Thursday, April 26, 2007

French Immersion

So, as unbelievable as this is to me and as hard as it is to think about it, next month I have register my son for school. If you know me IRL then you probably know that I tend to get all misty at the thought (no, I would not say "weep uncontrollably" but I am a weeper and since I have been known to bawl at Canadian Tire and coffee commercials, it shouldn't be surprising that my baby going off into the world would do it). My friend Pam and I, whose children have known each other since before they were born, already have our first day of kindergarten plan solidified. It involves dropping the kiddies off then getting quite drunk (ensuring that hubbies will care for the children once they leave school, of course) There may also be a tattoo involved in there somewhere. We say this somewhat facetiously (but ya never know). The point is that I really hate to think about it. I mean, this is sending him out into the big, cruel world. People can be mean to him and bully him. Teachers will start to judge him and it won't be all about "as long as you try your best, sweetie, that's what's important". And as if the thought of all that is not enough, our house is now embroiled in a big French immersion debate. Maybe you can help.

Hubby is of the belief that my son should start French immersion in Kindergarten. He really wants him to be bilingual and I'm cool with that. The problem is that most everyone I know who has done FI or whose children have done it, all say that when you start them in Kindergarten, they never quite learn English as well as if they hadn't done FI from the get-go (although statscan says differently). Husband's response to this problem was "well, will he really need English that much?" My response to that involved more exasperated sounds than words and possibly some repeated smacks to hubby's arm. The other thing you can do with FI is have them start later (junior high, I believe) but I know of children who have really struggled trying to catch up in school when they chose this option. There is an information session we'll be attending next month in order to find out more. Apparently, from what I read online, the personality of the kid, rather than his capacity for language, is the key indicator of if FI is right for him. In the meantime the debate rages on. Any advice or personal stories relating to French Immersion would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Writing longhand

My friend Lori recently said that, after a conversation we had about writing longhand, she started writing in longhand and found it reignited her writing. I usually write longhand anyway but if I was writing historical fiction, as Lori is, I would definitely need to write longhand. The language and temperament of times past would need to go from pen to paper. A keyboard just wouldn't do. I think it would jolt me out of the past every time.

But, like I said, I usually write longhand anyway. The words flow better if they go down my arm, into a pen and out on paper. As a pen fanatic, and a fickle Gemini, I tend to change pens a lot. Sometimes it can be one of my expensive (well, expensive for me, I don't go into the over $100 variety) collectibles like a Parker 51 fountain pen, or a Waterman Expert ballpoint, or the Cross Morph engraved with "this much is true" that some friends gave me for my 40th birthday or, as I've been using of late, a cheap, Bic Wide Body.

The pens change but the notepads pretty much stay the same. Oh I love my moleskines for jotting notes and things but the actual writing goes in a cheaper notepad. The name brands might change but I always write in 24.1x15.2 cm (9.5x6") side coil note books. I have stacks of them filled with bits and pieces of everything from short stories to new ideas to essays to chunks of novels. I never write just one story or novel in a notebook, as Neil Gaiman recently said he does. I have no order to them and when I've filled up another one, I go through the book and write a list of the contents (without page numbers) on the inside cover. Sometimes there are only five or six things on the inside cover. Sometimes I have to make two columns to fit it all the contents on one page. The first several of these notebooks I filled often had stories written backwards in them, in that I would start a story on one page then continue it on the previous page, working backwards in the notebook until I was finished. I think I did this with the hope that I would stop if I met another story but I didn't and some stories overlapped, one going forwards in the book and one going backwards.

I've tried writing in pretty notebooks but they stifle me, on yellow legal pads, composition books, loose leaf pages, and larger side coil notebooks, but I always return to the smaller ones. A couple of years ago I just gave up trying different things and decided I'd stick with what works for me.

I transcribe the writing I think I will use but there is plenty of stuff left in the notebooks that may, or may not ever get into a word processor. And I do write using a keyboard sometimes, either my computer or my wonderful Alphasmart Neo. Usually, the keyboard is for when I have a deadline and don't have time to write longhand and transcribe, for writing nonfiction, or when I'm writing more lighthearted things. I write humour better on the computer for some reason.

Oh and blogs. I always write blog posts on a keyboard (how else would you be able to read them, silly).

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Can you say "petty"?

Seriously? British Airways cut out a cameo appearance by Richard Branson, of Virgin Atlantic, in the movie Casino Royale. They also blurred the tailfin of a Virgin Atlantic plane in the same movie. Come off it. "We have full control over what is shown," a company spokesman said.

And it's not the first time. Seems that BA also cut scenes that appeared in the movie The Wedding Date before that movie was shown on BA planes. Those scenes showed Virgin Atlantic's premium cabin. How silly. Virgin Atlantic did not do the same when a BA plane was shown in Die Another Day a while ago. British Airways' move sure seems like a petty waste of time and energy to me. I'm sure if I was flying with them, I'd be really happy that they're spending their money on important things like looking for rivals in movies instead of oh, you know, making flights cheaper or spending more on security. And the truly ironic thing is that if they wanted to ensure that Branson and Virgin got less publicity, boy did they screw that up. It's in the news and I'm sure I'm not the only blogger talking about it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rose-coloured glasses

Sometimes the world is so full of sad things, on the news or a bit closer in old friends who have lost a beloved family member in the war, and you're just not sure about the world anymore. Last night, as I lay on my couch, trying to find a new way to swallow that didn't include using my infected tonsils, my son was lying on my chest. We were snuggling and watching a cartoon, something light to stay away from all the darkness on the TV. I saw him, out of the corner of my eye, lift up his head and stare at me. When I looked at him, he looked away and I said "why are you looking at Mommy like that?" He answered, without a pause, "because you're so wonderful" and didn't even smile afterward and ask for chocolate, just put his head down on me again. And I knew, even though there is much sadness, the world can be a pretty good place all the same and sometimes it just takes a three year old with rose-coloured glasses to remind you.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Shut Up and Sing

You know a movie is good when the audience claps at the end, even when there is no one in the theatre remotely related to the making of the movie. Well, that happened when I watched Shut Up and Sing last evening. Having just done a long post about freedom of speech, here I am at it again, although to a lesser extent. But make no mistake, this movie is about freedom of speech. It is also very much about creativity, family, friendship, and great music.

The movie is already out in DVD and I highly recommend you buy it (at the very least rent it, but buy it if you can). The screening of the movie at Empire Theatres yesterday was a fundraiser for The Independent Artists Cooperative and Rock Can Roll Records. The fundraiser was titled "Freedom of Speech is fine - so long you don't do it in public." That reminds me of one of the many funny parts of the movie where a man is talking about the Dixie Chicks and says something like Freedom of speech is good, as long as you don't do it outside the country. Brilliant statement, man.

This movie is funny, real, moving, and scary in so many ways. How so few words can be used against you, how speaking them can completely turn your life upside down.


Friday, April 13, 2007

In defense of freedom of speech

So, Don Imus has been fired from CBS radio now. This after his dismissal from NBC TV a couple of days ago. You know the story and if you don't here is one of a million versions of it going around. I don't know what upsets me more--the thing Imus said, the fact that he got fired, what Al Sharpton said after Imus' firing, or the fact that the 24 hour newschannels in the states were showing live feed of the outside of the NJ Governor's house where Imus was meeting with the Rutger's Team last night. Live shots of the manion's exterior. I couldn't belive it. Why was I watching CNN in the first place? I foolishly wanted to see what the Americans were making of the fact that a bomber had managed to get inside the inner sanctum in Iraq, past bomb-sniffing dogs and several levels of security into the Green Zone and then blew himself up in the Iraqi Parliament building. I thought this might be a newsworthy event in the States (it was one of the top stories here in Canada) but silly me. Anna Nicole's baby got an official daddy this week and a guy on the radio said something offensive. How could I think that an unbelievable security breach in the country where they're at war would make the news.

Sarcasm aside, I have very mixed feelings about this Imus thing. The man said something terrible and hurtful and I would never listen to him, but he has said stuff like that and worse before and no one seemed to care. When the NY Times hired African-American reporter Gwen Ifill to cover the white house, Imus said "Isn't the Times wonderful. It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House." Glenn Beck says deplorable things, so does Ann Coulter (who regularly stretches my defense of free speech to the limits), and shock jock Stern is the king of degrading women.

As you see, people regularly say hateful things, especially on talk radio and they don't get in trouble. So, what was the big deal this time? I don't know. It was just one of those weird things where the media latches onto a small story and makes it a media sensation. Maybe it's been a slow news week in the States (except for the Iraqi parliament bombing and the extension of the tours of duty of 100,000 US troops in Iraq). The point is that it did make a stink and Imus got fired and I think it was wrong.

I do not agree with what the man said. I agree it was awful but I believe in free speech and, as much as it bothers me to say it, Don Imus has the right to say what he wants to say. I wish he wasn't there, I wish a bunch of other people didn't have the public airwaves either but they do and, if I stand up for the right of one person to say "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas", then I have to stand up for everyone else's right to speak too. That has always been my problem with free speech. If I say that we have the right to say something bad about our government or to question policies or politicians, then I have to say that the person spewing hatred in the streets has his right to do that too. For every peaceful protester talking about peace versus war, there's an Ernst Zündel (for those of you who don't know he is a holocaust denier). And as much as it makes my stomach turn, Zündel has his right to speak too.

See, when someone gets the power to say who speaks or who doesn't, based purely on one thing that person said, then that is not freedom of speech. If people turn off their radios, ratings go down and then the guy is let go because of low ratings, which were caused by what he said--that is free speech.

And then after Imus was fired Reverend Al Sharpton said that this was just the first round and that others would have to be accountable. That scares me. That makes me think that the already ludicrous levels of political correctness on TV and radio (but especially TV) are going to become even more inane. I mean if a smidgen of butt crack shows on someone in Survivor, they blur it out. This after the infamous wardrobe malfunction of Janet Jackson at the Superbowl a few years ago when the world was exosed to [gasp!] a breast. The TV went into censorship overdrive. Live TV was put on seven second delay in case someone said something offensive, as decided by the censor on the bleep button (I have seen the word Jesus bleeped when used in a discussion about God). Any possibly offensive body parts had to be blurred. But there were no restrictions about violence. I remember watching a dramatic show one night where an 80 year old woman was getting paddles put to her chest to revive her and, in the midst of it all, a small part of her breast was shown. They blurred it. The next night another drama gave us a long and graphic scene where a small child hid in a closet and watched as his father first beat then shot his mother. That we got the full brunt of, but the elderly boob, shown in a completely nonsexual manner, was censored. I remember ranting to my husband about it (his life is so much easier now that I have my blog).

My point is that someone somewhere decided that the word Jesus and a butt crack are more offensive than people getting their heads blown off or nearly naked women grinding up against a rapper while he throws money at them and calls them hoes in his latest release, or any episode of Jerry Springer.

My question is: who should decide what is okay for us to hear, see, and read? Al Sharpton? Don Imus? A network censor? Me? You? Well, actually I think it should be me and you and you and you and you, etc. I think we can decide not to watch it or listen to it or read it if we don't like it. That's our right. Just like our right to free speech. People have fought and died for our right to say what we want.

They're fighting and dying right now so that others can have that right too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Percy Janes Boarding the Bus

One of my favourite Agnes Walsh poems, "Percy Janes Boarding the Bus", is up on the Rattling Books blog. For those of you who may not know, Percy Janes was a wonderful Newfoundland writer who penned House of Hate, one of the finest novels ever to come out of the province.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday Mashup

After nearly a week out home in Aspen Cove, I am back and ready to blog. Lots of things swirling around in my head so I'll make a Monday Mashup of them all.
  • Attended a wedding out home this weekend. Everyone looked very beautiful and handsome and the day turned out to be great, weather wise as well, after foreboding forecasts of rain and wind. I was so happy the sun came out for them. It was lots of fun seeing people I haven't seen in a long time and it turned out to be a fun, late night.
  • While it was a happy occasion in the church in Aspen Cove, the church in (practically adjoining) Ladle Cove was a very different scene with an old friend of mine who had lost her battle with cancer being waked. I guess that's what I should call it. We never call it that out home. There is no funeral home there so the deceased are always laid out in church where people can visit and pay their respects. There are no visiting hours. The doors are open all the time and I know of at least a couple of people who visited my friend at 2 in the morning this weekend. I didn't. I hadn't seen her since she got sick and I decided I would prefer to remember her as the life of the party, dancing, or the two of us playing Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' I Love Rock n Roll on our pool stick guitars at the hangout. She is being laid to rest today and, even though I can't be there, I will be thinking about her, as I have been a lot these past few days. She was 41 years old. Much too young, with children left behind without their mom. It is so very sad.
  • And speaking of sad, on the day we're remembering those who fought and died at Vimy Ridge, we are also thinking about the six soldiers who died in Afghanistan yesterday, including two Newfoundlanders. My thoughts and prayers are with their families.
  • And speaking of war, last night I watched the first part of CBC's The Great War, a mashup itself: part documentary, part reality TV show, part docudrama. I enjoyed it (if by enjoying you mean crying for great portions of it--war does that to me). The show includes descendants of participants in the war experiencing, in a very limited way, what their ancestors did through reenactments of the war. One of the highlights for me (if by highlight, you mean crying extra hard) was when Newfoundlander Sandy Gow told the story of Beaumont Hamel while standing on the field there next to the Danger Tree. The story of that day was reenacted in between her descriptions of the events at Beaumont Hamel. The segment ended with Gow's emotional singing of the Ode to Newfoundland. Part Two of the show airs tonight and, I think, will focus mostly on Vimy Ridge.
  • And speaking of what I watched last night, I also viewed Huff. I haven't yet mentioned how much I am loving this show. It is brilliant. It is so realistic, deals with things the way people really would a lot of the time (often uncomfortably so) and the performances are fantastic. Blythe Danner steals the show and Paget Brewster does some of the best acting I have ever seen anywhere (she's on Criminal Minds now since Huff was unfortunately cancelled after two seasons--why do they always cancel the good stuff and keep the crap on TV).
  • And speaking of crap on TV, I haven't been into it as much this season as in the past, but I have been occasionally watching American Idol. (After Chris Daughtry lost and Taylor Hicks won, I lost any shred of faith I had in the process --but with Daughtry selling three times the CDs that Hicks did, can you say "the best revenge"?) Of course, the news this year is all about Sanjaya Malakar, the seventeen year old who is somehow holding up against constant discussions of how terrible he is. I think he is in denial. I mean, last week when Simon sarcastically called him "incredible", Sanjaya seemed really happy and moved by it. Or maybe Sanjaya was being sarcastic too. I wonder if Sanjaya can win. With Howard Stern and the website egging on voters to vote for the kid, it could happen.
  • And speaking of kids, mine has been ignored long enough while I wrote this post. Back to him and thanks Mom and Dad for getting up early with Sam most of the week so I could sleep in (and for everything else).

Oh, and after posting this, I remembered to tell you that the March Hare in Ireland is going to be on CBC Radio this afternoon at 1:30 NL time. If you are out of province or even out of country, you can catch it live here by clicking on Listen live to CBC Radio on the right sidebar. Participants in the March Hare include Ron Hynes, Joel Hynes, Michael Crummey, Lisa Moore, Pamela Morgan, Des Walsh, Daniel Payne and Kyran Pittman (I love her regular blog and she also has another blog where you can check out her writing and a diary of her March Hare in Ireland experience).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Alanis Morissette croons My Humps

Ever wondered what "My Humps" by the Black-Eyed Peas would sound like as a mournful ballad? Well, wonder no more. Alanis Morissette has answered your question and did a great job in pointing out the lyrics that, like the work of Dylan and Cohen, will no doubt be taught in schools as an example of the poetry of the decade. Oh, I know, "My Humps" is not about the lyrics, it's about the beat and the music, but still this is funny.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Dirty Artwork

My husband, as I've said here before, is a big fan of StumbleUpon. He does it all the time and I hear, at least once or twice a week, "I left something up on the computer I thought you might be interested in". And yesterday, I was actually interested in something he found. He found some pictures on Static of art drawn in the dirt on car windows. At first I thought they might be photshopped pictures (photo skeptic that I am) but then I did a little googling and found a news article about it and the web site of the artist, Scott Wade with explanations of how they were done. Now, I'm no art critic but these are pretty amazing. Who knew?