Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Shveeta Shalom, everybody.

I earned 50 shekel collecting deposit bottles and cans while I jogged on a lonely mountain.
Do I have to pay it to the strike fund?

. . .

. . .

I just received this letter, and sent it off to join its thousands of brethren. Aren't you tired of getting these phony messages in your IN BOX all the time? Who in their right minds would ever fall for such a scam of spam? Or do I say spam of scam?

Allow us to draw the most insignificant sum of six hundred shekels from your bank account, and become a full partner to share millions
of dollars.

Through the priviledge of membership in the Irgun Morim, the national teachers' union,, i take liberty anchored on a strong desire to solicit your assistance on this mutually beneficial transaction which i hope you will give your urgent attention.i am mr.Rumm Errors, the chairman of the association of educators now known as IrGun Hamrorim ha Al Yesodium. i am moved to write you this letter ,this was in confidence considering our present circumstance and complex situation. My uncle was dictator and chairman of this organization until he was forcibly removed last January. Due to this pressing situation we decided to change most of my union's billions of dollars deposited in swiss bank and other countries into other forms of money coded for safe purpose. What i want you to do now is to indicate your interest that you will assist us by receiving the money on our behalf. the account required for this project can either be personal,company or an offshore account that you have total control over,your area of specialisation will not be a hinderance to the successful execution of this transaction. i want you to assist us in investing this money,but i will not want our identity revealed, especially to the fraud units. .i will also want to buy properties and stocks in multi-national companies and to engage in other safe and non speculative investments.we have been through a lot of health and spiritual turmoil,hence will need your understanding and assistance.
may i at this point emphasize the high level of confidentiallity which this business demands and hope you will not betray the trust and confidence which we repose in you. is this proposition attainable?if it is,please kindly furnish me immediately by e-mail with your direct telephone and fax numbers to enhance the confidentiallity which this business demands. Unfortunately I lack even the most basic sums of money to purchase a ticket to get to the safety deposit boxes where the inheritance is held. If you could possibly spare the pittance of NIS 600 (Six hundred Sheklels,) until the strike is settled and untold wealth will be showered upon you.
Perhaps you are wondering how I have the temerity to invite you to participate in a scheme in which you have much to lose and I have much to gain, and that this is a transparent attempt to separate you and your money.
Rest assured that enough people have cheerfully partd with their six hundred shekels already, otherwise we'd never do this in he first place.

Best regardsmr.
Arm Errs
Heir to the recently deposed previous chairman
of the National Teachers' Bunion.

/ See the last several years of postings at this site:

Sunday, October 7, 2007


What is more annoying than 'friends' who E -mail you things you don't want?
Like, appliances, stocks, potions to expand the shrivelled and contract the swollen, offers to meet dream dates of the opposite or synonymous sex, and jokes, jokes and puns and cartoons that you first saw when you cut your first mouseteeth on Windows for Workgroups? What 's more annoying? It's friends who head their letter with, "I never pass on stuff like this, but this time. . ." and then it gushes out: An urgent warning that Earth's orbit is nearing intersection with Mars. A new virus has infected your screen and you must paint over all the mirrors in your house and not flush the toilet or it will destroy your hard disk, your pacemaker and your electric prune.

Well, . . .
I never pass on stuff like this, but lately I've found, or bin sent some clips, sites URL's so funny that I want to make a little nest wheere they can cuddle up and you can see them at leisure.

So here's the one where Captain Kirk and Spock meet Monty Python's King Arthur:
(googling Python and Star Trek will do just fine).

Here is Taylor Mali's rant against proofreading: Great spelling lesson but not for the delicate ears of younger pupils:

I had another one but it slipped thru a hole in my mind. Asher sent me a candid camera sketch where women have agreed to take part in a toothpaste ad, which will involve kissing a good looking male model. As soon as they don blindfolds, the men are replaced with chimpanzees (I couldn't tell if the chimps were male or female). As this brought on a host of issues that touch me personally, I could not watch til the end and I'm not including it here.

So this is my little Blog Spott for tonight folks.

I am quite unnerved by the huge teachers' strike which is looming overhead.
Today was my free day, following 2 weeks of Sukkot, and I was all psyched up not to teach tomorrow. Now they announced that there will be two more days teaching til the Irgun Tsunami strikes our shores. That means that tomorrow, 18% of the kids will stay home and claim they thought it already started, and the rest of them will be on the ceiling.
I can hardly wait.

Barry Silverberg

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Switching Identities


To start off with, here's a letter I found on the English Teachers' List, and I promply honoured it with an answer.

----- Original Message -----
From: Barnett
To: Etni
Sent: Sunday, September 30, 2007 3:55 PM
Subject: [etni] Teaching the article
Joe Barnet wrote:
Dear etniers,

Our local English grammar textbooks are designed for Hebrew speakers and take rules common to the two languages for granted. As a consequence they overlook first language interference from other languages. Immigrant or simply migrant students from other countries, irrespective of their knowledge of Hebrew, may have serious difficulties quite beyond the scope of our textbooks and regular TEFL teachers.

Russian speakers are a case in point. Although I have never learnt this language, I understand that (like Latin) it does not use any articles, neither definite nor indefinite. This means that one the basic tasks for Russian-speaking students is to decipher what seems to them our arbitrary habit of prefixing a noun alternately with a, an, the, some, any or even zero. (like Zero Mostel, Zero Gravity, Zero Degrees? / ed.)

I have found no systematic treatment of this grammar point in the many British, American or Israeli TEFL grammars in my personal library. I need something which starts from scratch. If anyone can suggest a source of teaching materials, rules and exercises I would be most grateful.

Moadim LeSimha,

Joe Barnett

My response was instantaneous:

Hey Joe,
Where yoo gowine with dat gun in yo' hand?

Pardon me.

I slipped into a random association there.

Start again.

Dear Joe,

You think you got problems teaching students from Russia because they have no articles? ( Stalin executed 5 million direct articles during his reign of terror and another 7 million during his snoghw of terror.) In Winnipeg and the surrounding Manitoba prairie communities, there is no word for 'Benchmark.' Fortunately, most of the thousands of Manitoban Olim are exempt from the English Bagrut anyway and can pick five points in curling.

(Hmmmm: Maybe the Jeru'sell'em Post would like an article with the headline "Manitoban Olim Pick Games?")

Whew! Makes you wonder why so many people urge me to keep writing. It's twue, it's twue, they really do. And now that I've got your attention on this page...
It's been a rough day here in Kiriat Shmona. If this area, dubbed the Galilee panhandle, is a panhandle, than Kiriat Shmona is the hole in the end that the screw goes through to hang the pan on the wall. My bike just had a total breakdown and we are expecting the new back wheel assembly to take a few more days to arrive. I've put on six kilo from all the holiday face stuffing and the only exercise I got today was loading the car with more groceries to get us through the final holiday and then another Shabbat. Billious William, on the other hand, was more adventurous, and went marching along the highway picking up all the returnable cans and bottles he could get his hooks on. At least one of his hooks isn't metaphorical, it's a 80 cm long plastic spring and pulley device that can lift objects up to half a kilo with out bending one's knees, and can dexterously pick a coin off the road or retrieve a fallen Yemenite Etrog.
Or even a small Yemenite. I just spent ten minutes trying to find it on Google just to prove that such an ingenious tool exists, but no luck. Bill bought it for 20 bucks when he was still on his back after the accident, and since then has put it to dozens of uses, mostly involving lost socks.
Today's WORD IN ARABIC is 'moo FEY j'uh' which means surprise.
Bill was quite mooFEYj'uh'd to find, among the bottles, a cluster of Israeli ID cards, or 'Te'oodot Zehoots,' if one can give a Teudat Zehut an English plural ending, still in their shiny navy blue cases. This really happened, and when he got home and looked up the numbers of the owners, he was more aMAYj'uh'd to discover that
a: all the Te'ooda losers' mothers were named Dalia, and
b: they all live on the same row of houses in Tsfat, next door to each other, and they all claim not to know the other ones.

This is par for the course for Bilious, who prides himself as a most law abiding citizen, as long as the Law is Murphy's. Furthermurther, Bill himself lost his own Teudat Zehooot a few days back, most likely by letting it slip out the car door as he went out to find another ten shekels worth of bottles. It costs a lot of money to replace your ID card, to deter nasty types who would otherwise run to sell their ID's to the nearest criminal or terrorist for a mess of hummous. Billious has an additional difficulty in renewing his documents; He still clings to the punny Hebrish he used back in Ulpan, when he needed a Teudat Zehut as well as a Teudat Oleh, and still refuses to call his ID anything other than a Too'ot Sadeh. To this day, the Ministry of the Interior keeps sending him fruit baskets.

Note: I finally found the picture of the reaching tool, but this fershlugginah blog program won't let me upload any more pictures, and you'll have to find it for yourself, like all essential truths. No, here it is. It came up ten minute later.
I could have looked under the bed my self in all that time.
Good night,

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Oh to be a Blogger

Who out there is aware that the above title is an allusion to one of Philip K Dick's first stories, 'Oh, to be a Blobel,' about a zenophobic earthman who has to take on the shape of an alien being in order to beef up sales.

For that matter, who is aware that Phil Dick, though no longer alive in this dimension, gave us the ideas for such films as Total Recall, Blade Runner, Minority Report, Scanner Darkly and many others.

This has nothing to do with my post tonight, however, I can now add 'Phil Dick, and Science Fiction' to the list of categories at the bottom of this blog, and get many new subscribers. Excuse me, they are called 'labels,' and I can add them to each separate post, not the whole blog:

I am quite frustrated having to use this blog, accustomed as I am to putting everything into Word and having the master of the ETNI English teachers' site post it on a real website, with all the fonts and illustrations the way I left them.
However, using this blog I can get to a lot more people, like you, right, and have even received a snootfull of comments.

I have finally figured out how to access my own posts and edit them, sort of like a dog returning to his spew (That's where they Davven).
But I can't seem to get my illustrations aligned the way I should, and, after loading up 3 illustrations for the July 'rectinoia' posting, I can't put any more up at all. Let alone get little captions in boxes under each picture.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A bit of nostalgia for the old folks, ( as Frank zappa says on one of his albums). Rumor among the few surviving 55 year old ex- Bar Ilan students who reeked havoc in Kiriat Ono in the seventies has it that Bilious William, our long lost musical flatmate, may actually move his butt from the Goldarne Medina, and come to visit us in Israel for the first time since he boarded the plane in '79.
I will see him face to face, and will have to account for using bits of his life as source material when I ran out of ideas for this column. Bill W actually emailed me to request that I keep his identity private and not tell anybody, even tho everyone we knew from those days is locked away from internet access, that he's really Bernie Stollar of Moose Jaw, Manitoba.

One of the triggers that sent me hurtling down the time toilet was a song I watched on TV tonight. I was separating whites from coloreds when my son called me to see Aharon Razel performing his 'Krembo' song. I have provided the link and instructions for you to access a different version of the same song; it's worth it.

Krembos were part of our first years in Israel, along with smoky busses, asseemonim, and Makolet men and makolet ladies with numbers on their arms and hoarse voices, counting eggs one by one in Yiddish, and charging us extra for the plastic bags they wrapped the food in. Aints, tsvai… The very idea of a Krembo was abhorrent to us snot- nosed Amerrrika-im, spoiled by memories of the confections we left behind and could only get when somebody came back from a visit to the 'old' country: Reese's Cups, Oreos, Mars Bars, real peanut butter. Who wanted to eat an enormous stale marshmallow, coated in cloying chocolate that melted in your hand, not in your mouth, glued to a piece of cardboard? Decades later, preparing for the birthday parties of our five year old kids, I would cringe if I had to buy whole trays of these monstrosities. Back then, we would visit local makolets, and, when the owners were trying to fish out pickles from the pickle barrel – using what appeared to be live bait -- poke our fingers thru the aluminum foil of the Krembos like Bart Simpson poking eyes out of a mutant squirrel. That we were college students in our early twenties somehow did not deter us, and we did other things that we would rather not remind each other about, like the time with the birthday present..

The point is, that everybody almost from those days became famous except us. Well, I didn't have much claim to fame, but Bilious was in a rock band imported from America, and they got a manager and did the discotheque circuit in 1971. And quite a few nobodies from back then eventually had their shot at being somebody. The jerk across the street who grabbed your guitar like a deranged gibbon: Maaaa? Zeh Hashmalleee Zeh? ... became the greatest name in Middle Eastern pop music in the eighties. Your retard manager eventually morphed into a billionaire media mogul.
That skinny thing of indeterminate sex that sat across from you waiting for gigs became Zvika Pik. The community centre folk theatre guy you did a show with turned into Super Story teller Yossi Alfi, father of teen idol Guri Alfi. You were at the Bris. You could go to a Shalom Achshav party ( we didn't make political di stink tions back then,) and not even realize you were getting it on with a future Minister of Education. And so on: so many casual acquaintances became professors, artists, poets, national leaders, noted criminals, and often, the latter two at the same time..

Even the Krembos.

Go to this site, scroll down and press the tab "Tarboot" תרבות on the left. Then click on the guy who has a giant Krembo over his head. Take your time. The song is well worth listening to, ( unless you don't know Hebrew). In fact, tonight it was played live on the Kirshenbaum- Yaron London show with the two old geezers shaking it like a couple of aging muppets.

Even the Krembo finally has a hit.

And, here in my obscurity, all I can do is sing the closing number,

up with the Krem-bo
Ratings fly,
Old pals get rich and famous,
Why oh why... can't I ?????

/ Silverberg, sept 24, 07

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Succot Holidays are almost here, but we won't be seeing the traditional four species, not if Minister of Education Yuli Tamir has her way. Instead of shaking the Lulav (palm frond, bound to myrtle, and willow branches, paired with an Etrog) we'll be shaking up a spray can of Succot Holiday foam. "The old three species were not in keeping with the department's educational policies, Ms Tamir , who holds the patent rights under the brand name 'Pre-Ates Tamir, told our reporter.' I used to see those Sherut Leumi girls prance into our schools with all these branches, and I was sure they were going to brainwash our innocent pupils into planting them on stolen land. Then I found out that the five species represent different kinds of Jews: fruit eaters, insect eaters, seed eaters -- no, those are Darwin's finches. I know: I had a Rabbi tattoo it on my right shoulder... just a minute... OK: The Etrog is the Jews who have Tora learning and good deeds. The date palm is those who has good deeds, the myrtle, the ones with only learning and the willow don't have doodly squat.

HVH: Well, what's wrong with that?

4 species in militant
ritual, imperialistic ritual;

not in our schools!

YUT: I'll tell you what's wrong with that: It's discriminatory. The Etrog and and the Myrtle are hogging fifty per cent of the show, when only 15% of population has any Torah learning. And as for good deeds: -- the only deeds that are any good today are in Ehud's Jerusalem real estate deals. I don't mind if the pupils in our schools are shaking 15% Etrog and Myrtle; I first thought of mixing them into a paste they could spread on crackers during their lunchbreak. Then I had a better idea: We grind up enough palm fronds and willow and put it all in a ... spray can and let them Schpritz each other.
HVH: What's festive about that?


YUT: What do you mean? It's one of our most holy modern rituals. What do kids do on Yom Haatsmaut? Eh?

Besides, it's cleaning up the environment. After all, we're converting all the Kibbutz Jordan river property into hi -rise socialist condominiums, so there's lots of surplus willow and palm.

HVH: Thank you, Ms Tamir and Shanna Tova.
YUT: You're so chauvinistic, mentioning only the Jewish Holidays! I want to wish all my Muslim friends a Ramadan ChocolatKareem, to all Christians a Happy Play Dough Day ( see link below, ed:) and if there are any Jewish people listening, Gamoor Fateemma Tofu.

confiscated palm tusks; the poachers

first shoot the mother


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tap tap tapping on Heaven's phone

Tap tap tapping on Heaven's phone
Reactions to recent events, by Barry Silverberg

Paranoia: 'a delusional condition characterized by the unfounded distrust of others often accompanied by feelings of persecution.' (Dickepedia: It's a dictionary and an encyclopedia!)

" Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there aren’t people out there who want to get you." /Billious William (not long after he was heard to say this, they got him.)

In today's world there's plenty to be paranoid about. But when you live in a country under constant threat of extinction by enemies without, enemies within, and enemies crawling through the tunnels in between, you can't retreat into paranoia. Paranoia here is a healthy reaction to reality. Those who retreat into delusion develop an unfounded trust of others. Rather than feel persecuted, they live in the illusion that they are upsecuted, that everybody means well. Instead of paranoia, we have what I can only call rectinoia, from the Latin , rect, meaning righteous, straight, or a built structure, and Noya, lack of vision, also the girl who bags my groceries at SuperSal: Rectinoia is like walking straight off a bridge wearing a blindfold because somebody told you it's a footpath.

Here are some recent news items indicating that rectinoia is spreading.. Not long ago,. I reported hearing a news item that the Palestinian 'Shaweeah' – what they have instead of the bagrut, had been stolen at gunpoint by gunmen in jeeps (perhaps, due to the nature of the booty, that it was hijacked by gunboys and gungirls; it's hard to tell with those masks.) Well, either not all of them were stolen, or maybe the stolen ones still got checked somehow, for the graduates received their grades about ten days ago as I write this. Apparently there was great rejoicing in the areas no-longer- controlled by Israel, and as is customary in times of rejoicing, many shots were fired into the air. And, riding down Kvish Shesh, some poor schmuck of a driver gets a bullet in his head. Maybe he was just an airhead. But the reporters and the police all rush to tell us that this was no act of terrorism. Just a bunch of teenagers getting out of hand.
We can just shudder what would have happened if the grades had been bad. But the victim, if he dies, does not get to extend the Memorial Day list; the fire that intersected with his head was relatively friendly. ( And doesn't it make you wonder; all those people who get killed by friendly fire; is that where the Friendly Ghosts come from?)

Today there was another one: Engine engine, number nine, traveling down the Haifa line…
Despite the recent rash of TV spots telling people not to drive across the tracks when the bell is ringing, the train encounters a truck parked on the track and ploughs right through it. Thank God, nobody is injured. And it could have been a lot worse, we are informed, because the truck was filled with barrels of 'solar' fuel (Not sun energy but diesel fuel.) And the truck belonged to a Bedouin. But not to worry; this was not a terrorist booby trap

. Once again, rectinoia creeps in. We put ourselves in the seat of the perpetrator and rationalize his actions: Hmm hmmm hhmmmm hey! Whoa! I've got this truck full of diesel engine fuel and I could really go for a pizza. But where can I leave my truck? Under these trees? No, I'll get bird droppings all over my fuel barrels. I know! These steel rails will really hold the truck from rolling down the hill. I don't even have to leave it in gear! Mmmm, getting dark soon. I'll just leave a little bonfire here by the back tire. Way cool. How will I remember to put it out? I know! I'll just tie this here rope around my neck so I won't forget.

We are under attack on five fronts and six behinds, yet everyone is complacent. You go to the Kinerret and step on a fish, you die of a new strain of bacteria. You go for a walk and lean against a tree in Tel Aviv, and Venezuelan fire ants rip the skin off your back. The pioneers of old, all they had to worry about was getting shot and malaria. We still have those on top of everything else, but nobody seems worried.

Recent reports inform us that our home front is woefully unprepared for a chemical warfare attack. Syria, Oscar winner for the past ten years for 'best deployment of unconventional weaponry', is re arming like crazy, and the average Israeli household either has forgotten where we put the masks in 2005 or they've beaten them into cat food dishes. Asked if there should be a redistribution of gas masks, Defense Minister Barak says he doesn't want to alarm the Syrians, who, with the odd exception, have been so benevolent to us in the past. Maybe we need to develop a rectinoia gas and spray them with it. Or maybe just slip it into a lot of tired trout, and wait for them to step on it.

/ Barry Silverberg, August, 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rolling off a Blog - 1

July 12, 2007

I just came home from a teachers conference at which the hot news is that teachers are going to be teaching higher level teaching skills as part of the new literature curriculum. Last year, the conference was breaking up as war was breaking out, and today's sessions were held in the shadow of last year's tension. So we listened most carefully to the radio as we coasted down the hills of the 443, and we heard, not the broadcasts of a crisis, but Ehud Olmert proudly boasting of the peace he has brought us. This is the most peaceful year the North has had in the last 40 years, he bragged. Let's pretend that it took the Hizbowlers three months to completely rearm themselves for another go, despite all the agreements and ceasefires, and I'm living in a region where everyone is haunted by fear of the next round. Meanwhile, Ulmart has engineered a prisoner exchange in which we release several hundred terrorists and get nothing. These terrorists 'do not have blood on their hands.' They may have planned a terror attack, fired their weapon, and seriously maimed their prey. However, out of sheer bad luck, the man or woman or baby didn't die. So the hands of the perpetrators are now nice and clean, so get on the bus. The nation goes along with this.
Teachers, sign up for the New Literature Module as soon as you can. We'd better start teaching our pupils those thinking skills mighty quick!

July 18
Today is Rosh Hodesh Av ( The New Hebrew month Av. Av what? Of Av.) This is an ominous date in the Jewish calendar. It inaugurates the Nine Days during which we mourn over the destruction of the First and Second temples. Next week, on the ninth of Av, is the second most solemn fast day of the year. Many Jews fast on this day, and keep other customs of mourning, such as not shaving, eating meat, or participating in public fun for the whole nine days. In popular parlance these days are 'meyou-adim le'pooranewt' i.e. accidents looking to happen.
Speaking of which, it is exactly ten years to the day when I chose to cycle from Tel Aviv to Kiriat Shmona. I hadn't done such a thing in a long while, due to back problems that bothered me through the nineties.
I felt I was ready to tackle a longer trip, and I flew the bike from Kiriat Shmona to Sday Dov, which you could do back then, schmoozed away the hot part of the day, and set out at 6:00 PM.. What about the ill timed date? I just scoffed, and made sure that I packed my Tfillen and a Siddur that had the day's extra prayers.

I got about 2 kilometers down the Ayalon before it hit me. 'It' was a maroon Skoda pickup that took the turnoff too close to the shoulder, or I was sticking out too much into the lane. I have never been able to remember. There is a vague memory flash of looking up into a circle of khaki uniforms with the hot August sun beaming down, a lot of sticky stuff around and a feeling of 'now I'm in for it.'

. . . . . . . . . I did not go back to teaching until after Hanuka.

July 19
Speaking of battling highways on a bicycle, my friend Billious William is touring the country after an absence of many many years. One of his dreams was to cycle along his old haunts: Ramat Hasharon, Glillot, the Mandarin Hotel Beachfront. He rented all the right equipment and off he went, only to find himself a time traveler from 1979 caught in the swirling tides of 2007 superhighways. It didn't take long before he was washed up on a tiny traffic island, with unending streams of traffic flowing at 100 Kph on either side. He'd be there still if things hadn't calmed down by nine PM or so, by which time he could dare running across the traffic lane during a brief break in the flow. Thus he was able to make his way to the 'Country Club' intersection and down to the sea. The Mandarin was long extinct, and the once empty romantic beach was a civilized 'tayelet' of crisp green turf, teeming with people, music, barbecues, lights, restaurants. While the Nine Days didn't put him off a swim, the headlines about fresh sewage in the area did and he made his way up the coastal road. Here was a pleasant surprise: The whole way was ribboned with a clearly marked, clean, safe bike path, along which he proceeded until the Tel Baruch area.
Tel Baruch was notorious when Bill once lived in Israel, although he didn't expect it to survive in the era of the internet. Yet there they were, pathetic, drugged painted, pulling down about one car every minute. Only the accent had changed.
Bill politely asked, "How's business, girls, " and kept on pedaling. But to his surprise, a kilometer later, there was another turn off to the sea and another gaggle of bare legs and microskirts, "How's business, girls," Bill calls out again. But this time the reply is much hoarser: "We're not girls, we have dicks!"
"How nice that we have something in common," Bill replies, politely, switching to his fastest getway gear. Separate sections, even for prostitution, he marvels, once well away. Must be run by Misrad Hadatot!
Kiriat Shmona, July 2007