Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Bilingual Future

Hello, world!

It's been a long time since I've posted anything on this blog. I've decided that I'll fix that by using it as a place to post bilingual musings in English and Italian. I don't need much practice writing in English, but I certainly need to practice writing in Italian.

As you know, there are four main components to language usage. These are:
  • listening
  • reading
  • speaking
  • writing
As you look at that list, you may wonder why I listed them in that order, rather than an order that may seem more intuitive, such as: listening, speaking, reading, writing. After all, hearing and speaking go together as one set of connected activities (all speakers like having someone to listen to them, right?), and reading and writing from another set of connected activities (writers love having readers, and readers love writers who give them something to read!).

The reason I listed the communications functions as I did, however, is that I've organized them according to the nature of their functions. To wit, hearing and reading language are passive activities - we use them to receive content provided by others. In contrast, speaking and writing are active functions - we use them to produce content to be received (we hope) by others. Generally speaking, the passive language activities are somewhat easier to learn than the productive ones.

All this brings me to why I must start writing in Italian. I can speak Italian almost any time. I do it to my dogs all the time. I do it with Dave and Joshua sometimes. I also do it with my iPhone, for which I've set Italian as my home language (Italian is also my home language on Facebook). I nearly always read Italian articles and exercises aloud in order to train my tongue and ears to produce and recognize the right sounds. I speak Italian in my car, in my get the point. I often use Google Translate to check myself. But writing in Italian is a different matter. I write my shopping lists in Italian, but that barely counts, since that just involves using simple words and phrases. Therefore, for the time being, this blog will become a place for honing my Italian writing skills.

And now, having announced my blogging plan for the foreseeable future, I will close my final monolingual post.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fairfax Choral Society Singing Kyrie Eleison, by Louis Vierne

Since the Fairfax Choral Society is getting ready for a concert tomorrow, I decided to do a quick and dirty slideshow of a piece we sang last fall. This is a movement from Louis Vierne's Messe Solenelle, which he composed while he was chief organist at Notre Dame in the early 20th century. I figured some of my Notre Dame photos would be appropriate since that church actually is connected to the music. The text is:

Latin -
Kyrie Eleison,
Kyrie Eleison,
Kyrie Eleison.

Christe Eleison,
Christe Eleison,
Christe Eleison.

Kyrie Eleison,
Kyrie Eleison,
Kyre Eleison.

English -
Lord, have mercy on us,
Lord, have mercy on us,
Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy on us,
Christ, have mercy on us,
Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us,
Lord, have mercy on us,
Lord, have mercy on us.

The text is simple, but you'll notice that Vierne, like most composers, got a lot of mileage out if it. Enjoy!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Recent Recommended Reads

I haven't been around the blog much lately, partly because I've been reading some good books. You may find the following items interesting.
The book I finished last night was Nate Silver's, The Signal and the Noise. Citing examples from such diverse fields as climate science, baseball, Texas Hold 'Em and elections forecasting, Silver explains statistical analysis in an interesting, informative, and even entertaining way. The book is a bit long (500+ pages), so you probably won't read it in one sitting. But, if you're willing to take a bit of time each night over several nights, you're likely to learn quite a lot about gambling, earthquakes, and - yes - statistics.
Another book I finished a couple of weeks ago was, Damned Good Company, by Luis Granados. The author selected twenty pairs of contemporaneous historical figures - one secular versus one religious (i.e., Clarence Darrow vs. William Jennings Bryan) - and contrasted ways in which their views intersected, clashed, and influenced the world around them. I'm somewhat surprised this book hasn't gotten wider circulation because it is very well researched (over 1,100 endnotes) and is quite a good read. Granted, Granados doesn't write like Hitchens, but he's more readable than many other better-known authors. Perhaps that's a consequence of being published by The Humanist Press rather than Harper & Row.
The final book I'll mention, which I read after Granados' and before Silver's, is J.K. Rowling's debut in the world of adult fiction, The Casual Vacancy. Having read and enjoyed the entire Harry Potter series with Joshua and Jonathan, I had to see how Rowling would handle adult literature. She did quite well, but don't take that to mean that The Casual Vacancy is anything like Harry Potter for grown-ups. Unlike the world of Hogwarts, most, if not all, of the characters in this book are not likable people, so it's likely that readers won't readily align themselves with any of them. It's not even easy to choose one to hate more than the others because they're all equally loathsome. Nevertheless, the story is engaging, especially for anyone who is intrigued by politics, and one can't help wondering how the issue of the unexpectedly open seat on a small town's council will be resolved. I enjoyed the book, and I'll admit that the ending makes a tragic sort of sense; nevertheless, I wasn't satisfied with the way the final scene played out. If you want to know any more about that, you'll have to read the book and decide for yourself whether I've got that right or missed some profound meaning and symmetry. In my mind, the meaning and symmetry are almost, but not quite, there.
And that, dear friends, is some of what I've been doing lately. Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know what you think in the comments. Do you have any other books to recommend? Write a comment. I'm always open to suggestions.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Furniture I Covet

I think I'd like to have a bookcase like this.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas at the White House

No, I haven't been invited to join the Obamas for Christmas. I think they'll be celebrating in Hawaii while I hold down the fort here in DC. But, Bo has released his Christmas video.


The Bush dogs did some pretty cute holiday videos too, back in their day. It's nice to see the lighter side of life in a household that gets pretty stressful. Yes, I know, the First Family has many more amenities than I do, but they also deal with a lot more idiocy than I have to handle. Given that, I don't begrudge them some fun, laughter and relaxation. Everyone needs healthy doses of those things. Even Bo.