When In Doubt, Go With the Dick Joke

We spent some quality time last night debating with ourself the best way to frame an Important Discussion about student rights in cyberspace, using three recent examples:

  • A Pennsylvania school district being sued because it used webcam-equipped laptops to spy on students at home. (The district admits using the webcams as a “tracking-security feature,” but denies the spying.)
  • A student winning a state case against a Florida school district that tried to punish her because she started a Facebook group called “Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I’ve ever met!”
  • A federal appeals court splitting decisions on two similar cases where students mocked their principals with fake MySpace profiles.

After considering whether to use Apple’s 1984 commercial to illustrate what would undoubtably be a fascinating discourse about the unintended consequences of modern technology, we came to a stunning realization: Suburban pornographic tree-stump carvings are a lot more amusing.

School used student laptop webcams to spy on them at school and home [Boing Boing]

LMSD response to invasion of privacy allegation [Lower Merion School District, Pennsylvania]

Student’s Facebook Tirade Against Teacher Is Protected Speech [Wired]


The neighbor has schlong on the mind.

As for the school boards. Well, I’ve had beefs with certain teachers and profs. Not enough to go all medieval digital on them although I’m pretty sure I would have seriously thought about it and then stopped because I was afraid of what my parents would think.

Ugh, I was pretty close to being the permanent proto-conservatroid injenear and even a borderline neocon twit based on my background and parent serving ways. Only thing that saved me was harsh reality and the fact that I took and enjoyed (!) real humanities courses as my non injenear electives (history, French and Russian–don’t ask.)

They’re pixilating trees?

BTW. After the power crew did their line-clearing I’ve got several ‘stumps’ could really benefit from this treatment. Important to have a unifying theme in a landscape.

The hard-on reflecting in the pool near the end of the segment was really tasteful – if you measure it by the standards of bachelor party videos.

With Manchu going through what he is, and you make dick jokes? Sheeze, thats cold man, that is cold.

No probs at my, um, end. They’re not removing that… yet.

re: the webcams–I am increasingly convinced that many adults (particularly school districts) in this country simply forget or don’t believe that minors have rights. I usually see it in the connection with censorship, people mocking the very idea that the First Amendment applies to grade schoolers too.

re: pixelating trees–I was a grad student in France when the Great Janet Jackson Wardrobe Malfunction happened. Every few days in the ensuing weeks (months?), they would briefly mention with great bewilderment towards the end of the evening news that U.S. America was still agog over a brief flash of bewb on the teevee, and that people were going to be fined thousands of dollars. Meanwhile one of the over-the-air Franch networks broadcasts softcore porn every Saturday night. I would love to see their collective reaction to this video.

@finette: re the webcams and lawsuits over Facebook campaigns and fake profiles. It’s been clear for a long time now that schools are run as if they were minimum-security prisons and the pupils are treated as if they were convicted criminals. Calling in police officers to subdue unruly grade-schoolers, even ones as young as kindergarten and first grade, is the manifestation of it that outrages me most. It has happened more than once in the town I live in, and I have read news stories about such incidents from various parts of the country.

@lynnlightfoot: The neighborhood middle school near my house needs to be run like a juvie institution. They had three lockdowns last semester for gun related incidents (visitor shows gun at nearby alternative school, kid points gun at bus, one other that my lack of sleep addled mind can’t remember; also, girl in fight cut by own shank hidden in bra). A kid got tased for attacking a security guard last semester.

While the Santa Fe middle school/junior highs are generally regarded as the worst schools in a mediocre system – no Native American males make AYP in the public schools here (I’ve seen the data) – much of the crime and violence sorts itself out by high school because the vast majority of the bad guys drop out. Son of RML is at the Catholic school down the road and a world away.

I’ve been wanting to sell and get out of our declining neighborhood, but Mrs RML says we won’t make what we should on the house. In the meantime, I’m thinking about how we can prevent or mitigate the third burglary in four attempts at our house.

Jr just clued me in on the PA case today. This is gonna be good…

I just read about the news about the webcams in the paper this morning. Scary part is that Lower Merion is actually the rival of the high school I went to.

Honestly, this whole thing is fucked up, but I can’t say I’m surprised. A few years ago, a big stinque was made when a friend of mine wrote on a bathroom wall, “It’s people like you who make people like me bring guns to school to hug people like you,” and the school lost its fucking mind. For the record, when I say he was a “friend,” I mean that I actually knew the kid. I had a some classes with him, I’d been over to his house a few times and I was even friends with his girlfriend at the time.

He’s certainly the kind of person who would scrawl something stupid on a bathroom wall as a lame attempt at satire, but he’s not the kind of person who would have actually brought a gun to school and tried to harm other people. Every person at school who’d ever spoken to him–even the teachers–knew this. The problem wasn’t that he was vandalizing school property or even what he wrote, but the timing of the whole thing. I guarantee you that if it had happened before those murders in Lancaster, no one would have given Cameron a second thought. The school administration certainly didn’t seem to give two shits about the myriad racist, homophobic and antisemitic graffiti that was already plastered around the school.

The worst part about the whole thing is that the school didn’t even really do anything about it. Cameron was arrested and expelled, but that’s about it. The school changed their policy for a few weeks to make it so that you had to sign your name on a sheet of paper each time you went to use the bathroom, they made all of the exits from the school lock from the outside and they put up this glass box thing at the front of the school that made it so that you had to be let in by the receptionist if you wanted to enter the school. None of this really changed anything, though. Kids still wrote on the bathroom walls. They still came and left through the cafeteria and gym. Hell, even the glass entrance box thing was an utter failure. I can’t tell you how many times I came to school late just to be let in by other students because the receptionist wasn’t there to push the button for me. The receptionist even let me through without signing in or anything after I graduated.

@JNOVjr: The receptionist even let me through without signing in or anything after I graduated.

Now that is some scary shit. Returning to HS after you graduated, I mean. BTW, did you scare up any Mudhoney yet?

@Nabisco: Now that is some scary shit.

Tell me about it. The girl I was dating back then was a year behind me, though, so I figured I might as well pop in for a visit. School security is a joke. The whole thing was a farce and Cameron suffered so that RHS could save face. As you may have guessed, I’m still pissed off about it, 3 years later. You know what’s really funny, though? Cam was probably the only person back then who had a sense of humor about the whole thing. The parents lost their shit, the school board shat bricks, the students RAAAAAAEEEEEEG’d and Cam just laughed.

BTW, did you scare up any Mudhoney yet?

Not yet. I haven’t been getting a lot of computer time lately. Interestingly enough, someone actually suggested them to me the day after you did.


Yeah, the NM schools are a bit of a mess: I did some work with them a while back field-testing 11th grade science questions for the standardized testing program. A sample question, that certainly didn’t make the cut:

The stratosphere is a layer of Earth’s atmosphere. Radiant energy from the sun can ionize ozone molecules in the stratosphere. In your answer document, identify and describe 1 natural process and 1 human activity that affect the ozone layer.

We’ll start with the first problem: the Sun does not “ionize” ozone molecules. There’s a reaction where UV photoproduces ozone, which is the *whole point* of the ozone layer, but the reverse isn’t true.

Not that that stopped the students – if the DOE doesn’t know the answer, the students don’t have much of a chance. We saw tons of “the Sun destroys it”, mixed with a whole lot of global warming. Guess the ozone hole just isn’t this generation’s crisis.

This was probably the worst glitch I came across, but there were plenty more – for instance, the question about genotype vs. phenotype that made the unfortunate selection of cheetahs as an example. For the less-nerdy out there, cheetahs are presently *heavily* inbred – to the point that their immune systems won’t attack tissue from other cheetahs. We actually saw a few students *mention* this…

Every time I see a politician droning on about “accountability in schools via testing”, I snicker a little. The tests are shamelessly manipulated throughout the whole process, by filtering out questions that students don’t know the answers to or by accepting extremely marginal answers for credit. Then, they expect teachers to bet their careers on a test that’s administered without any oversight – my department tried to catch the cheaters when we could (ie, when teachers had left POST-ITS on the test with revision instructions…) but it’s not possible in general.

[off-topic rant OUT]

guess who went to lower merion high school for 4 years?
our very own ratbastard.
who tells tales of smoking weed with teachers, including one ms. tildon, the german teacher whose cup size inspired legions of students, and sexually abused RB. he doesn’t see it that way. he thinks he’s the luckiest motherfucker that ever went to high school.
lower merion, yeah.

oh wait there’s more….
RB just told me the woodshop teacher was handing out magic mushrooms and everyone’s project was bong making.

@JNOVjr: You don’t know how great it makes an old man feel to hear that he was at least one day sooner on the recce for this band.

A little help with my feeding tube here, son?

hey beesco, how’s the self regulating going?

@Nabisco: Why? This is nearly inchoate noise. I can’t even make out a chord cadence. These people charged people money to listen to this stuff?


yes he did. my daughter went to harriton and mixed with the LM crowd because there were so few kids. both great schools, btw.
it was surprising when i answered a knock on the door and looked out the peep hole at a neck. kobe himself. my daughter was a friend.

other weird kobe connection: i was meeting clients at a restaurant the very night lower merion had their senior prom in that hotel. i arrived to see the hoopla going on with him and his date brandi (!)
after dinner we wandered over to the ballroom, no one stopped us, so we had a few dances and laughs. in addition to already knowing him, i went to his prom!


The recording Nabisco links to sounds like what you get if you tap into the PA feed coming out of a small club setup – tons of vox and cymbals, a touch of bass (to get the subs going) and almost no guitars (as the PA is being used to make everything else audible *over* the full-stacks).

Add that mix to a grunge band, and you’re pretty much nuked any chance of hearing whatever chord progression *might* have been present.

And maybe it’s just me, but I tend to reserve “inchoate noise” to describe things like this. Turn down your speakers before listening…

@al2o3cr: Interesting. How do you notate stuff like this?


A good question – I haven’t got the foggiest idea, as the majority of stuff like Merzbow is performed by the same person who wrote it, limiting both the need for formal notation and the availability of such, even if it existed.

The closest I’ve seen is things like “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” which is a music theory textbook favorite – a graphical score with lots of annotations.

I’ve got a old Ph.D. thesis here entitled ‘The Future Is Happening Already’: Industrial Music, Dystopia and the Aesthetic of the Machine (Karen E. Collins, 2002) that does a pretty good job of notating several tracks in a somewhat expanded traditional notation. I can’t seem to locate it online due to copyright issues, but hit me up at my username @ gmail if you’re interested.

@FlyingChainSaw: We played a few avant-garde charts in high school. Maybe they had staff bars, but they were mostly scribbles that we were free to interpret at will.

And that’s exactly how they sounded.

@nojo: Yes, but you still have chord changes and a written head section even for the most free-form avant garde works. The measure bars and time signatures can be dismissed but there have to be some harmonic contours to frame the improvisations. This Merzbow stuff doesn’t seem to have any of that. Sounds like a cat being nailed to a telephone pole while someone is tossing marbles into a blender.


I think that’s what he’s going for… :)

I don’t know of anyone who actually *listens* to that type of music on a daily basis; it’s more like the Hákarl of avant-garde music, enjoyed partly out of novelty and partly out of bravado.

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