Words are Confusing – Recycled Sundays

Considering the complexity of the English language, rich with synonyms, homonyms, and metaphors, it is amazing that humans understand each other as well as they do. Still, if we could eliminate misunderstanding most therapists, lawyers, marriage counselors, and peacekeepers would be out of a job.

 

Children play an old game called telephone or gossip which also illustrates how garbled messages can become once they leave the first pair of lips. A single misunderstood word can give the sentence a widely different meaning.

 

It can be very confusing for a child when they have missed understood a word and then hear it in a different context. I remember when my son was first learning to play Monopoly before he could read most of the words. He thought Pacific Avenue was Specific Avenue. He finally asked me to explain this oddity when I use specific in a non-Monopoly context too many times.

 

He also thought Qaddafi was a car. I wondered what brand of oil Gaddafi would use.

 

News broadcasts, often told too quickly, are a great source of misunderstanding. When President Bush made a cultural faux pas and offended the Australians, it was the topic of discussion at our dinner table.

 

“Did you hear?” said our daughter. “The American president gave the V for victory sign wrong when he drove past some Australians in his car and now they’re mad at him.”

 

“That’s not true,”said my son.

 

“It is so,” I said my daughter. “I saw on the news. We even talked about it in school.”

 

“That’s impossible,” continued my son who was an avid student of geography. “How can the president of the United States drive. his car to Australia?”

 

Perhaps in a Gaddafi.

 

After further discussion of the history of the V sign, my son offered his own interpretation. He thought that perhaps politicians use the two fingers up to signal the postal employees to raise the price of stamps two cents.

 

Even simple words used in slightly different ways can be misleading. My husband said they were 2000 applications to attend the faculty of education this year but only 400 seats were available. My son wanted to know if the rest would have to stand. I hoped it wouldn’t have to be in an unemployment line after graduation.

 

I often wonder about the hidden messages in questions. Recently a waitress asked if I wanted something tall and fruity or short and tart. Neither sounded appealing to my tastes.

 

You can often tell a lot about someone by what they don’t say. In a West Coast First Nations burial ground, time is marked by centuries. The headstones say which century a person died in. That certainly speaks of a long-range view. Without ever having met them, you suspect they are the kind of people who would support Spaceguard. Spaceguard is a proposed project that would track asteroids and comets heading toward earth that are capable of killing  one billion people or more.

 

We are living in a time when the information highway is spreading, yet few people can read the road signs. If you’ve ever followed a debate on a computer bulletin board you will have seen communication and miscommunication at its highest level. Unfortunately, those who don’t learn to ride the information highway will be bypassed or perhaps driven right over. Still, it is a message labyrinth even King Minos would find puzzling.

 

Numerous episodes of  In Search Of and Ancient Mysteries are devoted to unraveling messages left by previous cultures. I shutter to think what future cultures may deduce from our leavings, Madonna videos, Beavis & Butthead cartoons, newspaper war coverage, Snow CDs, bathroom graffiti, and income tax guides. If we have trouble understanding it as we live through it, future civilizations will be stunned. Anthropologists and archeologists will probably term it as the Time of Insanity. The general public will ask them to be more specific, especially about the game called Monopoly.

 

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times News

February 6, 1994

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Who Can Fix It? Written and illustrated by Leslie Ann MacKeen. Book Review.

The premise of the story is very clever. Jeremiah T. Fitz drives his crank up car every Sunday for dinner with his mother. When his car breaks down a series of animals offer suggestions on how to fix it. The ideas are humorous and clever.

The kangaroo suggests he check the jumper cable. The elephant suggests he check for a peanut in the trunk. The camel suggests he check for water. Some are a bit of a stretch such as the gorilla suggesting he hang around until Fitz thinks of an idea or the bear suggesting he scare the problem out of the car.

I really enjoyed the misinterpretations such as skipping rope with the jumper cable and removing his pants belt to fan the car. I think the book would have been better if there were fewer animals and the suggestions were expanded a little more.

The misunderstandings in this picture book remind me of the old Amelia Bedelia books. However, the vocabulary and situational humour suits older children since not many picture book readers would know much about radiators, fan belts, oil tanks and spark plugs. This would be a delight to a child who is informed and interested in cars. Although, I am not sure they would be satisfied with the idea that the spiders web stopped the motor from working.

The illustrations are bright and often humorous. I wonder, though, if it might interest children more to use a contemporary vehicle and driver. At times, the text was a bit of a tongue twister and I think simplifying the names would make it easier for a child to read.

BUY LINK

Refuge Cove by Janet Dailey. The New Americana Series. Book Review.

Refuge Cove is a 291 page romance. This gentle suspense love story is for adults and young adults.
Emma, lonely schoolteacher, has been tricked into leaving her home and career, travelling to Alaska, and entering a sham of a marriage by a con artist named Boone. When his evil intentions become clear, Emma sets his trailer on fire and flees for her life. John Wolf sees her crawling across the bog and rescues her starting a complicated and suspenseful chain of events involving his estranged, strange, family.
Although the story evolves slowly there are enough foreboding incidents to alert the reader to upcoming drama and danger. Janet Dailey connects a complicated and highly dysfunctional family in surprising ways leading some to reconciliation and some to punishment. It is a satisfying conclusion. Love and heroism save the day and readers  who crave a happy ending will smile as they close the last page.

Recycled Sundays – You’ll Miss It When It’s Gone

Happy Valentine’s Day. Here’s hoping all your friends, lovers, and family members have a warm, cheery day free of colds, accidents and phobias – especially koro.

I first learned about koro from Omni magazine, a highly respected and forward-looking science publication which occasionally runs a small article on unusual phobias. There appeared a couple of paragraphs on the most bizarre phobia I have yet encountered. Psychiatrist Albert Gaw wants the American psychiatric Association to learn about the psychiatric malady koro. “Victims believe that their genitals, particularly the penis, our shrinking and that once retraction is complete, they will die.“ If they didn’t I imagine they would be in constant stress wondering what might shrink next into oblivion. I knew the world was becoming a smaller and smaller place, but I didn’t realize that some people were taking it personally.

Koro tends to occur in epidemics like the one that swept through Hainan Island, China in 1984 and 1985 affecting some 2000 men. Rumours had spread that spirits – obviously not any relation to Cupid – who in the folk belief inhabit or process individuals, were stealing organs from living Man and we’re not talking lungs here. Gaw cites photos of men who you string or clamps (padded I hope) or even their friends, to hold onto their supposedly retracting body parts. I suppose medical personnel could supplement their income is with a blackbird market business in retractors.

hat did the victims of this phobia say to their friends to get help? “Would you hold onto this for me? I need both hands free for a while.“ Would that be a friendship test or what? How many people do you know who would sacrifice their day securing your ordinary valuables for you let alone look after look after your special one? And what’s with the stealing spirits anyway? Are they jealous that the can living to do something that they can’t? Are they peeved off with men for indignities suffered when they were still living? Or are they just odd collectors?

Gaw says that koro is “for the most part unrecognized in the United States, even though Asian refugee, immigrant, and tourist populations are rising and we are seeing a few cases.“

How do the patients get to the psychiatrist office? Public transit? Wouldn’t that attract a lot of attention? Especially if they are using the buddy system? Do they pay the fare for their friend? I hope this doesn’t become too widespread in counter culture. Wild haircuts, pieces of metal through the skin, enormous tattoos, all seem pretty tame compared to a clamp on your shrinking body part. I would certainly hope that no husband or boyfriend asks for one for Valentine’s Day.

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

February 14, 1993

Silly Scientists Take a Tip-Toe with the Tadpoles by Lindsey Craig. Illustrated by Ying Hui Tan. Book Review.

The silly scientists are a bizarre variety of aliens. Their mission is to ensure Taddy the tadpole hatches from an egg, develops into a tadpole, and then into a frog.

 

This is a wild and fantastical book for children who enjoy extensive zany detail while they learn a little about animals. The pages are fairly bursting with vivid characters. There are seven brightly colored aliens, numerous pond plants and creatures, and ten tadpoles. Younger children might find the illustrations a bit challenging but those that enjoy examining pages with a lot of content will be satisfied.

 

Although the story is fiction, there are text boxes that explain, in rhyme, the life of a tadpole. The last two pages explain metamorphosis, producers, consumers, and decomposers.

 

There are moments of humour in the book. Many readers will enjoy the mixture of fact, storyline, and silliness.

 

BUY LINK

 

Little Pencil Finds His Forever Friends: A Rhyming Pencil Grip Picture Book by Christine Calabrese. Illustrated by Maria Victoria Flores. Book review.

I always feel a bit of trepidation when I get a rhyming book to review. It is so difficult to write well and too many people attempt it who have  otherwise never written in rhyme since grade school. Happily, Calabrese succeeds with this charming little story.

The pencil is sad because everyone else seems to have a job. The photographed hands of a small child use a ruler, clay, scissors, blocks and more while the pencil sobs feeling left out.

Variations on this refrain are repeated throughout the book:

Poor little pencil

Sobbed, “Boo-hoo hoo.

Poor little pencil

Had nothing to do!”

The author varies the verb sobbed exposing children to some interesting synonyms.

At the end, the child picks up the pencil and begins to write. We learn the correct way to hold a pencil if you are a right-handed person or a lefty.

The illustrations are an engaging combination of photographed hands and illustrated tools all with expressive faces. The colors are bright and engaging. The book is a large 8 x 10 so all children can clearly see the proper way to hold the pencil.

As a former teacher, I know how difficult it is to change a child’s awkward grip on a pencil once it has become habit. As soon as your child can hold a crayon, marker, or pencil, be sure their grip is correct. Not only does it help with letter formation but it is less fatiguing. This book is a great way to introduce the proper method with less conflict.

Buy link

 

Recycled Sundays – Movie Magic

Movies, films, moving pictures, flicks, motion pictures, whatever you choose to call them, have had a tremendous impact on this century. When Eadweard Muybridge set up twenty-four cameras to photograph a horse race in 1873, I’m sure he did not anticipate generations of screamers, weepers, groaners, and neckers would follow this new entertainment/artform.

In 1889, Thomas Edison built the kinetoscope. One person could watch the action through a peephole. Much of the allure was probably being allowed to see something no one else could see. I cannot imagine why anyone wanted to watch a man sneezing. Then again, it is not apparent why anyone wants to watch Woody Allen.

The Lumiere brothers showed the first group movies, the best showing a train arriving at a station. It is not known whether the train was on time or how much traffic it had backed up in the intercity area.

In 1990, movies begin to tell a story: Cinderella, a trip to the moon, then the great train robbery. We’ve come along way since then: Walt Disney Cinderella, Star Trek the Undiscovered Country, and Thelma and Louise.

In the 1950s 3-D movies arrived, the best being The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Now there’s 3-D, 4-D, Cineplex, IMAX, rides supplemented by film, rides imitating film, film imitating rides, live shows of filmed shows, and actors impersonating film characters who were originally impersonating someone else in a film.

At Universal Studios I covered my eyes with a new intensity while watching Hitchcock’s The Birds in 3-D. At MGM studios I laughed along with Jim Henson’s Muppets in 4-D. Smoke, bubbles, and exploding walls surrounded me. The mother behind me commented to her child throughout the production. My wish for a stray cannon shot to plug her never came true.

I travelled through a spaceport in MGM studios, star tours, surrounded by robots, droids, and special effects, to reach the actual ride. Strapped into a spaceship, the wild film unfolded. As I zoomed through the death star’s canyon, the entire room swerved and bucked. I thought I’d reach the pinnacle of tension until my son announced he discovered motion sickness.

The Indiana Jones spectacular showed stunt people acting out a movie scene done by stuntman acting as actors acting out a story for the movie. I am reminded of David Sukuki‘s comment that Mickey Mouse is a person acting as a mouse who behaves like a person.

We ate lunch at Mel’s drive-in bracket universal bracket from American graffiti almost witnessing a genuine rumble when the lady in front lost her cool and tried to shred the waiter with her tongue. I think she’d had too much heat and not enough cola. We had supper at MGM’s replica of a 1950s drive-in theatre with black and white film clips, a realistic horizon, drive-in speakers, popcorn, and waitresses on rollerskates. The only thing missing was the mosquitoes. Our children ate in the front of the car while my husband and I were in the back. They loved the role reversal.

We survived King Kong’s attack, the San Francisco, being spit on by camels in Aladdin’s Royal Caravan and a trip to ET‘s planet by bicycle. ETA says goodbye to each visitor by name which inspired us for a return trip, incognito. He did stumble a bit with the fake name “Goober.”

At the Kennedy Space Centre the IMAX theatre was the next best thing to a genuine launch. Unfortunately people had to sit on the theatre floor because of poor organization. They can send a man to the moon but they can’t make sure everyone gets a seat. The bus tour bored my son so much he fell asleep. Sometimes fiction is more interesting than fact. Disney offered American Journeys in 360° of circle vision. While standing, we were surrounded by moving pictures. Once the white water rafting started, I understood the importance of the leaning bars. We also learned about sound effects, horror make up, props, editing, shirts, animation, costuming, and special-effects. I have a new appreciation for the creativity and hard work that goes into filmmaking.

On our way home, we decided to visit Hull, Quebec in an attempt to break away from the movie glitz. We visited the Canadian Museum of civilization. Surprise, they have a Cineplus theater.

Originally publish in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

September 12, 1993

New Gifts for Valentines Day

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There are household items, keepsakes, jewelry, clothing, and more.

for moms, dads, women, men, kids, babies, moms-to-be, and a great selection for vegans too.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Who Loved Cookies by Bonnie Ferrante

A new video for all kids.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Who Loved Cookies by Bonnie Ferrante

Little Red Riding Hook packed a basket of cookies to bring to her grandmother for a surprise.

RED: I’m not sure I remember which way to go. I think it’s this way.

A wolf peeked out from behind a tree.

WOLF: Hello. Something smells delicious.

RED: Not me, I hope.

WOLF: No it’s in your basket.

RED: Here, take a look.

WOLF: It’s cookies!

RED: They’re for my grandma. But I’m not sure if I’m going the right way. She lives in a log cabin.

WOLF: I know that cabin. Go that way.

So Red Riding Hood did but it took longer to get there then she expected. Meanwhile, the wolf took the short cut and got to grandma’s first.

GRANDMA: What are you doing in my house?

WOLF:  Roar! Run away or else!

After grandma left, the wolf dressed up as grandma and climbed into her bed.

Just then, Red Riding Hood arrived.

RED: Grandma, it’s me, Red.

WOLF: Come in dear.

RED: I brought you a basket of cookies, Grandma.

WOLF: Thank you, I LOVE cookies.

RED: Grandma, what big ears you have.

WOLF: The better to hear you with, my dear.

RED: Grandma, what big eyes you have.

WOLF: The better to hear you with my dear.

RED: Grandma, what big teeth you have.

WOLF: The better to eat… all the cookies.

GRANDMA: I’m back and you’re in big trouble. I brought my sword.

WOLF: Don’t hurt me. I just wanted a cookie.

GRANDMA: You can’t just bully people into giving you cookies.

WOLF: I’m sorry but I just love cookies. I found one in the forest once. It tasted so yummy, I’ve never forgotten. I’ve been dreaming about having another one since then.

RED: You know, Grandma, maybe we should let him go. I don’t think he wanted to hurt us.

GRANDMA: If he promises to be honest and kind from now one. Cookies aren’t good for wolves anyway.

WOLF: I will be good, I promise. But I wish I could have a cookie.

RED: But you shouldn’t take food from people. We’re not supposed to feed wild animals. That’s wrong.

The wolf nodded and sadly went back into the forest. Once a month, Red Riding Hood brought her grandma a basket of cookies. She always managed to drop one on the path where she met the wolf.

 

Remember, never feed real wild animals.

People food is not good for them.

Animals should never lose their fear of humans.
It keeps them and us safe.

Brandon Makes Jiǎo Zi (餃子) by Eugenia Chu. Book Review.

It is great to see more books bridging different cultures.

Eugenia Chu has written a picture book about Brandon, a boy of Chinese heritage, who makes a heritage food with his grandmother and then gives it his own special touch. Brandon is a gleeful and active little boy who loves working with his grandmother in the kitchen. Children of all ethnicities will be late to the creation of goodies with a grandparent.

The book begins with a preface that explains the Chinese alphabet and characters and the sounds they make. It also shows the importance of tone in changing the meaning of a word. Throughout the story, there are Chinese care characters and translations for Mandarin words important to the story. The story ends with the glossary of Mandarin words and the numbers from 1 to 10.

The writing itself could use some tightening. For example the author has a habit of slowing down the text with phrases like “started to”. The illustrations are very simple pencil crayon drawings done in a child-like style.

This book would be of interest parents, teachers, and children, interested in multiculturalism. The author also has audio available for those who would like to check the pronunciation.