Sunday, June 24, 2007

Selected Poems: Kaifi Azmi


mein yeh soch kar uskay dar say utha tha
ki woh rok laygi, mana laygi mujh ko
hawao mein lehraata aata tha daman
ki daman pakad-kar bitha laygi mujh-ko
khadam aisay andaaz say uth rahay thay
ki awaaz day kar bula laygi mujh-ko
magar usnay roka na mujh-ko manaya
na daman hi pakda na mujhko bithaya
na awaaz hi di, na waapas bulaya
mein ahista-ahista badhta hi aaya
yaha tak ki us-say juda ho gaya mein

English translation is OBVIOUSLY pathetic -- anyway, read on:

A Sense of Regret

When from her doorway I stood up to go,
I thought she would cajole me and make me stay,
The wind billowed my garment towards her
I thought she would seize it and request me to stay,
My footsteps moved away so reluctantly from her
I thought she would call out and ask me to stay,
Truth is, she did not stop me, nor sought to cajole me
She caught not my garment, nor tried to delay me,
She broke not her silence, nor moved to address me
I kept walking slowly on,
Ever so slowly I kept walking away, so far that we are separated today.

Selected Poems: Kaifi Azmi

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The SQUID and the WHALE

In his third feature, director Noah Baumbach scores a triumph with an autobiographical coming-of-age story about a teenager whose writer-parents are divorcing. The father (Jeff Daniels) and mother (Laura Linney) duke it out in half-civilized, half-savage fashion, while their two sons adapt in different ways, shifting allegiances between parents. The film is squirmy-funny and nakedly honest about the rationalizations and compensatory snobbisms of artistic failure as well as the conflicted desires of adolescents for sex and status. In detailing bohemian-bourgeois life in brownstone Brooklyn, Baumbach is spot on. Everyone proceeds from good intentions and acts rather badly, in spite or because of their manifest intelligence. Fulfilling the best traditions of the American Independent film, this quirky, wisely written feature explores the gulf between sexes, generations, art and commerce, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

So where the bloody hell are you?

Brit ban on 'bloody' ad 'incredibly ludicrous'

A UK legal decision ordering Tourism Australia to pull down billboards featuring the controversial "So where the bloody hell are you?'' slogan has been slammed by the federal tourism minister.

The Advertising Standards Authority today branded billboards situated on motorways in the UK offensive and ordered them removed.

The ASA also warned Tourism Australia not to use swear words in any future billboards.

The billboards had prompted 32 complaints from people who found the slogan offensive and feared children might see it.

The ASA found they breached advertising rules relating to responsibility and children. "What an absolutely, incredibly ludicrous stance and a greater example of double standards you'd never find,'' Tourism Minister Fran Bailey said.

"Everyone is shaking their heads, especially as it's in a country where they allow the FCUK billboards ... I mean what is it about our campaign that they find offensive? I just don't understand it.''

Ms Bailey said she didn't believe the removal of the billboards would damage the promotional campaign.

"We're not at all concerned about it because the ad goes out on television, film, digital and print media and we're still getting the fantastic hit rate and results from the ad,'' she said.

Today's ruling follows previous objections to TV and newspaper adverts promoting Australia which used the same slogan.

Last May, the ASA rejected complaints about national press adverts, saying the slogan's acceptability depended on the context and media in which it appeared.

Two months later, it imposed a 9pm broadcast restriction on TV commercials using the ``So where the bloody hell are you?'' phrase.

Ms Bailey said Tourism Australia would now decide whether or not to appeal the decision.
Australian advert banned on UK TV

British regulators have banned an advert aimed at luring tourists to Australia due to its use of a mild swear word, Tourism Australia says.

The headline for the commercial, which features Australians drinking and frolicking on the beach, is "So where the bloody hell are you?".

As a result, the word "bloody" will be cut for the advert when shown on UK TV, according to Tourism Australia.

The advert is part of a $100m campaign to lure more tourists to Australia. Tourism Australia managing director Scott Morrison said the ban would only make the campaign more successful:

"We thank the UK authorities for the extra free publicity and invite them to have a 'bloody' good holiday in Australia, especially with the Commonwealth Games now on and the Ashes coming up later in the year," he said.

Mr Morrison nevertheless said he hoped the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) would reconsider its decision.

Australian Tourism Minister Fran Bailey said the ban was "comical'', because the uncut commercial would still appear in cinema, in print and online in the UK.

"The regulator is out of touch with British opinion - based on our research and the initial feedback the British are loving our cheeky sense of humour.''

"The regulators have clearly misplaced their sense of humour - and this from a country that brought us Benny Hill, the Two Ronnies and Little Britain,'' she said.

No-one at the BACC was available to comment on the ban on Thursday.

Friday, June 22, 2007

First Private Polo Club in Egypt

Nubaria Polo School
Nubaria Polo Farm offers training programs through its professional school starting with beginners to advanced levels. Programs are instructed by the most qualified and awarded Egyptian polo players. Programs are tailored to suit all levels of players starting with non-players who would like to experience the glory this sport offers, to the experienced polo player who the opportunity to come along with his family and friends to enjoy a certain period of time with Nubaria Polo Farm Egypt.

Polo: Blitz!

Polo: Awe-struck!

That's POLO!

Polo: War Cry!

Stalwart of Polo in India: DHRUVPAL GODARA +5

One of the rising stars of our first generation of professional polo players, Dhruv Pal Godara, 24 years old, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, smiles and says," I grew up watching my elder brother, Manupal, play polo and I was very jealous of him. Whatever he did, I wanted to do better; he has been my idol and my biggest supporter. We fight like mad on the ground, but we have an understanding, that surprises everyone. We help each other out and complement each other."

Dhruv Pal started riding at a young age under the guidance of his father, who himself was a polo player. As a young child, he had a bad fall and never went near a horse again till he was thirteen. Then he was schooled in dressage, show jumping and eventing, but polo beckoned this young teenager. At fifteen, he took part in the junior IPA, played at the Indian Military Academy in Dehardun. Dhruv laughs and says, " We lost by one goal, as I scored a self goal for the opposing team. Everyone in my team was ready to kill me!" Today Dhruv Pal has come a long way, maturing into one of the finest players of our country.

When asked on his playing style, he says," I like aggression, I keep the pep up!" Most people who know him would say he keeps the pep up, on and off the ground. He is at his best in a fast game that showcases his ability to make swift accurate plays. He is a forward player who rarely misses the ball once passed to him, making him a valuable team player.

Dhruv Pal’s first season was in Calcutta, where he played and won his first tournament with his brother, Manupal, Abhishek Tapuriah and K.V. Singh, playing as the Oberoi Team. The Calcutta Polo Ground was where he won his first IPA Open playing with Manupal, Vishal Singh and Lokendra Singh. He has been part of the Indian team for the last three world cups, played in St. Moritz, Switzerland and twice in Australia. He recalls his first trip to Lisbon, Portugal, with much amusement, saying, " I lost my passport three times! The other team mates kept following me around after that, not taking a chance to let me lose anything again."

On his memorable wins, he recalls winning an Open in Jaipur, where they played as an all Indian 15 goal team against the Kashmir 20 goal team strengthened with Carlos Urrea +7. The Kashmir team was the team tipped to win the tournament, but they surprised everyone and defeated them.

Dhruvpal feels fitness is very important for a polo player.He has tailor made a routine for himself that includes jogging, lightweight training and crunches everyday, that helps keep him in form. He admits the toughest part of being a polo player is being disciplined, having an early night when you want to party but he manages somehow.

Dhruvpal’s coach has been his father; he owes his success to him. He is his biggest critic too, as after a match where he thought he had a brilliant game, his father would tell him, "You played like a dud!"" My father always made me try harder and having an elder brother who was one of the best players in the country made me set my standard higher." Dhruvpal likes coaching young Indian players, he feels he would like to give back something to Indian polo.

When asked if women react to him when he says he is a polo player, he looks very innocent and says," No, not really." But after much prodding he laughs and says, "It does make a difference!" If he were not a professional polo player he would be a farmer. He enjoys spending time at his family home in Abhor, Punjab, where he is surrounded by lush green fields, orchards and paddocks where he trains his polo ponies.

Dhruvpal feels Indian polo can improve only with more interaction with players abroad, travelling abroad and playing a season as a team there. Dhruvpal is a young and talented player with potential to rise even higher. With a faraway look in his eyes, he says, "My dream is to play the Argentine Open someday."

Stalwart of Polo in India: SAMIR SUHAG +5

Samir grew up watching his father play polo never wanting to try it. Who would have thought that this soft spoken boy, who was frightened of horses, would someday be India's only 6 goal polo player of recent times.

During the spring of 1989, 17 year old Samir started riding seriously, practicing his stick and ball coached by his father, then Brig Bheem Suhaag and Col Sirohi of the ASC. He played his first game on the Presidents Bodyguard Polo Ground in the summer that year and played his first polo tournament later that fall. He played with the 61 Cavalry team winning the 10 goal tournament in Delhi. He went from a -2 to a +1 player during the span of seven months.

Samir, then played for the Kashmir team, having a very successful season, winning the President's Cup in 1991, with Yuvraj Vikramaditya, Adhiraj Singh and Carlos Urrea. Reflecting on his most memorable win, it was during the same season in Delhi. Arriving at the polo ground with his father, Samir looked wistfully at the IPA trophy shimmering in the sun in front of the grandstand and said to his father, "We have to win this someday". Playing with his father (+4), Col. Pickles Sodhi (+5) and Col. Sirohi (+4), they took home the IPA cup that day, setting a record of some sorts with a father son combo winning a tournament together after years.

Indecision about joining the army and where to go from there, was put at rest as he entered the professional polo world, which was relatively new in India at the time. In 1994, Navin Jindal made him an offer to play and school his horses full time. He played with the Jindal team, as a key player, winning tournaments all over the country.

During the span of his polo career, he has been part of 3 Indian World Cup teams. The first one in 1991 in Malaysia, then in 1995 where they reached the finals in St. Moritz, when India ranked 5th and the last one in 1998 in Australia. In the 1995 World Cup preliminaries played in Zimbabwe, the Indian team, who were the underdogs, played against the strong local team. The Indian team, which consisted of Col. Pinka Virk, Dhruvpal Godara, Manupal Godara and Samir, went out to surprise everyone with a victory, putting India on the international map again for the first time in years. Samir remembers during that match that it was a do or die feeling playing for the country, to win no matter what the odds were.

Samir is known for his long hitting, his ability to get to the ball quickly and carry it with accuracy and speed. In 2000 his handicap was put up to +6 goals, but it was a year of many injuries for this player. The Bombay season started with a serious head injury for Samir, six months later when he was playing at Ramgarh he fractured his collarbone.

The injuries have taken a toll on this young player as he talks about life as a professional player, today he feels if he gets off the ground in one piece, giving it his best shot, he is happy. Life as a polo player is what he would choose all over again minus the injuries and the loss of loved horses.

What is stopping this young player who is still in the prime of his career from achieving and even higher handicap? He feels it is the lack of opportunity to play competitive polo abroad, he feels unless one has more exposure it is very easy for an Indian player to stagnate. The Indian polo season is only for about 9 months, to play through the summer, have more league tournaments and good coaching is what he feels would help our players reach greater heights. Samir looks back on learning a lot of his polo from not only his father, but from Maharaj Prem Singh who was one of our greatest coaches and also from Maharaj Prem's nephew, Col. Bhawani Singh.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Richard Bach

Richard David Bach (b. June 23, 1936, Oak Park, Illinois) is an American writer. He is widely known as the author of the best-selling novel, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and the 1973 movie based on the book. He is noted for his love of flying and for his books related to air flight and flying in a metaphorical context. He has pursued flying as a hobby since the age of 17.

Life and work
Richard Bach attended Long Beach State College in 1955. He has authored numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970), Illusions (1977), One (1989), and Out of My Mind (1999). Most of his books have been semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalized events from his life to illustrate his philosophy.

He served in the Air Force Reserve as a pilot, and afterwards worked a variety of jobs. He later became a barnstormer. Most of his books involve flight in some way, from the early stories which are straightforwardly about flying aircraft to his later works in which he used flight as a philosophical metaphor. One of his greatest books that many pilots love is A Gift of Wings.

In 1970, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about a seagull who flew for the sake of flying rather than merely to catch food, was published by Macmillan Publishers after the manuscript was turned down by many other publishers. The book, which included unique photos of seagulls in flight, became a number one best-seller on both the fiction and non-fiction lists. The book contained fewer than 10,000 words, yet it broke all hardcover sales records since Gone with the Wind. It sold more than 1,000,000 copies in 1972 alone.[1]The surprise success of the book was widely reported in the media in the early 1970s.[2]

In 1973, the book was turned into a movie produced by Paramount Pictures Corporation. The movie included a soundtrack by Neil Diamond.
A second book, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, published in 1977, tells the story of the author's encounter with a modern-day messiah who has decided to quit.

Bach has retained a dedicated fan base throughout the years.[3] During the 1990s, Bach appeared online at Compuserve, where he answered e-mails personally. Bach was interviewed in April, 2005 on Conscious Talk Radio, and this interview was replayed a few times in 2006. Click here to download it.
Bach had six children with his first wife, Bette. They divorced in 1970. His son, Jonathan, is a journalist, who wrote a book about growing up without knowing his father, Richard; and then later meeting him as a college student. (Richard gave his approval; although he noted that it included some personal history he'd "rather not see in print").[4]

In 1977 Bach married actress Leslie Parrish whom he met during the making of the Jonathan Livingston Seagull movie.[5] She was a major element in two of his subsequent books — The Bridge Across Forever and One — which primarily focused on their relationship and Bach's concept of soulmates. They divorced in 1999.

Bach espouses a consistent philosophy in his books: Our true nature is not bound by space or time, we are expressions of the Is (see: Non-duality), we are not truly born nor truly die, and we enter this world of Seems and Appearances for fun, learning, to share experiences with those we care for, to explore - and most of all to learn how to love and love again.

Bach, Richard, "Stranger to the Ground" (1963) Dell reprint (1990), ISBN 0-440-20658-8
Bach, Richard, "Biplane" (1966) Dell Reprint (1990), ISBN 0-440-20657-X
Bach, Richard, "Nothing by Chance" (1969) Dell Reprint 1990, ISBN 0-440-20656-1
Bach, Richard "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" (1970) Macmillan, ISBN 0-380-01286-3
Bach, Richard, "A Gift of Wings" (1974) Dell Reissue (1989), ISBN 0-440-20432-1
Bach, Richard, "There's No Such Place As Far Away" (1976) Delta (1998), ISBN 0-385-31927-4
Bach, Richard, "Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah" (1977, ISBN 0-385-28501-9
Bach, Richard, "The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story" (1984) Dell Reissue (1989), ISBN 0-440-10826-8
Bach, Richard, "One" (1988) Dell Reissue 1989, ISBN 0-440-20562-X
Bach, Richard, "Running from Safety" (1995) Delta, ISBN 0-385-31528-7
Bach, Richard, "Out of My Mind" (2000) Delta, ISBN 0-385-33490-7
Bach, Richard, "The Ferret Chronicles":
"Air Ferrets Aloft" (2002) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-2753-0
"Rescue Ferrets at Sea" (2002) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-2750-6
"Writer Ferrets: Chasing the Muse" (2002) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-2754-9
"Rancher Ferrets on the Range" (2003) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-2755-7
"The Last War: Detective Ferrets and the Case of the Golden Deed" (2003) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-2756-5
"Curious Lives: Adventures from the Ferret Chronicles" (2005) Hampton Roads Publishing Company, ISBN 1-57174-457-6
Bach, Richard, "Flying: The Aviation Trilogy" (2003) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-4747-7
Bach, Richard, "Messiah's Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul" (2004), ISBN 1-57174-421-5

Language & Society

Language in Its Social Setting

Language is a social phenomenon. In America — as anywhere — it’s shaped by contact, conflict and incredible cultural complexity. Dennis Baron explains how. Read Summary

Is E-mail ruining the language?

Can I be fired for speaking Spanish on the job?

Are we less literate than we used to be?

These questions reflect how language is a social phenomenon. Although many linguists believe that humans are genetically programmed to learn language, it takes social contact to flip the switch that makes us talk. So, linguists study not simply the sounds, grammars and meanings of the world’s languages, but also how they function in their social settings

Language varies according to the social structure of a local speech community. For example, American English has varieties, dialects that are subsets of the larger linguistic whole called English. Some dialects vary by geography: In the North, you put the groceries in a bag; in the South, you put them in a sack.

Language also expresses solidarity or group identity. Language can separate insiders from outsiders, those in the know from those who didn’t get the memo, the cool from the pathetically unhip, and, in the case of the Biblical shibboleth, friend from foe.

Members of small groups such as families, couples, friends, roommates and work groups all give their language a spin suited to the group’s interests and experience. Members of a profession develop a jargon, an internally efficient job-related shorthand that permits them to impress, mystify or stonewall outsiders. In simple two-person conversation, language may reflect power differentials: One person may take charge while the other plays a subordinate role.

We sometimes label the language of larger social groups a social dialect, with differences in pronunciation and usage based on social class, ethnic factors, contact with other languages, gender or age. Let’s take a look at some issues in social dialects.

Ebonics Emerges
African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) — sometimes known as Black English or Ebonics — is used by many African Americans, particularly those from working-class or inner-city areas. Black English clearly differs from other varieties of English in its vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, but simply attaching it to one population group oversimplifies a complex situation.

Many African Americans do not speak Black English; many non-African Americans who live in inner cities do. Complicating matters further, African American influence — music, fashion, language — on American culture is very strong. As a result, some white American teenagers from the suburbs consciously imitate Black language features, to express their own group identity and shared opposition to mainstream culture.

Many people — African American or not — look down on Black English as an undesirable or ignorant form of the language. Others see it as a proud and positive symbol of the African-American experience. A few political activists or Afro-centrists insist that Ebonics isn’t a dialect of English at all but rather a separate language with roots in Africa. And many people accept Black English as an important social dialect but argue that its speakers must also master standard English in order to succeed in America today.

The debate illustrates a larger sociolinguistic point. We all master several different varieties of our language, standard and less so, that we deploy depending upon social contexts. In unfamiliar social situations, we feel linguistically inadequate and “don’t know the right thing to say.” Yet we can pick up the lingo of a new context if we are exposed to it long enough.

Word Wars Between the Sexes
Gender differences in the use of English are subtle. Nonetheless, notions of men’s and women’s language use abound: Men are said to swear a lot, to be more coarse and casual. Studies claim that American women know more color terms and men know tool names; that women use more qualifiers and diminutives; and that young women are more likely than men to end a declarative sentence with a rise in pitch, as if it were a question? In meetings or other professional contexts, men are said to speak more than women and interrupt them more often. On the other hand, women seem to carry the burden in mixed-gender conversations.

Clearly, these stereotypes aren’t very trustworthy. It’s probably not so much gender as gender roles that influence linguistic behavior. As gender roles change, gender differences in speech frequently disappear. Women who work as mechanics know the names of tools, and men who paint and decorate have to know their color terms.

Gender roles change, but they may not disappear. For example, although the taboo against women swearing has eased, both men and women students still report some degree of discomfort when women swear in mixed company.

Read on:

Sociolinguistic Short-Takes

Do people swear more today than they used to? We have no way to quantify how much people used to swear, or even how much they swear today. It would be fair to say that people today swear more in public (and on radio and television and in film) than they did in the 1940s or 50s.

Is the language of blacks and whites diverging? Some observers worry that the social distance between whites and African Americans may be increasing, which could in turn lead to greater linguistic differences.

Is E-mail ruining the language? Critics object that it encourages misspelling and grammatical error, makes people lazy, and is impersonal and overly informal. Even so, standards for e-mail started to emerge as soon as it became common. E-mail programs come with spell- and grammar- checkers, advanced formatting capabilities, and graphics and sound. Many e-mail writers want their e-mails to read as if they have been written by someone who knows how to do things right.

Where do language standards come from? Language standards — ideas about correct spelling, usage, grammar, and style — emerge by consensus within communities of language users. In some countries, government offices or language academies devise language policy, draw up standards and attempt to enforce them. There are no such mechanisms for English, though teachers, editors, writers, and self-appointed experts serve as language guardians, transmitting ideas of correctness and attempting to secure their adoption. Despite their efforts, there is no single standard of correctness in English. Instead, there are multiple standards that emerge from fluid communication contexts.

Can I be fired for speaking Spanish on the job? That depends. Federal courts frequently side with the workers’ right to use any language they want, particularly when on breaks or talking privately. The courts also allow employers to specify the language to be used when employees deal directly with the public, and more than half the states have adopted English as their official language — a designation more symbolic than enforceable. English doesn’t need the protection of being an official language: the number of English speakers in America is rising and will not decline anytime soon. No other language, including Spanish, is positioned to become the majority national language. However, designation of English as official can put a chill on the use of other languages. In a period of increased globalization, a knowledge of the world’s languages should help rather than hurt the U.S. position among the nations of the world.

Are literacy rates really too low? We all agree that literacy — the ability to read and write — is one of the most important things that people need to succeed. Yet as experts disagree over how to define and measure literacy, the stakes have gone up. Is a high-school education enough? Can we say that a given score on a standardized test guarantees a comparable level of performance in real-world reading, writing, and calculating?

Every few years we have a literacy scare. Most recently, a report in the 1990s warned that almost half of American adults couldn’t read, write, or calculate at adequate levels. At the same time, the vast majority of people interviewed considered their reading, writing and math perfectly adequate for their jobs and other everyday tasks. So, the assessment could simply mean Americans are too complacent about their literacy … or that testing doesn’t really measure what we need to know.

After a report on literacy in crisis, politicians legislate more standardized testing. This forces schools to redirect their efforts to get students past the standardized tests. Scores go up, things settle down for a while, then the next report comes out and the crisis cycle starts again.

Standardized tests have some ability to predict actual performance. But when schools devote too much time to test-taking skills and too little time to the actual literacy practices the tests are supposed to measure, actual progress is stymied. A more reliable measure of literacy might be the amount of time spent in and out of class on reading, writing, and numeracy. A 2003 report from the Brookings Institution indicates that two-thirds of American high school students spend less than an hour a day on homework. This suggests that students don’t spend enough time on actual literacy tasks — and that is something that no test can address.

Language Prejudice

We often make snap decisions about character and intelligence based on our language biases. Decisions that can at times have devasting consequences.

Language Myth # 17

They Speak Really Bad English Down South and in New York City

Southern pride falters in the face of linguistic stereotyping … and New Yorkers are uncharacteristically abashed about their accents. Regional residents buy into the idea that something’s wrong with their dialect, reports Dennis R. Preston. (The research cited in this essay was first published in 1999.)

Imagine this. You have persistent bad headaches. Aspirin and other miracle products don’t make them go away. Your family doctor decides it’s time to have a specialist’s opinion. He hasn’t said the words, but you turn the terrible possibility over in your mind –‘Brain tumor!’

You appear at the New York City office of Dr. N.V. Cramden, Brain Surgeon; you sign in and await the beginning of the process that will reveal your fate. Cramden approaches and speaks:

‘Hey, how’s it goin’? Rotten break, huh? Ya got a pain in da noggin’. Don’t sweat it; I’m gonna fix ya up. Hey, nois! Ovuh heah! Bring me dat watchamacallit. How da hell am I gonna take care of my patient heah if you don’t hand me dem tools? Dat’s a goil.’

You still have your clothes on (it’s a brain surgeon’s office, right?), so you just head for the door, stopping at the front desk and tell the receptionist that someone in the examining room is posing as Dr. Cramden. Maybe you never return to your trusted family doctor, since he or she has sent you to a quack. Whatever your decision, you do not continue under the care of Dr. Cramden.

Linguists know that language variety does not correlate with intelligence or competence, so Dr. Cramden could well be one of the best brain surgeons in town. Nevertheless, popular associations of certain varieties of English with professional and intellectual competence run so deep that Dr. Cramden will not get to crack many crania unless he learns to sound very different.

A primary linguistic myth, one nearly universally attached to minorities, rural people and the less well educated, extends in the United States even to well-educated speakers of some regional varieties. That myth, of course, is that some varieties of a language are not as good as others.

Professional linguists are happy with the idea that some varieties of a language are more standard than others; that is a product of social facts. Higher-status groups impose their behaviors (including language) on others, claiming theirs are the standard ones. Whether you approve of that or not, the standard variety is selected through purely social processes and has not one whit more logic, historical consistency, communicative expressivity or internal complexity or systematicity than any other variety. Since every region has its own social stratification, every area also has a share of both standard and nonstandard speakers.

I admit to a little cheating above. I made Dr. Cramden a little more of a tough kid from the streets than I should have. The truth is, I need not have done so. Although linguists believe that every region has its own standard variety, there is widespread belief in the US that some regional varieties are more standard than others and, indeed, that some regional varieties are far from the standard – particularly those of the South and New York City (NYC).

Please understand the intensity of this myth, for it is not a weakly expressed preference; in the US it runs deep, strong and true, and evidence for it comes from what real people (not professional linguists) believe about language variety. First, consider what northern US (Michigan) speakers have to say about the South:

(Mimics Southern speech) ‘As y’all know, I came up from Texas when I was about twenty-one. And I talked like this. Probably not so bad, but I talked like this; you know I said “thiyus” [“this”] and “thayut” [“that”] and all those things. And I had to learn reeeal [elongated vowel] fast how to talk like a Northerner. ’Cause if I talked like this people’d think I’m the dumbest … around.
‘Because of TV, though, I think there’s a kind of standard English that’s evolving. And the kind of thing you hear on the TV is something that’s broadcast across the country, so most people are aware of that, but there are definite accents in the South.’

Next, consider NYC, which fares no better, even in self-evaluation, as the American sociolinguist William Labov has shown. Here are some opinions he collected in the mid 1960s:

‘I’ll tell you, you see, my son is always correcting me. He speaks very well – the one that went to [two years of] college. And I’m glad that he corrects me – because it shows me that there are many times when I don’t pronounce my words correctly.’

‘Bill’s college alumni group – we have a party once a month in Philadelphia. Well, now I know them about two years and every time we’re there – at a wedding, at a party, a shower – they say, if someone new is in the group: “Listen to Jo Ann talk!” I sit there and I babble on, and they say, “Doesn’t she have a ridiculous accent!” and “It’s so New Yorkerish and all!”’

Such anecdotal evidence could fill many pages and includes even outsider imitations of the varieties, such as mock partings for Southerners – ‘Y’all come back and see us sometime now, ya heah?’ – and the following putative NYC poem which plays on the substitutions of t- and d-like for th-sounds and the loss of the r-sound (and modification of the vowel) in such words as ‘bird’:

T’ree little boids sittin’ on a coib,
Eatin’ doity woims and sayin’ doity woids.

These informal assessments are bolstered by quantitative studies. Nearly 150 people from south-eastern Michigan (of European-American ethnicity, of both sexes and of all ages and social classes) rated (on a scale of one to ten) the degree of ‘correctness’ of English spoken in the fifty states, Washington, DC, and NYC. Figure 1 shows the average scores for this task.

Read on:

Dennis R. Preston (University Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, MSU; Ph.D., UW-Madison) has been visiting professor at the Universities of Indiana Southeast, Hawaii, Arizona, and Michigan and Fulbright Senior Researcher in Poland and Brazil. He was Co-Director of the 1990 TESOL Institute and Director of the 2003 LSA Institute, both at MSU. He was President of the American Dialect Society (2001-2) and served on the Executive Boards of that Society and the International Conference on Methods in Dialectology, the editorial boards of Language, the International Journal of Applied Linguistics, and the Journal of Sociolinguistics, and as a reader for numerous other journals, publishers, and granting agencies. His work focuses on sociolinguistics, dialectology, and ethnography, and minority language and variety education . His is perhaps best known for the revitalization of folk linguistics, particularly perceptual dialectology, and attempts to provide variationist accounts of second language acquisition. He has directed three recent NSF grants, two in folk linguistics and one in language variation and change and is invited frequently for presentations in both academic and popular venues. His most recent book-length publications are, with Nancy Niedzielski, Folk Linguistics (2000), with Daniel Long, A Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology, Volume II (2002), and Needed Research in American Dialects (2003). He is a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and will be awarded the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Polish Republic in 2004. He is a recipient of the MSU Distinguished Faculty Award and the Paul Varg Alumni Award of the College of Arts and Letters at MSU.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Social Identity

Language is more than just words. It’s a powerful social behavior that speaks volumes about who we are, where we come from and how we relate. Walt Wolfram explains how the field of sociolinguistics has taken on new significance as a means of understanding our world.

Language is one of the most powerful emblems of social behavior. In the normal transfer of information through language, we use language to send vital social messages about who we are, where we come from, and who we associate with. It is often shocking to realize how extensively we may judge a person’s background, character, and intentions based simply upon the person's language, dialect, or, in some instances, even the choice of a single word.

Given the social role of language, it stands to reason that one strand of language study should concentrate on the role of language in society.

Sociolinguistics has become an increasingly important and popular field of study, as certain cultures around the world expand their communication base and intergroup and interpersonal relations take on escalating significance.

The basic notion underlying sociolinguistics is quite simple: Language use symbolically represents fundamental dimensions of social behavior and human interaction. The notion is simple, but the ways in which language reflects behavior can often be complex and subtle. Furthermore, the relationship between language and society affects a wide range of encounters--from broadly based international relations to narrowly defined interpersonal relationships.
For example, sociolinguists might investigate language attitudes among large populations on a national level, such as those exhibited in the US with respect to the English-only amendment--the legislative proposal to make English the ‘official’ language of the US. Similarly, we might study the status of French and English in Canada or the status of national and vernacular languages in the developing nations of the world as symbols of fundamental social relations among cultures and nationalities. In considering language as a social institution, sociolinguists often use sociological techniques involving data from questionnaires and summary statistical data, along with information from direct observation.

A slightly different concern with language and society focuses more closely on the effect of particular kinds of social situations on language structure. For example, language contact studies focus on the origin and the linguistic composition of pidgin and creole languages. These special language varieties arise when speakers from mutually unintelligible language groups need a common language for communication. Throughout the world, there are many sociohistorical situations that have resulted in these specialized language situations--in the Caribbean, Africa, South America, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In examining language contact situations, it is also possible to examine not only the details of a particular language but also the social and linguistic details that show how bilingual speakers use each language and switch between them.

Another approach to language and society focuses on the situations and uses of language as an activity in its own right. The study of language in its social context tells us quite a bit about how we organize our social relationships within a particular community. Addressing a person as ‘Mrs.’, ‘Ms.’, or by a first name is not really about simple vocabulary choice but about the relationship and social position of the speaker and addressee. Similarly, the use of sentence alternatives such as Pass the salt, Would you mind passing the salt, or I think this food could use a little salt is not a matter of simple sentence structure; the choice involves cultural values and norms of politeness, deference, and status.
In approaching language as a social activity, it is possible to focus on discovering the specific patterns or social rules for conducting conversation and discourse. We may, for example, describe the rules for opening and closing a conversation, how to take conversational turns, or how to tell a story or joke.
It is also possible to examine how people manage their language in relation to their cultural backgrounds and their goals of interaction. Sociolinguists might investigate questions such as how mixed-gender conversations differ from single-gender conversations, how differential power relations manifest themselves in language forms, how caregivers let children know the ways in which language should be used, or how language change occurs and spreads to communities. To answer these questions related to language as social activity, sociolinguists often use ethnographic methods. That is, they attempt to gain an understanding of the values and viewpoints of a community in order to explain the behaviors and attitudes of its members.

Two trends have characterized the development of sociolinguistics over the past several decades. First, the rise of particular specializations within this field has coincided with the emergence of more broadly based social and political issues. Thus, the focus on themes such as language and nationalism, language and ethnicity, and language and gender has corresponded with the rise of related issues in society at large. Second, specialists who examine the role of language and society have become more and more interested in applying the results of their studies to the broadly based social, educational, and political problems that probably gave rise to their emergence as sociolinguistic themes to begin with. Sociolinguistics thus offers a unique opportunity to bring together theory, description, and application in the study of language.

Suggested Reading/Additional Resources
The Center for Applied Linguistics The Washington, D.C. based organization serves as resource for understanding language and culture.
Chaika, Elaine. Language: The Social Mirror. 3rd ed. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1994.
Coulmas, Florian, ed. The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.
Macaulay, Ronald K. S. The Social Art: Language and Its Uses. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Trudgill, Peter. Sociolinguistics: An introduction to language and society. London: Penguin Books, 1995.
Wardhaugh, Ronald. An introduction to sociolinguistics. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992.
Wolfram, Walt. Dialects and American English. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1991. (reissued by Basil Blackwell in 1998 as American English: Dialects and variation).

Walt Wolfram is the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor at North Carolina State University, where he directs the North Carolina Language and Life Project. He has pioneered research on social and ethnic dialects since the 1960s, publishing 16 books and more than 250 articles on language varieties such as African American English, Latino English, Appalachian English, and Southern Vernacular English. Wolfram is deeply involved in the application of sociolinguistic information and the dissemination of knowledge about dialects to the public. In this connection, he has been involved in the production of TV documentaries, museum exhibits, and other community-based dialect awareness initiatives; he also served as primary linguistic consultant for the Children's Television Workshop, the producers of Sesame Street. He has served as President of the Linguistic Society of America, the American Dialect Society, and the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics.

What Speech Do We Like Best?

Watch Your Language

What Does Your Speech Reveal? We use language to express our identity. Our way of speaking varies and changes to reflect who we are and who we want to be. Carmen Fought asks the provocative questions: What does your speech say about you? And why is language “prejudice” harmful?

Every time you speak, you give listeners information about who you are and where you come from. Many of us have traveled around the United States and had people ask us, Oh, are you from New York/Chicago/Texas? Or at least, Where are you from? (with the unstated subtext: …because you sure ain’t from around here!) Their guesses might be based on our phonology (the sounds we use, also called accent) or on our choice of particular LEXICAL ITEMS (in other words, WORDS: don’t get people started on soda vs. pop).

If we speak a very ‘standard’ variety of English (even linguists have trouble defining exactly what ‘standard’ means), it might be harder for people to tell what region of the country we’re from. Of course, the mere fact that we’ve learned a standard dialect can tell someone listening to us many things. Perhaps we’ve had a lot of education, or our parents were from the upper middle-class, or we hold a job (such as receptionist or teacher) in which speaking itself is a focus.

In addition to regional origin, our speech can also reveal other things: our age to some extent, our social class and our sex (indeed, people whose sex is often misidentified due to unusually high or low voices often are embarrassed by that).

Interestingly, many of us consider our way of speaking to be neutral. It’s hard for us to hear features of our own speech that might be obvious to people who speak other dialects. When I say dialect, I am using this term in the technical linguistic sense of ‘a variety shared by a group of speakers.’ By this definition, everyone speaks a dialect, not just Andy Griffith and Scarlett O’Hara. Bus drivers, teachers, your neighbors, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and you (whether you know it or not) speak a dialect, too.

Recently, I was talking to a salesperson at a car dealership near my home, in California. At first I assumed that he was from California, because he didn’t have any particular phonological features that would mark him as being from some other part of the country. But while talking with me, he used the expression you might could… (meaning ‘It’s possible that you could…’), a feature we don’t use in California. I asked where he was from. He said that his father had worked for the government, and that growing up he had moved around a lot (which accounted for his lack of a clear regional accent). But he had also spent a large chunk of his childhood in Alabama, a place that does have might could. In fact, when I asked where he was from, he said, “Alabama,” before giving me the rest of the explanation about moving around. And he’d carried might could with him in his linguistic suitcase, all the way to California. Clearly, even small features of our speech can indicate things about our backgrounds.

But how exactly does this happen? Sociolinguists study how our way of speaking varies and changes to reflect who we are and who we want to be. Different communities have different needs, histories and linguistic resources. All this comes out in speakers’ day-to-day lives, reflected in their linguistic choices. Many communities have both relatively standard and non-standard dialects. Individual speakers may be on one end or the other of the continuum or may slide between the two ends.

In some cases, our dialect may reflect our ethnic background. Within a particular area, working-class African-Americans can sound different from working-class European-Americans. In the middle class, this distinction is much less reliable. With middle or upper-class speakers, it may be impossible to tell anything about their ethnicity just from their dialect.

On the other hand, just as there is a vernacular dialect known as African-American English, spoken by many African-Americans across the country, there is also a standard variety of African-American English. This variety combines a standard English grammar with phonological features, intonation patterns and lexical items associated with African-American communities. Standard African-American English is used by many middle-class African-American speakers and indicates their social class or educational background without obscuring ethnic identity in their speech (so that they still “sound black”). The relationship between language and identity can be quite complicated!

Aquí Se Habla English
In Hispanic-American communities, the picture may be clouded in different ways. Here, speakers might on some occasions have to make a choice between languages (English and Spanish) in addition to choosing among different varieties of English. Of course, only bilingual speakers will have this choice. Usually, Latinos and Latinas who are third generation or later grow up monolingual in English. Even some second-generation speakers (or first generation, if they came here very young) might acquire Spanish initially and then lose it as they pass through the English-based school system. Or they may retain only comprehension in Spanish but lose most of their speaking ability, which leads to a situation outsiders may find humorous: conversations in which one party is speaking Spanish (for instance, an elderly grandmother) and the other is speaking English (her adoring — but mostly monolingual — granddaughter).

For those who are bilingual, the decision about which language to use can be tied to complex elements of the social situation, such as age of the addressee, intimacy of the relationship, topic of conversation, etc. An individual assesses these factors (usually without being aware that he or she is doing so) in deciding whether to use English or Spanish.

In most bilingual communities (regardless of the languages involved) there is also a third choice: code-switching, the alternating use of both languages, often within a single sentence or phrase, as in I’m going with her a la esquina (“to the corner”). Rather than being, as many people believe, a “broken” way of speaking, used by people who don’t know either language well, a number of studies have shown that code-switching is more likely to be done by people who are highly fluent in both languages. Code-switching occurs in bilingual communities all over the world, and seems to be a way of exploiting linguistic resources that comes naturally to the human brain. A fluent bilingual flowing back and forth between his or her two languages can sound almost musical. And even if people who aren’t used to code-switching find it amusing, it remains a symbol of bicultural identity and an important linguistic resource for the community.

America’s bilingual Latino communities are what linguists call “language contact areas.” Like the world’s other bilingual or multilingual areas, they offer us the chance to study phenomena not found in monolingual communities. For example, when two languages coexist together in one community for a long time, they come to influence each other. Some people might respond by saying, “See! I knew it! Code-switching IS bad, after all — it destroys BOTH languages!” In reality, this mutual influence is not specifically a result of code-switching. Furthermore, change and deterioration are not the same thing. Other essays on this Web site address this issue in more detail. I will simply note that it is the nature of all living languages to change. This process is natural and inherently interesting, rather than lamentable.

Out of the Mouths of Babes: From Pidgin to Dialect

In Los Angeles’ Mexican-American communities, the Spanish spoken is distinct from the Spanish spoken in Mexico. For example, speakers say Te llamo para trás, a literal translation of the English phrase I’ll call you back — a phrase not used by speakers in monolingual Spanish-speaking communities (in Mexico or elsewhere). The English of L.A.’s Mexican-American communities is also different. It includes a variety called Chicano English that reveals just how thoroughly social context can affect language structure. When recent groups of Mexican immigrants arrived in Los Angeles, they learned English as a second language. Most of us know someone who immigrated to this country as an adult and speaks English with a noticeable “foreign accent.” Like other adult second-language learners, the early Mexican immigrants spoke an “accented” variety of English that included phonological and other patterns from their first language, Spanish. The children of these immigrants, however, generally grew up using both Spanish and English. They used the “learner English” of the community as a basis for developing a new, native dialect of English. Of course, the kids didn’t sit down and say to themselves “We need a better dialect of English than our parents have!” So what did happen, exactly? The way that Chicano English developed tells us something about language, cognition and the human brain.
The emergence of Chicano English is similar in some ways to the development of a special set of languages called pidgins and creoles. A pidgin is a simplified language that develops when groups of adult speakers without a common language come into prolonged contact. It has no native speakers, but is spoken as a second language, varies a lot from individual to individual, and is more simplified in certain ways than other languages. When children grow up in a community where a pidgin is the predominant language, they quickly —within a generation — make it more elaborate (by putting in more complex grammatical structures), and more stable, with less individual variation. This newer variety eventually becomes a creole, which despite its unusual origins, is linguistically indistinguishable from languages that develop in other settings.
Linguists take great interest in how children elaborate and ‘strengthen’ a pidgin’s language structure in this way. How do children know what to add? How do they agree on the elements of the system? Linguists hope to be able to address these complex questions someday.
The history of Chicano English is similar. The non-native English of the early adult Mexican immigrants provided a basis for their children to develop a more stable and consistent dialect, Chicano English. Now Chicano English has rules of its own that set it apart both from Spanish and other English dialects.

By the way, you can’t tell from hearing a person speak Chicano English whether he or she also speaks Spanish. You may think you are hearing a “Spanish accent” because of the influence of Spanish on the development of Chicano English. But whatever you might think you hear, many people who speak Chicano English are monolingual, especially if they are third generation or later. You can’t tell if they are bilingual just from listening to their English. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

So, earlier I said that how we speak reveals things about who we are to the people around us, and that’s true. But sometimes the opposite happens; sometimes people guess wrongly about us from our speech. The misperception of Chicano-English speakers (such as guessing that they have a Spanish accent when in fact they don’t know any Spanish) is a good example. In fact, some monolingual English-speaking kids have had to take special tests for “limited English” speakers (tests that were supposed to be for bilinguals!) because they spoke Chicano English.

These types of linguistic misperceptions are among the reasons why sociolinguistics is important to our society. Often, children who speak non-standard dialects may be inaccurately classified as “not knowing much English” or even “having a speech defect,” with terrible consequences for them. We hope that we can get more information into the educational system about how dialects work. In addition, we hope that by describing language patterns in more detail, we can dispel myths that lead to language prejudice — for example, that someone who code switches doesn’t speak either language well. Finally, studying languages in contact areas helps us to learn more about social organization, as well as about the remarkable resources of the human brain.

phonology: the sounds of a particular language or dialect
accent: like phonology, has to do with sounds; when a dialect has a different phonology from our own we tend to perceive that as an ‘accent’
dialect: a variety of a language shared by a group of speakers
vernacular: a variety of a language that tends to be used by speakers in more intimate or informal situations
African-American English: a dialect of English spoken by many (but not all) African-Americans in the U.S., that shares a set of grammatical and phonological rules
intonation pattern: the rises and falls in the pitch of the voice, for example, when your voice rises in pitch for a yes/no question.
code-switching: the alternating use of two (or more) languages, often within a single sentence or phrase
Chicano English: a dialect of English spoken by many (but not all) Mexican-Americans in the U.S., that shares a set of grammatical and phonological rules
pidgin: a simplified language that develops in some contact situations, which is only spoken as a second language and varies a lot from individual to individual
creole: a variety that develops from a pidgin, but is more elaborate and stable and is used by some speakers as a first language.

Suggested Reading/Additional Resources
Valdes, Guadalupe. 1988. The Language Situation of Mexican Americans. In S. McKay and S. Wong, eds., Language Diversity: Problem or Resource?: A Social And Educational Perspective on Language Minorities in the United States. Cambridge and New York: Newbury House.
Zentella, Ana Celia. 1997. Growing up bilingual. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Lippi-Green, Rosina. 1997. English with an accent. New York: Routledge.
Wolfram, Walt and Natalie Schilling-Estes. 1999. American English. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
Fought, Carmen. 2003. Chicano English in Context. Palgrave/MacMillan Publishers.

Carmen Fought is an associate professor of linguistics, Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and author of Chicano English in Context (Palgrave/Macmillan) and the editor of Sociolinguistic Variation (Oxford University Press). Her research focuses on the dialects of California, from those associated with Latinos and Latinas to the infamous "Valley Girl" way of speaking. Dr. Fought is also studying the representation of language in the media, including films, television and commercials.

Friday, June 15, 2007

My Comments: Let's Log Off!

Let's Log Off -- now.
Let's go back to . . . .
Homing Pigeons
Shady nook under that old ban'yan tree . . . cozy, perfect place for reading
Let's Log Off -- now.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Let's Log Off!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My Comments: The Railway Man

I’ve read this book--long-ago. There’s some sort of analogy something in the very beginning of it—it’s this word: “inevitability”– That’s quite profound and remarkable. I’d posted this query on Yahoo! Answers too. If you’ve this book—please mail me just that analogy part of it….barely two lines something.

The Railway Man by Eric Lomax

Eric Lomax, a British army soldier, was captured by the Japanese during the Singapore campaign of 1942. A railroad buff since a child, he took strange pleasure in his work as a POW on the Burma-Siam Railroad, which was later the subject of the film Bridge Over the River Kwai. When his captors discovered his detailed drawings of the railway, he was suspected as a spy and tortured for years. Fifty years later he discovered that the interpreter during his tortures was still alive. The two arranged a meeting and Lomax forgave him. Here is the exciting, moving and truthful account.
Lomax, a British Army signals officer, was captured by the victorious Japanese during the Singapore campaign in 1942. Fascinated by railroads ever since his childhood in Edinburgh, he took what pleasure he could in the irony of his slave-labor assignment as a POW: the construction of the Burma-Siam Railroad, made famous later in the David Lean film Bridge over the River Kwai. When guards discovered his lovingly detailed map of the right-of-way, Lomax was turned over to the Japanese secret police as a suspected spy. In the subsequent torture sessions, the interpreter, a young man named Nagase Takeshi, played a prominent role in the effort to break him down. Half a century later, by what he calls "an incredible and precious coincidence," Lomax learned that Takeshi was still living. A meeting of reconciliation at the Kwai River, which Lomax at first suspected was a fraudulent publicity stunt, was arranged. His graceful and restrained account of how the two men eventually became "blood-brothers" after Lomax granted Takeshi full forgiveness is deeply moving.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Saroooooooooooo is a copycat! :-)

(Dancing with her, with a look of utter rapture on my face!)

Monday, June 11, 2007


WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

India at a Glance

The civilization of India is one of the oldest civilizations in the World, spanning more than 4000 years and witnessing the rise and fall of several Empires, and projecting a unique assimilation of various cultures and heritage. The Country has always been portrayed as a land of spiritual integrity with professors of Philosophy, who have engineered the magnanimity of its nationalism. One of the oldest scriptures in the World, the four-volume Vedas that many regard as the repository of national thoughts, which have anticipated some of the modern scientific discoveries, has been created in the orb of this myth oriented Country. This strong affinity with religion and mythology has been reflected time and again through various art forms and performing arts, which are symbolical of the composite culture of India. Unity in diversity is another facet of the Country’s inherent nationalism, which had been fused by the feeling of national fervour incited by various foreign invasions that ever made its way to the Indian shores. Religious tolerance and cultural amalgamation have given shape to a uniquely secular Nation, which has created an impressive status of itself in the global arena.

INDIA is one of the oldest civilisations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. It has achieved multifaceted socio-economic progress during the last 59 years of its Independence. India has become self-sufficient in agricultural production, and is now the tenth industrialised country in the world and the sixth nation to have gone into outer space to conquer nature for the benefit of the people. It covers an area of 32,87,263 sq km, extending from the snow-covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south. As the seventh largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.

Lying entirely in the northern hemisphere, the mainland extends between latitudes 8°4' and 37°6' north, longitudes 68°7' and 97°25' east, and measures about 3,214 km from north to south between the extreme latitudes and about 2,933 km from east to west between the extreme longitudes. It has a land frontier of about 15,200 km. The total length of the coastline of the mainland, Lakshadweep Islands, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is 7,516.6 km.

Interesting facts about India

The name 'India' is derived from the River Indus, the valleys around which were the home of the early settlers. The Aryan worshippers referred to the river Indus as the Sindhu.

The Persian invaders converted it into Hindu. The name `Hindustan' combines Sindhu and Hindu and thus refers to the land of the Hindus.

Chess was invented in India.

Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus are studies, which originated in India.
The 'Place Value System' and the 'Decimal System' were developed in India in 100 B.C.

The World's First Granite Temple is the Brihadeswara Temple at Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu. The shikhara of the temple is made from a single 80-tonne piece of granite. This magnificient temple was built in just five years, (between 1004 AD and 1009 AD) during the reign of Rajaraja Chola.

India is the largest democracy in the world, the 6th largest Country in the world, and one of the most ancient civilizations.

The game of Snakes & Ladders was created by the 13th century poet saint Gyandev. It was originally called 'Mokshapat'. The ladders in the game represented virtues and the snakes indicated vices. The game was played with cowrie shells and dices. In time, the game underwent several modifications, but its meaning remained the same, i.e good deeds take people to heaven and evil to a cycle of re-births.

The world's highest cricket ground is in Chail, Himachal Pradesh. Built in 1893 after levelling a hilltop, this cricket pitch is 2444 meters above sea level.

India has the largest number of Post Offices in the world.

The largest employer in the world is the Indian Railways, employing over a million people.

The world's first university was established in Takshila in 700 BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.

Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to mankind. The Father of Medicine, Charaka, consolidated Ayurveda 2500 years ago.

India was one of the richest countries till the time of British rule in the early 17th Century. Christopher Columbus, attracted by India's wealth, had come looking for a sea route to India when he discovered America by mistake.

The Art of Navigation & Navigating was born in the river Sindh over 6000 years ago. The very word Navigation is derived from the Sanskrit word 'NAVGATIH'. The word navy is also derived from the Sanskrit word 'Nou'.
Bhaskaracharya rightly calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the Sun hundreds of years before the astronomer Smart. According to his calculation, the time taken by the Earth to orbit the Sun was 365.258756484 days.

The value of "pi" was first calculated by the Indian Mathematician Budhayana, and he explained the concept of what is known as the Pythagorean Theorem. He discovered this in the 6th century, long before the European mathematicians.

Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus also orignated in India. Quadratic Equations were used by Sridharacharya in the 11th century. The largest numbers the Greeks and the Romans used were 106 whereas Hindus used numbers as big as 10*53 (i.e 10 to the power of 53) with specific names as early as 5000 B.C. during the Vedic period. Even today, the largest used number is Tera: 10*12(10 to the power of 12).

Until 1896, India was the only source of diamonds in the world (Source : Gemological Institute of America).

The Baily Bridge is the highest bridge in the world. It is located in the Ladakh valley between the Dras and Suru rivers in the Himalayan mountains. It was built by the Indian Army in August 1982.

Sushruta is regarded as the Father of Surgery. Over 2600 years ago Sushrata & his team conducted complicated surgeries like cataract, artificial limbs, cesareans, fractures, urinary stones, plastic surgery and brain surgeries.
Usage of anesthesia was well known in ancient Indian medicine. Detailed knowledge of anatomy, embryology, digestion, metabolism, physiology, etiology, genetics and immunity is also found in many ancient Indian texts.

India exports software to 90 countries.

The four religions born in India - Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, are followed by 25% of the world's population.

Jainism and Buddhism were founded in India in 600 B.C. and 500 B.C. respectively.

Islam is India's and the world's second largest religion.

There are 300,000 active mosques in India, more than in any other country, including the Muslim world.

The oldest European church and synagogue in India are in the city of Cochin. They were built in 1503 and 1568 respectively.

Jews and Christians have lived continuously in India since 200 B.C. and 52 A.D respectively

The largest religious building in the world is Angkor Wat, a Hindu Temple in Cambodia built at the end of the 11th century.

The Vishnu Temple in the city of Tirupathi built in the 10th century, is the world's largest religious pilgrimage destination. Larger than either Rome or
Mecca, an average of 30,000 visitors donate $6 million (US) to the temple everyday.

Sikhism originated in the Holy city of Amritsar in Punjab. Famous for housing the Golden Temple, the city was founded in 1577.

Varanasi, also known as Benaras, was called "the Ancient City" when Lord Buddha visited it in 500 B.C., and is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world today.

India provides safety for more than 300,000 refugees originally from Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who escaped to flee religious and political persecution.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, runs his government in exile from Dharamsala in northern India.

Martial Arts were first created in India, and later spread to Asia by Buddhist missionaries.

Yoga has its origins in India and has existed for over 5,000 years.

Quotes on India

Keith Bellows said: There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won't go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds. It was as if all my life I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor.

Albert Einstein said: We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.

Mark Twain said: India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.

French scholar Romain Rolland said: If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.

My India, My Pride

India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, spanning a period of more than 4000 years, and witnessing the fusion of several customs and traditions, which are reflective of the rich culture and heritage of the Country.

The history of the nation gives a glimpse into the magnanimity of its evolution - from a Country reeling under colonialism, to one of the leading economies in the global scenario within a span of fifty years. More than anything, the nationalistic fervour of the people is the contributing force behind the culmination of such a development. This transformation of the nation instills a sense of national pride in the heart of every Indian within the Country and abroad, and this section is a modest attempt at keeping its flame alive.

Fundamental Rights

The Constitution offers all citizens, individually and collectively, some basic freedoms. These are guaranteed in the Constitution in the form of six broad categories of Fundamental Rights, which are justiciable. Article 12 to 35 contained in Part III of the Constitution deal with Fundamental Rights. These are:

(i) right to equality, including equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment;

(ii) right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation (some of these rights are subject to security of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality);

(iii) right against exploitation, prohibiting all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic in human beings;

(iv) right to freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion;

(v) right of any section of citizens to conserve their culture, language or script, and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice; and

(vi) right to constitutional remedies for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Philip Roth

Philip Roth: Writing Award-Winning Books for Almost 50 Years

His bold stories explore how individuals face the tensions of family, politics, sex and race. Transcript of radio broadcast: 03 June 2007

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Welcome to This is America in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.


And I'm Barbara Klein. This week we tell about Philip Roth. It would be hard to pick an American writer with more published works, critical praise and honors than Philip Roth. He has written more than twenty books and has received almost that many major literary awards.

Both in the United States and internationally, Roth is respected as one of the most important writers of modern times. His intelligent stories have become an important part of literary culture. They explore how individuals face the tensions of family, politics, sex and race.



Philip Roth was born in nineteen thirty-three in Newark, New Jersey. He later went to Bucknell University in Pennsylvania to earn his college degree. At the University of Chicago in Illinois, he earned a master's degree and also taught English. His interest in serious fiction began during college when he read the works of several important American writers. He says the books by writers like Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway were his teachers.
Roth’s first book, "Goodbye, Columbus," was published in nineteen fifty-nine. It was a collection of six short stories. One of the stories, "Defender of the Faith," was also published that year in The New Yorker magazine. It is about a young Jewish soldier training at an American army base at the end of World War Two. He lies to his Jewish army officer in order to get special treatment.
The story caused a great dispute. Jewish religious leaders criticized it. They were angry that Roth wrote about a Jewish teenager who is aggressive and imperfect. These people thought Roth violated his religion and invited discrimination against Jewish people. But literary critics praised this new book. "Goodbye Columbus" received the National Book Award in nineteen sixty.
Philip Roth wrote two more books before publishing "Portnoy's Complaint" in nineteen sixty-nine. This darkly funny book became a bestseller and made its writer very famous. It tells about a middle-class Jewish family in New York City through the eyes of Alexander Portnoy. Alexander wants to be a good Jewish son, but he also feels trapped by the requirements of family life. To make himself feel better, he carries out unusual sexual acts.
“Portnoy’s Complaint” received praise as well as intense criticism. It made some people angry. Jewish religious leaders said this book invited discrimination against Jewish people. One literary critic also denounced Roth himself.
Philip Roth did not welcome this new level of attention. He soon moved from New York City to the countryside. He wrote more books. Several of them are about the character Nathan Zuckerman who is a writer. These include "My Life as a Man" and "The Anatomy Lesson." He also wrote several books whose main character is a man named Philip Roth. These include "Deception" and "Operation Shylock."
Roth explores the differences between imagined stories and real life. Many details about these characters are similar to the real Philip Roth's own life. Critics and readers often like to ask Roth what is true and what is fiction. But Philip Roth's work is much more than a description of himself. He has said that his books are not about whether or not he has lived the experiences described. They are literary objects that require him to see his subjects as clearly as possible, then use his skills of invention.
In nineteen-ninety eight Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for his book “American Pastoral.” Time magazine has listed this book as one of the best one hundred novels in the English language. The story is about a man named Seymour Levov who has what seems to be the perfect American life. He has a nice home, a good job and a loving family.
But his life starts to collapse after his daughter Merry performs an act of terrorism to protest the Vietnam War in the nineteen sixties. Roth expertly describes one family’s difficult situation during a tense time in American history.
In two thousand four Philip Roth published another important book, “The Plot Against America." This book is told from the point of view of a young Jewish boy living with his family in Newark, New Jersey during the nineteen forties. Mister Roth re-imagines the events that led to World War Two.
He writes a different history in which Charles Lindbergh wins the nineteen forty presidential election instead of Franklin Roosevelt. Lindbergh had become a real-life hero after flying across the Atlantic Ocean in nineteen twenty-seven.
In the book, Charles Lindbergh is a great supporter of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. This imagined president decides to keep the United States out of World War Two.
He also establishes a plan to move Jewish families into the middle of the country to break up the close culture of Jewish communities. These events did not take place.
But Roth’s descriptions are so realistic that you have to remind yourself his story is an imagined version of American history. And you realize how easy it could have been for the United States to carry out destructive policies under a strong leader with bad ideas.
Philip Roth's latest book is called "Everyman." It tells about the life and death of an older man from New Jersey. You never learn the name of this main character. The book starts at a funeral and ends on a hospital operating table. The powerful story explores memories from the man's childhood. It gives details about his three marriages and his children. The language of the book is clear and direct. The man often questions death and the thought of no longer existing. He faces the fear of leaving behind life and the people he loves.
Near the end of the book, the main character visits the Jewish cemetery where his parents are buried. He meets an older man who is digging a grave for a funeral. The worker explains how he digs a grave. He says that digging is peaceful work that gives him time to think.
The main character learns that this man had dug the graves of his parents. And he realizes that the man will soon dig his grave also.
"Everyman" might seem like a sad and depressing book. But Roth's skill as a storyteller and his way with language make it pleasurable to read. Roth faces the subject of death honestly and bravely.


Philip Roth recently won the PEN/Faulkner award for "Everyman." It is the largest literary prize judged by writers in the United States. Roth is the only writer to have received this literary prize three times. Last month, Roth attended the PEN/Faulkner ceremony in Washington, D.C. to accept the award. He and the other writers nominated for the award read from their books.
Philip Roth spoke to a group of reporters after the event. He talked about the books he has recently read and enjoyed. This spring he started rereading the books of the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev. He said this writer’s books “First Love” and “Spring Torrents” are wonderful. And they are also short books like “Everyman.”
Roth also talked about how he works. Listen as he describes the demands and rewards of being a writer:

It’s a job. It definitely has not become easier nor has it become harder. It’s work, it’s hard work. And I do it regularly, every day, usually six days, sometimes seven.
I work long days, I work eight, nine, ten hours. And it’s just as taxing as it always was, just as frustrating, just at difficult as it always was.
And at a certain stage in the writing of the book it ceases to be taxing and difficult and you get into a rhythm, and you get it. And then, there is no pleasure like it. Then it’s bliss.
Philip Roth also said he believes that the number of people reading books is decreasing. He says people have a limited amount of free time. They have many television and computer screens to look at instead of reading books. He says that the age of the book is coming to an end and there is nothing to be done about it.
But other people who love books hope Roth’s prediction is wrong. They believe the best way to make sure it does not come true is for people to pick up a book and start reading more. And, if you want to read a good story that will make you think, you can read a book by Philip Roth. His next book, "Exit Ghost", comes out in October.
Our program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein. You can see pictures of Philip Roth at our Web site, You can also find transcripts and audio archives of our programs. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Match Point

A captivating story of class distinctions that evolves into a chilling psychological thriller.

Match Point is “a winning combination of sex, mystery, brilliant writing and first-rate acting that all adds up to one of the most erotic and exhilarating movies in years.”

Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is being torn apart by his desire for two very different women. Marrying Chloe (Emily Mortimer) will bring him a life of wealth and success, but his true passion lies with his brother-in-law’s fiancée, the stunningly sensuous but unpredictable Nola (Scarlett Johansson). Pulsing with tension, Match Point rides the dangerous line between ambition and obsession to an ending as surprising as it is chilling.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

My Comments: Facing Windows

It's a beautiful movie; and this girl is absolutely RAVISHING!

Facing Windows

GIOVANNA MEZZOGIORNO (Giovanna) was born into a show business family, the daughter of actors Vittorio Mezzogiorno and Cecilia Saachi. She studied acting with legendary theatre director Peter Brook before beginning a career in film with an award-winning turn in “The Bride’s Journey” (1997). Her first international role was a supporting part in “Les Miserables” (2000) with Gerard Depardieu and John Malkovich, and the following year she delighted audiences with her role in the award winning “The Last Kiss” (for which she was nominated for her first Italian Academy Award, the David). For “Facing Windows,” Mezzogiorno won the David for Best Actress, as well as Best Actress Awards from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists and at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in Czechoslovakia. Her other starring roles include “Nobel” (2001), “Malefemmene” (2001) and the upcoming “Entrusted” with Klaus Maria Brandauer.