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Posts Tagged ‘culture of narcissism’

Jakarta Day 6: Thursday, July 20, 2017

City haze

Traffic circle and hazy morning in Jakarta. There is no “downtown” area as the skyscrapers are spread out in various clumps.

This morning we traveled to the Public University of Jakarta (Universiti Negeri Jakarta) to visit their laboratory elementary school, used for training primary teachers.

We traveled in a different direction than before, taking a short cut through a wealthy area with nicer houses with a Catholic school and cathedral. We then joined a larger road, got onto an expressway, and passed the University before exiting and spiraling back. The bus parked just inside the entrance to the University and we walked further in to the school.

St Theresa church window

The rosary window of St. Theresa’s Church and school in Jakarta. We drove through a more affluent area this morning to get to our destination.

Since it was Thursday, the teachers and students were wearing their batik uniforms. We met the assistant headmaster and school leaders, then toured the school, dividing up to see the various floors and grades. Sarah Sever did a fun activity teaching English to a sixth grade class through a series of phrases with gestures and actions, which I recorded. The students really got into it.

Candle experiment 2

Conducting the Priestley Experiment.

The assistant headmaster did a science experiment in one class that was very familiar to me. It was the Joseph Priestley experiment, where you place a lighted candle in a bowl surrounded by water, then place a jar over the candle and into the water. As the oxygen in the jar is used up, a partial vacuum is created that pulls up the water into the jar about 1/5 of its height. This shows that the atmosphere is about 20% oxygen. I’ve done this lab many times, and I was surprised that many of my fellow American teachers had never seen it before. I’ve actually seen one of Priestley’s original pneumatic troughs, made from ceramic, and associated equipment in the museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia.

Candles lit

Assistant headmaster leads the Priestley experiment to determine the percentage of oxygen in the air.

The students were very excited to see us, and although we tried to not disrupt their education, we couldn’t avoid it and made quite a stir. Students kept coming out to have us sign autographs. This is the first time I’ve ever had this happen, where I was treated as a celebrity. It became a bit much for me after awhile, with all the students crowding me against the walls that rim the central courtyard on each floor of the school. Every few minutes I had to retreat from the autograph signing to hide behind my camera and take photos; no one would ask me if I appeared busy.

Excited girls

Excited students at the elementary school we visited.

Until today I never understood why celebrities have this love/hate relationship with the paparazzi. It seems to me that they asked for it; if you want to be loved and admired by all and become popular, then the price of that fame is to always be on camera. Isn’t that what they wanted? But now I see. The constant demands of being famous 24/7 are draining, and eventually you just need some time by yourself, to get away from the public eye. And the paparazzi won’t let you. They just keep coming, they snoop through your private life and climb your fences and flash cameras in your face without your permission. It was draining for me for just an hour just to sign autographs, and I didn’t have many cameras shoved in my face. I couldn’t take it day after day. Neither can anyone. No one would ask for that.

Playing sports

Students playing sports at elementary school at Universitas Negeri Jakarta.

I suppose this is all part and parcel of our culture of narcissism, the desire people have to worship at the altar of celebrity: to be famous, to live the glamorous life, to be admired by all. I’ve never understood it. I’ve met some famous people, including those who sought it and found it as actors and singers, based on good looks or some small amount of talent. I find many of these to be insufferable, too caught up in believing their own public persona that they think their opinions on everything really matter. And I’ve met some people who are truly great because they deserve it for the quality and influence of the work they’ve done. They have changed the world in a positive way, or made incredible discoveries, or explored the universe, or shown real determination or skill or talent. Most of this latter group are too modest to admit what they’ve accomplished. Even some actors and celebrities fit into this second category; they use their fame to do good things and haven’t forgotten the fans who made them who they are.

Mariya signing autographs

Mariya signing autographs at the elementary school at the Universitas Negeri Jakarta.

Once at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory we had an evening reception in a conference room off of the main cafeteria. Charley Kohlhase, one of the lead designers on the Voyager space probes and Cassini mission (and someone who deserves to be a household name), came to speak to us and brought in a few friends. One was Robert Picardo, a veteran actor and extremely talented person. He does a great deal of work for the Planetary Society as a spokesperson and member of the board of directors. He spoke to us about acting as The Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager. He’s also been in Star Gate: SG-1 and Star Gate: Atlantis as Richard Woolsey, and in many other series (China Beach, the Wonder Years, Smallville, etc.).

I asked him if he did his own singing for Voyager, and he answered that he did, except for the one episode (Virtuoso, in Season Six) where they discover a planet that doesn’t know about music, so he teaches them and becomes famous, which goes to the Doctor’s head. Then the people of the planet create a new version of him that can sing a greater range, and he is forgotten, a has-been. He did not sing the part of the virtuoso at the end – it was voiced over. After telling us that story, he sang us a song of his own making about how Sony owns the rights to his action figure. It was very funny.

Bob Picardo double image

Robert Picardo playing two roles: The Doctor of Voyager (right) and his creator, Dr. Louis Zimmerman, from the episode Lifeline in Star Trek: Voyager. Next time you see him, ask him to sing his song about how Sony owns the rights to his action figure . . .

I have had great respect for Robert Picardo ever since – that he would take the time to just hang out with a bunch of space junkies like us and swap stories. Contrast that with vapid would be celebrities who have nothing going for them but good looks, but somehow think the world revolves around them.

Sixth grade class

Sixth grade class at the UNJ model elementary school. Notice that they are wearing matching batik uniforms. It must be Thursday.

But even if I don’t agree with the lifestyle or opinions of many self-styled celebrities, I can still empathize that they never have down time and must always face the public, that they have no privacy at all. Not even the Kardashians deserve that.

Nikki-Matt-Ursula-Kate with kids

Nikki, Matt, Ursula, and Kate signing autographs with the students.

Saying goodbye at UNJ school

Getting thronged by students as we say goodbye.

Walking to bus 2

Walking to the bus after our visit to the elementary school.

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