Much Less Than Great

     The offerings in the catalog of Great Courses certainly sound intellectually stimulating, but I wonder if the material on CDs or DVDs by distinguished professors is too abstruse for many consumers. For instance, those watching the prestigious academic from Harvey Mudd College lecture on The Joy of Mathematics might find no joy in Muddville after the mighty Prof strikes out trying to instill merriment into differential calculus and Pascal’s triangle. Common people want to hear common speech, not a Ph.D. in linguistics from Stanford discussing the origin of Indo-European families as part of The Story of Human Language.

To fill the gap between college lectures and the needs of the populace, I propose alternatives through a curriculum of Mediocre Courses.

GC offers Argumentation. Skip that in favor of MC’s Cajoling which will prove useful in everyday situations like persuading that persistent car dealer to give in at signing time and in getting reluctant children to capitulate at bedtime.

From Monet to Van Gogh, a history of Impressionism, is not nearly as entertaining as From Mimics to Van Dyke: a history of Impressionists. There is no snoozing when one is schmoozing with Will Jordan’s Ed Sullivan, Frank Gorshin’s Burt Lancaster, and Dick Van Dyke’s Stan Laurel.

The Foundations of Western Civilization is dry stuff. Not so with Wet Foundations and How to Civilize Them. Knowledge of the Dark Ages will be of little use during a rainstorm that causes a power failure. Free sponge and mop with each Mediocre order.

No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life is a philosophy of noninvolvement. In Accept No Excuses: The Life of a Meanie, ex-wrestler Bronco Bellicose demonstrates how people tend to agree with your beliefs when placed in a hammerlock or step-over toehold.

Nutrition Made Clear is not necessary now that nutrition facts are on most edibles. MC’s Perdition Made Clear presents laboratory evidence of interest to all, testing good intentions against macadam as paving material and a side-by-side comparison between a scorned woman and the fury of hell.

How to Engage and Write about Anything and The Everyday Guide to Wine are for the genteel or the connoisseur. Down-to-earth complainers will find more to their disliking in How to Gripe about Everything and The Everyday Guide to Whine.

The Dead Sea Scrolls taught by a Rutgers professor of history will not interest the masses. However, The Dead Still Roll narrated by an avatar of Jerry Garcia will fascinate the distracted multitude.

Understanding Complexity is not what citizens want in perplexing times. Understanding Gravity comes close to home, explaining in simple language the reason for daily occurrences such as why objects falling off bathroom counters inevitably land on bare feet.

Elements of Jazz may serve to shed some light on the subject, but Mysteries of Has-Beens concisely outlines the reasons for the continuing existence of curiosities like Pee-wee Herman and Pamela Anderson.

After watching Meaning from Data: Statistics Made Clear, many viewers are still apt to have questions. Not so with MC’s Meaning from Dada: Baby Talk Made Clear which enables parents to translate gurgling sounds like “mumuhomp abol uff” as “Lay off the strained peas.”

Experiencing Hubble: Understanding the Greatest Images of the Universe is only going to appeal to those who want to know what is happening up there. Exploring Rubble: Understanding the Greatest Episodes of The Flintstones will help those wanting to know what happened down here back then when Bedrock hit TV and vice versa.

Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well-Being at Any Age is of little use to those already affected by the ravages of time. MC’s Lifelong Wealth: Being Avaricious at Any Age shows how tightwad toddlers can grow into grasping grownups and eventually into covetous codgers.

The Early Middle Ages must be soporific even to the four-time winner of a certificate of distinction in teaching. More appropriate for a fast-paced society is How to Be Middle-Aged Early which demonstrates how to escalate time by having infants play with Rubik’s cubes instead of toys in their cribs, exposing schoolchildren to extended recesses under the unrelenting rays of the sun, encouraging teens to engage in hazardous activities like bungee jumping from high places, and requiring college students to complete their degree in three years while working forty hours a week.

Stress and Your Body seems pretty basic since all of us have both. Mediocre can be even simpler with the course Dressing Your Body with lectures on such topics as symbiotic underwear, dress management–checks and balances and stripes, smitten over lost mittens, and why shoes finish last.  

Great Courses promotes its program with the lure of “No homework…No Tests…No Grades.” I will add one more: “No pleasure.” At Mediocre Courses our motto is that of extinguished professor Jerry Colonna: “We don’t ask questions. We just have fun!”

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