Sunday, May 12, 2013

100. The 100-post Blog

Have you ever stopped to think about how the so-called globalization affects you?
I have. Proof of it is what I have tried to synthesize in my profile (see right on this page).
      1.  “We live in a bewilderingly complex world based on Information.”
In the first place, globalization does affect us deeply through the enticing attempts at sharing information. Every 24 hours, amounts of data – which are far from being accessible to one individual as such – are poured onto the World Wide Web. From a collective standpoint, this should be intrinsically fruitful – provided that you get to know precisely the item of information you are looking for. What is left for every one of us to hope is that, in due time, a super-item of information will emerge which might help humankind take a leap towards progress. It will surely be a leap of faith. 
    2.  “There is so much of it that we’ve somehow come to think we know more because it – the information – is out there.”

More often than not, it is exactly the huge amount of data which misleads us into thinking that we are by far more knowledgeable than, say, a person who lived in the 6th century BC. Or 5,000 years ago, for that matter! It is not the quantity which enables the leap, it’s its quality: its quality of attaining the quintessence of universality by tackling The Core of Things. In so doing, we are more likely to catch a glimpse of the Simple Truths; but wait: can anyone strive to do that? Is this always an individual endeavour, or does it take a “mentor” to lay out simple truths for you?
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    3.  “But everybody has a right to be wrong! Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Question your answers.”

I am no exception: I, too – so to speak – have a right to be wrong! I was, and I admit it. While giving myself the benefit of the doubt, I am questioning my answers – in this case, the maintenance of a blog which started as a place for Community Language Learning; it was the perfect opportunity for me to see in what way additional work at this conflicting /Advanced level as an extension of the English class enables progress, at the same time granting a universal dimension to the teaching/learning process which I, as (I believe) hundreds of thousands of teachers of English worldwide, experience. But there are hundreds of thousands of such blogs, so Dare to know!
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Virtual conversations stayed scarce, and this can hardly motivate a Blogger (in this case myself) to keep posting – unless the Blogger still believes it doesn't matter whether his or her visitors have a say. After switching to The Bare Necessities of the English Grammar there was even less feedback, which turns a blog like this into nothing else but the adventure of surfing solo across the World Wide Web. 

As far as the possibilities of the English language per se,  a time will come when nothing will have been left for the global community to say without stepping into plagiarism. Perhaps it will coincide with the moment in which the Myths about English will have been challenged one by one.

I still believe that there were intentions of feedback, which make me refrain from signing out altogether; but the blog will virtually remain exactly what the header says: Everything you always wanted to know about the English grammar* (* but were afraid to ask). Ask a question – any question. It will not take long until you receive an answer.  
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Sincerely yours,


99. The Point! (VII&VIII)

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The story (and the series of posts) is coming to an end.

The final task presents you with the summary of the last two episodes of the film, from which ten snippets of text have been removed. There is one snippet too many in the key to the exercise; but do believe me, it’s a lot easier to watch the episodes and find out before checking!

but tacitly accepted by all the villagers
instead of being pointless
everything he and Arrow ran into had a point
much to his surprise
for a fleeting moment
whether it shows or not
glad that Oblio was back
which was unfolding under his very eyes
he had just witnessed
while all the others lost theirs
he had met

“Oblio was too excited by the things he had learned in the Pointless Forest to pay
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attention to the huge bird which was hovering over his head (and Arrow’s, for that matter). The bird took them in its claws and, (1) ___, Oblio and Arrow were hanging on for dear life, thinking it would be natural for them to be scared; well, (2) ___, Oblio realized he wasn’t afraid. Rather, he was glad to enjoy a...bird’s eye view over the Pointless Forest, and feel even more excited at the things he could thus see.
“How weird it seemed to Oblio that, (3) ___, all the things and creatures in the Forest always brought some point to his experience.

“As soon as the Mammoth Egg got hatched, the just born chick started cooing in ways that sounded like questions to Oblio: What? – Where? – Who? – Why? He didn't have too much time to think about the miracle of life (4) ___: there came The Pointed Man again, assuring Oblio that there was no place for him in the Pointless Forest.

“It took Oblio a good deal of trouble to recover Arrow from Vanishing Point, and the incident finally convinced him that the only pointless thing (5) ___ in the Pointless Forest was the Pointed Man.
“It was time to rest after such a long, full day.

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“And back they went to the Pointed Village, where Oblio’s mother was struggling to come to terms with the decision – taken by the vile Count, (6) ___ – that ended in her dear Oblio’s banishment. She didn't seem to have any support, not even from Oblio’s father; she was sure they should have challenged the Law. At the end of the day, who makes the laws of a country? How good are those laws, after all, and who is supposed to obey them?

“Voices outside were hailing Oblio’s coming back. The cantankerous Count was infuriated by such daring act; it’s just that the King, (7) ___, had a different opinion: the Count may have misread the will of the people as far as Oblio was concerned, since the only person in the village who flew into a rage at Oblio’s presence was him – the prideful Count.

“Oblio explained to the King that what he learned in the Pointless Forest was very important: (8) ___; therefore he must have one too.
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“And indeed, a point grew on Oblio’s head, (9) ___.

“But that didn't matter so much any more; people just started assuming that every man has some kind of point, (10) ___”.

The boy who listened to the story understood the lesson.
How about you?  

Sunday, May 05, 2013

98. The Point! (IV, V & VI)

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Here is a summary of parts IV, V and VI of this story, a famous story in its genre because of the deep truth underlying Oblio’s experience.
After watching each episode, choose the alternative (a or b) which best matches the storyline.

1. “And so the story goes that Oblio got to the Pointless Forest not only because the people in the Pointed Village had chosen to abide by the law and comply with the Count’s decision, but also because – despite shedding bitter tears – (a) he had a chance to discover something other than what he already knew / (b) he had the same inclination to obeying as his former fellow citizens did. As you have already found out, nobody had been to the Pointless Forest before, so why not explore it?
But wait, all the place was so thick that Oblio didn't quite figure out how they would get through. Out of the blue, a Pointed Man appeared, pointing in all directions, which actually meant that he was pointing in no direction at all.
2. With the Pointed Man gone, an uneasy silence set in, which made Oblio
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feel scared. He vowed that (a) he would always follow Arrow / (b) he and Arrow will stick together at all times.

3. Arrow had already sensed something dangerous looming in the distance: a swarm of giant bees. When they finally managed to hide for safety, Oblio heard a voice coming from up above: it was the Rock Man, kin to the Stone Folk. Oblio was in awe while listening to the Rock Man, who was so kind as to encourage Oblio to open his mind as well as his eyes. He explained to Oblio that reality is different: (a) you don’t have to have a point to have a point / (b) you should play it cool and go nice and easy, just like jazz does.
There came the Pointed Man again. His presence is agreeable to Oblio, yet every time he pops up he only tries to convince Oblio of the pointlessness of it all. Indeed, every appearance makes Oblio reflect on his experience and on how much he has learned.
The Bottomless Hole they are about to fall into makes Oblio realize how afraid of darkness he is, and how lonely the place is whenever the Pointed Man vanishes.
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4. Oblio also learns from the giggling Three Graces – the very image of fertility and motherhood. The fat Ladies bring laughter and merriment, making each other happy. Yet he still doesn’t understand why they are behaving in that way because (a) he’s still too young / (b) they aren’t saying anything.

5. On the Fall Line, the Industrious Industrialist speaks to Oblio about the spirit of entrepreneurship. Timing and honesty – the two qualities he considers indispensable for doing business - fall short of meeting the Tree’s expectations, for Oblio (a) can’t plant roots in the soil of the Forest / (b) doesn’t show any interest in doing business.
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6. Eventually he leaves as he showers his golden leaves, which are supposed to turn into gold – but not before asking Oblio (a) why he didn’t look pointed / (b) where he came from, and what nationality he was. A tricky question indeed, which seems to be asked at exactly that point in the discussion in which the helpless “outlaw” – in this case, Oblio – is vulnerable. Interestingly enough, the Industrious Tree apparently does not care what a man’s face, creed, or colour is as long as he accepts to do business with him.    

Sunday, April 28, 2013

97. The Point! (III)

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The typical cloze test, invented long ago for institutions to check students’ or candidates’ knowledge, is about to change. It won’t take long to admit units that have been called form-meaning pairings, which make sense only when used together. On the contrary, insisting on the existence of slots for individual ‘words’ will only add to people’s fragmented knowledge – with a little luck, no one is doing things with this purpose in mind!

Obviously, such changes take time simply because it is a lot easier to make things stay as they are (see previous episode) than innovate.
Completing the cloze below will be easier indeed if and only if you have watched the previous episodes attentively. You’ll find the key after the page break.

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The national 1. _______ in the Land of Point was a game called Triangle Toss. And Triangle Toss was a game for people with pointed heads. The object of the game was to 2. _______ a triangle as far as you could and then run to the opposite end of a field and catch it on the point of your head. But 3. _______ Oblio had no point, he would throw a triangle and Arrow would jump up on his shoulders and the two of them would run to the opposite end of the field, Arrow making the 4. _______ on the point on the top of his head.

Now, most of the kids in the town thought that it was all right to allow Oblio and Arrow to compete as a team. But there was 5. _______ one kid who was the son of the evil Count, who was the 6. _______ to the King. And the Count’s kid insisted that, since Triangle Toss was for people with 7. _______ heads, and Oblio obviously did not fall into that category, he should not be allowed to play. Well, to settle the dispute, it was decided to have a contest – best two 8. _______ three tosses and catches. If Oblio won, he’d get to play; but if the Count’s kid won, Oblio wouldn’t be allowed to play.
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And that brings us to the game.
At the end of the game, Oblio had beaten the Count’s kid two out of three. And when the Count heard of his son’s disgraceful 9. _______ at the hands of this pointless Oblio, he was outraged. So he went to the King and reminded him of the Law of the Land, which was that all things and all people in the Land of Point was to have one. Since Oblio didn’t have one, he was 10. _______ violation of that law, which called for his banishment. Now, the King, who was a good king, was painfully aware of his duty, which was to convene the Tribunal and to conform to the Count’s 11. _______. And that’s what he did. 

And when the Tribunal reviewed the case, it could only arrive 12. _______ one conclusion: Oblio had no point; he was therefore guilty of being in violation of the law. And so it was decided that he and Arrow – for Arrow was found guilty of complicity – be banished from the Land of Point to the Pointless Forest.
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The next day, Oblio’s mother and father and all the townspeople gathered to bid a sad farewell to Oblio and Arrow. Now, everyone thought that banishment to the Pointless Forest was 13. _______ excessive, but the Law was the Law, and the people were good, law-abiding citizens, and –well – that was the first time anything like this had ever happened and no one knew quite what else to do. So Oblio and Arrow set 14. _______ for the Pointless Forest where all things are pointless and nothing is pointed.

By the way, the distance between the Land of Point and the Pointless Forest was directly proportional to the 15. _______ of time it takes to sing a song--







Now it’s time for the third episode:

96. The Point! (II)

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There is no denying that language is symbolic. I take it to be the rule, for in fact we use the language to mean something, and we expect our interlocutors to see what we mean. If you have already watched the first part of this highly symbolic cartoon film, you have come to know something about Oblio, and the land he was born in. Now, being born somewhere should be a blessing for all those who actually realize that there's a lot to learn in a lifetime. To learn, that is, often the hard way. Only when you finished watching all the (eight) episodes will you grasp the underlying idea; for the time being, there's this stop-and-check of the first episode. Only then are you asked to go on watching Part Two.

Triangle Toss
'This is the town and these are the people
This is the town where the people all stay
This is the town and these are the people
That’s the way they wanted it
That’s the way it’s going to stay

"Everything’s got one
Everything needs one
Couldn’t be without one
Everyone has one

"Years ago, there was a place called The Land of Point. That was because everything in the Land of Point had one: the barns, the houses, the carts, everything – 1. _______ the people. Everyone in the Land of Point had a point on the top of his head. Everyone, 2. _______, with the exception of Oblio.

"Now, although Oblio was born 3. _______ a set of normally-pointed parents, and although he was born physically perfect in every 4. ________ respect, he was born without a point. He was round-headed. And as time passed, Oblio became increasingly 5. _______ his uniqueness. And so did everyone 6. _______, which made life in the Land of Point rather uncomfortable for him and his parents. You see, Oblio became 7. ________ an involuntary celebrity. And he was subject to the sometimes cruel and 8. _______ harassment of his schoolmates. He was 9. _______ being the only pointless person in the Land of Point and, in an effort 10. _______ make life easier, his mother knitted a pointed cap 11. _______ to wear, so as to conceal his pointless condition; but it didn’t do 12. _______ good because everyone knew he didn’t have a point, so it only managed to make Oblio a little 13. _______ . In fact the _______ real friend he had was his dog Arrow.
"Me and my Arrow
_______ than narrow
Wherever we go
Everyone knows
It’s me and my Arrow…"