Music Meme

Un autre mème. Musical, cette fois. Mais comme je l’ai reçu en anglais, je posterai en anglais. Allez, c’est pas dur à comprendre !

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I can’t procrastinate any longer. Claude has passed on a music meme to me, and it’s even a chain-letter type meme. But the task looks harmless enough, and I feel guilty anyway because I owe her an email and have been a bad correspondent (in addition to being a bad all-kinds-of-things).#[1] (I promise, I will get around to it! You don’t have to hit me with memes!)

So, here we are:

1. How many music files are there on your computer?

This wasn’t an easy question to answer. My collection is by no means systematic. I’ve digitized far from all my CDs, but on the other hand downloaded some good things recently, though the regular Sunday features at Viewropa. Luckily someone (thank you, anonymous stranger!) pointed me to using the command find /home/chris -name '*mp3' | wc -l in my console window. So the definitive answer is 1673. This is of course incorrect: some of the music files are in Ogg Vorbis format, and some of the .mp3 files are poetry, or the results of my work on Language Log quizzes.

2. Last CD you bought?

I am not sure. It was either the CD that came with a special number of the magazine Les Inrockuptibles (”50 years of rock”, I think), or vocal works: Monteverdi / Kweksilber, Jacobs, Altena, de Lange - Madrigali, with an excellent version of the Lamento d’Ariana (”Lasciate mi morire …”).

3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?

I was not listening to any music when I saw the message, so I am not sure. It might have been Le Voyage de Pénélope by Air (from the CD Moon Safari). This is a new discovery on a recommendation from Morgan, after I introduced him to Mogwai, whom I like a lot (in particular the CD Happy Songs for Happy People). Or maybe Text Adventure’s Kill Meow (from Fantastic Disaster), which I found in the Viewropa listings.

4. Five songs you often listen to or which mean a lot to you?

This is a difficult question. Since it says “songs”, I will stick to the Rock/Pop/Chanson genres and leave out all the classical, baroque (Bach!) and romantic (Brahms!#[2]) music I love. Sometimes, a new song grabs my attention and I can’t help listening to it again and again. Which happened to me recently with viðrar vel til loftárása by Sigur Rós from ágætis byrjun. Maybe it’s the Icelandic characters. The title apparently means “good weather for airstrikes”. Next I’ll nominate Portishead’s Roads, which is rather sublime. In the discipline “French Chanson”, the one that touches me most at the moment is Dis, quand reviendras tu sung by Barbara. From Blues/Soul, it’s a close call; I could name several Aretha Franklin numbers, but it’ll be I Put A Spell on You in the Nina Simone version. And last, for totally different, silly and personal reasons, Eurythmics’ I Love You Like A Ball and A Chain has to take the last free slot.

Music can hurt, the emotional connection may be so strong to make some pieces overwhelming. I didn’t write down any of those — some things are too personal. But then, I don’t actually listen to them very often, and they don’t really give much insight into my tastes.

5. Who are you going to pass this on to and why?

I am passing this task to Matt, who doesn’t seem to mind memes very much; to Stephanie, because I know a bit, but too little about the music she likes, and to Morgan, who should post more.

[1]: And I’m now composting this entry from the second time after losing nearly all of it yesterday when a nasty site blocked my browser. Note: browsers aren’t auto-saving text processors (yet). … Update: this post keeps crashing on me. I don’t know why. [2]: I am German, you know.

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… blogs are talking about society. And language, too, further down.

Firstly, via Laurent at the beautifully redesigned Embruns, we learn from this post by Adrien/Bix that the french “pro-life” activists (they are called les anti-avortement here, by those who don’t agree with them) have found a rather insidious new way to send young women on a guilt trip: by distributing slick, professionally produced mystery CDs with a song called Mon secret on them: a woman being smoothed by her regrets every year around the date when, years ago, she underwent “that nightmare”, her “secret” that weighs heavily on her soul. Only with a bit of detective work can this be traced back to a very well-known anti-abortion organisation (Alliance pour les Droits de la Vie, loosely translated as Alliance for the Right to Live).

The second note lives on Kozlika’s blog (who, incidentally, just installed a blog for ProChoix (”powered by DotClear“), a group, and magazine, that is located right on the other end of the political spectrum from ADV).

The post in question is entitled Les bilingues sont dangereux and, being bilingual, I feel concerned. Not that I disagree in principle, but here the pronouncement comes in the form of the fruits of the “inquiries” (the word, as you will see, seems inappropriate) and deliberations of a parliamentary sub-committee, freely translated the “committee on crime-prevention of the parliamentary panel on homeland security”. For those who read French, the preliminary version of the study can be downloaded (PDF file) from the site of the committee’s chairman.

Much of this text deals with “tracing the path of a young person who deviates from the right path to descend into a life of crime” (or something along these, er, lines). It is full of prejudices, speculation and preconceived ideas that are taken on faith, but presented as if they were scientific fact, in which, unsurprisingly, it is totally lacking.

The story it tells is that of the children of immigrants that become isolated from their peers from age three, become unmanageable around age eight or so, and later drug-addicts and criminals. What does this sad development start with? Mothers “refusing” to speak French with their infants.

I find it very difficult to coherently translate passages from this study in a way that would get across just how nauseating it is, in particular since the writing is a mixture of stylistically and even grammatically poor French, and bureaucratic jargon. Lengthy chunks are available in the French version of this post. So I will offer just a few disjointed snippets:#[1]

Between ages one and three […] If [the parents] are from a foreign country, they should force themselves to speak French at home so that the children get used to only having this language to express themselves […] If it is in the interest of the child, the mothers will cooperate and agree to this. But if they feel that the fathers, who often insist on their country’s patois being spoken, are reticent, they may shy back. […] Between ages four and six: […] Language-related problems if the mother didn’t follow the above recommendations [may appear in pre-school]. The child will then become isolated in his or her class and communicate less and less with classmates. […]

Bilingualism is an advantage for a child except in case he or she has problems because then it becomes an additional problem. In this case it is necessary to ensure that children assimilate French before inculcating a foreign language into them.

I am leaving out the ineluctable path into crime and drugs that a thusly “handicapped” (the comparison is made explicitly) child will undergo and only quoted the most salient bits that are of linguistic interest.

Now, the French public, in particular those who have taken the trouble to educate themselves, know as well as anyone else that this is pure, offensive nonsense. And that even leaving aside the bulk of evidence in favour of early bilingualism (provided there are support structures in place) and letting children naturally pick up whatever language is spoken at home, there is the huge practical problem: parents can’t just decide to speak French with their children if they aren’t fluent in it. Those people seem to be seriously in favour of children growing up without having a language in common with their nearest relatives.

Oh, and of course French linguists and students of linguistic disciplines have reacted immediately — concerning the point I just made and concerning the insulting terms the study uses for the foreign languages that are spoken in French households.

Some have said that this issue doesn’t deserve much attention, given that it’s some legally non-binding pamphlet by a bunch of activist deputies. This doesn’t mean, though, that attitudes like that aren’t, more or less covertly, held by quite a number of people who can now feel validated.

In France, more positive attitudes towards bilingual education in indigenous, “regional” languages have only recently gained foothold in the education establishment, and languages of migrants (Arabic and Chinese, mostly) are taught in a small number of secondary schools. And this progress is fragile. It would be criminal to marginalise some kids even more than they already are in the name of security dogmas.

[1]: The translation is clumsy, sorry, but so is the original.

“… with semantics in mind”

La sémantique pour les adeptes des standards web, c’est primordial. Mais parfois on est à la limite de l’abus lexical.

The W3C markup validator has a “tip of the day” feature.

Earlier, I was working on a bit of site design, and thus used the eminently helpful validation service to debug a bit of xhtml. What gave me a start, though, was the tip that jumped off the screen right into my field of vision:

Use class with semantics in mind.

Linguists, what’s your take on that? Or discourse analysts, for that matter?

(The tips are excellent, for the most part, but their formulation sometimes leaves something to desire. I wonder if I should be glad that more people get to know the word semantics, or preoccupied that few actually have any grasp what it refers to.)

You wouldn’t have thought what you can learn …

J’ai appris un mot anglo-anglais pour faire des grimaçes.

… from reading an article on computer security: The choice of a gurning picture may indicate that the worm’s writer is British. Gurning is an ancient Cumbrian practice of pulling a funny face and is famously practised in the village of Egremont at its annual crab apple fair. I had never heard of gurning before, […]

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What’s your MP up to?

Je fais écho en anglais à un billet en français, que vous pouvez lire en VO vous-mêmes.

  • 2005-02-03
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In his post De la démocratie au Palais-Bourbon#[1] on his blog at Ceteris Paribus, Emmanuel offers some thoughts on the role of French members of parliament and how the voting public keeps an eye on their work and votes — or rather, doesn’t. As a political blog, Ceteris Paribus has several things going for it: […]

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