A little bit of Mardi Gras.

Took a few videos from Mardi Gras week. Here they are.

Bacchus parade:

Orpheus parade on Lundi Gras:

Private party in the Frenchmen Market on Mardi Gras day. I second lined with this bunch through the French Quarter before we ended up here:

I also took a video the morning of Mardi Gras day of the Krewe of JULU parade that I marched with to get downtown, which was pretty amazing, but my phone didn’t save the clip. It’s about time to replace that thing.

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At least one interesting thing happened during the Super Bowl.

Because the game itself was boring.

Language Log did a little rundown of the languages used as well as the responses. The negative responses seem to be aimed at immigrants but ask speakers of Navajo or Hawaiian or Central Alaskan Yup’ik if it’s un-American to sing America the Beautiful in a language other than English. These languages were in place before the areas they’re spoken in ever became American and they’re still spoken today, perhaps even by monolinguals.

The opinion of one former U.S. congressman, Allen West (R-FL), stood out and is particularly interesting as he cites Theodore Roosevelt’s idea of a homogenous American culture, which, according to folklorist Barry Ancelet, set the stage for the stigmatization of French right here in Louisiana, yet another language which was dominant before and well after this area became part of the United States.

Maybe Coca-Cola could have really given the xenophobes food for thought if they had included one or more of these languages.

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He knew.

“I hope this Acadian music and language too doesn’t ever die out because it’s too beautiful. People think that just because America is mainly English speaking that everything should be English speaking but I think that we’d lose something if we lost this.”

I gotta admit, I know next to nothing about Pete Seeger and I’m really not fond of the whole “now that he’s just died, lets all suddenly be his biggest fans” thing. However, I think it’s pretty great that he was not only aware of the culture of southern Louisiana even back in ’60s but that he enjoyed the music enough to put it on TV.

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Second lining through city hall.

We were protesting against a noise ordinance which led us right into city hall and then into the council chamber where the musicians played a funeral dirge then The Tremé Song by John Boutté. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to save that video.)

This is an important issue for the people of New Orleans. If you want to learn more, visit maccno.com.

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Pussyfooters second line.

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A murder of crows.

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New chamber piece.

So I wrote a new piece at someone’s request. It’s probably a good thing, too, since I hadn’t written anything in quite some time and this gave me impetus to start up again. Anyway, it’s No 5 under Doodles for Chambers in the music section.

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Country music, sitting in a truck, sinking in its rivers.

This video, created by a music critic, was posted recently over at Gawker:

The creator, Grady Smith, explains that the video highlights how generic modern mainstream country music is.

I’m inclined to believe that all he’s really doing is highlighting how strong these themes are, symbolically, in country music. Complaining about country singers always talking about dirt roads and river bends is like complaining that hip-hop artists mention “the ‘hood” so often. The argument he could be making instead is that these symbols have become the content of the songs instead of being tools used to anchor the music in the genre while making more personal idiosyncratic statements, which is quite possibly what’s happening. Of course, even then you’d have to decide whether the narrative is even the point of the song or whether the song is just meant to be fun. That’s the case in a lot of Cajun music, for instance, where a song might consist almost completely of just the phrase, “Les haricots sont pas salés,” [The beans aren't salty] because the point is to dance and the vocals are being utilized purely for their rhythmic potential.

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Cajun French flash cards.

I don’t know if I’ve talked about the flash card program Anki on here before but I know I’ve professed my love for it to practically all of my friends who are students. I started using it just for language classes but soon realized I could use it for basically every class in some way which was perfect for studying on the move because you can pull up cards on your phone and it will sync them with your computer.

It’s not like traditional flash cards in that it doesn’t show you every card every day. You can limit how many new cards you see each day as well as how many old cards. Even better, each time you get a card correct, it takes pops up less and less often in your old card pile. Eventually, you won’t see a card that you know really well for maybe a year but those cards that you get wrong every day keep showing up every day. All of this can be adjusted as well.

I had been making a deck for my Cajun French class and ended up with a pretty significant number of cards. I thought about sharing the deck with classmates but then I realized I could share it with the whole interwebs. Anki allows users to share their decks with other users through its website. I couldn’t find a Cajun French deck already posted so I cleaned mine up a bit and posted it at https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/1735265721.

The description on the Anki site has all the details. If anyone is interested in using it but can’t quite figure out the program, feel free to contact me.

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Reinforced gibberish.

Last night I was talking to a stranger about sign language, because of the story above, and discovered that he was under the false impression that there’s only one sign language. He was pretty surprised to find out that there are many, that American Sign Language “speakers” can’t even understand British Sign Language “speakers” because they’re literally completely unrelated languages.

This all goes to highlight the problems inherent in little known languages. For instance, if the imposter in the story was an Afrikaans interpreter, it’s unlikely he would’ve made it on stage because there would have presumably been many instances along the way when he could have been caught. For sign language, probably not so many.

This is a problem not just for catching imposters, but even for actual speakers of languages that don’t get used often. For instance, this stranger I met was from New Zealand where some people are trying to revive the Māori language. Problems arise because there’s no reinforcement of language norms there. Teachers are often not native speakers and make lots of mistakes, sometimes large mistakes, but students simply assume that the teachers are correct. Later, when these students attempt to talk to grandparents that are native speakers, they have no ability to communicate whatsoever.

Languages are not tangible things, they’re abstract entities that are socially constructed. Without regularly sharing and reinforcing norms with other speakers, it’s impossible to know if you’re using the language or simply saying gibberish, as the imposter signer was.

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