Conspiracy Theories: Our Quest for ‘Truth’.

Psssst, know any good conspiracy theories?
Do people disagree or agree with conspiracy theories on principle? Do people have a knee-jerk reaction to deny or accept them? We are human, to the best of our current knowledge. As humans, we need to understand tragedy. We are hard-wired to look for answers. The search for truth is both our blessing and a curse of our biology. Looking for answers has helped us to achieve, to reach, to overreach and to build at an almost equal rate to what we destroy. When we marvel at the pyramids, we see history and we see questions. Who, what, when and why are powerful drivers in our psyche? If we’re asking where, we may have a few gaps in our general knowledge. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned by ceaseless propaganda to react with Pavlovian-like predictability to the utterances of media pundits and political talking heads. Right, left and center of the political spectrum, across ethnic, racial and gender divides we are equal in our willingness to bark and slobber as the bells of propaganda are rung.
What really gets us salivating? What makes us bark and yap on Social media? Gossip.
We like mysteries. We love hidden cities, secret rooms, alternative endings. With equal fervor, we love and despise the idea that someone is hiding things. It’s why we love to gossip. People can’t keep secrets. How many family secrets get blurted out over BBQ, or posted on social media? How long can a public official keep anything private? Can the military actually plan, execute and wrap up an operation in a completely clandestine-manner? From ancient Babylon and Sparta, and through the ages up to the modern Persian Gulf, spies have changed history. The intrigues, plots, thefts and lies existed in Greece, Rome and China and up to the fall of the Russia-led soviet state. Secrets have been hidden, lost, stolen and revealed. The fortunes and misfortunes of war have been influenced by the information gathered by espionage. In the modern era, everyone is a potential spy. Potential motivation: money, power, disruption, relief of boredom.
It may be that we have always had this need to share, publicize and record events in minute detail. If phone-cameras had existed 1,000 years ago, the Doomsday book would have included selfies of the invading and defending leaders and the latest Norman fashions.
Our culture is built on ideas and on dirty secrets, or perhaps the idea that there must be dirty secrets. From stains on blue dresses to secret apartments, and then to weapon sales. From who the Queen slept with, to whom the King killed to gain power. From secret deliveries to rebel armies. From political struggles to attempted coups. From assassinations to false flags. From cocaine-funded insurrections to poison cigars. From second-shooters to hidden explosives, to ‘gilding the lily’ before a congressional committee. From a secret desire to meet people in cubicles, and sharing genitalia images, with or without permission. It’s about arms-sales, about having a secret, sharing a secret, uncovering a secret, and being privy to the dirt.
We love discovery, almost as much as we hunger for secrets. We are awed by the Pyramids, Stonehenge, Easter Island, the Great Wall of China, and even by the construction of majestic cathedrals that took the efforts of generations. Were there hidden secrets in the construction of these marvels of antiquity? We will probably never know. Do the Dead Sea Scrolls offer more insight, are there undiscovered drafts of the Koran, or the Torah? Did L Ron Hubbard get miles to the gallon, or lightyears? In our modern age, could our most wonderous achievements be fiction?
Are there lies behind some of our greatest tragedies? Did we travel to the moon? Did Roosevelt know before Pearl Harbor? Did military aircraft shoot down a plane on 9/11?
It seems likely that FDR and his staff had some inkling of Japanese military plans or at least the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on Hawaii. As for the Apollo mission of 1969, and the subsequent missions; could hundreds of support personnel, families, and outside contractors have faked a series of moon landings and then kept it secret? Someone would have shared it just because they had the secret. During a game of golf, a beer, and as pillow-talk. Some scraps of film, some pictures of the soundstages would have been discovered by now. Our inability to keep secrets makes modern conspiracies less likely. Not that people are less motivated to lie, to be corrupt or to cheat, just that it’s easier to discover. The larger the group keeping the secret, the more likely someone will share. In the age of Anonymous and WikiLeaks secrets are fleeting. Keeping secrets may have become an act of hubris.
People will work to undermine the goals of a group, or even their own interests. We have been conditioned to overshare, even if it makes us look bad. Just ask Anthony Weiner, Donald Trump, and OJ Simpson. For some it may be that the world is flat, that we never landed on the moon, that secret technology is being withheld, that aliens built mostly everything, and that John F. Kennedy was shot by two people, the CIA, the Mafia, the FBI, the Boy Scouts, and three aliens who worked for Lyndon Baines Johnson.
We love secrets and gossip so much that we will create events, and the ‘facts’ to support them.
Sometimes facts are massaged, and sometimes they’re twisted. Sometimes they’re created from shoes, and ships, and ceiling wax. There will always be someone who wants us to walk along as they share tales of deceit, treachery and the perverse pleasures of perfect strangers.
Private emails, secret memos, plans for Jet fighters, the formula for fried chicken and soft drinks, and private pictures have all found their way to the public-form. There are organizations and individuals who make it their business to find, steal, duplicate and sell those closely-guarded secrets. The loss of this information could seriously damage, or even destroy, a company, a brand or a carefully crafted reputation. The loss of large companies means the loss of jobs and has wide-spread repercussions in the national and global market. It should be acknowledged that some of these leaks are for publicity and some are fictions. Hitler’s diary and fake celebrity nudes are publicity-engines. Click-bait headlines and breaking news banners can turn slow news days into profitable cycles, but carefully crafted BS can be monetized and used to drive other agendas.
For now, let’s leave the possible hidden agendas and ulterior motives to your fertile and endlessly fermenting imaginations.

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Memories of Bali

I should note that this was originally posted in 1998.

It’s good to be home.

Emily had gone to Bali a few days earlier, as she had some business and both my son and I still had school. On Christmas Eve we got to the airport and boarded our flight to Bali.

Like the song goes … “the weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew …” We made three passes over the Island of the Gods, but it wasn’t meant to happen.

The rain was buffeting our sturdy craft. It was impossible to see anything, and then the peanuts ran out.

Well, next thing you know … ol’ Wayne’s back in Surabaya. And Boy howdy, was I ever happy about that. I peppered the air with cries of gosh golly and dad burn it. I’m not happy.

Emily is waiting at the airport for me and her handphone is obviously not working. My handphone has previously given up the ghost. Now I’m using a phone card and trying to find a compatible phone. I find one, but unfortunately, it’s sandwiched between two phones occupied by men talking louder than seems necessary.

I can’t hear a bloody thing. I’m trying to explain the situation to my mother-in-law. She’s a nice lady who I communicate quite well with in person, yet her English doesn’t exist, my Indonesian is poor, the connection sucks and the surrounding noise is unbearable.

Well, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas at the top of my lungs, I compliment their country and their courtesy and I wish them on their way. My son thinks dear old Dad is ready for a new sports coat in that lovely wrap-around style.

Finally, I get through. Everybody’s okay on that side. We waited in Surabaya’s Juanda airport for an hour and a half. Finally, the plane boarded again. It was now 10:00 pm. The flight to Bali is about 35 to 45 minutes. Bali is an hour ahead of Surabaya.

We arrive in Bali at 11:40 p.m. Bali time. It’s drizzling. The taxi driver asks for Rp 40,000. I decline. We walk out to the taxi booth and buy a voucher. We pay Rp 26,000. Christmas Eve passes in the back of a taxi. We arrive.

My wife is at work preparing a shipment of fruit to Hong Kong. I am now a fruit packer. By 12:00 p.m. Christmas day the fruit is packed and on its way. We shower, eat and almost everyone sleeps.

Me, … I’m wired. The rest of our merry band has fallen asleep. The nanny and the cook are watching the kids. The next day the lost sleep will catch up with me. I take a long walk. We were in Denpasar, Bali and it’s hot. I walk for an hour and come back drenched in sweat.

Christmas night we head to Jimbaran.

Jimbaran beach is a long strip of seafood restaurants. You order your food fresh. You pick a table. On the beach, if it’s not raining, under the tents if it is. On a clear night the sound of the surf, the smell of barbecued fish and the majesty of a star-filled sky conspire to bewitch even the most cynical traveler.

The day after Christmas I sleep until 11:00 a.m. I’m still tired when my two nephews and my niece wake me. Chinese-Indonesian children do not play outside and are generally spoiled. I’ve brought some cartoons with me. The VCDs keep them occupied for half an hour.

We head to Kuta that afternoon. We don’t go to the bars or the shopping malls. We find a relatively quiet beach and play in the surf. My son, who’s eighteen, seems more interested in the spectacle of topless women frolicking close by. My head may have turned one or two times. The surf-kissed sand has been rendered almost mirror-like. The sky is a rich blue with traces of white clouds. Gradually the blue becomes purple and the sun is a descending red ball. Pale pinks and rich oranges dominate the fading palate. A tropical sunset is beautiful and abbreviated.

In fifteen minutes it is dark. The stars are brilliant. Aside from a few moments of temper, the week passes uneventfully. We watch videos on New Years’ Eve. Two days later we hop in the car and head to Lovina. We’re going to see the Dolphins.

Last episode we left for Lovina to see the dolphins.

Along the way, we pass the site of Gunung Agung’s 1963 eruption. The devastation was massive and thousands died. The Balinese believe that this was because prayers had been interrupted. Now the boulders, once part of Gunung Agung’s crown, are strewn about, but they are covered with lush vegetation. It was another example of nature’s power to repair itself.

I was reminded of a walk through Canada’s Algonquin Park.

Granted, it probably doesn’t need to be said that it certainly wasn’t similar terrain. A picture from the early years of the last century showed a devastated mountain.Trees, and earth torn away to run a rail line through. Then in the fall 0f 1995, I walked down that same path and tall, healthy trees shaded me. Waist high grass surrounded me. I was shaded by mature pines. Nature will right itself, once given a chance.

Now I stood in the lushness of Gunung Agung’s revival. Gunung is the Indonesian word for mountain, and the center of Bali is a spine of mountains. Many of them are still active volcanoes. As late as 1994 there have been eruptions. They don’t call the Indonesian archipelago the Ring of Fire because of the hot food. We arrived in Lovina. We looked at one place. They wanted RP 300,000 a night. That’s the price of a luxury hotel in Surabaya.

We found the Hotel Padma. We paid Rp 120,000 for each of two rooms, barely enough for myself, Emily, her sister Suzy, our son Adryan, Suzy’s three kids and a family friend. So, it’s guys in one room, and women in the other. The pool was clean large and warmed by the sun. We ate a large dinner and turned in. At 5:00 a.m. we were up and by six o’clock, we were in two traditional boats heading out to see the dolphins. We were about 20 minutes out when the first small pod appeared.

They surfaced, played about and were gone – only to reappear in another area. This went on for half an hour or so. Then a larger group appeared. The two groups surfaced, dived, disappeared, raced the boats and delighted their audience. It is impossible not to feel a little like an alien watcher, privileged to witness a very personal kinship with nature.

The surrounding mountains were mist-cloaked shadows at the water’s edge. The water was black in the pale early morning light, briefly disturbed by our bright-coloured boats and the sleek gray bodies that danced and dived around us.

Then it ended. We had spent almost two hours watching. It was impossible to tell who was more excited, the adults or the children.

After breakfast, Adryan and I went snorkelling.  A reef lay about halfway between the shore and where we watched the dolphins. Again, we were in a traditional boat. A narrow canoe like craft with twin outriggers, a small (5.5 horsepower) outboard motor and an inverted, triangular-shaped, lanteen sail that also serves to shade our driver/guide as he naps. We don masks and flippers and enter the now blue waters. Colors explode around us. Angelfish, rainbow-hued fish, blue neon tetras and unfortunately a few too many jelly fish. We moved location twice. Adryan managed to find a French coin. Once cleaned, it was revealed as a 1995 coin, but still a find. I had to rescue it from the pool bottom later that evening, so the excitement of discovery was obviously short-lived. We stayed two days then headed back to Denpasar.

We flew home that Saturday.

The Missing Motorcycle: Part Three (Safety first)

The Missing Motorcycle: Part Three

Safety first

 

_________:First put on your helmet.

_________:Like this?

_________:Yes. Now fasten the chinstrap.

_________:It’s so uncomfortable.

_________:It’s only uncomfortable at first. You’ll get used to it.

_________:What’s next?

_________:Sit on the motorcycle.

_________:I know how to do this.

_________:Please pay attention. Sit facing the front with one hand on the throttle and the other on the brake.

_________:I can steer with one hand.

_________:You can also get arrested again.

_________:I don’t want that.

_________:Then pay attention. What do you do at a red light?

_________:Go very fast.

_________:No! You stop. What do you do at a stop sign?

_________:Stop?

_________:Right… I mean, that’s correct.

_________:When can I go fast?

_________:Once you learn how to be safe then you can learn how to have fun.

 

New words

Safety

Fasten

Chinstrap

Helmet

Fast

Throttle

Brake

Arrested

Steer

Stop

Sign

Safe

Used

Uncomfortable

Attention

 

The Missing Motorcycle 2

The Missing Motorcycle 2

 

At the police station …

 

Grandma!

Hello

Are you okay?

I’m fine

You were speeding.

Yes. It was very cool.

Cool?

Great. It was wonderful.

It was a very dangerous thing to do.

Oh, don’t be so foolish. I was wearing a helmet.

Where is the motorcycle?

The police have it.

Really?

They took it from me when I was arrested.

 

Later …

Hello

Hello. Can we speak to the owner of the Bangmyhead NX 200?

Yes. That’s me.

Good news. We found your motorcycle.

Really!?! I thought you had it.

Well we did, and then we lost it again.

You lost it?

Someone took it.

And then?

We caught the thief.

Not my grandmother again.

No. This time it was my Uncle Fred.

Passport in the car(continued from At the Mechanic)

Late or early

 

Mechanic:        Hello

Customer:        Oh, did I wake you?

Mechanic:        Did you wake me? Who is this?

Customer:        You’re fixing my car.

Mechanic:        Do you know what time it is?

Customer:        It’s late

Mechanic:        Or early – depending on how you look at it.

Customer:        I’m sorry. I didn’t know …

Mechanic:        Okay. What do you want?

Customer:        I’m at the airport and I don’t have a passport.

Mechanic:        What?

Customer:        It’s in my car.

Mechanic:        What?

Customer:        My passport. I left it in my car.

Mechanic:        And …

Customer:        I need it. Can you bring it to me?

Mechanic:        Are you insane? I’m a mechanic, not a courier.

Customer:        Could you have it sent here?

Mechanic:        What time does your flight leave?

Customer:        At 5:30.

Mechanic:        It’s – it’s 4:40. I don’t have enough time to get to the garage and get your passport to the airport.

Customer:        But I’ll miss my flight.

Mechanic:        Why don’t you take a later flight?

Customer:        I don’t know? …

Mechanic:        You’re not going to make it. It’s too far.

Customer:        Why is it too far?

Mechanic:        First I have to get to the garage; then I have to open up, and then I have to find your passport in your car. Next, I have to call a courier and wait for him to arrive. Finally, the courier has to get to the airport. The fastest that’s going to happen is two hours.

Customer:        Two hours?

Mechanic:        I think we’re really looking at three or four hours …even if I can find a 24-hour courier.

Customer:        What should I do?

Mechanic:        I think you should reschedule your flight.

Customer:        Reschedule? … for when?

Mechanic:        If I were you I’d reschedule for later in the afternoon.

 

This is a good chance to try an activity on intent and inflection. Call a student aside and tell them to be happy when they read, tell the other to be angry. Next time try one sad and one happy. Try energetic and really tired. Ask the audience to judge how effectively the speakers communicated. Don’t let the audience in on what the subtext is all about. With time, they can identify things for themselves.

At the Mechanic

At the mechanic

Customer:   Will this take long?

Mechanic:   It’s going to take as long as it takes.

Customer:   May I ask you a question?

Mechanic:   Sure.

Customer:   Is this going to cost a lot?

Mechanic:   How much do you have?

Customer:   What?

Mechanic:   Have you brought a lot of money?

Customer:   Have you lost your mind?

Mechanic:   It’s a joke. Can I ask you something?

Customer:   Okay.

Mechanic:   Do you like slamming on the brakes?

Customer:   Why do you ask?

Mechanic:   The brake pads are in horrible shape. I’ll have to replace them.

Customer:   I don’t want you to replace anything.

Mechanic:   Maybe you’d enjoy crashing.

Customer:   I’m not going to crash.

Mechanic:   Have you ever been in an accident?

Customer:   No.

Mechanic:   You’re going to be in an accident if these brakes fail.

Customer:   Okay. What else is wrong?

Mechanic:   Have you hit something?

Customer:   Maybe.

Mechanic:   Your radiator is leaking.

Customer:   You’re going to replace it?

Mechanic:   No. It’s a small hole. I’m going to fix it.

Customer:   Good. I don’t like paying for extra work.

Mechanic:   It’s okay for me too. I don’t enjoy doing extra work.

Customer:   It’s hot in here. May I turn on a fan?

Mechanic:   Have I ever visited your office?

Customer:   No.

Mechanic:   Have I ever eaten your cooking?

Customer:   I don’t think so.

Mechanic:   Have I ever slept in your bed?

Customer:   I hope not.

Mechanic:   Good. Don’t touch my fan.

Customer:   It’s so hot in here. Have you ever noticed that?

Mechanic:   Why don’t you take a walk?

 

Note: This is an exercise to illustrate the use of the present perfect simple in statements and questions. It could also be used for pair or group practice of emphatic statements and responses.