Friday, March 16, 2012

The Scary Mixes

(Back to the topic of English teaching. This is a story from Bangkok in 1995; published on the website back in 2005. Ah, was anybody every really so young? It wasn't included in the memoir TO TRAVEL HOPELESSLY for copyright concerns.)

Bangkok -- 1995

You know, I'd like to say that the Scary Mixes came about as a result of rainy season cabin fever, but in truth I think that's just my brain rationalizing it.

In point of fact they came about as a result of DOING THE SAME GODDAMNED THING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.

This is a common malady for English teachers.

But especially so for us.

My first job, in Thailand, had us ALWAYS working what are now generally known as "intensive" classes. This meant the students would study every day, or at least four days a week, and finish up the book in about five weeks. As I recall.

Most all of our students fell into the first three levels, and only very rarely did any continue past that third level. Generally you had two different classes during the week -- one in the morning, one in the evening -- and four different classes on Saturdays and Sundays.

So basically, after only a few months, you knew those mother fucking books inside and out. Backwards and forwards.

We used, at that time, a book called MAIN STREET, which as I recall, was by Peter Viney and Karen Viney.


The is one of the few remaining signs of this book series on Amazon.


The book was an American English series, directed at teenagers, and it probably didn't suck as bad as we always thought it did -- it created its own cartoon characters, songs, and stories, though, rather than trying to use real-life activities or pay for the rights to use real songs.

This caused us to become, to put it politely, over-familiar with these songs and characters.

Anyone who worked there would undoubtedly recall Xeno the robot, laugh heartily at the mention of Gator McGee, and crap themselves in terror thinking about the Orchid Murder Mystery.

And then there was our favorite: BIG FOOT!

This was a story presented in comic-book form on two pages in the back of the book. It concerned a woman looking for her husband in the Alaskan wilderness, after his plane had crashed. She and her friend locate some tracks, and follow them to a cave. There they discover her husband, and find the huge monster BIGFOOT! RARRRHHH!

(thanks to Former Teacher Q for providing these:)




The friend tries to shoot Bigfoot, but the husband intervenes, saying that Bigfoot saved his life and was intelligent and friendly. Bigfoot runs away, and the man returns to civilization with the others. They consider whether they should tell anyone about Bigfoot -- in the last panel they are imagining Bigfoot in a cage at the zoo weeping.

We loved that shit.

And what's more: the whole thing was dramatized on the cassette tape.

The roar of Bigfoot -- RRRRAAAAARRRHHHHH -- became a daily joke. We would have it cued up to play when certain teachers entered the staff room, for example. We'd walk by other teacher's classrooms with a tapeplayer and play the roar loudly.

It was fucking hilarious. I know.

I recall I offered my students extra points on the speaking test if they could imitate they roar of the Bigfoot.

Seriously.

Then one day English Teacher S came in with the Scary Mix.

As I said, the dramatic finale of the story was when the man tries to shoot Bigfoot, but is stopped by the injured pilot.

* * *

(The man's wife and friend enter the cave.)

"Ooooh. . . Peggy? Is that. . . you?"

"Yes darling. I'm here now."

"Oh! What's that?"

"RAARRRRHHHH!"

BANG! (noise of gunshot)

"Don't shoot! It isn't dangerous! It saved my life!"

(sound of Bigfoot running away, growling)

* * *

Okay, scary enough. But then English Teacher S got ahold of a tape player with a dubbing function.

He proudly one day presented us with this Scary Mix of the same situation.

* * *

"Oh! What's that?"

"RARRRRRRHHHH!"

BANG!

BANG!

BANG!

BANG!

BANG!

"RARRRRRRRHHH!"

BANG!

"Don't shoot!"

BANG!

BANG!

BANG!

"Don't shoot! It saved my life!"

"RARRRRRRRHHHH!"

"RARRRRRRRHHHH!"

BANG!

BANG!

"RARRRRRRHHHHH!"

BANG!

"Don't shoot! It saved my life!"

BANG!

BANG!

"RARRRRRHHHHH!"

BANG!

(long pause)

"It saved my life!"

BANG!

"RARRRRRRHHHH!"

(pause)

BANG!

"Oh. . . Peggy? Is that. . . you?"

* * *

My god, we went into fucking hysterics over that. We thought it was the funniest thing in the history of humor.

We played it for our students. Rarely did the Thais understand the joke. (Of course, they rarely understood anything we said or did, so I suppose that's no surprise.)

Finally I got to where I would just play it instead of the regular version, and see if they students even noticed a difference.

They never did, or if they did they never commented on it.

Naturally this led to a rash of other scary mixes of different listening activities. I can't remember all of them, none had the charm of the first Scary Mix.

I made one from an activity about two cops named Tibbets and Sileski, who were tailing a bank robber named Butch Bailey. (It was a present continuous activity: "Look! He's going into the apartment!")

At the end of it, when Tibbets and Sileski go to arrest Butch Bailey, he reveals he's just going to have lunch at the restaurant next to the bank with his two friends. He introduces them and asks Tibbets and Sileski to join them for lunch.

In my version, they all started shooting at each other afterwards, with gunshots I dubbed over from the Bigfoot tape. The crowning touch was the final line: "My legs! I can't feel anything in my legs!" which I dubbed from another listening activity entitled "The Snow Covered Everything!"

I offer this story as an example of what constant exposure to inane listening activities can do to a person. Perhaps this is a plea for Language Schools to change their textbooks every now and again. Perhaps it's just a plea for understanding.

But by god, did we think those scary mixes were fucking hilarious.

1 comment:

Special Brew Man said...

Ive been in the game since 2000, it now takes 15 beers for me to forget what the present fucking perfect is.