Column Task

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I have added the column task and supporting material to Google Classroom as requested. It has been heartening to see how many of you are working on your English studies in the break. Message me if you need further information or help.

Check out this post to find out more on writing a column and go here and here for a couple of columns to read.

In the west, adultery isn’t punished by stoning. Instead, the press will kick you until you beg for forgiveness

In this column from the Guardian site Charlie Brooker also looks at public apologies and questions who they are for and why they are made.

Here is a extract:

Tiger Woods said sorry. John Terry said sorry. Even Vernon Kay said sorry. It’s a sorry state of affairs. If you were to rank the three in terms of transgression, that’s probably the order they’d fall in: Woods first, then Terry, and finally Kay (pictured), who didn’t even cheat, or at least not in our physical realm. Texting flirty messages? Maybe unwise when you’re otherwise engaged in a relationship, but at the very worst it’s a Matrix shag. I’m not exactly what you’d call a fan of Kay’s presentational style, but I don’t derive any pleasure from watching him squirm and apologise to a pointing, cackling nation.

When did public displays of contrition become the norm? More to the point, who actually appreciates them? Sitting through any public apology is mortifying. It just feels wrong. And unless the poor sod in question is ­saying sorry for something as momentous as a war crime, it’s entirely unnecessary. The public don’t need to hear it, because the public isn’t as psychotically, self-regardingly deranged as the press. Consequently, these apologies are aimed not at the public, not at the fans or the ­listeners, but the press. The press demands apologies on its own behalf, regardless of the will of the people. And it does this because it is insane, truly Caligula-level insane.

Read the whole thing here.

Tweenies turned off by ‘gross’ sexy images

This article in today’s NZ Herald may be of interest to some of you that are writing on similar topics. Here’s an extract:

When teen star Miley Cyrus posed topless for Vanity Fair magazine, outrage resounded from commentators who believed such sexualised images were forcing young girls to grow up too soon. But the early findings of a study done by lecturers at Canterbury and Victoria Universities has revealed a conflicting view. Rather than wanting to be like Miley Cyrus, “tweenage” girls (those aged 11 to 13) found the magazine cover “yuk”, “gross” and “uncool”.

Read the rest here.

The state of the internet

This term we have discussed the internet and its impact on our lives as part of our work on columns. Mashable posted on  the state of the internet using information from a video produced by Jesse Thomas. The video was created and animated by Thomas with data from multiple sources. It highlights some remarkable figures and visually depicts the internet as we know it today. The video shows us how immersed web technologies have become in our everyday lives.

Watch the video (above) but I have put some of the most interesting statistics below:

– There are 1.73 billion Internet users worldwide as of September 2009.

– There are 1.4 billion e-mail users worldwide, and on average we collectively send 247 billion e-mails per day. Unfortunately 200 billion of those are spam e-mails.

– As of December 2009, there are 234 million websites.

– Facebook gets 260 billion pageviews per month, which equals 6 million page views per minute and 37.4 trillion pageviews in a year.

The beautiful game

In this column from The Times India Knight ponders what has happened to sport in these times of sex scandals and celebrity obsession.

My personal experience of sport consists only of “games” at school — specifically lacrosse, an astonishingly vicious game that in America and Canada is played by beefy men wearing helmets and shoulder pads. In English girls’ schools you are left au naturel, shivering in your little games skirt while trying to shield your face — and the rest of you — from an incredibly hard ball, lobbed with great force and travelling at great speed. Good times.

I don’t know whether it was this especially spartan old-school introduction to the delights of running about on a muddy pitch that coloured my view of what sport was about — mens sana in corpore sano was the gist, always assuming the old mens didn’t take a direct hit from the ball — but I’ve never deviated from it, whether I’ve been watching my children play a football match or watching football on TV.

At its best, sport is about the human body doing something transcendentally brilliant, something amazingly skilful and disciplined, something occasionally breathtakingly beautiful, and in so doing bringing enormous joy to the people watching, whether they’re proud parents or a crowd of millions. It’s not about who does what to whom in a hotel bedroom or how much their wife’s hair extensions and veneers cost. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Read the rest here.

Mea culpa

Mea culpa is a Latin phrase that translates into English as “my fault”, or “my own fault” and it is one that has been used a great deal in 2010. The art of the apology has been much discussed in recent times as you will realise if you have been following the reaction to Tiger Woods’ 14 minute nationally televised mea culpa.

In today’s Sunday Star Times Finlay Macdonald explains why sorry is no longer the hardest word to say.

Let me take this opportunity to apologise publicly for not having apologised earlier. I’m sure there was something I should have apologised for, so take this as an all-purpose apology for whatever transgressions or offence I made or caused in the past. I’ve let my family down, I’ve let the public down and most of all I’ve let myself down. I’d also like to apologise in advance for whatever I do to upset people in the future. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

We live in sorry times, to be sure. Everyone, from horny sportsmen, to hapless corporate CEOs, to entire countries, is doing it. Sorry is the new black. If you’re not sorry – and expressing it publicly – maybe you’re hiding something. Get with the programme and beg for forgiveness.

Once upon a time, an event as stage-managed and ridiculous as Tiger Woods’ broadcast apology would have been a rare thing. These days it was merely another – albeit higher profile – mea culpa in the never-ending melodrama that is modern public life. The headline writer’s cliche used to be that “sorry seems to be the hardest word”, but these days the opposite seems truer.

I thought last year would be hard to beat, what with the collective shame of Rodney Hide, Bill “not a good look” English, Hone Harawira, Paul “retarded” Henry and Tony Veitch paraded across our screens almost nightly. Budget airline Jetstar was at it, too, buying full-page newspaper ads to atone for its check-in meltdowns. Overseas, musician Kanye West had to say sorry to Taylor Swift for being a jackass at the Grammy Awards, while Chris Brown apologised online for beating up his girlfriend Rihanna. It was a strange day indeed when no one felt compelled to publicly plead for mercy.

But 2010 is shaping up as an even greater annus apologeticus. Already, Britain has apologised for its evil child migrant scheme, and Toyota’s Mr Toyoda has been up before a congressional committee in Washington to apologise for selling wonky cars. Back in the UK, footballer John Terry has had to say sorry, as has broadcaster Jeremy Paxman – the former for actually doing what the latter only said on air.

Read the rest here.

‘I think you should know that the Queen is a lizard’

In this column Caitlin Moran writes about her discovery that columnists exist for mad people to write letters to once they’ve finished writing to newsreaders. Read the whole column on Times Online.

When I was 18, I grandly believed that, in exchange for the cost of a newspaper, a columnist should provide some useful or diverting opinion that the reader could, if they so wished, drunkenly pass off as their own in the pub that night. It’s certainly what I used to do with Katie Boyle’s agony column in the TV Times.

However, as, over the years, I’ve resolutely failed to achieve this, even once, I’ve now retrospectively become far more unambitious about the whole affair, and boiled the raison d’être of the columnist down to this: they exist for mad people to write letters to, once they’ve finished writing mad letters to local newsreaders.

Obviously not all the letters I get are mad: some of them are absolutely delightful. Kind, courteous people who just liked, or were puzzled by, something I said, and simply wanted to send a note marking the fact. That these people almost invariably have lovely handwriting and beautiful notepaper only drives home that, in many instances, a column in a newspaper can work by way of bringing like-minded and civilised people together. Sometimes, a column is like a party to which everyone is invited.

But then there are, of course, unavoidably, the mentalists. The Curly Wurly thinkers. Apostles from the Church of Woo Woo. I collect the really outstanding ones in what I respectfully refer to as “The Nutter Box”, and as I leaf through it I can see the whole span of the human condition, every permutation of communication, and a lot of fonts from mid-90s daisywheel printers that you just don’t see any more.

Do standards pass the test?

In this column from The New Zealand Herald columnist Kerre Woodham discusses national standards. Read the whole thing here.

My daughter’s nearly finished uni so the prospect of coming to grips with the National Standards isn’t nearly as personal for me as it is for parents with primary school-aged kids.

Given the stridency and the implacability of the arguments from the Government and the NZEI over standards, it’s difficult to read, respond to and think critically about the texts – as National Standards demand a Year 4 pupil be able to do – but I’ll give it a bash.

Initially, I thought National Standards were a good idea. When you look at the numbers of functionally illiterate people in prison, you understand just how harmful it is for the individual and the community for a young person to be failed.

I accept that teachers aren’t the only answer in helping kids who are failing. If these kids are coming from families where ignorance is endemic, chances are these woeful parents aren’t going to give a fat rat’s arse about their children’s progress.

But can the NZEI tell me how a 13-year-old can reach secondary school without being able to read and comprehend basic texts?

Now it’s geography that’s going to be history

In this column by Giles Coren he discusses proposals to abolish subjects in schools. I have added an extract and highlighted my favourite bit.

“In recent years, it has been fashionable to scoff at Francis Fukuyama’s announcement in 1992 of the “end of history”, pointing out that the fall of communism and the death of ideology has by no means spelt the end of material progress but merely moved the diodes around which historical forces polarise.

Now, however, we can clearly see that Fukuyama didn’t mean history was over, per se, just that it was changing its name to Human Social and Environmental Understanding.

It is, however, the end of geography (it will also, confusingly, be called Human Social And Environmental Understanding) that will cause the greatest upset, for if there is no geography then what on earth will the PE master teach as his indoor subject? (I mean, come on, you can’t teach Human Social and Environmental Understanding wearing a tracksuit, now can you?)

I was reasonably OK at English, and proud of it. It is, after all, the only meaningful thing to be good at. Being good at French or physics or history just meant you’d been listening to the teacher, but to be good at English – the language we all have to speak anyway – was like being “good at being a person” or “excellent at living”. Now it’s going to be called Understanding English, Communication and Languages, which is, like, sooooo lame, you know what I’m saying? I mean, bruv, who wants to communicate, innit?

A huge change of personality will come over the curriculum: the muscular thickos who can climb a rope but barely read will now shine in Understanding Physical Health and WellBeing, which sounds every bit the intellectual equal of Scientific and Technological Understanding. And all the subjects for whacked-out druggies with dirty hair will be lumped together as Understanding Arts and Design – although many will no doubt be put off by its having four words, which is way more than they are capable of reading at a sitting.”

Read the rest here.

Column Writing

We looked at our first column today and you have been asked to find other examples. There are plenty around and you will find lots of examples on this blog.

The extract below is discussing the recently released film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and it was written by India Knight.

Message of hope behind Slumdog Millionaire’s ‘tourism porn’

Danny Boyle’s movie Slumdog Millionaire – rather oddly billed as “the feelgood movie of the year” – has five Critics’ Choice awards, four Golden Globes and 10 Oscar nominations; it is also currently topping the British box-office charts. Reviewers worldwide have, with a tiny handful of exceptions, heaped dazzling praise upon the film – praise that is, in my view, completely deserved.

But now the carping has started. On his blog, the revered Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan said that there was “anger by some on [the film’s] content” and noted that “the Slumdog Millionaire idea, authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative Globe recognition. The others [Indian-made films dealing with India’s underbelly] would perhaps not”. He added that the movie could cause “pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots”. These comments were, inevitably, taken to mean that Bachchan saw some sort of injustice in a westerner winning acclaim for making a movie that arguably “exploited” India’s poor.

There was always the risk that Slumdog would be seen by some as merely tourist porn – something grim but uplifting, with amazing cinematography and beautiful colours. Something that would make western audiences feel better about their own lives but would also present the worrying plight of Mumbai’s street and slum children as surmountable through a combination of ambition and resourcefulness…

Read the rest here on Times Online.