Monthly Archives: October 2011

“Ivan’s Ovens” evens odds; “Steve’s Stoves staves off hostile takeover…for now

     Saddening to read today’s headlines; two battling appliance giants, each with a double-digit share in the ‘vowel-infatuated’ niche-market square off head-to-head with new product offerings. Interestingly (or not) I wish them both well. My kitchen includes an over-under rack-mount incorporating fine products from both firms.

   Meanwhile, below the radar, ‘Amazing Grace’ {3rd quarter profits: 30K$} is quietly raining down steady innovative blessings almost un-noticed. Her ‘Grace’s Grass-fed Grouse” now with ‘48% less Grease!’ promises to gross her concern a record bottom-line in a field where vigilance is the whole ball of wax.

As will attest construction-veteran Richard Holtz, who last week aggressively disputed a Duke University physician’s tendentious research paper which looked at the long-term effects of pressure-treated lumber on developmental problems among a cohort-group of North Carolina deck-owners. His rebuttal netted a sub-headline:  “‘Dick’s Decks‘ ducks Duke doc’s scathing shot-over the bow”. Holtz was quoted claiming: “Most of them ducks were retarded long before they started chewing the handrails.”

Meanwhile, Tate’s Taste-Tested Toasts kinda tossed its cookies, emerging on the burnt side from another failed co-operative venture, this time with Rizzo & Rouseau’s Russo-phile Recipes. Critics cited the latter firm’s ‘scatter-shot cultural product line’ as the camel-busting straw for this outing

Pat & Pete’s Pet-Pit putters along, for now. The pair offers sound-proof underground kennels for problem dogs, of which there seems to be no imminent shortage.And the expanding volume has enabled them to add two new crematoria on-site, raising eyebrows but also much-needed revenue.

Genady’s Rest Home for the Ge-needy Ge-nudie continues to serve indigent elderly sun-worshippers of all stripes. The stripe-less less-strapped clientele seems to prefer nearby Mitchell Isle, whose ambience matches Mitch’s, much as that is practical.

   In a shameful and unnecessary squabble, Midget Industries Ltd, the Toronto-based firm noted for its ‘All-Shorter Canadians’ work-force was the target of an aggressive neg-ad campaign by newly-opened US rival Dwarfs-R-Us. Claiming “Our dwarves R simply taller than the bargain brand!”, the American firm aroused the ire and disbelief of dumb-founded handicap-advocacy groups on both sides of the border. The FTC is currently investigating the boast’s veracity; meanwhile MIL’s CEO released a curt statement: “The goal is ‘to hire midgets’, not ‘higher midgets’, duh.”

‘Steady Mike’s Stablehands Inc. made a nicely-impressive plop in the horse-shit biz by taking first prizes in all categories at the annual Muck-out Games in Garrison, Kentucky. In second place by a nose was the ever-powerful PCM (Presbyranian College for the Meek team, followed by another evangelical group Emanuel Labor of Love, Inc. Standout performances all around, and no one should mock their very real excellence in this dirty business.

And dats ‘All the Vowels that Fit in the Vial‘, folks

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My 7 Dwarves dwarf yours, so there…

    Just kidding, of course. This ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ Meme can’t help but contain a small portion of competitive spirit. And I  never particularly needed party-games/ice-breakers to help me meet anonymous party-go-ers. Just wanted to mention that, not that it comes with points.
Sooo… Seven things you’d never have guessed were true about moi?

1) Seems I have this uncanny resemblance to Lee Marvin to worry about. Can’t really remember a month going by without at least one perfect stranger tellin’ me “You look like that actor, whas-is name?” Last time I flew to the States, not only did the Israeli cab-driver mention it, (the first word out of his mouth), but, upon returning and going through passport-control at BGN, even the steely-eyed girl in the bullet-proof booth, after stamping my US and Israeli documents, said, against all strictures prohibiting ‘human’ interaction: “OMG, you look so much like Lee Marvin!” Ok, my dad look(-ed) even more like the guy. At his memorial, where I wore his favorite down jacket which he’d lent me a few days before his passing, at least a dozen attendees collared me to say: “God, you look and sound so much like your Dad.” And then they added, quietly as the occasion demanded, “oh..and like Lee Marvin.” In Jaffa, when I was running the restoration project for the city, my street name was ‘Mista Marvin’ Hard to believe how many Israelis apparently followed the guy’s career. Ok, enough. Not my fault, or my credit.

2) Me and Maria: Here’s where it gets a bit more personal. I’m not even sure why I was on Fort Hill in Roxbury/Boston in the summer of ’69. I’d swallowed enough Owsley to bring down a Trojan Horse plus all the men hiding in its guts. Driving some little car I must have bought (brown? maroon? $50?), I somehow got there, that much I remember. It was probably connected to the Avatar, an underground paper of those days, and Mel Lyman. Anyway, I struck up a disjointed conversation with the sweetest girl one could imagine, Maria, wearing the red bandana you see in the (B&W?) photo below. How I didn’t recognize her is beyond me to this day. Together we searched for my ‘lost’ car for maybe three hours, hand-in-hand, then arm-in-arm, then almost to the point of ‘get a room’. Never found it. She needed to get back, she said. ‘Jeff-somebody’ will worry. We parted, and I slept in some abandoned backyard, then walked most of the way down to Tremont St, which I luckily remembered was where I lived, the next morning, after the hallucinations moderated a bit.
A year or so later I saw her performing in a coffeehouse in the Village somewhere. Mid-song, she smiled at me slyly and made a cute hand gesture, kinda pointing in several directions then palm upward, meaning: “So, where the f*ck do we look next for your car?” I blew a quick discrete kiss, and that’s the end of the story. What a doll. and Who’s ‘Jeff’, anyway?

3) This one’s shorter. Fred Rodgers made a pass at me. At least that’s what it felt like on the narrow piano bench. I excused myself, lying that I had to go over the run-down sheet for the show; air-time, (live in those days) was in 10 minutes. Now maybe his ‘comfort-zone was less spacious than mine, or maybe he thought I was kinda cute. We’ll never know. I do remember playing ‘Girls are fancy on the inside..’ behind him with a new perspective. Off-camera, (you got used to watching the red-lights and their status, I stuck out my tongue. The switcher in the
control-booth told me later that he’d toyed with editing it into the re-run mix-down, but he liked his job…

4) Speaking of ‘two on a bench’, Duke Ellington can sit as close as he damn well pleases. I was
just noodling around on the Steinway before a show he was (obviously) headlining, making up some generic blues thing and getting ready for my opener set.. ‘I didn’t see him enter, but my
nostrils flared at the smell of his perfume: ‘Stompin’ Savoy‘? Only one codger in PA sensitive enough to wear that scent… and I had to find out ‘Who he was?’. (Sorry, made that part up.)
Anyway, he just sat down, flipped the bunch of music-staff sheets he was carrying onto the piano and started to ‘add’ the right hand to my chords. We enjoyed ourselves for about ten minutes. Sporting a greased pony-tail, he told me when I asked that he pretty much ‘made tunes’ around the clock’, as the hurriedly jotted notes on his papers proved. I’ll never know what song he was in the process-of that day. Later, the organist for his ensemble, Wild Bill Davis made me quietly feel like a child who’d just mastered ‘Chopsticks’ in ‘C’. What a monster. Practice, Johnny.

 5) Almost every performer I’ve  met for any length of time seemed to posses an over-flowing quality one can only try for years to copy. I’m speaking of their surprisingly patient and apt attention-giving, as if you are the most fascinating human they’ve ever encountered. Back in the days when ‘stars’ were tons more accessible, the ‘relating as equals’ aspect simply floored me. Joan Baez, appearing out of the blue at an Allenwood Penitentiary rally in ’69(?) when I was leading protest songs on guitar, just walked up, put one hand around a second mike, the other on my shoulder, and whispered in my ear ‘Carry it on’. Now I remembered she sang it in ‘D’, and started the lead-in in straight (EADGBE) tuning. She turned and made a motion with her left hand, as if turning a peg counterclockwise. and verily, a few seconds later my low ‘E’ was now a proper low ‘D’. Shorter than I’d imagined, she sang with a voice which came from every cell of her body. Didn’t have much time to talk later; there was a War to end, but there were some photos in the paper, both of us short-haired, her by choice and me having cut mine in an effort to sway the trial judge in a Buffalo, NY case where I was up on destruction of gov’t property.

6) No shortage of stories, but let’s pause the celebs and talk about me like,’getting dead’.In a fair world (hi, OBL) I’d be dead about 12 times over by now. Plane crashes, car wrecks, ‘Oh God help me’ falls from high places, falling objects missing me by millimeters, hard to know where to start. Ok, start with Agnes, the great flood/hurricane. Lots of damage, trees down. I spent weeks with a chain saw cleaning up for customers. One day I decided I liked the smell of evergreen branches so much that I really ought to take ’em home with me and fill the house. Why not? And yeah, that idea saved my life. Driving down the Buck Hill, steep as it is long, in my ’64 VW window-van, a pickup in front of me signalled right but turned left suddenly. I never had a chance. The van rolled over sideways, followed by acrobatics in all three possible spin-modes; end-over-end, cartwheel, leap-frog over concrete walls, the eye-witnesses must have been both thrilled and aghast. I hope not disappointed when I emerged through the sun-roof with only a couple gashes and bruises. Why I survived? The damn branches had transformed the van’s interior into something resembling the barrels used to go over Niagara Falls. I almost enjoyed the ride.
Since that show, most of my later accidents happened while I slept, unfortunately. Crashed into the lucky beginning of a guard-rail section on the NJ Turnpike in the Volvo P-1800 I’d bought (from a Xangan). Wasn’t her fault of course. Or mine, exactly. It was that soporific music on some NYC radio station at 4:30 AM. Don’t they know better than to play that stuff when all-nighters like me are groggy?
I’ll leave the rest of my free 9-lives stories till later.

7) Finally. Almost done here. Just need to elegantly retrieve my bicycle from where I laid it, in a nice clearing in our local ‘forest’ while I investigated some wild animal I thought I saw. Only problem: some guy in his dumb Subaru decides to park almost on top of it while he and his rented partner engage in some of the fake-iest love-less sex I’ve ever had to watch and wait for the exciting conclusion of. He apparently had an erectile difficulty; she, already fearing that he
might want his money back, did everything in the book to pretend that the ground was moving for her. Probably an hour I crouched unseen in the undergrowth as darkness fell. In the end, just when I figured I’d soon have my wheels back, he did start arguing about the price. She done her best, in heavily-accented Russian/Hebrew, but compromised on 100 shekels. Then the jerk drove off without her. My heart fell as I watched her pee, high-heels, trench-coat, and her bra at her waist. Out of respect (for her performance?) I let her walk a good way down the lane toward town before I picked up my bike, wishing I had a seat on the rear. And that’s the seventh dwarf, folks.

Dopey, huh?

Blogging: the sudden expiration of an inspiration

    (Or: “The Unbearable Lightness of being be-Mused”)?

I‘d thought about little else all day. Somebody had played Carly Simon’s ‘You’re so Vain’ as I
unloaded my tools. And it hit me, you know, that eco-friendly fluorescent lightbulb hanging over the head: “Perfect song to parody, to ‘Weird-Al’, Johnny.” Just write a first verse, an adoring rhyming account of my early years, with enough detail to justify the first chorus:

“I’m so vain/ I’m fairly sure this song is about me./

I’m so va-in../ I’m sure this f*cking song is about me, ’bout me, ’bout me.”

And then after a second verse mentioning the sorry State of a Pennsylvania somehow buggering along despite my prolonged absence, the Chorus’ll go:

“Pennsylvain../-ia wonder how they do it without me/
 Penn-syl-va-in../ Ya look like an eraser without me. -out me, -out me.”

Nifty, huh? But wait. The third verse, after the break, sings about family home movies, an’ how they dumbly gave ’em to me to Edit, and how it turned out, y’know, “…totally clips of the son…”

Neat. Or so I thought.
So after quick-fix-ing a couple carpentry screw-ups caused by inattention, I came home, primed to Create. Just a quick refresher on the original lyrics, to ‘mine’ ’em for un-thought-of ideas…
Google had the You-Tube video, lyric sites, and also a dedicated Wiki page for the song.
Blithely, I clicked on that, and thus die-eth the dream. ‘In Popular Culture’ listed, oh, about a
hundred satirical versions and references, many of them as witty(?) as my proposal. Not yet
giving up totally, I tried to get the video to load, and while waiting, noticed a spoof version,
something about ‘Misheard Lyrics’. Watched enough of it to realize that the wheel I was sure I’d invented had already rolled around the world a couple billion times.
Oh well. Fun while it lasted. I’ll just have to pick a less ripe target. ‘Ave Maria’?



Wu: So, did you ever Google whether ‘Going…going…Guano’©®™ is ‘your baby’ as they say?
Me: Maybe some day, mebbe next week/ Can’t you see I’m on…a losing streak?
Wu: Aww, go for it, Warren. You can have anyone you want, remember?
Me: Um, yeah, I remember when that wuz true.

Going… going… guano! : SKYPE

“Not for me, for a friend…” I protest here to my Xanga friends in the first sentence. Like a guy at the druggist’s, handing the cashier his hemorrhoid creme, crab-lice shampoo, and what else gross I can think of? ‘Barry Manilow sings Opera’ from the cut-out racks. Maybe throw in ‘Life after a Messy Divorce’ a paperback from Self-help.
Abjectly embarrassed, I disclaim any implication that I actually ‘wanted-to’ sign up for Skype. Siblings, engaged in a discussion over the fate of our Inherited Mother-lode, seem to think that staring at me staring into a key-hole camera in a laptop is the key to  blissful mutual understanding and meeting of minds. I’m less than amused, but what’s a guy to do? “Why do you think we perfected e-mail as the medium for thoughtful reflection and discourse?” I ask, swimming against the trend and tide.

Sooo… I research Skype, the virus they laughingly call a program. Voip. (Voice over internet protocol). Uses your computer whether you like it or not as a ‘node’. Or worse, a ‘Super-node’.
Thanks, sucker. All the way to the bank, Millions of Latvians are screaming streaming-bytes to
and fro to Bangla-Deshi-s, and meanwhile you can’t even open NotePad in less than a half-hour of hour-glass down-time. My only previous experience with it is trying to scrape it out of infected computers while distraught friends whose lives it’d ruined watch in nail-biting anguish.
Anyway,
“Whom the Skypes would destroy, they first make crazy”. Demented. Enraged to the point where the neighbors open their windows to see what might be the cause of the commotion.
I innocently clicked on
‘Download’. The usual *required fields: Name, e-mail. I asked someone in the room if the name had to be genuine. He suggested “Donald Fucking Duck Esq.” Sorry, against my endangered but intact moral code’, I told him and  entered (one of) my official names.
‘Choose User Name:’ came up next, and was
the deal-breaker and real subject of this rant. I entered ‘jsolberg’ of course, for ease of remembrance, all the while assuming that in today’s modern world in which we live in today, somebody else had already thought of it. But no, Skype, Inc. gave absolutely neither nod nor wink and proceeded to ask me for a password, which I obliged. The next step, and why I’m livid as I write this, was a series of ‘Decipher This Chicken-scratch’ boxes. I got the first one right, sure as I sit here. I wait for the ‘Thank you’, but instead get… ‘another’ box of hieroglyphics. Bingo on that one too. But once again, instead of any kind of progress, I get ”Puzzle # 3′. By this time, I’m pissed, about 8 on a scale of ten, exacerbated by the fact that the new ‘Challenge Box’ contains not one three(3) cryptic words(!). I fill in the Answer box, and, for my efforts, get # 4. Followed by #s 5, 6, 7, and 8.(!) F*ck, it’s like they’re subbing me out to decipher the Voynich manuscript , which has foiled cryptologists for centuries.

Ok, giving up was the easy part, except for the vocal-chord strain. The neighbor’s dog, suspecting a gruesome murder, started up with an awesome chorus of yelping und yalping. A fellow walking past on the street approached, cell-phone in hand, ready to do ‘what any other hero woulda done in a situation like that’: call our equivalent of 911.

I decided firmly that if Skype hasn’t the brains to program the sign-up interface with a screen
alerting the victim that his proposed user-name is already taken, well, I draw the line right
about there! Hell, if I really need to talk, I can yell out the window, now that I know my ‘Voice-over-atmosphere-protocol’ carries quite well, thanks.

ADD: trying to exit this goddamn disaster, I got screen-stuck on an un-closeable pagelet which
announced, in atypical clarity, that ‘one daresn’t use Skype to contact Emergency Services’; in my case the guys with the white jackets and the disposable, sterile strait-jacket. Great.
Bottom line: anyone wants to talk to me, the email’s {solberg73@gmail.com} I’ll send an 8X10
retouched photo if needed. From back before I lost my mind. Just don’t mention skype or penis in the ‘subject’, ok?
(‘Guano‘ is bat-shit, by the way. Hate it when folks don’t get the joke, through no fault of their own.)



Wu: Thanks for sharing this, boss. I myself recently made a re-assessment of my ‘connected-ness’ status. Made some changes…
Me: Um, that explains the blindfold?
Wu: You noticed?
Me: Sure. And the ear-plugs? Wow, feels like we headed in the same direction, guy.
Wu: Right on. I smell what you sayin’, bro

It’s ‘your nuts’ but ‘their bananas’

    I smelled a food fight even before the electric eye decided that I was ‘larger than a fruit fly’. Yes, there’s a little pot on the main board, to control ‘Sensitivity.’ Don’t want the supermarket doors to swing open for just any randomly insensitive Drosophile.
Anyway, without stopping to advance my immediate goal, (a dozen-pack of ‘the dogs kids love to bite’ plus some ‘x never equal to y’ number or rolls), I  quickly assessed the putative-lunatics contending at counter 4; a balding but nice-enough fellow being tag-teamed by a duo of blue-hairs. Proud of my eagle-eyes, I stooped over to retrieve a couple critical cranial components from the floor, then:
“Here’re a couple screws sir; couldn’t help but notice your missing them.” I held out my hand.
“Ah yes, my missing them has saddened me immensely. Where were they?” He asked, seeming marginally coherent despite the deficit. Probably had a private work-around, for times like these.
“Right here on the floor.” I told him. “Wait, here’s three more…” I added as I grabbed a handy stick to fish them from their hiding place under the counter. He eyed up the brain-screws, rusty and oddly-shapen:
“Those don’t look familiar. Probably the ladies’ behind me.” he motioned in their direction, weakly, as if not to dirty his pointing finger. I glanced with equal lack of relish at the two-some, both of them rusty and oddly misshapen:
“Yes these are theirs, in all likelihood.” I agreed, although between knowing that fact and convincing the women to ‘do the right thing’ stretched a gulf wider than my wading boots. (‘So to speak’, I think one is supposed to add after a mixed-up metaphor.)
“Can I have my CESW back?” Baldie asked then, bringing me back to dry land. I handed him the stick, whose absence had meanwhile only exacerbated the hostilities with the warring blue-hair faction. (I haven’t quoted their dialogue here, it being intended  for steam-valve overpressure relief more than inter-species communication.)
“Oh sorry, I’d used it to retrieve the screws from under that display. Here you are, sir. What good’s a Checkout Escalator without a Separation Widget?” I asked, possibly rhetorically.
“Yes, a real mess we have here. Ladies, can you hold on a second?” my ‘patient’ calmly phrased that simple request, somewhat overdue. I considered jotting ‘recuperated’ in his file. But the Gang of Two just kept on automaton-ing their laughably-over-the-line ’10 items or less’ onto the over-burdened treadmill. Chaplin’s silent-flick nightmare came to mind. Or was it Lucille Ball? I needed to pause the projector in either case, and started to lecture:
“Were trying to make order… I turned to Lady One, not wasting an apostrophe when one wasn’t needed. Not a particularly adept conversationalist, she managed the elaborate verbal construction: “Who cares?”
“Well, were trying to make order a more lofty goal in your collapsing volitional Parthenon, maybe then even the likes of you would care enough?” I’d finished my sentence, and waited for early release, given my good behavior.
Lady Two, less taciturn, spit out: “Just ignore him.
My role as a mediator looked less than assured. At least I could extricate Baldie from the war zone, I hoped, but there were ‘issues’, namely:
 “I can’t find the line.” he confessed. The mass of produce had obscured his short-list’s
boundaries. Suddenly, I thought I saw a hazy delineation. Pointing, I told him:
“It’s right here, guy, the line.”
“Where?”
“Somewhere between your nuts and their bananas.”


Wu: I loves the smell of an English lesson in the morning.
Me: How’d you know!
Wu: Smells like…well… scholasticism.
Me: ‘Aisle 9: Cleaning products’. Oughta take care of it.


Top Blogs? No Prob… Here’s the Secret!

     It was write in front of my nose the hole time: Just Emulate the Winners(!)

So I’m talking to my currant squeeze, call her ‘M’, an’ she’s like: ‘Um, Ken we talk about the future…” an’ I go: “Who the f*ck’s Ken?” and she’s all “No, its ‘K’-‘A’-‘N’, you dum sh*t!” and than I new what she ment.
An’ I go: “The future, Huh?” and she sez “Yeah, the Future, capitol ‘F’  Sooo… IDK, I like flipped out ‘n shit:
“M, you late?” I aksed her, but I didn’t lissen, y’know, to what she said than, cuz it hit me:
Emulate! That’s the secret formula. Ima gonna be on the Front Page fer shure now. Theirs some dog-work to it, but I can handle it. Esp now since ‘M’ left, I guess. Who cares; a guy like me’ll get another 1 in ten minits.

So anywho, here’s what I got so far: I looked at all the T-100 blogs an’ ok, a couple, like that seed gurl ‘n Mel somebody, ya gotta, like, know some special shit for, looks like, but just to get up there witch is the hole dreem, its enuf to rite:
“Hi everyone! I’m just getting started on Xanga… Drop me a comment if you’ve got some ideas on what to do first – or just to say, “Hi!”
Every day there’s at least one of those.

But I gess it helps to get ur freinds to praze you. I might go with this one I seen:
“13 recs and 12 comments ? yesss (: thanks guys. ! this time i’m gonna try for 20 recs and 18
comments for anot… ”
That 1’s waayyy up their near the Top! Not sure what ‘anot’ is, but sh’ell prolly get 18 comments for one of ’em. Damn, Xanga gettin’ EZ-er ‘n EZ-R ROFLMAO.

Still, its tuff for me to like, totaly give up on stuff with meet. Here’s one I oughta try’n copy: (sorry, ’emulate’) It wuz number 40 or so. Gud enuf 4 me:

“day four. paragraphs of words or, a few short sentences. their all so meaningless. just a long description of…”

I’ll prolly change it to ‘just a ‘short’ description of…’, though. PPL read it ‘n, you know, their busy so I’ll just let ’em Comment, Rec,& Sub real fast and get back to the Mall or wherevah.

Now If I wuz thinner I could go the rout of “binge, purge, puke, weigh myself+ my vomit, poop, then rite about it”. That’s what about a quarter of the Featured winners do every day. I think there in-thinuated by the thiren thong of skeleton-ness.But no dice, I weighed 81.73 kilos, at 9:30 this morning. Like to get down to 81.50 by midnight, tho. Good thing ‘M’ split, that pig-out nom-nom-nik. Still, a quarter of the winners R thin-skis? That’s like, 30%! Mebbe I’ll eat like crazy for a week, then I ken puke off the lbs and be famous two, LOL. Meh.
  Wait, did I say ‘ken’? Guess I miss her. Damm ‘M’. FML! I’ll just write about how messed up I am. Like this entry. (I’ll give mine #’s too, to keep trak):

“001. OK so your a nobody.so what if everyone thinks your a little quiet. maybe all my friends
would turn agai…”
Course Ima hopping my friends dont ‘turn agai‘. Fame ain’t worth that. Hold on a sec.Phone’s ringing -BRB-



“Heyya ‘M’, Whassup?
…..
“You’re not?”
……
“Hey cool. Yeah, you ken come over, we’ll hang out or sumpthin'”

Ok guys, sorry 4 the waist of time. F*ck famus. Ferget you read this. You prolly alredy did.

“DON’T LEARN HEBREW!”: mental health group warns…

     A major article slated to appear in the Fall 2011 issue of the JOLP (Journal of Linguistic Pathology by a respected professor at Toronto’s McGiel University has concluded with a stern warning: Anyone, especially an English-speaker, who chooses to pursue fluency in the Hebrew tongue needs to think twice, or at least to be clearly warned about the elevated risks of depression, self-harm, and, in a growing number of cases, eventual delirium and death. The lengthy piece documents case after case of individuals whose exposure to the horrifically aggravating character of the once-dead but now seemingly resurrected language plunged them inexorably into turmoil from which few, in the end, escaped.
    Reaction to the article has been brisk and agitated, as more and more medical professionals, forensic pathologists, and coroners realize that their ‘unspecified causes’ files become instantly understandable once they re-assessed the hurriedly-jotted notation “subject was studying Hebrew”.

    In a massive research effort, Dr. Silvertone’s working group attempted, with some success, to zero in on the most dangerous and disorienting aspects of the language. Plotting reported suicides and other violent deaths among target cohort groups, they listed the following ‘fatal defects’, [-characterization in the original-}:

1) Lack of capital letters: Methodology: A sample page of random Hebrew text from a daily paper was shown to test subjects, half of whom were at least 2nd year students. They were asked to simply point out sentence starts, paragraph leads, or proper nouns. Scores were in the 2-3% range, even with 5 minutes alloted for perusal. As an additional test, those few who had managed to locate ‘latch-points’ in the text were instructed to glance away from the page a few seconds, then re-orient themselves: Not only were they by and large unable to do so, they almost universally became agitated, agressive, irritable, and, in one documented instance from the Silver Spring (MD) study, incontinent. Bouyed by the albeit unsurprising data, the team went on to investigate the next flaw:

2) Lack of printed vowels, paucity of discrete vowel sounds, and abject failure of the prevalent ‘work-around’ to ameliorate the ambiguity. Researchers unfamiliar with the language were astonished to learn that most words in Hebrew are unpronouncable-on-first-sight without having ‘inside information’. Most of the few consonants which in fact exist have two or more associated sounds, and conversely, the same phonome may find itself spelled by a choice of letters, redundant doubles to one another. And the improvised ‘system’ of half-hearted and imprecise
additions to the orthography only makes matters worse. Thus the borrowed word ‘space’ is spelled identically to ‘spice’, and ‘Center Parts’, an auto-parts store whose sign was presented for decipherment to the subjects, was typically rendered, equally justified, as ‘Senator Farts’. Once again the test group showed a statistically significant increase in self-destructive and out-right hostile  demeanor during the planned one-hour interview, which was shortened in many cases to as little as 5 minutes, the typical arrival time for paramedics. Further inquiry into this major irritant was then discontinued.

3) Lack of an adequate vocabulary: Research team members were shocked to discover that the Hebrew dictionary they were given, purportedly comparable to a standard 30,000 word English volume, felt more like a pamphlet than a book of real substance. Furthermore, many simple words used by even a two-year old in English had no counterpart in Hebrew. ‘Toes’, for example, needed to be laboriously and clumsily  described as “the fingers of the hand of the foot-thingy” roughly. ‘Paint’ (the liquid), and ‘color’ (the attribute) were the same hebrew word;   ‘tree’, ‘wood’ (the material) and ‘lumber’ (the building product), were all three expressed by the same guttural monosyllabic grunt. A once-eager student interviewed by the authors shortly before his commitment responded to every patient staff query with the same affect-less drone; “There’s nothing I can say…” ‘Understandable’, in the words of the lab assistant who watched sadly as the victim was taken away.
    The article concludes with over a hundred anonymous case-histories. One in particular stands out, the case of ‘M’, found hanging by his belt and necktie in the bathroom of the Rye (NY) Public Library in August of 2007. He had moved to a rented house nearby in order to, according to friends, “be closer to the airport; closer to my Holy Land.” This was an instance where, in contrast to many similar earlier cases, the motivation for his tragic decision was fairly obvious. He had carefully used a stack of (many) Hebrew dictionaries as a platform from which to jump, kicking them into a disheveled pile in his final moments. But even more revelatory was this ‘cheat-sheet’ found in his shirt pocket after he was cut down. The Authors of the JOLP article saw fit to include a scan of the note-card, which I’ll append below. To them, it nicely encapsulates the ‘cognitive Wall separating would-be English/Hebrew polyglots from their ill-considered dream’.


{Abstracts and pre-prints of the article are available for a small remittance from this reporter. }

JS/ Tel Aviv