Archive for April, 2008

P.S. I love you – Hillary Swank

April 30, 2008

I began to like Hillary Swank last summer. I watched The Freedom Writer, where she acts as the young high school English teacher that in order to teacher those African American and Latino and Asian kids, those who grow up from ghetto, that had been shot, raped, beaten, bullied, and also shot and bullied others, how to write, she divorced, fought with her supervisors, did 2nd and 3rd job out of school, invited a Holocaust survivor and writer to the class, and changed the lives of many of her class. That movie, in my eyes, is a great show of hope and courage, of devotion and love, and is almost a solo demonstration of Hillary Swank’s gift and passion in performance.

Then I saw this one: P.S. I love you. Hillary Swank, and Gerald Butler. Gerald Butler was the ghost in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s movie the phantom of the opera, and also the King of Spartans in the movie 300. I like his singing, and one of the best songs in the movie is this one, originally by the progue.

Of course, a love story is only a story, which means it does not happen to everyone, it is not often seen and heard. And even for this couple, Gerry and Holly Kennedy, so deeply in love, their love being so romantic since their first moment of meeting, with everlasting passions and not much hassles from parents, they have problems in their daily life, about money, about work, about house, about child, about Gerry’s singing, about Holly’s not singing, blablablah. They whine, they quarrel, they fight. Only after Gerry (Butler)’s death, that Holly finds out how much she is in love with him, and how much his laughs, his singing, makes her life happy.

Sad to see that, if Gerry doesn’t die, there will not be such a touching story.

Below is the scene when Gerry the Irish country boy and singer sees the colorful American girl who wants to create something whatever. They fall into love in the first meeting. It is really beautiful, perfect, unforgettable.

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Seeing Barack Obama

April 17, 2008

Next time being asked which celebrity I have seen, I will answer "Barack Obama".

Yes, I saw him, I listened to his speech, I shook hand with him, and right afterwards I left.

It was amazing to see the passion for politics, for elections, of the American people, especially, this time, the young and the African Americans. So many of them and so excited was them. In my mind, I was telling them, "Silence! Your holiness is coming soon!"

Still, the majority keeps silent. This is the real power of the American society.

I was a little uneasy of the organization of the rally. Everyone had to fill in a form, with contact information and choices of ways to help the election, such as to vote early, to host volunteers, etc. You cannot get into without this form. And, when the rally began, it was nothing but to ask for votes and sending cell phone number to them. Even when Obama came to the outside group, his speech was focused on calling for votes: the exact ways to vote for him. Of course, you can always give out wrong information and hence avoid harassment from the campaign, but whoever wants to fabricate personal information? These strategies are a little aggressive in my eyes, and I don’t like it. However, since Bill Clinton had spoken to the neighboring town already, and I lost that chance, I cannot compare the campaigning styles of the two groups.

The most ugly Chinese student overseas?

April 16, 2008

Wow, I could not believe that CCTV, the central media of Chinese government, accused Miss. Qianyuan Wang as "the most ugly Chinese student overseas" in the homepage of its web site.

Here is a grab of the  page corner. The girl at the bottom is the 21-year old Duke freshman Qianyuan Wang, from a beautiful city in China, Qingdao. The caption says "The most ugly student overseas" – no need to indicate "Chinese" of course.

She has been accused by Chinese students and now the governmental media because a few days ago, during a demonstration in Duke, she tried to defend for the anti-Tibet group.

Pretty soon her speech was put online, her background exposed by other Duke Chinese students, and was accused – but also gained media attention that the National Public Radio interviewed her.

All the information I have got is from Internet. As far as I have read till now, I really cannot say much about her. But first, I don’t like what CCTV has done. It is ugly to say a Chinese 21-year female "the most ugly", though I have to agree that her behaviors has obviously hurt the feelings of many Chinese people.

The young netizens in China may be violent and irrational. They post more than act, they express hate more than understanding, they blame dissents in the name of country and nation, and they swear all the time. I have to say, this kind of attitude and behavior may be intentionally fostered by the Chinese media and government.

In the case of Wang, her personal information was revealed online, her parents were threatened and had to post an apology  letter to "the people", and some even sent emails with intimidation, or posted her photo as the "most wanted".

This is wrong. Of course the other Chinese have the freedom (or partial freedom for those in mainland China) to accuse her, but they should not reveal the private information, not give a death threat (although due to cultural difference, a death threat in China is not the same one in the West).

Personally, I don’t like Miss Wang. Her Chinese writing sucks!!! And I don’t like anyone who doesn’t respect the mother language (her English is pretty good though). She may have faked her application materials to get into Duke, may be too ambitious. In one word, she may be an opportunist, and being opportunistic is necessary to succeed at least in China. America doesn’t like this patent opportunism, but now the media need a voice like this. She caught this chance, probably to get a Green Card and media coverage, but with a dear cost. Imagine the social pressure for her parents.

I feel sorry for this young lady, but mostly, for her parents.

Sunrise Sunset

April 15, 2008

This is a song from the musical Fiddler on the Roof, performed on the wedding of a Jewish couple. It is beautiful and sad… so sad every parents feel when they see their children are grown up and start to live their own lives…

Lyrics (Tevye is the father, Golde is the mother):

(Tevye)
Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?

(Golde)
I don’t remember growing older
When did they?

(Tevye)
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he get to be so tall?

(Golde)
Wasn’t it yesterday
When they were small?

(Men)
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

(Women)
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

(Tevye)
What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?

(Tevye)
Now they must learn from one another
Day by day

(Perchik)
They look so natural together

(Hodel)
Just like two newlyweds should be

(Perchik & Hodel)
Is there a canopy in store for me?

(All)
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

Travels with Charley in search of America

April 13, 2008

This
is the second book by John Steinbeck that I have read. To be honest, I
don’t like this reading as much as that of Bill Bryson’s, except the
first chapter, which explains men’s dream to travel, which is usually
inhibited by others saying that maturity will cure that infatuation,
and John Steinbeck found that he had waited long enough and should not
wait any longer for death may be coming. So he built (or actually, paid
a car-builder to build) a truck, named it Rocinante, picked up
everything he needed in the road, water, gas, bed, food, beer, wine,
books, notebooks, etc., and of course, his old dog Charlie.

Then
he sets out for a trip. Surprisingly, most of his writings is about his
own thoughts, and occasionally a few conversations with strangers he
meets, and of course, the barking and disease of his dog. He sleeps in
his bed inside the car, he makes food in his car or has canned food,
and he is almost 60 at that time, so his interest in traveling was
already diminished – He might not have that sense, but compared to Bill
Bryson’s book of traveling across America, the reader may feel it.
Although time differs, the old man has too many considerations of road
trip inconvenience, and has made too good preparations; the young man
in his early thirties doesn’t care that much, and writes about people,
towns, and exotic accents he sees and hears on the road, because every
night he rests in a small town and drinks and talks in small town’s
pub. So one may be more retrospective and introspective, the other is
definitely more energetic and optimistic.

That is why the last
chapter is about going back home in Long Island while the previous
chapter starts from New Orland. So many miles of traveling is omitted
in his mind, only because as an old man, he is already settled down in
his home.

So, take a trip when I still have the youth.

One Wild Guess of Stuttering Treatment

April 4, 2008
1. The perceived stuttering behaviors, whether in speech or in body parts, are consequences caused by neuronal blocks (Kalinowski & Saltuklaroglu, 2006).

2. This may be better illustrated in the development of secondary behaviors. First, the child may have some repetition, prolongation, or in some cases, blocks, but the secondary behaviors, like tongue stretching, eyes blinking, and arms swinging, are developed lately. These secondary behaviors can alleviate stuttering only temporarily,  and may change along the time (Van Riper, 1973). Therefore, it may be reasonable that these secondary behaviors are ways to improve their fluency, and with the progressive development of pathology, the behaviors change, and become more dramatic.

3. But choral speech may be the most powerful technique to improve fluency (Kalinowski & Saltuklaroglu, 2006). In reality, delayed/altered secondary speech signal, such as DAF, FAF, and DVF, may serve as variants of choral speech. These signals function not because of the distraction effect (Bloodstein, 1995), but may because of the emulation/strengthening of the motor sequences in the brain, or to say, the engagement with mirror neuron system (Kalinowski & Saltuklaroglu, 2006). However, though the involvement of mirror neuron system can have support from other aspects, such as Alvin Liberman’s motor theory of speech perception, and recent reports of the mirror neuron activation on hearing action words, I have rarely seen other researchers outside the Kalinowski group to accept this explanation.

4. But even without mentioning mirror neuron system, the motor theory of speech perception can help to explain the function of altered auditory signals. I am sure many people have this kind of experience: when you dance and you are not that familiar with that style, watching others’ dancing, although not perfectly synchronized, could help your movements. Someone argued that the delayed signal should not have the same effect as choral signals which are theoretically in perfect synchrony, but I believe for familiar motor tasks, such as speaking and much-practiced dancing, the delayed signals will help as long as the set of movement is same.

5. And the movements of other body parts that the stutterers intentionally or unintentionally employ may serve as the same target. That is, in the movements of their body parts, there may be something that relate to their speech movements, and by swinging the arms, blinking eyes, or twisting the lips, etc., the tension in the speech movement will be reduced.

6. But because these body movements are not that synchronized with speech movements (e.g., the articulator), it may work for a while, but will lose its function afterwards. And the stutterer has to devise some other set of movement to help himself or herself.

7. Is there a way to devise a hand sign system that can simulate the speech movements? Maybe it will help stutterers better than other body movements. Hand and mouth are in the neighboring areas in the homunculus, and many, many research has confirmed their close relationship. So if a system of hand gestures can simulate vowel, stops, nasals, liquid, etc., the stutterer may be able to simulate stuttering using his hands, and when he stutters, he can use hand gestures to release stuttering.

8. This set of movement should not be deemed as the sign language. I think it may need only a few gestures, that simulate vowel, stop, liquid, nasal, glide, etc. When done appropriately, stutterers using this set of movement would look like normal speakers with a little bit too many gestures… but quite fluently.

9. The results… hardly to predict right now. It also needs a better proprioceptive and kinematic sensation of the articulators and probably larynx. And, basically, it cannot remove stuttering prior to its happening, but serves as a way to pull out from the stuttering…

10. All after all, this is just a wild guess.