On Women

Long time no see…

Seeing that today is Women’s International day, here’s some food for thought!

http://www.ted.com/talks/liza_donnelly_drawing_upon_humor_for_change.html

The Digital Story of Nativity

Christmas story told through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, Google Maps, GMail, Foursquare, Amazon…

Times change!

Changing Paradigms in Education

If you have ever wondered why education is in such a sorry state, watch the following video and you’ll be enlightened…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

Animal rights

When most countries in Europe are passing emergency laws and measures to help us get out of this recession, the Swiss are debating -‘debating’ as in a public referendum – whether part of the taxpayer’s monies should be destined to providing animals with lawyers. Yep, lawyers.

I am all for animal rights – don’t get me wrong – even if I’m no activist. I don’t approve of bullfighting (currently under heated debate in Spain), animal testing or any kind of cruelty inflicted on animals; but believe me when or if I am born again I would like to come back to this world as a dog – or, on second thoughts, a horse – in Switzerland. I have not gone mad… yet. Please, indulge me and keep reading.

Under the current Swiss legislation fishermen need to get sensitivity training,  that is, they need to learn how to catch fish humanely; dog owners need to ‘qualify’  , e. g.  take a course,   in order to receive a license to own a dog; horses must be kept in close proximity to other horses, and any animal considered social – including goldfish – must be kept with at least one other of its kind. Talk about leading a dog’s life…

However, after months of campaigning in the local press for the creation of a public legal office for animal rights in each of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, voters have rejected the proposal with 70.5 percent of Swiss voting no.

I wonder, are you better off being a dog than an immigrant in Switzerland? I rest my case…

Carnival

Carnival is celebrated all around the world just before the fasting season of Lent. Here in Spain, the week leading up to Lent is a time for wild partying when anything goes,  and many cities play host to some of Europe’s biggest and best Carnival festivals.

Some theories speculate that Carnival has its origin in the Roman Saturnalia,  a pagan festival where people indulged in much eating and drinking.  An alternative theory is that it comes from ‘farewell to the flesh’ (carne =meat and valle= farewell), again a reference to the excesses that led up to the sombre Lent. With these pagan roots and widespread ‘permissiveness’, it’s no wonder that the dictator General Franco banned the festival for forty years!

Carnival in Spain is celebrated nationwide, although the most well-known festivities are in the Canary Islands, Cadiz and Sitges. While each town has its own unique flavour of celebration, they all have a devotion to having a good time. No one seems to sleep, as the drinking and dancing go from dusk until dawn. You’ll see extravagant costumes and people in masks everywhere, with parades and fancy dress events culminating in the traditional Burial of the Sardine on Ash Wednesday.

The sardine is a symbol which reminds the people that now they will be eating fish instead of meat – some Catholics still observe the tradition of not eating meat on miércoles de Ceniza and on Fridays during Lent. This is the event that truly symbolises the end of the good times and the beginning of a period of abstinence.

In Catalunya Carnival is a particularly exciting time as celebrations were illegal under Franco’s rule. So, since the end of his dictatorship in 1980 people have been making up for all of those years without a carnival!

As for Carnival in Rio, Venice, New Orleans … (sigh) follow the links and enjoy them virtually. But don’t despair, there’s also London’s Notting Hill Carnival in August!

Opening lines of ‘Catcher in the Rye’

Still not convinced about giving this novel a chance? Here are the opening lines:

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger, author of  The Catcher in the Rye, passed away this week at the age of 91. 

Generations of students and teachers have been forever changed by this acclaimed novel, one of my favourites ever since I discovered it as a teenager. I was very proud of myself when I managed to read it in English the first time, and have often revisited it since, especially when I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps. The Catcher in the Rye, narrated by main character and hero Holden Caulfield, is the story of Holden’s life in the few days after being expelled from his Pennsylvania prep school. Holden, one of the most sympathetic and complex young characters of all time,  is an incredibly intelligent, sensitive young man on the verge of becoming an adult who has trouble functioning in the real world.  

The Catcher in the Rye has been translated to many languages and has sold more than 60 million copies worlwide 59 years after its publication in 1951. It has also been banned more times than you want to count by zealous parents and educators. Not that anybody’s surprised by this (because of the profanity, sex, alcohol abuse, prostitution – need I go on?), but interestingly enough, it’s also frequently used as part of high school English classes and it has become required reading in every English department in America.

There are also some curious facts connected to Salinger’s novel. Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon, was carrying a copy of The Catcher in the Rye when he was arrested. John Hinckley Jr., the guy who tried to kill US President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was also a Caulfield fan.

If you want to know a bit more about the life and other works of this very secretive author, here is a link to a good article by the BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8486169.stm