Weekends only postpone the inevitable

What lurks behind that portal?

A friend just posted something about teaching a something something workshop on Saturday. As much as I respect and have genuine affection for this friend, I do find myself questioning his sanity. See, he’s at the point where he could decline and could possibly assign the work to others. Although, as I said I respect this man and I respect that he wants the work done right. But Saturdays!?!

There are reasons classrooms and offices have doors – so you can close them tightly – because doors are portals that must be physically shut and mystically sealed against annoyances and nonsense which needs not have purchase in our times of rejuvenation and regeneration – in other words, don’t screw with my free time. I’ve worked a lot of Saturdays and a frightening number of Sundays; I’ve done it for money, for friendship and for escape. I’ve done it out of loyalty, out of desperation, out of necessity, and until I was out of my mind. If you can manage to avoid it: through negotiation, compromise, intimidation or guile; Saturday needs to become sacrosanct. It needs to be set aside, untouched, pure and unsullied by schedules, calendars, watches and social media reminders.

On Friday afternoon you close what needs to be closed, hide whatever evidence that your work actually ended on Tuesday around 11:30 – and run- don’t walk. You will actually feel care slip away – like oversize footwear. As distance and time grow, 200 meters and/or 30 seconds sounds about right – you may have only a vague recollection of what lurked behind that portal.

Saturday morning you awake, a temporary resident of an alternate reality. You may be suffering from trans-dimensional ‘ jet-lag’. Saturday afternoon is spent trying to remember some of Friday night. This disconnect doesn’t require any substance other than distance and actual enjoyment.

Sunday morning finds you still dimensionally detached, and this will last through the afternoon. This disconnect may last longer if you linger over brunch with a few friends. Adult beverages are optional.  … Eventually, around 7:00 pm you feel an ominous presence – some obscure and ancient warning that may cause some to feverishly plan a duvet-day escape plan- but it will only delay the inevitable.

Monday lurks, and it will arrive, like an elephant in musth, intent on trampling your tranquil oasis and befouling the waters of your serenity. You must face Monday with calm bemusement and feigned self-assurance. Monday will smirk knowingly. Don’t take it personally, that’s just how Mondays are.

Monday greets you at the door. It accepts your sneers generously and chortles as you capitulate, broken and sobbing, to the inevitable beginning. Your mandated 100% of effort is fueled and on deck. You suit up and wait for the go signal. Maybe today you’ll have the nerve to buzz the tower. As lunch approaches, you’re not sure if you can make it. Two o’clock seems so far away, and five is a dream left for the mad and newly employed. Somehow you make it, with only a little sweat and a few tears. Careful, Mondays feed on tear-stained dreams … and coffee-soaked anguish.

Tuesday is waiting and you’re there ready to give your full 70% – after all, you’re saving yourself for Wednesday. Be warned, if you’ve managed to dodge Monday, Tuesday is quite prepared to emulate, imitate and stand-in for its much-maligned sibling. After all, that’s how weekdays are.

Wednesday is festive, zesty, and almost giddy. It’s a quiet giddiness that may occasionally titter and has been known to share a shy smile. Energy levels are neck and neck with productivity, cruising at about 50%, slowing for the occasional coughing fit or sarcastic chants of love for the company.

Thursday arrives, and your commitment to giving your full 30% is the only thing keeping your toes on the office side of the threshold. Your toehold on a fast dissolving reality isn’t really fooling anyone, but surely even a not quite halfhearted effort is appreciated.

You slip into Friday almost effortlessly. You even manage to remark,” I can’t believe it’s already Friday.” You then look around nervously just in case Thursday has overstayed its welcome. Friday, when even your shadow isn’t fully committed to being in the office, is a day both joyous and fraught with tension. You have to be light on your feet because extra work, unplanned meetings, and the dreaded question, “have you got any plans?” dwell just out of the corner of your eye. Move quietly. Don’t jingle keys, or slam doors, or linger at the copier. The clock, your watch, and the artfully inaccurate timer on your desktop all conspire to keep you at work longer than necessary. Certainly, it’s longer than the time required by human-decency and that provision of the Geneva Convention that applies to working-class heroes.

There is a sharp clang as the gates open. Your desk is done. Your bag was packed on Wednesday morning. You burn rubber leaving the parking lot – and you’re walking. The lingering beast snickers, but you don’t have time to care. You’re out.

Don’t work for the weekend. Work to stop the senseless waste of hours in the unending quest to appease the beast behind the portal.

Solo

‘Alone again, naturally’ … great lyric that has almost nothing to do with the subject at hand, and yet is somewhat appropriate.

For the last couple of months, and perhaps longer, various experts, fans and assorted pundits, purists and punks have written and talked trash about a movie based largely on their opinion and feeding negativity to a collection of unwashed trolls who generally eat up their caustic commentary with a side-order of self-important virtual-swagger.

As to the aforementioned lyric, I’m not alone and I wasn’t when I saw Solo. The group I was with and the crowd we sat behind agree … Solo is a good movie. Solo is entertaining, involving, well-crafted and delivers on its promise and its premise.

The promise was to deliver a good movie that was worth the price of admission, done and dusted.

The premise was to tell the back story of Han Solo … ‘Cut the cheque’ as a certain actor has voiced after flying high as a falcon.

A friend mentioned here that Solo was worth seeing, and as I value Matt’s opinion I thought I would check it out. My wife and son joined me, so admittedly they are a somewhat biased demographic on which to justify a positive review. Our guest was a young woman I work with, who is not, by her own admission, a Star Wars Fan. I think her words were ‘saw it, turned it off’.  She loved this movie and was actively watching and enjoying, except for one moment of robot dialogue that elicited a ‘Oh no she didn’t,’ response … which I felt was justified and I won’t try to ‘fansplain’ it away.

I am a Star Wars fan since taking my younger brother to see Star Wars in 1977.  This is not that movie. This is an adventure story, a coming of age, a science-fiction tale of wonder. thrills and daring escapes. It does seem that it’s a bit like that movie.

Alden Ehrenreich, the actor  who plays Han Solo, captures the energy, enthusiasm and intensity that Harrison Ford brought to the character and there is a hint of the self-assured swagger. He lacks the later cool confidence but that suits this stage of Han’s life. Woody Harrelson as the edgy and likable scoundrel, Thandie Newton as an equally adept but less accepting scoundrel, Donald Glover as the suave gambler Lando Calrissian, and there’s a whole collection of Imperial troopers, thieves, and various locals who give this movie a nuanced reality.

This is a Star Wars story that will add more depth to the stories and characters you know, and it is a good movie that will entertain and involve you. You will care what happens to these people and you will be invested in their adventures, struggles and relationships.

Back to that lyric for a moment. This movie is not doing as well as it could be doing, largely because the press and the more rabid individuals among the Star Wars fan-base have decided that Solo is not their Star Wars. Solo is not Jar Jar Binks, nor is it The Force Awakens. Solo is a good movie that can be judged solely on that basis. It can stand on its own.

 

Weekend in Wuhan

Friday night rolls around and you wonder what to do for the next couple of days. No matter where you are, that is a universal constant. Even if you’re unlucky enough to have to work on Saturday you still look forward to the weekend. Like the Loverboy song said so eloquently, ” Everybody’s working for the weekend.”

For Wyatt, Emily and I  it was a chance to relax, and to explore a little. It was also a chance to spend some time together.

Lost in Alternate Realities

I have spent as many hours as possible sitting in darkened movie theaters lost in alternate realities, and I have loved every moment of it. For a twelve-year-old boy, there was nothing better.

There weren’t many days spent in darkened theaters when I was that age. At age 12 we were living in Pointe Au Baril Station, Ontario. Our village, Pointe Au Baril Station, sits along highway 69 between Parry Sound and Sudbury. It is a small community of 300 people.

It had, and likely still has, a couple of gas stations, a liquor store, two general stores and a few marinas and lodges scattered over the North and South shores. We also had two churches, a small school, a bank, a Royal Canadian Legion Hall, and a privately ran post office/bait shop and a community center that had a few purposes. Dance place, meeting hall, and tourist information center being a few.

For me it’s most important purpose was the Friday night movie. Not quite a darkened theater. Enter the large hall with me. Sit down on a folding chair. There are always enough chairs. The old projector comes to life. The blank wall is filled with wonder.

This is also what comics did for me. I bought my comics at Higman’s Highway Market. Kennedy’s didn’t sell comics. I made my money for comics by cashing in beer bottles. The bottles were redeemed at Wing’s Shell station. No, We didn’t drink the beer … that came later.

With a summer tourist trade estimated at about 2,000 we had a lot of empties to cash in. My brother and I also had a lucrative sideline in frogs. I delivered lunches to construction crews, cut grass, tied boats, and shoveled snow. My younger brother Troy and I sold frogs to the local pool hall owner who sold them to sport fishermen as bait.

The frogs, the bottles, the snow and such helped to fill the blank canvas of a child. A mental landscape filled with Dr. Doom, a blind attorney, a playboy millionaire, and a collection of princesses, orphans, and misunderstood do-gooders. Many of those characters, and their worlds, were given form by Gene Colan.

Gene wasn’t the first artist I admired. At first I liked the cleaner lines of Curt Swan and Dick Dillon. Kirby leaped off the page for me, and then something happened. I found art that resonated. It stayed with me. It seemed to have a depth beyond the page. It flowed. It showed me a world beyond my own, and yet was reflective of that world.

Gene’s (if I may be so familiar) art allowed me to see a bit of wonder in my own reality. I didn’t need to escape as much as search.

Thank you for that clarity.

Wyatt’s first School Trip in China

The middle school made the trip to Happy Valley today

I was asked to join, but Wyatt needs to discover things and interact with his peers.

Are we missing something?

I miss libraries.

Here in Indonesia, libraries are as rare as safe drivers and clean water. It’s not because people don’t like to read, or because they like to live dangerously at high speeds, or because they love the idea that toxic substances are freely available at the turn of a handle.

When credence is given to the misguided notion that unrestrained capitalism is a benefit to anyone then we will see the demise of education, healthcare, and public safety. When we allow corporate interests to dictate education and to funnel public monies into programs that benefit their bottom line, we allow human decency and dignity to be kicked to the kerb. We allow our future to be stamped with best before dates, and then left to rot on the shelf.

Obviously, greed and shortsightedness are not the intellectual property of the Indonesian archipelago. We see these wonderful expressions of boneheaded stubbornness in every hovel, hamlet and high-speed hub on the planet.

Without independent sources of information, books provided and made available by libraries, we have little chance for the current or the next generation to be intellectually curious, environmentally aware, or woke in any measurable sense.

Common sense, intellectual curiosity, and basic decency may have always been rare and whimsical creatures, but perhaps we shouldn’t willingly turn away as they’re kicked to death. Please don’t take this as a pat on the back if you have libraries. If you’re not using them, if you’re not supporting them, and if everyone does not have access; then they’re no longer libraries. They’ve become warehouses, or even worse they’re mortuaries waiting for the bodies of lost knowledge and hope to be claimed by uncaring relatives.

A Library
http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca

Tomcats … say hello to my little fiend

If you take an ant and trick out its colours so it looks like an orange and black sports car, then you might have an idea what this nasty little bug looks like.  To be fair, the Tomcat is excellent at pest control. Where this toxic beetle becomes problematic is when humans are involved. Humans tend to swat, crush and smear insects that crawl on them.  The tomcat spreads this toxin without breaking your skin.

The tomcat is also known as the rove beetle. I prefer to call it a nasty little S.O.B.

rovebeetletomcat_d_bug_by_ready2errupt-d4u810w

The tomcat is stealthy, and before you know it it’s on you. You won’t even feel the toxin. An hour or so later, maybe even the next morning you’ll have a welt.

The inflammation may grow, or it may be followed by more welts unless the toxin is washed from your skin, clothing, towels and exposed surfaces.

220px-Paederus_rove_beetles,_showing_size

This morning, I’m on my third round with the TomCat. Unfortunately, like a certain MMA fighter … I don’t think I’m the winner. Unlike said fighter, I won’t have a massive payday in spite of my courage and superb fighting skill. My first exposure was likely from a tomcat hiding in a rain poncho I wore, which resulted in a large welt under my arm. The next one, and the current experience seem to be from tomcats in the house.

I am sharing a few images, for which I apologize.

We’ve used bee oil to reduce the swelling. Similar to Kayu Putih(which is a wood oil) it reduces the swelling and irritation. We are going to try Benadryl this time. I’ll let you know how it works.

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The consequences of neglect

Trash, litter, waste, and rubbish may be our actual four horsemen. We have almost as many words for what we throw away as the Inuit supposedly have for snow. We all face the same problems of lives spent leaving an unsightly trail.

As many of us work to improve our neighbourhoods and celebrate our communities, some can’t be bothered to carry a plastic cup to a bin. Children are allowed to drop garbage as they walk. In fact, children are encouraged in the lackadaisical littering by the somnambulant slovenliness of their supposedly more mature elders. What still shocks me, and shouldn’t, is that this attitude carries over into private homes and places of worship.

As you drive through Surabaya you will see high apartment towers, shining malls, mosques and churches. You will also see quite a number of ornate neoclassical and modernist homes. Many of these enclaves of large homes are ringed by gates and staffed with private patrols.

Even in these fortresses, and the schools and shops that serve them, the lack of care is evident. Tables and desks left strewn with the detritus of a task or meal. Trash piled against a wall or left littering church or mosque steps.

Parents, schools, and communities need to be on board for any change to work. Imagine the reaction from Mom and dad when the satpam tells the kid, “Hey, use the trash bin!” Even if it’s phrased as “please dispose of your trash in the appropriate receptacle”. (Insert correct translation as you like) In the west and in Singapore people have been conditioned not to litter, and of course there are fines. We see it here in Surabaya, and in Bali that quite a number of North Americans, Europeans, and Singaporeans happily relax their morality and social conscience while on vacation.

This isn’t about when in Rome … the long term consequences of our actions and inactions have to be considered. The same goes for us as visitors; you don’t litter at home, don’t do it here.

Locally, people will change, even in more traditional communities. They need to see viable alternatives and workable (within their capabilities and resources) solutions.

Governments and industry are happy to tout their respect for local/traditional wisdom as long as it keeps locals traditionally ignorant. Kalimantan, Sumatra, Lapindo, Bali’s water crisis and the mess that is Kenjeran beach are not the fault of villagers and tukang parkir.

Waste and neglect are not an enviable legacy to be left by any culture.

Here There and Nowhere

He sings the body incredulous.
Existing between never was, and never will be.
Existing without substance, yet heralding shifting bedrock.
Occupying no fixed space, filling no specific need.
Both the unexpected journey and the probable consequence.
For all his banal and baleful presence, he is neither cause nor solution.

A Few Nights Later

This was originally written in 1998 … I haven’t changed much, other than punctuation.

Teachers from three of Surabaya’s largest schools met a few months ago. This wasn’t a summit on education, or on international relations, just early parole.

For many of us, it was our first night out in a week. The early part of May in Indonesia had been marred by riots, and rumours of riots. The streets were not safe. Many people had left. (A Husband’s Perspective)

We met, as we had met so many times before, in The Tavern. The Tavern is a small, fairly intimate pub in the Hyatt Hotel(Now the Hotel Bumi). At that time Thursday nights were half price, and affordable. The week before the meeting had been spent incognito and effectively isolated. Ten teachers, a visiting friend, two girlfriends and Emily, my wife. Also present, in an unsupporting role, was a motley assortment of Bules (foreigners)

In the back of the Tavern, where the more clandestine meetings usually take place, a group of young Chinese were enjoying a night of freedom. Perhaps enjoying isn’t the right word. They were almost motionless.

The Bules gained motion as soon as the next group appeared. A television crew from one of the local stations had entered the bar. Suharto had resigned the day before and they were looking for reaction shots. Pak Suharto Keluar (Suharto has left)…. Where were you?

The reaction was forthcoming. One Bule pried himself up from his barstool and stormed over to the crew. His basic problem was a belief that this was a foreigner’s bar and these guys weren’t allowed in here. Well, their presence was unusual, but the presence of a number of local ladies would seem to dispute The Tavern’s Foreigners Only status.

The ladies are a permanent fixture of the Tavern. You can’t go into any bar, disco, or nightclub without seeing a few Chickens. Locals call them Ayam Kampung, Ayam Kampus, or Ayam Malam, or village chickens, high-class chickens, and night chickens. The number of young women making themselves available has increased since the crisis.
As for the Bule’s reaction: his statements were loud, laced with profanity and mercifully brief. The television crew left, the Bule fumed for a bit then resumed his chair and his conversation. His gathering of four had increased by one. One of the previously mentioned ladies had added herself to the group.

For everyone, it was business as usual. A quiet couple of hours, a few beers, some excellent hot pretzels, and a few rounds of cards. As I am perhaps the world’s worst card player, I sat out the game. Most of the conversation was about the previous week. Who had stayed, who had left, who was about to leave – three more teachers left that weekend – and what was going to happen.

Most of the people that stayed have been here for awhile. I’ve been here for nearly two years. Geoff has been here for three years, and Chris a bit longer than that.
There are no absolutes in this situation. John Koeman, a teacher from Holland, had been in Surabaya for seven years. He decided it was time to go. He’s in Taiwan now, as are Marcus and Allison, and Jo and Paul.

Probably the main reason that teachers stay is that they become integrated into the community. Unlike the engineers and hotel managers who come here and are effectively isolated, a teacher is effectively mixed with the population. Some teachers are more mixed than others.

People react positively or negatively to the mixing. Their reaction may be based on their reason for being here. If they’ve come for the money, they’re just here to do a job – and then leave. Anything that interferes with that purpose is a nuisance.
Many teachers are here for the experience. They’re geared up to live in another country, to experience a different culture, to try new foods, or just to learn the language. They’re generally disposed to mixing.

Mixers and non-mixers alike come from every social, ethnic and geographical grouping. The experience we all shared was the temporary release from the unique blend of cabin fever and stress that is Surabaya.

For me; a good remedy for stress is stepping away, physically and mentally. When I take a few moments to relax with friends and family I can then re-enter the fray with a clearer, calmer perspective.