Question-writing pet peeves

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Question-writing pet peeves

Postby mrsmiley4 » Sun Dec 04, 2005 10:43 am

It pains me to write this kind of post, but after yesterday's question set at Princeton I am compelled to do so by Categorical Imperative. Which is not to say that most of the questions at PARFAIT were anything other than fine; apart from a whole bunch of repeats and a few hoses that slipped by the editing was pretty solid (I was even able to get a few Physics questions off giveaways, which NEVER happens, suggesting that the pyramidality of these tossups was quite good). That said, here are a few things (a list nowhere near the comprehensiveness of those of Matt and Chris from a few months ago) that I'm really getting tired of hearing:

1) Booker Prize Lit. PLEASE STOP DOING THIS. Most of the books that have won the prize are too recent for us to appraise their overall significance to the literary canon (and moreover, almost nobody on the circuit has read them). These questions take the form of long character descriptions which nobody knows, followed by long plot summaries which nobody knows, followed by the year in which the book won the prize, which is a buzzer race if you've memorized lists and still ungettable otherwise. These help nobody.
2) Biography Bowl. Why do I have to complain about this? I thought the circuit as a whole had moved away from this type of question. While it's true that you don't get the questions in the form of "Born in X in year Y, his father was a dog-botherer and he went to school at Whattsamatta U" much anymore, there are still more questions than I can count where the lead in is completely extraneous information about the person's life. If you REALLY can't find any biographical information about the person pertaining to his/her work, for the love of God write about something else.
3) Music tossups with leadins describing musical form or notation. I have NEVER heard anyone get a music tossup from this information. Tossups move too fast for anyone to really get an idea of what sound the question is trying to describe, and anyway unless you have perfect pitch you're probably going to be out of luck anyway. ("This piece starts with a C major chord moving to triplets"? WTF? I can think of at least three pieces of quizbowl canonical music that fit that description.) Moreover, unless notation is REALLY famous-- like, for instance, the Largo in the New World Symphony-- it's impossible to apply that to the question unless you've actually played the piece and remember what the notation was. Write about themes, or how the piece was written and for whom, or SOMETHING, but musical description is worthless.

That's all I've got for right now. I'm sure I'll add to this post later as stuff comes to me/in an attempt to avoid grading papers.

Cheers,
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Re: Question-writing pet peeves

Postby grapesmoker » Sun Dec 04, 2005 1:10 pm

mrsmiley4 wrote:2) Biography Bowl. Why do I have to complain about this? I thought the circuit as a whole had moved away from this type of question. While it's true that you don't get the questions in the form of "Born in X in year Y, his father was a dog-botherer and he went to school at Whattsamatta U" much anymore, there are still more questions than I can count where the lead in is completely extraneous information about the person's life. If you REALLY can't find any biographical information about the person pertaining to his/her work, for the love of God write about something else.


Can you give some examples of this? I'm just curious to know whether this was a problem at PARFAIT or some earlier event, and what sort of information the questions included.

3) Music tossups with leadins describing musical form or notation. I have NEVER heard anyone get a music tossup from this information. Tossups move too fast for anyone to really get an idea of what sound the question is trying to describe, and anyway unless you have perfect pitch you're probably going to be out of luck anyway. ("This piece starts with a C major chord moving to triplets"? WTF? I can think of at least three pieces of quizbowl canonical music that fit that description.) Moreover, unless notation is REALLY famous-- like, for instance, the Largo in the New World Symphony-- it's impossible to apply that to the question unless you've actually played the piece and remember what the notation was. Write about themes, or how the piece was written and for whom, or SOMETHING, but musical description is worthless.


I have to strongly disagree with this. I've seen multiple players answer questions on musical works based on an initial description. I think this is not at all a useless leadin.
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Postby mrsmiley4 » Sun Dec 04, 2005 1:30 pm

Can you give some examples of this? I'm just curious to know whether this was a problem at PARFAIT or some earlier event, and what sort of information the questions included.


The question that springs immediately to mind is the Herman Melville question from yesterday (I don't remember what round it was in, but one of my teammates was keeping track so I can get that info for you if you really want) where the question talked about his ancestry and his non-seafaring jobs for about 3 lines before getting to the bit about how his work was influenced by his job on some trans-atlantic ship or another. There are also a number of instances in my notebook where my attempt to write down the tossup category was foiled by a sudden shift from what seemed like a straightforward history question to a literature question about an author (or worse, a physics question about a physicist. Ugh. Tycho Brahe, anyone?) I feel like science biography in particular should be more confined to history distribution (such as is found in the history of Science and Technology course that I'm teaching) than used as science distribution. I HATE writing science and I still avoid writing these kinds of questions.

I have to strongly disagree with this. I've seen multiple players answer questions on musical works based on an initial description. I think this is not at all a useless leadin.


Really? Maybe it was just yesterday's questions. It seems to me, though, that this is a very odd way to wrap your brain around a question on a musical work. I've listened to the New World Symphony straight through maybe 25 times and couldn't have gotten the question on it yesterday until said discussion of themes (and by that time my brain was mushy so that I was, in fact, beaten to it on said "Largo" clue). Instrumentation is something different altogether; if you say, for example, "This piece begins with an upper register bassoon solo which gives way into a dissonant chorus of clarinets" I think most people who know their music are going to be able to pick out "Rite of Spring" from that. Composition alone is a lot harder, particularly since notation is extremely relative. (I've played pieces where allegro is closer to presto, and pieces where it's closer to moderato, and so just saying that a section is played at "allegro" does not necessarily tell me anything unless it's the tempo of a specific movement. Perhaps I am just crippled by knowledge on this?)
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Re: Question-writing pet peeves

Postby mattreece » Sun Dec 04, 2005 3:10 pm

mrsmiley4 wrote:1) Booker Prize Lit. PLEASE STOP DOING THIS. Most of the books that have won the prize are too recent for us to appraise their overall significance to the literary canon (and moreover, almost nobody on the circuit has read them).


How recently are you talking about? Surely Midnight's Children or The Remains of the Day are well-known and frequently read, among others. It sounds like you want to argue that no literature of the last thirty-ish years should come up in quizbowl, which I think is a really extreme stance. On the other hand, if you just mean that winning a prize doesn't inherently make something question-worthy, I'd be inclined to agree.
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Postby mrsmiley4 » Sun Dec 04, 2005 3:34 pm

The two examples you mention are fine. I am, indeed, suggesting that a book winning an award alone is not necessarily enough to make it worthy of its own tossup. I feel like a book that won the Booker in, say, 1999 is still too recent for us to really appraise it's long term literary value. (Which is not to say that it doesn't HAVE any, but that at this point it's hard to tell whether or not it will stand the test of time. I'd be making the same argument about Charles Dickens were this 1845 rather than 2005.)

On the other hand, I think bonus parts on these kinds of books are fine, as they check awareness of the books rather than in-depth knowledge of their particulars.
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Postby DanTheClam » Sun Dec 04, 2005 8:09 pm

Brad, I'll respond to your comments out of order.

2. I also very much dislike biography bowl; however, I think you'll find that the number of biographical-type questions was so low as to compare favorably with most, tournaments that you will ever go to. Indeed, you will not find a person more opposed to science biography than me. I believe that literary biography can have more merit when it describes events related to the author's famous works (e.g., Melville and seafaring, Mark Twain and steamboats, etc.), but most of the time I still think this should be avoided. That said, for the very first clue, perhaps one line of a tossup, I don't think this sort of thing is a completely inexcusable occurance if it happens rarely enough (once per packet, maybe). I don't think PARFAIT featured an inordinate amount of biography, and where I saw biography in questions, I did my best to edit it out; for instance, the Stark Effect question was given to me as tossup about Johannes Stark.

1. I don't recall questions on Booker Prize-winning books unless they were questions on books that I thought were independently question-worthy. For instance, Remains of the Day was mentioned in an above post; we had a bonus about this book that didn't mention that it won a Booker Prize (I didn't even know that it had), and I kept it because it's perfectly acceptable question material. If you give an example from PARFAIT about a recent Booker Prize winner that you think is of questionable importance, I'll be happy to agree with you that it was a poor choice, but I honestly don't think this happened.

3. Here I disagree completely. I think several lines about the chromatic structure (forgive my lack of proper terminology; I know very little about music) is one of the necessary ingredients in a good tossup on a piece of music. That is, a tossup on a piece of music which doesn't have this sort of information is lacking something. Unfortunately, I wouldn't know where to begin to find this sort of information, and I wouldn't know what is important enough to add, otherwise I would have done so to more music tossups at PARFAIT. I have certainly heard people who are knowledgeable about music answer questions off this information, and as with any subject area, the goal is to reward people with as deep a knowledge as is feasible (within reason, of course) about the subject.

Rereading your second post, as I now am, it looks like your issue is with the specific kind of detailed information about the music that was given. In this case, I guess I just didn't realize that this was the wrong sort of detailed information. It's very likely it's just me, but I don't see that big a difference between the sort of information the tossup provided and the information you claim should be provided (i.e., high bassoon solo followed by dissonant clarinets, which I also agree is a good clue for Rite of Spring).

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Postby recfreq » Sun Dec 04, 2005 8:42 pm

I wrote the "From the New World" symphony (btw, "From the" is _definitely_ required, though "Z noveho sveta" and "9" are acceptable.).

The editors may have changed it a bit, but from the original question I submitted, I see that most of the so-called "musical" clues actually point to its historical significance. E.g. flattened leading notes, original inscriptions, pentatonic coloring, snap rhythms--all meant to suggest the Native American/Scottish influence. In fact, I don't recall having any specific pitch info (in terms of melody), and the largo and scherzo markings were only used in the 1st sentence, which I admit, was probly a bit short on clues (thnx for pointing it out). On the other hand, if you had some specific historical knowledge, you could get it off "Neptune," "Chorale," "Jeannette M. Thurber," "manual for American composers," etc, though I realize it may take a few more to get it, esp when you're in the middle of a round in the middle of a day.

You definitely have a point about the music questions. Too much "this piece starts with this in a melody played by this ..." is pretty boring, and often nondescriptive. I know Kenny, whom I played with a few times, could get it off these clues, but for me they're pretty useless unless they are very famous (like Pachelbel Canon) or very distinctive. On the other hand, I've been criticized for writing too much musicology type questions, so perhaps a mix b/t the two will work well in the future.

Hope you enjoyed the rest of the questions a bit.
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Re: Question-writing pet peeves

Postby recfreq » Sun Dec 04, 2005 8:57 pm

mrsmiley4 wrote:Write about themes, or how the piece was written and for whom, or SOMETHING, but musical description is worthless.


BTW here's the offending question that I dug up FYI before possible editing by the Princeton folks (the 1st sentence needs work). I think getting it off "National Conservatory" would be about for those with good music (historical) knowledge, b/c it's for whom the piece was written:

The opening of the Adagio in this work is quoted near the end of the Largo, while the Scherzo combines both of the previous movement's themes in a coda. Using flattened leading notes and the dominant minor liberally, it originally contained the inscriptions "Neptune," "Dance and Celebration on Board Ship," "Chorale," and "Tempest and Calm and Safe Return to Land." Suggested by Jeannette M. Thurber of the National Conservatory, it was revised to add pentatonic coloring and Scotch snap rhythms. Its Allegro con fuoco hailed as a manual for American composers, FTP name this symphony inspired by syncopation of Native American music, by Antonin Dvorak.
:. Symphony No. 9 in E minor; or From the New World Symphony; or Z noveho sveta
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Postby Captain Sinico » Sun Dec 04, 2005 9:04 pm

recfreq wrote:...btw, "From the" is _definitely_ required...

Incidentally, I don't agree with this. It is exceedingly common at all levels of discourse to hear this work refered to as simply the "New World" symphony and, as it's not a work of literature and, therefore, wouldn't necessarily have an exact title (though it may be the case that it does), any common referent should be acceptable. I'll also wager that, regardless of the title in the original language, there are versions with the English title "New World Symphony" so, even were this a work of literaure, that title must still be acceptable by any reasonable criterion.

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Postby mrsmiley4 » Sun Dec 04, 2005 9:04 pm

Hi Dan,

Thanks for responding to my concerns. I will attempt to address your responses in order:

1) The number of biography bowl questions was, in fact, relatively low, which I do appreciate, but some of the ones that remained seemed to me particularly egregious, such as the aforementioned Melville tossup and the Tycho Brahe tossup. I got that one off of Uraniborg rather than, for example, arc measurement or supernovae. While I agree that biographical information does have its place, particularly in the examples you mention, when it's more than half of the question and is of questionable relatedness to the main work of the subject it gets a little grating. I don't blame you guys for letting this stuff slip through given the volume of questions you have to look at, but if people would stop being lazy in the writing process when looking for lead-in anecdotes it wouldn't be an issue anyway.

2) The most egregious example of this I can think of was the tossup on God of Small Things.This is a book that is not even 10 years old and which, while full of literary texture and recipient of numerous glowing reviews, does not seem to have yet permeated the cultural ether as much as, say, The Remains of the Day or The English Patient. Perhaps I'm splitting hairs a bit (or perhaps applying a "movie test", which I swear to God was completely unintentional and which I only realized after I picked those two examples) but there does seem to me to be some kind of distinction.

3) You are certainly right that music tossups do require that KIND of information in the lead-in as differentiation, and I suppose that in certain circumstances compositional details will provide enough information to correctly answer a tossup. The problem with providing composition on its own, I think, is that there are only a certain number of permutations of compositional elements, which composers embellish by using different keys and instrumentations. Taking, for example, the Tannhauser Overture, saying something like "This theme begins with a grandioso major fourth rise in [whatever key it's in, which is another difficulty if you don't have perfect pitch-- I'm a musician and I don't have it, so I can only imagine how hard that is for non-musicians] followed by a major second fall and a triplet rise by whole steps to the apex" is exponentially more difficult than giving the same information mixed in with "starting at pianissimo in the clarinets, then moving to a cello and violin counter-theme and a oboe variation before culminating in a grandioso recapitulation by the trombones with descending chromatic strings." To me, at least, describing the instrumentation gives a better idea of what the piece in question actually SOUNDS like, which still provides a distinct advantage to anyone who's heard the piece. To draw a comparison to art description, pure compositional info would be along the lines of "the artist uses this particular shade of yellow in the top left of the painting" without describing what is actually depicted. It's technically gettable, but it takes all of the artistry out of it.

Perhaps a music theorist on the board could weigh on this? I am admittedly a layman, though I'd like to think I'm an educated one.
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Postby Captain Sinico » Sun Dec 04, 2005 9:07 pm

The God of Small Things is canonical, widely-read on the circuit, and has come-up numerous times at previous tournaments (as it happens, I haven't read it, so I can't really comment on its actual merits.) That said, I agree with the kernel of your qualm, i.e. that something having won some award, be it the Nobel Prize or Whitbread Prize, does not automatically make it tossup worthy. I don't, however, think that that claim is especially applicable to this particular situation.
Also, I very much concur with what you're saying about music tossups.

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Postby recfreq » Sun Dec 04, 2005 9:51 pm

ImmaculateDeception wrote:Incidentally, I don't agree with this. It is exceedingly common at all levels of discourse to hear this work refered to as simply the "New World" symphony and, as it's not a work of literature and, therefore, wouldn't necessarily have an exact title (though it may be the case that it does), any common referent should be acceptable. I'll also wager that, regardless of the title in the original language, there are versions with the English title "New World Symphony" so, even were this a work of literaure, that title must still be acceptable by any reasonable criterion.


Even though I respectfully disagree, given the amt of stringency we put on getting literary titles right, I do admit that the incorrect title for this particular symphony does persist in mass media. One anecdote though: I recall Debussy's "Nocturnes" not being accetable at a tourney which wanted "3 Nocturnes" despite classical radio stations that keep referring to it as "Nocturnes" (including KUSC and Jim Svejda), which demonstrates the stringency I referred to earlier, though I'd rather err on being too lenient as long as knowledge is demonstrated.

I guess whether you accept it is your choice, but I'd just like to point out to the community that the actual title is "From the New World," just look at any catalog, score, or CD cover. Yeah, I'd probly accept "New World" as a nickname for "From the New World," but I'd respect you more if you gave the full title. (This is akin to my yelling at the top of my register that the end of "Henderson-Hasselbalch" is pronounced "BALCH" (Yes, it really it.), or more analogously, saying "gamma-aminobutyric acid" for GABA or "restriction fragment length polymorphism," etc, you get the idea.).

Sorry for getting off track. BTW Brad, the type of music questions you outlined is almost exactly what I'd prefer to write, if I had the necessary training; but I'll try in any case.
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Postby grapesmoker » Sun Dec 04, 2005 10:38 pm

I think a good policy for ambiguous names is to underline as little as possible necessary to identify the answer uniquely.
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Re: Question-writing pet peeves

Postby mattreece » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:02 pm

recfreq wrote:The opening of the Adagio in this work is quoted near the end of the Largo, while the Scherzo combines both of the previous movement's themes in a coda.


I know you already said that sentence needs work, but I think it's pretty contentless as written. The rest of your question looks fine to me, but I've heard too many music questions that lead off with this sort of sentence that tells you little more than "this work has slow and fast movements", and I think this is what mrsmiley4 was talking about. People were buzzing on the word "Largo" here? I'm fairly sure one could dig up a substantial number of more or less important works for which this clue is true. (I don't have time to try to come up with a list now, but the very fact that it's so hard to know how uniquely identifying this is makes it a bad choice for a lead-in, I think.) Maybe people who know music better than I do can explain to me if I'm wrong about this....

I also think that titles of musical works should be judged leniently. I've negged on the Debussy "3 Nocturnes," since I've seen at least one recording that labels them simply "Nocturnes."
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Postby Deviant Insider » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:12 pm

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Postby mrsmiley4 » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:26 pm

The question as heard at the tournament was changed around a bit, focusing more on compositional clues at the beginning and putting the Largo closer to the middle of the question. By that point, some of the thematic elements had started to come up, and the Largo second movement of the symphony is very famous, so it was clearly pointing to that answer by that point. Though yes, as written the leadin doesn't really tell you much. (The rest of the question, I should add, seems perfectly reasonable.)

As regards acceptable names, I think with music in particular there needs to be a LOT of leeway given. I've seen Modest Mussorgsky's Ivanova noch' na Lisoy gore translated as "Night on Bald Mountain", "Night on Bare Mountain", and it's most properly translated as "St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain." Most people, however, know the piece as "Night on Bald Mountain", and that title appears on enough recordings for English-language consumptions that you have to accept it. Symphonies are even harder, because there's so much you can potentially accept. Do you accept "Philosopher Symphony" for Haydn's 22nd Symphony, even though the composer himself never actually called it that? Do you take the Opus number? For Mozart pieces, do you take Kochel numbers? Ultimately, I think the answer to all of those questions needs to be "yes", but it's up to the writer to make sure that all the pertinent info is there in case of bizarre variants. For the piece in question, I usually write the acceptable answer as "Symphony No. 9 Op. 95 OR 'From the New World' (Accept either)", since "New World Symphony" is pretty much common parlance by now. Admittedly this is one of the trickier ones , but I would say err on the side of including as much as you can and accepting as little as you can while still indicating an unambiguous answer.
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Re: Question-writing pet peeves

Postby recfreq » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:32 pm

mattreece wrote:I know you already said that sentence needs work, but I think it's pretty contentless as written.


You're right, I'll stop trying to write musical descriptions, may be others could step forward in this regard and do a better job. Also, I think Brad was talking about melodic descriptions in addition to tempo descriptions; and yes, instrumentation is a lot better.
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Postby recfreq » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:53 pm

ReinsteinD wrote:http://store.acousticsounds.com/images/as60gif/CRCA-66376-SA.jpg
http://www.mvdaily.com/articles/2000/06/bmg75605.jpg
http://www.feinarts.com/images/new%20wo ... mphony.jpg


You're right, but notice that they're all giving a nickname for the symphony, as in that new world symphony. The official title is as Brad pointed out, "Symphony No. 9 (or sometimes No. 5) in E minor, 'From the New World'", from the original inscription, as in:

link

(This is the best way I've seen stated.) But yeah, I see what you mean; I'd just like to say I'd accept New World Sym but urge people to give the full "From the New World" title as answers, out of respect for Dvorak.

I guess somethings are just like this, check out Clarissa:
http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images ... 588916.jpg
and Clarissa Harlowe:
http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/9296
I think may be some of this discussion can apply to literature as well, and we can be less hard-ass about some lit titles too. As far as I'm concerned a creative work in any media deserves the same level of stringency or lack thereof, there's no difference b/t musical composition and literary composition in regards to titles. E.g. I've seen _Tale of Genji_ or _Genji monogatari_ underlined; I think it should be _Genji_ monogatari.

Sorry, now we're really off track.
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Postby ezubaric » Mon Dec 05, 2005 12:53 am

mrsmiley4 wrote:The question as heard at the tournament was changed around a bit


Here's the question as used:

The opening of the Adagio in this work is quoted near the end of the second movement, and that Adagio is a study based on a poem the composer first encountered in a translation by Josef Sl\'adek, to which he was reintroduced by Jeannette Thurber. That study is a setting of Longfellow's depiction of Indians dancing in \emph{The Song of Hiawatha}, other inscriptions include ``Neptune,'' ``Dance and Celebration on Board Ship,'' ``Chorale,'' and ``Tempest and Calm and Safe Return to Land,'' but it was revised to add pentatonic coloring and Scotch snap rhythms in addition to changing the second movement to the famous Largo after hearing Sleidl's conduction. \Ftp , name this symphony inspired by syncopation of Native American music by the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak.
\ans{Symphony No. \underline{9} in E minor; or From the \underline{New
World} Symphony; or \underline{Zenoveho sveta}}
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Postby ezubaric » Mon Dec 05, 2005 1:03 am

And while I'm at it, here is the Brahe tossup:

%~ SCI |
\item An allegorical painting with a tree dividing the life he wanted to lead and the life he was supposed to lead decorates the instrument that he and his sister Sophie used to observe the subject of \emph{De nova stella}, a ``new star'' in Cassiopeia that turned out to be a nova. He was supported later in life by Rudolf II, after disagreements with Christian IV drove him from his Uraniborg observatory on the isle of Ven, where, supported by Frederick II, he collected the data Kepler later used to create his laws of planetary motion. \Ftp , name this colorful Danish astronomer kidnaped as a youth who sported a metal nose until his bladder exploded in 1601 after too long a dinner.
\ans{\underline{Tycho} \underline{Brahe} (accept either name)}

Note that this is from a packet recieved about 36 hours before the tournament started.
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Postby Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Mon Dec 05, 2005 2:09 pm

recfreq wrote:
As far as I'm concerned a creative work in any media deserves the same level of stringency or lack thereof, there's no difference b/t musical composition and literary composition in regards to titles. E.g. I've seen _Tale of Genji_ or _Genji monogatari_ underlined; I think it should be _Genji_ monogatari.

Sorry, now we're really off track.


It seems that issues are starting to mix here. Although we can debate stringency levels between music and lit all day long, the issue of acceptable translations is another debate alltogether.

It seems that quizbowl has traditionally allowed a lot of lenience when titles originally published in a foreign language are given in an English translation or title. This is due to translation issues, decisions of English language publishers to publish titles of foreign works with differently translated titles alltogether for marketing purposes, and even differences between English language publishers in different countries publishing the same work with different titles.

Examples:

Malreux's novel La Condition humaine is almost always called Man's Fate in English even though it can be directly translated as The Human Condition, which is rarely used as a title in English.

Also, Camus' L'etanger was published in the US as The Stranger and in Britain as The Outsider.

To mix the issues once again, perhaps the reason music and lit titles in quizbowl seem to be given different treatment is that most academic music asked about in quizbowl had to be translated into English at some point. Who knows.
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Postby ezubaric » Mon Dec 05, 2005 11:03 pm

As the person who edited the two questions, I guess I should offer a rebuttal. First, let me say that I agree that science questions should not be biography bowl. As Dan said, if you look through the set, most science questions are "real" science. That said, a bit of science biography is interesting, and one should not be completely barred from writing questions about people.

Here is the question as it was originally submitted:

This man lost part of his nose in a duel with Manderup Parsbjerg, a Danish noble. After witnessing an eclipse while he was a student at the University of Copenhagen, he began to study astronomy, but he did not build his first observatory at Herrevad Abbey until after his father’s death. In 1599, due to disagreements with Christian IV of Denmark, he moved to Prague, where he met his assistant, Johannes Kepler. Who is this Danish astronomer, who repudiated the heliocentric theory, but whose detailed collections of astronomical data were later used to prove heliocentrism and Kepler’s laws of planetary motion?

Answer: Tycho Brahe


Now, I will remind you that I got this packet 36 hours before the tournament started, and I had to edit it uphill in the snow both ways. I think that Brad's objections would be even more vehement if the question were closer to its original form; there's a far greater biographical component, and a fairly well know biographical clue is the lead-in. I imagine most experts would be buzzing in on "De nova stella" in the edited version, which is as it should be.

Would it have been better to perhaps replace this with a tossup on Kepler's Laws? I would probably agree, but there are only so many hours in a day, and one has to read the questions you have, not the questions you wish you had.

As for the "New World" tossup. Here, the argument seems a little odd. If one is against cute anecdotes in science questions, then one should also be in favor of purging stories about poisoning from conducting batons and who stood up when. I think that the final question, modified just a bit from Ray's submission, rewards people who know about the history *and* the music of the piece.

I'm not saying these questions are perfect ... even now, a runon sentence is glaring at me from the "New World" tossup. But I think that there is - with moderation - a place for some biography of scientists and for the description of music within music questions.

Some scientists lead some pretty interesting lives, and part of the reason QB is so much fun IMHO is for the opportunity to be exposed to that sort of information. As a sciency person, I do prefer questions that reward "real" science knowledge, but variety is the spice of life. Nor am I arguing that all music questions should be verbal descriptions of orchestration ... far from it. I think both types of questions have their place, and should be used in moderation. I think that was certainly true at PARFAIT.

-Jordan

EDIT-EDIT: "variety is the spice of life" is no longer shown as "variety is the Maslow's hierarchy of needs of life," so my little note about that is pointless
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