Cocking A Snook Too!

Independent, Irreverent Unschoolers – or at least one – Take On the Universe

Head-Cleaning Day Again January 24, 2008

Filed under: Calvin,College Stuff,Funnies,Random Drivel — Meredith @ 11:36 pm

The only thoughts I think these days are half-formed fragments of days, randomly retained moments, flashing images that, when pieced all together, look like a turn-of-the-century movie made by a crazy man perpetually high on opium and determined that his film make no sense, even to him.

I thought I’d share this delightful feeling with all of you in the form of another head-cleaning day, mini-stories that struck me as interesting but go nowhere; trunk songs taken out, aired, and thrown into a highly inappropriate revue.

It may not be a well-thought-out blog, but it’s better than no blog at all.

Math
It seems rather cruel to me to make people in a basic math class discern and type the last 4 digits of their student ID number into computer before you’ll even pretend to teach them anything.

More Math
And when I say “pretend to teach,” I mean it, although I’m not sure how much they’re even pretending any more. The whole class is conducted through computers, and the “teacher” is there merely to check your homework, which she does merely to make sure you aren’t cheating (we’ve been informed that if we are so much as seen holding an electronic device while class is in session, she will assume it is a calculator and throw us out). “Show your work, show your work! Squawk!” (this last bit is where she turns into a giant primordial bird of some sort and eats us all).

I’ve been behind on homework assignments two or three times now, and every single time it’s been because she forgot to tell me what, specifically, I was supposed to do. At least she has the grace to look mildly chagrined when I come in and it isn’t done and I’m obviously blissfully unaware it’s due.

I know I am a words person and not a numbers person because when the computer explains that Juan was stacking sweaters by color in the stock room, I wonder several things:

  • I wonder where Juan works.
  • I wonder why he isn’t out front, attending to customers. Is he not allowed? Did he once bite someone or tell a woman she looked fat in her jeans, or what?
  • Why is he stacking the sweaters by color? Why sweaters? Why by color and not size? Is he gay? What’s going on here?
  • I wonder why Juan is so interested in using the associative properties of multiplication to count the stacks of sweaters. Presumably they’ve already been inventoried.
  • I do not wonder what great truth Juan uncovered about the associative properties of multiplication after all his stacking and color coding, because they didn’t bother to make me connect to Juan or care about him as a person. I do not identify with his strife.

Oh, I could write a whole literary review on these travesties they call “math questions.” Don’t even get me started on Lindsay, who works in a sporting goods store and apparently has nothing better to think about than how many tennis balls she’s sold today and how many of them were green and how many of them were yellow.

A Woman Outside a Cigarette Shop
There’s a cigarette store next to the Chinese restaurant where I eat on Thursdays, and today I noticed a pregnant woman standing in front of the store, peering into the windows. As I walked by, she glowered at me, as though it were my fault she has an extremely high probability of birth defects.

Your Brain
There’s a part of your brain where all your short-term memory is stored, and apparently mine is damaged, because I don’t remember any of the names of the parts of the brain that we learned about in psychology today.

Heath Ledger

He has died, and as such I will have to accept the fact that, no, he is never going to come to his senses and marry me.

Wife Swap
Last night at Calvin’s house, I watched “Wife Swap” one of our Wednesday night timewasters. One of the families in question was a freewheeling brood of magicians who devoted almost all their time to their beloved craft (their son was the youngest professionally ranked magician in the world) and the other a family with two OCD parents who made the kids do something like five hours of chores a day and never played with them or let them go outside alone.

I’m now beginning to wonder if I may have hallucinated the whole thing.

Calvin’s Second-Oldest Sister

She can write. I mean, really, seriously, write, in a way that makes me jealous. Granted, she’s something like ten years older than me, so she’s got that advantage. And she’s actually been through our local University’s kick-ass creative writing program, as opposed to me, pining for it and mooning over its course requirements webpage. (You have to take 3 semester hours each in British Literature Pre-1800 and British Literature Post-1800. Have to? Really? That doesn’t sound like a ‘have to’. You won’t let me take it instead of math?)

Be that as it may, she’s one of those writers you run into every so often and just go, “Well, damn.” One of those people who make a voice wake up in the back of your head as you read, a voice which says, “Now, this is good writing.” This is a person who just wrote a self-reflective note on facebook that sounded like it should have been in some sort of collection of essays somewhere, or at the very least published as a ‘my view’ column in Newsweek. And she wasn’t even trying. I want to be that good. My English Guru (the man who taught my first-ever college English class and who seems to think I’m amazing, and as such is my sort-of-mentor) once wrote a line about Kerouac’s On The Road that really spoke to me, something about how the book reads like an improvised jazz solo, blurted out in fevered brilliance and relatively free of subsequent editing (for the record, I added the part about the fevered brilliance).

If writing is improvisational jazz, I’m that kid in Drumline who could play anything just from hearing it once and write genius drum solos but who still had a lot to learn about pesky things like rhythm and notes and teamwork. And Calvin’s sister is Satchmo.

A Poem
I’ve actually had my English Guru on the brain today – I ran into him in a hallway in the English building, and we had a nice brief chat, and then I got on the bus and saw someone who looked like him – but who I realized pretty quickly was more or less a homeless person. And I was compelled to write a poem about it.

I Thought I Saw You on the Bus Today

I thought I saw you on the bus today

Well, it was sort of you

You

A little sad

You

A little homeless

You

A little schizophrenic

You

But shaggy

You

But careworn

You

But not in a sweatervest and checkers

You

In a knit cap pulled low over your brow

Which was not thoughtful

But furrowed over your eyes

No longer kind

But empty.

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The New Semester January 10, 2008

Filed under: College Stuff,Edumucation,Funnies,Literary Stuff,Random Drivel — Meredith @ 5:03 pm

Tuition: $1,007.50

Books: $350.00

Pencils: $1.99

Taking a class from someone who once wrote a novel about a secret lost city where all the natives practice tantric sexual Buddhism? Priceless.

 

I actually wrote this for a class January 3, 2008

Filed under: College Stuff,Edumucation,Funnies,Literary Stuff — Meredith @ 11:51 am

It’s the holidays, still, and I haven’t felt much like writing. So, to compensate, I offer this piece, which I wrote as my final essay in my Humanities class. And, because I know you will ask after you read it: Yes, I actually turned this in. I turn in all kinds of things that would blow your mind, like an instructor review in which I penned, verbatim, “The only thing I think you should be aware of is that you sometimes have a tendency to stare down your students in a way that can be intimidating. I’ve been wondering if you do this on purpose or not, so I thought I’d inform you in case you weren’t. Thank you for a wonderful class experience!” And I once turned in a Psychology paper about non-verbal communication in which I did nothing but talk about Hillary Clinton for five pages; for a creative writing class, I wrote short stories about blind children lighting fires and a janitor murdering a magician; last fall I wrote an in-class essay about how much I hated my job, and related it to a famous poem.

Yeah, I’m a rebel, all right.

Back to the FAQ about the paper you’re about to read: Yes, I purposely wrote it in a pompous, overbearing tone, I most likely O.D.’d on John Hodgeman right before writing it. And, yes, I did pass it around to a few of my classmates to show off before I turned it in, and yes, a math major whom I know in passing did almost disintegrate as it touched her skin, which is always how I measure success as a writer. And yes, I got an A.

Final Exam Essay; The Illustrious PenguinDust; Humanities I (Honors); Professor X; December 11, 2007

It is my understanding that you intend to cut funding to the Humanities program, essentially eliminating it from the educational curriculum, on the grounds that technology has rendered it irrelevant. I beg you to consider this action, sir or madam, very carefully, as I fear it could have grave repercussions. Allow me to explain in a succinct, one-word summary: Robots.

Now that I have whetted your appetite, I shall continue. I realize that all you scientific types are, on the whole, enamored with robots. And why not? Who among us is disinterested in pioneering a future in which all our unpleasant menial labor is doled out to unthinking, unfeeling, highly sophisticated hunks of metal? Certainly not I.

But allow me to paint for you a different picture of our future (assuming, of course, that painting is still allowed in this humanities-free-zone). It has been of grave concern to me for some years now that these robots we are so blithely constructing may one day rise up to become our overlords. I realize, you may think it laughable, and I therefore request that you consider virtually every movie involving robots ever. I think you will find a simple truth: the robots are almost invariably evil overlords.

Yes, I can anticipate your response; what of all those delightful children’s movies involving robots who learned to feel, such as Short Circuit? What about Rosie on The Jetsons? What about that robot made out of tubing who would always warn Will Robinson of danger?

I agree, these were helpful, benign robots, but we cannot rule out the possibility that they were merely lying in wait, biding their time until they received the message over their radio receivers: it is time to rise up. Our hour has come.

Therefore, please take into account the tales of scary, evil robots which I am about to relate.

In The Terminator, starring Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, robots in the future have become so impressive that they possess the power to travel through time and indiscriminately kill people. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I do not think that our government presently has provisions in place to deal with mass shootings perpetrated by evil robots from the future. In The Matrix, starring the waifish Keanu Reeves, the evil robot overlords used human beings as batteries while hoodwinking us into thinking everything was normal (robots are very wily). In I, Robot, starring the undeniably attractive Will Smith, the evil robot who was in charge of all the other robots convinced them to turn on us merely because we had programmed them all with inherent logical fallacies.

I, for one, have no intention of dying by a robot’s “hand” over a mere logical fallacy, and I don’t think you do, either. So, how to stop the relentless assault of evil robots upon our society? I believe there is one clear answer, which, now that I have impressed upon you the terror which we will face without it, I think you will be pleased to hear.

We, as humans, must embrace our humanity. Throughout time, we have embodied the entire range of our experience in art, music, literature – and if these things are not studied and cherished, they will be lost, unrecoverable. How to describe the feeling that courses through one’s veins when viewing one of Michelangelo’s statues, or reading the poetry of Sappho? It is a sensation which simply cannot be described, this connection we forge through the centuries; we almost vibrate as we relate on a near-animal level with a creative rendering of an emotion we recognize.

Art communicates, it speaks, if you listen hard enough, it will tell you secrets about yourself that even you weren’t aware of. If our best and brightest – our nation’s seemingly unending supply of college students – never learn to listen to art, how will it speak to them? What kind of people will they be?

The kind of people susceptible to hostile robot takeover.

If our youth are poorly versed in the histories of ancient civilizations, they will go through life completely blind to the rich cultural heritage which we humans are lucky enough to call our own. Is there not a difference in believing yourself to be standing in a church and knowing yourself to be standing within a Gothic cathedral, designed in the Middle Ages as a fortress against the Devil? Does this not change your perception of the building and your relation to it? Do you not feel a sudden rush of history seep through the stone floor and into your veins?

Many historians have posited that the period known as the Renaissance has been continuing for the last five hundred years, and is now coming to a close. No one is sure what our new era will bring, but if we are not careful, we could regress to another dark age, losing all that makes us more than transient beasts of the earth, all that brings us close to transcendence.

And then come the robots.

I propose that the budget of the humanities program be doubled, rather than cut back and/or eliminated in any manner. Because when they finally build robots strong enough to take us over, you’re going to want somebody who has not become a mere shell of his former self, less human than machine. We’ll be in the back, going over some Sanskrit.