Thursday, March 29, 2007

Can I Just Say This:

Josh writes:

"Frak" is not a swear word. It's a fictional swear word made up by the writers of a fictional TV series because they can't say "fuck". There is no excuse for using this word, not when there are plenty of real, mild swear words out there if you want to say "fuck" but circumstances won't allow it. For instance:

"Ass-munching camel rapist!"

Wait, not that last one.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I’m a rageaholic – I just can’t live without rageahol!

Apathy Jack writes:

From Roomanitarian, by Henry Rollins

Hate is good. Hate is strong. Hate takes passion. Hate is not empty. Hate keeps the mind focussed and the blood pumping.

Some people fear hate because they know it’s a real commitment and because they have cheated out on love as many times as they’ve walked through a door – they know hate is different. They know hate is for real and once it’s there it’s forever. You can forgive someone but that’s just for church or contractual obligations. You’ve got to stand up for your hatred. When you hate someone – that’s when people start listening.

Do you have the strength to hate? Maybe, maybe not. That’s why hate gets a bad rap. Those who call it bad are the ones who aren’t strong enough to carry the weight of hate. In their minds they wish they could hate out loud, but what good is that? It’s not real hate. It’s just cowardice. There it is. Concealed hatred is cowardice.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Apathy Jack writes:

In class today my Plastics got into a discussion about the ideal age to have children. Given that two of their number of well on the way to doing so, it is a relevant issue (probably more so than the essay on the Sibylline Books they were meant to be writing, at any rate...)

I told them that if yet another one of them fell hapu, I would rip the baby out with my hands, because, as my philosophy runs: one of something is an accident; two of something is a co-incidence; but three of something is a hobby.

Lunchtime and one of the aforementioned two comes for a visit. It is the first time I’ve seen her in some months. I wrap my hands around her throat in my traditional attempt to throttle the pregnancy out of her. (It hasn’t worked on any of the others, but I figure that just means I’m due a win...) I’m distracted by one of mine saying that she thought earlier when I was threatening to rip out foetuses, rather than tearing through the abdominal lining, which was my intent, I would be reaching (let’s see, how to put this diplomatically...?) up. Her friend admits that this is also what she thought.

I assure them that they are the worst sort of perverts, and are going straight to hell.

I realise that my ex-student is trying to tell me something. I’ve forgotten to stop strangling her as I talk to the others.

I loosen my grip. Slightly. She tells me she’s started correspondence school. She left school before she got knocked up, wasting a particularly precocious mind in the process, but now, she’s going to finish her education “for baby”.

From this, we can learn two things:

1) Yes, it is okay for me to choke heavily pregnant sixteen year olds. No, it’s not okay for you to do it, but I’m A Teacher, and I’ve had training.

2) There’s hope out there if you look long and hard enough for it...

Where are your gods now?

RSJS writes:

Atheism as religion. I know, I know, its an old saw-horse this ‘un, a twaddly bit of humbuggering and huffing from the tweed types with ingrown armchairs and pipe tobacco for hair, but I saw a description recently that atheism was simply a religion wit a different number of gods and that pisses me off. That’s like saying everyone’s a golfer, just with a different number of clubs. Why the fuck do I have to be lumped into the group that includes some pompom-sporting houndstooth cunt in a cart whacking an inoffensive cueball hither thither and yon? Fuck that.

But, let’s be fair: If we consider being a theist is the act of going to church and praying etc. then my argument on the golfing is valid, however if we consider theism and atheism to be beliefs, that’s’ a different kettle of loaves and fishes. But what sort of belief is it? A deluded one like “The Spice Girls reuniting will save pop music”? If so, disagreeing with this opinion means one has an opinion on the same matter at least…. And the spicy middle-agers, it is at least agreed upon, exist. No, I need an example that’s either “it is” or “it isn’t”. Like the Easter Bunny, or the Flat Earth, or the Beast of Bodmin Moor. Actually, that’ll do: Old Testament fucking fruitloop first-time-author-in-need-of-an-editor God is after all, a rabid cougar red of eye and claw, with the burning this, smiting that, torturing eternally for the other… there’s a bit of Trading Places, a lot of Michael Bay, a hell of a lot of Freud and some really atrocious fashion advice all thrown in the mix of his lifestory, so comparing him to the prowling Yorkshire Chupacabra is fair. To me.

So if we use the Beast, and the initial atheism = religion tosh, we get “We are all cryptozoologists, just the number of Nessies and Sasquatches we believe in differ”. You’re a legendary monster- chaser because you believe in exactly zero monsters. Well fucking done. I do not like being defined by the group of lunatics I don’t associate with. I’m not an Atoothfairyist, I just don’t believe in canine-culling Tinkerbells fondling under my pillow while I masturbate. I mean, sleep. What’s next? Nor believing in atheism makes one an a-athiest? A few more rounds of that game and everyone will be a-a-a-stuttering. With good reason for the next arse-rape abortion telling me about my fucking faith is going to deal with violence WHILE I’M NAKED. If that won’t choke the words in their throat I don’t know what will…
The Point Is, I’m not accepting the title “atheist” any more. It seems to be something the god-fearing are latching onto as a term for a religion. I don’t see the need to have a label for what I AM, let alone for what I’m NOT. Praise be.

Public Service Annoucement 2: Thunk Harder

That Morthos Stare writes:

After the success of the last Public Service Annoucement I've decided to direct your attentikons to the following Adult Education course at the University of Auckland. Mr. Dentith, sometime transpersonal entity, is teaching a version of the accolade-garnering, award winning Stage I Critical Thinking course, and some of you should probably be thinking of coming along. Details follow:

Critical Thinking

Tutor: Matthew Dentith

When: 6 sessions, Tuesday 17 April - 22 May, 10.30am - 12.30pm

Course Description: Critical thinking is a skill we all like to think we have, but how often have you found yourself wondering just how critical your reasoning is? In this course we will uncover many of the basic skills a good thinker requires and then put them to use in analysing arguments you might come across in newspapers, on television and in everyday conversation.

You can find out more about it here.

Monday, March 26, 2007

So, I told the students I'm leaving...

Apathy Jack writes:

There’s one of my little favourites. I tried so hard to get her back in my class this year, but her timetable just couldn’t budge. I still see her several times a day – she keeps her books in my room.

She wanders in and goes behind my desk to retrieve something.

“I heard a rumour you were leaving.” She says.
“I am.”
“Okay.” She breezes out.

Lunchtime, and as I’m talking to a bunch of students, I look up, and she’s standing in the doorway with tears streaming down her face. She looks at me with a sadness so total it brings a lump to my throat and I can no longer speak, and says: “I thought you were joking...”


The news spread pretty fast. I told my Classics class, and less than five minutes later my phone beeped at me with an angry message from one of the absent kids telling me it wasn’t fair. I had kids holding up messages from older siblings, ex-students telling me I couldn’t go.

One of the girls looked pretty shaken up –actually, a bunch did, but anyway... She retreated to the back corner, and one of the boys went with her to hug her and hold her hand. It was the first time anyone – including their friends – knew they were a couple.


The Creator is, as we (well; I) say: Here To Go. She is running for the Board of Trustees, specifically to bring the incompetence of the Principal to light. If she doesn’t get it, she starts job hunting. If she does get it, she starts job hunting slightly later.

She tells me she feels bad for staying. I have made such a powerful gesture of solidarity over a slight that wasn’t even aimed at me, she feels she should do the same. That sort of thinking doesn’t help the students I’m abandoning, and I told her so.

The Preserver is staying. She is going to keep things ticking along, because, well, she’s The Preserver. That’s what she does.


I was told by three separate students that the only reason they came back to school this year was because of me. I knew this was the case for two of them. All three told me they would leave the same day I do. I know I can talk one of them out of it. I’m pretty sure I can’t do the same for the other two.

The other English teachers tell me I shouldn’t fell guilty – that leaving is the right thing to do for my career and my sanity. And they’re right, about everything except the guilt. I deserve that.


The kids pointed out Hoodrat’s shite, shite track record with hiring new staff in the middle of the year – we routinely have relievers, non-English speakers and the general unemployable detritus of the education world teaching at least a few English classes by the end of term two of any given year. I always scorned teachers who did that to their students. The students also reminded me that I had promised them I would stay, to help them through.

The only reply I could give was the one I found myself saying over and over again throughout the day: I gave my word, and now I’m breaking it. I’m letting them down, and there’s nothing I can say except sorry.


I still remember the event that proved to me that teaching was like in the movies sometimes. I had been at Hoodrat for eighteen months, give or take, but due to the machinations of my HOD, I was still on a fixed-term contract. It was coming to an end, and the HOD had made some very unsubtle noises to the tune of me fucking off out of the school. I was the epitome of professionalism over the issue, but an Art teacher who was fond of me leaked it to the students. Three days later, the Deputy Head Boy scheduled a meeting with the Principal, and presented a petition to keep me on, signed by over half the school.

The seniors remember this – they signed it when they were in third or fourth form. They offer to do it again, to organise it and take it to the management. I have to spell it out to them: I am leaving of my own volition, it is my choice.

I feel incredibly bad. I point out to them that they’re clever enough to pass without me, but they tell me that isn’t the point. I made the school a safer place, they tell me. The knowledge that my room was always open, that they could always talk to me, made Hoodrat feel that little bit less threatening, made the day just a little bit easier.


Eight-ish, or whenever I get around to leaving. I walk through the darkened corridors, past one of the new English teachers we’ve recently hired. I tell him to go home. He replies that his previous career as a tertiary academic inured him to late nights in spooky institutions, and he knows to leave when the auditory hallucinations start.

“Those aren’t auditory hallucinations,” I tell him, as I turn away and head for the exit. “They’re ghosts.”

And I’m only half joking.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Apathy Jack writes:

Here, I'll just crawl out of Planet Solipsism long enough to bring this to your attention:

The Punk Terror Journalist who goes by the name of N for Nihilism has launched a blogging endeavour.

N, as he doesn't like to be called, has guested for Brain Stab here and here.

For this new project, he and a person called Stealthflower have chosen the road less travelled - A blog that's actually about something. N works on an IT help desk, and Stealthflower is a medical researcher. Together, they bring you news and commentary from their respecitive fields. Go to Things Wot People Say to find out more.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Musings 2: Muse Harder

Josh writes:

So it turns out that, no longer content with colonising as many English-language teen demographics as is possible with one product, Ms. Lavigne's keepers are clearly shooting for nothing less than world domination. Our favourite Canadian has recorded eight versions of her new single, with the chorus sung in a different language in each.

My obsessive collector instincts (honed by decades of trading cards and Pokemon console games) now compel me to seek out and listen to every version -- while experiencing the Mandarin configuration, I'm almost certain the gaping maw of Hell opened behind me, drawing me towards it with a chilling inexorability like the Heat Death of the Soul.

But you know, it felt kind of good.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Apathy Jack writes:

So, yesterday, two students came to visit me after school. One of them fainted in her computer class last week, and she had heard I was concerned about her, so she came to see me. Through the course of the discussion she revealed to me that she had gone through a period of cutting herself (which I had already gotten out of my informants) but that the fainting spell was caused by malnutrition (which was news to me).

We chatted about their hopes for the future, about politics and world events, God and cartoons. It was three hours before I turfed them out – daylight savings meant they were about to be walking home in the dark.


Today I had a Classics class of six – happens every time there’s a Geography field trip. Chatting idly about race politics in the upcoming movie “300”, one of my Tongans gets a text telling her that some girls from the rich school a couple of suburbs over are roaming the grounds of Hoodrat looking for her. My girl explains that this beef has grown out of a misunderstanding involving the church choir she and the leader of the rich girls sing for. She assures me she can resolve the situation peacefully, and shows me the new text giving her the latest location of the Outsiders.

Telling the others to stay put, I go with my girl to the back of the school. It is empty, the Outsiders seemingly having moved on, much to the chagrin of the other five students, who have snuck out of my classroom and followed us in case we needed backup.

Exasperated, I march them back to class.
“Do you know what would be happening now in a normal school with normal teachers?” I ask them. “You’d be writing essays, dammit!”
“Good thing this isn’t a normal school an’ you’re not a normal teacher, then.” One of them called from behind me.


The timeline is as follows:

Thursday of last week: find out there is another applicant being considered for Head of Department, despite what we have been promised.

Friday of last week: find out there’s a job going at Josh’s girlfriend’s school.

Weekend: write CV.

Yesterday: email CV to Josh’s girlfriend’s school.

This morning: receive confirmation that outside applicant has been given position as Head of Department.

This afternoon: go for interview. Am offered the job before I leave. I accept.

God alone knows how desperate they must have been – I haven’t shaved in weeks and I wore sneakers to the interview.

There are a great many positives to the new job, which I may or may not get around to writing about. Hell, I genuinely believe that in the long run I’ll be happier, and able to teach better, in the new place.

But damn the Principal of Hoodrat for forcing me into this position. I cannot ever forgive this.

Notes from the last week

That Morthos Stare writes:

So, death. I'm beginning to think that my increasing experience of dead people and dying people is a stochastic oddity. It's easy to know what to do with the dead and sympathy to the bereaved is not difficult, but the dying? The pragmatist in me says 'We all die' but the realist in me says 'Yes, but most of us aren't aware that it's likely to be in the next few minutes.' I'd be much happier about the world if there weren't people who knew they were dying. Or, at least, I'd be much happier about the world if I didn't know people who knew they were dying. In fact, I'd be much happier about the world if I didn't have to say 'people' but could, instead, say someone. Multiple future fatalities just isn't fair.

Lust. Well, its happening again. I'm so far away from being a Casanova that some days I am resigned to the fate my Mother thinks I will have; dying alone (potentially with Alzhemiers). I'm also impatient, so any time I start the process that moves me away from 'Lived with cats. Died with cats. Excreted by cats three days later' I start being overbearing and usually drive said object of lust away. Usually by this point I'm seeking advice from friends, but every single piece of advice they have ever given me has being totally and utterly useless. The 'Be yourself, except less gay' and 'Why not play up the Hugh Grant angle?' worked wonders. Not in the 'He's now happily engaged to be married' sense but rather the 'And now he's emotionally scarred and she's pretty sure he's a cannibal' way that makes for good anecdotes and a terrible sex life.

Television. I had lunch with a doctor today and she confirmed what I already knew; medical professionals find 'House' laughable. I've somewhat given up on 'House.' It seems to be the same plot every week and why he and his idiot cronies haven't been sued for malpractice I really don't know. It also seems to reinforce some weird stereotypes about medecine, stereotypes we should be working to eradicate. It just isn't true that giving someone the wrong medical proecedure will, more than likely, kill them. Usually it just makes them a little ill or has no effect whatsoever. On 'House' however its usually terrible (except that it doesn't seem to cause much in the way of stress on the cardiovascular system so patients with three botched procedures don't have to worry about heart attacks. Which is nice).

Also, on roughly the same subject, why does everyone persist in believing that Science is an open process and that if a research programme is wrong someone will be out there proving it? Does no one follow the news? Gah.

Next week: I go back to pornography, someone (probably) dies and Richard Dawkins finds God.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Public Service Announcement

That Morthos Stare writes:

Mr. Ransome, that purveyor of fine delights philosophical, is giving a seminar next week. one that you want to go to (or, so he tells me). Here be some details:

Conspiracies then, now and tomorrow: How do past instances affect the likelihood of similar events now?
21 March 2007

4:00pm to 6:00pm

Venue: Room 202, Fisher Building, 18 Waterloo Quadrant

It is an historical fact that conspiracies have occurred but does this tell us anything about whether there are any conspiracies going on here and now? In this presentation I seek to explain how past instances of historical conspiracies may not be a reliable indicator of the likelihood of conspiracies here and now. I will look at the works of such philosophers as Charles Pigden, who has argued that the past instances of conspiracies does give us positive warrant about the existence of conspiracies today and Lee Basham, who has argued that the increasing openness of modern Western society counsels us against believing that conspiracies are as common as once they were. In sorting this issue out it will be important to draw a careful distinction between actual conspiracies and the theories about whether such conspiracies are occurring, to whit conspiracy theories.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sundry Education Things

Apathy Jack writes:

On my “Ask Jack” (“Get a stupid answer?”) thing a week or so back, Olthwaite commented after I had stopped paying attention, so my answers to him come as part of their own post.

1) Your thoughts on school zoning.

I honestly don’t have many. If I was forced to choose a side, I’d say I was “for”. Sure, it means that some poor bastards have to send their little geniuses to, say, Hoodrat Academy for Higher Learning instead of Francis of Assisi Grammar School, but maybe that will get the gentrified bastards to buy into their kids’ education instead of moaning when teachers ask for a pay rise every seven or eight years.

2) Your thoughts on vouchers.

I’m (warily) for them. I said above that it would be nice for parents to take more of an interest (a vested one would be nice, too) in the education of their little carbon-dioxide factories, and this would allow them to vote with their wallets.

Now, of course, I do see the down side: I’d be out of a job.

When a school is failing (like, oh I don’t know, mine is, for example) it takes years to reverse the trend. Even if Hoodrat’s many, many problems disappeared overnight (and they probably won’t, so you get to keep laughing at my pain for a while yet, you bastards) it would take at least three or four years before the negative public perception of the school was even dented. This means that all of that filthy voucher lucre is being spent on other schools. Vouchers reward schools that are doing well, which is the way things should be, but they also add an extra layer of complication to schools that are trying to pull themselves out of the mire.

3) On a scale of 1-10, how useful has your teaching degree been in preparing you for real-life teaching?

I don’t want to rate it like that, for much the reason that you wouldn’t give the foundations of a house a rating out of ten. You need them, but you like your house to have walls and a roof and shrine to Christina Aguilera and so forth.

My teaching course was one year long. We went into schools after about three months. After the first day in class, I may as well not have gone back into a lecture theatre. That having been said, those three months gave me the grounding to be able to get up in class that first time.

4) The name of that comedian who did the guitar competition you were telling me about.

That would be Stephen Colbert’s Rock and Awe Countdown to Guitarmageddon. If you go here it should cycle you through most of the show. (Don’t even bother if you have dialup.)

5) Looking at Warwick Elley's article linked to here

would you agree with him that there are subjects that NCEA will not work with (I note he says "I started challenging NZQA in 1991 to give an example of a clear and explicit standard in English or History or Science. I am still waiting."), and that in the NCEA compatible subjects the number of levels (merit, excellence etc) needs to be increased.

I can’t seem to open the article proper, but there are two parts to that excerpt which I’ll comment on:

Firstly, are there some subjects that NCEA won’t work on?

NCEA as a system can work with almost anything, but there are subjects where is certainly isn’t a good idea. The most obvious (to me, at least) is English. NCEA is proscriptive, and has a series of very rigorous guidelines. That’s fine when you’re, say, writing an essay or a research report. However, when you’re writing a story or a poem...? When we mark in my department, the English Trimurti always leaves a certain amount of leeway for the “ineffable” – things that are good because, you know, we recognise great use of words, but that don’t fit into the rigid marking schedule. Now, this is against the rules, but it’s a reality. It’s been mentioned at one English teacher conference that I went to that half of the authors we think are good enough to teach to seventh formers would not have passed NCEA creative writing, because the avant-garde styles that make them such geniuses would have broken the guidelines.

Secondly, should there be more than three levels?

Yes. Achieved, Merit and Excellence are fine as far as these things go, but there’s one enormous problem: To break it down into percentages, an Achieved is 45-64%, a Merit is 65-84%, and an Excellence is anything higher than that. Now, there’s a big difference between a piece of work worth 45% and one worth 64%, yet they both get a grade of Achieved. I have been in the situation (many times) where a student who is hovering around the low sixties will complain to me not that he got a low mark per se, but that he got the same mark as that kid who handed in a 45% project. I’ve always wanted at least five levels. Hell, I couldn’t tell you the difference between an essay worth fifty-five percent and one worth fifty-six, but there is a huge difference between some of the work being given the same grades.

6) Do you think the blogger comments box is the most useless thing in the world?

No, it gives The Internet something to do. If The Internet didn’t have blogger comments to distract it, it would look around at the pictures of elves on the wall of its parents’ basement, and realise it had to take its own life.

7) A question of your own choosing.

Alright: Why is there suffering?

Answer: Because of the Sin. Your sin, specifically. So I’d like you to write a letter to God and explain to him – politely now – that it’s all your fault, and that he should lay off me and give me nurses to inject me with hamburgers.

As to the viability of performance based pay, you’re right when you say that the only problem is that there are variables that have to be taken into account. The problem is that there are an insane number of variables. Attempting to catalogue them all would be a full time job for probably more than one person per school.

Also a while back, Dreamer asked me to comment on this article. The short version is that this guy’s pretty much on the money, but only to a point.

I was having this conversation with a colleague today: one of the problems new teachers face is that they don’t realise how dumb most children are.

Now, before you jump up and down about such a blanket statement, let me explain. Yesterday, one of our new English teachers tried to have an in-depth discussion with her Year 9 (third form) class about the merits or otherwise of Sylvia Plath. The immediate results of this were that I had round up the students who were roaming the corridors having walked out of the class, get all of the students in the class to sit in their chairs, and get the few actually sitting down to stop yelling and playing on their cellphones.

Why such an extreme reaction to poor little Syliva? Not just because she’s rubbish (although that probably was part of it) but because these barely literate thirteen year-olds were being asked to do something they simply didn’t know how to do. You can’t appreciate the language features of a poem if you don’t know what the phrase “language features” means.

This teacher assumed that such a thing was self-evident. What she had forgotten was that the reason it is self-evident to her now is that when she was in third form, some teacher spent a long while teaching it to her.

Kids need to learn a basic amount of how the world works. The way the school system is currently run is probably not the best way to ensure that happens, but I can’t think of a better way to do it. (That’s not to say there isn’t one, and I’m sure you’re clever enough to think of it; what I’m saying is that I’m quite tired and my head hurts, so no thinking for me tonight...)


Apathy Jack writes:

Oh, by the way, you remember that thing about the Creator and the Preserver being guaranteed that one of them would be Head of Department?

Well, they were both interviewed on Wednesday of last week.

On Thursday of last week, the position was readvertised.

Time to start updating my CV again...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Musings Upon the New Avril Lavigne Single

Josh writes:

I just have two questions for Jack, before he hurtles off to Canada to have a million of her little panda-eyed babies:

  1. What the fuck?
  2. No, seriously, what the fuck?
No, wait -- those weren't the two questions I meant. They were:
  1. Is this, as I maintain, a wrong-headed attempt to pitch "Hey Mickey" nostalgia to a demographic that's too young to remember it?
  2. Or is it, as RSJS has suggested, simply re-tooling a tried and tested formula to make money out of a new generation?
One thing is for certain: the ultimate summation of Ms. Lavigne's alt-pop ethos (by which she is the delicately sculpted creation of an army of stylists, fired like a shotgun at several dozen different "alternative" teen market segments) can be expressed no better than in the line "I'm a motherfucking princess" with the word "motherfucking" half-blanked-out for radio play. Having distilled her entire musical presence into four words*, there's probably not much more for her to do on this plane of existence, so I'll be expecting her ascension to some crappy sitcom any day now.

* That said, My Chemical Romance did it in three (although one of those is an "OKAAAAAAAY" that goes on for several weeks), so maybe she could do better.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Apathy Jack writes:

So I went to an anti-Clint Rickards march tonight.

Now, while I do strongly believe in the cause, it really was a reminder as to why I stopped thinking protest could ever actually solve anything.

The first thing my friend PETALS and I saw when we arrived at the massing group was a protestor dressed all in black, wearing a veil over her face. She carried a placard which suggested that someone called Richard’s new post should be in Antarctica. She obviously cares deeply about this issue: deeply enough to dress in mourning clothes; deeply enough to make and carry an angry sign; just not deeply enough to actually know the name of the man she so vehemently hates.

The next thing I noticed was the young socialist-looking chap holding a large sign which boldly proclaimed: COPS RAPE. I asked PETALS what she thought my chances of surviving were if I followed him with a sign saying MAORI STEAL?

I asked her quietly.

I was then handed a leaflet espousing the evils of vivisection. On site for three minutes before someone tries to co-opt the rally for their own special-interest group. Usually it only takes half that amount of time...

The speakers were pretty good – keeping to the issue at hand (although Laila Harre
did keep referring to International Womens Day as International Working Womens
Day and threw in a lot of stuff about unions...).

Then they opened the mic to the public.

The first speaker pointed out that rapists did not come out of a void. No, they were
created by the police. And of course the only way to dismantle the rapist-factory that
is the New Zealand Police Department is to overthrow the corrupt system it defended.
Of course the revolution the speaker assured us was coming should take care of that...

Then someone spoke calmly and rationally about helping women and children who had been abused. Deciding that we couldn’t have that, a woman took the mic and gave a several-minute long spiel about how in the genealogy of the gods, the gods were not men, but rather the sky and the earth. After being shouted down by the crowd who finally got sick of her, the mic was turned off and taken away from her. Another speaker came forward, but halfway through the speech the genealogy-woman attempted to wrestle the mic from her to continue ranting.

Now, here’s the thing: The majority of the people there were not morons. The majority of placards stuck to the point. The majority of speakers got their points across articulately. I know I’m just focussing on the bad stuff. I saw Span there, and she seemed in far higher spirits than I was, so I know it was just me puting my own jaundiced spin on it. But in ten minutes Nightline is going to be on, and what do you think they’re going to show footage of?

It’s people that ruin every revolution, it really is...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Apathy Jack writes:

Just for anyone following the politics at Hoodrat – everyone else can ignore this one:

So, the Principal has said firmly that there is no way he or the Board will accept co-heads of department. (I’m pretty sure he didn’t ask the Board, but we’ll just gloss over that one for now, shall we?) However, when he actually got around to reading the proposal the Creator and the Preserver put in, he noticed the last-minute compromise they included, saying they would consider dividing the job along the lines of head, and assistant head. He’s decided (in the face of yet another week without applicants) to go with that plan. He hasn’t decided who gets to be boss, but it’s definitely one of them.

The next few years will be interesting, but I think I’ll be at Hoodrat for them, and I’m pretty sure my Trimurti will be as well.

All of which pales into insignificance next to the fact that we no longer had relievers teaching those classes! We got two new actual honest to God English teachers! I’d do my happy dance, but the last time I did it (when the old HOD resigned) I was spotted by the IT guys, and they looked at me funny...

Sure, one of them’s a first year teacher and the other has only served one year, at a very white school a long way from the likes of mine. But hey, they each have an English degree and a pulse, so they’ll do for now.

One of them has taught at a university, and struck me as a professional student type – you know the very affected peculiarity and staggering intellectual arrogance. The Creator had a word with me about him, telling me how visibly deflated he became when he found out she had a higher qualification that him. She said that it was good for him, because he now couldn’t get ahead of himself by thinking he was the Smart One in the department. She then told me of the important role I was to play in making sure he didn’t put on airs: I was to make sure he knew he wasn’t the Weird One either...

We then got to talking issues of experience, and she told me that I had to stop thinking of myself as the New Kid. This is my sixth year at Hoodrat, I’m the longest serving member of my department, and I’m in the top about twenty-five percent of longest serving staff overall, but she’s right: I still see myself as being the young one with only half a clue. She told me that I had to stop thinking of myself as the brash young turk with license to break the rules granted by inexperience and unfamiliarity with the Way Things Are Done; I’m the wise old Merlin now, not the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. (Although she did concede this was still a Micky Mouse outfit...)

I think the thing that convinced me that she was probably right about me not being the new kid on the block any more was the fact that a few years ago, she was a trainee teacher in my class.

Some people wonder why I constantly make reference to how old I am. It’s these sorts of things...

Right, that's enough how-was-your-day bollocks from me. Normal service will resume when the students start bringing guns to school.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Fictional Places I Might Have Been - Parte One

That Morthos Stare writes:

In Dublin I am known as an expert in threesomes. Not a lot of people know that.

Dublin is a city. Trite, I know, but it is hard to talk about cities as distinct and unique entities, especially the nominal capitals of foreign places. Such locales are never good examples of a country. Take London. You should never base your opinion of the English on Londoners. For one thing, most Londoners aren’t English and, secondly, when you do meet an English Londoner you are most likely encountering one of the country's most intolerant people. Strange that such creatures should choose to live in the most cosmopolitan city in the country. My suspicion, borne from living there, is that for the English living in London is a lot like queuing; it’s an exercise in Purgatory.

(Which is a little like living in Auckland, I suspect.)

So, Dublin is a city, and if we are going for cliches (which I know I am) Dublin is characterised almost entirely by young mothers and desolation.

Well, half the city is. If you only venture north of the river you could be forgiven for thinking that Dublin was part-imported from the ex-Soviet Bloc. The weather belongs in a Len Deighton novel and the girls are that Russian-chav flavour (with shorter skirts). My lodging was a large, boy-infested, ex-nunnery-now-hostel conveniently located next to a chippery and a bus stop. I shared my room with eighteen foreigners of unknown extraction who kept strange hours and refused to speak English. It wasn’t enough that I was in another country but I was staying in the annex of yet another within it. Still, that was fine; downstairs was the reception and the reception contained within it the incredibly cute Emanuelle, the woman who spotted me for what I truly am.

A pervert.

Of course, she didn’t think less of me because of it. She was French, after all. Indeed, my knowledge of perversion was of aid to her. Only I, of all the guests, would know what term we English speakers use for troika sex. Only I had the breeding, grace and enunciation to persuade a German of that fact and only I could do it in front of a fellow Kiwi without being found out.

Yay, verily, that was the first night in Dublin.

My going to Dublin was planned in the same way that the Germans planned to invade Russia. There was a basic idea of going somewhere and everyone thought that when they got there that they would do ‘the usual thing.’ Like invading a foreign land, knowing the geography and history isn’t enough. You have to know the Irish, and to know the Irish you have to take every single cliche onboard.

Because, the Irish not only live up to the stereotype, they enjoy being it.

Example. On the last proper day I was in the Republic of Ireland I walked from Howrth to Sutton. It is a four hour walk along the coast and a very small part of it goes through the backyards of several Irish homes. One of these was owned by an elfish man in a black beret and, I suspect, a love of alcohol. He seemed pleasantly surprised that I was walking the track and after twenty minutes of ‘blarney’ he was shocked that I might need to press on. I suspect that I could still be there today. The Irish are very friendly. It’s not that false friendliness that, perhaps, you might accuse the people of Wellington of expressing. It’s a very real want to know and like the person you have just met.

Another example. A good friend of mine lives in Belfast (or, what I usually call ‘a part of the occupied territory’) and whilst he has never really spoken to his next-door neighbour he was offered a lift back from the airport by him on Christmas Eve. This is, apparently, a two hour drive at the best of times and David found that no matter how hard he tried to say ‘No, please, don’t take time away from your family’ the man continued to insist and insist and insist until such time that it became too embarrassing to refuse him once more.

Friendliness is endemic to Ireland (south and north). In Howrth I ate a very good meal in what would be, in this country, an expensive restaurant and actually felt that the tip I gave the waitress was well deserved. The tour of Dublin after dark that I took had an entire section devoted to ghosts and hauntings, and even though the guide was trouting some of the most hackneyed stories ever given in Christemdom I could not bring myself to give the condescending replies they deserved because, well, the bond we had formed so early on on the bus-trip felt precious and good.

The people of Ireland, though, do not make up Dublin. Like London, Dublin is an example of the existence of parallel universes. To the north you have the soviet-era desolation that has begat a need to stretch out one's hand in friendship whilst to the south you have a modern city filled with tourists, students and politicians.

No normal people to be seen at all.

Which is also to be expected. Dublin is, after all, a religious city, but not in the way you would think for a Catholic nation. Almost every church and cathedral you will see there is Protestant (normally Church of Ireland); until recently you couldn’t even build a Catholic Church, let alone celebrate the Mass. Family friends went to Dublin a few years back; she was Catholic, he was not, and they went to Mass at the Cathedral in O’Connell Street. As the service began he nudged his wife and said ‘This isn’t Mass’ to which she replied ‘Of course it is.’ Only it wasn’t (which just goes to show you how much difference there really is between the High Anglicans and the Roman Catholics anyway).

If anything, Dublin is a city that built by the descendants of the oppressed. Its churches are not its own, its northern quarter comes from the age of the Cold War and its resurgence in splendour and popularity has driven the people who lived through the Troubles to outside of the City. The occupation and the oppression have shaped the Irish, making them frienfly and, due to the power the Church gained, intolerant.Dublin, thus, makes a lot more sense than London does. It is a city trying to escape its Catholic past, and failing dismally.

Which might explain the large amount of young mothers you see...

...but goes nowhere to explain the whole ‘perversion thing.’ I’d have to tell you about Italy to make sense of that.