Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Russian HIV Test (Or: The Power of Positive Thinking)

That was back in the old days when Russia loved homosexuality. My experiences in Russia are all terribly outdated, let's remember.

That colleague was not mentioned in the book VODKABERG, or not mentioned much. He was from New Zealand and he works as a political activist now. See there?

Read more old-school Russia experiences in VODKABERG

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Only Thing Constant Is ...

As mentioned in the last post, I usually watch movies with the students on Fridays, after we finish our tests.

They enjoy movie day, but they're picky about what they like: nothing with wizards, monsters, superheroes, etc. "Teacher! It's for children!" they cry.

They like cop / mafia action flicks, and of course things like FAST AND THE FURIOUS. (Anything with careless driving.)

Recently we watched these two movies:




While watching them, I had a moment of dawning realization:

Why the fuck hasn't style or music changed in 15 or 20 years?

I mean, think about it. If you watched a movie from 1980 in 1995, you'd laugh at the hairstyles and such. If you watched a movie from 1970 in 1985, you'd be amazed how different it looked.

1983's VALLEY GIRL, which we can safetly say looks entirely fucking different from 1998s THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS.

The world has changed tremendously, in terms of technology, economics, and so forth, in fifteen years, but nothing else in America has. I know I wear the same kind of clothes I was wearing 20 years ago (modified FRIENDS casual, I guess?) and don't feel behind the times.

Watch a Michael Bay movie from 1995:

and does it look too much different from a Michael Bay movie from 2015?

Look at something like the FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise -- it started in 2001, adding a seventh installment last year, and the styles, music, and everything else looks pretty much identical. Give or take a tattoo or a shaved head.

One funny thing to me though, you watch a Russian or Indian movie from 2000, they look VASTLY different:

versus today, when pretty much everybody in the world looks like this:

I mean, add a beard or a tattoo or whatever, swap the skin tones out, and that's prime time TV everywhere in the world. Find me 10 differences in the cast of FRIENDS and the cast of NEW GIRL. Of course there's exactly one: a couple of them have darker skin tones and parents from other countries.

You may say to me, oh, but that just means that fashion is done; one can wear the best of whatever stylistic era now, and it will be accepted. Whether you wish to be a hip-hop doofus, an extreme-sports tattooed wraparound sunglasses guy, rock a suit, or be a flip-collar preppie, it's all cool in the 21st century.

To which I say: There are a LOT of styles that the future has yet to explore.

Music, too. The same blonde teenagers singing the same auto-tuned pop, and the same generic hip-hop and R and B, often sung by exactly the same people. (More big asses these days, I guess?) If Adelle's album had come out in 2000, would people think, "Wow, that really sounds ahead of it's time!" Or if Eminem's first album was released now, would people say, "Oh that is some tired old-hat shit!"

English Teacher X says, nup!

I feel this is a significant observation, but I'm not sure exactly what it means. It would be dramatic to say something like "the terrorists hit pause on American culture when they hit the World Trade Center!" but I'm not sure that's exactly it. More of a general case of arrested development, I think, our general culture of sequels and nostalgia plundering, of reboots and rehashes and "hacking" for profits rather than thinking of something original.

I mean I guess I'm as guilty as anybody. This blog is 13 years old, and counting.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

21st Century Teaching Technology and Tits

You know those stories you hear occasionally about the teacher who accidentally shows a porno to their students? Like this one? Or this one? Or this one?

Well, I'm kind of one of those, now.

Smart boards!

Like 'em. Used them in my last job, and now we have them at this job in America.

I believe SMART Board is a trademark, and that there are different kinds, but "smart board" kind of seems to be the general term for these giant tablet computers at the front of the classroom. I hear "interactive white board" also but that seems an oxymoron.

I had to use chalk at a couple of my first jobs. Whoa! Sucky! White boards are a little better, but not much. My shirt sleeves were constantly covered with ink.

We have smart boards at this job, and they're damn useful. Interactive games on ESL websites, lessons and presentations that I can save and easily recycle, an internet connection to instantly look up or clarify facts, Google images and Google translate to help the students understand words. And videos on YouTube, et al.

What could go wrong?

On Fridays after we finish our tests, we usually watch movies. We are urged to stick with PG or PG-13 movies, of course, even though our students are 18 to 25 year old adults, as they are from the Middle East and might be easily offended.

(Yeah, right.)

I was trying to show something on free-streaming service Crackle, a short webseries about a high-school student who becomes a spy. (Of course violence is okay, but nudity is frowned upon.)

It started to stream, and it even said the name of the spy show at the bottom of the screen,

But some stream got crossed somewhere, and it instead showed another show, a scene where the hero beats up another guy in a sleazy bar in Mexico and takes a French chick back to his hotel room ... and she immediately takes off her top.

General hilarity erupted.

I lamely explained my mistake. The students (only 5 of them, we have very small classes) wanted to watch the rest of it, but I turned it off and found something more innocent.

There are stories about guys losing their job here for showing porno to the students, but the stories are vague and change with the teller, gaining "urban myth" status. It would seem one teacher was actually fired for showing the students ads for prostitutes on Craigslist when they asked about them.

But anyway. This happened a couple months ago now, and I still have my job, so it will remain just a wacky story, I guess. The students won't rat on me, because I'm the only teacher who routinely shows violent action movies, and they don't want to have to watch any more Pixar movies or National Geographic documentaries.

Repeated attempts to find the actual video with the naked chick in it have failed. Because it looked like a good movie.