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Monday, October 17

October 17, 2016
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CNF Workshop: Today: Pilch and Hulick. New plan for Wednesday: just Kasper (I gave out the hard copies today), because of the PSAT.

That moves Koscinski and LeRoy to Friday, along with Mckinzie. That will finish Round 3.

Your fourth round essay is due on the blog Monday by 8 a.m. If you want a prompt, here it is:

  • Similar to Zadie Smith’s “Find Your Beach,” I want you to center your essay around an object you see every day, or at least on a regular basis. It CANNOT be an object in your home, or one that belongs to you or someone in your family. Ideally, it will be something you have little or no past history with. It should be an object — not necessarily a billboard; not necessarily something with writing on it — that you can invest with some significance and explore more deeply, as Smith did with the billboard in her essay. Is there a sign you pass every day that you’ve never thought about before, and deserves further reflection? Maybe there’s a neighborhood landmark — an old house, a vacant lot, even a tree — that you could invest with some imagination. What does this object say or suggest? What might it mean in the larger scheme of things?

Speaking of reading packets, I gave out a new one today with two essays. There’ll be a quiz next Monday.

Screenwriting Workshop: Today we finished round 1! As I mentioned at the end of class, this was perhaps the best first round out I’ve ever seen, both in terms of quality of work and of comments/annotation completion and attendance. THANK YOU. Let’s do it again. Soon. Sarah and Sara are due to post next Monday, and will be workshopped next Friday.

For this Friday – please read the introduction, chapter 1, and chapter 2 of Syd Field (books were handed out in class). We’ll be discussing – there might be a quiz, just to make sure that you did the reading. No homework for Wednesday (PSATs are happening; attendance will be spotty).

Public Speaking: Today you practiced your speech openers, which you will deliver (with your notecards, but no podium) on Wednesday.

I gave back scoresheets, with your grades on the stories — everyone did pretty well — and feedback from your peers, in this class, and from the Press folks. There are quite a few numbers, so how should you interpret them? A couple of suggestions:

  • I think if you scored 3 or more on the “I am interested in hearing this talk” score, from both this class and the Press, that is probably a sign that you’ve chosen a decent subject, so I’d proceed.
  • I think if you scored 3 or more from at least one group, you should look at the other numbers and see what they suggest. For example, say you scored less than 3 with our class. You should look first at the reaction to your story. Did it seem to make people more interested in hearing your talk? (You can judge this by looking at the story score — I’d say around a 1.5 shows your story changed some minds — and at the number of people who gave your story a 1, indicating that their minds WERE changed. That number is in parenthesis; five or six or more is a good suggestion that your story really helped.)
  • I think if you scored less than 3 with BOTH groups, you should look first at your tagline. Did a lot of people say they didn’t understand it? If so, that indicates a problem. If the comments indicate that people are getting the wrong idea about your talk from the tagline, that also indicates a revision is in order.
  • I think just about everyone needs to tweak their tagline, because they could all stand some improvement. Capturing a whole talk in one catchy line is really difficult!
  • I think you shouldn’t change your topic unless you’ve decided that YOU just don’t want to do it, or that you have found something that interests you more. Don’t let other people talk you out of something you really want to do.

We’ll see how these presentations go Wednesday, and then plan our next move.

BatCat: Today we discussed plans for Handmade Arcade. We’ll be launching into assembly line mode soon, so buckle up. 🙂

Horror: Today we:

  • finished watching the Pennhurst episode from the History Channel.
  • talked a little more about eugenics. Don’t forget that eugenics was a theory advanced by a good number of “respectable” people in both Europe and America in the first half of the 20th century. That theory involved things like forced sterilizations of some “undesirables” — specifically, people with physical or mental infirmities, but also minorities in some cases — and the encouragement of birth control (including abortion) to stop these undesirables from reproducing.
  • posed this question: almost everyone now acknowledges that eugenics is discredited. But how different is it, really, from things that are widely condoned now, like trying to create “designer babies” and the abortion of babies with birth defects? Maybe less than we’d like to believe, in our enlightened modern world.
  • added an item to our list of “Stuff That Scares Us”: Playing God. The terms “God syndrome” and “God complex” were suggested as alternatives, and both have some merit. But I like “playing God” because of the childlike aspect of it: it suggests that, as advanced as we may think ourselves, we’re really just playing in the cosmic sandbox. And when we forget that, horror is often the result. (You could make the case that all horror involves some “playing God,” in the sense that this might be another term for hubris. But I think “playing God” suggests a more willful boundary crossing, like that of mad scientist types — as opposed to those who do it carelessly.)
  • listened to this podcast about the science behind Pittsburgh’s ScareHouse. If you missed it, listen in: it only takes about 15 minutes, and I think it’s pretty cool that a well-known local place employs a sociologist to study the effect of what scares people. Kind of like us! You probably heard a couple of things that match up with our list. (There are also some interesting links at the bottom to other scare-related broadcasts.)

Remember: reading quiz Wednesday on chapters 42-47 from Pet Sematary.

Middle School Rotation: Used our advanced mathematics skills to figure out that you guys spend an average of two hours being transported to and from school daily — which figures out to 90 full, 24-hour days over a six-year high school career. #Respect!

Middle School Lit Arts Enrichment: Quiz on chapters 10-15 of Neverwhere. We talked about two key points: that Richard does change, noticeably (Hunter is the one who notices) after he successfully passes his ordeal. He becomes more mature, more of a man. This is an old, old idea, but it has animated countless works of literature. (And obviously, it can apply to female characters as well.)

The second point is that Islington turns out to be a traitor. This is a classic example of the Shapeshifter archetype, and we discussed, briefly, some other examples: Scar, Ursula, Snape, etc. This archetype is used again and again: the reason is not just because it can provide a huge surprise (usually a good thing), but because it plays into one of our greatest fears: being betrayed, and left exposed and looking foolish (or worse). Most of us have experienced this. Authors exploit it because it is a universal fear that we never really outgrow.

We went outside to take a quick grammar/spelling quiz. The highest score wins a valuable prize next week. This is going to become a regular feature of this class, because many of you need it badly — so, positively reframed, it means you’ll have plenty of chances to win a prize! Hooray!

Survey: Fiction: Today we went over distance. If you were absent, definitely get notes from a classmate! There were a lot.

Your homework for Wednesday is to finish the analysis sheets for all four of the flash fiction pieces. They will be collected and graded.

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