I put the donkey ears on “teaching” to this purpose. I do own a tweed jacket, though as a priestly colleague has pointed out, it lacks the regulation elbow patches. That is about the extent of my formal credentials as a pedagogue, yet by unlikely fate I have found myself “teaching” sometimes, at the “post-secondary” level, on a variety of topics — from development economics, to science and scientism in Hellenistic times, to the elements of typography, to the prehistory of modern journalism, to proper English Lit — and these days will do almost anything for money.
My father was also reduced to teaching, on several occasions — medicine, for instance — in addition to art, when it was discovered in a certain developing country that he actually knew some anatomy, and had access to a nursing textbook belonging to my mother.
From him, I learned to cite Hippocrates: “First do no harm.” The young, shall we call them, have almost invariably greater capacities for learning than will be revealed in modern schools. This is not only because their wee minds are therein seldom teased nor challenged. It is also because subjects are taught to them in a methodically lethal way, dispensed in cubes from the intellectual freezer, by teachers who, as a general rule, know nothing of the subjects themselves. (They have specialized degrees in “education.”)
I retain vivid memories of a Canadian high school where best efforts were made to kill my budding interests in poetry, theatre, music, art, biology, physics, math, &c.
There are, as George Bernard Shaw once counted, two basic methods of teaching. One is “education through art,” in which the student learns essentially through mimesis, by doing and making, gradually unfolding himself, as a flower to the sun in the moist air, feeding upon the nutrients beneath him — rich soils collecting through time. And the other is through torture. Each has its own standards. (I’m not against torture as a last resort.)
The expression “education through art” could easily mislead the literal-minded, who may not realize that science is an art. One acquires science by doing science, starting at the most rudimentary level, with small children, magically enthralled. Moreover, the various subjects are entwined. To master biology, for instance, one must learn to draw, in order to observe with precision. Physics, which naturally pairs with math, also pairs with music, which turns to pair with dance. The art of writing requires the art of reading, but vice versa equally so. And as throughout this world, while body and soul stay united, form has everything to do with content; meaning everything to do with style. Neither, and nothing, can be “prioritized”: until it comes time for the waterboarding.
“First do no harm.” God has set before every teacher this anciently humane instruction. Even if he should fail to do a student any good, at least do no evil. Do not repel him from the book forever; nor clutter his head with falsities. Even the torture should be carefully administered, leaving a prospect of some better way, and the happier alternative of following it.
David Warren, “Sigrid Undset”, DavidWarrenOnline.com, 2014-12-04.
February 13, 2016
February 9, 2016
“So Sybil’s ancestors used to come along and talk to the hermit whenever they were faced with a philosophical conundrum, yes?”
Willikins looked puzzled. “Good heavens, no, sir, I can’t imagine that any of them would ever dream of doing that. They never had any truck with philosophical conundra.* They were aristocrats, you see? Aristocrats don’t notice philosophical conundra. They just ignore them. Philosophy includes contemplating the possibility that you might be wrong, sir, and a real aristocrat knows that he is always right. It’s not vanity, you understand, it’s built-in absolute certainty. They may sometimes be as mad as a hatful of spoons, but they are always definitely and certainly mad.
Vimes stared at him in admiration. “How in the hell do you know all this, Willikins?”
“Watched them, sir. In the good old days when her ladyship’s granddad was alive he made certain that the whole staff of Scoone Avenue came down here with the family in the summer. As you know, I’m not much of a scholar and, truth to tell, neither are you, but when you grow up on the street you learn fast because if you don’t learn fast you’re dead!”
They were now walking across an ornamental bridge, over what was probably the trout stream and, Vimes assumed, a tributary of Old Treachery, a name whose origin he had yet to comprehend. Two men and one little boy, walking over a bridge that might be carrying crowds, and carts and horses. The world seemed unbalanced.
“You see, sir,” said Willikins, “being definite is what gave them all this money and land. Sometimes it lost it for them as well, of course. One of Lady Sybil’s great-uncles once lost a villa and two thousand acres of prime farmland by being definite in believing that a cloakroom ticket could beat three aces. He was killed in the duel that followed, but at least he was definitely dead.
* Later on Vimes pondered Willikins’ accurate grasp of the plural noun in the circumstances, but there you were; if someone hung around in houses with lots of books in them, some of it rubbed off just as, come to think of it, it had on Vimes.
Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam, 2013.
February 7, 2016
Published on 2 Feb 2016
Matt Inman keynotes the first ever BAHFest Seattle and he’s here to fix some problems.
BAHFest makes its Pacific Northwest debut at Town Hall Seattle, with the all new theme “Big Science.”
Kathy Shaidle recounts the painful moment of transition:
And it was during the 1990s — that is, my 30s — when That Thing I’d heard tell of and had dreaded ever since finally happened to me:
Every new! hit!! song!!! sounded like it was being played at the wrong speed. By an all-chimpanzee band. From inside a padlocked storage container. Kids these days…
February 5, 2016
Duffelblog reports on the kind of boaters the US Coast Guard has to rescue:
Nearly 83 percent of mariner rescues since 1960 involved unrelentingly stupid behaviors and/or people, according to a recent study by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Though the service treats all search and rescue situations equally, most on-scene commanders will privately admit that a majority of the time “it was just some dumb bastard with no concern for personal safety,” according to the study’s authors.
“These statistics are unthinkable,” said Coast Guard spokesperson Lt. Carla Willmington. “Our service prides itself on response time, SAR organization, and comprehensive rescue pattern analysis. But it’s tough to stay on task when the bulk of these cases involve people paralyzed from the neck up. ”
The U. S. Coast Guard Office of Search and Rescue report examined nearly all cases handled on inland and offshore waters from 1960 through 2014. Following the Federal Boating Act of 1971, increases in cases by “fucking idiots” and “goddamn morons” have been staggering, and very challenging to the service as it struggles to operate under a minimal budget.
Between 2010 and 2014, the most recent years studied, incidents involving “total assholery” increased from 10,687 to 38,335.
January 22, 2016
Yeah, I know it’s a bit late in the year to still be publishing lame “top ten” roundups, but these are pretty funny:
1. Sex partner must say ‘yes’ every 10 minutes or it’s rape, 10th graders taught in California
2. Princeton student say he’s victim of microaggression over way he says ‘Cool Whip’
3. Study urges people to accept those who ‘identify as real vampires’
4. Professor: Harry Potter Helped Obama Get Elected
5. All-You-Can-Eat Taco Bars Deemed Offensive, Face Campus Extinction
6. Harvard Students Celebrate ‘Incest-Fest’ (tied with: Harvard University workshop to teach students how to have anal sex
7. Professors: Motorists more likely to run over black people than white people
8. Professor’s Book Hails ‘Apostle Barack,’ Compares Him to Jesus
9. University axes homecoming ‘king’ and ‘queen,’ replaces it with gender-neutral ‘royals’
10. Sexuality courses: Black dildos are proof of racism against African Americans
Update: Oh, wait. Sorry. These aren’t actually headlines from the satirical website The Onion. They’re all real headlines. My mistake.
January 19, 2016
Published on 18 Jan 2016
JourneyQuest 3 is funding on Kickstarter now! Click here to renew the show for a third season: http://vid.io/xqEB
Now on Kickstarter! Renew JourneyQuest for an epic third season, featuring the ongoing adventures of Perf, a dyslexic wizard with a quest problem.
Watch the first two seasons here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…
January 17, 2016
Perhaps I’ve been lucky to have (mostly) avoided this restaurant serving trend:
I’ve been away seven weeks now, travelling, working, researching a book, seeing friends, but it’s time to come home; I miss plates.
I’ve been staying in London mostly, visited other cities from there, and then I was in Dublin for a while. In all these places I ate out a lot, and I can report that the restaurant industry is in the midst of a tableware crisis. There’s barely a plate to be found any more, and the first time you’re served a dry-aged rump of beef with celeriac gratin, chanterelles and red wine jus on a cutting board, it’s possible to be charmed.
After all, you are not a tablecloth, but soon the tide of things being served on other things that were just not meant to be served on starts to wear on you.
I have a high whimsy-tolerance. Doctors have often remarked upon it. Sometimes half an hour into a puppet show involving a talking reflex hammer and a musical stethoscope, a doctor will say, “This is very unusual,” and make a note on my chart, but recently my whimsy-tolerance has been tested.
I miss plates. Why, in one day on this trip, I was served breakfast on a chalk slate, lunch on a clip-board and dinner on a wooden cutting board shaped like a clover leaf. I’ve been served frites in a beer stein, and the ones I could reach were delicious, and so my verdict was a resolved “Fun!” – until my slow-baked quince, wild honey ewe’s yoghurt, bee pollen and almonds arrived in a vintage teacup balanced on a strip of artfully weathered barn board, and then the next morning at breakfast, I was served a waffle on another waffle with maple syrup in a stem vase.
What was under that waffle I do not care to know, but everything I’ve been served of late suggests that that non-plate waffle presenting item was handcrafted from a substance that Dwell magazine would call “reclaimed ash flooring from a demolished church in Ohio,” and the rest of us would call “wood.”
I miss plates.
January 16, 2016
Sure, Donald, sure. Ted Cruz is the Great Canadian Menace. After all those years of sitting above us, seeming so polite and hockey-obsessed, drinking their Molson’s and eating their Tim Horton’s doughnuts … the Canadians have been carrying out their elaborate ruse, lulling us into complacency while their sleeper agent gets into place. We’re on to their tricks! We know their bacon is just ordinary ham! Once President Cruz is in the Oval Office, they’ll take back the Washington Nationals, change Z to “Zed,” ban fourth down, blast Celine Dion from public loudspeakers, give us something to cry aboot! President Cruz will turn us into the “U.S. Eh”!
Jim Geraghty, “Trump: Hey, You Know Cruz Is a Canadian Ineligible for the Presidency, Right?”, National Review, 2016-01-06.
January 9, 2016
If your favourite team isn’t in the NFL playoffs (that’d be 20 of the 32 teams), Draw Play Dave is here to help you figure out which of the lucky playoff teams you should be supporting:
The 2015 NFL Playoffs ARE FINALLY HERE! Playoff football is the most fun part of the entire year, except if your team is actually in the playoffs, because then the stress is unbearable. But this isn’t for those fans of (twists face into sheer contempt) “good teams.” Not all of us were so lucky to have our team actually do well this year. For most of us, our team sucked, and we need someone to fill that hole for the remainder of the year. It’s time to sidle up and pretend to be friends with a winner so you can save what’s left of your sports emotional state.
This is a difficult process. Which team is so deserving of your love? Why should any of these teams win if your team had to sit at home? Which of these teams winning would piss off people you hate the most? Well, there are a couple of guidelines to follow if you need assistance:
- Root for the underdog, unless they are a hated rival team
- Root for the team with least amount of historical success, because those fans deserve some happiness, unless they are a hated rival team
- Root for the team that annoys you a little less
- If you are a glory seeking butthole who doesn’t care about anyone but you, root for the team with the best chance to win
With those guidelines in mind, let’s take a look at every team in the playoffs, with pros and cons for bandwagoning each team.
January 3, 2016
41 Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don’t find out til too late that he’s been playing with two queens all along.
42 Pets are always a help in times of stress. And in times of starvation, too, of course.
43 Captain Quirke was not actually a bad man; he didn’t have the imagination; but he dealt more in the generalised low-grade unpleasantness which slightly tarnishes the soul of all who come into contact with it – rather like British Rail.
44 Goodness is about what you do. Not what you pray to.
45 The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.
46 They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.
47 Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.
48 It occurred to me that at one point it was like I had two diseases – one was Alzheimer’s, and the other was knowing I had Alzheimer’s.
49 I commend my soul to any God that can find it.
50 So much universe, and so little time.
Selected by Martin Chilton for The Telegraph, 2015-08-27.
December 29, 2015
Forces TV on the widespread practice of renaming recruits when they report to their unit:
It’s common enough in civvy street, but it seems that it’s definitely standard issue in the British military. For decades, service personnel have had their names changed the moment they’ve arrived at their first military unit. Usually by a smart-alec superior.
Of course the fresh-faced recruit is too junior to protest, if s/he even understands the black humour behind their re-christening. The nickname may stick with them for the rest of their career, and will be used all the more if it particularly upsets the poor soldier / sailor / airman lumbered with it. It may stick with them for the rest of their life: I’ve heard many tales of only mothers still persisting in calling their sons by the name they chose for them; to everyone else they have become what the Army redesignated them. For good.
Former members of the military like to reminisce about these days in online forums. One of the more repeatable tales on the Army Rumour Service’s website goes like this:
“Best I ever met was a Sergeant Kennedy nicknamed EDY. Legend had it that he had rocked up at the regiment as a shiny new Trooper and presented himself to the guardroom. The Guard Sergeant had looked at the scrawny young man and asked
“Kennedy, Sergeant” came the reply
“last three?” asked the Sgt
long pause, followed by
20 years later, he’s still known as EDY.”
Military nicknames frequently replace a person’s Christian name for that of a famous person, with whom they share a last name. Someone called Black becomes “Cilla”(especially if they’re male); Barker is “Ronnie”; Gordon attracts “Flash”.
Further examples include “Nobby” for anyone named Clark or Hall; “Buck” if your last name is Rogers, “Perry” if it’s Mason and either “Burt” or “Debbie” if it’s Reynolds. Not forgetting Dicky Bird, Chalky White, Smudge Smith, Dinger Bell, Swampy Marsh, Grassy Meadows, Snowy Winter and Happy Day.
December 28, 2015
It takes a while, sometimes, for news to reach me from Kampala, Uganda. But a correspondent alerts me, this morning, to the result of the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court, declared on Saturday, 12th June, 2010. It is big news indeed: signatories have agreed to make starting a war into a grave international criminal offence. Henceforth, anyone who starts one goes straight to The Hague, to be disciplined for his improper behaviour. This means he could face years of hearings. Surely, knowing that will stop aggressors dead in their tracks.
How relieved one feels, to know there will be no more wars.
As my correspondent mentions, this may seem a small thing in the labour of ages. But it is a first step, a “baby step,” decisively in the right direction.
I entirely agree, and look forward to further efforts by the United Nations, on behalf of the ICC. For I think they should also have laws against earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes.
David Warren, “Nuremberg revised”, DavidWarrenOnline.com, 2014-12-05.
December 27, 2015
31 Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.
32 The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.
33 It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.
34 There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.
35 The entire universe has been neatly divided into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks.
36 Here’s some advice boy. Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That’s why they’re called revolutions.
37 If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.
38 Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.
39 Inside every sane person there’s a madman struggling to get out.
40 I’m not writing ‘The A-Team’ – if there’s a fight going on, people will get hurt. Not letting this happen would be a betrayal.
Selected by Martin Chilton for The Telegraph, 2015-08-27.
December 24, 2015
If you hurry, you can just get your Santa’s Visit Application in before the deadline tonight!