, and about all things relating to second-language acquisition and communication in general — but periodically I will write in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese, and I may dip into other languages occasionally. If you can’t read things I’ve written in Korean or Japanese, it is the fault of your computer which can easily be adjusted to make those texts readable. If after that you still can’t read those scripts, what needs to be adjusted is your attitude towards language learning, a problem easily corrected by subscribing to Everyone Talk! language settings for Microsoft

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Best ESL Class Ever!

Inglês   영어   英語

I just experienced the greatest moment of my ESL teaching career. I have been teaching English as a second language on and off since 1997. Having taught high school in Japan, winter camp in Korea, junior high and university classes in Mexico, and at several ESL schools in Canada, I always found it was much more fun teaching abroad than in my own country. In my home country, teaching is “just a job”, without the adventure of being in a foreign culture enlivening my daily life. In fact, I have always felt out of place in my own culture. I’m a bit of a weirdo. I don’t drink beer, I don’t play or even watch hockey; if I weren’t so polite and “nice” all the time, no one would ever believe I was Canadian. I only feel comfortable when I am surrounded by a language that is not English. I love English, but I love it more when it is a foreign language that I carry with me in another world.

So what happened this evening that was my best ESL experience ever? The first thing is, it wasn’t a class, with a teacher making students do exercises and repeat phrases; it was the Mega Conversation Club (MCC) at English Lab Toronto. (Let me state for the record, this is not a paid advertisement for the school. I was not asked to write this. I just can’t help writing about such a satisfying event!)

I have studied a lot of languages, and I can communicate in several. What I always say to students, and to people who are reluctant to try to learn a second language, is that learning a language is not—must not be—difficult, boring, or distressing. Communicating is a joy. It is magic. It is powerful. It is addictive. The first time I actually said an original sentence in Korean, (not just repeating something from a lesson), which was understood by a Korean person, it felt like the first time I rode a bike without my dad holding me up, it felt like a homerun, a slam dunk, a shot of soju (소주)! Someone asked me in Korean what I was doing on the weekend and I happened to know all of the vocabulary and grammar to answer without hesitation, “I’m going to a restaurant with my friends.” Slam dunk! That was last year, after completing my second course in basic Korean. I can’t speak Korean yet, but now I know I will be able to learn. I just have to put in the hours. Not hours of lessons, which is helpful but not enough; hours of talking to Koreans in their language, telling each other simple pieces of information. I will do it.

As I was saying, MCC is not a class. It is an organized conversation session with one teacher for every student. Every 20 minutes, the students change teachers. For the final 20 minutes, there is a group discussion or debate. Tonight it was a round-table discussion about the problem of world hunger. There were five students and five teachers. One of the students told me that she didn’t like the topic, because she thought everyone would say the same things.

Even some fairly advanced students are shy at first, and some want to just read out some notes they made in advance. But this time even the shy students seemed relaxed. I told them the person who speaks first will have the easiest job because they can say anything; the person who speaks last will have to say something no one else thought of. One of the quiet Korean students voluntarily spoke first. A Brazilian student, who sometimes tries to avoid saying much, responded. And then he did something that almost never happens. He turned to another student and asked, “What do you think?” He started doing it as a joke and began to act like he was a CEO running a business meeting. He turned to someone else. “Do you think education is [an important part of the solution]?” He didn’t say it perfectly, but that didn’t matter. The way he did it was very funny, but it was also very real, natural, meaningful conversation.

Soon, all five students were giving their opinions, sometimes supporting or challenging what someone else had said. Every one of them spoke clearly, intelligently, without hesitation, and best of all, they all cared about what they were saying and they listened to each other. It was not “English class”; it was a natural and passionate conversation. We all got so into it that the teachers started sharing their thoughts, and they had some significant things to say. A couple of us got choked up (yes, me too) as we talked about the suffering of people, the mistreatment of animals, the heartlessness of corporations, and other flaws in the world food system. If we had been in a restaurant, no one would guess that half of us were teachers and half were students; they would think it was a bunch of Canadians having a lively conversation.

It was a beautiful, beautiful moment and I have never felt prouder of a group of students. Twenty minutes became half an hour, and no one seemed to mind that we stayed a bit late. I can’t wait to go back to work! (I told you I was a weirdo.)

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Filed under language, languages and communication, learning, Optimism & Inspiration

Deaf Jam: the Poetry of ASL

Deaf Jam

Deaf Jam documentary (USA 2011)

Deaf Jam, a documentary which celebrates American Sign Language poetry, is screening on the afternoon of May 10th at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. People unfamiliar with sign language may find it difficult to conceive of ASL poetry. “Like, how does it rhyme?” Poetry in any language is about more than the sounds of the words and sentences; it is about creative ways of expressing ideas and emotions. And ASL is at no disadvantage in that department.

Whereas a word in English is made of syllables and letters, a sign in ASL has the following five components:

  1. Orientation (which way the palm is facing)
  2. Location (of hand(s) in relation to head/body)
  3. Hand shape(s)
  4. Movement (of hands/head/body)
  5. Facial expression

By manipulating these elements, an ASL speaker can express simple and complex thoughts in amazing, innovative ways. Sign language is equal to spoken language in emotional and intellectual range, and, just as English does, ASL uses metaphor, connotation, wordplay, and all manner of poetic devises. ASL is handy with puns and can be flat out ironic. English poetry can make patterns of word sounds; ASL poetry can make patterns of sign shapes. Signs can be shuffled, pulled apart, and reconfigured in ways parallel to how words can be in English and other languages.

ASL does not differ from spoken languages in its boundless capacity to convey even the most nuanced and subtle concepts and feelings. The difference is that, whereas a spoken language is, for a hearing person, an auditory experience—even when read silently—, sign language is visual (except for the Deaf-blind, for whom sign language is tactile), and although it can be transcribed for academic purposes, ASL is not written and read communicatively. Therefore, ASL poetry is not written and read; ASL poetry is performed.

Remembering the observation that, Talking about music is like dancing about architecture,I will not try to describe ASL poetry, but for a hint about the sorts of things involved, consider this scene from the film.

In Deaf Jam, Aneta Brodski,* a student at Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, NYC, is participating in an extra-curricular poetry program.

When Aneta introduces herself, she fingerspells her name (lightning fast) as one normally does, but when she performs (“raps”) her name, she signs each letter (designated by shape) with movement/location that incorporates the meaning of another sign so that her name becomes a story:

A + “dress up”; N + “look at me”; E + “I’m cool”; T + “walking in high heels”; A + “stumble”.

There is a lot more to ASL poetry than that; it’s really something you have to see. And the same goes for Deaf Jam, so if you can, go see the Canadian premiere on May 10th at 3:30pm, Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West, Toronto. If not, find out more at http://www.deafjam.org/ or PBS.

*Aneta, like her parents, was born deaf. Her language, and the language of her family, is ASL. Statistically, this is uncommon. The typically hearing parents of Deaf children have to—or should!—learn signing as a second language.

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You Are Here: Iceland, Where Björk Comes From

Björk Biophilia

Björk's 2011 album Biophilia "combines nature, music, and technology"

In honour of the inimitable musical artist Björk, who was interviewed by Stephen Colbert this week to promote her new album Biophilia, I decided to devote this edition of You Are Here to her homeland.

I know you could find it on a map, but I bet you’ve never been there and don’t intend to go any time soon; and I think you likely know as little about it as I do. So let’s see what we can find out.

Although Iceland is culturally European, it is kind of “out there”, and not just geographically. Here’s a nifty example:

Instead of using family names, Icelanders use patronymics and matronymics. Hence, the full name of the above mentioned artist, Björk Gudmundsdottir, means “Björk, Gudmund’s daughter”. For this reason, the Icelandic phonebook is listed alphabetically by first name.

This might sound impractical were it not for the fact that there are not very many Icelanders. Over the centuries the population has periodically been cut down by half as a result of plagues, famine-inducing volcanic eruptions, and mass migration to Manitoba, leaving the current population at about 320,000 (considerably smaller than Halifax) in an area of 103,000 km2 (bigger than Portugal, smaller than Cuba) — and 62.7% of that is tundra. Sound like Canada? Indeed both countries have a population density just above 3 people per  km2.

Iceland, geyser catland

Geyser Catland, Iceland. Image: Terekhova via Flickr

Iceland has many geysers, (one of which, Geysir, gives us the English word for… You guessed it!), lots of fjords and hundreds of volcanoes. What Icelanders lack in firewood, they make up for with geothermal power. Iceland kicks environmental ass.

First settled in the ninth century by the Norse (although it’s hard to think of Vikings “settling down”), but possibly previously visited by Scots, Iceland’s original population of was (according to genetic studies) of Nordic and Gaelic origin.

Iceland was granted independence from Denmark in 1918 and formally declared itself a republic on 17 June 1944 (following Allied occupation during WWII while Denmark was occupied by Germany). The current Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, has twice made Time magazine’s top ten list of female world leaders.

Icelandic Language Day (dagur íslenskrar tungu) is celebrated on 16 November. On top of Icelandic, (an inflected North Germanic language of Old Norse derivation, largely unchanged over the centuries), English and Danish are studied in school and widely spoken in Iceland. Icelandic Sign Language (based on Danish Sign Language) was officially recognised as a minority language in 2011. Your first Icelandic word is Ísland. Guess what it means. (Hint: it’s the same as the French word l’Islande and the Korean word 아이슬란드 .)

The Canadian Connection

The Icelandic currency is the króna (ISK). But with the economic crisis and the Euro looking shaky, there was talk of Iceland adopting the Canadian dollar.

There are 88,000 people of Icelandic descent living in Canada (the largest community outside of Iceland), and Islendingadagurinn, The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, has been celebrated for well over a century. So at the end of July, after seeing my play in the Toronto Fringe, you can go to Gimli and have some wholesome Viking fun. If you can’t get to Gimli, find out what you’ve missed by reading Icelandic Connection (formerly The Icelandic Canadian magazine). Or stick to the classics, like the 14th century Eiríks saga, which describes Erik the Red’s pre-Columbian voyage to Vinland (Newfoundland).

The temperature in the capital, Reykjavik (pop. 118,000), will be a few degrees above freezing for the next week or so; yet another reason to visit Iceland without delay. And here’s one more. If you’re ever dickin’ around Iceland and find yourself hard up for entertainment, you might want to visit the The Icelandic Phallological Museum.

P.S.

Now I have a regular byline that links to my blog. Henceforth, my Post City articles (such as my latest, on Black History Month) will be followed with: Evan Andrew Mackay is a Toronto playwright and humourist who writes about culture and social justice.

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Robbie Burns Haggis

Happy Burns Day to you!

Och, you look famished — hungry enough to eat a horse, or sheep entrails. Come, pull up a chair and have a wee nibble o’ haggis!

Fresh butcher-made haggis hot out of the oven

Haggis out of Focus (might've been the whisky), prepared by ethical butcher, cooked at home

Listen: (My Luve is Like a) Red Red Rose

Read: Got haggis? You should — it’s Robbie Burns Day (below)

Robert Burns was born Jan. 25, 1759. His birthday is celebrated all over the world. Best known for having written “To a Mouse” and “Auld Lang Syne,” he also wrote “Address to a Haggis,” an ode to Scotland’s notorious national dish. Burns called it the “great chieftain o’ the pudding race,” but if you find it hard to think of haggis as a delicacy, think of it as sheep recycling. In honour of Burns, let’s consider the haggis, which he immortalized with a “grace as lang’s my arm.”

They say those who love sausages wouldn’t want to know what goes into making them. That goes double for Scotland’s chieftain of sausages. How haggis is made is a simple question to answer: take a sheep’s heart, liver, lungs and anything tasty that might be stuck to them, mince them up with onions, oats and suet (or maybe sweat), fry it all up and sew it into the sheep’s stomach or intestine (whichever you find more appetizing). The next question is “why?” It is a way to enjoy and preserve those precious, tasty bits that might get you through a few cauld winter nichts.

Haggis, which basically means “hash” (or hacked up bits that no one would eat if they were identifiable), is not nearly as horrible as you might reasonably imagine it to be. Granted, before it’s cooked it starts off looking like road kill, but once it’s been hacked, minced, fried, stuffed, stitched, boiled and roasted, it comes out looking like, well, cooked road kill.

By the time it gets to your plate, haggis no longer looks like, um, anything in particular. In taste and texture it’s kind of like a spicy shepherd’s pie. As if that weren’t fancy enough, haggis is generally served with a side of tatties ’n’ neeps (a lovely pair, especially when they’re mashed together). That may sound a bit risqué, but it’s actually just vegetables: potatoes and turnips.

Once you’ve gone through all this trouble, don’t just sit in front of the telly and chow down. You have to dress up in your kilt, parade the haggis to the table marching in step with your household bagpiper and then recite the “Address to a Haggis” in your most obnoxious faux-Scottish accent and pretend you know what it means.

Then you pour a wee nip of whisky from the teapot and toast Burns, then toast the lassies. Repeat until the teapot runs dry.

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Just My Luck

Yesterday, after facilitating the Science and Philosophy Book Club discussion on Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, at the Centre For Inquiry, I went into the subway to buy tokens for the first time since the new-year fare hike.

As I stood before the dispensing machine, stunned by how little change I could expect back from a $10 bill, a fairly normal-looking human approached me with three subway tokens in his hand – which is all you get for $10 now. He asked, as people rushed around on all sides like a scene out of the cinematic masterpiece 2012, “Are you about to buy three tokens?” I started to say that I’m not going to be suckered out of – how much? He took advantage of my bewilderment and said something about having too many tokens and not enough cash for a burger.

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, Steven Pinker

The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker

My civil language must have provided him such a window that he had a clear view of my nature, which is so far from doing harm that I suspect none. I dipped into my pockets and pulled a fiver out of one and what may have been $6 in coins out of the other. He took the money from my hands and put the three tokens in my palm as if he was helping me lighten my burden. As I was about to let loose with a ferocious, “Hey…”, he deftly clutched a hefty bunch of low-denomination coins (mine) from his hand and plunked them into my other palm. Now my “hey” was ready. I said he owed me more change than that. He added a quarter saying, “Oh right, sorry. There you are; exact change.” And he politely vanished into the crowd.

When I say “vanished”, I mean he was more determined to split than I was to shout him down and get back what may have been about a buck fifty he’d scammed me out of. I just watched him go. This is “Toronto the good”. I was not offended but simply bamboozled, both that he would go to such lengths for pocket change and that I found myself letting him do it. I was fascinated by both of our behaviours.

How is this “lucky” for me? In the following two ways.

  1. I had a student from one of those beautiful beachy places in South America which I am privileged to have visited and hope to see again. He described a day he was walking on the beach in his swimming shorts and flip-flops – nothing to steal. Someone pulled a gun on him, in a public place in broad daylight, and said he wanted those stylish shorts. My student said he knew what happens to he who hesitates. He ran home naked and alive.
  2. For a mere buck fifty or so I got a priceless lesson. Don’t trust anyone ever; every person on this Earth is evil scum and you can never drop your guard for a second! The next person who says, “Excuse me,” to me is going to get a ferocious kick in the balls (oh, he’ll have balls, because it takes balls to be that low.)

That’s me, lucky and still learning.

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ASL Comedy at Yuk Yuk’s – A Silent Celebration of an Unwritten Language

ASL Comedy at Yuk Yuk’s Toronto 26 November

Whereas stand-up comedy shows are ubiquitous in the English speaking world, a comedy show performed entirely in American Sign Language (ASL) is a rare event in Toronto, almost unheard of, despite the fact that about six percent of people living in the Greater Toronto Area are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing. That is why Mike Cyr and Andrea Kraus of Silent Voice Canada, (a charitable organization offering support to deaf children and adults in ASL in the GTA), decided to put together an ASL Comedy Show as a celebration of what is said to be the fourth most-used language in North America.

Christopher Welsh, one of the half dozen comedians who will perform on Saturday, sat with me recently at the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf (BRCD) to talk about comedy and Deaf culture. I wouldn’t have had the nerve even to think about interviewing someone in ASL – which I have only begun to learn – except that Christopher Welsh was my group leader at this summer’s Ontario Camp for the Deaf, and I know him to be a gifted communicator and a man of generous spirit.

comedian Christopher Welsh

comedian Christopher Welsh

A number of years ago, Welsh was the first Deaf comedian to perform at Yuk Yuk’s for a hearing audience. His training in mime and clowning contributes to his ability to entertain people not fluent in sign language. He might perform again for a hearing audience at Yuk Yuk’s “but,” he says, “I’d want to prepare some new material first.”

Humour differs from one culture to another (Saturday Night Live is not Monty Python) and from one language to another (try convincing high school students in Japan that Far Side cartoons are funny). Welsh, who has studied at the National Theatre of the Deaf in Connecticut, at Second City in Toronto, and with Shakespeare Link in Wales, says, “Some jokes don’t translate.” Different groups might laugh at the same thing but express it differently. And some stories may be funny for one culture and not another, no matter how you tell it.

And for a comedian, the same joke might kill one night and die the next. Welsh says that holds true whether the audience is Deaf or hearing. Either way, “it’s the same. Some audiences are good, some are difficult.” For a hearing comedian with a hearing audience, a heckler can completely disrupt a performance. For a Deaf comedian with a Deaf audience, Welsh says, “It’s the same.” But he is not worried about hecklers on November 26th. “When I was younger, yes. But now I’m experienced.”

And it seems likely that everyone in the audience will be thoroughly appreciative on Saturday. ASL entertainment programming is in short supply. There are virtually no TV shows in ASL (although Welsh has appeared on TVO’s Deaf Planet). According to Welsh, films produced in California are the main form of entertainment available in ASL, such as the comedy Versa Effect (2011) which was given a single screening at BRCD in September. It’s great to see short-form entertainment in ASL becoming increasingly available on the Internet but nothing is more fun than getting a crowd together for a live show.

The complete list of performers for ASL Comedy at Yuk Yuk’s:

  • Christopher Welsh
  • Gord Dadalt
  • Teresa Fleming
  • Michelle Bourgeois
  • Lisa Faria
  • Regent Gendron
  • And the MC will be Mike Cyr

Hearing people are welcome to attend the ASL Comedy Show on Saturday, of course, but there will be no interpretation of ASL into English, as the aim of this event is to revel in the beautiful language of ASL.

Information about the show is available in ASL at

http://www.youtube.com/user/ASLatYukYuks

Tickets are $15

For your tickets, contact Andrea Kraus at aslforall@live.ca today before they are sold out!

ASL at Yuk Yuk’s

Saturday November 26th

1:00pm – 4:00pm

Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club
224 Richmond Street, Toronto ON
(map)

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American Sign Language Immersion Camp

In my quest to learn to speak with every person on the planet, I just spent a week immersed in American Sign Language (ASL) at the Bob Rumball Ontario Camp for the Deaf (OCD) 2011″ in Parry Sound.

Since my return, many people have asked me the following questions:

“Did you have fun?”

                                          Yeah, it was fantastic!

“What was it like not to use your voice for a week?”

                                                 You get used to it pretty fast.

“But how much can a person really say in American Sign Language?”

                                                          The short answer is everything and anything,

but I’m going to give you the long answer.

The difference between spoken languages and signed languages is that one is auditory and the other is visual. One is stereo, the other is 3D.

How much can a person really say in French or Japanese or Inuktitut? Everything and anything.

American Sign Language (ASL) is a language. So is Langue des Signes Québécoise (LSQ), as well as Langue des Signes Française (LSF), Japanese Sign Language (JSL, 日本手話 or Nihon Shyuwa), Inuit Sign Language (ISL) and many, many other signed languages around the world. These are natural languages, and they are every bit as expressive as spoken languages.

Phillip's class Level 1B,C,D at Ontario Camp for the Deaf 2011

Phillip's class Level 1B,C,D at Ontario Camp for the Deaf 2011

There are numerous forms of signed communication that are not natural languages. Here are some examples:

Native-American Sign Language, now disappearing, was used for millennia as a lingua franca to enable tribes all over North America to communicate without having to learn one another’s languages. But it never served as anyone’s first language and could not be used to express an unlimited range of ideas.

Likewise, International Sign (IS) can be used to facilitate communication between people who are native speakers of different signed languages, but there is a limit to how much it can express and it is not a language used natively by anyone.

Signed Exact English (SEE) converts each word of an English sentence, even suffixes, into signs. People do not learn SEE as a mother tongue*; it is not a language of the deaf, it is English expressed with signs.

ASL is not English. It makes use of many English words, just as English makes use of many French words. I got to know my teacher Phillip and everyone in his class using only ASL. There was no talking even outside of our classes.

Now that I’ve started to get the hang of the basics, I want to learn more of this beautiful language!

After evening class at ASL immersion camp
After evening class at ASL immersion camp

*Yes, ASL can be called a “mother tongue”, and not just metaphorically. Whereas SEE expresses every English word with the hands, ASL uses non-manual elements (facial expression, body position and so on) in conjunction with signs to express, amongst other things, various aspects of grammar. In ASL, tongue placement can carry meaning, but it is visual rather than auditory.

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Talking with Aliens and Jann Arden

Not at the same time, obviously. Jann Arden is much too busy these days to chat with extraterrestrial lifeforms, intelligence notwithstanding.

Jann Arden is more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and sings better too. She comes across as wise and youthful in equal measure.

Jann Arden endures hasty photography

Jann Arden endures hasty photography

What has she been up to recently? What hasn’t she been up to! A live CD/DVD Spotlight, a new book Falling Backwards: A Memoir, her radio show Being Jann, and for the last six weeks of summer she brings reality to TV on Canada Sings!.

Jann is on the panel of “judges”, although they are more like witnesses, alongside Montrealer  Pierre Bouvier of Simple Plan, and Robert “Vanilla Ice” Van Winkle (you know you’ve been missing him).

Here’s a taste of what she had to say to me last week at the Pantages Hotel in Toronto:

On Canada Sings [Arden playfully sings an A natural], did you want to be the mean judge with the accent?
Yeah, wouldn’t that have been easy. You know, when they made me the offer I thought, “I don’t want to do this.” But my manager said, “It’s not what you think. It’s not 100 kids that want to be flown to Vegas to be famous and get a record deal.” These are people that want to earn money for their charity. These are people that don’t typically sing and dance. These are firemen, teachers, zookeepers, truck drivers. What a cool concept! Everybody wins. Not a record contract, but a nice chunk of money for the charity of their choice. Plus, they have this experience that takes them over the course of a few weeks, working with vocal coaches and choreographers, and they get to be in the spotlight on a national TV show, singing and dancing in a production that is as good as anything I’ve seen on Broadway. And I am not kidding you; nobody sucks! Nobody!

Are you concerned one of these groups of ordinary working Canadians might do so well that they quit their day jobs and leave a hospital or something without a staff?
I would be thrilled if that happened…

Oooh, cliffhanger! Read on at Post CityQ&A with Jann Arden: Juno Award winner, author and celebrity judge on Canada Sings“.

Whereas Jann Arden is completely down to Earth, the subject of Getting Over the Alien Language Barrier is the contrary. I’ve taken my obsession with languages to new heights. AE the Canadian Science Fiction Review had the vision to publish what I had to say, and everyone else is part of the government coverup. It starts like this:

You never know when it’s going to happen. A flying saucer pulled off the side of the highway with the hood up, alien waving a tentacle wielding what could be a sparkplug, a cellphone or a ray gun and shouting, “Znelflgjpd knorb zlothkpmzus!” How would you respond? You’ve hit the alien language barrier. With NASA’s Kepler telescope spotting potentially habitable planets by the dozen outside our solar system, it may be time for us to start brushing up on our extraterrestrial language skills, or get ready to tutor E.T. in Earthish as a Second Language.

Read more at AE Sci Fi

Leave comments here,

leave comments there,

leave comments everywhere,

in any language,

in any medium.

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National Aboriginal Day

What is it to me, National Aboriginal Day? Maybe I should ask someone why I should care. Maybe I’ll call Mom in North Saanich or my uncle in Ottawa. I could canoe down the Kennebecasis River and ask Dad, or my friends in Quispamsis.

But I could probably discuss this with someone here in Ontario.

There must be more to Aboriginal history in Canada than a bunch of place names but I don’t remember much of what they taught about it in school.

In fact, there must be more to Canada’s First Peoples than just history. Where could I find out more? There must be some kind of cultural centre in Toronto or maybe there is a government website. I should look into it a bit.

Later, though. I’m feeling a bit lazy at the moment and might just go read a book, or watch a couple of films. Maybe something with Clint Eastwood, Jim Jarmusch and Graham Greene.

Reel Injun director Neil Diamond with Robbie Robertson

Reel Injun director Neil Diamond with Robbie Robertson

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