Saturday, May 30, 2009
Yep. It’s the end of an era.
Damn strange. I must be getting old. Sometimes I wake up at five in the morning and have to go downstairs and drink a stiff cup of coffee so that I have enough energy to get back to sleep. Then I will usually sleep until nine.
It happened again this morning. And occasionally, if the coffee is strong enough, it will give me enough of a jolt to prod me into dreams.
This morning I dreamt I was teaching English to a large new class of adolescent students. The students were all Chinese, though for some reason the class was being held in a classroom in Madison, Wisconsin. As I taught I noticed that two of the boys in the class, obviously brothers, were Chinese with some admixture of something else: Middle Eastern blood of some kind.
I asked one during class: “I know it’s a strange question, but I’m curious. You’re ancestors aren’t all Chinese, are they?”
He began to explain when another student, whom I hadn’t noticed, piped up. I realized this third student, wearing gold-rimmed glasses and a white dress shirt, wasn’t actually a student, but the father of the two boys. He stood up and approached my desk, sitting down in front of me.
“You’re right,” he said. “We’re Arabs, from Saudi Arabia. I moved here to the States because, well, one has more freedom: one can live the way one wants. I want my sons to have that opportunity. It’s not that I hate my country--by no means. It’s just culturally a bit . . . Well . . .”
“A bit stiff?”
“Yes. And I married a very beautiful woman and moved here. Very beautiful.” He smiled as if he were going to take out his wallet and show me her photo.
Then I noticed something else. His gold-rimmed glasses had three lenses. Because the man, though handsome, had three eyes, one right above his nose.
But then as I talked to him he had two eyes again. The number of eyes kept shifting back and forth. Finally I started to feel I was spending too much time chatting with this father while the rest of the class sat idle.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I really have to go back to teaching.”
“Alright. Take it easy, maaan,” he said, using a hippyism that was completely out of character. He moved back to his seat.
Here in Taipei I’d recently taught the Cyclops episode in the Odyssey. There’s no doubt this was behind the shifty third eye above the man’s nose.
As the class dismissed later on, it turned out that one of the sons wasn’t an adolescent any more, but a university student going to a party afterwards. He invited me to go and gave me directions. I was to get on a certain bus in the underground bus depot right under the classroom.
I waited down there and watched, people getting on and off this and that bus, but couldn’t find the right bus and couldn’t figure out how the new Madison bus system worked.
In short, the dream ended as far too many of my dreams do: in a transportation tangle, myself late for some event or exam
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Poll: Favorable opinions of Cheney rise
As Dick Cheney prepares to give a major speech on the battle against terrorism, a new national poll suggests that favorable opinions of the former vice president are on the rise.
But the Disassociated Press Corporation survey, released Thursday morning, indicates that a majority of Americans still have an unfavorable opinion of Cheney.
Seventy-nine percent of people questioned in the poll say they believe the former vice president should be bull-whipped then imprisoned for life. Fourteen percent say Cheney should not be bull-whipped before imprisonment, up 8 percentage points from January when he left office.
In the past two months, the former vice president has become a frequent critic of the new administration in numerous national media interviews.
"Is Cheney's uptick due to his visibility as one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration? Almost certainly not," says Brad Holland, DP polling director.
"After the threat posed by the Bush administration receded with their leaving office, people tend to become more forgiving," he explains. "They no longer feel the danger these people posed, so they are more lenient."
Holland cited one polling result which showed a significant percentage of Americans believe Cheney and other former Bush administration officials should just be highly medicated and institutionalized, not actually imprisoned for their crimes.
The new survey's release comes just a few hours before Cheney is scheduled to give a speech Thursday on the war against terror in the cafeteria at Washington, D.C.'s Belleview Psychiatric Ward.
"There are always a few hecklers in the ward, Larry and Ken mostly, who like to point out that Dick had been in office eight months when the 9/11 attacks happened on his watch,” said Belleview nurse Daniel Cather.
"But usually when Dick gets up to speak most of the residents just listen. Because he tends to get violent when people disagree with him."
The Disassociated Press--Better News than You Deserve
Bus Stop Proposition, Taipei
A small round woman in a shabby teeshirt and sweatpants approaches me at a bus stop and asks if I want her daughter. She speaks in a heavily inflected Chinese and at first I'm not sure I heard right. Dropping her plastic bag of household cleaning items, she reaches to shake my hand.
"Can we be friends?" she asks frankly, then repeats the query about the daughter.
I don't offer her my hand.
"Well at least look at her," she says, and gestures toward a girl about five paces away.
The girl is maybe twenty and is obviously retarded. She's grinning sheepishly at me. Rounder than the mother, she looks like an oversized Chinese steamed bun forced into mismatched house clothes.
The mother--she's finally managed to force her hand into mine--explains that she doesn't know what to do, the daughter never listens to her and always complains that she talks too much.
"You can take her if you want, do whatever you want with her, I'm not asking for much," she says to me through her four remaining teeth.
Noticing my eyes are on the gaps in her denture as she speaks, she points to the daughter and says:
"Oh, she's got better teeth than me, don't worry."
At this the girl frowns and sticks out her tongue at us, but then obliges by smiling widely to show her teeth.
In fact she does have better teeth: she has teeth.
"I'm fifty years old last month, and I've given birth to seven children. Two of the sons died, and a daughter died too, so this girl is one of the four I have left."
I don't bother to ask how her having four children left relates to the fact that she's trying to sell one.
I see my bus approaching and say, "Sorry. I've got to get to work."
"C'mon. Won't you consider it?" the mother says. "Just take her with you. I'm not asking for much."
She runs her hand over the brown paper Subway bag I'm carrying, as if to say, "Give me the turkey sub, and the girl is yours."
As the bus door opens for me to get on, the mother takes her retarded daughter round the shoulders and struggles to force her onto the bus with me. But the girl is stronger, and the ploy doesn't work.
As the bus pulls away, I watch them recede through the window, the mother cussing at the daughter and the daughter waving bye to me with her wide retarded grin.