Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Franks

History according to Bob has just kicked off with a podcast and a vodcast about the Franks. Bob will continue, among the other subjects, to speak of the Franks and step by step go through their history which spans from the end of the Western Roman Empire to the Middle Ages in Europe. The prolific and enthusiastic Bob can be trusted to put in a thorough job and deliver his sources at the end of each edition - as usual.

What I find so fascinating about the Franks is that they bridge the Roman Era with the later Middle Ages, from where we arrive at the Renaissance and European history gets more familiar. They also are, as I see it, a bridge between tribal Europe and a Europe with states, first feudal then national. Sometimes I guess that successful tribal leaders among the Franks (and others) ultimately became the European nobility. Let's see what I will learn from Bob.

The Greatest Threat to Zionism

The University Channel Podcast presents a lecture held at Columbia University (School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)) by Akiva Eldar, an editorial writer at the Israeli newspaper Ha`aretz. By the end of the talk Eldar reveals that in his youth he studied at the same faculty as Ehud Olmert. Olemert -at the time- was already with the Likud and Eldar decided to join the left. Likud and Olmert were in favor of the settlement policy and against a two-state solution. Eldar was against settling and in favor of two states.

Eldar begins his speech fulminating against the settlement policy. There is the title of his talk arrived from; in his view the Israeli settlements in occupied territory are the greatest threat to Zionism. He needs some time to get started and in a very Israeli fashion kicks off with a lot of unfinished sentences that makes it difficult to bare with him. He doesn't say much more than that the settlements have no place in the terms of the Israeli independence neither do they serve, to the contrary, in arriving to peace. They sit on the bargaining chips, acquired in 1967 (the occupied territories).

They are a double injustice, he shows, as they took land from Palestinians and they take Israeli tax payer money to enjoy unparalleled advantages, average Israelis not have. But by now also Olmert is in favor of a two-state solution (welcome to the club says Eldar) and the settler are not the 270000 that actually sit in the West Bank, but a mere 8000 hard core nationalists that are too few to be an obstacle. So it is achievable, Eldar hopes to show, to arrive at a two-state solution and get rid of the settlements.

Psychological Aspects of Writing

The Writing Show invited writing coach Jurgen Wolff to speak of the psychology of the writer and the anxieties and confrontations a writer goes through, per chance how to deal with that.

In his opinion, the hardest is to get started and he is convinced almost all writers struggle with that. The next thing is nearly as difficult: keep going. One gets easily distracted. Paula B as an interviewer poses the questions she knows all to well her listeners struggle with. Jurgen gives very confident answers. Eventually, writing is broken down into elements of any other job in a person's life. Great projects and souring careers are divided in small steps, realistic goals, lots of tedious routine tasks and so on. If writing is what you want, what you do best and what you envision to do, here is what must be done.

Practical advice and some publicizing of Wolff's book Your Writing Coach.

My new adventure into linguistics

The university of Arizona offers a basic undergraduate course in Linguistics, that is available as a podcast through iTunes U. It is an introduction to language. After the first lecture that helped me sort out grammar (prescriptive vs. descriptive), we went off into a couple of hours spent on phonetics. That was a tough ride; a very technical set of lectures on consonants and vowels and all the various characteristics they could take.

Lecturer Amy Fountain during those lectures utters the phrase: this is bothersome now and you probably hate me for it, but if you stick with me and get these basics right, you are going to love me for it afterwards. Not that I fell in love with ms. Fountain, but I sure nearly dropped out of the course because of the dry phonetics, but somehow managed to pull through and began to see the light when we arrived at phonology.

Now here is a fine distinction. Phonetics is the universal identification of sounds in speech; phonology goes into the sound variety in specific languages. Put differently phonetics is universal, but each language has its own phonology. Like the D at the end of a word in Dutch sounds like T - I am giving it a whirl. I think the language examples pulled me through. Doing this in class must have been tough, but on podcast, with all the sound drops and no visuals, took quite the stamina. But it was worth it. And so many more lectures to go...