Friday, December 19, 2008

Black Gold, Texas Tea (Or: Die Global Yuppie Scum)

Oil went down to like $35 a barrel yesterday, from summertime highs of nearly $150.

Russians typically blame America for the whole financial crisis; never mind their own matchless unmitigated greed and careless borrowing and lending.

(Towards the beginning of the year, one of my individual students said, "All of the new construction in town is being done by companies with nothing but borrowed money and being sold to people with nothing but borrowed money. Is that normal in America?" I just smiled and said, "Pretty much.")

If the CIA, or the World Bank, or the Trilateral Commision, actually DID plan this out, it was a good fucking plan. It wouldn't be too hard to manipulate the price of oil with unregulated speculation by both individuals and large investment firms, and to influence the "experts" (directly or indirectly) to predict that it would continue going up and hit $200 a barrel by the end of the year.

Therefore everybody in Iran, Venezuela and Russia go out and buy apartments in Cyprus and Malta, private jets and Hummers -- with bank credit (established in only the last few years in Russia), because all of their hard cash goes for overpriced clothes and nightclubs and keeping their mistresses fed and watered, and hey, profits by the end of the year should be even bigger.

Hah hah, surprise, heathen scum!

Hats off to you, then, CIA. . .

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Every ESL Teacher's Nightmare

. . . or at least every middle-aged drunken ESL teacher's nightmare:

Teaching little kids.

You'd think that parents and administrations would be horrified at the thought of putting unsightly washed-up old guys in close quarters with little children, but it happens surprisingly often. (Insert Gary Glitter joke of your choice here.)

One reason for this, I suppose, is that the number of young female ESL teachers is considerably less than needed for the tremendous number of children who are being forced to study by overzealous parents.

I'm teaching a 4-year-old girl twice a week now, in individual classes (although the nanny or the bleach-blonde trophy wife-mama always sit in.) That sounds horrifying until I reveal to you that I taught kids as young as 2 and 3 in Thailand, in groups of up to twenty. (This kind of hyper-parenting is extremely common in Asia.)

Bad enough, that, but the worst are the 11 - 13 year olds, who are too old to be cowed much by the authority of a scruffy English teacher. Little kids you can at least make cry easily, and they spend half the time in the toilet anyway.

More bad news -- it's undoubtedly the wave of the future for this kind of English teaching. It'll only be a decade or so before primary and secondary school education is given pretty much completely in English, the world over. I don't know any statistics but even here in Nowheresville, Russia there are some schools that have all courses conducted in English.

(People will still speak Chinese or Urdu whatever at home, of course, but we'll see a global situation like India or Africa, where English is the language of business, politics and education.)

The good news? The world might end in 2012 anyway.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Desolation City, The Capital of Bleakland

This is the first December since 2000 I can remember in which there has been no snow. (And I can remember only one other November in which there was no snow.)

You'd think we might dread the onslaught of the five or six feet of snow the falls here every year, but in fact it brightens things up considerable.

Now there's just a depressing and pervasive greyness. The sun creeps up a bit above the horizon at about 9:00am or so, generally just turning the thick cloud layer a bit less black, the dark grey buildings into light grey buildings, and then is pretty much gone by 4:00pm.

The only spot of color is the fucking billboards and advertisements, which are like every twenty feet these days.