Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Merci: Another Linguistic Mystery Solved

I went to dinner the other night with some friends at North, a Persian restaurant, in Vaughan. The food was quite good, though I think I enjoyed the interior more. There was a mural of an Iranian village with mountains in the distance. The houses in the mural extended into three-dimensional, physical houses, so that you could eat inside. There were even some fake mountains extending from the mural. I wish I had taken a photo, especially since there seem to be no photos online!

Towards the end of the meal our friend, Aiden, told us that "Merci" is the way to say thank you in Farsi -the same as French (though the pronunciation is not quite the same). I was very surprised, but then I was reminded of a time when I noticed that there were other similarities between French and Farsi (how I noticed this, I do not know). So I wondered how there could be similarities between two languages that don't have common roots. Yes, both are Indo-European languages, but their proto-languages don't really share a common history.

I discovered the article "The Iranian Language Policy: A Case of Linguistic Purism" by Katarzyna MarszaƂek-Kowalewska. The author notes that French words began being borrowed into Farsi at the turn of the 18th century as a result of modernism in then-Persia: "For Persia, [French] was the most important model of modern secular culture" (91)  The esteemed position of French was strengthened with the the creation of modern education systems, such as the first institution of higher education, Dal al-Fornun, (now existing as the University of Tehran). Academics used French to transmit technical and scientific vocabulary. More importantly for the dissemination of French words into Farsi,  the education system of the 20th century was modeled after the French education system. Additionally, French was nearly the only language studied by students at the post-secondary level. As the author notes, "the importance of French on the educational level resulted in a situation where almost all scholars in scientific and technical, as well as in other 
disciplines, studied in French-speaking countries or otherwise received a French-influenced education in Persia" (91). 

I find that within my interest in linguistics and culture I am especially interested in the attitude that elites take on the direction of the language. With my little training in linguistics, I've been taught to not make judgements on language for what "should" and "should not" be, but to simply study language. Thus, I am fascinated when elites act prescriptively with specifically dictated language policy, changing the direction that the language would naturally take. More on language policy and examples another time. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Program Complete"

Things are coming together for my convocation. The other day I received that long-awaited confirmation. It was simply: "Program Complete. Graduation Autumn Convocation”

But I tell you, seeing “Program Complete” was such a relief! I’ve had many little panic attacks over the summer. I thought I had actually calculated my courses incorrectly and that my academic counsellors had missed something, which would mean I need to take more courses and not graduate until June 2013! Fortunately, my little nightmares are not coming true. October 26th, I will be looking snazzy in my gown and mortarboard (graduate’s cap).

I took this photo in my first month at Western, back in 2007. But right now it’s symbolizing the freedom that comes with graduation and that my future is wide open. “The sky’s the limit” and that sort of thing.

Friday, September 28, 2012

You already know.

I am seeing this as a life mantra. When faced with a decision or something you’re not sure of, you should look to oneself, because so many times you already know the answer, you just may not have come to terms with it yet.

And a song with the same title by one of my new favourite bands.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Essay: Human Rights of Migrant Workers

I’m currently researching for an essay on Migrant Workers and Human Rights. It’s for my Human Rights Reporting class. I’m going to focus on the Canada’s guest worker program, particularly on the town of Leamington, Ontario with Mexican migrant labourers.

I was hoping to find a documentary to get me “warmed up”, as it were, to ease my way into the research. This will also be an excuse to watch a film. The last film I watched was in class (Crossing Midnight-I highly recommend it) and before that… I think it was Chloe. I miss films! Gah. And I can remember when I was in first year in a film class and in MIT classes, I watched so many movies that I stopped liking movies for a bit! Of course, this was soon remedied, once classes ended. (and now back to the topic at hand)

In an article, I found mention of El Contrato, a documentary about man from Central Mexico who makes the yearly journey to Leamington to work. It is very critical of the whole situation, so this will be the perfect start to delving into the research. Here is an excerpt from the aforementioned article:

Min Sook Lee’s 2003 National Film Board film, El Contrato or The Contract, illustrated poignantly the exploitation of this new migrant Leamington population. She narrates in the film, “They are wanted as labourers, not as citizens. The program only accepts men who are married, with less than a grade school education and with strong ties and families back home, men who will go back after months of painful separation.

In 2002, a workers’ centre opened in Leamington, offering counsel and advocacy for the farm labourers. In 2003, the time of the filming of El Contrato, the migrant farm workers worked seven days a week, ten hours a day for a flat rate of $7.25 per hour, no overtime, no holidays.
Something that is most excellent is that you can watch the whole film on the NFB website! Here’s the link, in case you’re interested in watching: http://www.nfb.ca/film/el_contrato (I’m fairly certain that anyone in the world is given access to the films- but please tell me if you can’t access the film)

Oh, and if you watch it and you want to discuss anything in it, feel free to message me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Saturday Afternoon

I had the hardest time getting myself down to the library to get some solid work done. I was in a certain mood. If I was in Cornwall I could have asked a friend to go to the Art Gallery and then The Grind for coffee. If I had been in Toronto I would have visited The ROM and strolled through Yorkville. If I was in Montreal I would have gone to Old Port by the water. But I was in London, and I didn't know what to do with myself because I am in school and I have lots of work to do, so I shouldn't be doing anything, but reading or writing an essay. So I pushed away these thoughts and walked outside intending to take the bus downtown.

But it was such a nice day- both mild and sunny, that I had to walk downtown. Besides I now have some snappy red rubber boots! Walking through slush and puddles is now a joy, reminiscent of the simple pleasures of childhood play- and what confidence I now have! That is, I don't hop from the shallowest part of the puddle to another, nor do I avoid the mud! I just trudge on through!
During my jolly walk I listened to a podcast of CBC's featuring the band Hey Rosetta! I've heard about Hey Rosetta a lot over the last few years, but I've never given them a listen, which is honestly rather appalling because they are a fairly popular Canadian band. They are quite good! With Jian's (the host of Q) mirthful banter with his various guests I found myself walking with a little more bounce than I started out with, smiling at every person I passed, and laughing outloud at times.

After about 20 minutes I came to Richmond and Oxford, the north end of downtown. It had been quite some time since I had walked down Richmond. (Oh what the winter does to me, keeping me from my explorative adventures). I hadn't eaten lunch, which was another indicator of my uncommitted, wandering mood. I ended up at India Spice Express, a small sort of deli- except that it was Indian food. As I walked in I was greeted by a girl, a few years younger than me. I guessed she was probably the daughter of this likely family-owned and operated business. The choices were numerous. I didn't even know where to begin, so I told the girl I was overwhelmed and asked for her suggestion. She inquired about my hunger level- was this to be a snack? A full meal? I told her I wanted a meal, but I was not too hungry. She suggested some naan bread and a curry. Of the five vegetarian options; I chose the lentil curry. She told me to have a seat and she would bring it out to me.

A few minutes later I had a small bowl of curry and one piece of naan in front of me. I continued listening to my podcast as I ate the sweet, fluffy, yet crispy on the bottom naan dipped in the flavourful and perfectly spiced curry (not too spicy).


As I ate, I observed this small restaurant. The atmosphere was very open with it's high-ceilings, yet bright and comfortable. The walls were a calm blue-grey colour and the floor tiles were yellow and red. Looking up, the exposed ducts were painted a light purple and pipes in the ceiling were painted a bright red. There were 7 tables of four, the kitchen was partially visible, and I noticed that this restaurant also doubled at a bit of an Indian grocer. Finishing my meal I went up to the counter to pay. The girl asked how I liked the meal, especially if it was the right size. She was genuinely concerned with it being the right size. She was very sweet. I will certainly go back there.

Upon walking out of the restaurant, I noticed a new flower shop across the street. I wondered if mini daffodils were available yet. It is my tradition to buy a female friend a pot of mini daffodils at this time of year. I crossed the street and saw on the outside stand that they did indeed have mini-daffodils, though none were in bloom. Since they were to be a gift, I wanted to have just one beginning to bloom. I walked inside the shop to see if there were any in bloom yet. The shopkeeper said hello to me, even though she was with another customer. Then the customer told me to "look" and pointed upwards to some signs with clever sayings that mothers love to put in their homes, like "the house was clean yesterday, sorry you missed it". I didn't know which one this woman wanted me to pay attention to. Then she commented about how easy it really is to change the toilet paper; there was a sign assuring just that. I laughed a little, to show her I understood her. Then the woman left the shop. I approached the middle-aged Asian shopkeeper and asked if she had any mini daffodils in bloom. Very apologetically in a strong foreign accent, she told me she didn't. I said it was fine, that I would take one of the ones she had anyway and walked outside to pick one out. She followed me and advised me on the ones that would bloom first. I picked one of the ones she suggested and followed her back in to pay. Knowing the store was new, I asked how long the shop had been open for. She told me it was just a week since she opened and asked if it was my first time in. I said yes, so she gave me a small gift of cinnamon scented cranberries in a star-shaped mesh frame. Sincerely, she thanked me for coming in and told me to have a good day. I liked her. She was the type that was so eager to please her customer. I hope she doesn't lose that over time.

As I walked out the door I saw a customer from the pub I work at. The last time we spoke we had a good conversation about music and art, so I said hello and asked where he was walking to. He was a bit aimless, but he was going downtown, so I said we should be walking buddies since I was headed to the library, which is right downtown. On the way we discussed the closing camera shop he had just visited, his upcoming art projects, and the celebration birthday of a regular customer, who is also our bartender's girlfriend. We parted ways at another camera shop and I walked to the library. I found a comfy chair and, satisfied, I began to read Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Apple Juice and Baby Crackers

Apple juice and baby crackers (aka arrowroot cookies) as my mid-afternoon snack. (Note that I am studying for my pushed-back-from-December-due-to-"Snowmageddon"-Public Administration exam).

It has been years since I've had both apple juice and baby crackers at the same time. It reminds me of "milk and cookie time" when I was at playgroup (though we usually had apple juice and cookies). This playgroup was somewhere you could bring your children to socialize with other children before they were school-age (no doubt it was for the moms to socialize too). What I find surprising is that I remember so clearly the things that happened there, even though I was so young. Once you turned 4 you weren't allowed to go there anymore (since you should be going to kindergarten then).

There was the time that a much bigger Megan pushed me off a chair at milk and cookie time for no apparent reason. From her, I ended up with a mostly pink hand-me down snowsuit that already had 'Megan' written inside. I thought that was really neat at the time. She was the first Megan I can remember meeting.

Then there was the time that the visiting optometrist told me I had stars in my eyes. Her telling that made me think that everyone had a shape in their eyes. My mother set me straight when I was a bit older. She said the optometrist probably said it to get me to open my eyes wider. I was angry with the optometrist for deceiving me. I told my mum that she could've just asked me to open my eyes wider.

In highschool, when I would mention the names of friends, my mum would tell me that so-and-so was in playgroup too. I don't remember anyone specifically, except for the Whaleys.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Listen more

I often feel the need to express myself. I like to tell stories, talk about the ideas that pop into my head, and display my photos. Recently I've become aware that I feel this need too much. It is affecting my ability to listen. This blog has been renewed for my new year's resolution of listening more. To allow for listening, I still need to get these things off my chest and out of my head. This is the outlet for some of that.

As well, I have more drafts in this blog than posts. Upon the advice of a friend, I will just post and not worry if things are "perfect". If the idea isn't fully thought out and I'd still like to muse on it, then I will do so.  The writing may not flow perfectly either, but as was pointed out to me, it's probably more important that I just write.

Just letting you know that things are going to be different around here. (haha) 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Phallon & Asia

(Written on June 19th)
This day has already been extremely interesting... I'm heading to Cornwall on the bus as I speak, but while in Toronto I had some intriguing experiences. I was starving, so I left the terminal in search of food (I had an hour and a half to kill before the bus to Cornwall left). Of course, it was six in the morning, so nothing was open- even in downtown Toronto. I walked up to Yonge St. where a fellow traveller struck up conversation with me asking why I look so sad- lol. I had 2 hours of sleep on a bus! It wasn't sadness, it was lack of energy. He was strange though, he was wasting time until his bus came also, so it would seem natural to maybe waste it together. But he decided he was going to walk down a street that did not look promising for food. So I did not go with him and he didn't decide to come with me when I told him I was going to continue up Yonge. Oh well.

I decided to eat the apple and banana I had brought, since I couldn't seem to find anything else. I watched the peaceful, early morning Yonge St. wake up. Quite a few police went by on their way to breakfast, it seemed because they were all in a jovial mood and didn't seem to be walking with purpose as you typically see them. At this point, they seemed very social. There were quite a few police because of the G20

Just after I sat down on some steps and bit into my apple I heard a someone saying, "Asia, Asia", as though they were speaking to a pet. When I looked up, there was a man in a white sailor's suit walking a dog. Immediately he enthusiastically said hi and asked me if he could talk to me, saying I seemed like I'd be an interesting person. He introduced himself as Phallon and the dog as Asia (who was his friend's). Phallon told me he was going to make a television debut by interviewing people on the streets of Toronto. He was curious to know why so many people in Toronto are "cold" and he wanted to find out what makes people "tick" in this city.

He wanted to start the interview with me, but he said he was having trouble with the camera (which was also a friend's). I said I could probably fix it, so he handed it to me. After a minute of fiddling with it I discovered that the brightness was turned up far too much and the white balance was off. Just as I was fixing the settings four young punk kids walked our way. Phallon asked if he could talk to them, citing that they looked like interesting people. They excitedly said he looked like an interesting person and that they loved his outfit. 

I had just fixed the settings, so I started recording their conversation. Phallon noted the reasons he was talking to people and said that they didn't seem like cold people and wondered why so many others are. The one guys said it must be the drugs. Phallon didn't seem too impressed with this answer. He then asked them what they would say if he told them he was a healer. They said they would say B.S. since they have a friend who claims the same thing and it's not true. He told them the story of how he was recently at a picnic for homeless people (he has now been homeless for a month and apparently loves it) where he saw a girl going through withdrawal from "oxycotin or something". She was shaking on the ground and just generally was not well. Phallon said he went over to her and put his hand on her shoulder, saying that everything was going to be ok. She seemed to relax, she stopped shaking, the wind blew her hair out of her face and she smiled. Later she was walking around and appeared just fine, he said. The conversation ended and the young punks went along their way. 

Phallon then turned back to me. He asked what I would say about the healer thing. I said I would be curious and want to know more. The conversation turned to the subject of auras and he asked what I thought about them. I've always found the idea of auras fascinating (when I was a little kid, I used to try to see them). I want to know more about auras, so Phallon said he'd try to teach me to see them. I thought, Wow, this is kind of cool! It would be really neat if he were to end up being for real. He put his hand up against his white shirt, told me to look in between his fingers and asked if I could see a tinge of colour. I couldn't. He then told me that it's like a muscle. You need to continue to use it and work it to see auras. Watching his teachers in class is where Phallon first noticed auras. Since I couldn't see something he looked for another background. A concrete wall would work since it's a neutral colour. This time he put his whole arm out and told me to not look at his arm, but to look six inches above and below it. I tried, but I saw nothing. After a while we gave up, but he told me to continue looking for it. The things Phallon was talking about, his ideas of positivity, the auras, and more made me think of the book, The Celestine Prophesy. He said he had read it and he based a lot of his life on things that came up in the book. We discussed the sequal and found that neither one of us had finished it. Phallon suggested I read The Alchemist, so now that's on my reading list. We ended our conversation and Phallon went to find the policemen he asked to speak with as they walked by. Before we parted ways, I asked to take his photo and he obliged and asked me how he wanted him to pose- he was pretty excited about it. 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Microsoft's Encarta Tells Two Different Stories

I'm reading the 'Audience Fragmentation" section of a book for class. It talks about how we now have specialized channels to cater specific demographics of society. The authors talk about how we have "narrowcasting" now rather than broadcasting and that we share less and less of our media experiences because of this audience fragmentation.

I came upon the part where it says that Microsoft's Encarta encyclopaedia stated the inventor of the telephone was two different people... In the US, UK, and German edition Encarta said that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, but in the Italian edition it was "Antonio Meucci, a poor Italian American candlemaker who -according to this version of history- beat Bell by 5 years" (Croteau and Hoynes 207).

The authors then pose the questions, "If companies producing supposedly authoritative information such as encyclopedias are comfortable generating multiple versions of history to appeal to different markets, then what is to prevent them from doing the same to court domestic audiences? Will corporations in the future produce different versions of history [and this is what I think is most important] or current events for different demographics?" (Croteau and Hoynes 207).

I think it is important that we see that this is occurring. Being media savvy isn't just for the kids in Media Studies, it's important for everyone. I ask why the editors of Encarta couldn't say something like, "Although Alexander Graham Bell is widely credited as the inventor of the telephone, it is quite possible that Antonio Meucci invented the telephone..." Or something of the like, which mentions both possible inventors. Why should one group of people be told one story and another group be told a completely different story? I find it jarring just thinking about this. Thoughts?

The Business of Media: Corporate Media and Public Interest by David Croteau and William Hoynes. Published in 2006. (I don't feel like doing a proper citation. This is close enough. Too many essays lately.)