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The best things in life are … March 26, 2006

Posted by nebulon in paradox, personal.
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 This picture-taken with my mobile phone and its built effects function-is the embodiment of my car’s ultimate purpose: infant slumber chamber. Those of you with children will undoubtedly know what I am talking about. My wife was getting a haircut, and the kids were finally fast asleep after the prerequisite 20 minute drive to no particular destination. In this luxurious moment of respite, I sat there wondering what I would write this evening. Would I have to post the empty post of my empty mind? Although I thank Michael for the warm welcome, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been erroneously called up from triple A by an absent minded scout. I suppose this betrays a certain conceit that someone is actually at the ball park watching the game…
I think the best thing I can do right now is share this feeling with one of my good friends, Hamish Parker. Hamish, welcome a bored. aboard.

My neighbor returned from a long trip to the US. He brought back an excellent gift, the complete Chronicles of Narnia in one large tome. My family and his went to see the movie together a few months ago and he knew that these were very special books for me. My step-dad gave me a set when I was 10 and they made me love reading. I read them over and over again, something I have rarely done.
I have another friend, Kevin, with whom I had a discussion about the apparent Christian subtext in this work by Lewis. Kevin sent me an article by Jessica Seigel of The New York Times. This is how she closes:

While critics today call it “fallacy” to interpret a work by citing the author’s intentions, Lewis left a road map for us marked with special instructions for not annoying children. In his essay “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said,” he denounced as “moonshine” the idea that he wrote the Narnia chronicles to proselytize the young. The lion Aslan, he wrote, bounded into his imagination from his experience as a Christian, coming to him naturally as should all good writing.
“Let the pictures tell you their own moral,” he advised in “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.” “If they don’t show you a moral, don’t put one in.”
In keeping with that advice, the Narnia chronicles don’t beat you on the head – nor does the faithful movie adaptation. If everyone stays on his own level – the surface for adventurers, and the depths for believers – we can all enjoy, so long as the advertisers stay out of the way.

I happen to share Ms. Siegel’s perspective. Anyway, back to my excellent gift, and excellent neighbor. Here is the inscription he wrote inside:
“To Patrick, my very good friend in hope that he really enjoys the series. By the way (italics mine) Aslan is coming back and that this fantasy very real. Your friend, _____”
My good friend is a born again minister, of course. And he is a very good friend. He is one of the kindest, warmhearted people I know. I like to be around him, even when he tries to sell me stuff I don’t want to buy. I have seen him on a few occasions diffuse a volatile or tense situation with less than 20 words. I truly admire that.
But he thinks I am going to rot in hell. Yet he loves me. The depth of his conviction requires that he try to help me, if he can. On so many levels, I find this deeply troubling. We’ve talked about it before, without actually getting anywhere substantive. I wasn’t trying to put a chink in his armor, either. That would also have been arrogant, which brings me to the point of that particular discussion. I asked him if it were possible for him to be in a relationship with me without feeling sorry for me, without pitying me, without condescending to me. As a child, I was deeply and negatively affected by certain members of my family who are born again and I don’t feel like going to the same place ever again. He assured me that it was possible, but from a logical point of view, I don’t see how it is.
But his actions towards my family and I, his genuine kindness, and the way I feel around him all point to this paradoxical conclusion: My friend loves me, believes I will burn unless I accept Christ as my one true savior, will continue to softly point me in the right direction all the while accepting me as I am.
Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

More on Linkou, HFRB and blogging March 21, 2006

Posted by nebulon in Taiwan, Teaching, The Lost Grey Matter.
1 comment so far

I should perhaps start at the beginning.
When I was 3 1/2, I asked my mother, “Mom, what is the name of the man from whose penis came out the sperm that made me?”
I am joking. I mean, I actually did say that but I will most certainly not start with that…

Starting a blog feels a bit daunting for me. I am not quite sure what I want to say, in what format, or how personal I want to get. Looks like many bloggers solve that problem by keeping separate blogs, which I suppose I may do in the future. But for now, I’ll just throw caution to the wind and keep my jumbled thoughts and unlearned comments here. This is the way I am in real life. Jumbled. Unlearned. Open
A few weeks ago I came across a somewhat heated discussion on Scott Summer’s blog on the merits or lack thereof of HFRB (Hardcore Foreign run Buxiban). This led to
1. an idea on how to foment new thought and, God forbid, perhaps meaningful change in my current school
2. Meeting Michael T. and Mark W., two inspiring people
3. Finally taking a chance at sounding my own voice
Mark’s post, which piqued my interest even more, got me reading tons of other stuff- including this post on forumosa.com:
“No thanks. I’d rather teach 2 to 9 kids per class, 29 hours/week with basically no prep time for 100,000/month, than teach 30 unhappy kids for the same money with a loud-mouthed, know-it-all, nitpicky foreigner on my back all the time.”
Now, to address the quoted post…
I didn’t see ANY unhappy kids. I saw kids raising their hand ALL the time, smiling–participating, unafraid to speak loudly and make mistakes. Sure, they were nervous at times, but not fearful. This sort of contradicts some “common knowledge” about Taiwanese kids not wanting to speak out for fear of making mistakes. I heard on girl in Ron’s class make more mistakes in one single attempt at answering a question than my students dare make in a month! She eventually settled on an answer (the wrong one) and there was no blushing, there was no cowering back into her seat never to be heard again. There in lay the paradox for me:
They (the students) brought verve, dedication (occasional laughter) and “oral perseverance” during a class based on drills and repetition. I didn’t see any kids looking off into space. If they occasionally didn’t raise their hand, I honestly think it’s because they were momentarily sore.
Classes which (I have often) specifically designed to get this kind of response have gotten exactly the kind of response you would expect from drills and repetition. Go figure.
Mark and Ron really weren’t worried about IP. They were nothing but forthcoming, generous and more than accommodating. They even let me record parts of their classes on my mobile. Next, I will try to put all I have learned together to see what can be of use for my schools ESL program. Mark, I’ll try to get the files uploaded somewhere and maybe your grandma can check you out after all:)
I, Nebulon, will have to find a sizable chunk of The Grey Matter for this task.
To bed, to bed.

trip to Linkou March 20, 2006

Posted by nebulon in personal, Teaching.
1 comment so far

The trip to Linkou was fantastic,even though I was tired and rambling on a bit. Mark was very patient with me. I was impressed with his easy-going manner and willingness to help me,  a total stranger. I hope he comes up next weekend.
I am super grateful to him (and Ron) for sharing their time, knowledge and advice.
I wish some of the people I worked with were as open minded…
I think I have enough to put together a report and a rough presentation. Looks like no one will be listening though. I will have done my best.