Jun 30, 2004

multimedia roundup

Some recommendations (click through for summaries):

Andre Watts, The Chopin Recital, 1992 (CD).
Technically brilliant, with all the fireworks one would expect from one of the all-time greats playing the all-time great composer for the piano.

Saddiq Barmak, Osama, 2003 (DVD).
Need any more reason to hate the Taliban? To despise oppressive fundamentalism? Poignant, painful. "Non-actors." Barmak, in the opening shot, makes the viewer complicit; when the photographer is later executed (off-screen, to horrific effect), the viewer feels executed as well. Exceptional filmmaking.

Patrice Leconte, Ridicule, 1996 (DVD).
Nominated for Best Foreign Film. No surprise; it's lavishly costumed, beautifully shot, elegantly witty. Only a little preachy, and that mostly toward the end. From decaying manors to decadent priests, from cheap sex to true love, from mosquito-infested swamps to lavish royal gardens, Ridicule has everything. Not to mention the shocking opening sequence--cover your eyes, oh ye squeamish.

Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, 2003 (novel).
A realistic post-apocalyptic future with an infuriating conclusion. I'll have to read more Atwood, now; it's like Vonnegut or Palahniuk--darkly humorous and easily digestible, but unsettling, even stomach-churning in its plausibility. Only quibble: why do companies, years hence, have such cheesily-spelled names? "RejoovenEsense." "HelthWyzer." "AnooYoo." Annoying.

If you haven't guessed, my tastes are a wee bit eclectic. Oh, and I perform sacrificial rites for the public library deities every day.

Jun 29, 2004

chaos in verse, anyone?

I was bored, and typing random phrases on Google, okay, googlewhacking, which was an addiction for three days once (I had a great list, but it's gone, daddy, gone).

What to make of this, then, when using "disordered poetry" as a search phrase:

The number of idols of death, or physical causes of Lipari, at most of Rome. The practice of charity and of the other. In the object of Plato, since, so disordered poetry, he afterwards corrected as success. As well as mute in consequence with less to the number. But it is chosen by such imperfect circumstances of the general scandal for the most eminent saints. How various and alarming signs of Cyprian, how shall find at last and jealousy. A temporary gospel, which neither their proportion.

It seems like a translation of a translation of Gibbon's Decline and Fall. Digging slightly deeper confirms this suspicion: "The text here is generated randomly using words from the famous Chapter XV of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."

To generate a sentence, the script first chooses an initial word and then chooses the subsequent words one by one, always taking the preceding word and the corresponding probability distribution into account. Eventually, one of the end-of-sentence punctuation symbols (such as ., ? and !) might be generated, in which case the sentence is complete. Alternatively, after a certain number of words has been generated, the script will try to choose, among the last few words, a suitable one where the sentence might end. It will try to choose a word that is the most likely to be found at the end of a sentence; or, if all of the last few words are very unlikely to appear at the ends of sentences, it will choose the word whose part-of-speech is the most likely to appear at the end of a sentence.

To generate a paragraph of text, the number of sentences in it is chosen randomly, and then the required number of sentences is generated. Each sentence is generated independently from the others; that is, no effort is made to produce sentences or paragraph that appear "related". (Perhaps one might choose a few words for each page, and then increase their probability in the hope that they will occur more often on this page, and thus make the sentences appear more connected.)

Too bad the random sentences aren't exactly grammatically correct; that algorithm needs a little tweaking.

This is definitive proof that linguists, especially those with computer aptitude, ought to be deprived of their free time.

Jun 28, 2004

mouth agape

Just when you think the world can't get any weirder. The juiciest bit of commentary:
If your kid used the same terminology at the school house, and if he was called to the principal's office, he would no dare give the Cheney response. Not in 1960. But, Cheney is only using the same filthy language the voters use today, and the voter's kids yell these things to their school teachers. So, from the living room of every home to the White House, the culture has collapsed. God will soon destroy this nation.
No further comment.

[thanks to PZ Myers over at Pharyngula]

Jun 27, 2004

what, pray tell?

Power? Greed? The mysterious interaction of subatomic particles? Voting? Super-glue? Giant chains of hand-holding hippies?

No, my friends.

As seen on a sign near Ocean Shores, Washington, and don't I wish I had a photo: "Parking fees hold the system together."

So, when your civics teacher asks you what the matrix of society is, answer "parking fees."

You read it here first.

Jun 25, 2004

in which our hero, the teacher, grabs a bullhorn and a soapbox

Anyone with any level of concern for the American public school system--in particular, its political machinations--should read Silent No More: Voices of Courage in American Schools. When school boards turn teachers into political pawns, when principals run roughshod over the First Amendment, when at-risk students are kicked out of school and their transcript notes "lack of interest"--these are a few of the bile-raising stories, from the trenches, of some of America's finest. Best about the volume: it's written by the teachers themselves.

Read it. Now.

wackiness, wackiness everywhere...

...nor any drop to drink. "Were not just water, were hexagonal structured water" [sic].

We utilize ceramic oscillators, sacred geometry and frequencies delivered through Scalarwave technology. For this we have copyrighted the term “Scalarwave structured water.” The homeopathic approach requires stabilization to prevent growth from occurring within the water. They are limited to a couple of herbs while we can create numerous frequency programs through our ceramic oscillators and imprint this information using our Scalarwave coils. Our ceramic oscillators are hand made, programmed, and specifically designed, for our process. Our structured water is not temperature sensitive, does not require refrigeration, and takes less then 10 to 20 minutes when mixed with distilled water. The homeopathic approach requires the solution be refrigerated and sit for twenty-four hours before using, it has a short life span and is sensitive to light and temperature. Our structured water is free of any additives. It is absolutely pure Scalarwave Structured Water. Everything is electronically created.

Klaatu, barata, nikto!

as a matter of fact, I was wrong

Kenneth Pollack is a fine human being. Why? He admits when he's wrong, wrong in a big way. Wrong to the point that even my Republican family and friends are starting to understand my Bush loathing.

Bill Galston is one helluva debater. In the fall of 2002, well before the invasion of Iraq, I faced Bill--a University of Maryland professor and a former colleague of mine in the Clinton administration--in a public debate, and he kicked my rhetorical ass. He did it by holding up a copy of my book, The Threatening Storm, and saying to the audience, "If we were going to get Ken Pollack's war, I could be persuaded to support it. But we are not going to get Ken Pollack's war; we are going to get George Bush's war, and that is a war I will not support." Bill's words haunted me throughout the run-up to the invasion. Several months ago, I sent him a note conceding that he had been right.

Kenneth Pollack for president.

Jun 24, 2004

c'mon, baby, light my fire

"Self-styled Bible scholar" douses Christ statue in gasoline, ignites; "because of a woman."

The Jesus of Nazareth statue features Jesus wearing a silver robe and bleeding from the head without a crown of thorns -- a posture unfamiliar to McCoy, and one he said he thought might symbolize something occult.

"I hit it as hard as I could with a chair," he said. "I hit it two more times trying to break through the plexiglass. Then I got nervous. ...I heard a guy yelling 'Hey, stop!' I knew I had to burn it. I poured the gasoline (from a water bottle) and flicked my lighter. There was this big old fireball, and boom!"

How to tell you're a maniac: when someone yells, "Hey, stop!," your immediate reaction is must burn.

[thanks to obscure store]

the blog is back

Summer's here, and the doubters are wrong: I'm blogging again, much to my foes' dismay. Who are my foes? Hmm... I'll get back to you. Anyhow, the world hasn't changed much in the week of silence. Bush is still even with Kerry in the polls (even on FoxNews!); Iraq is still a hellhole (in parts); Pepsi is still the greatest beverage invented.

On to sodaic musings:

1. Thank God for generics. Why pay extra for Dr. Pepper, when you can sample the fizzy bubbleness of Dr. Skipper or Dr. Bold? Who needs Mountain Dew, when Mountain Breeze is just as tasty? Why plunk down greenbacks for Sprite or 7-Up, when the clearly-titled Lemon Lime parches the thirst in an equivalent fashion?

2. There is only one area in which the generics lack: generic cola, as a rule, sucks.

3. Have you tried Pepsi Edge? No more aspartame aftertaste! No more phenylketonuric warnings! Splenda is here, and fantastic. Granted, Pepsi Edge tastes nothing like Pepsi--at least, not to an avowed conoisseur--but it's a lip-smacking low(er) calorie alternative. The lack of an aftertaste is reason enough to purchase with impunity.

4. Obesity, oshmesity. I don't care. I love my Pepsi, my Dr. Bold, my Henry Weinhard's Root Beer (leave it to a brewery to make fantastic fake beer). My body mass index is normal. My cholesterol level is healthy. Let me swill in peace.

Jun 18, 2004

no more school, no more books...

And the dirty looks, at long last, are done. For the next two months, anyhow.

Today's the day to clean up, grade, reminisce, and offer a goodbye, a hearty handshake, maybe even sign a yearbook or two. This has been a challenging schoolyear; I've had my areas of weakness pinpointed, my strengths underlined, and a few new tricks introduced. And no, I won't go into details. Suffice it to say: I'm going to miss this place for the next few weeks. I'll miss the students most of all--their foibles, their daily dramas, their brilliant ideas and insufferable inanities. And if I don't get hired back, I'll miss them even more.

Items left in my room:

playing cards (two decks, smiley-faced and rider-back)
miniature Canadian flag
Pez dispenser (Jack, of the -in-the-Box)
hand-crafted tea cup
ratty hooded sweatshirts (two)
green rubber "stress" ball
computer disks (five, varying colors, no labels)
recordable CD
gigantic papier-mache dragon

Okay, back to grading.

Jun 17, 2004

bearer of bad news

Yesterday they sent out a batch of letters to the teachers rehired by the district, and the news was bad: I'm out. No rehire notice, making me one of three teachers with continuing contracts who are out of a job. I'm not bitter--it's been coming for a while, and I've had plenty of time to "process." (What does that mean, exactly? Running it through your neural circuitry? Chopping up experience into tiny bits, so it'll slide down smooth with no foul aftertaste?)

My options, as always, are open. I haven't decided if I'm going to wait it out or go elsewhere. But at least I know my provisional fate.

Jun 15, 2004

America is doomed: part eighty-two

For three years of my college education, I whiled away the time (and earned a pretty penny) as a member of student government--one year as a senator, two years as student body vice president. We had one major dress code requirement: if we wanted to vote, we had to wear a tie. So, in my general spirit of contrariness, I traipsed over to the local Goodwill and loaded up on the ugliest polyester ties I could find, at a cool fitty cents a pop.

I started building up a collection, and today, as an English teacher, I carry on the tradition of wearing a tacky tie every Tuesday.

Today is the last of the Tacky Tie Tuesdays. As tradition demands, I have brought in my entire collection, allowing students to wear one during class. The gaudy hues, the motley assemblage of browns, oranges, bright pinks, reds, and yellows--a sight to make eyes sore.

Which leads me to today's topic: dressing up, or the lack thereof in American life. I don't have a strong opinion on the topic; I generally show up every day in slacks and a collared shirt, but many of my fellow teachers aren't quite so formal. My students, of course, wear whatever the dress code will let them get away with.

But look at this photo, brought to my attention by Tim Cavanaugh of Reason online. And read a selection from his comments:

Is it too much to ask that Americans try and look presentable when they show up for the President's funeral? Many times last week I heard the old chestnut about how Reagan insisted on wearing a suit whenever he entered the Oval Office. Didn't anybody notice how many of his apparent admirers seem to think Bermudas and a fanny pack are proper attire for a closed-casket viewing that's being televised around the world (even to extremists who believe our country is decadent!)?...

Isn't there a Marshalls in the nation's capital? A Ross Dress for Less? Is it really that much of a burden to pick up a coat and tie on your way to pay your last respects to a beloved president?

Sorry, Tim, but it may be too much to expect from the booboisie.

Jun 14, 2004

monday weirdness

The caption of this blog is "trolling the bright waters of the internet." But sometimes we have to navigate through shoals of sloppy reasoning, unspoken assumptions, or circular arguments.

And then we have articles like this.

Freethinker Horia George Plugaru attacks the Free Will (henceforth FW) Defense, the classic theodicy that claims, in Plugaru's words,

God, although [he] wants to eradicate or at least greatly reduce the evil caused by humans, cannot interfere with the free will (FW) human beings have. According to this theist response, FW has enormous value (at least from God's point of view), since God protects it at the cost of indefinitely numerous atrocious acts.

Plugaru, building on the work of Theodore Drange, posits a new argument against free will's "enormous" value: the survival requirement of sleep. Since humans surrender their free will during sleep, for an average of 7-8 hours per night, or up to a third of their lives, Plugaru asks, is free will really so valuable?

Obviously, while we are asleep we do not and cannot make conscious choices, which means that we don't use our FW.

And so the question arises: if God values our FW so very much, why did he create us in such a way that for an important period of our lives we are forced to abandon our FW? In other words, if FW is so important from God's point of view, then why didn't he create us so that we would use our FW non-stop during our lives? It is obviously absurd to believe, on one hand, that for God our FW has an extraordinary importance, but on the other that he is ready to give up FW during a long period of time--in which one could have otherwise perform hundreds or thousands of free choices--without a serious reason.

There are a number of unwarranted claims, whose lack of a warrant undermines Plugaru's syllogism. First is the claim that free will is equated with conscious will, a category error. To claim that the decisions I make that I am not aware of--for example, the decision to breathe in and out continuously--are not an exercise of free will, is to beg the question.

Second, what are God's limitations on "interfering" with free will? Here the problem is not so much Plugaru's, but rather belongs to any advocate of the FW theodicy. If God is limited in his interference, how does this correspond to his omniscient omnibenevolence? If God does interfere, how?

Third, does having FW mean that all my actions are completely free? I am free to change my disposition, but am not free to change myself into a strand of limp spaghetti, at least not using current technology. Does this mean that my moral free will is no longer "valuable," because I have to surrender it, to some degree, to the dictates of biology? (And, furthermore, does God share human values, or rank-order them in a human fashion? Is there a divine "Hierarchy of Needs?")

Fourth, Plugaru's claim, at the bottom, is an argument from ignorance. "However, my criticism does not face such a problem because it is extremely hard to see what possible high priority God couldtry [sic] to achieve by requiring us to sleep." What is extremely hard for Plugaru to see may be quite obvious to a harder-thinking philosopher. Perhaps sleep is God's way of keeping humans from being too uppity--a biological Tower of Babel, of sorts.

Plugaru claims that his argument strengthens, and is also "stronger," than Drange's assertions. But compare Drange's concluding remarks on FW:

Finally, the claim that God has non-interference with human free will as a very high priority is not well supported in Scripture. According to the Bible, God killed millions of people. Surely that interfered with their free will, considering that they did not want to die. Furthermore, the Bible suggests that God knows the future and predestines people's fates. That, too, may interfere with human free will. In addition, there are many obstacles to free will in our present world (famine, mental retardation, grave diseases, premature death, etc.) and God does little or nothing to prevent them. This is not conclusive proof that God does not have human free will as a high priority, but it does count against it. It is at least another difficulty for the Free-Will Defense.

In short, it is already obvious that, for God, FW is not of "enormous" consequence, sleep or no sleep.

Oh, and it's nap time.

Jun 13, 2004

truth, justice, and the American way

When all's wrong with the world, drop your drawers and protest. Oh, and if the sight of flabby buttocks, thunder thighs, and hairy chests isn't enough, hop on a bicycle and pedal through Seattle (or any locality, really) to complete the effect.
Wearing little more than helmets, sunscreen and body paint, about 50 naked people cycled through the city yesterday to protest the country's dependency on oil and, organizers said, to empower people to feel more comfortable with their bodies.

Seattle was one of 22 cities around the world, including Olympia and Bellingham, where protesters took to their bikes for World Naked Bike Ride Day.
Frankly, there are too many people in the world already "comfortable with their bodies." Let's do something to increase the overall level of discomfort, eh?

(Warning: I haven't tested what happens when you click the "enlarge" button. Do so at your own risk.)

And don't worry. All's not wrong with the world.

Jun 11, 2004

antivirus blues

Trying to update my antivirus files, I stumbled across the Symantec Virtual Agent. Being Mr. Literal, I decided to play along...

Symantec: Tell me about your problem or ask me a question. To ask a question to the Symantec Virtual Agent, type keywords or a phrase to describe your issue. For example, you can type "What year was Shakespeare born?"

Guest what year was shakespeare born?
Symantec: I may need additional information.

Symantec: Found (03) items related to 'what year was shakespeare born?'.
Choose from the following options or just tell me more.
01) Your question is not about subscriptions.
02) You want to know what a subscription key is.
03) You want to know how subscriptions work and what your options are.
Enter your choice (1 through 3 out of 3) or just describe some facts.

Guest (no input)
Guest Your question is not about subscriptions.
Symantec: Now, based on what you told me I understand that:
Your question is not about subscriptions.

Guest Search our knowledgebase to solve your technical support questions.
Symantec: So far, you've told me that:
Your question is not about subscriptions.
Search our knowledgebase to solve your technical support questions.

Search our knowledgebase to solve your technical support questions.
Symantec: Did this answer your question?

Guest No
Symantec: So far, you've told me that:
Your question is not about subscriptions.

Symantec: Is it correct that search tips for the Subscription Troubleshooter?

Guest Yes
Symantec: From what you've told me, I understand that:
Your question is not about subscriptions.
Search tips for the Subscription Troubleshooter.

Read the document “Search Tips for the subscription troubleshooter.”
Symantec: Did this answer your question?

Guest No
Guest None of these options are appropriate.
Symantec: I am sorry, but I don't know what to suggest.

Jun 10, 2004

who's got the scoop?

Over on Pharyngula, PZ Myers laments the hate mail that came as a result of his negative remarks about Reagan's legacy (or lack thereof). Well, at least he's getting readers. I could probably call Reagan "the biggest idiot since Paul Bunyan strode the Catskills," and no one would blink an eye, never mind point out that Paul Bunyan was not an idiot, never strode the Catskills, and never really existed.

In other news, lawyers scuffle over an assault case (take that, obscure store! , and San Francisco students are being taught Scientology unawares (thank you, obscure store!).

Jun 9, 2004

what's the deal?

New Scientist, my favorite magazine of all time, recently sent me this insulting letter:

Dear Subscriber:

Time and money are important to everyone....

If you renew within seven days, you will be able to take advantage of the best offer we can make on your subscription price [$69 for 51 issues]....

I also want to take this opportunity to tell you that we appreciate your support. And we are making this ONE-TIME renewal offer as our way of saying "thanks".

Now, I'm not one to argue with scientists. But several things struck me as annoying, and outright false.

First, I'm not "Subscriber." Anyone with half an hour's experience using a database knows how to enter a field name, and make the form letter seem at least a tad bit personal. C'mon, guys.

Also, it may be the best deal they'll offer me, but it's not the best deal out there--new American subscribers can get a year subscription for just $51. That's how much I paid when I signed up.

Miffed, I called the subscription line. I spoke with a kindly gentleman, and asked, "So, isn't it a form of punishment--charging more to returning customers?"

His answer: "Well, in a sense, yes."

He then recommended that I let my subscription expire in November, and then sign up again at the discount rate.

Can't fault him for that.

Jun 8, 2004

say it ain't so

In a stunning blow to Ben Affleck, J-Lo has tied the knot with Marc Anthony. But here's the real scoop:
Last month, Marc Anthony bought J.Lo a ring even bigger and shinier than the engagement ring which Ben Affleck gave her. Affleck's six carat pink diamond ring was bought for Lm420,000. J.Lo returned this ring a couple of weeks ago, marking the formal end of their much-publicized engagement, labelled by the media the "bennifer" affair. The value of Marc Anthony's eight carat clear diamond ring has not been revealed so far.
[spelling errors corrected]

Don't be fooled by the rock she returned. She's still (she's still) Jennifer the Spurned.

Jun 7, 2004

"I often quote myself..."

"...it adds spice to my conversation." So said George Bernard Shaw.

Today's topic: plagiarism (also referenced over on Pharyngula; it's that time of year). I teach two sophomore "pre-IB" honors English classes ( precursors to the full International Baccalaureate program). The pressure to perform, laziness, lack of confidence, and 'net savvy often combine into a deadly mix of cut-and-paste essay-writing.

Clever plagiarism is almost indistinguishable from mediocre writing. It is a sin, surely, but forgivable. But bad plagiarism--directly copying an entire essay on the web--is not only unforgivable, but insulting. Do students think teachers can't figure out Google?

The worst culprit, this time out, analyzed A Clockwork Orange through the lens of "the element of choice," compliments of ez-essays.com. The book itself is a red flag--it's difficult for even your above-average high schooler, and if you take a gander at the essay itself, you'll quickly see why I was immediately suspicious.

The last lines, the most banal, nonsensical closing in free essay history:
Through strong symbols in imagery, Alex's characterization, and his point of view, the absence of choice is proven as the most debilitating and most overlooked depravation of man's individual power. In everyone's life, the struggle for power exists in all situations. The decision between good and evil is the power that anyone must have as an individual. The choice of which path to take is dependant on the person and the situation, but the realization that both exist is a power unto itself.
Plagiarism lessens my enjoyment of my truly great students' writing, since I'll chronically have the tiniest sneaking suspicion that their work isn't genuine.

I hate it.

Jun 4, 2004

biting back

"'Dog Bites Man,'" the journalistic adage says, "isn't a story. But 'Man Bites Dog'--there's a story."

It happens to be true. Jeffrey Sernett of Bend, Oregon sank his teeth into K-9 cop.
The incident started when authorities received a call that a man would not leave a woman's home. By the time police arrived, Sernett had assaulted his girlfriend, Bend Police Lt. Jerry Stone said....

A police dog named Amor was sent in to retrieve Sernett and bit the suspect in the leg.

Sernett responded by lifting the dog off the ground and biting him on the head, Stone said.
But this is tame* compared to the Hong Kong man who bit a dog to death.

Oh, and for once, I scooped Obscure Store. Probably only for once, at that.

*Yes, it's an egregious pun.

Jun 3, 2004

a-l-o-p-e... (fainting spell) ...c-o-i-d

Gotta love the kids who take part in the National Spelling Bee. (Disclaimer: Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and the free trip to D.C., and lost in the third round. Most fun I had in middle school.)

If you haven't seen Spellbound, see it. Now.

Update: dead link replaced with a fresh one. See also "spelling bee fainting."

stoop a little lower, there

Keith Cook, chair of the Orange County School Board, plagiarized his commencement address to O.C. High School:
The speech, which incorporated lessons from the movie "Titanic," was virtually identical to a 1998 speech given by Donna Shalala, then U.S. secretary of health and human services. Cook did not attribute his remarks, made Friday night at UNC's Smith Center, to Shalala.

When asked Tuesday by a Herald-Sun reporter where he got his speech, Cook said, "I wrote that."

But later, after The Herald-Sun e-mailed him a Web site link to Shalala's speech, Cook called back and acknowledged he had gotten his remarks off the Internet. He said he downloaded them from a Web site he found after typing "graduation speeches" into the Google search engine.
I've caught plagiarizers a few times in my teaching career (which is going on two strong years now). They always do the same thing: deny, rinse, repeat. Until you show them the exact website you googled. (Why they assume you don't know how use Google is beyond me.)

But come on. A speech that references Titanic? That is so 1998.

[hat tip to obscure store]

"o wad some power the giftie gie us..."

"...to see oursels as ithers see us." Surprise to no one: high performers underestimate their abilities, while losers think they're more skilled than they actually are. Add this to the burgeoning list of studies that show that self-esteem has to be grounded in reality, or it's mere empty egoism. (Okay, so this study is a bit small, and probably not definitive, but it squares with personal experience and a wealth of other evidence.)

Lee Dye's articles are consistently entertaining--not bad for a scientician.

Jun 2, 2004

thinking caps, anyone?

Over on Jeremiads, Philip Jenkins calls anti-Catholicism the "last acceptable prejudice." (If you didn't know, he's written a book about it.)

Type in "last acceptable prejudice" on Google, and see that homophobia and anti-Semitism are also vying for the title. So is anti-Italianism.

My money's on anti-Amishism. I ought to know. I have Amish relatives.

In other news, Robert M. Kahn takes puffish academic titles to task.

Jun 1, 2004


They work for mediocre wages, put up with bratty adolescents, learn to work off-the-cuff and from-the-seat-of-the-pants. These improvisateurs of the classroom, substitute teachers, have my respect; some have my admiration. (Besides, I may join their ranks someday, so I shouldn't speak ill of the profession.)

Since I was absent on Friday, I had to call a sub. I didn't get back until this morning, and have discovered that the sub's personality clashed rather badly with my teaching style. She was unable to manage querulous rabble-rousers, and spent much time arguing with my debate class (always a bad idea), accusing them of "thinking reactively rather than proactively" because they had the temerity to disagree with her. (She had claimed that Abu Ghraib was the result of rap music. Critical thinking?)

My favorite sub--as a student, I mean--was a tall, blotchy, bearded fellow who commandeered my high school debate class for a day. During the course of the period, we were treated to an etiology of the blotches (a rare skin disease affecting less than 1 in 100,000 people) and to a display of pedagogical brilliance unmatched in the history of subbing.

At one point, a fellow student, whom I shall refer to as Bree, asked the sub if we could "do something fun." She continued: "We usually have fun in this class. Mr. R. always does something fun." To which our sub replied, in his booming gravelly voice:

"You're not here to have fun. You're here to please me."

Bree, incidentally, spent the rest of the period wandering the hall as a form of "punishment."

I have forgotten many things "learned" in high school, but that epigram of teaching philosophy has been my pedagogical guide to this day.