Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Yes, Math is Necessary

My sister recommended I write about this article in August.  Sorry for the delay.

       In his opinion piece of July 28, Is Algebra Necessary, Andrew Hacker, a professor emeritus at CUNY lays out his case that learning math in high school and college is pretty pointless.  He reminds us that math is often cited as one of the academic reasons that students drop out of high school, and that anecdotal evidence suggests that stumbling over college algebra is the reason many who begin college programs do not go on to earn bachelor degrees. 
       Are you really saying, Hacker, that if we made degrees easier to get that more people would get degrees?  Of course they would.  If you didn't have to take math to graduate from college then tons more people would graduate form college.  Yay!!  What if we cut out foreign languages too?  We're cutting out writing papers!  College is now just 1 year, and it's all multiple choice pass fail quizzes - and only your top 3 grades count toward your final score.  Hooray!  Now tons more people can graduate from college.
       Andrew Hacker also just doesn't believe that students should have to learn things that they are unlikely to need in their future careers.  How they are supposed to know their future careers at the age of 14 (or even 22) I have no idea.  He mentions doctors for an example: 

Medical schools like Harvard and Johns Hopkins demand calculus of all their applicants, even if it doesn’t figure in the clinical curriculum, let alone in subsequent practice. Mathematics is used as a hoop, a badge, a totem to impress outsiders and elevate a profession’s status.

What about that college French those future doctors learned?  Do they use that in practice - because med schools look at those grades too.  Do doctors need to know about plate tectonics or Picasso to diagnose gall stones?  No, they don't.  But that's not the point.  Education is, especially at the high school and undergraduate level, about teaching students how to learn and how to think - not just new facts and skills.  It's about trying different subjects, and learning what you enjoy and at what you excel.  My degrees are in art history.  Did I have to sit down and memorize the dates of a bajillion pyramids, Greek vases, and temples?  Heck yes.  Do I remember them as well as I knew them then?  Heck no.  Do I use them in my daily life?  Oh Hells to the no.  But that's not the point.  The point is that I know what it takes to sit down and memorize facts and recite them later.  I know how to study for a test.  I learned how to go to a library and open a book, show up on time, and not piss people off too much.  I know how to produce a product to meet a deadline.  And those are just skills that you can't learn any other way.
       If you don't think algebra is necessary, Hacker, I would like to ask you about Dasmine Cathey.  Mr. Cathey was a young man who was recruited to play football for, and graduated from, the University of Memphis despite the fact that he was functionally illiterate when he matriculated.  There were a number of tragic things in this young man's life, and I don't judge him, he certainly appears to have many other good qualities, but he was no student.  You might be asking how in the world he could have earned a college degree with so little ability to read and write.  I certainly have no idea.  Using the above link you can read several of his college papers, that he willingly shared.  One is entitled:  Some Important Womans.
       It doesn't get better from there.  When asked how he was given passing grades in classes that required reading and writing, the professors that The Chronicle of Higher Education interviewed all said that they wouldn't discuss a particular student with journalists, but that they did award passing (if not quite good) grades if the student showed improvement. 
       That's one of the important things about math; instructors can't give passing grades just for improvement.  The teacher can't take pity on you because you're really trying or because she's a football fan and you are great for the team.  Effort and creativity don't matter.  It's just about learning the material and producing a product.  That's one of the reasons that math can be a handy guide for med school admissions counselors, because you can't BS your way through it.  I'm not saying you can BS your way through other subjects, I had to memorize the dates of all those Rembrandts after all, but the above article on Dasmine Cathey is an example of how human instructors are, about how wanting students to do well may make them a bit too forgiving, and how we can't let our desire for more graduates make us lower the bar for all college students.  A college degree has to really mean something, and it's not for everybody. 
       A final note.  I hated algebra.  It was the lowest grade I got in high school - by far.  But I passed algebra, and I have to admit, I honestly do use it from time to time.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm Confused, N Y Times, do you think parents should smoke pot or not?

       In August of last year, The New York Times published an article by Mosi Secret entitled No Cause for Marijuana Case, but Enough for Child Neglect.  It described the case of a single mother in the Bronx who temporarily lost custody of her son and, for an entire year, lost custody of the niece she was raising because a small amount of marijuana belonging to her boyfriend was found in her home.  The amount of weed was less than even the minimum amount for a misdemeanor account. Even if it had been enough to actually break the law, it would have only been punishable much like a speeding ticket is punished, with a $100 fine.  Nevertheless, Child Protective Services got involved, and her children were taken away.  The article goes on to describe the story of a young, black father who occasionally lived in homeless shelters and who lost custody of his daughter when a $5 bag of marijuana was found in his possession, among other alleged reasons.  He was smoking it, he claimed, because of the pain of a recent tooth extraction.
       The basic premise of the article is that even though marijuana smoking is really only a parking ticket offense in New York City, small amounts that wouldn't even be considered enough for a fine can be enough to find someone to be an unfit parent.  The article quoted Michael Fagan, a spokesman for the Administration for Children's Services, "Drug use itself is not child abuse or neglect, but it can put children in danger of neglect or abuse . . . use of cocaine, heroin, or marijuana by a parent of a young child should not be looked into or should simply be ignored is just plain wrong."
       Ok, fair enough.  No mary jane around small children.
       Oh wait!  No!  Apparently if you're a chic, married, white, and an art dealer - pot makes you a better parent.  In an Op-Ed entitled Pot for Parents, art dealer Mark Wolfe described how he can only handle communicating with his three small children after he swapped his previous drug of choice, soda and bourbon, for the pot brownies he talked a doctor into prescribing him for his back pain.  Why does he need to be stoned to be a good parent?  Because he simply couldn't handle teaching his daughter to draw a Q or taking his children on an airplane if he wasn't baked.  He tells us how marijuana makes him a better father:

Deeply embedded voices of authority in my head do still caution that I may be hurting my kids in ways I can’t see. But I just can’t imagine how it could possibly be worse for them than the consequences of their father’s former stress-fueled frustration and withdrawal. When I’m rolling around the floor with my giggling daughters, clicking into an easy dynamic of goofy happiness and love, I feel it’s just what the doctor ordered. 

       Soooo - let me get this.  Wolfe is telling us how weed makes him a better parent?  Ok.  But that single mom in The Bronx, Penelope Harris said, "I felt like less of a parent, like I had failed my children. It tore me up.” So, Administration for Children's Services - will you be looking into Mark Wolfe's parenting?  Will you be putting him in lockup this weekend or taking his children away until he passes a drug test?  No, of course not.  Because he found a doctor and a legal loophole.
       Now, one could say that loophole or not, he didn't break the law, and the other parents did.  But bet's not forget, that Ms. Harris didn't actually break any laws either.  The amount of pot she had was below the minimum for a crime.  The laws work for people like Mark Wolfe.  He found a legal way to ingest the same substance, and he gets to flaunt it loud and proud across the Op-Ed page of The New York Times.  No, there won't be any visits from the Administration for Children's Services at his apartment.  Wolfe claims he needs weed to function because he only has a wife, not a team of cooks and nannies, has three whole children, they live on two modest incomes, and choose to live in an expensive city, and it's tricky to fly.  Well, Wolfe, you find it stressful to fly with three small children?  You can clearly afford 5 airplane tickets, you're married, and you and your wife are employed - so cry me a freakin' river.
       Take it away for us, Mosi Secret of August 2011, "Over all, the rate of marijuana use among whites is twice as high as among blacks and Hispanics in the city, the data show, but defense lawyers said these cases were rarely if ever filed against white parents."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Catching up on the Circumcision Question

       The New York Times was a few days late and a few dollars short, but they finally admitted that Germany doesn't want to put an end to Jewish and Muslim traditions.  They acknowledged that religious circumcision will be legal in Germany as long as it is performed under sterile conditions.  I think we should be able to put the lid on this one.
       Shmuel Rosner doesn't agree.  He believes that the German ruling against circumcision (and its swift reversal) are just another example of how Europeans are systematically attacking Jewish heritage.  The Israeli columnist writes in his Views from Around the World column of August 27, Nip and Tuck?:

I am, however, open to discussing with Jews the benefits and the vices of the practice, including the argument that circumcision should be abandoned or altered to accommodate contemporary understandings of health and human rights.
That said, I am a bit prejudiced. When it comes to the human rights of Jews and to protecting Judaism, I’m still not quite ready to trust non-Jewish Europeans.

Essentially he states that secular governments have no place interfering in Jewish religious rituals.  I understand that he feels his religion is being attacked, but secular governments have not only the right - but the duty - to step in on behalf of citizen and resident children if they believe that abuse or neglect is taking place.  Yes, Judaism is a religion with a great deal of cultural legitimacy and a history of horrific persecution.  But that does not mean that Jewish parents should get to do whatever they want to their children as long as they can find a Rabbi who will back them up. 
       The New York Times is currently covering the story of New York City's new possible regulation of metzitzah b’peh, or the practice of a mohel cutting off an infant's foreskin and then using his wine-filled mouth to suck the blood from the wound before dribbling wine on the infant's bleeding penis.  New York City's one regulation, which will be voted on this week, would be that both parents have to sign a consent form before the procedure.  Why?  Well, eleven babies have gotten herpes from this procedure since 2004, two died, and two suffered brain damage as a result.  Although the consent form sounds like a minor inconvenience, plenty of mohels insist they will perform the procedure as they always have, regardless of New York City's laws and codes.
       I know it's a religious practice, but I still think it's fair to say it should be illegal for an adult to put his wine-filled mouth on a bleeding baby penis.  And, I'll let you in on a little secret, Shmuel Rosner.  I'm a fairly secular person and a weak a feeble woman, but I'm among the group that wouldn't have done so well in 1937 in the very city where I live now.  My father was circumcised.  My grandfather was circumcised.  My father's grandfather was circumcised in the shtetl before getting on a boat headed west.  I don't know if Rosner would consider me worth listening to, but here's my opinion on the issue, "NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!  Please please please, secular authorities step in and keep wine away from a child's open wound.  Please keep herpes ridden mouths away from an innocent child's penis.  Please please please, if a child dies or suffers brain damage because of getting herpes in this way, prosecute that child's parents for abuse.  No book or ancient tradition comes before the adequate care of a child!"
       If there is to be a sensible debate about circumcision, it must be about the medical and psychological benefits of the procedure - not just the religious ones.  There are cases to be made for and against, but to say that anything should be allowed, because it is a religious practice, is just morally lacking.  Because for some, a religious practice is allowing an old man to fill his cold sore ridden mouth with wine and give herpes to a baby, causing that baby to actually die of the disease.  For some, it is a religious practice, defended by scripture, to hit a seven month old infant with a switch when he cries at night.  For some, it's a religious and cultural tradition to slice into the genitals of little girls so that they will not be able to take pleasure in sex when they are adult women.
       So please, governments, religious leaders, health care providers, human rights specialists - let's talk about circumcision.  Let's do studies, let's interview adult men, let's get statistics written down.  Let's talk about community and religious heritage.  And then let's talk about if it should be legal and, if so, under what circumstances.  This is about the treatment of children and their bodies, and secular governments do have a duty to step in and protect them when needed.  We can't just step aside and say that every religious custom should be accepted without question.  Because that way leads to innocent children dying of herpes.

Also - Shmuel Rosner, Germany is building (and partly financing) Israel's nuclear submarines.   It sounds to me like in the 21st century, they've got your back, Jack.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What are you talking about, Opera Man?

       Some opera critic named Zachary Woolfe wrote a ridiculous article for the New York Times Arts Section entitled, "How Hollywood Films are Killing Opera."  The movies he mentions are some new Fox Searchlight thing about a troubled teen girl that is titled Margaret, as well as Pretty Woman which opened 22 years ago, and Moonstruck which was made 25 years ago.  According to Zach, all the pretty dresses and swanky dates nights depicted in the opera going scenes in these movies make the American Opera going public want old fashioned big sets and screaming sopranos instead of real artistic substance.  Woolfe states:

Though both films have been given credit for helping to popularize opera, the idea of the art form they have popularized has profoundly damaged it in this country. The films have taught Americans a particular idea of what opera is, so that is the kind of opera Americans think they want.

Woolfe complains that the opera that Americans demand is less than inventive:

The repertory is largely stagnant, focused on the same small group of hits. The few big stars who remain — the Plácido Domingos, Renée Flemings and Anna Netrebkos — are needed to sell almost anything that is not “Aida,” “Carmen” or “Turandot.”  The typical production style is blandly nostalgic escapism rather than vibrancy or relevance. This was the case through much of America in the 20th century, and there hasn’t been much change so far in the 21st. 

Ok, Woolfe, you want something more dynamic in contemporary American opera than what you see a character watch in a movie.  Problem is, Zachary, a movie that Cher made when Ronald Reagan was president is not really relevant to much of anything.  
       What is incredibly relevant, movie-wise, to modern American opera (but which our dear friend Zach forgot to mention) is that since 2006, the Metropolitan Opera in New York has broadcast its operas simultaneously in HD in various movie studios and released them on DVDs.  Could HD opera simulcasts make opera more accessible to new audiences?  (Hooray!!)  Could HD simulcasts cause casting directors to choose opera singers based more on physical attractiveness than singing ability?  (Booo!!)  Those issues seem way more relevant than mentioning what happened in a fairy tale prostitute movie from the era of the first gulf war. 
       So, is contemporary modern opera all about big sets, big wigs, big stars, and one more repetitive La Boheme and one more staid old Madame Butterfly?  Well, it wasn't in 2007 when I went to see the new American opera Grapes of Wrath to a sold out house without a single dry eye.  The CD is out of stock on Amazon.  American Opera wasn't stagnant last year when I drive 8 hours to see the new opera Silent Night, which actually put the opera goer in the trenches during World War One and which won its composer a Pulitzer Prize. 
      To be fair, the last opera I saw in Germany featured a naked octogenarian, a violent gang rape, and a robot-filled sweatshop - and most of that sort of thing isn't too popular in the American opera scene today.  But, Zachary Woolfe doesn't mention anything he would like to see contemporary American opera do differently.  He just says that movies from over 20 years ago are messing it up.  I understand that you may have had a deadline, Zach, but let's try to stick to actual news and analysis in the future.


I tweeted Zach Woolfe to ask why he mentioned Pretty Woman and Moonstruck but not the new MET HD simulcasts.  He deleted my tweet.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Please don't play with Peruvian orphans for a week and then go home

       Forgive my recent absence from writing, but I was on vacation for the last 10 days.  This morning I headed directly for the New York Times online travel section to happily plan my next vacation, and what to my wandering eyes should appear but Jennifer Conlin's article, "Volunteer Trips:  Is Your Family Ready?"  In this article Conlin discusses voluntourism, a fad where wealthy people from the western world take their privileged children to slums to impoverished countries and get an eye opening experience. 
       Conlin discusses how to be prepared to find an American-trained doctor should the need arise, how to protect your children when things get too real, and how your teen's fancy college admissions counselor might actually advise him or her NOT to talk about the experience in a college application essay.  The most offensive though, is how she cautions parents (if they plan on a safari or beach extension as well) to do the luxurious part of the vacation FIRST before the volunteering part.  That way, your child won't feel like he should send his rack of lamb to the starving family he left behind 10 hours earlier.
       I am glad that wealthy people want to help the developing world.  That's really great.  But nowhere in this article does Conlin seem to be aware that these voluntourism trips may do more harm than good for exactly the people they are supposed to help.  They tourists themselves feel fantastic afterword.  They spend a great deal of money, learn about the world, and can feel good about themselves for helping.  Maybe it helps their kids get into college too.  Maybe they sound a bit more awesome over the water cooler at work.  Although the New York Times hasn't quite caught on, other news outlets have expressed concern that these trips may be actually detrimental to the so called "aid" recipients.
       The article shows a photo of a volunteer woman playing with two orphans in Peru.  What about when she leaves?  The Human Sciences Research Council tells us that it can be detrimental for orphans, who have already had hard lives, to get attached a string of caregivers who move on after a few weeks, never to return.  What if a volunteer does a low skilled job for free, thus taking a paying job away from a local person.  What if a volunteer freaks out and has to be evacuated?  It happens all the time.  The New York Times article mentions a girl who breaks her wrist and requires the services of an American-trained physician.  What local person had to wait so that the volunteer girl was treated?  There are plenty of voluntourism companies who will let you pay for the privilege of teaching English.  You're their customers after all, not the students you're trying to help.  But what if you're a really bad, untrained teacher who does nothing to help the kids because what they need is a trained and long term teacher with a real lesson plan?  Do people in need really want some rich person from halfway across the world who doesn't speak their language or understand their culture waltzing in and very crappily building a part of a school for 10 days?  Isn't there someone local around to hand out the school supplies or the goats?
       An executive profiled in the article spent $16,780 (excluding airfare which was probably at least $3000 more) to go with her husband and nine-year-old twins to Kenya to lug water around, make beads, and help build part of a school for a few days.  Now, say you're an aid organization in Kenya wanting to build a school.  Would you rather have two middle-aged non-construction workers and two nine-year-olds, who can't speak your language and who need to be fed and housed, come and help you for 10 days, or would you rather have $20,000 to hire local construction workers?  Sure, that family could have donated $20,000 instead of going on vacation that year, which would have been a much greater act of altruism, but then the children wouldn't have gotten to have their "eye opening experience" to talk about at school the next fall.
       I heartily believe that privileged children should know about the rest of the world.  Have them get minimum wage jobs, read books and watch documentaries about the less privileged, and give money to good causes.  But let's also not forget that no matter where you are in America or how rich your town, somebody in your community needs help.  The first rule of helping, though, is that it's not about the helper - it's about the person in need.  Kids can learn this lesson at home without hogging all the good local doctors and traumatizing orphans.  There are certainly poverty and need in the United States.  The woman who lives next door has cancer, and your teenagers want to bake her cookies and walk her dog?  Tough titties - it's not about them.  What if what she really needs is rides to and from chemotherapy and your 17-year-old could drive her?  What if what she really needs is somebody to mow her lawn, and your 13-year-old could do it?  Can a nine-year-old really help build a building in any reasonable way?  Oh hell no.  Would you want to be in a school built by a nine-year-old?  But a nine-year-old can take a summer job pet sitting for the house across the street when the family goes on vacation and donate half of the $100 she makes to a worthy charity.  She'll learn how good giving feels, and the charity will probably be happier to have the $50 than a nine-year-old around to "help" for a few days.
       I'm all for volunteering and giving time and money.  But, the New York Times, let's come to realize (as so many other news outlets have) that hugging orphans for a week before abandoning them to the next rich tourist is not helping this world in a proper, sustainable, and long-lasting way - it's about stroking the tourist's ego and conscience.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

You know how outraged your were on behalf of the Jews and Muslims in Germany? You forgot the follow up.

       The New York Times (and many others) took notice last month when a local court in Cologne ruled that circumcision of underage boys was tantamount to grievous bodily harm and should be forbidden.  Adult men would, naturally, be able to choose their own religions and are permitted to do what they wanted with their foreskins.  This ruling regarded a case where a Muslim 4 year old, in accordance with a Muslim tradition, was circumcised.  Although the child was circumcised by a doctor and under proper conditions, mistakes were made, and the child was wounded and suffered excessive bleeding. 
       Of course, this ruling was very controversial.  Jewish tradition dictates that male infants be circumcised on the eighth day after birth, and the German government tried to wipe all Jews off the face of the earth a mere 70 years ago.  The ruling was also tough to take for Germany's largest immigrant group, Muslim Turks, who even if they may have been born, raised, and educated in Germany, speak perfect German and little to no Turkish, are often considered to be and treated as outsiders.  It's a very difficult subject.  Does this ruling imply that Germans want to protect all children in Germany, even Jewish and Muslim children, or is it proof positive that Germany wants those who are not Christians to pack up and leave?  The New York Times had a Motherlode section about it.  They even had a Room for Debate column about it with opinions by a few doctors and other very important people.  The commenters completely lost it, as naturally internet commenters are known to do.  A variety of opinions from "religious liberty should be protected - they are trying to kill all the Jews again" to "circumcision is mutilation, good for the Germans" were expressed.  Then The New York Times published a tug-at-your-heartstrings piece about this family suggesting that now Jews and Muslims in Germany are not going to be able to get their children circumcised in hospitals, by doctors under sterile conditions and covered by health insurance, that they will instead resort to getting their sons' foreskins removed by shady practitioners in back alleys - as unlikely as that seems.
       Good for The New York Times for covering this issue and discussing it.  But they forgot the end of the story.  Which is that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that circumcision and religious freedom would be protected.  She said that Jewish and Muslim culture would be safe and welcomed in Germany.  The lower house of parliament passed legislation saying that Jews and Muslims could circumcise their sons.  Yet somehow, after all that worrying, The New York Times did not cover these important developments.  This oversight upsets me because I believe The New York Times is giving the American public an incorrect view of Germany and the condition of German Muslims and Jews in the 21st century.  I think the paper should have alerted their readership that all the worrying should be over. 
       But before I go, I would like to address the ruling itself.  We cannot forget that a German court in a major city did say that, before the age of consent, non medically necessary circumcision should be considered child abuse.  Many people see this ruling as an attempt to criminalize Jewish and Muslim cultural traditions, normalize Christian and secular German society, and make Jews and Muslims feel unwelcome.  That may be part of it, but I don't think it's the main reasoning behind the original ruling.  I believe that the ruling was an indication of two phenomena:  the increasing unpopularity of circumcision in general and the German tendency toward defending the rights of the child over the rights of the parents. 
       I'm not an expert on family life in Germany, I certainly haven't lived here long enough.  But it seems to me that there is absolutely no contest between a parent's rights and a child's rights in this country.  German parents cannot homeschool their children, the Germans believe that all children have a right to go to a school with curricula that have been subject to review by someone other than their parents.  Although religious schools are always an option, they still have to be approved.  German parents are not allowed to spank their children.  German children can only be given names that are on a very extensive list of approved names.  The name must be appropriate, a genuine name and not a random noun or adjective, and must reflect the child's gender.  What if mom is Chinese, dad is German, and the couple want to give their son a Chinese name that's not on the German list?  Fine - but rest assured the Germans will be checking with the Chinese consulate to make sure that the name is an appropriate name in China for a male.  In other words, you can't name your child Apple, Moon, or Gi'zelle in Germany.  Americans see these things, typically, as parents not having the right to educate, discipline, and name their children how and what they want.  Germans see it as protecting the right of the child to be educated properly, be free from violence, and be given a proper and dignified name.  It's just a different way of looking at things, and I can see the merits of both sides.  It's one thing to let an adult change his name to Tree Bark Ass Face as long as you insist that, as a kid, his legal name will be something like Arthur.  It's also another thing to let an adult man have a healthy piece of skin removed as a religious rite as long as his parents didn't have the right to do it to him when he was a baby. 
       The other phenomenon I think played a part in the original ruling is just the fact that circumcision just isn't as popular as it used to be, even among populations that used to be its strongest supporters.  Most of the American men of my generation were circumcised.  Many members of my generation of Americans are having children now, and not as many of the sons are circumcised as their fathers.  As it is among the rest of Americans, circumcision popularity is falling among American Jews.  On top of the fact that I know a few Jewish parents who have decided not to have their sons circumcised, there is an online community.  More and more people just feel a little weird about removing something healthy and natural from their sons genitals, even if it's a tradition (religious or secular) to do so, and even if they know many perfectly happy and sexually content men who were circumcised as infants.  The vast majority of Jews and Muslims still circumcise their sons, but it'll probably be a little less popular every year.
       I certainly can't see into the future, but it sure looks to me like the practice of circumcision may have peaked in popularity.  My guess is that after (and this could be decades) the population will stop really circumcising its sons very much, then doctors will start discouraging it, and it will slowly be legally restricted in various areas to boys over 16 or so, and then only with the written recommendation of a religious leader or something.  But for now, the religious rite of infant circumcision is protected in Germany.  Way to go, New York Times, you got us all wound up and upset and then totally missed the conclusion.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Drunk Australians

       Chuck Klosterman is off to a bang up start as the new writer of The Ethicist column.  In his column of July 6, 2012, Exit-Row Exigencies, an Australian man writes in to ask if it is ethical for a passenger seated in an airplane's exit row to get blindingly intoxicated.  Klosterman essentially says it's not great - but it's so not a big deal because the chance that the intoxicated man will be the only person on a plane who can open a door and that he will be too blotto to do so is infinitesimal. 
       Fair enough, Chuck - but what he actually included in this little answer was, "From a practical standpoint, I would trust an intoxicated Australian more than most sober Americans."
       Apparently there is no editor at the illustrious New York Times who has the know how to say, "Chuckie-baby, your tongue-in-cheek jab at sober Americans does not actually help answer the man's question, is in all kinds of poor taste, and shows just how amazingly unfunny you can be."