Friday, January 20, 2017

Million Women March

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Hoping for peaceful events and the safety of all participants wherever they are.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Vocal Fry

For a couple of years now I've noticed a strange phenomenon when certain people speak, especially on radio or TV. There seems to be a creakiness or scratchiness in their voice especially toward the ends of sentences. I wonder if any of you have also noticed this?

Let me say how annoying I find it. When it occurs I find myself listening for this grating vocal mannerism when, instead, I should be focussing on what the voice is saying. 

Late last year when I was reading Ian McEwan's Nutshell I came to the point in the story when the heroic fetus meets the expectant father's girlfriend (you just have to read this book) 

I like the sound of her voice, the human approximation, I would say, of the oboe, slightly cracked, with a quack on the vowels. And towards the end of her phrases, she speaks through a gargling, growling sound that American linguists have dubbed "vocal fry". Spreading through the Western world, much discussed on the radio, of unknown aetiology, signifying, it's thought, sophistication, found mostly in young, educated women. A pleasing puzzle. With such a voice she might hold her own against my mother.

"YES!" I shouted, "There's a name for it!"

Apparently, while I haven't been paying attention vocal fry has been tossed about as a "thing" since 2011, so I'm late to the party. There are YouTube videos to show you what I'm talking about if you don't already know.





Okay...so this scratchy creaky vocal foible seems to be most common among young women and seems to have followed the equally annoying Valley Girl speech pattern of always finishing a sentence with a question mark. I used to think that people spoke in this growly way out of weariness or illness, some sort of breathing difficulty, but it seems to have more to do with wanting to sound knowledgeable or to convey a laid-back attitude, a certain degree of sophistication. 

Oh...and by the way, it's not just women. Some men are also employing this self-conceit in the way they talk, only, since their voices are already often quite gravelly, vocal fry may not be as easily noticed. They also do not seem to follow the female pattern of vocal fry mainly at the ends of sentences but use it throughout. Noah Chomsky is one person in particular who has this propensity. I have heard male experts employing it on the radio and I'm sure I have noticed it in MY OWN FAMILY!! Gaaaah! 

Don't bother watching the entire boring video that follows, just get a sense of Chomsky's speech.



In order to turn your voice from its everyday normal or modal register into one that is slightly lower, i.e. into vocal fry, you must employ your belly muscles to squeeze air through your larynx, which forces the folds in the larynx much wider apart than normal. Ultimately this unnatural frequent spreading of the vocal chords will lead to damage: lesions, polyps or cysts. Do you want this to happen? No, I thought not! This is a learned pattern of speech. Just unlearn it. 


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Exciting News about Eagles

David Allan Galbraith @sasajewun


The other day I heard on morning radio that American Bald Eagles have been noticed wintering in High Park in Toronto. How awesome is that!



Richard Thomas @RichThomas76

Apparently, the eagle population around the Great Lakes has improved to such an extent that the birds are now becoming more widely seen and are seeking out areas to hang out together that are not necessarily in remote areas. In fact, as opportunists, eagles are finding favourable conditions closer to urban areas. Of course, they're not nesting in Ontario at this time of year and when the mature birds are ready to produce young they will likely do so elsewhere but if you live in the area, keep an eye out for eagle activity.

In the past few years, Don and I have noticed from inside the car very large birds circling above. While some of these may have been turkey vultures, quite common in southern Ontario, others, which were clearly not vultures, may, in fact, have been juvenile bald eagles (lacking the distinctive white head and tail feathers) or possibly some other species of eagle, but not hawks which are much smaller and which we often spot on trees alongside the highway.

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Turkey Vulture (Northern) - Jon Ruddy
Jon Ruddy from the Macauley Library

Although I do not claim to be a birder, I love wildlife of every kind and find birds very special. I doubt whether I could ever take up birding since I have difficulty spotting those little traits that define a species, even when the bird is motionless and I'm only a few feet away unless it's a cardinal or a robin or a mature bald eagle, something completely obvious. So I'll just continue to enjoy each sighting and not worry too much about what the species is. 

Common Redpoll by Tim Lenz/Macaulay Library

If you are a birder, you probably already know about eBird.org. I just found out about it listening to that morning radio mentioned earlier. So I looked it up and was blown away by what how awesome it is for anybody interested in birds. 

When you log in to your account at this site you will be able to record and share your bird sitings, keep track of your lists and contribute to science. 

For people like me who are not birders? We can still use the interactive maps, zoom in on any area to see what bird has been spotted where, and access wonderful pages (Macaulay Library) full of bird photos, all identified as well as recordings of bird calls. If you've ever been outside and heard a bird call and wondered what the heck was that? This is the go-to site to find out.

All of this information is available not just for Ontario or Canada or North America. It's global.

Another site worth mentioning is The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Lots of great stuff there too, including Project Feeder Watch and the same access to the Macaulay Library.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hag-Seed

Hag-seed

I recently read Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood. It is one of a series of contemporary takes by established authors of Shakespearean plays proposed and organized by Hogarth. Hag-Seed is a re-telling of The Tempest.


For more than four hundred years, Shakespeare’s works have been performed, read, and loved throughout the world. They have been reinterpreted for each new generation, whether as teen films, musicals, science-fiction flicks, Japanese warrior tales, or literary transformations.

The Hogarth Press was founded by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1917 with a mission to publish the best new writing of the age. In 2012, Hogarth was launched in London and New York to continue the tradition. The Hogarth Shakespeare project sees Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed and bestselling novelists of today. The series launches in October 2015 and to date will be published in twenty countries.

There's no way at all that I feel in any way qualified to do a review of a Margaret Atwood novel. I only want to say that I loved Hag-Seed: it's a literary adventure with a play folded within a play within a play - so complex, so clever, so much fun. 

I would say that for a prospective reader it might helpful to have some knowledge of The Tempest. Since I last read The Tempest in high school more than 50 years ago the details were a bit sketchy in my mind and I was grateful to notice that MA gives a brief synopsis of the play at the back of the book. Now I have an urge to re-read the original. This might lead to an endless loop of reading/re-reading The Tempest and Hag-Seed. 😊

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dokk1

Last week we looked at possible boarding ideas for airplanes. Today it's cars that are being organized in an underground garage located at the new public library, Dokk1 in Aarhus, Denmark. 



If you're still interested, here's a slightly different video of the automated system from the point of view of a camera mounted inside the car. It involves some time in a parking spot which you can fast forward through. 


In case you're interested here's the vision for Dokk1, not only a library but a community hub. It opened on June 20, 2015.