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