December 28, 2010

Good Tues. -4 at the aeropuerto. About the same here. Dark.

Yokelly, we continue to take in lectures about linguistics. Most people know about this mainly from pizza, but there is some other interesting stuff to learn as well. Linguistics is the scientific study of language. There are few topics that are more interesting to most people than language, if it’s presented well. After all, we all use language a lot, and we all notice things about how others use language. There are reasons for most of the things you notice, and even for lots of things you have noticed but haven’t thought about. Recent topics include language acquisition by children and ditto by adults. It has long been known that children learn languages quickly and well, whereas by the time you are 15 or so the door is closing on proficiency in another language. That’s why in America we wait until students are at least 15 before attempting to teach them Spanish, French, etc. Next time you run into a German or Swede who speaks excellent English, ask when they started learning it. They will tell you, in grade school. One more way the American school system generally sucks. Recent science tests showed American students way down the list. However, as long as stupidity is politically popular, we will continue to slide. Why Johnny Can’t Read will be rewritten as Why Johnny Can’t Tie His Shoes. First, because he can’t see them with his stomach sticking out. Second, because he needs some apparatus with buttons on it to do it automatically. But I digress. The lectures are by John McWhorter, formerly of UC Berkeley, who explains the principles of linguistics with lots of examples in terms college undergrads and other mere mortals can easily understand. On DVD and available at your local library, most likely.

We also watched Ratatouille over the weekend. Cute, but the thought of rats in the kitchen makes me queasy. The whole movie was premised on the accident of “Rat” in “Ratatouille.” Otherwise, it was All Dogs Go to Heaven rehashed. The mean head chef was depicted as stunted and foreign, making doubly sure we don’t sympathize with him, since people who are physically different from us are inherently sinister. Come to think of it, he looked a bit like—a rat! There are some good laughs here and there, but I don’t cry easily for rats, despite our having lived with three fairly sweet female pet rats over a period of years in L’s youth. The film is by Pixar, distributed (owned?) by Disney. I foresee a future in which no one knows that Pinocchio and Cinderella were stories in books that lacked talking crickets and mice. No need to imagine a fantasy world for yourself when Disney can do it for you, at a price. It helps us as a country to be unimaginative, illiterate mouth breathers. We are doomed. Anyway, I would give the movie 2 stars, maybe.

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