Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom
“There are many different races of bagels.” “Like a woman seduces a horny man, Hitler captivated the people of Germany.” “Globalization is a word combined from the two words global and ization (sic).” “Sometimes, people are born with ambitious genitalia.” “I’ve lived my whole life on the west coast and to me, the Civil War seems like a really really long time ago (sic).” Oh yes, savage reader, Shit My Students Write is that kind of party. Ostensibly drawn from teacher submissions, this blog could be one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen, and it still would be even if half the student blunders on display here were made up from whole cloth. I don’t think any of them were made up, though. I really, truly believe that there are high school students somewhere out there in the great bulge of America who honestly believe that “The potato literally encouraged the Irish to over-breed” and “Revelation is an event in which God relieves himself.”
But How Does It Scan?
Ours is an Age of Compression. The Huffington Post compresses all your favorite newspapers into a weapon that kills newspapers. The Famous Bowl compresses an entire Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise into an inedible bricolage. And just today I read about some clown in Baltimore who intends to compress the whole of James Joyce’s Ulysses into a series of Twitter posts (using your unpaid help). But that’s not to say that the Age of Compression is wholly artless. The Movie Barcode blog is one of those rare compressed entities that turn less into more: It is a series of collages, thin vertical lines of differing colors, shades and textures, drawn from feature films. I don’t know how it’s done and I probably wouldn’t care if I was told. These collages—which are not barcodes, strictly speaking; you can’t scan one and get Office Space—are worth significantly more than the probably dull technical means used to make them: They reveal, in one elegant sweep, a film’s entire palette. Disney’s Aladdin is jewel-toned. The Shining is white and blue with a lot of red in the middle. And unsurprisingly, Black Swan is very, very dark.
Things I leaned in five minutes of reading through So Good, “an absurd look at the world of food”: I learned that Triple Double Oreos taste much the same as regular Oreos, only there’s more of them. I learned that Tim Pawlenty, if elected president, would spray chemicals on Michelle Obama’s organic garden on Day One. I learned that a lot of people think that celery “tastes like tears and desperation.” I was confronted by Burger King’s new “Meat Monster”; I recoiled in horror at the notion of bacon-scented cologne; and I chose, under the (hypothetical) gun, between onions and garlic. I know I say this fairly often, but So Good is terrifically fun to read; it’s one of those blogs that becomes a daily habit purely on the strength of its outlook. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, it’s not what So Good is about, but how it is about it—and no matter how tasty or disgusting the featured food item is, the bloggers deliver an informed and entertaining opinion that’s largely free of sarcasm. It’s all too easy to mock the Meat Monster, but So Good takes the high road and asks us to consider it on its merits. Its meaty merits.