6 Fun Tax-Related Facts

Hey, Shmoopers,

It’s April. We’ve turned our clocks forward and eaten Creme Eggs till we dropped, but it doesn’t feel like spring has truly sprung until the first tender growth bursts from the frozen ground, claws its way out of the soil, and takes about a third of your income.

We’re talking about the IRS.

The tax deadline’s coming up, but to help you procrastinate until the absolute last minute, we’ve compiled a list of tax-related fun facts that you don’t have to declare on your 1040EZ.  

Who Wants to Tax a Millionaire?

The IRS attempts to make taxes fun with the Tax Trivia Challenge! (Their exclamation point, not ours.) It includes questions every American should know the answer to when filing their 1040 forms, like “What is a duck stamp, and how much is it worth?” and “How many cocoa beans do you think you would need to buy a rabbit from the Aztecs?” We’re not making this up.

Survivor: Taxes

The winner of Survivor‘s first season, Chatty Naked Guy (also known by the nickname “Richard Hatch”), served jail time for not paying taxes on the $1MM dollar prize he earned after eating rats and being forced to live in the jungle and literally jump through hoops. Reality TV: even tax evaders love it.

Indulgence Tax

You know Lady Godiva as that woman on your grandma’s favorite box of Belgian chocolates. But Lady Godiva didn’t ride bareback through England for the fun of it: she did it to protest high taxes. Hey, at least they don’t tax chocolate. Oh wait.

Leaving Lost Wages

Noted vampire Nicolas Cage built a pyramid-shaped tomb in New Orleans’ historic St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. The tomb will never hold the the body of Nicolas Cage because, as a vampire, he will never die, so what is it for? Some suggest he hid money from the IRS inside his tomb after being charged for $6MM in back taxes in 2009.

Virtual Insanity

While you don’t have to pay taxes on all the Miitomo coins you’re hoarding in your virtual piggy bank, you do have to pay taxes if you’ve been conducting transactions with Bitcoin. It’s even more complicated than figuring out what a Bitcoin actually is. 

Everything Is Bigger in Taxes

Video games are a billion-with-a-B dollar industry. U.S. states like Texas and California offer tax breaks for video game companies, but the U.K. is trying to lure digital entertainment across the pond. They’ll provide tax breaks if games prove they are British enough. If Nathan Drake talks like a chimney sweep from Oliver Twist in the next Uncharted game, you know why. 

P.S. The IRS will not accept funny stories in lieu of actually paying your taxes. If you want real tax information, like, uh, what your taxes are used for, check out our Finance Learning Guides…and consult a tax professional.


Quote of the Week

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

~ Benjamin Franklin

And Shmoop.

6 Extension Activities for History

Hey, Teach,

As an educator, you’re familiar with the following types of student:

  • “Boom! I’m finished!”: The student who does an assignment in five minutes, throws their pencil on the table with flair, and goes to sleep.
  • “I’m failing…is there anything I could do for extra credit?” …Yup.
  • “I don’t feel intellectually challenged enough; do you have something I could do for more fulfillment and to satiate my curiosity?”: JK, this student doesn’t exist.

Want to handle them all at once? Welcome to the magic of extension work. Back in the 2000s, when Shmoop was a classroom teacher, we kept a hanging folder of extension worksheets for students to grab on the way out of class. Now that we’re in the digital age, there are even more opportunities to challenge, reframe, and expand a lesson—all courtesy of Shmoop.

We’re going to focus on History class in today’s newsletter—cuz English would have just been so obvious. But these suggestions are quite adaptable; we’re sure they apply to your own subject, from P.E. to Geometry. (Skeptical, phys ed teachers? Just try the tips and see.)

1. Our suggestions for differentiation and extension (duh).

All the new Shmoop humanities courses have suggestions for differentiation and extension included in the teacher notes. (So it’s sorta like you’re buying three lessons for the price of one.) Buy a subscription and steal our ideas.

2. Our Literary Theory Learning Guides.

Yup, we said it: Literary. Theory. While the concept seems a little ivory tower, letting students extend lessons by doing independent research and applying theory to history is a great idea. (Plus, our Literary Theory Learning Guides are super-accessible and well written. Just sayin’.) Challenge students to use our guides on Feminist Theory, Postcolonial Theory, Marxism, and more to examine the historical era you’re studying from a different perspective than ye ole textbook. Mind. Blown.

3. DIY Shmoop.

It’s a crime our website doesn’t have more videos about the Salem Witch Trials, huh? For extension, have students script and film their own witty, irreverent, and all-around exceptional Shmoop-style videos, be it with live action, puppets, or animation. Having them explain difficult concepts in a humorous and simple way will show total synthesis of the subject.

4. Shmoop-aided timelines.

As you well know, a visually-enhanced timeline is one of the best ways to review material, gather primary sources, and see the bigger picture. Have students review our History Learning Guides and Historical Texts Learning Guides—they’re like Lit Guides, but, uh, with history and historical speeches and documents—and use the information to make a timeline. Then, have them use an in iconic image from back in the day at each point in their timeline. Just remind them to cite us—it’s the cool thing to do.

5. Flashcards.

Gotta catch ’em all. Challenge students to make a full set of flashcards for the unit and share them with their classmates. That way, they’re extending their own learning and helping those around them. (Kinda like Shmoop, areweright?)

6. Did we say Courses yet?

Seriously, Shmoopers: Our Online Courses are a veritable treasure trove of lessons and ideas, and signing your students up for one of our electives (or just printing out a reading or activity from one and passing it out) is a great way to supplement your traditional curriculum. You can bolster a lesson on the Gulf War with Shmoop’s ’90s Music and History course or add to a lesson on the Federalist Papers with Shmoop’s course on…The Federalist Papers. Whodathunk?

Keep your eye out for our next installement, when we’ll talk about using Shmoop’s quotes in the classroom.

‘Til then,

6 Movies That Should Have Gotten the Franchise Treatment

Hey, Shmoopers,

The box office makes approximately a zillion dollars every weekend, and we here at Shmoop have been rethinking our career choices. Maybe we should have tried to be directors or producers or even key grips…whatever those are. In any case, a much-anticipated sequel (think Star Wars) often leads the pack, which got us thinking: why don’t more movies have sequels? 

So here’s our list of movies that we think should have gotten the franchise treatment… and how the sequels might have gone down. Check out our Movies section for even more.

1. Annie Hall

To be fair, Woody Allen is basically a franchise on his own, but we would have loved to see the sequel. Alvy gets hypnotic therapy, Annie updates her wardrobe for the ’80s, and they live miserably ever after.

2. The Breakfast Club

We know what you’re thinking: The Breakfast Club has sequels and prequels galore. You know, Sixteen CandlesPretty in Pink, and every other ’80s coming-of-age comedy? But when it comes down to it, The Breakfast Club never got a “Part 2.” Maybe in the sequel, Bender will go out with both fists in the air. 

3. E.T.

Ever wonder what it’d be like if Elliott, Michael, and Gertie visited E.T. on his home turf? Well, we stay up nights thinking about it. Spielberg, get to it.

4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

We got a front-row seat to see what Ferris does on his day off. But what mischief would he get into in school? We’re thinking Ferris Bueller’s Day On has a nice ring to it.

5. Forrest Gump

This movie is practically begging for a sequel. In fact, the novel that inspired the movie already has a sequel—it just never made it to the big screen. With his mom’s smarts and his dad’s track skills, just think of the college scholarships Forrest Jr. could win.


Why do all apocalyptic movies end right when the world is saved? What happens after the celebration is over and everyone has to deal with the literal piles of rubble around them? A WALL-E sequel would be the ultimate (and first) weight-loss, robot-romance tale.

Let us know what sequels you’d like to see on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ShmoopSequels.


Quote of the Week

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

~ Casablanca

Subscribe to Shmoop to start our beautiful friendship.


How to Pay for College

Hi, Shmoopers!

The clock is ticking for you to decide which college will be graced with your presence next fall. But we have a sneaking suspicion that, as you make your decision, you’ll also be wondering how in the world to pay for it.

The deposit you send in with your decision is only the beginning—the tuition, room and board, and textbook costs (among plenty of other things) are still to come. Yeah, people say that education is priceless, but apparently colleges and universities didn’t get the memo.

Don’t freak out yet, though: a little planning can mean not graduating with a pile a debt. Or at least not one so big you could swim in it.

We’ve cooked up a boatload of articles that give you the lowdown on all sorts of ways to pay for college—and a few ways to not have to pay.

Bottom line: if you do your research and plan ahead, you can be sure your dream school comes at a dream price…and not just in your dreams.


Quote of the Week

Why they came East I don’t know. They had spent a year in France for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together.

~ The Great Gatsby

Maybe you can ask these guys for a loan.

The Top 12 Things The Giver Has Taught Us About Life

Hi Shmoopers,

We’re reflecting on one of our fave books, The Giver, so let’s get in the mood by having our own Ceremony of Twelve. Or as we like to call it… 

The Top 12 Things The Giver

Has Taught Us About Life


                  1. Colors are beautiful.

                  2. Taylor Swift can pass for a 16-year-old. (Check the movie, or don’t.)

                  3. You can’t pick your family. 

                  4. The elderly are out to get you.

                  5. So are your parents.

                  6. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain.

                  7. Sleds are a great metaphor.

                  8. The truth hurts.

                  9. Stirrings are just a part of growing up.

                  10. Looking out for your siblings pays off.

                  11. Drugs are bad.

And last but not least:

                  12. The book is always better than the movie.

Giving it our all,


Quote of the Week

The worst part of holding memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.

~ The Giver

Sharing is caring.

12 April Fools’ Day Tricks from History

Hey, Shmoopers,

April Fools’ Day has a long, storied history. Archeologists recently discovered a cave painting in western Asia depicting a caveman dressed in the skin of a saber-toothed tiger sneaking up on another to scare him for laughs. Dating back to 38,000 BCE, this prank began an annual tradition roughly translated into English as Stupid Tiger Day.

The yearly ritual of tricking our friends, neighbors, and younger siblings has thrived over the millennia since then. And in recent years, it has taught us a valuable lesson: you shouldn’t trust a single thing you read on the internet.

So, before you start planning your pranks for Friday, let’s look back at some famous tricks, gags, and general April Foolery throughout history. Cue the laugh track.

April 1, 1776

Martha Washington lightens the grim Revolutionary War mood by replacing George’s teeth with wind-up chattering chompers. He is not amused.

April 1, 1820

Jane Austen glitterbombs the Brontë Sisters. Like all young goths, they dryly respond, “She’s still alive?”

April 1, 1876

Louisa May Alcott shakes up Mark Twain‘s bottle of sarsaparilla, which promptly sprays him in the face. His mustache is sticky for days.

April 1, 1917

Ezra Pound finds the fork in the woods that inspired Frost’s famous poem and carves another path through the trees. During his next hike, Frost discovers there are now three paths from which to choose. He is forced to rethink his entire poetic philosophy.

April 1, 1927

Katherine Mansfield sneaks into Virginia Woolf‘s room of her own and balances a pail of water carefully over the door. Drenched, the wet Woolf chases Mansfield all the way to the lighthouse.

April 1, 1951

J.D. Salinger, notorious recluse, pees on a paper plate, freezes it, and slides the frozen disc of urine under the door of another notorious recluse, Howard Hughes…where it melts into a puddle on his carpet. After Hughes steps in it, his hypochondria worsens and he starts to wear diapers around the house. The scene was filmed for the Hughes biopic, The Aviator, but was cut—and the footage was lost forever.

April 1, 1956

Martin Luther King, Jr. fills Rosa Parks lotion bottle with mayonnaise. She later retaliates by spraying him in the face with a squirting flower before he delivers a speech.

April 1, 1978

Koko the sign language gorilla, a scholar of Neanderthal humor, recreates the first known April Fools’ Day prank, dressing in tiger skin to scare the elephants who live in the next pen over. They never forget this prank, and are still waiting for the perfect opportunity to get her back.

April 1, 1986

Mr. T celebrates April Fools’ Day by quietly announcing, “I commiserate with the ignoramus who does not put the apostrophe in the right place in April Fools’ Day.”

April 1, 1992

To break the ice on a diplomatic visit to Japan, President George H.W. Bush plans an elaborate prank involving fake vomit. Upon landing in Tokyo, Bush realizes he forgot to pack the rubber barf. Committed to the gag (pun intended), Bush produces the real thing all over the Prime Minister. To this day, April 1 in Japan is known as Bushu-suru, or Bush Day.

April 1, 1998

During a rare year in which Meryl Streep was not nominated for an Oscar, she reveals that Roberto Benigni, that year’s Best Actor for Life is Beautiful, was actually Streep disguised as a man. Turns out she had been nominated and won after all.

April 1, 2016

Spoiler alert: Leonardo DiCaprio will learn, via a warm spring season in Los Angeles, that his long-sought-after Oscar was actually made of chocolate. 

What tricks will you pull on your friends this year? See if you can come up with one that’ll go down in history. Just…play nice.


Quote of the Week

“April is the cruellest month.

~ The Waste Land

Especially the first day, eh?


8 Symbols of Light That Have Burned Into Our Brains

Hey, Shmoopers,

We thought it would be a good time to celebrate some symbols of light that have burned into our brains.

We’ll give you the rundown on eight of our faves and show you the light. 

8 Symbols of Light That

Have Burned Into Our Brains

1. The Green Light in The Great Gatsby

Who would have thought that a weird green light at the edge of someone’s dock would have become one of the most memorable symbols in western literature? To be fair, Fitzgerald does kinda hit us over the head with it—it’s basically the first and last thing we see in the book—so it makes sense that we remember it nine decades later. 

2. Light in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Strength to Love

Okay, no one’s surprised that MLK said something people remember. Here’s what he wrote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Light as a symbol of love? Sounds about right.

3. The Red Candle in The Joy Luck Club

Turns out candles are meaningful in just about every culture out there. In The Joy Luck Club, the candle is a symbol of marriage: if the two ends remain burning during the entire marriage night, the marriage bond is considered complete.

4. “Let there be light” in The Bible

Talk about standing the test of time. This line, which was written three-ish millennia ago, is still everywhere you look. And sure, it wasn’t written in English, but no matter how you translate it, we’re talking about light.

5. The Spark in Frankenstein

There’s plenty of light and dark imagery in Shelley’s novel, but it’s that spark we remember. Why? Because…Hollywood. The book describes the spark, but it’s the 1931 movie that burned it into our brains with an added bolt of lightning.

6. Matches in Like Water for Chocolate

According to a woman named Morning Light (again with the light imagery), every person has a box of matches inside them that must be lit. That’s a metaphor if we’ve ever seen one—and one that we’ll probably be talking about for a while.

7. The Candle in Othello

Most people have a pretty positive association with blowing out candles: it’s what we do on our birthdays before chowing down on some delicious cake. Well, sorry to put a damper on your b-day traditions, but in Othello, blowing out candles is synonymous with strangling your wife to death. No wonder we still remember that candle.

8. Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”

If it didn’t stick the first time, Elton’s reprisal of “Candle in the Wind” for Princess Di’s passing made this one stick. As the musician himself said, the “candle burned out long before [the] legend ever did.”

Here’s to our faves that are dripping with light symbolism,


Quote of the Week

Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

~ Albus Dumbledore

Subscribe to Shmoop and be…enlightened.