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Tuesday, November 3

November 3, 2015

Violence: Today we took a quiz on/discussed “The Scapegoat” by V.S. Pritchett. We focused on the ritualistic aspects of Art Edwards’ life and death. He is chosen as the scapegoat by the people of Terrance Street because he’s different (he never has highs or lows; he has faced death, as a widower, and so stands apart). By becoming the scapegoat, he temporarily becomes more outgoing and popular. And in death, even though he lost everyone’s money at the dog track and kills himself in disgrace, he becomes a hero — and is honored with a huge funeral befitting royalty.

We also said Art Edwards’ failure restores his humanity — that Harry Law’s quote about “Every man’s got his highs and lows” is undoubtedly true. People elevated Art Edwards because they thought he was an exception to this rule. But he wasn’t, not really. He became human again by hanging around with Harry Law, giving in to temptation, and gambling away the money he was asked to hold. And people weren’t so much mad as relieved. In the same way that we’re glad when someone who seems to be perfect gets an “F,” or suffers some other misfortune, the people on Terrence Street are gladdened, ultimately, by Art Edwards’s failure. It proves he was human after all. (Remember: “Violence is a result of man’s inability to understand or acknowledge nature” — human nature, too.)

This, we said — by referencing Sir James Frazier’s The Golden Bough, a collection of myth and religious ritual from around the world — is common practice in primitive societies. Scapegoats are often chosen from the dregs of society — but they are also often treated as royalty for a short time prior to their deaths, presumably to make them a more fitting sacrifice.

This excerpt from the website connects the idea of the “Corn King” to the ballad we read, “John Barleycorn,” and to what happens to Art Edwards, who is temporarily elevated to an exalted position, and who becomes a hero after his death:

The ballad relates the tale of the Corn King, or Corn-God. According to James George Frazier’s The Golden Bough, the Corn King was selected from the men of the tribe, treated as a king for a year, then at a pre-set time, danced the corn maze and was killed. His body was then dragged through the fields so the blood would run in the furrows and make the barley grow. Afterwards, he himself may have been eaten.

The barley was made into cakes and stored for the winter. Around the solstice, when it was evident the sun would come back for another year, the cakes were given to children to imbue them with the spirit of the corn king. They were called ‘soal cakes’ (soul cakes), and in England, kids still go a-soalin’ for cookies.

Then we switched gears by watching this broadcast of events from the London riots of summer 2011:

Here’s some additional background on the riots.

There is a reading assignment for Thursday: an excerpt from the Bill Buford book Among the Thugs. In this excerpt, the author describes the feeling of sitting in a football (British football, aka soccer) stadium and waiting for a goal to be scored.

Radio: Today you reported weekly listening and Rhyan shared a cool clip from TED with us. In pairs, you worked on revising your salmon stories, then we did a “read aloud” edit in class. Your assignment for Thursday is to fully revise and improve upon your drafts and PRACTICE reading them aloud. The first thing that we’ll do on Thursday is read these all aloud (or listen to them, if you decide to record yours ahead of time).

Siren: Today we talked about stories for November. They are due in one week (Nov. 12), no extensions.

We also talked about what we have to improve: talking to more people, and getting their headshots. Unless you’re doing a review, find a way to get a couple of quotes into your piece. Talk to more people than you need! And be sure you get headshots — simple: use your phones and have them stand up against the wall — that you file along with your copy.

We took a look at Miss Kremm’s review from last issue and discussed it? It made some people unhappy; was it fair? We examined the context, whether the review met the usual expectations for reviews, etc. Remember: our job is not to promote the school. Our job is to report the news — responsibly.

Style: Today some of you shared your tabloids. Lots of animals. Thanks for sharing.

The style this week is poetry by e e cummings. I do expect your notes and our subsequent discussion to be of a very high quality this week, as we are discussing a more traditional writer and form (similar to the “advanced” discussion we had regarding Dahl). Thank you in advance; notes are due on Thursday, as always.

Middle School:

Survey: Poetry: Today we began by reading three poems from your John Betjeman packet: “Slough” (rhymes with “cow”), “Late-Flowering Lust” and “A Child Ill” (here’s a version from an album Betjeman recorded of him reading his poetry to musical accompaniment):

We talked about his use of foot and meter, and about the poems themselves: how the fairly dark sentiments were made palatable — at least lighter — by the use of meter and rhyme.

Then we talked about two new forms: the pantoum and the sestina. Get the handout here: Survey of Forms Poetry Pantoum and Sestina

For next Tuesday, you are to write a pantoum, using one item from Group A on this list, and another from Group B.

It must be a minimum of four quatrains, but does NOT need to follow any specific foot and meter. (It can if you want, of course.)

You will NOT be required to write a sestina. Should you wish to attempt one, you can do so for extra credit, any time before the Thanksgiving break.

Survey: Fiction: Today was a workday. Here are the things that you should be aware of:

– For Thursday, Nov. 5: Read Miriam by Truman Capote (Norton, pg. 66) for Thursday. As always, there will be a quiz.

– I expect that you will have your Character Interrogations done by this Thursday as well.

– Prompt 8 (Fiction 11.4.15 – Prompt 8, New Character) was handed out in class. It won’t be checked until next Tuesday, the 10th.

– You should already have the “Toolbox” excerpt from Stephen King’s On Writing. This needs to be read by next Thursday, November 12.

That seems to be it for now. Please see me if you have any questions. Tests should be graded and posted sometime next week.

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