Philobiblon: Only in America

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Only in America

Only in (fill in the blank): this is a whole category of news story, the sort of item that usually ends at the bottom of a column of briefs. Witchdoctors make men's genitals disappear, town believes world is flat, centipedes are worshipped here ... They used to originate from Africa, or the further reaches of Asia.

But increasingly these seem to be coming out of America, that land of the unfree and deluded. Today's examples:

1. I read on Slit that an 18-year-old has been charged with planning a terrorist act for writing a story about zombies taking over a high school. I doubt even the wilder reaches of al-Qaida have considered the use of zombies, although of course you can never be sure about the CIA ...

2. I dread to imagine what a "Chuck-E Cheese" all-you-can-eat restaurant that seats 562 might be like, but you wouldn't think eating there, even if you've lost the receipt, would lead to police officers using the human equivalent of a super-powered cattle prod on you in full view of your children. (Hat tip to Popping culture.)

3. And I was reading on And then I stepped in gum about her most commendable effort to teach her young charges that other countries existed, only to find that her co-leader was unaware that Canada was not a US state.

If that has left you with a mild case of depression, I offer the cheering, if slightly odd, news that you can brush up your classical Mongolian at a website based in Aberystwyth, Wales. That's what you call "good globalisation".

I thought learning to read Thai was hard, in part because vowels can be placed in all different positions around a consonant and also because words are not split up, but this looks a lot worse:

"All Mongolian words are based around single straight line which the Mongols call the spine (Mong. nighurun). All individual letters are then represented by flicks and dashes away from this central line." (From Script Tutorial 1)


Blogger Ronnie Smartt said...

Isn't it time the Government set up a Commission to deal with institutionalised Americanophobia among bloggers?

3/03/2005 02:51:00 pm  
Blogger Susoz said...

Which government would that be?

I've heard of Chuck-e-Cheese before. Very unfortunate resemblance to the Australian idiom for throwing up.

3/04/2005 12:13:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

The government of the poodle, I'm sure Ronnie means ...

And yes I hadn't analysed why the name turned me off, but now I see why.

3/04/2005 01:35:00 am  
Blogger melinama said...

Great post. When I was in junior high/high school I guess I just wanted to learn every language. I had a "Finnish Made Easy" book I bought used, what a joke no way to make that language easy. Now I want Mongolian. Don't let's get too depressed about the quality of education: see

My mentee is learning fractions for the second year in a row and gets perfect grades on her homework but cannot answer (no matter how it is phrased) the question: how much is two halves?

3/05/2005 12:44:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Great post on education thanks - and I do agree with you that the "good old days" never existed. I came to that conclusion when as a small town journalist I got the job of "judging" the Brownies writing badges. First up was a child whose mother - who could neither spell nor punctuate - had obviously written the lot. I very much suspect the child could have done better herself.

The "decline" theory now is, I think, powered by the fact that few jobs exist for those without literacy and numeracy, so the limitations of people who would previous have slid into broom pushing or tea-making stand out to everybody.

P.S. Yes I did give the Brownie her badge - pure cowardice.

3/06/2005 12:41:00 pm  

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