Archive for July, 2017

Scaramucci’s Forgotten Additions to Classic Presidential Speeches

Abe, just before the Gettysburg F****ng Address

Abraham Lincoln

The Gettysburg Address

“Fourscore and seven f****ng years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. But some men are a little more equal than others, if you know what I mean (holds out hands as though measuring a sea bass). Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can last with all this f****ng b***shit backstabbing and leaking. Cause we can’t do nothing if this c**ks**ker Lee keeps f****ng with us! We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. But I ain’t holding my f****ng breath, you know?

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

First Inaugural Address

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The First Adventures of Don Quijote

Local Pub near Daitabashi Station

After 25 hours of travelling, Mark and I hurtled via metro into the increasingly and disconcertingly darkening Tokyo suburbs until a fellow passenger informed us in Englapanese that this train was the express and had skipped Daitabashi Station, which is where our flat was. He yogaed his hand free from the nine people pressed to him to point out the stop we should go back to in order to backtrack.

When the train finally stopped (nothing moves more endlessly than a train going away from your destination) we tried out our Japanese, saying “arigato” (thank you) and bowed. He bowed back. We bowed again. Arigato. As did he. Had the train doors not closed, we could still be bowing now.

We backtracked. Thirty minutes later we stood on a street five minutes from Daitabashi Station comparing a set of photographs to local landmarks like walls, bushes, drainage pipes, and signs. The pictures had accompanied our packet of walking directions and were supposed to help us get from the station to our flat. Instead, a number of linguistic and pictorial miscues made it seem more like a game involving a character named Carmen Sandiego. After we broke the riddles and matched the photos, we gingerly entered a code into a lock box to find a key. This brought us to our beds, toilets, strange teddy bears, and, most importantly, air conditioning.

We dropped our bags on our futons and ran out the door to our pre-established local pub, which we had passed four times on our quest from the station. The pub greatly modeled the compact, efficient layouts we would see in the major Japanese cities we visited, making use of every inch of the place in a city with limited space. We were starving and thirsty, and the owner pointed us to two seats at the bar. We ordered ramen with pork and were told that this was the lunch menu, but then the owner’s cultural instinct not to offend us clearly took over and he instantly revised his answer that he (and his ancestry) would be only too glad to make our ramen, five hours after its menu was no longer pertinent. We, too hungry and linguistically intimidated to disagree, both thanked him and bowed in profuseness. “Arigato.” Bow. “Arigato.” Bow.

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Gaijin

Gaijin in Foreign Habitat

A visitor in Japan is a foreigner: Gaijin. I have been called a foreigner before. In Mexico I was a gringo, in Ethiopia a faranji, in the Middle East a ferenji. Even at home in Prague I am a cizinec, forever a stranger in a strange land.

The difference is that if I keep my mouth closed on a Czech tram, nobody really knows if I’m a foreigner. In Japan, it is far more obvious.

Mark and I don’t know what to expect. In my mind, which seems to combine the little I know of Japanese culture with anime, Shogun, and Lost in Translation, I am either going to be decapitated, regarded as an exotic white love muffin, or a hailed as a national hero.

In two days it becomes clear that nothing bad is going to happen. The Japanese are some of the more pleasant people I have ever had the privilege of meeting in their homeland. They treat us like kings, but that is because we are visitors and customers, not because we are exotic. They are polite, respectful, and extraordinarily helpful and generous.

Neither are we regarded as exotic man muffins. Women don’t seem to be attracted to us as novel as much as we are either kind of ignored or quickly registered as overheated, sweaty, human salt licks with curly hair. Additionally, we are awkward, extremely linguistically limited, and can’t properly work bathrooms, doors, metro tickets, and utensils. We are essentially cavemen.

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Things to do During a Conference Talk when you Wish you were Dead

Code of the Conference (plus pushups)

If you are going into academia, just get used to the idea that at some point you are going to be in a conference talk that is so dull and outside of your interest zone that you would prefer to be watching your parents give a detailed sex education class together. Now, breathe.

As has been my purgatory a few times. The topics were dull to me, but that means they were simply outside of my geek zone. They were definitely in other people’s geek zones, which grants me perspective with a horrified lining.

A few weeks ago, I sat in the fourth row, a good respectable distance from the presenters. From there, I could engage in the sorts of behavior that I flay my students for while I nodded my head and squinted thoughtfully. I was in a row with one former student who sat two seats away, so my tablet scrolling would remain clandestine. But at the last minute one of my four bosses sat right next to me, thus forcing me into a lockdown mode.

First out of the gate, I turned off the volume. Anyone who has sneakily checked out a device in a class, meeting, or conference knows the embarrassment of emitting a loud beep from their genitals. And what with whatsapp video messages this can be a real nightmare. When the volume was down, I instantly went to Tinder. Why? Because it’s a conference, which means out of town people. Secondly, there was no way on earth that everyone in that room was riveted to the man in the front, and I took a gamble that a few of them had the same idea as me and that a few of those would have two X chromosomes.

No such luck. I looked around the room and recognized nobody from the app’s pictures. Additionally, I finally understood the draw of Grindr, a site for gay men to locate nearby sexy time partners. Then I made a few notes to possibly develop a heterosexual counterpart. Though I eventually decided that we straight people are way too uptight for something like this, I did make some good notes. See, I’m getting stuff done.

After I put Tinder away I decide to focus (really really focus) on what the academics are saying. After 19 seconds I instead decide to pay attention to their language, as that’s sort of my area. I count how many words the academics can fit into one sentence (309), I then count how many references to their work an academic can fit into his response to a question he wasn’t asked (14), then I count the number of sentences an academic can fit into a question that ends up not being a question (19). I look around and wonder who’s really getting the information; if it’s anyone I know, I instantly scratch them off my pretend dinner party list.

Finally, I decide to write up my workout for the following day. It’s not only productive, but it’s also confounding to my boss, who looked at its coded series of numbers and letters with great interest.

30pu    25bp    25lr      15kr     20-1l    15T-pu

25bp    20s/s    25hl     30pn    30uc    60ln

He gazes at it and I do not tell him that it’s code for 30 pushups, 25 burpees, 25 leg raises, etc. I let the mystery lure him in, plus it’s not bad to let him think I know what the hell is going on. Which I don’t.

The last thing I did was laugh at inappropriate times. Well, not inappropriate, but not funny. So when the featured academic said something dry and stiff, I let out a few sharp laughs and knocked my hand on the desk. This gave people pause as they weren’t sure what they’d missed. I did it with the absolute confidence of the clueless (see: the current American President) So a few of the audience members laughed as well. I even got the academic to laugh once, too. I lightened the mood at a conference, so, you know, mission accomplished.

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Spidey Sense

The following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia page devoted to “Spiderman’s Powers and Equipment, specifically focusing on his “spidey sense.”

“Spider-Man’s “spider-sense” manifests in a tingling feeling at the base of his skull, alerting him to personal danger in proportion to the severity of that danger. For instance, a little tingling such as a happenstance passing by of an enemy would prompt Peter to be alert, while a strong tingling, sometimes to the point of being painful, is interpreted as a need to take immediate evasive action on a deadly threat. It appears to be a simultaneous response to a wide variety of phenomena”

It’s now, as I sit at my desk two days before I embark for Japan that I develop similar symptoms and premonitions of danger and doom. The tingle, strong today, spasms in my neck, the “phenomenon” eliciting the “spidey sence” was this sentence, seen on another website:

“Until quite recently Japan had no spider species that could be deadly to humans. That changed around 1995, when the first redback spiders were found in Osaka.”

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Pre-Travel Rituals

The All Important Travel Notebook Selection Process

As long as I can remember, I have loved travelling. When I was a kid there was nothing more exciting that going on a weekend fishing trip with my dad or spending the weekend at Grandmom’s. Later there was the uber-excitement of a camping trip with my friend Eddie or with the Boy Scouts.

Ever since those distant days of young travel, I have partaken in a pre-travel ritual. And I have noticed that over the years those rituals have changed a great deal.

Preteens

Ask Mom where clothes are

Ask Mom what this “laundry” thing is

Pack everything in house in shopping bag

Allow Mom to repack sensible items like toothbrush and pants

Say goodbye to siblings as though I would never see them again

Teens

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Fast Food

It occurred to me over an ice cream sandwich that I eat very fast.

OK, the ice cream sandwich is an extreme example since it was roughly the size and width of a dish sponge. Though the restaurant in Karlin was somewhat full, I had no idea what the people were doing at the tables. It’s an ice cream sandwich restaurant and ice cream sandwiches are the only items on the menu. It took me one minute to eat it, which for pragmatic reasons couldn’t have been dragged out any longer (ice cream melts). Are they lounging at the tables waiting to indulge in a second sandwich? For me, entry, ordering, sitting, eating, paying, and leaving was all completed in about 4 minutes.

Still, this isn’t far from the norm for me. I grew up with three siblings, so eating was always a hybrid of speed race and contact sport. More than once we walked away from the table with split lips and indigestion. I don’t know if that’s why my dining experiences are over in moments, but they often are.

When I cook at home, which is 90% of my meals, I often find myself victim to the common complaint that I cook for an hour and then I’m not hungry. I pick at salad, veggies and hummus, or crackers and cheese while I cook, so perhaps that’s the reason. But even when I do sit down to eat it’s usually over in just a couple of minutes. I thoroughly enjoy food, but I suppose I fall into the category of those who eat to live rather than vice versa.

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The Pools of Southern Florida and Mountaintop Monasteries

When my dad and I talk about holidays, it’s usually about the same talk. I mention a place that I will visit, if that place resides within the acceptable parameters of Western Europe and there has been no terrorist activity there in recent memory, he asks about my schedule and the food.

If it resides outside of those barriers, he mentally scans all of the terrible things he’s ever heard about the place and then magnifies it by 6,000. Then he goes like this:

“Oof, Dame, I don’t know…are you sure about that? Is [enter non-EU nation here] safe? Didn’t they have problems last year?”

“Yes. Last year it got pretty hot.”

“Oh man. I don’t know. That could be a problem.”

As with many people, his parental disapproval only strengthens my resolve and forces me to dig in on my intent. I then double down with a cavalier attitude regarding the safety quotient of the location. “Yes, that’s right. There’s a war there, so what? It’s in the north, I’ll be in the south. No problem.” Also, I take this tack because have learned that there is nothing I can say that will stem the tide of his anxiety.

Some of this might lead one [read: those who do not know me] to believe that I am a rather adventurous fellow. Yes and no. I do go on trips that involve adventure, but when on a trip I am more adventurous than in my normal life. Far more adventurous.

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Development of a Hooky Day

‘I was not playing hooky. I was giving home schooling a test run.’

In my permaquest to avoid needing pants with a 45 waist and a motorized scooter, I do a lot of physical activities throughout the week. I swim, run, do resistance training, and two nights a week, I do aikido, which is a form of Japanese martial arts. While I thoroughly enjoy aikido and almost always go, there are days when I wake up and know I don’t want to do it in the evening. It’s then that I lay the seeds for a hooky day, which I cultivate and develop throughout the day in a series of clever and subtle text messages to my friend PJ, who also does aikido.

9 a.m. (the mention)

Me: Are you going to be at school today?

PJ: Yeah, should be in an hour.

Me: Cool. You going to Aikido?

PJ: Yeah. You?

Me: I think so, yes.

11:30 (development of topic, introduction of sour mood)

Me: Are you going for one hour or both hours tonight?

PJ: Probably both. I don’t have an early morning tomorrow. You?

Me: Both too. Man, are we allowed to strangle students?

PJ: I wish. Who’s pissing you off?

Me: Who isn’t?! Sometimes I am astounded by rudeness. Oh well.

14:00 (setting the opportunity)

Me: Are you heading straight to Aikido from work?

PJ: Yeah, I have my stuff with me. You?

Me: No, I am heading to the other building, so I’ll go from there. It’s nice out!

PJ: Yeah it is. June.

Me: Yeah. Nice. Fresh air.

16:30

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