Archive for college

Breeding and Feeding

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2012 by javedbabar

Dimpy (Dimples) asked Jamali if he’d done homework. He said, “Yes, Miss Kashi, I have done it.” The whole class was amazed. It was the first time ever in Spatial Studies class that a student had done homework. What was going on?

The course had no fixed subject matter, just a desire to fill the gaps in thoughts. It was less about education, and more about expression and entertainment. Even Dimpy couldn’t recall what task she’d set the class last week.

“Please remind the class of the homework assignment.”

“The assignment was, ‘Write a page about the biggest space in your life’.”

“And that’s what you’ve done?” The surprise in her voice was obvious. “Will you please read it to us?”

Jamali looked down. “What’s the matter?” said Dimpy.

“I thought you would mark it at home,” he said. “I didn’t think people in the class would hear it.”

“But these are your classmates, Jamali. You all learn together. That’s the idea.”

He was a quiet boy, she’d noticed, but other students were really nice to him always; unnaturally so. They began calling out, “Go on Jamali! Read it out!”

“You’re the only one who’s done it!”

“Make us proud!”

He had his eyes closed, and then opened them and nodded. “Okay, I will read it out.” He cleared his throat, opened his eyes and began, “My father is a scientist in Salistan.” Where was that? Dimpy wondered. Was she meant to know? “He is a university professor with PhD’s in both biology and psychology. He says that all knowledge is connected, and it’s not how much you know, it’s how well you fit it together.”

Ah! Thought Dimpy. That’s what I’m doing here with Spatial Studies, trying to fill the gaps between thoughts.

He continued, “We travelled all across the country, seeing and exploring. There were such wide valleys and plains that we spent days crossing them. Such big spaces that I thought they must be inhabited by giants.”

That’s some space, thought Dimpy.

“When the war began in Salistan, my father said it was inevitable. Human warfare is like animal warfare, he said; it is mainly about control of territory for breeding and feeding. It is also affected by psychological maladjustments and complexes. These lead to frustrations and fears, which are exploited by aggressive leaders, who have maladjustments and fears of their own.”

Dimpy thought, boy, he’s good.

“Furthermore, dysfunctional socioeconomic systems lead to the disproportionate influence of special interest groups such as capitalists, the military, and industry. My father believed that humans had developed their outer world substantially but not their inner world adequately. They remained selfish and aggressive, and were unlikely to change. Their long term solution lay not on a shrinking planet. They must disperse through the universe. Go to outer space.”

A student whistled, and others nodded.

Jamali continued, “Being a scientist, my father was not allowed to leave Salistan, but he managed to smuggle me out of the country and I came to Canadia. I promised him that I would always be a good boy and do my homework. So I’ve done it.”

Dimpy said, “Thank you, Jamali. Your father would be very proud of you. When did you last speak with him?”

He looked up at her and said, “I haven’t seen him since I left Salistan. That is my space.”

Last Christmas

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , on July 20, 2012 by javedbabar

Dimpy’s classes were less about education, she realized, and more about expression and entertainment. She’d invented the notion of Spatial Studies, a course designed to fill the gaps between student’s thoughts, without really knowing what it was. As a result, her students didn’t treat their studies seriously and never did their homework. Explaining why they hadn’t done their homework had in fact become a source of pride. It was entirely her fault.

“Steven, did you do homework?” she asked a boy who was looking even more vacant than usual.

He looked at her suddenly and said, “How do you know my name?”

It had taken a few weeks to get everyone’s names, but she knew them now. Why was he acting so surprised? “Because you come to my classes, and we’ve spoken many times.”

He looked angry. “No, I don’t. This is the first time I’ve come to your class.”

“Steven, this is the fifth class. We’re half way through the first term, and…”

Tom interrupted, saying, “Miss Kashi, can I…”

“Not now, Tom. Please wait a minute. I’m not finished yet with Steven.” She didn’t want to drop the conversation; she wanted to understand what he meant. “Don’t you remember your classmates’ excuses about not doing their homework – Tom’s fat cousin, Simone’s repo man, and Asma’s death? Surely you do?”

“No Miss Kashi, I don’t recall anything from before this class, just celebrating Christmas with my family. It was sooo nice. Mom cooked goose stuffed with walnuts and oranges, and dad let us have a sip of red wine; he said that’s what French people do. We played silly games like hide and seek and charades, and read out tongue-twisters, and… ”

Dimpy interrupted, “But it’s September now. That was nine months ago.”

“Was it? It seems like it was only a few days ago. It was soo nice, Miss Kashi. Are you sure this isn’t the first class of the course? Maybe you taught me in a different class last year, and you’re getting mixed up. That’s it! Didn’t you take one math class when Mr. Thompson was way?”

“No I didn’t, Steven. I think you’re…” A note appeared on the desk before her. How it had got there, she couldn’t say. Tom caught her eye and raised his eyebrows; he nodded towards the note. She opened and read it.

It said, “Miss Kashi, please leave Steven alone. His parents split up last week. He can’t handle it. I think he’s gone back to his family’s last happy memory, of Christmas last year, and blocked everything else out.”

Dimpy nodded and refolded the note. There was no point in asking Steven if he’d done Spatial Studies homework. He’d done practice.

Black and Blue Angels

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2012 by javedbabar

Dimpy (Dimples) had created a vicious cycle. Desperate for extra work, she had invented a course, Spatial Studies, and presented it to the Lucerne Valley College administrator as “a multi-disciplinary approach to the element that surrounds and defines all material objects.” He was keen to take advantage of current grants and had signed her up for three ten-week courses.

Her meaningless homework assignment the first week had caught the students’ attention, but had inadvertently set a pattern. Now nobody did any of the homework she set; they only presented excuses.

This morning she didn’t even want to ask the question, knowing what the answer would be. The last two answers – about a fat cousin, and repo men – had been good stories, but hardly counted as homework. She wanted this to be a special course for the students – maybe she should rename it Special Studies, as one student had suggested. She had no fixed subject matter, only a desire to fill in the gaps in their thoughts. She chose a good girl wearing a white dress, and asked, “Did you do homework, Asma?”

She said, “No, Miss Kashi, I didn’t.”

This was no longer a course, it was a game. “Why didn’t you do it?” Were those bruises on her arms? wondered Dimpy. There were patches of black and blue.

“Because I died, Miss Kashi.” Other students were impressed. That was a good one, they thought, and nodded in appreciation. Low whistles were heard and low fives shared at the back of the class. “It was only for an hour, but I really think I died.”

Dimpy was tempted to tell her not to be silly, but felt it would go against the spirit of the class-game. “Okay, go ahead and explain your death to us.”

“I was tired when I got home from college so I lay down for a while, but forgot to take my allergy tablets. I have severe mixed allergies. The doctors have never pinpointed anything specific, so I take everything to be safe.

“I dreamt that I was walking through a desert gorge. On either side there were towering cliffs of multi-coloured stone. They were mainly pink, but with swirls of white, blue, yellow, red, green, black, and flashes of silver and gold. A light wind ran through the gorge in little gusts that tickled my skin, and a small red river was running beside me, its water reflecting the rock.

“I recalled from geography class that gorges can be dangerous, as deserts have flash floods. I decided to get out of the gorge quickly, but didn’t know how. The walls were hundreds of feet high, with no way up or out. I began to panic and sweat.

“Suddenly the river stopped flowing and the wind died down. A cold shadow filled the gorge and before me appeared two angels, one black and one blue. They each held one of my arms and made me nervous, and asked many questions about the good and bad things I’d done in my life, Then a tall green man, so handsome called out, ‘Let her go. She’s got more time yet.’ He led me out of the gorge into a field, and said, ‘Go home now.’

“My mum and dad were crying when I woke up. They said that I was cold and wasn’t breathing, and my heart wasn’t beating. They’d thought I was dead.

“To celebrate my resurrection they took me for a Guru Baba Burger, it’s made with organic lentils, and they let me have pakora chips. That’s why I couldn’t do my homework. I was dead, and then feasting on karma-free food.”

There was a brief pause, then the class burst into applause. Dimpy joined in.

Repo Men

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , on July 18, 2012 by javedbabar

It was Dimpy’s third Spatial Studies class. She’d made up the title in a burst of inspiration, or maybe desperation, when her Museum Director’s job was cut from five days to three days a week; she’d needed a way to feed herself and her one-year-old daughter.

She’d heard that Lucerne Valley College had received an Authority grant and was keen to start new courses. They’d accepted her proposal for a course in Spatial Studies, which she’d said was “a multi-disciplinary approach to the element that surrounds and defines material objects.” In truth it was a made up course hoping to fill student’s gaps in knowledge.

Two weeks ago she’d set them a trick question saying only “Your homework is to remember your homework”. Last week however she’d set them a real task.

“Right,” she said, “Who’s done homework?” No hands went up. Oh dear, she thought, they think I’ve set them another conundrum; I’ve created a habit that may be hard to break. Still, I had better continue.

She pointed to a girl who was loud among her peers, but quiet when it came to teacher. “What’s your name? Okay, Simone, where’s your homework?”

“I haven’t done it, Miss Kashi, because my father doesn’t have work, and I don’t have a home. That’s why I can’t do homework.”

Nice wordplay, thought Dimpy, but hardly believable. She stared at Simone and raised her eyebrows. Simone felt pressured, and said, “It’s true, Miss. There’s nowhere quiet to do it.”

Dimpy was embarrassed by her oversensitivity to Tom last week – thinking he was the victim of child abuse, when the cause of his aching arm was dragging around his fat cousin. She wouldn’t be so gullible this time. “Why not?” she said.

“Because we live in one room at the Valley Motel. The television is always on, and my mum and dad are shouting.” Other children were sniggering; it must be a joke. “Why do you live there?” said Dimpy.

Simone became serious and said, “Miss, I’m sure you’re aware of the economic downturn. I know that you have a job at the Museum too; I’ve seen you there. So you have two jobs, that’s great, but lots of people don’t even have one job…”

Dimpy was feeling bad; she’d been wrong about the girl, but she didn’t want to stop her now. Simone continued, “My folks had a tire shop in town. They’d struggled for years, building up debts, and whatever money came in was drunk away by my dad. They lost the tire shop and the bank took our house. The repo men took everything, even my computer. We can only live in the motel because my dad knows the guy there. We’re all looking for work, including me. But while I’m looking I thought I’d do an extra course. I got a grant for it. That’s a good thing isn’t it, Miss, even if I can’t do my homework?”

Dimpy was teaching the Spatial Studies course, but realized that some of her students knew more about spaces than she did. The gaps in their lives were bigger.

Fat Cousin

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , on July 17, 2012 by javedbabar

Dimpy (Dimples) said, “Okay, who’s remembered homework?” Everybody in her Spatial Studies class raised a hand. That’s a good response, she thought, seeing that at the first class they hadn’t even understood the subject. They’d imagined it was cosmology, Special Studies, or some form of Physical Ed.

Her instruction to the class had been “Your homework is to remember your homework.” Even she hadn’t understood the real meaning of the sentence, but it had caught their attention. The next question was a trick one; let’s see how they dealt with it.

She said, “Who’s done homework?”

Everybody looked at each other, and half of them raised their hands, and some put them down again, and some put them up again. Dimpy smiled and thought, if the purpose of my class is to find the space between thoughts, we may be getting somewhere.

She noticed that Tom – the only student whose name she remembered – hadn’t put up his hand. “Why haven’t you done it, Tom?”

He looked incredibly pained and said, “I have a very difficult situation at home, Miss Kashi. It makes it very hard to do homework.” He was about to say more, but stopped. Others began whispering around him. Dimpy felt sorry she’d asked, and was about to ask someone else, but he started up again.

He said, “My parents both work at a logging camp.” Both of them? thought Dimpy. They’d be isolated for weeks at a time with limited facilities and friends. They must really like each other, or hate and put up with each other, something she hadn’t managed with her one-year-old Tasha’s father. He continued, “So I live with my uncle and aunty in Lucerne.” There was such hurt in his eyes; his lips moving barely; this was a child in trouble.

Tasha had only one parent but at least she was present. Tom had two absent ones. Then she thought, hang on – two parents at logging camp? Were his parents both guys? Was he getting teased about this? Was that the “very difficult situation”? Or was it something much worse – that his uncle or aunty was abusing him?

She said, “Do you want to talk about his alone? We could go outside.” She walked nearer to him and said quietly, “Shall I call the college counsellor?”

“No need for that, Miss. Everyone in the class knows. They’ve seen her. That’s the price I pay for living with my uncle and aunty. They want to rest when they come home from work, and they tell me to take her out for a walk, and they say I have to hold her hand so she doesn’t fall down or run off. I keep swapping sides but it does no good. She’s so heavy, miss, my fat cousin. After the walk my arms are always aching. I can’t hold a pen, Miss Kashi, let alone write. That’s why I can’t do my homework.”

Dimpy was about to berate him for being silly. A college kid traumatized by having a fat cousin – how ridiculous! Then she remembered how crazy her own family was. Who would believe she had an invisible uncle?

Spatial Studies

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2012 by javedbabar

Lucerne Valley College accepted Dimpy’s proposal to teach a course in Spatial Studies, whose title had come to her during a meditation. They agreed in principle to three ten-week terms, teaching two different classes weekly. These two days a week would fill the ones she was losing as a result of The Authority’s new accounting system, making her a cost rather than an asset to the museum. She couldn’t help feeling that there was also a vendetta at play between herself and the Board of Trustees. They wanted her out.

Having to support her one-year-old daughter Tasha by herself meant there was no time to feel sorry for herself. She had to take action. She had committed to presenting the Spatial Studies course and had better now think of a lesson plan.

“It’s the study of space,” she’d told the college administrator. “A multi-sensory approach to the element that surrounds and defines all material objects. I’m sure you know that the universe’s building blocks are 99.9% empty space.”

“Of course,” he’d said. “Yes, it sounds like a wonderful course.”

Teaching the course though was a different matter. She would have to convince the students.

She had a bright idea – maybe that was the answer: to ask the students. See what they wanted to learn; explore gaps in their knowledge. There was plenty of information out there on the internet, on TV, in book stores, and on cell phones. What was lacking was cohesion and integration. Maybe that was the space she should explore with students. What they had right now was a ladder with missing rungs, through which to fall, and possibly even missing rails, meaning never climbing at all.

The turnout for the first class was good: thirty students. She only needed fifteen to make it viable for the college. The administrator introduced her. “This is Miss Dimples Kashi who will be teaching this course in Spatial Studies. It will cover a wide range of disciplines and set you thinking, and may sometimes give you a headache. So keep your thinking caps on! Miss Kashi, they’re all yours.”

“Okay, class, who can define space for me?”

No hand went up. She pointed to a boy at the back. “Hello, what’s your name? Tom? Okay, Tom, what’s your understanding of space?”

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Excuse me? This is a class in Spatial Studies, the study of space.”

“The study of space? Like outer space?”

“No, it’s broader than that.”

Another boy said, “I thought it was Special Studies. I thought it would be easy; that’s why I came.”

There was a chorus of “Me too.”

A girl said, “I thought it was something like Physical Ed.”

More calls of “Me too.”

Oh dear, thought Dimpy. Maybe her lesson plan of limited dimensions, infinite extents, and linguistic and mathematical gaps must wait; as for theories and practice, objective and subjective views, symbols and archetypes, and the concept of a room in which to do all these things – those must wait too.

The bell rang, and shoes shuffled immediately. Bags were snatched and students arose. She called out, “Your homework is to remember your homework.”

They stopped and looked at her. She’d created a small space.

No Knowledge Without College

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2012 by javedbabar

Since being appointed Museum Director, Dimpy (Dimples) had really brought the place to life. There were no more dull exhibits and long-winded labels, strange opening hours, and bans on food and drink.

Lucerne Valley Museum had become a destination! Young people now came here and brought their friends. Old Fashioned Friday was a monthly dance night that drew people from the City and beyond. A few things had been broken, and others had disappeared, but that was the cost of doing business. You gotta break some free-range eggs to make an organic Western omelette.

The annual Debaters night was also a hit. Last year’s debate between the horny old world god Cernunnos and lovely St Lucy, both wanting to be named “Founder of Lucerne”, and Dimpy’s going into labour and giving birth to her daughter Tasha right there, had become local history itself.

Dimpy had also made peace with the trustees, though they would not forgive her for discovering Lucerne’s great secret. The Old Families still kept it locked in the museum safe.

She had salvaged an Upper Valley cabin about to be torn down – the owner was convinced he was a bear; he had been hospitalized and his property sold – and she had conceived the concept of the Future Museum celebrating technology. Artificial Intelligence, programmable matter, nanobots, cold fusion, and space solar power, would all one day affect Lucerne as much as any place.

Overall, visitor numbers had quadrupled. Dimpy was pleased with herself.

The Chair of Trustees, Mr Roseman, came by one day. He said, “Can I please see you in the boardroom?”

When she entered, she saw that the whole board was present. Mr Roseman said, “I’m afraid I have some bad news, Dimpy. We all agree that you are doing an excellent job. However, The Authority’s new accounting system requires us to look at the CPV: Cost Per Visitor, for every aspect of the museum. As you know, we are all volunteers. You however are very expensive, and don’t fall within acceptable parameters. We have no choice but to cut your pay or let you go. What do you wish to do?”

Dimpy had maintained regular contact with the trustees, and attended all scheduled board meetings. This was the first time that anything like this had ever been mentioned; it was a total shock. The scheming swines! She had to think quickly to keep her post.

“What if I remained on the same daily rate but reduced my days?”

Mr Roseman said, “Well that is another possibility. Is that your preferred option?”

Dimpy had heard that Lucerne Valley College had received a grant and was keen to start new courses. Maybe she could do something there – teach a course in Museum Studies or Basic Archaeology. Maybe World History or Cultural Anthropology. Or something crazy like The Evolution of Human Consciousness and Development of the Bicameral Mind. She would think of something. But she also needed to keep what she could of this job.

She said, “Yes, how about three days a week?” The trustees said that they’d discuss her proposal and respond tomorrow.

That night Dimpy meditated upon her favourite mantra – Be Here Now.

Two words appeared in her mind – Spatial Studies.

She didn’t quite know what to make of them, and fell asleep wondering. The next morning she opened a book of quotes she kept by her bedside. St Augustine said, “Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.”

Dimpy realized that Lucerne was the space she occupied now. She could teach and study its living treasures.