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Stateside with Rosalea: The TV Duel


The TV Duel

Midweek, a Yugoslavian work colleague went out of his way to tell me what a great team the Tall Blacks are, thus saving me from the conspiracy theory that had been forming in my mind since the previous weekend. Who can blame me for thinking that certain other teams had thrown their games to let the Tall Blacks through, when the NBC sports reporter kept saying "they shouldn't be here" on account of their "lack of talent"? To be fair, I heard only snatches of the commentary so I couldn't really gauge if his comments were driven by admiration or exasperation.

"This is like an Ivy League team making it into the NC double-A finals," said the announcer, trying to create for his audience some sense of how huge the Tall Blacks' achievement was. Lo and behold, my trusty Readers Digest "America A to Z" actually has an entry for 'Ivy League Football' (in between 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'Iwo Jima'): "The Ivy League schools - Princeton, Dartmouth, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania - produce some of the country's best scholars and worst football teams." The National College Athletic Association is the body that runs the college sports competitions, which drives the huge amounts universities pay to get top athletes on their teams, no matter what their scholastic achievement may be.

Go Tall Blacks! It was great to see their efforts acknowledged even with fourth placing. But hey - can't somebody down there with a bit of entrepreneurial spirit afford to sponsor these guys so they don't have to make the country look like some third world appendage of global commerce by wearing a fast food chain logo?

Das TV-Duell

As I don't have cable TV, my only source of overseas news is a free-to-air channel that carries satellite newscasts from Italy, Korea, China, Japan, and Germany. DW-TV is the German equivalent of BBC World and it alternates broadcasts hourly between German and English versions of the same programme. I've been fascinated with its coverage of the German elections - now winding down to election day on September 22 - partly because this is the first election in which leaders debates have been televised, the Germans having steadfastly eschewed presidential-style elections up until now.

The battle between Chancellor Schroder of the Social Democrats and Edmund Stoiber of the Christian Union alliance is pivotal to the US-UK hurry-up on the Iraq question. The two parties' stances on sending troops to Iraq may become the factor that defines what they are about and thus influence the outcome of the election. Conspiracy theorists who think that certain events in the US last year were allowed to happen in order to get public support for military intervention in Pipeline-istan no doubt cannot get a certain song line out of their heads: "First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin." The rest of us just sigh and wonder why the world has come to this not-so-pretty pass of having its fate depend on two blokes who sit around in cowboy hats watching themselves on the telly. (No, of course I don't mean the candidates for German Chancellor!)

International Literacy Day was on 8 September According to the National Literacy Act, literacy is "an individual's ability to read, write and speak in English, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, and to achieve one's goals, and develop one's knowledge and potential." "Reading Rocks!" - the 1st Annual Northern California Tutor and Adult Learner Conference - was held on 14 September, having been organised by a local and a state-wide literacy organisation. Bay Area Literacy is a consortium of 25 library-based literacy programs, and although I'm not involved with them I attended because of my involvement with an ESL programme where I work. California Literacy is a statewide non-profit group that was founded in 1956.

While we were waiting for lunch to be served, Leon, a learner advocate, spoke about how learning to read and write changed his life. An African-American who worked as a labourer he'd managed to get by until he had an accident that meant he could no longer do manual work. Without any skills he had no means of making a living, so he enrolled as a learner with Project Read, which is a programme based at San Francisco Public Library.

"I came into the programme reading at a third grade level and three years later I was able to walk across a stage to receive an Associate Degree from City College," he says in his introduction to a CD of 'Songs Inspired by Literature' put out this year by the SIBL project. He is now studying for a bachelor's degree, concentrating on women and literacy as he believes women have to overcome greater difficulties on the way to literacy. "Don't let it end at today," Leon told the volunteer tutors and the learners, "but take your enthusiasm and commitment back to your community."

Community. Volunteers. How come those words disappeared off the national agenda over the past year and we're saddled with Patriot Day?

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