Archive for May, 2018

The Rise of Humidio

After sitting on the metro platform for ten minutes to soak in the cool winds, I finally brave the train. It’s enclosed and stuffy, there is not one window on this metro. I sweat preemptively while even thinking about the crowd and the closeness. I shudder, it’s going to be miserable. But I have to go to work.

If there’s a bright side, it’s that I’m right. I am miserable. I literally grumble the entire eight minute journey. While I am not directly addressing anyone or speaking loud enough to be understood, I do a series of low mumbles and irritated heavy breathing. I must come off like a drunk crazy homeless guy who can’t help wondering why God has chosen him to lead the armada against the turtle people. I look around the metro: I hate everyone and everything on it.

Let’s just be clear, I am not proud of this. While I am a relatively normal and pleasant person, the humidity has a way of bringing out a rage in me that is frankly super villain worthy. I hate everything when the clouds above el Praha close in the heat and make life unpleasantly and inescapably wet. Everything. The cat is an asshole, the little kid crying should be shipped to Iceland. Dog forbid someone hold me up at the grocery store – which in the Czech Republic happens every time you walk into one. I am a lunatic, only it’s not the moon which transforms me into a monster.

In the U.S. it’s slightly better. Only because each covered domicile or building or room or hut is blasted with the comforting arctic temperatures of air conditioning. If you’re overheated you can go to the mall or a bookstore or anyplace. But not in Prague. This induces my rage all the more.

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No Talk

At first, I was upset that limitations were being put on the First Amendment. These rights include freedoms of speech, expression, and religion. And even though this president is a walking endorsement for the extreme reach of free speech, he doesn’t much care for it when it comes to something he can score points on.

The more I thought about it, however, the more I warmed to the idea. If we put some limitations and conditions on free speech and expression, then I have some demands.

There are people I never want to hear about again. Paris Hilton no longer exists and neither do any of the Kardashians. Uttering the names Kanye West or Ted Nugent are as offensive and irresponsible as shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater. From now on, all humanity shall refer to the walking logical fallacy who (sometimes) inhabits the Oval Office as He Who Must Not Be Named.

Philadelphia sports fans can will on board with a few of my other ideas of expression and speech we should crack down on. From now on, nobody is ever allowed to mention a homerun Joe Carter hit in 1993. Any support, whether fashionable or vocal, should ever be put forth in favor of any New York baseball team, any Texas football team, or any Florida sports team at all.

I’d like to nip a few sayings in the bud, as well. From now on one cannot say “YOLO,” “You go, Girl,” or “I’d like mushrooms on that, please.” I will no longer hear any slander towards cats or cat people. I’ve been sick of that crap for a long time and think it’s about time we stop people from making those comments, because they almost offend me.

There’s been a lot of talk about what’s acceptable to do at work and I’d like to address that as well. I wish to see no socks with sandals in my building. I will not tolerate anyone who heats up food with no garlic in it, and Dog help you should you even consider saying “A case of the Mondays.” When the rector, vice rector, or president of the school is mentioned in any way, all in the room must stand. I don’t care what they do in their own time, but when at work any other course of action will be deemed offensive.

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Your Bad Guy’s Mommy

I have recently finished two books, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and World’s End by T.C. Boyle. I looked forward to reading Beautiful Ruins every day, hated putting it down to teach or eat. World’s End was the exact opposite. While it did capture me enough to finish it, I would look at it across the room and let out a sigh before picking it up.

Even though I enjoyed Walter’s style more, the difference wasn’t the writing. T.C. Boyle is a great writer and a genius at taking unexpected turns in a story. And the stories themselves were roughly about the same thing – ruined people.

The difference was that Walter made unlikable characters into people we rooted for. A movie producer with iffy morals, a wild child ruining his mother’s life, a hired goon. On spec, they seem unlikely to get our sympathy or care. But in Beautiful Ruins they do. Walter shook my distaste with well placed background, a humorous interaction, or sometimes a simple action I could relate to (scratching his calf with his toe). I begrudgingly, and then not so begrudgingly, handed over my care.

Boyle did the opposite. His characters were consistently selfish, awful, mean, and had very few if any redeeming qualities. They didn’t act like humans, so I couldn’t relate to them (enter your own joke here). I am not questioning Boyle’s skill or motivation, he is an immensely talented writer and if those characters came off like that then that is what he intended. But the result was that I did not give a shit about what happened to any of his characters. Not. One. (shit or character).

I grew up watching movies with a clear bad guy and a clear good guy. If you weren’t on Indiana Jones’ side, then you were a bad dude who kicked puppies and had no heart. If Arnie or Sly were against you, then you had no redeeming quality; you were simply evil incarnate. I can’t remember Arnie walking into a room where a drug lord or terrorist was doing a jigsaw puzzle or talking to his mom on the phone getting her recipe for Swedish meatballs. He was raping a pigeon or mutilating a kitty. I learned to hate the bad guys and root for the good guys. I wanted that pigeon molester dead and I knew that Arnie was going to make that happen within the next 65 minutes.

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Chuckles at the Royal Wedding

On Saturday I sat in my office in the flat watching thunderstorms threaten. A blimp was flying around Prague and I was not in the mood to work on my book or any other files I came across. Instead, I opened a blank document and started free writing. A good way to clear the head and get some ideas down.

Burke was in the living room watching the Royal Wedding. Every now and then I’d walk out to check out the famous mechanical waves and outfits which cost more than my college education. What I saw of the occasion did spur some nostalgia for my visits to England, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I sighed, recognized that I already miss Claire Foy and Matt Smith, and went back to work.

As Burke is not one to keep mum on something currently possessing the bulk of her attention, I was the recipient of constant alerts on the action. Oh the Queen doesn’t sing the song because it’s about her! I think they stuck George Clooney behind a pillar. Everyone’s trying not to laugh.

Though I didn’t watch the audience chuckling, I did wonder what would make a bunch of stiff-upper-lipped Brits laugh at a Royal Wedding. Some claim it’s because of Prince Harry, considered to be the more jovial prince. Others suggested it was the gregarious and impassioned sermon by Reverend Curry. I know and work with Brits, I’m B2-C1 in British English, and even love me some British entertainment. Through simple exposure, I have picked up enough about the people and culture to hazard some guesses as to what might make them laugh at such an auspicious occasion.

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You Think you’re a Grown up, but then…

Paperfeet the cat

Adulthood happens to most of us. And it really is one of those I just woke up one day and… situations. You don’t plan on it. Nobody I know has ever said “This year, I’m going to start being an adult.”

One day you realize that your decisions are more rational, that instead of frozen pizza and packaged ham, the majority of your groceries consists of vegetables and meat. You pay bills on time and you meet your obligations without resorting to excuses.

There is no doubt that those things carry a sense of stable, comfortable joy. However, if you’re like me, you have little moments that occasionally bring you down a notch on the respectable adult scale. Just to remind you not to get too big for your Buster Browns.

 

Some of those moments have happened to an unnamed mostly respectable author and adult in the last two weeks. He asks that you add your own moment to the comments below, so as to make him feel better about himself.

You think you’re a grown up, but then…

You spend four hours reading alternate Harry Potter theories.

You reward yourself with a cookie for making your bed.

You catch yourself saying “no, you shut up” and “FML” right in the same day.

You trick someone into smelling your fart.

You eat a bowl of cereal for dinner. And then you eat another one.

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A Day at the Races

Collin’s birthday often involves doing something we don’t normally do. We’ve jumped out of a plane and chewed on Flintstone-sized drumsticks in a prehistoric steakhouse.

This birthday we’re at the horse races. Having never attended a horse race, I mostly associate it with Bukowskiesque characters in bitter desperation, a row of red-eyed old men in pale golf shirts and checkered pants squeezing the racing program in a sweaty fist and begging Sagar-the-Horrible to make their rent. The only reason I knew there was a racing program at all was because of Bukowski. It’s important to learn from the things you read.

I have never been a big gambler, but that’s only because I don’t often find myself in places where gambling is the vice du jour. When I do find myself in a casino or at a track of some kind, I will figure out how to gamble and then I will gamble. During my Christmas visits, my father and I bet on every football game that is on TV. I adopt his phrases of rationale – Oh, I do it to make the games fun to watch. It’s fun. And then I follow his lead by staring at the television and seething and exploding over anything that goes against our team. By the end of the game we have fun-induced apoplexy.

The crowd is not at all what I expect. There are definitely the Bukowskis, old guys with binoculars around their necks and forty tickets in their pocket protectors. Their binoculars are bent at the horses during the races and the girls in between the races. Otherwise there are lots of families, more kids than one would associate with horse races. There are young couples out for the day. Some people are dressed up for the occasion (we’re among them). There are more ascots at this race than I have seen in the last thirteen years in Prague combined. I am comforted by the others, who have made the extraordinarily questionable fashion choices I’ve come to associate with Prague or, more likely, young people (bright green shorts and a slightly different bright green shirt. I will never understand).

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World Naked Gardening Day

When Facebook told me that Saturday was World Naked Gardening Day, I scoffed. Being naked out of doors has never really agreed with me. I have skinny dipped a few times, ended up on a few ill advised nude beaches (fucking France), and did my rugby Zulu warrior dance after scoring my first try. This last one has the added benefit of allowing one to enjoy nudity, the outdoors, and friends and acquaintances dumping cold beer on you. I miss college. But overall, I never warmed to the idea of being naked near other people in places where poison ivy, wasps, and the French exist.

While I was initially comfortable with my decision to abstain, by the afternoon on Friday I felt as though this prudishness was a major personal failing. What was wrong with a little nudity? Women sunbathe topless at my local pool with no shame. It’s natural and fine. By the evening’s fourth drink I was ready to sell all of my possessions and clothing and live in a raccoon commune in Moravia. But first, I was going to take part in World Naked Gardening Day.

No thanks! I said. There are three green(ish) things in my house. A defunct retired Christmas tree named Larry. A rosemary plant that Collin brought over the other day. And cat grass that my cat loves so much she can’t wait to share it in regurgitated form on wherever I am going to step first thing in the morning.

In twelve years, my neighbor and I have enjoyed a waving relationship. Her living room window is adjacent to my balcony, and we have awkwardly caught each other in underwear shaking out a rug or hanging laundry. The guy who I see on his balcony from my living room celebrates World Naked Gardening Day every day.

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To the Robot Who Gets my Job

After reading a doom and gloom article about the rise of Artificial Intelligence, I have decided to come to peace with the fact that one day a robot will take my job. It’s customary to write a brief email to our successor.

To the Robot Who Gets my Job,

Congratulations! You really deserved this, your rise from south Asian sweatshop to university English teacher is awe inspiring. And in just two days to boot! I applaud you.

Some tidbits about the job. First of all, the coffee maker’s always on the blink, so you’ll have to bring your own from home. Or you could recommend one of your friends for the position. It’s a pretty easy gig, just mornings and after lunch. The office is good enough. You have the window seat so you can wave to your buddies running the drone lot across the street. You need to chip in 200 Koruna each year for everyone’s birthday gifts. Or I guess creation day gifts.

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The Not Bad CV

As I’m hoping to take some work in a related-but-not-language teaching-field, I recently redid my CV. Now, if you’re like me, when you have a job you don’t look at your CV all that much. Oh I know there are some of you who can’t wait to achieve something so that you can alert all of LinkedIn about it. But I don’t seem to be too up on this.

In any event, for two days I thought about all the stuff I’m currently doing / have been doing / had done, much of which boiled down to being able to explain the difference between those three verb tenses. However, one of the best parts of university work is that you are always doing a bunch of stuff that, while massive time consumers and you don’t get paid for it, at least looks solid on a CV. So I start writing my CV story.

And many of you are familiar with the consequent tweaking of terms and words, “made a test” becomes “oversaw the development of the university’s entrance examinations” and “met with teachers once a month and patted their backs while they wept and wondered why they’d made such as mistake as to teach ESL in Prague” is coerced into “senior teacher was in charge of forty teachers and held monthly meetings and workshops on pedagogy and language.”

I have just become a George Carlin skit.

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