Thursday, October 16, 2008


Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

I suppose as the last active contributor here it falls to me to call "time". It has been an enjoyable four years with you all but I shall join the migration to my own projects elsewhere. The diaspora is as follows:

Brother Morthos now writes at All Embracing but Underwhelming.

Apathy Jack contributes to Johnny the Red.

I have resurrected my original foray into blogging at Lolly Scramble with a review of the North Shore candidate's meeting.

Both RSJS and Josh appear to be on blogger hiatus though Josh did produce Monkey Fluids for three years.

See you round,


Thursday, September 25, 2008

We all play games; we all pretend we’re unique enough to be heard...

Apathy Jack writes:

Probably enough out of me for the time being. Of course, I can’t go quietly, so details after the cut if anyone is interested...

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab
Brain Stab was originally conceived of as a place for a few of us like-minded interesting people to blog about issues. We mostly had livejournals and other outlets for pontificating about the day-to-day drear of our respective lives, so Brain Stab would be where we talked about social and political issues of the day – even if we were more murmuring against the machine than raging.

So, I immediately broke the rules and started blogging about my daily existence.

But, see, my life was interesting. Sure, more than once I got too self-indulgent for my own good, but the perils of Hoodrat High and the constant struggle for survival therein made for good reading – and the various people I had in comments and in real honest-to-goodness Life™ tell me how much they liked reading my stuff, and suggest that I submit it to a publisher, backed this up, and stroked my ego nicely along the way.

But, as you may have noticed, my life just isn’t that interesting anymore.

Certainly, my life is better than it used to be, but here’s the thing: my Hoodrat stories came out of a very specific environment. Hoodrat was (and, for those keeping score: still is) a monstrously mismanaged school filled with incompetent teachers and a statistically anomalous number of emotionally damaged students. I had been there longer than many of the teachers, and had built up a strong relationship with the students.

The New school, on the other hand, is filled with relatively well-behaved students, whom I simply don’t know as well as the old lot. The staff are annoying, but benign, and almost all quite good at teaching the children things.

And, as it’s impossible not to notice, my stories just aren’t as good as they used to be. Haven’t been for over a year now. Hell, I probably should have stopped posting the day I walked out of Hoodrat for the last time, and if it wasn’t for Newton’s law of inertia, I probably would have...

So while I was happy to break the rule of don’t-talk-about-boring/pointless-bollocks so long as I had entertaining stories, I’ve been posting inanities for a while now, which doesn’t sit right with me, not for a blog that was, in theory at least, about doing something a little different from that. So I’m out of here.

Now, I’m not going to stop posting stupid things my students say, random reading recommendations and whatever else pops into my brain, I’m just going to go back to doing it the old fashioned way: on an obscure blog no one reads except me and my girlfriend (when she remembers). I don’t know when I’ll start up this new blog, but if you’re a mate of mine, you’ll probably hear about it soon after I do. (On the off chance you’re a random person who actually wants to read things I write, the Brain Stab gmail is still going to go along until we forget about it, so drop me a line and say hi – I’m too much of an attention-junkie to keep the address to myself if you ask...)

Also, of course, I will continue my good work over at Johnny the Red campaign headquarters, where the posts are more frequent than my recent efforts on Brain Stab, and, frankly, of a higher quality. If you’re not reading it, you should be.

To go out, I’d like to leave you with a profound quote, but really, who would I be kidding? It would be nice to think that the wail of sadness from the Manic Street Preachers when they cry “And I just hope that you can forgive us, but everything must go – and if you need an explanation, then: everything must go” would be apt, but more so would probably be the quote from the Mercy Cage’s excellent track The Jewellery Thief which I used to head this piece, where they cynically (and more than a little desperately) spit “We all play games, we all pretend we’re unique enough to be heard.”

No, I think best would be this extract from Jon Ronson’s book What I Do, which I wholeheartedly recommend:

“The internet gives us the illusion that we're wonderfully gregarious people. When we type away in discussion boards and post comments on one another's blogs it feels like we're sitting outside a pub in the evening sunshine with our attractive, cool friends. But we aren't. That's something we used to do before we got addicted to the Internet. What we do instead is perform some empty, unsatisfying facsimile of that. We sit alone in our rooms, becoming more and more isolated from society.”

Yeah, that’ll do.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Don't Get Mad - Get Evil

Apathy Jack writes:


Some time back, me and a few politically minded folk started a project we were too feckless to continue. We have restarted it, and will be updating it daily for the next month and a half. is a site for intellectual political discourse and high-minded debate about the upcoming US elections.

To give you all a taste of just how intellectual and high-minded, I have embedded an old Johnny the Red video, shot at Auckland University, many years, and a lot of construction ago.

All of you out there who get more traffic that Brain Stab (which is, I think, all of you, so snap to it, all of you) should plug Johnny the Red unceasingly. He'll know if you don't...

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Day Today - 19th September 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

The image above is a representation of which body parts are sung about the most in each musical genre. Hip Hop quite likes the booty, so it seems.
Do it yourself Fair Go.

There's four things we say over and over to readers writing in with problems who have gotten their legitimate claims spurned by regular customer service. They just keep working! They're EECB, Executive Customer Service, Chargeback and Small Claims Court. Inside, what these tools mean and how to get started using one.

Evidence Based Medicine

An Indian criminal court accepted a brain scan as evidence of guilt in a murder trial in India earlier this year. The developer of the the Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature (BEOS) test claims that it uses electrodes to detect when regions of the brain "light up" with guilty knowledge.

After placing 32 electrodes on Ms. Sharma’s head, investigators said, they read aloud their version of events, speaking in the first person (“I bought arsenic”; “I met Udit at McDonald’s”), along with neutral statements like “The sky is blue,” which help the software distinguish memories from normal cognition.

For an hour, Ms. Sharma said nothing. But the relevant nooks of her brain where memories are thought to be stored buzzed when the crime was recounted, according to Mr. Joseph, the state investigator. The judge endorsed Mr. Joseph’s assertion that the scans were proof of “experiential knowledge” of having committed the murder, rather than just having heard about it...

Ms. Sharma insists that she is innocent.

Two from Tyler Cowen...

1) The Benefits of a winning sports team is $120 per year.

...a few scholars have started to suggest that there may indeed be another kind of benefit from big-time sports. There's a catch, though: the team has to be good. In a forthcoming paper, economist Michael Davis and the psychologist Christian End say that having a winning NFL football team increases the incomes of the people who live and work in its hometown by as much as $120 a year. And while the study doesn't identify exactly what causes the boost, the authors point to psychological literature suggesting that winning fans are at once harder workers and bigger spenders. In short, buoyed by the team's success, we work longer hours, take bigger risks, and shop more avidly, all of which helps the local economy.

2) Especially pertinent - "In Soviet Russia, gang joins you!"

In Brazil, they segregate their prisons according to gang membership. No exceptions. Not even for individuals who in fact are not members of any gang.

How does that work? Easy. Upon being admitted to the prison system, unaffiliated prisoners are required to join a gang

We started with music, so we shall end with it. Music from the Death Factory.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 50 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

My Booky-Wook by Russell Brand

Down among the have-nots, the drunks and the junkies, fleeting moments of mutual connection happen quite frequently. With Barry, fine brown hair, concave chest, sad, sad eyes, the Queen’s Arms pub; ‘’Ello me old mucker, put one on the pipe for us, I’m brassick.’ With his handler Pats, who looked like Mick Reid crossed with an ox; they did house clearances – taking all the stuff out of old people’s homes after they’d died. Pats told me that the first thing Barry would do was go straight to the medicine cabinet, rifle through all the pill packets and bottles, and neck the lot. It made no difference what they were for – rheumatism, athlete’s foot, piles.
Barry, perpetually upbeat, had never got over the death of his father, who was a boxer. I once went round to the place where he’d lived with his dad. It was quite a big terraced house – and there was hardly any furniture in it. I sat in there with just this electric bar heater for comfort, smoking dope and taking daft prescription drugs.
We’d induced a comfortable silence and I glanced at Barry; orange in the three-bar glow, he just looked lost and sad, like my nan when I recognised that she was ready to die, but he was in his twenties – just a man in an empty house, lit by a bar-fire, on drugs he’d found in a dead man’s cupboard. A beautiful soul who fell through life.


It feels sort of like false advertising to post such an uncharacteristically poignant excerpt from the book (or booky-wook, if you will. I will not...) but I really liked the phraseology. While much of the book is characterised by a sense of sadness, most of it is hideously funny – Brand has a self-acknowledged need to turn his pain into attention-seeking humour, and has done so for this book. It also ranks on my list of books I really shouldn’t have taken to school with me; the students – fascinated by the cover image of Brand, who recently hosted the MTV awards they all watched – all asked to read it, but given that I was up to the part where Brand discusses the idea of using dental floss to strangle his genitals while in rehab for sex-addiction – which happens in the first paragraph of page one and then proceeds to get worse - I decided against it. (Of course, I still had American Psycho on my desk from the other day, but that has a boring cover, so none of them have asked about it yet. I should put that away...)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 49 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

The conversation follows its own rolling accord – no real structure or topic or internal logic or feeling; except, of course, for its own hidden, conspiratorial one. Just words, and like in a movie, but one that has been transcribed improperly, most of it overlaps. I’m having sort of a hard time paying attention because my automated teller has started speaking to me, sometimes actually leaving weird messages on the screen, in green lettering, like “Cause a terrible scene at Sotheby’s” or “Kill the President” or “Feed me a stray cat,” and I was freaked out by the park bench that followed me for six blocks last Monday evening and it too spoke to me. Disintegration – I’m taking it in my stride.


American Psycho first came to my attention when I was eighteen and a bunch of my classmates started talking about it. This was unusual, because the fine upstanding folk that I went to school with didn’t, as a rule, discuss things that weren’t related to rugby, beer or date-rape.
“Sounds interesting,” I thought, as my peers offered such glowing reviews as: “It has heaps of killing in it and swearing and he has sex with, like, girls. Sex!” While it didn’t sound like quite my cup of tea, I filed it in the back of my brain for later reference.

Over subsequent years, I had many people recommend it to me. People from various subcultures, walks of life and pretentiousness levels have attempted to proselytise me to the way of American Psycho, most of whom reviewed it thusly: “It has heaps of killing in it and swearing and he has sex with, like, girls. Sex!”

Having read a random copy that I recently found on my bookshelf (I think I’ve figured out who it belongs to – Hey Eric, I have your book) it seems to me that these well-intentioned reviewers quite spectacularly missed the point. I mean, for a start, no one ever told me it was a comedy. (Well, satire, but you know...) I mean, hell for over a third of the book he doesn’t do anything except be a typical nineteen-eighties Wall-Street scumfuck. Twice he mentions in an offhand way that he’d like to inflict brutal harm on someone, but that’s fewer times than I’ve threatened people to their faces today... (I’m quite proud of the look I got from one of my form class this morning when I told her that if she forgot her PE gear one more time I was going to cut her head off and present it to the PE teacher as a gift. But that’s another story...)

While the sex and violence in the last hundred pages or so wasn’t really to my taste, it’s possibly the best book about the eighties I’ve ever read. An ex-student with whom I was discussing the book has recommended Glamorama – apparently it does much the same for the nineties, my personal decade of choice...

I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Today’s music video, the horrible Fluorescent Adolescence, by The Arctic Monkeys. They’re an awful band, but this video is a thing of sublime terror. Gangsters fighting clowns.

Seriously, that shit’s not okay...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Spell-check now recognises the verb “texted”. Who knew...?

Apathy Jack writes:

As those who follow my various livejournal posts and meltdowns in Real Life™ will know, I don’t understand social networking sites, so I don’t know what is accepted as normal and what is not...

So as I’m “talking” to someone over facebook’s chat function, my phone buzzes. The message I have just read has been texted to me by the same person. Now, this was, well, I don’t know the twenty-first century term, but it was an active chat; we were replying to one another at some speed – she didn’t think I had gone offline or anything, she just figured it was an important enough idea to relay to me simultaneously in two different media.

I think that counts as post-modernism, but I’m not really sure anymore...

And just while we’re talking about facebook, I’ve had a fair number of ex-students track me down, and I’ve dutifully added the vast majority of them because, you know, that’s how I understand the etiquette of these things to work. One of my recent additions is a girl who was in my class at a time when she was making quite large changes in her life; whose two sisters I taught; whose mother I got to know quite well over six years of teaching three daughters; of whom I still fondly remember the time we sat and ate lunch at Stage Challenge – all the others had spread out through the Aotea Centre, so we guarded the bags, ate our respective food and chatted on and off for a while. It was a pleasant interlude in an otherwise very stressful day. When I look at her facebook status and see that it reads “(student’s name) says cuddling afterwards is for bitches”, well, it just warms the heart, it does...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Double-header today, of videos which turn their featured bands into cartoon superheroes.

Firstly, Tadpole's Better days, which casts the band as Dragonball Z-esque warriors fighting, I dunno, some guy. I was never a fan of Dragonball Z, but damn do I like this video. It's fast paced and genuinely funny.

Nextly, Skankenstein, by Kora. Less humour, but some very nice superhero-style scenes as the band rallies to defend the Earth from a threat from outer space.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dear Ratepayer

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

North Shore City Council sent me a glossy newsletter, being one of their ratepayers, with a handy break-down of how each dollar of my hard earned money is spent. By my reckoning I could cut that rates bill by half on my first morning in office with no adverse effects. Those in bold are gone!

Wastewater = 23 cents.
Keep the council doing this, and other infrastructure related tasks for the time being.

Public transport, roads and footpaths = 17 cents. It's a shame they grouped these together. As with wastewater, roads and footpaths are infrastructure and we'll keep those under the council's remit. But there is no reason why getting from "A" to "B" should need government funding. There are quirks to this as transport uses roads set out by and destinations zoned by government, of course uselessly as anyone who has suffered through the Esmonde Road and Lake Road cycle lane upgrades is painfully aware. Still, interfering more with subsidies won't help any, just privatise it and leave it alone, the market works just fine.

So we'll guess and take 5 cents off for public transport leaving 12 cents for roads.

Parks, beaches and sportsfields = 15 cents. Ceased and sold to interested parties and sports clubs immediately.

Environmental planning = 11 cents. Gone. I don't need my environment planned, thanks. I'm not four years old.

Libraries = 7 cents. Also gone. perfectly good books are dirt cheap from second hand bookshops.

Stormwater = 7 cents. It is infrastructure so we'll keep it.

Community services = 5 cents. Can't think of anything worthwhile this could be.

Environmental programmes = 4 cents. I don't need my environment programmed either, just bugger off!

Economic initiatives = 3 cents. Gone. What in God's name is a government doing involving itself in the economy?

Leisure services = 3 cents. Gone. As with parks and sportfields I am quite capable of sorting out my own free time.

Governance = 3 cents. Keep, just running costs.

External levies = 2 cents. Keep.

All up we're keeping only 47 cents of the current dollar. For the average North Shore ratepayer with an $1800 rates bill for this year I'd give them back $900, or $17 per week!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

I haven’t been bringing my “A” game to school for a while now. Various reasons, some legit, most not, but I’ve been trying to fix that recently, and there are signs that I’m doing it properly...

The Year 13s have lost their will to work: they’re lethargic in class; missing deadlines; failing to attend tutorials. Happens around this time every year, but this is the worst case I’ve seen in a while. The History Teacher decided to give her class a rark-up about it, and asked me to come in and support her, because in addition to having the same problems, twenty out of her twenty-three students were are also in my Classics class.

She spoke well, from her heart, saying that she knew most of them thought that she took History way too seriously, but that her subject defined a large part of her identity, so their lack of effort, and the lies they told her about why they hadn’t done the sundry work, not only upset her as a teacher but undermined and offended her as a person.

I led by saying that, being several years older than her, and some orders of magnitude more cynical, I did not have that degree of idealism and personal connection to their effort or lack thereof. However, what I did have was the better part of eight years experience preparing students to pass level 3 Classics exams, so I know how much subject knowledge one needs to succeed. I also know how much knowledge each and every one of them had. I pointed to each of my twenty students in turn:

“You’re going to fail. You’re going to fail. You’re going to fail. You’re going to pass. You’re going to fail. You’re going to fail. You’re going to pass one booklet out of the three. You’re going to fail. You’re going to pass with Achieveds – you’re capable of Merits but you won’t get them. You’re going to fail. You’re going to fail. You’re going to fail.” And so on.

After school I was talking to a delegation of those students. They told me that they were pissed off at me for what I said, but only until they thought about it. They realised that the History Teacher and I were right, but they weren’t sure how to process it, how to react to it.

“It’s just that we haven’t really had many young, vibrant teachers before,” said one. I reminded her that I was far from being either young or vibrant. “Well,” she continued, “teachers that were like, passionate about the stuff they taught. Most of our teachers are old, and it’s weird to hear a teacher actually saying they care about their subject.”
“Yeah,” added another, “And I don’t think any of our teachers have ever been as honest with us as you and Miss were.”

That might just about do as proof that I’m starting to do this right again.

But you know, if it doesn’t, I can always use the smaller and pithier example, also from today:

I pulled a student out of her Materials class for no good reason to rant at her about poetry. Having finished, and threatening to poke her with needles, I wandered off. As I left, she called me back.

“There’s like, a lot wrong with you, ay Sir?”

Yeah, I think I’m getting back into the swing of this...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

As I've mentioned, I rather like videos with a narrative – shows effort to not have endless shots of the band on a soundstage somewhere. Thusly, you may be able to imagine my fondness for the Velvet Revolver video She Builds Quick Machines, where the band has been cast as cowboys rescuing an angel from guerrillas.

The sound is a little tinny, but the video should serve as an object lesson to all directors who make do with shots of their subjects playing instruments under lights - this is better.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The sad fact is I'm so tired of you...

Apathy Jack writes:

Something for you to watch: Look For The Woman by Scroobius Pip and Dan le Sac. You need to watch this for three reasons:

1) It is the best music video I’ve seen in a while, and you know how much of a fan of good music videos I am.

2) Scroobuis Pip, in this video, looks exactly like I will look when God-defying genetic engineering becomes legal and cheap: lanky, mammothly hirsute and winged.

3) Pip uses incredible rhymes and wordplay, and yet instead of sounding clever, the song simply manages to be heart-crushingly sad. I don’t think a song has pulled on my heartstrings this much since I last listened to VAST...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

In a day that started with a student self-harming in front of me, and ended with a student who is trying to get her life on track and turn around her bad reputation coming to me to ask advice on how to start and participate in a fight in a way that wouldn’t bring the school into disrepute, it’s nice that the middle can have conversations like this:

“You lied to my Mum at Parent/Teacher evening.”
“How so?”
“You said I do my own thing a lot instead of doing what the class does.”
“You are aware that you’re wandering around the classroom as you say this?”
“Look around you. The other twenty-two students in this class are all sitting at their desks copying the notes off the board, but you’ve been wandering around for the last ten minutes and haven’t even gotten your book out. I’m not even entirely sure where your bag is.”
“Yeah, well you still lied. You said I argued a lot!”
“You do know this is an argument, right?”
“This conversation we’re having: we’re arguing. In a particularly post-modern bent, you’re arguing that I lied when I said you argue a lot.”
“Yeah, well, just hush.”

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 48 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson

I am sent to bed first and have to negotiate this treacherous journey entirely on my own. This is manifestly wrong. I have adopted certain strategies to help us in this ordeal. It’s important, for example, that I keep my hand on the banister rail at all times when climbing the stairs (the other one is being clutched by Teddy). That way, nothing can hurtle unexpectedly down the stairs and knock us flying into the Outer Darkness. And we must never look back. Never, not even when we can feel the hot breath of the wolves on the back of our necks, not when we can hear their long, uncut claws scrabbling on the wood at either edge of the stair-carpet and the growls bubbling deep in their throats.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 47 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

What Happened by Scott McClellan

So I don’t agree with those who excoriate the “liberal media.” As long as they do their jobs professionally, I have no problem with liberal reporters, and I certainly dealt with them happily enough as press secretary. The real problem with the national media is the overemphasis on controversy, the excessive focus on who is winning and who is losing in Washington, and the constant search for something or someone to pick on and attack. These bad habits too often cause the larger truths that matter most to get lost in the mix.


On the various leftist sites I frequent, this book was held up as a damning piece of evidence that the Bush administration was just as corrupt as we all knew it was.

It’s nothing so dramatic.

I didn’t learn anything in this book that I didn’t already know (gasp – the evidence for going into Iraq wasn’t so good!!!two!!!) but is still worth a read for two main reasons:

Firstly, it is a nice inside look at the processes of the White House. Many in the Bush administration have been justifiably - but not helpfully - turned into cartoon super villains by, well, The Daily Show, the Left Wing in general, and, well, their own decisions and lives to this point. McClellan’s book humanises them, and gives an insight into what was going through the minds of members of the administrations during such tragicomicedal clusterfucks as Hurricane Katrina.

Secondly, it’s a truly fascinating portrait of a true idealist who genuinely believed that George Bush would make America and the world a better place, and who, over the course of years realises that he is very wrong. McClellan is still a Republican, still thinks highly of George Bush as a person, and is fast to point out that the situations many in the administration found themselves in were not as black and white as they later appeared to the pubic. So this isn’t a rabid attack from the left, it’s a faintly shocked sounding admission that maybe idealism didn’t win the day, written by a man whose reaction to the last seven years is a mixture of sadness and genuine surprise.

Now I just need to get my copy of Fair Game back off the student I lent it to, and I can read an angry political memoir...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

“Sir, my parents think you’ve brainwashed me.”
“Why exactly?”
“Because last night I was reading that book you gave me at the same time that I was eating dinner.”
“Why is that unusual? Most of my books have food stains on them.”
“Well, it’s just that I don’t usually, you know... read. So my parents think it’s weird that I’m not putting this book down like, ever.”

Yeah, this job’s still worth doing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

“Sir, you ignored us the other day at the bus stop.”
“Didn’t I walk with you to the bus stop?”
“Yeah, but after you got on your bus, you just ignored us. We were banging on the windows and yelling your name, but you just had your hood up and ignored us.”
“Well, that wasn’t intentional. I have no peripheral vision in that hood, and when I heard yelling and banging, I probably just assumed it was a couple of trouble making hoodrats. And, as it turns out, I was right...”

Monday, August 18, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Student 1 “You smell like farts!”
Student 2 “You smell like farts!
Student 1 “Why don’t you have a shower?”
Student 2 “I did – with your dad!”
Me “Some decorum please, ladies.”
Student 1 “Yeah, have some decorum, dick!”

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Today's video: Weapon of Choice, by Fatboy Slim.

Christopher Walken dances.

If you're still reading this, that means you haven't immediately clicked on the above link, which clearly means you haven't properly understood me.

Christopher. Walken. Dances.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Now, by and large, I don't do "sweet", however, the video for Hoppipolla by Sigur Ros is impossible not to like. It's actually quite remarkably touching and, well, just really sweet, dammit. Go and watch it while I feed a bunch of kittens into a wood chipper to get back into my usual frame of cynicism.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 46 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

It by Stephen King

I discovered news of old horrors in old books; read intelligence of old atrocities in old periodicals; always in the back of my mind, every day a bit louder, I heard the seashell drone of some growing, coalescing force; I seemed to smell the bitter ozone aroma of lightnings-to-come. I began making notes for a book that I almost certainly not live to write. And at the same time I went on with my life. On one level of my mind I was and am living with the most grotesque, capering horrors; on another I have continued to live the mundane life of a small-city librarian. I shelve books; I make out library cards for new patrons; I turn off the microfilm readers careless users sometimes leave on; I joke with Carole Danner about how much I would like to go to bed with her, and she jokes back about how much she’d like to go to bed with me, and both of us know that she’s really joking and that I’m really not, just as both of us know that she won’t stay in a small place like Derry for long and I will be here until I die, taping torn pages in Business Week, sitting down at monthly acquisition meeting with my pipe in one hand and a stack of Library Journals in the other... and waking in the middle of the night with my fists jammed against my mouth to keep in the screams.


It is 1116 pages. I know this because I first read it when I was eleven or thereabouts, making it the longest book I had read at that point – it was a source of some pride.

King has written his share of stinkers, but in this book he gets it right. I’m not saying it’s without its faults – the sexualisation of the female member of the gang, for example, didn’t sit right with me when I was the same age as the characters, nor does it today – but overall it is an entertaining read with some genuinely scary parts, which not many books can boast. Rereading it for the first time in a long while I picked up more than a few nods to Lovecraft, which I missed the first few times around, and the long digressions from the main plot (which when I was a kid I thought were fairly irrelevant) do a very good job of creating an entire haunted city. Well worth a read, especially on a dark night when the worst storm in decades is whirling around your house and uprooting your trees.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

I do love a narrative in music videos. When I watch the vast majority of them, I'm struck by the fact that the directors have lost a perfectly good opportunity to make a three-and-a-half minute short film with inbuilt soundtrack. With that in mind, I present Savin' Me, by Nickelback. It's not hard to hassle Nickelback for a variety of reasons, but no matter what you think of the song, the video – the weird little story of what happens to a man after his life is saved by a stranger – is a great little piece, and a fun watch.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Today's music video is Hey Girl, Hey Boy by The Chemical Brothers. The Chemical Brothers' videos are routinely of above average quality, but this is my personal favourite, mixing real creepiness with a healthy dose of humour, and complimenting the song perfectly.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Today's video, Witness The Fitness, by Roots Manuva. In addition to being a catchy tune, the video is a piece of genius. Takes a minute or so to get going, but this tale of Manuva returning to his old school is one of my favourites.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Day Today - 29th July 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Rules Have To Be Obeyed.

Lenny Woodward is 96, and almost blind, so you'd think people might understand when he accidentally put two glass jars in the wrong recycling bin. But sanitation workers in West Earlham, England, told the World War II veteran they would not take the bin until he removed the jars. Woodward told them that he was physically unable to bend over and get them out. So they left the bin where it was. In fact, they refused to touch it for two weeks When Woodward's daughter found out about the problem, she called the local council, but she says the officials she talked to simply insisted that her father had to follow the rules. Only after she contacted the local newspaper did they empty the bin.

I'm not normally given to emotionalism but seriously, since the chap is a war veteran, the council are just a bunch of

"Rules have to be obeyed" - that's what the little shit from the council said. the man's almost blind and he can't reach into the bins. Has any council anywhere, in the history of humankind, ever done anything except be a pain in the arse? Probably not. [HT Reason]

On a lighter note...

Even better, more Chinese Olympic advice on how to address the handicapped.

Pay attention to avoiding taboo subjects, quit using bad platitudes, and do not use insulting or discriminatory contemptuous or derogatory terms to address the disabled. Say things such as, “You are amazing,” or “You are really great.” When chatting with the visually impaired, do not say things like “It’s up ahead,” or “It’s over there.” When chatting with athletes who are paraplectic in their upper body, do not say things like “It’s behind you.”

Best cancer cure ever - genetically engineered tobacco plants!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Day Today - 28th July 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Comics are for children, and retards.

Where you vote affects how you vote - H.T. Tyler Cowen:

Essentially, people whose voting booth is located in a church are more likely to put more weight into social issues, people voting in fire houses care more about safety, and people voting in a school tend to put more weight on things like education.

A week at Lord's, watching test match cricket, the greatest game in the world. The diary contains this reminiscence...

The worst result of excess boozing I have ever witnessed (and this was at London’s less salubrious international cricket venue, the Oval) was a naked man treating those around him to a spirited and tuneful rendition of “Suspicious Minds”. By the time stewards had come to eject him he had put his clothes back on. “Who was it?” demanded the leader of the baffled forces of authority. “Was it you?” they demanded of the guilty party, who had assumed an air of wounded innocence. The stewards, still unsure of their quarry, surveyed the mass of cricket fans suspiciously until a distant voice piped up: “I am Spartacus”. Another voice, familiar with the famous scene in the epic film about the slave revolt in ancient Rome, chimed in with the same line. Then another and another, until the scene of Spartacus’s fellow rebels attempting to shield him from capture by the Romans was pleasingly recreated in the Peter May Stand at the Oval, south London.

Unfortunately "our Correspondent" talks in approving tones of that god-awful 20/20 hit and giggle rubbish - ugh.

A shocker from America. A policeman invents a crime lab reoprt to extract information from a suspect - and the fake evidence makes it all the way to trial. Even worse was the prosecution twice declining requests from the defence for more information, and the officer who invented the report only belatedly "remembering" that he had done so.

Are you a financial illiterate?

The George Bush Presidential library...

The Hurricane Katrina Room, which is still under construction.

The Alberto Gonzales Room, where you won't be able to remember anything.

The Texas Air National Guard Room, where you don't even have to show up.

The Walter Reed Hospital Room, where they don't let you in.

The Guantanamo Bay Room, where they don't let you out.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room, which no one has been able to find.

The National Debt room which is huge and has no ceiling.

The 'Tax Cut' Room with entry only to the wealthy.

The 'Economy Room' which is in the toilet.

The Iraq War Room. After you complete your first tour, they make you go back for a second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth tour.

The Dick Cheney Room, in the famous undisclosed location, complete with shotgun gallery.

The Environmental Conservation Room, still empty.

The Supremes Gift Shop, where you can buy an election.

The Airport Men's Room, where you can meet some of your favorite Republican Senators.

The 'Decider Room' complete with dart board, magic 8-ball, Ouija board, dice, coins, and straws.

The museum will have an electron microscope to help you locate the President's accomplishments.

Admission: Republicans - free; Democrats - $1000 or 3 Euros

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

“Alright, let’s get this clear: If you go to university and spend time with a lot of educated people, then you will doubtlessly have many opportunities to discuss Roman epic poetry. However, if, as I suspect you will, you all end up working at McDonald’s, you will never have to talk about The Aeneid, so it won’t matter that some of you keep pronouncing Dido ‘Diddo’ and saying ‘Vir-Gil’ with a hard ‘G’ sound. However, let’s at least make sure we can spell them right for that credit-heavy end-of-year exam, alright?”
“What if McDonald’s introduces an Aeneid happy meal? Then we’d have to learn how to say them properly.”
“Well, in that unlikely event, you can correct all of the uneducated people who ask for a Diddo happy meal. I can just picture you in your McDonald’s uniform with a look of smug superiority on your face as you say ‘I think you’ll find it’s pronounced Dido’.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Student 1 “Could the answer to number one be both pietas and furor?”
Me “Well spotted.”
Student 2 “Wait, what was the answer you said?”
Student 1 “I said shush and do your work. Sir, why are you laughing?”
Me “I’m just admiring this touching display of friendship and support.”
Student 1 “We can be friends later.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

High Culture

Apathy Jack writes:

Remember that song "I wish I was a little bit taller"?

If you don't, you need to watch the video below.

If you do, you should also watch the video below. Watching it for the first time in thirteen or so years, and it's even better than I remember it being...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Is it just me who thinks the Beastie Boys’ videos are all overrated? Sure, they take a bunch of 70’s tropes and string them together, but (and I say this as a big fan of that ridiculous 70s style) that by itself doesn’t make a good video.

However, Bloc Party got it right. In their video Flux, they do pretty much what the BB’s were doing in Intergalactic, but do it Properly. Have a look.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Day Today - 12th July 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Top 10 Strangest Anti-Terrorism Patents.

Good News. John Howard's much maligned intervention to stop child abuse in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory has been shown to be working.

But after visiting more than half the 73 communities eventually involved, Ms Gordon has found good progress in cutting violence and sexual abuse: alcohol and pornography have been banned, more children are going to school and police patrols have left more women feeling safer.

In the interests of fairness, following on from last week's missive on Rap, here's Punk.

Punk, says Suvy, is "the only view that makes sense to me." Work is for yuppies. Rent is for yuppies. Shelter is a basic human right. The government is bullshit. Corporations are bullshit. He "fucks capitalism" by pissing in the corner of the Dunkin' Donuts.

..or at least the poor employees responsible for cleaning up the mess. Hat Tip Reason.

Paul saw Paul Low's protest, and liketh it not - especially the triads not. But Cactus Kate sayeth that the Triads maketh the streets safe to walk at four in the morning,

Triads "the good gang" run the streets here and that's why I can confidently do something here I can't do anymore in Auckland - walk around at 4am on my own.

and points out that part of Mr Low's, and the rest of the 15,000 protester's concerns is the culture shock of coming from a place where you are allowed to defend yourself to one where you are prosecuted for doing so. Kate again:

Asians in New Zealand are as a group, peaceful law-abiding citizens. Problem is, back in Asia they are used to defending themselves from any intervention, and the interventions in middle-upper incomed areas are minimal. Very minimal. An Asian with enough money to migrate to New Zealand would NEVER be charged for killing a home intruder or defending themselves against a lower class of person. It's the Asian way....and by-in-large it works as criminal lower class scum know if they try to harm or steal from someone wealthier, they will not face the Police but a small army of protection and likely be shot on location if caught.

And that, as Stephen Franks says, is the rub.

Essentially the Police were there to stimulate, and to ensure, citizen self policing of civil behaviour. Constables were neighbours doing full-time what every decent citizen could and would do when necessary.

The 15,000 who marched with Mr Low are closer to this vision of policing than "we" are. They just want to be able to defend themselves and feel safe, and cannot understand that here in New Zealand you are not allowed to defend yourself, and instead must bleed to death for half an hour on your shop floor.

What will happen to Iran if it uses its missiles in anger?

We'll end with some levity, George Bush. As reported by the New York Times:

“Amigo! Amigo!” Mr. Bush called out cheerily in Spanish when he spotted the Italian prime minister. “How you doing, Silvio? Good to see you!"

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Comics You Should Be Reading Number 7 Of Probably Not Many; Comics Are For Children And Retards

Apathy Jack writes:

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab
Action Philosophers, by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey

Actually, while I’m thinking of philosophy, I just finished the latest collection of Action Philosophers, a rollicking ride through the history of philosophy with wrestling and guns.

You know wrestling and guns make philosophy better.

Three volumes have been released, which I think is the whole lot finished now. In the next week, I’m going to do some judicious photocopying of this to use as a supplementary resource for the (it’s now up to) five students who are/will be reading Sophie’s World.

Apathy Jack: Making philosophy better. For the sake of the children.

(Oh, and if you wanted to check it out, the above link lets you read the sections on Jung, Descartes, the pre-Socratics and John Stewart Mill...)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 45 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder

The most subversive people are those who ask questions. Giving answers
is not nearly as threatening. Any one question can be more explosive
than a thousand answers.


No link for this one, as every site that talks about it (including the bloody Amazon site, for frigs sake) decides to be clever, and gives away the mystery that is a large part of the point of the book...

I like almost everything about this one: the weirdness; the mystery of it all; but most specifically, the way that it renders Philosophy degrees completely obsolete. If we can just get every teenager on Earth to read this (and I’m working on it: I finished it last week, and have already given it to one, and gotten two others to promise to read it when she’s finished) then they can find their way to the works of specific thinkers that catch their interest, and we can finally force a large number of the more pallid denizens of Auckland University to shave and dress properly.

It’s for their own good...

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Day Today - 4th July 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

New Zealand's Economy

With a contracting economy, high interest rates and soaring prices, kitchen-table issues are likely to be a major factor with voters, with the economic environment likely to be distinctly unfavourable to the incumbent Labour Party's chances of re-election.

How is the internet changing how we write?

The internet is always saying, "Heyyy." It is always welcoming you to the party; it is always patting you on the back to congratulate you for showing up.

Can rap change the world? No, no it cannot.

Consider the hot album of the moment: “Tha Carter III” by Lil Wayne. Its central message is that if you are a rap star, you will get laid. The song “Lollipop”, for example, celebrates a young lady who treats Lil Wayne as she might a lollipop.

Earnest hip-hop fans often argue that “commercial” rappers such as Lil Wayne are beside the point. Hip-hop’s revolutionary potential is best expressed by “conscious” rappers who focus on important issues rather than babes, bling and booze. The Roots, a group from Philadelphia, are often cited as an example. Their message? “If I can’t work to make it, I’ll rob and take it. Either that or me and my children are starving and naked.”

But crime and starvation are hardly the only options. Even without a high-school diploma, a black man can probably find a job if he looks. And some manual jobs, such as plumber or cable technician, pay quite well. “It may well be that you can’t write much of a rap about training someone to fix heaters or air conditioners,” sighs Mr McWhorter.

But when it comes to more contentious political issues, hip-hop offers no plausible solutions; only impotent and sometimes self-destructive rage. In “Lost in tha System” by Da Lench Mob, for example, the vocalist says, of a judge: “He added on another year cos I dissed him. Now here I go gettin’ lost in the system.” The disrespect in question was a suggestion that the judge perform fellatio on him.

Juries - I don't like them. It just seems odd that such important matters as putting someone in jail depends on the judgement of twelve random people. As any psychologist, statistician, or philosopher (such as HORansome) will tell you, accurately interpreting arguments and information does not come entirely naturally and the mind has all sorts of short cuts that can lead even well-meaning jurors to err. Let alone the blatant prejudices shown by The Hand Mirror's fellow jurors. Part of me thinks we should train professional jurors (or "wasps") for the task, but whether that could ever be feasible I am not sure.

Cheesewatch! Be alert people, I was almost fooled but realised in time.

Life Imitating Art! for Fundy Post Paul.

And finally The Funny. A conservative news outlet goofs replacing "gay" with "homosexual.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 44 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley

If the first half of the twentieth century was the era of the technical engineers, the second half may well be the era of the social engineers' - and the twenty-first century, I suppose, will be the era of Wold Controllers, the scientific caste-system and Brave New World. To the question quis custodiet custodes - who will mount guard over out guardians, who will engineer the engineers? - the answer is a bland denial that they need any supervision. There seems to be a touching belief among certain Ph.D.s in sociology that Ph.D.s in sociology will never be corrupted by power. Like Sir Galahad's, their strength is as the strength of ten because they are scientists and have taken six thousand hours of social studies.


This is a fascinating book (and not just for Huxley's quaint ignorance of the fact that the phrase "they are scientists and have taken six thousand hours of social studies" is an oxymoron). It's a series of small, interconnected essays written twenty years after the publication of Brave New World, where Huxley says, in essence, "Well, that happened faster than I thought it would..."

It helps to have read Brave New World first, but isn't entirely necessary, as Huxley summarises all of the important parts to which he refers.

If one did want to read Brave New World Revisited, the entire book is offered online, in the link above...

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Day Today - 23rd June 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Since he could well be the next President of the United States, this is important. John McCain's memoirs of his time in North Vietnamese captivity - hat tip Reason.

Ron Paul has wrapped up his campaign - an assessment.

Christian E-Cards.

Christopher Hitchens shows how it is done. And succeeds! According to most sources Dr Cooke would have lost to Dr Craig (I didn't go because Dr Craig would not have changed my atheism, so there was little point) had the debates been scored. I think some of the criticism of Dr Cooke misses just what points he was trying to make (according to the reviews) and why. Author of Confusion through M & M accurately points out that So overall it didn’t really seem like Cooke came to debate.

Speaking very generally, your average Evangelical Christian would have no contact with non-religious texts and minimal contact with non-religious people. We are, after all, bound for the lake of fire, and are dangerous to the extent that we could lead people away from Christianity (see the second link above)! So,from an atheist point of view, what better opportunity for a bit of P.R. - with a captive audience of several hundred Christians - to point out that atheists and humanists are not all baby-eating monsters, but often quite civil folk who share many "common moral decencies" (that's the first and last time I will use that phrase)against theft and murder who despite our differences on the God question are prepared to work with like-minded folk on issues that concern us.

Zombies! Just so you know, "The Happening is not "The Day After Tomorrow"...with plants." It is a B Movie.

CNN: So a lot of people are going to see this and say, "Is this an environment movie?" Are you sending an Al Gore-like message out here, or is it just a thriller?

Shyamalan: No. 1, it's a B movie. This is the best B movie you will ever see, that's it. That's what this is. If there's other things that stick to your ribs as you walk out, that's great, but it's supposed to be, you know, zombies eating flesh.

CNN: So when you say B, you don't mean honeybee?

Shyamalan: No, I meant like, you know, zombies and killer things running around.

This is teh funny. An English Professor is preparing to sue because her students were unreceptive of "French narrative theory." "They'd argue with your ideas." !

Stephen Fry on when he first saw Doctor Who.

The week before we moved, the BBC started a new drama, starring William Hartnell. An old man, whose name appeared to be Grandfather or the Doctor, had a police phone box of the kind we saw in the street all the time in those days. It turned out to be a magical and unimaginably wonderful time machine. My brother and I watched this drama in complete amazement. The first ever episode of Doctor Who. I had never been so excited in all my life. A whole week to wait to watch the next instalment. Never have seven days crawled so slowly by, for all that they involved a complicated house move from Buckinghamshire to Norfolk. A week later, in that new house, my brother and I turned on the good old television set in its new sitting room, ready to watch Episode 2. The TV had been damaged in transit and was never to work again. We missed that episode and nothing that has transpired in my life since has ever, or could ever, make up for that terrible, terrible disappointment. There is an empty space inside me that can never be filled. It is amazing neither of us were turned into psychopathic serial killers from that moment.

More women having premarital sex equals less HIV.

This innocent enough posting by Psycho Milt turned into a fascinating mini-tutorial on warfare and insurgency, with a guest appearance by Paul Buchanan. Fascinating must-read stuff.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Conversation with a Year 11:

“You lie all the time, Sir.”
“I never lie. If you can believe that.”
“For such a short person, you’re filled with a lot of lies.”
“Here, just because you’re six feet tall doesn’t mean I’m short!”
“Sir, when you say you’re not short, you’re just lying again.”

Conversation with an ex-student:

“Were you guarding the gate at the performance a few nights back?”
“Yes. Why?”
“My brother went to the performance, and he came home and asked me ‘Who was that man teacher on the gate? The white one?’ I actually didn’t think of you for ages; You’re just as bunga as the rest of us."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Saw on the news tonight, a special report on the good things about Manurewa.

Now, far from calling the news liars (although if the suburb that housed Hewligan for almost two decades wasn’t poisoned before he lived there...), it does remind me of last week, after the school's big drama thing...

I’m waiting with the last student to be picked up. It’s around quarter past midnight, and quite cold, so when headlights pull into the street, we’re both hopeful it’s her mother. It turns out, instead, to be a carload of young men offering to sell us drugs. We politely turn them down, and they drive off. My kid looks at me.
“This neighborhood’s no good, man,” she says.
“Ah, there are worse places than this,” I reply pleasantly.
“’Rewa.” We say simultaneously.
“Where I live,” my girl continues sadly, looking at the ground.

It's just sort of depressing sometimes...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

As every practising teacher understands, resistance is a necessary factor in teaching. Soft non-resistant material takes an imprint very readily only to lose it again very quickly. Easy pupils make teaching slipshod. The difficulty but also the soundness of teaching increases with the amount of reaction in the learner. And also resistance involves a certain amount of collaboration; the thing learnt becomes a resultant, incorporating elements introduced in the struggle. It is easier to carve cheese than a good piece of wood; every piece of wood has a bias, it has to be delt with on its own terms, it has to be managed and humoured, but in the end there is no comparison in the quality and interest between carved cheese and woodcarving.

-HG Wells, The Shape of Things to Come

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

T’other day, I received word that one of my form class had a detention. I politely enquired as to the reason for it, and she wouldn’t tell me. She would only reveal her transgressions after I physically sat on my hands, because my word that I wouldn’t lunge at her and try to kill her simply wasn’t good enough.

And yes, I know corporal punishment was outlawed almost twenty years ago, but that was mainly about caning and strapping; the law is vague about throttling.

(Disclaimer: The law is surprisingly clear about throttling. Do not try this at home. Unless you’ve got Year 10s, in which case I’m living proof that it works, so go ahead and give it a go.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

One day during a poetry study, doing a close analysis of that masterpiece of English verse: Woo Hah (Got You All In Check) by Busta Rhymes:

“Mister, what’s Moet?”
“A particularly expensive French wine.”
“And what’s Cisco?”
“A particularly cheap American beer. Essentially what Busta Rhymes is saying in this line is that he is happy to forgo the fancy beverages, and will settle for the low-class, cheaper alternative.”
“But Mister, didn’t he do that song Pass The Courvoisier about how he wanted really nice cognac?”
“He did. And what does that tell us?”
“He changed, he’s a sellout.”
“Very good.”

Yes, I am the best teacher ever, thanks for asking.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

“Sir, can you come and look at the paragraph I’ve written?”
“I would, but I’ve just discovered that my laptop has Minesweeper...”

I’m not sure, but I think that after a year at this new school, I may be losing my edge somewhat...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

apathyjack version monkeypointoh online

Apathy Jack writes:

Evening all. Been offline for well over a month essentially for no reason other than I'm not so good at putting computers back together. I'll post something of my usual calibre again in the next day or so (no no, try to contain your applause - you'll make it look rehearsed) but for the time being, I figured I'd give the few of you still lingering around here something needlessly long to read. So, behind the cut is something I wrote last year, but never posted because, you know, it was too self-indulgent. But I figure after a month and a half of almost total silence, I can post what I want, and no one will notice.


You know, I’m beginning to get the feeling people think I’m not coping...

After I wrote this a very close friend of mine emailed me with real concern suggesting I get counselling. Now, this was remarkable not only because he is, in his own words, a constant smartarse, who had to break character to express his concern, but also because he hates counselling and the whole mentality behind it.

A few days later, a student told me that when I smiled, it didn’t reach my eyes...

Here’s the thing: I’m pretty good.

Am I still fucked up over leaving Hoodrat? Certainly. But that probably needs clarification.

I can, without expending more than a few seconds of brain-time, name half a dozen teachers – good teachers; most of them better than me – who were driven out of teaching by their time there. Didn’t go to another school, but actually jumped from the profession, pausing on their way out only long enough to make sure that everyone knew exactly where the blame lay. There were kids in Year 11 who, by the time I left, were onto their eighth English teacher. That’s eight separate teachers in two-and-a-bit years. Stats compiled in the last year or two showed that of the Year 13s, only thirty percent or so had been at the school in Year 9. This means that seventy percent of the students left, either for other schools, external courses, or, I don’t know, prison via the Dole office, and were replaced with kids who had been forced out of their first (and occasionally second, and more than once; third) schools.

And every year, we watched it get worse.

When I first started at Hoodrat, I was surrounded by an array of absolutely magnificent teachers – many of whom are now Deputy Principals around Auckland – and they all left, saying exactly the same thing (and I mean exactly: these people were friends, and had discussed the matter at length): Hoodrat was a good school, and, with the particular mix of staff and students, it had the potential to become a great school. However; after years of trying, they realised that they were unable to achieve this potential, so one by one they left.

But over the years, Hoodrat stopped being even a good school. We could see it happening, and a few of us tried to arrest the slide, but we couldn’t.

I mean, let’s go with Friday-before-last, where I ended up back at Hoodrat to run an errand. Story time:

Getting off the bus, I run into a group of students wandering out of the gates because, you know, school is boring. Walking past another bunch of aimless students, to the Marae, I am accosted by members of my old Classics class. They spend Classics there now, under the watchful eye of the Maori teacher, looking over the study notes I sent them a few weeks back. One gets a text from one of the several students who have actually gone to class. My replacement has walked out because the students won’t stop discussing adultery (this is not the first time he has left rather than face teenagers talking about sex – keep in mind he’s meant to be teaching them about the ancient Greeks...) and one of my boys is teaching the class.

I lose count of the students I greet on the two-minute journey to my old classroom – well over a dozen just roaming the corridors; and that’s not counting the two full classes that have simply been released over quarter of an hour before the bell is scheduled to ring. Threading my way through a maze of desks created by half a dozen students being exiled into the corridor, I burst into the room, announcing something English-teacherly like “Oi! I heard yous needed a teacher, ay.”

Non-entity that he is, it actually takes me a few seconds to register that my replacement, obviously having returned, is sitting at his desk. Any guilt I may have felt at so extravagant a faux pas is, of course, offset by the fact that by the time I see him, I’ve already noticed that yes, my boy is teaching the class, and he’s teaching them English.

I yell a goodbye, and go to sit in the back of a Dance class. It is being taken by the Drama Teacher, because, as she informs the class, the Dance Teacher is off somewhere in tears. The Drama Teacher is working the class furiously to get them up to spec for a forthcoming assessment, and at the same time taking calls from her tearful co-worker. As the students furiously step and turn, they are told that they are to be nice to the Dance Teacher when she arrives; that it’s not because of them she’s in such a state; it’s not because of them she’s leaving at the end of the year. And it’s not because of them that the other Dance teacher is leaving. Or the other Drama teacher, also exiting at the end of term. They all have their own reasons; nothing to do with the students.

“But I’m not going anywhere,” the Drama Teacher says with real tiredness in her voice. “I’m not leaving you.”

After the bell, I catch up with a few of mine, and deal with fallout from various crises. Not the least of which is that it’s just become public knowledge that The Creator is leaving at the end of the year.

On my way out, I get to talking to an old member of my form class. Well behaved and, when we last talked, the epitome of hard work, she tells me stories of being on daily report and getting stood-down. She tells me stories of conversations with my replacement; she’s an honest kid, so I know she’s not fronting when she reports saying things like “Fuck you, you can’t handle us!” She also tells me of the time the biggest boy in my class punched my replacement in the crotch, and was not punished.

So yeah, a typical day at Hoodrat High.

The staff who stayed for more than a year fell into two categories: hopelessly burned-out losers who were too afraid to try to get a job somewhere else (no, that wasn’t me, damn it!) and increasingly unhappy idealists who hated everything except the kids.

The students who stayed became close to us, because we were their best chance at an actual honest-to-god education. I had students tell me I was the only teacher who they had learned something from – students who had never actually been in my class, but through the years that they had a new teacher every term, or had inarguably incompetent clowns who couldn’t tell Shakespeare from a Bacon sandwich, I was the one who kept coming into their class to check on them, to make sure everything was running smoothly...

It’s sort of hard to explain how close you can get to people in that sort of situation. Staff and students alike became sort of like burned-out Vietnam vets; you know, not talking about it with anyone except each other; screaming out: “You don’t know, man! You weren’t there!” at random passers-by. I know that sounds at the least a bit dumb, and at the most quite comedically melodramatic, but, well... you don’t know, man, you weren’t there.

Like drugs, I guess: the lows were unspeakably horrible, but the highs made you forget about them. And, of course, like drugs, the highs were always shorter than the lows...

Like I said in that other post, while many of the experiences I had at Hoodrat were certainly not good, they were intense. Hell, the really interesting shit I got up to there, I’ve never blogged about. While a lot of it is the sort of stuff that could tip my stories from “that guy’s a weirdo, but he’s an interesting weirdo” to “holy, shit, that’s like in movies!”, it’s also stuff that could have gotten me fired if any of my less sympathetic workmates found out about it. (And by sympathetic, I don’t mean “who liked me”, I mean “who understood how things had to work at Hoodrat” – another one of those “you weren’t there” things, I guess...) Hell, there’re a few things that were serious enough breaches of professional conduct that even my new employers probably shouldn’t find out about them, just in case.

Was it hard to leave that? Yes. Especially given that I left in a hurry – I made the decision to leave on a Friday, and had accepted another job by the following Tuesday. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I made promises to the Hoodrat kids. Like the Drama Teacher, I promised them, that I would be there for them, that I would make sure they were alright.

And sure, I was just a teacher, and the world is still turning without me, but you know what? To hell with four or five kids standing on their desks and saying ‘Oh Captain my Captain’ – two students dropped out of Hoodrat on my last day, specifically because I left. I never mentioned that one because it sounded too implausible; like I’ve said in the past, the best stories I have are the ones no one would ever believe. Sure, like everyone, the stories I tell about myself are designed to cast me in a good light, make me the hero of my narrative, but they also happen to be entirely true. At the New School I’m just some guy who could never live up to the reputation he arrived with – and I’m surprisingly fine with that - but at Hoodrat, I was what I said I was, and I really made a difference in the lives of a lot of those kids. An old mentor of mine said that you need a lot of faith in teaching; that the effects of what you do may not be evident on the students for years, and they may never consciously acknowledge them But at Hoodrat I slept the sleep of the just every night with empirical evidence I was changing lives – even if only slightly – for the better.

Now, I had to leave for my own sanity; I was angry every single day. When I was actually teaching, I was happy, but every other second of every day – from when I woke up to when I went to sleep – I was angry at the Management of Hoodrat, and what they were doing to the education of my kids. I miss some of my old workmates; I look around the New School and think “Wow, think what (insert-name-of-Hoodrat-loyalist) could do with these resources/this pack of kids/whatever I’ve found that day”. And of course I miss the students. Sometimes I miss them so much it’s like a physical weight, and putting one foot in front of the other seems an impossible effort. But not even for one second in the last several months have I missed Hoodrat High as an institution.

It was the right thing to do to leave: I’m having a good time at the New School and there’s an interesting bunch of kids, whose futures I’ve already planned for them. I can see myself spending a couple of years here – if I don’t die of boredom from the lack of gang-fights, anyway. Hell, I wasn’t going to be of much more use to the Hoodrat students; spectacularly self-destructing some time in term three might have been pleasantly messy, but it wouldn’t have helped them get any credits.

Which is a needlessly long way of saying that I’m pretty good. I have bad days. But they’re mainly due to my famous lack of coping mechanisms rather than any real problems – and they are fewer and further between all the time. The rest of the time: I have a good job, I have many good friends, I live in a nice house with flatmates who like talking about books, and I have a beautiful girlfriend whose taste in men is so bad that she thinks I’m quite the catch.

Sometimes, though, the bad days leak onto the blog. You may have to live with that, but most of the time you probably won’t.

Of course, just by way of a coda: The other day, I had a long meeting with one of the New School’s broken-student-specialists about one of my form class. She started to list the problems this kid has – and just didn’t stop talking. This kid doesn’t have one problem, or even a bunch of problems spoking out from one original issue; this isn’t dominoes, it’s a multi-car pile up. Clearing my head from that, and another of mine came to tell me how upset she is over the disappearance of one of our girls. I don’t teach her – I don’t know her – but she’s vanished, and her family and friends are worried about her, and just want to know if she’s alright. I went to my class, and sat there, letting the students get up to more than they should because it was last period and my head was still spinning slightly. One of the girls asked if she could go to the bathroom, and I waved an acknowledgment. As she started to leave, one of her friends asked her how to do part of the work. She sat back down. “It’s okay, Sir,” she called out to me. “I didn’t really need to go to the toilet – I just wanted to go for a walk, but now I’ll do this.”

I tell you, kids, it felt like coming home...

Party Political Broadcast

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

As regular, or even intermittent, (since postings to Brain Stab are now very intermittent) readers of Brain Stab are aware, your correspondent is a libertarian as is evidenced here for example. I hold my political opinions with love, and the second most painful thing to me (behind seeing them inexpertly defended) is seeing them inexpertly attacked. Such a travesty occurred in last week's edition of "Craccum". Sadly, Craccum's website has not been updated in four and a half months(!) and so I reprint below the opinions of "Doug and Matt H" with my comments following that:

~~ Take a vacation from reality in fabulous libertopia! ~~

There's an election on the horizon. You may have heard. And there's
only one political party in New Zealand committed to liberty,
freedom, and individual rights. Libertarianz - the New Zealand party
of Principle. Too bad they're batshit insane.

Initially, you may think that the ACT party and Libertarianz are more
or less identical - but there are a few key differences. To begin
with, ACT got more than 946 votes in the last election. Secondly, ACT
is (according to Libertarianz) not "rational" enough. Yes that's
right - there is a political party with more regressive and harmful
policies than ACT! ACT is to Libertarianz as to what Pepsi Max is to
liquid cancer - a more consumable form of evil.

The cornerstone of the entire Libertarianz philosophy is that people
will always act in their own rational self interest, and that THE
MARKET will take care of any shortfalls in the supply or demand of,
well, anything. Not just goods, such as delicious ham or pure strain
gold bullion, but more abstract products and services, like
health care and education. THE MARKET will decide what schools teach,
and who owns them. If you think poor AUTU has a hard time claiming
legitimacy, spare a thought for the McAuckland Boys Grammar School of
Culinary Enflavourment.

The problem (or rather, of a multitude of problems) with
Libertarianzism is that there is no such thing as a rational actor.
The concept comes from economics, and states people will act in their
own rational self interest when presented with multiple choices. This
theory works fine until stage two economics (or until any other
paper), when you learn that everything from stage one only works in a
fantasy land where people have equal and complete information about
everything. A Libertopia perhaps, located underwater, away from
meddlesome Statists and other irrational persons. While most people
can accept this, and don't build their entire world view around
delusion of being some type of rational thinking Ubermensch Captain
of Industry, Libertarianz chose to ignore it. For example, this is an
actual quote from the Libertarianz website:

"All the evidence shows, for example, that health care in a free,
rational society will be vastly superior to the current die-while-you-
wait state health system. But, doctors will not be force to treat
those whom they do not wish to treat. The context of a more rational
ethos should be kept in mind at all times."

The Liberianz fetishisation of a "rational society" ignores that such
healthcare policies already exist, and perform badly, in countries
like the USA (where people don't die waiting in a queue to go to
hospital, for the simple reason that they could never afford
hospitalization in the first place, and instead die in the comfort of
their own homes) and Somalia (where a trip to hospital costs more
than all the goats in your village combined).

The reason Libertarianz cling to the "rational actor" concept with
such passionate ferocity is because it's only part of the larger
philosophy they subscribe to- Objectivism. Objectivism is the all-
encompassing big brother of Libertarianism, and includes strictures
on everything from ethics to aesthetics. Like Libertarianism,
Objectivism was founded by Ayn Rand, a charming lady who looks a bit
lie a more mannish Helen Clark. One is a pseudo-socialist and the
other is a bitter former socialist with clear fantasies of being
dominated and oppressed by men.

In New Zealand the most vocal Objectivist movement is the Sense of
Life Objectivists, who have a delightful website called SOLO Passion.
Although it sounds like a support group for chronic masturbation,
it's actually home to pseudo-intellectual wankery of a much less
honest sort. We could have made a more obvious joke about
masturbation, solo passion, and individualism, but that would have
been way too easy. In any case, it is not surprising that Lidnsay
Perigo (Premier and First Chairman of SOLO Passion) founded the
Libertarianz party, the party for the individual. The current "Big
Man" is Bernard Darnton, easily identifiable due to his decidedly
irrational "eraserhead" hairsyle.

Here's a free suggestion: if you're feeling bad about yourself one
day, spend some time on SOLO Passion. It has articles on how Comrade
Lindsay's favourite music is objectively the best music, why
worthless fiat money should be replaced by the purestrain gold
standard, and features objectively terrible web design and
contributors. Given time, we're sure there'll be articles on
reptilian shapeshifters in the treasury, the many benefits of
drinking colloidal silver, the international lords of finance (J-E-W-
S), and the fleet footedness of The Negroid. This would certainly be
consistent with the idiocy found in the objectivist and libertarian
movements of other countries.

But to return to one of the more entertaining facets of the
Libertarianz - their policies. Even at a glance, it is clear that the
only criteria used to develop these were "will it cost me MY MONEY?"
and "can THE MARKET do this?" Not surprising then that THE MARKET is
their solution to everything, including (most disastrously)
education. All education will be private, and those parents that
can't afford to send their children to school will receive help
from "private charities." Ah, just as they did in the years 0AD-
1900AD. Of course. Then again, won't parents have more money, what
with the almost 0% tax rate? Perhaps. Or perhaps inflation will
simply occur at an accelerated rate, since the public will spend
more. In a fully privatised education system, parents will have the
right to determine what their children learn at school, from Flat
Earth geography to Biblical literalism. Apparently in Libertopia, the
freedom for parents to choose whichever irrational, unscientific and
flatout wrong ideas their children are taught will lead to a better-
educated society, free of the nanny-statism that would have been
subjected to.

Aside from education, Libertarianz apply the glacial might of their
frigid, clockwork minds to employment law. Their suggestion is, well,
that there should be no employment law. Or at least they don't
actually mention anything about it in their policy. They promise
to "get the goverment's agent out of your business, and slash the
regulation that allow them access". Goodbye minimum wage, health and
safety requirements, the 40-hour week, the range of anti-
discrimination requirements, the right to union membership, and
everythign that stops from becoming and indentured slave. Of course,
Libertarianz would agree that this would never happen, and that
employees would be free to find gainful employment elsewhere. This
line of thought is fantastic, in the sense that it is fantasy.

Libertarianism seek to dismantle the structures which exists to
prevent corporate abuse, monopolisation, and all the bad things that
go along with capitalism in our current economic environment, under
the bizarre assumption that this will somehow result in less of the
above. Historically, the combination of THE MARKET and total
deregulation has produced arguably superior economic growth than in a
more regulated market. However, this comes at great personal and
environmental costs, as citizens are packed into ghettoes and forge
into chain gangs. The locked doors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
meant that in 1911, 148 garment manufacturers (mostly women) were
agonizingly burn to death when the factory accidentally caught fire.
The Captains of Industry stood callously back, counting their money
and laughing. But never ind the fats, full steam ahead to Libertopia!
In the country dreamt of by Libertaianz, the following situation,
described by Noam Chomsky, noted linguist, activist and filthy
statis, would be a common occurrence:
"Suppose someone facing starvation accepts a contract with General
Electric that requires him to work 12 hours a day locked into a
factory with no health-safety regulations, no security, no benefits,
etc. And the person accepts it because the alternative is that
children will starve."

It takes a certain type of person to agree with and identify
themselves as libertarian. Either they're aware of the consequences
of Libertarian policy and don't care because they stand to benefit
from the millions of deaths resulting from "Market Correction",
they've never had any real world experience with money, or they have
aspergers syndrome and are incapable of understanding this emotion we
hu-mans call "compassion". The entire system of ethics and morality
espoused by Libertarianz goes no further than "FUCK YOU, I GOT MINE,"
while bandying around vaguely placating concepts of "private
charity." Even then, the motivation for donation is not altruistic in
any sense, or grounded in the idea that people dying from starvation
is intrinsically a "bad' thing; instead, contribution to charity is a
means of rationally increasing your own self worth. Even when
attempting to do something good, they manage to do it in the most
evil and selfish (read: rational) fashion possible.

Unfortunately, none of Libertarianz grand policy concepts will ever
face the harsh light of reality, since donating money to a political
party which fials to gain over 1000 votes is inherently irrational.
We suggest you visit their website ( to gain a
fuller understanding of their particular brand of insanity. We should
note though - in anticipation of angry libertarians assaulting the
Craccum offices with outraged letters written in crayon - rejecting
Libertarianism, and the views of Libertarianz, odes not mean that
you're a raging leftie, a socialist loonie, or a communist. Rejection
of objectivism is not an endorsement of Nanny-statism.

Should you wish to experience firsthand the results of
Libertarianism, you can either move to Somalia and seek your
fortune/death, or play the wonderful game Bioshock, which involves
running around a leaking, unsafe underwater city while mutated
libertarians and objectivists try to steal your blood. In the even
you still think voting libertarianz is a good idea in the face of
overwhelming evidence, consider what they suggest renaming the
country to.

"Libertarianz, while respectful of many aspects of our Western
heritage, will sever constitutional links with the British Crown and
establish a new Republic of New Freeland.."

New Freeland. It's enough to make you vote ACT.

Doug & Matt H

So there you have it Gentle Reader, if they are to believed then what kind of monster must I and my libertarian brothers be? But they are not to be believed as in the best traditions of exuberant student journalism there is much heat but precious little light, let us parse and Fisk.

In paragraph three we are greeted with the following - The cornerstone of the entire Libertarianz philosophy is that people will always act in their own rational self interest. Actually no, far from it. Libertarians do not believe that people always act "in their own rational self interest" at all, as my fellow traveller Peter Cresswell will attest. Libertarians do not offer a "Libertopia", with all the Utopian connotations, all we offer is a system better able to handle things going awry.

If it were true that people always acted rationally then this would undercut some of the pragmatic (though not moral) foundations if libertarianism. If people always acted rationally then you could have an army of economists beavering away, doing their equations on what people would rationally want and being able to centrally plan the economy through computer models. In practice, since people do not always act rationally, they cannot. What is more, our non-rational actors are strings to libertarism's bow.

Why? For the simple common-sense reason that it is not a good idea to put all of your eggs in one basket. Let's look at something important, like food, that is left for the market to provide, and compare it to anything of similar import (health or energy) run by the government. If New World runs out something that I want then the Foodtown up the road will most probably have it. The health and energy sectors are taken aback each year by predictable events such as an influx of patients due to winter flu and low lake levels due to a dry summer respectively. Think what would happen if food were run by the state. What supermarket everyone went to would be decided by majority vote once every three years, and that supermarket would take your food budget straight out of your wages irrespective of how much or even if you went to the supermarket that week. Finally, whereas each private supermarket in the country has latitude in what it buys, our government owned supermarkets all follow the same line decided by one minister, and if he gets it wrong...

It is very easy for any political viewpoint to offer visions of milk and honey, when things go wrong, as inevitably happens under any system, only The Market provides the variety of strategies and speed of response prevent things being as bad as under non-market systems.

Leaving aside the easily dodged barb that health care in the United States - with its heavy level of government intervention - is a blow to libertarianism, one cannot help but note the frequent references to Somalia. I.e. "Should you wish to experience firsthand the results of Libertarianism, you can either move to Somalia". This misunderstanding, conflating libertarianism with anarchy, is easily made since there are people like Murray Rothbard who straddle the two. But strictly speaking libertarians, especially those of an Objectivist bent attacked in the Craccum article, believe in a very strong state. Strong on upholding the security, life and property of its citizens and nation as a whole, but constrained itself by a strong constitution. The rule of enforced law plays a big part in libertarianism, it does not play a big part in Somalia.

Following on from this is Matt and Doug's misapprehension that work under libertarianism is, again, a free-for-all. This is not the case. When you work for someone you are under their care and they will have the duty to ensure that your work environment is safe (i.e. that you can safely exit your factory if it catches fire). You will also still have the right to join a union, they will not be banned, just as your employer also will have the right to prevent his employees from joining a union. The laws that make it more burdensome to get rid of staff (and more of a risk to hire them) and wage laws that make it more costly to have staff (meaning fewer will have jobs)

Lindsay Perigo and The Objectivists are drawn into the fray for no obvious reason. Not all libertarians are Objectivists and Lindsay hasn't even been heavily involved in the party for the past decade. Even still I suppose it is to Lindsay's credit that they had to resort to making up viewpoints (on Jews and Negroes).

To end on a happier note, Matt and Doug did get two things right. First they concede that "Historically, the combination of THE MARKET and total deregulation has produced arguably superior economic growth than in a more regulated market.". Secondly, and more importantly, they implore their readers twice to go to the Libertarianz website to find out what we really believe in. We've just registered on the Colmar Brunton poll as well - the only way is up from here. If you have time the following brief animation is a superb introduction, and this article argues that "Everything you love you owe to Capitalism"