mercredi 12 décembre 2007


In the 1900's, even though slavery was abolished, black people were still discriminated against in jobs, housing and education. In the south of the USA, there were segregationn laws. Black people couldn't go to the same schools as white people, for example.
One day, in 1955, a black woman named Rosa Parks, was arrested for refusing to leave her seat to a white person on a bus. Shocked by this unfair arrest, the black population decided to boycott the buses in Montgomery, Alabama. They were led by a young clergyman, Martin Luther King. This man decided to create the "Civil Rights Movement" to fight for Black people's rights. He made his famous speech, "I have a dream", in Washington in front of 200,000 people.
In this speech, he told people that he was dreaming of a better world, a world where everybody would be equal.
In 1963, John F. Kennedy created the "Civil Rights Act"which made all segregation illegal. This was a hundred years after the abolition of slavery, when President Lincoln signed the "Emancipation Proclamation".



Rock'n roll comes from the work songs the slaves sang while they were working on the southern plantations in the US in the 19th century. The slaves couldn't use their native language or African instruments because their masters wanted to prevent them from expressing themselves, communicating or rebelling. They had to use English. Nevertheless, they managed to communicate by creating a new kind of music, the Gospels. As they couldn't express themselves directly, they used biblical stories in order to communicate hidden messages of rebellion.
The Blues was born after slavery was abolished in 1863. But in spite of the abolition of slavery, Blacks were still discriminated and there were laws of racial segregation in the south of the US. This went on until Martin Luther King fought for their civil rights in the 1960's.
Jazz was born in Louisiana at the beginning of the 20th century. Jazzmen were poor, therefore they used brass instruments left over by the army after the civil war or cheap instruments, like the banjo.
Rock n' roll was born in the 1950's with black performers. Elvis became the King of Rock'n roll. He was white, and yet he sang like a black man.

mardi 4 décembre 2007


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Thanksgiving is over and Xmas is at the door! Decorations are out and the evening drive home is lit by a multitude of lights that tell us that Xmas is in the air. Americans love Xmas! The radio plays Xmas songs all day long. My daughter plays Xmas songs on the piano to practice for her piano recital. Actually, she started already in October and by the time Xmas rolls in we are actually fed up with Xmas tunes.
As I said earlier, Americans love Xmas. It brings out their childlike spirit and their "shop till you drop" philosophy. They decorate their houses with an incredible amounts of lights almost bordering tacky. It is almost impossible to fall asleep at night because the houses are all lit up. Everything is on display, from Santa to Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Mrs. Santa to Frosty the snowman and the Nativity scene, candy canes, snowflakes, etc.etc. We have red lights, white lights, big lights and small lights, everywhere in the front yard, back yard, on the roof and on the windows, bushes, trees, patios and porches. The more the better for all the children's delight!
During this season, people go to concerts to hear choirs singing Xmas carols, they go to the ballet to see "The Nutcracker" performed by big ballet companies and by small obscure ballet companies. They bake cookies, fudge, brownies and they give them as presents to family and friends. Children eat candy canes in all colors and variety and go for sleigh rides with Santa organized by local church groups.
I do not like shopping very much at Xmas time. There are too many people out and about and everybody is rushing to get the last gifts. There are queues at the cash registers and people are stressed and impolite. The true Xmas spirit has to be enjoyed at home around the Xmas tree together with family and friends. And what if there are not a million presents under the tree! Just one thoughtful present is enough to make my heart content. I am also thinking that this year I will send less Xmas greetings, I might save a tree or two. I will use the email, it is more environmentally friendly.
Merry Xmas, everybody!

samedi 1 décembre 2007


Every year, Macy's, the world's largest department store, organizes very popular events. Its Thanksgiving Day Parade is a real institution in New York City.
On the fourth Thursday in november, the same day that most Americans gather around the dining table and eat turkey to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade marches through the streets of New York City. Elaborate floats, marching bands, clowns and celebrities creatre a carnivalesque atmosphere.
But the main attraction is the parade's giant helium balloons, many of which represent cartoon characters.
For more than 80 years, the parade has drawn spectators who line the streets and cheer on the participants.
The holiday event grew ( and grew) over time from a small parade of floats and live animals organized by Macy's employees- the majority of whom were emigrants-into a large scale annual tradition. The parade showcases 10,000 participants, and crowds of 2 to 3.5 million spectators cram Manhattan streets for a close-up view. Another 50 million watch the parade on TV.

To make online puzzles on the theme of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade :