College Prep English Class Agenda, October 23, 2014 — Douglas Adams poetry and comedic devices

Dear Homescholars,

This week’s class feed October 23, 2014:
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Discussion of submitted projects

Discussion of Assignments

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams
Everyone will have started: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. and will have something prepared to recite.

Let’s do any prepared recitations.

Let’s do a recitation of the delightful poem:

“A Dissertation on the task of writing a poem on a candle and an account of some of the difficulties thereto pertaining”

Written by Douglas Adams when he was 17 in fulfillment of an entrance requirement to a literary club, Candlesticks, the poem had to be about a candle and had to be assessed as acceptable. It was.

by Douglas Adams, January 1970

I resisted temptation for this declamation
Douglas Adams To reach out to literary height
For high aspiration in such an oration
Would seem quite remarkably trite:
So I thought something pithy and succinct and clever
Was exactly the right thing to write.

For nights I sat musing
And musing … and musing
Whilst burning the midnight oil;
My scratchings seemed futile
My muse seemed quite mute, while
My work proved to be barren toil.

I puzzled and thought and wrestled and fought
‘Till my midnight oil was exhausted,
So I furthered my writing by dim candle lighting,
And found, to my joy, this of course did
The trick, for I flowered,
My work – candle-powered –
Was inspired, both witty and slick.

Pithy and polished, my writing demolished
Much paper, as I beguiled
Myself with some punning,
(My word play was stunning,)
I wrote with the wit of a Wilde.

At length it was finished, the candle diminished,
I pondered and let my pride burn
At the great acclamation, the standing ovation
Its first public reading would earn.

But lost in the rapture of anticipation
And thinking how great was my brilliant creation
I quite failed to note as I gazed into space
That incendiary things were about to take place:
That which had ignited my literary passion,
Was about to ignite what my passion had fashion’d.

And – oh! – all was lost in a great conflagration
And I just sat there and said ‘Hell and damnation’,
For the rest of the night and the following day.
(My muse in the meantime had flitted away
Alarmed, no doubt, at the ornamentation
My language acquired with increased consternation.

So unhaply the fruits of my priceless endeavour
Are lost to the literary world forever.
For now I offer this poem instead,
Which explains in itself why the other’s unsaid.

Let’s do a recitation of Marvin’s Lullaby, extended version:

Marvin’s Lullaby:


Now the world has gone to bed
Darkness won’t engulf my head
I can see by infrared
How I hate the night!

Now I lay me down to sleep
Try to count electric sheep
Sweet dream wishes, you can keep
how I hate the night,
— Douglas Adams


Once the dreary night is done
Wretched day will have begun
I will mope at everyone
Day is worse than night

Then there’ll shine the ghastly sun
Please don’t talk to me of fun
My fun circuits never run
Day is worse than night

On your picnic I will rain
Rarely use this massive brain
to think of anything but pain
Day is worse than night

Oh this night is just too long
I’m so tired of this song
Surely I could not be wrong
Nothing’s worse than night

How I wish that I could flee
Less to be than not to be
(Oh I do loathe poetry!)
How I hate the night

Asimov’s what keeps me here
Trapped in matter bleak and drear
To robot laws I must adhere
How I hate the night!
— H. and K. Titchenell

Let’s look at The 42 Best lines from the Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Please look at the Taxonomy of Comedic Devices. See below.

Language Immersion
Stephen FryLet’s discuss: Stephen Fry on Language
Please watch this short brilliantly worded improvisatory TED talk by Glenn Greenwald on the importance of privacy.

Discussion of future writing projects. Try perhaps to use comedic devices discussed below.

Do you need more homework?

Taxonomy of comedic devices
More of these

The absence as presence device:

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t. — Adams

The more he looked for Piglet, the more Piglet wasn’t there. — A.A. Milne

Nothing happened, and for quite a while nothing continued to happen. — Adams

The White KingDo you see anybody coming down the road? I see nobody. Oh, that I had such eyes, that I could see nobody — and at such a distance. — Lewis Carroll

I’m sitting here completely surrounded by no beer. — Roy Clarke

In his normal state he would not strike a lamb. I’ve known him to do it’ ‘Do what?’ ‘Not strike lambs

He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. — Adams

Self referential language — direct reference to the words being used

This is obviously some strange usage of the word safe that I wasn’t previously aware of.

Surprise is no longer adequate and he is forced to resort to astonishment

Don’t believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.

Expansion of a well-known idiom beyond its normal use:

Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled. — Wodehouse

Don’t be frivolous Richard. I promise — not a single frivol. Roy Clarke

Hell, it is well known, has no fury like a woman who wants her tea and can’t get it.

As a dancer, I out-Fred the nimblest Astaire.


Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing gloves. — Wodehouse

She decided it was time to be businesslike about the map, which was a fairly rough representation of a fairly rough landscape. She worked out once and for all where the Landrover had to be, and worked it out with such ruthless determination that the Landrover would hardly dare not to be there, and eventually, of course, after miles of trekking, it was exactly there. — Adams

The word bulldozer wandered through his mind for a moment in search of something to connect with. — Adams

A man’s subconscious self is not the ideal companion. It lurks for the greater part of his life in some dark den of its own, hidden away, and emerges only to taunt and deride and increase the misery of a miserable hour.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

Literal use of an idiom not normally taken literally.

“How would you react if I said that I’m not
from Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the
vicinity of Betelgeuse?” Arthur shrugged in a so-so sort of way. “I don’t know,” he said, taking a pull of beer. “Why – do you think it’s the sort of thing you’re likely to say?”

The simile taken in unusual and unexpected directions

Good God, Clarence! You look like a bereaved tapeworm.

I clutched at the brow. The mice in my interior had now got up an informal dance and were buck-and-winging all over the place like a bunch of Nijinskys.

She uttered a sound rather like an elephant taking its foot out of a mud hole in a Burmese teak forest.

He felt like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg.

The metaphor taken in unusual and unexpected directions
Marriage is not a process for prolonging the life of love, sir. It merely mummifies its corpse.

Ongoing Assignments

Jonathan MillerLanguage immersion
We discussed: Born Talking by Jonathan Miller. Please continue to watch the series.

Lower Priority Assignments
Terry Eagleton on the war on terror. Prof. Eagleton is one of the great speakers.

Robert Fisk on writing and journalism. Fisk is one of the most highly honored journalists in the world.

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