Tag Archives: literature

Bookshelf Battle Cast – Episode 1 – “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens” – Stave 1 – Marley’s Ghost – Discussion and Study Questions

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Huzzah, 3.5 readers!

The Bookshelf Battle Cast lives!  Yes, on this fine blog, I’ll be reviewing pop cultural happenings, attempting to be funny, and telling you all about my adventures as a magic bookshelf caretaker, yeti fighter and so on.

The podcast will be very different.  I am very, very far from being the world’s greatest vocal talent, so I’ll be playing it straight.  Each episode, I’ll be reading a piece of public domain literature.  After you listen to me read it in my mush mouth voice, stop by this incredible blog for a discussion and study questions.

FYI – apologies.  I’m new to this.  There were some technical difficulties.  I said I’d let my spokeswoman tell you all about who I am, but for some reason, Garageband did not like that file.  It became a big production to try to re-record the podcast, so I’ll try to figure out that for the next one.  Forgive me people, I’m learning as I go.

Oh well.  Check out what my spokeswoman would have said here:

In Stave 1 – “Marley’s Ghost” we begin with a classic line in literature – “Marley was dead to begin with.  Scrooge pops the joyous bubble of his nephew and local charity collectors, only to be warned by the ghost of his fellow usurer Jacob Marley that if he doesn’t change his ways, he’ll be a ghost too, forced to trudge the world with chains attached to him, lamenting the life he wasted on counting coins instead of helping the less fortunate.

STUDY QUESTIONS:

#1 – Dickens really, really, really wants the reader to know up front that Jacob Marley is dead, engaging in humor to insist, almost to a ridiculous degree, that he’s dead.  What’s the point of that?

#2 – Scrooge’s nephew states to his uncle that there are things that exist that bring him no monetary profit, but they make his life better just the same.  Christmas, says the nephew, is one of those things.  Is the nephew a positive thinker, a man who knows how to build spiritual wealth, or do you side with Scrooge, i.e. the wealth in your piggy bank is all that matters?  Can you think of some things that don’t bring you a monetary profit but still enrich your life?  Would you give those things up in order to make more money?  Can money buy happiness?

#3 – The charity collectors attempt to separate Scrooge from some of his dough, arguing that men of means have a duty to provide aid and comfort to the poor.  Scrooge counters with the claim that he supports prisons, union workhouses and so on (through taxes) and thus doesn’t owe the poor anything else.  What say you?  Are taxes enough, or should people with bucks to spare share them with the poor as well?

#4 – Jacob Marley is a ghost.  Chains and cash boxes and other monetary related devices are attached to him.  He must drag them around wherever he goes.  Further, Jacob spent his life never venturing past the counting-house, collecting money and ignoring the plight of the poor.  His punishment, like the punishment of the many souls Scrooge sees outside, is that in death, he must wander the world, seeing all the things he could have experienced and enjoyed in life, but now is unable to do so because he’s dead.

Will you be a ghost one day?  That’s a bigger discussion.  You will be old one day though…and your body will eventually give out on you.  When you’re old and gray and your knees fail, your body gives up and it exhausts you to walk more than five feet, what will you wish you had done in your youth?

CHALLENGE: Make a list of things you want to do before it’s too late to enjoy them…then DO THEM!  Picture your afterlife as a Jacob Marley-esque ghost, forced to drag chains and wander the world.  What would you like to see and do so that, if you ever become such a ghost, you can be happy knowing you got to do those things when you were alive?

Thanks for listening, 3.5 listeners.  The second stave will be out as soon as possible.

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Mark Twain vs. Zombies – Vote for Your Favorite Cover

Yeah, so this happened.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been doing a running gag on this blog where I take Mark Twain quotes and add stuff about zombies to them…i.e. “When it comes to zombies, there are lies about zombies, damned lies about zombies and zombie statistics.”

I thought, hey, why not pack these all up and make a quick and easy quote book.

So I commissioned a cover contest thinking I can bang a quote book out really quick, but then after a a while, I began thinking about it, doing some Twain research, and I came up with a pretty sweet premise as to how Twain could have been a zombie hunter while he wasn’t busy writing.

So, downside, one more cover for a book I haven’t written yet.  But, oh well, I think my addiction is ok.  When I start giving hand jobs in the subway bathroom to pay for more book covers for books I haven’t written yet, then I will know I have a problem.

Vote for your favorite, 3.5 readers. 

 

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Literary Poop with Professor Nannerpants – Analysis of “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway

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By: Professor Horatio J. Nannerpants, Official Bookshelf Battle Blog Literary Correspondent

Ahh, there’s nothing quite like Paris in the summer, 3.5 readers.  The streets are awash with with inspiring sites, the cafes are filled with delectable aromas and my poop?  Why, it sticks to the wall effortlessly whenever I fling it, the warm weather makes it extra sticky, you see.  It’s all science, really, and as my former colleague, Dr. Hugo von Science has been known to say, “You can’t argue with science.”

Now then, good people, and also you people reading this here…have you ever been down on your luck?  I should assume so.  After all, if you were a very lucky person you wouldn’t be spending much time reading this pitiful excuse for a blog now would you?

But seriously.  Have you ever been stuck in a rut?  Down for the count?  Perhaps you’ve felt like the world has turned its back on you, that life isn’t going your way, that it would just be easier to lie down and give up rather than keep trying and failing?

Balderdash!  Whenever my poop misses its intended target, do I give up?  Nay!  I just fling another poop and try, try again.

And you should too.  In fact, when you are down in the dumps, you should peruse a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”  It’s a short read, but full of powerful inspiration.

If you’re very obtuse, you might see it as a tale about a crusty old bastard who caught a fish, but it’s so much more than that.  Let us discuss the various takeaways, shall we?

Getting Out of a Rut Takes a Lot of Work and a Long Time

At the start of this tale, the old man has gone eighty-five days without catching a fish.  That’s a long time to try and fail at something.  His fellow Cuban villagers have begun to see him as hopeless.  Don’t misunderstand – the old man is loved by his people.  They would gladly feed him and look after him, but he is too proud not to at least try to fend for himself.

Whenever you face any kind of problem, be it the inability to catch a fish for eighty-five days, or perhaps to put it in real world terms, an addiction that’s killing you, or perhaps the inability to find a job, you can’t quit.  You must always keep trying, even when things look bleak and it seems foolish and useless to continue to try.

Know two things.  To get out of your rut, it will a) take a long time and b) take a lot of effort.

After his eighty-five days of failure, the old man hooks a big, fat ass fish, a thousand pounder.  Over the course of several days, the old man and the fish struggle against one another.  It’s hot.  The old man is far out at sea, isolated, little food, little water, exhausting himself physically and mentally just to catch this fish.

At any time, he could have just cut the line and set the fish free but no, he didn’t.  He was tired of being a failure.  He wanted that victory, to feel like a somebody again.  So he didn’t bail out when opportunity presented itself.  He fought the fish and he won.

Apply this to real life.  If you’re an alcoholic, it’s going to take a long time and a lot of effort to get off the sauce.  The effort might come in the form of attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, finding more kosher pastimes outside of the bar – working on your body and mind, getting yourself in better physical and mental condition.  You’ll have to tell your enablers to shape up or take a hike.  You’ll have to stay away from whatever triggers you to take a drink.

It will also take a long time.  Don’t feel depressed if it’s been a couple of days without a drink and you still feel like you’d give a hand job to a hobo for a sip of beer.  Maintain hope that the longer you stay off the hooch, the less you’ll want it.

Can’t find a job?  Same idea.  Work for it.  Put out those resumes, applications and cover letters.  Go forth and seek out key figures in your field and find ways to get your foot in the door.  Network.  Seek volunteer and intern opportunities to boost your resume.  Seek the necessary education and credentials.  Take some job, any job, just to have money coming in and to be able to say you’re doing something other than playing video games all day when you finally land that interview for the job you really want to do.

Whatever the problem is, your opportunity will come one day (i.e. the fish).  Will you puss out and cut bait and run from that opportunity, or will you be like the old man and wrestle the shit out of that fish until you can finally bonk it on the head with an oar and tie it to the side of your boat?

Haters Gonna Hate

Sharks.  The buttholes of the sea.  Once the old man bags his fish, sharks swim up to his boat and chow down on the old man’s prize even though they did none of the work required to land the fish.  The old man fights them off desperately and managed to land some powerful attacks on them but ultimately, it is too late.  There’s nothing left of the prize fish but a skeleton.

As you venture forth to solve your own problems, there will be many “sharks” who will get in the way.  People will try to take advantage of you while you’re down on your luck in order to improve their own stations in life.  They’ll try to make you feel worthless and hopeless and they will do shitty things to set you back.

Be like the old man.  Try to steer your hypothetical boat away from them, fight them off if left with no choice and if they do get the upper hand, just take a deep breath, calm down, then go back to work on trying to solve your problem.  Do not be deterred from your ultimate goal.

Knowledge of Your Success is Its Own Reward

People struggle with their own internal plights all day.  They rarely, if ever, advertise to the world what’s bugging them.  That person you know who seems like he has it all together might very well be a basket case on the inside.

The villagers are generally aware that the old man is going through a rough patch, but it’s doubtful that anyone other than Manolin, the old man’s little buddy, knows how badly the old man’s pride has been wounded.

Thus, when you do reach your goal, it is unlikely that anyone is going to throw a big party, or parade, or celebration in your honor.  Even worse, you might get what you were always after only to have life pull a George RR Martin (maybe Hemingway was GRRM before GRRM) and do something totally unexpected that tanks your victory – i.e. you finally catch that fat ass fish…only for a bunch of sharks to do a drive-by on it.

Throughout the story, we await the victory moment.  We yearn for the old man to arrive on the dock and show everyone who ever doubted him his giant fish.  He gets it, of sorts, as he is able to bring the skeleton, so everyone knows he’s not a failure anymore…but he doesn’t get the joy of bringing that big fish ashore for everyone to see, posing for a photo with it, carving it up and getting a big fat stack of cash for it.

But he’s cool with it.  The old man is very zen.  He knows he won his own personal war against failure.  He’s content.  At peace.  His pride is intact once more.

So, one day you might finally no longer desire booze anymore…or you might finally land that dream job.  Don’t be offended if everyone doesn’t drop what they are doing and lead a parade in your honor.  Everyone is too busy with their own problems.  Find inner peace with yourself.  Be content that you know you won your personal battle.  If no one will be your cheerleader, then be your own.

Appreciate Those Who Don’t Stop Believing in You/When You Can, Help Those Who Helped You When You Needed Help

Manolin, a young boy, was once the old man’s helper, fetching his fishing equipment and cutting his bait and all that bullshit.  However, his parents have demanded the he drop the old man and find a luckier fisherman to help.  Sigh.  Haters gonna hate.

But even though Manolin goes to work for another fisherman, he still drops by the old man’s house, bringing him food, newspapers, and words of encouragement.

Yes, when you lose for a long time, you’re going to get the losing stink attached to you.  Some people, like Manolin’s parents, will steer clear of you for fear your loser stench will rub off on them or their kid.

Still, if there is someone who still believes in you or hell, even if they secretly don’t believe in you but are kind enough to pretend like they do…be there for that person, help them if you can, and appreciate them back.

Whereas we evil modern day people would probably catch a giant fish and lord it all over everyone who ever doubted us, then spend all our fish money on titties and beer, one gets the sense that the old man is not like that at all.  Early in the story, he talks about wanting to help the people who have helped him.  He talks about how if he catches a fish, he will share it with those who gave him food when he couldn’t afford to eat.

Bottomline – if you do solve your problem, try to pay the world back and help others solve their problems.  You got off the booze?  Good.  Help someone else get off the booze. You found that dream job?  Awesome.  Help someone who can’t find work find a job.

What a great world it would be if we all help each other.

Make Memories While You Can…and Hang Onto Them

The old man wasn’t always a failure.  Arguably, no one in his village even thinks of him as a failure – just that he’s an old man who is past his prime and his best days are behind him.

But the old man did some shit in his day.  He had a wife.  She’s dead and he puts her picture face down because he starts to miss her if he looks at her.  Also, he once worked on a boat that sailed across the world.  His travels took him to Africa, where he saw lions fighting and playing on the beach – lions so rare to see that it’s like staring at unicorn or something.

And, one time, the old man participated in an arm wrestling bout with an opponent so fierce that the match lasted an entire day – and he came out the winner and ended up as the toast of Casablanca.

One day you will get old and you won’t be able to do things like you used to.  The older you get, the less opportunity you have – so stop feeling sorry for yourself and start getting to work on making your dreams reality.

Ask that hot babe out for a date.  Go on that dream vacation you’ve been putting off.  Go to that rock concert.  One day, when you’re old, the memories of what you did will be in your mind and will give you some solace and peace.  Whenever the old man feels sad, he remembers how awesome it was to see those lions and to have once been an arm wrestling champ.

Don’t forget to keep making memories for as long as you’re still kicking.  The old man might not be able to arm wrestle or visit Africa anymore, but he will no doubt be consoled by the memory of his big fish catch for whatever time he has left.

Don’t Kick Yourself for Your Mistakes…Learn from Them

Throughout the story, the old man makes a number of blunders.  He doesn’t bring enough water or food.  He didn’t expect to catch a fish that would fight him for days.  He didn’t bring a weapon to fight sharks.

But that’s ok.  He thinks on his feet and improvises.  He crafts a shark fighting weapon out of what he has on the boat.  He rations his water so he doesn’t drink it all.  He catches some smaller fish and eats them raw – gross, but better than starvation.

Then, when he gets back, he talks with his buddy Manolin and makes preparations.  Next time I’ll need a badass anti-shark weapon.  Next time I’ll need extra food and water.  You get the impression that the old man has learned from his encounter with the big fish and the sharks, and perhaps if he is ever put into this position again, he’ll know exactly how to fend off those sharks and protect his fish.

Don’t get down on yourself for your mistakes.  Learn from them.  Do better next time.

You stopped for a drink because you just couldn’t avoid stopping at that bar you like on the way home from work?  OK.  That was stupid.  Realize it was dumb, then move on.  Take a different route home next time, one that doesn’t pass a bar.  Can’t find a route that doesn’t go pass that bar?  Hell, walk in and politely tell the bartender you’re a booze fiend and beg him not to serve you.  Better yet, tell a loved one about this problem.  Ask them to check on you at a certain time.  Perhaps the embarrassment of being at the bar when they call will keep you out of the bar.

Did you screw up that job interview?  Did you say the wrong thing?  Make a note to not say that thing the next time.  Did your potential employee find your resume lacking?  Find out why and seek out the experiences your resume requires.

Your Opponent Doesn’t Always Have to Be Your Enemy

The genius of Hemingway is you don’t just feel bad for the old man…you also feel bad for the fish.  You get the sense that while this old man is playing out his own real life drama, trying to catch a fish after a long dry spell, this fish is fighting for his life.  The fish may not be able to vocalize exactly what is going on, but he knows that same shit is transpiring, and if he doesn’t keep trying to break free of this hook in his piehole, he’s going to end up on a plate as the old man’s dinner.

So it’s two titans, locked in a struggle, one for pride, the other for his life.  Perhaps the fish’s fight is even more sympathetic than the old man’s.  At one point, the old man even goes so far as to tell the fish that he loves him and he’s sorry that he has to kill him…and he means it.  It’s not the heatstroke talking.

Not every opponent is your enemy.  There are limited resources in the world.  You can’t expect that people won’t try to get the same thing you want.

That person who applied for the job you wanted is a competitor, but not necessarily the enemy.  You don’t have to hate this person.  If he gets the job over you, be respectful and move on.  You don’t need to call him a dick.  If the situation were reversed and you got the job over him, you wouldn’t want him to call you a dick.

If you’re fighting alcoholism, your old booze buddies will most likely try to drag you down.  “Come on, come out with us, one little drink won’t hurt.”  There’s a lot of psychology behind this.  Most likely, they really do enjoy your company and are afraid of losing you if you lose the love of booze you once shared with them.  Or, quite possibly, they regret their own inability to get sober and will try to sabotage you because it will become less easy for them to believe that quitting is impossible (thus they are blameless for the own addiction) if they see you succeed.

Just keep on, keeping on.  Try not to hate those people. Just see them as obstacles in your path.  If they won’t get out of the way, you must go around them.  No need to argue or fight but if they can’t respect your wishes then they can’t be in your life anymore.  You need to keep moving towards sobriety.

Conclusion

If you’re life’s been flushed down the shitter, it’s not too late to pull yourself out of the bowl.  The old man did it and you can do.  Read this classic tale whenever you are feeling sorry for yourself.  Personally, I feel sorry that you have nothing better to do than read this awful, awful blog.

 

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Mark Twain on Zombies – Part 5

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The Mississippi Rive will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise.  Zombies are equally stubborn and foolhardy.  Only a ball peen hammer applied liberally to their rotting craniums can persuade them to do anything else but eat your brain.

In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned.  When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.  In like fashion, few men are made of the stern stuff necessary to attack a marauding zombie head on.  Instead, they cower in corners, concerned only with their personal safety.  Once a man of great bravery steps up and murders all impending zombies in the vicinity, then, and only then, will a sniveling reprobate remove himself from his corner of cowardice and boldly declare, “I supported zombie killing this entire time!”

None of us can have as many virtues as the fountain-pen, or half its cussedness; but we can try.  A fountain-pen can help a man translate his thoughts onto the page and also, it works well when plunged into the brain of a zombie.

Zeal and sincerity can carry a new religion further than any other missionary except fire and sword.  Fire and swords are also good weapons against filthy zombies.  I’ve always found that if a zombie won’t burn, it’s best to chop its vile head off with a sword.  Don’t forget to plunge the sword in the beast’s brain for good measure.

 

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Mark Twain on Zombies – Part 4

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Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.  Whenever you find yourself on the side of a zombie, it is time to jam a sharp object into its ear canal, as that is the quickest way to destroy its brain before it eats yours.

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything…except to stay away from zombies.  Always remember to stay away from zombies.  Write a note that says, “STAY AWAY FROM ZOMBIES!” and pin it to your shirt collar if need be, but in any event, dear reader, do stay away from zombies.

I have never let my schooling about zombie anatomy interfere with my education of zombie slaying tactics.

Total abstinence is so excellent a thing that it cannot be carried to too great an extent.  In my passion for it I even carry it so far as to totally abstain from total abstinence itself.  Hell, sometimes the only way a man can come down off a high after spending a night’s worth of vigorous zombie fighting is to get all up in some Mississippi boo-tay.

What ought to be done to the man who invented the celebrating of anniversaries? Mere killing would be too light. It is doubtful that would even be effective as most likely this man would revert to the undead state of a wretched zombie.  Anniversaries are very well up to a certain point, while one’s babies are in the process of growing up: they are joy-flags that make gay the road and prove progress; and one looks down the fluttering rank with pride. Then presently one notices that the flagstaffs are in process of a mysterious change of some sort–change of shape. Yes, they are turning into milestones. They are marking something lost now, not gained. From that time on it were best to suppress taking notice of anniversaries, especially the anniversary of the first time you ever witnessed a close friend getting his brains devoured by a zombie.  No one needs to remember that shit.

To ask a doctor or builder or sculptor for his autograph would be in no way rude. To ask one of those for a specimen of his work, however, is quite another thing, and the request might be justifiably refused. It would never be fair to ask a doctor for one of his corpses to remember him by, seeing as how that corpse is likely to turn into a zombie, leaving you with no choice but to make an utter shambles of the doctor’s office when you bash the zombies brains in using little more than the closest blunt objects in your general vicinity.

I don’t like this thing of being stripped naked & washed. I like to be stripped & warmed at the stove–that is real bully–but I do despise this washing business. I believe it to be a gratuitous & unnecessary piece of meanness. I never see them wash the cat.  However, I wash myself anyway, for many medical doctors in good standing with the board of medicine have assured me that regular baths are the only way to rid one’s self of the various germs that can infect a man with a zombifying virus.  Wash your bum or become an abomination, as my old spinster aunt used to say, and she wasn’t kidding.

There’s nobody for me to attack in this matter even with soft and gentle ridicule–and I shouldn’t ever think of using a grown up weapon in this kind of a nursery. Above all, I couldn’t venture to attack the clergymen whom you mention, for I have their habits and live in the same glass house which they are occupying. I am always reading immoral books on the sly, and then selfishly trying to prevent other people from having the same wicked good time.  In summation, good readers, I can only assume that my most revered book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, has been banned from your local lending library as it contains a wealth of information vis a vis anti-zombie warfare.  Also, it features use of the “N” word like 9,454 times.

Among human beings jealousy ranks distinctly as a weakness; a trademark of small minds; a property of all small minds, yet a property which even the smallest is ashamed of; and when accused of its possession will lyingly deny it and resent the accusation as an insult.  Jealousy can even be found among dirty disgusting zombies.  Why, I have seen many a zombie pick a fight with an associate zombie over the size of a pilfered brain,

 

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Analysis – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

In case you missed it, Professor Horatio J. Nannerpants is the Bookshelf Battle Blog’s professional simian literary expert/semi-professional poop flinger.  He’ll gladly tell you everything you need to know about the classics.

Just be ready to duck, as he has been known to make the poop fly.

In this column, he discusses Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  Come for the commentary.  Stay for the poop.

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Literary Poop with Professor Nannerpants – Analysis Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Professor Horatio J. Nannerpants, Professional Simian Literary Professor/Semi-Professional Poop Flinger

Oh, 3.5 readers!  Get thee to Europe to see the glory of what once was.  The statues, the brilliant architecture and of course, the fine cuisine.  It’s all so lovely that it almost breaks my heart when I lose control and throw my poop all over it.

Yes, in this land rife with history, there are all sorts of lessons to be learned about history and culture, stories of monarchs who have come and gone.  And you’ll even find such tales written into various antiquities the world over, even in, say, Egypt.

Have you set a goal for yourself, 3.5 students?  Is it a big project?  Perhaps it’s causing you a great deal of anxiety.  In times such as these, I highly recommend flinging your poop against the wall.  I know it calms me right down, though I presume it creates all sorts of untoward feelings inside the poor individual who must clean up the poop.

Oh well.  That’s not my problem, for I am much, much too important to clean up poop.

Not only is life short and full of poop, but eventually, everything you do or say or even accomplish will, as a basic matter of fact, turn into poop.  Such is the point of Ozymandias, the old poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

“I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Pardon my French, 3.5 students, but that Percy Bysshe Shelley was one morose motherfucker.  To paraphrase the immortal Ben Affleck’s line delivered in that most seminal work, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, it’s as if someone shit in Percy’s breakfast cereal.

But the man has a point.  The poet speaks of Ozymandias, better known as Ramses II, the mightiest of all Egyptian pharaohs.

Ozymandias believed in himself so righteously that he had himself preserved in a giant statue.  The engraving boasts of Ozymandias’ power and warns other mighty kings to “look upon” his works “and despair.”

Despair about what?  All the broken statue pieces and shit littering the dessert sands?

What is Percy getting at?  The fragile nature of life.  Maybe one day you’ll accomplish as much as a great Egyptian pharaoh, but sooner or later, the poop will hit the fan.  You’ll kick the bucket and all the material possessions you acquired will end up broken and rotting underneath the sand, or dirt, depending on where your shit is doing its rotting.

Now, don’t get Percy wrong.  I don’t think he’s coming right out and saying, “Give the eff up.  Smoke a bone and stop trying because we’re all screwed anyway.”

I mean, it’s still pretty awesome that Ozymandias managed to do so many great things that he was eventually preserved in the form of a giant ass statue.  Sure, you can mock him, but it’s not like you ever did anything that led to your immortalization in a statue.

The lesson?  Do try, for there may be awesome rewards.  However, if you fail, don’t beat yourself up too badly about it.  After all, this is all turning to poop sooner or later.

Is there something you’re trying to achieve, 3.5 students?  Do you worry that one day it will all turn to poop?  Fling your poopy thoughts in the comments.

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Literary Poop with Professor Nannerpants – Analysis of “Dreams” by Langston Hughes

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Professor Horatio J. Nannerpants, Professional Simian Literary Professor/Semi-Professional Poop Flinger

Ah, hello again 3.5 students.  How splendid to see you are still taking time out of your busy schedules to read literature.  Books are food for the mind you know.

Just be sure to find an equal amount of time to fling your poop.  In fact, I dare pose this brain teaser to you:

If a poop is left unflung, was it ever really pooped to begin with?

I’ll let that nugget simmer in your mental stew.  In the meantime, it is Black History Month and thus a time of year where we literary scholars are reminded to peruse the contributions of African American poets and writers to the cultural zeitgeist.  Google “zeitgeist,” 3.5 students, I swear it is a real word.

In this humble professor’s opinion, these contributions must be studied all year long.  In fact, based on conversations I have had with one Mr. Bookshelf Q. Battler, the former proprietor of this blog before Ms. Video Game Rack Fighter won custody of this blog and its 3.5 readers in a divorce case, BQB is particularly fond of this poem:

Dreams

By: Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Eight lines.  Like your humble professor, this poem is short and sweet.  And yet, if you delve deeper into these words, you’ll find so much meaning.

When we’re children, the world is our oyster.  Technically speaking, no outcome is impossible for a child because children possess so much of the most crucial of resources: time.  A forty year old drive-through worker who tells you he wishes to be an NBA basketball player, or an Academy Award winning actor, or an astronaut has the odds against him.  This person may, in theory, be very capable, but he just does not have the time to make such achievements.

On the other hand, a ten year old who tells you he wishes to do all of these things does have the time.  Statistically speaking, the child will, upon reaching adulthood, realize the lesson that many learn, namely, that life is hard, that resources are limited, that there is just too much competition for too few opportunities.  However, until that child comes to that realization, the world is a happy place in his eyes.

I hesitate to put words into Mr. Hughes’ mouth but your professor has a take on the meaning of this poem.  It’s quite simple.  Ignore the realization of the statistically unlikely probability that you will not achieve your big dreams.

Yes, you know in your heart and in your brain that at forty, you will not become an astronaut, but keep looking for the stars and studying astronomy books in the hopes that you might make it happen.

No, you most likely will not take home a gold statue.  Audition for a part in your community theater’s horrendously tacky play anyway.

No, you aren’t going to be drafted by the NBA.  Don’t let that stop you from playing pick up games with your friends.

Take Mr. Battler for instance.  He is well aware that he has a better chance of being struck in the ass by lightning a second time (we all know this happened to him a first time) than he does at becoming a successful writer.

Does he let that stop him? No.  Why?  Because he knows if he stops writing, he will be left with nothing else to look forward to.  He’ll while away his hours watching television, playing video games, stuffing his suck hole with ding dongs, never, ever doing anything productive.

One might even say that at that point, Mr. Battler’s life will be like “a broken-winged bird that cannot fly” or even “a barren field frozen with snow.”

Mr. Battler’s life, without his precious, absurdly difficult to obtain dream, would become hopeless, just as hopeless as a bird who has tasted the joys of flight but will never experience it again…just as hopeless as a field that can’t be utilized for crops because the soil has gone bad and frozen over.

Do you want to feel as hopeless as a broken-winged bird or a barren, frozen field, 3.5 students?  No?  Good.  Then I don’t care how hopeless it seems.  I don’t care if you are ninety and you dream of becoming the next top pop star, you get your old, wrinkly ass to the garage and start squeezing your backside into a pair of tight pants, then start shaking your booty.

No, you will never replace Katy Perry.  Yes, you need to hope that you will in order to get through the day.

And there you have it.  Another fine example of our beloved English language, expertly explained by your all-knowing professor.

Are you pursuing a dream that is unlikely just to keep your life from become a broken-winged bird or a barren, frozen field?  Share your thoughts and fling your poop in the comments.

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Literary Poop with Professor Nannerpants – Of Mice and Men Analysis

 

shutterstock_282195503Professor Horatio J. Nannerpants, Noted Literary Scholar, Banana Biter and Poop Flinger

Good day and a belated Happy New Year to you, 3.5 readers.

I would have written sooner but I am currently enjoying a sojourn in Paris.  Ahh, gay Par-ee. There’s nothing like taking a nice stroll, checking out the exquisite works of art in the Louvre, and getting a fresh croissant and a frothy espresso.  Personally, I prefer to choose a nice, quiet, hole in the wall cafe where I can collect my thoughts and write them down in my journal.

After that, I fling my poop everywhere.  Occasionally, people complain but I simply tell them I’m engaging in an avant garde piece of performance art and they leave me alone.  The French will always bend over backwards, both in bed and in life, just to avoid stifling your creativity.

Today our lecture will be about John Steinbeck’s seminal work, Of Mice and Men.  Of all the books about a jaded, angry prick forced to care for a giant dope with a penchant for snapping the necks of loose women, this is by far the finest.

While the novel itself is short, it begs many questions.  The one we will discuss today may be posed as follows:

Do the friends and family who rely on us lift us up or drag us down?

If you did the assigned reading (and please fling some poop at yourself if you didn’t), you are aware that George and Lenny are a pair of traveling ranch hands.  George is tasked with being Lenny’s caretaker, an unenviable job to be sure, as Lenny, due to his massive size and strength (and lack of the brains necessary to control it) ends up accidentally wreaking havoc where ever he goes.

Thus, George is never able to settle down anywhere because before he knows it, Lenny has cocked up a good job and he and Lenny must flee out of town before Lenny gets drawn and quartered by the latest person this giant has inadvertently pissed off with his clumsy, numbskull ways.

It is natural for humans to dream and yearn for lives that are difficult to achieve.  When we fail to obtain what our hearts desire, it is also natural for us to lash out at those around us. “If you hadn’t done this, I could have done that” becomes a constant refrain in households across the globe.

However, before we chastise one another, we should take a step back and consider whether or not our lives would be any better if we were on our own, devoid of the person who drives us crazy.

The reader gets a sense that babysitting Lenny is a tremendous burden for George.  In many ways, it is.  Yet, keep in mind that at one point in the novel, George gives us a glimpse into what he would be doing if he didn’t have to take care of Lenny:

“God a’mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an’ work, an’ no trouble. No mess at all, and when the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go into town and get whatever I want. Why, I could stay in a cathouse all night. I could eat any place I want, hotel or any place, and order any damn thing I could think of. An’ I could do all that every damn month. Get a gallon of whisky, or set in a pool room and play cards or shoot pool… An’ whatta I got … I got you! You can’t keep a job and you lose me ever’ job I get. Jus’ keep me shovin’ all over the country all the time.”

– George Milton in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men

So, to recap, if George didn’t have Lenny in his life, he’d be blowing his hard earned money on hookers, booze, gambling and hotel room service.  Way to dream big, George.  Way to dream big, indeed.

I can’t say as I blame George.  I’ve been known to enjoy a good night of hookers, booze, gambling and hotel food myself, from time to time.  I just turn the hotel food into poop that I fling later.

But I digress.  Think about that person in your life who drives you crazy.  Is this person dragging you down or lifting you up?  Would you really be doing any better without this person?  Perhaps caring for this person gives you a purpose.  Idle hands are, as the old saying goes, the devil’s handiwork.

In short, you might like to think you’d be doing great things without a person who depends on you, but you never know.  Maybe you’d just be blowing your dough on hookers and booze.  Perhaps caring for another person is, though not ideal, the more respectable way to spend your time.

Towards the end of the novel, George, Lenny and the elderly ranch hand Candy hatch a plan to pool their money and buy a little place of their own.

Sure, they’re three assholes who can’t get anywhere near a cooter without paying for it, but they hope to become an oddball family of sorts.  These three assholes will work their own land, reap their own rewards and if they want to take a break and watch a ball game, they can without the boss bitching them out.  Even better, since it will just be them, there will be nothing for Lenny to screw up royally.

In theory, co-owning a small farm with two other dudes would be a more respectable life for George than chasing hookers and drinking booze and, though it is unclear if he ever realizes it, it is a life that he would not pursue if he did not feel the pressure of finding Lenny a place to live where he can’t accidentally snap necks with his stupid giant hands.

In the above quote, George is given a clear opportunity to tell us what he would do without Lenny.  He does not tell us that he’d be Dr. George or Senator George.  He tells us that’s he’d be hooker patron George.  Thus, he is, in theory, better off with Lenny because at least with Lenny, he aspires to be small farm owner George.

Here’s where things get dicey.  The “Lenny is good for George” argument falls apart when Lenny accidentally snaps the neck of Curley’s Wife while he is petting her hair.

In addition to this being a horrific tragedy, it also becomes clear that George can never have any real kind of a life as Lenny’s caretaker as Lenny is so big and stupid that he will inevitably FUBAR everything he comes into contact with.  Even George’s desired life as a hooker patronizing gambler/hotel food eater would be better than having to drag this giant sack of crap around the countryside, constantly on the run whenever Lenny screws the pooch.

So in the end, the question posed in this lecture is not a simple one.  Only you know how difficult the person you are taking of is.

Perhaps this person lifts you up without realizing it.  Perhaps your life would lack purpose without him/her.  Maybe you’d become a degenerate prostitute customer/gambler/alcoholic/hotel food eater.  Maybe you’re wrong about your role as a caretaker and maybe you should give this person you are caring for a break.

Then again, you could totally be right and this person you are saddled with is a total assbag who drags you down at every turn and you’d be so much better off with this person, even five expensive minutes with an STD infested lady of the evening and a gross, refried hotel steak burnt till it resembles a coaster would be a preferable alternative.

In that case, you might consider telling this difficult person goodbye.  Do just say goodbye.  Don’t solve the problem with a revolver as George did.

I suppose I should clarify.  If we’re talking about a mentally capable person who is just being an asshole to you, then yes, say goodbye.

If we’re talking about a mentally unstable Lenny type person, then obviously you can’t just abandon this person.  Luckily though, in today’s modern age, there are all kinds of programs and professionals that can help you take care of this person.  Be glad this isn’t the 1930s and that you aren’t George and the only option you can turn to is a gat.

As a reminder, BQB’s attorney asks me to tell you that this blog’s proprietor does not endorse shooting people.  You probably realized that already but we live in a litigious society where crooked lawyers rule the day so everything needs to be spelled out.

What observations do you have, 3.5 readers?  Fling your poop in the comments.  Class dismissed.

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Text of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven

Happy Halloween Season, 3.5 readers.

Enjoy this literary classic. Discuss your thoughts in the comments.

raven-silhouette-800px

The Raven

By: Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

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