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“It's about as far from the theme as you could possibly get.”
May 16, 2012 4:39 PM   Subscribe

A Grade 11 student, with a summary of Sean Dixon's novel The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal due in two days, gets help from the author. It does not go particularly well.
posted by scruss (138 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is pretty sad. =(

Is the book good?
posted by grobstein at 4:48 PM on May 16, 2012


If I were the author I would have trolled the fuck out of that kid.
posted by silby at 4:52 PM on May 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


grobstein: The book's author clearly says in his leader that the book is "pretty good." And who would know better than him?
posted by aubilenon at 4:54 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if that's really the kid in the comments.

I'm sort of inclined to believe this is real. That'd be some skillful writing to write that convincingly like an idiot, and googling, "last days lacuna cabal summary," doesn't come up with anything immediately useful.
posted by cmoj at 4:55 PM on May 16, 2012


The kid is a dink but I have to say that assignment is ridiculous. I used to hate teachers that dreamt up shit like that.
posted by karlos at 4:56 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the risk of sounding old... what is it with kids now in high school being unable to write complete sentences with punctuation and capitalization? Sentences written by these bright young things always end up as long, rambling, impossible to read fragments that would be even shunned on fanfiction.net.

I don't get it.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 4:56 PM on May 16, 2012 [20 favorites]


Metafilter's Own™ nasreddin blogs about how he used to think that term papers are BS, and still thinks so now that he's grading them. (I'm sure his reasoning applies equally well to dances and diaries about novels.)
posted by Nomyte at 4:57 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: 'Sometimes death is the only option'.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:58 PM on May 16, 2012 [23 favorites]


The kid is a dumbass but the author seems like a real piece of shit. This is like, number 1A on the list of things you should just ignore if you want to be professional. No winners here.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:02 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems pointless to interact with the kid, except to maybe stop at his first bit of advice: "tell the teacher you're behind, but garner sympathy by saying you were actually motivated to contact the actual author."

However, as a parent of an elementary school student, I must say that I hate hate hate homework.

"Dad, the teacher said we had to look up pictures of plants on Google, and print them out in colour for school tomorrow."

"Dad, the teacher said we had to look up 5 recipes on the Internet tonight, and print them out and bring them to school tomorrow."

"Dad, the teacher said we had to look up stuff on YouTube..."


Arrrrggh!!!!
posted by KokuRyu at 5:08 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


The kid is a dumbass but the author seems like a real piece of shit. This is like, number 1A on the list of things you should just ignore if you want to be professional. No winners here.


I expected to feel this way, because I expected the author to troll and then mock the kid. Really though it seems like he responded in good faith and provided true information and real help. I can't fault him for that, and even blogging about it doesn't seem that bad.
posted by grobstein at 5:11 PM on May 16, 2012 [37 favorites]


This is another one of those moments where I'm profoundly grateful that the web did not exist when I was 16.
posted by R. Schlock at 5:13 PM on May 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't understand why the author is so frustrated. Kid asked author to do homework for him, author foolishly agreed to do it, then kid understandably kept asking author to do more homework for him. They both seem like idiots to me.
posted by The World Famous at 5:19 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I thought "death is the only option" is the universal theme for all stories about the human condition.
posted by steinsaltz at 5:23 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


No, obvious troll is obvious. The repeated incorrect use of the article "an" is a dead giveaway.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 5:23 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Grand poobahs"? I like it! It has a nice ring.

I didn't understand the author's synopsis of his book though
posted by Bwithh at 5:38 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, author deserves a break. On an unrelated note, when can I get my Grand Poobah hat?
posted by infinitewindow at 5:40 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this isn't the kind of "not-going-well" I expected when I clicked. Would-be plagiarist fails learn a lesson.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:46 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a grand poobah, I declare by fiat that the author has nice hair and smells like cinnamon!
posted by martinrebas at 5:48 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The kid is a dumbass but the author seems like a real piece of shit.

They both seem like idiots to me.

I agree that the kid is stupid, but what did the author do to deserve these comments?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:49 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I believe the kid asks for a summary of "The Girls Who Saw Everything," which appears to be a prequel to The Last Days...
posted by zylocomotion at 5:51 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think he's going to be helping with Grobstein's homework anytime soon.

So, anyone wondering if the kid tried getting hold of Mary Shelly on Twitter to sing him a Frankenstein song?
posted by Artw at 5:52 PM on May 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


Things are getting interactive ...

+++

Later still. Now the grand poobahs of Metafilter have chimed in, after somebody posted it there and sent me the link. From this I learn that by interacting with a Grade 11 student, I have exposed myself as unprofessional, an idiot and a 'piece of shit'.

But thank you, Grobstein, for defending my honour. And Bwithh is right. My synopsis doesn't make any sense.

posted by philip-random at 5:54 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think I’ll pass on this book. I could barely even follow the author’s blog post. I mean, am I misunderstanding what happened, or did the author actually seek out to help this kid after seeing the kid’s plea on some random book review site? Why would he do that? Is this what blocked authors do with their time?
posted by Kevtaro at 5:55 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I kind of love this. I'll be buying a book or two. The idea reminds me of one of my favorite books and it's set in one of my favorite cities. Also, Gilgamesh!
posted by putzface_dickman at 5:55 PM on May 16, 2012


I say we try and get a triptych out of him.
posted by Artw at 5:56 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


what a depressing mess

i agree with R. Schlock's message
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:57 PM on May 16, 2012


No, obvious troll is obvious. The repeated incorrect use of the article "an" is a dead giveaway.

He might not be a native English speaker. His email seems to indicate that he's Indian.
posted by Bort at 5:57 PM on May 16, 2012


Bah!

*poos*
posted by R. Schlock at 5:58 PM on May 16, 2012


I don't think English is that kid's first language. Seriously.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:58 PM on May 16, 2012


He has more patience than I would have. Being addressed by someone who uses "u" as "you" drives me nearly ballistic under the best of circumstances. I think he gets points for letting this kid hang out on his lawn as long as he did, too bad the kid couldn't do anything useful with that access.
posted by chaff at 5:59 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I agree that the kid is stupid, but what did the author do to deserve these comments?

Agreed to do homework for someone who had not read the book, then acted indignant about it when asked to continue to do homework.
posted by The World Famous at 6:00 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


@chaff

but if you get mad at someone who's doing that, that means they win! they win like, uh, loneliness, and not having a lot of people want to talk to them, and not getting much respect, and uh... look they win, alright, they just do. enough questions.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:05 PM on May 16, 2012


Yeah, there's no way I would have helped in the first place because that sort of entitlement pisses me off no end. I think he was hoping the kid would then TAKE IT FROM THERE, but instead the student apparently figured he had a live one and was going to milk it for all he could get.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 6:05 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree that the kid is stupid, but what did the author do to deserve these comments?

Agreed to do homework for someone who had not read the book, then acted indignant about it when asked to continue to do homework.


How was the author to know that with his first kindly act this muffin-headed kid was going to be a useless wart and demand a diorama? There's nothing shitty about trying to help out a highschooler, and there is certainly nothing shitty about being disgusted that the student is subsequently revealed to be a lying, ungrateful and entitled layabout. I hope his teacher googles the summary and discovers he's a plagiarist as well.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:07 PM on May 16, 2012 [20 favorites]


please im a children's author, and i got a book contract and the deadline is soon and i want to write it but im really really really busy, and i really loved your book and i thought maybe you can write one for me, please please please, thanks!!!!!
posted by iamck at 6:09 PM on May 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


Mr. Dixon, in case you happen to read this, you went way beyond the call of duty on this one. Hat's off, sir. But this is unfortunately what often happens when you give someone who won't do his own homework a favor: they take advantage. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, give a man a fish and all of that.

Was a nice gesture, though.
posted by zarq at 6:11 PM on May 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm pretty sure you mean you're an children's author with an book contract.
posted by Bort at 6:11 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


On an unrelated note, when can I get my Grand Poobah hat?


You have to earn your Junior Poobah wings first, then Midshipman Poobah sash next before you can test for the Grand grade. I'm studying for my Exalted Semi-Poobah certification now.

Can you help me with some answers?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:14 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


How was the author to know that with his first kindly act this muffin-headed kid was going to be a useless wart and demand a diorama?

How is what he did a "kindly act?" The kid asked, in so many words, -I didn't read your book, so would you please write my book report for me-. Agreeing to do so is foolishness, not a kindly act. I'm surprised the kid didn't ask for his bank account information after the author demonstrated such poor judgment the first time around.

There's nothing shitty about trying to help out a highschooler,

But he didn't try to help out a highschooler. He agreed to write a book report for a highschooler who didn't read the book.

and there is certainly nothing shitty about being disgusted that the student is subsequently revealed to be a lying, ungrateful and entitled layabout.

Lying? About what? He was upfront from the beginning about being an ungrateful and entitled layabout, and the author, for some reason, agreed to facilitate his about-laying.
posted by The World Famous at 6:15 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was his age, I was writing laughably fake papers on Hamlet and uploading them to essay sites. The key was to make the first and last paragraphs seem superficially reasonable, and then to ramp the insanity up and down in the middle.

I'm not very cool.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:15 PM on May 16, 2012 [49 favorites]


I'm vaguely annoyed nobody asked me to write any comicbook scripts when I was a kid.
posted by Artw at 6:20 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


> I believe the kid asks for a summary of "The Girls Who Saw Everything," which appears to be a prequel to The Last Days...

It's the same book. It was first published in Canada as "The Girls Who Saw Everything", and then published everywhere else as The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal.
posted by scruss at 6:22 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


What an awful assignment. Frankly, I find it hard to fault the kid or the author, given the appalling "do little bits of amateur art about a theme in the book" routine.

My dad used to tell me about having professors assign collage-making during the heady days of the late sixties and early seventies and how dismayed he was to have to turn in a collage of magazine fragments "representing", say, The Faerie Queen. (Not that you couldn't make a complex and sophisticated collage about The Faerie Queen, but that generally was not what was expected or produced.)

If my memory of HS english serves me well, it's difficult enough to get the kids to read well enough to get through a grown-up novel and then teach them to have some thoughts about its content and purpose and then to articulate those thoughts in a readable form. Making a mix tape or a comic or a collage to express your feelings about The Member of the Wedding or whatever is, perversely, only fun and instructive after you're a sophisticated-enough reader to get something out of the text. (Actually, I loathed that book.)
posted by Frowner at 6:26 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would have insisted that the kid phrase his requests in actual human sentences before I would give him any help.
posted by Edgewise at 6:28 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought it was really interesting that the story included Salam Pax, the real-life Baghdad blogger and an institution in the early blog years. In the early post-9/11 years, the jingoistic "war bloggers" were obsessed with proving that people like Salam were Ba'athist stooges teaming up with Michael Moore to betray America.

I was glad to look him up and see that Salam is working for UNICEF.
posted by steinsaltz at 6:28 PM on May 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Okay, saying he's "a piece of shit" was an overreaction and I apologize for that. But why go public with this dumb kid's emails? It's like the ultimate FIAMO situation. Just strikes me as holier than thou. Since time immemorial kids have tried to get out of homework assignments.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 6:29 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, every time I find some old thing I put out in public when I was a juvenile and think to myself "this has to be one of the stupidest, most embarrassing things I could have possibly done, I don't know how I never got flamed right out of existence for this crap," it seems like some generous youth finds a way of making me feel better about myself.

Because I'm almost completely certain the author really was trolling the kid from the beginning. I mean, really:
The novel's engine is comic, and somewhat quixotic, and in fact the turning point is a haircut, but it's nestled within a unifying theme of 'reading lives.'
And I can't really say I'm shocked that some 17 year old whose (I hope) first language isn't English managed to miss the very substantial degree to which s/he was not being taken seriously here, but nonetheless come away convinced that this kid deserves to feel much, much worse about this in fifteen years than I do about anything I did online fifteen years ago.

Also: I believe quite firmly that you ought to help cheaters by giving them terrible things to cheat with, such as book reports they couldn't have written or history essays which get all the pertinent facts hopelessly wrong. I would have had a lot more fun with certain roommates in college had I taken this view back then. It also might have actually done them some good in the long run: they replied to my self-righteous refusals to give them free homework by buying it from someone else.
posted by SMPA at 6:45 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


@scruss - I stand corrected.

But I feel like we're still missing something. The author says that he only responded to the kid because the kid's request parallels something in the plot of the novel itself...a novel which is about kids bringing fiction to life. The kid was asked to bring a theme from the author's work into focus via an art project, so he chose the theme of blurring the line between fiction and reality, and expressed it by making a request that oddly paralleled the novel's plot, thereby drawing the author into a fairly ridiculous exchange. This child is a genius, and deserves an A+.
posted by zylocomotion at 6:51 PM on May 16, 2012 [18 favorites]


steinsaltz: " I was glad to look him up and see that Salam is working for UNICEF."

Interesting! Thanks for mentioning that. I didn't know.
posted by zarq at 6:55 PM on May 16, 2012


zylocomotion: "This child is a genius, and deserves an A+."

He'd only be a genius if he had done it on purpose. He fell into the situation by accident.
posted by zarq at 6:57 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who is completing a second student teaching placement (teaching 11th grade English), I must say that the tone and syntax of those emails reads genuinely to me--and I believe this kid is a native English speaker, not an ELL or ESL student. Many of these kids simply lack the ability to modulate based on audience/purpose/tone. Or, they kind of sort of know, but they choose not to. They think that all emails are supposed to be . . . well, completely informal. They are gravely mistaken, but there you have it.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:02 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


and I believe this kid is a native English speaker, not an ELL or ESL student

I'm curious why you believe that. I'm pretty sure he's Indian, making him very likely to be ESL.
posted by Bort at 7:13 PM on May 16, 2012


This is sad and I'm not referring to just the kid.
posted by polymodus at 7:18 PM on May 16, 2012


Kid: if you're reading this, print out the thread and show it to your teacher.
posted by pullayup at 7:22 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I skimmed the first link and then read the second link through. I thought for sure that the synopsis sent to the student was a hilarious troll-by-novelist and that the real book must be about some young people coming of age in one location, maybe in the 1970's. Then I came back here and read the thread and WAIT REALLY, that's the plot of the book? It had read to me as a list of opposites of things that would make sense and form a coherent novel. I don't mean that the book is incoherent or senseless! I have not read it or anything. Just, wow, the motives I ascribe when I think I'm reading a somebody trying to make fun of someone else without them knowing.

Since he did NOT troll the kid, I don't know why someone would criticize him or his decision to post the exchange. Here there is no case of an adult being unduly mean to a kid. In fact, the adult is being more polite than many adults I've seen on internet -- the kid who wants his homework done is being rude, behaving with dumb entitlement, insulting the author by making so plain his disinterest in the subject novel, and providing choicely obnoxious button-pushers that couldn't be better designed to ignite a negative reaction.

(Which is why I agree with whoever posted upthread that homework kid is the troll in this story! If so, it is quality trolling in that it is TOTALLY PLAUSIBLE ON FIRST READ. And actually scanning your assignment and emailing it to the author, to demand that he do your poetry-form book report for you, is kind of genius, I MEAN IF IT'S TROLLING.)

I think we can all agree that "No" would have been ultimately a kinder reply than pasting that plot summary. A half-literate (probably non-actual) young person can not do anything useful with that summary.

I love the idea of giving the kid advice! I only love that idea because I am no longer a young person. So here goes, if I were in the author's boots. First round advice would be "do your homework on time! That will give you habits that might help you accomplish small things in your adult life! And it will definitely help you stress out less about your marks!" I would use all the exclamation marks because kids love them and I feel that if anything, adults employ them with too much restraint. My second round of advice would be "Don't lie about your relatives dying to elicit sympathy, it is in super bad taste and also adults can tell you're full of shit."
posted by damehex at 7:24 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Bort: Ok, there are a couple tells that suggest maybe ELL or ESL--specifically "an coppy" and similar singular/plural errors. However. This writing is exactly like many of my regular native-speaking students' writing. Like, indistinguishable. 11th grade. New York state.

Why do you think s/he is Indian? (as opposed to another English-language learner). Is there some particular tic that you are familiar with?
posted by exlotuseater at 7:24 PM on May 16, 2012


I don't have time to read this. Could someone summarize the thread and the blog post for me?
posted by simra at 7:26 PM on May 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Could someone summarize the thread

MeFites desperately hate anyone who is paid to write; would run over their own mother's with a truck for a chance at getting a book deal.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:29 PM on May 16, 2012 [21 favorites]


This shit is as reflexive as fuck.

A+ comment.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:30 PM on May 16, 2012


MeFite fails to proofread in rush to post the first snarky thread summary, makes disastrous apostrophe failure.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:31 PM on May 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


Why do you think s/he is Indian? (as opposed to another English-language learner). Is there some particular tic that you are familiar with?

No, I google his email address from his comment to see what would show up. It split it into his full name (which I won't put here to be prudent) with the last name of Vadhadiya, which appears to be a somewhat common Indian name.
posted by Bort at 7:32 PM on May 16, 2012


oh.






It would appear that I have failed in doing the most basic of research. I wasn't even aware that there was an email address. I made the assumption that it would have been redacted.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:35 PM on May 16, 2012


That's cool. I was curious because I wasn't sure if maybe English was taught as the primary language in (some) schools in India, though I kinda thought that Hindi was the primary language.
posted by Bort at 7:45 PM on May 16, 2012


This is probably precisely why Neil Gaiman has a strict "no, I won't do your HW clause" in his FAQs. And no, I'm not at all convinced this is an ELL issue; that kid's writing (sadly) looks very normal to me. Kid had all kinds of options for HW, but couldn't be arsed to find ONE? Hope s/he grows out of it and learns how to knuckle down.
posted by smirkette at 7:45 PM on May 16, 2012


exlotuseater, I'm pretty sure that it was indeed redacted from Sean Dixon's blog. But he included a link to GoodReads, where the student left a comment with his full email address. (I followed the link from the kid's comment on Dixon's page; it just went to the kid's Blogger profile, which did not include his address.)
posted by bakerina at 7:46 PM on May 16, 2012


Sheesh. I left out an "also" (as in, "I ALSO followed the link from the kid's comment..."). The link to GoodReads is in the body of the post.
posted by bakerina at 7:48 PM on May 16, 2012


How is what he did a "kindly act?" The kid asked, in so many words, -I didn't read your book, so would you please write my book report for me-.

No, he didn't write the kid's book report. He wrote the kid a summary and told said urchin to be sure to tell his teacher that the summary was written by the author of the book if he turned it in. That is not writing a book report for a student. The kid didn't even need to turn it in; he needed to do a project about the book.

Lying? About what?


I have lots of other things for my other classes as well, and if I dont do well on this project then my mark will go down by a lot, and my favorite uncle just died today as well, so I can't focus on anythings at all! :( so please help me!!

OK, maybe his favorite uncle really did die that day, in which case his teachers would probably grant him an extension on his assignments, so why bring it up? It sounds like a dog:homework:consumed excuse to me, but then when I left my computer on the train the week before finals, I was really not looking forward to telling my professors, just because it sounded like such a shite excuse. So maybe he's a perfectly truthful and non-manipulative child who just happens to want people to do his homework for them.

I'm pretty sure he's Indian, making him very likely to be ESL.

I'm sure this depends on where you're from, but I'd assume the exact opposite. Most of the East Indians I know under the age of 25 were born in the US.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:52 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's irrelevant whether the kid is an ESL student.

You don't need to be a fluent English speaker to know that it's a moronic idea to start a major assignment two days before the due date, or to know that it's beyond the pale to ask the author of the book that you're studying to do your homework for you.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:56 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's irrelevant whether the kid is an ESL student.

It's irrelevant to the foolishness of waiting until too late and asking someone else to do his work. But it is relevant to whether or not he's a troll or for real. Those of us talking of ESL were discussing the later.
posted by Bort at 8:14 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of fixated on how the author is reading this thread and taking offense at it. While I can relate -- I'd probably take it personally, too -- I kind of wish he wouldn't. Emailing an 11th grader a book summary because it is oddly like a plot point, then posting the exchange on the blog, is fun and idiosyncratic enough that I want him to be blithely unaware of something as mundane as snark. Also, I totally want him to make some disguised version of the kid a character in his next story.
posted by salvia at 8:27 PM on May 16, 2012


Hey kid, if you're reading this! The best possible thing you could do as your project now is a simple video summary of Sean Dixon's The Lost Disco Boys of the Blue Lagoona Coil, a la Harper Lee's How to Kill a Mockingbird. If you don't get at least a B with that, I'll mail you cookies myself. After I get to see the video.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:41 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please stop touching yourself like that when you say that.
posted by Nomyte at 9:09 PM on May 16, 2012


Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the opinions of the metafilter cabal. they take every post as an opportunity to display how high and mighty they are.
17 May, 2012 3:30 AM


Pfft. Anonymous.
posted by onwords at 9:24 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


On an unrelated note, when can I get my Grand Poobah hat?

Some of the commenters think we're a 'cabal'. I figure that's at least worth a lapel pin.

Sean, we're just a bunch randoms on the interwebs, shooting the breeze. Please don't take it personally.

For my part, I found your blog post entertaining
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:27 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do online tutoring and the kid's writing and comprehension skills are about on-par with most of my students. It is tremendously depressing.
posted by schroedinger at 9:40 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also I would pin the kid on being a native English speaker, simply because in general the native English speaking students I've met tend to be a lot more terrible at writing in English than non-native English speaking students.
posted by schroedinger at 9:42 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Composition teacher here, the kid is not ESL. I would bet my house on it.
posted by désoeuvrée at 10:38 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


The professional author's post is marginally coherent, and we're questioning the kid's grammar skills? I'm having a hard time believing this is even legit; how many times is the phrase "Lacuna Cabal" mentioned in the author's post? A fuckton.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:16 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm just imagining the kid reading all this.
posted by iconjack at 11:29 PM on May 16, 2012


Someone want to send Mr. Dixon $5 so he can weigh in here if he likes?
posted by maryr at 11:47 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't get why everybody is piling on the kid's writing skills.

I mean, if all you get is assignments to read a book and then make a comic strip or a paining or a folk dance about it, how the f*ck are you supposed to learn to, you know, actually write coherent sentences?

I hated assignments like that. I thought that they take away the last bit of fun of reading. A f*cking painting about the book? Seriously?
posted by sour cream at 11:57 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


sour cream, it looks like it's an "Independent Study Program" (ISP), possibly in some kind of charter school. He may be in this program because of language difficulties or other obstacles to learning in a traditional composition class. Maybe his procrastination flunked him out of the regular program and/or school. In any case, usually an ISP is designed with the cooperation of the student, so at some level he probably agreed to this.
posted by dhartung at 1:35 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I google his email address from his comment to see what would show up. It split it into his full name (which I won't put here to be prudent) with the last name of Vadhadiya, which appears to be a somewhat common Indian name.

This does not mean he is an ESL student. There are many, many people with Indian names who were born and raised in English-speaking countries. Also, I think a 17-year-old in India would be reading the classics for school, and not making dioramas.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:56 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Grand Poobahs of Metafilter

If we are honest with ourselves, we are more like Grand Eeyores.
posted by unSane at 2:56 AM on May 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


> how many times is the phrase "Lacuna Cabal" mentioned in the author's post? A fuckton.

It's mentioned twice in the article, and three times in the blog's title and sidebar. As this is the author's promotional blog about the book, I think he's been quite restrained.
posted by scruss at 3:26 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Arrrrrgh I hate this kind of crap. Student doesn't do his work, then starts begging for illicit assistance, adding in lies about how much he's already done, and lies about special circumstances that excuse his slackassery (dead uncle).

When busted on his plagiarism, the student will try several different lies to dodge the charge, including an insistence that he didn't copy anything word-for-word. This, too, will be a lie.

This happens even when the assignment is crystal clear, entirely straightforward, and perfectly reasonable...

But then ZOMFG add information about that horror show of an assignment and the kid's douchebaggery starts to seem understandable. Cripes, do people really give assignments like that? I'd just skip it and take the zero, kid.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 4:32 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Honestly it would have been way more entertaining if the author did troll the kid.
posted by xqwzts at 5:43 AM on May 17, 2012


I'm stuck in a loop - I went to the FPP link, but a link there sent me back here. Help!
posted by AndrewKemendo at 6:00 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]



At the risk of sounding old... what is it with kids now in high school being unable to write complete sentences with punctuation and capitalization?


It's the lingua franca of social networking. In my day, when text messages were just getting big, kids used to submit essays in text speak and get marked down for it. (GCSE marks are knocked off for using a plus instead of 'and', for example.) Written communication on the internet is less formal, so kids who aren't as aware of adapting language to a situation/formal setting will write as they would on the Facebook, lower-case, dialectal terms, lack of punctuation and all.
posted by mippy at 6:49 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the risk of sounding old... what is it with kids now in high school being unable to write complete sentences with punctuation and capitalization?

That's what you get when the only reading you do is the FB pages of other semi-literate scamps. The kid really needs to read some actual books.

I've got to say, if I were in the author's place, my first instinct would have been to give an outrageously inaccurate summary and laugh maniacally to myself as the kid gets a well-deserved F for plagiarism.

And that's why I don't teach anymore.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:19 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and at first read I assumed from the initial email that the kid was in Elementary school. Grade 11 should be capable of writing words in response to a book they read, what's with this diorama crap?

I bet the kid's getting a crocodile in this class.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:21 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


That might do the trick, if he can find them here, as long as he doesn't just copy them like some kind of zombie internet automaton.

Based on my experience with grad students... yes, that is what he will do.
posted by cereselle at 10:20 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


A crocodile? Is that better, or worse than, say, a red star?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:31 AM on May 17, 2012


Someone needs to coach him on how to spin it right, but on reflection I think this kid deserves some extra credit (even if failing on the main assignment) for initiative.
This new internet generation thats coming of age is mostly barely using search engines and totally baffled by Wikipedia - it's basically all instant messaging, sexting, and Facebook for them. So props to this kid for being a (relatively) web-savvy trailblazer hero of his generation.
posted by Bwithh at 10:49 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The World Famous: "He was upfront from the beginning about being an ungrateful and entitled layabout, and the author, for some reason, agreed to facilitate his about-laying."

So I get a bunch of "please do my homework for me" type emails at work...

Sometimes I am all 'Oh fuck you, kid. No I will not type the answers to your fifteen questions into a word doc and email it to you. You know where you can find those answers? On the same goddamn web page where you found my email address in the first place.'

And sometimes I am all 'Well, you were polite about it and I guess doing some googling and then emailing me sort of counts as making an effort. I will throw you a bone and give you links to the specific sections of our website from which your answers can be easily copied and pasted, because I am in a good mood.'

And sometimes I am all 'This is like the fifth email today with the exact same questions! It is abundantly clear that your teacher is phoning it in and has given you fuck all guidance on how to conduct your research. I will not be doing your homework kid, but I will string you and your classmates along long enough to discover your teacher's postal address so that I can mail them a boa constrictor.'

And sometimes I am all 'This is an awesome assignment! Man, I wish I were still in school so that I could do this assignment. It is clever and fun and makes me think in new ways about a subject I love so much that I have made it my career. Kid, this assignment is wasted on you. Here, let me write it!' and I'll start writing The Assignment To End All Assignments until I suddenly realise that the entire morning has gone by and I've accomplished nothing on my to do list. If I wake up before I hit send, then I turn the assignment into a blog post, but sometimes I am so in the zone that I don't stop myself in time and have to send the kid a chaser email saying "You get that one for free, but next time do your own fucking homework."
posted by the latin mouse at 12:10 PM on May 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


A crocodile? Is that better, or worse than, say, a red star?

I was referring to this:

Lindsay: I'm not signing this.
Maeby: Fine. I will. Is Lindsay with an "A" or an "E"?
Lindsay: Okay, look. I know you got a crocodile in spelling, but this has gone too far.

(Come on!)
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:37 PM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's also prominent in however many book plates are posted there.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:35 PM on May 17, 2012


The writer is a friend of mine, and all his interactions are completely genuine, in life and in writing. He is one of the most straight-up people I know. I think he would've been happy to help a sincere student doing a project on one of his books. I'll send him a gift account. I've wanted him to be around here for years, 1. because I thought he would enjoy the discourse and 2. I think you guys would get along.
posted by typewriter at 2:50 PM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thank you, typewriter.
posted by lacunacabal at 3:13 PM on May 17, 2012 [16 favorites]


Welcome to Metafilter, Sean.
posted by zarq at 3:15 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, hey Sean. Nice to have you around.

Your Poohbah hat is in the mail.

I keed, I keed, but seriously: welcome.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:27 PM on May 17, 2012


Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the opinions of the metafilter cabal. they take every post as an opportunity to display how high and mighty they are.
17 May, 2012 3:30 AM

Pfft. Anonymous.
posted by onwords at 12:24 AM on May 17 [+] [!]



Yeah, but from all of his questions on AskMe, I think we already know that he has interpersonal issues galore.
posted by Maisie at 5:37 PM on May 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Welcome to mefi lacunacabal!
posted by pdxpogo at 6:27 PM on May 17, 2012


Welcome, lacunacabal. And welcome to the Globe & Mail. And welcome, Globe & Mail writer who found the story here.

I'm dizzy now.
posted by maudlin at 6:46 PM on May 17, 2012


My previous comment would have been much better as a painting.
posted by maudlin at 6:46 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hi lacunacabal!

We were just wondering, if we had to select three images to represent your work, perhaps as a large panel surrounded by two images, what would they be? Also our oil painting skills are a bit rusty, so if you could do it for us that would be grand.

Anytime you like really, though our deadline is Thursday next week.
posted by Artw at 7:20 PM on May 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


Steady, Artw; lacunacabal plays banjo. You don't want to rile banjo players. Especially long-neck players. Those beasties have heft.

I originally found out about Sean because his old blog used to be very few of the hits for "banjo toronto", and have followed it ever since. His books are genuinely pretty good.
posted by scruss at 7:37 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Welcome lacunacabal! *bows*

I just came back to add that this kid is the poster child for the following gripe, familiar to all educators: cheaters devote such an astonishing amount of time, energy, and creative thinking to coming up with new and ingenious ways to cheat... why don't they just do the goddamn assignment instead? They'd be DONE already! And probably with an ok grade!

Although in this case, I am inclined to agree with Fists O'Fury and say that's probably why.
posted by désoeuvrée at 8:27 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Welcome lacunacabal! *waves*

Oh... my God. I have just achieved immortality... of sorts... in the Globe & Mail article.

Many slammed teachers for assigning a convoluted project in the first place – and shared their own kids’ Google-driven homework assignments. Others went for what’s-with-kids-these-days bile: “At the risk of sounding old ... what is it with kids now in high school being unable to write complete sentences with punctuation and capitalization? Sentences written by these bright young things always end up as long, rambling, impossible to read fragments ...

“I don’t get it,” posted suburbanbeatnik.


Yeah, I want these illiterate whippersnappers to get off my lawn. When I cheated on my homework way back in the '90s, I actually used complete sentences!
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 11:02 PM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


According to hockey fan Tom_F1, the misuse of "an" is a thing the kids have cooked up. Gooby pls
posted by Brocktoon at 11:18 PM on May 17, 2012


Meta. The good kind.
posted by zarq at 8:23 AM on May 18, 2012


So I guess there is a cabal now? With poobahs and everything. Huh.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:38 AM on May 18, 2012


And hats! :D
posted by zarq at 9:29 AM on May 18, 2012


He'd only be a genius if he had done it on purpose. He fell into the situation by accident.

Not only is he an artistic genius, he's an aleatoric artistic genius!
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 9:43 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to gift the Grade 11 student with a MeFi account.

Any leads?
posted by mazola at 9:46 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know who I think would do well here? That Scott Adams guy. Somebody should send him five bucks.
posted by Decani at 9:48 AM on May 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


You don't need to be a fluent English speaker to know that it's a moronic idea to start a major assignment two days before the due date...

Whoa there. Those are some pretty strong words; I'd watch yourself. We procrastinators might get around to doing something about it.
posted by ODiV at 9:56 AM on May 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


What an awful assignment. Frankly, I find it hard to fault the kid or the author, given the appalling "do little bits of amateur art about a theme in the book" routine.

I suspect that teachers get frustrated after a while with having to deal with year after year of semi-literate students who are incapable of writing a coherent paragraph, much less a 1000-word essay, so they resort to these other "creative" assignments in the hopes that somehow, some way, they manage to "reach" these students.
posted by deanc at 10:50 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hi Sean! A friend of mine (she's in Toronto, you might know her) sent me a copy of The Girls who Knew Everything as soon as it was released, because she and I are from Montreal, and we used to be fierce booky girls interested in the ancient Near East, so she knew it would resonate. She didn't include a card, though, so it was years later that I determined for sure that she's the person who sent it.

Sorry, I'm rambling. Welcome. And I think you treated that kid very decently.
posted by tangerine at 10:53 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I get the feeling he doesn't realize he's talking to the author, but thinks he's still talking to the person he originally begged and pleaded with. As evidenced by "I kinda knew about the summery of the book before i messaged you, but I was just making sure that I got the plot right."

And thanks to Dean for writing a summery book.
posted by iconomy at 4:39 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Er....Sean. Not Dean.
posted by iconomy at 4:40 PM on May 18, 2012


Every time I see the word 'an' where 'a' should appear, all I hear in my head is Hawkeye Pierce imitating Charles Emerson Winchester: "An harmonica. You heard me, an harmonica."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:33 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


And hats! :D

I don't want a hat that contains bars of poo, thanks very much.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:23 AM on May 19, 2012


No, no. "Pooh Bah."

After the Hundred Acre Wood was razed back in ninety six, the fur of the "tubby little cubbies all stuffed with fluff" became highly sought after and prized for their unique qualities. As a result, Winnies (as the bears are colloquially known) now top the endangered species list, having been hunted to near extinction by ChrisRo Industries,

If you're not already familiar with it, you should read A.A. Milne's fiction, written for Greenpeace as part of their marketing efforts to save the forest. It's quite moving.
posted by zarq at 5:19 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heh, that kid lives less than an hour away from me; I have helped many grade 11 students with that same ISP project over the past decade (must be something the teachers all get in a package...). Done well, it shows an understanding of the original material, the student's ability to apply critical thinking skills in interpreting media in an interdisciplinary way, and reduces the likelihood of plagiarism. It also, not co-incidentally, means the teacher is marking by skimming through a short comic book/artwork. As opposed to actually having to read a six page essay from each student and confronting the multitude of spelling and grammatical errors, not to mention the student's comprehension of the material. Since marks for this year's secondary school have to be recorded in the next couple of weeks, the teacher is probably hoping to make the workload of 30-90 ISP's a little lighter.
posted by saucysault at 3:13 PM on May 19, 2012


The reasons saucysault mentions are all perfectly valid, except that then they don't learn how to write... And that's a problem. Unfortunately, it seems to be a problem with no solution--I understand the challenges we face at all levels. At this point all I can say is, parents, get your kids reading when they're young, and get them to love reading and devour books. Put books in the crib with them. Sell your TV. Get them crazy obsessed with absolutely any book series: Harry Potter, The Baby Sitters Club, the Lord of the Rings, Sexy Teenage Vampire Zombies... It wires an intuitive grasp of language into their brains, and in the end, the readers can write, and the others can't.
posted by désoeuvrée at 4:50 AM on May 20, 2012


I completely agree desoeuvree, the difference in assignments between a student that has learned to write well/communicate and a student that is just skating along the edge is very, very clear in the final product. For the former, they learn how to modify their writing for the audience and presentation, choosing words for impact and eliminating all extraneous material; in the latter's case they appeal to the lowest common denominator in using casual language, a basic understanding of the superficial plot and theme using cliches and stereotypes, and whipping up the assignment the night before it is due. But they will both most likely pass because they at least made the effort.
posted by saucysault at 8:36 AM on May 20, 2012


But they will both most likely pass because they at least made the effort.

Honest question, at what point did the criteria for passing become "made an effort"?
posted by nathancaswell at 9:51 AM on May 20, 2012


1997?
posted by maryr at 6:03 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"E for effort" is a pass.
posted by lacunacabal at 9:11 PM on May 20, 2012


Looks like the kid didn't take the discussion too well.
posted by scruss at 9:47 AM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yow.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:23 AM on May 29, 2012


And screw of all the hater!!!
posted by Artw at 11:10 AM on May 29, 2012


But...

ps. thanks to all of those people who gave me good advice, and didnt say bad shit abt me!!! :)

Well, I guess someone helped him get his 85% at uselessness school.
posted by Artw at 11:11 AM on May 29, 2012


Mr. Clemens said it best: "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

Hopefully for the kid's sake, he'll learn some maturity before he enters the business world.
posted by zarq at 11:17 AM on May 29, 2012


I'm not so sure, zarq; it's the petulant ones who expect work from other people that end up in management ...
posted by scruss at 1:31 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Future CEO of Asshole corp.
posted by Artw at 2:18 PM on May 29, 2012


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