German Grammar in the Everyday Every Day

Fashioning a German Lesson Plan from Anything at Hand

Class topic of the day (des Tages): how picking up a plastic bag off the street and reading the language printed on that bag may help you learn language. The one I have here is your classic bad-news-for-the-environment plastic bag. I retrieved one for each of you, so it’s a handout. Later in the day you can three-hole punch this handout and put it in your binder under today’s date.

handout
Your handout for this class: Let’s say I had snagged this bag from under a parked car in the Kröger lot, before the plastic could pose a wildlife hazard. Now it’s in the lesson plan as an instructional resource. Note: 3 holes have not yet been punched. Please include margin notes using your felt-tip pen. Thank You. THANK YOU.

Today’s exercise allows you to use innate perceptual senses to discern meaning from everyday texts, and to discover potential contexts for your favorite words. Remember that new knowledge is fragile knowledge, so be gentle with yourself and feel free to make mistakes. In this class the student who makes the most mistakes gets the highest mark since she learns from her own mistakes. Also, if the present-moment reader finds an error in this post I get a point.

Use this bag later in your life for sandwiches, knickknacks, sturdy water bottles and items with words written upon them.

Anyway, pick up your red Sharpie and write ‘rot‘ on the handout. Think about how similar ‘t’ and ‘d’ sound: “Ta Da!” and recall the apocryphal tale of Saxons (Sachsen) moving to England to start a new language. On that hypothetical boat Saxons decided to change their ‘t’ to a ‘d’ and say ‘good‘ rather than ‘gut‘ and day instead of ‘Tag‘. And then call it English.

migration routes around 800 C.E.
migration routes around 800 C.E.

Draw a rainbow with your Sharpies and label each color separately in your language of choice or else in German. Gather the things you want to put in your handout. Label that bag with its contents, z.B.:

  • Apfel (grüner)
  • Brot (rotes)
  • Papier (weißes)
  • Banane (gelbe oder grüne oder schwarze oder schwarzgelbe oder oder oder)
  • Apfelsaft (süßer)

Now place each object (each noun) into the bag (in die Tüte) and take a walk (einen Spaziergang machen). Connect the Umlaut dots atop the ‘u’ to form an ‘o’, thus reminding you just how crafty those dang Saxons were (Tüte becomes tote). Those tapfere Sachsen even simplified the ‘chs’ in their former German language to an ‘x’ in the new language (nächste becomes next).  While on this relaxing stroll let your friends (strangers optional) know about the contents of your bag:

Hallo. Hier in meiner Tüte habe ich einen grünen Apfel. Gebrauchtes Papier ist immer das Beste. Glaubst du das.

Let’s say you forget to bring your own shopping bag to Kröger. At least save those plastic hazards in your vehicle or Rücksack and drop them into the fiber recycling drum in their foyer (the place where you grab a shopping cart).

Thinking about Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Gießen and Savak

The culture where I live does not seem particularly interested in learning foreign languages. But the written, the spoken, and the audible become a part of the soul and a blessing to humanity when civilized thought can gain a foothold.
Nelson-Mandela-on-Language

My interest in German language led to an opportunity for study in Giessen, at that time West Germany, from 1971 to 1973. Upon arriving at Justus Liebig Universität I learned German as a second language with fellow students from Iran, Japan, Egypt among others. German was the tongue we shared, so that we could talk to the brain. Then we could join the citIzenry and talk to the heart.

Abteilung der Uni
Just be natural! It’s important when learning languages

Some people take on an alternate identity to ward off conversation. It was common for Americans traveling in Europe in the early 1970’s to attach a Canadian maple leaf to their person. This to avoid conversations about Vietnam. It was convenient to merge into the background. But such maneuvers may lead to a false sense of comfort: ease and convenience have long-term consequences. It is just as convenient to avoid discussions on long festering Middle East issues today. Are the sound bites you hear from a source without an agenda? Unfortunately, the truth can be hidden, often deliberately by perpetuating lies that simply make life more convenient or comfortable for the liar.

Under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Shah from 1941 to 1979) many Iranians studied at German universities such as Justus Liebig. Our Iranian fellows shared an ability to converse in German about Savak and the Persian experience. Neither Farsi nor English was necessary to bridge a gulf separating us from each other. Who knew that Pahlavi was complicit in dark matters. The Iranian people knew.

Farsi Keyboard
Farsi script is so similar to Arabic!

Guy Wallace explains Savak.

Imagine a monarchy that is 2500 years old, that began with Cyrus the Great and ended with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s deposition. Might a civilization both ancient and modern have evolved a complex history and culture In 2.5 millenia? Might Farsi hint at subtleties in the Persian soul? What about the country name itself: Persia, Iran? Does its religion suggest potential geopolitical significance? Can we question the translation of the colloquial Farsi into English of the conveniently repeated  Death to America (More accurately translated as Down with America).

Farsi speakers use this invocation to express transitory frustration, perhaps at stubbing a toe. In a future post I want to discuss the nature of curse words in Farsi, Arabic and Hebrew. Stay tuned.

Vegan Nuttables: Look for the Raccoon

Full disclosure assurance applies, just as it has with my Nittha Siam Kitchen review: this is an unpaid five-star rating. I like their stuff and I support them.

I found Once Again at Barney Kroger’s Grocery the other day and enjoyed the heck out of it. Recommended for a number of reasons: employee-owned, genuinely organic, label does not say

Naturally it’s flavored! Naturally it’s colored!

Their products are value-priced and feature raccoons. Bonus points: Once Again actually rescued raccoons on the premises. You can read about that on their website. Take a break now and shop for good edibles.

 

Use the Hot-Pockets-litmus-test: compare and contrast chemicals consumed. Billziegler1947 has already done the research for you. Analyses in the billziegler1947 laboratories have found that Hot Pockets do not strictly follow USDA Certified Organic guidelines.

For homework read the following before going food shopping.

 

Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.

A fun place to visit vegan videos: FullCircleVegans and here’s a bonus: it’s also a WordPress blog. They’re also on Instagram and everything else.

 

Joseph Goebbels: Nazi Rules for Jazz Performers

Joseph Goebbels, Minister for Propaganda in Hitler’s Third Reich (appointed 1933) had a way with guidelines. A well written article on Goebbels’ thoughts on jazz links below.

Editor’s note for the easily cognitively dissonanced: inclusion of this list in this blog does not represent approval of Minister Goebbels.

Josef Skvorecky on the Nazis’ Control-Freak Hatred of Jazz from The Atlantic January 3, 2012 by JJ Gould.

joseph_goebbels_quote

But if you want to get straight to the rules, Josef Skvorecky enumerates in the link above:

1. Pieces in foxtrot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20% of the repertoire of light orchestras and dance bands.

2. In this so-called jazz type repertoire, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics;

3. As to tempo, preference is also to be given to brisk compositions over slow ones (so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro, commensurate with the Aryan sense of discipline and moderation. On no account will Negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) or in solo performances (so-called breaks) be tolerated;

4. So-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs);

5. Strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yowl (so-called wa-wa, hat, etc.);

6. Also prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four-quarter beat (except in stylized military marches);

7. The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions;

8. Plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality; if a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, strict care must be taken lest the string be allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden;

9. Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat);

10. All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them the violin-cello, the viola or possibly a suitable folk instrument.

joseph goebbels

Epictetus 55 – 135 C.E.

I mentioned touchstones in a previous post, I now touch another one: Epictetus, usually noted as a stoic philosopher. But that is a bit procrustean; there is much room for subtlety here. I am directing your attention to Epictetus’ timeless contribution to a more civil society. Those familiar with the serenity prayer will find a beacon. Blaze an internet trail for more.

 

 


 

 

 
Do not seek to bring things to pass in accordance with your wishes, but wish for them as they are, and you will find them.


He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.


If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother.


The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.


There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.


To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.


We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

 

Jimmy Carter: the man with 20-20 foresight

Earlier this week I mentioned hearing Diane Rehm interview Jimmy Carter on her program. A Mensch with a capital M, and not just because it’s a noun. I also listened to an interview on Bob Edwards Radio (need to write about Bob too, another Mensch). This was about Carter’s so-called “Malais” speech: you can internet that phrase too. That speech did not contain that particular word, but team it with Reagan and recall “Morning in America” and you’ll get there from here.

Well, Jimmy was right on target and he has lived long enough to see us realize it. Selling off your valuable possessions such as your industrial base to those overseas places makes you look like a lottery winner in the short run. It takes you closer to Shirley Jackson’s Lottery in the long run. Also no wars during the Carter Administration. No solar panels on the White House roof after 1980. Jimmy Carter’s foresight was 20-20. And he has the courage to use words like apartheid in proper context: truth to power. Mourning in America.

 

 

Nice People Explained: Bertrand Russel

I first read Bertrand Russell’s essay collection Why I am not a Christian In the early 70’s. One essay that affected me in particular, and that still intrigues me is Russell’s “Nice People.”

Skeptics Guide to the Universe Forum excerpt:

— Quote from: “Mike Foster” —I’ve been reading Why I Am Not A Christian, And Other Essays by Bertrand Russell. In it, he launches a fairly sarcastic – even scathing – attack on ‘nice people’ in a c1931 essay called . . .’Nice People’! He talks about people who think they are nice as often indirectly selfish, unappreciative, aloof, deceptive and inclined to exercise power indirectly through gossip etc.

It’s been a few years since this essay was published, but I am quite humbled at its timeliness. A great touchstone indeed.

Bertrand Russell

“Nice People” rather reminds me of Jonathan Swift’s bombastic apologist in Gulliver’s Travels. Swift’s finely pompous character is merrily describing the land of his birth. His pride at its prowess is figuratively exceptional: sufficient to pop his vest buttons, had he been wearing a vest. Let’s imagine they are gold buttons to polish the metaphor. So he extols the virtue of his beloved British Empire at considerable length. Russell waits, as did Swift, until the very end of his writing before telling us the salient distinguishing feature of these very nicely described Nice People. Unfortunately they have nasty minds.

Nice people may also be found among those affecting membership in “The Silent Majority.”

Inexplicable Discrimination

مرحبا (Hallo),

The word for today’s class is “inexplicable.” Let’s get some قهوة عربية (arabischen Kaffee) and try to understand why news stories should be read with discrimination and not with discrimination.

Hey man, look at this crazy crap. There’s a cow on the news right now and it’s walking down the expressway. Is that like something you’ve ever seen ever? It’s like a North Korean spotted anywhere outside North Korea: an escapee from an authentically horrible place. A possible location of said cow using Google Maps: buildings densely populated by bovines. You are responsible for finding two (2) similarly inexplicable matters.

Doctors make house calls in Cuba, infant mortality is low, education is free, something about literacy rates and a cartoon character. What do my fellow Americans know about Cuba, its culture, its history?

Time for a Google search, exact phrase: “most moral army in the world”. Find a sentence that incorporates all six (6) words. For example, here is one such result from Haaretz (March 3, 2014): “The most moral army in the world fired an anti-tank missile at the house in which a wanted young Palestinian was hiding. The most moral army in the world ran a bulldozer over the top of the house and destroyed it.” I subscribe to Haaretz, so this article may not be available to you. Now, to stay on task, consider usage: inexplicable or explicable.

Class assignment: clip stories from your local newspaper about police officer heroes. Compare to episodes of The Wire. Consult this database maintained continuously and meticulously by The Guardian:

People killed by Police in 2015

You may also view the following video from Australian journalists that might pique your interest and provide examples of the “inexplicable.” It’s 53 minutes long. Remember that my quiz questions may come from anywhere in the video. If you are not a member of this class you do not have to view it. It’s here for its value; however images of gross child mistreatment are always disturbing:

Stone Cold Justice

The following link is provided as extra credit or for students majoring in the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1948 to present):

Electronic Intifada

 

 

Menschheit (Humanity)

Today’s topic is humanity and crimes against humanity. As I was putting this together, Jimmy Carter was being interviewed on The Diane Rehm Show. What a Mensch! More tomorrow..

Hamza Namira is an Egyptian singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Namira sings on Arabic modern culture, discussing relevant social and humanitarian issues through his songs.

Egypt radio bans popular singer Hamza Namira for ‘critical’ songs

Here is one of those ‘critical’ songs:

Insan

And now a visit to Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces by Jewish Voice for Peace, first, from July 2014, a video:

JVP Protest at Friends of the IDF

Then a memory from Ferguson, MO. In the likely event of a possible misreading, the Nixon referred to below is Governor Jay Nixon. My excerpt is from the August 24, 2014 issue of the online article in BeMagazine.org original article on Ferguson is in Mother Jones.

Stay Human
Humane T-shirt

JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE: ON MONDAY, HEDY EPSTEIN, A 90-YEAR-OLD HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, WAS ARRESTED FOR “FAILURE TO DISPERSE” WHILE PROTESTING NIXON’S DECISION TO BRING THE MISSOURI NATIONAL GUARD TO FERGUSON. SHE’S A MEMBER OF JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE, A NATIONAL GROUP THAT ADVOCATES FOR EQUALITY FOR PALESTINIANS AND ISRAELIS. “I AM DEEPLY, DEEPLY TROUBLED BY WHAT IS GOING ON IN FERGUSON,” EPSTEIN TOLD NEWSWEEK AFTER HER RELEASE. “IT’S A MATTER OF INJUSTICE, AND IT’S NOT ONLY IN FERGUSON…THE POWER STRUCTURE LOOKS AT ANYONE WHO’S DIFFERENT AS THE OTHER, AS LESS WORTHY, AND SO YOU TREAT THE OTHER AS SOMEONE WHO IS LESS HUMAN AND WHO NEEDS TO BE CONTROLLED AND WHO IS NOT TRUSTED.”