Tag Archives: Nate

Food Poisoning

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As usual, the Sunday strip wasn’t available for preview. Normally I would try to tough it out till midnight, just to make sure whatever horrors Sunday brings are properly commented on. However, the strain of trying to find amusement in drying paint has finally broken me, and I’ve come down with the Westview flu. Not as deadly as the Spanish flu, maybe, but virulent in it’s ability to sap me of energy, leaving me with a headache, and slightly nauseous. So pretty much what you would expect after spending two weeks with Les Moore.

Here’s hoping that it’s not able to be transmitted through the interwebs, because Beckoning Chasm is taking over for me tomorrow, and I’d hate to think I had contaminated the controls.

Goodnight, and Good Luck.

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Textbook Case of the Smirks.

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There is barely any continuity of which people are in the tables in front of Nate, as pointed out yesterday by Gerard Plourde and Eldon of Galt. (Who, when mentioned together, sound like some kind of awesome adventuring duo from a fantasy novel.) Linda has become Klabichnik, and the tables have completely changed orientation between panels.

Also in the background, right under Nate’s nose, is a teacher I don’t think we’ve seen before: The Invisible Man. I know that Batiuk has toned down a lot of the more whimsical elements of his strip since the early days, but we are still in a universe with a sentient 1970’s era computer, so I guess a see-through man isn’t out of the realms of possibility. Must have been a diversity hire.

Final textbook tallies? Wat. I mean, I guess that the teachers would have to check to make sure all the students had turned in their textbooks by the end of the year, but Nate wants all of these tallies turned in to him directly? Is he going to stay up late into the night, pouring over the numbers, checking and rechecking to make sure every single battered tome has been returned to him? Does he have a name for each one, put it in it’s little nook for the summer, then sit on the floor then gaze up at them, whispering softly at his ‘friends’. That is very unlike the lassiez-faire attitude Nate has displayed previously.

But laughing about an art error, and trying to go off on some kind of wild tangent about a crazed Nate having a secret obsessive, possessive, text-book hoarding alter-ego that only comes out when he’s alone in the dark, are literally the only ways I can make this milquetoast strip amusing, even to myself.

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Bell Pepper Curve.

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First of all, there is an absolute horror show of a human in the background. A literal dickhead emerging from a shirt made of pubes. The guy is smug as shit too. No doubt having just eaten an entire plate of the grilled processed meat tubes that he has descended from in some kind of twisted Westviewian evolution.

Does Westview grade on the curve? That’s a horrific thought. Because while some teacher claim that pretending that the smartest kid’s 85% correct on the test is the new 100% is ‘grading on the curve’, what it really means is the draconian application of the bell curve to the entire class. Every student ranked, in direct competition with the other students for the limited number of A’s, 40% of students doomed to C’s regardless of what actual percentage of the material they got correct. All your A or B tells you is that in Mrs. McGiggins 2005 Fall semester of Pre-Calculus you did better than 15 other people.

My junior year of high school, the calculus teacher was gone the entire year on maternity leave. For the first semester, they gave the advanced math students taking precalc and calc a teacher they had previously relegated to teaching remedial general math because she was so inept, despite the fact she was technically qualified. Because of her I never learned the difference between cosine and cosign.

When the most gifted kids in the school started struggling and complaining to their parents, the principal had the audacity to come to the class, pull out a bell curve and try to explain to us that, really, most of us SHOULD be getting C’s in the class.

I shot my hand right up and explained to the class that ‘the bell curve’ was both old-fashioned and unfair. We were supposed to be graded on the percentage of the material we got right, not in competition with other students for limited number of A’s. The fact that most of us were getting C’s meant that, as a class, we were understanding barely half of what we were being tested on. He fumbled around for a bit, but didn’t really have a good response. He was talking to the smartest kids in the school, and our GPA’s, and thus our college prospects, were on the line.

They pulled an old math teacher out of retirement for the next semester.

I remember the impotent frustration, the despair, and the eventual fatalistic resignation that we, as a class, felt that semester. So many of us just gave up trying. There was no reason to attempt to succeed on our own, because that would only hurt our classmates by driving up expectations. So most of us sat through every day of math class that semester, silent, sullen, and unresponsive.

What I’m saying is, I’m guessing that Westview grades on a curve.

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Did someone break the windows?

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No Les, for either one of them to be jokes, they would have to be funny. And kudos to all the commenters who wondered if Batiuk would remember far enough back to reference the machine gun. Turns out it was cardboard. What is funny is that bringing a fake gun to school these days is likely good enough to get you suspended. Ah, the good old days, when Batiuk still had the balls to use guns for humor.

There is something funny in this strip though. That kid carrying the ‘We’re Still Here” sign looks like an immigrant from another strip entirely. I’m guessing Archie. He’s either got freckles, acne, stubble, or a tiny tattoo of a flock of migrating geese on his cheek. That coat looks like he murdered Chewbacca to wear his pelt, and the orange scarf isn’t so much a fashion accessory as some terrible noose he’s broken free. He’s got a nose high and sharp enough to use as a can opener, pointy ears. And all of this with a receding hairline hiding under cowlick reminiscent of the infamous scene in “There’s Something About Mary.”

Forget everyone else in this strip. We should make it all about Cowlick from now on.

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No Conflict of Interest.

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What is going on with Les’ face in panel two today? I can only guess that Ayers saw the word vomit in the speech bubble and decided to give Les an expression to match. It’s a pretty apt depiction since Les is just regurgitating yesterday’s substance.

And good old principal Nate today, distilling into one word the thing most perniciously wrong with Funky Winkerbean. Les presents him with something potentially contentious, and Nate agrees.

No argument about the students’ obligation to be in school, the potential debasing of non-violent rule breaking as a tool of last resort, or the use of the school’s own vehicle of propaganda to take a position on a divisive issue where the student body is likely not unified in viewpoint. Nate agrees. All ‘good’ people agree. Everyone seen is in agreement. The potential opponents are an unseen undefined ‘badness’ that must not be personified.

This is worse storytelling than the Big Gay Prom arc, because at least in that we had a strawwoman in opposition. She was about as nuanced as a shrieking harpy ruining everyone’s lunch, but she was there. Opposition leads to drama. It resists the goal of the protagonists, making them work for what they want. And, most importantly to Batiuk’s goals, it gives what they’re fighting for weight. Debate lets the characters themselves tell the audience why: Why is a walkout the best way for these students to protest school shootings? Does anyone think there is a better way? Is there any specific legislation or legislators these kids are targeting? We’ll probably never know, because so far no one asked.

If Les and Bernie had to convince the Principal to allow the editorial, if they had to explain themselves to parents or disagreeing students, or if they had to potentially sacrifice something to stage this protest, then the ‘protest’ might seem like something more than what it is: hollow, passionless, consequence free virtue-signaling.

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And continues…

Today’s strip continues Nate and Linda’s inane conversation about Tank Wedgeman. It’s illuminating that these two administrators (one of Linda’s myriad responsibilities makes her an administrator, right? She’s got a hand in literally everything in this school) can’t imagine stopping the bullying, instead simply waiting it out until the kid graduates. Who cares about all the kids he victimizes in the meantime.

These strips remind me of something I mentioned way back in the Gay Prom storyline. (can we believe it’s been nearly six years?) In that strip  Nate spoke of “the intolerant” rather than “intolerance”. The issue I had was that Batiuk seemed to be framing homophobia in the context of people rather than ideas. Good people would think the way Batiuk did, and bad people would think differently. It wasn’t a matter of examining different perspectives and/or how a person might end up with problematic attitudes or behaviors. It was just an issue of The Bad People, or “the intolerant” in that strip. There isn’t any point in trying to deal with Tank’s bullying. It’s just who he is, and it won’t stop until he’s gone. They don’t engage bullying any more than Nate engaged Roberta’s issue (that we can only suppose is homophobia because Batiuk never allowed her to voice her specific objections).

It’s pretty disgusting ordinarily, but it’s especially so coming from two characters who are supposed to be educators. Hell, I think of all of Batiuk’s characters, he thinks Linda and Nate are the two most admirable teachers at the school. Unlike Les, they seem to approach their jobs in education with some form of enthusiasm, so it’s remarkable that they don’t seem to recognize teachable moments. If I’m reading Batiuk’s timeline correctly, these two have at least thirty years’ experience each, and yet bullying appears to be something they have no response to, nor think they need to deal with.

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The Wedgeman Obsession continues

Today’s strip shows that Linda and Nate are still talking about this kid Tank Wedgeman, such that they ought to charge him rent for taking up inordinate space in their minds. Linda’s still hugging that odd blue book until panel three, which amazingly is the first time she hasn’t been hugging it all week. I’m not sure what the cage-thing is that’s on the wall behind them. I’d say it’s a shelf but you can see clear through it around the corner.

So Nate indicates that there are five Wedgeman brothers who are evenly separated by four years each, so the family had one child every four years for sixteen years to ensure that Westview High would have a Wedgeman at fullback for twenty years. That sounds… deranged, even for Westview. It’s also pretty remarkable that from the sounds of it no trouble came about from Bull throwing Nameless Wedgeman off the team for bullying “someone”. If his family really did plan the births of their children around such a lunatic scheme, one would think that they would raise a fuss over Bull thwarting it in such a casual, informal fashion.

Anyway, the most slipshod strip of the week. Have at it.

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