Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Oscars, A Truly Global Event

The Oscars, A Truly Global Event

Lights! Cameras! Oscars! Sunday night's Oscars, more formally known as the 84th Annual Academy Awards, was, as usual, a night of glitz, glamor, triumph and loss. More than a billion people spent over three hours watching the events of the night unfold. Viewers, whether in the Hollywood and Highland Center (formally referred to as The Kodak Theater) or in front of television screens, were waiting with excitement to find out who would bag golden statuettes this year. People were also interested to see if Billy Crystal, who has hosted the Oscars for 8 years prior to last Sunday's telecast, still had the comedic chops to ensure that the whole night would not turn into a snooze fest. Although, the night had its shares of highs and lows, Crystal proved to the world that he was still the host to reckon with, at least for this generation of moviegoers. Of course, Bob Hope will always be the best.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Language of Cacao, Cocoa and Chocolate

Tons and tons of chocolates are bought and received the world over not only on Valentine's Day and other special holidays, but each and every day. It is a favorite gift item that many enjoy receiving, even those who say they are on a diet. Chocoholics cannot get enough chocolates and the sight of little kids with chocolate covered faces is truly adorable. But not many of the chocolate-loving population really wonder where chocolates come from or what the difference is between the terms "cacao" and "cocoa". All they know is that it is darn good stuff.

Chocolate as a way to everyone's heart

Chocolate comes in many forms. When one hears the word chocolate, the chocolate bar is probably one of the images that comes to mind. Chocolate is available in a variety of shapes, forms, sizes, tastes, and textures. It can be solid, semi-solid, or liquid. Chocolate can easily be molded and manipulated. During Valentine's Day, chocolate roses are a common site in bakeshops and gift stores. Nuts, candy, marshmallows, cookies, rice cereals, fruits and fruit peels, liqueurs and other ingredients are combined with chocolate to come up with treats that can be good for both the body and mind when eaten in moderation. Some swear that chocolate is an aphrodisiac that can heighten intimacy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Whitney Houston, A Diva Like No Other

"You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime. You wait for a face like that, a smile like that, a presence like that, for a lifetime. When one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away." These were the words spoken by music producer Clive Days last Saturday, February 18 during the memorial of Whitney Houston. As the whole world knows by now, Houston died last February 11, breaking the hearts of family and friends and of her fans around the globe.

Houston's ballad, I Will Always Love You, took people's breaths away. Listening to her sing, The Star Spangled Banner, stirred within the souls of Americans their love and pride for their country. Dancing to her song, I Just Wanna Dance With Somebody, provided everyone an occasion to let loose and just have fun. Whatever song she was singing, she knew which emotions needed to be tapped within her to make the song truly memorable. Some of the songs she made famous were not originally hers. But because she was a singer above the rest, she made those songs truly hers and hers alone.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Flags – Symbols and Communication Tools

Many people all over the world are so used to seeing flags that they often do not stop to think what purpose these flags serve. Why are they important? What is the reason behind the colors or their designs? Flags are not mere decorations. They serve as symbols of a country, a company or organization, or a group. Millions of flags are hoisted day in and day out mostly in schools, government offices and military installations all over the world. Flags have been flying for thousands of years and it’s about time to recall what they are here for.

What is a flag?

Basically, a flag is any measure of fabric used as an emblem, symbol, standard or identification. A flag can be used as decorations or in advertising. Flags also serve as signaling devices. They come in different shapes, colors, sizes and designs. The most common shape for a flag is rectangular. Designs of the flags around the world can be either simple or elaborate. Some are easy for school children to draw while others have complicated figures prominently displayed on them. The colors and the designs found on a flag have specific meanings for the people of the country that uses that flag. Flags can be hoisted, draped or folded. Different rules of etiquette apply in handling flags depending on the country or organization that owns the flag.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Samba and the Frenetic Rhythm of Brazil’s Carnival

Fast. Fun. Lively. Energetic. Graceful. These are just some of the adjectives that describe the dance form that is synonymous with Rio’s grand carnival, the samba. Many of these types of dances originated from Latin America and have evolved into the structured dance forms that we know today. Many of the Latin dances are performed by couples while some are suited for a solo dancer, male or female. Samba, in the carnival sense is danced by everyone, whether they have a partner or not.

Samba is one of the most recognized symbols of Brazil and really a top draw for tourists and other travelers. It has become an international Brazilian icon and deeply interwoven in Brazilian culture and tradition. It is so popular that Brazil celebrates the National Samba Day on December 2 of each year.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beyond Valentine's Day – South Korea Celebrates Special Days Every 14th of the Month

Valentine's Day is around the corner. In many parts of the world, especially in the United States and England (where the holiday of hearts originated), February 14 is the time for men, women and children to express their love and affection to people close to them. The color of the day is predominantly red with splashes of white and pink. Chocolates, candies, little cakes, adorable teddy bears, mushy and sometimes kitschy greeting cards, and flowers of all kinds, not just roses, are bought, sold and delivered on the week of the 14th of February. The most popular images are those of hearts and cupids.

Because of intense commercialism, Valentine's Day practices common to the US and England have invaded the shores of other countries. From Europe to Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia, Valentine's Day is celebrated either openly or under wraps. Some countries have their own Valentine's Day traditions. Usually, it is the florist or the confectionary makers (and other commercial establishments like department stores) that push Valentine's Day into the consciousness of the people for the sake of boosting their sales.

Women take the lead in Japan and Korea during V-Day

For instance, in Japan Valentine's Day was first introduced in 1936 by a confectionary and cake company, Morozoff Ltd. The foreigners living in the country were its market at that time. Other companies followed suit with their own gimmicks and promotions. Not all Western practices were absorbed by the Japanese, though. Exchange of Valentine cards or going out on dates was not a popular practice. What was unique to Japan was the practice of ladies in the office giving their male co-workers chocolates on V-day. In return, the men would give chocolates to the women a month later, specifically on March 14. The Japanese call this day, White Day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Don't Discount the Pen & Paper (not just yet)

We are now in the digital age. Technology has grown by leaps and bounds that electronic gadgets are now indispensible for many. Lives revolve around what information is written or received via gadgets that are supposed to make daily life easier. Productivity is on the rise; thanks to the wonders of information technology. And when it comes to keeping track of information, the tech gurus have provided a number of different options that mimic what was once the number one way to record information – the pen and paper.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy 200th Birthday Charles Dickens!

February 7, 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of a beloved Victorian era writer from England, Charles Dickens. His name is known to many worldwide, not only to literary buffs but also to countless students across the globe who were made to do book reports on some of Dickens' works and to visual arts enthusiasts! Many of Dickens' novels and novellas have been turned into stage plays, movies and television shows. Through the valiant works of professional translators, Dickens can now be read in many languages.

Dickens' wrote about what he knew, the Victorian era. He created stories with vivid characters that his readers could relate to whether with sympathy, empathy, apathy or extreme dislike. Anyone who reads his works from the first word to the last will never forget the images that his words conjured. Many were too real for comfort while others were definitely unforgettable.

A literary genius is born

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. His parents were John Dickens and Elizabeth Barrow. Charles was the second of eight children and at a very young age he experienced a life that he would later draw upon during his years as a writer. His father was imprisoned due to debt causing a 9-year old Charles to stop attending school. He had to spend time working at a blacking factory where he experienced appalling conditions which no child should ever experience. Charles felt much despair and loneliness. But fate smiled upon the Dickens family and once again, Charles was back in school. He never forgot his experiences at the blacking factory. These experiences eventually made their way into two of his works: Great Expectations and David Copperfield.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Neologisms or New Words in the Oxford English Dictionary

Each year, more and more words are added to English lexicons. New meanings are given to existing words by media, politicians, celebrities, artists, educators, writers, techies and just by about anyone creative enough to a neologism. This term simply means a new word or a new phrase that is being commonly used but not yet included in mainstream language.

Changes to the English language do not go unnoticed by linguists and lexicographers. While some of the other languages in the world are being fiercely protected in their mother countries, English seems to enjoy the influx of new terms into its dictionaries. "OMG," "FYI," "Britcom," "emailed," "goldendoodle," and "brain candy" are just some of the surprising entries to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The vanguard of words both old and new

The Oxford English Dictionary or OED was born over 150 years ago. It is not just any English dictionary that presents the current-day definition of terms; more importantly, it is also a historical dictionary. This dictionary presents the history behind individual words and phrases culled from literary classics, periodicals, cookery books, film scripts and more. Because it takes a historical approach to words, you can see how certain words, and the language itself, has changed over the years.