Archive for June, 2016

REFERENDUM–FOOTBALL ANALOGIES

June 28, 2016

Politics aside, I was amazed at how England’s game against Iceland at Euro-2016 and the results of the Brexit referendum were humorously brought together in the British social media. Just a few ribbing quotes from Twitter:

  • I wasn’t expecting a sequel so soon! (after the game against Iceland was lost);
  • England players obviously all voted to leave;
  • I’m starting a petition for a rematch! That was just a trial run;
  • England is the only country to leave Europe twice in one week;
  • Just only fancy! To be knocked out by a country that has more volcanoes than players!
  • The game has 52-48 written all over it;
  • Postal goals are still to be included!
  • We won’t go out of the tournament until we invoke Article 50…
  • England team now feel they were misled about consequences of letting goals in, they didn’t think the other team would actively win;
  • WE HAVE TAKEN BACK CONTROL OF OUR FOOTBALL!
  • Standard&Poor’s just downgraded England to Two Lions.

2016-06-28How do I tell them?However, my first prize definitely goes to a picture of two cats with their EU pet passports. The photo was uploaded last Friday morning. The caption ran: “HOW DO I TELL THEM?”

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THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE

June 27, 2016

Go to: P.G.Wodehouse

P.G.WODEHOUSE AS A LANGUAGE LEARNING SOURCE

June 27, 2016

In my student’s days big reels with magnetic tapes were kept under lock and key in book cases of our phonetic lab. The tapes often broke and each time we rushed to the lab assistant for the acetone glue to stick them together. The quality of recordings also left much to be desired, but there were two tapes which sounded perfect: one was “The Importance of Being Earnest” and the other “The Truth About George.” While Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece didn’t need any special introduction, neither the work that was the literary basis for “The Truth About George” nor its author was known to us. It was much later that I came to know about P.G. Wodehouse. The reason why he was not so much popularized (especially in the Soviet Union) might have been his cooperation with German periodicals in WWII to which he had contributed some of his stories. Accusations of that cooperation made him eventually emigrate from the U.K. to the U.S.A. in 1946. This way or another, but, not knowing the author, we knew his work (or, rather, the audio adaptation of his work) which we called “The Stammerer” for short. Why did we like it? Certainly, the first reason was its Englishness: the characters, their speech, the social environment, the famous English understatement, the humor of it. And then… it was about the power of the word, I guess. I’m not sure if our fluency in English was much better at that time than George’s was in the beginning of the story, but by the end, George and his bride spoke the most exquisite English we were after. Any of us who could approach that ideal of language command would be on top. And all of us wanted to be the best.

For those who may not be acquainted with the plot of P.G. Wodehouse’s story, I give its overview as I picked it up from Wikipedia:

George Mulliner, a nephew of Mr.Mulliner, was cursed with a terrible stammer but was not terribly concerned about it until he fell in love with Susan Blake, the daughter of the vicar of East Wobsley, the Worcestershire village in which they lived. Determined to get rid of the stammer, he visits a specialist in London who advises him to go and speak to three perfect strangers each day as a confidence building measure. George decides to do this immediately on the train back to London. Unfortunately, the first person he meets also stammers and to stammer back at this man ‘would obviously be madness’. The second person he meets turns out to be a lunatic runaway from the local asylum who thinks he is the Emperor of Abyssinia and wishes to perform a human sacrifice with George playing the lucky lamb. George manages to escape and takes refuge under a bench seat in a railway carriage. A woman takes a seat in the same compartment, and when George emerges from under the bench and tries to speak to her, she assumes that George must be the escaped lunatic. When George, unable to speak, decides to sing instead she faints. When a thermos falls and shatters as the train passes over some points, she leaps up and pulls the emergency cord, bringing the train to a halt. When a host of rustics appear, George decides to remove himself and does so at a high speed followed by twenty-seven rustics headed by a bearded man with a pitchfork.

Late that night, a bedraggled George appears at the vicarage and presents himself to Susan Blake. Cured of his stammer, he proposes and she accepts. The mob arrives and George removes himself again at top speed but his stammer is cured for ever.

So, when I came across the 1975 BBC adaptation of “The Truth About George” with John Alderton as George and Pauline Collins as Susanne, I decided to share the YouTube address.

Enjoy!

 

TRINITY SUNDAY, POLITICS, THE GERMAN LANGUAGE AND THE RUBY-REDS ON MY BALCONY

June 20, 2016

0-the green floorI have known Mykola longer than any other person. Actually, the roots of our friendship go as far back as our mothers’ childhoods – they were classmates and had been sharing the same desk till they left school and married “good guys”, as they put it, soon afterwards. Mykola and I were born in the same year, and after another seven years we went together to “our mothers’ school.” As our mothers, we also sat next to each other at the desk, got our noses to every possible grindstone and loved the German language – our favorite subject. Later our roads parted: I entered the foreign language department at a pedagogical institute, Mykola failed in his entrance exam in German and switched over to agronomic studies. He got a degree in agriculture, settled down in a village some twenty kilometers from Kyiv. Now he is a farmer, he has two cars, and he is “his own 1-vegetable gardenboss,” as he himself expressed it. Kyiv is a good market for his organic produce. He works hard, but feels financially secure.

Now and then we visit each other – I go to his place on the Left Bank, or he comes to my Obolon. Yesterday my wife and I were invited by Mykola to spend the Sunday with his family and his two cousins. Needless to say, the invitation was accepted most willingly. The floor of Mykola’s house inside was traditionally strewn with green leaves, and the rooms were pleasantly cool. However, it was decided that a better place would be under a cherry plum tree where the table was spread. While the food was being carried from the kitchen to the table under the tree, I was entrusted with a responsible task – to keep watch over the food – 3-strawberry boyguarding it against their cat, a potential miscreant. However, my heart warmed towards the cat when I saw his “patriotically” colored collar, and from time to time I secretly dropped meaty bits feeding him under the table. Later I found out that the cat bore a proud name of UKROP, which is a compounded abbreviation of “Ukrayinskyi Opir” – “Ukrainian Resistance.” Incidentally, Mykola is rather politically minded and very critical of every Ukrainian president and all the oligarchs for their pinning small business and entrepreneurship. With a satellite dish on the roof of his house, Mykola is more versed in nuances of current politics than I am. “Have you watched the latest match (of Euro-2016)? he asks indignantly. It looks like the coach instructed our football-players like this: you, guys, try to win, but don’t attack the opposing side … Very much like our soldiers are instructed in Donbas (in the East of the country) by their generals. And then… don’t you think, Vitaliy, that it’s most indecent, if not criminal, to send young boys to the war zone and make them living targets for the Russian fire, and at the same time to do business with Russia?”

I listened to Mykola agreeing to every word he said. I enjoyed the Northern Ukrainian dialect of his cousins while they were talking with each other. I was craving for those half-forgotten tunes, for this lush greenery which was enveloping me now, for this fresh evening in the open, for the direct truths told by my friend point-blank, sometimes in blunt terms. And I also knew that he valued no less the time when we had been sharing the same desk and the same textbook in a small village school that had only three classrooms. I know it each time when he phones to invite me to his place and jocularly says a few opening phrases in German.8-help yourselves to varenyky

7-his name is UKROP

6-potential miscreant

 

9-the ruby-reds on balcony of Floor sixteen

EIGHT HOURS OF BEING TÉTE-A-TÉTE WITH SELF

June 12, 2016

This article is an abridged translation from http://materinstvo.ru/art/8304 with my commentary in the end.

going onlineIn an experiment conducted in St. Petersburg (Russia), children aged 12 to 18 were offered to spend eight hours not accessing the means of communication they practiced every day. According to the conditions set, they weren’t allowed to turn on the computer, any gadgets, radio, or television. They couldn’t use mobile phones or the Internet. Instead they were free to be engaged in “classical” things: writing, reading, playing musical instruments, painting, needlework, singing, walking, etc.

The author wanted to prove her working hypothesis that modern kids have too much fun, they are not able to engage themselves in activities other than being online, and that they are completely unfamiliar with their inner world.

Out of 68 participants only three were able to finish the eight-hour experiment: – one girl and two boys. Three people started having suicidal thoughts, five experienced acute panic attacks, twenty-seven had symptoms of nausea, sweating, dizziness, hot flushes, abdominal pain, etc. Almost everyone experienced fear and anxiety.

What were the teenagers doing during the experiment? They were:

– cooking and eating;

– reading (or trying to read);

– doing a kind of “homework” (the experiment was being held during the holidays, but many – probably our of despair J– “hit the books”);

– looking out the window and loitering around (some went shopping: though the experiment forbade communication, they decided that shop-assistants or cashiers “did not count”);

– piecing together jigsaw puzzles or playing Lego

– painting or trying to paint;

– taking a shower;

– cleaning the apartment;

– playing with pets;

– playing sports;

– writing down their feelings or thoughts, writing a letter on paper;

– playing the guitar, the piano (one person was playing the flute);

– three were writing poems or prose;

– one boy was riding buses and trolleybuses across the city for almost five hours;

– one girl was embroidering;

– one boy went to an amusement park and took rides there until he began vomiting;

– one boy walked all through the city from one end to the other (about 25 km);

– one girl went to the Museum of Political History and another boy – to the zoo;

– one girl was praying.

At some point, almost everyone tried to sleep, but no one managed to – being (as some put it) “obsessed with wacky ideas.”

When the experiment finished, fourteen teenagers went into social networks right away, twenty phoned their friends, three called their parents, five visited their friends at home or started playing in the yard. The rest were watching television or playing computer games. Almost everybody began listening to music with earphones stuck in their ears.

All fears and symptoms disappeared immediately after the experiment was finished.

Somewhat later, 63 teenagers said the experiment had been useful and interesting for “self-discovery.” Six people re-started the experiment on their own and they claimed that with the second (third, fifth) attempt they eventually “made it.”

While analyzing the experiment, 51 people used the words “addiction”, “it turns out, I can not live without it …”, “a dose”, “withdrawals”, “syndrome of withdrawal”, “I always feel like …”, “get off the needle,” etc. All those in the group said that they were greatly surprised at thoughts that came to their mind in the course of the experiment, but they said they had failed to “consider” the thoughts carefully because of the deterioration of general condition.

One of the two boys who had successfully completed the experiment, had been building a model of a sailing ship for eight hours, with two breaks – for a meal and for walking his dog. The other had been sorting out and systematizing his collections, and then potting flowers. Neither one nor the other experienced any negative emotions.

thoughts_0COMMENTARY: I translated the title as “Being Tête-à-Tête With Self”, though a more exact translation from Russian might have been “Communing With Oneself”, or “Being On One’s Own”, or “Staying Alone With Oneself.” I was just going to emphasize that the problem is that children had no real “selves,” by which I mean that most of the children undergoing the experiment didn’t feel they possessed identity, they weren’t conscious of their own being, of their individuality. With experience and knowledge, a human’s personal dimension matures. Thanks to matured emotions and strengthened intellect, an alter ego is formed within a person. It’s the second “I” in “me,” who is my friend, as it were. If this constant companion is knowledgeable, well disposed towards me, well-informed and experienced, I will NEVER be dependent on ANYTHING, I’ll never feel bored. It’ll be always interesting for me to stay “tête-à-tête” with my own SELF, to talk with my SELF and to feel with my SELF…

Another question is how to form that close and intimate friend called “alter ego” in “me”? That may become a theme of another blog.

MIRRORING THE ROYALS

June 8, 2016

Fans of the Royal family wait outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's hospital in London...Fans of the Royal family wait outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's hospital in London, April 20, 2015. Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is due to give birth to her second child at the hospital some time in the next two weeks. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Before we started talking with our daughter’s friends in Georgia via Skype, my wife made a point of correcting my “skype manners.” “When you speak on Skype, your voice is too loud,” she said. “Besides, be careful when you make up your mind to take a stab at humor. Georgian humor may be different from what is considered to be humorous in Ukraine, and you may be misunderstood.”

I accepted my wife’s remarks. I don’t remember a single observation she has made about me within the last 43 years which has been out of place and not to the point. Actually, that’s what married life may be about – to self-improve through mutual “observations.”

And then I thought that Queen Elizabeth might instruct her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the same way before official meetings they usually have. Prince Philip may have even more reasons to be instructed than I have. He is known for many jokes he made that are considered as gaffs, and he even coined a special word for his blunders – “DONTOPEDOLOGY”: a science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it,” as he once said. Believe me or not, but after my wife’s words I felt (in my own small way) like His Royal Highness with the title Prince of Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, we agreed with my wife that in the course of our current “re`mont” we’ll empty our lumber room to make it into “FANS OF THE ROYAL FAMILY” room. We’ll drape it with the Union Jack and some souvenirs bearing the royal image which we already have, and when our granddaughter Sophia’s sentimental favourite Princess Charlotte of Cambridge (now one year old) gets married, we may be invited by Her Royal Highness to London to put up a tent on her wedding route, to live there for three days and nights with thousands of other fans and to catch a glimpse of her, which will be a “moment with eternity” for the centenarians, which we will be by that time.

SAYING FAREWELL TO RED TAPE

June 8, 2016

Here’s another typical moment that arose in the course of our apartment renovation (or, “re`mont,” as it is known to all expats in Kyiv, alongside with the words “`rynok,” / = a market, “marsh`rootka”/ = a shuttle-bus, and, probably “`yama”/ = a pothole on the road). To replace a central heating radiator, we needed to get it emptied of water first. Then the old radiator would be cut off and a new one fixed in its place. The welders said they would come the next day to do the installation. I hurried to the notorious ZHEK (see my previous blog for what ZHEK is), because it’s only with their permission that the water can be removed from the heating pipes. This time the lady responsible for letting the water out was busy looking for a key that a visitor who had come before me needed badly. She was fumbling bunches of keys on numerous nails on a special board, reading their numbers and illegible words on their tags – like “a cellar,” “an attic,” “boiler-room,” etc. I think there were more than a hundred such bunches on the board. After waiting for some longer time, I dared stammer out the reason for my visit. Without turning her head to look at me the lady said I should go the boss’ secretary sitting in the reception room and she would explain everything. The reception room with the secretary in it was a few blocks away. I rushed to the secretary who, after listening to me, called the same lady I had spoken to a quarter of an hour before, and after the phone talk she explained to me that I should approach the “key-lady” at the reception hour (3 PM) and write an application for the pipes. The application would then be considered by the boss, I would have to pay at the bank for the water drained and bring the payment check to the secretary. Then the sought-for permission would be given.

It was 10AM. Another five hours of waiting before the “reception hour”! Shall I be in time to arrange matters with the application considered, the money paid and permission received before 9AM tomorrow? On the way back home I called my wife explaining the situation. When I came home, my wife said I didn’t need to go anywhere. She had just called a ZHEK plumber who was in charge of maintaining our building. The plumber said he would drain the pipes today. That would cost us 200 hryvnias.…………………………………………………………..

The plumber called a few minutes ago. The pipes are empty. Phew! The renovation is continuing tomorrow!…………………………………………………………..

According to the policy of reforms introduced in this country, ZHEKs will be either privatized or dissolved starting from July this year. Good riddance to bad rubbish!


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