Gratitude I have so many things to be thankful for that I don't know what specifically I should be thankful for this week. I suppose I should be thankful for those times when I see I am wise and more so for those pangs of insight during whereI realize I am flawed beyond belief.
Acknowledgment Thanks to those "pangs of insight" I realize I have so many things I have to acknowledge that I don't know where to begin. I suppose, and I got this supposition from a Don Colacho Aphorism, that I hate individuals too much and should direct my righteous indignation solely towards the age and man. These people can't help themselves, I tell myself, just like I can't help myself either. And if we have no free will, what can be done?
Request If there is someone receiving this message in a bloggle, please make comments whether favorable or critical, or don't hold back the criticism.
A Quick Summary of the Week It was all about getting through the workdays before the week-long Spring Festival holiday. I was humming See See Ryder as I walked about the town. Life with an Ipad and Ipod quickly descended into my using the former for reading books and the latter for listening to music. Don Colacho was a joy and a slap in the face for me. So really, nothing much happened.
What AKIC Is Reading this Week
Don Colacho's Aphorisms
Ulysses by James Joyce I am following along with Frank Delaney as he slowly goes through the novel. Delaney figures he will do his last ReJoyce Podcast in 22 years. It has been serving as a counterweight to the Catholic works I have been reading.
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis. I got to always be reading something religious.
Love Among the Chickens by P.G. Wodehouse. Finished. Wodehouse employs some wonderful phrasings.
My Discovery of England by Stephen Leacock. Leacock is hilarious! I had to get around the fact that he was Canadian in order to read him.
Don Colacho Aphorisms that AKIC Likes This Week
760: With good humour and pessimism it is not possible to be either wrong or bored.
764: In societies where everybody believes they are equal, the inevitable superiority of a few makes the rest feel like failures. Inversely, in societies where inequality is the norm, each person settles into his own distinct place, without feeling the urge, nor even conceiving the possibility, of comparing himself to others. Only a hierarchical structure is compassionate towards the mediocre and the meek. (Happiness, I always say, can only come from between one's ears.)
784: The tragedy of the left? To diagnose the disease correctly, but to aggravate it with its therapy.
790: Nothing endures for certain and only instances count, but the instant reserves its splendor for someone who imagines it to be eternal. The only thing that has value is the ephemeral which appears immortal.
831: … The reactionary disdains man, without meeting an individual he scorns. (That is so hard to do.)
841: With someone who is ignorant of certain books no discussion is possible. (And I wonder what that certain book is...)
856: Dialogue perverts its participants. Either they are obstinate out of a desire to fight, or they give in out of laziness.
Other quotes AKIC thought worthwhile to cut & paste
Kathy Shaidle: Less cute is the notion that someone, anyone, with some unbroken-chain-of-custody connection to Pierre Elliot Trudeau's penis is somehow automatically qualified to run the man's party and perhaps even the nation. PET's mistress as well as his son are running for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada – this is the party that trades on sneering at American political affairs.
Ukridge (a PG Wodehouse Character): Why, go in like a mighty, rushing wind! Bustle 'em! Don't give 'em a moment's rest or time to think or anything.
Stephen Leacock (My Discovery of England). In this passage, Leacock is trying to get a rise from an English customs official: Leacock: "Let me tell you, then," I said, "that I am an anarchistic polygamist, that I am opposed to all forms of government, that I object to any kind of revealed religion, that I regard the state and property and marriage as the mere tyranny of the bourgeoisie, and that I want to see class hatred carried to the point where it forces every one into brotherly love. Now, do I get in?" The official looked puzzled for a minute. "You are not Irish, are you, sir?" he said. Leacock: "No." Official: "Then I think you can come in all right." (This made me laugh out loud the first time I read it.)
Gavin McInnes: When people talk about "Two Americas," they usually assume New York City is part of the "elitist jerkoff" half and write us (New Yorkers) off. But there are two distinct New Yorks—an exaggerated version of the Two Americas—and nothing summarizes this polarization like the differences between the New York Post and The New York Times. The Post distributes about a half a million copies daily, virtually all of them read by New Yorkers. The Times has three times that circulation, and its readers are virtually all assholes. Not all but virtually all... He he he.
Monday (the 28th)
I don't work today.
The laptop mouse seem to be working better this morning than it did the night before. (See the end of last week's blog entry).
My father died eight months ago today.
1982: The BMT recruits picked on one guy. Turned out the ringleader was a son of a Colonel. In walked the MP – military police. "What is going on here?" "Nothing!" said everyone. The guy's crime in the eyes of the other recruits? He wasn't a bad person. He was simply severely Gomer Pylish.
What should have been a five minute trip to the bank turned into a two hour ordeal. I entered the wrong PIN code three times when attempting to use the ATM – Jenny had told me the wrong number, and the key pad was hidden from view so that I thought that surely I had entered the wrong numbers – not that I had been given a wrong code. The fourth attempt at withdrawing money at the ATM, which gave me the three strikes message, resulted in my deciding to go to a nearby human teller. I took a number and waited thirty minutes only to be told that I should have brought my passport. I didn't, so I returned home to get it. Back at the bank, I took another number, and waited forty-five minutes, the flame of impatience slowly swelling, before I was served and finally got the money which I gave all to the wife anyway.
As I was walking to the bank, the first time, I fast-paced it through the local People's Square. Closing my eyes, I would have thought it a pleasant place – it was relatively quiet and the sunshine was warm. But then I took a purposeful look around and noticed the air was a dun colour – the place was full of dust and the sky obscured.
Although Tony isn't attending classes at the kindergarten these days because of a stupid government edict that canceled the pick-up van service, Jenny had to go to it to get Tony's book and assigned homework. She learned that one of Tony's classmates had died of unknown causes. The child, who was a little overweight, had not been feeling very well. After being sick for two days, he was taken to the hospital (the one near Casa K which has a bad reputation.), examined by the doctor who said he was okay, and so taken home where he died overnight. Jenny knew the boy and I had probably seen him a lot too. I wouldn't want to be in that family's shoes at this moment. Hearing stories of children dying cuts me to the quick – tears roll down my eyes. Losing one's child is the worst thing that can happen to any parent. And so close to the Spring Festival! Like Christmas trees with presents that will never be opened by recently deceased children, there will be a lot of red envelopes not given in that child's family.
Makes me realize, as if I didn't already know, that time spent with Tony is precious.
Jenny also learned that the foreign teacher at Tony kindergarten was told not to go to work. The Wuxi government is cracking down on un-documented English teachers – that is, teachers working who don't have a Foreign Expert's Certificate issued from their school of employment. This means, part-timers and teachers here on tourist visas.
Tony is becoming something of a photographer. Here is a sample of his work.
Tuesday (the 29th)
I work 1300 to 2100 today.
Before work, I decided to adopt a routine where I go to the Parkson's Subway to pick up a foot-long sandwich to be my lunch & supper for the day.
I have a class right away at 1300. The student is Elaine who I have repeatedly told about the final scene of the Graduate.
A dog returns to its vomit! This is unrelated to anything mentioned here.
Two children died, I remember, during my elementary school days. One girl was in my class – it might have been grade two or three. I don't know how she died. I believed the first story I heard. Now, I know it was complete nonsense. Someone said her blood all went hard. One boy – he was a grade or so higher than me, but he rode the same bus I did to school. One weekend, he was walking along the highway after having celebrated his birthday. "Happy birthday to me," they said, he was singing when the vehicle hit him. My last memory of him was on the Friday – I was sick. I remembered him asking, about me, what is wrong with that guy? Both these deaths occurred when I was living in Quebec from 1971 to 1976.
Last night, I listened to episode #130 of the ReJoyce Podcast. I believe host Frank Delaney is working on or has just completed episode #138.
Wednesday (the 30th)
I work 1300-2100.
It is warm but smoggy. I am not wearing long johns. On my head, I am not wearing a knit cap but a baseball cap with an old Winnipeg Jets logo. Walking in front of Ba Bai Ban, I looked toward our school building, which was than a block away, and saw that it was obscured by smog or dust.
On the bus ride home, I listened to episodes #131 & #132 of the ReJoyce Podcast.
Also while on the #635 bus, which so crowded that it was a rum close thing that I was able to get a seat, I heard a loud thud and looked up, from my Ipad mini, to see a man rush out from the front door of the bus, and grab hold of the first available tree so he could vomit. I saw a brown jet burst from his mouth, and I shuddered to think what would have happened if he had vomited while on the bus which, as I said, was very crowded.
I saw a toad in the central park of Wuxi – near the Chongan Market area. The toad was trying to cross a busy pathway. It lived in one of the park's many ponds. Hopefully, nobody stepped on the little fella.
Could Justin Trudeau become Prime Minister of Canada? You would think it was a silly prospect – people wouldn't be that stupid. Well. In the USA, Barack Obama got re-elected and a woman, who was the wife of a philandering President, was the American Secretary of State and would have been President if it wasn't for Obama. So, anything is possible. I would be more surprised, and pleasantly surprised at that, if it didn't happen. But, one must be full of pessimism and have a sense of humour when following politics.
Best sentence made by a student last week: "It would be boring to live with sheep!" I had asked the student why she didn't wish to be a shepherd.
I watched the first half of Elvis's 1973 Hawaii T.V. Special. AKIC's verdict? 猫王 rocks! I have found an MP3 of special's opening song and put it on my Ipod Touch. I have mumbling "I see See See Rider!" to myself all week.
Today's English Corner Topic: Dancing.
During the speaker's corner, I asked the students if they were looking forward to the Spring Festival holiday. Most said they were, but I had the doctor in the group give me a strange answer. She said she wasn't looking forward to the holiday because there would lots of good food to eat, nice clothing to wear, and people to talk to. I thought she had misspoken so I asked her to repeat what she said. She repeated what she had said word-for-word and so I said that she had given reasons which would have indicated she was actually looking forward to the holiday. She replied that for her, everyday was like a Spring Festival holiday . I got her point then- subtle and hard to express in a second language. I then told her that she was a doctor and not a lawyer – lawyers, I said, don't like to see all people having a good time – it is bad for their business.
I am in a good mood today. I am full of Wodehousian pomp & vinegar, and can dance, jauntily like a pin on a cloud up in the blue sky. As a result, I have to tell myself to suppress the springiness of my gait lest others interpret it as my having won the lottery.
I have heard, through the grapevine, that the Blue Bar, an expat pub, has been sold to a Chinese person. However, the former owner of the Blue Bar, an Australian, still runs the Red Lion. I guess it is the end of an era. Funny, how the big pubs when I got here: Ronnie's and the Blue seem to have bit the dust.
What's the difference between a whale and a Whalen? A whale is full of blubber; Whalen (Cheryl I think it was) is full of blabber. I made this joke up in grade six. I got hell from the teacher for it. I was betrayed by the person I told the joke to....
Thursday (the 31st)
I work 1000-2100 today. My long day of sitting 'round the school.
On the bus, I espy a old man wearing a beret and a silk scarf around his neck. Is he an artist? I wonder. How does he stand on issues politically?
I had a male student, high-school age, come to class late. There was something unsettling about him – he answered one of my questions with a weird smile that might as well have been a leer -- and I was immediately wishing he hadn't come to class at all. I later asked him what was wrong and he told me his grandmother had died a few days ago. I immediately asked him why he bothered coming to class and told him that he should be in mourning. I then wondered if he was telling me the truth because of his strange smiling – but people do act strangely, and often not as one would expect, when in mourning.
It is raining today.
I found a pdf copy of the Elementary Chinese Textbook that I always study on the bus. Sometime today, probably tonight, I will download the file onto my Ipad. I am hoping that I will no longer need to cart the two textbooks with me.
An advanced student, with really advanced English no less, told me that he wanted to talk to President Obama. He would ask Obama, he said, why the USA was surrounding China. The thought that Obama was being aggressive towards China seemed odd to me. I asked the student if Obama was being more aggressive towards China than George W. Bush had been, and the student responded in the affirmative. I told the student that I found what he said to be hard to believe and that if anything, Obama was carrying on the policy of containing China implemented by previous presidents. I was forced to defend Obama! Imagine that! I didn't tell him that the Chinese government had some secret reason to be currently play up this containment like they had been making hay about the Fishing Islands. "America is out to get us!" and "those evil Japanese!" are refrains for the Chicom government to get its citizens to ignore domestic troubles.
A one-student conversation class about global warming. Boring!!!
Do you need a guarantor to renew your Canadian passport? Checking out the Shanghai consulate site, I found a simplified passport renewal form which doesn't mention needing a guarantor. Seems too good to be true so I sent the consulate an email to confirm this. As I type this at 355 PM, I haven't heard back from them.
I finished two books today. I will finish one more of the four I am currently reading before I choose another two books to devour.
And speaking of devouring, I had the beef rice (牛肉饭）。
Friday (the 1st)
I work 1100-2100, though I arrive at school at 930 for no discernible reason other then I can work at the computer undisturbed.
It is raining for the second day in a row.
Jenny tells me that yesterday, Tony was taken to the cinema to see a cartoon movie and behaved quite well.
A student told me about the gay app that can be put on one's phone. Her gay friend, she told me, when going to Beijing can use the app to locate other gays for hook-ups.
Another student more or less told me that the Chinese are sneaky. She had said something along the line of that if there was a hole in a rule, the Chinese would run through it.
On the bus this morning, yet another old man tried to yield an empty seat to me, and I yet again declined. This being yielded an seat by an old man phenomenon which I have experienced on numerous occasions has lead me to wonder if I am getting old or the old locals like to show deference to foreigners or old foreigners.
Supper: McDonald's. I shouldn't have bought the ice cream.
Sunday (the 2nd)
What happened on Saturday (the 1st)? I made entries as I normally did but it seems, to me, that Evernote, the program I use to transfer files between home & office, let me down. The typing I did on Saturday is on my school computer, and I damn sure that I synced the latest copy of the January 28 to February 3 file to my Evernote account. But it ain't here – I am at home now.
I didn't type much yesterday anyway, but it is still annoying to not be able to publish it. I didn't want to deceive anyone who has made this far into this entry so I will try to recall what I did type yesterday: I worked 1000 to 1800, but I did my classes quickly and was able to leave at 1700. The only memorable incidents were supplied to me by one student. A pretty girl actually, she told me about a time she decided to go for a wander in a strange area and got lost in the dark. She thought she had been rescued by a man on a motorcycle. As the student was at this point in her story, I was thinking that the man must have felt he was so lucky to meet such a pretty girl in the dark. The man turned out to be drunk, having drunk too much wine, and grabbed her leg. She had to flee. Later, I happened to run into the girl outside the school restrooms. Making conversation, I asked the girl what she was up to. She was told me she was going shopping. What were you shopping for? I stupidly asked. She thought about it for a second and said underwear. Embarrassed, I said that was interesting, and I had to flee. After school, we had hot pot with Jenny's friend Ling Ling and LL's husband, LL's son, LL's younger brother (didi), and LL's didi's wife. We took the #81 bus to the restaurant located near a bridge and up the street from the Wuxi Flower Market. The restaurant was incredibly long and crowded. To get to our table we had to follow a serpentine path where it would have been easy to get lost along the way. These men walked through the table spinning dough in a very elaborate fashion – I took video. After hot pot, we took the #635 bus home. At Casa K, I played with my laptop and apple products. With the help of my wife, I was able to create an Apple ID of my own – if you want to Facebook me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to the 11th greatest Englishman of all-time, Paul Rudkin, I was able to download a properly oriented pdf copy of the Elementary Chinese Reader textbook that I have lugging around in my backpack for the last two years. The K family didn't get to bed till 300 AM.
Today: I don't work. I will try to edit this entry by this evening so I will be able to watch the Super Bowl undisturbed. I hope the 49ers beat the Ravens. The Ray Lewis is really a piece of work, and the hagiography surrounding him because his 17 year career is coming to an end is disturbing to me on so many levels.
They have put up lanterns on the lamp posts on the street that runs by Casa K for Chinese New Year.
I watch the entire Elvis 73 special.
Breakfast: French Toast, Bacon, and Beans.
In the afternoon, I walk to the Hui Shan Tesco. I see a big CNY sign on a corner near Casa K – I take a photo.