Archive for March, 2008

Bad Clue

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

I just watched the March 20th episode of Jeopardy! on the DVR. (I’m a little backed up.) I think I may have found an error in one of the clues.

The category was Battle Cries and the $2000 clue was as follows:

“Per Shakespeare, the British battle cry in this Oct. 25, 1415 battle was ‘God for Harry! England & Saint George!'”

The response given was “What is the Battle of Agincourt?” This was accepted as correct. However, I believe this question has no correct answer.

The Battle of Agincourt is depicted in Shakespeare’s Henry V, and the date in the clue is the correct date of the battle. But the quote comes from an earlier scene in the play, before Henry’s troops take Harfleur. The more famous St. Crispin’s Day speech is given before the Battle of Agincourt later in the play.

I imagine there is a lot of pressure being a writer for this show. If you’re interested in the topic, Ken Jennings just posted to his blog an interview he did with former writer Carlo Panno, which you can read here and here.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

I’m the words in your paper; a home-burned CD;
Understanding a message that’s sent by CB;
I am cat-like; I’m ape-like; the extra CV;
And I used to be carbon, but now just CC.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Kimi. See comments for answer.

Word of the Week: Smarter

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

The word of the week is smarter.

That links to the word “smart” but I deliberately chose the comparative form. Here it is in context:

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

Forgetting that the show in question tests knowledge and not intelligence, it may seem at face value to be a very silly question to ask in the first place. I would, however, argue that it is completely nonsensical, based on what we now understand about human intelligence. Making glib statements about who is smarter than whom ignores the wide range of ways that people can be smart.

In 1905, Alfred Binet, a French psychologist, created a diagnostic test to identify students who needed extra help in school. It was the misapplication of this test that led to the highly-flawed concept of IQ. Over the past century, the IQ has been used for purposes that range from merely misguided to downright ugly. For more on that, read The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould.

We really need to get past the idea that intelligence is something that can be ranked in a linear manner. In his landmark 1983 book Frames of Mind, Howard Gardner makes a case for the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, the theory that there are distinct and identifiable areas of intelligence that exist in the human mind, that are “independent of one another, and that … can be fashioned and combined in a multiplicity of adaptive ways by individuals and cultures.” Gardner identifies seven such intelligences, though he allows for the possibility that there may be others, and the conversation surrounding various other possible intelligences continues today. His original seven — Linguistic, Musical, Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, and the two personal intelligences commonly referred to as Interpersonal and Intrapersonal — have gained wide acceptance among learning theorists and educators in the field.

And yet, as a system, we still judge student achievement solely from test scores in literacy and math, and cling to IQ as a meaningful measurement of a person’s intelligence.

After everything we’ve learned about the human mind, we should be smarter than that.

Shakespeare Anagram: Measure for Measure

Friday, March 21st, 2008

From Measure for Measure:

He, who the sword of heaven will bear
Should be as holy as severe;
Pattern in himself to know,
Grace to stand, and virtue go;
More nor less to others paying
Than by self offences weighing.
Shame to him whose cruel striking
Kills for faults of his own liking!
Twice treble shame on Angelo,
To weed my vice and let his grow!
O, what may man within him hide,
Though angel on the outward side!
How many likeness made in crimes,
Making practice on the times,
To draw with idle spiders’ strings
Most pond’rous and substantial things!

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

The former governor of New York State seemed like someone we might trust.

When he held the attorney general post, he had a reputation for upholding the law, so we dismissed character assassins and voted for his vision.

But now he’s fallen. He got caught lying, breaking the law, and dismissing morality.

What will we be thinking about seemly politicians that ask for votes or money now? How can we risk what misconducts one might be hiding? How do we tell smiling inspirational charm from hidden smug selfishness?

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

I’m a bloodcurling blackbird, a kind of a crow;
I’m a part of a popular poem by Poe;
I’m an actress from Cosby who had her own show;
And a Superbowl winner for two thousand oh.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Kimi. See comments for answer.

Word of the Week: Support

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

I’ve been troubled for some time about the careless use of certain words in public discourse. In some cases, it’s pure laziness about language. In other cases, words can be twisted as a deliberate obfuscation or to reframe the terms of debate.

With this feature, I intend to reclaim for the English language and civilized discourse a few of the words that have been hijacked for political and/or other nefarious purposes. I’m thinking that this will be a weekly feature to replace the old Headline Game on Wednesdays.

The word of the week is support.

Here it is in context:

Ryan Gill, operations director for Move America Forward, said he disliked the anti-war groups’ strategy and said groups like his that support the war and especially support the troops didn’t plan on adding to Wednesday’s “circus atmosphere.”

Do you support the war in Iraq?

Before you answer, ask yourself what it means to support the war. Does it mean that you are rooting for our side to win? Does it mean that you think the war was a good idea? Does it mean that you think we should keep our troops there longer? Does it mean that your tax dollars are paying for the war? Each of these meanings could be intended by “support the war” and yet we use the term like it has a uniform meaning for everyone.

I was against the war from the beginning. I am not in favor of pulling our troops out immediately. I am not in favor of leaving our troops there for a hundred years. My tax dollars most certainly are paying for the war. I would like us to be successful there. I think President Bush is not a good president. I am disappointed by those on the left who seem to gloat over failures in Iraq. I am disappointed by those on the right who use successes in Iraq to attack the patriotism of those on the left. I am in awe of the bravery of our troops and want them to succeed in their mission and come home safely.

So with all that in mind, do I support the war?

The word has a different meaning in “support the troops” as it does in “support the president’s policy” and the current administration has a huge stake in using language like “support the war” which seems to conflate the two. Let’s stop doing that.

And reading back over this post, I can see already that “war” needs to go on the Word of the Week list. Yeah, this needs to be a regular feature. We’ll see how it goes, but I’ll probably keep this going at least through the election. Things are going to get very silly, very soon. Words will be used as weapons, and we need to stay vigilant.

Awareness Test

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I invite my readers to take this awareness test and discuss in the comments:

Go Ahead. It’s the Internet.

Friday, March 14th, 2008

You can say anything you want:

For hundreds of years, people have questioned whether William Shakespeare wrote the plays that bear his name. The mystery is fueled by the fact that his biography simply doesn’t match the areas of knowledge and skill demonstrated in the plays. Nearly a hundred candidates have been suggested, but none of them fit much better. Now a new candidate named Amelia Bassano Lanier – the so-called ‘Dark Lady’ of the Sonnets and a member of an Italian/Jewish family – has been shown to be a perfect fit.

Via the Shakespeare Geek, who is kind enough to suspect that the whole thing is a put on.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

I’m a note with no paper, a key with no lock;
I’m a movie for kids; or a string to play Bach;
I am low on the lift; and a razor in stock;
In the front, I’m a billion – in back, I’m a block!

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Annalisa. See comments for answer.

To Live a Second Life…

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Via the Shakespeare Geek, we learn of a production of Hamlet being performed in Second Life:

This has been another installment of Things Shakespeare Could Not Possibly Have Anticipated.