Vegas Priorities

Nevada’s flagship newspaper has three minor stories at the top of its web site this morning. They all involve violent death, but those things don’t really matter as much as the main story…our real estate bubble is inflating again, guys! Sweet!

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“Well, duh!”

My local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, had a couple of droll headlines of the “No kidding!” variety this morning:

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I should hope the police have some questions when they find a dead body!

Actually, if you live here, you know that this is hardly news at all; it’s “dog bites man” stuff. A more interesting headline would be the opposite: “No dead bodies found in desert yesterday.”

The humor in the other headline is even darker.

Cabin in the Walden Woods

Meta mash-up idea: Henry David Thoreau’s 19th century classic of transcendentalist philosophy, Walden, BUT one random day while he’s meditating in his peaceful forest cabin, he finds an elevator that goes past a bunch of monster cages, and sees a control room with a red button…

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“AAAAA Aardvark Drywall Repair”

One of the benefits of phone books becoming obsolete is that businesses no longer need to give themselves ridiculous names like “AAAAA Aardvark Drywall Repair.” Kids, back in the day, people actually tried to get more customers by being alphabetically first in the phone book. The results rarely made sense, especially since everyone and their dog started putting random long strings of A’s before their business name. Looking for something in the yellow pages was like scanning a preschooler’s book on phonics.

“Naughty Baggage”

I’m currently teaching The Scarlet Letter, which uses the insult “naughty baggage” in chapter 2. I told the students that I’d never seen the term before, but that it clearly meant “bad woman” (as a weirdly high number of English words do).

But then I remembered–I own a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary! A nearby library was selling it used last September for $20. I talked them down to 15. A 99% savings on the cover price.

Anyway, here’s part of the relevant entry for “baggage.” Note the definitions: “a worthless good-for nothing woman; a woman of disreputable or immoral life,” “trashy, worthless, beggary, trumpery, despicable,” among others. Also note that all of them are marked “obsolete!”

All uses of the #naughtybaggage hashtag are clearly people also reading this book. I encouraged my students to get it trending, but alas, no dice so far. Maybe you could help?

#NAUGHTYBAGGAGE

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Some Funny Student Writing

Last month I taught a lesson on parallelism as a rhetorical writing tool. At the end, I assigned students to come up with some examples of their own, based on templates I gave them. Here are some of my favorites:

  • There should be a woman in tears, running from the past; a man in love, chasing the girl; and a person in agony, awaiting the end.
  • It is not nice to play with dead bodies, to talk with them, or to dance with them.
  • Kermit the frog abuses his fame, ignores his children, and denies his dependence on PCP.
  • There should be a cat in labor, birthing the kittens; a dog in heat, attracting the males; and a centipede in solitude, contemplating the electoral college.
  • Obama created life, destroyed the housing market, and ate my parents.
  • Mr. Huston was a huge fan of showing the “relevant” episodes of The Simpsons, spoiling the Star Wars episodes, and disappointing the sociopaths of fourth period with bad jokes :)

Scarlet Letter / Trump Joke

slI love dropping bits of pop culture and current events into my classes. They often involve insulting famous people–it’s not personal or ideological, but teachers need to make things relevant and interesting, especially dry 19th century novels.

Today, as one class started their unit on The Scarlet Letter, I read the beginning with them and then summarized the flashback at the end of chapter 2:

“So this story is about a beautiful young woman who escaped poverty and married a deformed older man whose wealth gave her a life of travel and luxury.” I paused and they knew some punchline was coming.

“And then she became first lady of the United States.”

Why We Teach

Talking to a few colleagues a while back, I learned that we all had a common inspiration behind our decision to enter the teaching profession. Sure, we’d all had some great teachers ourselves when we were young, some uplifting role models in the Dead Poets Society / Stand and Deliver / Mr. Holland’s Opus vein, but each of us also had had some incompetent buffoons in front of our classrooms who only inspired us all to say, “I can do better than that.”