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Lethargic Man (anag.)

Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2015-08-25 21:16
Subject: Celebrating the Queen's Silver Jubilee... with an American siddur
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Here is the children's siddur that I, along with all the children in the Newcastle Jewish Nursery School, was presented with in 1977 to commemorate the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

[photo] [photo]

The irony is that it's an American publication: I find it amusing to have the dedication to the Queen at one end and the Star Spangled Banner at the other.

Moreover, facing the Star Spangled Banner is the Hatikvah (the Israeli national anthem). As a child I had no idea what either of those was, but, being used to seeing Hebrew in siddurim with its translation on the facing page, for many years I was under the impression that the Star Spangled Banner was the translation of the Hatikvah!

[photo]



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Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2015-08-25 21:16
Subject: My earliest still extant program
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The process that led to my becoming a software engineer started in 1982, when I joined my school's computer club, where the teacher, Mr Eastwood, proceeded to teach us tykes to program.

I don't have any copies of my first program—I don't think we were given any opportunity to save or print out what we'd done at the time—but here's the first program of mine I have, in, as it turns out, not any digital format at all.

[photo of hand-written computer program]

From its content, it would appear I was eleven at the time, though I can't have been so for long, as my father got a BBC Micro that year and I rapidly switched from programming in the Spectrum BASIC this program is written in to BBC BASIC.

I have to confess, I find myself a little underwhelmed, looking at it, at the quality of my programming when I was eleven (not to mention my ability to leave myself enough paper when starting to write it down). The references at lines 21, 27 and 28, BTW, are to things my family called my brother when he was a toddler.

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Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2015-08-06 22:18
Subject: German territorial changes
Security: Public
Something I wasn't really aware of until the last few years is the vast migration of ethnically-cleansed German refugees at the end of the War. One can argue about the rights and wrongs of this—certainly, Germany as a society had to be punished for what it had done (though the role of the Treaty of Versailles in the rise of Nazism should have shown the dangers of doing so in a blunt manner), but not all of the people forced to leave their homes would have been guilty of any wrongdoing. Furthermore, prior to the War, there were German colonies right the way across eastern Europe, way into Russia, descendants of German traders in the Middle Ages. Most of these also got expelled from their countries, and one can't help feel sorry for people dumped into Germany who had nothing to do with the Nazis, and who knew nothing of German life, as their ancestors might not have lived there for centuries.

It's (reasonably) well known that Poland moved a hundred miles to the west at the end of World War II. It's not really clear to me why; it seems to me Stalin performed a naked land grab of eastern Poland, but, not wanting to reduce the territory left to Poland, gave it Germany's eastern territories instead. Maybe he wanted to punish the Germans living east of the Oder-Neisse line by evicting them from their homes, but what I didn't discover until last week was that he also ended up punishing a vast number of Poles by evicting them from their homes in the east of the country (rather than either granting them Soviet citizenship or letting them remain as aliens). This left me appalled: there's a word for this; it's called Lebensraum, and it was the policy of the regime he had just been fighting.

Anyhow, something which occurred to me a while ago was to wonder how much of the territory taken from Germany to give to Poland at the end of both World Wars was German all along, and how much of it taken from Poland in the first place during the eighteenth-century partition of Poland (and yes, that part of history was indeed doomed to be repeated). (Or indeed how much was territory that Germany had dispossessed Poland of earlier still, but before the nineteenth creation of the German Empire, there was no German nation state, but just a mishmash of duchies, kingdoms and the like, any of which may or may not have been part of the German Confederation, the North German Confederation or the Holy Roman Empire, or had German or Polish rulers, or German or Polish citizens, etc, so it becomes difficult to tell without more research than I can be bothered to put into this.)

aviva_m said there was probably a map online which showed the information I was after, but I couldn't see one with a few minutes' googling, so I created my own, by crudely superimposing two maps from Wikipedia; the areas in red were the parts of pre-WW1 Germany which had been Polish before the partition of Poland.

[map]

Of course, that's not the end of the story. Pomerania, northeast of the present border, I discovered last week not to have been Polish since the Middle Ages; at various times it was independent, Danish, and (prior to the eighteenth century) Swedish. Silesia I have no clue about. I probably ought to rectify my ignorance at some point, but I find it hard to be motivated to learn the history of a country that can't be reduced to linearity like my own, but has to be considered as the sum of its many many parts.

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2015-08-06 06:31
Subject: Jan Czekanowski
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aviva_m and I just spent an overnight trip in Szczecin, which is just over the Polish border from Germany; for both of us it was our first time in Poland. Whilst we were there to do tourism, at the back of our minds we were conscious of the fact Poles have a reputation for a rather unreconstructed attitude towards Jews.

When we went on a tour of a wartime air raid shelter—which was fascinating for me, to see a glimpse of the wartime experience on the other side—aviva_m was struck by the fact that, though it talked a little about the general wartime conditions, not a single mention was made of what happened to the country's Jews. For me, following the guide in a printed English translation, the line about the air raid shelter having guards at the entrance to deny foreigners access (including, apparently, Poles whose ancestors had been living in what had been German territory since the eighteenth-century Great Northern War), had the addition "and Jews", but that was all.

By chance we came across a plaque on a wall marking where the synagogue had been, and that the community, dating from 1812, had been murdered in the Holocaust, but the plaque was not put up by the authorities (and was up a grassy bank, such that you couldn't read it from the pavement).

Then, in a park, we came across a statue of Jan Czekanowski:

[photo]

There was no explanation of who he was, but on Wikipedia afterwards I read that he was "a Polish anthropologist, statistician and linguist, known for having played an important role in saving the Polish-Lithuanian branch of the Karaim people [Crimean Karaites] from Holocaust extermination. In 1942 he managed to convince German 'race scientists' that the Karaim were of Turkic origin although professing Judaism and using Hebrew as a liturgical language. This helped the Karaim people escape the tragic destiny of other European Jews and the Romas."

I'd vaguely heard of this before, but hadn't known who was responsible, and thought I'd take the opportunity to bring it to your attention.

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2015-08-04 20:32
Subject: Places wot I been to (updated again)
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Places wot I been to, updated for this year's travels in Sicily, Malta and Poland:

mapCollapse )

mapCollapse )

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Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2015-07-21 20:46
Subject: What to do with a personal library when you emigrate
Security: Public
It's looking increasingly likely now that I'll be emigrating to Germany, which raises the question of what to do with my possessions. Specifically,* since I came to London I set about amassing a personal library, of all the books I'd read from the library but wished to reread or lend to friends, and it's now quite large.

* I.e. I am choosing to concentrate here on this, and ignore, for example, my succah, which, given that I bought the components of it and assembled it myself, I also have a sentimental attachment to, or my bike, which I've a good mind to take with me by travelling overland by train, with bike and suitcase and careful planning.

Over the course of the last year, I've been weeding out of it anything I didn't think was good, or had managed to completely forget the content of (even if my book log says that I thought it was good), or was never likely to want to reread or consult again. However, that still leaves over two and a half Billy bookcases' worth, all told.

I know there are some people who would get rid of the lot (and others who would attempt to sell the books, then buy the same ones again at the far end), but I'm rather attached to my books; I want to take them with me. The question is: is this sensible? This is going to cost!

Recently, I've been considering another purge of my bookshelves, but this time it would have to involve books I know are good. aviva was horrified when I mentioned this to her. But these are books that I'm simply never likely to read again.

Which raises the question of what the point of a personal library is. Despite my intentions, it's very rare that I actually get around to rereading any of my books; there's too much I've yet to ever read for that! But I do sometimes lend them to friends, and I do also from time to time take one down and browse bits of it. And those who have attended my Shabbos lunches know I can rarely get through one without taking a good handful of books down to consult, read from or just generally wave around. But regardless of any of these, I find the mere presence of books I've known and loved to be comforting.

But how high a price for transport does that sentimental attachment really justify? Anyone got any thoughts here? Or, indeed, advice from anyone else who's moved countries (or distances too long to make sticking everything in a rental van (assuming my library would even fit now!) sensible) on what is intended to be a permanent basis.

† Another argument against e-books, I suppose, though since I do the majority of my reading on Shabbos, I'm never going to be switching to those. Plus, as [personal profile] rysmiel first pointed out back in <checks> 1998, I'm a hardcopy romantic.

‡ Yes, I've looked into this. It would require around twelve hours' driving, but it seems to be just about impossible to hire a van for a one way trip out of the UK. The sensible solution would be to hire one at either end and either drive it back myself or find someone else prepared to. But it's probably cheaper just to crate my possessions up and send them off.

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Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2015-07-10 06:49
Subject: Don't drop the diacritics!
Security: Public
For those who liked my last German link, here's another one:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a language that uses diacritics must have a minimal pair with and without diacritics that means something rude.

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Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2015-07-09 12:35
Subject: Representation of my demographic in TV and film dramas
Security: Public
Here's a question for you. Why do I never see the kind of Jew I am—acculturated (and non-capel-wearing, though even MO would be an improvement), but deeply engaged in Jewish life, someone for whom ritual observance is at least reasonably important, but has a preference towards grassroots minyanim over established synagogues—represented in dramas on either the small or the silver screen? There's plenty of us about—my social life revolves around several intersecting sets of such people—but those who commission dramas seem either not to know about us, or choose to ignore us, or deem our demographic too difficult for the general populace to get our head around. Or possibly I'm just watching the wrong programmes and films—can you point out counterexamples? [ETA: Some suggestions on the crosspost over on Facebook.] —Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2015-07-07 12:56
Subject: German, huh! What is it good for? This, apparently...
Security: Public

(Via here.)

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. You LiveJournal readers are missing out on my German language icon there. ;^b Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2015-07-05 09:14
Subject: Album review: Our Routes, by Gypsy Hill
Security: Public
I was listening to Our Routes by Gypsy Hill a few days ago, and it occurred to me I never blogged about it or them here. (I appreciate that this is a somewhat inappropriate day to discuss music for some of my readers, but it's when I've got around to writing this; you can always read the post now, and investigate the album if you're interested later.)

Gypsy Hill were the support act at the Fanfare Ciocǎrlia concert I went to earlier in the year; but they were one of those rare* occasions where the support act was as good as the main act, and indeed I got myself the CD before the main act had even come on the stage.

* Hah, what do I know what I'm talking about, from the number of times I go to concerts?

Gypsy Hill's setup was like that of the Apples, the Israeli dance band I saw perform at Limmud Fest back in 2008: a drummer, a substantial brass section, and a DJ (in this case, very thin and with long long hair) scratching and sampling on the turntables.

On further investigation, there turned out to be an actual connection: one of the members of the Apples is thanked on the Our Routes sleeve notes, and the album and the Apples' Attention! share a sample (of a man saying "These are the things that you and I have to understand": a little googling suggests this may be from a speech by Malcolm X). (There are a few other spoken-word samples, which one can enjoy oneself identifying: Tom Jones saying "Think I'd better dance now" is from the Art of Noise's cover of Prince's "Kiss".) Also, half of the band members have Israeli (Hebrew or Russian) names, and there's a short Hebrew-language sung intro and outro to an instrumental track.

The style of music is a little different from the Apples, though, being a heady mix of dance vibes and a mishmash from Eastern Europe, as can be seen from the track titles, which include "Căciula Pă Ureche" (Romanian), "Balaka", "Pachupa" and "Evitza" (anybody want to identify these languages?), "Balkan Beast", and "Afrita Hanem" (Egyptian), plus one swing jazz track. The name Gypsy Hill is a bit misleading, though: it turns out to be a suburb of London rather than indicating Romany influence.

The name of "Afrita Hanem" gave me a couple of nice linguistic "ping!" moments when I looked it up on Wikipedia. It transpires the music uses a bass line taken from a 1949 Egyptian film about "a poor singer who falls in love with the somewhat spoiled daughter of his boss. [When] her father won't let the marriage happen due to Asfour's class status, Asfour turns to a genie for help, but the [female] genie falls in love with Asfour instead, and tries to manipulate his desires." When I saw the title was given in English as Little Miss Devil, I realised I actually knew both elements of the name: `Afrita (عفريتة) is the feminine of `ifrit (عفريت), a type of genie you may have come across in the Thousand and One nights or elsewhere; and hanem (هانم‎) as a female honorific I knew from the Los Desterrados song "Buenas Noches, Hanum Dudu".

The only criticism I would really make of this album is that some of the tracks are too short; in particular, the first track seems to end just as it gets going. But if this, Gypsy Hill's first album is this good, I look forward to seeing what heights they will reach in the future.

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
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