Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Antiques Roadshow Drinking Game

Josh writes:

There are doubtless many variations to be found on the Internet, but in celebration of the show's return to TV1 last night, a bunch of us played with the following rules, which we made up ourselves:

The primary part of the game is a simple guess at the valuation, with the person farthest away from the correct price drinking.

All participants drink if any of the following things occur or are said:

  • A translation is given for the Asian language read from the bottom of porcelain.
  • Polite British surprise expressed a la C3PO. (Polite swearing = 2 drinks)
  • Open disagreement over valuation.
  • Oiks with highly expensive items. (Scousers = 2 drinks)
  • Extreme accents that are hard to follow (except Welsh).
  • Annoying laugh.
  • Served royalty.
  • Item bought by a relative who was a sailor (excluding scrimshaw).
  • Bought in a car boot sale.
  • "That's interesting, I have another at home."
  • Pre-1500 (except Peruvian).
  • A personal letter to that person as a child from A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, or E.H. Shepard.
  • Iconic U.S. toy made in Germany.
  • "Did you play with it as a child?"
  • Object irretrievably damaged by owner through stupidity.

These are the rules we played with last night -- suggestions for new conditions to add next time included "poorly disguised disappointment at the valuation" and "appears Japanese but actually made in China"/"appears Chinese but actually made in Japan"/"appears Asian but actually made in Britain".

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Books You Should Be Reading # 19 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night by Christopher Brookmyre

William Connor was standing outside a disused cattleshed on a bright Highland summer's morning, ankle-deep in cowshit, liquidised mercenary raining splashily down about his head from the crisp blue sky above. He wasn't an overly superstitious man, but this was precisely the sort of thing that tended to make him wonder whether fate wasn't trying to drop just the subtlest of hints.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab.
The category selection thing that comes with the new format has kindly counted my posts for me.

This will be post number 248.

Good lord, I think I need a holiday.

So with that, I'm off for a while. No, you bastards don't get rid of me that easily, I'm just travelling for a week or three.

To keep you occupied over the Capitalismas season, you get Christmas songs. Hewligan over at Mutopia has pointed out in his own list that Fairytale of New York is a bit trite these days, but he also makes the valid point that it's just so good that it doesn't matter. So here's the video.

In a slightly less depressing mood, here is the video for Give the Jew Girl Toys, by Sarah Silverman.

And lastly, an audio file of Hey Santa Claus, by Kevin Bloody Wilson; the only Christmas song from my childhood that is still relevant all these years later.

Oh, and while its not a song, here's something done by the fine upstanding folk at Loadingreadyrun back when there was the storm-in-a-teacup over the term "Christmas" being offensive to those that didn't celebrate it...

Merry whatever.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab.
So, Brain Stab has lasted two years. If that isn't a testament to something being frighteningly wrong with society, I don't know what is.

Alright, two things in repsonse to Josh's post here.

Firstly, to address the scandalous, nay; libellous suggestion that I am anything like the character of Sparky on Outrageous Fortune. Obviously, this is both untrue and hurtful, and I would like to challenge Josh to a bare-knuckle boxing match to reclaim my honour.

I'd like to, but I can't. Old knee injury acting up I'm afraid. But let me tell you, I'm giving Josh the most evil of glares the next time he isn't looking...

Anyhoo, the question was also raised (to paraphrase) - What the hell is up with Gwen Stefani? By way of an answer: an extended diatribe, with video accompaniment

This is the latest is a long line of things that are all The Neptunes' fault.

The Neptunes are Pharrell Williams and Some Asian Guy, two producers who, as far as I know, came to fame after producing Kelis' Caught Out There. Apparently they were famous before that, but I had never heard of them, so that can't be the case...

In addition to being producers, they are also a group in their own right, who, as NERD, achieved some chart success with the remarkably catchy She Wants To Move, the video for which is worth watching just for Pharrell's "I'm fucking your girlfriend" facial expression. Yes, it turns out there is a facial expression to convey that. Watch the video - you'll see...

So, when Gwen Stefani released her solo alubum, Love Angel Music Baby, she employed a number of producers. She was a cypher for each - the songs produced by No Doubt's Tony Kanal sounded like No Doubt songs, the songs produced by the Neptunes sounded like typical Neptunes tracks, and such forth.

The song that got her the biggest acclaim was the Neptunes produced Hollaback Girl. No one really knows what she was doing there - even her own explainations of the song are somewhat garbled.

But this started a new paradigm. Upon releasing her solo album, Stefani was acclaimed as the alternative diva - a Mariah or a Beyonce that the off-centre crowd could get behind. And after Hollaback Girl, they didn't bother releasing the more rocky tracks.

There are two outbreaks of what I believe is the new norm in female pop. One is Fergie, who is following the formula faithfully. This is leading to mixed results, such as London Bridge, which is without exception the worst song released this year. Sometimes, though it works, such as Fergalicious, which is hypnotic. I mean, so is being hypnotised to kill the President, but, like that, it's the good form of hypnotic.

The second outbreak is Gwen Stefani's second album, with the single on the receiving end of Josh's ire, Wind It Up. Certainly, the horror of yodelling in pop music is enough to send Colonel Kurtz screaming into the jungle, to say nothing of the very idea of sampling The Sound of Music. But...

I guess its the video as much as anything - I hated Hollaback Girl when I listened to it the first time on the CD, but the video was really quite attention-catching. Much the same with Fergalicious. The video for Wind It Up is a hell of a mess, but it really is mesmerising. I'm not sure what this says about either Gwen or Fergie - the fact that their songs are only catchy when accompanied by videos that turn them into cartoon characters. For Fergie, this is pretty much the norm - she was always the Bouncy Girl(tm) in the Black Eyed Peas. For Gwen - it seems a pity that the person who wrote Just a Girl would become this.

The hell with it. Long story short: You all suck, and Christina Aguilera still rules.


Josh writes:

Ooh! Ahh! A new look for the site! Still a work in progress -- it'll be more interesting by the time it's done, but for now at least it's in the New Blogger style, with the super-expando Archives bit and RSS feeds for comments as well as posts and the wider layout which does away with the need for the "full posts on separate pages" thing and the complete inability to handle basic JavaScript without mangling it so that it doesn't fucking work. But that's not important right now.

What is important is that the change of theme marks Brain Stab's second birthday -- look at that little first post, all the way back in 2004. This is as good an excuse as any to make a few changea around the place, some of which may be far-reaching and earth-shattering. Of course, we were thinking along similar lines after the first birthday, and nothing really came of that.

The title, for the less matrimonially-inclined among you, relates to the traditional gift for 2nd wedding anniversaries. I note that the 3rd anniversary gift is leather. Watch this space next year...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Subjectivity '06

Josh writes:

It's that time of year -- the time when people take the opportunity to pad out their blogs with arbitrarily generated Best/Worst lists. Here, then, is my collection of meaningless subjectivity for 2006:

Best Song: Lily Allen's "LDN". Any song that features "slapper", "pimp", "crackwhore" and "filth" as slang for the police all in the first verse is guaranteed to get my vote.

Worst Song: Gwen Stefani's "Wind it Up". Jack, you know about these things -- was this song produced by the Neptunes on a bad day, or by someone trying to ape the Neptunes and failing badly? In any case, there's no excuse for yodelling in popular music.

Best Album: Tim Minchin's "So Rock". If you haven't heard of Tim Minchin (and chances are you haven't), you bloody should have. He is that rarest of chimerae, a musical comedian whose act contains both good music and hilarious comedy. If you like Bill Bailey, you really need to hear this guy.

Best Music Video: Any one where Eric Roberts appears as the bad guy. Which, at last count, was all of them. Honourable mention to the James Morrison one with all the attractive young women and their multitude of barely-concealed, peach-like bottoms.

Best TV Show: Heroes, which you probably haven't seen because it hasn't started here yet (thanks, Internet). As a person who's read my fair share of comic books, I was a little leery of the concept of "doing superheroes but really real in the real world", but my fears were unfounded -- not only does the superpowers angle get an intelligent and (mostly) non-melodramatic treatment, but the show itself strikes the best balance I've seen between keeping mysterious secrets to keep you interested and revealing things to keep you fucking interested. (Compare Lost, which appears to have crossed the "OK, now you're just pissing about" line with its audience in the third season, with the stunning revelation that... um... yeah. I'd give a spoiler warning, but I don't think there's anything to spoil.)

Best Local Show: Outrageous Fortune (not like there's many to choose from). One of the very few shows I make a point of watching every week. In fact, since Green Wing ended, it may be the only one. I particularly liked the reversal this season where Van is now the Good Son and Jethro is the evil one. And John Leigh's latest turn as Sparky the beardy pyromaniac, in which he finds God and becomes a self-flagellating street preacher, which was the closest New Zealand has come to an accurate portrayal of Apathy Jack on television.

Best Movie: Children of Men. I'm not taking the piss here -- this is seriously the best film I've seen in quite some time. Bleak but hopeful, it does an amazing job of putting you right in the middle of the action alongside the main character with some incomprehensibly well-choreographed continuous shots.

Best Line of Movie Dialogue I Heard This Year: "If you're going to dine with the devil, make sure you bring a long spoon!" - Jack Palance, Cyborg 2. The film's from 1993, but this year was the first time I watched it, see? RIP Jack Palance, by the way.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Books You Should Be Reading # 18 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Call Of The Weird by Louis Theroux

Over lunch, he shared stories about his days 'orgying' in the seventies. One of the hazards of being a Don Juan, Ike said, was that you couldn't always remember the people you'd orgied with. 'It's not that you're being snotty. It's just they change... One girl walked up to me and said, "You don't remember me?" She did this on Geraldo's show. I said, "No." She said, "I orgied with you for three days!"'
'You "orgied" with her - what does that mean?" I asked.
With glee, Ike said, 'That, man, it were her and a lot more girls and I was doing them all.'
'Have you ever orgied, Louis?' Audrey asked innocently, and pressed her wig with her hands.
'I don't think I ever have orgied,' I said.
'You never had five or six women at one time?' Ike asked. 'Hey, life passin' you by!'

Friday, December 08, 2006

Now Hear This

Josh writes:

OK, so Blogger finally seems to be allowing team blogs to convert to Beta. I have done so. Everything looks OK so far, although Morthos has reported irregularities... disturbing irregularities... trying to log on.

If everything goes pear-shaped over the next wee while, well, you'll know why.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Annual 2006 Brain Stab Awards for 'Self-Excellence in the Face of Overwhelming Apathy.'

That Morthos Stare writes:

It's that time of the year when we here at Brain Stab decide to award ourselves prizes (and thus justify all that grant money we're getting these days). It's been a tough year but someone had to orchestrate it and fill your lives with the fun and frolics you so desperately miss.

Pity about the lack of nazi fight nuns in graveyards, though. Next year...

Without further ado, the Annual 2006 Brain Stab Awards for 'Self-Excellence in the Face of Overwhelming Apathy.'

Part Deux.

The 'Don Brash Violation' Award - Apathy Jack

Where would we be without Jack? In a happy, brighter, faster world, but one without the incriminating details of Jack's pedagogical practices, which we say is a fair trade-off. Jack, month after month, gives us the sordid details of his students' lives; their drug use, their sex lives, their continuing travesties in becoming educated. Where other men would respect the privacy of their charges Jack sallies forth to make sure that we know exactly why he is becoming ever more emo.

The 'Nicky Hagar Pearler' Award - Eric Olthwaite

Eric Olthwaite does not post often but when he does he delivers pearlers. Not all his entires to Brain Stab this year have been rude wake-up calls but everyone of them has been timely, apt and sensible. Where others of us post crap entry after crap entry in a vain attempt to look productive Eric, in his wisdom, holds back for months at a time, crafting his thoughts into pellets of fried gold, ready for viral propagation. We would admire this sort of activity if it weren't for the fact that it makes the rest of us look bad. And, if the rest of us ever improve our game, it will make Eric look lazy.

The 'Misunderstood Pendant' Award - Josh

The Blogosphere is a tawdry place best suited to the prostitution of ideas and pie-fights, but some people keep on trying to make it 'intellectual.' The frequency of such acts has meant that a kind of watchperson role has had to evolve, and of all the Brain Stab posters Josh is the most likely to be cited in fireside conversations on the topic. From distinguishing 'gaffs' from 'gaffes' to debating the logical structure of similes, Josh admonishes us to be better, faster and less emo. Still, his cleverness sometimes backfires and sees him being accused of the same faults he is drawing attention to. Which, we suspect, proves the eternal truth that no one likes a smart arse.

The 'Ayn Rand is a Flatulent Busybody' Award - Brother Morthos

Brother Morthos is not deserving of any awards. He never shall be. We just like the title of this one and Brother Morthos would approve; anything to piss of the worthless bags of flesh that are the Objectivists.

The 'Word Cannot Parse this Sentence' Award - RSJS

Of all the posters to Brain Stab only one man has endeavoured to increase his language use to cyclopodean size. This 'man' is RSJS, a man whose sentences are so lengthy and convoluted that most mere mortals keep their 'Strunk and White' beside them whenever his name appears suffixed to a post. RSJS should be gratified to know that he has single-handedly reintroduced the 'adjectival adjectiving adjective' to the English language. Well done, that 'man.'

Special Guest Commentator Award - HORansome

In so many respects HORansome is the sixth man of Brain Stab, a vital fluid in the machinery that is a Stab. In. The. Head. Whilst he doesn't post articles to the site he does provide frankly insulting commentary to so many of them that should he disappear then the collective IQ of the Blogosphere would go up, up up. Seeing that we can't have that now, can we? we award him a prize in the hope that it will keep him with us for another year. Also, we like his profile picture.

Coming up next year: Apathy Jack chucks his job as a teacher and becomes an accountant, Josh writes every post in txt-spk, Eric advocates Objectivism for Fun and Profit, RSJS provides even more pictures of his penis and Brother Morthos finally gets around to produce hardcopies of the 'Manifesto of Self-Revocation.'

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Oh I'm sorry this is abuse.

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Sir Karl Popper, a very successful philosopher, once explained his success in the following words...

"This success of my endeavours was due, I believe, to a rule of method: that we should always try to clarify and to strengthen our opponent's position as much as possible before criticising him, if we wish our criticism to be worthwhile"

This sounds pretty obvious, I well remember David Braddon Mitchell saying much the same thing almost as an aside in the first few weeks of Stage 1 Metaphysics, but as Michael Cloud says "obvious means overlooked", and in philosophy overlooking this simple maxim is entirely to your detriment. More than any other discipline, philosophy is about arguments. Sometimes putting forward novel ones of your own, but more often than not examining the arguments of others. If you don't examine other people's arguments correctly you will simply be marked down, no matter how innocently. It's no different from transposing a number in maths.

The thing about philosophy is that it is a sort of universal acid, it seeps through everything. The skills one learns in philosophy, of analysis, of spotting logical fallacies, of skillful argumentation, can be used pretty much anywhere there is a need for analysis, argumentation, or the spotting of logical fallacies. Simply put, if giving your opponent the best shot at being right is good enough for a debate in philosophy, then it is good enough for politics, economics, history, physics, biology, anything.

Unfortunately, The Blogosphere and Karl Popper's quote are alien to each other.

Take the recent furore over txt speak in exams. In both of the previous links not only the bloggers, but many commenters simply got stuck in to NCEA without any attempt to analyse just what the decision entailed, and if there was a strongest argument that could be put forward for allowing text speak to be used (incidentally something I did try to do, as did Hewligan)

Now, go back to the Popper quote, and read it again. What is the most important word?

It is the last one he uses.


If you do not give your opponent at least the courtesy of a decent showing, then your criticism is not worthwhile, and you are wasting your time. Why? Because those you are arguing against will simply say "that's not my argument" and ignore you. You have wasted your time.

Let's take a look at another example of this happening in practice, and since I have already criticised a right winger and a libertarian we'll look a left winger now, namely the blog of Jordan Carter. Around a month ago now, Jordan complained
that his views were not taken seriously, that he was seen as simply a mouthpiece for the Labour Party and so on.

Jordan thought the reason for this was because the views he put forward were the same as those of the Labour Party, or because he doesn't comment on certain things, but to my mind both of those are irrelevant. Even if Jordan only comments on certain things, and if the things he comments come from a (well argued) Labour Party line, he would deserve to be taken seriously. Jordan's problem is that he simply does not give his opponets any weight. As is evidenced by this post where he labels the National Party as being dedicated to reshaping New Zealand's society and economy in a direction of less fairness, less opportunity and more inequality and poverty.

This is not the stuff of worthwhile criticism. No matter what you think of the National Party, the best case to be made for them is not that of a bunch of people sitting around thinking of ways to wreck New Zealand.

It might be said that I am missing the point. Jordan might not give a shit what people think of him, and he might be using his blog as a bit of catharsis, letting raw emotion and raw opinion off his chest, and saving more refined analysis for other forums. That is fair enough - but given the post he did complaining that people didn't take him seriously I don't think my criticism has been misplaced. If you are not interested in your criticism's "being worthwhile", then Popper's maxim doesn't apply to you - no big deal.

I should also point out that I'm not just having a go at Jordan, although I might have focussed on him here, I could have picked anywhere from Sir Humphries, Tony Milne, or Martyn Bradbury (especially) to prove my point, amongst many others.

So how about a group effort to get The Blogosphere creating a little more light and a little less heat, and take some time to give your opponents a fair go. And here is the inevitable Monty Python reference for those who have made it through to the end.

Mac and Cheese

Josh writes:

My whatever-the-Civil-Union-equivalent-of-a-fiancee-is got her new school laptop upgrade last week. She decided to try out a MacBook this time, to see how the other half (fifth?) lives. Like all Macs, it's stupidly pretty and fun to use. The only thing that puts me off them these days (apart from price, obviously) is the increasingly desperate "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ad campaign.

I could appreciate the earlier ones that genuinely portrayed the strengths of Macs and the disadvantages of PCs, but they seem to have run out of genuine issues, and these days they're just making shit up. While my favourite is still the one with the Japanese woman representing a new digital camera (who the Mac can speak fluent Japanese to, while the PC doesn't know what they're saying), I wasn't aware that Windows PCs had any sort of reputation for compatibility problems with new devices. The most recent one is again trying to convince us that PCs are only good for spreadsheets and doing your taxes, and that a $2000 iMac is what you want to get to entertain your 10-year-old children.

It's just going to get worse -- I predict the following for their 2007 campaign:

Mac: Hi, I'm a Mac.

PC: And I'm a PC. Say, what are you doing there?

Mac: Well, I'm dining on fine caviar while receiving fellatio from numerous supermodels and teenage celebrities. How about you?

PC: I'm halfway up a Doberman Pinscher. Which has rabies. Because using Windows is like fucking a dog with rabies.

Mac: Boy, you sure do suck some balls, huh?

PC: I have rabies also.

I may be slightly off the mark on this one -- I was genuinely surprised that the McDonalds "JASOOON!" ad campaign didn't culminate in the son drugging his parents, dressing them in school uniforms and pimping them out to child molesters for $1.95 a pop. It seemed the obvious progression.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I Speak Corruption

Apathy Jack writes:

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab.
You know what I've been remiss in plugging? Radia. A two-person band consisting of my unhealthily good looking friends Kat and Ross. They've been procrastinating over making an album for, well, ever now, but have established a myspace presence. And while myspace causes cancer of the soul, it at least gives you all a chance to listen to two of their tracks; Elysium, and the beautiful I Speak Corruption.

Go here, listen to the tracks, then email or comment or do whatever it is one does on a myspace page and tell them to make with a full album.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dirk Gentley's Holistic Wikipedia Searching

That Morthos Stare writes:

I have a task for you, my precious lovelies. I am searching for some information online and I'm having absolutely no luck whatsoever in finding it. I have, thus, hit upon the most likely source of info-pillaging; you lot.

Your task is to search for the information for me. Now, to make this interesting (and more likely to work) I'm not going to tell you what I'm searching for. I'm just going to assume that if you start searching for something then you're going to find, as a corollary, what I'm looking for.

Understand? Good. Detail how you got to what I'm looking for in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Everyone has a plan until they're punched in the face...

Apathy Jack writes:

In my time at Hoodrat Academy for Higher Learning, I've stepped into the middle of probably more than my fair share of fights. Sometimes the simple fact of my presence is enough to defuse the combatants, but sometimes I have to employ all of my (sadly meagre) strength to keep them apart. In five years, though, I've never been in a situation that was so out of control that my clothes have ended up torn.

Until, of course, today.

I was in my room working when the junior assembly let out. It seems weird to say "it sounded a bit off" but it did. Each routine at school has a certain pitch, and this, as I say, was slightly off. Enough so for me to wander to the gym, at any rate.

Outside, the students were gearing up for a fight. In actual fact, it looked like they were gearing up for several fights. One of my informants told me it was because one Year 10 had hit another. Neither was visible, but their respective friends were circling in various unhealthy permutations.

I went to the group that looked most volitile, arriving just in time for the punching to start. It was half a dozen or so to one, so I grabbed the "one" more out of expediency than anything else, and tried to break things up. The group behind me, joined by several more from various sides, surged over me, punching and flailing. I had kids trying to pull me off their target so they could get their shots in.

As the lot of us went down in a heap, I heard my shirt rip. I hoped it was just the buttons, but it ended up being a fist-sized hole in the chest.

I found myself quite literally buried under a pile of students - the PE teacher later told me it looked like I was under a scrum. The fists were still flying, and I had a vague thought of covering the body of the original intended victim with my own, but in the heap of writing pummling bodies, I had lost track of who was who.

I became dimly aware of another English teacher and the Deputy Principal pulling students off me, so I got to my feet, picked up my cellphone from where it had flown from my pocket, and put on my shoe that had somehow come off. I then went to where the next fight was breaking out, grabbed another student, and started again.

I tell you, the girls at my school are scary sometimes...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Again with the Pedantery

Josh writes:

A gaffe is a blunder or faux pas.

A gaff is a pole with a big hook on the end of it.

Don Brash may "make gaffs" in his spare time if he has an interest in metalwork, but I'm pretty sure it's his gaffes that have got him in trouble at the moment.

As you were.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Josh writes:

I observe this morning that the whole "David Benson-Pope likes it kinky or maybe he doesn't and the whole thing's a load of horseshit" affair has resulted in the phrase "reverse cowgirl" appearing in a Kiwiblog thread.

I'm not sure if this is a clear sign of the End Times or the best thing ever.

P.S. Swift and painful death to the first twat who thinks up a "-Gate" name for this scandal. Muck-raking, gutter-diving, and blatant hypocrisy I can deal with, but lack of imagination? Unpardonable.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


That Morthos Stare writes:

One of the perils of being an academic is that writing outside of your project can become a bit of a chore. Just as I am sure most bakers don't go home and decide that a really fun thing to do would be to make another set of break rolls the academic in me thinks 'Give it a rest' when a blog post comes to mind.

Typing makes Brother Morthos unhappy.

Every so often the malaise only strikes me after the first draft and, in many cases, I foolishly think that in a few days the apathy will settle and I can return to the post with a fresh mind and even fresher ideas. This has, by and large, not been the case, and now Brain Stab's behind the scenes mechanism is littered with bits of my psyche in written form. Thus, to clear some of this stuff off my chest I'm going to post the edited highlights.

(This the internet; I have a god-given right to pollute the blogosphere with my inane thoughts. The fact you keep coming back is just further justification.)

From the 'The first sentence sets up its own problems...'

The most harrowing event in a lecturer's life is when a colleague sits in on a lecture. If you want to increase the tension, having a colleague sit in when you've only just returned to lecturing is possibly worse (although then I have to retract the statement 'The most harrowing event...').

From the 'One day I'll explain completely why I think Facism is a better idea than democracy' file:

I have a very low tolerance for morons, as many of you will know. This could be seen as somewhat ironic; I don't think I'm the smartest person in the world (although, yes, I do act as if I think that). Indeed, on a bell curve I would put myself just ahead of the median; my skill set is really pompous dogmatism laced with an air (from speech training) of authority. I'm not being unduly modest; I've taught students who will, given time, out pace me on every academic level (indeed, I think I would be failing as my duty as a teacher if that wasn't the case). Being outside 'The System,' however, has made me realise that I'm not fit to engage in the 'Real World.' I don't have the ability to discuss topics of everyday importance. Those topics bore me.

From the 'I just enjoy it, dammit!' section:

I once thought that my want to walk everywhere was somehow related to the suspicion of Scots in my father's side of the family; I walked because walking was cost-effective. Now, however, I think I have come to the realisation that walking, to me, is a most relaxing sport even if it is down Oxford Street in the midst of January Sales.

On 'Becoming Monsters:'

At some point in the past (I'm thinking the beginning of 2005) I went from being me to someone playing the part of me. Anyone who knows me knows that I do melodrama and only melodrama; I play either villians or fools and virtually nothing inbetween. It used to be that I was me with moments of melodrama but now I seem to be melodrama with moments of originality, and those moments are few and far between.


A lot of my peers have become caricatures of themselves; the womaniser, the pedagogue, the politician; the size of the list is really only matched by the wretchedness of what we have become. No longer real people we exist in anecdotes, gripes and filibusters. We don't live ordinary lives anymore; we can't really do small talk.

'Funny because the landscape has changed/Oh the hubris:'

I'm a bit of a celebrated pedagogue in my Department; the course I co-teach has become more popular with the changes my colleague and I have made, to the point that we're going to be the cover of the University News with an accompanying major article. I've been asked to talk on our teaching method to various groups within the University and I've been contracted out to different Faculties to teach.

On Teaching:

As an pedagogue I firmly believe that we teachers are tools and this is all we should be. Our job is to be transparent; teach and be utterly replaceable. Our job is to educate and that is all we should be doing; this is what the State subsidises our existence for. This current trend to treat teachers as parents (and for teachers to actively take on the role of being a surrogate parent) is not just ill-advised but counter to the profession. Our job is to pass on information; it is not to mollycoddle or become parental figures to our charges.

'Endorphins have a lot to answer for:'

Add energy to a stable system and you increase the chances of entropy. Imagine the remnants of a vodka and tonic (let’s fill out the picture by placing the glass, the shrivelled lemon slice and the ice-cubes in the friendly surrounds of a hardcore gig). Left to it’s own devices the ice will eventually melt, but slowly. Twirl everything around, however, and suddenly the influx of new energy will result in more water.

Music is like a swizel stick.

This is actually a sequel to a book review I did years ago:

J. K. Rowling’s sequel to ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Penis’ is the first truly lacklustre entry in her increasingly bizarre series of a boy and his magic wang. After the necrophilia of ‘...the Goblet of Fuck’ and NAMBLA machinations of ‘...the Order of the Penis’ ‘...the Half-Baked Prince’ simply fails to entice. Harry once again returns to Hogwarts, this time after an enjoyable threesome with Ron and Hermione in the country, only to find the perfidious Several ‘Dicks’ Snape teaching Harry’s favoured subject. Harry’s new Potions teacher, a dandy and ne’erdowell, gifts the young student with a karma sutra of love potions that Harry ends up using on students and staff alike, leading to fairly predictable merriment.

Much was made of Dumbledore revealing himself fully to Harry over the course of the book; the love scenes are clumsily written and this reader feels that the Dumbledore-Voldemort relationship that appears in flashbacks was unnecessary and hastily done (although it does show that Dumbledore has a things for orphans; make of that what you will).

From the 'Have you worked out that I don't like Objectivists' folder:

I'm not fond of Libertarians in general, although I do respect some (read: few) of their intuitions. The Randians, however, get no sympathy from me whatsoever. I'm not sure that they mean to act as religious zealots (indeed, I would imagine that they would be horrified by the suggestion) but Objectivists, with their character worship of Ayn Rand, one of the last century's dullest writers, would most resemble a Roman Catholic's devotion to the Pope... except that Catholic's, by and large, ignore the Popes for the out-moded fuddy-duddies that they tend to be.

Still, blind devotion to an author doesn't necessarily make you a bad person. I don't dislike goths due to their insistence that Anne Rice is worth reading. I pity them, just as I pity anyone who decides to read a Poppy Z. Brite novel (the short stories are another matter entirely). No, it's the insistence that Rand's philosophy has real world relevance. Well, that and the claim that Rand's aphoristic style is philosophy.

Let me put this into perspective. Philosophy is a dialectical discipline in which we trade and develop ideas. One of our chief virtues is the ability to be wrong and admit to that fact. Objectivism, however, is a dogmatic belief system best analogised with a Jack Chick tract. I don't whether Objectivists think that it is immoral to show dissent from the official view or whether their intellectual poverty is so great that they have to toe the party line, but such strict adherence to a distinctly impoverished ideology isn't philosophy. I suspect that what appeal Objectivism has is psychological; if you think being a prick is a good thing then Objectivism gives you nice variety of shallow reasons to do so.

On London:

London; named after the Georgian's third favourite sexual postion, is a city. Not just a city, but a city with people in it, and what a people they are. From the local cobbler (who usually happens to be your landlord) to the halal butcher (whose son probably supplies Class Bs to your landlord), London is exactly just unlike any other part of England. For one thing, it's not actually English. Although a large part of the population is indeed native Anglo-Saxon an almost equal number of people are Johnny Foreigners just like me. We swamp London; we work behind the counters, we serve the coffee and do all the jobs that the English won't touch. We are London's cleaners, its servicers and its prison inmates.


But don't think that London is just malacious Cockney racism; there is a dark and insidious side to this town as well.

From the 'Actually, this more accurately describes Londoners' category:

I don't know if you know the English. They had an Empire at some time and apparently a lot of our cultural identity came from them. They also have a tendency to start conversations with 'I'm not a racist, but...' which, as you know, means that the next statement is likely to be a gross over-generalisation (exactly like this one).

Hmm... Edited highlights; more like concentrated banality.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Truth Bomb

Josh writes:

You can say "nigger nigger nigger spic dick cunt" -- you can say all of that and people say *yawn* "OK".

The way to shock an audience was taught to us by Osama -- that's how the fuck you shock an audience. You can't shock nobody more than that, you know? I don't give a fuck what anybody tells you, we have been -- we've seen shock, OK? We've seen it. That was a fucking shock.

Whoopi Golberg, "The Aristocrats" DVD extra

It's not all Gilbert Gottfried talking about fist-fucking a dog. It's mostly that, but it's not all that.

Jack-bot fascism

RSJS writes:

On behalf of the management we would like to put forward an insincere apology to our many disloyal fans who breeze through this page on their way to sites clogged with pornography and kittens verbing nouns.

We have over the past year been running experiments using random-data generating “bots” to fulfil the role of actual authors. One of these programs was given as source data a copy of “Chicken soup for the soul”, the soundtrack to “Dangerous Minds”, the King James Bible and a number of links to Others were supplied with the collected works of Tom Wolfe, a faded copy of Razzle and some candy.

The program that was filtering the educational and uplifting data to produce generic heart-warming stories of schoolyard japery and sage words of teacherly wisdom has been running smoothly these past few years, producing Hallmark moments at a rate of one per fortnight as per the operating system’s intent. This program was referred to as Jackbot 1.0.

However, recent software upgrades to Jackbot have meant the productivity settings were restored to factory standards. Unfortunately, Jackbot was built using military-grade blogging software that was code-named “Emo 9000” and designed to produce a steady monologue about weight issues, wrist injuries, and the sheer unfairness of it all. This program was powered by source material culled from MTV websites and a cult site known as “Myspace” and had a capacity that, when unchecked, threatened to crash the internet under the onslaught of quoted song lyrics, high-angled webcam shots, and seven different flavours of whining.

In short, Jackbot 2.0 has started running at industrial Emo 9000 speeds, producing humungous homilies faster and faster, threatening the structural integrity of Brain Stab and possibly the world. Desperate attempts by loyal staff to enter the Jackbot containment area has resulted in death, maimings, and one stern lecture that has traumatized our dear intern Olaf as the software has achieved a degree of rudimentary sentience and can no longer be unplugged. Soon all of the Brain Stab site will be overrun by Jackbot 2.0’s ceaseless productivity and those remaining human bloggers will be forced to flee in small lifeboats fashioned from upturned computer desks. The paddle-potential of keyboards on sticks will be explored.
This may be our last message for we can hear the shuffling of the Jackbot mainframe as it stalks the halls, dragging itself along the tiled floors of Brain Stab HQ using cables and wires exuded from the swollen casing like a wiry metal beard. I can hear the arcing of the electricity. Tell my mother I… like her platonically. Goodbye. .

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Graduation Day

Apathy Jack writes:

Year 13 who is giving me book vouchers to thank me for being his teacher for a few years "Here you go, Sir. I got the music teacher beer, but I remember that you don't drink."
Other Student "You don't drink? How do you survive being a teacher?"
Me "Well, I'm the only member of staff who doesn't drink, and you know how none of the other teachers look like crazed druids and have daily breakdowns in front of their classes...?"
Other Student "Ah, so that's why that is."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

So anyway, the conversation turns to the fact that one of my Year 12s has never noticed that I wear sneakers instead of proper shoes.

"Yeah, I wear sneakers to work every day."
"Huh... This is your work."
"I never thought about it like that before. This is your job."
"You're at work, and you're at school."
"Wow, your life sucks!"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

"Look at John, Mister! He's pregnant!"
"Congratulations, Susan, you're going to be a daddy."
"Awesome. Mister, you're going to be a grandpa."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Student 1 "What should I do? They guy she's in love with asked me out."
Student 2 "I keep telling you, I'm fine with it. Go out with him."
Student 1 "Mister! Help! Why aren't you helping?"
Me "Well, what you need to do is figure out if, when she says she's fine with it, she's really fine with it, or if she's just saying that."
Student 2 "I'm not just saying it! You want him, go for it."
Student 1 "But how do I know?"
Me "Look, if you follow your heart, I think you'll make the right decision."
Student 1"But if I follow my heart, she'll smash me."
Me "That's not your heart your following, it's another part of your body."
Student 1 "Hey fuck you!"
Student 2 "Anyway, I won't smash you."
Student 1 "But how can I be sure...?"

Being a teenager seems more complicated than I remember...

Clothes maketh the Patron

That Morthos Stare writes:

A best friend of mine used to come into Uni almost every day in his bathgown. As he lived in Grafton it was just naturally assumed that he got up, showered and then wrapped up warm in his gown before attending class. A few years back I started a tradition in my flat of putting on my gown as soon as I enter the house; my argument was that it was a) comfortable and b) it stopped the cat's hair from infiltrating my clothes.

Flash forward to the now. My current employment (well, one of the many employment situations I find myself in) finds me living in the bowels of the Ivory Pagoda, down where the students lurk. I'm not particularly adverse to students; I do teach them after all, but I've never taught them in my bathgown and have no real interest in doing so (although a colleague is still looking for a legitimate reason to be able to remove his trousers in class). In return for my sartorial splendour I expect students to, well, dress nicely when they are being taught. I'm not asking them to indulge my current fetish of denim miniskirts (gray, preferably) and polo shirts but rather to maintain a level of civilised dress that doesn't mean wearing your pyjamas.

Which I am seeing an awful lot of at the moment.

It might be that the University of Auckland is currently suffering from exams. Our students, worried about their futures, aren't really thinking about what clothes they have slung on as they hurry in. Still, seeing someone in a complete pink tracksuit with matching overcoat makes me think that there is design, not worry, at the heart of this visual problem.

I have what I consider to be a healthy disrepect for students. It is my job to educate them and this I do. I will organise aegrotats and compassionate considerations for them, I will set up alternate test days and even write supplementary exam questions all to make sure that they get the best possible education and assessment from me. During breaks in class I will talk to them; if they accost me on the street after a course has finished I will even pretend to remember who they are and use my cold reading skills to make it look as if I did pay attention to them in those aforementioned breaks.

I just don't actually care for them. Nor do I think I should. Teachers are cogs in the machine; we take input, produce output and repeat until we are broken. Students have lives before us and will have lives after us; why get in the way of that process? Teachers, at best, pause time for an individual. We live our lives doing the same thing over and over again, with occassional new material thrown in to ensure that our administrating cousins think we're still with the pedagogical programme.

This is not to say that I haven't had proteges. I just don't like them to be dependent on me.

And, if they are going to be in my line of sight, I want them properly dressed. I don't care that they have exams, or that they come from weird middle-class families with blood disorders. I don't even care that they are the proxy patron of the Vice Chancellor. I expect them to dress like normal people.

In gray denim miniskirts and polo shirts.

Including the men.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Signal Failure on the Northern Line: Bus Reviews

That Morthos Stare writes:

Those of you who remember watching 'The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin' (Jack, I'm staring at you) will know that Reggie was always exactly thirteen minutes late to work, mostly due to signal failures. Having become a regular Tube user (I have the blackened fingernails to prove it) I've come to appreciate just how fine a service British Rail provides.

Case in point: Cardiff Bus Service.

Generally bad. Bus drivers don't seem to want you as a customer so tell you to go to another 'more appropiate' stop, which turns out not only to go in another direction entirely but is also at the opposite end of the terminal to the next bus you will be directed to. Drivers also promise to tell you when to get off; they are lying and then deny all knowledge of that conversation when you get to the end of the route.

Venezia Vaporetto: When you board the waterbus you are guaranteed of getting to your chosen location at a speed somewhat slower than crawling, although for some destinations (like Murano and La Guidecca) swimming there is your only other option. However, getting on the boat is difficult, if not because queuing is a foreign idea to the average Italian then because the boats are generally crowded with passengers. Passengers who you have seen go past on the very same boat, unable to get off due to the crowding that denies you ingresso.

Roma Metro: The underground suffers from the same problems as the Venezia Vaporetto. The buses suffer from overly friendly men who either want to frisk your pockets or just want to feel your bum. Still, the most disturbing example of the latter was in the Vatican Post Office. He wasn't even a priest!

Lake District Bus Service: The bus you want will break down just before picking you up. The replacement bus will take you to your intended stop. Your intended stop will turn out to be seven miles away from where you want to go. You will never see another bus again in the three hours of walking in the rain that follows.

Parigi Metro: Do not speak English to any attendants. They will deliberately send you off in the wrong direction, laughing silently as you trundle off, luggage in hand, towards some darkened pit of Paris. Bizarrely enough, they will be Japanese.

So, the Underground. It may have rotating line failures that are timed perfectly with my needing to get to Stansted Airport but its still a cut above the rest of human civilisation when it comes to efficency and speed.

Apathy Jack writes:

So, I was going to do a post about that whole students-allowed-to-write-in-text-in-exams business. I had what I thought would be a fun little hook into it: I was going to dissect one of my student's texts to a friend. However, it looks like it wasn't really A Thing(tm) - just a bit of newspaper-selling sensasionalism.

Of course, I've been looking at my phone in preparation for the thing I was going to write, and I feel like putting up the conversation which the above mentioned text was part of. I've been telling people what teaching is like recently, and been getting too many skeptical looks. Hopefully, this will help them believe me.

I had pulled my little Karen out of classes to get an important assessment finished. She left at interval, not to get a snack and come back in twenty minutes, but to go around to her friend's house. Sadly, she texted the arrangements to her friend from my phone, assuming I wouldn't notice...


Hae gina tz karen me txtn ov mrs fone wat u guys up tew? I gt lyk 5 buks so we cn go halfs n a eat or a pack?

Haha we juz watchn h0me an awae.. Yea c0me 0va an ummm d0nt brng anyWun plz.. An ye wel gEta eAt 0a waheva c u

Sweet me jus wana smoke lol kays il cum afta 3rd period kays dnt txt me bk ur jus waste ur crdt sayn ok lols. I txt u wn i leaf xoxo

We was g0nna g0 bk t0 sk0ol at 4th?

For 4th period? Or 4 lunch?

4th peri0d

Awww ok me gt t wel il cum at ntavel dn kays dn cum bk at 4th r u wf cadz an nat

Just cadz hEA.. Me an heR dat it.. Bt yEp kewLies iL c u

Sweet b dea n ten


Gina, if Karen isn't in my room working in 5 minutes, I'm holding you responsible, and your life is forfeit.

Y0u can kill me t0m0r0w.. Shes helpiNg me 0ut with my sad arsE pr0blEms but she will bE there t0m0r0w and all hEr w0rk wil get finishEd i pr0misE

Like you were helping her with my work in the library a few days ago?

Exaktly like that harhar n0 i mean it this timE! Im s0rRy sir

Remember, I know when you lie - like now for example. I can't drag you back by your hair, but I will destroy your entire world if Karen doesn't get my work done tomorrow.

U cant destroy my world any worse than it is now

You'd be surprised. Just make sure you're both here tomorrow.

Yup ok wil do please dont tel the dean

I won't. So long as you deliver Karen to me tomorrow...

Ok wil do karen will c u afta school briefly


Friday, November 10, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

A while back I ran into my students in Palmerston North (I think I mentioned that when it happened). I was talking about that with one of my lot recently, and idly mentioned I needed to procure a copy of the photo the coach had taken of me with the team on the war memeorial.

She tracked me down today to ask me why I wasn't at the graduation dinner last night. I told her. I may be pissed off at most of my seniors, but I'm not going to lie to them. I reminded her that I was generally disheartened at her year, and that all of the stuff I had been saying of late along those lines was all true.

She thought for a moment.

"Nah, you love us," she said, before thrusting a piece of paper into my hand and going off to class.

It was an A4 print of the photo from Palmerston North, with a message along the bottom thanking me for the various things I have done for her over the years.

I don't feel guilt, because to do so would be to admit some level of human fallibility, but I hear the dinner was good...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Overpowered by a tidal wave of solipsistic ennui, I've decided to miss my kids' graduation dinner. Right now, a pack of young people I've known and cared about for five years are saying their official goodbyes. Instead, I bussed into town and bought the new Henry Rollins book. (Yes, that is good for my mental health. Why do people keep asking that?)

School's been hard this year. Harder than normal. All of the teachers - even those whose enthusiasm puts my meagre efforts to shame - are counting down. Part of the problem (caused by the hardships, but also contributing to them, if you get me) is that the students have, en masse, given up. I've just about made my peace with that. Not the most idealistic statement, I know, but even the Deputy Principal with oversight of student matters has admitted that the endemic wagging and in-class apathy is too big a problem to do anything about. Like I say: we're all counting down. We'll start afresh next year. But yeah, bad day with my Year 13s, so I couldn't face a dinner with them.

Of course, my mind keeps wandering back to the drama assessment I watched today. The kids had to take a pre-existing play and script an extra scene, which they then had to perform. One of my lot (who I've written about before) performed a piece she had written based on The Good Person of Schezwan, in which she had the lead earlier this year. Set twenty years after Brecht's original, her scene showed Shen-Te as a broken woman living in abject poverty, having lost her shop and surrended her son to the Gods to spare him the corruption of the world. Hungry and dejected, she begs passers-by for assistance, not out of any sense of entitlement, but because of her desperate need to convince even one person that helping the needy is the right thing to do.

I sat there trying to fight back the tears, amazed at the words she had written and the passion with which she delivered them.

These kids piss me off royally sometimes. Hell, they get me so disheartened that I feel comfortable using phrases like "tidal wave of solipsistic ennui" in posts. But just sometimes, I find myself so moved, sitting next to others who aren't as emotionally dead as I am, who have tears streaming down their faces.

Not all bad.

Apathy Jack, you're in the know...

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Apathy Jack, no doubt you would have seen this story about allowing txt speak in NCEA exams. Talkback, and bloogers have begun hoarding water, food, and batteries since civilization will now collapse. But I need more information before I can make such a judgement.

So what does this announcement mean exactly? I'll ask you the same question I mooted here:

Does this announcement mean something like:

a) You can write an answer on, for example, Shakespeare, in txt speak and not be marked down.

Which would be apalling, or does this announcement mean something more innocuous like:

b) If you are doing a creative writing piece in an english exam you can use txt speak - e.g. "I picked up cellphone from beside the fruit bowl and texted Cyril 'cul8r m8'" and not be marked down.

Which I don't think anyone can complain about.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Stressed. Need to focus on the good things. Shut up.

Apathy Jack writes:

Me "My top student had a run-in with another teacher who was a bit grumpy. She was whinging about this, and said 'Why can't all teachers be like you?' I had to point out to her that if all teachers were like me, nothing would get done around here."
Other teacher "Yes, but the important things would get done. The looking after kids and teaching them something would get done. The paper work, no, but the things that matter..."

I like some of my teachers...

Monday, November 06, 2006


That Morthos Stare writes:

Josh usually posts this stuff, but here's some sage advice from the Kung Fu Monkey.

But let's not get distracted. Point is -- questionable hook-ups. We, as ordinary citizens, all know how we get out of this: you stop returning the crazy person's calls. We promise never to bring it up when drinking. Several years from now, when everything's scabbed over the two of us can joke about our mutual lapses in judgement while sharing a fine Rolling Rock beverage.

Don't return their calls on Tuesday. It'll suck for a while, and they may bomb Iran to get your attention, and you'll get lots of screaming and crying about how they're the only ones who love you and can protect you from Osama and the gays, but you dig in, man up, come over and watch a few baseball games,and ride it out. You'll probably have to hang tough through 2008, when they have that fake rehab "No baby, I'm okay now, come with me to group" bullshit going on. Don't fall for it. Cra. zy.

Then one day -- one day soon, I promise -- you find you've gone and gotten your party back from the crazy people, and you and I can go back to arguing about mimimum wage and universal health care and tax rates on millionaires like civilized countries do.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

One of the Deans I like (and it's not a big list, let me tell you) was in a bit of a state - she had been at school until midnight last night fixing reports, and had been back in by half-six this morning to continue the process. She needed a bunch of them signed by my Head of Department, but had failed to take into account that today was deadline day not only for Deans, but for HODs as well. So, as is the custom, mine was "sick".

Getting the signitures was a big deal, not necessarily a huge one, but, as I say, the Dean was in a state, so I figured I'd help. I promised I'd sort it. When she asked how, I said I'd forge as necessary. The Dean looked at me for a second, did a quick cost/benefit analysis in her head, and handed over the reports.

When she got them off me an hour or so later, she shook her head and said we'd both been very, very naughty. To spare her any more guilt, I decided not to tell her that my skill at forgery isn't what is was when I was a young man, so I had gotten one of my Year 12s to do it...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Josh writes:

As if by some grand cosmic design, the interesting folk at Sir Humphrey's have served up a discussion on "secularism" as modern day paganism. A disturbing proportion of the comments are of the type I discussed below. Witness the following exchange:

Kent Parker: I think the general impression in the 'new age' is that when we die, that is it, curtains, the lights go out, kaput, final, los endos. However, assuming we die before our children, they are left to carry on the good fight and their children and their children's children etc etc and so on for eternity.

Hope is just hope, a sense of optimisim, positivity, energy, life...
MikePh: But, Kent, those are gods: the god of Optimism, the god of Life, the god of Energy. They are to be worshipped for their own sake or else there is no "good fight".

God = an abstract noun? I assume what he is trying to claim is that such things are treated as Gods, which I would still say is a load of arse.

Possibly some of the problem stems from people speaking metaphorically, but then treating their metaphorical statements as though they were literally true. The confusion of rhetoric for argument is by no means restricted to theological matters, of course -- the best secular example I can think of in recent memory is the libertarian assertion that when someone steals your property, they steal that part of your life that went into acquiring it, and that you are therefore justified in using lethal force to defend your property, as you are in effect defending your own life. The first part of the argument can only be a metaphorical statment -- as an abstract conecpt, your life cannot be stolen in any literal sense (would that mean you get younger, or would you die sooner?) -- and yet it's then taken literally to justify real-world actions.

Monday, October 30, 2006

More Pedantism

Josh writes:

Here's another one: I've seen the word "secular" used a bit lately, and in the words of Senor Montoya, "I do no' think it means whadda you think it means."

"Secular" means "not religious" (more accurately, I believe it's the opposite of "sacred"). The point is, you cannot have "secular religions" -- that would be a contradiciton in terms. I assume that when people propose the existence of such things they mean "secular institutions that resemble a religion in some respects", which, I'll admit, doesn't roll off the tongue so nicely, but nevertheless actually makes some fucking sense.

It's not a phrase without it's problems, though. The whole tactic of trying to claim that outwardly secular institutions or beliefs are in fact "religious" almost always backfires on the people making such claims. In order to make these claims fit, they usually have to water down the concept of religion to the point that it amounts to little more than "a bunch of beliefs that you can't actually prove". Applying this definition back to their own religion doesn't generally make it look that flash.

Similarly, the notion of worship often gets singled out for this treatment, since it's a fairly central component to religion, and often the one that least applies to the supposed "secular religions". The claim is often that we all worship something -- capitalists "worship" money, scientists "worship" Darwin and so on. But we don't -- we don't pray to money, we don't believe Darwin can be appealed to to perform miracles, we don't claim that either of them are superior to us -- if our relation to such things is one of worship, then "worship" has to be watered down to no more than "think is pretty good", and I'd be willing to wager that your average Christian would object to their relation to God being described as merely "we quite like Him."

Of course, sometimes that's not a problem -- there are two possible cases where someone might claim that a secular institution is religious. The first is a religious person making the claim, usually in response to a slight against their own religion: "You may think my religion is silly, but you're just as religious about X" -- in this case, the watering down effect results in something of a backfire. The second case, however, is where a non-religious person criticises someone's viewpoint, meaning to belittle it by likening it to unquestioning dogma or foolish superstition. In this case, since the person has little or no respect for religion in the first place, there's no danger of a backfire. Nevertheless, by watering down the concept of religion, they're also watering down the rhetorical technique that they're trying to get mileage out of.

OK, that got quite preachy and formal -- you'd think I had a crucial point that I was leading up to. Um... use "secular" right and don't call something a religion unless you mean it? Toodles.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


That Morthos Stare writes:

Most keen observers will have noticed that Jack and I have wildly different philosophies on how we should treat students. I imagine that Jack is the matronly Aunt Fanny whilst I am the rakish Uncle Quentin (and boy, am I getting sick and tired of being kidnapped by those pesky foreign nationals). Which is probably neither here nor there, but it's all come to a head today.

For today I am marking exam scripts.

I am not a kind marker; if I'm vacillating between giving a script a B+ or an A- I go for the lower grade. If I'm vacillating then obviously the answer wasn't good enough to get that higher grade. I do think I am a fair marker and I know I'm a consistent one; if one type of answer gets a 17 from me then anything highly similar will also get a 17. In my first semester of marking I quickly developed the ability to not note whose script I am marking because, despite my non-caring exterior, I know an awful lot about the academic and personal situations of my students. These things can sway you, so it's best not to take them into account; if a student's circumstances should be taken into consideration when you're marking then the appropriate channels must be gone through (and believe me, asking someone for proof of a death in the family in re an aegrotat is not fun).

I've always thought that the worse aspect of teaching is the assessment system. Essay's are a bad form of assessment as they don't test recall and exams/tests are a bad form of assessment because they only test short term recall. Open book tests seem to rest upon the abiliy of a student to use an index and take-home assignments often test the ability of a student to form social groups where one student can copy another. Many of these skills are useful but they don't tend to reveal to the teacher that anything that they have taught the student has really sunk in. Frankly, I suspect that the only form of assessment I would be happy with would be ringing up a former student out of the blue and asking them random questions.

"So, Jerome, good to hear that your Mother is doing well. Which reminds me, what is the distinction between a lawlike statement and a law of nature again?"

Still, all this being said, I like exam marking. It's relatively quick (the answers are succinct), you tend to see whether the student can string together a coherent argument and you don't have to write all that many comments in the script (unlike, say, essays, in which I can write speils longer than the work I am marking).

Exams are, I suppose, as close as I can get to my preferred assessment system. The students don't know what the questions are before they enter the examination room and they have mere minutes to contemplate and answer them. Okay, they've probably memorised whatever notes they took, but a good exam question requires them to link two separate ideas into one glorious whole. When I read the answer of a student who has got it the mark it will receive is obvious, and that is a good feeling.

Still, I'd prefer to be able to entrap students.

"Hey, Luce, didn't expect to find you working here. Before you remove any more pieces of clothing, riddle me this: is Mackie's notion of the INUS condition a more or less sophisticated version of Lewis on Causation? Oh, and I've got to say I'm liking those breasts."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Little victories

RSJS writes:

So one of my processing monkeys came to me today while I was enjoying a much-deserved mug of warm, milky tea, to ask me if I could help them. You see, they had a claim on file for money taken from a safe in a shop. The intruder had gotten in under the nose of the chap on duty, who was then accosted and tied to a chair by the attacker, who scarpered with a sackful of loot. And this all didn’t sit well with the monkey.

“So what do you have on file to show me what happened?” I asked.

“Security photos” she replied, thumbing through the pages of her big manila folder to find a series of grainy stills, which were thrust under my nose.

And so I sighed, and made a big show of retiring my paperback and iPod and getting my feet off my desk, and sat her down to explain how to turn her gut feeling into an argument.

We have a dozen black and white shots of the office, the crim (in a hoodie) and the heroic employee (also be-hoodie-ed).

“Look here” I point to the office desk in the third photo. Blank stare. “The chap sits our hero down, but doesn’t tie him up right away. So our chap sits quietly on his thumbs while our gunman puts his pistol on a pile of papers and shuffles off to the safe. And doesn’t even look at our hero or the gun for a good thirty seconds. Only after he’s got the goodies does he tape up our man and beetle off. And going by the time-stamp our boy gets out of the ropes in about 2 minutes. Which means?”

“He was scared?” came the timorous reply.

So I sigh again, and display my Powers of a God. For these hapless urchins have tattle-tales on their files that tell me if anything interesting comes in. So I’d already read this file’s electronic copy being a Caring and Conscientious mentor to these lads and lasses. But poor muggins here was unaware. So I looked closely at the picture and said “Our boy looks like he could handle himself” (and he did, big lad, in a camo hoodie, who looked like he hits his heads on doorframes on the way through) “and is probably bent as anything. Anyone that calm is either in on the blag, or used to being around guns. Probably both. See if he’s got a criminal record, the investigator should have done a personal history.”

And lo, page seven of the report did indeed deal with the employee’s vast love of guns and drugs. And the poor lass looks at me in awe at my profiling prowess.

“So” I grandly went on “here we have a con with a gun fetish towering over this lad kneeling on the floor in front of the fast-emptying safe and with a pistol in arm’s reach, not doing anything? Not too likely, is it? Just sitting idly by, not saying anything except the combination to the safe?”

And dawn broke across the tiny dancer’s features. And she enthusiastically started spotting all the other faults with the set-up until I calmed her down and told her to list them so we can get someone burly to chat with our heroic duty manager and hit him with telephone books.

Hopefully my little processing protégé will prove the big angry employee is involved in the goings-on, and the gunslinging crim will in turn get fingered, sending two hoodrats to prison for a long, long time. And I can go home with a feeling that I’ve achieved something positive today. Even though they are really victims and society is to blame for their going off the rails, even though it is a failing on the part of their parents and teachers that led them to this life of amateur crime, they still need to feel the jackboot of justice on their testicles of anti-social behaviour. Hang ‘em high, lads, hang ‘em high.

Nb. details of this crime have been changed to protect my job.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

So my little prodigy sat in on my Classics class. Normally, I wouldn't have let her (what with the fact that she should have been in Maths) but she's impressed me of late. She's finished "The Corrections" and "House of Leaves", and is starting "The Ulysses" on a bet from her form teacher. She's told her peers not to compliment her on the stories she writes, because she doesn't know how to handle it. But she's finally believing it from me.

Her form teacher and I have finally broken her down so that she is realising how special she is.

She said that I had to implement Classics for Year 11, so that she could take it next year. I told her that it wasn't going to happen, but that there were vague plans to create Year 12 Classics for the following year, which is where she'd be by that point. She looked happy, but I gave her the caveat: This plan was conditional on me getting around to doing it, and my laziness is the stuff of legend - I may simply not get around to it.

"You will," she said matter of factly.

"How can you be sure?" I asked.

"Because," she said, as if she was explaining something self-evident to a slow child. "It's me."

And you know, she might be right.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Wagging has become a bit of a problem at Hoodrat. "A bit" as in classes with between thirty and sixty percent of students away on any given day.

My Year 12s were slowly dribbling in, but several minutes had elapsed, and we were still in single figures. So, as you do, I found myself standing on a desk screaming that I would judge them all.

A Year 12 wandered in and looked up at me. (I'm not sure if his complete lack of surprise at what I was doing was a good thing or a bad thing, but it probably means I'm doing my job properly...)

"Come in and sit down," I said pleasantly. "You're just in time to be judged."

The boy looked at me again. The star of his family, he's been kept out of his brothers' gangs by his Christian dance group, and objects to some of the stories I give the less literate students because they have swearing and anti-social behaviour in them (which is, of course, why the other children like them...).

He looked up - higher than me.

"I'm only judged by one man," he said, solemnly.

"Yes. There is only one of me."

And somewhere in hell, a demon stenciled my name onto a parking space.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

A few years before I turned up at Hoodrat Academy for Higher Learning, they stopped having mufti-days. Sensible decision: half of the kids would wear blue, the other half would wear red, and massive scale gang violence and/or hilarity would ensue.

So, after years of whinging, we finally gave the students what they wanted, and had another one today.

It went off better than anyone could have hoped: Only one arrest in the whole day.

Well, I say "one" - a big bunch of students were arrested. But they were all arrested at the same time, for the same thing.

It's nice when things are easy...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Huh, Josh is right - no posts in a while.

Well, I'm still dry, so I'll leave you to your weekend with this.

I just got a phone call from a student asking me for help with some work.

Not on my cellphone. On my home phone.

I'm not listed in the phonebook - I live with flatmates and none of our names are listed as associated with this house.

And no, I couldn't have given this kid my number then forgotten I had done so: I don't know my home phone number. I've never bothered learning it because, you know, when am I ever going to have to call myself at home?

I like it when the kids show initiative.

A Gift that Keeps On Giving

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Here's a game for the weekend. People often, o.k, sometimes...alright then, never, talk about where they would go and what they would do if they had a time machine. But what if you had a time machine, but there were certain conditions...

Those conditions are:

You can only use your time machine for one "mission" (being distinct from a trip). This mission could have many "legs" - like going somewhere, picking someone up, taking them somewhere else etc. But there can only be one "objective for your mission.

You cannot use your time machine mission for anything at least explicitly personal. Otherwise we would all want to go and see our garandparents and pets.

To give you some background, I first started thinking about this during the previous space shuttle launch. Wouldn't it be nice to bring the Wright brothers back to watch a space shuttle launch, or even fly in a 747 I pondered.

The germ of an idea mutated. Doing something like "Showing the Wright brothers complex twenty-first century aircraft", whilst being no doubt nice, is still a little indulgent. Could we use our time machine better, or at least make things a little more exciting, with the parameter of there being only one "mission" that it could be used for - in the sense that you might have to do two trips in a mission like my one with the Wright brothers, and a parameter limiting your choice of mission to one of benevolence.

I'll kick it off. I've been reading a bit of Niall Ferguson'swork. He wrote a book a short time ago called "The Pity of War"in which he argues that the First World War, and subsequently the rest of the twentieth century, was so unbelievably bloody because Britain intervened. Had Britain sacrificed Belgium, Germany would have had a quick victory over France (is there any other kind?) and Russia. There would have been no Lenin, or Holocaust, or Gulags, or many of the other atrocities that happened during the last century.

And so, my mission would be this. Go back to August 3rd 1914, when Germany invades France and Belgium. Take Herbert Asquith to the battles of Verdun, The Somme, maybe even Auschwitz, and try to convince him of Ferguson's thesis (hell, I might as well take Niall Fergusn with me, let's go nuts) before taking him back to the night before the United Kingdom was to join the Great War, hopefully never to do so, saving more than a hundred million souls in the process.

And now it's up to you. One Time Machine, one mission and objective, and no personal gain - anyone else for showing February 2003 Rumsfeld 2006 Iraq?

Poing Fwip!

Josh writes:

Jesus Crap -- what's happened to us all? Nary a post in over a week now. I thought you were sitting on a couple, young Morthos? Oh well, up to me, I guess.


Of course, I'm handicapped by not giving a rat's arse about most of what's going on in the world. That petition everyone's going on about has topped 25,000 -- wow, that's nearly a fifth as many signatures as the petition to put Star Wars kid in Episode III got! Hear the voice of the people -- how mighty it doth rumble. But anyway.

Nope, none of this politicking matters to me, but I will say this: calling people names makes you sound like a cock. "Klark", "Liar-bour", "Helengrad", "the Gnats" -- if you use these terms, you sound like a cock. Not because of anything to do with the political views you may be employing them in aid of, but because making up insulting variations on people's names is a rhetorical technique that sounds childish coming out of the mouths of actual children when they do it in the school yard -- from an educated (or at least Net-savvy) adult, "pathetic" isn't nearly a strong enough word.

I remember once seeing a smirking movie critic say that he calls Gwyneth Paltrow "Gwyneth Paltry", because of her paltry acting talents -- no, you call her that because "paltry" is the only fucking word in the English language that sounds at all like "Paltrow", you imagination-free arse tick. As for Jerry Falwell's smug declaration that he calls Ellen Degeneres "Ellen Degenerate" -- from any person old enough to feed themselves without a sipper cup, that's just sad. Especially when it was much easier to just call her "not funny".

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Intelligent comment on important issues.

Apathy Jack writes:

Bollocks to it, I can't be bothered. Read this, written two years ago, and we can all say "I told you so" as we die in nuclear fire from American missiles.

And they will be American, because those fucks will fire first - at anything. It doesn't matter what.

Serious Issues

Josh writes:

Johnny the Red on nuclear weapons proliferation, and how it relates to his sneakers

John Rogers on foreign policy as domestic abuse (or possibly the other way around)

And now you are Informed.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Josh writes:

Here's an argument:

There is an obvious difference between a fertilized egg and a baby. Nevertheless, as there is no clear line at which life (and with it the right to life) begins, the morally safest thing to do would be to act as if life begins at conception, and outlaw abortion.

Here's another argument:

There is an obvious difference between a smack on the bottom and a sustained beating. Nevertheless, as there is no clear line at which harmless discipline becomes harmful child abuse, the morally safest thing to do would be to act as if it's all harmful, and outlaw smacking.

Spot the difference.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Um, yeah. No life outside of school plus school holidays makes Jack a barren postless wasteland.

Nothing to report except that Johnny the Red now has a dotcom address.

Yeah, it just goes to the blog, but if anyone's wondering where I've been (anyone? Anyone? Come on, I can hear you breathing out there...) then you'll find some of the stuff I've been writing of late: including my latest piece, where I get to call one of the most repected journalists in the history of media a Zionist Homosexualist Communist.

So life isn't all bad...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

You'll think what I tell you think

Josh writes:

The funniest thing you've read all day:

A Rolex, though ugly, will pay for itself in quim

The best news you've heard all day:

Pies may get meatier

Also contains the reason why you won't be sleeping tonight or any other night:

Current regulations on both sides of the Tasman require a meat pie to contain at least 25 per cent meat. The formal definition of "meat" is wide enough to include any part of the animal carcass, or even a bird foetus.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

That Morthos Stare writes:

They say that one of the first sign of brain cancer is detecting scents that aren't there. For example, at the moment I can smell the lolly jar from my grandmother's house. She's been dead for about five years and the lolly jar is probably festering away beneath the landfill that used to be the Devonport Tip. I don't even think they make the brand of toffees my Granny used to stock. Yet, despite the fact that I am seated at a computer in Auckland's largest library I can smell the lolly jar.

It's a very comforting feeling.

Scent play a large role in my psyche. Like some other humans I can small pheromones. I know the exact scent that attracts me to people (which seems to be given off my certain damaged pyschological individuals) and the scent that is fear and/or uncertainty makes people ripe targets for my own special brand of psychological domination.

Smells, in general, however, are important in re my memory. I'm not sure why I think this but I trust my memory of smells and sounds much more than my visual memory. I have certain memories I know are false such as a conversation with a friend whilst walking down a particular garden path (which didn't exist by the time I met the friend in question). Smells, however, and to a lesser extent, sounds (not coversations, mind), seem much more durable as memories, less open to corruption. My sense of taste seems similar; I can remember quite vividly the first taste I ever had of a fresh tomato. I hated it. Even now I can recall the taste and, whilst I was in the UK, I tested that memory. Perfect fidelity (giving or taking the slight variations you would expect).

So, when that smell of the lolly jar, or the peculiar scent that you get off the recently deceased, appears without warning I feel oddly comforted because these things signify memories, and even if they are memories I would rather not experience at least the sensation has simultude.

Bristols! Mae Wests! Bodacious Ta-tas!

RSJS writes:

Let's talk about tits.

So as is my wont, I was weaving my solitary way through the sleet and mist and cabbage and kitchen sink to get to work this morning to sit in dazed confusion at the state of the world while the monkeys in the cube farm screech and throw faeces (and yesterday: candy). And I saw the back-end of a bus.

Now this isn’t some snide euphemism for some lass with junk in her trunk (though it is true my anaconda don’t want none unless you’ve got buns), it was actually a bus trundling along New North Road. And on the back was an advert for Dove, a range of random cosmetic-y things that women presumably put on their vaginas or oh, I don’t know, some body-part I don’t have. But have magazines with photos of it in. Anyway, some hygiene shit that rugged musky men like me avoid, just as Dove-twatted shielas avoid me. Why won’t you love me? Why? The pain, it chafes.

What? Right, sorry. Dove. With a slogan that read (it’s not fucking verbatim, I was tired and emotional, okay?) “Buy Pink Dove if you want to help fight breast cancer” and lo and behold the packaging was all pink. A nice soft marshmallow pink, which does indeed remind me of breasts. As do rock melons water balloons basketballs puffer fish small children goldfish bowls Muppets the planets (excluding Saturn) Vin Diesel’s head and punches in the crotch. The point is, the apparent underlying message behind the slogan is “If you DON’T buy our pink Dove crap you’re supporting CANCER, you selfish fuck! If you’re not WITH us, you’re with the TERRORIST TUMOURS! Women are having their disease-ridden bosoms hacked off because of you! Their chests are becoming bloated sacks of life-threatening growths and you, YOU, you’re just sitting there and letting it happen, you filthy dogfucker! What if it was your girlfriend? Or your sister? Or your mother? You want them to die screaming while their breast-lumps shoot fibrous tentacles through their chests to strange their hearts? You want to kill your mother? You sick murdering bastard, how dare you? HOW DARE YOU? We’re TRYING to save LIVES by selling cosmetics here, but you just walk on by and get your value-brand face-scrub dog-piss and let the ladies die in brutal, Elephant-man agony. We hope you CHOKE ON IT!” which presumably they couldn’t fit on the back of the bus while still leaving room for the pink phallic cans of life-saving liquid soap.

I mean, I’m presuming they’re claiming that every can gives one cent to some faceless pharmaceutical zaibatsu who is hoping to find a drug that will postpone one’s cancerous onslaught at least until the sufferer can’t afford exorbitant prices and no-one is interested in their boobies any more, as opposed to this sloppy white goo, when sprayed in slow-motion on the breast, devours cancer cells and shits out sunshine and lollipops, but again fine print was sacrificed for Mister Thrusty the Circumcised Pink Roll-on of Happiness.

It’s not the most subtle campaign, but its effective and I do (thanks to the early-opening Drug Supermarket on Queen Street) now have a mountain of baby-pink eau de toilettey muck as either a charity booby-prize much like a daffodil or red nose, or a cure for my own metastasizing chest-lumps, under my desk (I hasten to add the goo is under my desk, not my lumps. Well, they’re there too, I guess. Damn this is tricky).
The similarities between the way Dove are selling their slop and the American government is selling the Iraq War is startling. Pink states versus Blue states, anyone? Ooooh, the fundamentalists would LOVE that one. But then, if all the ladies die of the galloping tit-rot, there’s not many options left. You got a pretty mouth, boy. Nice pink lips. SQUEAL!.

Friday, September 29, 2006

It's not the size of your majority...

Apathy Jack writes:

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab.
Many of you may have heard the filthily true and disgustingly verifiable rumours about the twisted night of perverted debauchery involving bloggers Mr Stupid and Hewligan. Some of you may even have heard the slanderously untrue rumours that I myself was in some way involved. This is, of course, a lie: I was only in that fetish club because I took a wrong turn on my way to deliver Bibles to orphans; I was only wearing a rubber gimp suit because I was heading off to a fancy dress party later; and I was only perfoming depraved sexual indignities on Mr Stupid and Hewligan because I had been assured there were no cameras in the room.

There were, though.

Now, the very misleading photographs, which could give people entirely the wrong idea about who I am and exactly where I like putting celery, have fallen into the hands of a particularly unscrupulous bastard by the name of Johnny the Red.

So it is with a mixture of fear, horror and shame that I announce my new position as one of three campaign managers for Mr The Red's Presidential candidacy in the 2008 American elections.

And remember our slogan "A vote for Johnny is a vote for Jack's grandmother not seeing pictures of him wearing a ball gag and being whipped by Hewligan"

Monday, September 25, 2006


Josh writes:

Ah, Monday -- time to read Heather Havrilesky's always amusing "I Like to Watch" column at She doesn't get to use the word "cocksucker" so much, now that Deadwood's almost over, but her column is a great way to keep up with what's new and what's good on TV in the US, with a pleasing amount of wry commentary. What's she got for us today?

Self-importance may be the defining characteristic of the American professional -- which explains why so many American professionals are so deeply, abidingly irritating. Don't play dumb, you know just who I'm talking about: those arrogant people who talk about their jobs in tones that suggest they're curing cancer.

Now, if they were actually curing cancer, that would be one thing. In fact, doctors, high-ranking political figures, community leaders, teachers, cops and pretty much anyone who is, at least in theory, aiming to help the populace and serve the common good gets a free pass to employ as much of a self-important tone as needed in order to pound home their point. Also, most firemen, by dint of being enormous, fit human beings with square jaws and booming voices who rush into burning buildings to save feeble weaklings like myself (at least in my dreams) also have a free pass, as do Bill Clinton, Spike Lee and Bono.

But most people are not curing cancer or rushing into burning buildings and pulling people out with their enormous hands. Most people are doing jobs that don't matter at all, or creating stuff that no one reads or watches or buys, or even if people do read or watch or buy it, they don't enjoy it that much, it doesn't inform them or make them laugh, or they shouldn't have wasted their money. The stuff most people are writing or making or selling should be much, much better than it is.

I need a hug.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Long term. Pleased it's over. There's some insufferably long seige metapor that I can't be bothered developing which would sum up the last several months, but I've already broken my self-imposed for-god's-sake-at-least-try-to-make-it-interesting rule enough times this year.

Long, long term.

Back in 2002 - a couple of blogs ago - I wrote something about children. I can't do a direct link, so I'll just copy it down here:


Never wanted kids.

Actually, that’s not strictly true; When I was one myself, I always just assumed I would have some, because, hell, that’s what grown-ups did. However, after I started to give some thought to it, it started looking like a pretty poor option almost immediately.

A few of the reasons, in no particular order:

The time commitment is horrifying. I mean, we’re talking at least 18 years. And that’s if they’re in a mood to fuck off after high school. My parents didn’t get rid of me until just shy of my twenty-second birthday, and they had to sell the house and move to Australia to make it happen. And hell, just because your kids aren’t in the next room, they’re still your problem. I’m twenty five years old, I’m a teacher, I am one of the most grown up people I know. But if I run out of money these holidays, guess where I’m running to… Which brings me to;

Good lord have you seen how much money dependants hoover up? I mean, fuck, I can just about afford rent, food and the odd cd. I can’t afford summer clothes for myself. The idea of having to support another human being who needed food, clothes and cigarettes... It’s the difference between being able to afford what you want, or what your kids want. For someone quite as selfish as me(mememe) that’s not the hardest choice in the world.

When kids are little, they just kind of crap all over the show and make noise. Then they turn into teenagers. Now, speaking as an industry insider, teenagers are surly little bastards who spend waaay to much of their free time drinking and having dangerous sex just to piss off the people who spend all of their time and money supporting them. If I wanted a prick with an attitude problem to spend my money, use my things, take up my time, and then give me strife about it, I’d still be living with my first flatmate. The fact that I’m not should be taken as a signpost.

I am basically a good person – my parents did a decent job on me and my brother. But you know, I really can’t remember how. I don’t have the confidence that I could raise any child of mine to be a good person. How could I guarantee that my child wouldn’t become part of the problem? Short answer; I couldn’t. What if my kid became a surly bullying fuckup because I dropped the ball somewhere along the way. And that’s only their personality – What if they were born with messed up wiring, or they got sick, or even died? How would I cope? (Fairly badly, is the answer that anyone who knows me well would come up with I think.)

Every time I have thought about having children, I have come up with more and more reasons to not have any. The idea that anyone might actually want these little parasites actually became quite confusing to me.

Anyhoo, we had a school outing to the water park today. I planted myself on a chair with a book, and growled at any students who asked me why I wasn’t swimming.

As I was reading, I heard a series of short, high-pitched shrieks. They echoed in quick succession from one of the hydro slide tubes.

Well before the source came flying out, I knew who it was; One of my Year 9s. I recently wrote on her report that she is infectiously enthusiastic. She follows me around the classroom getting me to help her with the work. She is in running competition to clean my whiteboard. She constantly sings top twenty songs during class. Drives her classmates nuts, but I find it so endearing that I don’t stop her, even when I’m yelling at the rest of the class to quieten down. Even the bad songs are cute.

Looking up, and seeing this girl coming off the slide, with such a look of happiness on her face, laughing and smiling, I just wanted to adopt her. Really, that was the first thought in my head.

Then, for the first time in my life, I realised what parents feel. I realised that all of the effort, the trials, the pain, they are voided by the happiness in the eyes of your child. Everything I’ve ranted on about above, it’s all valid. But seeing the happiness on your child’s face makes it all worthwhile. All of it.

Maybe I want kids one day.


The kid from the water slide is in Year 13 now - only a couple of months away from leaving school. She's never stopped being special. At the beginning of this year when we weren't sure if she was coming back from the Islands, we kept a couple of prestigious student leadership positions open - turning away others who applied - on the off chance of her return. When she arrived a few weeks into term one, she walked into places she had earned.

I taught her again in Year 10, the year after I wrote the above piece, but lost her the next. I kept an eye - family issues and numerous related trips out of the country meant that she fell behind and had to repeat a year of English. In a department with a staff turnover quite so cartoonishly high as mine, I simply checked in from time to time to make sure that she was still going well, that the many relievers and incompetent cases standing at the front of the class weren't having too adverse an effect on her education.

A few days back, she auditioned for the most prestigious drama school in the country. The drama teacher told me that I had to ask her about the audition - there was something I should probably hear, but the kid herself should tell me. I tracked her down, and asked, hoping for news that the panel had said something encouraging. She told me what had happened: During a scene where she had to act betrayed, the panel told her to picture her favorite teacher - someone she could never imagine working against her, and try to twist the image to see what it would feel like if he or she betrayed her.

Apparently it was almost impossible to imagine me betraying her, but it made the scene very emotional.

Long term. But I think that one will get me through for a while...