Wednesday, April 29, 2009

But what about heavy metal…

A few days ago, the students gave their oral presentations on Roman emperors. As I mentioned before, Danny was assigned Caligula. His presentation consisted of oral stops and starts and stutters and appeals to Odile for help with the translating of words. These Chinese words, which he appealed to Odile for their English meanings made Odile red faced. To these words, she emphatically shook her head no.

“His sister, ne-ga ne-ga ne-ga, he, uh marry her..uh in in ne-ga ne-ga ne-ga in in-incest,” Danny stuttered and stammered using the word ‘ne-ga’ as a filler like English speakers use ‘like’. ‘Ne-ga’ means ‘that.’

Yesterday, when I told the students that they were to now do an emperor PowerPoint presentation, Danny told me he wanted a new emperor. He doesn’t want to do Caligula. I told him that was fine but that would mean more work for him because he already has the information on Caligula. He decided to keep Caligula. Later in class, he asked me a question.

“What’s that, Caligula?” I asked him. This of course made the whole class laugh with Odile laughing the loudest.
“No, no, no, I not Caligula,” he said defending himself.

So today, they are working on their presentations. In the computer room, Danny and Kevin sit together; Elliot and Terry, Lillian and May, and then, Odile and Leta. Everyone has a partner, each of them well suited to each other.

Although, I had told them that they could use the information they already had, most of them do searches for some new information for their Powerpoitnts. Really, I don’t want to jump to conclusions but I think that they enjoy this class.

“Danny, why are there sexy girls on your screen?” This I asked after I saw a screen of girls in bikinis.
He points to the search engine in use, Baidu, and says – “uh, Caligula.”

“Oh, okay.” I thought I might have to dock him five points but he was in fact searching images. I sure hope safe search is activated.

“Very nice,” I tell Kevin as I look at the first slide he is in the process of designing; it is a surprisingly clever design.
Octvian?” I ask. “Isn’t there another ‘a’ in there somewhere?”
“Huh?” His ‘huh’ is not an American teenage ‘huh’ of blasé disinterest but a spirited ‘huh’ of actual surprise. His eyes widen as he says it.
“Oc-ta-vi-an,” I enunciate.
“Oh, oh, …yes,” he says as he corrects his mistake which makes Danny laugh. My shtick is of constant amusement to Danny.
“What are you laughing at?” I ask. “You don’t spell it C-A-L-I-G-U-L-A-R! There is no ‘r’ in Caligula!” This of course sends both of the boys into laughing fits that includes hitting each other in the arms.
“You so stupid!” Kevin tells Danny and then adds for my sake as he points to Danny, “Head broken.”

On Saturday mornings, I have a ritual. My maid comes at 7:30 and I pay her to clean for 2 hours but usually she cleans for about an hour and a half which I really don’t mind except that I realize sometimes after she leaves the floors are not as clean as they could be and the dishes sometimes are still somewhat gunk ridden. However, I am happy to not have to do it myself so I redo what I must and go on with my Saturday morning routine.

After I sit on my balcony, 33 stories up, (I will fill in the details of my new fabulous deluxe apartment in the sky at another time), I have coffee and fruit and yogurt. After breakfast, I take off on a walking excursion which sometimes includes the labyrinth-like plant market - where I buy ceramic pots for 5 rmb. These excursions always include the CD/DVD flea market that is hidden in the pockets and crannies of a construction supply warehouse.

Thus, amongst the sinks and tubs and paneling samples and light fixtures and plumbing fixtures and baby blue mini-fridges, there are booths with piles and piles of CDs and DVDS. These, from what I have ascertained, are liquidated stock sent to China from all over the world with everything ranging from Edith Piaf to Hawkwind. Sometimes, I have even happened upon the Red Headed Stranger but I have never happened upon Lucifer’s Friend or White Witch. Sometimes, I find CDs like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah for 5 rmb or Patti Smith Wave re-mastered or Piper at the Gates of Dawn in mono and in stereo, the deluxe edition.

Some of the CD hawkers know me by now since I have gone there religiously for over a year and they warmly greet me and sometimes even direct me to a secret stash of Gilbert O’Sullivan and Badfinger. A particular couple of ladies at one booth, direct me to their stash of 5 rmb goodies but they do this covertly so that others perusing their wares do not notice.

Other stall proprietors have seen me peruse the CDs and assume that I like anything since I sometimes have a large stack of CDs in my arms. There is one hawker that points to the same Luka Bloom CD every time I stop at his stall.

“Luka Bloom, very nice,” he tells me. The first time this happened I told him no thanks - ‘bu xie’- but after the third Luka Bloom, very nice push, I was more than slightly irritating especially since sometime during the course of these visits to the ‘Luka Bloom, very nice’ stall invariably Bon Jovi ‘Living on a Prayer’ gets put onto the stereo and cranked at a high volume - in my honor, it seems. From what I have heard Jon Bon is a nice person but this assumption that I want to hear ‘Living on a Prayer’ at Bells’ Amusement Park (R,I.P.) Himalaya volume - do you want to go faster? - really makes me want to strangle someone.

Next to this hawker, there is a youngster hawking CDs who has some nice things sometimes. I bought the Yardbirds first album, a Japanese pressing with original cardstock artwork, for 5 rmb. At this stall, there are often Miles Davis or Coltrane reissues. Nevertheless, the last time, I was there this young hawker brought my attention to a CD that made me see red, mean red, blood to the temples red.

There are probably only a few bands that I loathe as much as I loathe this band. I actually stopped liking someone because this someone sang along to this schlock when their schlock came on the stereo on - not the radio but - a mix-CD, yes, a mix-CD meaning the person in question either purposely put this schlock onto the CD or was an associate of someone who put this schlock onto the CD.

I FUCKING HATE ROXETTE! There are few bands that I hate as much as Roxette.

Nevertheless, this hawker, this youngster, is a sweet person and blissfully unaware of the somewhat ridiculous – or at least seemingly ridiculous – standards that I set forth for my music. It is really not something that you can explain to someone else. And, who is to say that Roxette are not the best band ever? Well, I am to say that! They suck! In the case of this sweet hitch-hawker, I mumbled no thanks and went back for one more gander at the ‘Luka Bloom, very nice’ stall.

Oh but first, I went to another another stall, the stall of Bowie and Blondie - where I have found many of their reissues. At this stall, I found a somewhat rare Kevin Ayers CD from ’73. I proudly had it clutched for the entire world to see as I strolled stall hopping hoping this would be a deterrent against getting schlock-pop shoved into my face, a deterrent against the Mariahs and the Celines and the Enigmas and the Deep Forrests.

Thus, I made my way back to the ‘Luka Bloom, very nice’ stall, there seems to be one main guy and then he seems to have a few hawker helpers. When he saw that I proudly clutched a CD, he asked me how much I paid for the CD. I told him 10 rmb. This seemed to be an ‘open says me’ of sorts to penetrate a discount at his stall.

“5 rmb,” he said as he made a sweeping motion over his CDs much like when Jesus turned that water into wine. This got my attention. I fell into a hare hare rama rama perusal CD meditation.

Sometimes, some of the guys or girls that help hawk at this stall are so nice that I cannot be mean no matter what they shove into my face. However, sometimes these people are pushy and shove CDs in my face like new bad Elton or Clapton or Santana (OH GOD!) or something equally fetid and I have no patience for them. Sometimes, I say ‘I hate that from the depths of my soul’ which means nothing to them really or I just laugh maniacally. The maniacal laughter works the best I have found.

So the day in question - we will call this day, The day I found Kevin Ayers at a Shanghai flea market like some treasured forgotten genie in a bottle - one of the stall helpers - a pushy man who seemed to look at me like I was nothing more than chattel – threw a CD into my path not more than 10 minutes after I left the blissfully unaware sweet youngster’s stall.

The CD he threw in my path was not Zep, was not sweet baby ‘floating in the pool’ Jones era Stones, was not the tragic Nacht Music Nico. It was in fact the same, the very same, mean red inducing, fetid dreaded, – someone may just get beheaded - Roxette CD. I mean is there a conspiracy?


Speaking of music and forgetting about beheadings and conspiracies, Sharon asked if I would talk to the students about the different types of music. In their English text book there is a two page spread on everything from classical music to folk music to dance music (Dance music is composed, played, or both, specifically to accompany social dancing, in case you wanted the text book defition).

My talk was probably much more involved than it needed to be. I started with classical music. Since Tchaikovsky was mentioned in the book, I played a few of his hits and even performed an impromptu Nutcracker which made the students, especially Danny, laugh. I asked them if they knew about Beethoven. Danny had heard Beethoven and gave the class his rendition of a few bars of Beethoven’s 9th.

So, taking the opportunity to play it, I did. Of course, after the opening bars, the loud rock and roll Chuck Berry guitar bursts into the song with the abruptness of Zsa Zsa Gabor bitch slapping a cop.

“Oh, I very like,” Elliot enthusiastically responded to the opening of ELO’s ‘Roll Over Beethoven.’ I then played them the Chuck Berry version. By the time, I played the Beatles’ version; I think everyone was done with rolling over Beethoven. They didn’t really need to even tell Tchaikovsky the news, after all.

To talk about jazz, I played them some Coltrane but a classroom is really not the right setting for this. Really, you should probably be hopped up on black tar or nodding off dreaming of horses and spider bites.

I entertained myself with the James Brown song thatI picked. Nevertheless, these students are probably not that familiar with any sex machines so ‘I feel like being a sex machine’ was somewhat lost on them. Danny did laugh however when I recited the words in my best Olivier, which is less than outstanding but somewhat amusing.

“Yes, I am getting up now. I shall get on up now. Let thee get up now. Shall I get up now? When mightest thou get up now? To get up or to not get up now, that is for my mortal coil to question.”

I played them tons of disco for dance music because in other classes I have already played them Sly and the Family Stone so that party train has already left the station.

After the dance music, I played the Pistols and the Ramones and tried to explain why punk happened socially and politically but really I just got vacant stares. Thus, I ended the class with ‘Teenage Lobotomy’ and ‘God Save the Queen.’

AS I was leaving the classroom, Leta said in a voice straight out of Oliver Twist –
“But what about Heavy Metal?”


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