Sunday, January 22, 2017

Profiles in International Education: William Powell, an Anarchist and a Scholar

Everybody does dumb shit when they're young.

But has ever a generation had their stupidity so carefully and often ineradicably documented as the internet generation?

People seem to be a bit more cagey about protecting their identities on the internet in the last few years, but between about 2005 and 2010, people were allowing their real names to be attached to all kinds of horrendously anti-social and even criminal behavior on the internet for all to see. (Note to kids -- don't Facebook your crime.)

Sometimes it was just carelessness and lack of foresight that caused this; sometimes it was pure narcissism and desire for fame. (I'm sure Tucker Max and Neil Strauss are anxiously awaiting the day their new children will Google them and run screaming from the house.)

In the old analog days, becoming famous for doing something bad was much more difficult, actually.

But people still managed to do it.

A teacher named William Powell died last year.

He was a respected educator and international school administrator who worked across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. He was one of the founders of Education Across Frontiers, a teacher-training organization. He was a pioneer in inclusive special education programs for at-risk youth in international settings, as well. He is the the author of numerous books about progressive teaching philosophies and methodologies.

One little blemish on his otherwise admirable and squeaky-clean record.

He wrote an insurgency and terrorism manual advocating open revolution against the US government.

It was called the Anarchist Cookbook, written in 1971. (Link is to a Wikipedia article about it.)

There were plenty of copies of this floating around small-town America in the 70s and 80s. I knew a kid who had one. As of now, they are very easy to locate on the internet, even on Amazon. (I hesitate to link to them as I don't want to be on any more watch lists than I already am.)

In it you can see recipes for explosives and improvised weaponry, formulae for illegal drugs such as LSD, and a hodgepodge of information about revolution, resistance, and assorted dirty tricks and violence.

(Yeah, see, before the internet, we had to use books to get information. I know, right?)

The book has been endlessly banned and villified, and linked with all kind of  terrorists and criminal acts as well as just plain old suburban angst. Even the author quickly disclaimed the book, after becoming a father and a Christian, but it was too late; he'd sold the copyright to the publisher, and couldn't get his name taken off it.

Written by William Powell when he was a teenager at the end of the counterculture era of the late 60s, it was mostly written after perusing military manuals in the public library as well as counterculture "zines", and in addition to being now terribly out of date, many of the recipes were known to be dangerous and inaccurate anyway.  For example, Powell included a formula for bananadine, a psychoactive drug derived from banana peels; unbeknownst to him, this was something between an urban myth and a practical joke.

(Actual anarchists weren't too happy with it, either.)

Still, I seem to remember that my high school classmate English Teacher Q managed to make gunpowder using a recipe in the book,a few household substances and a few chemicals lifted from the high school chemistry lab, so it certainly isn't completely harmless.

 (But since you could buy black powder in any sporting good store at that time in the South, making it at home wasn't an especially big deal. And we got more of our information about weapons and tactics from 80s action paperbacks, as I recall.)

Reportedly, Powell's connection to this book followed him even to places in Africa and Asia, and he lost numerous jobs due to his connection with it, although in the last years of his life he made many public pleas for it to be taken out of print.

So there you go! Like Shakespeare said, the evil that men do lives on while the good dies with them. Writing dumb shit can follow you around for your whole life, even in outdated formats.

If he'd sold it under the pseudonym Anarchist X he'd have had no problems, eh? Other than perhaps his conscience.

(Just a couple of sources for more information -- a Newsweek article, a lengthy article in Harper's, and a documentary about the whole deal. There's even a romantic comedy film based on it (!) which you can watch on YouTube.

Monday, January 16, 2017

International Reaction to the Trump Election

Reaction amongst my Russian friends to the election of Trump is generally positive, as you might imagine. 

My mostly platonic and theoretical mistress was especially pleased -- her husband is an ardent patriot and they watch no news sources other than state-controlled ones. 

"Its good that he won," she said to me by instant message. "Hillary was a straight way to war." 

Pterodactyl Girl was a bit more irreverent.

"Oo tebe novi president Donald Duck!" she exclaimed by instant message. She likes him better than the last president, whom she referred to as Barack Obezyanka, which would translate as something like "Barack the Little Monkey."

My girlfriend's response was perceptive -- "They're all oligarchs, it doesn't matter."  

My Chinese students are more perplexed. 

First there was some confusion when they mistakenly looked up the word "Tramp" in trying to understand Trump. The pictures and articles they were directed to astounded them. 

Then they ask, "Why is he so angry? He's a rich man, what is to be so angry about?'

"Good question," was about all I could say to that. 

I work with a lot of Australians and New Zealanders; they mostly shook their heads and laughed.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Changing Face of English Teaching, Part 3: Peruvian Pussy Fest

In Fall of 2014, I went down to visit a friend who was working teaching English in Arequipa, Peru.

It was a real pussy fest.

A pussy fest for the Peruvian guys fucking all the female American teachers of English. .

I drew this cartoon like 13 years ago:

But the current trend seems to be that the young, hard-partying and student-fucking English teacher is nowadays more likely to be a she.

When I first started teaching, ESL was a boy's club. And a pretty degenerate, unkempt boy's club at that.

There were a few female teachers, of course; maybe about 1 out of every 5 or 6.

Now it seems like at least half, or more than half, are females.

Down there in Peru, most of the teachers at the school my friend worked at were female. (And actually not unattractive, at least the youger ones.)

The same is true at my last job and this job. The guys are older, often married, and the females are the party animals.

Part of the reason is that the same kind of hard-charging guy who used to get into English teaching instead got into being a "digital nomad" with affiliate links or drop shipping or whatever, usually under the auspices of the "manosphere." (And now, it seems, instead of humorless, indignant, stastics-obsessed PUAs, they are now humorless, indignant political pundits.)

Leave it to the ladies to take up the slack!

One of the teachers down in Peru was a good-looking blonde from the Midwest, at a Halloween party, she bemoaned the student loans that were looming over her.

I suggested she go to the Middle East or Vietnam, where she could save some money.

She said, "Dude, I like MEN!"

Just a matter of time before we start seeing "Penis Paradise" websites and e-books, eh?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Minute to Breathe

Where else but China are you going to hear people greet each other by saying, "Hey, wow, that's a cool filtration mask you've got!"

(That's just a cheap one but you can get all different colors and styles and filter types.)

Maybe you've read about the 5-day pollution emergency going on around Beijing. Nothing new, really; the other teachers say last year was a lot worse. In general November and December was pretty nice this year. (There were at least as many nice days as bad days.0

But for the last five days it's looked about like this:

Schools have technically been closed since the weekend, but since we're a boarding school outside of the city, quite a few kids ended up staying here. We just recently installed air filters in all the rooms, and mostly we've been sitting around with the kids watching movies. 

(A couple of my colleagues out enjoying cigarettes in the pollution emergency.)

I have to say, although I'm in general fond of the apocalyptic, after five days of this, I'm feeling pretty shitty. It's really one of the creepiest and saddest things I've ever seen -- people walking around bundled up like they work in an asbestos factory, the sun a little forgotten smudge in the middle of the opaque blanket of pollution. 

Of course I have an air filter in my apartment, and then I recently bought a hand-held pollution sensor which I have all kinds of fun playing with. (It goes off the chart if you fry bacon next to it, I found.) 

Here's the reading last Sunday, standing by an open window, about 12 times higher than acceptable levels:  

I noticed that my air filter can pretty much handle only one room at a time, so if you live in China you're probably wise to have one for each room:  


The main culprit is coal, apparently, which is used for most of the electricity generating, although the cars and industry certainly contribute. So all you Trump supporters eagerly awaiting him to gut America's environmental regulations, bring back industry and use coal again?  All this can be yours!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Requiem for a Poon Hound

I wrote about it briefly almost a year ago; the sad death of one of the guys I know back in Russia.

He was a minor characters in the book VODKABERG, referred to as the Venezualan. 

He wasn't really from Venezuala, although he was from South America. Half Russian on his mother's side, he was working in Russia as an engineer for an oil company, making about 4 times what we made as English teachers. 

(This is the only old blog entry about him I could find, but I think there were others.)

He'd left Russia to go to Mexico to work, about the same time I went to Saudi; we communicated on Facebook a few times and he said he was looking for a job in Dubai,as he didn't much like Mexico.

The last I remember communicating to him was asking him if Mexico was as dangerous as people said, and he said, "Oh yeah, there are murders around here every day." 

So he kind of slipped from my life after that; I thought he just disappeared from Facebook. I missed the post his wife and friends made about his death.  

Finally Crazy Bob pointed it out to me last year. 

His 2010 murder remains unsolved; he was gunned down in the parking lot of the office where he worked. One could assume it was related to cartel figures or guerillas trying to shake down his company for money; he was apparently the financial manager. It could conceivably have been a kidnap attempt.

But I wonder if it might have been a jealous husband.  

Because man was this guy a poon hound. 

He cheerfully fucked all the girls that worked at the oil companies he worked at, even though he was married and they usually were too. "Ah, the guys are always getting drunk with their buddies, I'm not worried," he said when I expressed the idea that he ought to be careful.

Crazy Bob was particularly upset to hear about this guy's death; their lifestyles were similar. We poured over Spanish language newspapers on the internet looking for news about it, and we were at least relieved that he didn't seem to suffer much. He got of his car, was approached by some men, and ran away and was cut down in a hail of semi-automatic weapons fire. 

He was apparently shot by at least three attackers, so that would tend to rule out a jealous husband, unless the jealous husband hired it out. 

But I think he'd have preferred to get killed by a jealous husband in a hot-blooded Latin style, rather than just be another statistic in the often impersonal and senseless drug and political violence that has contributed to the 165,000 homicides in Mexico between 2007 and 2014

He is survived by a Russian wife he'd just married and taken to Mexcio, with whom he had two children, and an ex-wife back home with whom he had had three children. 

Rest in peace, muchacho. I hope they have pussy in heaven. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Song Remains The Same: A Cartoon About Songs in Class

This is something that happened back in Russia in the 00s. It was a teacher who just couldn't seem to get along with his students, this big Canadian doofus who had formerly been an emergency medical services guy. 

I heard this from next door, 

Shortly after that, they all walked out of class and demanded a new teacher. 

I think he only lasted about 6 months at our branch, though he struggled through some other jobs at different branches in Russia for a while, too. 

I think the moral is just be aware that seemingly innocent and harmless things can end in disaster quite often in TEFL. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Changing Face of English Teaching, Part 2 (Or: This Shit is Ancient History)

Read Part 1 here

I was sitting and perusing my first book, the English Teacher X Guide to Teaching English Abroad.

I was considering doing a new edition for 2017.

But I'm thinking:

This shit is ancient history. English teaching just isn't like this anymore. 

The meat of that book was written between 2003 and 2007. English teaching (and the world) has changed a lot since it was published in 2011.

Of course my impression is colored by my current job, and my last job, where I was working with a lot of people with primary and high school teaching experience -- actual licensed teachers -- and words like "scaffolding" got tossed around a lot. Places where telling a story about a night at a go-go bar in Pattaya is more likely to get you a somber lecture about the realities of sex trafficking and AIDS rather than laughter.

But then I look at the want-ads on and so forth -- there damn sure are still a lot of $1000 a month jobs left out there, despite all the new requests for state teaching qualifications and master's degrees and all that.

They can't all be full of frumpy female teachers, can they? Married couples and people with kids?

Can they?

Give me some input. Are there still language institutes out there where most of the staff is drunk all the time, where the teachers and the students freely bump uglies, where words like "scaffolding" are reserved for something to watch out for when drunkenly wandering through construction sites?

Or are those days gone forever, a thing of the past like the three-martini lunches of MAD MEN?

I mean, I don't care -- I barely drink at all anymore. I'm not pining for the old days, particularly.

Just wondering,

I mean it's a whole new world in general, and not a particularly light-hearted one.

Just curious.

Anybody still having fun out there?