Surprised by Sudden Sounds

Hello, what?

A firsthand account of a hearing challenge, one told in the first person. That’s what. Hello in there, hello.

Simone: I know you’re right, Pee-wee, but…

Pee-wee: But what? Everyone I know has a big “But…? C’mon, Simone, let’s talk about *your* big “But”.

Before opting for a $400 pair of hearing aids, I asked some friends and relatives if they were happy with a pair of ear inserts, ones that had cost twice as much as the shiny new automobile I purchased in 1973 (an AMC Gremlin if you must know). Each wearer had a big but that for one reason or ‘tother, so I just kept on mishearing words — mis-heards that made me the butt of many an “Are you deaf?” joke. My sister-in-law works with the elderly, she recognized the dynamic, remarking that many who mishear are falsely diagnosed as suffering from “dementia”.fork.and.knife

Oliver Sacks, the sorely missed independent thinker,  wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times that captures his personal experience with hearing loss: “Mishearings.” A timely take on the mind’s capacity for assigning meaning to spoken language.

And yet there is often a sort of style or wit — a “dash ”— in these instantaneous inventions; they reflect, to some extent, one’s own interests and experiences, and I rather enjoy them. Only in the realm of mishearing — at least, my mishearings — can a biography of cancer become a biography of Cantor (one of my favorite mathematicians), tarot cards turn into pteropods, a grocery bag into a poetry bag, all-or-noneness into oral numbness, a porch into a Porsche, and a mere mention of Christmas Eve a command to “Kiss my feet!”

 

Hearing loss had removed many unfortunate sounds: the song of birds, the snores of Loki the Cat, the sussurance of the familiar, the soothing and the calming. However, at this very moment I am listening to the sharp, measured and deliberate crunches Loki is making — less than a meter away.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Bird Sounds on DirtNKids 🙂

 

I am able to attend Arabic language classes at the local masjid once again, to actually understand the critical meanings lost to mishearings. It’s wonderful to join in with a measure of confidence that was quite impossible before 🙂

Now here is an unexpected but welcome circumstance: turning the devices off stills the din, the conical insert even acts as an earplug of sorts.

Now I jump into a wild cacophony of sound with a grateful soul. According to the instruction manual, it’s a gradual process that takes a bit of patience. I’ve only worn them for a week now, so my mind is still refreshing the inventory of sounds unheard for many years: floorboards squeak, a wall clock clicks with each passing second (I’ve timed it!) and my feet make a sweeping sound on a carpet.

Thanks for reading.

 

Dem German Endings

You may get PTSD, but learning German is a good way to learn the grammar you forgot — or the grammar you never learned. German is as fulsome as it is fulsome in that respect, something like a built-in sentence diagram.

german.cases.cartoon

There are 16 ways to say “the” in German. Just as there are 16 ways to say “the” in English?

No. Each of the 16 ways in German tell you the gender, number and case of the following noun. So just IN CASE…

Having taught the language for decades I’ve found some tricks for avoiding German’s paradigms from hell, that’s what they are — and no mistake. Something they don’t tell you about until it’s too late to drop the class, I am hoping that this post serves as warning. It may be too late for me, but not for thee.

german-article-adjective-and-pronoun-chart-updated
I found this “visual aid” at the following site. It’s a genuine P-O-S in my humblest opinion — ein Stück Scheisse.

Take a look at the über busy “visual aid” to the right. It’s a genuine P-O-S in my humblest opinion — ein Stück Scheisse, ohne Zweifel.

Mark Twain learned German (Fraktur even!) and lived to warn his readers: The Awful German Language. Fraktur inventors even thought of making the letter ‘f’ nearly indistinguishable from the letter ‘s’. So that you have to recognize the damned words containing ‘f’ and ‘s’ before you can understand what you are reading? Yes.

Consider the first line that the crow below is about to peck. “This is the Leipzig Fraktur font”:

fraktur-font-copy

I didn’t begin learning German until becoming an adult, when I needed it to study in West Germany in 1971. Sheer good fortune found me rooming with the only German student in the building who did not speak English…

Okay, enough of that, enough of that. What’s this lesson plan you wish to share?

Before the Vikings invaded Britain, English was still inflected the Saxon (Sachsen) way. The German “chs” became the simplified “x”. They had a land to plunder, so they took the gordian option — replace all the sixteen shades of inflection for the so-called “strong endings”” from der, die, das, den, dem and des to “the” and replace all the twelve shades of inflection for the so-called weak endings” to “the” as well. Knot cut.

der.die.das.the

 

German inflections do not flourish in non-German soil well. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands — all of them pretty much did away with the meaning-by-inflection technique and applied the Viking way. Similarly, the Romance languages discarded the five declensions of Latin.

The only country that retained German (Nordic Branch) was Iceland. It has maintained all four cases and three genders for a millenium. Icelandic speakers can, with a bit of effort, read the Eddas. By the way, the Icelandic word for Iceland is Island — Iceland is land, is it not?

edda

Now then, how do those inflections work in German language? I’m calling the following lesson plan The Case of the “The” by Erle Stanley Gaertner:

  1. Über den Fluss und durch den Wald,
  2. Zu Großvaters Haus gehen wir;
  3. Die Pferde kennen den Weg, den Schlitten zu tragen
  4. trotz des dreckigen und tiefen Schnees.
  5. gegen den Regen und durch den Wald,
  6. zur Grossmutter und zum Grossvater gehen wir!

 

  1. Over [object of a preposition of relative position, accusative, masculine] river and through [preposition exclusively accusative, masculine, plural] wood,
  2. To Grandfather’s house we go;
  3. [subject, nominative, masculine, plural] horses know the way [direct object, accusative, masculine, plural] to carry [direct object, accusative, masculine, singular] sleigh
  4. Despite [object of a preposition governed by genitive, masculine, singular]white and drifted snow.
  5. Against [object of a preposition of relative position, accusative, masculine, singular] rain and through[object of a preposition governed by accusative, masculine, singular] wood,
  6. to [preposition and object of a preposition governed by dative, feminine, singular] grandmother and to [preposition and object of a preposition governed by dative, masculine, singular] grandfather we go!

Thanks for reading.

Palestine/Israel/Palestine

The events of May 1948 in Palestine have sparked trillions of conversations that have droned on in parallel for seventy years now. You may find a few thousand meaningful uncommon conversations post Nakba (the Catastrophe). They are exceedingly rare. Most “conversations” parrot propaganda mills (hasbara in Hebrew).  Below are concerns of an individual Israeli citizen. I have not redacted a single word.

Bill hi, I would suggest you come and visit Palestine – you know Palestine was Israel before 1948. If you come I would be only too happy to offer you coffee and you can tell me what you think about Israel and answer any of your questions if I can.

Even though I live here and spent hundreds of hours at lectures my memory unfortunately is not what it used to be as I am now 76. I live in Netanya and would be only too pleased to help you find answers from history lecturers to any questions you may have. My opinion on Israel seems a bit different to yours but I am sure we could have interesting chats.

I must tell you I am fascinated with BDS and how so many people really do have a problem with facts here and there but I always believe you have to visit a country and speak with the locals so as to make up your own mind.

I keep hearing from members that there is a Genocide in Israel and the disputed territories yet their own statistics show this to not be true.

How many members know that an Israeli president was sentenced to jail by an Arab judge. That Arabs account for 20% of the population and that is their representation at Universities and hospitals where they are professors and famous surgeons.

Please don’t mix up Israel and politicians – I would swap Bibi for Trump in a heartbeat. I think we should keep our correspondence private as I really do not want to cause anyone any grief.
Looking forward to your reply
Mike Altman, Netanya Israel

Hello Michael, Thank you so much for the very kind comments, they are gratefully received. In the two years I’ve been writing this blog, yours is the very first remark from an Israeli perspective — a succinct and thoughtful set of arguments as well. I certainly respect your wishes to maintain an off-blog conversation; however, I would also like to share your views with my audience. Please know that I am quite willing to make your comment visible — again, I understand your concern.
Here is one proposal: I am eager to write a post that addresses your points and to respond on each concern you express. An open conversation between viewpoints is sorely lacking, but desperately needed.

Droning on in parallel from differently selected events, statistics and perspectives proceeds without hope of resolution, and indefinitely.

I have been following the “conflict” for many decades now. I was born eight months before the events of 1948, so it is possible for me to relate each event. For example, I was a student in Germany during the Munich Olympics of 1972. So I was 25 years old and so was Israel/Palestine Palestine/Israel.

Perhaps a point-by-point response that does not reveal your name or location might be a worthy compromise between private and open dialog.
It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Michael. I look forward to learning from you 🙂

I try and reply to posts immediately but your reply was different to what I somehow expected. I do not at all mind our conversation being viewed online I incorrectly assumed it would be you that would rather have an offline chat.

Since I am blessed/cursed with a very over active imagination I manage to see things from multiple angles and standpoints. When I think of BDS my mind is flooded with so many questions of why does one well funded organization with ardent followers choose a basically one sided view of just one of the many obviously urgent problems on our planet. Reading articles I do understand that people are writing from their viewpoint but like I am colour blind I expect people to try and see what is there but maybe not visible to them. The thing about being colour blind is that the mind can force oneself to see the missing things if you think they should or could be there.

I have a childhood friend that adamantly believes that we should not intervene – like invading Iraq – we are obliged to do nothing and wait for evolution to choose a path for everyone. Maybe Obama also believed in doing nothing and the result was half a million people killed more wounded and displaced causing hardship and misery for millions more. Never mind the other millions migrating to Europe from Africa to find a better and safer life for them and their children.

The reason I mention this is because with all this abject misery surrounding us I would think that such a well-funded and run organization would not be focusing on just one problem amongst all others. I have always been able to analyse what I see and read and imagine the many directions things could take and how effective they could be. In my humble opinion I cannot see why BDS could succeed as it has already “solved” this complex problem without understanding too much about it.

My father would not have won many “father” awards but he was smart and instilled in me to never judge anyone until I have walked in their shoes. As an example, the last time I visited the Western wall myself and everyone else including tourists passed through metal detectors – like we do at airports today – thank goodness. After arms were taken onto the Temple Mount and used to kill two policeman.

The head of the police promised their families who happened to be Druse that they would take steps so it would not happen again. Maybe even to foreign visitors on this holy site. The police themselves decided to install metal detectors at the entrances and this is what caused the current serious problem. People prayed in the streets instead as they would not pass through the machines and dispersed after prayers with very little problems but in some parts of town young people rioted and people were injured and killed.
Please forgive the over long post but there is so much to say.
May you all have a very good week, Mike

Hello Michael, Thank you for your kind comments on my About page. Dialogues on this topic are as desperately needed as they are rare, and misinformation is the coin of the realm. I think it’s a good sign that both of us responded with consideration for the privacy of each. Would you mind if I wrote a new posting that contains your comments without redaction on my part? In other words, a genuine open and civil dialogue.

Shalom,
 
Bill

I have no problem whatsoever – in fact would welcome it.

A very strange time of year here as more than 4 million Israelis leave to spend a greener cooler holiday all over the world. Amazing when there are only 5,600,000 Danes in Denmark.

 Have a good week Bill

Mike

 

You are a kind soul, Michael. Our exchange already contains enough grist for the mill to inspire quite a few conversations. Actually, that observation on climate, travel and Denmark is sufficient for an entire post. 🙂

A superb week to you, Michael.

🙂 an interesting thought – if we can get the mill to spin faster it could take off – imagine that, flying windmills. Something to think about while trying to sleep.

Thanks for reading.