Monday, July 24, 2017

Thirty Seconds of a Pedicab Ride

Friday, July 7, 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

June 2017 Notes

June 1st was Children's Day. A holiday I hadn't heard of till I came to China.


Reasons to hate Children's Day:

  • Children are not angels.

  • Children should not be made the subjects of some sentimental cult.

  • Children's day was started by the UN.

  • The Mainland Chinese, who celebrate the day really don't like children. They have the one-child policy, they make their children do too much homework and they don't believe in giving them freedom to be children. On the last point, I would even venture to say that the fact that there is such a thing as children's day in China is due the fact that really they are deep down ashamed of how they treat their children.

  • A healthy civilization that is under no illusions about who and what children are would never feel the need to have a special day for Children.

  • All the idiot adults in the world were once children.

  • Chinese drive like children.

  • Capitalism and Socialism and Communism have made Chinese culture infantile. This should not be celebrated.

  • To be fair, it is best to say that the Chinese attitude to Children is schizophrenic. When it comes to children, the Chinese will spoil them, get sentimental about them, and even dote on stranger's children; and the same time they torture children by schooling them instead of trying to educate them, and they suffocate them with too much supervision, not allowing them any freedom whatsoever.


* * * * *


I wrote a screed titled "Screw Children's Day!" on Wechat that generated, for me who is always unsuccessfully trying to make a splash on the Internet, a splash.


It is not a comfortable feeling to have done this, because the mere fact that there has been a reaction has preoccupied my thoughts, in an uncomfortable way all the day long. You have to admire people who can do controversy while all the while being happy warriors. People like Andrew Breitbart and Anne Coulter.


I have realized that it feels best to be obscure on the sideline and not subject to scrutiny.


* * * * *


I should have written Children's Day, Schmildren's Day.


Or: 六一快乐!不!六一坏了!


* * * * *


My wife Jenny tells me that while she was at the vegetable market near Casa Kaulins, a young girl came up to her and was asking how to cook shellfish.


Jenny later saw that her handbag had been broken into, but thankfully nothing had been stolen.


* * * * *


According to one of the Americans in our office, the temperatures were getting into the nineties in early June.


Ah. Fahrenheit! In the good old days, they used Fahrenheit in Canada. I remember this changed while I was in primary school and at the time I hated it because I liked this talk of temperatures going into the nineties and hundreds.


* * * * *

Car parked besides us in the parking garage had a flat tire, passenger front side. I noticed this when I was taking Tony to school. When I came back, I saw that the car had made grooves in the pavement.


Many of the locals don't know how to change tires. What they will do, in the event of, is drive the car to the repair shop.


* * * * *


Driving a car here and witnessing my son Tony's primary school experience has really soured me on China.


* * * * *


I read someone, who I consider to be extremely wise, say that civilization consists not of big ideas but of manners. Mainland China is currently the aftermath of the end of a civilization if that is so. Mainland Chinese are noted the world over for their lack of manners.


* * * * *


Can you jump over five pencils? Twenty grade three students in a class very much wanted to show me that they could.


* * * * *


I can't help but think that there are many people in Wuxi who feel that they shouldn't be subject to parking tickets because they are who they are.


Why do I get this feeling? Around where I work, I witness these cars continually parking on the sidewalk in front of a convenience store being tickets without the illegal parking ever actually abating for even an hour.


* * * * *


As I type this, there is less than two weeks – or sixteen actual classes – left at the Big Bridge Primary School where I supposedly teach English. I am elated at the end of what has become, if not torture, but a pointless activity where I am running out the clock by trying to get young Mainland Chinese to talk to me. The children in the classes behave so abominably that I have to be willfully blind to them, gaining solace only from the fact that I am strait-jacketed from actually being able to do anything about it.


I am hoping I can get through these classes without losing my temper or physically hurting a child.


On a Wednesday, the third and final class of the day is definitely the worst. This class truly gives me nightmares and keeps me awake at night on Tuesday night as the prospect of teaching them looms. I don't think there is even one student in that class who responds to anything I try to do to teach them English. I have had at a few classes, stood in the front of the class, said nothing, and waited for the clock to tell me it was time to leave.


* * * * *


Listening to a podcast, of the conservative libertarian bent, I heard the story of a man whose dream was to be a teacher. What he did was go directly into teaching after finishing university. It turned out that he had never seen what kids were actually like and so his fantasies of them being enamored with his knowledge and wisdom quickly turned into a resignation to stick it out for twenty years as teacher so he could get some benefit, maybe a pension. Two days after he made it, he died of a heart attack. The kids killed him in the end.


Teaching can be a life of misery.


* * * * *


My drinking has increased. One day, on my last weekend, I had three beers. And on weeknights, I have sometimes gone to the fridge to drink a cold one.


I have to stop doing this.


* * * * *


But on the brighter sides of things, I read things that are reactionary in bent. So there are many things for which I have no illusions. And I am honest enough to think I suffer from delusions.


* * * * *


Are environmentalists trying to save humanity or the planet?


The planet will survive nicely without humans and environmentalists. The planet will survive global warming and human extinction. All the bad effects of the environmentalists prophecies would only destroy humans and other life forms, but the planet will pull through.


So why do they talk of saving the planet? They really haven't thought out their positions.


* * * * *


The Primary School class that I could not get any response from responded to doing physical activities in class like running, jogging and doing the "wave."


* * * * *


In China, people seem to think that slower moving things should yield to faster moving things.


* * * * *


The VIP student Tom, who has a great mastery of English and whom with I can have interesting discussions about matters geo-political told me that he didn't understand the talk about Trump and Putin colluding. He didn't see any "there" there.


* * * * *


A strength of Western Culture is that it is capable of self-criticism. It is hard to imagine anyone saying Western Culture is perfect without reservations.


Chinese culture doesn't seem to be capable of this. I was doing a class on culture and asked the students to tell me things that they didn't like about their culture. None of them said anything and when I raised the issue of how the manners were not what they should be in modern China, I had a student tell me that Chinese culture was so great because everyone was so polite. When I asked about an incident where a woman laying on the pavement after being hit by a taxi was ignored by passersby resulting in her being run over a second time and killed, they said that it probably happened in other countries as well and that this was a rare incident anyway.


* * * * *


I had VIP Tom for two hours on the second Saturday morning of June. He had a lot of interesting things to tell me. Some of which I pass on to you below


  • If you visit my photo blog, you may recall I published two photos of book racks that were on display at the Nanchang Metro Station. I can tell you that these books are obviously copies of books published in the Cultural Revolution time. I know because I have bought a few copies of these books at a store in Nanchang temple that sells Cultural Revolution memorabilia The books are picture books. Each page has a picture and about three sentences of writing. I bought them because them seem a perfect vehicle for me to learn to read some simplified Chinese characters. I asked Tom if he had seen the book racks at the Metro station and he told me he did. He then told me how these were the only books he could read when he was growing up. He would read these books at a street vendor's table. Not being able to afford the book, he would pay the man running the stall a small amount for the privilege of being able to read it. He would read the book then and there, and hand it back to the vendor. He recalled this experience with fond reminiscence, like people in the West would talk about television series they had watched while growing up in the seventies.

  • In Japan, if a worker gets caught committing a traffic violation, he will be reported to his company boss and could lose his job. Tom who has spent time in Japan told me this. It jibes with a story I heard of a foreigner in Japan who was beat up by an old Japanese lady when he decided to ignore a don't walk signal at an intersection where there was no traffic to be seen. He was chided by the lady for violating the social order.

  • Tom also told me that he had been driving in Japan but gave up because he was used to driving on the left side of the road.

  • Tom told me about reading Chinese classics in ancient Chinese and modern Chinese. Showing me a classic text he was reading on his phone which had classic and modern Chinese side-by-side, I saw that the ancient text, rendered in simplified Chinese script, used fewer characters than the modern text. He told me he had to read the ancient text twice before he could get the gist of what was being said. It seems that the ancient text used words whose meanings had changed or evolved over time so that more modern characters were needed to render its meaning to modern readers. It seemed similar to how many modern readers deal with Shakespeare who used words that have changed in meaning or have fallen out of usage.

  • I asked Tom why it was that while the Chinese spoken language has broken up into many dialects, the Chinese written language had not. He attributed it to two factors: an emperor who made the supreme effort to make the written language universal and the civil service examinations which were administered using only one written language


* * * * *


Tony likes browsing through some of the cultural revolutionary books I have bought and talked about with Tom.


* * * * *


The Primary School classes ended very unceremoniously and very unsentimentally as well. The last week, I did the classes like they were the the fifth of a series of ten, and I didn't mention anything about them being the last. I wish I could have been nice to some of the better students, but because they were part of the mob that overall was crappy, I didn't bother.


* * * * *


Not being able to control the primary school student class made the whole exercise a futile educational endeavor. Because, I couldn't get the mob to listen to me, I would go around the class and talk to individual students. Some weren't paying attention to me anyway but if the whim struck me, I made them try to read the text of the story being covered in the lesson. When I found a student who wanted to interact, students in the next seats would be engaged in activities that a stern teacher would not tolerate like throwing paper balls and paper planes at classmates.


To put up it with the final weeks, I had to adopt an attitude of not giving a tinker's tuss and just running out the clock.


* * * * *


How can ice hockey be so popular? It is boring. The end of the recent Stanley Cup Finals was a snoozer. And the goals that were often scored were often the result of the luck. The skilled goals had be to seen on replay to be appreciated. As well the goals happen so quickly there is no buildup to them. They happen. And the fans react in a surprised fashion without the benefit of being able to anticipate it happening.


* * * * *


Pat from Thailand.


In a salon class I do about flags and nationalities, I have a list prepared of different people and the different countries in which they live. I go through the list and ask the students to tell me what the person's nationality is. Example: I say Susan is from Japan; I expect them to say Susan is Japanese.


On the list I mention that a Pat from Thailand. It is a little joke I put that alludes to the phenomenon of lady boys.


Now in school there have been a few times where I am not sure of the sex of one of the students. In one class, I don't know how many years ago, I mistakenly assumed that a student was a boy till halfway through the class, she told me she wasn't a boy but a girl.


We have such a student attending school now of whose sex I am not certain. The student happened to be in the class when I going through the list of people and their countries. I was going round the room, looking at the list when I came to Pat from Thailand. I looked up and guess whose turn it was? The very person of whose sex I was not certain. I was momentarily startled and chose to go to the next item in the list.


* * * * *


General Marshall visited Wuxi.


The Japanese occupied Wuxi for about seven years. They were able to control the city by virtue of the wall and moat that surrounded the center of the city. Look at a map of Wuxi: the center of city is surrounded by Jiefang lu. That is the wall's approximate location.


The Communists came in and took over the big houses in the area of Zhongshan Road and the Wuxi government used to be located.


* * * * *


An article I read on the Internet talked of Wuxi entering the Plum rain period where it rains and rains and rains and is very muggy.


I was fortunate to have avoided a really bad Plum Rain period a few years ago as it happened while I was in Canada.


Anyway, I don't like summer in Wuxi. Too humid.


* * * * *


I shouldn't complain about my life here in China. I have lots of spare time. I can read books, watch all sorts of tv shows and I can listen to lots of podcasts.


I listen to podcasts about history, politics (US mostly), pop culture, learning Chinese, lifestyle and religion. I regularly listen to the Andrew Klavan podcast; the Ben Shapiro podcasts; the John Derbyshire podcast, podcasts from Ricochet, National Review, and the Weekly standard; a podcast about the history of the English language podcast; the Gilbert Gottfried podcast; the Clearey podcast, a podcast about the TV series Fargo and podcasts from EWTN, the Catholic TV network.


I just listened to a podcast of an old Mother Angelica talk. She said something that helped clear my thinking about why I object to how the Chinese raise their children. Mother talked about the man who was a doctor but wasn't a very good doctor. He was a doctor because his parents decreed that someone in the family should be a doctor. It is what can go wrong if parents, because of pride, impose their desires on their children instead of waiting to see what gifts the child had been given from God.


So more than ever, I can see what is wrong with that Chinese mother I know who forces her four year old child to spend an hour practicing violin every night. This mother is imposing her pride on her child She wants her child to be well rounded in a way that she is not.


The problem with the Chinese manner of raising children is that it is full of parental pride. This Chinese parent pride does not want to accept the fact that children are what they are, and cannot be engineered into something they are not. The best we can do for our children is help them to be good souls.


* * * * *


I started watching the film Katyn about the Soviet massacre of Polish officers in WW2. Tony watched a scene with me and was startled to see Soviets and Germans meeting and saluting in one scene. He had assumed that they had always been enemies. I tried to tell Tony the history of the thing.


* * * * *


Riding by Taxi to the company class I was teaching, I was able to see a fast train ride past as the taxi took me on a road that was close to the high speed rail track. On at least three instances, like clockwork, the train came by at a certain spot and the sight was quite spectacular because the train was right beside the taxi. It would have made for a great photo to publish in my photo blog.


I had done ten of the twelve company classes we were scheduled to do, and so for my final two taxi rides to the company, I had the camera ready on my Iphone to take a photo of that high speed train at that particular spot. It would seem that this was a silly thing to do because it had been sheer luck that I was able to see the train three times so close at that particular location. And in fact, I wasn't able to take that much-desired photo because there was no train passing as the taxi passed that particular location to take me to the last two company classes. What happened was that the train passed the location but the taxi was, on both occasions, five to ten seconds away. I saw the train but frustratingly from a distance and could only lament about the timing.


* * * * *


In the last week of Tony's Grade 3 School year, Jenny & Tony & I all were in our car for the morning drive out to drop off him at the school. We would always make a left turn at a controlled intersection that is by a gas station. The gas station being on our left, on the corner at which we would turn.


As we were approaching the left turn lane, a few vehicles turned left to enter the gas station lot. I assumed that they were going in to fill up with petrol, but Jenny told me they were taking a shortcut through the gas station to avoid having to wait at the lights to go left as we were about to go.


I never would have thought that they would have done this because the road onto which we were turning left was fenced in the center. While there was a gap in the fencing, to get to it from the gas station meant going the wrong way for about 100 meters or so – something I would say was just not cricket and rather very risky. But these drivers have figured that the stretch of road on which they would go the wrong way was not so busy and so they could safely cut through the gas station lot and gain a time savings and avoid having to wait at the lights.


It reminds me of the time I saw a car drive on a sidewalk near a corner, make a right turn, and then got off the sidewalk to avoid having to be slowed down by a red right turn signal.


The extent to which the locals will game the system must either be a sign of their having high IQ's or an audacious selfishness.


* * * * *


Near the Xi Bei Canal Metro Station is a massive apartment complex where there are at least twenty tall apartment buildings. They were all built in the time I have lived in Wuxi. I had a chance one day to enter one of the buildings which was thirty three floors tall. Jenny was wondering if Tony would be doing an art class with a teacher who did her classes in her 25th floor apartment.


The grounds of the complex were ugly. They were overflowing with parked cars. I passed a lineup of unhappy people lined up and holding buckets, waiting to get water. Apparently the water had been shut off in their building. The grass on the grounds wee dusty and the paths were covered with tiles that were already chipped and sagging and wobbling.


The building we entered made me think the word "Grenfell." The lobby of the concrete monstrosity was dark, dank, run down, and crowded with parked e-bikes. It was further depressing to see that the 33 floor building was only served by two tiny elevators. The apartment we went to didn't even have a nice view. Around the apartment grounds, there were pools of water covered in snot green algae.


The location was enough to make me hope that Tony would not find the art class interesting.