PENN BOWL: So, discussion?

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PENN BOWL: So, discussion?

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Sun Jan 31, 2010 7:29 pm

I'll have more comments later, but I'm just going to start off with an admission that yeah, this set had some problems. Most systemic was the very poor difficulty control- it seemed to me that the tournament was normally too hard, except on the occasions when it was too easy. Also were the glitches attendant in finishing this thing up at the last minute, as is sadly far too typical. There was one packet missing all the science bonuses, and a few unedited (and in one case, just plain wrong) questions slipped in.

Anyway, you can blame me for editing/writing the music, other arts, social science, philosophy, and American history, and two of the trash tossups (which ones shouldn't be too hard to figure out). (ETA: also tossups on Name of the Rose and aquifers.) I was originally planning on doing the painting as well, but due to a rather huge time crunch on my part Shantanu graciously took over that responsibility. Fire away!
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Jan 31, 2010 10:33 pm

I think overall the set was pretty decent and had some enjoyable questions. There were a few tossups on things that were oddly difficulty (convex hull?!) and some of the bonuses still suffered from the "FUCK YOU YOU ARE NOT GETTING 30 ON THIS" symptom, but most of the content was ok. I do remember hearing quite a few bonuses that didn't really seem to have easy parts at all; that really shouldn't happen.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Cheynem » Sun Jan 31, 2010 10:37 pm

Well, you did ask about Duany/Plater-Zyberk, so props to you.

One question I wrote that I know was slightly problematic was the "Law and Order" one in which I used a lead in that mentioned a minor character was Dr. Elizabeth Olivet. In my mind, I intended to say that Olivet was a minor, regularly recurring character, but she's had guest appearances on, according to Wiki, on four other television programs which may have induced negbait. Sorry about that.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by sds » Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:10 am

I thought this set did a pretty good job of providing specific but memorable clues for leadins on some of the lit tossups. (Specifically, I'm remembering the tossups on The Handmaid's Tale and The House on Mango Street here - I haven't read either of those books since high school, but the first clues for both were things that things that I found stuck in memory well enough to buzz on.)

In general, can we all agree to take a break from tossing up Alzheimer's? It doesn't seem like there's all that much left to say about it...
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:08 pm

I had a really hard time moderating quite a few packets from this set because the grammar (and/or copy-editing) was pretty bad. The formatting inconsistencies (FTP or for 10 points, underlining/bolding/italicizing inconsistencies, etc.) don't inhibit reading, but missing verbs and just plain nonsensical sentences do. If the Penn people want/need help fixing this kind of thing before the set is next used, I can take on a couple packets that I thought were particularly problematic.

EDIT: There were a few errors, like in the glucose tossup (Haworth projections are used to represent any monosaccharide) and the tossup on The Road (the slaves in the house are being used for food, not sex), but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves at this tournament, so, cool!
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by dtaylor4 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:40 pm

Not That Kind of Christian!! wrote:I had a really hard time moderating quite a few packets from this set because the grammar (and/or copy-editing) was pretty bad. The formatting inconsistencies (FTP or for 10 points, underlining/bolding/italicizing inconsistencies, etc.) don't inhibit reading, but missing verbs and just plain nonsensical sentences do. If the Penn people want/need help fixing this kind of thing before the set is next used, I can take on a couple packets that I thought were particularly problematic.

EDIT: There were a few errors, like in the glucose tossup (Haworth projections are used to represent any monosaccharide) and the tossup on The Road (the slaves in the house are being used for food, not sex), but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves at this tournament, so, cool!
Yea, at the Northwestern site, which had a bunch of new-ish readers (I recognized no one outside of myself and Dan-Don, who left after the prelims), this probably led to rounds dragging.

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Re: So, discussion?

Post by sds » Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:39 pm

I read one round on a bye and noticed the same grammar issues. I'd be happy to pitch in with grammar/copyediting a few packets as well.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:39 pm

Oh, one other thing: I know that Swarthmore and Chicago A each had a bonus from their own packets that was placed into a packet that they later played. Swarthmore let me know and I moved on to the next bonus, and I was told that in Chicago's game the other team got the bonus, but sets should be examined for more errors like this if possible before it is played by more packet-submitting teams.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Captain Sinico » Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:45 pm

Yeah, there's a Chicago A bonus in our (Illinois A's) packet. I want to say it was on some kind of Eastern European nationalist music or something; it was by Paul Gautier.

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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:10 pm

Captain Sinico wrote:Yeah, there's a Chicago A bonus in our (Illinois A's) packet. I want to say it was on some kind of Eastern European nationalist music or something; it was by Paul Gautier.

MaS
It was lit, not music: Finnish/Lonnrot/Sillanpaa. There was briefly some discussion of combining Chicago and Illinois, which is probably why that happened (though of course there is no excuse for it happening).

Hannah: do you remember what packet the Swat bonus ended up in?
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:53 pm

No, sorry... it was a bonus on Neruda, if that helps at all.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by fluffy4102 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 3:14 am

The tossup on piano concerti for the left hand was a bit sketchy in my opinion. I might be just bitter since I buzzed in early with piano concerto and got negged.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Gautam » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:28 am

fluffy4102 wrote:The tossup on piano concerti for the left hand was a bit sketchy in my opinion. I might be just bitter since I buzzed in early with piano concerto and got negged.
Paul Gauthier did the same thing but was not negged. Were the instructions to the moderators not clear in the answer line?
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by dtaylor4 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:32 am

gkandlikar wrote:
fluffy4102 wrote:The tossup on piano concerti for the left hand was a bit sketchy in my opinion. I might be just bitter since I buzzed in early with piano concerto and got negged.
Paul Gauthier did the same thing but was not negged. Were the instructions to the moderators not clear in the answer line?
Moderator instructions were to prompt.

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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Gautam » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:44 am

I was not very fond with a sizeable portion of the literature at this tournament. The bonus parts on 2nd/3rd tier characters from various works (Naphtha from Magic Mountain, Hakon Werle from The Wild Duck) were kind of frustrating, and I found some leadins really vague (like the first 3 lines of the Dead Souls tossup.)
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by dtaylor4 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:52 am

gkandlikar wrote:I was not very fond with a sizeable portion of the literature at this tournament. The bonus parts on 2nd/3rd tier characters from various works (Naphtha from Magic Mountain, Hakon Werle from The Wild Duck) were kind of frustrating, and I found some leadins really vague (like the first 3 lines of the Dead Souls tossup.)
I don't recall reading it (it may have been due to my inability to understand that damn schedule for the playoffs at NU), but the Magic Mountain bonus was mine.

EDIT: For clarification, I wrote 12/12 (5/5 lit + history, 1/1 myth, 1/1 choice), which was used as filler in a large number of packets.

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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:16 am

dtaylor4 wrote:
gkandlikar wrote:
fluffy4102 wrote:The tossup on piano concerti for the left hand was a bit sketchy in my opinion. I might be just bitter since I buzzed in early with piano concerto and got negged.
Paul Gauthier did the same thing but was not negged. Were the instructions to the moderators not clear in the answer line?
Moderator instructions were to prompt.
The question (which, fwiw, I wrote):

Ned Rorem wrote one of these for Gary Graffman, and Paul Hindemith wrote one of these pieces in four uninterrupted movements which did not receive its premiere until 2005, when it was performed by Leon Fleisher. Prokofiev's Opus 53 work in this subgenre, which its intended performer claimed to "not understand a single note of", was the fourth of of five works in its more general category, and the most famous one of these works was inspired by some Saint-Saens etudes and includes a "jazz episode" built from earlier themes. Maurice Ravel was the most notable composer of, for 10 points, what pieces most famously associated with Paul Wittgenstein, keyboard virtuoso and accidental southpaw?
ANSWER: piano concertos for the left hand (prompt generously)

I'm willing to admit it didn't work all that well (when I moderated for him in the playoffs, John Lawrence said it was the one music question he found confusing), but you certainly should have been prompted at the very least.

ETA: In retrospect, I should have included that Leon Fleisher had specialized in perfoming these particular pieces, seeing as how he notably couldn't use his right hand for 40 years or so. Would that have helped?
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:42 am

Aaron buzzed on Leon Fleischer, so that helped someone.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by fluffy4102 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:33 pm

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote: ETA: In retrospect, I should have included that Leon Fleisher had specialized in perfoming these particular pieces, seeing as how he notably couldn't use his right hand for 40 years or so. Would that have helped?
Yeah, that would be more clear.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Tue Feb 02, 2010 4:05 pm

Not That Kind of Christian!! wrote:No, sorry... it was a bonus on Neruda, if that helps at all.
Alright, found it in Yale A/Chi B.

Why it was there, I have no clue.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by theMoMA » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:16 pm

In general, this was a serviceable set. I don't think it exceeded expectations or broke ground, but it certainly wasn't bad. Four trends I didn't like:

1) Humanities questions didn't reward deep knowledge of things that people read. For the most part, there were lots of fairly weak and hard-to-buzz-on descriptions of minor works followed by sweeping overviews of the famous works. I'd rather have these questions concentrate on rich and buzzable descriptions of the works that people actually care about rather than skim the surface of many works, most of which aren't widely read.

2) Lit bonuses with minor characters as third parts. Aside from poor execution on these (the minor Ibsen character whose first name is only mentioned once or twice in the entire text, yet the part required you to give his first name), I subscribe the the Matt Weiner opinion that these parts are sort of double jeopardy for most teams in the field. If you haven't read or studied the work that comes up as the first part, it's basically impossible for you to get the character name in the third part. On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons why you'd have read Rosmersholm and not The Wild Duck. If you're really concerned that the bonus is too easy if you make the third part another work after the author is known, you should put the hardest part first before you name the author.

3) There seemed to be an attempt to shoehorn "real music" into this tournament at the expense of answerability and a correct distribution of buzzes. I'm sorry, but the buzz distribution and overall answerability on "piano concertos for the left hand" or "cantatas of Bach" is just not anywhere close to acceptable for regular difficulty. These are Nationals-level answers. I also don't care for making lots of the music this type of common link instead of based on composers or compositions; I find it a lot more palatable when these themes are used to construct bonuses that ask for multiple works in similar genres by different composers. A few of them is okay, but there were more than a few that I recall, and most of them seemed to be stretches in terms of answerability.

4) There were a lot more dubious single tossups in this tournament than I would have liked to see. It seemed like there were a couple tossups in every packet that were extremely guessable or transparent (Burghers of Calais was such a one, and there were a couple of tossups that were just downright terrible (Rain, Steam, and Speed; sorry to pick on Princeton). The editors could have stood to ask themselves whether players would be able to deduce the answer from the wording of the question in a lot of cases, and there were a few tossups that were too rough around the edges to make it into a polished final set.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:02 pm

I'll apologize for the Rain, Steam, and Speed tossup. I accidentally pasted the original version into the set rather than the edited version, which I would post now if I had access to my computer.

I did not spend as much time editing the literature in this set as I would have liked, but I am curious to see examples of what you're talking about, Andrew.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:04 pm

theMoMA wrote:3) There seemed to be an attempt to shoehorn "real music" into this tournament at the expense of answerability and a correct distribution of buzzes. I'm sorry, but the buzz distribution and overall answerability on "piano concertos for the left hand" or "cantatas of Bach" is just not anywhere close to acceptable for regular difficulty. These are Nationals-level answers. I also don't care for making lots of the music this type of common link instead of based on composers or compositions; I find it a lot more palatable when these themes are used to construct bonuses that ask for multiple works in similar genres by different composers. A few of them is okay, but there were more than a few that I recall, and most of them seemed to be stretches in terms of answerability.
You're thinking of "chorales of Bach", which was in the finals packet and therefore was supposed to be Nationals-level. Piano concertos for the left hand was, as admitted in other threads here, a mistake.

Yes, of course I made an effort to reward "real music" knowledge and believe that effort to be worthwhile; in fact I personally believe that editors have an obligation to try and reward "real knowledge" in those categories where they have the ability to do so. Insofar as that effort led to the occasional question which was too hard for the field (e.g. LH piano concertos, which I honestly thought was much more well-known), I apologize.

EDIT: clarification and words
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:20 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:06 pm

When will the set be posted?
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:06 pm

Krona (comics) wrote:When will the set be posted?
There are mirrors that are still to be run, aren't there?
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by dtaylor4 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:06 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Krona (comics) wrote:When will the set be posted?
There are mirrors that are still to be run, aren't there?
Yes. Washington is running a mirror on 2/20.

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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:07 pm

Yeah, I saw that after I posted and was about to come back in and correct myself. Sorry.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Magister Ludi » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:55 pm

I strongly agree with 3/4 of what Andrew said. Overall I really enjoyed the tournament, but it had a few systematic problems in the humanities. I'm going to discuss the problems in literature and arts first.

1) Vague and poorly chosen leadin clues for literature questions. Let me offer some examples: The Road tossup began: "At one point in this work, one character fills a bathtub with water upon hearing a noise that is never fully explained." Water is a remarkable thing to fill a bathtub with. The Heathcliff tossup began, "A preface to the 1850 edition of the novel in which this character appears claims that without his "rudely confessed regard for... [a] young man whom he has ruined, we should say he was... a man's shape animated by a demon's life." right before it name dropped Nellie Dean. I could go through the lit and find many other examples.

A subset of this problem was overly obscure leadin clues leading to extremely sharp difficulty cliffs. Some tossups seemed to be intentionally avoiding mentioning canonical works by an artist. For example the Winslow Homer tossup begins with four lines of clues that I've never seen come up before in quizbowl (maybe I'm wrong and some people were able to buzz on these early clues). The tossup doesn't mention Eight Bells or Snapping the Whip and offers few clues about Breezing Up and Gulf Stream. The only description provided for Breezing Up was, "water also appears in his depiction of sailboats."

I think the best example of this problem at the tournament was the Flannery O'Connor tossup:

A selection from this author's weekly letters to Betty Hester formed the bulk of this author's collection of letters The Habit of Being. She wrote about Sheppard's attempts to reform Rufus Johnson and contempt for his own son in "The Lame Shall Enter First". Another story details the friction between a grandmother and her son Bailey's family on the way from Tennessee to Florida for a vacation. A third story about parents and children depicts Julian's weekly trip on the bus taking his mother to a reducing class at the Y, and her casual racism and assumed superiority. For ten points, name this Southern author of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "Everything that Rises Must Converge".

This questions spends two lines discussing the some very obscure works and immediately goes onto include clues about her best-known story (albeit lesser known clues about that work). Even though I've read the collected stories of Flannery O'Connor, Dallas beat me to this tossup even though he has never read O'Connor. It is critical to use leadin clues (especially in regular difficulty tournaments) that center on important works from an author's opus rather than just pulling a story out of a hat.

This tournament exemplifies exactly why I'm opposed to the short question movement. The main reason I oppose short questions is that they cut the spectrum of buzzable points. Considering so many excellent writers already struggle with finding good, important leadin clues (this has been a major problem at THUNDER and Penn Bowl) I strongly believe this short question writing trend will lead to more mediocre tossups (like the O'Connor question) that suffer from difficulty cliffs and hurt players with real knowledge. These kinds of questions fuck me over because all the sudden I'm buzzer racing with players on areas that I know very well because off bad leadins. I'm willing to believe that some first-rate writers (such as Andrew H.) might be able to pull of short questions, but I think this movement will be detrimental to players who rely on real knowledge and rewards all the worse things in quizbowl.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:00 pm

As the author of that Heathcliff tossup, I want to point out that the quotation in the first clue is from Charlotte Bronte, writing about Heathcliff in a second edition preface to the work. I thought it was legitimately interesting and something someone who cared about the book might know. In retrospect, Nellie Dean is probably too early in that question, but I don't mind giving early buzzes to someone with good knowledge of the book.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:17 pm

theMoMA wrote:..."cantatas of Bach"...Nationals-level answer...
I can't agree there. J.S. Bach's cantatas are something anyone who knows anything much about music should know. While I didn't see this particular question and it's possible that it was nationals-level (and/or bad) as written, that's not a nationals-only answer.

MaS

PS: I now see that the question was in fact on the chorales of Bach. I agree that that's probably too hard, even for the finals.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Cheynem » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:35 pm

I think shorter tossup length requires that better care be taken to include lead-ins. When you write a 12 line long monster tossup, you can include some tidbits that practically no one will buzz on. A 6 line tossup can't afford to waste time with that. This does not mean that a 6 line tossup is a bad idea though. I agree that the O'Connor tossup was lacking (I reflex buzzed on "grandmother and son Bailey" and was thankfully rihgt), but it could have talked about more "mid-range" stories than the obscure first two, or used deeper clues from those two well known stories. A fine 6-line O'Connor tossup can be written, especially for regular difficulty tournaments and below.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Magister Ludi » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:58 pm

theMoMA wrote:In general, this was a serviceable set. I don't think it exceeded expectations or broke ground, but it certainly wasn't bad. Four trends I didn't like:

2) Lit bonuses with minor characters as third parts. Aside from poor execution on these (the minor Ibsen character whose first name is only mentioned once or twice in the entire text, yet the part required you to give his first name), I subscribe the the Matt Weiner opinion that these parts are sort of double jeopardy for most teams in the field. If you haven't read or studied the work that comes up as the first part, it's basically impossible for you to get the character name in the third part. On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons why you'd have read Rosmersholm and not The Wild Duck. If you're really concerned that the bonus is too easy if you make the third part another work after the author is known, you should put the hardest part first before you name the author.
I disagree with this sentiment. My favorite part of this tournament was the prevalence of single work bonuses. One of my missiosn this year was to write many more bonuses focusing solely on major works. It seems like a double standard that people such as Andrew or Matt Weiner advocate returning to the core curriculum subjects for tossups, but then are happy to revert back to the same meaningless crap for bonuses asking about Andre Brink novels no one will ever read. Single work bonuses are essential to rewarding a different type of knowledge about books in a way asking about a third part about some obscure work no one reads or cares about. Most bonuses I answer feel pretty artificial to me. It is meaningless that I happen to know that there is a dude named Paul Rayment in Coetzee's Slow Man, but it helps me answer bonuses. It seems like we should reward people who actually have deep knowledge of the true classics. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to see people writing bonuses asking for characters from Booth Tarkington novels but the bonuses on this set on The Cherry Orchard (ending with the Firs part), The Magic Mountain (Leo Naptha), Billiards at Half Past Nine (St. Anthony's Abbey), and Balzac's HUman Comedy (Vautrin) were excellent. In fact my favorite bonus part of the entire year was the last part of the bonus on Milton's "When I Consider How My Light is Spent" which asked for one of the most important lines in English poetry.

Character analysis is one of the foundations of the study of literature, so it silly to block it from bonus parts. Contrary to what Gautam said earlier in this thread I think the bonus part on Leo Naptha is perhaps exemplary of what we should be doing in single work bonuses. Just yesterday I had a conversation with someone about the debates between Naptha and Settembrini in The Magic Mountain. This line of reasoning also explains why i disagree with Andrew that these parts are "impossible" to answer if you haven't read the work. I think we shouldn't be discouraged by bad answer choices such as the last part in The Wild Duck bonus, but rather should think about what characters of places are critical to an author's opus. For example, I've never read any Balzac but I've read enough books discussing him that I was familiar with the recurring villain figure in his fiction, Vautrin. It seems like asking for this recurring archetypal figure from Balzac's fiction rewards a far deeper understanding than asking a random novel in The Human Comedy.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think we need to stop writing bonuses that ask for an author's middle tier books because that knowledge is valid. We need both. Both. It is valid and desirable to reward people who have great depth of knowledge in classic novels in bonuses in addition to tossups. I am going to relate an anecdote from last week's SCT as the last piece of evidence for my position.

I was reading in Div 2 for a room with a new team. They were down by twenty going into the last tossup. They got the tossup but zeroed a bonus on Latin American authors. This team zeroed every literature bonus in the three games except for a thirty on a bonus about a Shakespeare play. The captain of their team (who apparently was an English major) asked me how you could know the answer to some of these questions. All I could really tell her is that she better go out and start memorizing some packets and writing questions. This occurrence is not uncommon. All the time I see less successful teams zeroing or tening bonuses written in the traditional work/author/work format; however, a couple times a tournament I see one of these teams thirty a bonus on a work they've read. In a funny way these types of bonuses often end as some of the worst examples of insider quizbowl and hurt the expansion of quizbowl by making the barrier of entry increasingly higher (especially for people who might be well read but not well versed in secondary literary knowledge).
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Magister Ludi » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:13 pm

Cheynem wrote:I think shorter tossup length requires that better care be taken to include lead-ins. When you write a 12 line long monster tossup, you can include some tidbits that practically no one will buzz on. A 6 line tossup can't afford to waste time with that. This does not mean that a 6 line tossup is a bad idea though. I agree that the O'Connor tossup was lacking (I reflex buzzed on "grandmother and son Bailey" and was thankfully right), but it could have talked about more "mid-range" stories than the obscure first two, or used deeper clues from those two well known stories. A fine 6-line O'Connor tossup can be written, especially for regular difficulty tournaments and below.
I think you are simplifying my position. I acknowledge that it is possible to write a passable 6 line O'Connor tossup but question whether very many people will actually be able to execute these tossups well. Considering that so many writers are struggling to find good leadins it seems odd that now is the time we are moving to shorter questions which will just exacerbate the problem of difficulty cliffs because at least in an eight line tossup you get to mention two works in the leadin before you have to move to discussing super-canonical O'Connor stories. So that doubles the chances you will mention a work that rewards people with deep real knowledge before they have to buzzer race on stock clues. Essentially I can summarize my position as this: I don't want to sacrifice a tossup's ability to accurately determine who knows more about a subject for question length. Maybe 80% of the time one will be able to answer a question about a book they know well before someone who just has superficial knowledge, but my concern is with that other 20%. Shortening questions cuts out the leadin clues that differentiate top-tier knowledge from very good knowledge about a subject. I know this issue only affects top teams, but I'm tired of playing games against top teams in which 25% of the tossups are buzzer races on stock clues and I feel like these shorter questions will only make this problem worse.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:34 pm

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:You're thinking of "chorales of Bach", which was in the finals packet and therefore was supposed to be Nationals-level.
The finals packet was supposed to be Nationals-level? Is it usual to jump up a whole level of difficulty in the finals rather than just make it somewhat more difficult?
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by theMoMA » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:46 pm

Ted, I don't disagree that character bonus parts can be acceptable and even desirable. I've written several since I adopted the position I hold today. The way that the Penn Bowl character parts were generally executed, they either withheld an important character from the first part in order to make that character the third part, or decided to ask about a character in the third part that is not notable enough to be worth knowing (or equally importantly, to have acceptable conversion rates).

If you're going to ask about a character, it's almost always best to do it as the first part, and make sure it's a notable character and that you're using memorable clues. Then you can use the novel in which the character appears as an easier part without withholding clues or making the character part about an impossibly minor character.

Also, I'm sorry for confounding the canatatas and chorales of Bach, which is what I think I did when I attempted to answer the tossup in practice. My general feeling on tossups like this is that it's very hard to capture the sound of important short works. Most concerti, symphonies, operas, etc. are long enough that if you're familiar with the piece, there's probably going to be some intersection of your familiarity with the clues that are used. I don't think this is so with shorter works, and I don't particularly care for tossups on things like "Chopin's preludes" because of it. As often as I listen to those things, or similar short pieces that are occasionally tossed up, it seems impossible to buzz on tossups until they start mentioning minor titles. As I get more and more crotchety with my call for core concepts, I get more frustrated with tossups that reward knowledge of minor titles over deep knowledge of the important works, which seems very hard not to do in these cases. I'd like to be shown that I'm wrong though.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Cheynem » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:04 pm

I certainly do agree that shorter tossups are difficult to pull off, Ted. I think though this reflects more of a general quizbowl attitude which needs to change as opposed to an inability by writers in general. I generally find nothing wrong with 6-8 line tossups, though--by "shorter" tossups, I generally mean something shorter than 8 lines.

Also, one of the ways to prevent top tier teams from having this problem is slightly longer tossups in finals packets, which, obviously, is only incomplete as it doesn't account for when top tier teams play each other earlier.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:09 pm

theMoMA wrote:I don't think this is so with shorter works, and I don't particularly care for tossups on things like "Chopin's preludes" because of it. As often as I listen to those things, or similar short pieces that are occasionally tossed up, it seems impossible to buzz on tossups until they start mentioning minor titles. As I get more and more crotchety with my call for core concepts, I get more frustrated with tossups that reward knowledge of minor titles over deep knowledge of the important works, which seems very hard not to do in these cases. I'd like to be shown that I'm wrong though.
Says a member of the team that submitted a tossup on Chopin's etudes! Complete with a :bees: leadin! (Which was of course cut, because that meme needs to die.)

I actually do agree with your distaste for title-buzzing, and made sure to deemphasize that; the Bach chorale tossup focused on the source and uses of said chorales (because it's not like titles would do people much good anyway), and the Beethoven string quartet tossup moved all the titles to the end, filling the rest of the question with well-known musical clues.

I don't agree with the distaste for shorter works; shorter works are an important part of the classical music world and therefore should be asked about. Furthermore, all the shorter works which were tossed up at PB (JS Bach chorales, Beethoven string quartets, and Chopin etudes) are a core part of the Western tradition which, with the exception of the Chopin etudes, are woefully underasked. It's not like I'm asking about Boudewijn Buckinx's nine unfinished symphonies (hey, stock quizbowl clue!) or anything like that.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:19 pm

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:Complete with a :bees: leadin! (Which was of course cut, because that meme needs to die.)
I'm sorry my use of a completely legitimate clue provoked such distaste!
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:39 pm

Ukonvasara wrote:
Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:Complete with a :bees: leadin! (Which was of course cut, because that meme needs to die.)
I'm sorry my use of a completely legitimate clue provoked such distaste!
This is what happens when you cry "beeeeeeeees" too often, Rob Carson.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Cheynem » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:44 pm

Cry the beeeeeeeeeloved meme
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:47 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:
Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:Complete with a :bees: leadin! (Which was of course cut, because that meme needs to die.)
I'm sorry my use of a completely legitimate clue provoked such distaste!
This is what happens when you cry "beeeeeeeees" too often, Rob Carson.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Magister Ludi » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:16 pm

theMoMA wrote:Ted, I don't disagree that character bonus parts can be acceptable and even desirable. I've written several since I adopted the position I hold today. The way that the Penn Bowl character parts were generally executed, they either withheld an important character from the first part in order to make that character the third part, or decided to ask about a character in the third part that is not notable enough to be worth knowing (or equally importantly, to have acceptable conversion rates).
I'm glad we are on the same page generally speaking. I guess that I think that limiting character bonuses to protagonists asked about in the first part doesn't really reward people with deep knowledge, but helps people who have superficial knowledge by definition because they only know the protagonist. Often these first parts asking for the protagonist end up as essentially the same thing as asking about the work. For example instead of asking: "Name this novella in which Marlow goes down the Congo to find Kurtz" the bonus prompt is "name this character who goes down the Congo to find Kurtz." This seems to test only slightly deeper knowledge than a bonus part on the novel itself.

After a quick glance over the set, here are the potentially objectionable third parts of bonuses asking for specific details from works: Firs (from Cherry Orchard), Archangel Raphael, Vautrin, Leo Naphta, "stand and wait" (Milton), Bathesba Everdene, Edmund Bertram, Hakon Werle, Abbey of St. Anthony, Behemoth. While the Wild Duck question didn't work I think most of the other ones are perfectly acceptable. Which of these answers did you find objectionable? Questions on characters such as Firs are exactly what we need to distinguish layers of knowledge. If you've seen the play or have any understanding of the play's structure you will remember the ending when Firs is abandoned in the house. In literature seminars an inordinate amount of time is devoted to discussing middling characters and their significance to the overall book. Accordingly it seems to me that it is perfectly fine to ask for secondary characters who are somehow prominent or important in a work. Maybe conversion rates on these third parts will go down slightly, but keep in mind that these single work bonuses are also bolstered by the fact inexperienced teams can 30 the bonus if they've read the book (and hopefully these types of bonuses would be used only for truly major works such as Paradise Lost or The Cherry Orchard).

Basically I think bonuses should reward both breadth and depth, and too often bonuses only reward breadth. I know that I sometimes get upset when I miss a bonus part that I think should be easier, but sometimes it is important to take a step back and reconsider your stance. I think moving the focus in literature bonuses towards middle details of the major canonical works will reward the right kinds of knowledge and promote more intellectually fulfilling ways to prepare for the game.

Edit: typos
Last edited by Magister Ludi on Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:24 pm

It will perhaps surprise very few to find that I'm behind Ted's points here. I'd post at greater length, but I think he's said about everything I would have.

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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe » Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:59 pm

I, too, concur with Ted. I will add that, with the exception of Edmund Bertram, all of those bonus parts were submissions and not replacements written by the editors. This suggests that a number of people who read these classics think these characters are of central importance to their works and hence are perfectly legitimate bonus parts at the regular difficulty level.

I take mild issue with the dispatching of the Winslow Homer tossup. The first two works mentioned are The Noon Recess and Playing Old Soldier, both paintings emblematic of important periods in Homer's development, regardless of their occurrence in past packets. If I were to edit that question further I probably would replace the latter painting with Prisoners from the Front and spend more time giving a better description of Breezing Up in lieu of mentioning Autumn, but in its current state I don't think the difficulty cliff is particularly grievous.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Magister Ludi » Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:50 pm

I probably misjudged the Homer tossup. Overall I really enjoyed the painting at this tournament and on second look most of comments about vague leadins apply to literature. The few bad art tossups seem to be a clerical error where the unedited tossup was accidentally put into the final round.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:52 pm

I think more lit questions that jump from author to author are an important way to keep question-writing from turning into mad libs and mention authors who can't sustain a whole tossup or bonus on their own due to difficulty reasons. There's nothing particularly wrong with asking a hard part on Firs, but most work-author-character bonuses make no effort to find something important like that.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by btressler » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:43 am

Wow, somehow my questions have become topics of discussion.

Before I say anything else, let me preface this by saying I really enjoyed the event and look forward to studying the packets and playing them again in practice in future years. In fact, I wish I had them now since it is currently working on the third foot of snow outside and I don't expect to go back to school until April.
Charter's originally unedited packet wrote: In one work, this artist shows a child reading while a teaching leans her elbow on a table. Another work shows a surgeon with letters "M.S." on his soldier strap talking with two other men and is named for a phrase of meaning malingering. Besides The Noon Recess and Playing Old Soldier, a woman writes into a tree in his The Initials, while another woman dressed in black and gold walks down a leaf-strewn path in this artist's Autumn. One of his titles refers to a hunting feat with a double-barreled shotgun; one of the pictured targets is looking into the water. Water also appears in his depiction of sailboats: Breezing Up (A Fair Wind). For 10 points--name this artist of Right and Left and The Gulf Stream.

ANSWER: Winslow Homer

This play's third act begins with dancing couples entering a reception room, where Trofimov and Pischin discuss Nietzsche's bank forgeries philosophy. For 10 points each--
[10] Name this work in which Lophakin wins an auction, only to have Anya scold him for destroying the beauty of what he has purchased.
ANSWER: The Cherry Orchard or Vishniovy sad
[10] Who wrote The Cherry Orchard, as well as On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco and The Seagull?
ANSWER: Anton Chekov
[10] In the reception room, this eighty-seven year old serf is seen serving seltzer. He is trapped in the mansion as trees are chopped and calls himself a bungler in the play's last line.
ANSWER: Fiers or Firs [depending on the translation]
I think an important point needs to be made with respect to both of these. I have not actually read The Cherry Orchard. I did however, research a synopsis of the play and look at the dialog in brief. More importantly, my understanding of art mostly gleamed from what I heard over the years of quizbowl. So it would not be unsurprising for me to misjudge a work's importance or where it belongs in the difficulty pyramid.

The point here is that writers (such as myself) do not have deep knowledge in every single subject. Yet I have to write questions on them. I do a little research, write a question, and hope that if there's a problem that the editing crew will fix it. This was particularly true with the science I submitted. If given the choice, I might have elected not to write science questions and paid an extra fee since I knew they probably wouldn't make the cut anyway since when I took biology it was all taxonomy stuff.

On that: I heard about ten packets in the set and think I heard a math question about twice. Does nobody write math anymore?

With regard to the Far the Madding Crowd bonus, I 30ed it, and appreciated the fact that characters were mentioned and asked. There was at least one novel tossup that mentioned exactly zero character names and jumped right from plot points to "name this work by X'. I don't remember what this was, but didn't like it much since given a character or two I would have picked the right work by X instead of guessing wrong.

In the top things I wish I could encourage more of is pronunciation guides. Since I have cruised to Alaska, bought and read a Russian history book while there (yeah, I know..), and went to a Tlingit reservation, I did not appreciate having to plead with the moderator for points when I gave the correct answer and was ruled wrong. All you have to do is look here to see it is pronounced KLINK-it. If the point of this game is to reward people with knowledge, then let's do so! In particular, when I mispronounce as a moderator, or a moderator does the same for me, I often feel that knowledge is not being rewarded because it is not being conveyed correctly. I remember a moderator once mangling "Trigorin" and me not realizing what was said only to watch the opponents get the tossup about ten words later. Admittedly, I'm not sure that Trigorin should need a guide, but I hope someone else besides me thinks this is a valid point.

Again, thank you for a fun tournament. It was fun working with the guys and learned a few things that will benefit my coaching. Sorry we bailed on the last two rounds, but the snow had a parent or two asking us to start back.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:00 pm

My 2c.
theMoMA wrote:If you're going to ask about a character, it's almost always best to do it as the first part, and make sure it's a notable character and that you're using memorable clues. Then you can use the novel in which the character appears as an easier part without withholding clues or making the character part about an impossibly minor character.
I'm not sure I entirely agree with this (but I will cop to Haakon Werle and one or two other answers being poorly chosen - in most cases I thought those things were well known), and I agree with Ted's position. Sure, bonuses with [character]/[work]/[author/other character] can be rewarding, but I don't see the problem with asking about a harder or more important character in a third part of a work. To use an example, if I were writing a bonus on Crime and Punishment I might write it Raskolnikov/CP/Dostoyevsky, but if I wanted to reward deeper knowledge it seems ok to write CP/Dostoyevsky/Marmeladov or CP/Dostoyevsky/Razumikhin, because it seems like Marmeladov/CP/Dostoyevsky would be too hard. Am I missing something here?

[quote = "Ted"]This tournament exemplifies exactly why I'm opposed to the short question movement. The main reason I oppose short questions is that they cut the spectrum of buzzable points. Considering so many excellent writers already struggle with finding good, important leadin clues (this has been a major problem at THUNDER and Penn Bowl) I strongly believe this short question writing trend will lead to more mediocre tossups (like the O'Connor question) that suffer from difficulty cliffs and hurt players with real knowledge. These kinds of questions fuck me over because all the sudden I'm buzzer racing with players on areas that I know very well because off bad leadins. I'm willing to believe that some first-rate writers (such as Andrew H.) might be able to pull of short questions, but I think this movement will be detrimental to players who rely on real knowledge and rewards all the worse things in quizbowl.[/quote]

I'm not sure we obeyed the short-question dictum (as I'm not exactly a fan of the short question movement myself), and I know exactly how it feels to get screwed on short questions with difficulty cliffs. I do think that describing more obscure clues from famous works earlier lends themselves to buzzes by players who have actually read the works, and that's an impression I thought was shared by everybody. Am I wrong here?

One thing that'd be useful for me, as someone who doesn't write literature that often, is to see how you or Andrew would restructure the tossups that you dislike (like if you were editing that Flannery O'Connor tossup); your complaints about unbuzzable clues is one that I've heard a lot recently, but I'm not exactly sure what to do about it because I'm not sure what people with "real knowledge" want to hear.

And besides convex hulls (which was in the final and I thought was more important than it was), I'd like to hear any criticism of the science and history, as that's the part I tried to spend most of my time on.
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Re: So, discussion?

Post by vcuEvan » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:22 pm

Regarding the lit conversation, people should read Andrew Hart's post on author tossups and the stuff Ted's saying here about bonuses and apply it to a majority of their questions. This is how you write good lit questions. (I was kind of disappointed with Winter's author tossups considering that post)

I thought Penn Bowl was pretty good. I'll probably have more comments about it when I get a copy of the set.
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