Saturday, September 14, 2019

We must constantly rethink our schools

Maybe I'm lucky because both of my daughters are "into school." They talk about things they do there, get all A's and hardly complain about their meaningless homework. But what if that weren't the case? Then what?

For so many kids, school as we have it does not work. They may have special needs that aren't met. They may not want to comply with the constant rules. They may be too advanced to get any real education from school. Then what?

In Susan Wise Bauer's book Rethinking School (2018), she questions many practices in our schools, provides reasonable arguments and, ultimately, promotes homeschooling as a viable option.

I agree with so much of her arguments, and I believe homeschooling is an option in certain cases. But for my kids, I am not a proponent of homeschooling because I do not have a social circle in which they would be able to socialize and develop social skills that I see necessary in life. I also believe going to school promotes diversity, and that's hugely important.

If we believe that school is solely for book education, which I believe it isn't, then homeschooling is an option. Really? Well, someone once asked me why I'm against homeschooling, and my answer was this: "You got to meet people from different walks of life. You got to understand them. You also got to learn to deal with a**holes. You will encounter a lot of those in life."
I do not mean to diminish Bauer's book or even her reasoning for homeschooling. But I just felt as a public-school proponent, I was inclined to explain my homeschooling stance.

Public schools often have a one-size-fits-all approach, and why is this? I know that the model, curriculum and activities are outdated, and I believe students and parents need to understand this. Bauer does an excellent job at pointing this out.

Students and parents have the right to opt out of high-stakes testing, and they need to understand this. Why do we give our students so many meaningless high-stakes tests? In my world, at least the California Department of Education has released a dashboard of eight components of successful schools and made testing count 1/8th of what makes a good school.

But even with the state explaining how testing should be valued more properly, schools and educators are just so used to the testing, they still overvalue this mania of testing. So the big takeaway from Bauer's book is to question, question, question and don't accept the unacceptable. Schools and parents are a partnership; it's not one versus the other.

Yes, it's true that schools are mightily outdated in many regards, but good educators know that if they ran across a parent like Susan Wise Bauer, then it should foster an excellent relationship of someone who is brilliant at understanding education and caring about their kid's education.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Let's end readicide!

Readicide: the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

That's how Kelly Gallagher defines the term in his 2009 book Readicide. Thank you, Mr. Gallagher, I could not agree with you more!

After understanding what readicide is, I realized that I was a part of it when I was in school, and I think we all were. I would be assigned outdated, inaccessible, so-called classics. I would listen to the teacher drone on about his thoughts, and I thought, "Books are boring."

I found a few worth reading around seventh grade, but I hardly read in high school. Reading didn't truly happen until grad school and even later when I fell in love with books because I finally realized what they were.

The so-called "classics" repeated year after year in school are not what books are. Books are a portal. They're diverse. They're fiction, nonfiction, sports, style, whatever. There are libraries full of them, and guess what? I, myself, am allowed to read whatever the heck I chose.

It's like that for everyone, and you have my permission to read absolutely whatever you like. I'm talking books, not Internet stuff given to you by Big Tech, AKA Google. I'm talking books with pages that you hold in your hands.
What Gallagher's book did for me was to confirm what I have long suspected, but he even has data to prove the importance of a love of reading and extended reading. In the schools, attention spans appear to get shorter each year. Kids read less and less. So what they do in schools is that they put readings on Google Chromebooks and have kids read things that take around 5-10 minutes. Say, what?

When I get students in high school, most of them have virtually no extended reading skills. In a class of 33 high-achieving honors kids, typically only four of them have read a book on their own that was not assigned in school. What is going on here?

Gallagher shows data to prove that extended reading helps close reading. A good metaphor he uses involves Olympic champion Michael Phelps. While Phelps cleaned up in sprint races to win gold medals, that doesn't mean he can't swim for distance well. It is foolish to believe students can do well with close reading, while they can't really handle a full-length book on their own.

Offering many tactics to engage reluctant readers, I say, "Just read anything." Read what you like. If you like the band BTS, read about it. If you like sports, read about it. It's time to end readicide and love literacy because it turns out that reading is one of the most beautiful and empathetic activities a human being can do.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

We admit: Admissions are batty

In the 21st century, the college admissions process officially has gone bonkers. Kids are stressed out. Adults tie importance, and even identity, into colleges, and then the price tag on many colleges is astronomical.

In a college-admissions world gone batty, it is hard to stay sane, and Frank Bruni's book Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be (2015) makes sense of the culture.

The irony with me is that I am an educator and highly value higher education. However, I'm not so sure higher education is even education nowadays. So many of the majors are career paths or vocational training of some sort that I just don't see a lot of the hullabaloo at colleges as even educational.

In Bruni's book, he addresses fundamental questions and the admissions mania. One point that stood out to me was this: "All in all, the harder a school is to get into, the more worthy it is deemed. Why?"

So many myths bounce around about colleges that I just have to laugh. Are you really getting a better education at an Ivy League school than a state university? Or do you just envy the brand name of the Ivy?

Bruni interviews various successful people who did not go to majorly elite colleges. One interview that sticks in my mind was with famous author John Green, who went to Kenyon College, which I once visited when my friend Alex went there. In many ways, it was like the opposite of my Ohio State because it was so tiny and white. It only has 1,700 students, and today, it is 78 percent white, based on its website.

Green's story is that he tried to get into a writing class and was rejected, but the professor took the time to talk with him, explain the reasoning. Green was trying to sound smart and academic and did not sound authentic. That professor put him on the path to the writing superstar he is today.
So a point about Kenyon is that it was so small that the professor was more prone to give Green individual attention. What I see that most elite students are looking for is status, status, status.

But the thing about status is that it's just tacky. Right? If someone name drops he went to Yale, that's lame. Right? If someone drives a Mercedes and does the same thing, that's lame. Right?

I've learned that the folks obsessed with the status of college brand names and car brand names are stuck in small thinking — especially when we're talking undergraduate degrees. Bruni's book is chockfull of excellent stories and tidbits, and another memorable scene had a mom who said this:

"It's like we're mass-producing robots posing as kids. ... They have no space to be kids. They're not feeling that the work they're doing is their own. They're succeeding, but it's not coming from within. And they're having a lot of psychological problems because of it: obsessive-compulsive disorder, freaking out because they're not perfect."

That quote came from a mom in New York City whose son was denied admittance into a prestigious preschool.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Education is an exercise in freedom

Fareed Zakaria. Holy moley. What a guy!

Not only is he a famous host on CNN, but he wrote an accessible and important book in 2015 called In Defense of a Liberal Education. Zakaria argues that our world needs students to follow a liberal-arts path now more than ever. I say, "Fareed, you are correct, sir. I couldn't agree with you more!"

Remember that, from yesterday's post about Excellent Sheep, liberal arts is often misinterpreted. It's not "liberal," and it's not just "arts." Some people mischaracterize liberal arts as painting or sculpture or something that has no market value in the "real world."

No, no, liberal arts encompasses a degree that is non-vocational. So while the humanities, literature and philosophy are a part of it, so are the sciences and social sciences. Yes, biology, chemistry and economics are all a part of it.

Zakaria has seen the same statistics as William Deresiewicz from Excellent Sheep. Liberal arts majors are majorly declining. Because the cost of college has gotten so high and student loans have gone bonkers, students feel as if they need a path out of debt ASAP and must major in business, nursing or something that is an obvious career path. I understand students' motivation. But is this the society we want?
A better way to see the situation could be the following. In a technologically driven world, in which production and the work place are constantly changing, a liberal arts education is more important because it will develop the individual more and give him/her a stronger perspective than somebody else who majored in, say, business.

It is more important now than ever to pursue knowledge, to understand how to learn and re-learn, and a liberal arts degree likely will be more valuable in the 21st century workplace in the longterm.

We need diversity in the workplace. And diversity does not just include gender and race. We need diversity in education. We need diversity of knowledge, creativity, clarity in writing, depth of thinking and more. Because of technology, we need these human skills more than ever, and I predict the 21st century workforce will demand it. Yet the importance of the liberal arts does not have to be part of an either-or debate.

In recent years, majors in English and history have vastly declined. Even President Obama once said that a technical training degree would be more valuable than one in art history. Obviously, our society has put a dollar amount on college degrees. Is that the right thing to do?

I say that education is so important that we should not put a dollar amount on it, but understand that to truly be educated is priceless. I'm not advocating overpaying for a college by any means.

No, no, it's the opposite. I fear that our society has lost its values. By charging so much for college educations, ironically, true education has been undervalued.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ivy Leaguers are excellent ... sheep

Over the past 30 years, it's been shocking to see the shift of college majors. It has been a "major shift" to business and finance, especially in the Ivy League.

In fact, the most popular major nationwide now is business and management, which is more than double as popular as second-place nursing. This also does not count finance and accounting, which is ranked eighth.

William Deresiewicz was alarmed by the bombardment of business majors and what he witnessed teaching at Yale. So he put together a manifesto on the mindless pursuit of vocational training in the Ivy League in Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life (2014).

Deresiewicz discovered that so many students are all doing the same thing. They're sheep. Excellent sheep. The business and finance majors have overtaken the Ivy League, and this calls into question the point of education and how this affects American culture.

Less than 3 percent of college students are English majors today. Liberal arts majors are waning, and, quite frankly, some see college as mere vocational training. I certainly don't.

Liberal arts is often misinterpreted as actually "liberal." That's wrong. The best definition is "non-vocational." So nursing, business, communications and obvious career-path jobs are not under the liberal-arts umbrella. The biggest misnomer of liberal arts is that it is only the humanities. That also is false.

Liberal arts encompasses the sciences, including physics, chemistry and biology, and the social sciences, including psychology, sociology and economics. To me, these fields can be more than applicable to the business world and tech world. I wholeheartedly agree with Deresiewiz, that our country would be better served with more diversity in education.
Unfortunately, what Deresiewicz saw at Yale is that so many college students don't truly get educated with a depth of knowledge or even the tools to understand and create knowledge. They bust their butts creating a transcript to get into an Ivy. They take accelerated courses, do impressive things in the name of admittance and feel as if they are owed for all they did to get into an Ivy. The education falls to the wayside; their appearance on campus is just a steppingstone to a job in the financial world.

I come from a perspective that believes diversity is a strength, but I worry for corporations and businesses that are only full of business majors. While I understand that certain occupations and corporations must look for business degrees, does it actually help these students to devote their undergraduate degrees to business, when there are so many important pursuits out there?

Especially at the Ivy League, where we have elite students, is that the best way for them to develop and explore their education?

College used to be a place of discovery, new ideas and, most important, education. Sadly, a lot of it has become about vocational training, and "silly" pursuits, like what it means to be human, economics and chemistry, is being left behind. Ugh, I for one, do not like the state of affairs reported in Excellent Sheep, but I appreciate Deresiewicz for reporting it.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Punishment creates multiple victims

One subtle thing about schools that I like is that the staffs typically span all ages. We have Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and age disparity that is actually refreshing.

However, one problem with older populations is that they have a harder time understanding change and often times, fall into habits or ideas from yesteryear.

I bring this up because many educators call for old-school discipline of suspensions and punishment when a problem arises. We have the data, and we know that this type of discipline does not work. Yet here we go again with a discipline song and dance that continues to punish mostly boys of color.

In Victor Rios' 2011 book Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys, we see the astounding statistics of how these boys are systemically treated as well as personal narratives that show this in action.

Rios' personal story is captivating as he grew up in Oakland, dropped out of school in eighth grade and ended up in juvenile hall at age 15. He soon got his stuff together and eventually got a PhD from Berkeley and now is a professor at UC Santa Barbara.

Right off the bat, Rios will tell you that the entire framing of "at-risk" youth and "at-risk" neighborhoods is way off. In fact, he vehemently opposes that terminology because it sets up youth for risk. To me, it also puts some sort of blame on the youth, and that it is not all what is happening. Looking at the big picture, these so-called at-risk youth are the victims of what Rios calls "The Youth Control Complex."
The Youth Control Complex is the combination of the schools and prisons that work hand-in-hand to send black and Latino boys to prison and hardly have any hope. I would add that since many of the educators in school don't understand this and/or are culturally irrelevant, they become unknowing foot soldiers of perpetuating this horrific system.

Since 70 percent of the teachers in the United States are white women, there is an excellent chance that people of color are "taught" by white women who are blind to the Youth Control Complex. In addition, just like the prisons, there is a charter school movement that is perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline — for corporate profit.

Through it all, perhaps the best point that Rios makes is that we've had a far off Cultural Misframing of what is happening in poor neighborhoods that are black and Latino. Perhaps I'm crazy to think that schools exist to help young people. However, when I have studied and even seen first hand the treatment of "at-promise" youth, I see that the words and approach often criminalizes the kid at the first opportunity.

I had a deep idea the other day. The United States has long been a champion of the individual, the superhero, the myth that "anyone can do anything." But wonder if that whole individualistic view is wrong.

Wonder if we are all one organism, rich or poor, black or white, female or male, etc. When we punish part of the organism, we are punishing all of us. That's why I know that the school-to-prison pipeline needs resources to reform and more attention ASAP. The for-profit prison system needs to stop as well as our mistreatment of Latino and black boys.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Race fosters fear, anger and denial

Being a white male, I had the privilege, and ignorance, to not think much about race for a lot of my life. My neighborhood growing up was 100 percent white, and my high school was about 95 percent white. Race? Eh, who needs to talk about it?

Well, as I became more educated, I understood how race is — hello — a major component of the United States' power structure and history. I used to think racism was about bad apples who had hate in their hearts. I eventually realized that racism is embedded in many of our country's institutions.

When it comes to schools, it is obvious to me that racism is on overt and covert display. First off, a lot of students of color do not have access to as many of the stronger schools. Then, at schools, race can be denied or pretended to not be important by white people.

In Beverly Daniel Tatum's masterpiece Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations on Race, she examines racial identity and the systems in place in schools that hurt minorities. Tatum also looks at candid discussion and research on race in the 2017 20th anniversary of the book.
This work helped me adjust my attitude, words and behavior toward race in a positive way, and I believe it will can have that effect on any white person not familiar with the book.

The main takeaway for me is that it's healthy, and necessary, to embrace conversations on race. It reaffirms the idea of being racially blind is stupid. I believe we should strive for empathy, celebrate ethnic differences and as a white guy, stop proving to others I'm not racist. I also am more aware of racial dynamics in groups and at school.

I teach at a school that is about 5 percent white and is full of many ethnicities with Asian leading the way, following by Latino. Just because I'm at a diverse school doesn't mean there are no race issues to consider.

I can't stand "post-racial" thinking. Ooh, Abraham Lincoln "freed the slaves," so racism is gone. Or, the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, so racism was over. Or better yet, Obama was elected president, so there must not be racism any more.

One of the incredible things about Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? is that race-talk-stoppers that white people often use has ended with me. I've learned to steer the conversation, embrace, and sometimes promote, race talk.

So many people experience fear, anger and denial about racism, especially in our schools, and the least we can do is to keep the dialogue going and hope that collective social progress occurs.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Homework teaches ... nothing, really

Just last week, I read a Q & A in the Long Beach Post with longtime Long Beach Unified School District superintendent Chris Steinhauser. The headline was "Chris Steinhauser is sorry he gave your kid so much homework."

Much more is in the Q & A than that tidbit, but Steinhauser does point out that there is no evidence that homework works. "It's one of those old urban myths," he said.

Thank you!

I've been barking my first-hand experience about how homework doesn't work for years to anyone who will listen, and it was nice to see the Sup tell the truth. As for well-researched books that build on a similar thesis, I recommend The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (2006) by Alfie Kohn.

It's disheartening to me that our children are still bombarded by homework yet often escape our schools with little skills or education that sticks. The kids are forced to do a compliance dance that doesn't work for anyone who truly wants to be educated. Instead, they do this homework stuff and play short-term memory games.

Now, I know that there are popular arguments out there in favor of homework. In Kohn's book, he seriously considers them and proves why they don't work. I find the best argument in favor of homework to be that repeated practice is necessary in certain subjects, such as math, and there just isn't time for that in class.

First of all, where is the time going? Is it all direct instruction? Then, the next point is that for a typical class, students' skills will be all over the map with homework. Typically, the homework will be too easy or too difficult. To have "sweet zone" homework that is at the exact level for the student mathematically will not happen.
Alfie Kohn is a progressive thinker and educator. Like Jonathan Kozol, he is a hero to me. He's done extensive work on the trouble with standardized testing, grades and rewards, discipline woes and traditional schooling. I love his stuff.

Among traditional teachers, I have long learned to "slow my roll" with them. Some have the capacity to reflect. Some do not. Good school leaders have the skills to build that capacity.

At the end of the day, I still believe in our public schools, and, of course, there are some elite private schools out there that are progressive and excellent. The one thing all good schools tend to do is not assign homework. They understand that the real work is done in classrooms. It's easier to learn in a room of 30 than a room of one.

So I urge any teacher who still thinks homework is a worthwhile part of learning to read The Homework Myth. I also give a shoutout to any teacher who eschews homework and busts his/her butt in the classroom. We need more like you.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Kozol reminds us of love in the classroom

Hero. That's the best way to say it.

Jonathan Kozol is a hero of social progress, truth and education, and if you happen to be unacquainted with him, please go check out his stuff.

I can think of no better person to kick off the education category of 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend than Kozol because of his lifetime commitment to social progress, honesty and education. Plus, today happens to be his 83rd birthday.

Happy birthday, Mr. Kozol! You are an inspiration, and I love the work you have given us.

In my mind, Kozol's name is the biggest in education. I know that many people mention John Dewey, who passed away in 1952, and Jean Piaget, who died in 1980, as key progressive educators. But, heck, Kozol is still alive, and his stuff hits home with me.

Kozol is most known for Death at an Early Age (1967), Savage Inequalities (1991) and The Shame of a Nation (2005), which look at embedded racism in the educational system and major disparities in funding among schools in different neighborhoods. Those are worth a read, but of all of his books, I first recommend Letters to a Young Teacher (2007), especially to anyone in the education profession.
When done correctly, teaching is a beautiful and artistic profession. In his book, Kozol reminds a fictional teacher "Francesca" of this and what I, too, believe is the main reason why a teacher should teach — love. To be effective, you got to love yourself, love the kids and love building trusting relationships.

The tone of Letters to a Young Teacher is so soft and warm that it's hard not to connect to it and find proper perspective as an educator. While it's true that many systems in the educational world could be improved, a teacher needs to keep the right perspective in order to be effective and fulfilled.

Kozol does not shy away from the over-importance placed on testing, the politics of education and a lot of things that need improvement. But through it all, the book is a humanistic pro-teaching, pro-education, pro-public school treatise.

In my 12th year as a public-school secondary teacher, I am revived and love my profession now more than ever. I do have an administrator credential and might go that route one day, but it would be hard for me to leave the classroom, where I like to think we engage in magic each day. Magic is not supernatural; it is tapping into our best selves. I like to think we do that daily.

I believe kids need proper teachers more than ever as parents find themselves overworked, on their screens too much and maybe even overweight. It can be a punishing economic world out there, and I see that kids need genuine support. Teachers need support, too, and Kozol's words do help.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Good comedy helps society

I should have known this a long time ago, but as I was writing about 10 humor books in 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend, I realized that, "Uh, yeah, I was raised on TV."

No doubt. Gen Xers remember Saturday morning cartoons, Late Night with David Letterman, Beavis & Butthead and could itemize details and trivia of countless shows. I guess it should be no surprise how screen time has bombarded the planet and how the masses read less and less books.

I guess it's strange to have these thoughts in the "humor" section of this project, but it's just utterly apparent that books are just not the main media for so many of the writers in the section. So be it.

It is utterly obvious, but humor must be funny. But nowadays, I just don't find overly innocuous comedy interesting. It's got to have edge. It's got to be timely. It's got to be authentic and help our world. I don't know if I want to spend time on stuff that is just mindlessly funny. Not good enough for me.

The choices on this list are like that. Here are 10 comedy, or humor, books that I recommend:

1. Born Standing Up (2007) by Steve Martin
2. Poking a Dead Frog (2014) by Mike Sacks
3. Modern Romance (2015) by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
4. Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000) by David Sedaris
5. A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) by John Kennedy Toole (Yes, it's technically fiction, but it's freaking funny!)
6. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000) by Dave Eggers
7. Fresh Off the Boat (2013) by Eddie Huang
8. How to Make White People Laugh (2016) by Negin Farsad
9. The Comedy Writer (1998) by Peter Farrelly
10. Brain Droppings (1997) by George Carlin

Yes, books still exist as does TV. I am hoping that "quick-hit" comedy, like in Tweets or vines or whatever the tech platform is, does not replace nuanced, thoughtful humor that is funny, truthful and quick. Everyday life has been evolving, and I do believe excellent humor can cross generational boundaries. I hope.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The King of Meaningful Comedy

I guess this majorly important point could come out at any point of this project, but somehow, it is coming today as I recommend Brain Drippings by George Carlin.

Geez, man, when you look at the list of 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend, so many of the books are not the main media focus of the author. That is obviously the case with George Carlin as it is with Peter Farrelly, Brian Grazer and many more.

But the real issue is this: "What about the authors who I thought the book was the main thing?"

It turns out that hardly is the case. So many of were already known before their books or had incredible social-media presences or were renowned in their field, then the book. The idea that books come out of nowhere and become accepted as unabashed masterpieces, like A Confederacy of Dunces, is false. And, heck, John Kennedy Toole killed himself before his book was even published.

So as I conclude the humor portion of 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend, I give a shoutout to Brain Drippings by George Carlin. But let's get real? George Carlin's standup is far superior to Brain Drippings. Yes, indeed, I do like the book, and many laugh-out-loud scenarios ensue in the book. But his standup is far superior. Right?
Brain Droppings is full of wordplay, social commentary, edge and has some of Carlin's best material, including his famous "A Place for My Stuff" and "Baseball and Football." To think about what Carlin did in his career is astounding. He was such a witty commentator, so ahead of his time and authentic.

One nickname he had was "the dean of counterculture comedians." I don't find that good enough. It'd call him "the King of Meaningful Comedy." He's the opposite of Jerry Seinfeld. Comedy can help the world or help people look at important things they may have missed. The King of Meaningful Comedy was a genius at that.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Smart and Smarter

Uh oh. Here is another case of fiction/nonfiction trouble that arose a few days ago when A Confederacy of Dunces cracked this project called 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend.

A Confederacy of Dunces is clearly fiction. However, because this is the humor section of this project, I said, "Eh, why not? Let's get it in there."

Now, The Comedy Writer by Peter Farrelly is officially filed under fiction. But I find it a much different case than Dunces because there are so many striking similarities to Farrelly's actual life, that it's not as big of a stretch.

Heck, the Wikipedia entry on the book says, "Because many of the exploits of the protagonist are similar or identical to the author Peter Farrelly's own life, it is believed that the novel is partly (or mostly) autobiographical."

OK. That's good enough for me. We're calling it nonfiction.

But who cares, really? The Comedy Writer (1998) is funny and truthful, and it was all down hill for Farrelly's career after it. Uh, well, that statement might be slightly off as he just won Oscars for Green Book last year. He was established when the book came out as his first two films Dumb and Dumber (1994) and Kingpin (1996) already were hits. Then, Something About Mary came out the same year as this book.

OK, so practically everyone in Hollywood is envious of his success. But I'm not so sure the literary world does. But heck, I'm sure he could write a twisted memoir that would be entertaining and a ginormous best seller.
The main reasons The Comedy Writer makes the list is that it's damn entertaining and I could relate to it. The protagonist quits his job in New England, and it follows his constant rejections and difficulties in L.A.

It came out the same year I moved to L.A., and believe me, I experienced major culture shock going from New York to L.A. Moving from Cleveland to New York actually wasn't that big of a shock, but New York to L.A. — big-time shock.

Of all the things from The Comedy Writer, the one thing I remember most is the description of Los Angeles after rain — rare rain. The city needs more rain, as we all know, and when the rain finally comes, it wipes away the smog. Everything feels clearer and cleaner. The morning after rain can have a vague mystical feeling, where anything feels possible.

Yeah, I remember a passage similar to that. Comedy, many say, is the hardest thing to write because the expectation is to get an actual physical, laugh-out-loud reaction. Farrelly has been a master at that for decades. Franks and beans! Franks and beans!