One of my favorite things about leaving America is reading fremde newspapers and getting to see what the world really thinks about US actualia. Though I already read too many papers every morning (and the always delightful Pravda which has the great headlines of a paper “NASA Employs Drunkards and Saboteurs” if not quite the journalistic integrity of the Times, “People Come Up with Most Unusual Way of Using Cow” or “Cat Predicts Patients’ Deaths in Nursing Home“), there’s always time for a half a dozen more when traveling.

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The harbinger of death?

One of the big stories in Israel recently has been Hillary Clinton’s cleavage. In a world where John Edward’s 400 dollar haircuts (only 200 quid? Cheap!) get more attention then either Yesterday’s Salad’s own blogess Cate Edwards, or his campaign’s focus on poverty, should we really be surprised that Senator Clinton’s newly formed sartorial tastes have titillated the masses? Given all the attention foisted on Kerry’s neckties during the last election, it would seem that fashion has become an important part of American electoral politics, and perhaps the world around. Indeed, the always dashing former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi even used to attend fashion shows. A politician’s clothes humanize him/her, or at least make them less alien.

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This man, this ugly hat.

The bigger problem with the Hillary cleavage story is what it says about a woman’s place in the US political arena. It’s bad enough that candidates always address her as Hillary during the debates, whereas everyone else is referred to as Senator ___ or Congressman___ or crazy person from Alaska who needs to quit the race already (although not being referred to as Senator might be a good thing given their 40 year losing streak). Why should a woman candidate have to dress down her sexiness? Why should she stop emphasizing her femininity? One would have hoped that by the 21st century, women qua women would be completely accepted in the political realm. Perhaps Hillary needs to one-up Segolene Royal and hold a press conference in a bikini. She should force Americans to confront these issues head-on.

Sadly, there’s more bad news to report this morning. The once ultra-fashionable Pan Am airlines, now probably just a name owned by the giant holding company that is Saladglobalmedia, has decided to suspend service to New Haven Tweed Airport, once again leaving Elm Rockers with only one airline. May God have mercy on our souls.

Dear Reader: After an unexpected summer hiatus (it’s amazing what taking two three weeks off will do to your traffic), Dash is pleased to return to that warm and welcoming world of the internet. I’d love to say that the last fortnight has been spent doing constructive things like righting the US economy, answering the Jewish Question (at the very least solving the Tel Aviv cat problem), or learning how to knit a “took”; sadly, my vacation has mostly involved reading Yiddish poetry and writing terrible compositions (if only I’d followed my own rules) in said language. Summer Yiddish programs like, I imagine, Ottoman Turkish programs, create a bizarre space where the dying language is revived, albeit temporarily. Still, the artificiality is highlighted; while we can discourse on poetry in Yiddish, I could hardly order a good meal at a restaurant, or ideate the nuances of hand washed laundry. Sadly, this would seem to be an area of linguistic knowledge confined to various chasidic groups around the world. And that, o wise and discriminating reader, leads me to today’s topic.

After the program ended, I decided to upgrade from my third-world digs to what is at the very least a second world apartment in the heart of the light-industrial Tel Aviv garment district (what is it with the kids and light-industrial neighbourhoods?). With a few days without a home to kill, I decided to take the train to Jerusalem to stay with a friend from Harvard. My traveling companion and I sat opposite each-other, speaking quietly and listening to others conversations (thanks for the tip, Lives of Others!). Our solitude was soon interrupted when we were joined by a chasid. His luggage tag gave him away as a Williamsburger, and he had several phone conversations in an English-Yiddish hybrid. He eventually got up and left us, before reappearing a row behind. I imagined we did something to offend him.

After changing trains in Bet Shemesh, my traveling companion and I saw the chasid walk past us. I gave him a smile, he smiled back, and I asked, “vos makhstu reb yid?” Shocked, he stopped and sat down, chatting with me in Yiddish. He yelled at me for my accent–actually, he went beyond that, telling me that I didn’t speak “real” Yiddish. (He later poked fun at my Hebrew accent, despite the fact that he didn’t know any Hebrew and was completely dependent upon me for directions). This would have all been a nice little encounter except he decided to bring up politics. It turns out that our friend is a diehard Guiliani fan, and an equally diehard Hillary hater. I decided to argue with him about Guiliani’s record on crime, only to be backed up, from out of nowhere, by a British citizen sitting across the aisle (literally). Suffice it to say the Chasid and I differ dramatically on our views of politics:

On the suspension of habeus corpus: I’m against, while he believes that if the government declares you’re a terrorist or enemy combatant you must be and the case never needs to be brought before a judge.

On the war: I’m in favor of a gradual withdrawal from Iraq while he’s in favor of increasing the size of US forces by about a half a million. He believes that the US should reinstate the draft if necessary, and that I should be forced to fight. When asked if would have to serve, he informed me that it was against his religion.

On the role of the Christian Right in American Politics: He decided that my question meant that I was Christian (a goy speaking Yiddish! Straight out of a Peretz story), and told me that he spoke to a Christian the other day who wouldn’t vote for Obama. I was out-argued on this one. This guy changed topics like a professional politician. Also, you have to love the way he refers to his one Christian friend, like people who speak about their one Black friend.

Overall, he was an amicable fellow. He tried to screw the Brit out of some money (the pound, he reasoned to me in Yiddish, is at 8.30 to the sheqel, and he can afford to go very far out of his way and then take a chasidic cab back to where he was going) but at least he talked to us like normal people and invited me to hear a shiur in Yiddish at his Yeshiva. And although he’s a diehard republican, he at least seems to care which republican is the candidate. He watches the debates and plans to stay home if it’s a bad candidate (re: not Guiliani). I’m just waiting for him to invite me out to Gottlieb’s.

There are times that I remember I’m in the third world (which, despite the presence of THE SOURCE is not to be confused with Jack Kirby’s 4th World). While Israel as a whole may indeed be a rising high tech superpower, someone neglected to tell the architect of these dormitories (this is the last time I ever live in student housing) who, in place of a proper shower, decided that it would be acceptable to just put a drain in the middle of the bathroom under some sort of spigot. But that is neither here nor there, or, as Joyce is so fond of saying in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, “hither and tither.” Rereading Portrait, I’m struck by how many times Joyce uses “hither and tither,” culminating in a paragraph in which the phrase is used at least 300 times. Of course, I haven’t finished rereading, so I may find that this is not the culmination and that there is a paragraph consisting entirely of “hither and tither,” but something tells me that would have been memorable, and it sounds like something Joyce might have done in Finnegan’s After-Party, and not Portrait.

 

J oyce (and, in honour of Joyce, that space between the letters is very important for the meaning of this dispatch) used the phrase so often that I had to check if he was quoted in the OED. The OED has the following for hither, v:

 

“To move or come hither; chiefly in phr. to hither and thither = to go to and fro; to move about in various directions.”

 

It would thus seem theoretically possible to say, “I would like to hither and thither awhile before settling down.”

 

There are lots of great entries for hither, adv that I’ll address in the future, but in passing there was also the great word “hitherest” meaning nearest that will now occupy a dear place in my word bank.

Salad in the Levant

July 2, 2007

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Not unexpectedly, the Levant is shaping up as one of the finer Salad destinations in the world, with deliciously fresh produce high in worker exploitation but low in chemicals (really, in rich countries, agribuisiness is just outsourcing much of the exploitation to you, just like airline check-in machines outsource, well, airline check-ins to you). Quite unexpectedly, despite the fact that high-tech is one of the pillars of this country’s economy, my living accommodations have sketchy internet access at best, and I’ve been estranged from the world wide telegraph services. Still, a few pieces of information manage to pierce this veil of nineteenth-century-ness, ones that I feel the need to share with you, or a high-priced preacher.

First, in what would have been the music news of the summer (if it weren’t for the Believer’s music issue and their nefariously good article about Bill Fox): the Spice Girls are reuniting!!! Honestly, how did this take this long? Have any of them managed to do anything on their own?  With the exception of ginger spice, which continues to be used in dining establishments everywhere, have our heroines been heard from on their own? We never even hear of them getting arrested! Though Posh is certainly heard from, it’s not exactly on her own as she’s riding the coattails of her more famous husband, the noted soccer player Keira Knightly. After all, the people united will never be defeated, but the Spice Girls divided are probably just conceited. I’m really quite happy that they’re making a comeback, and trust that this will lead to many other amazing bands returning, like Soul 2 Soul, All Souls, Soul Asylum, and Led Zepplin. Top notch.

But the most interesting bulletin to reach my desk (top) was this little piece about Al Gore obtaining a dvd of the Sopranos finale in advance. I’m not quite sure what this article was doing. Was it meant to be a smear campaign, pointing out that Gore is so much of an elitist that he demands dvds of the Sopranos in advance, that he has no respect for the concepts of time and space? Or is it meant to paint him as someone in touch with the working man and American society, someone who kicks back with a cold one and yells at the TV when Journey sings “Don’t stop-” and that’s it? No matter what, it shows that the media is treating him as a candidate. Why else would they bust out this type of coverage?

From the Orient.

For people over the age of thirteen, learning to speak a foreign language is very difficult. In part, this is due to the fact that during adolescence, a number of changes (seem to) occur in the brain which seem to cement the way one “thinks” in a language. Yet, also confounding matters is that students in formal classes rarely experience the same degree of immersion or the opportunities to practice speaking that young children often receive when exposed to a foreign environment. As a result, despite the fact that Mr. Notwithabang… spent many hours studying a number of languages during high school and college, his facility in speaking them is fairly poor.

Thankfully, a friend recently introduced him to the Pimsleur method for learning languages. Though far from perfect, the Pimsleur method is a very good supplement to university-style classes, which are generally focused on reading and grammar comprehension. The brief lessons of the method are based primarily on practicing speaking (quickly), and follow a system of graded-interval recall, whereby a student learns and reviews words at carefully separated intervals that increase over time. While there is no formal reading component to the lessons, they do fit admirably well onto an ipod. Although, as I have learned, trying to do them on a treadmill at the gym is a great way to help make your responses reflexive (thanks to the cognitive effort needed to keep pace), but an even greater way to clear out the machines around you in a ten-foot radius.

The Pimsleur lessons also attempt to integrate some cultural education by tailoring the various speaking scenarios in later lessons to culturally relevant situations. However, I’ve noticed that while the linguistic aspects of these teaching vignettes are spot-on, the attitudes that they subtly inculcate might not be in students’ best interest. For example, a later lesson of the Hebrew program goes something like this:

Narrator: You are in a hotel restaurant and there is a woman sitting by herself at the table next to you. Say hello. *pause*

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