Friday, 28 January 2011

Motivation for Language Teachers

Before the nasty late winter weather and the looming exams make you buckle...

Before the strain of struggling with unwilling and ungifted students gets to you...

When you are struggling to make the troglodyte students at least communicate in monosyllabic grunts...

At least we might be able to teach them to howl...


Sunday, 16 January 2011

Which is the Most Depressed Country on Earth?

The WIN-Gallup International Association and its Expert Group on Opinion Research have recently (22.12.2010) released what they call their Global Barometer of Hope and Despair for 2011. In this survey they have conducted interviews of more than 64.000 people from 53 countries all over the world. They have studied the relationship between income per capita and hope for the future. From their findings it is possible to determine which country is the most depressed and which is the happiest one.

Here are some of those findings:

  • Western Europe is the most depressed region of the world. They have a net hope score of -23
  • Africans, on the other hand, live on the happiest continent with a net hope score of a whopping 67, suggesting that wealth and material goods are not the key to happiness. The comparative levels of unrest in the two regions make this all the more astounding.
  • Of the G7 countries, only Germany manages to get a score above 0. Their score of 3 is 61 more than the most depressed G7 country. More on this later.
  • Afghans, with a score of 24, are a lot more happy than Americans with their measly -9. The USA heads the income per capita ranking of nations with 46.730 $. Afghanistan occupies the 52nd place on this list with 1.500 $. That is roughly 1/31 of the USA.
  • The happiest country in the world is Nigeria with a score of 70. This is despite them being the fifth poorest country in the survey.
  • The most depressed country in the world is...

Ahead of Romania (-46) and Iceland (-51) France is the most depressed country in the world with a net hope score of -58. Whether the recent passing of legislation to expel Romanian beggars was an act of jealousy is not known. Iceland has of course been through some rough patches economically, but what can a country whose population either riots, shrugs or skips work possibly have to be depressed about?

The further to the right, the richer.
The further up, the happier.
Sources: Gallup Pakistan: Global Barometer of Hope and Despair for 2011 on link, last visited 16.01.2011.
Pictures: 1, 2.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Post on the Occation of a Blog's First Anniversary

Today it is one year since this blog was started. It has come a long way. The first fumbling posts were, like the first inquisitive steps of an infant, an attempt to forge an identity and explore a new environment. The first posts were special in the sense that they were not targeted at any reader as such. The blog could not be found with search engines until the middle of February and I remember revelling in writing for its own sake. I could write about whatever sprung to mind with no concern for propriety or entertainment value and bask in the splendour of possibilities yet to be discovered.

This state of Arcadian simplicity only lasted so long, however. I soon became aware that one of these possibilities consisted of an excuse to study subjects closely and process them through writing. A new form of self-realising sprung to life, more constricted in form and perhaps language yet all the more rewarding in terms of content. This inevitably led to my "going commercial". I opened my blog for search engines and soon found new delight in meeting a wide array of visitors. This led to a heightened awareness of what I chose as subjects for my posts. With so many picture based blogs on trivial matters out there, I wanted to offer something of a more abstract but still utilitarian character. Granted, at times a lapse in standards would, and will, occur but I like to think that even these were somehow relevant.

I have at intervals been forced to review the parameters of my blog. With the above mentioned monitoring of traffic, was my blog becoming subject to the implied pressure of having readers and changing accordingly? Potential topics for posts would, admittedly, be discarded due to their presumed lack of popular appeal but this would happen tolerably rarely. If anything, the awareness of actual readers would have a positive impact on my blog insomuch as I would take greater care with finding reliable sources and presenting a good, readable product. This was, amongst others, instrumental in the changes the blog underwent in early spring and the first weeks of October. A stunning 38 visits on the "reopening" in the end of October was a testimony to the positive influence of having readers.

Today, I am proud of the 77 posts I have produced and sincerely happy for having dared to venture into unfamiliar and somewhat scary territory. I hope to be able to keep blogging although I must admit that the main objective remains unaltered; to allow myself room to just enjoy writing and using my favourite language.

I know it does me good.

Aerobics and Cardigans

Seeing as my first post were, rather strangely, on the subject of squash it is equally strangely fitting that the first post on the blog's one year anniversary should be on sports.

After endless hours at work, I was commuting home by train the other day. My fellow travellers and I were alone and palely loitering, bent double like old beggars under sacks and only the yet to be subdued endeavoured to look out the window as the train slowed down for a sharp turn. What we saw was eerily uncanny.

There was a room with large windows at some considerable distance. Despite this we were able to see a group of about 60 persons, all female, clad in unflatteringly tight and gaudily coloured sportswear. They were erratically stomping from side to side and throwing their arms about with wild, fantastic and feral abandon. Contrasted with the abject and monochrome state in which we found ourselves in our carriage this would seem merely unsettling if it had not been for the fact that they were all doing it in perfect unison. Clearly, there was method to the madness, a method I had been somehow aware of but had chosen to repress. I was reminded of a stanza from The Cardigans' Godspell and the words stuck with me for the rest of the day.

You can hear it in the beat they march to
And you can feel the earth shake when they start to dance
You can tell by the way they move you
It's not murder, it's an act of faith.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Four Chords from Seven Years Ago and a Difficult Word

Following the blog posts on the life of a riff, this seems like a natural sequel. The badly named Axis of Awesome, Australia's most tolerated musical comedy trio, has pointed out what most musicians have noticed but not entirely thought through. A lot of pop music consist, at least in central segments, of a sequence of just four chords; D, A, Hm and G or a transposed version of these.

Although the trio might not be awesome in the original sense (as explained by Eddie Izzard - see above), they deserve credit for clearly and efficiently stating the point and compiling such a long list of songs, not to mention how they spread hope to lonely, unattractive but clever bachelors with a worn out instrument.

Here is their four chord song:

They could have done worse, wouldn't you say?

Source: 1