THE EDUCATION OF DR. SOUP
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- The point of Dr. Soup's first lecture in any course was to cut the audience of 200 down to the size of a seminar for the remainder of the semester. Here is a transcript of a typical opening:
Nothing. I just thought you looked as if you expected me to say something. Pardon me...? Oh, you DID expect me to say something. Well, I suppose I can understand that. After all, you are all sitting out there and I am standing up here... .
By the way, is this the only microphone in the room? Yes? Then I'll forget the next question about whether it is on. It is on. And if I have correctly interpreted the rolling of your eyes, it is on and on and on... .
You are waving your hand. You in the third row. Do you wish to make a bid on the microphone? If so, just touch the lobe of your left ear. And remember please that the profcam keeps a visual record of all gestures, including that of digital emunction.
What? Look it up.
Now, where were we?
Oh, yes, you wanted to buy the microphone. But remember that it is part of a set. The suit jacket to the lapel of which the mike is attached comes with the deal.
What is more, the jacket is worth far more than the mike itself. The jacket belongs to a suit that I bought from the Salvation Army in Ann Arbor, Michigan, shortly after the end of the Korean War. I paid one dollar for the whole thing. It is now worth at least ten times that.
Excuse me one moment. [pause]
Well, an associate dean has just informed me that the microphone is university property and is under no circumstances to be auctioned off-and certainly not in a first lecture.
Okay. That's clear.
Wait a sec. One thing is far from clear. How did this flunky from Gormley Hall know that we were talking about any bids on the mike? Are they monitoring what I say?
Wait till they get an earful of the real lecture.
What? You did not realize this was a lecture? What were you expecting? A discussion group? Where did you think you were, the University of Califo... . But no, I respect the moratorium that has been declared on jokes about that unfortunate state.
Let us all remember the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not pile on.
Another hand waving, what a good day this is turning out to be.
What? Digital emunction is not in your dictionary? It means, I am sorry to say, picking your nose. You will have to go to something with greater depth than your palm pilot.
But forget the dictionaries-not even the unabridged Webster's carries it. Go at once to Google. Pay particular attention to the citation from the Scottish National Archives.
I myself found it in Nabokov - but that's a different course.
Now, though this is only the first lecture, let us look ahead-all the way to the final exam. No discussion questions. One thing you will learn from me is that I hate discussion. I am the Anti-Socrates. I prefer the multiple choice. Example:
Of what novel is this the first sentence? "Call me Anna."
a) Moby Dick
c) Anna Karenina
d) Nun of the Above
If you answer a) or b) you will flunk the exam. If you answer c) you will flunk the course.
The answer is of course d), the only novel by John Grisham set in a convent.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.