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backing talkwards

so, it appears that i've finally met my linguistic match: i cannot figure out a way to learn hebrew or arabic. yes, these languages are known for being difficult for english speakers to acquire; their alphabets, vocabulary and grammar are completely alien to begin with, and on top of that, they're written backwards. ok, not backwards. the languages are written from right to left, the opposite of how english is written. [no, i take that back. far more languages are written from left to right, and in every human society, norms are designated by the majority. your languages have every right to exist, but they are fucking backwards.]

although they can be daunting at first, i'm no longer frightened of different scripts. in my limited experience, i've found that russian is easier for me to master than polish. i was lucky enough to be selected to alpha test the forthcoming japanese course from duolingo and, while i can't quite get the hang of the kanji yet, hiragana [which isn't even a goddamned alphabet, but a syllabary] is something i'm getting through cautious progress.

the stumbling block is partly based on the backwards construction, but it's weirder than that.

i know that i need to move my eyes from right to left, and that everything moves as if i'm looking in a mirror. [don't think it hasn't occurred to me to use a mirror in order to ease the learning curve.] it's an act of will, particularly if i have to focus on listening to words and reading them at the same time. but the truly odd part is that i realised earlier this week that i'm trying to read the characters upside down.

for whatever reason, and i truly can't figure out what that is, my brain has chosen to interpret the right to left order as meaning that these scripts are inverted in every conceivable way. i'd noticed that, whenever i worked on hebrew lessons, my neck seemed to hurt a little. i never connected these two things [i often practice a couple of languages in a single "session" anyway] until this week, when i looked at one letter and perceived what i was doing wrong.

like a bolt from the blue

that is the letter lamed, which is pronounced as the english "l". i originally trained myself to remember it by thinking "it looks like a bolt of lightning; lightning starts with "l'". however, when i was practicing this week, i realised that i was thinking "the letter that looks like 'l'". lamed doesn't look like the letter "l", unless you're looking at it upside down. from there, i realised that my interpretations were based on scanning all the letters not just from right to left, but from bottom to top. the reason that my neck was hurting [aside from the fact that i have arthritis in three of my cervical vertebrae] was because i had been unconsciously tilting my head so that i could "get a better look".

i've no idea why this happened, but the programming is proving fiendishly difficult to reverse. i have to focus so intently on the letters that i don't even hear what they're supposed to sound like. i tested my reading of arabic, to see if it was something that it was limited to hebrew only, and i found that, without the reassurance of hebrew's blocky letters, i fared even worse. in arabic, i couldn't tell what was making what sound, and became so frustrated within minutes that i couldn't bear to continue.

for the moment, i'm placing semitic languages to the side, because neither my brain nor my neck can handle the stress. but i am interested in finding out why my brain might be making my effort to learn something new even more difficult than it would otherwise be. more to come, assuming that i can find some sort of theory. 

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jihadvertising?

i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:



am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: hot stuff, comin' through

i don't even know what to say about the weather. the end of september saw temperatures at a scalding 36c/ 97f outside. this is especially annoying because we've had a moderate summer. most days it rained a little in the morning, the temperatures didn't creep into the 30s too often and there wasn't the normal stretch of a few weeks when it felt like we were living on the sun. now, we've receded into more normal fall weather, although it's still on the warm side for mid-october. that climate change thing is a bitch.

trying to think of something positive in the situation, it does put me in a perfect frame of mind to write about urban decay's naked heat palette. it's the latest in what appears to be an endless series of warm neutral and red eyeshadow palettes that have followed in the footsteps of anastasia's modern renaissance. [which i ultimately decided i didn't need after doing a thorough search of my considerable stash.] i do think that it'…

i agree, smedley [or, smokers totally saved our planet in 1983]

so this conversation happened [via text, so i have evidence and possibly so does the canadian government and the nsa].

dom and i were trying to settle our mutual nerves about tomorrow night's conversion screening, remembering that we've made a fine little film that people should see. which is just about exactly what dom had said when i responded thusly:

me :: i agree smedley. [pauses for a moment] did you get that here?

dom :: no?

me :: the aliens who were looking at earth and then decided it wasn't worth bothering with because people smoked even though it was bad for them?
come to think of it, that might mean that smokers prevented an alien invasion in the seventies.

dom :: what ?!?!?

me :: i've had wine and very little food. [pause] but the alien thing was real. [pause.] well, real on tv.

dom :: please eat something.

of course, i was wrong. the ad in question ran in 1983. this is the part where i would triumphantly embed the ad from youtube, except that the governmen…