Thursday, 23 June 2011

This is why, in an ideal world, they provide teachers with three month's paid vacation. A STUDENT who disappeared in Week Four appears during the office hours SEK is holding in Week Ten. STUDENT: Hi Scott! SEK: Do I know you? STUDENT: I'm from your afternoon class! SEK: I know everyone in my afternoon class. STUDENT: I may not have been there in a while. SEK: Define "while"? STUDENT: Some stuff that happened. Also things. SEK: How many classes did stuff and things cause you to miss? STUDENT: I was there for that class about how cameras work. SEK: Which one? STUDENT: The directors'? SEK: Which one's? STUDENT: Camera? SEK: Is that a quesiton? SEK can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, he only wishes he couldn't. It's just that some complaints are as inevitable as Phil Collins bringing bombast to fanfare, and this particular complaint most certainly pulls a pure Phil Collins. STUDENT: I don't know. I'm confused. SEK: As am I. Who are you again? STUDENT: I'm in your afternoon class! SEK: Then why don't I know you? STUDENT: Because some stuff and things happened and I stopped attending in Week Four. SEK: I'm sorry you had to go through stuff and things. Life is tough. What can I help you with now? STUDENT: What do I need to do to pass the class? SEK: Which one? STUDENT: Yours. SEK: The one you didn't attend? STUDENT: But I have a draft of my Rhetorical Analysis that I wrote to make it up to you. SEK: Make it up to me? This isn't about you making it up to me. It's about— STUDENT: Can you at least take a look at my draft? STUDENT hands SEK a draft of her "Rhetorical Analysis." As he thought, it was a "Rhetorical Analysis" as performed by someone who had no idea what a rhetorical analysis is. SEK: This isn't a rhetorical analysis. STUDENT: It's about a horror movie. SEK: That wasn't really the focus of the class. STUDENT: It was called a horror class. SEK: The emphasis was on the creation of suspense. STUDENT: Saw II was suspenseful. SEK: Suspenseful torture porn, which if you were paying attention during the few classes you actually attended, you'd have remembered that that's a genre I repeatedly specified we'd be avoiding. STUDENT: But I heard you talking about it so it still meets your requirements. SEK: No, it doesn't. STUDENT: Yes, it does. SEK: How? STUDENT: I analyze the effect of a horror film. SEK: One I explicitly banned. STUDENT: That was the assignment. SEK: That was not the assignment. STUDENT: But it was! SEK: Then how come no one else in this class produced a similar document? STUDENT: You'd have to ask them. SEK: But they're not here now, so I'm asking you: how did twenty-four students aim their arrows at the same side of the same barn and strike it (with varying degrees of thump and wobble)? STUDENT: Some teachers don't push 'em hard enough. Who has 'em aiming at barns and all when they...
I Hear the Noise about Thy Keel* Apologies for the silence, but it's been a long, very long, year capped off by a tragedy, and I've had difficulty getting the motor going again. The words burn to write them, but about a month ago my friend Alan died. This is him, at a party, wearing a stupid shirt back in 1992: When a friend posted this photograph on Facebook, I joked that I remembered that party—and I do—but that I must've been fourteen when it was taken, and turns out I was a year off: Because there's Alan shooting me a dirty look for some wise-ass comment I must've just made and I didn't have a beard until I was fifteen. The thing of it is, I knew Alan primarily online: we met on a BBS, corresponded through early iterations of the Internet, and reconnected on Facebook a few years back. Much has been written about online culture and the nature of "friendships" that're maintained solely online, but none of them quite get what it was like in those first days. I've been trying for more than a month now to find some way to capture just that, and have failed miserably, miserably, and miserably again. Nor will I find success here. But that look on Alan's face and that shot from across the room as I cover my mouth to hide whatever words just escaped it, that's a bit of it. I'm not the best at being human—by all conventional standards, I'm an abject failure—but I always could find a place with words, and that place has been, for most of my life, online. I ended up teaching literature for much the same reason, obviously, but I wanted, and have wanted, to acknowledge this debt to our shared pioneer frivolity for some time now. And now, maybe, just maybe, I'll find my words again, because as anyone who knew him knows, the last thing Alan would've wanted was for his death to shut me up. *Alan would've smacked me for titling this post thus—or for even using the word "thus," or perhaps for not using "thusly"—but this time, I get the last words. (Even if they're not my own.)

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