May 13: Velcro Day

Today is the anniversary of a registered trademark that gave the world an alternative to zippers and buttons: Velcro.

One man’s annoyance can be another man’s eureka. One day, when Swiss inventor George de Mestral returned with his dog from a walk, he noticed that he and his dog were covered with cockleburrs. Instead of being annoyed, he studied the burrs under a microscope where he noted their hook-like shape.

Engineering artificial fasteners that replicated the ones he found in nature took a few years, but Mestral eventually succeeded in creating his easy to use hook and loop fastener. He registered his invention in 1958. For the name of his product, he blended two French terms: “vel” from velvet and “cro” from crochet (little hook).

Logo velcro.pngToday Velcro Industries is a successful international company, but like other successful companies, Velcro is challenged by a paradox: they want people to use their trademarked name as much as possible to promote their product; however, because the name is used so often and the product is so successful and so ubiquitous, the name of the product becomes a generic, non-capitalized word. As a result, companies like Velcro are in a constant battle to protect their trademark and in turn their bottom line. The lines are blurred even more when a word, like Google, becomes used so often that it becomes more than just a noun. No doubt the legal department at Google and the neologism department at the American Heritage Dictionary are both busy tracing the growth and development of this word.

The following statement from the Velcro website is an example of the kinds of reminders and warnings that companies put out to protect their brand names:

The goodwill and integrity which are reflective of the Velcro companies are ingrained in the VELCRO® trademark. This makes the trademark a very valuable asset to the company and to our customers who purchase the VELCRO® brand fasteners.

Many terms that we all use frequently in our everyday language were once trademarks …. All of these terms lost their distinction as trademarks because their owners allowed them to be misused by the public. That’s why the Velcro companies pay close attention to how the VELCRO® trademark is used (1).

As stated by the Velcro website, there are several brand names that were once registered trademarks, but today they have lost their capital letter and entered the dictionary and the English lexicon as generic terms, such as cellophane, escalator, and the yo-yo.  Other brands seem generic, but they legally retain their trademarks, such as Kleenex, Jet Ski, Play Dough, Popsicle, and Q-tips.

Today’s Challenge:  The Law and the Language

What are some examples of the names of specific products you might buy?  Brainstorm a large A to Z list of specific brand names of products. Then, select one of your brand names and research the history of the product and specifically the trademark history of the product’s name.  Is the product’s name a registered trademark or is it a generic term? For example, Jacuzzi is the name and registered trademark for the generic term “hot tub spas” or “whirlpool bathtubs” made by the American corporation called Jacuzzi Brands Corporation. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  . . . the average English-speaking adult knows about 40,000 words.  The number of active US trademarks is more than thirty times larger than the common English vocabulary.  -Christopher Johnson in Microstyle

1 – https://www.velcro.com/about-us/our-brand

 

May 5: Five Out of Five Day

On this fifth day of the fifth month of the year, we should pause to consider things that come in 5s.  We remember the five-second rule, the five Olympic rings, the five sides of a pentagon, the five points of a star, and the five Ws (Who, What, When, Why, and Where).  We also remember the Jackson Five, Slaughterhouse Five, high fives, “Pleading the Fifth,” and the five-paragraph essay.  We also remember, remember the fifth of November, Cinco de Mayo, “this quintessence of dust,” V for Vendetta, and the five men who have held the rank of five-star general in the U.S. Army:  Generals Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, and Bradley.

Yes, lots of things are associated with five, and lots of things come in fives.  Given the five members of the ten separate categories below, see if you can identify the title for each of the Famous Five categories below:

 

 

  • center, point guard, shooting guard, power forward, small forward
  • Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
  • Sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing
  • Thumb, index/pointer, middle, ring, pinky
  • Maggie, Lisa, Bart, Marge, Homer
  • Shooting, swimming, equestrian, fencing, running
  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
  • Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite, Tuscan
  • Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon, Lethe, Styx
  • Huron, Superior, Michigan, Ontario, Erie

Today’s Challenge:  Five Out of Five on 5/5

What are some categories of people, places, or things you could rate using a five-star rating system?  Select a general category; then, generate a list of at least five members of that category.  

Example Categories:

Mythical Creatures, Birthday Traditions, Ad Slogans, School Rules, Days of the Week, Aspects of a Bowling Alley, Inventions That Changed History, Homecoming Traditions, Scary Food, Punctuation Marks, Cartoon Characters, My Bucket List, Annual Events, Things That Come in Five, Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Best Stephen King Novels, Breeds of Dog, Song for Getting Motivated, Best SAT Vocabulary Words, Best Quotations of Just Five Words, Best Places to Go That Are Less Than Five Miles Away

Then, write your subjective assessment of each member of the category along with a rating.  Of course, on 5/5 it makes sense to use a five-pointed star system for your ratings. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Little strokes fell great oaks. -Benjamin Franklin

ANSWERS:  1-5 Basketball Positions, 2-First 5 Books of the Old Testament (The Pentateuch), 3-The 5 Senses, 4-The 5 Fingers, 5-The 5 Members of the Simpsons Family, 6-The 5 Events in the Modern Pentathlon, 7-The 5 Weekdays, 8-The 5 Classical Orders of Architecture , 9-The 5 Rivers of Hades, 10-The 5 Great Lakes

 

April 20:  Urban Legends Day

This day is purported by some to be the day that Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin died, but don’t believe it. Although all three of these celebrities shared a background of drug use and rock ‘n roll, they each died on a separate day other than 4/20.

The date and number 420 has somehow evolved to connote drug use, and there are a number of stories related to why, such as the supposed common death date of the trio of dead rock stars alluded to earlier. Other stories claim that the Los Angeles police code for “marijuana use in progress” is 420, or that the number of chemical compounds in marijuana is 420. Both of these claims are untrue. No one knows for certain the origin of these stories, and this brings us to the topic of urban legends.

An urban legend is defined as a story that is “too good to be true” by Jan Harold Brunvand, a professor at the University of Utah and the world’s expert in collecting and analyzing urban legends. Brunvand says these stories are told “as if they are really true, attributed to a friend of a friend of a friend.” Each time the story is told, the basic elements (or motifs) are the same, but the setting and other minor details change.

For example, a friend might tell you about a story he heard from a friend of a friend that goes like this:

There’s this man, see, and he dresses up like a little old lady and accosts unsuspecting women in shopping malls. Usually, he waits in the car. When the owner of the car shows up, bags in tow, the stranger pleads fatigue and asks her for a ride home. Then the driver notices her passenger’s hairy legs, the wig and, oh yeah, the knife!

This is an example of a story that was reported in the Seattle Times on May 4, 1983. It was reported as a rumor that was running up and down the shores of Puget Sound, and no doubt a story that had appeared in various parts of the country if not the world.

Even in a modern, urbanized society, people still love to tell stories. Maybe this is because we were telling stories long before the invention of writing. Urban legends allow even strangers to connect with each other. Another bonus is that they can be easily reconstructed from the basic elements of the tale and don’t need to be told exactly the same way every time (1).

Urban legends come under the category of folklore: songs, legends, beliefs, crafts, and customs that are passed on from one generation to the next by word of mouth. An adjective that is frequently used to describe urban legends is apocryphal. The modern definition according to the American Heritage College Dictionary is “of questionable authorship or authenticity.” The roots of the word are from Greek, meaning secret or hidden. The word was used in Latin to describe the books excluded from the canon of the Old and New Testaments, and these books are still identified today as the Apocrypha.

Today’s Challenge: Tell the Tall Tale

What is a tale you have heard from a friend of a friend?  Tell your own version of an urban legend, but provide enough concrete details about the specific setting, characters, plot, and dialogue to make it sound true. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quote of the Day: The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might. -Mark Twain

  1. – cnn.com

http://www.cnn.com/books/beginnings/9909/urban.legends/index.html?eref=sitesearch

March 30:  Pencil Day

On this day in 1858, a Philadelphia stationer named Hyman L. Lipman patented the first eraser-tipped pencil.  One common misnomer about pencils is that they contain “lead.” In reality, pencils contain a mineral called graphite.  Legend has it that in the 16th century a shiny black substance was discovered in England’s Lake District under a fallen tree.  The substance was first used by local shepherds to mark their sheep. Because the black material resembled lead, it was called plumbago (from the Latin word for lead, plumbus — the same root that gave us the word “plumber,” someone who works with lead pipes).

A pencil shortage in 18th century France resulted in the invention of another well-known writing implement.  While at war with England in 1794, Revolutionary France could not access the graphite needed to make pencils.  An engineer named Nicolas-Jacques Conte improvised, combining low-quality graphite with wet clay. Conte then molded the substance into rods and baked it.  This process produced “Crayons Conte” or what we know today as chalk.

Before he lived at Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau made a significant contribution to the pencil’s evolution.  After graduating from Harvard College, Thoreau went to work at his family’s pencil-making business. Working with material from a New Hampshire graphite deposit, Thoreau developed his own process for making pencils.  He numbered his pencils from the softest to the hardest using a numbering system from 1 to 4. The No. 2 was the Goldilocks of pencils — not so soft that is smudged easily and not so hard that it would break easily.

The origin of the most common color for pencils is another story.  Pencils were commonly painted any number of colors, but in 1889 at the World’s Fair in Paris, a Czech manufacturer Hardtmuth debuted a yellow pencil.  Supposedly made of the finest graphite deposits, the pencil was named Koh-I-Noor, after one of the world’s largest diamonds. The distinct yellow of the Koh-I-Noor became the industry standard for quality, and soon other manufacturers began painting their pencils yellow.

The final key element in the evolution of the pencil came in the 1770s when British polymath Joseph Priestley discovered that a gum harvested from South American trees was effective for rubbing out pencil marks — appropriately he called this substance “rubber.”  Prior to Priestley’s discovery, the most common erasers used were lumps of old bread.

Priestley was also the author of an influential textbook called The Rudiments of English Grammar which was published in 1761 (1).

Today’s Challenge:

What are some examples inventions like the pencil that are everyday ordinary objects?  Brainstorm a list of some ordinary objects that you encounter every day.  Select one of these objects and do some research on its origin. Write a report providing details about the object’s origin and history.  (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools. -Michael LeBoeuf

1-http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/10/11/492999969/origin-of-pencil-lead

March 28:  Thought Experiment Day

Today is the birthday of Daniel C. Dennett, American philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1942.

Dennett wearing a button-up shirt and a jacketIn 2013, Dennett published his book Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.  Dennett begins his book by acknowledging that thinking is hard work.  But just as a shovel makes it easier and more efficient for us to dig a ditch, thinking tools make cognition easier and more efficient.  

One specific category of thinking tools used frequently by philosophers is thought experiments.  Dennett calls them intuition pumps (a term he coined in 1980), the philosophical equivalent of Aesop’s fables.  These thought experiments present vivid vignettes, hypothetical situations that allow thinkers to explore and examine ideas.  Like parables, thought experiments are micro-narratives, making ideas more practical and easy to remember (1).

One ancient thought experiment comes from Plato’s The Republic:  

The Allegory of the Cave

Imagine three prisoners who have been chained in a cave their entire lives.  They are chained in such a way that all they can see is the wall of the cave in front of them.  Behind them, there is a fire and a raised walkway. As people walk along the walkway carrying things like books, animals, and plants, the prisoner sees nothing but the shadows of the people and the items they carry cast on the wall in front of them.  Because the prisoners see only the shadows, these shadows become their reality. When they see a shadow of a book, for example, they take the shadow as the real object, since it is all they know.

Imagine that one of the prisoners escapes his chains and leaves the cave.  Leaving the darkness of the cave, he is first blinded by the light. As his eyes slowly adjust and as he becomes more used to his new surroundings, he begins to realize that his former understanding of the world was wrong.  Returning to the cave, the enlightened prisoner tells the other prisoners what he has learned of the real world. The others, noticing that the returning prisoner is groping around in the darkness as his eyes readjust to the darkness, think he is insane. They can’t imagine any other reality but the shadows they see before them, and they threaten to murder anyone who would drag them out of the cave or annoy them with supposed insight into what a “real” book or a “real” tree actually looks like (2).

Plato’s Cave allows us to address and discuss the abstract ideas of knowledge versus ignorance and perception versus reality.  It doesn’t just tell us that philosophy will improve our lives; instead, it shows us: most of us live our life watching the shadows in the cave; philosophy and education, however, offer us a way out of the darkness and into the light of reason.

Today’s Challenge:  Pump Up Your Tired Thinking

What are some examples of philosophical questions that might be debated about universal topics, such as the nature of reality, of knowledge, of morality, of consciousness, of free will, or of government?  Research a specific thought experiment (see the list below).  Summarize the key elements of the thought experiment in your own words; then, discuss what specific philosophical ideas the thought experiment addresses.

The Whimsical Jailer, The Nefarious Neurosurgeon, Infinite Monkey Theorem, Buridan’s Ass, The Brain in a Vat, The Trolley Problem, Schrodinger’s Cat, Ship of Theseus, The Chinese Room, The Lady or the Tiger

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  You can’t do much carpentry with your bare hands and you can’t do much thinking with your bare brain. -Bo Dahlbom

1- Dennett, Daniel C.  Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.

2-Plato’s Republic.  http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.1.introduction.html

 

March 25:  Toulmin Argument Day

Today is the birthday of British philosopher and educator Stephen Toulmin, who was born in London in 1922.

Stephen Toulmin.jpgIn 1958, Toulmin published a book entitled The Uses of Argument in which he explained his model of argumentation.  Toulmin’s objective was to give his readers a practical, real-world method for constructing or analyzing arguments.  Instead of the abstract, academic proofs written by logisticians, Toulmin proposed a method that could be understood and applied by ordinary people to everyday arguments.

The Toulmin’s model of argument is made up of six key parts:

The Claim is what you believe to be true, what the argument proves.

The Data is the facts, evidence and reasons that lead you to believe the claim is true.

The Warrant is an assumption that connects the data with your claim.  The warrant makes the thinking of the argument explicit, explaining both how and why the data support the claim.  

The Backing is any facts or details that support the warrant.

The Qualifier is limits of the claim, stating whether or not it is always true or in what cases it is true.

The Rebuttal is where the person writing the argument anticipates and answers possible objections to the claim by stating counterclaims and responding to them.

Toulmin’s model is an excellent way to analyze arguments made by others or to analyze your own.  It gives you a method for carefully thinking through each part and for troubleshooting the parts that don’t hold up under scrutiny.  In essence the model is a grammar for arguments. Just as grammar allows you to name the parts needed for crafting and revising clear sentences, Toulmin’s model gives you the nomenclature needed to construct and examine sound arguments (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Try Toulmin’s Toolbox

What are examples of five claims that you believe in fully?  Brainstorm some possible claims that you could confidently make.  Then, select one claim, and write a well-developed argument employing each element of the Toulmin model.

Before you begin writing your own argument, analyze the example argument below, identifying the claim, qualifier, data, warrant, backing, and rebuttal:

The best way to become a good writer, in most cases, is to read widely. Most good writers build up their experience and understanding of the different ways that words, sentences, and paragraphs work through reading. Furthermore, most writers don’t just express their own ideas, instead they build and test their own ideas by reading, responding and referring to other writers. One of the common things you will hear when listening to interviews of writers is their references to other writers as well as to what they have read or are reading.  In the words of Stephen King, ““If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” A writer might have great ideas, but without a lot of experience of analyzing the written word through careful reading, the writer is not going to be equipped to package his or her ideas in a way that they can be understood by an audience of readers.  Some may say that the best way to write is to just write; however, that’s a little like saying the best way to build a house is to just build a house. Just as home construction require knowledge of architecture, good writing requires a solid understanding of the architecture of prose. Construction workers read blueprints before they pick up a hammer; likewise, good writers read good books before they pick up a pen.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument. -Desmond Tutu

1-http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/11/education/11toulmin.html

March 20:  Answer in the Form of a Question Day

On this day in 1964, the popular game show Jeopardy made its debut. The show was created by Merv Griffin who also composed the show’s famous theme song. In the introduction to Alex Trebek’s The Jeopardy Book, Griffin explains that he wanted to create a trivia game show, but he was worried about the backlash from the 1950s quiz show scandals. On a plane flight in 1963, Griffin’s wife had a breakthrough idea, when she said off the cuff: “Why not just give them the answers to start with?”

Jeopardy! logo.pngGriffin originally called his show “What’s the Question?” but that changed when he showed his game to a network executive. The executive was concerned that the game lacked drama since once a player had a sizable lead, he could play it safe. The executive commented, “I like what I see, but the game needs more jeopardies!” It’s that comment that changed the show’s title and the show’s format. After the executive’s comment, Griffin added the climactic moment that makes or breaks the show: Final Jeopardy (1).

Appropriately enough, the word jeopardy began as a French gaming term from chess, meaning a divided or even game. It evolved, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, to mean any game in which the chances of winning or losing were even (2). So when the executive told Merv Griffin, “The game needs more jeopardizes,” he was most likely not referring to the modern sense of the word, meaning danger or peril, but to the gaming sense of the word, meaning, “Let’s keep the final outcome in doubt until the end.”

Today’s Challenge:  “Five Funky Facts for Five Hundred, Please”

What is a general category that you know enough about to write quiz questions for?  Brainstorm some Jeopardy categories, such as Authors, Novels, The Beatles, or Game Shows.  Then, write 5 answers and questions in the Jeopardy format.

For example:

Answer: This game show debuted on March 20, 1964.

Question: What is Jeopardy?

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: Anyone who has begun to think, places some portion of the world in jeopardy. -John Dewey

1-Trebek, Alex and Peter Barsocchini.  The Jeopardy! Book: The Answers, the Questions, the Facts, and the Stories of the Greatest Game Show in History, 1990.

2-https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=jeopardy

March 19:  Listicle Day

Today is the birthday of American writer Irving Wallace (1916-1990). Wallace parents emigrated from Russia and settled in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Irving grew up.  From an early age, Irving, whose father was a clerk in a general store, dreamed of being a writer. When he was still in high school, he sold his first published article to Horse and Jockey Magazine for $5.

After graduating from Williams Institute in Berkeley, California, Wallace began writing full time in 1937, selling freelance fiction and nonfiction to magazines.  He also wrote for Hollywood, producing a number of screenplays for major studios.

Wallace is best known, however, for his books — both fiction and nonfiction, which he began writing in the 1950s.  His 16 novels and 17 nonfiction books have sold more than 120 million copies.

In 1977, working with his son and daughter, Wallace published The Book of Lists.  It was the perfect book for the dawning information age and quickly became a bestseller (1).

The Book of Lists is more than just a compilation of lists.  Each of the book’s lists is annotated with fascinating facts and storylines.  Here’s a small sample of some of the tantalizing titles of the book’s lists:

10 Famous Noses,

6 People Whose Names Were Changed by Accident,

13 Mothers of Infamous Men,

Rating the Effects of 51 Personal Crises,

14 Highly Unusual Recipes,

33 Names of Things You Never Knew Had Names,

17 Pairs of Contradictory Proverbs,

5 Famous People Who Invented Games,

9 People Who Died Laughing

27 Things That Fell From the Sky (2)

The Book of Lists inspired hundreds of imitation volumes, and with the advent of the World Wide Web in 1990, the list article (or listicle) has become a staple method for writers to deliver information.

Today’s Challenge:  It’s the Listicle You Can Do

What are ten possible topics for interesting listicles?  Brainstorm at least ten specific topics that you might package as a listicle.  Use the words below to help you determine some possible organizing principles for your lists, such as 10 Reasons to Read More, or 10 Secrets to Getting an A in English:

ways, reasons, things, places, people, principles, rules, secrets, lessons, keys, habits, tips, myths, best, worst, mistakes, steps

Once you have some ideas, select the one list you like the best, and expand it into a listicle.  Make sure you have an engaging title that includes the number of items on your list. The number ten seems to be a number that resonates with readers; in fact, there is a single word in English, that means “a list of ten.”  Decalogue is from the Greek deca, meaning “ten,” and logos, meaning “words.”  Make sure to number each item on your list, and follow each numbered item with details that will engage your audience.

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: A listicle feels more democratic than a hierarchically structured argument, as well as more in tune with a conception of history and the world as just one damn thing after another. The foundational text of Protestantism was a listicle nailed to a church door: Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” posted at Wittenberg. So it makes sense that in our culture, which makes a fetish of anti-authoritarianism, the listicle should have spread everywhere, like mold. -Steven Poole

1-http://www.nytimes.com/1990/06/30/obituaries/irving-wallace-whose-33-books-sold-in-the-millions-is-dead-at-74.html

2-Wallechinsky, David, Irving Wallace, and Amy Wallace.  The Book of Lists, 1977.

 

March 15:  Beware the Ides of March Day

On this day in 44 B.C. Julius Caesar was assassinated by the Roman Senate.  

After defeating his rival Pompey, Caesar returned victoriously to Rome in 46 B.C.  The Roman Senate made him dictator for life, but some senators feared Caesar had grown too powerful.  These conspirators planned a public assassination.

Days before March 15th, the augur Spurinna had warned Caesar to “Beware the Ides of March.”  (The Ides were simply a way to designate the middle of each month. In March, May, July, and October, the Ides fell on the 15th day; in the other months, the Ides fell on the 13th day of the month.)

As Caesar approached the Senate meeting on the morning of the 15th, a friend handed him a note, warning him of the assassination plot.  Caesar, however, did not read the letter. As he entered the theatre where the Senate was meeting, Caesar saw the augur Spurinna. He addressed him mockingly, saying “The Ides of March have come.”  Spurinna replied, “Yes, but they have not yet gone.”

As Caesar took his seat, conspiring senators surrounded him, pretending to be paying their respects.  A frenzied attack ensued in which Caesar was stabbed 23 times before falling dead to the floor (1).

For Caesar’s assassins, the Ides of March was an important date.  The first month of the Roman year was March, and the Ides marked the first full moon of the new year.  On this date each year, the Romans celebrated the festival of Anna Perenna, the goddess of the cycle of the year.  To her faithful worshipers, Anna Perenna awarded a long life. By eliminating the dictator Julius Caesar, the assassins no doubt believed they were ensuring the long life of Rome. (2)

Today’s Challenge:  Diverting Doom and Disaster

Julius Caesar would have been smart to have listened more carefully to the warnings of Spurinna, who made his determination of the future by examining the entrails of animal sacrifices.  Today we receive our warnings from Public Service Announcements (PSAs).  PSAs began during World War II when radio broadcasters teamed up with advertising agencies to create the Advertising Council.  This partnership produced numerous messages to promote the war effort, such as advertisements promoting war bonds and famous messages like, “Loose Lips Sink Ships” — a warning against careless talk that might provide state secrets to the enemy.

Both Smokey the Bear and his famous slogan — “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires” were created by the Ad Council.  Perhaps the most famous PSA of all time was produced by the Ad Council in 1987. It featured the simple image of a single egg in a frying pan along with a concise message of just 15 words:  “This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

What are some possible dangers that people face on a daily basis?  What do people need to know to avoid these dangers? Write a PSA that identifies a specific danger. The purpose of a PSA is to equip the listener/reader with a specific strategy for avoiding the danger. Do some research on your topic to gather some facts and statistics; then, consider the target audience for your PSA.  Begin by doing something that grabs the audience’s attention, and do the best you can to show, not just tell, the danger along with how to avoid it (4). (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  NOTICE: Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. -Mark Twain in his preface to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

1-365:  Your Date With History (124-5)

2-http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/12193529/The-Ides-of-March-The-assassination-of-Julius-Caesar-and-how-it-changed-the-world.html

3-https://www.adcouncil.org/About-Us/The-Story-of-the-Ad-Council

4-http://www.centerdigitaled.com/artsandhumanities/How-to-Create-the-Perfect-Public-Service-Announcement.html

March 14 – Bracket Day

On this day in 1985, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament began, the first time the tournament featured 64 teams.  The tournament originated in 1939, but at that time only eight teams competed. The birth of what has become known as “March Madness” began with the start of the 1985 tournament.  Fans across the nation feasted on a smorgasbord of first-round games, visually tracking the progress of the tournament using a 64-team bracket.

The moniker “March Madness” originated as a term to describe high school basketball.  Henry V. Porter, an official for the Illinois High School Association, first used it to promote his state’s basketball tournament in 1939.  With the gradual increase of teams in the annual NCAA college basketball tournament along with its growing popularity, March Madness graduated to the college ranks, becoming the operative term for the annual tournament. In 2010 the NCAA paid $17.2 million to trademark the term (1).

Besides the large number of teams in the tournament and ESPN’s saturation coverage of the games, the other element that made March Madness a cultural phenomenon was the bracket.  The bracket concept for tracking single-elimination contests is not new — it may go as far back as medieval jousting tournaments. Beginning with the large slate of teams in the 1985 tournament, fans across the nation could participate in office pools, filling out their brackets and tracking the progress of their predictions in each round. According to the American Gaming Association, $10.4 billion was spent on tournament betting in 2017 with approximately 40 million people filling out 70 million brackets (2).

In fact, brackets have become so popular that the concept has moved beyond just basketball and sports.  In 2009, Mark Reiter and Richard Sandomir published a book called The Final Four of Everything where they used the bracket form to judge everything from “SAT Success Strategies” to “Songs by the Grateful Dead.”

Reiter and Sandomir explain in the introduction to their book that a bracket is much more than just a list.  Unlike a list that ranks things from best to worst, the bracket presents “discrete one-on-one matchups” and allows “the two to rub together and create friction to determine the superior players” (3).

The following are some examples that show the variety of topics that can be found in  The Final Four of Everything:

Most American Superhero, Disney Animated Films, Fears and Phobias, National Parks, Texas Sayings, Politically Correct Terms, Artisan Cheeses, Board Games, Presidential Speeches, Fatherly Advice, Acronyms, Fortune Cookies

Today’s Challenge:  Build A Better Bracket

What are some sample categories that might make good topics for a bracket?  Brainstorm some possible categories; then, select one and break it into 64, 32, or 16 parts.  Draw a bracket on a piece of paper and fill in your list of competitors along with a title. Fill in the bracket based on who you think would win each competition.  For example, if your bracket were “Songs by The Beatles,” which song would you pick in the showdown between “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”? Write your explanation for the victor in at least six of the matchups on your bracket. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  A bracket is a more dynamic way of understanding personal preferences.  The practice of parsing people, places, and things into discrete one-on-one matchups works because it’s simple and the face-off happens right in front of you – in real time.In that sense, a bracket invests your opinions with a narrative of how you decided something.  -Mark Reiter

1-http://www.rollingstone.com/sports/features/march-madness-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-ncaa-tournament-20160317

2-http://www.sportingnews.com/ncaa-basketball/news/ncaa-tournament-2017-record-amount-illegal-betting-office-pools/1an4gu7kt7gkt179p9ivcaszlv

3-Reiter, Mark and Richard Sandomir (editors).  The Final Four of Everything.  New York:  Simon & Schuster 2009.