Language and Culture

I recently found a quotation that I had written down several years ago because I found it so interesting in its construction, but ultimately it’s commentary on language and culture.  I hope you might also appreciate it.

“The language is gonna have the characteristics of the people that speak it. If the people is inconsistent the language is gonna be inconsistent. If the people is fucking greedy, take shit no matter where they go– the language is gonna take shit no matter where it go. The language is a reflection of the people.”   Marlon Hill, Word Wars

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Welcome back

Today, all new students at Columbia College will participate in the pinning ceremony– a beautiful ceremony that simply welcomes each student into the fold that is 156 years of tradition and education. It’s definitely my favorite moment– inextricably tied with the Ivy Chain ceremony in the spring. Welcome, for the first time, to new students and welcome back to returning students. Monday will be here before we know it.

The following link has given me renewed energy for the new semester. It reminds why I teach what I do– the power of the communication is far-reaching, all consuming, and critical to every thing we hold dear in our lives. I had a student once say, “Why do I have to take a speech class? I mean, everyone knows how to speak, it’s like walking.” Do we really? Do we all really know how to speak? And it’s like walking? Maybe he was right… What happens if you lose the ability to walk? Just like the inability to speak, it is debilitating and life-changing.

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Michelangelo Antonioni 1912-2007

Wow. Learning the news this morning that Michelangelo Antonioni, one of the founding directors of Italian Neorealism, died was just a bit of a shock. To find out that he died on the same day as Ingmar Bergman… well, wow.

In the history of cinema the new wave of international cinema in the 50’s and 60’s was significant for several reasons. First, it took filmmaking back after ‘creating’ the genre at the turn of the century. Classical Hollywood transformed the genre– no questions asked. Filmmaking wouldn’t be what it is without Hollywood. But it wouldn’t be what it is without the avant garde filmmakers like Bergman and Antonioni {and Kurosawa and Buñuel and Fellini and Bresson and Ray and Rossellini and Godard and DeSica and…}. Hollywood hit a lull after the World War II. Combine that with the human spirit in artists who lived, literally, through that war and you had a filmmaking movement that change cinema forever. Second, the art house movement created by these films changed the style and the business of filmmaking. The independent film movement that Americans like to talk about so much, well, it began with the avant garde movement. Watching a film like Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding), you see the influence of those filmmakers is still as fresh 50+ years later.

I, would like, in this instance for the old wives tale that “deaths come in threes” to be wrong. These two are more than enough.

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Ingmar Bergman 1918-2007

It is odd– when I started this website, I wondered if I would ever have anything really interesting to write about. After all, wouldn’t all posts be course specific and for points of information vs. musings and contemplations? It seemly oddly poetic that my first contemplation would come after learning that Ingmar Bergman, the landmark Swedish film director, has died.

I love Sweden. I don’t know when my fascination started but I’ve loved that country for a very long time. I even took Swedish in college. What an experience– it was so different from French and Latin! I finally understood why English is purported to be so hard to learn. Germanic languages just didn’t work in my brain, but I still try to keep what little bit I learned active and present. Hej. Mon heter Amy och jag bor i Columbia. The greatest thing is counting in Swedish: ett, två, tre, fyra, fem, sex, sju, och, nio, tio. The word seven in Swedish is, by far, the most fun a person can have saying a word. I just love it. Ask me some time. Seven nurses is even more fun.

It’s no surprise that I became acquainted with Ingmar Bergman. Not just because he is one of the most highly regarded film directors in all of film history, but because he helped to remind the world of that small country in Scandinavia. The Seventh Seal still frightens me. I cannot sit through it. If you’ve never seen it, you’ve certainly seen a reference to it. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey makes reference to it with their own ‘twist’. The Seventh Seal is incredibly important to film history– from content, to style, to it’s place as an art house constant. To understand the art of cinema, you must experience a Bergman film. You can’t say that about a lot of directors. Do you have to see a Woody Allen film to understand film? A Michael Bay film? A Sally Potter film? I don’t think so. You can certainly learn something…but I believe you have to see a Bergman film. I know that many students in my film history class didn’t like Wild Strawberries, but on a day like today, I am so glad they saw it. And that’s the point about film, film history: it’s about opening yourself up to the elements and seeing the much larger world, the much darker, lighter, softer, harder, funnier, sadder world that a particular film makes available to you.

On this day, I think it only appropriate that I think of wild strawberries, vow to spend my chances well, enjoy the long day’s sunlight, and thank Ingmar Bergman.

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