Hi everyone, I’m back. I’ve done many things during my regrettably long blogging hiatus, including looking at some pandas. Last week I was in San Diego for the International Writing Centers Association conference with two of my colleagues, and we went to the famed San Diego Zoo, which has a new baby panda who’s still too young to be on exhibit. So we watched the baby on the zoo’s webcam (you can too: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/pandacam/), and we saw his grown-up friend (not his mother; she’s with the baby) live and in person. The employee working at the panda exhibit told us an interesting fact: Pandas can be very aggressive if provoked. (I know; they’re bears, duh. But they look so genial.)
This fact made me think of Kung Fu Panda, a great movie and the source of my favorite example of the importance of articles (I mean a, an, and the). During the climactic battle scene, the evil snow leopard says, “You’re just a big fat panda.” In response to which, Po, the title character, says, “No. I’m the big fat panda.” Really, that’s a brilliant piece of dialogue. A lot of breath and trees have been wasted in discussing the best way to teach the rules of articles to English language learners whose native languages don’t have articles. And actually, I learned at the conference last week a theory that incorrect article usage may be one of several “untreatable errors” that simply can’t be addressed with rules. But I have the solution for everyone: Just watch Kung Fu Panda.
From my favorite example of article importance, I move to my favorite use of a punctuation metaphor in a song lyric. Earlier tonight I was trying to read Hans Robert Jauss’s Toward an Aesthetic of Reception while listening to my iPod on shuffle. Up came the Coldplay song “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall.” Which do you think I was paying attention to, the song or the book? I’ll be honest; I was dancing in my bed. The punctuation metaphor occurs in (I think) the second verse of the song: “I’d rather be a comma than a full stop.” Besides the fact that the British term full stop, like ginger and roundabout and a lot of other words, is inherently fabulous, the metaphor is quite apt and well-put.
At this point I was going to embark on a rant about how people should give another listen to the much-maligned Coldplay album Mylo Xyloto. No, it doesn’t follow a neat story arc about the French Revolution like Viva La Vida does, but it still has some great songs. Further ranting will have to wait for another time, however, because I need to go to bed. I’ll leave you with the assurance that my next post will be more coherent, if not profound, and with this holiday wish, which I’m borrowing from a cute tin sign I bought at an antique store recently: “A merry Hallowe’en. Scare up some fun, and have a spooktacular night.”