…don’t say anything at all

Bill, you have crafted the perfect post title. Please take you own advice — say nothing…at all

 

Nice and Kind

Random acts of niceness?

One of first posts I wrote for this blog is Nice People Explained — 22 months ago. It’s about a philosopher who is tut-tutted in many circles: Bertrand Russell. That particular essay introduced me to the very concept of what it means to be nice in polite society — a form of expedience that keeps the wheels of industry churning and chugging, becoming accustomed to certain niceties. Leo Tolstoy was ahead of his time and ours.

Leo-Tolstoy-Quotes-27-I-Sit-On-A-Mans-Back-Choking-Him-And-...-Quotes-768x756

Yesterday I read great stuff on a great  blog that I recommend to you. May I direct your attention to the eponymous ShelbyCourtland. Great and timely stuff there IMO. Coincidentally, some people would not think Shelby very nice. Speaking up for the exploited doesn’t get the job done. Well, that’s nice, BUT.

Well, there’s a wide chasm between nice and  kind. Kurt Vonnegut did not say be nice, the word Kurt chose was “kind.” Many do not consider him a very nice person either. I once met an unkind person who had met Vonnegut once, and reported that he was not very nice.

You are wasting your time, my friend. By the way, have you ever heard the one about the nice nun who, let’s say ‘got the job done’ in certain elementary school classrooms of the 1950’s?

By “getting the job done” I think you mean training classroom bullies on the nicer points of humiliation? Yes. Thought very nice, very nice indeed.

nuns.with.rulers

Here’s my hypothesis: Nice people conform to the expectations imposed by authority to perpetuate the way it’s always been done and the ways that always work. They never rock boats or speak out of line. They don’t laugh at crap hounds like Jeff Sessions, lest they be likewise incarcerated. There’s nothing remotely fascist about that, is there?  Boats are not for rocking — unless the boats are carrying refugees from profitable wars initiated by the nicest country on Earth. Endless war to stop all those wars that end inconveniently: for armament suppliers. Endless slaughter of fellow sentient beings in technologically advanced death camps — it’s what’s for dinner.

Perform random acts of kindness when they are totally unexpected. Do them often. Do them creatively, even playfully. Get off someone’s back?

Smart and Pleasant

I’m asking Elwood P. Dowd to take over here while I visit the restroom. Please be kind to Mr. Dowd, who knows both smart and pleasant:

“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

Here is a clip from the 1950 version starring Jimmy Stewart featuring the snippet above.

elwood.p.dowd

My mother, in addition to always calling me Billy, used to say to me “If you don’t have anythingnice to say…”

Or was it “…good to say?” Well let’s find out what good old Google reports on good and nice:

  1. Hits for nice: About 793,000 results (0.93 seconds)
  2. Hits for good: About 220,000 results (0.46 seconds) 
OK, let’s divide 793 by 220 and see if we obtain a result. Right.
Nice Defeats Good
Rather dour fare for a Saturday morning, don’t you know? Your really should have followed through with “… don’t say anything at all.  
Quite right, time for something restful and delightful, in full measure 🙂
The best place I know for taking a breather is upon a sentient cloud. Let’s jump in for a worthy discussion on the proper use of the ellipsis, to whit one written by Esme.

I understand that the shortest distance between two dots is another dot. So let us lose ourselves  in aethereal clouds; particularly after sloughing through this dour post.

Hey, did you know that fog is a cloud resting on the ground? We live just south of Cincinnati, I once saw the tallest building in town pointing out above a wonderful white cloud one morning while driving to where ever the heck I was working at that time.

Thanks for reading.

LEGO, AUDIO, VIDEO: I Read, I Hear, I See

As April 30 yielded to May 1, I recalled that Old-Time Radio will have passed the wand over to New-Time Television exactly 55 years ago this coming September 30; in fact, the final two shows turned their microphones off on the same day.

JD_Button

In the unlikely event that you have already guessed which two programs made it curtains for that classic era, I roll the timpani — or cue the crickets.

Und so:

  1. Suspense
  2. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

Three suggestions for those new to the realm — a land wide, deep and satisfying.

  1. Vic and Sade
  2. Pat Novak for Hire
  3. Inner Sanctum
Vic-And-Sade-mp3
Paul Rhymer was the genius behind Vic and Sade

I have a soft spot in my heart for programs that settle into my psyche by way of sound waves — words existing on the printed page give your mind the means to fashion words to worlds. To use my sagacious father’s favorite phrase

“Well, let’s put it this way” — I prefer lego (I read) and audio (I hear) to video (I see). Reader or listener rather than viewer, what gives? Reading and listening demand more of the imagination. Theater of the Mind. Not my coined phrase, but dramatically accurate.

 

vacuum.tube.radio.deviant.art

Personally, viewing alone is like drinking alone — the experience doesn’t end well. It might work splendidly for thee, but not for me. In other words, judging my readers is never my aim (file under marginalia).

On with the show.

Watching TV with others involves participation. Joel Hodgson is the genius behind MST 3000 — an absolutely brilliant concept that sets Hodgson’s haplessly condemned yet innocent victim off planet, and forced to watch amazingly bad movies, a torture you may have experienced personally. Joel and his Bots (his own creation by the way) breaks that fourth wall too, perhaps a fifth wall.

Full disclosure: Lisa would rather shout VIDEO, ERGO SUM to my AUDIO, ERGO SUM. Well, let’s put it this way: we complement each other. So there!

video-ergo-sum-680x400
I view, therefor I am

During my years in West Germany (1971 to 1973), watching television was only good for language learning. Here is a recommendation for the next time you surf 255 channels — set subtitles to another language. Better still: watch a foreign film and set the subtitles to a language you want to learn. Experiencing a world without English language is a rare delight. I recommend it most heartily.  🙂

Advertisers want to make you think that the volition is entirely yours. IMO (only?), we do not live in the best of all possible worlds. Though you might be surprised to read that veganism is an effective remedy for that  imposition of schizophrenia upon readers, listeners and viewers. Blood-toothed marketers wish to either introduce or reinforce product loyalty. FTS say I. Out damned blood! FWIW, I pay an annual fee to keep this site advertising-free.

Addendum: I didn’t know that FTS was a sports term, so I pass that torch to my sports broadcasting alter ego. It was intended as a term of frustration directed at frustrating the darker side of advertising. Channel to ESPN-42 for more 🙂

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Sneaky Vegan Advertising

This is the story of a hypothetical broadcaster working an apocryphal news desk at an imaginary sports channel. Here’s the proverbial rub — he is a complete fraud, he has no sports credentials and he hasn’t followed team sports at any level since 1965. By sheer coincidence,  this fictional broadcaster goes by the name Bill Ziegler (no relation, or something).

Welcome to a narrow world of sports broadcast. All characters, statistics and coupon offers are spurious.

No sentient beings were consumed during the production of this broadcast. Go Vegan! Yay Veganism!

veganism.history

Transcript of today’s broadcast:

“Good evening sport, and welcome to our first post-Earth-Day program. We have four sports stories to cover today, so let’s get right to the latest news.

  1. Steve Dreadnought graduated from the NCAA (National Cademy of Academic Academies) in 2011, but it was all for naught until Nought got caught by the Astros on Shale Tuesday to become a doglegged free agent. Steve is a tight-end shaver with a bevy of linesman singing for the county of Paris in New Orleans. Nought controls the inside inch of the rail much better than Ben Bright’s Tights® Dawn’s Men and Seeping Cobwebs® is just about the only team remotely comparable to Ben Bright’s Tights. The team factors in with a ratio of twenty plays deep on the curve and thirty angstroms on the narrow —  each tight has the coarse battle scars earned on the course court to prove it.  Course they do. Write me for details.
  2. The Wave Continentals®are back in the wardrobe factory this season, filling in the gaps left by the Easter-Fry Warriors of Bangor®; as I recall, not a single Swigger Sweet could ravel the ball through the parallels as smoothly as Manfred Fried-Fries of Kenosha® — it’s the only place you can expect spectacular scurries thrown through the fourth wall. Seriously. My words say that they are second only to the Lads of Lancaster® I’ve been there — it ain’t never meant grease to donuts to me, but I’ve shelved Bangor Walnuts® for a living. A hard living, yet may the welts of dignity shine through, and with some decent resilience. I’m stowing my pine on the kitchen counter as my ante — they will make it to central division or drop into the Ides before April. Mark my broadcloth and send it to grandma if you don’t thank me later.
who-likes-vegans
Veganism is not just a trend

3. Moving on to the Autumn training hopes of the Gardenia Wafers® now. You just can’t find daylight between the Solid-Pack Drivers of Scant Regard® and the man who drove the wedgies home before breakfast. Sugar-toasted wedge bars are a new sponsor at ESPN-42®, they’re linked and liked everywhere, manufactured by Pistachio Penached Planchette, Inc.® Remember the name, it’s a double-dork franchise opportunity that you’ll only find on ESPN-42. We remain the only media outlet still located at Bent Beach, future home of the Pretense Machines of Machismo® and the Celery Bakers of West-North Eureka®. Try them soon or shoot the balloon.

a.truth.whose.time

Now, back to your program.

4. We’re introducing a new segment on the Big-Arse 42®— the outside line on the Neon Street Outlaws® those up-and-coming loot traders of the salvage yards begin a new season Thursday evening. Beaster the Baker and I are tracking them assiduously, with scented frame you play a wary game, it’s a tooth-swarm with a schoolmarm’s charm  — that’s what we claim and that’s what we tame. The guys and gals in the wardrobe garner their toes when they tracking a branded. Count down from 7 to 3 and you’ll know what I mean. We broadcast solid encounters with genuine street-incredulity — bouncing leatherettes sparring their claim to fame, as fisted and fancy as October’s Clancy®. Yes, it’s a retro-shot for the Donuts of Shame® a gifted pair of bozo twins who can wave a century-old limey bar faster than you can spin the coffee table to a screen-beveled level. Hey, we’ve all been there and this season promises more than pumpkin-scented jet-streams. You haven’t witnessed a charge more challenging than watching a brand expand into your dug-out chug-out — click SportWafers dot com for 50% off the second season-ticket. Take it to the general and sneer at the devil — it’s that kind of mango.”

northern-parula

Thanks for watching. Tune in tomorrow at 8 for more words from our sponsor 🙂

Disclaimer:

  • The information in this book is meant to supplement, not replace, proper (name your sport) training. Like any sport involving speed, equipment, balance and environmental factors, (this sport) poses some inherent risk. The authors and publisher advise readers to take full responsibility for their safety and know their limits. Before practicing the skills described in this book, be sure that your equipment is well maintained, and do not take risks beyond your level of experience, aptitude, training, and comfort level.

Thanks for reading.

Discovering Patterns in Language

Regular expressions. are powerful metamathematical tools, advanced techniques for matching patterns in a text or multiple texts — something fun and something useful. They are concise chunks of cryptic characters that can search a single text or multiple texts for precise patterns. Select an input file, do one thing or very many things to the file, then drop the resulting text into an output file.

regex-to-fa

Stephen Cole Kleene is the mathematician and philosopher who introduced the concept of the regular expression. He worked with Alan Turing and other pioneering types who were intensely active in the 1930’s. Their understanding of a mathematical maneuver called recursion; that led to breakthrough tools in logic — decisions made at superhuman speed and using the processing speed and memory to process words and numbers thrown together and called data. However, beware of the sorcerer’s apprentice phenomenon. Just bewaring.

recursion

An example: look for successive occurrences of WTF (upper or lower case) and substitute “what the fart”.

Through recursion you can stop, go backward a certain of characters, query the findings. Do something with it. Once you become familiar with the meta characters and the syntax, you can do a lot of useful things or destroy many useful things. So save the original file in a safe place and know where your output file ends up.

 

When I was a freelance translator I maintained a translation memory database that kept track of all my translations so that I might be reminded of earlier translations. The software I used was called SDL Trados; however, that was over ten years ago.

Here is one example of how I used regular expression code to insert a carriage return and linefeed whenever a blank space appeared in the original German. Essentially this created records that were one word long — the number of records was the number of words in the text. Then I queried my database for finds. A lot faster than the technique I used when learning German — looking up the words in a large-ass dictionary that I still have on the bottom shelf over there.

mastering.regular.expressions

The same Unix tools developed in the 1960’s remain in the electrons flowing from my screen to yours. They remind me of Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Three Laws

Hoping this is somewhat illuminating, or mildly amusing 🙂

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Now for something incompletely different, something inspired by Hariod Brawn’s comment below. It’s an article on The Sound (And Taste) Of Music by Layla Eplett — she brings a platter to the conversation and complements Mariano Sigman’s TED Talk:

 

SoundTasteofMusic
Layla Eplett

Thanks for reading this postscript 🙂

Working on Computers in 1975

Let’s flip the toggle switch on my steampunked time machine and head back to 1975 — the year Gordon Moore revised his hypothesis on the potential exponential growth of computing power, now known as Moore’s Law: computing power doubles every two years. He surprised himself at its curious accuracy.

moore.graph
Semi.Wiki (a semiconductor’s discussion site

Let’s go back to 1975, a year when Singer built business computers — I worked on a Singer System 10. That sewing-machine outfit made a foray into small business systems, a foray that ended abruptly in 1976.

 

singer.computer
A fine two-tone-dial phone with rotary dial.

Ten years later I was assigned the task of converting a completely manual order processing system at a Cincinnati Milacron division in Blanchester, Ohio. They obtained a small business computer, a wardrobe-sized unit called a CIP 2200B, from the Milacron Products Division. So it was a hand-me-down — with 64K core memory, 10 megabyte fixed disc, 10 megabyte removable disc and a 96 column card reader/punch.

I reported to the corporate boss of information: Pat Goggins. She was a wonderful iconoclast who ruffled many corporate functionaries. I have a soft spot in my soul for independent minds because they threaten the order of things. That is as it should be. Vegans pose a threat to the tyranny of the majority, and that is a very good thing.

vegan.humor

The Electronic Circuit Materials Division manufactured board bases for Ford automobiles, crappy scrap for Radio Shack and all manner of integrated circuit users. It was a fascinating place to work in the 1980’s At that time I was a single parent to my two children — my wife Jeanne died in 1983, and I wouldn’t meet Lisa until 1993. so I chucked my suit-and-tie collection into the closet and returned to German language and literatures, a world I had left in 1973. We moved closer to town in 1987. It was a hot and densely humid day. The cicadas sang, the car blew a radiator hose. We were at the shoulder of an interstate. Who populated that vehicle? Myself, my two kids, our cat and our bird.

Coding a program is a lot like learning a foreign language. Database records are words and relationships. Programs have syntax, grammar, logical thought — uttered or iterated.

Programming-816

One kind reader has expressed an interest in my use of pattern-matching techniques, a method called “regular expressions” — an invention of the 1960’s: it still supports many shells glommed around it — devices with modern application. The shoulders of those giants still support us. There is no such thing as a sky hook.

Meanwhile — in the “greater” world — folly tramples on dreams deferred. Do we stand at the rim of an abyss — perhaps of our own making? Dinosaurs peered skyward at the brink of yet another extinction. What other species unknown evolved over billions of years, to return all to primordial casseroles with a punch on the reset button. Five extinction events and counting. This planet is patient and resilient.  I like the way my friend Hariod expresses a gentle treasure — confronting imponderables with contentedness. Witness contentedness. Consider this photograph:

 

happy-indian-girls-in-kolkata-by-jorge-royan-argentina
Source

Happy Easter 2017 🙂

Thanks for reading.

 

Those Effing German Endings

Useful foreign-language texts are good to find — I recommend library discard sales, where you can find great stuff for 50 cents or less. You can buy 300 of these for the price of a required text that you’re still paying for decades later. Actually, I spied a personal favorite: The World’s Writing Systems this way (see photograph below)

the-worlds-writing-systems
A 50-cent purchase

I lived an iconoclast’s dream for 20 years: a Saturday German class (10 to 12:30) to design a better way to learn German at the TriState German-American School: TSGAS. Our principal was happy if the students were happy. I have saved many lesson plans over the years — some of it archived from a Commodore 64. All four cases and all four genders — German handles plurals the same way as its three genders, it’s basically a fourth gender. And all by Thanksgiving holiday.

Had you elected the three-year sequence and its college textbook you wouldn’t learn about Genitive case until the third year. I don’t think you should wait that long. There are many misbegotten German textbooks out there: I found one that didn’t cover the second-person familiar until the second half of the book. How are you supposed to patch that in?

Paradigms are only useful if they are intuitive, and part of a wider heuristic. I am placing a link to an image of a very bad set of paradigms IMO rather than the actual image here because WordPress randomly selects images to accompany posts.

Learning German the same way that Germans learn English doesn’t work in the long run.  Actually it doesn’t work in the short run either, as I’ve learned from personal experience. Sometimes you just have to blast away the fossilized crud that accreted in your brain. Out damned crud!

Inflection is a big deal in highly inflected languages. Ignoring that big deal does not make the inflections go away. The problem only becomes larger if you do not tackle it.

inneren.schweine.hund

Translation: “Overcome the lazy dog inside you. What I learned from a marathon runner.”

The Saxons who invaded Britain brought all those inflections with them, but then the Vikings showed up and made short work of it. ’twas the birth of “The” and the need to use word order to indicate the function of each noun.

One of the first native German speakers my ears encountered in a Frankfurt of 1971 came from a five-year-old child. This Kindergärtners command of complex inflection was free and accurate. Was it some kind of trick? Were there paradigms on the refrigerator, or hanging from a mobile above his crib in 1968? The words flowed as intuitively much as that cat in the late Jack Ziegler (no relation) cartoon:

 

jack.ziegler.cat

German Gender

Gender is not extraneous.

Most aids for learning gender suggest patterns for masculine nouns first. Don’t do that, feminine nouns are easier to learn than masculine nouns. Here is your handout:

Screenshot 2017-04-04 20.55.54

IMO it is better than the suggestions you’ll find in standard German textbooks, i.e. masculine first. So I say turn it upside down:

  1. Is it a feminine noun?
  2. No, then is it a neuter noun?
  3. In all probability it’s a masculine noun.

Am I the only German teacher who has noticed this cart in front of that horse?

Here is an exercise for practicing effing German endings at the dinner table. Unroll die Serviette and discover that spoon, fork and knife are, respectively masculine, feminine and neuter nouns — right there on the table. I’ll leave the plural forms for die Hausaufgabe (homework).

Screenshot 2017-04-04 19.14.55

By this point I have probably lost all but two of my readers. Thanks, you two — I am grateful 🙂

Now comes case in a nutshell:

  • Nominative signals subject, the gender you’ve just learned how to learn. Think four genders. You are 25% of the way there.
  • Accusative case differs from nominative only with single masculine nouns — the letter ‘n’ is a single vertical line away from ‘r’. All the others are the same as the nominative: die, das, die. You are halfway there.
  • Dative case — you are halfway to dative by realizing that the letter ‘m’ appears only with dative case nouns (masculine and neuter). You are three-quarters to the finish line.
  • Genitive case — masculine and neuter again: the ‘s’ you already know from English.

So you are left with the odd stragglers that now stand out in that 16 cell paradigm — the ‘der’ and the ‘den’.

Screenshot 2017-04-04 19.18.28

A takeaway: heuristics are fun, paradigms need context and a deliberate design. Here are some reasons:

heuristic

More to follow if you two readers are interested 🙂

Older posts on German language

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Read by Number or Color by Number?

Before nano-processors in your pocket did all the memorizing for you, back in 1974, a fad whispered and died before anyone knew it existed — memorizing numbers for profit and fun. I wasn’t interested in fun and profit, nor in memorizing my mother-in-law’s phone number,  but I was interested in reading numbers. To cut to the rabbit hole, the concept piqued an interest that is still peaking..

Parlor tricks interest me less than basketball in a mad enough March.

 

Byrnes-love-Trump27s_hate

Any of the way, it’s formally known as the Major System.

Bill, you major in minor interests don’t you?

You are correct sir. The more arcane and uninteresting the endeavor, the more profound my fascination.

Let’s say you have trouble remembering an all-important number — such as 42.

The sound of a 4 is R. The sound of a 2 is N. RN ran Iran ron run rune rain

Major-System

But what if you need to remember your towel and don’t have a word/number number/word dictionary at hand. Problemo No-o. W counts as a consonant in Arabic, but not in the language of System-Major.

Identify two (2) consonants — T and L. T sound denotes 1. L sound denotes 5.

15

Wow vowels are not explicitly expressed, so choose the consonantal combo that works for you.

Now turn your word-number/number-word dictionary upside down and look up the number 15. What have we there? What have we?

towel.day

Let me explain something — the number 1 can be a T, the number 1 can be a D. This is something I call the Ta Da phenomenon.

But Bill, does this have anything to do with German language?

Of course it does. When I taught German (a lot) it seemed important to invent a hokey-butt theory to explain similarities between German and English. My theory posits that the original Saxons, on their way to the British Isles, decided to celebrate their immigration by tweaking German into something that could become English. They did this en route. No one has ever reported this language-building event for the simple reason that none of it happened.

 

Map-England-Invasions_c

 

Are you trying to say something, Bill? You lost us in Calais.

Yeah. The language-building team chose phonetically related consonants to do stuff like. I’m like, like you know, like instead of UTTER like say like UDDER — just to be different I guess.

Bill. We’re in the other room watching madness march, we can’t hear you. Titter, titter.

Tidder, tidder.

Let us look at another pair here: B to V.

Über-over oben-above eben-even.

Wer hat eine Frage? (Does anyone have a question?)

 

Could you close the door, Bill. We’re watching the game.

Thanks for reading.

Sugar Comes From Arabic

Nothing melts my heart so thoroughly as receiving a kind letter from a favorite author.

sugar.comes.from.arabic

Recently, I suggested, kind readers, that you visit a link to a valuable resource. To a book that inspired me to learn Arabic well — Sugar comes from Arabic by Barbara Whitesides. It is as sweet as Arabic coffee. I encourage you to obtain a copy as early as humanely possible.

Select a tea or Arabic coffee and get ready to savor marvelous things. Fetch a writing instrument and some lined paper, or the back of an envelope. The book is comfortable to the eagerly flipping hand. Very often overlooked by lesser binders — it has a freely moving ring-binder format. Lay it open, lay it to one page. It doesn’t fall to the floor. It doesn’t require paper weights — a very important feature in a language book!

Discover a world where mere writing takes on the freedom and skill of the gymnast. A language a world away from the 26 offerings of the English you are reading now.  Latin letters of Roman device (Latin Alphabet A-Z).

qawa

Did you know that a proper Latin alphabet possesses not the merest of minuscules? Have you observed that curved lines are quite literally ANATHEMA to the words of Latin? Writing with ALL CAPS connotes shouting in the language Troll.

Somehow I feel it likely that you are reading this while attached to the internet.

Might you have read this far, I admire your patience. Perhaps you’ve only now viewed this olde bloge o’ mine. I thank you for reading, and I’ll thank you again at the end of this post.

Roman numerals are now seen at the opening frames of older films, e.g. MCMIX (quite a number of famous Hollywood releases in 1939 (to have already given away conversion of MCMIX). The only other use is to promote a bowl of befouled fowl body parts in the cold cave of early February.

Proceed you now to several pages:

sugar.k

Mnemonics aids learning, it’s one way to hold onto fragile new knowledge while it attempts to land safely and securely in long-term memory.

Here I am quoting myself in a letter to Barbara —

Quote:

Your kind letter has made my year 🙂 Thank you so much for reading my article. You never know just how far your words can travel.
I am writing a series on my discoveries in Arabic and I want to share how much Sugar Comes from Arabic helped me overcome the daunting challenge that mastering its script represented. Now I find myself enthralled by each encounter — from the unexpected thrill of gently pulling the pen along the paper rather than plowing into the paper, then immediately covering it up in the “normal” way that my left-handedness dictates in left-to-right English.
I taught German for many years and know how limited and mundane many methodologies simply are. Bringing language alive doesn’t just happen. My introduction to Arabic began with one of my Palestinian students. I still have the slip of paper that became my introduction. Finding your book was the next discovery that piqued my interest and resolve to keep at it.
Well it seems that I am already writing the next in that series of Arabic discoveries by composing this reply. So I return to the SaFaRi into the desert that is the blank page — a SaHaRa 🙂

:End Quote

Let’s check out another page:

sugar.j.png

Here’s a rhetorical question: Why do so many books on Arabic use small and grainy fonts?

Arabic script is a joy. Barbara Whitesides’ book is both beautiful and inspiring.

Thanks for reading.

Palestinians Are Either in Exile or in Prison

 

 Hello.

 

hi
Source

Today we look at two nouns rooted in  Palestinian history 

1948 a

1967 a

Languages based on a root system are dendritic — consider trees, rivers, fractals..

 

dendritic
Source

Look at the two letters in blue  b (ب )  s ( س )

But now a word from our sponsor:

On the day of Nakba, 700,000 people were exiled from their ancestral homes.

Andrew Jackson’s illegal exile of the Cherokees began in 1838. Jackson may not have said

“Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it,”

but the result was still dispossession.

President Jackson drove the Cherokee Nation into an exile called The Indian Territories until they in turn became Oklahoma. Native Americans now live in rural areas served by Food Desert convenience stores — they get to stay there until a monied interest drops straight edge on a map and calls it an access pipeline, or the equivalent.

We return you to your regularly scheduled program, in progress.

In each case (Trail of Tears, Nakba) people took luggable items, including the house keys. The six days of Naksa happened in 1967 (imprisonment).

nakba_48

Omar Chaaban defines these two  for Sixteen Minutes to Palestine.  I yield the words to Omar:

نكبة

…they chose the word Nakba which, in Arabic, refers to a supreme calamity that happens once in an eon. That is to say, this disastrous collective experience exacted upon the Palestinians is an unprecedented trauma that had to be referred to by a word that communicates to the entire world that nothing can happen that is worse than being uprooted in the manner they were in the events leading to and following Israel’s declaration of statehood.

نكسة

…the word Naksa does not really mean ‘setback.’ In classical Arabic, Naksa is used to describe an event where a thing is literally flipped upside down. The great Arabic lexicon Lisan Al-‘Arab — The Tongue of the Arab People — says that when a Naksa happens to a thing, its top becomes its bottom and its front becomes its back. It then goes as far as saying that in many cases a Naksa can be so bad that the chances of it being reversible are almost nonexistent and that no good can be found in it.

Arabic dictionaries sequence by root. Hans Wehr assembled the definitive dictionary organized by roots. Here are the roots I’ve generated in Aratools

nakba:

nakba

naksa:

screenshot-2017-02-18-10-31-36

Arabic affixes a special letter to nouns of feminine gender. The grammatical term is “taa marbuta.” It’s also a handy way to create a new word in that language:

Maktab مكتب (office)

Maktaba مكتبة (library)

taa-marbuta
Gender Observations

Coming real soon now: Mental Maps of Palestine

 

Thanks for reading.

 

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.

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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.