Sid Caesar — A Language for all Seasons

Sid Caesar died in 2014 at age 91. A pioneer in the gentler arts of subtle humor, Caesar approached his craft with an inquisitive spirit and intellectual curiosity — you can’t do that without patience and discipline. He listened to rhythms and song, he could mime anything animate or inanimate. Though able to transmit the theater of language, his only two tongues were English and Yiddish.

sid-caesar

All languages are indeed songs. Iambic pentameter is, quite simply, the cadence of spoken English. In my opinion a haiku never sounds right in English because the Japanese haiku does not transplant well in foreign soil.

From the Caesar, not the one known for “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres”:

“I didn’t allow cue cards because, to my mind, when you’re acting with someone you listen when they speak, … Because then you can push off not just what they say but how they say it. You don’t just hang around waiting for your cue.”

Translation is a gentle art,  all translations are rough estimations. Something is always lost in the translation. In the hands of the demagogue language is a weapon to leverage propaganda. Agendas render translations that wish to mislead — always, or at least often enough.

Poetry resists translation intensely. But that is as it should be — poems are distilled language, translation muddies and soils.

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By my own estimation an oft repeated remark by Albert Einstein is not a good enough translation of the German. A wise man once hadn’t said…

The German:  Raffiniert ist der Herrgott aber boshaft ist er nicht

The most common render: Subtle is the Lord, but malicious he is not.

A single word change: Mischievous is the Lord, but malicious he is not.

I think it’s good alliteration. Well, I may be outnumbered, but isn’t it an improvement on the more clumsy subtle/malicious. Perhaps I’m guilty of some degree of bias when taking sides with my own blog. With a nod to a rare public voice (hint: Habemus papam — “who am I to judge.”)
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Movements to excommunicate — or at least exile — Pope Francis are loud, vociferous and growing with brute fervor.
Listening patiently is among the lost arts. The sentient fellow-being in your presence deserves your attention — it’s that breathtakingly short moment when they may reach and teach you. Carpe diem!
Okie dokie, let’s consider another quote from Mr. Caesar:
The remote control changed our lives, … The remote control took over the timing of the world. That’s why you have road rage. You have people who have no patience, because you got immediate gratification. You got click, click, click, click. If it doesn’t explode within three seconds, click click, click.
~ Sid Caesar (from Successories)
When it comes time for you to speak, do not use your words as weapons but as tools for removing barriers, widening perspectives and sharing a planet where homo sapiens is the sole responsible specie threatening to drop another extinction event on all and each.
 Be also wary of weaponized symbols and icons, my impertinent opinion of course.
Thanks for reading.

‘Those vegans’ and nonveganism advocacy

An Elephant in the Room is a coherent and valuable resource for vegans who join in solidarity with all sentient beings on this shared planet. We speak a truth that vanquishes denial — one argument at a time.
Look into the eyes of the billions sentenced to death for the crime of being edible, for sating crazy appetites, for sturdy hide, the whim of fashion, for savvy consumers, enterprising marketers and future futures markets.
Examine the banner at the top of this blog. Look into the those five eyes and realize that you gaze into a complex ocular system that arose during the Cambrian explosion. When you look into the eyes of a fellow sentient being you are looking at a fellow soul.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

chick-1890774_960_720There’s a perception of veganism, and of many vegans too, as vociferous and/or challenging. We’ve all seen comments that go, ‘thank goodness you’re not one of ‘those vegans’ and no doubt this is intended as a compliment by those who are not vegan themselves.

This ‘compliment’ sits alongside a nonvegan perception of themselves as passive, just quietly minding their own business, not wanting to be challenged about their ‘choices’ in the same way that they consider themselves to be tolerant of the ‘choices’ of others.

I’ve seen posts shared humbly, even apologetically by vegans, aware they will be viewed by those who aren’t vegan, knowing that they are likely to be subjected to some form of retaliation for disturbing the tranquillity.

And it occurs to me that although not being vegan is the default state for the vast majority of us, it is VERY far from being a passive…

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Sometimes that Happen

Sometimes you feel like a song, sometimes you don’t.

sometimes

Yahoo Answers received a question five years ago. A query that gnaws at the craw:

I'm looking for a song with the word 'sometimes' as the
first word of the chorus?
Like I said, the chorus starts with the word ‘sometimes’ or ‘sometime’ I think. I know it’s sung by a group (men). I know how the melody goes, but that’s kind of hard to type. I will check every suggestion for possibility.
Update: So far not the song I am looking for. I think the song is from the late 90’s, or early 00’s. And a group of men, definitely sung by more men together.

Let’s try to help that searcher find the group (men)!
Salient points — ‘sometimes .or. sometime‘, group (men), late 90‘s .or. early 00‘s. Surf’s up! Happy searching!
I found a useful website that might provide clues:
earworm
Source
What if the search term is not the first word of a song? Well, there is help — Song Facts. I just visited Song Facts and discovered the six (6) song titles “Sometimes.”
I write this post in the waning hours of Valentine 2017. Perhaps you’ll find a sometime song that you can warm over for Valentine 2018.
sweetheart-candy-hearts
Excess didn’t end on Super Bowl Sunday. Check the clearance aisle for half-priced red-foil spoil.

everytime

Consider the word “word”. Is  bird a word? Here is an ear worm from 1963 for your viewing and listening measure.
Borrowing again from John Ciardi — Good words to you!
Thanks for reading.

A SaFaRi into the SaHaRa

My last detour took us to a Picnic (pique-nique in French) in 1934 Grange, Pennsylvania. Here is a footnote to that previous post has ended up in the opening paragraph for this post. You may not have wondered about the Yiddish word shtick . It’s from the German noun Stück (a piece).  

What’s your shtick, Bill?

Yakking  on about different ways to yak away. 

There is just something exhilarating about learning languages. aha-momentHere are three (3) remarkable benefits: 

  1. remove barriers,
  2. erase borders and, if fortune favors,
  3. become less baffled

We’re glad that you are taking a safari into the Sahara. Please tell us less.

Root letters in Arabic do something quite curious. They occur in an ordained order. Here is a root you may have noticed in the title  — SFR. Arabic dictionaries segment meaning through a root system. Grab that Arabic dictionary over there and flip away until you’ve encounter SFR,  see below.

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Don’t forget to read from right to left.

Bill, are you going to tell us about a book that teaches Arabic with aplomb?

Yes.

I want to share how much Sugar Comes from Arabic by Barbara Whitesides helped me master Arabic, and have a rollicking time at the same time. It’s an amazingly beautiful ring-bound volume that is simply delightful. As with all my reviews, I just want to pass on good words for great works. It’s what teachers do.

Calligraphy is one of those hobbies I’ve hobbled through with my left-hand. Now I can’t overestimate the unexpected thrill of gently pulling the pen along my paper — no plowing into the paper, or covering up writing while writing.  You may have noticed that English is written from left-to-right.

Let us consider prefixes, suffixes and diacritical marks. Hey you say, there are bunches of words having such and much to do with “travel” in Arabic — words like safari.Hey I say, the Arabic root for desert is SHR. Technically, the Sahara Desert suggests Desert Desert. Here is a fun web page for those wanting yet another resource on Arabic verb forms.sahara

Well that was breathtakingly tedious, but we needed to yawn in order to dispel stale air. But you were heading into a desert, please proceed.

Interesting innit?

 

Here’s another innit —

arabic-sound-heuristic
Here is a useful diagram for associating alphabet whats and wheres. I’ve found it helpful for distinguishing the “sun and moon” letters in Arabic.

Didn’t you write a toss-off post a while back — just trying to change the subject.

Yes — Sudden solitude in a crowded desert, based on a line from T.S. Eliot’s The Family Reunion.

Thanks for reading.

 

Teitsch Deitsch

The time has come, the ziegler said, to speak of many things, or perhaps just about Teitsch and Deitsch.

yiddish
Yiddish borrowings — from Teitsch

Yiddish is a rendering of the German word Jewish — ‘Jüdisch‘.  This evening I took another look at it. A German might say ‘Such’ (but pronounce it ‘zook’) – ich suche einen neuen Look (I’m looking for a new look).

Where did you look, Bill? And, by the bye, we despise digression. And we’re easily unamused.

Among the less traveled crannies and nooks, under rocks or falling from trees. The usual haunts.

I’m the kind of person that spends moments thinking about the structure of German language — the gleanings of such squandered moments might help explain the resilience of languages based on German — things that Tiggers do best.

tiggers-do-best

Here’s my tentative thesis: German is so god-awful complicated and rigid that it remains recognizable to the speaker of modern Deutsch, by dint of complexity.

So you posit that it is a durable language — rigorously so. 

The Engländer spoke a form of German brought from Saxony (Sachsen), but the proverbial original German was jostled so thoroughly by the Vikings that all the inflections fell off.

Well at least I’ve anchored that reference to ‘things falling from trees.’

Do you speak Yiddish, Bill?

I can very easily understand the transliterated and the spoken Yiddish, i.e. without the Hebrew letters. It’s as familiar as Swedish or Dutch subtitles for a German film. In fact, Yiddish adopts German sounds and word order. Take a look and listen to the Omniglot site for a timely example.

heimish-101

Profile of an Endangered Language

Might we have a piece of birther cake?

A word from our sponsor:

Beware the big lie, the humorless, the enforcer of arbitrary rules, the racist, maker of rules for jazz performers. In short, never underestimate the threat of fascism. Only 15% of its speakers survived the Holocaust. Of the surviving speakers 10% live in New York, many by way of Ellis Island.

Why doesn’t the current President of the United States ever laugh? Or is that a ludicrous question?

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program, in progress.

Do you speak Pennsylvania Deitsch, Bill?

Those immigrants from the 18th century brought their language of origin.  Deitsch is a spoken language with several transliterations to mime the sound. Yet, the structure, word order and vocabulary survive with amazing fidelity. Interesting stuff

padutch1934picnic

Hiwwe wie Driwwe (a Deitsche newspaper)

On a related topic, what kind of beach books do you read?

Here is an out-of-print volume that I found at a local library discard sale for 50 cents.  

The World’s Writing Systems by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright

the-worlds-writing-systems

Here is that very book on archive.org

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Arabic: what gives?

Many posts ago a Palestinian pal (“pal” is twitterese for Palestinian) asked me to write about my adventures in Arabic. So here ’tis 🙂

you-already-speak-arabic-arabic-loanwords-in-european-languages-9-728

This pal o’ mine is a refugee of Nakba 1948. By various twists of synchronicity he found his way to one of my German classes, intent on reading a bit of the curious language.

What resulted?

A capital stroke of good fortune — a safari if you will. And so did it begin. I said “look my friend, if you are willing to learn some German I could at least learn some Arabic.”

Arabic script is daunting at first. I compare its foundation in the arts and sciences to the Roman alphabet: Arabic script is to the Latin alphabet what Arabic numerals are to Roman numerals.

A qualitative difference?

Take a Roman number. Calculate its root. Let’s take the most important number of all time 42 (XLII). Let me know when you have an answer. Show all work.

match-stick-pi

Nevertheless, Roman civil engineers achieved the splendor of the arch and its keystone cap.

I bet you didn’t know Farsi from Arabic at first.

That is actually correct. I looked at Persian and thought the pairing would be simple — like switching to Dutch from German. Well, a well of Arabic words exist  in Farsi, but Farsi is not based on the root system, a method residing at the very foundation of Arabic. It’s closer to English that way. Rootless.

arabic-or-farsi

Well well well. WTF is a root system?

Consonants that appear in a certain order to suggest meaning. The word ‘safari‘ has roots od SFR. Place some prefixes, suffixes and a few vowel sounds here and there. You’ll discover vocabulary treasures relating to ‘travel’ one way or another.

Why did your pal bleed from the ears?

Not just my friend — most of my students. Encounters with German involve a crazy  grammar that most German students to long for escape (The Great Escape). Though toddlers who drop every dread adjective ending perfectly every day — imagine tossing a deck of cards into the air and thinking them into well sequenced suits.

german-article-adjective-and-pronoun-chart-updated

What’s the deal with Arabic grammatical gender?

Look for a taa marbuta at the end of a noun — it’s that smiley face you see to the right, it’s easy to recognize too.

ta-marbuta

Arabic nouns are never neuter. There is no “it.” Just masculine and feminine. Wowser, that’s a 50% increase, from 2 to 3. There is no verb “to be” in the present, though there is a “was” in Arabic. The verb “to have” does not exist in the way of “haben” or “have” or “habeo.” Habemus Papam.

Did you know that it’s almost impossible to say anything in German without knowinf a noun’s gender?

Only a small exaggeration.

Herr Ziegler, can you craft a short sentence containing all four cases for us?

Let me grapple that in another post.  Gellerese anyone?

gellerese5

Thanks for reading.

Veganism Confronts Alternate Reality

Philip K. Dick has a great definition for reality. Slip into a time machine of some rare device and glide back 39 years to this PKD instruction manual:

“How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” (1978)

Philip K had a way with clever titles too.

From that essay:

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

it-is-sometimes-an-appropriate-response

I’m confident he would be amused to visit this place 39 years after publishing that essay, but consider the depth of his vision — he may have understood the fearsome circumstance of contemporary reality with fierce accuracy. Science fiction is good at that sometimes. 

Alternate histories are the unexpected consequence of historic events preceding the present moment. Charting the present is a matter of connecting historical dots.  The past is fully explicable, though it might have struck you at break-neck speed. Many suffer from whiplash. I am but one.

Days that happened include the 8th of November 2016. Once you regain equilibrium you wake up to a hard (or soft) landing. You realize that “it” happened.

Let’s consider that really real reality — the one that doesn’t go away just because you stop believing in it.

That reality devours every nanoparticle of a belief system that failed you somehow. 

So it seems quite appropriate to preface m wild-eyed views on veganism with article from the another perspective, an opposing viewpoint: veganism is a travesty. Click Not Healthy to weigh a specious argument from the Fruit Doctor.

The truth of veganism doesn’t go away. Animal rights still exist — even when those rights are inexpedient.

Veganism is a truth recognized by the many but practiced by the very few. Still, many non-vegans are aware of a resemblance between the typical factory farm and a death-camp. Well, slaughter does imply imply a certain amount of death.

The specie homo sapiens is capable of much denial and not a small measure of ignorance. You heed a call to close your mind to disagreeable facts, make room for more spectacle — blood and circuses.

Intergenerational theft is a reality. Old thieves like me grasp the spoils of war and limit resources, insisting that future generations fend for themselves. 

There are three-times as many homo sapiens on the same planet as there were in the year of my birth — that’s the 1947 part of my eponym. Human population consumes an equivalent number in the animal husbandry economy each year.

greedhurtingeconomy

The next celebration on the calendar in the US of Us features super-sized bowls of chips, plates with slathered wings mechanically separated from a billion birds. The hearth of America becomes a stadium filled with a 100,000 seats for 200,000 buttocks — attending a “game” that is a metaphor for war. Flaunt, preen and consume so that the economy falters not. An audience slightly larger than 100,000 observe the spectacle from the comfort of a frenetic television screen.

Enormous shopping carts roll forward with product of the grossest national product that end-stage consumerism can muster. Together they supply trillion-dollar industries that provide product for all manner of mastication. Each with a nutrition label. Here is an aphorism that may cheer you  will reading those labels: “Well I’ve got to die of something!

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Blood and circuses. 

Here’s an alternative to viewing Supper Bowl LI — read something from Phillip K, perhaps “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Better yet, read my other posts on a theme of vegan. 🙂

Happy reading.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

What’s an Empire without an Emperor?

The US chief executive has long kept all Earth inhabitants under his imperious thumb — it’s the thumb that presses the scale of balances down. An empire requires an emperor. Every four years we get to meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

But what’s an empire without an emperor?

Stanley Cohen‘s recent article “From War to More War” addresses the role of the US military in preventing the threat of peace.

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From wingtip to shining eagle wingtip. One wing to rule them all. One wing to find them. One beak to snatch them all and in the darkness bind them.

10-000-mile-eagle

I watched the Nixon-Kennedy debate in real time 1960, not yet knowing that both candidates stood on the shoulders of an ever stronger military incarnate — sow the seeds, harvest the weeds. 

U.S. bombs dropped in 2016.

I see dead people.

The School of the Americas is located near Columbus, Georgia. The other Georgia (the one in Eurasia) had a favorite son: Joseph Stalin, seminary dropout.

The SOA is a training site for staffing all the tyrants needed to maintain global control in the “Free World.” Graduates are groomed to play the part of imperiously moved  chess pieces. Sing the national anthem while waist-deep in the Big Muddy for the land of the Atlanta Braves and the home of the free (from freedom fries).

In the 1940’s the radio sports broadcaster Bill Stern aired a tribute to a certain regular Joe, a guy who hailed from Georgia (hint, hint). Stern’s weekly radio program Colgate Sports Newsreel produced serial hacks — fake news of the day. Fake news is another phrase for propaganda. A country never reveals to its patriots that propagandists are prevaricators. 

bill-sterns-sports-book

I like Ike famously warned of the military-industrial complex in December 1960, but it received little attention in a country focussed on Camelot —that was before a Bay of Pigs epic fail of 1961. Guantanamo is one of many bases enforcing Pax Americana.

American celebrations anchored by celebrities reside in the culture’s marrow. Saying “thank you for your service” is as mandatory as standing for the blood-spangled banner. It’s a pledge of compliance. Freedom fries are not free. Football is a metaphor for war. And what are sport metaphors?

What if you rage against the military-industrial complex and its close relative, the prison-industrial complex? You become a valued resource of some isolated prison “campus.” Prisoners are human resources that yield “GREAT” profit.

teddy-big-stick

Here is a link to my other 16 posts on Mr. Cohen.

Thanks for reading.

Inverting Pig Rectums for a Living

Rated V — Very vegan friendly post. May offend some non-vegan readers

Vegan Sayings and Cute Things

Every molecule of “meat” represents a return on investment in the multiple trillion dollar industry that scavenges the hide and the marrow of our barnyard friends. Meat and meat byproducts, mechanically separated flesh, slime pink, love pink.

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Workers eking out a living in inexpressibly incomprehensible “meat-processing centers” risk emotional evisceration. As a wise man never said: “if you can’t take the PTSD, stay out of the death camp.” 

Did I mention that those rectal returns on investment increase as processing technology drives down production costs? Where do those profits accrue?  To the workers? No. They are funneled elsewhere. Here’s a hint: think financial-market capital traders. New York City?

There are worksites where people invert pork rectums for a living.

boneless-pork-rectums-inverted

Consider spraying compressed air into pig skulls? What? This is done to prevent “resource waste.”   Remove brain before directing the skulls to the bone-crushing mills. 

Remove all brains and keep your brains right. I got my mind right boss. My factory floor poster suggestion. Display at the employee entrance.

swimming-pig
A vegan-friendly alternative. Here they have the run of the island.

Use squeegees to direct blood from the stainless steel cutting stations and slough it into the collection containers provided for that purpose. Remember — blood is the lifeblood of our prosperity.

Waste not — do not waste animal lives.

Go vegan.

Consumers enjoy factory-farm-fresh sausage served with factory-farm-fresh eggs. Healthy profits rely upon advertising campaigns, you don’t want to squander resources by sullying a good name with idle talk of screams, stench and pollution. “Bob Evans — down on the farm.

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Nine billion animals served annually

 

Take a look at the geography of animal processing. Contrast and compare with the geography of our prison-industrial complex. How are they similar?

See not, hear not, know not. Because complicity sucks — a lot.

Did any Soylent Green consumers know about rectal processing? It’s not just a camp classic.

Thanks for shuddering.

We’re Just Out Of Waldorfs

Some decades ago, in another millennium, I learned how to teach German language at the Cincinnati Waldorf School — by learning to flow smoothly.

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Waldorf pedagogic method follows the thought and moment of Rudolf Steiner.

We’re still here, Bill. And we have a question. Is there a difference between pedagogic and pedantic? By the bye, we are bored.

Yes, there is a difference. My apologies for the tedium that now threatens tedia.

Each student had this blank book and a set of block crayons.

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A fine point between  a pointed crayon and a block crayon. Boundaries are the literal point of a more muffling model. Art, dance, theater and connection to the Earth. Veganism was the norm, as it should be.

You have a gift for wandering off task. Do you know that?

The German for poison is das Gift. Snow White (Schneewittchen)  bit into a gift from a person of some political moment. The gift was Gift. On a side note — where I prefer to spend my time — you can frequent souvenir shops all over the place called: Das Gift Haus. Caveat emptor!

Bilingual puns are the death of wit, an affront.

Some few years ago, between 1989 and 2013, I enjoyed another singular privilege: teaching at the TriState German-American School. It’s a local institution that arose from a large number of emigrees to Cincinnati, arriving from German-speaking countries.

Pedantry alert. Pedantry alert.

The TGAS principal did not impose a curriculum on my class “Getting Around in German.” If the students were happy she was happy. My students were happy. This happy happenstance allowed me room (did you know that the name Zimmerman arises from the German ‘Room Man’ for carpenter. A Ziegler lays tile. The first mayor of Cincinnati was David Ziegler.

david-ziegler

My green italic critics shift nervously on respective chairs.

You stray like a thief in the night, Herr Ziegler. These Pults are a horror.

God save us from the prison that the Prussian system of student control imposes. Just my 7 1/2 cents.

From Fawlty Towers: “I want a Waldorf Salad.” Fawlty: “I think we’re just out of Waldorfs.”

fawlty-out-of-waldorfs

It’s quite a comfort to holiday at the Fawlty Towers. Let’s listen in on a few fellow guests recently arrived from Deutschland.

“We didn’t start it. Yes you did, you invaded Poland.”

But to return to something completely different, I developed a number of techniques in my Saturday German class that offered a more gentle way in my lesson un-plan. I introduced concrete objects without recourse to the succor of English.

Point at the sun, define a circle with your fingertips. The sun is big. She is yellow. She is big, round, yellow and hot. How can you remember that something is round — leave the round part “o” out, and so rund.

Two favorite verses did I glean from Waldorf and refresh in my class:

Hutsch He! Hutsch He! Der Ackermann sät.

The classroom floor became a plot of land to sow in Spring. In Autumn (Herbst/harvest) that same floor became a field of wheat that flowed with the wind and became ready for harvest.

Hutsch He! Hutsch He! Der Ackermann mäht. 

Use the same arm movement used for sowing the seeds, but then suggest a scythe that cuts the grain and readies it for baking bread.

sowing

Spring to Fall   —sät to mäht.

Thanks for reading.