slanguistics / labor day

Marketing people can oversaturate your senses with sarcasm, so it was refreshing to take our genuinely curious and appreciative Japanese friends around Baltimore on Labor Day weekend. Their command of the English language was fairly good but they - like many Japanese - are perfectionists and become reticent for fear of making mistakes when speaking. So we reassured them that actual content is more important and grammatical mistakes will disappear with experience.

My wife shared a very helpful learning method when she first arrived in the states: soap operas. I'm not saying its quality T.V., but soaps offer a multitude of situations beyond the textbook. And since the Japanese language tends to be flatter in tone, the overacting soap stars actually provide good examples of english enunciation and cadence. Then if you need to learn some slang, change the channel to Maury - where you'll learn about the proliferation of unwanted pregnancies and paternity tests.

Back to the soaps: I spent a good chunk of my childhood watching the CBS soaps lineup of Young & The Restless, As The World Turns and Guiding Light as my Lola took care of me during summers. Recently, I flipped on these same soaps during a sick day and amazingly found the same actors playing the same characters perpetrating the same nonsense storylines! And none of them look older ... just more plastic-y. Made me feel like I was 8 years old again. All I needed was Bob Barker back on The Price is Right.

Ft. McHenry seems like the typical tourist destination, but it was fairly entertaining. First presentation featured an old method actor playing an early 19th century sailor manning the canons. He squinted in the sun, sweated through his stained shabby uniform and mumbled out of the side of his mouth about his daily life - including drinking grog, sewing his own clothes, carving wood, twisting rope and being illiterate. He rambled to no end, but his mannerisms were peculiarly fascinating. Even after his presentation ended, he maintained his character while posing for pictures with kids. This guy deserves a shot in Hollywood! He could play the ubiquitous craggly old guy character that Jon Voight (National Treasure 1&2, Transformers, Glory Road) seems to have a stranglehold on.

Afterwards we made a brief trip into the Science Center for their creepy Body Worlds 2 exhibit on the human body. Informative in real representations of diseases, disorders and injuries. Creepy in that it uses real donated human body parts. Its never nice to see parts of a child corpse - even worse when they exhibit a skeleton child holding hands with an adult skeleton.

Back to Bo Brooks to overwhelm our guests with an avalanche of crabs. As usual, my father took joy in teaching the techniques of eating crabs. "The Key!" Its all about "key" in opening the crab. Nonetheless even the dainty member of our group enjoyed herself.

The Baltimore Museum of Art didn't wow me with their featured exhibit but they possess a nice collection of European art favored by our guests. And it was free - which led to one of our friends saying, "This is a great country!"


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