Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Friday, February 03, 2012
|Digital Photo by the Polish artist Katherine.|
by Tristan Vick
One day, Little Red Riding Hood, who wasn't so little but rather on the plump side, was picking herbs in the forest. As she gathered special herbs needed to make tea and medicine, she noticed a very handsome man coming out of the woods. He was tall, had dark hair, and soft brown eyes which betrayed a certain innocence about him. His fashion was impeccable, and he wore the latest fashion of eighteenth century England, with a charcoal gray suit coat with an inside waistcoat. The waistcoat was of a slightly lighter gray, which helped to enhance the contrast of his fancy layers. Pulling out a gold pocket watch, he checked the time.
To Red’s dismay, however, the young man startled at the sight of such a large mass lumbering toward him through the wood. Before she could reach him, he clapped shut his pocket watch and abruptly turned around and fled back the way he had come. Red was heartbroken. None of the boys ever wanted to talk to her. She broke down in the woods sobbing. Admonishing herself, she said, “Nobody will ever want to be your friend, you’re too fat and ugly.”
After collecting herself, Red promptly headed to her grandmother's house. Grandma would know what to do, she thought.
Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother was a very beautiful sorceress, who looked far more youthful than her true age. This was due to the art of black magic, and a powerful spell that her grandmother knew of which kept her perpetually young. If she had such magic, thought Red, perhaps she will have something that will make me beautiful and desirable.
Having told her grandmother the story of how nobody would be friends with her and the young man in the woods who would rather tuck tail and flee the scene than speak even two words to her, with a warm smile her grandma consoled her, saying, “There there now little one, I shall fix everything.”
Standing up, Red’s grandma, with her elegant waist, slender arms, and dainty hands, began gathering powders, jars filled with dried roots of the extremely potent variety, and bottles of elixir, and threw them all into a black cauldron cooking upon the fire.
Looking at the basket Red held in her arms, her grandmother asked for a few of the special herbs. Red gladly handed them over, and asked, “Are you making a love potion?”
Stirring the pot, her grandmother crumpled up the dry leaves and tossed them into the pot. “Something like that, my dear. This is a magic soup! It will cheer you right up.”
“Will it make me beautiful?” inquired Red.
“It will make your deepest desires into reality!” her grandmother replied with a great big grin. Then handing Red a bowl full of magic soup, she said, “Now drink this and think of the think you most want in the world!”
Since Red was feeling hungry from her long day in the woods, she greedily gulped down the soup.
Poof! Suddenly Red vanished in a cloud of smoke. To the grandmother’s surprise, Red had turned into a large black wolf.
“I didn’t expect that,” grandma said with a curious sort of admiration. Bending down she rubbed the wolf’s mane and scratched behind its ears, then opening the door to the cottage, she said, “Off you go!”
Although he waited for a reply, there was none. So he turned back around to hurry on his way. But just in front of him, from behind a tree stepped a large black wolf. The man froze in his tracks, as the wolf slowly walked toward him, as if it he were somehow familiar to it.
“D-don’t come any closer!” the man said, raising his hand in a show of caution. Strangely enough, it seemed to work. The wolf responded and then sat in front of the man as if it were as tame as a friendly beagle sitting by its master’s side.
Getting close the man crouched down and put out his hand toward the wolf. It smelled his hand and then, in a show of submission, gently licked the man’s hand. “Well, I’ll be!” exclaimed the man. “You aren’t so bad.”
Rubbing the wolf’s mane, and scratching behind its ears, the man said, “Maybe I’ll keep you and take you home with me.”
Just then the wolf spoke in human tongue, “You smell good.”
Alarmed, the man had leapt back a considerable distance. Pointing at the wolf with a shaking finger, he asked, “Did you just speak?”
Casually, the wolf got up and started circling the man. “I feel awfully hungry. Do you have any food?”
“I beg your pardon, but I do not,” replied the man timidly. He began to fear for his life as the wolf continued encircling him, edging closer and closer.
“Are you sure you don’t have anything to eat?”
Pulling out his pockets, as a friendly gesture to show he hadn’t a single thing in them, the man said, “See, nothing at all. I do apologize.”
"You're sorry?" the wolf said gruffly.
"Yes," said the man. "I am terribly sorry."
“Sorry, indeed!” snarled the wolf. The man stumbled back in fear.
“Ah, um… I think I had better get going,” said the man. Slowly stepping back, away from the wolf, the man made hasty retreat. The wolf merely seemed to be grinning at him.
“You know,” said the wolf, “It’s not safe in these woods.”
With that, the man turned and dashed away. His fancy suit jacket snagged on a nearby branch and tore. But he didn’t stop to look back. All he wanted was to escape that wolf and get out of the woods.
Thanks to his youth the man was able to run several kilometers without tiring. But even his young lungs couldn’t keep up the pace, so he decided to rest against a large tree. As he sat there, he looked up to see a beautiful woman pass between some trees a few yards ahead of him. She was dressed in black, but had a bright red shawl draped over her head and shoulders.
“Hello there!” he shouted out. “Don’t be afraid!”
Stepping out from behind a large tree came a beautiful raven haired woman. He noticed her hair, for her red shawl gently slipped off her head and came down around her shoulders. She not only was beautiful, with her midnight black silky flowing hair, but had an elegant waistline, slender arms, and small gentle hands too. Her dark eyes were smoldering, and seemed to hide a special kind of wisdom and maturity which only comes with age. The man instantly fell in love with her.
“What is such an elegant woman like you doing in the woods alone?” he asked.
“Oh,” she said, blushing slightly. “I am looking for my pet.”
Taking her hand, the man bowed slightly and kissed the white of her skin with soft lips. “Come, now,” he said. “Fear not, for I shall help you find your stray. What kind of animal is it?”
“I’m afraid you might not like me if I told you.”
“What could you possibly say to me that would turn my opinion against such an angelic complexion and the sweetest face I have ever laid eyes upon?”
“Still, I must warn you, no man has ever been able to subdue my spirit.”
“Don’t be so silly,” the man said authoritatively. “How could anyone not love someone as beautiful and fair as you?”
“You see,” the woman said stepping close to the man, and putting her lips near his, “It is no ordinary animal. She is very special to me, and I cannot bear to imagine her getting hurt in these immense woods all alone.”
“Well, come out with it,” the man said, trying not to sound overly agitated. Women were fickle, he thought, but he didn’t want to arouse her suspicions that he was short on temper, or anything less than a gentleman, so he gathered himself and asked with a pleasant voice, “What manner of beast is it? Is it a cat or dog?”
“I'm afraid it is something far less tame,” replied the woman. Pressing her body against his in a manner quite sensual for a stranger, she ran her fingers through his hair and caressed his soft face. Without warning she suddenly leaned in and kissed his lips. Looking into his eyes with her piercing gaze, she asked, “Won’t you help me with my precious darling?”
Feeling light headed from the kiss, and having never met such a woman before in his life, he replied without a moments hesitation, “Sure! I’ll help you find it.”
“No,” said the woman, a sinister smile forming upon her luscious lips. “I am afraid you have misunderstood me. I don’t need you to help find my wolf--I need you to help me feed it!”
“Wolf?!” cried out the man, flying back with fright. Just then the black wolf, whom he had met earlier, appeared from a nearby thicket of trees, and growled at him menacingly. Alarmed, he scurried backward until his back was pinned against a large tree.
“What’s going on here?!” the man demanded to know. But the mysterious woman simply caressed her wolf exactly like she had been caressing his hair moments earlier, then she looked up at him with her dark smoldering eyes and smiled a chilling smile.
Feeling a terror overcome him, he felt like running away, but for some odd reason his legs had stiffened to the consistency of lead. Something about her kept him entranced--frozen to his patch of mossy forest. Slowly the woman put her red shawl over her head, and without breaking eye contact disappeared into the woods. As she vanished into the shadows before his very eyes, her voice called out, “You know, it’s not safe in the woods.”
High above the forest a rustling below upset the birds and sent them flying into the air. From below came the snarling of a beast and the screams of a man—a man being torn to shreds as he was made the wolf’s dinner.
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Because English learning in Japan isn't about learning a language--like I eluded to above--it's about passing tests! The teachers, unfortunately, come out of the same broken system. But their poor English skills aren't the only thing interfering with their English education. In my estimation, their strict adherence to the MEXT mandates is another challenge. No teacher is willing to be a radical and start a rebellion of English learning. Indeed, with the issuing of Eigo Noto, the horrible textbooks meant for elementary fifth and sixth graders, the freedom of English education has been restricted even further. While teaching in Hiroshima I was using the wonderful English materials by the MPI (i.e., the Matsuka Phonics Institute). Regrettably, that all went away when Eigo Noto was pushed on us--and the English education has suffered horribly for it. Other places had not English education for elementary level learners, so Eigo Noto in many places is viewed in a positive light--but I wish to dispel this myth. Eigo Noto is horrendous and would be better suited as kindling to keep the fire going during the frigid Japanese winter.
Now we have teachers with almost no English education required to teach English from a textbook which looks like a team of illiterate monkeys typed it up. All this has become a total nightmare! The Japanese teachers are wondering how the hell they can teach something they don't know anything about, and all the native ESL instructors, such as myself, are wondering how the hell we are supposed to teach from something so horribly devised that it is actually working against our goal of improving student English ability!