I remembered I had a few odd dumporamas (a grungy take on panoramas) in my archives, which need to be posted. While these dumporamas aren’t as gritty as I’d have them, do take note of the ultimate dumporama featuring an aesthetically very pleasing row of dustbins. Why, yes, I’m weird. I genuinely hated the least about today that I found a rubbish photo of rubbish.
My students are creatures extremely inventive and, as often as not, extremely annoying. When these qualities combine, less resilient teachers go mad and teachers who won’t be messed up with, like me, switch into a defence mode which borders on offence mode. Let it be stated for the record that as long as a group of people doesn’t behave like people, I don’t feel obliged to treat them as people.
A curious situation occurred in the last class when I, as per usual, asked my class to put up their name tags. While one would expect them to be adjusted to this routine, they usually either forget what a name tag is (their English is somewhat limited, for students of English), or forget their name tag and spend five to ten minutes crafting a new one or come up with something which they probably deem funny. Such as the student who put in front of himself a piece of paper reading B.I.G. DADDY.
I wasn’t as much thrown off balance by the sheer cheekiness of his action as rather curious to find out what the hell the guy meant by it. I’ve been marked by my years spent at the philosophical faculty too much to settle for the explanation that things don’t mean anything. As I was trying to crack the puzzle, I had a brief conversation with the offender in the same tone in which he initiated it. That is, not precisely a model troubleshooting teaching method.
I shared my opinion with the perpetrator and the class that his parents must have hated him fiercely if they named him this and concluded that I would hereafter take the liberty of calling him You, you know whom I mean (YYKWIM), which shall have the beneficial effect of teaching the class the usage of whom. YYKWIM went red in his face but otherwise remained nonplussed. He probably likes to embarrass himself in public.
The remainder of the class proceeded in the same mood, as it happens to be my most difficult group, consisting of thirty or so worst individuals thrown together to amplify the effect. I did my best to move around to intimidate the most disruptive students with my physical proximity (that didn’t work out too well, probably given my sweet-looking appearance – ha!) and aim my questions at those who were the loudest at the given moment. I didn’t shy away from sarcasm and outright humiliation.
Teacher: Exercise one, page one twenty three, read the example please, Student A.
Student A: (no response)
Teacher: Hey, Student A!
Student A: Wut?
Teacher: (repeats request)
Student A: (no response)
Teacher: Will someone please poke Student A to wake her up?
Student B: (stops playing Candy Crush and makes to poke Student A on Facebook)
Teacher: Next sentence, please, Student C.
Student C: Where are we?
Teacher: That’s for you to know.
Student C: (nothing)
Teacher: Now, that’s a tricky sentence, so will you translate it into Czech, please, Student D?
Student D: (remains quiet)
Teacher: Well? Working on it?
Student D: Dunno.
Teacher: Will someone help your colleague out, preferably someone who speaks English?
I enjoyed my class more than I probably should. The students seemed to have less fun than me, but it clearly didn’t occur to them to reconsider their attitude. While I felt accomplished in my demolition of the class, I was somewhat disconcerted by one student’s question at the end as to when their regular teacher is coming back. I wonder if the student asked because their regular teacher manages them better. But then, she probably wouldn’t have ended up going insane.
Since I’ve been off antidepressants, whose side effect was apparently depression, I’m so Zen, which is so unlike me, that I’m scaring myself. Among the appalling symptoms that I now manifest is the fact that I don’t even hate my commute. I find it almost delightful to spend two hours a day sitting shielded from weather and people on the bus.
I still may have some hope of not turning into an entirely zened-out person with her chakras so aligned that nothing can mess with them. This hope is founded on the anger that possessed me when I was ordering my bus tickets and discovered that my seat was taken. As I’m a frequent rider (as of frequent flyer), it should be generally and universally known that seat no. 53 is my spot. How dare someone challenge my carefully thought-out seating arrangement?
My reaction to the loss of my chosen seat was akin to Sheldon Cooper’s on The Big Bang Theory. While I didn’t approach the trespasser while yelling in her face THAT’S. MY. SPOT. ! YOU’RE. SITTING. IN. MY. SPOT. !, my thoughts were preoccupied with murder. I didn’t enjoy my alternative seat at all because it was on the wrong side of the bus. As everyone, I hate to end up on the wrong side.
I still approve of the seat allocation system though. I believe it is essential that people’s names are matched with specific seats in the unlikely, as they insist, case of an accident. Should the bus drive into a bridge with everyone dead belted in their seats, it will speed up the identification of the bodies immensely.
I imprudently shared this positive view with my colleague and co-traveller, who didn’t appreciate its ingenuity and looked upset. Especially in the light of the incident shortly after the bus set off when the driver hit the brakes rather hard and rather unexpectedly, sending all unbelted passengers and unattached objects flying. If I hadn’t been belted, I would have certainly cracked my head on the seat before me. This way I was only hoping that we hadn’t run over a kitten.
To paraphrase the statement of the most interesting man in the world, I don’t always blog about make-up, but when I do… Wait. I don’t actually know what I do when I blog about make-up because I believe it’s my first time. This is how it happened.
It’s a poor luck that on my way to work, I pass the chemist’s. It’s even worse luck that on my way to work, I have time to spare when my bus arrives on time. My spare time doesn’t spare my wallet because I’ve become inexplicably attracted to the chemist’s make-up shelves.
I consider it essential to be presentable when working among people. (I teach young adults, so the question arises whether or not my students are people, since they do not usually behave people-like, but let’s leave this dilemma aside for the purpose of this post.) Being presentable entails putting war paint on my face, which is otherwise naturally discoloured and vaguely discomforting to look at.
I tend to avoid scrupulously spending too much, and I also tend to try hard to use whatever I happen to have at home – including expired poor-quality decorative cosmetics. (That is, I imagine it has expired, provided that I’ve had the items for five to ten years, but it’s hard to say because any expiry dates, if present, have been obliterated from the containers.) Since my earnings aren’t currently enough to pay the rent, the logical choice is to spend them on something else. Such as fresh war paint.
I’ve amassed what is by my standards a huge stash of decorative cosmetics. I now own not two or three but ten (!) bottles of nail polish – about five of them recently purchased, the rest is old and possibly no more useable, but I’m not throwing anything out unless I give it a try to make sure. I also have not one but two unexpired lipsticks and two fresh lip glosses. The most shocking fact is my simultaneous possession of two blushes. (A few days ago I buried in the bin my first ever blush that was clearly inexhaustible because it lasted me about fifteen years and still wasn’t empty when I binned it.)
Now I managed to horrify myself by writing it down and actually realising what I’ve been putting on my face. In keeping with my midlife crisis though, I’ve made myself all set up make-up wise and have started to use only the new fancy things to paint a face on my face. I suffer from a severe case of brand loyalty, so all I buy is Maybelline. As pictured in the snap above, I got me, among other things, the very elaborate Diamond Glow eyeshadows and Cat Eyes mascara (because it has a cat in its name).
Well, based on personal experience, I can confirm that there is a difference between using ten-year-old make-up and new make-up. A colossal difference, actually. I put the eyeshadows on, rather inexpertly, and some ten hours later, they looked exactly the same as when I applied them in the morning. I was so stunned that I didn’t even want to remove them for the night. I didn’t pay much attention to the marketing name – Diamond Glow – so it was for me to find out that the thing makes my eyes glow in a rather lovely manner. The Cat Eyes mascara didn’t add cats to my eyes, which is pitiful, it nonetheless looked just as perfect in the evening as in the morning. The point being, I guess, don’t use old make-up.
Spoiler alert: the following contains minor spoilers and alarming personal opinions.
The Americans (2013—15, aired on FX channel) is a TV show that I’m currently most fascinated with. I knew it’d be a match for me the moment I discovered the series and read its description. Set in the early eighties, it works with the premise of two KGB agents on a long-term mission in the States which entails their posing as an American family. Included is their having day jobs and two now teenage kids, who remain uninformed of their inherited schizophrenically split identity. As I was born in a Soviet satellite state and went on for a degree in English Studies, there’s hardly anything I’d watch with a greater involvement than The Americans.
Naturally, the series is USA-made, but I’ve long discovered that even the dumbest TV is made by smart people who mostly do their jobs catering for a dumb majority audience while occasionally creating something that gives away their capability of intelligent insight. It’s admirable how well the writers manage to convey Eastern European mentality, especially considering that it’s not merely alien but above all positively antithetical to the foundations of the North American way of life.
To me, the crucial difference between the West and the East in the context of this series is not as much the ideology as rather the way individual humans work out their existence as they are confronted with issues that, ultimately, have little to do with political alliances per se. The stereotypical Western way is to talk about shit and drag people down with you in the gutter – the customary Eastern way is to shut up and get shit done. No need to elaborate on which approach I prefer for myself.
When one manages to see past the red scare, what transpires are Eastern Europeans as a hardy set of people who persist despite defeating circumstances. I find the no-nonsense, utilitarian approach impressive and imitation worthy. However civilised we like to consider ourselves, I don’t believe that the Darwinian survival of the fittest has yet been surpassed or can be cheated. I’d rather be a practical survivor than a sentimental corpse.
In The Americans series, two opposing worldviews meet and clash, and their interaction illustrates, if anything, that there are differences that can’t be worked out. We might be all people alike at the end, but to think that any two or more thinking units could peacefully coexist without obsessively striving to dominate each other seems a misguided idea(l). This underlying motif is nicely shown in the relationships of the main characters in the series.
The show is particularly strong in female characters. The one that appeals to me the most is the supporting character of the double-agent Nina. She’s the perfect model of a powerful personality who indeed experiences emotions but knows better than to allow herself to be overwhelmed by them. She deceives and manipulates when required, yet she scrupulously avoids deceiving herself. She ends up betrayed by her American informer and lover, who is too engrossed in himself to know whether he prefers to do the right thing for the abstraction of his homeland or whether he will choose to do good to the very concrete fellow person.
Nina’s American nemesis, a tormented CIA agent with a disturbing facial tic, chooses his country and sends the woman whom he insists he loves to the Soviet jail. As an Eastern European, I’m likely to be biased, but I suspect that the CIA agent hasn’t checked the standard dictionary definition of love lately. The tension between a declaration of love and a manifestation of love recurs in his affair with Nina throughout the series. At one point, he is enlightened by another character that he should consider cutting the I love you phrase with Nina because Russian women don’t care for clichés. (Neither do Czech women, in case you wonder.)
To conclude this heavy post – which I set to myself as an opinion piece writing exercise – on a lighter note, here is a dialogue that was never literally spoken on The Americans but could have just been.
The American (heartfelt): I love you.
The Russian (distanced): Don’t make me say it.
I’ve been on (and occasionally off) antidepressants probably since I was born. I’ve always been such a happy kid. As I’ve been busy being productive (when not procrastinating) for the last few weeks, it happened that I ran out of my meds and spent a while without them (a while means about three weeks in this case). Today I finally got down to wasting the time of everyone involved and went for an appointment with my therapist.
I’ve been feeling shockingly well since I stopped popping prescribed pills. Among the astonishing side-effects of not using antidepressants, I found out these:
- I no more sleep twelve hours a day. The extra four to six hours a day come in rather handy. I can now sit through an entire boring class without falling asleep. This makes a particular difference when you’re the teacher.
- I stopped feeling suicidal because I can’t be bothered. Now I incline to wait for my natural decease of whichever disease caused by smoking / stress / exertion / any combination thereof should befall me.
- I stopped craving food. I find no difference between eating a steak and eating my disgusting cooking, which usually involves soya, tofu and crisp bread (not all at the same time, if it’s any relief). This is quite practical when you cope with random people who constantly accuse you of being pregnant while you’re just fat.
I consulted these happenings with my therapist and approached her for advice. Sadly, she’s also on antidepressants, so she’s presumably too medicated to care. I tried to encourage her to share her opinion, using the stock phrase You tell me, I’m not a doctor. It didn’t work. Probably because I am a doctor, if not of medicine. Eventually the therapist concluded that I could just as well go without medication.
To my question as to whether I’m now officially cured or what, she replied nothing. I have my doubts about the curability of depression, but I decided against intimating them to her because, you know, I’m a doctor (I’m also a huge smartass, for your information). I wonder if my public health system-employed therapist is paid per patient because she insisted on setting another appointment for six weeks later. Whatever it’s good for. We just keep on disappointing each other.
I’ve been practising yoga at home half-heartedly for a year and vigorously for the last three months. I devised a strictly anti-zen branch of yoga, which has the same postures minus the spiritualism. In yoga according to Mara, it’s essential for the yogi not to enjoy herself and to persist in practice solely to prove herself that she can.
In keeping with my perception of yoga as homework, today I made a video of my workout so that I could check how wrong exactly I’m doing it and adjust my asanas accordingly. I think my home video deserves an Academy Award for the comedy of the year. While I’m not going to share the video, I took a few screenshots to show you how it’s not done.
Most Messed Up Poses
Less Messed Up Poses
My Workout Model Video
Today I was woken up by the synthesised voice of the standard Borg hail. I found it strangely comforting to awake to the reassuring message of a highly developed alien race: We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile. I wasn’t drinking absinth last night, but I did set the friendly Borg greeting as my ringtone.
I’ve been fascinated with the Borg a lot recently. The epiphanic moment happened when I was teaching class and accidentally stepped in the beam of the overhead projector. Immediately I felt like I was being assimilated by the Borg and was having my eye implant mounted. I mentioned this to the students as a humorous distraction, sadly, they had no knowledge even of the existence of Star Trek. I found that deeply saddening. So I decided I should keep more in touch with the popular culture that formed my youth.
As to who had the lack of sense to call me on a Saturday morning at half past nine, it was my landlord. He had no adequate excuse. There was no fire, no earthquake and no Borg vessels anywhere near. He wanted to check what I thought of his summary invoice issued after one year of rent to settle the difference between deposit payments and actual usage of energies and the like. I had my thoughts about the bill, but I deemed them inappropriate to share because I’d hate to offend. I assured the landlord that the invoice had been paid. He wished me a good night. I think it was him who was drinking absinth last night.
As if it were not bad enough that I’m cat crazy, I’ve recently ascertained that my cat is crazy. She gave herself away one sunny, frisky morning when she got stuck in the window blinds – again. This time, however, she took it to a whole new level by getting stuck with not one but two of her paws at once.
I’ve been trying to impress on my cat the knowledge that her claws are retractable and hence she doesn’t really need to get stuck in places. However, she stubbornly refuses to use her RETRACT function and prefers the SUMMON command instead. The summon command, naturally, summons the human to assist her as required.
Besides being a fan of bondage, the cat (who clearly doesn’t know that she is a carnivore) rejects meat. She must be a conscientious objector. Respecting her vegetarian choice, I rarely try giving her any meat – as she sniffs it, goes away and the portion gets thrown out untouched. She does enjoy eating anything that is not intended for consumption though.
Today I noticed her choking on something and jumped up to check on her. What she was choking on was a spider’s leg. She hunted down a rather huge spider, kicked the poor thing into a small ball and proceeded to devour it. I still haven’t decided if I’m more discomforted by the fact that there was a huge spider in my flat or by the fact that my self-proclaimed vegetarian cat ate the thing. She’s such an animal.