24 January, 2009

Arundhati Roy: Come September

Arundhati Roy is most famous for her 1997 win of The Booker Prize for The God of Small Things, but recently I discovered a speech called "Come September" that knocked off my socks, as we used to say, for its sheer bravery, courage and sense. There were not many people willing to say these things just one year after 9/11 and probably, though the air is starting to feel a little clearer and freer to breathe since Obama's inauguration, there still aren't many who would speak so clearly now. That she did so, with such powerfully poetic prose and with such a compassionate attitude, makes her one of the best I have ever heard.

Because I think this speech is so powerful and timely as we begin to think about the big problems we have and how to solve them, I've collected all 5 videos from YouTube here. My counsel is to have patience and listen to them all because this talk covers a lot of ground, sums up the state of the world then and now, and builds to a wonderful ending.

When I get to worrying about the world and the madness I see all around, and believe me I do that quite a bit, have been doing it since I was a young teen, it encourages me so much to find people in the next generation who see clearly, are brave, and provide inspiration for us all.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Come September, Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

20 January, 2009

Thomas Paine in The Rights of Man, (1791):

"When it can be said by any country in the world, my poor are happy, neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them, my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars, the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive, the rational world is my friend because I am the friend of happiness. When these things can be said, then may that country boast its constitution and government. Independence is my happiness, the world is my country and my religion is to do good."

18 January, 2009

A Substitute Life

These days cooking is on the fly. Most days I spend hours haunting the online interface that lets me search for and accept substitute teaching jobs. Since there are limited jobs and a hungry mass of would-be teachers circling around Aesop (that's the interface's classical name) who don't want to be like the fox and only be left with sour/no grapes, there's not as much time for planning good food as there used to be, or researching meals and thinking about tantalizing combinations, for either breakfast on the run or lunch at the desk, while I madly scan the lesson plans for the afternoon and frantically try to locate the hand-outs, textbooks, and get a leg up on running through the material so I can pretend that I have been teaching this material like, forever, and know the teaching score.

Maybe you know a substitute teacher. We're easy to spot. We're the ones with dark circles under our eyes from getting up at 4:oo am to go over the map to the school one last time, throw a lunch of leftovers in a recycled bag, and if we are lucky or really organized, get to glug half a cup of coffee and a few bites of peanut butter toast on the way out the door to the bus. In the dark, in a snowstorm, in 20 below weather. Wearing sensible boots with heavy treads for walking up the long approaches to schools and over the Small-Fuji banks the ploughs have decorated the driveways with. The ones arriving at the office with a puff of relief, having made it half a second under the deadline.

On a good day.

The ones trying to speed through the pleasantries at the front desk and hustle ourselves to the classroom for a few precious minutes of recognisance before the first child arrives. It's a good day when you can take off your boots and coat and walk the room, locating the list of children assigned to helper tasks, the attendance folder, the homework list, the schedule of classes taught by other teachers when the students must be escorted and picked up from other rooms (which you have to find). the classroom rules list, the cache of extra paper and pencils, the stash of texts and the location of the piles of subject duotangs, the tape and the glue and the scissors.

A few times a week there's a day off. On those days I have failed to swim with the sharks and find myself in my home pond like the guppy I really am. Then I usually cook something good, but for the most part I have been using tried and true favourites from my recipe file. I have also been trying a lot of Thai recipes from The Blue Elephant (Royal Thai) Cookbook, and so far I'm not complaining. They're light and fresh, taste of lime leaves and coconut and warmth and carry me away to bamboo forests, which if I had any sense, is where I'd stay.

I''ll be putting up some of my versions soon.

In the meantime, all I can think about is that I have an assignment tomorrow and it's a good piece of commuting away. I'll be leaving early while it's still dark and cold, and I'll be out in that cold waiting for buses. I'll need two to get there. I know what it will be like waiting on the highway in the busy morning traffic. The air will not be good. In fact it will be something like the air in this video.

Don't let the brilliance of this Howard Vause gem or the dulcet tones of the singer fool you. It ain't fun on the roads.

01 January, 2009

Happy New Year !

Happy New Year to friends far and near!

May 2009 find your spirit as strong as the ox, your patience as long as the gentle cow, and your heart as light as a calf in spring.

Though this picture of black swans swimming in the castle moat in a very rare snowstorm was taken a few years ago in Japan at New Year's, it strongly mirrors the weather here in Nova Scotia as a blizzard has swept in for New Years Day.