What Franklin Wrought

Since discovering Instapaper.com this year I’ve learned that its Editor’s Picks are quite eclectic and frequently very interesting. For example, The Lost Canadians by Grant Stoddard, published in the January/February 2011 issue of The Walrus, is a portrait of a beleaguered Minnesota resort community that attempted to secede from the U.S. in 1997. The residents of Angle Township live at the northern most point of the American-Canadian border on a peninsula attached to Cananda and separated from the rest of the U.S. by the waters of Lake of The Woods. This quirk of international geography resulted from a boundary agreement that Benjamin Franklin negotiated with the British and formalized in the Treaty of Paris of 1783 which ended the American War of Independence. Read about this political island that, geographically, is not an island at all.

Resusitating Manx

Languages intrigue me. That is not to say that I am very good with them, not even my native English รก la Americaine. As early as Kindergarten I thought it was fun learning to talk a special way. The teacher at my private Episcopalian kindergarten taught us French. The problem was that 10 numbers and 8 colors did not get me very far beyond a lukewarm “That’s nice, son” from my parents.

My next attempt at learning another language was a year of Spanish with Ms. Gibbs in high school. It was nice, and interesting. I started the year with a lot of enthusiasm for it, but my best friend had opted for French, which resulted in a lost opportunity for more fun and helpful practice.

Growing up, though, the language that really interested me was German. Why? Everone asks me that and by now I should have an answer — but I don’t. It had something, vaguely, to do with the movie The Sound of Music and my Swiss-American girlfriend in High School.

My own family background is Scots-Irish, like that of many families in Western North Carolina where I grew up. No one I knew spoke or taught Gaelic, so it never crossed my mind that Gaelic was option for a second language. The neglect of Gaelic has been a real problem, even in it’s native lands. An extreme example is Manx, an off-shoot of Old Irish Gaelic once spoken on the Isle of Man. ‘Once’ means that it died with the last native speaker.

Yet, somewhat like Frankenstein, it’s back. (You have to admit that academics do have their uses.) In this case, academics have preserved and promulgated Manx as a usable language.

This article in Science Daily celebrates the rejuvenation of Manx as a viable language on the Isle of Man. Check out ScienceDaily.com.

Since I committed early to the German language, I have to disclose that I’m reporting this resurrection of Manx on behalf of my cats, both are Manx, adorable, great personalities, bob-tailed, brother and sister — however, they ended up with German names — Fleck and Kai. They would saw hello in Old Gaelic, if they knew how.

Biting the Bullet – NaNoWriMo

Well, starting tonight at midnight I am going to participate in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’ve thought about it in the past but have finally screwed up enough courage to make a fool of myself on (virtual) paper. As I understand it, the goal is quantity and not quality and, more specifically, a work of 50,000 words. Writing so much is such a short time forces the writer to steamroll over his/her inner censor.

Friends and acquaintances who’ve done NaNoWriMo have said it can be an intense experience and a real challenge of will to slog through it. The average word count per day is 1,667. Maybe it is crazy for me to take this on in November, the beginning of busiest retail season of the year; nevertheless, I’m going to try.

Originally, I planned to modify the rules and write 2 short stories rather than one novel. I even had two vague story ideas. Twenty-five thousand words is too much for a short story though — more like a novella or even ‘novelette’, and wrapping up one story then immediately launching a new one seems like an onerous thing to do under pressure. In the last week one of those ideas stuck in my head and has engaged me enough to commit to this one story and go for the full novel.

Wish me luck.