Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Is English a Killer Language?

Every time I visit Holland, the country where I grew up, it takes me a few days to adjust to speaking, hearing and reading in a language that is no longer natural for me. It feels like I have stepped into a pair of shoes that don't quite fit me any more. Lucky for me, it just takes a gentle nudge and most people I meet will switch to English, sparing me the effort to adjust to them. Let them do the work, my reasoning goes. After all, who doesn't speak English in our civilized world, right?

This must sound like nails scraping down a blackboard to you, and of course I don't mean a word of it, but it is true that English has become the lingua franca, the dominant 'inter' language of the world. You meet a nice French gentleman, but you don't speak Francais? Never fear, English is here. Russians communicate with Spaniards, Germans sprechen with Italians, all thanks to English. Read more...

Friday, May 27, 2016

My Ride-along with the Police: A very Positive Experience

I recently went on a police ride-along - again. As a professor of criminal justice, I have done many ride-alongs, as well as taught in the state prison system, and I spent innumerable hours doing field-work in juvenile and other correctional facilities. Just so you know that I am not all academic armchair theory.

For the shift to which I was assigned, it began with roll call in early afternoon at police headquarters. There were about two dozen officers, including three or four women and a few “non-Caucasians.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising - A Terribly Not Funny Movie

 My wife and I made a mistake. We went to see “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” We did this on the second day the movie was out, after reading the rave review it received from Katie Walsh, of the Tribune News Service (Sacramento Bee, May 20), who gave the film the maximum four stars.

I found the movie rarely funny, and always in catastrophically bad taste. The opening sets the tone, when Seth Rogen and his wife Rose Byrne are in bed, attempting to make love, and she barfs all over his face. This is toilet humor, or what the French call pipi-caca humor. I have never found jokes about vomiting, farting, pissing or diarrhea funny, not even when I was eight years old.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Archie Bunker is Alive and Well, and Still Slinging His Ethnic Insults

We have a couple of groups of friends with whom we often get together. One group, in particular, travels overseas a lot, so the conversation is often about various nationalities and foreign countries. What is mind boggling is that this group is also exceptionally ethnocentric.

These people enjoy ridiculing many categories of foreigners, but one ethnicity upon which it is absolutely open season are the Italians. It’s not clear why, and it is very unwelcome, in that one of us is partially Italian-American. Since the group is very aware of this fact, the incessant anti-Italian barbs can only be a form of sadism, a form of bullying. Their “jokes” are the usual racist vulgarities - Italians are dirty, lazy, they are thieves, etc. The more alcohol these people consume, the worse it gets.

You may ask, why do we even bother to BE with such people? The truth is, we have compromised ourselves. We fear that if we are excessively “pure” in our moral judgments, we’ll end up without very many friends... Also, naively, we have thought we could perhaps educate these people, the way schools try to educate bullies. This is probably a lost cause, as bigots are usually set in their ways. Worse yet, when these individuals see that you are upset by their comments, they do not apologize. It’s a very uncomfortable situation for the few in the group who do not engage in such insults.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Century's Worth of Living (Part 4)

copyright: Ata Kando

When I was six, I went on a hunger strike. I don't exactly remember what I was protesting, but it was one of the few weapons I had in my six-year old arsenal to protest the injustices that were done to me. I am a twin and my mother had the habit of always buying two of the same things; two identical dresses, two identical coats, two identical haircuts, so I was probably protesting my mother's decision to give the red one of two new dresses to my sister, which left me with the yellow one.

If you are not a twin, you cannot possibly know how much competition is involved. The thought of my sister in that red dress and me next to her looking like a canary was too much. The only way I could feel somewhat in control of my fate, was to stop eating. My sister’s far more effective strategy to get what she wanted, was to cry. Not just a sad little girly cry but a wolf cub howling kind of cry. Something told me that if we both adopted the howling strategy, it would backfire. Besides, I was the ‘quiet’ one, the ‘shy’ one. I just didn’t have it in me to howl. I preferred the passive aggressive approach. Not eat, give people the silent treatment, get them to guess what was wrong with poor Madeleine. Read more...

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Trump Redux

Time to talk about “the Donald” again. Things are getting ominous!

I am not going to rehash his racism, sexism and xenophobia, which are documented and commented upon by the media on a daily basis.

Nor do I want to reiterate his personality flaws. It’s obvious that he is, in Marco Rubio’s words, about as vulgar a candidate as we have ever had, that he is a narcissist with a mental age and the vocabulary of a thirteen-year old, that he is embarrassingly inarticulate, and that his knowledge of the international world, of history, of society, of science, of political and economic systems is that of a high-school student. All of this is being discussed by the pundits and by others non-stop.