Sunday, June 28, 2009

Are British Media Racist?

Now, that is a bold question, you might think. Racist, xenophobic or misguided?

How good is your best foreign language, I wonder? Many Brits would confess to being lousy second-language speakers. A common argument for not learning another language if you were born with English, is that the rest of the world speaks English anyway, so what's the point? You get by with English anywhere in the world, and most other nationalities are often keen to try out their English, be it British or American English.

So here is the old joke: What language is the most commonly spoken in the world today? Bad English! But I say, they are at least trying, not like some other people! And most blogs out there are written in English, not always grammatically correct or without spelling mistakes, but it is probably the best way to communicate with a greater audience. Also many expat bloggers I know write extensively about their adopted countries and their languages, and how they try to integrate in every manner possible.

Some of us started learning English at school and then went on to university, like I did. When I moved to London in 1987 I got the chance to further improve my English. I actually worked hard at it. I always say it is like acting; you have to pretend you are English and act it out. I even talked to myself in the bathroom mirror! Now you might start thinking that I am mad, but no, I was just very determined.

These days nobody can detect that my mother tongue is not English, not my words, many people have said it in the past. I sound British. Am I now getting too full of myself? No, on the contrary, I do not consider myself being perfect or unique. There must be others, not born with the golden language, whom could be mistaken for first-language speakers of English.

Are you now thinking, where is he going with this? What about the British media? Exactly, this is where they come in, and I will begin in Sweden to get to the point.

When I grew up with cinema and television, and that's many years ago, we always had the subtitles when it was "in foreign". We listened to English, or French etc., but we could read the words at the bottom of the screen and get the meaning. This approach to translation is of course based on the assumption that most people are literate. (OK, do not get too offended now if you are from a country with "the dreaded dubbing". Hear me out.) In many well-developed countries, with a high literacy rate, you still find voice-overs and dubbing, so the literacy level is perhaps not the single reason for voicing it over or not. (You see, I can almost make up new words in English. It's a wonderful language, very flexible. You can twist and bend it to your heart's content.)

Does size matter? Could it be that smaller countries (as in population) are more prone to subtitling? You decide. All I know is that I was born in a small country, and we always had subtitles. I even worked one summer in the nineties subtitling TV programmes for Swedish consumption. Not easy getting the whole meaning into a limited number of seconds on screen, but it can be done. (Unless it's an auctioneer at an auction!)

So, there are two types. One is a dubbing. Like when my teenage friend went to Hamburg in the sixties with his parents and saw Help, the Beatles film, in German! John, Paul, George and Ringo spoke German! How bad is that, uh? Liverpudlians speaking German, I say! When he told us we nearly wet ourselves. A great bonus when you listen to a foreign language is of course the possibility that you might improve both your own vocabulary and pronunciation. But this is not the kind of translation that I have an issue with. No, it's the other one, voice-over.

I cannot for the life of me understand why even the flagship of broadcasters, the BBC, the most respected (?) broadcasting corporation in the world, uses voice-overs when they, for instance, interview people from other countries. And in what way do they do that, you may wonder? I'd say, in a bad and insulting way!

If, on a news programme for instance, a person from a rather foreign country is being interviewed in his/her own language, you hear this voice-over in heavily-accented English. There are no subtitles, just this voice speaking in the way the producer assumes the interviewee would speak, could he/she speak English. How insulting is that! They sometimes go to great lengths trying to find somebody with a voice similar to the poor foreigner, and then the voice-over artist/translator makes sure you understand that he/she is from a funny country somewhere far away where they do not know how to speak the Queen's English properly! The nerve! They are just adding to prejudice, pushing another wedge between cultures, languages and people. It is also very often difficult to hear/understand the voice-over.

Would it be better to have a native English speaker do the voice-over? Would they then have to find somebody with a suitable dialect/regional accent? Suitable educational level? Even more questions would perhaps be asked, but there is the obvious solution, SUBTITLING.

The people who did the voice-overs would perhaps be qualified to translate and subtitle the text instead. It might even create more jobs for educated people, both native English speakers and some of these peculiar people from Farawayistan or wherever.

Is it not about time (British) broadcasters show some faith in people's ability to read and stop using voice-overs, which only perpetuate popular prejudice?

mic done mic donemic doneold tvmic donemic donemic done

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sunbathing Birds

I have observed many times how some birds, in particular blackbirds, often lie down in a spread-eagle fashion, and I wrote about it recently. On several occasions I have tried to capture it with my camera, but they have been too far away for getting a good enough shot. The other day I saw first a nuthatch and then a young greenfinch sunning in a spot much closer, so I grabbed my camera and got some rather good shots to exemplify this phenomenon.

I researched it and found that not even the experts are really sure what the birds are up to sometimes. It seems to be a field that needs exploring and studying much more. My small contribution is the two pictures below. I also include an extract from the British garden Birds web site.

Blackbirds and other thrushes often sunbathe, laid down and with wings outstretched. The sun is thought to straighten the birds feathers and help the preen oil to spread through the feathers. Some ornithologists have suggested that it may also draw parasites to the surface where the bird can remove them or that the ultraviolet light in the sunlight converts chemicals in the preen oil into Vitamin D. However, one could be forgiven for thinking that they simply enjoy it.
Additionally, some birds like Blackbirds, Starlings and Jays will adopt a sunbathing posture on an ants' nest, or even pick up ants in their bill and rub them on their feathers. Ornithologists believe the formic acid that the ants release may kill feather lice
 (British Garden Birds)

Sunbathing Nuthatch

Sunbathing Greenfinch (juv)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Spread Your Wings!

I am still learning about my new camera and how to work it in different ways. Since the garden is full of birds I take the opportunity to practise my skills on them.

You will have to excuse the fact that some of these pictures are slightly blurred and a bit grainy, but I wish to demonstrate the beauty of their feathers, the way they make such wonderful patterns. It is not difficult to imagine the movement that I froze in a fraction of a second. Had you not known they were Great Tits and Greenfinches, you could have mistaken them for much bigger birds. I think they are stunningly beautiful birds.

DSC_0272_20090624_3184 done cr

DSC_0198_20090624_3110 done cr

DSC_0112_20090624_3024 done cr

DSC_0191_20090624_3103 done cr

Monday, June 22, 2009

What Happened to the Blackbird Chick?

Do you remember this little blackbird (just visible in front of its parent) in the nest in our garden hedge? After having posted this picture some time ago ...

DSC_0781_20090511_1298 cropped n fxd

... I went back a few days later to check on its progress, but the nest was by then empty. The fledgeling had flown. I did not know whether it was OK or had been taken by a predator. Now I believe I have the answer.

I am pretty sure that the young blackbird I saw sunning in the garden yesterday is the very one. He/she (too soon to say yet) did the typical blackbird thing of spreading its wings, or rather tried to perhaps, because this is all he/she managed to do. Adults sometimes lie down on the ground fanning out all the feathers, looking like a road accident victim. I do not know why they do that, but I guess it has got something to do with airing or possibly getting rid of parasites. I have not researched it yet.

DSC_0920_20090621_2498 smart fxd crop cr

Then I saw a rather unusual sight, a very young wood pigeon. The young one was on the ground with a parent, who took off as soon as it caught sight of me, but the little one did not understand the potential danger and just stood there not knowing what to do. They are funny, those young birds. They look completely lost in this new world before they have learnt the basics, and of course a great number of them do not survive for more than a few weeks. Often you can see them just sitting there, not doing anything, because they do not know yet what to do!

This particular fledgeling even had some down left between the developing feathers and looked very fresh. It had clearly not been out of the nest for very long. He/she managed to fly to our garden table, and then took off again to land extremely clumsily on a high branch which was much too small to hold its weight, so it had to flap its wings in a panic not to fall off. Great entertainment. See how young it looks, poor thing.

DSC_0865_20090619_2443 smart fxd crop cr

DSC_0895_20090619_2473 smart fxd crop

Friday, June 19, 2009

Squirrel on Speed?

We get quite a few squirrels in our garden who most of the time are happy to stay on the ground and help clean up what falls down from the feeders above. Sometimes they are more adventurous and try to slide down to the feeders and the ball with seeds from the holding branch. I try to keep the high shrub next to the feeders trimmed, but it is not always at a safe distance. Sometimes our furry little friends manage anyway. I have even seen them jump from the shrub onto the ball, but not successfully catch it on film.

Yesterday I spotted a young squirrel lurking in the shrub and I grabbed my camera. He was trying frantically to get to the metal feeder and he managed in the end, but could not hold on for too long, and he consequently dropped to the ground. Then he ran closer to where I was standing inside the patio doors with my long lens ready. I kept snapping and tried to follow his moves, but he only stood still for a fraction of a second before he moved away with lightning speed.

All of a sudden he ran towards, and into, the glass patio doors, seemingly trying to get in. He was moving so fast that the camera, which I had set to continuous shooting, could not keep up with his moves and had great trouble to focus for that valuable fraction of a second.

It turned out that I had managed to catch him three times, and the very best shot you can see below. He looks enormous on my screen when I open the file, and I certainly would not have liked to meet him at that size in real life. He was running around like he was mad, smashing into the glass several times before giving up. In future we had better keep the doors closed when we are not there!

01 02
03 04
05 06
07 08
09 10

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ominous Clouds

AA Pic of the Week 125 w

I could not resist the temptation to get my camera out for this as I was having a coffee in the new Western Harbour area of Malmö where there used to be an enormous shipyard. Now it is full of innovative and interesting buildings with a distinct international feel to it. We all needed a good, strong coffee the day after my brother's birthday party. In Bar Italia I had the best Latte of my life so far.

What you see in the picture is the bridge, part of a link including bridge, tunnel and man-made island, between Malmö in Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark. But the dominating feature is the rain cloud, which, together with the water, makes up one solid mass of grey-blue with only two dots of orange on the water. So had a fisherman not put out his net there, this photo would have been very close to monochrome.

DSC_0451 fxd cr

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oh, What a Party!

We went to Sweden (Malmö) to celebrate my brother’s 50th birthday. Before the party itself, one of the highlights of the trip took place, when my mother met little Hampus, her great grandchild, for the first time.


But I kept hold of him most of the time, what else did you expect?

The party had been moved to 6th June, which just happens to be the Swedish National Day, hence the abundance of flags.


Then the party got underway with interesting drinks, delicious food, good company, loud music and dancing, some funny and emotional speeches, a musical tribute and a lot of good humour.

DSC_0185_20090606_1777 DSC_0203_20090606_1795
DSC_0404_20090606_1995 DSC_0243_20090606_1835
DSC_0252_20090606_1844 DSC_0223_20090606_1815
DSC_0323_20090606_1915 DSC_0370_20090606_1961
DSC_0282_20090606_1874 DSC_0336_20090606_1927

By the time I went to bed at nearly three in the morning (!) this was the view from my mother's balcony.


The sun seems to be hiding only just below the horizon. Some party people might have been hiding in bed the day after, and some might even have been in need of these to get back into shape.


(Only joking; it's my mum's weekly medication, but you knew that.)

Throats were a little sore from talking over loud music and the body knew it had been dancing for far too long. But it was all worth it; we all had a great time, everybody from my mother (86) down to Hampus and Måns (2 1/2 wks), who went for the quiet option.

DSC_0182_20090606_1774 DSC_0175

Who said it is not fun getting older? I certainly had a lot of fun when my brother got much, much older than before.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

No Excuse, Just an Explanation

No, I have not disappeared, I'm still here, but work, other commitments and a holiday got in the way. It is my busiest period of the year at the moment, so I have had no time to spare. Blogging has sadly suffered.

I have used my new netbook, Samsung NC 10, for a lot of writing. My plan seems to be working. When we went to our house in France for half term holidays my new friend was by my side all the time. It began when we stayed overnight as usual in Albert. I intended to read some e-book on my netbook, turned it on and to my astonishment it told me it had detected a wireless connection. I clicked, as you do, to investigate, and found myself connected to the internet. I read some Swedish newspapers instead and even watched a music video before tucking in. Great, I thought, I did not expect this. I ended up later in the week walking the streets of various places with netbook in hand to search for internet connections. I must have looked a right fool!

It also struck me that, as late as in the sixties, people in the UK used the word wireless for a radio, which no young person of today would know, unless they watch black-and-white films.

As always when we return to our house and garden, the house needs airing and the garden needs, well, chopping down. The lawn was a meadow with half a metre of grass and flowers and had to be strimmed before it could be mowed. But we settled in straight away as usual and the week just flew by.

Now we are back, but the coming weekend we will go to my (kid) brother's 50th birthday party, so I will continue to be a bad blogger for some more time. I have however a collection of photos from our holiday in this post, and I will put up some more here and on my photo blog of interesting bird activity in our garden in other posts. See you soon bloglings!

Mural, Albert
Floral Decoration, Albert
Lawn before
Lawn after
Neighbours' Lovely Front
With a Sense of Humour
Can You See the Moon?
Not So Naked Trees