Last week — much to the delight of many of you, if the stacks of Reader Mail covering my desk are any indication — we regaled you with your very first Pop Quiz. Flockbinker Pop Quiz #1. And oh, it was a thing of beauty. Ten multiple-choice questions featuring ten options each. We covered a number of exciting topics, including the various branches of philosophy, the classic flockbinker syllogism, and the ontological status of unicorns.
Well, as they say, into every life a little rain must fall, and too many cooks spoil the broth, and a stitch in time saves nine, and there’s no business like show business, and old age ain’t for sissies. My point is this: No sooner had the ink dried on that Pop Quiz (our first, in case i have neglected to mention it), than the Good Reader contacted me to lodge an objection. I shall try to reconstruct the conversation as best i can from memory.
The Good Reader: I’d like to register a complaint about your so-called ‘Pop Quiz’.
The Blogger: Say it isn’t so! Why, Good Reader, you’re my number one fan! What can you possibly have found to object to in so carefully thought-through and fastidiously worded an academic instrument?
The Good Reader: It was nonsense from beginning to end, that’s what!
The Blogger: If that’s your objection, you clearly haven’t been paying much attention to this blog for the past three years.
The Good Reader: Oh no, i have. And you’re right. Every single post you foist upon your unsuspecting public is just stuffed with nonsense. But, oh, i dunno, it usually seems justified somehow. It’s like, you’re combining philosophy and comedy, while working off the effects of your psychiatric medications. That i can deal with.
The Blogger: I’m not on any psychiatric medications.
The Good Reader: No? Well, that does explain a few things. Your doctor is falling down on the job.
The Blogger: Ahem. We were talking about your objections to the Pop Quiz.
The Good Reader: I don’t think it was a ‘pop quiz’ at all! It was a chaotic explosion of seemingly endless silliness and horrible meaningless randomness.
The Blogger: I take it your impression was a negative one.
The Good Reader: Look here, blogger-fellow, if you’re going to call something a ‘quiz,’ you’re leading people to believe that there will be educational value attached to it. Right? But that one was just, i mean, it was, just, just, a lot of nonsense.
The Blogger: It had a great deal of educational value! It was about philosophy. It was about logic. It was about existence!
The Good Reader: It was about ten questions too long.
The Blogger: You’re being needlessly harsh, o Good Reader. Surely you must have gained something from taking the quiz. You… you did take it, didn’t you?
The Good Reader: I looked at every question and read all of the answers you provided, if that’s what you mean by “taking” the quiz.
The Blogger: Excellent! I bet you were considerably smarter after taking it than you had been before.
The Good Reader: Probably not. In fact, i feel like my I.Q. dropped about 20 points from the time i started to the time i got to the end. I was barely able to remember how to turn off my computer.
The Blogger: Were there certain questions that you particularly objected to?
The Good Reader: The first few weren’t so bad; they actually had something to do with philosophy. And there were at least a few useful answers provided. But then it got more and more ridiculous. Really, blogger-person, you should be ashamed of yourself.
The Blogger: Ah, i see the difficulty. You object to the use of humor in making philosophy more palatable to the average reader. You feel that the quiz ought to have been more serious. “Too much frivolity!” is your battle-cry. “What do you offer the seriously committed, sober-minded lover of philosophical study?” Bypass the lighthearted banter and get straight to the Big Questions: that’s your way of thinking. You believe in diving right into the deep end of the pool. I bet you drink your whiskey straight.
The Good Reader: I only took up drinking whiskey after the traumatic experience of reading through that so-called pop quiz.
The Blogger: But you say you approved of the first few questions?
The Good Reader: No, not at all, it’s just that i wasn’t profoundly traumatized by the first few questions. They at least offered a few real answers, hidden in there among the references to Justin Bieber and the Darwin Awards. And the graffiti in bathroom stalls.
The Blogger: But then things got a bit thick, is that what you’re saying?
The Good Reader: About halfway through, you started putting in “answers” that were supposed to be comments from readers. Seriously? How does that make any sense?
The Blogger: Well, it is a little hard to explain, isn’t it. Who can understand the complex ways of the internet?
The Good Reader: And then they started arguing with each other.
The Blogger: Yes. That was unfortunate.
The Good Reader: Right there in the middle of the quiz. You had your readers arguing with each other in the answer sections.
The Blogger: I have feisty readers.
The Good Reader: But it was YOU writing all of that stuff! Don’t pretend it wasn’t. You’re not actually wanting me to believe that there were real people getting into fights on your so-called pop quiz? You wrote the questions, and you wrote the answers.
The Blogger: Well, it’s complicated.
The Good Reader: That’s your go-to remark when you don’t feel like explaining yourself.
The Blogger: Perhaps it should suffice to say that, yes, i wrote the questions and answers… but at another level of discourse, there were actual readers interacting with the questions and grappling with them, and offering their commentary aloud as they did so.
The Good Reader: Ho hum, yada yada yada.
The Blogger: Good Reader. Your tone is unbecoming.
The Good Reader: You had your readers saying things like, “ontology, shmontology” to each other in the middle of what was supposed to be a test.
The Blogger: My quizzes are lively community affairs, like a block party. Everybody wants to show up. The joint gets to jumpin’. A typical Flockbinker Quiz is like a really happenin’ social scene with music and laughter and dancing and people drinking too much.
The Good Reader: The only thing “happenin” was that you made up a bunch of totally fictional readers that you don’t even have, and made it sound like they were arguing about something that Bertrand Russell said, whoever that is.
The Blogger: Only one of the most important philosophers of the modern period. He–
The Good Reader: And to top it all off, you slipped me in there, and you made me sound ridiculous. You put words into my mouth.
The Blogger: Unlike what i’m doing right now.
The Good Reader: Don’t interrupt. You made it sound like i was fumbling through a really stupid attempt to define a unicorn. You know what? I know what your problem is. You’ve never forgiven me for that time when we were talking about unicorns and i embarrassed you because you couldn’t explain the difference between The Good Reader(1) and The Good Reader(3).
[Editor’s Note: The Good Reader is referring to an incident that occurred in this post from July of 2013. S/he clearly has a long memory and a problem with letting things go. Some people are quite unwilling to let the past be the past.]
The Blogger: It’s really never helpful to bring up the past.
The Good Reader: Yes, that’s what you just now said in the sly editorial comment that you slipped in there in those brackets, thinking i wouldn’t see it.
The Blogger: Oops.
The Good Reader: So i guess the main thing that bothers me about your so-called pop quiz is that you used it as yet another instrument for making me look stupid.
The Blogger: O Good Reader, so that’s what this is really all about! I was incautious in my use of you as an example in one of the answers, and i hurt your feelings! Golly, i’m sorry.
The Good Reader: Well, i suppose i can choose to overlook it this one time, so long as you promise never to let it happen again.
The Blogger: Absolutely. I’m a changed man. Gone are the days when i used to feature you as an example of someone with really elementary powers of reasoning, struggling to discuss things that are far beyond her capacities. From now on, i’ll have you saying things that are easily within your somewhat limited intellectual reach.
The Good Reader: Oh my word, you just did it again, just now, five seconds after promising you would never do it again!
The Blogger: What? What’d i say?