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Mirror test miracle
a NSFW story from the sky, bulletproof classrooms, an existential bird
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
Have you ever considered jumping out of a plane? Have you made poor choices while trying to impress a lady? Do you also have gastrointestinal issues? Have I got the 19-minute story for you.
I first heard this tale of adventure and the realities of the body on public radio years ago. It shot back into my brain recently while I was building the syllabus for my spring storytelling course for middle schoolers. The youth! The youth deserve this story, I thought, as I fired up Jen Kober’s unmatched live performance of Skydiving for Snap Judgement. (If you’d rather watch the video—I HIGHLY recommend this—go here.)
I quickly realized two things as I listened, literal tears rolling down my face: 1) The youth of the University of Washington’s Saturday program cannot, can absolutely not, be blessed with this NSFW story this spring, and 2) This is still the most hilarious, most perfectly told story I have ever heard in my life. Buckle up.
SOMETHING TO READ
Exciting news in the world of dystopian education innovation in America: Apparently a company that "builds ballistic, rapid-deployment housing units for the military warfighter” has teamed up with the top builder of prisons to create (and sell) a $60,000 combo whiteboard/fort/bulletproof shield that teachers can deploy (this is the actual word used in the product advertising) in seconds! Time to celebrate, parents, educators, and gun rights advocates!
Jason Koebler and Matthew Gault with Vice have the story: Bulletproof Classroom 'Safe Room' for Mass Shootings Doubles As Whiteboard, 'Calm Cottage' Reward Space for Good Students.
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
If you too have been dwelling in ennui and existential unease since March 2020, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone—creatures human, furry, and feathered have been burdened and empowered by self-awareness since at least the invention of the mirror test in 1970.
Take, for example, Alex the parrot, who was believed to have the developed the intelligence of a kindergartener by the time he died at age 31.
(Fair warning before you learn more about Alex: For some reason Keri—usually pretty chill and deeply Canadian—said this story made her “profoundly sad,” and that it made her want to “move underground and never emerge.”)
While other animals like chimpanzees and elephants have passed the mirror test and learned to communicate with humans, Alex is the only non-human creature who has ever been known to ask a question about himself.
And what did Alex ask his trainer as he recognized his little parrot self in the mirror?! HE WANTED TO KNOW WHAT COLOR HIS FEATHERS WERE.
Why does this make me want to cry?! Why I am just so proud of Alex?? Why can’t my dog ask me questions about herself too??? There’s no way to know. RIP Alex.
LET’S GO ASPARAGUS SEASON
That’ a wrap on issue 97, friends. Thanks for listening, reading, holding on.
Thank you to all of you who have been subscribing and sharing UMA! This work feels like the hardest and most meaningful project I have ever undertaken. All of your support is both fueling and recharging me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
And if you know a 6-8th grader in Seattle who wants to spend Saturday mornings doing a ROCK PAPER RADIO-style writing workshop with me, there are still a few spots available in my (SFW) spring storytelling class at UW—unfortunately, no Jen Kober performance included. The cost is $250 per student and financial aid is available. Find more info and apply here. My course is called Storytelling Through a Multimedia Lens. Classes start April 1. Feel free to share the flyer below on your socials.
Happy spring, everyone! See you next week.