On Our Way

Tomorrow morning we have to get up  at an  absolutely insane hour to get to the airport, where we will board a KLM flight to Amsterdam, where we will  change planes and continue to New York.

There should be no problems.  Passports are in order, we have everything packed, the taxi has been ordered, we have enough cash, all the phone numbers and directions we will need, Fifi has been at the cottage for a week where she will stay for the summer, and all of my classes have been canceled, most for the duration of the summer.

Nonetheless, I am nervous.  Some of it, I’m sure, is just pre-travel jitters, a macro version of the OCD checklist I go through every morning when I leave the house, looking into my bag and patting all my pockets many more times than the once that is all that is really necessary, and which is all a successful executive would usually go through.

Another part, however, is just that I’ve been away from America so long and it has, apparently, changed so much.  I’m sure, on one level, I’ll find little changed.  People are still people, not all of them will have gone completely nuts, and those who have, well, it’s probably more an exposure of the attitudes that were already there.

The pendulum will swing back.  How long that will take, I do not know.

 

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The Class War Has Begun

Of course it’s a bit disingenuous, silly even, to say the Class War has begun, since it probably began about 65,000 years ago, around the time human beings started living in settlements and one family had a better animal skin tent than the next, and it probably goes  back even before that, with the alpha male of each simian pack and his cronies being the upper class, and  everybody  else fighting for the  scraps.  But recent events, and I’m talking mostly about the Grenfell Tower disaster, have brought it into sharp  relief.

It’s not just that Conservatives (in class warfare terms, the rich) are somewhat responsible for the fire, with their hatred of  building codes and safety regulations, and their overall contempt for the value of poor people’s lives, it’s how they are behaving in the aftermath.  No sign of remorse or taking of responsibility  by  Theresa May, or Boris Johnson, or any  of them.

When Jeremy Corbyn suggested, quite reasonably I  think, that empty luxury homes could be used as temporary housing for the victims so  they don’t have to sleep on the streets, which would be pretty cruel considering they’ve just lost everything in a fire, and many of them may have even lost friends or family members, the Daily Mail went after him with a vengeance, saying ‘Corbyn Wants to Confiscate Rich People’s Homes.’  I suppose that technically could be considered factual, but it’s not homes they are living in, which means they are just houses and not homes, and it would be temporary, and if rich people who own property in the neighborhood are not going to do it out of the goodness of their hearts, then what the heck.

You can’t expect the government to house  the victims in the empty spare houses of poor people, because poor people don’t have empty spare houses.

Anyway, my point is, Class Warfare is  out  in the open now.  It’s clear the rich have no sympathy for the poor whatsoever, not even  when the poor have just survived a deadly fire.

 

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Investigate

When there is an airplane crash, there is an investigation.   The investigations are fairly thorough and, in some cases, scientifically impressive.  (I remember the Lockerbie disaster, how they were able to identify which piece of luggage the bomb had been in – after all that destruction)  They’ve even got a TV program about it, “Air Crash Investigations.”  It’s interesting.  It’s also worth noting that these investigations, once they’ve identified the cause of the crash, often lead to actual changes in design or safety precautions, so that no future incidents happen because of that specific cause.  This is why air travel has become the safest mode of travel, and I’m grateful for that because I, with my family, will be getting on a plane Monday  morning and going to America for 3 weeks.

Nobody accuses the investigators of politicizing the crash.

Yet, when a tower block burns down because the sprinkler system was inadequate, and certain parts of the construction were more flammable than they should have been, or when a mentally ill person with a history of domestic abuse buys an automatic weapon and shoots a bunch of people at a baseball game, we’re accused of ‘politicizing the tragedy’ if we say “Why was that building unsafe” or “Why do the Democrats and Republicans have to have a baseball game and isn’t this a sign that they are all good friends and all working together to fleece the public out of just as much as they can get away with?,” we are accused of politicizing the issue.

Of course we’re politicizing the issue.  Lots of people are dead, and it’s the fault of the politicians.  Now, Republicans (and, in England, Tories) claim to be against regulations because of freedom, but I don’t buy that because they are the kind of people who are not so big on freedom, they just love throwing people in jail for long terms just for smoking weed, and other trivial stuff like that.  They are just against regulations, and probably because it will cost them a little bit, the greedy bastards.

Everything is political.  We live in a crowded society and, I think, a clear majority of people would like that to be a society where your chances of not being killed are higher.

So, let’s investigate.  Not just the Grenfell Tower fire, and not just the Virginia shooting, but all fires, and all shootings, until they start to become rarer and rarer incidents, and then let’s continue to investigate them whenever they happen.

So, just as air travel has become the safest mode of transportation, our society will become the safest society ever.  Because nothing puts a crimp in your freedom like being dead.

 

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Hot

It was hot today.  Real hot.  So  hot the sun was a menace to society.  So hot I feel sunburned and I was not  at the beach.  So hot the bus was  like  a sauna, as the sun came focused through  the window.  So hot people were congregating  wherever there was  shade.  So  hot I  dawdled  in a  shop, just because they had AC.  I didn’t  see anybody trying to fry an egg on  the sidewalk, but I’ll  bet you could  have.  So hot it’s still kind  of hot  now, and its midnight.  So hot the teachers on the playground set up lawnchairs under a tree and let the kids do whatever the hell  they wanted.

I suppose it was due.  It IS summer, after  all.   And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.  It was my  last day for the summer with all of my Thursday classes.  At the gymnasium I tried something I  haven’t done before, in all my years of  teaching, but maybe I should have.  In  two of  my classes (the ones  that had more than 6 people  present) I asked  them to write  down on a  piece  of paper – unsigned, I specified unsigned  but one girl  ignored that, plus the girl who write in over sized letter in  pink  marker, I know who  that  was, all right – what they thought  I could  do differently next  year.  I was surprised.  I got some really good, serious suggestions.  Some questions they don’t  like.  Some things they think  I do too often.  Some games – not just that they suggested we play more games, but some  of  them suggested  quite specific games.

So, now I’m committed.  If  I  don’t  try at least some of their suggestions next semester, I’ll look like  an asshole.  And  I  wouldn’t want that.

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Ghosts of Mars

I am currently watching Ghosts of Mars, with Ice Cube.  Basically, it is a bad movie, a guilty pleasure, a bald faced excuse for lots of scary costumes, fighting, gunplay, explosions and such but, outside of the guns and the zombies it’s not an entirely unreasonable view of what Mars might look like a few decades into the colonization process, with the heavy metal trains linking the central  colony with the outlying mines.

It’s not like The Martian, or anything like that, but it’s not much worse than Total Recall, as far as believability.  Of course, there’s still  a few minutes to go and they could still blow that, because Total Recall, imho, is definitely in my top 5 movies in the category of “pretty good until they totally blew it with a totally ridiculous final scene.”

Mars movies.  Eventually there will be more of them than there are Westerns even, because they will continue to make them.  As colonization gets closer, there will be many serious ones, that try to look at the scientific problems and difficulties realistically, but there’s a limited market for that kind of that, so Hollywood will continue to crank out the  adventures.  Then, after the colonization begins, there will be documentaries, and personal dramas, and maybe even the occasional rom-com set on Mars, and they will  keep pace with the actual development, sometimes preceding  it and predicting  new technology , as Star Trek has done.

Some day, a film set on Mars will be no more unusual than a film set in New York  City.

(O.K., it’s over.  Not bad at all.  As long as you’re not fastidious about your film choices, and enjoy  lots of death and zombies and shit, it’s worth watching.)

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Too Much Force?

It was my last day today teaching at the elementary  school near Haje, and two of the classes didn’t  go  badly.  Last day before the summer break, that is, and I do hope I get  asked back next year.

But, the first of the 3  classes  did not go well.  They are 2nd graders, 7 years old, so it is always a struggle.  Not so much  teaching them English, although that is certainly a struggle.  They keep asking me stuff in Czech and I answer as best I can, for a few minutes, before reminding them that it’s an English class.  That’s the thing.   They don’t get that it’s a class at all.  The idea of a time period where they’re actually expected to sit in a chair and learn something is foreign to them, and I kind of feel that if I can teach  them that, I will have accomplished something, although it’s really not part of my job description.  I don’t think.  There really is no job description.

Anyway, there were the 3 girls on the left, who always ignore me, and the kids in the middle, clamoring for attention, and N. and A. over on the right.  Normally, they like me just fine, but N. felt she was being ignored because other kids were shouting out the answers and winning all the cards, so she got out of her chair and sat on the floor under the table.  I tried getting down to her level, giving her first shot at the questions, putting the flashcards right in her face, and she ignored me.  Then A., in solidarity, joined her.

After that game, I decided it  was story time (Curious George, one of my favorites), and asked all the  kids to sit in the front of the room.  Some sat on the floor, some hauled  up the bean  bag chairs from the back of the room, and N. and A. decided it would be funny to hijack the teacher’s chair, as I wasn’t sitting in it anyway.  I wouldn’t mind, but if they do it, everybody wants to do it.

So, I picked up N. bodily and put her down on the floor.    (A. was not the problem.  She took the hint.  Then N. got back up and started drawing on  the blackboard  while I was reading.  I sat her down again and by this time I was ticked off, so I held on to her wrist to keep  her in place while I read the book.  Maybe a little too hard, because after that she was rubbing her wrist for the rest of the class, and A. was massaging her with a little fluff toy and they were both giving me really dirty looks for the rest of the class.

I felt justified, but she is a tiny girl, and I  didn’t mean to hurt her, and I  probably could be a bit more positive  and  creative (a bit more Miss Honey  and a bit less Miss Trunchbull), but the year is over and this  day is chalked  up to experience.

jj

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Confirmation

Sometimes things are exactly what you expect  them to be.

There were two videos making the  rounds on Facebook today  which confirmed this for  me.  The first was just laugh out loud funny.  Literally.  LOL.  I did.  The headline was funny enough: “Anarchist Meeting Descends Into Chaos”

And it did, but in a college anarchist, everybody chanting sort of way.  Not in a fun, uninhibited, chair throwing, table overturning, trouser dropping sort of way.  I guess the person scheduled to speak had at some point said something that offended victims of the patriarchy (patriarchy = men, who are all rapists) and everybody was shouting stuff at her, like “We will not be silenced by your  violence,” and “Fuck you, Pig!”

Eventually, police were called, but they were campus police, and the meeting was ended, I think, but there were still people milling about, accusing each other of having called the police.

In the end, though, it was an Anarchist Meeting, so the fact  that it ended in chaos can be viewed as sort of a victory.

The other was Trump’s cabinet meeting, where each of the new department heads got to speak.  As they went around the table, each one said just 3 or 4 sentences, most of which were along the lines of “I’m so proud to work for this valiant administration which is fulfilling all of it’s promises and making American great again.”

It was kind of bizarre and North Korean.  In other words, exactly what you would expect from a Trump led cabinet meeting.

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