The Next Day Part 3

March 30th, 2012 by Wordsman

“I didn’t expect you to come back so soon.”  The woman tried to act nonchalant and conceal her happiness, but she didn’t do a very good job of it.  She hadn’t had anything to be happy about in a long time.

“I was out and about anyway.”  Despite his strong desire to remain comatose, Peter had been unable to resist the summons to Friday Night Family Dinner.  For one thing, he had said he would be there, and Peter Hamlin did not go back on his word—unless he had a very good reason, or the word was ambiguous in the first place.  Also, after the phone call he realized that he had not eaten anything since the half a bowl of Caffeinated Cereal Catastrophe that morning.  So he dragged himself out of bed, lurched over to Carmine Street, and headed home for the second time that day.  He was greeted energetically by Sourdough, rather coolly by his human family members (who were impatient to eat), and not at all by Cicero.

After everything that had happened, however, he was unable to stomach the thought of yet another subway ride, so he decided to crash at his parents’ house for the night.

“I thought you could use something to eat,” he continued, reaching into a small paper bag and producing a muffin.  It was smaller than the last one she had been given, dotted with one of those berries with a name you think just has to be made up, like the nannyberry.  The top was a swirl of golden brown and a deeper, more granulated brown.  It was no longer warm, but even so the smell was at the same time both heavenly and devilish.

The woman couldn’t stop smiling.  She couldn’t remember the last time she had had to work her cheek muscles so much.  “Why do you people keep bringing me muffins?”

“What?”  Peter was still only really familiar with the woman’s bitter, aggressive side.  He wasn’t sure why anyone else would go out of his way to bring her breakfast.  He wasn’t sure why he was doing it either.  “Who else brought you a muffin?”

“Oh . . . I don’t know, actually.  It just sort of appeared one day.”

“. . . and you ate it?”

“Yeah.  Listen, when you’re trapped somewhere for a long time, you do a lot of stupid things.”  Then, either because she wanted to avoid going into a list of those things or because she didn’t want to admit that she had eaten the mystery muffin after only having been down there a week, she took a bite.  It had a kick, more of a kick than muffins should really be allowed to have.  But it was the exciting, invigorating kind of kick, not the “Ohymygodwhereismywater?” kind.

“Fanks,” she said, chewing.  “Buh I fough you be cahing up on yo seep?”

“I did.  I went to sleep right after dinner.”

Well, almost.

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This Day in History Entry #164

March 28th, 2012 by Wordsman

“Henri, please! Have you gone quite insane?
With this preposterous . . . water-plane?
To take off in that duck
You will need all the luck
This designing has rotted your brain!”

Event: Henri Fabre makes the first successful seaplane flight
Year: 1910
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #94

March 26th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 新たなる希望 B. 暗闇の騎士 C. 七人の侍 D. 帝国の逆襲

E. 殴り合い会 F. 良い者と悪い者と醜い者

Well, shame on me.  One would expect Spring Break to be responsible for causing me to miss one, maybe two posts, but three?  Oh, the shame!  The extreme shame!  Don’t worry, I’ll make it up to you: this week I will post two KYPC challenges instead of one.

Wait . . . that’s actually more of a punishment, really, since it means more work for all of you.  Better stick to the usual way.

The challenge from three weeks ago was about . . . uh . . . uh . . . well, it must have something to do with movies, since A Fan felt the need to post three separate times.  Ah, yes, that’s right: IMDB’s Best Non-Best Picture Nominees.

A Fan’s right: Theoman should have either looked up or recalled the fact that, while Inception probably wouldn’t have been nominated under the old system, it had the good fortune to have been made in 2010, a year after the Academy decided it was safer to simply nominate every single movie.  Other than that, however, his picks were pretty good, and he even got half of them to land on the right letters, utilizing his knowledge of numbers–C, The Seven Samurai–conjunctions–F, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly–and, uh, geography I guess?–D, The Empire Strikes Back.

A Fan, on the other hand, knew precisely which were the top six highest rated IMDB films to never receive a nomination for Best Picture.  In fact, he knew them better than I did (as if I didn’t have enough to be apologizing for already this week).  #6 on the list is City of God, not Star Wars: A New Hope because Star Wars: A New Hope was actually nominated for Best Picture.  In my defense, how could they possibly have nominated that one and not Empire?  Don’t tell me the competition was stiffer in 1980.  Ordinary People?  Come on.

So I guess I have to give everyone honorary credit for A, which is A New Hope.  A Fan also secured the same three correctly placed answers as Theoman, which I guess makes this week’s KYPC champion’s race a draw?  We could give the edge to the one who got closer to A, but it’s too close to call; Theoman’s pick of The Dark Knight is an obvious Vader reference, but he’s really bigger in the next movie, and A Fan’s guess has the same problem (City of God=Cloud City?).  We’ll declare A Fan the winner this time round because he taught us all a lesson about how to correctly read lists.

Shirley, on the other hand, decided to eschew the upper echelons of the IMDB list and concentrate on giving recognition to the lower ranks, while at the same time giving us a few lessons in comparative theater.  For is not “The dude abides” basically the same as “Use the Force” (A)? (The Big Lebowski, #129).  Did the chase-scene antics of Batman and the Joker (B) not hearken back to the work of Buster Keaton, even if Bale and Ledger didn’t do their own stunts? (The General, #118).  Doesn’t Luke (D) kind of remind us of Monty Python’s Brian, especially in some of his whinier scenes (“That’s not true!  That’s impossible!“)?  (Life of Brian, #166).  And I suppose that if Alec Guiness had to play eight parts, then he must have been good, bad, and ugly (F) all rolled into one.  (Kind Hearts and Coronets, #217).

Apparently people have been obeying the first rule of Fight Club, because nobody identified it correctly: it’s E.

But now I actually have to go to work again.  Let’s do geography.  You all like geography, right?  You know what else you like?  That’s right, kanji characters (otherwise you wouldn’t be here).  So we’re going to go to the birthplace of kanji: Poland.  Just kidding.  I mean China.  China’s a big place, and they have a lot of big cities.  Let’s look at a few of them.  Shanghai must be pretty important, because my grandfather has been there and because it’s not every Chinese city that you can use as a verb in English (coming soon to the OED: “to chongqing”–what could it possibly mean?).  Beijing’s kind of a big deal, because it’s the capital and because they named a duck after it.  Hong Kong’s name means “fragrant harbor” in Chinese, which basically tells you everything you need to know about Hong Kong.  Tianjin is home to the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, so you know it must be exciting.  Plus it’s the sixth-largest city in China, which is much more impressive than, say, being the sixth-largest city in Ohio (Dayton).  Guangzhou appears in my Chinese textbook, used to be called Canton (no, I’m not talking about Ohio again), and is a Beta World City, ranking it with such major metropolises as Budapest, Ho Chi Minh City, Minneapolis, and Oslo.  And Shenzhen has ten million people but may just end up being part of Hong Kong someday, so you’d better learn it now while you have the chance.

So, to review, your choices are: Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tianjin, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.  I’m making it clear here so you don’t go to Wikipedia, which tends to flash characters about, thus spoiling the quiz.

A. 北京 B. 广州 C. 香港 D. 上海 E. 深圳 F. 天津

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The Next Day Part 2

March 23rd, 2012 by Wordsman

The doctor stared at her.  Or, to be more accurate, she stared at a spot a couple inches to the left of her forehead.  Or, to be even more accurate, she started at something that was not in Simon Park Station at all.

“I just got off the graveyard shift at St. Gregory’s,” she replied, with all the emotion of a cardboard tube.  “A twelve-year-old kid came in.  He and his friends were playing by the train tracks.  His foot got stuck.  A train came.  We—we had to take his leg.”

“Oh.”  The obnoxious smile vanished.  Nightmares crept back into the old woman’s waking mind.

“No, they didn’t run,” the doctor continued, answering a question that had not been asked, at least not since she had gotten off the subway.  “They tried to save him.  I was going to either compliment them on their bravery or berate them for their stupidity, but I never saw them.  They went straight to the morgue.”

The doctor stood there for a while longer, her face full of silent horror (inside her head, presumably, it was not silent at all).  Eventually some instinctual urge must have convinced her to keep moving.  She walked awkwardly out of the station, as if she was overly-conscious of her legs.

The old woman remained suitably dumbstruck for a while, but she was able to move on much more quickly than the doctor would.  She told herself that nothing was going to get her down on that day, that it was the first day of the rest of her life, and whatever other positive platitudes she could think of.  Without the task of constantly asking for help to keep her busy, she chose to spend her time simply taking in the organically woven tapestry that was Simon Park Station.

She watched her home for the past seven-and-a-half months go through a morning ritual not entirely unlike her own.  Dragged to reluctant wakefulness at 5:19 sharp, it gradually became more and more active over the hours that followed.  Small-time merchants came down the steps, unlocked their stands, and began to aggressively peddle their remarkably cheap (both in terms of price and quality) merchandise.  A few more dead-eyed overnight shift people fell off the early Outbound trains, but soon the station was taken over by families.  Parents representing the full spectrum of eagerness were dragged by children who had been driven to the peak of hyperactivity by breakfast cereal, early-morning cartoons, and the promise of a visit to the zoo or the aquarium.  Finally, a flow of people getting off of trains developed to complement that of the ones getting on, and the place was truly in full swing.

God, she thought, this is so boring.

Since the woman was no expert observer of the human condition, she eventually fell to brooding.  She believed that her search was over, but what proof did she really have?  The kid had agreed to help her, but those were just words.  She had heard a lot of words during her time down there, and she had seen very little action.  And, just in case that wasn’t a big enough concern, there was always the matter of effectiveness.  He could try to help all he wanted, but would he be able to do it?  The trick with the squirrel had been surprisingly effective, but it didn’t instill her with a whole lot of confidence.

Maybe the doctor was right.  Maybe doom and gloom was the only appropriate outlook for a day like that.  If she had even one tiny shred of evidence to make her think that—

“Good morning,” said Peter, standing above her.

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This Day in History Entry #163

March 21st, 2012 by Wordsman

With the continent trapped in his jaws
Bonaparte sought to redo the laws
And long after he died
They would stretch far and wide
Influential his civil code was

Event: The Napoleonic Code goes into effect
Year: 1804
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This Day in History Entry #162

March 14th, 2012 by Wordsman

Mrs. Miller lay dying in bed
Dr. Hess found a digest, which said
That by taking some mold
She could live to be old
Since that day, of germs we have less dread

Event: Orvan Hess and John Bumstead become the first doctors to successfully treat a patient using penicillin
Year: 1942
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March 13th, 2012 by Wordsman

No KYPC this week.  The Wordsman is otherwise occupied.  Try not to despair.

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The Next Day Part 1

March 9th, 2012 by Wordsman

Day 234:

The thunder of chugging wheels, the rush of wind through the tunnel, the screech of over-used brakes.

5:19.  Time to get up.

The woman in Simon Park Station had no use for alarm clocks, with their revolutionary ideas and rebellious ways.  She got up at the same time every day, except Sundays.  At 5:19 the first train rolled in, its awful noise undampened by the sounds of human activity, for at that time—and for several hours before that—she was the only human there.  They say that people can get used to even the most horrendous racket, that soldiers in the trenches learn to sleep through artillery barrages.  The old woman could never sleep through the arrival of the first Downtown-bound Green Line train of the day.

She had a morning routine, like we all do.  When the angry noise forced her eyelids open, she would first make sure the train was not coming straight for her, as it often did in her dreams.  Then she would glance at the still-closed stands, in the hope that the mere memory of coffee might help to keep her awake.  Then she would lay her head against the cold concrete of the pillar and fall immediately back to sleep, because there was nothing to do in Simon Park Station at 5:19 in the morning.  On weekdays, the first Downtown-bound train was a sparsely attended affair.  On Saturdays it was completely pointless, deserted, a ghost train (yet another image that she did not need invading her fragile subconscious).

The real wake-up call came about forty minutes later, when the first Outbound train came in from downtown.  The 5:19 was just a train.  The woman did not care about trains.  She was only interested in passengers.  Unlike the crack-of-dawn Inbound train, the super-early Outbounds usually produced a couple.  Sure enough, here came a woman in her early 30’s wearing scrubs.

Here we go again, the old woman thought.

“Don’t you feel . . .”

With a shock nearly as strong as if that dream train had finally collided with her frontal lobe, the events of the previous day came back to her.  The new strategy.  The slap.  The handcuffs.  The boy and the Beherrschunglied.  The extremely mediocre flute.  Freedom.  And most importantly . . .

“. . . will you agree to help me?”


The old woman experienced the joy of the worker who has just looked up and realized that her shift ended five minutes ago.  She didn’t have to do this anymore.  Her call had been answered.

“Don’t you feel,” she started again, smiling more brightly than any normal human should at just after six on a Saturday morning, “that it’s going to be a beautiful day?”

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This Day in History Entry #161

March 7th, 2012 by Wordsman

After the near seismic shift that resulted in a TDiH poem being produced on Wednesday, we decided to stick with it, because hey, updating on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday seems to make a little more sense than Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. Apologies to Tuesday fans, but for now we’re sticking with hump day.

The phone name that we all know quite well
Is that of Alexander Graham Bell
Did he make his own way?
Or steal from Mr. Gray?
As is oft the case, it’s hard to tell

Event: Alexander Graham Bell receives a patent for the telephone
Year: 1876
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #93

March 5th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 命の木 B. 家政婦 C. 金玉 D. 芸術家 E. 子孫 F. 戦火の馬

G. パリの真夜中 H. 物凄く煩くて、有り得ないほど近い

And the Oscar for Technical Accuracy goes to . . .

Theoman, of course.  Not much of a shocker here.  Sure, he’s not perfect, and I certainly wouldn’t put him in charge of casting: he has an unfortunate tendency to hire artists to do all the cleaning work and to take on maids to design all his scenes.  Other than that, however, his record is solid.  Luckily for him, at KYPC, the Oscar for Technical Accuracy is awarded at the main event and not at that special separate nerd ceremony they always have for the technology stuff.

The award for Most Subjectivity goes to . . .

A(nother) Fan, surprising no one.  If movies are involved, you’d better believe he has an opinion and is willing to share it.  So what if his accuracy suffered because he was more concerned with badmouthing Tree of Life than he was with spotting it at A (supposedly his first runner up).  Oh wait . . . actually, his accuracy wasn’t half bad.  It wasn’t half good, either, but it was close.  Turns out that his knowledge isn’t limited to films he approves of, either.  He spotted Moneyball at C, The Descendants at E, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close at H.  And here’s a funny story about ELIC: this challenge was somewhat inspired by seeing a friend of mine looking up movie titles in Japanese in order to prepare a lesson for class.  I saw him looking at one and, reading only the beginning (“Extremely loud”), assumed this was a review of the movie rather than its title.  Though based on A(nother) Fan’s low opinion, perhaps it was both.

The moral of the story is: don’t simply rank things in the order they come to you.  While this system puts ELIC in its “proper” place, it also says that The Descendants is better than War Horse, The Help is better than The Artist, and Tree of Life is better than all of them.

The award for Most Easily Recognizable Answer goes to . . .

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Oh, the horror, it actually won something!  Not much of a surprise here, since the title has twice as many meaningful words as any of the others do.  Technically, everyone also got Moneyball correct, but we’re going to assume based on Shirley’s comments that she was more sure about ELIC.

Finally, the award for Best Original Screenplay goes to . . .

Shirley.  Whether or not she actually gets the answers right (this time she picked up as many correct answers as A(nother) Fan), we can always count on Shirley to give us the most detailed description of how she arrived at them.  She weaves a tale of deception and subterfuge at C, Moneyball.  She tells us how the life of a maid can be like a war at B, The Help.  She reminds us of John Williams’ powerful score with her reference to musical instruments at F, War Horse.  She . . . says something about horses that I don’t entirely understand at D, The Artist (can’t expect to catch every little detail in a silent movie, right?)  And she was the only one to mention anything about Ernest Hemingway at G, Midnight in Paris.

But hey, to me, you’re all winners.  And I actually mean that.  Anyone who’s played KYPC for as long as you folks have knows that three out of eight is nothing to sneeze at.

Still, awards aren’t everything.  There are other ways to judge a film’s value.  See if you can identify the top six films from the IMDB Top 250 List that were never nominated for Best Picture.

A. 新たなる希望 B. 暗闇の騎士 C. 七人の侍 D. 帝国の逆襲

E. 殴り合い会 F. 良い者と悪い者と醜い者

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