Leonard Nimoy, the folk singer and host of the documentary series "In Search of", who made a name for himself by playing Mr Spock, died at the age of 83. He is just a little bit older then my father who would be 81 now if he was still alive.
My seven year old son Tony is into Star Wars. Having shown him some Star Wars Lego cartoons which he liked, I decided to download the first three Star Wars movies – that is the first three made – and show them to him. He likes Star Wars (a New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back, and has re-watched them both. He hasn't seen the Revenge of the Jedi yet.
Watching the Star Wars movies with Tony, I have to say that they now seem very insipid to me. The technology imagined is thoroughly silly. Who would built four legged lumbering machines that can be easily tripped by cables? I have to agree with this recent article I read in the archives of the New English Review which said that the Star Wars series movies were mediocre, and that the Tarzan movies and the old Flash Gordon serials were better.
I was walking down the street, Zhongshan Road, when I saw an old man riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. On his left and to the front of him was a female pedestrian. He decided to make a left turn just as he was about to overtake the pedestrian. His resulting maneuver startled the woman because he came within inches of touching her. Thinking about it afterward, I had to wonder why he hadn't slowed down and made his turn behind her. For he could have because there was that much space. After then witnessing this, I tried to cross Zhongshan Road at a supposed pedestrian crossing and had to yield to an Audi, with engine gunning, going through the intersection at 80 km/h. Yes. Traffic in China always gives me something to blog about.
On a Tuesday night, Tony vomited in bed. He hadn't been drinking: alcoholic beverages that is. He was sleeping in the master bed and so no one in the Kaulins Family China could go to bed till the sheets were changed. Jenny cleaned the old ones and I had to make an after-midnight run to the outside trash bin to get rid of the nanseous smelling refuse. I then supervised Tony as he took a shower and was impressed when he had the presence of mind to say that he wasn't going to have to go to school the next day.
TAON #7: There is more goodness in the kind act of a imbecile on the margins than in the good intentions of some politician.
PARRHESIA It is a Greek term signifying a willingness to speak openly, boldly, fearlessly, especially in contexts where it might be apprehended that some powerful person could turn nasty. I admire people who have this for I most certainly don't. But at least I can say I am honest. The people who imagine they have this, but really don't, usually are the people who talk of speaking truth to power and proclaim themselves to be in sympathy with Barack Obama. These days, the people who really have Parrhesia are reactionaries.
I visited someone's apartment. Next to the complex, where the apartment was, was a huge pit which was the start of another building construction. "What are they building there?" I asked the host. "A Shopping Mall, twenty floors high." she told me. "What!" I exclaimed, "They are building another shopping mall! They must surely be out of their minds!" My host agreed and shrugged her shoulders.
For a salon class, topic: dreams, I read my class roster list and saw that I have a roster list of nightmare students. In teaching, there will be students who you can't help but hate. You have to hope you can tell them something that may sink in years down the line. You can't expect to change their attitudes quickly. You have to war with them in a war you can't expect to win.
"Goddamn the USA!" I gave credit to Obama's former favorite religious preacher for the quote. Why am I saying this? This evil idea of net neutrality is coming into being. Eventually, the Internet will become more expensive and you will only be able to access sites you would never have visited in the days when the Internet was not regulated. The Internet was too good a thing to last, alas. Surely, the Chicoms are looking at what the American FCC is doing and applauding.
Soso Jughashvili: Stalin's name when he was younger. Soso is what many students will say I ask them how they are doing.
Teacher: How are you? Student: Oh just a Soso. Teacher: Just a Soso Jughashvili?
You better not fret. You better not cry. You better not pout. I am telling you why! Soso Jughashvili is coming to town! He knows when you've been disloyal. He's got agents everywhere. So you better be good or else there will be a late night knocky knock knock.
From my cousin, who I mentioned has nine children, I got an email announcing that Little Evelyn Rose has arrived. So, that's number ten for her.
Good on her for having so many children. But I do have a couple of jokes I want to make. First, my cousin produces children the way Wuxi builds shopping malls. Second, she has almost as many children as Soso Jughashvili had produced bastards.
Contemplating a Wuxi sky dulled with smog I have to ask why any foreigner would want to live in Wuxi. I'd say for the isolation.
I will come out and admit it. If I see people I know as I make my way around Wuxi, my instinct to avoid them.
If I was a betting man, I would say that Hilary Clinton will be the next President of the United States. Too many voters in America are stupid these days (They re-elected Obama is proof of this contention) and the Republicans, the stupid party, will not take advantage of the fact that Hilary is so obviously unaccomplished and devious.
Words I would use to describe Bill Clinton: pervert, pedaphile, rapist, liar, politician.
Words I would use to describe Hilary: liar, cuckoldess, unaccomplished.
Briefly visiting the Toys R Us in the Hui Ju Mall, I got a copy of the 1/15 to 6/15 Chinese Lego catalogue and immediately brought it to Tony. As I expected, he was enthralled with it. He was, in fact, so enthralled that Jenny complained, the next morning, that he wouldn't eat his breakfast because he was so intently studying the catalgue
I am have been binge-reading Stalin, Volume 1 by Stephen Kotkin. A good book though it sometimes talks too much of the history of the time while not focusing so much on what Stalin was doing at the time. The author has pointed out that Stalin's rise to power was as remarkable as Hitler's. Hitler at one point in his life was living in penury, making money as a street painter in Vienna. Stalin, for his part, never possessed a real job for an appreciable length of time. After he left the seminary where he was a student, Stalin was basically a revolutionary and a thug. With no qualifications or any practical experience of everyday life, he became more powerful than the Tsars who had reigned Russia for three hundred years.
That the Bolsheviks ever got so much power was a result of their ruthlessness and a lot of luck. Some of their opponents lost their nerve at crucial moments when they could have easily rid themselves of the Bolsheviks. Thinking of the ruthlessness, I can understand why Pinochet did what he did in toppling the Marxist Allende who had been courting the likes of Fidel Castro. Pinochet pre-empted a civil war that would have resulted in a greater loss of life than the few thousands leftists he did kill.
In this blog, I mentioned my surprise at reading about the Russian exiles belief that the Russian revolution was the result of "Jewish brains, Russian stupidity and Latvian Rifles." With my previously very superficial knowledge of the Russian Revolution, which this Stalin biography is helping to rid me of, I would have understood the role that the first two parts, of the triplet mentioned, had played in that event, and been mystified by the third. But I understand the third reference now. The Latvian Rifles were a military unit, comprised of Latvians, who guarded the Bolshevik leadership during the early part of the Russian Revolution where anarchy truly reigned. Without the protection of these Latvians, the Bolsheviks could easily have been destroyed by the other factions.
I hate teaching Business English. Can anything be as boring as trying to teach and make interesting business management concepts like Maslow's hierarchy of needs or performance management or business lunch? Business English is often English used when trying to bullshit people.
One Thursday, I took the train from school to Ikea where I had hot dogs for supper. The trip took ninety minutes all told.
On a few other occasions, I took the train to the Maoye Burger King.
I have been following the Winnipeg Jets pursuit of a playoff spot in the 2015 NHL playoffs. As I type this, they are one point out of a playoff spot with the team in front of them having a game in hand. It looks very touch and go as to whether they can get that spot.
One morning, I got off the train at the Nanchang Station. As I was about to exit by the automatic turnstiles, I was amused to see a woman in front of me, pulling luggage and also exiting, do a dumb thing. She used her ticket to open the exit turnstile and then proceeded to try to go through the wrong turnstile, the one beside the one she should have gone through. (Probably something I have done myself, I will say now, to make the noting of it in my blog seem not so cruel on my part.) After getting through the turnstiles myself – I had to verve away from her and find an unblocked turnstile – I proceeded to the escalators but not before turning around to see that the woman was still stuck at the turnstile. At the escalators, a man and a girl stopped right in front of the escalators annoying me because I had to come to halt from a nice galloping pace I had built up. After five seconds of hesitating, the pair decided to not take the escalator. Idiots all, I thought to myself.
Wuxi Metro passengers ignore the injunction, of the Metro designers and the Metro PA voice, for them to wait for other passengers to have exited the train, before they board it. I tempted to kick them in the shins as I get off or put my shoulders down like an American Football player and knock them all to the ground or at least send them reeling.
They seem to issue driver's licenses to apes in China. Either that or Chinese humans turn into apes when they drive their cars.
People who drive cars become less civilized. Their actual horizons become smaller even though they can travel faster and greater distances on the Earth's surface. A driver in the City doesn't seen the stars. One, because the glare and the smog caused by the government built infrastructure to support cars obscures the sky. Second, because the driver is focused on himself. Even if his car doesn't have roof, he looks only the road ahead or his GPS.
The previous thoughts are a result of having read, on the same day, anti-car entries by both Peter Hitchens and David Warren. Hitchens makes the point that the infrastructure set up for cars is not something that libertarians should be supporting. Car companies are in cahoots with governments in a crony-capitalist way, says Hitchens, and he contents that car manufacturing would not be profitable save the subsidies given to auto companies by governments. It is an interesting point and I wonder if research done by economists would bear this out. Warren's piece was actually more about trains – which he adores – but he did find opportunity to reiterate his opposition to car. The aspect of automobile infrastructure that he found to be anti-libertarian, and thus crony capitalist, was the government regulating of urban parking spots.
Local: "Is that your lunch?" Me: "No it's so-and-so's lunch. I stole it from him or her!"
Everybody, I have been told, likes the taste of their own urine.
Local: "Did you have lunch?" Me: "No. Lunch had me."
One morning, as I was walking out of my apartment complex, making my way to the shuttle bus stop which would take me to the subway station and to the train that would take me downtown to work, I was sideswiped by an e-bike that had come from behind. I felt the hard metal of the e-bike as it swiped me. The e-bike was ridden by a mother who was taking her son to school. I was not hurt in the least but I was briefly annoyed, standing for an instant in exasperation before continuing on my way and making a mental note to myself to mention it in this blog.
It was not the first time that I had been hit by an e-bike that was cutting it a little too close to me as I was minding my own business.
I did a demo class for a company located in the Taihu New City area of Wuxi where there is another huge shopping mall (called Coastal City) and lots of colossal and tall office buildings that surely can't be more than twenty percent occupied. The company I went to was located on the 18th floor of one of these buildings. There, the corridors were wide enough for two lanes of traffic and the lobby by the elevator was an empty space that was probably bigger than Jenny's apartment.
Some quotes from David Warren's blog: 1)"Real men" are usually unknown, as I have seen in many other situations. They do not make spectacles of themselves. 2) ...real men are not rapists. They are in control of themselves, and they do not do what they must not do. This pertains of course to everything, not just "sex," which is the first thing everyone thinks of in our disgracefully sexualized culture.
In 1926, four doctors did a thorough medical examination of Stalin and they found so many things wrong with him. Soso had diarrhea, dormant TB in his lungs, and a withered arm that was becoming more atrophied. By today's standards, you would say he wasn't a well man. And yet he became so powerful.
My Hui Shan local contact is a businessman who deals internationally. He told me that starting after the spring festival, the Chinese central government decreed that all banks closely monitor all transactions, no matter how small, involving changing rmb to US dollars. He said it was making his business very difficult because of the amount of paperwork it involved. I said these capital controls weren't a good sign. And thinking about it, I recalled I had had another businessman tell me that he was thinking of exchanging his Chinese savings for other currencies.
There is a foreigner in my neighborhood. Jenny first told me she had seen him and then I saw him. I noted his scruffy appearance, and mentioning this to Jenny, she agreed and said the fella looked like a "junkie." I couldn't have described it better.
I went to the Hui Shan Tesco to buy some groceries. I was in the checkout aisle and it was just about my turn to be served when this old woman queued up behind me, getting a little bit too close to me for my liking. Just as I finished putting my groceries on the counter for the clerk to scan, the woman annoyed me by placing her purchases not behind mine, but basically all around my purchases. My ire raised, I thought "the old hag" was trying to have the clerk scan some of her things onto my bill. I didn't bag my things until I was sure the clerk had finished scanning them and hadn't scanned the hag's. Was I being paranoid? Yes. Why? I haven't shed my Canadian habit of being discomfited by people standing close to me in line.
Tony had gotten into the habit saying "s***" when things displease him. One Sunday afternoon, Tony & I were at the Hui Ju Mall. Tony was in a hurry to go home and didn't like it when I told him that I had to take some time to take a pee. "S***," he said when I told him this. "I want to go home."
A student told me she had gotten a one thousand rmb speeding ticket. An expensive fine but comparable to the fines you get in Canada where the rates are surely set for maximum extraction. The student was doing 91 in a 60 kmh zone and was caught by a camera. She told me that a taxi driver told her that cameras in traffic lights generate over a million and a half rmb in fines per month.
The fine rates for speeding in Canada are surely the result of a continual process of upping the fines 25 to 50 dollars a time, many times, over many years.
At the bus stop near Casa Kaulins, I saw an older man sitting on the bench, his feet out of his shoes so that his white socks could be seen by all who passeb by him.
The death of the former leader of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, generated interesting blog entries by Theodore Dalrymple and David Warren. The Singapore leader created a Singapore that was certainly well run and hygenic, the writers admitted, but they both had qualms about the leader's methods and thus ultimately his final results.
David Warren compared Singapore to Hong Kong, and said that the Deng Xiao Ping was inspired by a the Singapore model of development because it showed how the Communists could keep their hold on power without the anarchy of the HK colony which had been benignly neglected by the British.
Interesting, I asked one of my better informed students, Tom, about whether Singapore was an inspiration for Deng, and he more or less agreed. But he discounted Deng being primarily inspired by Singapore's authoritarianism. Tom said Deng was inspired by the fact that the Singapore of Lee Kuan Yew was a Chinese creation while Hong Kong was British.
Tom told me he preferred Singapore to Hong Kong. And so I asked him how it was that Wuxi's level of orderliness and cleanliness was so low. Things happen on Wuxi roads and sidewalks that would not be tolerated in Singapore, I told him. To this, Tom told me of a survey if cities in China that ranked Wuxi at a low level of civilization. A high level of civilization presumably being a place like Singapore. It was Tom's contention that Wuxi scored low on the civilization ranking of Chinese cities because it was filled with people from the countryside. Wuxi local people, he said, knew to stop at red lights. He told me he was baffled by the ignorance of traffic rules in Wuxi and took the time once, near his factory, to see who were ignoring traffic rules and lights. He saw that it was the machine operators from his factory, all of whom were from the countryside. He theorized that these people were often in a hurry to get to another place where they were also working or that they were under so much pressure to make money for their families back home.
What did you do last night? I asked Tony. He told me he did his homework and then watched TV.
Here's what it's like with the computers at school. I cannot install or save anything on the C drive or the desktop because the next day, it will all be gone. Software I like, which is not supplied by the system we are on, has to be installed on a Z drive. I found this all out the hard way after discovering that everything I had installed on my computer the day before was gone.
Forgot to give Tony his lunch one morning and so I had to go to school to give it to him. I was quite the sight for all the kids who saw me. A foreigner walking their halls could just as well be a panda. Tony attends a local school, not an international school because I can't afford it and the snobbishness in those places would make Tony's life hell.
I was reading this article entitled 33 Ways to Boost Your Career When You're Bored at Work. Many of the 33 things mentioned, like learn to code, read a book, learn a language, and write a blog, I had thought to do already. Where is my career boost? Ha!
Is a racist someone who has ill opinions of other races or someone who wants there to be genocide of the races of people he doesn't like? If a real racist is strictly the latter then I would posit that the number of racists in the world is very small. This is very inconvenient for Leftists who need the supply of that kind of racists to be bigger in order to justify their world views and political stances.
Sunday, March 29, the temperature was warm enough that I could take off my jacket. Unfortunately, the sky was dingy on account of smog and everywhere seemed covered in a thin film of dust. Best to stay home and read a book, I thought, but Jenny didn't want Tony to stay indoors because all he was going to do was play with Ipad, and so I had to take him somewhere, out of the apartment and away from the Ipad, like a park. Tony very much didn't want to go outside but he had a good idea. He said he wanted to play Ipad on the subway. I was amenable to this idea because I thought of a scheme of my own to pull on him. So, Tony & I went by e-bike to the Yanqiao Metro Station. I let Tony play with the Ipad on the train, but after just four stops we got off at a station that had a nearby park. The park was, considering the niceness of the day, very underutilized. It had a look of being built with a build-and-they-will-come hope that had yet to pan out. It boosted of a shopping area with all empty store fronts and fixtures that were still in good condition because of limited use. I enjoyed myself there but Tony was wanting to return to the station and get back on the train and play Ipad. I delayed doing this by telling Tony that as soon as we got to another sight in the park we would turn around. And then Tony had another bright idea. He suggested that we walk on to the next subway station (Tianyi) instead of turning around and returning to the station where we had disembarked (Xizhang). The Tianyi and Xizhang stations seemed close together and I suppose it was but a ten minute walk between them. So to Tianyi we went. There, we got on the train. Tony then played Ipad and we returned to Yanqiao. I had managed to satisfy both Tony and Jenny, thanks to some thinking on my and even Tony's part.
On the train with Tony, I had this shy young man approach me to talk. He told me he was attending #6 High School and that he lived in Jiazhouyangfang (my apartment complex). He said he wanted to talk me so he could practice his English. When I told him I was impressed with his efforts, he thanked me and said I had given him confidence to continue to learn to speak English. I was touched by what he said, especially because the day before I had to spend two hours with a pair of students who I very much would have liked to have pummeled and who, to even think of afterwards, filled me with rage. (As it was, I had to spend the classes thinking of ways to insult them) It was so wonderful to know that there were some students who very much want to learn English. They do help me deal with the fact that I have to be stuck with spoiled brats (how is this possible in a country that is Marxist? Hmmm?).
On the way back to Casa Kaulins from the Yanqiao Metro Station, Tony & I passed through the Hui Shan Central Park. Tony was disappointed to see that the slides and climbing fixtures had been taken away. I thought the fifty foot tall climbing fixture was remarkable because it certainly could not have been erected in the safety-facist West.
With no fixtures, I was able to get Tony to walk up a hill and look at the scenery. While there, I thought it remarkable to see this woman wearing a short dress, black pantyhose and high heel platform dress shoes picking flowers from a bush. She had put the flowers in her hair, and her daughter's as well.
I rode the 25 bus on the second last day of March. It was wonderful to see poor people. The rich people in Wuxi are boring in the way that people with newly acquired wealth always are. The better off in Wuxi look like Westerners and are not in the least exotic. The poorer ones on the other hand seem closer to being what I imagine authentic Chinese to look like.
On the second last evening of March I booked my flight tickets for my trip in Canada. (Jenny had booked the tickets to Canada last month). We will spend about three nights in Vancouver: enough time for me to get my driver's license renewed and for us to get Tony's Visa so he can get back to China.
The high temperature on the last day of March in Wuxi? 27 degrees Celsius. Too hot already!