Monday, October 18, 2010

October 2010 Boyle McCauley News

The October 2010 issue of Boyle McCauley News is online. Our theme is "Giving Thanks" and is loaded with articles and news from community members and organizations. To download a copy in PDF format, click here. And here is a rundown of the content highlights:

  • East Meets West: Three Days of Culture
  • Sacred Heart Church Under Construction
  • Calling All Creatives
  • McCauley Gets Animated
  • Ability and Community
  • St. Stephen’s Saved!
  • Community League Wins Appeal
  • Cop’s Corner: Donations and Panhandlers
  • McCauley Revitalization Update
  • Letters To The Editor
  • Community League Updates
  • Dining Out: Padmanadi - Vegan/Indonesian
  • Friday, October 15, 2010

    Water is a Human Right

    This blog post is written as part of Blog Action Day 2010.

    A few years ago I switched from buying bottled water to a reusable metal container. Water should not be treated as a commodity used by large corporations to make profit hundreds of times over while re-selling the same substance that is found dripping out of our taps.

    While millions of people go daily without clean water, we buy it out of vending machines. We forget to turn off the faucet while we brush our teeth. We take showers for as long as we want, without fear of running out of this precious substance.

    Access to clean drinking water is a human right. When those of us in a more fortunate position buys water, we are undermining this fact. We should not be supporting companies making billions off of such a simple, yet for some so elusive substance of sustenance.

    I encourage everyone to buy a reusable container for water (and other beverages) - it will help the environment by using fewer plastic bottles, save you money (at two or three dollars a pop/water, a $20 metal bottle will pay for itself quickly), and stop lining the pockets of greedy corporations who have put a price tag on something almost as common and necessary as air.|Start Petition

    Friday, October 08, 2010

    Social Media and Language

    The growth of the use of social media has changed the way some people speak and write. In some cases, new words have been entirely invented to reflect the use of a particular service, like Twitter. When I post to Twitter, I am "tweeting" and my post is a "tweet." Facebooking can refer to anything from updating one's status to adding friends.

    Which leads to the next category of existing words that have been changed in meaning or usage. "Friend" can now be used as a verb ("I friended so-and-so on Facebook"). "Followers" may not mean there are creepy people following us around, but how many people are reading our tweets and blog posts.

    Then there are abbreviations to add the illusion of laughter like the ubiquitous "LOL" and "ROTFL" (and countless variations) in addition to emoticons that are constructed by punctuation in the shape of a smiling or frowning face (again, with many variations to account for facial hair, glasses, and other emotions).

    While some perhaps shudder at these inventions, one should not label such changes as disintegration necessarily. Change can be just that - reflections of the times. As society changes, so does its language. We don't speak Victorian English anymore, and there are numerous words that have changed meanings or connotations over time. For example, although it is technically correct, few people still use the term "gay" to mean "happy."

    However, where there needs to be concern is related to the actual time and place of usage. It is appropriate to use these words when discussing and using social media (or other electronic forms of communication like texting and e-mail). If someone actually starts referring to making friends in real life as "friending" people, maybe he or she isn't really spending enough time away from the computer. As well, when people start saying things like "LOL" and "smiley face" during in-person (or telephone) speech, then there is potentially a problem when someone cannot express him or herself properly without the use of such enhancements.

    Which begs the question of whether this is just laziness on the speaker's part or representative of an erosion of language. As someone with a wide social network both online and offline, I don't think such situations as described in the above paragraph are widespread yet. Verbal skills already vary from person to person based on culture (is English their first language?), level of education, and cognitive ability (which includes everything from general intelligence to whether or not a person has a developmental disability or brain damage).

    How someone uses the language of social media will depend on how much time a person spends with social media and how important social media is to that person. Someone who is only a casual user of social media will of course not be speaking of tweets and friending the way someone who uses it for hours every day will. Also, younger people growing up in a culture of social media, who have not known a world without it (or at least were too young to remember) could potentially be more likely to do the verbal LOL-ing.

    Another consideration apart from speech is written language. So far, I have not seen too many smilies or LOLs work their way into newspapers or magazines. I also don't think many teachers or professors would accept such things in a term paper. Unless, of course, the paper is about social media. :-) (Sorry, I could not resist.)

    Still, we likely won't know how social media ultimately affects language on a long-term basis because it is so relatively new. Like MySpace (which is now mostly used by bands), Twitter and Facebook may eventually go out of vogue to be replaced by other services with their own vocabularies. In the meantime, I don't think the English language is suffering too much.

    Thursday, October 07, 2010

    Peace in September

    Peace and related activist events tend to pick up in the fall, particularly since university is back in session. I had the privilege of taking part in two peace events in September.

    September 21 was the annual UN International Day of Peace, which takes place in cities around the world. As always, it took place at City Hall Plaza, and featured the flag-raising ceremony. The peace flag features the word "peace" in 50 different languages. Elementary school students from St. James read their own writings about what peace means to them (and we were astounded at how profound some of them were). Two keynote speakers from the University of Alberta's Political Science Department offered insights into world events, and music was provided by Quetzala Maria Carson and myself. Quetzala sang a song called "Generations" that she wrote, while I sang a traditional Jewish hymn called "Hinei Ma Tov." It is based on Psalm 133 and is about peace and unity. It was fun giving the children (and everyone else) in attendance a lesson on how to pronounce the Hebrew to sing along. Here are my photos from the event as well as the video playlist on YouTube.

    Less than a week later on September 25, the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism (ECAWAR) organized a rally for the National Day of Action to End the War in Afghanistan. There is usually a fall day of action called for by the Canadian Peace Alliance, but this year the CPA was late in getting the word out, so we had less than a week to pull a rally together. We succeeded. Though less time to publicize meant we had a smaller crowd at Gazebo Park, the media coverage was excellent. Two speakers from ECAWAR spoke about the need for Canada to not extend the mission in Afghanistan beyond 2011 (preferably to bring the troops home now), I sang a couple of antiwar songs, and then we opened up the stage for a moderated open mike. One more speaker from ECAWAR discussed against Canada taking a seat on the UN Security Council, which was an interesting talk. Here are my photos and the video playlist. As well, here is the article about the event from the Edmonton Sun.