The Apocalyptic Consequences of Unequal Scrabble Luck

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I have various cultural Canadianization projects in the works (2011 resolution?  Learn to love hockey.), and I have my friend S to thank for introducing me to the wonder that is the rich Canadian animation tradition.  (Among the things I didn't know until she told me is the fact that films in Canada used to - in recent memory - be preceded with some consistency by a domestically-produced animated short in the theatres.  I thought this practice was a relic of a half-century ago, and had long been disgruntled by its passing.)

The first place S sent me was to "The Big Snit," in which a couple engage in a Cold War of eye-rattling and chair-sawing over a despair-inducing game of Scrabble.  (I'm reminded of the sublime breakfast-table wars from Heaven can Wait.)  And then it all ends, as it naturally would, the way Cold Wars threaten to end.

Here you have it:

You're welcome.

An Enthusiasm of Links

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mt. Courseprep looms large on my horizon today, especially since I've added another element to my Monday-Wednesday teaching-schedule-of-doom: now I not only have book group/salsa lessons on Tuesdays, wedged between the 2.5-hour marathon of my afternoon class and the two classes I teach midday on Wednesday, but I also have French class at the Alliance Fran├žaise on Monday night.  (I approach this last with some trepidation - I studied French for over a decade, but my ability now can only be described as, um, atrophied.)

Just a handful of links, then, before I head off to the Farmers Market and back to my pile of course reading for the week ahead:

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The good news?  My hometown is the most well-read city in America.  The bad news?  Everyone is reading less, across the board.  And Washington may only have gained the coveted first-place spot because the reading situation in Seattle is getting dire.  That really takes the wind out of my enthusiasm.

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Steve at Philosopher's Playground asks what the funniest single utterance you've ever heard in your classroom is.  Here's his:
We were discussing the difference between ethical precepts and social mores. One of the students raised his hand and asked, "Steve, what are mores?" I looked straight at him and said, "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a more."
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Just the other day I was contemplating the history of the sitcom with my friend S.  I rarely watch sitcoms, I reflected, but when I encounter a really well constructed one (see Coupling or Arrested Development, although both defy the form in various ways) I buy it and rewatch it endlessly.  What would the canon of the sitcom include, we wondered - not just the shows that were groundbreaking (and thus of historical interest) but also those whose quality has held up?  Those that remain endlessly rewatchable today?

My gurus at the AV Club sensed our curiosity and responded (not really) with a fascinatingly deep Primer of the 80s sitcom.  It's worth reading in its entirely, both for the genre analysis of how pop culture means and is shaped by social forces and for the reminder of how many really great, nuanced shows you've already forgotten.

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I've just begun subscribing to The Comics Journal's blog The Panelists.  What drew me in? Well, I am newly entranced by their One-Panel Criticism relay, in which various panelists (including one brilliant comics scholar I went to grad school with) exchange readings of a single panel.  I'm combing through the archives now to find the perfect, detail-oriented analysis to give my Intro to Lit students as an example of close reading images (and particularly images that are meant to exist as moments in a series).

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Would that I had a talent this awesome.  There's nothing like a crocheted tribute to great television ensemble drama.  And then there is always the sublime craftiness that only Doctor Who fandom can evoke.

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An experiment conceived and executed by a group of schoolchildren has been published in the journal Biology Letters.  This is a story of teacherly innovation that actually made me weep for joy.  No cynical postmodern irony there at all.