Thursday, June 5, 2008

book quiz (part 2)

Pencils down. Check your own papers. Be honest.

1. Elie Wiesel
There's a funny story about this. One of the many inane things we have to do for curriculum is to list specific texts we use to meet certain benchmarks, so we write them in and someone somewhere types them onto an official copy. We were double-checking that official copy one day when we saw the following: "Catcher--Salinger, Mockingbird--Lee, Night Weasel--???" Evidently she was not familiar with the book. So now we in the BFHS English department call ourselves the Royal Order of the Night Weasels. And Brian does a spot-on weasel impression. It's pretty impressive.

2. c (Holes)
palindrome (PAL in drome) n.: a word or group of words that reads the same forward and backward (i.e. Stanley Yelnats)

3. The Color Purple
Great line.

4. High Fidelity, About A Boy, Fever Pitch (incidentally this last one has been done twice--once as a British movie about soccer with Colin Firth and once as an American movie about baseball with Jimmy Fallon)
Word on the street is that Johnny Depp is set to star in the next one, an adaptation of Hornby's A Long Way Down, which would be great. I also want them to do How To Be Good. Soon.

5. b (To Kill a Mockingbird and In Cold Blood)
Harper Lee and Truman Capote were buds. Check out the movie Capote if you don't believe me.

6. Bridge of Sighs
...and no I haven't read it yet. Get off my back.

7. What You Will
Significant controversy over this question. My sister-in-law, a doctor of English (don't laugh), says that this is incorrect--Henry VIII also has an alternate title (All Is True). However, my Folger copy says that this is the only one, and Stacy's buddy Stephen Greenblatt is quoted on Wikipedia (I know, I know) as saying "this is the only one of Shakespeare's plays to receive [a subtitle] (although some editors place The Merchant of Venice's alternate title, The Jew of Venice, as a subtitle)." Hmmm...

8. Death of a Salesman
This allusion comes up a lot in Seinfeld actually.

9. d (Shel Silverstein)
Smith, I can't believe they didn't ask you if you'd read The Giving Tree somewhere on an adoption application--seems like it should be a deal-breaker to me. I'm glad that you're at least familiar with it now.

10. a (V. V. Ganeshananthan)
C. C. Sabathia pitches for the Indians. J. J. Abrams wrote Armageddon. H. H. Holmes was one of America's worst serial killers. V. V. Ganeshananthan (a.k.a. Sugi) is one of Stacy's good friends from grad school, and she wrote Love Marriage, about which you can expect a blog entry once I've read the last 40 pages.

11. d (Animal Farm)
One of the great last lines that I've read.

12. The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
You can decide for yourself if you get credit for saying Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption, but if you haven't seen either of those movies, you should stop reading this right now and go rent them.

13. a (Chuck Palahniuk)
Crazy book. Crazy guy.

14. Of Mice and Men
Easily the saddest book I've ever read. Also, one of the best. Five stars on my GoodReads page.

15. e. e. cummings
For an interesting take on the poem, listen to Kris Delmhorst's song, "Pretty How Town." If you can find it somewhere. I've got a copy.

16. Joseph Heller...Pianosa...Yossarian
Part 2 gave my smarty-pants wife and her smarty-pants sister trouble. It's a fictional island off the coast if Italy. I love this book.

17. b (The Catcher in the Rye)
If you thought I was going to go through an entire book quiz without mentioning Catch-22 and The Catcher in the Rye, then you're crazy.

18. Nick Carraway
And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past...

19. A
After reading the book, one of my students, who was a big Hester Prynne fan, suggested that the letter actually stood for "awesome."

20. Alonso Quixano
Did you say Don Quixote? I mean, I did italicize the word "real." That was a hint. I guess it's up to you whether you get credit for it. Seems cheap to me.

So how'd you do? Much worse than on the pop culture quiz, right? Well, to quote McLovin, "Read a (expletive) book for once."

Later gators.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

book quiz

Time for another quiz--this one could be trickier. Rather than pop culture, the topic this time is literature. As I tell my students when they ask me if my class is hard, It's not hard to pass, but it's hard to get an A. Good luck.

1. Name the author of the Holocaust memoir Night. (1 pt.)

2. Which of the following books features a protagonist whose name is a palindrome? (1 pt.)
a. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
b. Tuck Everlasting
c. Holes
d. A Day No Pigs Would Die

3. To find the title of this novel, fill in the blanks: Shug says to Celie, "I think it pisses God off if you walk by _____ _____ _____ in a field somewhere and don't notice it." (1 pt.)

4. Name 3 movies based on Nick Hornby novels. (1 pt. each)

5. The authors of which of the following books became good friends while growing up in Alabama? (1 pt.)
a. The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby
b. To Kill A Mockingbird and In Cold Blood
c. Empire Falls and She's Come Undone
d. The Innocents Abroad and Walden

6. Name Richard Russo's most recent novel. (1 pt.)

7. Twelfth Night is the only Shakespeare play with an alternate title. What is it? (1 pt.)

8. In an episode of Seinfeld called "The Subway," Jerry tells George not to whistle in an elevator and continues to call George "Biff" throughout the episode. To what play is he alluding? (1 pt.)

9. Who wrote The Giving Tree? (1 pt.)
a. Dr. Seuss
b. Roald Dahl
c. Beatrix Potter
d. Shel Silverstein

10. I'm currently reading a book called Love Marriage by _____. (1 pt.)
a. V. V. Ganeshananthan
b. C. C. Sabathia
c. J. J. Abrams
d. H. H. Holmes

11. The following is the last line in which novel? (1 pt.)

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

a. The Pigman, by Paul Zindel
b. Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White
c. Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver
d. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

12. Two novellas from Stephen King's collection Different Seasons were adapted for the screen. What were they? (HINT: They are two of my Top 10 Movies of All-Time.) (1 pt. each)

13. The movie Fight Club is based on the book written by _____. (1 pt.)
a. Chuck Palahniuk
b. Chuck Klosterman
c. Chuck Rosenthal
d. Chuck Klein

14. What book features characters named Crooks, Slim, Candy, Curley, and Curley's wife? (1 pt.)

15. Who wrote "anyone lived in a pretty how town"? (1 pt.)

16. Catch-22 was written by _____. It takes place on the island of _____. The protagonist's name is _____. (1 pt. each)

17. The following is the last line from which novel? (1 pt.)

Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.

a. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
b. The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger
c. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce
d. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

18. The narrator of The Great Gatsby is _____. (1 pt.)

19. In The Scarlet Letter, what is the letter? (1 pt.)

20. "Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago..." What is that gentleman's real name? (1 pt.)

There you go. Twenty questions for 25 points. Answers coming tomorrow.

Later gators.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

the big 1-0-0

Wow. There are so many people I'd like to thank for making my first 100 blog entries possible. Mrs. Burke for teaching me how to type. The fine people at for giving me a forum. My students for being ridiculous and always giving me good material. I couldn't have done this without you.

So on Sunday I went to BFHS's graduation, and it was nice, but I noticed that the Class of '08 didn't have a class motto. This was disappointing. When I was in high school, we did quite a number on the concept of class stuff. We adopted three things for our class: a class flower, class colors, and a class motto. They were:

CLASS FLOWER: the dandelion
CLASS COLORS: white and off-white
CLASS MOTTO: "I like cheese, you like cheese, let's be friends."

Those are facts. So if someone from the Class of '08 reads this and decides that he or she would like to retroactively decide on a class motto, I've got some suggestions:

"I despise cool. I've never seen one frickin' person who I liked who was cool." (Roy Williams)

"Are you really so arrogant as to believe that we are alone in this universe?" (Tom Cruise, when asked if he believed in aliens)

"The loudest guy in the room is the weakest guy in the room." (Frank Lucas, American Gangster)

"Do you know how easy this is for me? Do you know how (expletive) easy this is? Do you have any (expletive) clue? It's a (expletive) joke. And I'm sorry you can't do this, I really am. I'm sorry I have to sit around and watch you fumble around and (expletive) it up." (Will Hunting, Good Will Hunting)

"Children are like TV sets. When they start acting weird, whack them across the head with a big rubber basketball shoe." (Hunter S. Thompson)

"Being a professional means doing your job on the days you don't feel like doing it." (David Halberstam)

"Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut." (Jimmy Conway, Goodfellas)

"They can do whatever they want. I'll still be eating steak every night." (Philadelphia Phillies infielder Von Hayes, on fans in Philadelphia booing him)

"You think you're so special because you get to play Picture Pages up there? Well, my five year old daughter could do that and let me tell you, she's not the brightest bulb in the tanning bed. So why don't you go back to night school in Mantino and learn a real trade." (Bren to the ultrasound technician, Juno)

"This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time." (Narrator, Fight Club)

"Whether or not what we experienced was an According to Hoyle miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that I felt the touch of God. God got involved." (Jules, Pulp Fiction)

"Whenever I see a homeless guy, I always run back and give him money, because I think, 'Oh my God, what if that was Jesus?'" (Pamela Anderson)

"Beware of all enterprises which require new clothes." (Henry David Thoreau)

"'And death shall be no more,' comma, 'death, thou shalt die.' Nothing but a breath, a comma separates life from life everlasting. Very simple, really. With the original punctuation restored, Death is no longer something to act out on a stage with exclamation marks. It is a comma. A pause. In this way, the uncompromising way, one learns something from the poem, wouldn't you say? Life, death, soul, God, past, present. Not insuperable barriers. Not semi-colons. Just a comma." (E.M. Ashford, Wit)

"This is an environment of welcoming, and you should just get the hell out of here." (Michael Scott, The Office)

"I'm not too worried about it, really. I wouldn't worry about it. Don't worry about it. I'm not worried at all." (Evan, Superbad)

"Every time that I have ever tried to help a woman out, I have been incarcerated." (Jose Canseco, The Surreal Life)

"I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before every game. Whoever invented that was smart. That's got to be one of the best sandwiches ever." (Ben Gordon, Chicago Bulls)

"Never get less than 12 hours sleep, never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city, and never go near a lady with a tattoo of a dagger on her hand. Now you stick with that, and everything else is cream cheese." (Coach Finstock, Teen Wolf)

So there you go. And even if you're not looking for a class motto, you probably need a little more wisdom in your life. Glad I could help.

Later gators.

Monday, June 2, 2008

sam is better than all of these people

I listen to country music. I listen to a lot of music, but if I'm driving in the car and I get tired of sports talk radio, I listen to country. And the other day, I turned on 104.5 WSLD (which Sara calls "the salad station"), and the song "Last Dollar," by Tim McGraw, came on. I defy anyone to tell me what that song is about. Is it about his kids? His wife? His fans? His parents? It could be any or none of those. And when he breaks it down and says, "Everybody say, "Ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha,'" that's typically when I go back to ESPN radio. Anyway, it got me thinking about nonsense lyrics. There are a lot, and I think that sometimes artists think that a good beat or melody will overshadow their garbage lyrics. Well, I won't let it happen. I'm prepared to expose them. Here goes:

"Every Morning," by Sugar Ray. I'm stealing this one from a comedian named Rob Paravonian. Here's his riff on the song. Some problematic lyrics: 1) He wants to see if his girlfriend will let him use her "halo" (?) for a "one-night stand," 2) He says, "I left my broken heart open and you ripped it out," even though he's the one who is evidently cheating on her, and 3) There's a point when he's talking about how he wants to "do it again," and a creepy voice in the background repeats, "Shut the door baby--don't say a word." This isn't a pop song. It's the soundtrack for a horror film.

"Our Song," by Taylor Swift. I was riding shotgun with my hair undone in the front seat of his car. He had a one-hand feel on the steering wheel and another on my heart. He had a "one-hand feel" on your heart? What does that mean? Is that an expression I'm not familiar with? Or is this actually a PG-13 song?

"Bust A Move," by Young MC. I'm stealing another one--this time from Chuck Klosterman. In the song, Young says, "Your best friend Harry has a brother Larry. In five days from now he's gonna' marry. He's hopin' you can make it there if you can 'cause in the ceremony, you'll be the best man." A couple of issues here: 1) Who asks someone to be his best man five days before the wedding? And even if you argue that it's some sort of shotgun situation, 2) Why would your best friend's brother ask you to be the best man? Why didn't Larry ask Harry? And if he doesn't get along with his brother, how is he so close to his brother's best friend? Do you see what I'm talking about?

"I'd Rather Ride Around With You," by Reba McIntyre. Another confusing wedding party song. Here's the first verse:

My cousin's gettin' married at the Methodist church
That's why I stayed home from work
I'm supposed to hold the flowers
When the new bride kisses the groom
That's what I'm supposed to do
So what are we doin' with the windows rolled down
Twenty-five passionate miles from town?
I love her like a sister baby but to tell you the truth
I'd rather ride around with you

Do you understand what's going on here? The narrator had a responsibility to be the maid of honor (or at least a bridesmaid) at her cousin's wedding, and she's just out riding around with some guy. When would that ever happen? Answer: It wouldn't.

"All-American Girl," by Carrie Underwood. Speaking of shirking responsibility, this song is about a girl who falls for the "senior football star," at which point he starts "dropping passes" and "skipping practice just to spend more time with her." Now, the coach admonishes the kid and warns him that he'll "lose [his] free ride to college," so we assume that this kid is a legitimately outstanding player. I refuse to believe that any kid with that kind of ability would skip multiple football practices simply to spend time with a girl (even if she is a "sweet little beautiful, wonderful, perfect All-American girl"). Again, it just wouldn't happen.

"Stronger Woman," by Jewel. Apparently Jewel is now a country singer, but her writing chops have not matured since she used "casualty" do describe the state of being casual in her poetry book that was published in 1999. Here's the line that bugs me in this song:

I guess you could say I'm one of those girls
That's always been with one of those guys
You know the type
Like right now, he sleeps while I write

Wow. You're writing a song and he has the audacity to be asleep? What a prick. I guess that she's using this as an example of how he doesn't care about her or something, but seriously, this seems like a pretty rigid expectation--the guy's supposed to be awake every time that she's writing? That seems totally unreasonable. Let the guy rest for crying out loud.

I spend all day preaching to my kids the importance of precise, direct language, and then these people undo all of the work I've done in three and a half minutes. It's just bothersome, you know?

Later gators.