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401, 401V, 501V: English-Language Reading Diary

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Group 501: Memorial Day, Graduation ... and a perfect hamburger




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Purchase link: Graduation Day”--Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion, 20th Anniversary Album vol. 4

Discussion:
  1. On Memorial Day, people went to the cemetery in the morning. What did they do in the afternoon?
  2. “Dead people have always supported the Democrats.” What does Keillor mean?
  3. Why did the graduating students (the “army in the blue gowns and mortarboard hats and the gold tassels”) all have gold tassels on their mortarboard hats?
  4. Why were the pairs of parading students arranged about 20 feet (about six meters) apart?
  5. Why do Midwesterners arrange for “dull and pretentious people to stand and speak at great length” at emotional events such as graduations?
  6. “The life of parents is nothing BUT prayer.” What does Keillor mean? Who stopped the practice of having invocations at schools?
  7. Clarence Bunson thought that nine out of ten men do not know how to do what?
  8. When can the meat finally be removed from the barbecue?
  9. Students may someday be lucky enough to come under whose instruction?
Brief definitions:
  • VFW: Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • Gettysburg Address: famous Civil War speech by Abraham Lincoln
  • “Taps”: a famous musical piece, sounded by the U.S. military nightly to indicate that it is “lights out,” and also during flag ceremonies and funerals, generally on bugle or trumpet. [wikipedia.org]
  • “Pomp and Circumstance”: the “Trio” section of Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D, used almost universally as a graduation march in the USA.
  • forty-yard lines: the lines crossing the football field 40% of the distance from each end of the field.
  • invocation: a ceremonial prayer intended to ask for or invoke the presence of God.
  • vacuous: empty; without evidence of thinking or of intelligence
  • ragging on: criticizing, complaining about

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