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Author Topic: Pseudopod 048: The Disciple  (Read 25357 times)

Bdoomed

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on: July 27, 2007, 08:21:24 PM
Pseudopod 048: The Disciple


By David Barr Kirtley
Read by Matthew Wayne Selznick

Professor Carlton Brose was evil, and I adored him as only a freshman can. I spent the first miserable semester at college watching him, studying the way he would flick away a cigarette butt, or how he would arch his eyebrow when he made a point. I mimicked these small things compulsively. I don’t know why, because it wasn’t the small things that drew me to him at all. It was the big things, the stories people told as far away as dear old Carolina.

You heard the name Brose if you ran with any cults, and I ran with a few. Society rejected us, so we rejected them. The more things you give up, the less there is to bind your will. There’s power there. We were sure of it. But that power was damned elusive.



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


eytanz

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Reply #1 on: July 28, 2007, 10:57:52 PM
This was a good story. I liked the premise - of the course being a trap for the power-hungry - a lot.

I'm not entirely sure how effective it would be, though. I mean, I can see what the appeal was for the narrator, and for anyone else like him who is really attention-seeking. And once someone is in the course, I can see how they can be talked into the binding. But for someone who wants power in order to dominate others, why would they even agree to join a course where none of the students were ever heard of again? If I was going to evil wizard school, I'd want to go to the one which has the most alumni that are still talked about only in scared whispers.

But then, I would never drown a mouse, so maybe I just don't understand.



goatkeeper

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Reply #2 on: July 29, 2007, 04:13:46 AM
Generally, in the cthulhu mythos stories I've read, you arn't really supposed to know exactly what happens to the people in the cult when they vanish or apotheosize or whatever- just like you arn't supposed to really be able to wrap your head around the hugeness of the massive evil involved. 
I thought the story was very effective in the Lovecraftian sense until he said the students were dying...and I was like, "what?  we don't know that for sure!"



oddpod

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Reply #3 on: July 29, 2007, 08:46:17 AM
tiz a  potter/lovecraft mashup!
i like it


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eytanz

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Reply #4 on: July 29, 2007, 10:13:01 AM

I thought the story was very effective in the Lovecraftian sense until he said the students were dying...and I was like, "what?  we don't know that for sure!"

True, but I'm not sure we need to accept him at face value here - this is not a guy with particularly great insight, he's just a guy with better-than-average self-preservation instincts for a cult member. He might be jumping to conclusions here.



Grape Old One

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Reply #5 on: July 29, 2007, 10:29:16 PM
I liked that in New England, evil cultists are just something that needs to be kept in check.  I love modern takes on the mythos, this and Akropolis are two of my favorites on pseudopod. 



goatkeeper

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Reply #6 on: July 29, 2007, 11:39:46 PM
I liked that in New England, evil cultists are just something that needs to be kept in check.  I love modern takes on the mythos, this and Akropolis are two of my favorites on pseudopod. 

Haha ya, I liked that too.



Leon Kensington

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Reply #7 on: July 30, 2007, 02:58:39 PM
That was the greatest PP yet.  Lovecraftian and twisted.  Perfect.



Listener

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Reply #8 on: July 31, 2007, 12:57:05 PM
I didn't really care for this story.  Technically I found it sound, and the acting was good, but I have some picks about the story.

First of all, I didn't feel like I got a good enough window into the main character to establish why I should care about him.  So he knows about cults and idolizes this Brose guy.  So what?  What makes him special enough for me to care about his existence?  Toward the end he redeemed himself, and I liked how he became Brose's replacement, but I never really felt strongly enough about him as a character.

Secondly, while I know cruelty to animals is an easy way to establish someone as being evil, I don't really like reading it, not on a personal level.  It just turns me off.  Some people hate certain words, some people won't read a story if it deals with certain topics.  If I had known there would be a crucified cat, I might not have listened to the story at all.

Thirdly, Adrian was a useful character, but the fact that he fell to the floor, whimpering, when the monster entered his dreams, and yet the main character only was slightly disturbed... I don't think I felt the true horror of it.  It's like the main character had too easy a time of things because he wasn't as good at this stuff as he wanted to be.

So, in short, I didn't really like it that much.  Maybe it's because I don't have a good-enough grounding in Cthulhu lore to really grok the story.

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goatkeeper

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Reply #9 on: July 31, 2007, 04:36:28 PM
I agree with you absolutely on the crucified cat- I know we are supposed to expect gritty things from Pseudo, but it might be nice to throw up more pre-episode warnings like escapepod does. 

As for the story,- since the main character was in first person it felt less like the strategy was to make us care about him, but more to make us feel like him.  He's insecure about something that he wants to excell at,  he's surrounded by and intimidated by other people who are better at that thing, etc.  There's not that much character development true- but I didn't personally feel like there needed to be.
The author spends most of the time building up Brose's character as one creepy mofo.

I don't think you have to be grounded in the Lovecraftian stuff- I tend to get frustrated by some of the things in this style too.  This story was good but far from the greatest PP yet.  Bagman still has that title in my opinion. ;-)



Leon Kensington

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Reply #10 on: July 31, 2007, 05:15:05 PM
On the crucified cat:

I think it shows the darkness of what they were doing.  Yes, it was disturbing but that is what it and PP as whole is supposed to be.  Is it worse than a serial killer that can rip off her skin?  Visually, I think not.  But, we have an emotional connection to animals and that is what is shown.  I am far from a cat lover, but I still found myself disturbed as much if not more than the author wanted me to be.  Do I think it needed a warning?  No, this is PP we should expect stuff like that.  Does Infection give a warning about burning genitalia or chicken scissors?  No, because it is explicit and that is something that is there.  If you don't like it fine, fast forward a little.  That doesn't make it a bad story, just good character developement.



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Reply #11 on: July 31, 2007, 07:41:50 PM
Well, I agree with you mostly.  My first response to your comment was going to be something like "Putting up a warning isn't a big deal, you might as well- what can it hurt?"
Then I realized I might not have listened to the story if it said "Warning, this story has instances of severe and graphic animal brutality"- and then I would have missed what was overall a great story. 
So now I'm not sure how I feel about it.
I don't think anyone has stated that it made it a bad story- certainly it added to the darkness of the piece as you say- but I think most people have a line that they don't really want crossed.  Obviously that line differs between people and that's what makes it difficult.  Pseudopod has warned listeners in the past when instances of rape or molestation are involved if I remember correctly.  I think many would argue that animal mutilation should be content that at least deserves consideration for a little warning blurb.  It's nice to at least be given the option of not being profoundly disturbed if you like only being moderately disturbed every week by PP. 

As for Infection- Sigler knows he's a sick bastard- I feel like he does a great job of letting people know exactly what they are getting themselves into every episode.  I would almost be disapointed if he didn't have an occasional genital flambeau.



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Reply #12 on: August 01, 2007, 01:19:44 AM
This story kept my interest throughout.

Well-paced and intriguing, with the kind of nod to Lovecraft that is bound to dig under my skin and stay there.

Stephen King once wrote that contemporary horror authors ought to forget Poe and forget Lovecraft. Well, maybe they should if they're writing novels about crazed versions of their own fans smashing their feet up with sledgehammers, but I'll take this kind updated take on unearthly supernatural horror any day, especially in short form.

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DKT

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Reply #13 on: August 01, 2007, 03:16:23 PM
I thought this story worked very well.  The pacing was excellent and it didn't go on to long.  Good twist at the end, too. 

The cat crucifixion was sick but it served its purpose.  I don't think it was any sicker than some of the other stuff I've heard on Pseudopod.


eytanz

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Reply #14 on: August 01, 2007, 04:16:39 PM
I was not particularly bothered by the cat crucifixion - well, the concept bothered me, but the description was not graphic enough to really disturb me. For one, the actul crucifixion is not described, only its aftermath, though that was quite unpleasant as well.



sirana

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Reply #15 on: August 01, 2007, 04:30:47 PM
First of all, I didn't feel like I got a good enough window into the main character to establish why I should care about him.  So he knows about cults and idolizes this Brose guy.  So what?  What makes him special enough for me to care about his existence?  Toward the end he redeemed himself, and I liked how he became Brose's replacement, but I never really felt strongly enough about him as a character.

I share Listeners sentiment on the main character. It's not the fact that he is not a nice hero, I like having evil heroes. But this one left me pretty cold. A little more motivation than "I want to be the best disciple" would have done the story a lot of good.
And I think it's a bit of a stretch to say he redeemed himself. He didn't recognize the evilness of his actions or of Brose, he just didn't want to be "another fly".
The fact that he accepted Brose's position afterwards isn't explained satisfactory, it looks like he just took the path of least resistance after he killed Brose.

All in all it was still an entertaining story and I loved the Lovecraft of it.

Hehe... get it?... loved the Lovecraft.... loved the... hehe... get it?...
...
Ok. I'll stop doing that now.


Anyways it was a fun story, but without a hero you can relate to it fell pretty flat for me.



mwsmedia

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Reply #16 on: August 02, 2007, 04:16:56 PM
Funny... folks got upset about the crucifixion of the cat, but no one blinked an eye that two mice were drowned -- one very graphically.

That says something about people... what if the mouse had been crucified?  What if it had been a cockroach?  A human baby?

Interesting.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun reading this one!

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oddpod

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Reply #17 on: August 04, 2007, 06:47:11 AM
i have to say i am a bit puzzled buy the fuss about the cat.
we have had equally nasty thing happen to human, some times  children in the past and know one bated an eye.

it reminds me of something that hapend to a buddy of mine lately. he works as a ligting/sound engineer and DJ at a local student uni venue. so the guy has bean putting all sorts on the big video wall, clips from clockwork orange and itchi the killer feature Farly regularly he is always looking for something nasty to stick up there just to see what he can get away with, a question he soon has anserd

 one night he ads a vid clip from youtube to the mix,the clip in question is a bare falling out of a tree on to a trampoline  which flips the creature back in to the air and on to the road, its the kind of daft clip you get on "worlds stupidest people who rescue bares from trees"

for this clip he had a disciplinary hearing and almost lost his job.

its just a bit weird


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goatkeeper

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Reply #18 on: August 04, 2007, 11:28:32 PM
No fuss, just two people commenting that they personally don't like reading about it.



Listener

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Reply #19 on: August 06, 2007, 04:43:12 PM
i have to say i am a bit puzzled buy the fuss about the cat.
we have had equally nasty thing happen to human, some times  children in the past and know one bated an eye.

it reminds me of something that hapend to a buddy of mine lately. he works as a ligting/sound engineer and DJ at a local student uni venue. so the guy has bean putting all sorts on the big video wall, clips from clockwork orange and itchi the killer feature Farly regularly he is always looking for something nasty to stick up there just to see what he can get away with, a question he soon has anserd

 one night he ads a vid clip from youtube to the mix,the clip in question is a bare falling out of a tree on to a trampoline  which flips the creature back in to the air and on to the road, its the kind of daft clip you get on "worlds stupidest people who rescue bares from trees"

for this clip he had a disciplinary hearing and almost lost his job.

its just a bit weird




(This is offtopic so if it's deleted or moved I understand.)

As you probably know, the Mike Vick thing with dogfighting is still going on, and it is HUGE in Atlanta.  On my station's d-boards, there's an insane amount of outcry.  People are always asking "well, what if this was a person/child who'd been forced to fight?" and everyone responds "yeah but it's not, but if it was we'd be just as outraged".

But our d-boards about stuff happening to kids are never as well-traveled as the ones about animals.

I don't know what it is.  People just love animals and get more vehement about them.  My guess is that it's because animals can't speak, while humans can (in most cases).

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Russell Nash

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Reply #20 on: August 12, 2007, 03:48:49 PM
(This is offtopic so if it's deleted or moved I understand.)

As you probably know, the Mike Vick thing with dogfighting is still going on, and it is HUGE in Atlanta.  On my station's d-boards, there's an insane amount of outcry.  People are always asking "well, what if this was a person/child who'd been forced to fight?" and everyone responds "yeah but it's not, but if it was we'd be just as outraged".

But our d-boards about stuff happening to kids are never as well-traveled as the ones about animals.

I don't know what it is.  People just love animals and get more vehement about them.  My guess is that it's because animals can't speak, while humans can (in most cases).

(further off topic)

I think if Vick was raising children to battle to their deaths in Gladiator rings, people would flip even worse.

As far as a warning goes, it exists already.

Quote from: pseudopod homepage
WARNING: This is a podcast of horror fiction. The stories presented here are intended to disturb you. They are likely to contain death, graphic violence, explicit sex (including sexual violence), hate crimes, blasphemy, or other themes and images that hook deep into your psyche. We do not provide ratings or content warnings for specific stories. We assume by your listening that you wish to be disturbed for your entertainment. If there are any themes that you cannot deal with in fiction, that are too strongly personal to you, please do not listen.

Pseudopod is for mature audiences only. Hardly any story on Pseudopod is suitable for children. We mean this very seriously.

If Pseudopod isn't making you feel disturbed one week, I call the story a failure or at least not completely successful.



Leon Kensington

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Reply #21 on: August 14, 2007, 04:39:25 AM
I gotta agree with Nash on that.



Russell Nash

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Reply #22 on: August 14, 2007, 10:28:10 AM
I gotta agree with Nash on that.

I love it when people agree with me.  Do you agree with everything I wrote. ;D  Or just one of the things I wrote.  Please be specific, so I know what to gloat over. ;D



wakela

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Reply #23 on: September 05, 2007, 01:43:38 AM
I got thinking about the animal cruelty issue from another direction.  I found it telling that we live in an age when killing a mouse is a test of evilness.  I've put rat poison down in my apartment, can I become an evil sorcerer?



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Reply #24 on: September 06, 2007, 01:03:02 AM
We had that course at my university, Monash. I couldn't get in because my ENTER score was too low. Lately it has been filling up with emo kids, so maybe I could try again. Do you know if it is offered as a distance education subject?

I wanted to know, what was Brose? When he got his head caved in, it seemed like he was just a shell. Is the same thing going to happen to our protagonist?

I enjoyed the Cthulu horror in this story, but I found it a little far-fetched that it was so relatively open. Personally, if I was a university administrator, I would think twice about letting a subject continue when the final exam results in every student disappearing.


robertmarkbram

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Reply #25 on: September 06, 2007, 12:07:51 PM
On the crucified cat:

I think it shows the darkness of what they were doing.  Yes, it was disturbing but that is what it and PP as whole is supposed to be.  Is it worse than a serial killer that can rip off her skin?  Visually, I think not.  But, we have an emotional connection to animals and that is what is shown.  I am far from a cat lover, but I still found myself disturbed as much if not more than the author wanted me to be.  Do I think it needed a warning?  No, this is PP we should expect stuff like that.  Does Infection give a warning about burning genitalia or chicken scissors?  No, because it is explicit and that is something that is there.  If you don't like it fine, fast forward a little.  That doesn't make it a bad story, just good character developement.

I agree with the sentiment but not the detail. I like and want creepy horror stories. I love 'em. But I also want to know in advance if there is a slant towards gore, swearing, sexual themes etc. Why? Because occasionally I like to get creeped out with my step-daughter and listen to a Pseudopod story with her, like That Old Black Magic or Fetching Pepé. Not all horror stories are adult rated - and this is a big part of the charm Pseudopod has for me. I would like to know in advance if it is a suitable story and - selfishly - I don't want to ruin the surprise by listening to it myself first.

Infection does give a warning btw. At the start of each episode it clearly states there is lots and LOTS of violence.

You would be entirely correct to argue that it is my responsibility as a care taker to listen to the stories first and make up my own mind about whether they are suitable. Can't argue that point.. but I still want to know in advance which ones should be ok to press PLAY on while in mixed company. :)


wakela

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Reply #26 on: September 09, 2007, 11:40:05 PM
Killing a mouse is the tamest test of evilness that I've ever heard.

Other than that I enjoyed the story.



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Reply #27 on: September 24, 2007, 01:21:18 AM
Killing a mouse is the tamest test of evilness that I've ever heard.
Well, I think it was significant that Our Hero simply lets go of the mouse, dropping it in the tank. He has no clue as to what's in the tank, and therefore no clue that it will harm the mouse any more than getting it wet. The applicant at the end (I think) holds the mouse in his fist (already being a bit more aggressive) and holds it underwater until it dies, which is considerably more Evilish. I guess it's a hint that Our Hero is not as evil as his students, at the end.

Cats, and to some extent mice, being small cute furry critters that can be pets, serve as surrogate children. Just ask any childless couple whose dog or cat is killed. I suppose that because mice are usually regarded as vermin and cats are usually pets, the cat crucifixion is an escalation.

I had a bit of trouble figuring out what was going on between the tornado and the appearance of the Traveller, because at 17:01 (of the copy I downloaded) it sounds like a vital piece of the recording was clipped out, and I had to replay it several times before I figured out that the Traveller had arrived at that moment. That took me out of the story.

While I was listening to it, it was only by sheer strength of will that I did not just skip to the next episode. The ending made up for it somewhat, so I give it a 5 out of 10.

The twist ending reminded me of an old story that went the opposite way. It was in an annual anthology back in the '60s, I think. Our Hero is a disenchanted young adult who plots to assassinate an evil dictator who is going to visit his small town on a whistle-stop tour by blowing up his limo. The bomb is "nullified", the motorcycle-riding bodyguards zap him unconcious. When he wakes up in some holding facility, they convince him (and the reader) that the dictator dude is really quite okay. The Hero is made to "disappear" on paper so as to serve as an example to other would-be terrorists, and is invited to join the Dictator's staff. The story ends with Our Hero riding a bike in the motorcade, wearing a full-face tinted visor helmet so that he cannot be recognised. They recruited all their security staff from the would-be terrorists that they encountered on a regular basis, and the tours were a way to bring them out into the open. (I wish I could remember the title, it was something like "Day of the Bad Man".)

Quote from: eytanz
But for someone who wants power in order to dominate others, why would they even agree to join a course where none of the students were ever heard of again? If I was going to evil wizard school, I'd want to go to the one which has the most alumni that are still talked about only in scared whispers.
That did seem like a bit of a rhinoceros in the living room to me. We also are not given any hint as to what kind of power they were supposed to be getting, and why it would be cool to have. There was little motivation for the main character.

One more thing. "Adrian"? Was that his real name, or did he google for "evil acolytes proper noun"? I guess it could have been worse, something like "Damien".

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Unblinking

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Reply #28 on: October 01, 2009, 07:54:12 PM
I didn't care for the cat crucifixion, as I'm an animal lover.  Animal torture tends to hit me harder than human torture because 1.  animals can't speak to tell anyone about what has happened to them.  2.  animals have little to no control over what environment they end up in, in the first place.

Also, it hasn't been that long since I listened to Fourth Person Singular which had a dog crucifixion, so that probably didn't help.  I realize that one was published years later and the proximity for me was due to my catching up on past episodes.

But, despite that, I thought this story was great.  Up until the last five minutes or so, it was just good.  But when it turned out that it was all just a trap to get rid of all the psychos, it brought the originality of the story up by an order of magnitude.  Excellent!



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Reply #29 on: August 10, 2010, 11:54:48 PM
Another good Lovecraftian piece that is, none the less, lacking in certain areas which keep it from attaining greatness.  Structurally, I liked this one.  It was set up well, paced well and was sufficiently front-loaded to keep it pulpy and tense.  Plot-wise, it was a good, solid idea that played well with the concepts of powerful, inhuman entities.

However, I am something of a purist when it comes to "cosmic horror" and, while I could see where the author was trying to take a different perspective (outer gods know nothing of human pain etc.) I thought the inclusion of evil and morality felt out of place in a story of this type.  Some people may have liked the "grounding" of extra-human, enormous concepts in human pain and ideas of morality, but I didn't enjoy it.  It made our hero feel like some sort of moral judge (who furthermore judges people as deserving of death without them having committed any sins - isn't that, in itself, "evil?").

I felt this robbed the story of its cosmic horror "punch."  The beings of the outer dark happily take away the wicked and leave the rest of us unscathed - where's the horror in that?  Amoral Cthulhu was set to devour us all - and our helplessness, like the rat in the fishtank, was laid bare.  I didn't get a sense of cosmic dread from this one.  In fact, the cosmic entity was ultimately unecessary: couldn't the narrator have just shot his "evil" students instead?  Why ask for Yog-Sothoth's expy to devour them at all?

Finally, the other place where this one really fell apart was the language.  The prose of Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith was powerful: it made us see Cthulhu, R'lyeh, The Treader in the Dust, Abhoth, the City of the Singing Flame etc.  All we have here is a few weak sentences about upside-down cities covered in mold.  The descriptions of the city, of the cosmic entity: they needed to land with some force to make this story work.  I felt they landed with all the impact of a feather.

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Reply #30 on: December 07, 2019, 02:42:20 PM
The scariest part of the story? Knowing that there will be millions of cats killed in the internecine religious wars to come as the various feline sects kill one another in the name of the crucified kitty.  "Caedite eos. Novit enim Mr. Whiskers qui sunt eius."


 I think the basic plot of this story is a good one. But it seems to be missing something. I'm not sure tying it to the Lovecraft mythos was a good idea. I don't think the college setting works either; it just raises a lot more questions than answers.

Still an entertaining listen none the less.