Archive for ‘education’

June 10, 2012

R.I.P. Rocket Man, Ray Bradbury

While the news isn’t new, I couldn’t not post something about the passing of visionary, Ray Bradbury. When I read the news that he had died on Tuesday, I was in Dallas on a layover. Although I always suspected his time wasn’t far off as he was getting up there in years, the news made me swell up with grief .

I discovered Bradbury when my 9th grade English teacher handed out copies of Fahrenheit 451. From then on, I was hooked. I tried  out some other science fiction after discovering Bradbury but nothing could match his dark, lyrical genius. He surpassed any genre. His stories were more about human beings than outer space or robots.

Three random things of note (to me, anyway):

1) I remember almost meeting him once about 12 years ago. There was a writing conference here in Tucson that he was supposed to attend. I raced over to discover he had to stay home due to a small stroke.

2) I bought The Bradbury Chronicles about three weeks ago and it’s on my bedside table.

3) How apropos that he left this world on the day of the the Venusian eclipse.

In honor of Mr. Bradbury’s passing, here is a scene that has stuck with me for years. It’s a short story called “Kaleidoscope” from The Illustrated Man. This is the very end of the story when Hollis, an astronaut whose rocket has blown up, is racing toward earth and toward his death:

He fell swiftly, like a bullet, like a pebble, like an iron weight, objective all of the time now, not sad or happy or anything, but only wishing he could do a good thing now that everything was gone, a good thing for just himself to know about. When I hit the atmosphere, I’ll burn like a meteor. “I wonder” he said, “if anyone’ll see me?”

The small boy on the country road looked up and screamed. “Look, Mom, look! A falling star!”  The blazing white star fell down the sky of dusk in Illinois. “Make a wish,” said his mother. “Make a wish.”

February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens would have turned 200 years old today if he were alive. The cherished writer was a legend in his time and continues to influence the literary world today.

NPR has a great peice on Dickens’s life, his writing process, and information on the Dickens bicentennial celebration at the Morgan Library in New York, which has the world’s largest collection (outside of England) of Dickens’s documents, letters, illustrations and artifacts. You can read it here.

As an added bonus, I’m going to plug my Etsy jewelry. My Dickens necklace was featured in a lovely little treasury posted in honor of Mr. Dickens today. Thanks, Chuck!

January 27, 2012

So This is What Happens After Everyone Leaves the Bookstore

This video has been making the rounds on the web for a while now, but I wanted to feature it here, too.

Sean Ohlenkamp and his wife, who run a bookstore called Type in Toronto, made this lovely little film of books dancing around their book store. Check it out here. You can also see a stop-motion film of them organizing their bookshelves here.

January 24, 2012

Watch that Language! You Dropped an “F-Bomb” Behind the Couch

Over at The Hot Word, there is a post on swearing toddlers. In a recent episode of the sitcom Modern Family, a cursing two year old was featured, which apparently has been causing a big rukus.

A swearing toddler in the media isn’t a strange sight these days. It happens a lot in films and if anyone’s seen Will Ferrel’s hilarious video short from Funny or Die of him getting chewed out by his tiny daughter, they’ll know what I mean.

It’s all funny and cute until your kid drops an “f-bomb”. Well, yeah it is still funny. Sometimes.

As a mother of a very verbose five-year-old boy, I wanted to burst laughing and scream simultaneously the first time I heard my son say, “Mommy, what the fuck?” Kids are verbal sponges and I’d obviously hadn’t been aware of all the “f-bombs” I was dropping around the house here and there.

And then there was the day he came home from preschool and gave me the finger. It wasn’t given in an F- you,-Ma-I’m-flipping-you- the-bird manner. He just lifted up his middle finger and said matter-of-factly, “This is the middle finger.”  And then he smiled that devious little boy smile. I exploded. All my vows to be an enlightened, tolerant mother of the 21st century went up in smoke. “Who taught you that?!” I yelled. I had suddenly become one of those uptight mothers who hate “foul language.” He shrugged. I continued: “It was one of those kids at school, wasn’t it?  One of them has an older brother and he learned it from him and now you know it and. . .”   You get the picture.

No matter how closely you monitor your own mouth, the swear words are going to fly out of someone else’s, especially at school. And even more when they get older.   Timothy Jay, a psychologist who studies psycholinguistics and obscenities at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts sheds some light on the subject. In an interview with Live Science he said: “Preschoolers are pretty well-versed in the lexicon, and by 11 to 12, we are looking at adult swearing patterns.” He added: “Kids say swear words as soon as they talk. We have 1- and 2-year-olds who say ‘f—‘ and ‘s—‘ in our sample. . . We don’t learn how to swear from television — nobody does. We learn how to swear from our siblings, from our parents, from the backyard.

So what do you do with a swearing toddler? Everyone has a different method when handling this situation. When it happened to me, I realized I was about to become a blazing hypocrite, but I sucked it up and had “the talk”. I told my son that swear words are “grown up words that grown ups shouldn’t use”. Hypocrite.  And then I told him that while I’d be watching his language, he should also correct me if I let a bad word slip out.

You wouldn’t believe how many times I hear his little voice say, “Mommy, can you please not say that word?”

January 21, 2012

Say What? Como Se Dice? Huh?

My mother-in-law is visiting from Peru. I understand Spanish and she understands a good deal of English, but neither of us speak the other’s language. This leaves my husband to play translator when we hit a wall and can’t understand each other. Alone, my mother-in-law and I actually do pretty well. For instance, we spent the whole day together yesterday speaking our own languages, a bit of each other’s, and signing. We did fine.

While I’ve been with my husband for about fifteen years, I’ve never learned his native language. Sad, I know, but he’s only ever spoken English with me. When I’ve pressed him to speak Spanish, he’s told me he doesn’t like to because his parents used to make him practice his English all the time and now he doesn’t want to practice Spanish with me. Fair enough. I enrolled in a couple Spanish classes, but life got in the way and I finally gave up.

Every time we travel to Peru I pick up a more Spanish. One time I even traveled to Machu Picchu with an English-speaking friend and was able to navigate the trip as the Spanish speaker, which is pretty scary if you could hear how bad my Spanish is.

Anyway, Peter Constantine of The New York Times Book Review reviewed a new book called Babel No More by Michael Erard. The book addresses the language-learning wizards of the world. Constantine calls it “part travelogue, part science lesson, part intellectual investigation. . . an entertaining, informative survey of some of the most fascinating polyglots of our time.

Constantine writes: “Linguists warn Erard that some self-­proclaimed polyglots may say they speak any number of languages, when in fact most of them know only a few grammatical rules, and have only a smattering of ready words and phrases.”  

I can speak half-ass Spanish; I took a couple Russian courses and can read cyrillic, I studied Italian in high school and can’t remember a damn thing except that Bolognese is tasty; and I studied French for years but since the “use it or lose it” rule applies, looking at French now is like seeing an old friend whose face you recognize but whose name you can’t really place, even though you hung out for years. Does this make me a polyglot? Hardly. The consensus is that you have to know at least six languages to be considered a polyglot and you must know those languages well. I kind of figured.

Tonight, my mother-in-law said that she fed my “cut” her food and I told her I loved animals and wanted to get a *fart, too.

* Pedo (fart) sounds like perro (dog) in Spanish when you can’t roll your rs correctly.

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