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Wednesday, July 26, 2023

A sixth true thing about education reform

 Nearly 13 years ago, I wrote a very serious and not at all sarcastic blog post titled, “Five True Things About Education Reform,” which holds up pretty well because, like Jesus Christ, education is the same yesterday and today and forever. Now, as then, greedy teachers, evil unions, and lazy poor people are some of the biggest problems with public education in America. But thanks to groups like Moms for Liberty, I've discovered it's high time to add a Sixth True Thing About  Education Reform:

6. Teachers are racist groomers from whom we must protect children.

Shocking but true. Whereas in the late-20th and early-21st centuries, teachers were mostly bad in the screwing-taxpayers kind of way (by demanding to be paid living wages within school systems that have adequate infrastructure, safe conditions, and sufficient supplies), in the 21st century, teachers have begun to reveal a whole new level of evil as they implement their true Secret Agenda: using woke indoctrination to turn kids into trans, reverse-racist, liberal deviants who hate America. Teachers have many tools at their disposal in the pursuit of this agenda, including but not limited to: critical race theory, sex education, social-emotional learning, school libraries, rainbow flags, pronouns, Michelangelo’s David, drag story time, the word gay, posters of Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman, rap music, the New York  Times, CNN, condoms, Mickey Mouse, Barbie, the green M&M, Bert & Ernie, Dumbledore, vaccines, masks, Juneteenth, Pride, atheism, globalism, Karl Marx, and of course, history, science, and books. But we have two powerful weapons with which to beat these godless, perverted teachers into submission: Jesus and gerrymandering. Remember what a great man once said: “He alone who owns the youth gains the future.”*

* Hitler, as quoted by Moms for Liberty, a right-wing ed reform group that is not afraid to tell you who they truly are.


Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Poetry Slam: Me vs. ChatGPT

One of these was writ by me,
The other by ChatGPT.

Last year, when I was sick in bed with Covid and feeling like crap would feel if crap had Covid, I wrote the pastiche of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" that T.S. Eliot would have written if T.S. Eliot had Covid. Today it occurred to me to wonder how my poem would compare to one written by an AI, so I put it to ChatGPT. Below is the prompt I gave, followed by two poems. Decide for yourself who or what did the better job. To find out which is mine, scroll down my blog.

The Prompt

Write a pastiche of the poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot, incorporating ideas, themes and imagery related to Covid-19, the pandemic, lockdown, social media, and 21st century technology. Use enough language from the The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock so that the reader can recognize the source material, but also use enough original language so that the resulting poem would be considered a new and original work.

Poem 1

Let us scroll then, you and I, 

Through the endless feeds of social media high, 

Like a digital ether that numbs the brain; 

Let us waste away the hours and days, 

With likes and comments in a virtual haze, 

In the blue light of screens that drain.

Let us scroll, through memes and news, 

The endless posts with no real views, 

And the endless stories, where the filters never fade, 

The emojis that replace human emotion, 

And the gifs that keep us in perpetual motion.

In the chat rooms, the conversations start, 

With no real connection, just words apart, 

And fingers tapping, messages sending, 

Asking, "Are you there?" with no pretending.

And indeed there will be time 

To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?" 

Time to turn back and descend the stair, 

With a phone in hand— 

(They will say: "How his eyes are strained!") 

My headphones on, blocking out the mundane—

(They will say: "But how his mind is always preoccupied!")

Do I dare 

Disturb the universe? 

In a time of pandemics, technology and vice?

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, 

And I have seen the endless feeds get thicker, 

Inhaling the doomscroll, exhaling the rage, 

But still, life goes on, albeit in a digital cage.

Would it have been worth while, 

To have put down the phone with a smile, 

To have lived in the moment, not for the screen, 

To have seen the world beyond the virtual scene?

The notifications pile up so fast, 

Distractions and temptations that last, 

But we succumb, and we keep scrolling on, 

Lost in the digital world, until it's all gone.

I grow old, I grow old, 

I shall wear the wearables, and hear the data told. 

Shall I post my life online? Do I dare to disconnect? 

I shall tweet and like and share, and live in neglect.

I have heard the algorithms humming, each to each. 

I have seen the social media creeping, trailing on the beach. 

But I have the power to log off and disconnect, 

And so, let us go, and live in the present, not regret.

Poem 2

Let us stay then, you and me,

When the waiting room is spread against the screen,

Like a patient seeking telemedicine;

Let us stay, in certain nicely done-up rooms,

The muttering retreats

Of endless days on droning video calls

With coffee mugs and Zinfandel.

Rooms that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question.

Oh, do not ask, “Am I muted?”

Let us sit until we’re rooted.

In the Zoom the women glitch and freeze,

Talking of their NFTs.

The bluish light that rubs its back upon the laptop screens,

The bluish glow that rubs its muzzle on the smartphone screens,

Clicked-on links to fill the emptiness of the evening,

Lingered on Twitter memes and TikTok tunes,

Let fall upon its queue whatever falls from algorithms,

Slipped by the sort order, made a sudden beep,

And, seeing that the battery was dangerously low,

Curled once about the bed, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time

For the bluish light that slides along the line,

Rubbing its back upon the laptop screens;

There will be time, there will be time

To mask your face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to contact and expose,

And time for all the works and days of lungs,

That leave contagious droplets on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred failed inspections,

And for a hundred infections and reinfections,

In restaurants while taking toast and tea.

In the Zoom the women glitch and freeze,

Talking of their NFTs.

And indeed there will be time

To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

Time to apply a background of my choice,

And a filter to enhance my voice – 

(They will say: “How her face has grown fat!”)

A fancy blouse, some makeup and my cat,

My face composed while on my phone I chat --

(They will say: “Even her cat is fat!”)

Do I dare

Disturb the Twitterverse?

In a minute there is time

For tweets and retweets which a keystroke will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:

Asynchronous lectures, webinars, livestreams,

I have measured out my life with quarantines;

I know the voices fading as connections fail

Leaving silence shouting from the laptop screen.

So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all –

The eyes that peer above the mask begging to be seen,

And when I am vaccinated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am jabbed, rejoicing, at the mall,

Then how should I begin

To face the variants that soon come on in waves?

And how should I presume?

And I have known account names, known them all—

Selfies edited with automated care

(Removed are age lines and some graying hair!)

Is it pictures from a trip

That I would like to skip?

Selfies taken in a crowd, no masks in view at all.

And should I then presume?

And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets

And watched miasmas rising from the lungs

Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? ...

I should have been a valiant Antifa

Marching along the streets of mad cities.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!

Dulled by TV binges,

Biopics of singers,

Edgy standup comics, blood-soaked fantasy.

Should I, after comedies and spoofs,

Have the strength to make the nation face its truths?

But though I have masked and distanced, vaxed and boosted,

Though I have seen my hair (pandemic grown) resume its natural shade,

I am no influencer – my content’s undisplayed;

I have seen my viral moment pass and flicker,

And I have seen the eternal A.I. flag my post and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,

After the chat, the messenger, the Skype,

Among the pizza boxes, among the endless hype,

Would it have been worthwhile,

To have logged off the webcam with a smile,

To have squeezed the internet into a ball

To roll it towards some overwhelming question,

To say: “I’m David Bowie, CGI’d from the dead,

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all” -- 

If one, settling a MyPillow by her head

Should say, “That is not what I meant at all;

OK Boomer, not at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,

Would it have been worthwhile,

After the riots and the protests and the insurrections,

After the shootings, after the terror, after the blood that spilled along the floor –

And this, and so much more?--

It is impossible to type just what I mean!

But as if an Oculus Rift threw the vid directly on my eyeballs:

Would it have been worthwhile

If one, whose All Lives Matter t-shirt falls,

And turning toward the browser, should say:

“That is not it at all,

That is not what I meant, at all.”

No, I am not Captain America, nor was meant to be;

Am a nameless extra, one that will do

To fill a crowd shot, start a fight or two,

Back up the star; no hero, not super,

Deferential, glad to be of use,

Politic, cautious, and meticulous;

Fine for exposition, but no backstory; 

Almost, at times, a blooper.

I’m not here… I’m not here…

I’ve looped a clip I took last year.

Shall I dye my hair orange? Do I dare to eat indoors?

I shall wear Manolo Blahniks and walk upon the floor.

I have heard the people clap for health care heroes. 

I do not think that they will clap for me.

I have seen them surfing nowhere on their phones,

Checking for comments from people never met,

And whatever’s pinged the saved searches they didn’t set.

We have lingered in the matrix of the net

By viral memes we give a thumbs up or thumbs down

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.