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Wednesday, May 2

May 2, 2012
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WWTWWT: Today we began by watching this episode of The Regular Show:

which has some inescapable parallels to Hobbes’s theory of man’s state of nature and the solution he proposed. This was a prelude to talking about the final project, the guidelines to which are here. It is due May 30, so you have a little less than a month to get it sorted.

The second half of class was spent discussing John Locke’s theory of man’s state of nature, which is best summed up by stating that he believed man is capable of reason, and that therefore a limited form of government (instead of Hobbes’s Leviathan) was appropriate. This idea, along with his concept of the tabula rasa (blank slate, as in that’s what your mind is supposedly like when you’re born) made him, let’s say, the grandfather of our own democracy — since his ideas were a direct influence on Jefferson and many others of the founders.

It was all part of the movement toward the individual — individual freedom, individual rights — and democracy, and away from monarchies and established religion. Sometimes it worked swell (see: Revolution, American) and sometimes not so well (see: Revolution, French).

(There was also a handout on Locke; get it from me if you were absent.)

For Monday: we’re going to finish talking about Locke. I assigned two more sections to read: Leibniz (essentially of the French Rationalist school, though he wasn’t French by birth), and Berkeley (essentially of the British Empirical school, though his empiricism was, let’s say, pretty extreme).

Narrative Studies: We started up where we left off: awkwardly talk about montage. We watch the short film La Jetee, which is a bit like one giant montage. We had a pretty good conversation about the film, and keep thinking about it — you might have the chance to do something along those lines for a future project (there will be one more biggish one assigned before the end of the year).

Your homework is to finish reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’ve also asked you to write a 1-2 page informal paper regarding the adaptation issues — pretend that it’s your job to adapt the novella into a film. How would you do it? What would you change, and what would you keep? The best way to do this would be to look at the Abbott chapter on adaptation and address each of the issues he raises one by one — you’ll hit all of the major issues if you do this. This paper is also due on Monday.

Film Studies: Today we got started late and we worked quite a bit off the cuff, by brainstorming a series of iconic movie images and then taking a look at some through the magic of Google Images.

I don’t think I did the best job of explaining why, exactly, we did what we did, for which I apologize. The point of it all was to affirm the power of the image — not just the images of films you had seen (Elf, Harry Potter), but also images of films you hadn’t (like The Shining, for example). To have an image which can become shorthand for an entire film, or even an entire genre (Clint Eastwood’s squint, with or without Western stubble) is partly a function of things like money and distribution and plain old luck. But it’s also a function of having a powerful image to begin with. You have to have the one before the money and distribution and luck can work.

If you didn’t get anything else out of the day, know the term iconography — images or symbols associated with a subject. (And make sure for Monday that you’ve seen Robocop!)

BatCat Press: Thanks to all of you — the hard work is appreciated and noted. We’ll continue it all tomorrow.

Classic Comics: Today we discussed the final project in the first half of class. I’ll give out guidelines Monday, but I want to see a minimum of four pages, including a cover, and I want you to tell a complete story in those pages. These will be due on Monday, May 21.

We are going to spend some time Monday working on these in class, so be ready to go.

In the second half of class, I gave out copies of Spider-Man #96, the first issue of a 1970 trilogy that was one of the most influential comic sagas ever. It began when the Nixon administration asked Stan Lee to create an anti-drug storyline; Lee complied and came up with three issues that told not only the story of Spidey fighting the Green Goblin, but also the rise in drug use. He managed to do it in a way that wasn’t too preachy, yet still made its point — a minor miracle.

However, the Comics Code Authority, which was against any depictions of drug use in comics (even negative depictions) refused to sign off on the story. So Marvel published the comics without the Comics Code Authority symbol, and they still sold well and were well-received. The code survived, but was weakened — this decision would have big implications down the road (which will eventually culminate in The Watchmen).

Remember the question from earlier: Who are these comics for?

Survey: Screenwriting: Today we talked a little bit about sequences. Some notes were given — please see a classmate to get up to date if you were absent. We watched several sequence examples, including the fight sequence from The Lion King, the opening (introduction sequence) of The Royal Tenenbaums, and the opening (driving sequence) to Misery. We did an in-class exercise, which was to begin writing a sequence, without dialogue, using some of the techniques we encountered today. Since it was an in-class activity, those absent do not have to make it up BUT you will get points if you try (and it will help your grade), so I would recommend it. See me with questions.

Don’t forget that you 5-10 page screenplays are due on Monday. This is a BIG DEAL as far as your grade is concerned. Please make sure it’s printed and bring it to class (it would be wise to also put the file on a flash drive and bring it as a backup just in case something goes awry).

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