Funny high school story

As a palate cleanser I’m reposting a story that I shared nearly fourteen years ago on a very old, very pink iteration of my blog. The formatting got really funky at some point so it’s barely readable over there anymore, but it’s definitely worth revisiting on a regular basis.

What’s the Story Wishbone?
Monday, 10/25/04

My senior year of high school I was enrolled in the Advanced Placement (AP) Language and Composition class, along with four other AP classes, so near the end of the year I didn’t have time to think about much else. When the annual AP tests were administered I spent the better part of two weeks in the local armory attempting to put a year’s worth of knowledge on paper. This was difficult at the best of times, but much more so when you’re faced with a question you’re not sure you have any idea how to answer.

Throughout the entire school year we had practiced writing essays from old AP Language tests so we thought we were prepared for whatever this year’s test had in store. We were wrong. Out of the three essay questions on the exam the first two were standard and self-explanatory, but the third threw us for a loop. Instead of asking us to use the excerpt in question to prove a point, it asked us to use our “own critical understanding of contemporary society as evidence” to agree or disagree with the author instead. It was bizarre. I remember sitting there staring at the question for at least a minute wondering what in the world I was going to write. Using the excerpt itself as evidence was one thing and drawing on my knowledge of literature was perfectly understandable considering it was an English test, but contemporary society seemed beyond the scope of the exam. It didn’t seem appropriate to use my own observations because they were completely subjective. Looking back on it, I suppose the point of the essay was to simply convince the reader of the point I wanted to make, but at the time I preferred to use something more concrete than my own thoughts to do so.

Here is the essay question:

“In the following passage, the contemporary social critic Neil Postman contrasts George Orwell’s vision of the future, as expressed in the novel 1984 (written in 1948), with that of Aldous Huxley in the novel Brave New World (1932). Read the passage, considering Postman’s assertion that Huxley’s vision is more relevant today than is Orwell’s. Then, using your own critical understanding of contemporary society as evidence, write a carefully argued essay that agrees or disagrees with Postman’s assertion.”

Even before I had read the excerpt I knew I was going to disagree with the author. For some reason I always felt that way about essay questions. No matter what point the author was trying to make I would find a way to disagree with it. It could have been anything. I think it was kind of a challenge to prove the author wrong. So what I needed was another literary reference that described a possible future for humankind and helped me discredit Postman. The problem was that I couldn’t remember ever reading anything like that. I sat there tapping my pen on the table, racking my brain for something I could use in my essay. Then I thought of something that would work perfectly, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, but I hadn’t exactly read it.

There was a show on PBS when I got home from school in the afternoon called “Wishbone” that used a little dog to present great works of literature to kids too young to read them. It was always funny to see how novels like Pride and Prejudice were depicted in thirty minutes using a couple of actors and a dog. In one episode, called “Bark to the Future,” the book in question was The Time Machine. From just watching that episode I gathered that a combination of technology and apathy was responsible for the decline of human intelligence, which was a mix of Huxley’s and Orwell’s writings. This would certainly help me disagree with Postman. So I used what little knowledge of The Time Machine that I gained from a children’s television program involving a dog to write my AP Language essay.

After the exam was over we learned that no one had ever seen a question like that before so there was no way we could have been ready for it. I was pretty proud of myself for finding a literary reference to help prove my point, even though I hadn’t actually read the book. I’ll never say that television doesn’t have its redeeming properties ever since “Wishbone” helped me pass an AP test. As soon as the test was over I swore I would read The Time Machine to make sure I hadn’t grossly misrepresented it, and I even bought a copy at the used book store, but I never actually sat down to read it. Maybe one day I’ll know if I used it correctly to prove that human indifference is not the greatest threat to our society, but at this point I don’t know any more about the book than I did then.

P.S. As of 9/25/18 I still have not read it! And I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t think my copy made the move to California with me sixteen years ago!

Las Vegas addendum

After finishing yesterday’s post I finally found what I was looking for last night. Turns out I did indeed write a review of Star Wars Episode II after my initial viewing in May 2002, but I’ll spare you that tripe. However, as a comparison, here’s the portion of that post where 23 year-old me described our quest to see Episode II shortly after it happened. I may have gotten some of the details wrong in my retelling yesterday!

“As soon as my dad and I got to Las Vegas I started calling movie theaters to see which one had a digital projector. Since ‘Attack of the Clones’ was filmed entirely in digital format we wanted to see the movie the way George Lucas intended it to be viewed. The Orleans casino turned out to be the place to see digital Star Wars in Las Vegas. It was absolutely amazing. The difference between digital and film is akin to the difference between DVD and video. The clarity (i.e., the lack of lines and spots on the screen) made every detail of an expression or a costume noticeable. If a director really wants to draw a viewer into a movie then digital is the way to go. That, and having a great story to tell (i.e., Star Wars).”
5/23/02 webpage post

Las Vegas

On Sunday I got back from spending the weekend in Las Vegas with my running buddies. I’ll write more about that later, but our trip reminded me of another time I was in Las Vegas and I wanted to share that story first.

In 2001 when Dan and I were first dating we spent a weekend in Las Vegas, but I was underwhelmed. I thought the variety of over-the-top themed hotels and casinos was novel and interesting, but since I don’t gamble, drink, or party the city didn’t really have anything to hold my interest. (FYI, on subsequent visits I was introduced to some of the lesser-known attractions that are much more my style. Like state parks, art museums, outstanding restaurants, beautiful shops, and the now sadly defunct Star Trek: The Experience at the hotel formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton.) When we drove home from Las Vegas after that first trip I didn’t really have any desire to return. The second time I went there was a bit different. It was May 2002 and my dad and I were driving from Florida to California before I started my second Boeing internship. We spent two weeks on the road, visiting both sides of the family (in Ft. Smith, AR and Wichita, KS) as well as three of my top-choice grad schools (Georgia Tech, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Stanford). We had a fantastic time even though we basically had to live out of my tiny Dodge Neon and subsist on fast food hamburgers. About two-thirds of the way through the trip we found ourselves in the vicinity of Las Vegas and decided to spend a night there. I can’t remember exactly why, but it might have been because “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” had just been released and we wanted to see it. I know it’s the standard now, but back in 2002 digital movie projection was new and exciting and Episode II was one of the first movies to employ it. Tallahassee didn’t have a theater with a digital projector, but I figured Las Vegas might have this thrilling new technology. This was back before smart phones or wifi (or even reliable cell phone service) so I must have done research on theaters on my laptop using the dial-up internet connection of the hotel where we were staying a day or two before. Super high tech, huh? Lucky for us there was a theater featuring digital projection in The Orleans Casino. The bottom line is that, Attack of the Clones was the first movie I saw in digital format. Also, that was probably my best trip to Las Vegas. Road trip with my dad plus Star Wars. What could be better?

P.S. Since I was blogging back then I though I had written an account of this experience at the time (or at the very least a first-impression review of Episode II), but I can’t seem to find anything. Maybe I have it in an old Word document. I’ll keep looking!

Thanksgiving 2008 (NaBloPoMo day 22)

It’s Thanksgiving Eve and I have no idea what to write. My day certainly hasn’t been interesting enough to fill even half of a decent blog post. I basically worked all day, didn’t exercise, and wasn’t even able to make the pumpkin pies I intended to. What a mess. Tomorrow morning is the Oceanside turkey trot so that’s not going to help me find time to do any baking before I need to leave for Natalie’s house. I’ll reassess the situation when I get home from the race. But tonight I figured I’d share a photo from the spirit of Thanksgiving past. I was going to go back a full decade, but in November 2007 Dan and I went to Texas to spend the holiday with his mom’s family. That trip was pretty much a disaster because I caught the stomach flu and actually ended up in the hospital on Thanksgiving Day. So the next year we decided to stay in Los Angeles – specifically, Thanksgiving at Disneyland! This was back before I had an annual pass and only went to the parks about twice a year so it was a real treat. This was also before we had iPhones so I have very few pictures from that visit. It’s a shame because I remember we had a great time. Our Thanksgiving dinner at Napa Rose, the fine dining restaurant at the Grand Californian Hotel, was amazing. That was in sharp contrast to the single piece of bread I was able to choke down the year before! (And, FYI, it didn’t even stay down.) I bought one of my oldest Disney pins that day and I still have it on one of the cork boards in my bedroom. Disneyland always provides great holiday memories!

Sixteen years ago

Over the weekend I was looking back at some of my posts from previous years and found a couple of gems from January 2001. The first presidential election after I was old enough to vote was in 2000 and what a doozy it was! Especially since I was still living in Florida. (For the record, Alachua County didn’t have any ballot irregularities. We colored in circles on a scantron with a Sharpie rather than punching holes in our ballots. No chance of hanging chads for us.) Some of the things I wrote about that election are eerily similar to the 2016 outcome. And as it turns out, neither case benefited my preferred candidate. History repeats itself, and much sooner than I ever expected!

“Speaking of the media, tonight we have a new president, George W. Bush. Don’t blame me, I voted for Gore!”
1/20/01 webpage post

“As I was waiting at a traffic light near I-75 I saw a billboard that caught my attention. It read ‘You Get the Government You Elect!’ My first thought was, ‘Not this year!’ At least we didn’t get the president that the majority of the population voted for.”
1/26/01 webpage post