2006

Merry Christmas 2006!

Merry Christmas! Merry warm, rainy, miserable Christmas! I should have gone north for the holiday. Oh well.

Too much turkey sausage at dinner, I nearly collapsed at the table. Kosher makes me sleepy.

My family is starting to warm up to the idea of not getting each other presents next year. I think that with roughly eleven months until the next Christmas buying season, there might be enough time to convince them.

Two days from the trip up to the Cackalackies and Virginny. I’ll get to see all my college buddies for the first time in a long time, and maybe, with a little luck, get to see some snow.

3 Responses to “Merry Christmas!”

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    December 26th, 2006 at 11:00 AM

There’s no snow in Hooville, and none in the forecast either. It’s been unseasonably warm.

  1. twink Says:
    December 27th, 2006 at 5:04 PM

“My family is starting to warm up to the idea of not getting each other presents next year. I think that with roughly eleven months until the next Christmas buying season, there might be enough time to convince them”

If I miss my Hickory Farms basket next year…..

  1. gatorbob Says:
    December 27th, 2006 at 10:12 PM

Merry Christmas, my friend. Over the past few years KC and I have started treating each other to one big gift to each other that we talk about before the fact rather than trying to race around in November and December looking for things to put under the tree. So last year we did a day at the spa for each other and this year we’re going down to Miami for the first time. One of my Gainesville buddies is having a birthday bash on New Year’s Eve that we’re gonna crash. Should be fun. Here’s hoping you have a happy and productive 2007!

If you decide to accept this award, turn to page 36.

Looks like Time just isn’t trying anymore. They went the Choose Your Own Adventure route and named “You” as the Person of the Year—that’s right, you!

Henceforth, you will be mentioned in the same breath as the Ayatollah Khomeini, Deng Xiaoping, Gorbachev, Hitler, the “Endangered Earth,” the Computer, American women, the “Middle Americans,” the “Generation Twenty-Five and Under” (now aged 40 to 65), U.S. scientists, “the American Fighting-Man,” and Bono!

Mommies will tell their children to grow up to be just like youYou will appear on all the weekday morning talk shows, the Sunday morning politalk shows, and Oprah! You will be the hot topic of discussion at water coolers! You will be read about in waiting rooms and hair salons for two whole weeks! Congratulations.

Unfortunately, “Person of the Year” does not entail a prize, so you will receive no reward beyond the accolades of your friends and families–who are also yous, and thus were similarly honored by Time, creating a recursive loop of congratulation and appreciation.

Imagine if the Nobel Foundation gave a prize to you. Roughly $1 million divided by 6 billion people would come to one-sixtieth of a penny per you–which happens to be just enough money to get a splinter trying to pick it up.

4 Responses to “If you decide to accept this award, turn to page 36.”

  1. ticklemeelmo Says:
    December 17th, 2006 at 11:32 PM

Are you sure that “Time” didn’t award the ewe as person of the year? I mean, it IS a sheep after all, and who doesn’t like a nice tea cozy this time of year?

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    December 18th, 2006 at 6:52 PM

Well, considering the runner-up was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (I’m-a-dam-nutjob, as Bob Arail put it), I’ll take it being YouTube et al instead.

  1. gatorbob Says:
    December 20th, 2006 at 3:10 PM

Quite a postmodernist move from Time, particularly coming only a month after The Atlantic Monthly’s “100 Most Influential Americans” list, which conforms to the “Great Man Theory of History.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200612/influentials

You’ll notice that there is one African American in the top fifty (MLK, natch, at #8) and have to wait until #30 for a women (Elizabeth Cady Stanton). The list would have us believe that American culture is dominated by politics (and Presidential politics at that) whereas an argument could be made that our lives have been much more fundamentally altered by scientists, musicians and writers.

  1. VDV Says:
    December 20th, 2006 at 5:23 PM

I think that humans have an inborn tendency to see politics and power relationships in terms of king and subject, or parent and child, therefore we think that the most important American at any given time is the President. Thus, the list has 17 Presidents.

Scientists and businessmen are probably more likely to make the list than musicians and writers because it’s easier to identify the individual founder of a particular company, discoverer of some scientific law, or inventor than it is to signify a particular individual as the “inventor” of jazz, or method acting, or of a particular genre of writing, etc.

I do think that American culture is dominated by Presidential politics–it’s the biggest sporting event of them all, and it only comes around every four years. Like the World Cup, but with a multi-trillion dollar budget and the fate of the free world on the line.

I’ll never forget when one of my coworkers sincerely blamed George W. Bush for the leak in her ceiling, or when another one blamed him for the distribution of my school’sFCAT bonus money. If that doesn’t show how much politics dominates our psyche…

Response to “You’re awesome old student.”

A former student who seems not to have mastered the concept of homophones recently e-mailed me for advice. I tried to reply, but kept getting nasty messages from some guy named “Mail Delivery Subsystem” explaining that my e-mail didn’t go through. So I am posting his letter and my reply in a last ditch attempt at contact. First, his e-mail:

Hey Mr. V,

It’s [name deleted]. Yeah, bet you’re thinking “what does he want” and all that stuff. Thing is, I have to tutor someone at APUSH, who happens to be in your class, and have never done this sort of thing before. Any recommendations? It would be much appreciated. Also, glad you liked the new Bond movie.

[Signed]
You’re awesome old student you hate

My response:

I would recommend charging a very high fee. I would also recommend working with an APUSH test prep book such as Barron’s, Princeton Review, or Cliff’s Notes. My favorite is the “Amsco Flag Book”:

http://www.amazon.com/United-States-History-Placement-Examination/dp/1567656609

When he’s reading a chapter from The American Pageant, advise him to read the first two or three introductory paragraphs and the last two or three paragraphs beforereading the rest of the chapter. If he knows “where he’s coming from” and “where he’s going,” he might be better able to understand the chapter in terms of cause and effect.

Also, there’s a timeline at the end of every Pageant chapter. He should copy that timeline onto a sheet or two of paper, skipping a few lines between each event. Then he can go back and add dates, information, notes, whatever he wants, and have his own annotated timeline.

Final Recommendation: if he or she is one of my students, tell him or her to come by before school every once in a while and ask me questions. That’s part of what I get paid for. I hope it helps.

–Mr. V.

Please note that this advice is only for this former student and whomever he is tutoring. Absolutely no one else should heed it.

2 Responses to “Response to “You’re awesome old student.””

  1. ticklemeelmo Says:
    December 4th, 2006 at 10:23 PM

My spidy-sence is tingling! Is Mr. V actually offering HELPFUL suggestions? Well I must say I am in awe. Looks like Mr. Scrooge is in the Holiday spirit.

  1. twink Says:
    December 5th, 2006 at 4:57 PM

I would skip the tutoring and brush up on my homophones.

On Clemson vs. South Carolina.

The game itself was disgusting, but here’s why the Tiger-Gamecock rivalry might have become the best in college football:

Man kills friend over $20 football bet.

That article is from si.com, but here are some juicier details from the Charlotte Observer’s subscribers-only website:

James Walter Quick watched the South Carolina-Clemson game Saturday at his friend’s house in Lexington, S.C., about 100 miles south of Charlotte. The Gamecocks came from behind and won, 31-28.

Quick celebrated.

But his friend, Clemson fan Richard Allen Johnson, said the Tigers shouldn’t have lost and refused to pay, authorities said. So Quick left the house and retrieved a high-powered rifle from his Chevrolet Corsica.

“He went back in and told Richard, `I want my money or I’m going to shoot you,’ ” said Lexington County Sheriff James Metts, adding that both had been drinking beer.

Metts said Johnson’s wife and several friends told police that Johnson then said: “You can’t shoot me, I’m invisible.”

And Quick replied, “No you’re not.”

What did I tell you? Seriously, how many murders occurred over this year’s Notre Dame-USC game? Or Ohio State-Michigan? Or Florida-Georgia, or Florida-FSU, or any other games?And even if there were any murders, how many of them were over a bet of twenty dollars? And how many of them featured the welcher claiming to be invisible? He should’ve said he was bulletproof.

Let’s do a little math. Mr. Quick can plan on living another 26 years, based on three assumptions:

1. The State of South Carolina chooses not to execute him,

2. Average male life expectancy at the time of Mr. Quick’s birth was 68 years, and

3. He is not sentenced to serve life in any prison in upstate South Carolina.

So, assuming 26 years in prison, his time in prison divided by twenty bucks yields a result of approximately 475 days in prison per dollar rightfully won. Throw in Mr. Johnson’s shattered family and Quick’s own ruined family, and you’ve got a downright principled man in James Walter Quick.

2 Responses to “On Clemson vs. South Carolina.”

  1. Andrew Jackson Says:
    November 28th, 2006 at 11:47 PM

Aye, many a man would shriek all sorts of absurd remarks when facing the barrels of my dueling pistols. My personal favourite was “But I’m as immortal as the Bank of theUnited States!” And when I did, in fact, destroy that wretched bank, I dare say that Whig needed new trousers.

Hold fast,
Andy J.

  1. gatorbob Says:
    December 4th, 2006 at 8:03 PM

How ’bout those Gators!


On turning 30 (for real this time).

No. Dear God, No. NOOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Okay, well, yes. I really don’t see what the big deal is about turning thirty years old. My hair didn’t turn gray or fall out overnight, my bones don’t creak, nothing is any different than yesterday. It’s no big deal.

Besides, on this birthday the entire nation is celebrating with me. I flipped on the tube this morning and there were parades, floats, and smiling people on channel after channel. I picked up the paper, and it turns out that the airports and highways were jammed full of travellers going to be with their families on this momentous occasion. Every school and most businesses in the nation are closed today, and the NFL is playing three games today instead of Sunday.

My family’s getting together in a few hours to eat a turkey with dressing, stuffing and fixins… but so are all of my relatives who couldn’t be with me today! They’re eating the same thingas we are on my birthday! It seems like everyone in the entire country is getting turkey, just to be like me.

I am honored beyond my capacity to express myself. Thank you, America. I love you all.

This sort of national observance of my birthday has happened before, such as when I turned two, thirteen, nineteen, and twenty-four. I’m not sure what the relationship is between those particular birthdays, but if this is the treatment everyone gets on their thirtieth, then no one has any business complaining about it. Happy 30th to me, and gimme my drumstick.

On Casino Royale.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and do not wish to have certain elements of the plot revealed to you, don’t read this post. I mean it.

ADDITIONAL WARNING: If you haven’t seen the movie yet and have no intention of doing so, I hate you.

When I was ten, I began reading the James Bond novels, in as close to the correct order as I could manage. That meant starting with Casino Royale—the only one of Ian Fleming’s novels that hadn’t been made into a real movie.

Technically, it had been put on film twice, first as a one-hour television special back in the 1954, with Barry Nelson as an American “Card Sense Jimmy Bond” and Peter Lorre as LeChiffre. Aside from having the best-cast Bond villain ever, it was forgettable. The second production was the 1967 comedy with Peter Sellers, David Niven, Orson Welles, JacquelineBisset, Peter O’Toole, Woody Allen, and a Burt Bacharach theme—you can imagine how that turned out.

But for years, the people that made the real Bond movies did not own the rights to Casino Royale, and Bond cinematic canon would remain incomplete… until last week.

Did I like it?

Well… Let’s just say that my biggest complaint was that I didn’t like the rifling inside the gunbarrel in the famous motion logo.

Aside from that, great flick. This was the movie I’d literally been waiting twenty years for.

For starters, it was closer to the source material than any Bond movie since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The novel’s plot was almost totally intact. The writers changed the bad guys (it’s 2006; SMERSH and the Soviets are no more), added an hour or so of background and a cliffhanger to lead in to the next movie. The only thing noticeably absent was Bond’s flirtation with relativism during his convalescence, before being abruptly snapped back into the reality of the Cold War.

I must humbly apologize for my October 2005 post suggesting that Daniel Craig might be a wuss. In that post I wrote, “Bond is supposed to be a heavy-drinking, chain-smoking, mildly cruel, womanizing badass.” I don’t remember seeing any cigarettes in the movie, but Craig nailed the rest. Maybe it’s unfair that Brosnan, Dalton, and Moore didn’t have the benefit of great writing and a shot at character development like Craig did, but too bad. Craig is the best Bond since Connery, period.

I did not, as feared, have any difficulty telling the two major Bond girls apart, because the first one was dead before the second one was even on screen. Nice and easy. Vesper was beautiful and vulnerable, Solange was available and disposable. Vesper was also a step or two ahead of Bond… just like she was supposed to be.

Mads Mikkelsen was great as Le Chiffre; an evil, amoral, cruel, nervous, desperate middleman, the link to a greater evil: Mr. White’s anonymous employer. Mr. White was good as the stand-in for the novel’s SMERSH agent. But the last time we saw the SMERSH agent, he was carving Cyrillic letters into Bond’s hand and walking away—Mr. White was not quite as fortunate.

I’d heard that there wouldn’t be much action in this movie. Wrong. The fight scenes were brutal. The free-running at the construction site was jaw-dropping. The airport chase was pretty good, and Bond’s smirk at the end was classic. The building collapse in Venice was an interesting way to go after the bad guys, and was capped by the closest thing to a tender scene you’ll ever see in a Bond flick.

I’d also heard that there were no gadgets. That’s not totally accurate, because it turns out that having a biometric tracker in your arm and a defibrillator in your glove compartment can come in pretty damned handy.

I’m shocked that they included the torture scene—I thought for sure that the producers would weasel their way out of that one. But they stayed true to the novel there, too. I was cringing the whole time, but at least it wasn’t a real carpet-beater. I will say that as much as I loved this movie, it’s disgraceful that it wasn’t rated R. That scene did not belong anywhere near a PG-13 movie. If Licence to Kill was an R, then this was an R.

Now, to evaluate the staples of the Bond movies:

Pre-credit sequence: pretty good. The most original one we’ve seen, for several reasons: it was the first black-and-white action we’ve seen in Bond movies, the first use of flashback, the first time the gunbarrel motion logo was at the end rather than the beginning, and it was Bond’s veddy firstest mission.

Credit sequence: cool, different. I liked the playing-card motif better than the scorpion motif from Die Another Day, or the oil motif from The World is Not Enough, or the transparent-plastic-water-pistol-lookin’ crap from Tomorrow Never Dies. I liked the brief flash of Vesper’s face.

Title song: whatever complaints you may have about Chris Cornell’s song, let’s just be thankful that they didn’t try to cram the movie title into the lyrics. It’s an okay song, and certainly better than that Madonna abomination from the last film.

“Shaken, not stirred”: nice little change-up, though I think it slipped right past the audience.

“Bond, James Bond”: near-perfect application of the line. Mr. White is in an awful lot of trouble.

Aston Martin: cool car; I love that he won it in a card game, but did I see correctly that the steering wheel was on the left side? That’s wrong.

“M”: I think they should’ve gone with a new M, since they recast everyone else. But I did like the somewhat motherly treatment of Bond; it mirrors M’s fatherly treatment of Bond in the novels. I also liked the reveal that M is an initial rather than a standard code. The original M was Admiral Sir Miles Messervy.

When I watch a movie, I usually think about what they could have done to make me like the movie better. With Casino Royale, I’m hard-pressed. It was just about as good as it could have possibly been. I would’ve liked to see them make a poster in the style of the Signet paperbacks, or similar to Fleming’s own design for the hardcover—that would’ve been cool.

I was thrilled that this movie was finally going to be made, and I’m thrilled that they made it as well as they did. Here’s hoping that they put the same effort into the next one.

2 Responses to “On Casino Royale.”

  1. aabrock Says:
    December 8th, 2006 at 1:15 PM

Finally saw it…thought it was great. As some of you may know, I have totally burnt out on the Bond movies that place the survival of the human race and/or world financial system on the line so thank goodness we have a more realistic (!) plot with a serious James Bond. To add further fuel to the fire, I think both of the Dalton movies are excellent partly due to Dalton playing the role as serious as Moore played it hammy, and the plots were smaller in scale. Especially “License to Kill”, which has taken ‘carpet beater’ treatment by most of the people with whom I discuss it.

But back to Casino Royale…I come at it from a different perspective because I never read the book, although I did watch the two film incarnations (totally forgettable, and I mean that as I have absolutely no recollection of them anymore). I’ll be seeing it again, but the comments I have for now are:

Worst things first:
– Horrid title sequence…the song, the card theme, ugh. Did not like it.
– Vesper at the end in the elevator…probably the most graphic depiction of a person drowning I have ever seen, very disturbing but then that is my problem.
– That’s about it

Great things:
– Daniel Craig as serious, impulsive, non-omnipotent Bond
– Vesper’s (what a cool name) character development – when Bond said ‘Please, allow me’ I didn’t think there could be anything to make me sympathic towards her again, but I found myself feeling sorry for her anyway.
– The whole Bond-parkour sequence at the construction site. Slick. If you like this kind of thing, check out Luc Besson’s ‘District B13′.
– The atypical ending…what happens at the end of EVERY other Bond movie (except for the second best Bond movie OHMSS)?
– “Yes, considerably” – that is my kind of Bond, in a nutshell

  1. gatorbob Says:
    December 11th, 2006 at 5:34 PM

I agree – best Bond in yonks. I never doubted that Craig had the chops because I’d seen him a lot of British films. Best bet – check out “Layer Cake,” which got a limited release last year. But avoid “The Mother,” in which Daniel hooks up with a septugenarian widow. Blech!


R.I.P. Uncle Milt.

Milton Friedman died today at 94 years old. He was probably the most influential and certainly the most famous economist of the latter half of the 20th century. Since I cannot concisely do justice to his contributions to the field of economics, I’ll take the easy way out by listing one achievement and then posting some links.

I say his most important contribution to economics was his argument that misguided government policy–not unrestrained capitalism or market failure–was the primary cause of the Great Depression. He convincingly made his case in A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960, co-written with Anna Schwartz. The part dealing with the Great Depression was reprinted as The Great Contraction, which I was lucky to find in a used bookshop near Dupont Circle in D.C.

My favorite Friedman books are Capitalism and FreedomBright Promises, Dismal Performance: An Economist’s Protest; and Free to Choose, co-written with his wife Rose.

He’ll be missed; may God rest his soul.

2 Responses to “R.I.P. Uncle Milt.”

  1. gatorbob Says:
    November 21st, 2006 at 9:04 PM

With all due respect to the deceased, good riddance to bad rubbish. What you’ve conveniently missed out on in your summary is that Friedman’s (and his mentor Friedrich Hayek’s) ideas were used to cloak policies that enriched the already rich and screwed the working and poor of this country. Let’s face it: supposed adherents of the “ChicagoSchool” have been in control of the government since 1980 and the government hasn’t gotten any smaller, has it? No, unfortunately it wasn’t big government that was drowned in the bathroom of Grover Norquist’s fantasies. It was real flesh and blood New Orleanians who were drowned because Bush and co. didn’t give a damn. Katrina laid bare the true implications of supply-side nonsense. If “Uncle Miltie” had had it’s way, Social Security, Medicare, and public education would be equally dead in the water and our grannies would be eating dog food. Now, instead, he’s six feet under. He won’t be missed.

P.S. RIP Ferenc Puskas – Hungarian football great – he will be missed.

  1. VDV Says:
    November 23rd, 2006 at 1:09 AM

You made two valid points–but just two:

1. You are right to call them “supposed” adherents of the Chicago School, though some would insist on being called Austrians (there is a difference; each claims the other is more “statist”). True adherents would have cut the programs that they claim to oppose, but those programs are even more entrenched now than they were 30 years ago.

2. Puskas was great.

As for the rest:

“The rich get richer, the working and poor get screwed.” I could show you all the numbers on Earth that contradict this, and I don’t think it would matter, because that comment comes not from economic analysis or evidence, but from focusing so much on how rich some people are that the improving standard of living of the poor goes unnoticed. Please refer to my post on 1/26/06. Where capitalism exists, the rich do get richer, but so do the poor. Where it doesn’t exist, the rich get richer, and the poor really are screwed.

And for future reference, “rich” and “working” are not mutually exclusive, as you suggest… it turns out that the vast majority of the rich get rich by working! Go figure.

“Bush and co. didn’t give a damn,” therefore Blanco and Nagin didn’t order evacuations early enough? Empty buses were left to rust instead of helping people leave? Generations of New Orleans politicians and voters didn’t ensure that the people could evacuate fast enough? Didn’t build levees that could withstand a Cat. 3 hurricane–never mind a Cat. 5? BushCo may not have given a damn one way or the other, and may not have done “enough”–but the biggest problem (aside from the fact that a Category 3 or 4 hurricane struck in the worst possible place) was that the city of New Orleans abdicated too much of its own responsibility for its own safety. They had the most to lose from a hurricane strike and they didn’t do nearly enough about it.

“Katrina laid bare the true implications of supply-side nonsense.” If you can demonstrate that the number of people who perished due to “supply-side nonsense” was greater than the number of people who survived due to “supply-side nonsense,” I will accept this proposition. An awful lot of time, effort, money and other resources were spent helping people escape, survive, and recover from a natural disaster… in a poorer country, more people would have died. In the United States of 30, 40, 50 years ago, more people would have died. Period. But thanks to the economic growth of the last 30, 40, 50 years, due in part to income tax cuts from JFK, Reagan, and W, due in part to capital gains cuts from Clinton, due to free-trade policies, due in part to all those capitalist policies that are lumped under the bogeyman title “supply side economics,” more people survived than would have otherwise.

As for the social programs, I think you would be surprised to know that Friedman considered the Social Security program to be one of the most harmful to the poor, the “working class,” and African-Americans.

And public education “would be” dead in the water? I teach at a pretty good public high school, but I know that my school is the exception. I don’t think public education is in good shape anywhere. I think Friedman’s proposals (public funding of education with private choice of educational programs) would likely improve the system.

People will always disagree, but Friedman’s arguments against governmental social programs, et al. came from the sincere conviction, backed by evidence and analysis, that these programs actually harmed those they were meant to help. Again, feel free to read any one of his books.

FELONY NOTICE.

Tonight I voted via absentee ballot. I was tempted to write myself in for every office, but what if I won them all? Way too much work—better not take the chance. Anyhow, after bubbling in the poor suckers who will run the government in my stead, I scanned the instructions one last time to see if I missed anything.

One particular clause in the instructions caught my eye.

10. FELONY NOTICE. Accepting any gift, payment, or gratuity in exchange for your vote for a candidate is a felony under Florida state law…

Whoever wrote that clearly missed the whole point of politics and government.

In the FY2007 federal budget, the three largest transfer payment programs will take $1.5 trillion from some people and give it to others, with no good or service in return. Of course, that’s assuming we keep voting for politicians who favor these programs.

5 Responses to “FELONY NOTICE.”

  1. ticklemeelmo Says:
    November 7th, 2006 at 6:47 PM

What happened to “On ‘Dilbert’, Part Two”?

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    November 10th, 2006 at 5:10 PM

So, where’s the commentary on the Democratic takeover of Congress? I figured I would see the same glee out of you that I see out of the mainstream media. I don’t remember quite this much palpable media excitement in 1994 . . .

  1. gatorbob Says:
    November 11th, 2006 at 1:46 PM

As you can imagine, I’m delighted by the election results on Tuesday. I woke up Wednesday and it felt like – in the immortal words of “The Great Communicator” – “Morning inAmerica!” The House, the Senate, and then Rumsfeld the Torturer walking the plank all in the same week. And look at all of those “firsts:”

*First socialist elected to the Senate
*First female Speaker
*First Muslim elected to Congress
*Nearly the first African-American elected to the Senate in Tennessee since Reconstruction.

If that isn’t testament to progressive social change, then I don’t know what is.

But what about you, intrepid blogger? […] What do you make of the election results?

  1. bj Says:
    November 15th, 2006 at 9:44 PM

i would like to question your sources. also, vague reference, “some people and give it to others…”

  1. VDV Says:
    November 15th, 2006 at 10:04 PM

BJ–

Feel free to question my sources. I didn’t actually mention any, but feel free to question them. Look up the federal budget.

“Some people and give it to others” is vague, but accurate. Transfer programs take money from some people and give it to other people. Other transfer programs take money from other people, who are now some people, and give it to the first some people, who are now other people. How’s that for precision?

On Dilbert, Part One.

Today I walked into the teacher’s lounge, and was surprised to see one of my former students sitting at the table. He had been a senior during my first year at Paxon, and now here he was substituting at his alma mater. This moment marked two firsts for me: he was the first of my former students to get a college degree (that I know of, anyway), and this was the first of my former students to become one of my coworkers—even if only temporarily. It was… odd.

When flipping through the newspaper, I’ll occasionally glance at the comics. That’s partly because they aren’t that funny and partly because my favorite comics (Bloom CountyCalvin and HobbesThe Far Side) haven’t been in the papers for years. One of the few comics left that I enjoy reading is Dilbert—but even then, there’s less than a 50% chance that it will be funny on any given day.

People in white-collar workplaces used to talk about Dilbert quite often, usually in the context of the comic resembling real life a little too closely—or someone would bring up one of Scott Adams’ many books full of amusing commentary on modern office culture. But no matter who was talking about the comic, I noticed that nine times out of ten, that person would always conclude by saying, “Yeah, Dilbert’s funny, but to truly appreciate it, you really have to be a ___________,” and the blank would be filled in with the speaker’s occupation. In other words, only he (or she) or people like him (…or her) could grasp the deeper subtext of the cartoon.

So one day, many years ago, I was sitting in my apartment in Clemson with four buddies: two engineers (one worked in a shipyard, the other worked in a “regular” office environment), a computer programmer, and a philosophy major who worked at a coffee shop and a gas station.

The subject of Dilbert came up, and I made my observation that everyone who reads it thinks that he (or she) and he alone (or she alo—you get the idea) is uniquely qualified to trulyunderstand it.

Immediately, the shipyard engineer said, “Well, you really have to be an engineer to get it.”

The office engineer followed with, “No, it’s really aimed at people who work in a modern office environment”—such as his—“The stuff in that comic happens every day where I work.”

The programmer followed with, “Actually, it’s really geared towards programmers; after all, the character toys with computers all day.”

The philosophy major turned to me and said, “You were exactly right.”

I think that every person has a tendency to think that something about him is unique; this uniqueness sets him apart from the rest of humanity and it creates a sense of entitlement. In this case, we have a comic strip that touches people in such a way that many people feel it truly belongs to them and them alone. (“Them alone”? I’ll have to consult a grammatician.) We’ll go from there next time.

12 Responses to “On Dilbert, Part One.”

  1. aabrock Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 9:02 AM

It just so happened that last night I was cleaning the house and stumbled upon a xeroxed copy of a chapter in the book “The Dilbert Principle”. I had made a copy of this chapter (entitled “Engineers, Scientists, Programmers, and Other Odd People” ) because when I read it I was amazed at how closely Adams’ description of said ‘odd people’ resembled me. I actually gave the chapter to my wife and said she should read it if she wanted to see what I was like in my early 20s. But then she hates Dilbert.

To re-inforce your point, I think that everyone can identify with Dilbert because EVERYONE has had a clueless, idiotic boss at some point.

  1. ticklemeelmo Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 7:52 PM

“Them alone” is grammatically correct. “Them” refers to the
“people” staed earlier. “Them” is a plural subject pronoun that takes the place of the plural noun “people” I’m kind of a grammar freak. I find it frightening how our language is being reaped and pillaged by people of all ages who can’t even SPELL “grammar” correctly ( gramer, grammer, etc). Not to mention those who don’t use apostrophes properly (”childrens’ books” was a recent example I found in the paper), can’t differentiate between “good” and “well” (”I did sooo good on Mr. V’s last test- I got a 75!!!), and finally, people who misuse plurality ( “Each person has thier own way of doing things.” actually, this brings me to ANTOHER point about “their” “there” and “they’re” but I’m too busy to rant on like that). If you are remotley interested is the destruction of our language i would reccomend “Eats Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss. It’s a little too british to be read for more than about 10 minutes at a time but it is very witty and funny. Well my comment has gone on long enough. i should change my name somehow now that you already know who i am… tickle me elmo..what was I on?

  1. VDV Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 8:30 PM

I shall award the title of Master Grammatician to whomever identifies the most spelling and/or grammatical errors in Ticklemeelmo’s comment.

  1. ticklemeelmo Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 9:03 PM

Hey, Mr V, care to take a look at you own post, say maybe… paragraph five? I didn’t want to bring that up because i didn’t see the point of getting into a grammar war with you but you HAD to go and say it. didn’t you? You couldn’t STAND for an intelligent post from one of your students. God forbid you have a student who can leave an itelligentpost! Oh lordy lordy!!! Yeah, I’m not perfect (and neither is my keyboard) and I DO misspell things or forget to press shift beofer an “I” but when I i want to post something on a site that I CARE about I tend to glance over it for errors. good DAY sir

  1. ImNotAStalker Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 9:19 PM

You forgot to capitalize “Good” in your last sentence.
Or add punctuation.

  1. ticklemeelmo Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 9:23 PM

I’ll go ahead and correct my last post… save you all the trouble

in order: you=your;i=I; itelligent=intelligent; beofer=before; I i=I.

I am now ashamed…

  1. VDV Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 9:24 PM

I’ll never deny that I make mistakes, but did you seriously threaten a grammar war? Are you kidding me? That is the sort of threat up with which I shall not put! I split infinitives at will and end sentences with prepositions like there’s no tomorrow. Who’s gonna stop me? You? Pah.

I can stand intelligent posts from my students; I just can’t stand my students themselves. For example, former student “Andrew Jackson” wrote my all-time favorite comment: “What the hell’s Congress?”

The title’s still out there.

  1. ticklemeelmo Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 9:31 PM

I DID thouroughly enjoy that comment. It pains me to say it but…you win Mr. V. for now. I WILL win back my dignity. I will proofread my posts and take this site seriously, and I WILL catch your mistakes but I must say I am very impressed with your grammatical prowess, much more so than say, the Florida Times Union. Anyway, I will now have to subsist on your public appology on tuesday untill I can find another suitable sourse to rebuild my shattered pride.

  1. aabrock Says:
    October 26th, 2006 at 1:51 PM

Dilbert-related article…can’t believe I hadn’t heard of his problem until now.

  1. Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
    October 28th, 2006 at 8:50 AM

What were we talking about again?

  1. Andrew Jackson Says:
    October 31st, 2006 at 1:38 AM

All the cartoonists should be rounded up and dueled. And you don’t have to be a Kentuckian to appreciate that.

Hold fast,
Andy J.

  1. twink Says:
    December 6th, 2006 at 7:05 PM

I think Lordy Lordy should be capitalized too.