Friday, December 17, 2010

Glowsticks, Gorbachev, and Gibb's Free Energy

"Breath of Heaven, hold me together/Be forever near me, breath of Heaven..." -"Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant

"It's like George Bush and Jesus joined forces, and declared war on taste." -Stephen Colbert

"How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and eighty-five different kinds of cheese?" -Charles de Gaulle

Kiel vi fartas?: Mi estas libera! (I'm free!)

That's right, readers! It's winter break here in the Northwest, and that means the last-minute tests are done, and the parties have been had. Time for video games, naps, and CHRISTMAS!!! But first, a rather large event in my life was last week...

I turned 18 on the 10th!

That's right, readers, your dear blogger is now legally able to vote, buy dry ice and cigarettes, and enlist in the military. God help us all.

But something magical happened on that day! Something that couldn't have happened had I not started studying Esperanto!

Well? What is it?

A man from the Czech Republic, who speaks no English whatsoever, went out of his way on lernu! to wish me Happy Birthday.

You heard me right. A CZECH guy sent me an e-postcard wishing me a "Naskiĝtaga bondeziro".

So, for the skeptics out there, behold: a concrete reason to learn Esperanto!

Okay, partially-kidding, but really, it's an incredible thing that wouldn't have been possible before now.

Cool. What else has been up?


Yeah, it's comin' up.

Christmas is my favorite holiday, not just because of the presents and two weeks off and the delicious food. My favorite part about Christmas is actually the church service the night before. I sing in the youth choir at my church, and we lead the 11 PM worship service every year on Christmas Eve. The absolute best part of the whole experience, and what makes my holiday really special, is the very end; we hand out candles to all 5,000+ people in the church, and shut out all of the lights, and pass the little flame from the pastor's candle around, and sing Silent Night. It is so moving and powerful, and it's in those times that I feel close to God.

You wouldn't think it by talking to me, but I'm religious. I'm liberal, absolutely, painfully so, but it's a liberalism influenced by faith. I firmly believe that God created gay people that way, and that He calls us to care for the poor and the oppressed. It's my faith that guides me towards socialism, supporting gay and immigrant's rights, and being a silly naive hippie. Ironic, no?

For me, though, it makes sense. It makes more sense than the people who say they're Christian, then in the same sentence want to cut funding for welfare and health care, and want to keep some people in a second-class-citizen status.

"Why must you always go on campaigns?" -Jim (friend)

Yeah, sorry, it was getting political there...

BUT, one more political thing: an early Christmas present for the whole LGBTetc. community out there!


Yep, the 17-year-old policy of "We're not gonna ask, but we may search through your private e-mails until we find one with you talking about your boy/girlfriend and then interpret that to mean you TOLD us" is dead! 65-31 vote in the Senate. That's eight Republicans, guys. That's really impressive in this ridiculously partisan climate.

Merry Christmas, LGBT community!

And if I don't make another post before then, I hope all of you dear readers have a very merry Christmas, as well.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Show and Tell: "The English Advantage"

Hello, dear readers! I just wanted to make a quickie post today. This afternoon, I received a message on entitled "Why an American Would Choose to Learn Esperanto". It was basically an article which explained exactly why English is not the answer to the question of an international language.

I thought it'd be lovely to share it with all of you, so let us let Mr. DEN BROWN take the stage:

The English Advantage

As of late I’ve had the good fortune in my life to be able to travel frequently to Europe for my job. Since I am from the United States, a friend of mine in Germany told me that I have an advantage because all my life I have spoken the closest thing we have to an international language: English. I suppose that he’s right, but still, I find that I have absolutely no desire to have that advantage.

I am a citizen of the United States of America, and I am very proud of that. I am also proud that we are such an important nation in today’s world. What I am not proud of is the way in which we keep ourselves so important. I am talking about the usage of English in our world as a means of international communication: I have an advantage. We in the United States have an advantage. We are the elite, we rule the whole world, and we’ll keep on ruling because all the others will never be able to communicate as well as we do. They will work at it for years, decades even. They will never get to where we are. We are the elite.

Foreigners. So often they think they are using our language perfectly but we talk about them behind their backs and make jokes about the errors they make. I want to cry out to them, "Can’t you see what you’re doing? You are the ones that take away your power to communicate. You are the ones that constantly put us above you." And above you we will stay We are the elite, and we rule the world.

I don’t want to be elite. Here is someone from the USA who isn’t interested in ruling the world. I am a citizen of the United States, but more than that — yes, more than that — I am a citizen of the world. People everywhere, I see you as my friends, as my brothers and sisters even. I don’t want to stand above you because of an unfair advantage. I would much rather walk by your side. That way we can share our cultures with each other. That way we can be equals. We can respect one another.

You refuse though, you who are not the chosen ones. It seems to me that you are blinding yourselves to the truth. People seem less intelligent than they really are when they talk to someone in that person’s mother language. I got that idea from Claude Piron, an Esperantist, and working abroad I have seen it time after time. Esperanto was created to be a language that one can learn quickly but more importantly, it was created to be flexible so that all people can use it without sounding foreign and without sounding stupid. That is not the case with English. Unless you live for years in an English-speaking country, you will never master the unwritten rules, the countless expressions, and the subtle nuances of the language.

A national language is a labyrinth, confusing to the foreigner. It’s like the layers of an onion, and when you understand one aspect of the language, you can be sure that underneath lie exceptions and nuances that you do not understand. Learn English. It is a rich and beautiful language, spoken in many different lands full of friendly people and interesting cultures. But you must understand, that it is in no way appropriate as an international language. Think about people in your country who don’t speak their own language properly. Think about the errors that you yourself make with your mother tongue. Do you think that people who have not spoken the language from birth can compete fairly? Is this the kind of unjust world you want to create? As a citizen of the world, as a member of the human race, are you proud of this, our world ?

Before I go, I would like to give you something to think about concerning this world that we are creating. I began by talking about the United States, my own country and about how it is an important nation in this world of ours. Why is it so important? I think that one of the best reasons is our strength. Not necessarily military strength, but strength in commerce, diplomatic relations, fine arts, sports, and in so many different areas. Why are we so strong in such diverse ways? I think that it’s because we are a nation of 50 states.

Those states work together, communicate together, share their strengths with each other, and thereby create a union which is so much stronger than the sum of the 50 individual states. We are now seeing that the European Union has the same idea. I invite you to think about this world of ours. What kind of world is it? What kind of world could it be if we, its citizens, could effectively communicate with each other, understand each other, and share our many strengths. I say that we cannot create such a world using any national tongue as the international language. Luckily we have a language that works, that is fair, that allows every person to declare, "Here I am, a citizen of the world, a member of the human race. Let me show you who I am." This is what it means to understand each other. This is what is possible through Esperanto. This is our world.

by Den Drown,
from Esperanto USA, Issue 3, 2001

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Good News! She's (back from the) dead!

"One, twenty-one guns/lay down your arms/give up the fight/One, twenty-one guns/throw up your arms/into the sky/you and I..." -"21 Guns" from American Idiot

"Life doesn't have be a to-do list!" -Michael Abraham

"You ain't sh*t if you don't knit." -Debbie Stoller, author of Stitch 'n Bitch

Kiel vi fartas?: Mi estas tre kulpa. (I'm really guilty.)

I'm honestly embarrassed with how long it's been since I've blogged. My sincerest apologies to all two-to-four of my followers.

What've you been up to, girl?

So, for a recap of the last few months, I shall spit out random words and allow you, dear readers, to piece them together and form a creative narrative of my recent life. Winner gets baked goods from me.

Bob Dylan! Decemberists! Steampunk! Pointillism! Wicked! Sassy gay friend! Lamps! Auditions! Sacramento! Dan Savage! Purple! Knitting! Snow! Poetry!

...Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!

Okay, okay, okay, let's get to the point... of the blog...



Shoot. Yeah. That's fallen by the wayside as I've returned to school, too...


Now wait just one second! I have, in fact, made an interesting observation on which I'd like to meditate for a little while.

As I started my fourth year of l’éducation français, I noticed that, for the first few weeks, I had a new struggle to with which to contend- not mixing up French and Esperanto. I would search my mind for the word, and come to the Esperanto one (or an Esperanto-ish guess) faster than I reached the French one. It was frustrating, not only because it was the wrong word, but because it reminded me of the strong contrast between Eo (as it's abbreviated) and other languages. French is grossly irregular- indeed, we're quizzed on the exceptions to rules all the time. It's the incredible thing that, while keeping French interesting, makes it quite difficult to learn. While I can hold my own in a conversation with a native speaker (provided they speak slowly), I am by no means fluent.

Esperanto, on the other hand, has no irregularities. That's how Zamenhoff designed the thing. All nouns end in -o, all adjectives in -a. The only word for "the" is "la". There's no indefinite article.

Yet, I find myself struggling to keep Esperanto and French apart. When I think or compose in Eo, I find myself integrating French (trying to remember what the indefinite article is, figuring out the noun gender, etc.). Silly, yes, but I can't help it. Three years of French is battling two months of Esperanto.

Despite all of this, I still want to push forward. Lernu! has basic, intermediate, and advanced-level exams to officially classify your level of proficiency in Eo, and I am determined to take and pass the basic-level exam by the time I graduate. There's a lot to learn even just for the basic exam, so flash cards and annoying friends with studying may be in order.

So what's on the agenda, in case we don't hear from you?

-In January, I'm going to Sacramento with some other kids from my school to perform in the Bob Smart Theatre Festival! Out of all of the students who expressed interest, about 15-18 of us were chosen to go. It's such an honor, and I'm really excited.
-Christmas is coming up, which means lots of sewing, partying and lazing around the house refusing to do anything which actually matters. Also, I'll be learning to make French onion soup, so everyone watch out.
-And finally, poetry slam next weekend! I'm presenting two pieces, and the winner of the slam gets their poems published in the local newspaper. If you're in the area, contact me (you know how if you know me) and I'll fill you in!

Until next time, miaj amikoj!