Diary of a New Decade #3 – 10th January 2011 – Mummers and Pappers

Mummers in Exeter, Devon, UK, 1994.
Mummers in Exeter, Devon, UK, 1994. Image via Wikipedia

Well it’s been a week since I did a post in this particular series, the DND series. Not much has transpired in that time. I went to Tczew and came back again, and there was a holiday on Thursday 6th January for Epiphany. That may be the best thing to talk about. The other thing probably worth talking about is the controversy around the large scale die offs of blackbirds and drumfish and turtledoves, which I looked into a bit at the weekend.

Language-wise I did some Czech and some Japanese, and I finished the Michel Thomas Advanced Japanese course, which I can recommend well enough as a course, but I have to say that calling it advanced is nothing short of laughable. There are a heap of structures that still need to be learned. The neutral forms of the verb and the bases were not even touched upon and the past tense and negative pasts of -i adjectives were not used. Moreover, the difference between na adjectives and -i adjectives before a noun were not looked at at all. I can only hope that there will be a so-called vocabulary course – the way the new Michel Thomas language series describes the third lot of rather dear CDs.

I read some rather negative reviews of the Advanced Japanese course on the UK Amazon – more pleasant ones on the US Amazon including one by a friend of mine whom it was a pleasure to bump into by chance reading Amazon reviews. My own view is that I can see where some of the negative comments were coming from but they are exaggerated. It is very good material, and a lot is packed into the hours you can physically get onto 4 audio CDs, if that has to be the constraint. Only don’t go calling it Advanced Japanese, especially bearing in mind not one single kanji and not one single kana has been explained and not even the issues surrounding syllabification and also the series and how shi, chi, tsu and fu appear instead of what you might expect in the sounds tables.

These are really basic things needed if you want to get at real Japanese. The person finishing the Michel Thomas course will discover they will have to go right back to the start again if ever they want to be anything more than functionally illiterate in Japanese. I’ve started now the Michel Thomas Greek course and that is really making strides at a faster pace. Again, nothing really about the alphabet, so a person relying on that won’t be able to read anything, but maybe in Greek that is easier to overcome.

I also have major misgivings about a few things in the Michel Thomas method. I do think that it has advantages over a lot of other methods, even Pimsleur, as far as being an audio-only course goes. But I do feel as if it is building so much in a short time that it rely pushes the short term memory. I wonder whether the students who did those course on the recordings actually retained it all for more than two weeks afterwards. I should say not more than 30% of it. But you can get round that as a learner by doing the course and then coming back to it again after letting the knowledge lie fallow for more than 2 weeks, and reactivating it all again. Rinse and repeat a few more times.

I was going to talk about Epiphany or Twelfth Night as a holiday. I noticed that people were regarding it as a Church holiday even though the Bible does not say which day this ‘showing’ of Jesus Christ was, whether it was the eighth day (which was traditional for the circumcision) or the twelfth day, who can say? But what we can say is that in pre-Christian Europe there were two twelve day long festivals, one around the winter solstice and the other around the Summer solstice. In the older calendar the final or twelfth night in the winter one of these fell on New Years and was a general party and carousal, with people dressing up.  This was simply carried over into the Church by an act of syncretism.

Generally speaking Roman Catholicism is happy to soak up and “christianise” just about anything the Pagans threw at them. It was so with turning men into saints, it was so with the goddess worship with Mary being placed into the role of Gaia/Isis/Diana, it was the same with the placing of the date of Christmas (at least there was more guidance over the celebration of His death and resurrection because the Jews still celebrate Peshach, but why did they give this time the entirely Pagan name of Easter?) So this is just another example of the way Polish Roman Catholics are ready to place religious holidays at every single one of the Pagan dates that have been syncretised into the so-called church calendar (including the non-biblical Assumption of Mary on 15th August – the date which coincides with many Pagan devil-worshipping dates worldwide such as O-Bon, the time when the Japanese believe that for 33 years (notice the significance?) after a person’s death, they come and spend three days (August 13th to August 16th) with their old families. This strange reversal of some of the beliefs about Jesus Christ’s life and death almost appears to be diabolical mockery. Doesn’t stop Roman Catholics from revelling in it, though, and choosing it as their time of year to go on Hajj to their various mariolatric meccas, trudging sometimes hundreds of miles in the searing heat to please God doing something He never once commands in scripture, whilst many of the explicit commands are overlooked, like not having graven images, like calling no man father, like not forbidding to marry, and many more.

And how the Devil, who manipulates people to do these things, laughs.

There’s nothing intrinsically Christian about 6th January. There is something intrinsically pagan about twelfth night, and there is some astrological thing that goes on that I don’t even want to remember or understand, but which you can look up if you like. The carry over of the baccanalia from that time into the mumming of the Christian era is clear even from the traditional costumes worn by the mummers, which follow those used in the pre-Christian era.

Anyway, we’ve all been forced by the Catholic Church to participate in this pagan holiday.

I used quite a bit of it having a walk with my son, and I also gave him a walk on Saturday and a really big one on Sunday, when we took a taxi to the old town and walked back. Those three times in total gave us about 14 km over those three days worth of walking, and I do feel that it’s done me some good. The good thing about my son is that he walks about the same pace and just enjoys the walk, he doesn’t run off. And then he is well behaved after as he has been able to use his energy up, although generally speaking he is not as tired as me.

As there is not that much conversation going on I can also listen a bit to the Michel Thomas courses during the walk. All in all a good way to spend time, but it was cold on Thursday and only gradually got a bit warmer over the weekend. At about 5-6 degrees Celsius most of the snow started to melt, but there are large puddles everywhere and of course the contributions to society made by the communion of dog-owners comes much to the fore, all melting in the water and mixing in with the sand that is laid down so that you can tell sometimes where the sand starts and the canine detritus finishes.

I was also going to talk about these big die-offs reported in the Internet and a bit in mainstream media. But perhaps it can wait for a later post. I will come to that, though.

5 thoughts on “Diary of a New Decade #3 – 10th January 2011 – Mummers and Pappers

  1. Interesting and informative blog as ever.Thanks uncle Davy. However, I feel as a dog owner I must set the record straight on the reference to “the contributions to society made by the communion of dog-owners”. This should surely read “the contributions to society made by the communion of irresponsible dog-owners.”
    No dog owner with a sense of social responsibility (and I class myself among them) would not remove dog excrement after their pet has performed. It should be picked up, bagged and disposed of in the receptacles provided by most councils in the U.K. In the absence of this it should be taken home and binned. Those dog owners who do not do this have neither care for their fellow citizens nor their dogs.
    I thought the curse of the ignorant dog owner was largely a problem for the U.K. but it would appear that ignorance of this sort is pan European; probably global.
    On a more positive note, I have read that many dog owners walking their pets in New York’s Central park not only remove the droppings but also use a disinfectant spray on the ground where the offending matter lay. Would that that habit became widespread among the dog-owning community. (Yes I am going to follow suit !)
    I should also remind you, uncle Davy, that like all living creatures, cats need to pooh and usually visit other peoples gardens for the purpose or is it just my garden !
    Surely Pushkin does his fair share of offloading. O.K. in all fairness, he might use the litter tray and full marks to him if he does. However, “dungal” irresponsibility is not the preserve of the dog lover. I believe it is an obligation on all animal-owning linguists (and mono-linguists) to consider their neighbours by not allowing the streets and gardens to become poop rinks.Walkers should not have an enjoyable and healthy activity spoilt by the need to constantly inspect the pavement.
    I am not trying to score points here, but feel that the equation needed balancing a little.
    Best wishes.


    1. Many thanks for that. I’m not trying to be anti-canine here, Alan. The fact is that when the snow melts what you see is what you see, and it isn’t feline product. Pushkin obviously has to go to the toilet like anybody – even cicadas push their crystals out of their legs – but that cat only made a mistake the first day he got here. He went in his own carrier on the blanket in it. He must have thought that was his to use, and so by default in order not to do it anywhere that could offend, did it in his own bed. So I took Pushkin and that soiled blanket, took them both to the litter, put the poop off the blanket into the litter and said to him here’s where you do it. Then I showed him how I scoop the poop out of the litter and put it into the toilet. He then came through into the living room singing a song as if the penny had dropped and he finally understood that he had been properly catered for, and ever since then he has not made a mistake. In the summer he comes and goes through the window and then the poop is in the common parts of the communal terrace garden, where nobody goes, buried by him under bushes.

      I’m sorry to tell you this, but in my experience the following two things are true:
      1) dogs cannot compete with cats when it comes to hygiene
      2) I never ever saw a dog owner scoop poop in Poland. It is hard enough persuading them to keep their pets from soiling children’s play areas, even where there’s a sign up. I’ve seen one person scoop in Prague, which is also a place covered in dog’s poo.

      On a lighter note, there was a cartoon in a recent Viz where a guy complains to his wife “that dog’s doing its business on our lawn again” and in the next frame you have this cartoon dog at a desk shouting into a phone “if they can’t deliver by next Thursday I’m giving the contract to Amalgamated Imperial!”

  2. Dear Prof Huliganov,
    I meant to comment on the Michel Thomas method of language learning in my other response but got rather sidetracked by the poop issue.
    I was pleased to see your comments about the MT method as having it’s merits without being all encompassing. Most reviews tend to be polarised, either over-praising or being unduly negative. My experiences with the German, French and Italian courses of Mr Thomas’s method have been generally positive but, as you have said they will not suffice if used alone. As complementary method and as a counteracting balance, it sits well with the more traditional approaches. This is particularly the case if, in keeping with the Gold List guidelines, the material is repeatedly re-visited two to six weeks outside of each listening session.
    I have found snippets of information and mnemonics from Michele Thomas that I have never come across in any other language course I have tried. I seem to be a slow learner so have found the advice of “do not TRY to remember ; the responsibility for your remembering is with the method” ……”let the knowledge be absorbed and what you know you will not forget”… very helpful.
    This said, I suppose like any learning it requires much effort and consistent practice (the 10,000 hour rule !) if it is to be of any value.

    Your 2011 season has certainly started very well ; I look forward to next 11 months.

    Best wishes,

    Alan (DevaDog)

    1. You make some good points, and in a few weeks if not sooner it’s my intention to summarise in one post my current thoughts on the Michel Thomas language courses and his method, the Pimsleur method and a few other things available, and what in my opinion are the plusses and minuses and the order of their application which I’d advise for a learner who means to go the distance with a language.

      When I say “go the distance” I mean to take it to the level you’d have if you walked out of university with a degree in it, and not just being able to order “ena anikhto sandwich kai mia bira, parakalo”.

      Thanks for your kind remarks, and I hope you will stay tuned to my stuff here, and maybe in other places too.

      1. Ah, but is there not a slight contradiction here?
        If autodidactism is to be accepted as preferable to classroom learning, would one then measure competence by equating it to the pinnacle of the formal classroom system, i.e. graduate level attainment ? Would not fluency with native speakers be the better measure?
        ☹ it are not now raining here also.


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