The switch from ESL teacher to Prof

Probably one of the most exciting things about my new teaching position is that I’m not just an ESL teacher.  At this institute of higher learning, which for anonymity purposes will henceforth be dubbed SchoolU, my first semester will primarily be filled with me teaching a drama course.  This is a game changer.  Trying to encourage the creation of a drama group the last time I was in China was a difficult proposition, as the students I had wouldn’t have had the free time to devote to anything more than improv games.  While improv games are an important part of the experience, being able to add short plays and monologues into the mix has me absolutely thrilled.

Thank you boys.

Of course, this development was unexpected.  When I was hired, part of the discussion centred on whether I’d be interested in branching off into content courses.  Naturally, I said yes, but felt it would be best to get some ESL time back under my belt first.  Apparently that message didn’t carry, which I discovered when I received an email from one of the administrators asking what my content course was going to be, and that they needed a course syllabus within two weeks.

Surprise!

A brief moment of panic was quickly replaced by enthusiasm.  I mean, really.  This is going to be awesome.  I look forward to the day when I have all my students stand on their desks and exclaim, “oh captain, my captain.”  The only difference is that I won’t have been fired.

Cue the background noise.

We have all seen it before, whether it be on television, movies, or cartoons.  That moment when someone is so focused that all background noise ceases to exist as the character focuses on.. whatever.  A secret note that is going to lead Johnny Adventure to the treasure of a lifetime.  Catherine focuses on the hospital machine that goes BING, praying for her sister to wake from the coma.

In the modern era, this effect, which likely has some sort of official name, probably happens most when a person becomes absorbed in whatever is on display on the 5.5″ screen of their mobile device.  I know this to be true, because it happened to me.  It was the weirdest sensation when I became conscious of it.  I was reading another Trump news article (is there any other news, really), sitting silently in a local food court as the hustle, bustle, and conversations were completely muted behind me.  I looked up and the titlewave of sound swished around my brain.  The world was alive again as I brought my eyes up from the blue hue of the touchscreen.

The experience was a bit enlightening, and gave me new understanding as to how people are more prone to being hit by cars when using their devices.  It does make me curious as to what will happen when augmented reality is in full swing.

Music taste and adult evolution

One of the great things about where I live, and there are many similar locations across the country, is the proximity to a local park/nature trail.  The one in my neck of woods surrounds a municipally owned golf course, which has a path covered in mulch on the outer extremities of the property.  The majority of the course rests upon a large and rocky hilltop and has a creek that runs underneath it, ultimately forming into a pond in the centre of the north side.  Of course, there are plenty of ducks happily reside there, safe in the knowledge that the people who walk through the area will leave them be, or drop breadcrumbs for them to squabble over.  I’ve witnessed the odd feeding, and it is not for the faint of heart.

Usually, my strolls through this trail are not done solo.  The pleasant atmosphere makes it ideal for nice sixty-minute walk with a partner.  I actually had my first unaccompanied journey around the golf course this week.  When walking by myself, like many, my ears are caressed with music delivered from headphones or earbuds.  Knowing a situation like would eventually arise, I previously curated my phone with a bunch of artists that I have enjoyed listening over my four decades of life.  Some are guilty pleasures, and some I believe to be true musical artists who are honest to their craft.  What I am slowly trying to say is, don’t judge me with what is about to be transcribed to the permanence of TheInterwebz™.

I was approaching the second bend of the trail when a song from Sum 41 came on.  It might have been from their release from a couple months ago, I can’t remember.  What the song was does not really matter, but what it did do was remind me of events of my past when a song of theirs might have played.  Nostalgia was triggered in the way that only music can do.  How many times have we heard songs that we loved when we were growing up being used a modern television program, commercial, a movie, only to have it inspire us to buy a product or at the very least listen to the song or entire album?  Of course listening to this throwaway song from Sum 41 did not just trigger said nostalgia, but it lead me along a different path than what was before my eyes in the park.  I began to take stock in the music that I’ve been listening to or have purchased over the past couple of years.  More importantly, I thought about my usual process of finding new music to listen to.  Sadly, it goes something like the following:  First, on Friday mornings, I log into my Apple Music account and navigate to the new music prompt.  Second, I scan for artists I recognize.  Third, if there is an artist I know, I will listen to the album and purchase where appropriate.  Fourth, I navigate to the Just for You new music section and go through a similar process.  Sometimes, just sometimes, I’ll listen to the entire new music playlist that Apple generates for me, and maybe 10% of the time I find something or someone new that I enjoy and will investigate further.  The thought of this process yielded some conclusions that disappoint me and sparked further questions.

Eight short years ago (I remember when eight years seemed like a long time), I began my twenty episode podcast journey which explored new music and celebrated music from my past.  Since then, I’ve experimented with Nerdcore Hip-hop, EDM, but my roots still remain, which lean towards the rock, ska, SoCal punk, and 90s alternative (not the god awful stuff that counts as alternative these days), with bands and performers like Incubus, The Offspring, Foo Fighters (of course), Ben Folds, Gorillaz, Mad Caddies, Tegan and Sara, and yes, the aforementioned Sum 41.  While I still find new artists I enjoy, like Halsy, CHVRCHES, Tove Lo, and Dorothy, my scope modern music that I enjoy grows increasingly narrow.  I am getting perilously close to the point that most adults eventually reach.  That point where you believe all new music is crap, with music from our generation being infinitely better than what is currently being produced.

It began to dawn on me that perhaps this musical evolution is an indicator that the listener has completed the “growing-up” process.  A sign of full adulthood.  At first, this made sense.  I felt that even through my early thirties, I still had yet to completely grow up.  I quickly called bullshit on this, as there are people who have yet to really grow up and are listening to eighties hair bands.  While I called BS, the train of thought had merit.  The ability to enjoy new music as an adult could also be an indicator of ones ability to continue evolving.  There comes the point when a person becomes a full-on zebra.  This idea, I think, has more merit.  When I reflect on how much personal change I have gone through over the past few years, I know I am still evolving.  At the same time, I still occasionally find new music that I fall in love with.  I know I have not stopped my personal evolution.  In some aspects, I think my evolution is just beginning.  When I think honestly, I remember a period back in the doughnuts when I realized how much popular music is churned out like butter.  It is my hope that it’s not my evolution that has stuttered, but that I have become more of a wine taster.  I know what is good, and what I like.  Part of the role of a taster is also to experiment and try new things—which I still do.  It is with that in mind I find myself having a positive outlook on what is yet to come.  This journey that I am on, I believe, is far from being over.

People evolve and it’s important to not stop evolving just because you’ve reached ‘adulthood.’

-J. K. Simmons

China 2016: The first five days

It’s Easter today, but you wouldn’t know it here. No bunnies, no eggs, no religious doctrine. Not that I completely mind or care. This trip is worth far more to me than a holiday I barely celebrate. That being said, I can’t say that the five days I’ve been here has been all sunshine and roses.

Our first full day was Wednesday, which we spent just walking around Kunming and hopping random busses. A good mini-adventure as we were pretty jet lagged. We made it back to our hotel around 6pm and crashed for the night.

Thursday was more of the same, although we had a couple of destinations in mind. Hopping more buses, we eventually made it to a park. It wasn’t what we were actually looking for, mind you.   Sunflower was looking for a botanical garden. A botanical garden that was actually on the outskirts of town. Oops. But it didn’t matter.  It was nice to wander around there.  We happened to find a vegetarian buffet in the middle of the park that was pretty tasty as well.  No complaints.

On Friday we joined a tour group to the Stone Forest. This was an interesting journey. What we didn’t know was that there would be a couple of pit stops along the way for mini-shopping excursions. Three stops of an hour each, where each purchase made benefitted the tour guide in the form of a small commission. This really didn’t come as a surprise, but it was a little frustrating. At the end of the day though, it was worth it. The Stone Forest, a large, natural formation of protruding rocks, was quite beautiful to see. The area is quite large, and takes around three days to walk through it all. We stuck with the main tourist section which only covered a small portion (maybe an eighth of the park). We got home and grabbed a late dinner from a small hole in the wall.

Mistake.

It took a mere three days for me to get some food poisoning, leading me to spend day four in bed.  A day that should have found me on a plane to Nanning. Only, there was no plane.  There was no plane because there was no flight.  There was no flight because that route had apparently been cancelled.  All this we find out about only after TheWife™ and I laboured to the airport (she got a bit of poisoning too).  Without much fight, the airline booked us a hotel and a new flight with a different airline for a day later.  In hindsight, this was probably a far more optimal situation, as my sister-in-law’s home only has squat toilets (i.e. a hole in the floor).  

With a bit of a tender tummy, I’m pretty much back to normal again, sitting in the back seat of my sister-in-law’s Asia only brand Chevy Sail, on route from Nanning to Guigang, TheWife™’s hometown. It’s a relaxing and familiar drive. It’s a Sunday and there’s basically nothing on the highway. The next a few days I imagine will be pretty light, but given the past few days, I don’t really mind.

 

January 17 in 2002..

Fourteen years ago, I wrote the following for my old website, RUHome. I was such a lonely whiney bitch.
—————-

Believe it or not, this post was going to be about self pity, dispare, rejection, and pain. But I figured why bother. You probably don’t really care anyway so why wallow in my own pool of negativity.
While sitting on the john tonight, I thought back to my past. A time in my early days of gaming. I thought about how we always introduced are new breed of power characters to each other. The GM/DM/Storyteller/Referee would almost always start off like it was the beginning of a bad joke. “You guys are all in a bar…” I too fell prey to that character introduction. Why do I point this out you may ask? Because I have yet to go into a bar and really meet anyone new. At least not new in the sense of “this person has no relation to any of my friends here” kind of new. Why is it I haven’t met anyone new? I think I can chalk that up to two reasons. 1) I’m a chickenshit. Merde de poulet. I can’t go up to someone I’ve never met before and say “How you doin?” a la Joey from friends. 2) I’m a big guy. Otherwise known as obese! That’s right, in all non-pc ways of it all…I’m fat. I don’t have that rock-star body that always seems to be in demand. Okay, in all fairness, I’m not gross-fat. I think (at least) that I carry it well. I’ve never had problems making friends with women. But when your at a bar, they’re not looking for friends. There lookin’ for some serious deep-dicking, no matter Senator, Lesbian or Nun. I’m what to what they refer to as “cuddly.” As good as that may sound, it doesn’t get you none. It gets you hugs. Lots of hugs. Don’t get me wrong, I like hugs. They’re what keep me going. But dammit, a little more than hugs would be nice. Nice. My other curse–but don’t get me started.
So instead of being about dispare and pity, this is about being angry and whining. I’m not really sure which one is better. Maybe I should have gone for the pity-thang. Oops.

To be fair, it probably wasn’t the rendition from old blue eyes that changed my life, but the ones performed by the cast members of Neon Genesis Evangelion (see Day 6 about my j-pop awakening).  That being said, it was Fly Me to the Moon that embarked me on journey into big band jazz and the Rat Pack.  I was 21, (it was a very good year) and suddenly Frank Sinatra was no longer “old people music” to me.  Sometimes to go forward, you need to take a few steps backward and this was my step.
There have been many other songs that have been influential in my life, but when I trace back to the roots of the music that I’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy, I feel that the seven songs presented are the origins of it all.

7 songs that changed my life – Day 7

I wrestled with this one a little bit.
Throughout highschool and a significant portion of my early adult life I was an otaku.  By the time I was eight, the seeds had been planted withForce Five (Spacekateers, Gaiking, Danguard Ace, Starvengers, Grandizer), Battle of the Planets, and Robotech.  A decade later I was watching any anime I could get my hands on (some of which I probably shouldn’t have been watching).  The point of all this brief history is my affinity towards J-Pop.  Originally I thought it was Namie Amuro that put the spotlight onto the genre for me.  When I got to really thinking about it though, it was actually the anime series Bubblegum Crisis that did it. Music was a significant theme in the series and I fell in love with it.  Konyawa Hurricane, by the fictional animated band Priss and the Replicants laid the cement for what would become my Japanophile years.
And in case you’re interested, the Namie Amuro track that I originally thought of is below.

 

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x178vja_%E5%AE%89%E5%AE%A4%E5%A5%88%E7%BE%8E%E6%81%B5-body-feels-exit_music

7 songs that changed my life – Day 6

When I was 16, I was staring at a wall of CD’s at a local grocery superstore.  I had recently starting collecting CD’s as I finally had my own CD player (it was my SEGA CD hooked up to my POS stereo) and I was in the mood for some new music.  Not just new music, but something with explicit lyrics.  Seriously.  I wanted some music with some curses in it.  Two CD covers were duking it out.  The first was Beck’s Mellow Gold, and the other was from this band I’d never heard of called Nine Inch Nails. Their album, in this yellow-ish cardboard box was called The Downward Spiral.  The fact that the jewel case was contained within another unit of packaging won me over.
With no expectations other than to hear some fucks and shits, I placed the CD in the tray as soon as I got home.  Mr. Self Destruct, the first track from the album, not even close to a favourite, makes this list because it opened my eyes to an area of music I never knew existed.  Music that was far darker and more nihilistic than I had ever heard before.  And I liked it.  Mr. Self Destruct had prepared me for the times to come where I would need what I would later call ‘angry music’ and also created the possibility for me to enjoy the self destructive angst of grunge music (albeit far more catchy sounding and less noisy).

 

7 songs that changed my life – Day 5

The first musical influence that carried on throughout the rest of my life was the Barenaked Ladies.  My brother had got his hands on of a cassette dub of the orange tape that had If I had a million dollars on it, and I was immediately hooked.  Here we had a nerdy, quirky band from Scarborough, Ontario that had both silly songs, and some heavy tracks as well.  But it was the talk of Kraft Dinner and having a million dollars that sold me.  It wasn’t always easy being a fan of theirs either!  My Grade 10 English teacher was also fond of them which didn’t reflect well on my own tastes.  This couldn’t dissuade me though.  They were MY band.  I remained loyal through EVERY album afterward, seeing them in concert five times, but eventually got turned off when Steven Page left the band.  They haven’t been the same since.  And if like me you dream of a reunion, in an interview earlier in 2015 Ed Robertson was quoted as saying that no one “is in a hurry to work with each other again.”
Fun Fact: To this day, I have the occasional dream where I’m hanging with the band.

7 songs that changed my life – Day 4

Don’t judge me.

In the sixth grade, Paula Abdul and the her debut single/video Straight Up was another awakening for me.  Abdul was my first adult celebrity crush.  The sexy choreographer cast aside Alyssa Milano from my schoolboy fantasies.  Despite my arguments to the contrary at the time, the jiggling cleavage in the video might have at least had a little bit of influence on my taste in her music.  That, and well, I thought she was incredibly hot.  I was already an over-sexualized 10 year old, and this just fed into my prepubescent boner.
Fun fact: an unrequited classmate crush actually dubbed the cassette tape for me.

7 songs that changed my life – Day 3