Saturday, October 31, 2020

Halloween, the Pandemic and Frankenstein


I've never been one for dressing up in costumes, although I have always enjoyed Halloween festivities. However, this Halloween is decidedly different because we are in the midst of a horrific pandemic.  Children can not go door-to-door as they usually do.  They can't have Halloween parties. It's not safe.  Yet, there are other ways to celebrate if people are creative and resourceful.

Those who read Number 16 regularly know that I am a film buff.  Due to COVID-19, I have not watched a film at a movie theatre since March.  Yes. one can always view a movie in the comfort of one's own home, but it's not the same as sitting in a cinema.  It's not the same as being part of an audience.  I miss attending movies terribly.  Alas, I will have to be patient until the situation improves.

During this pandemic, my husband and I have been watching a film at home every Saturday night.  Since tonight is Halloween, we decided to watch the 1931 version of  Frankenstein.  It's an American pre-code film, directed by James Whale and  produced by Carl Laemmie Jr.  It was adapted from a 1927 play by Peggy Webling, which was based on Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus.   Boris Karloff, of course, played the Frankenstein monster in the 1931 film.  He delivered a great performance without uttering a single word.

The photo below of Boris Karloff eating toast and drinking tea on the set of Frankenstein is priceless.

Happy Halloween!  Whatever you're doing, be safe and have fun.

- Joanne

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Should Americans of faith vote for Donald Trump or Joe Biden?

Let me be clear. The main purpose of this article is not to judge Donald Trump and Joe Biden as human beings.  My intention is to argue which candidate's public actions and policies align more closely with the beliefs of people of faith.

According to President Donald Trump, Joe Biden is "against God,” “against the Bible,” and “essentially against religion."  That statement is simply not true and it is utter nonsense.  Joe Biden is a flawed human being, but he displays empathy and compassion for others.  He truly cares about the suffering of others.  He is a devout, practising Catholic.

By his actions, Donald Trump has demonstrated that he has no use for religious faith unless it serves his interests.  He has used people of faith as a means of attaining his goal of achieving political power and holding on to it.

Remember how the American president displayed the Holy Bible as a prop for a photo op last spring?  After police used tear gas on peaceful protesters outside the White House, Trump held up a Bible in front of nearby St. John's Episcopal Church.   He offered no prayer and no words of comfort to beleaguered Americans.  It was pure theatrics.  Appearing on NBC's Today show, Bishop Mariann Budde, of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., stated that Trump held that Bible "as if it were an extension of his military authoritarian position."  She called it "an abuse of the spiritual tools and symbols of our sacred space."

Bishop Budde, also made the following remarks about Trump's appearance at St. John''s.  "He didn't come to church to pray, he didn't come to church to offer condolences to those who are grieving.  He didn't come to commit to healing our nation, all things that we expect from the highest leader in the land." 

Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, had this to say: "Seeing President Trump stand in front of St. John's Church while holding a Bible in response for calls for racial justice - right after using military force to clear peaceful protesters - is one of the most flagrant misuses of religion I have ever seen."

The Rev. James Martin, an eminent Jesuit priest and scholar, issued this statement: "Using the Bible as a prop while talking about sending in the military, bragging about how your country is the greatest in the world, and publicly mocking people on a daily basis, is pretty much the opposite of all Jesus stood for."

Donald Trump is forever the showman, even when it involves  that which is sacred.  He is the consummate reality show host.  He should have remained in the realm of entertainment and spared the United States and the rest of the world the four nightmarish years of his presidency.  

Devout followers of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths, or of any any other, should keep in mind that the president has shown little respect for their beliefs.  He'll defend them, however, if it will help him get elected.

It was conservative evangelical Christians who helped Donald Trump win the White House in 2016.  Eighty per cent of Evangelicals voted for Trump, mostly because of the issues of abortion and LGQT rights.  They voted for Trump despite the fact that his major policies are polar opposite to basic Judeo-Christian beliefs.  

What does the president really think of evangelicals and their beliefs?  In his book Disloyal, Michael Cohen, former fixer and lawyer to Donald Trump, Cohn describes how Trump reacted after a meeting with evangelical Christians priory to his win in the 2016 election.  According to Cohen, Trump remarked after the meeting, "Can you believe people believe that bulls---?"  

Is Michael Cohen the most credible witness of Trump's behaviour?  The only thing I can say is that Cohen had no reason to lie about what Trump said.  What could he possibly have gained from that revelation?  Cohen has committed crimes for Trump's sake.  He has gone to prison and he has nothing to lose by coming clean.  He spent a great deal of time with the president and knows him well.  So, I implore evangelicals to consider what the president has said about you behind your back before you cast your vote.

In the Book of Genesis, humans are called to be stewards of God's creation.  They are given a moral obligation to protect the earth and its plant and animal life.  Donald Trump has called climate change a "hoax."  He has encouraged Americans to use non-renewable sources of energy, fossil fuels such as oil and coal.  He has lifted environmental restrictions.  He has pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.  

I am truly astounded at how conservative Christians can support Donald Trump.  How can people who refer to themselves as "pro-life" support a president who does nothing to combat climate change?  How can people who claim to respect the sanctity of life support a president who takes no responsibility for those who have died of COVID-19?  How can those who call themselves Christians support a president who has separated migrant children from their parents and locked them in detention centres?

We already know about Donald Trump's attitude toward people of the Islamic faith.  He has shown nothing but contempt for Muslims.  He regards them as foreigners, terrorists and un-American.  As for people of the Jewish faith, here's what Trump really thinks.  Washington Post reporter Greg Miller related the following anecdote.  "After phone calls with Jewish lawmakers, Trump has muttered that 'Jews are only in in for themselves.'" and 'stick together' in an ethnic alliance that exceeds other loyalties, officials said."  Although the sources for this anecdote have not been named, there are more than one, and it does jibe with some other public remarks the president has made.

Donald Trump has highlighted what he considers the dual loyalty of American Jews.  For example, in a 2019 speech to American Jews, he referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "your prime minister" and Israel as "your country."  As Jonathan Chait writes in his September 23, 2020 piece in The Intelligencer: "Anti-Semitism comes in many forms.  Trump is absolutely not an eliminationist anti-Semite, like Hitler.  In some ways he admires Jews and attributes to them attributes of selfishness and shrewdness that recommend them as underlings and partners.  Like Richard Nixon, he is able to combine personal anti-Semitism with a public record of support for Israel.  What can't be denied, however, is that he is an anti-Semite."

For people of faith, the choice for president is a no-brainer.  Joe Biden will try his best to heal a nation that is divided and consumed with hate and violence.  

- Joanne

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Language Corner: Commonly mispronounced words

Why do people mispronounce words?  The main reason is that some words do not roll off the tongue easily when they are pronounced properly.  Other word confuse people and some do not follow a similar pattern of pronunciation.  Here are some examples of words that are often mispronounced.

LIBRARY AND FEBRUARY:  People seem to have difficulty with the "br" sound in those words.  They frequently don't pronounce the "r" sound when it comes after a "b".  "Library is often mispronounced as "liberry."  "February" is one of the most commonly mispronounced words in the English language because the "r" is so frequently dropped.  It is Feb-roo-ary NOT Feb-yoo-ary

MISCHIEVOUS:  "Mischievous" should be pronounced in three syllables as mis-chuh-vuhsThe correct spelling of the word is "mischievous"  NOT "mischievious."  It should not be pronounced in four syllables as mis-CHEE-vi-ous.  The word is commonly misspelled and mispronounced because many people think it should rhyme with previous or devious.

NUCLEAR:  "Nuclear" should be pronounced "noo-clee-ur" NOT "nucular."  However, some think it should follow the pronunciation pattern  of words such as "particular."  Former U.S. presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as former U.S. vice-president Walter Mondale, used the incorrect pronunciation of the word.  So, why is "nuclear" so commonly mispronounced?  Here is the reason, according to Peter Sokolowki, Merriam-Webster Dictionary editor:

"There are lots of words, some of them very common words, that have the pattern we have in \ˈnü-kyə-lər.  Words like muscular, popular, circular, regular, molecular, and cellular.  But the phonetic pattern for nuclear only shows up in pretty rarely heard words, the medical terms cochlear and trochlear.  We simply hear one more frequently than we hear the other.  And by analogy, more people gravitate toward the more common sound."

In his 1999 book, The Big Beastly Book of Mispronunciations, author and logophile Charles Harrington argues that "Molecular comes from molecule, and particular comes from particle, but there is no nucule to support nucular."

OFTEN:  The word "often" should really be pronounced with a silent "t" as in listen, glisten, hasten and chasten.  However, the "t" is so frequently pronounced that some dictionaries accept it.

ESPRESSO: "Espresso" ia coffee making-method of Italian origin.  The word is commonly mispronounced as "expresso."  People think of "express," not taking into account that the word is Italian.

ATHLETE AND VETERAN:  In her November 19, 2012 posting on The Crabby Copywriter, editor and  proofreader Diane Falkner writes "Have you ever noticed that people who cannot pronounce 'athlete' typically cannot pronounce 'veteran?'  This seems especially true of anyone in the media, more so when the speaker is a sports broadcaster."  

For some reason, people commonly pronounce the word "athlete" with an extra syllable.  However, there are only two syllables in athlete, not three.  It is "ath'-lete" NOT "ath-uh-lete."  The word "veteran," on the other hand, should be pronounced with three syllables, not two.  It is "vet-'er-an" NOT "veh'-trun."

FLAUTIST,  FLUTIST:  A "flautist" (FLOU-tist) OR "flutist" is one who plays the flute.  "Flautist" is the preferred term in British English.  Both terms are used in American English, but "flutist" is by far the more popular choice.

- Joanne