Archive for October, 2015

A TEACHER

October 29, 2015

He taught math at high school. When he retired he still kept going to school. He would sit in the staff room reading through the curriculum, syllabi, courses programs and the teachers’ worksheets and trying to start up conversations with his former colleagues during breaks. The colleagues were busy and the conversations turned out to be short. At monthly staff meetings he usually took the floor and spoke to the heedless audience about the improvement of the academic process until he was stopped by the chairperson. He thought he was “useful”, but they thought he was just a pain-in-the-neck.

With time his visits to school grew rarer and rarer, and, finally, he ceased going there. A couple of times I saw him in the streets of the town. Each time he pulled a trolley with some food from the market and his shirt in the back was wet. He lived with his wife. She was paralyzed and bed-ridden.

I saw the last of him one day at the university research library. He shuffled his way noisily into the reading hall with a stack of books in algebra, arithmetic, geometry in his arms… Graduate students raised their heads from their papers and stole curious looks at him. He didn’t notice anyone…  An old man with happy eyes…

“THE DAY BETWEEN A SATURDAY AND A MONDAY…”

October 25, 2015

Today is a special day in Ukraine. Firstly, the country has turned its clocks for the winter time – one hour back. Secondly, the local elections have been held.

It took me about an hour to set the time. I would never have thought there are so many devices with the time function in my flat! The process wouldn’t have been so vexatious, if it were only about moving the minute hand 360 degrees backwards. But, being a perfectionist (“precision is my inspiration”), I went to time.is and set the easily adjustable digital clock for the new time from the Internet. Then I walked around the flat from one time piece to the other (including mine and my wife’s dumb-phones)  synchronizing all the clocks and watches with the Internet time on the clock I had adjusted. Particularly hassling were the pedometer and the tonometer: I had to rummage in heaps of the respective manuals containing the respective instructions before I put the right time on them. Having done all that, I’m sure that after a month or two I’ll happen to find another “forgotten” watch still running according to the summer time. However, I considered the back of the winter-time job to have been broken.

At 8:00, by the time when ballots started being cast, I was at the local constituency. Young ladies whose job was to hand out the ballots and give you some accompanying slips to be signed, couldn’t find my name first, but after five minutes they found it. When I entered the voting booth I discovered that there was no chair and no pen there. So I got out of the booth and demanded that those items, so indispensable for the success and comfort of the voting, should be brought in. Everything was done as I asked for. In the seclusion of the booth I read two long papyruses with names of the parties (about 40 or 50 of them) and candidates (about 20), ticked the selected boxes on the sheets and cast the ballots. With the feeling of my duty fulfilled I left the constituency. I knew that my choice would not be successful (with a few exceptions, I have always voted not in sync with the prevailing current of thought), but I was overwhelmed with the gratifying sense of accomplishment.

DSC05319Incidentally, the main entrance hall of our block of flats has been redecorated and the walls painted aggressively green (see the picture). One of the most likely winners in the election campaign (definitely, financed by sponsors with lined pockets) had it done to remind the dwellers who they should vote for. Alongside, all the mailboxes for surface mail had been removed to be allegedly replaced by new ones, but as of today no replacement has been done (see the picture). My suspicion is that the new mailboxes will be hung up only in case our benefactor has been elected. If not, the flats can be without any mailboxes.DSC05321

Having returned home, I put on my track suit and went out again – this time for a jog. I was jogging for 2 hours and 32 minutes, having covered 21 kilometers. With my weight in the morning being 78 kg, I weighed 75 kilos after the jog. The blood pressure decreased from 141 over 80 to the unbelievable 75 over 50 (kind of too low) when I finished DSC05326-bjogging. The heart rate rose from 66 to 93. The age of the jogger is 66 years 5 months and 5 days. Again, the same sense of accomplishment  (see the picture of yours truly)…

The day was crowned with two talks with our children via Skype, and two blogs (including this one) written.  A wonderful Sunday!

Just a couple of post scriptum words about the elections in Ukraine. As I have said, the elections are local, which means they are about communal services streamlined, transport improved, secondary schools functioning better, etc.  I came across a cartoon on the Internet (see the picture)  in which a candidate (named Mr. Blah-Blah) for the position of the head of the village is speaking before an audience of a few elderly village women promising that if he is elected Ukraine will join the EU, the salaries and pension will be increased, and there won’t be any conscripts in the army – only contract service. Really, why should the Ukrainians be overly concerned with picayune details… Let’s think BIG!2015-10-25Cartoon

A TALENT IN THE AGE OF REASON

October 25, 2015

Enlightenment SalonsI have discovered a poet who is new to me: Henry Carey, a contemporary of such literary giants as Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope Richard Steel and Joseph Addison. He knew them personally and was patronized by them. Henry Carey was also a dramatist, a song writer and a balladeer.

Information from Wikipedia:

Henry Carey (c. 26 August 1687 – 5 October 1743) … Several of his melodies continue to be sung today, and he was widely praised in the generation after his death. Because he worked in anonymity, selling his own compositions to others to pass off as their own, contemporary scholarship can only be certain of some of his poetry, and a great deal of the music he composed was written for theatrical incidental music. However, under his own name and hand, he was a prolific song writer and balladeer, and he wrote the lyrics for almost all of these songs. Further, he wrote numerous operas and plays. His life is illustrative of the professional author in the early 18th century. Without inheritance or title or governmental position, he wrote for all of the remunerative venues, and yet he also kept his own political point of view and was able to score significant points against the ministry of the day. Further, he was one of the leading lights of the new “Patriotic” movement in drama.

The ballad that follows has been downloaded from https://archive.org/details/sallyinouralley00care

The Ballad of Sally in our Alley

By Henry Carey

His  ARGUMENT for the Ballad.
A Vulgar Error having long prevailed among many Persons, who imagine Sally Salisbury the Subject of this Ballad, the Author begs leave to undeceive and assure them it has not the least allusion to her, he being a stranger to her very Name at the time this Song was composed. For as Innocence and Virtue were ever the Boundaries of his Muse, so in this little Poem he had no other view than to set forth the Beauty of a chaste and disinterested Passion, even in the lowest Class of human Life. The real Occasion was this: A Shoemaker’s ’Prentice making Holiday with his Sweet-heart, treated her with a sight of Bedlam, the Puppet-shews, the Flying-chairs, and all the Elegancies of the Moorfields: From whence proceeding to the Farthing Pye-house, he gave her a Collation of Buns, Cheesecakes, Gammon of Bacon, Stuff’d-beef, and Bottled-ale; through all which Scenes the Author dodged them (charm’d with the Simplicity of their Courtship), from whence he drew this little Sketch of Nature; but being then young and obscure, he was very much ridicul’d by some of his Acquaintance for this Performance; which nevertheless made its way into the polite World, and amply recompenced him by the Applause of the divine Addison, who was pleased (more than once) to mention it with Approbation.

Of all the Girls that are so smart

There’s none like pretty SALLY,

She is the Darling of my Heart,

And she lives in our Alley.

There is no Lady in the Land

Is half so sweet as SALLY,

She is the Darling of my Heart,

And she lives in our Alley.

Her Father he makes Cabbage-nets,

And through the Streets does cry ’em;

Her Mother she sells Laces long,

To such as please to buy ’em:

But sure such Folks could ne’er beget

So sweet a Girl as SALLY!

She is the Darling of my Heart,

And she lives in our Alley.

When she is by I leave my Work,

(I love her so sincerely)

My Master comes like any Turk,

And bangs me most severely;

But, let him bang his Belly full,

I’ll bear it all for SALLY;

She is the Darling of my Heart,

And she lives in our Alley.

Of all the Days that’s in the Week,

I dearly love but one Day,

And that’s the Day that comes betwixt

A Saturday and Monday;

For then I’m drest, all in my best,

To walk abroad with SALLY;

She is the Darling of my Heart,

And she lives in our Alley.

My Master carries me to Church,

And often am I blamed,

Because I leave him in the lurch,

As soon as Text is named:

I leave the Church in Sermon time,

And slink away to SALLY;

She is the Darling of my Heart,

And she lives in our Alley.

When Christmas comes about again,

O then I shall have Money;

I’ll hoard it up, and Box and all

I’ll give it to my Honey:

And, would it were ten thousand Pounds;

I’d give it all to SALLY;

She is the Darling of my Heart,

And she lives in our Alley.

My Master and the Neighbours all,

Make game of me and SALLY;

And (but for her) I’d better be

A Slave and row a Galley:

But when my seven long Years are out,

O then I’ll marry SALLY!

O then we’ll wed and then we’ll bed,

But not in our Alley.

Another version of the last two lines is: And then how happily we’ll live,/ But not in our Alley.

I believe this other version was the original one if we consider what Henry Carey said in his Preface (“Argument”): …Innocence and Virtue were ever the Boundaries of his Muse, so in this little Poem he (the author) had no other view than to set forth the Beauty of a chaste and disinterested Passion, even in the lowest Class of human Life.

The next poem, An Honest Yorkshireman, is no less beautiful. The impression is that you hear the voice of the lyrical hero from the distance of some three centuries. Even the dialectal spelling which reflects the vernacular of the I-narration does not prevent you from grasping what the poem is about. On the contrary, it adds to the charm of expression:

I is i’ truth a coontry youth,
Nean used to Lunnon fashions;
Yet vartue guides, an’ still presides
Ower all my steps an’ passions.
Nea coortly leer, bud all sincere,
Nea bribe shall iver blinnd me ;
If thoo can like a Yorkshire tike,
A rogue thoo’ll niver finnd me.

Thof envy’s tongue, so slimly hung,
Would lee aboot oor coonty,
Nea men o’ t’ earth boast greater worth,
Or mair extend their boonty.
Oor northern breeze wi’ us agrees,
An’ does for wark weel fit us ;
I’ public cares, an’ love affairs,
Wi’ honour We acquit us.

Sea great a maand is ne’er confaand
‘Tiv onny shire or nation,
They gie un meast praise whea weel displays
A larned eddication;
Whaal rancour rolls i’ laatle souls,
By shallow views dissarnin’,
They’re nobbut wise at awlus prize
Good manners, sense, an’ larnin’.

MY LIBRARY

October 23, 2015

DSC05308There is a popular belief that things emanate energy of their own – a kind of aura that can influence people’s state of mind, their feelings, or can even re-direct their future. Though unsupported by any scientific evidence, the “theory” is the explanation why old things in your apartment should be periodically thrown away and private space re-arranged. I cannot judge about such emanation with authority (for that I would have to go into the theme deeper than I would like to), but I can confidently say that when I do morning jerks in my room, where books are stacked all along the walls from the floor to the ceiling, they (the books) irradiate something that charges me with enthusiasm for the rest of the day. While my eyes run across spines of books, I think that I will have to re-start with Spanish, or listen to the “Berlinisch” my German acquaintance recorded for me long time ago. History of Ukraine by Mykhailo Hrushevskyi and Hrinchenko’s Dictionary of the Ukrainian Language require a most attentive perusal . How about books with the analysis of chess games (the authors – Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasiliy Smyslov, Tigran Petrosyan, and Bobby Fischer were idols of my generation)? Every now and then I put away my dumbbells, jot down a reminder on my to-do list and return to my morning exercises. It’s another matter if I will “re-start”, “peruse”, or “analyse” as I’m planning to, but sometimes wishes can help “fill a sack.”

DSC05311It’s remarkable that I remember when and under what circumstances I bought each book in my no-less-than-10,000-volume home library. The first one was a German-Russian Dictionary of 20,000 words. I bought it on December 17, 1959 in a provincial Russian town of Lgov where I was living at that time. The second acquisition (a week later) was “Laboratories in Space.” Cosmic space was in the forefront of everybody’s mind in those days. Now, after fifty-six years, these two books stand on the shelf by my side – at arm’s length. I don’t use them. I look at them.

My library has been growing with me all this time. Having become part of me it has also formed me in a significant way.

At random I take four books from my book shelves. In the same way, casually, I open each of them. The mathematics problem book, which I used as early as 1961 when I was in the 5th grade, tells on pages 112-113 about the ratio of literate men and women in the Soviet Union in the years 1897 through 1959, and also about how heavier sputniks became each time they were launched. Chapter 14 from A History of English Literature by Thomas Shaw (London, 1895) gives  the characteristics of John Lock’s epoch:  “The period of the great and beneficent revolution of 1688 was characterised by establishment of constitutional freedom in the state, and no less by a powerful outburst of practical progress in science and philosophy. It was this period that produced Newton in physical and Lock in intellectual science. The latter…offers the most perfect type of the good man, the patriotic citizen, and the philosophical investigator…”

DSC05312Then there is The Ukrainian Language in the 20th Century: the Chronicle of Linguo-cide (hmm… my spell-checker underlines the word. Isn’t the  word specific only for my native language, a kind of lexical exotism?). An article “Nationalist Distortions in Ukrainian Word-Building (published in 1933)… Or another article: “Against Nationalism in Mathematical Terminology (1934)”. In those days censors had long lists of Ukrainian words which were considered “nationalist vocabulary” (the case when the words did not coincide in form with the corresponding Russian words). Should any of such vocabulary surface in any article, the article was immediately banned from publication, and the author was labeled as “saboteur”… What usually happened to such “saboteurs”, harmful elements”, etc. , was scrupulously described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his “Gulag Archipelago”  three decades later.

DSC05316The fourth book is a German textbook Are You Versed in German Grammar? (“Bist du in der deutschen Grammatik beschlagen?”).  When the author G.Birkenhof  presents the theme  „Der optative und der imperativische Konjunktiv“, she illustrates the rule with a quotation from J.W.Goethe: „Edel sei der Mensch,// Hilfsreich und gut!// Denn das allein// Unterscheidet ihn// Von allen Wesen, // Die wir kennen. („Let Man be noble, helpful and kindhearted! Because only these things make him different from all creatures that we know”).

I think about the concentration of intellectual energy in books. How much of the authors’ thoughts and emotions each of the books has absorbed, what segments of Time the books have spanned, how many tragedies and triumphs they have described… The books digitise, verbalise, conceptualise and materialise Man’s mental world. Actually, each book is a galaxy of its own, with all of the books forming a universe… A spiritual universe in an apartment with the floor area of some 450 sq.ft…  Could that energy of spirit be converted into joules or electron-volts,  the apartment in Kyiv’s Obolon would be on the par with the brightest star in the physical Universe.

You aspire to the Unknown and the Untravelled? the Unexplored and the Uncharted? the Breath-Taking and the Never-Ending? Just open a book at your home library that has grown with you…

BUREAUCRACY AND THE CHILD

October 9, 2015

I was queuing up at the post-office to arrange a subscription for a few periodicals. Before me in the line a young father, holding his little daughter by the hand (the daughter was about three years old), was trying to receive a parcel addressed, as he insisted, to his wife. The thing was that he had only his wife’s passport and no other document to confirm his matrimonial union with the addressee.

“How can I be sure that you are really this lady’s husband?” kept asking the postal clerk pointing at the picture in the passport. “There may be a case when a person finds a passport with a notification inside and goes to the post office to get the postal item.”

“I can phone my wife right now and she will say who I am.”

“But it won’t be necessarily your wife.” The woman at the counter stood to her guns.

“Really, I do not know …”, the man continued. “If I had arrived here by car, I would show you my driving license, but I came by bus…”

After a few moments of silence, the clerk rose to her feet, stepped from behind the counter, bent over the girl and, holding the open passport before the little girl’s face, asked her: “Who is this?”

“Me mamma,” the girl said.

“Ok, you may get the parcel,” said the clerk to the man.

CLEANING THE BLACKBOARD: THE PAST, THE PRESENT, THE FUTURE…

October 7, 2015

2015-10-07kids-fighting-cartoonIn the course of a Skype discussion my English language informant mocked my using the classroom expression “to clean the blackboard” because, allegedly, blackboards were not cleaned in Britain any more. Being an eternal doubter with a sort of “show-me” mentality, I googled the phrase and, with a sigh of relief (“Still, I do NOT speak Chaucer’s English!”), discovered that blackboards (aka chalkboards, whiteboards, or, simply, boards) are vibrantly alive and keep being successfully cleaned even now. Those who don’t like to clean them, may clean them off/up , or wipe, erase and rub them. The written matter can also be removed. YouTube videos demonstrated the best technologies of cleaning (I liked Benny Hill’s energetic approach at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_ANwPJtyqM  and auto-cleaning when an automatic  eraser moves slowly from left to right making the board “clean and prepared” —  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xwCwbKrZQc  ).

However, I thought that there was something rational in what my English critic said. With the current societal, political and demographic trends, changes are sure to invade our everyday lives, and teachers of English cannot disregard them. The notorious “board” can be an example. Cleaning a smartboard is different from cleaning the blackboard, since the former action is not about removing what has been written but about cleaning the screen and involves such steps as shutting down your board and the connected computer, dusting the board with a damp cloth, getting ready with an erase solution, etc.

I wondered what traditional conversational topics, which students of English usually learn, would look like in about fifty years. By way of example, I took the topic ABOUT MYSELF (“My name is…, I get up at…, etc)

My name is Futuro. I get up at 11 o’clock in the morning. I do not know if I am a girl or a boy because I will be deciding about my true gender when I come of age. I have two parents. Theirs is a same-sex marriage, that’s why I do not know which of them is my Dad or my Mom. I address them as P1 (Parent One) and P2 (Parent  Two). Until recently they used to take me to school by car, except for one day in the year when we observed International Walk-to-School Day (hmph…). Then I had to walk to school. Now I am on a home schooling program because I am already through with the elementary courses of Bullying, Smoking, Drug-Abuse and Obscene-Language Usage. At the moment I’m reading a book “How to Scare and Snare Other People”. It’s a required item of my home school curriculum. Alongside I have to do the project “The Frequency and Meaning of Expressive Interjections in Modern Literature for Children.” So far I have found out that the words yuck (to express disgust), eek (unpleasant surprise), boo (to provoke fright) and hee-hee (a mischievous laugh) make up 49 per cent of all the words used in my book. I go to bed when I want to.

And that’s that.

TALENT

October 3, 2015

In 1969, being a very young man and a student of the pedagogical university, I was having my required teaching practice in a senior form at one of our town schools. As any student teacher I had an experienced supervisor who guided me through all the complexities of pedagogical work and a group of high school students for me to supervise. The students were rather advanced in English. I taught them from W.S. Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage”( in the original) and headed the Club for the Cheerful and Quick-Witted, which, when applied to English teaching, turned into a challenging and exciting Who-Knows-English-Better ongoing contest.

A student who stood out from the group and whom you couldn’t help noticing right away was a boy named Dawyd.  An ever smiling and kind youth, friendly and clever, with an inquisitive and proactive mind – that’s what he was.  Even his name impressed you. Among dozens of repeated Viktors, Igors, Valeras, etc. that ancient biblical name spoke volumes about his parents, their outlook and the atmosphere in the family.

After my teaching practice I ran into Dawyd a couple of times in the streets of the town, but then we ceased meeting each other. After a few years I moved to another city, Dawyd and his family had emigrated from Ukraine.

The other day I was sent a friend request on Facebook. Dawyd… The name rang a bell. Couldn’t it be 1969, school 14 (all schools in the USSR went under numbers), my W.S .Maugham-based  lessons of English and that smiling pleasant-looking guy sitting in the right row closer to the window? I accepted the request.

…We chatted for about an hour remembering the past times and the people we knew.  Dawyd lives in Germany with his mother. He’s got musical education and is a self-taught photographer. The combination of these two interests resulted in wonderful pieces of art he creates. However, my strong belief is that the secret of Dawyd’s talent lies in his deep love for his people and his passion to show how beautiful these people are.

So, watch, listen and enjoy…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q8eqA08dv4  (My Jews)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVK7Jqh3Zh8 (The Prayer)

https://plus.google.com/117458651347181219667/videos?pid=5837066680743729458&oid=117458651347181219667 (The Don Quixote Passion)


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