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Tuesday, December 6

December 6, 2016

Spongebob: Today I passed out permission slips for the field trip — here’s a copy in case you lose yours, which you would of course never do: permission-slip-cinemark-moana-dec-2016

Remember that we are leaving here at 11:45 — right after Block 2 — to see Moana, in Center. We will return by 3 p.m. (And yes, there will be an assignment.)

We then, working with partners, subjected Shakespeare’s four great tragedies — Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth — to quick-and-dirty archetypal analyses, using the magic of Sparknotes and your own knowledge. Overall, I think the major characters from these four slotted pretty easily into our list of 12 archetypes — with the caveat that Shakespeare’s fondness for shapeshifters as a plot device means that he breaks our rule about giving each archetype its proper space very frequently. (It’s OK. He’s Shakespeare.)

We should also note that a few of Shakespeare’s heroines beg the question of whether, like Katharina, they are waifs or free spirits (or something else). Clearly there are exceptions — Lady Macbeth is the schemer behind her husband’s bloody rise to power — but Desdemona and Cordelia are good examples of what we’re talking about.

Shakespeare’s second-favorite character type is probably the Fool — although it should be noted that Shakespeare’s fools aren’t always the same as the kind we’ve been discussing. We’ll give them a look Thursday, along with three or four of his comedies.

Critical Reading: Today I checked your annotations on the “Semiotics and Structuralism” section, as well as for Foucault’s What is an Author? In class you took a quiz on the Foucault, and we spent the rest of class discussing it and surrounding topics. Including memes. Because, you know.

For Thursday: ignore what I said in class about annotations; per the calendar, there is no reading assignment for Thursday. BUT there is the ads assignment, which is due at the beginning of class. If you were absent, there’s been a packet waiting for you, patiently, in the box since last week. Better pick it up… it’s a pretty in-depth assignment, so give it due attention.

Siren: Getting close on December stuff. Looking to go to press early next week, if possible.

Style: Today some of you shared your Flick-inspired pieces – really nice job, those of you who shared. I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

The style for this week, due to insistent request, is H.P. Lovecraft. I know that some of you are reading his work in Horror or other classes; for your notes, please only address the story that was handed out in class so that we can all stay on the same page. Notes are due, as usual, on Thursday.

Reading for Writers: Today we began Prompt 6 in class (reading-for-writers-12-6-16-prompt-6-cnf-into-holocaust). A reading assignment was handed out, and your assignment for Thursday is to read it and take notes (which is further detailed in #4 of the prompt). Annotations are a good idea too.

Survey: Poetry: We talked about epistolary style — there was a handout; see me if you were absent and didn’t get it.

We focused on the Terrance Hayes poem “MJ Fan Letter,” and while we didn’t subject it to a line-by-line analysis, we did comment on the general structure. The poet appears to be using the vehicle of a fan letter (to a person he presumably doesn’t know but feels some kinship with — “Cousin”) to relate a deeply personal experience. This isn’t that much different from a commonly observed phenomenon: we’re often more likely to share secrets with strangers than with those close to us.

I assigned you a “fan letter” poem, in which you will choose a recipient (somewhat widely-known, if not world-famous) and use the letter to divulge some personal situation. (PLEASE NOTE: In keeping with what we have discussed all semester about the “I” in poetry not signalling default autobiography, this revelation should be treated as fictional, even if it’s based on a true story. This is NOT in any way an effort to encourage anyone to share deep, dark, unsettling details. Anyone who tells you that is the key to good poetry or good writing is doing you a grave disservice.)

These “fan letter” poems are due on Thursday, Dec. 15 — the same day as your notecard finals.


Monday, December 5

December 5, 2016

CNF Workshop: Today we began Round 6: Pilch and Kashuba. We held Hall over until Wednesday.

For Wednesday: the next three essays (LeRoy, McDanel, Adamson)

For Friday: Kasper, Bullock, Hulick.

For Monday: McKinzie. Your Round 7 essay is due on the blog then, by 8 a.m., as well.

Screenwriting Workshop: Today we workshopped Ash and Sara. Sarah and Layla are for Wednesday. New screenplays are up on the blog for next week, if you want to get a head start. I will be giving you the hard copies on Wednesday.

Public Speaking: Finished up this round of recitations. You had time to rehearse (and, I hope, research) your next recitation, on Friday.

I kept meeting with people about midterms. It’s going slowly, but we’ll get there.

BatCat: It’s time to get serious about submissions. We will likely begin having final discussions next week – do as much as you can, both in and out of class, to cover the new submissions.

Horror: Today I handed out the guidelines for the final project, which is due Jan. 4:


You took a quiz on “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” And we started watching this documentary on zombies, which we’ll finish Wednesday.

Middle School L.A. Enrichment: Heard some Poe poem adaptations — nice!

Took our first quiz on Catcher in the Rye, and talked briefly about Holden Caulfield as an unreliable narrator. I assigned you chapters 4-6 to read next week.

Survey: Fiction: Today you took a quiz on A Rose for Emily, then I gave you back your notebooks. In your notebooks you added more notes on ways of including and evoking character within your writing.

After a break, you drew shapes and we watched Dots. The assignment for Wednesday is to organize your drawings and work out the story. Here’s the sheet: fiction-12-2-16-dots-activity-part-2. Gabi: your set of drawings is waiting for you in the box. Pick them up tomorrow/whenever you return.

Friday, Dec. 2

December 2, 2016

CNF Workshop: Today we finished Round 5: Kasper, McKinzie and LeRoy. Good job.

I gave out the new Round 6 packets: for Monday, Pilch, Kashuba and Hall. For Wednesday: LeRoy, McDanel, Adamson. For Friday: Kasper, Bullock and Hulick. (The latter two are on the blog; I’ll give you copies next week.)

You know what that means…we’ll be looking for Round 7 essays on the blog by 8 a.m. Monday, Dec. 12.

Screenwriting Workshop: Today we finished up Round 2 with Payton and Spencer. Stay aware of your due dates for Round 3, and also stay aware of the requirements for Round 3.

Public Speaking: Recitations. Here’s how it went: I offered five points of extra credit for anyone who went today. (And most did — nice!) Anyone who didn’t go today goes Monday, with no penalty.

I began giving back the midterms by meeting with people individually. We’ll try to continue that Monday.

I also gave out four new poems for a second recitation next Friday, Dec. 9.

Here they are, if you were absent: recitation-poems-12-2-2016

You only have to choose one. They’re all very short, so no notecard this time. And I really want you to pay attention to selling me this poem. It’s great to have it memorized; the next step is to convince me you know what the poem is about.


Horror: Today we talked about just war theory, and tried to apply it to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII. Was the bombing justified? We discussed it by using these four tenets of classic just war theory, as espoused by the great Catholic thinkers St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas:

  1. A just cause. (Pretty much as it sounds: is there a good reason for us to go to war?)
  2. Proportionality. (That is, is the response proportional to the original provocation?)
  3. A reasonable chance of success. (We shouldn’t wage war and risk losing lives if we have no chance at all of achieving any aim.)
  4. Proper authority. (Is the person/entity who decides we go to war, or causes/perpetuates the war, the right one to make such a call?)

We talked about this because it’s important to understand the effect two world wars had on the Western psyche. Existentialism would never have gotten off the ground as a viable philosophy if people in the West had not lost faith/questioned authority following these two devastating events, and the moral questions they raised.

Lovecraft was ahead of his time in espousing his brand of existentialism (cosmicism), but even he was affected by the events of the First World War. Another way to look at this is that the world had seen real horror, the likes of which had never occurred in human history. The moral framework of horror, just like the moral framework of society, was shaken by the events of the 20th century.

And from there, where else could we go but zombies? It’s important to recall, though, that our modern conception of the zombie as a flesh-eating monster is a fairly new idea. Zombies (or “zombis”) come to us from Africa by way of Haiti, and were originally thought to be reanimated people who could work tirelessly on sugar plantations.

Read more about them here. We’ll talk more on Monday about how we got to our modern idea of zombies.

Survey: Combined: Bookbinding activity.

Thursday, December 1

December 1, 2016

Spongebob: Taming of the Shrew. You need to finish watching it and have your (typewritten) archetypal analysis of these five characters:

  • Kate
  • Petruccio
  • Lucentio
  • Bianca
  • Hortensio

turned in Dec. 15. It doesn’t need to be in MLA format, nor have citations, but of course, I expect you to cite the film and script in your analysis. I also expect you to:

  • Make comparisons to other characters we’ve seen this semester. (Could Ghostbusters figure into this? Going to say yes, especially as it pertains to the big question.)
  • Which is: what is Katharina’s archetype? And does the Christopher Sly frame story change our perception of that archetype at all?

Critical Reading: Today we went back and talked about the articles from Tuesday a bit more. You officially added inference, implication, and subtext to your notes; more on these things to come.

In class we analyzed an ad for western romance novels (fun, fun) and each of you got an ad as well as an analysis packet, which is due (completed) next Thursday.

Foucault’s What is an authoris due to be read for Tuesday. I’ll also check your annotations on structuralism (which was due for today) on Tuesday, since we ran out of time.

Questions? See me, the sooner the better.

Siren: Brainstorming January stuff.

Style: Today we finished up the stand up routines. This is first year, I think, that EVERYONE did a routine! And it was maybe the best batch of routines ever. Great job, everyone – I really appreciate your participation and effort.

The style for Tuesday is Sherrie Flick’s microfiction. You need to write two pieces of microfiction (less than 500 words; I suggest shooting for the 200 – 250 range) that are related in tone.

Reading for Writers: Today I handed back your Salinger/Tenenbaums papers. I still am unable to access my gradebook, so grades are not yet updated. I will be doing this as soon as possible.

We went on to discuss Prompt 5 (Animal Crackers), and then you filled out a quick notecard giving me your personal background on your experience studying the Holocaust (classes, films, books, etc). No new homework. See you Tuesday.

Survey: Poetry: We read three John Betjeman poems — “In Westminster Abbey,” “Executive,” and “Late-Flowering Lust” — to examine the concept of persona.

Don’t EVER assume that a poet’s “I” means a poem is autobiographical. (Even when it seem obvious that a poet is writing autobiographically, that claim is subject to some reasonable skepticism, just as it is in fiction. Is “Late-Flowering Lust” based on some real experiences John Betjeman had? I’ll bet. Is it purely autobiographical? I doubt it.)

The other two poems we read are great examples of irony as it relates to persona. Betjeman presents two unappealing characters, in their own words, and not only lets them tell us more about themselves than he could if he were writing in the third person — he also makes it pretty clear that what HE believes is the opposite of what they believe. In that distance, we see a form of irony.

Then you created a character with a problem. Then we took a bus ride. (If you weren’t here, I ‘ll have to fill you in tomorrow.)

Your assignment for next Thursday is to use your character (and his/her problem) to create a persona poem of 12-18 lines. Does the poem have to tell a story, or “solve” the character’s problem? Nope. (It might, though.) Does it have to have regular meter or rhyme? Nope again.

But it DOES have to be in the first person. And think about what Betjeman was able to do with this perspective. That doesn’t that you have to make your character unappealing, of course. But all first person perspectives are limited, by necessity. Sometimes those blind spots tell us a lot about a character.


Wednesday, November 30

November 30, 2016

CNF Workshop: A pretty lackluster workshop. Thanks to the few people who had something to contribute.

No more comments, no more annotations for this round, which we will finish on Friday. Your Round Six piece is due on the blog by 8 a.m. Friday. If it’s not there, we’re moving on without it — no late entries accepted.

Screenwriting Workshop: Today was a work day for your ongoing film assignment (due in about 3 weeks). At the end of class I handed out 6 screenplays and we scheduled them: Payton and Spencer are for Friday.

For those of you that did not hand in today, remember that your mass due date is Monday.

Public Speaking: We finished the midterms and everyone survived…Lord be praised.

Recitations Friday. Practice!

BatCat: Handmade is Saturday. Questions? Let me know.

Horror: Today we watched the Twilight Zone episode “Shadow Play” from 1961. Are there similarities between this episode and the one we watched last Monday, “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”? Yes, and we discussed what some of those similarities are.

Remember that, while existentialism was a not-uncommon feature of post-war literature (Salinger et al), it was much less common to find it on TV at this time. The Twilight Zone, through episodes like these — featuring characters who appear trapped in situations beyond their control, and must try as best they can to deal with them, without any help from a higher power — broached the subject, at least. Even the whole concept of being stuck, albeit temporarily, in the Twilight Zone, has some existential overtones.

We used this episode as a springboard to touch briefly on an old philosophical idea that comes from Rene Descartes. Specifically, “Descartes’ Demon,” which hypothesizes about how we can know that life isn’t just one big dream (created by a demon to trick us), and ending with one of the most famous philosophical statements ever: “I think, therefore I am.”

Here’s a (partial) illustrated version.

Friday we’ll talk more about why existentialism became a thing in 20th century Western culture, and more about how it affects horror.

For next Monday: please read the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”

Survey: Fiction: Today I gave you more time to work in your groups, after we reviewed what exactly constitutes a scene. Then you guys shared, and they were surprisingly good. Nice job.🙂

Assignment 3 (Microfiction) is due on Monday, as previously discussed. You also need to officially read A Rose for Emily (in the Norton Anthology) for Monday; there will be quiz as usual, and there will also be a pretty major activity/assignment associated with this story, so the more familiar you are with it, the better off you’re going to be. READ IT. Please.

Tuesday, November 29

November 29, 2016

Spongebob: Took a quiz on Taming of the Shrew and discussed it a little. We will watch the first hour on Thursday. Please bring something I can put the digital version on so you can finish watching on your own.

Gave back the midterms and discussed them — nice job overall!

Finally, don’t forget about rhe final project. It is due Dec. 15. Here are the guidelines: spongebob-final-guidelines-nov-2016

Critical Reading: Today there were a lot of people absent, but we went ahead anyway. In class we reviewed notes from the beginning of the semester – back to basics, primarily because of the rather disappointing article assignment from before break. We went over RDI, as well as choices, and you (might have) added “inference” and “implication” to your notes as well.

In class, we looked at two article concerning the same topic, one from The New York Times and one from The Washington Post. In class we read these articles, you annotated, and we began to discuss them. I anticipate talking about these a bit more on Thursday; if you were absent, there are copies in the bin for you to pick up. Read and annotate for Thursday, specifically looking at the choices made by the respective authors (language, content, structure).

Siren: Worked on December stuff. The social media team (Bett, Morrison, Hamilton, McCollough) met and everyone reviewed these guidelines for social media use. sirensocialmediaguidelines

We did a quick post-mortem on the November edition; the short version is that we did well once again. Let’s not let it rest there, though!

Style: Round 1 of the comedy routines. We will have a full slate on Thursday as well.

The style for this week is Sherrie Flick’s microfiction. As usual, you need to take notes for Thursday, but it is unlikely that we will actually get to discuss them. For next Tuesday, you need to write 2 microfiction that are related in tone.

Reading for Writers: Today we finished watching Animal Crackers and you got a short response to complete for Thursday. Please be thoughtful! reading-for-writers-11-29-16-prompt-5-response-to-animal-crackers

Survey: Poetry:  We started with this sample PowerPoint presentation of the poetry of Sir John Betjeman. We talked about your final presentations, which are due Dec. 10. Remember: you are also responsible for turning in copies of the poems you use. You need a minimum of four poems — I recommend more. And you need to find multiple examples of each element you choose.

Then we watched this video: 

to begin discussing irony. Yes, we know that really none of the examples in this song really rise to the level of irony, which normally involves a reversal of expectations.

It’s the distance between what’s expected and what actually happens that accounts for whether something is legitimately ironic, though. For example, “rain on your wedding day” might be unexpected (or at least not ideal), but it happens all the time and really isn’t a huge reversal. A 98-year-old winning the lottery and then dying is unusual and probably tragic, but hardly unexpected. (They’re 98 years old, after all.) An Olympic swimmer drowning in the bathtub, on the other hand, offers a rare juxtaposition between what we expect to happen, and what actually occurs.

We talked about three different types of irony:

a. Verbal irony (sarcasm — when you say something that is the opposite of what you mean.)
b. Situational irony (when an event has an outcome that is the exact opposite of what was expected. For example, the Olympic swimmer drowning in his bathtub. Or, let’s say, a couple who go to divorce court end up falling back in love during the divorce proceedings.)
c. Dramatic irony (when the audience/reader knows something that a character does not.)

Then we talked about some other, somewhat related, terms from Chapter 10:

Paradox: A statement that seems contradictory or even impossible but which carries some deeper meaning (as when Jesus said, “They have ears, but hear not.”)

Coincidence: A random juxtaposition of events. “Rain on your wedding day,” to quote the popular song, is really just coincidence. Yes, you might expect that wedding days will be sunny, but of course, lots of them aren’t. That’s really not a sharp enough contrast between expected and actual outcome to qualify as irony. If you’re surprised to meet your friend at the mall, even though you didn’t plan it, it isn’t ironic — it’s coincidence. That sort of thing happens all the time too.

Read the rest of Chapter 10 if you haven’t already! It’s mostly review of stuff you’ve already done in Fiction: persona, denotation/connotation, diction and syntax, etc.


Tuesday, November 22

November 22, 2016

CNF Workshop people: please note that your comments and annotations for the remaining six essays in the packet (Hall, Koscinski, Hulick, McKinzie, LeRoy and Kasper) are due on TUESDAY, the 29th — even though we don’t have workshop that day. I want to collect the annotations downstairs before announcements, and I want comments on the blog prior to 8:45 a.m. Thanks for your attention to this matter!

Spongebob: Gave you the day to read this translation of Taming of the Shrew by Orson Scott Card. Have it read (and understood) by Tuesday. Will there be a quiz? Search deep within yourself and you’ll find the answer.

Critical Reading: Today I gave you a calendar with the due dates for the rest of the semester. There is still time to improve – or lose – your grade, so make sure to stay on top of this stuff. I’ve given it to you early so that you can make your own choices when it comes to managing your workload. Take advantage of this flexibility.

For next Tuesday: Everyone needs to bring in at least one print ad (three would be better). Full-page magazine ads are best; any product/company/service is fine.

Siren: Got the November edition out. Thanks to all who wrote, photographed, edited, posted, folded, stapled and distributed.

Style: Today we watched clips that you submitted for more examples of stand-up. Your stand-up routines are due on Tuesday. Remember that the only way to hand this in is to perform it (it also counts as a reading). If you are absent, you will go whenever you return.

Reading for Writers: Today we started watching Animal Crackers (1930). We got to minute 52 and will finish the viewing on Tuesday. There will be an assignment/discussion concerning this film. There is no other homework.

Survey: Poetry: Took a quiz on Chapters 8 and 9. I reckon some of you folks might want to re-read those two chapters, especially the latter.

For Tuesday:

  • Your free verse poem is due. See last week’s blog for details.
  • Read Chapter 10 in your textbook.
  • Start bringing the Betjeman/Hayes packets to class.
  • I gave back villanelles, but still owe you a couple of poems. I’ll have them for you Tuesday. Save this stuff! I’ll be meeting with you individually next month and want to be able to talk to you about the stuff you have turned in.