Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Message From Her Majesty The Queen

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Today’s Commonwealth is home to nearly a third of the world’s population. Its almost two billion citizens come from so many faiths, races, cultures and traditions.

I think that one of the reasons for the success of this organisation is that it draws not only on certain shared values, but also from the principles and practices of everyday life, which can be observed day after day in the cities, towns and villages of our 53 member countries.

Over thousands of years, the very basis of community life has been the pooling together by individuals of their resources and skills. Rather than having to be good at everything, people were able to practise their own skill or craft. The lesson of community life is that to flourish we must help each other. To do this, there has to be a sense of fairness, a real understanding of others’ needs and aspirations, and a willingness to contribute.

Despite its size and scale, the Commonwealth to me is still at heart a collection of villages. In close-knit communities like these, there are beliefs and values that we share and cherish. We know that helping others will lead to greater security and prosperity for ourselves.

Because we feel this way, our governments and peoples aim to work even more closely together. And as individuals, we find that taking part in Commonwealth activities can be inspirational and personally rewarding.

In today’s difficult and sometimes divided world, I believe that it is more important than ever to keep trying to respect and understand each other better. Each and every one of us has hopes, needs, and priorities. Each of us is an individual, with ties of emotion and bonds of obligation – to culture, religion, community, country and beyond. In short, each of us is special.

The more we see others in this way, the more we can understand them and their points of view. In what we think and say and do, let us as individuals actively seek out the views of others; let us make the best use of what our beliefs and history teach us; let us have open minds and hearts; and let us, like the Commonwealth, find our diversity a cause for celebration and a source of strength and unity.

This is a thought worth bearing in mind as we gather on Commonwealth Day: we are a thriving community; we value our past; we make the most of our present; and we are working together to build our future. By respecting difference and promoting understanding, that future will be a better one for us all.
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Overheard At Sandhurst

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("Promise me you'll kick it before Gran does.")
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Meet George McWhirter, Vancouver's Poet Laureate

A surprisingly sensitive story from the mouth of the fascist press.

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Department of Motivation: Saving the World's Endangered Languages

(MSM sez: My friend Doug is talking about starting a highly specialised blog about languages and linguistics. He even has a way cool name for it. It will rock. He could start a blog about procrastination, which is the only thing he knows more about than languages and linguistics. (Talk about the Pothead calling the kettle black.) We all have our challenges; if we're lucky the universe gives us friends to help compensate for them. Certainly he's kicked my ass more than once. Who am I not to return the favour? In the interest of the future happiness of everyone on the planet, I'm going to badger him into doing just that by providing extensive coverage of an issue that is dear to me: the preservation of linguistic diversity. This oughta get him.)

From: The New York Times
Date: March 18, 2007
Title: Chinese Village Struggles to Save Dying Language


SANJIAZI, China — Seated cross-legged in her farmhouse on the kang, a brick sleeping platform warmed by a fire below, Meng Shujing lifted her chin and sang a lullaby in Manchu, softly but clearly.

After several verses, Ms. Meng, a 82-year-old widow, stopped, her eyes shining.

“Baby, please fall asleep quickly,” she said, translating a few lines of the song into Chinese. “Once you fall asleep, Mama can go to work. I need to set the fire, cook and feed the pigs.”

“If you sing like this, a baby gets sleepy right away,” she said.

She also knows that most experts believe the day is approaching when no child will doze off to the sound of the song’s comforting words.

Ms. Meng is one of 18 residents of this isolated village in northeastern China, all over 80 years old, who, according to Chinese linguists and historians, are the last native speakers of Manchu.

Descendants of seminomadic tribesmen who conquered China in the 17th century, they are the last living link to a language that for more than two and a half centuries was the official voice of the Qing dynasty, the final imperial house to rule from Beijing and one of the richest and most powerful empires the world has known.

With the passing of these villagers, Manchu will also die, experts say. All that will be left will be millions of documents and files — about 60 tons of Manchu-language documents are in the provincial archive in Harbin alone — along with inscriptions on monuments and important buildings in China, unintelligible to all but a handful of specialists.

“I think it is inevitable,” said Zhao Jinchun, an ethnic Manchu born in Sanjiazi who taught at the village primary school for more than two decades before becoming a government official in Qiqihar, a city about 30 miles to the south. “It is just a matter of time. The Manchu language will face the same fate as some other ethnic minority languages in China and be overwhelmed by the Chinese language and culture.”

(While most experts agree that Manchu is doomed, Xibo, a closely related language, is likely to survive a little longer. Xibo is spoken by about 30,000 descendants of members of an ethnic group allied to the Manchus who in the 1700s were sent to the newly conquered western region of Xinjiang. But it, too, is under relentless pressure from Chinese.)

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Sunday Funny

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Okay, so it's three years old. It's timeless. It's classic. It's timeless.

(Oh wait, I said that already. That's 'cause it's really timeless. Yeah.)
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Water Found On Mars

The Republican Party is said to be eager to find new ways to soil it, squander it, and sell it at an exorbitant profit.

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The Adrienne Clarkson's Canadian Light Infantry?

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Former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson has been named Colonel-in-Chief of Canada's famous fighting squadron The Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, to replace the ailing Countess Mountbatten. Ms. Clarkson is the first Canadian and first non-Royal to hold the post.
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