How to respond to snotty critics who won't debate, the old-fashioned way - through satire!
This column first appeared in the Idaho State Journal in February 2021 - just after Joe Biden’s inauguration. It’s my response to a couple of academic critics who don’t much like my ISJ columns. There’s nothing wrong with not liking my columns - hell, you might have to get in line behind me for some of them. But there is, IMO, something wrong with a critic, a professor of rhetoric no less, who pressures the ISJ to discontinue columns because they don’t like them. That’s not very sporting at all.
One of this pair, “Pendantic” is a professor of English (I can kind of understand that. I probably remind him of his “C” students the way that I do occasionally mangle the English language). The other, “Hunny Bunny” has complained to my editor that the ISJ should not run my column because I criticize the media. That’s especially rich coming from a professor of journalism.
This explicates my disappointment with academia. I worked hard for years to earn a position as a lecturer because I thought that a big part of the eventual payoff would be the opportunity to exchange ideas with smart people. I imagined spirited debates followed by beers at the nearest off-campus pub. I imagined continuing my education with wise colleagues.
Instead I found petty tyrants, bickering over nonsense, jealousy and lots of people who’s egos are, quite inexplicably, large enough to serve as their own source of gravity. And they’d all rather diss you behind your back than debate face to face.
Well hey - I’m your huckleberry. But since you eschew debate, I’m left with satire. Oh, and one other thing. I’m going to review “Hunny Bunny’s” newest book for the ISJ. Stay tuned.
With apologies to Quentin Tarantino.
Two men dressed in blazers, one silver, one tan, cased the campus area coffee shop. The older of the two looked a little like Sam Becket of Quantum Leap. The younger looked like someone who needed Becket's help to put right what surely once went wrong.
Silver blazer, Mr. Pendantic, nudged his younger companion, Hunny Bunny, “This looks like the place.”
Times were rough for the hapless duo. The world was mostly unimpressed with their pedigrees, and even less with their insistence that they were smarter than the ruffians who populated the outlands beyond their campus.
The coup de gras was that Sears Roebuck had been out of their style of blazers for several decades. Their indignation was at eleven.
“Coffee shops are cake,” said Pendantic. “Way easier than fleecing students by getting our share of their ruinous student loans and then sending them into fields where there are few decent jobs.”
“Right,” said Hunny Bunny. “And this place is bound to be full of liberals, which cuts down on the hero factor. They'll probably blame it on how bad the police are. Let's do it!”
Into the door they went, holding their hands in their pockets as if they had concealed weapons.
“Everybody be cool, this is a hold up!” shouted Pendantic.
Any of you move and I'll show every one of you my mean face.” added Bunny.
Over in a corner by himself, an older man looked up from his coffee and newspaper, not believing what he was seeing. He quietly reached for his weapon and made it ready.
“Alright,” said Pendantic, “everyone here is going to give us some respect. And we'll take your wallets while we're at it. Consider it your contributions to our self-esteem and pandemic relief funds.”
They went around the room demanding respect and collecting wallets; giddy with the ease at which they collected the latter, disappointed that, threats notwithstanding, virtually none of the former was to be had.
Eventually, Pendantic made his way over to the man with newspaper, who had his wallet out.
“In the bag,” said Pendantic. Then using his hand-in-pocket fake weapon, he motioned to a briefcase at the man's table. “What's in that?”
“None of your business,” replied the man.
“I didn't hear that.” said Pendantic.
“Yes you did.” replied the man.
The mood changed ominously. “What's the problem?” Hunny Bunny shouted from across the room.
“It seems that we have a vigilante in our midst.” replied Pendantic.
“Well, get in his wheelhouse,” insisted Bunny.
Pendantic looked as if he were considering just that. But while he was trying to sort out his escape, should things go south, his train of thought was interrupted.
“I hate to shatter your ego,” said the man, “but this isn't the first time I've been accosted by blowhards."
“Well it'll be your last if you don't open that briefcase. I mean business!”
“OK,” said the man as opened the briefcase, “you win.”
A luminous glow illuminated Pendantic's face. “Is that what I think it is?”
The old man nodded his head.
“What is it?” giggled Bunny from across the room.
“It's beautiful.” whispered Pendantic.
“Frames without tinted coke bottle glass for lenses always are.” replied the man, while reaching under the table to grab Pendantic by his turtleneck, dislodging his fake gun hand from it's pocket in the process.
Hunny Bunny went ballistic. Knowing that the fake weapon ruse was up, he reached into his man purse for a can of mace. “You let him go, or, or - I'll mace you!”
Martin Hackworth - Howlin' at the Moon in ii-V-I is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The old man looked up at Hunny Bunny who was now just a few feet away, brandishing a spray can. But it was not a can of mace. Bunny, in a panic, had pulled out a can of Brut for men instead. His finger rested on top of the cap, still on the can. Mace was not an issue. But his ear-piercing screams were.
“Tell him to chill out.” said the man to Pendantic.
“Chill out, Hunny Bunny.”
“Now, tell him everything is going to be just fine.”
“Everything is going to be just fine, Hunny Bunny.”
“Promise him.” insisted the man.
“I promise,” Pendantic said, looking at Hunny Bunny, “everything is going to be fine.”
“Just know,” said Hunny Bunny, “you hurt him, I'm gonna rain a mean face storm on everyone here.”
“Well that does seem to be the case, doesn't it?” said the man. “But I don't want that, you don't want that, and Pendantic here, he sure doesn't want that. So let's see what we can do.”
“Now normally both of your fannies would be in a ringer right now. But you happened to pull this on me while I'm in a transitional period. I don't want to hurt you, I want to help you.”
Looking at Pendantic, the man continued, “I'm not giving you what's in this case because you haven't earned it. But I will give you something else. Reach into that bag and get my wallet.”
“Which one is it?”
“It's the one that says 'BMF' on it."
Pendantic retrieved the wallet. “Now take out the money, and count it.”
After some difficulty with multiplying the number of bills, five, by the denomination, Pendantic responded “Five hundred dollars.”
“That's yours. Put it in your pocket.” said the man, “Now, along with all of the wallets that strikes me as a pretty successful score for you fellas. That's like, what, a year's salary in rhetoric?”
Pendantic nodded weakly. Hunny Bunny was now shaking uncontrollably; a smell most foul permeated the room.
“It's almost over.” said the man. “I'm proud of both of you. Yo, Pendantic, tell Hunny Bunny how proud of him you are too.”
“I'm proud of you too, Hunny Bunny.”
The man continued, “Now I'm not giving you that money, I'm buying something for it. You're going to look up microphone dynamics and reconsider the merits of any performance by a singer through a golden microphone that isn't actually hooked up to anything.”
“Is that it?” asked Pendantic.
“One more thing,” the man replied, “do you read the Bible?”
“Only in a scholarly way.”
“Well, there's this passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. 'The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is The Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.'”
“I been saying that for years. And if you heard it, the jig was up. I never gave much thought to what it meant. But I've seen some stuff lately that's made me think twice.”
“See, now I'm thinking, maybe it means you're a selfish man, and I'm a righteous man. And Mr. Dell XPS 15 7590 here, he's the shepherd watching over me in the valley of darkness. Or, it could mean you're a righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. I'd like that. But that isn't the truth. The truth is you're the effete. And I'm the tyranny of people who don't take you very seriously.”
“But I'm trying, Pendantic. I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd.”
Associated Press and Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, consultant and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time with family, llama farming, riding bicycles and motorcycles, arranging and playing music. Follow him on Twitter @MartinHackworth
Well that was a thorough butchering of a classic... you probably better send Mr. Tarantino some flowers and chocolates on top of the apology. Your point was made though which in the end is what's important even though as I watch that scene in the future I'm probably irrevocably scarred and will most likely have a Clockwork Orange reaction to it. Sounds to me like your overly educated duo is out where the busses don't run and hopefully for the rest of us they stay there. Dammit was I supposed to critique you behind your back? I always screw that up shit!
I'm in! Only let's start with a Samurai sword and use the gimp as bait...