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Monday, February 6

February 6, 2017

Poetry Workshop: Today: Bowser, Erb-White, Smith.

For Wednesday: annotations/comments for Hill. If you turned your annotations in today as part of your packer, please bring them back Wednesday.

I am giving you an additional day to work on your second round poems. They are now due on the blog by 8:45 a.m. Friday.

On Wednesday, I am going to give you a poem or two to read. On Friday, I’ll be asking you some questions about these poems. I reserve the right to ask about any of the stuff that was on the review packet; I will also probably be asking for your interpretation of the poems. So, it’s like a short quiz.

Fiction Workshop: Today you got the first two stories of the first round (Faith and Becca). In class, the rest of your shared your rewrite assignment, and those were handed in. The guidelines for Round 2 were handed out, and can be found here: fiction-2-6-17-round-2-guidelines-flash-fiction-trio. Wednesday and Friday will be work days – you can work on annotations, online comments, Round 1 pieces, Round 2 pieces, and Round 3 (which will be your choice – no prompt) pieces. That’s a lot of work. Use your time wisely.  

Family Values: Today we finished watching the pilot episode of The Goldbergs, from Aug. 29, 1949. This is considered the first real family sitcom.

The Goldbergs have just returned to the city from their vacation in the Catskills. Jake wants to impress Molly’s cousin Simon by inviting him to dinner with Alex Reitman, an alleged bigshot businessman he met on vacation. But it turns out that lots of people in the Catskills have a habit of making themselves more important than they really are. Is Jake about to be conned?

We talked about differences from, and similarities to, modern sitcoms. Beyond the obvious differences (it’s in black-and-white! The pace is very slow! The ads are part of the broadcast, and not separate!), here are four important points:

  1. Unlike lots and lots of modern sitcoms, this one is not about the kids.
  2. Molly Goldberg is the central character, and usually the voice of reason — like many TV moms since.
  3. Jake Goldberg is a high-strung dad, who wants to be thought of as successful, but who is apparently snookered out of $50 (roughly 5 percent of his probable annual salary) and who consistently misreads the situation. Even at the end, after it turns out that Alex Reitman is legitimate, he can’t resist bragging to his wife: “See Molly, you’ve got to be a student of human nature.” (This, after he was clearly wrong, and even gave a lecture on bragging.) We’ve seen this TV dad before: blustery, always right and loath to admit wrongdoing. Right?
  4. Uncle David fills the “comic relief” role necessary, and he does so in a manner that exaggerates his age (making fun of the aged has always been good business in comedy) and Jewishness.

We also pointed out that even the pet dog, Pinky, has a part to play in the deception: it turns out he’s not a purebred, as advertised. And despite the surprise ending, there’s a clear moral imparted (don’t exaggerate, and be careful who you believe).

Take good notes! I’ll be collecting your notebooks soon.

BatCat: Prep for AWP. If you take pictures in class, or at events, please send them to Olivia Campbell!

Comedy: Today we finished watching Tillie’s Punctured Romance, the first full-length comedy, from 1914:

Some talking points (no pun intended):

  • While Charlie Chaplin (City Slicker) and Mabel Normand (his girlfriend) were stars at the time, the big get was Marie Dressler (Tillie), a Broadway star who was skeptical of appearing in the “flickers.” (It’s one reason she appears first; director Mack Sennett didn’t think Chaplin or Normand were big enough stars on their own to carry a full-length film. And you probably noticed that Chaplin’s character isn’t very sympathetic.)
  • The plot is fairly simple, and is based on a hit stage play, Tillie’s Nightmare. A country girl is snookered by a city slicker and his girlfriend, who want to steal her money. The city slicker woos her, and then he and his girlfriend try to get her drunk and rob her. But the city slicker soon learns that Tillie has apparently inherited a fortune from her uncle. So he begs her to take him back; they get married and have a big party at her uncle’s mansion. Before her uncle, who isn’t dead, shows up — and mayhem ensues. (including those magical multi-shot guns!)
  • We’ve all seen this plot done a million times in sitcoms (and films); here’s a recent example from Bob’s BurgersCourtney
  • A big source of the humor, of course, is physical — including Tillie’s deliberately unattractive appearance. Here are some of her descendants: Image result for mimi drew careyImage result for chris farley
  • The police at the end deserve mention: they are “Keystone Kops.” That term has become synonymous with bumbling fictional policemen (and is sometimes used to refer in an unflattering manner to real police). They got their name because of the movie studio — Keystone — that used them in films such as this one.
  • We should also note that the film has a surprise ending: the unlikable city slicker is given back his ring by Tillie, and given the boot by his girlfriend as well. The two women sympathize with one another, shutting out the jerk who engineered all this in the first place. Again, an ending we’ve seen lots and lots of times.

Tomorrow we make the jump to the “talkies.” Keep taking good notes!

Middle School Literary Arts Enrichment: You gave me your poetry assignment. You took a quiz on Night, through page 28. We talked about the difference between denotation (the dictionary definition of a word) and connotation (the “emotional” definition of a word).

We identified three words which are used as symbols in this book, all of which carry a negative connotation in this context:

  • Fire (what Madame Schachter says she sees from the train car, which foreshadows the terrible fires that all the passengers see, and smell, at the end of this section.)
  • Silence (this appears at multiple levels. People in Sighet “silence” Moishe the Beadle by ignoring his warnings. The “peace and quiet” in the ghettos, under German occupation, is an ominous harbinger of what is to come. And of course, Madame Schechter is physically silenced when other passengers knock her out. The point is that silence, in this context, represents covering up or ignoring the truth.)
  • Night (not just the title of the book; there are multiple connotations. For the moment, let’s say that the nights have become a time of fear, even moreso than usual, and that they seem “endless,” to quote the author.)

For next Monday, please read up to (and including) page 46. And be on the lookout for these three symbols and what they might represent.

Survey: Screenwriting: Today I handed back Assignment 1 and gave you a little feedback on them. The four big take aways:

  • Don’t reference the camera.
  • Only include information that can be communicated visually – everything else is irrelevant.
  • Be as efficient as you possibly can in your description – “pithy” is what we’re going for.
  • Stay objective – write what the audience sees, not what characters see.

We read an excerpt from Toy Story III. 

After break, we started talking about three act structure. There were a bunch of notes – if you were absent, get them from a buddy. Reminder: there are no notebook checks this semester, so you are on your own. If you don’t take notes or don’t get them from a friend when you’re absent, you’ll be quite regretful when it comes time for the midterm.

Assignment #2 was given out, and the guidelines are here: screenwriting-2-6-17-assignment-2-more-spectacle. Yes, this is basically just a longer version of Assignment 1 – this is your chance to get the exposition style right. The sooner everyone can do this consistently and successfully, the sooner we can move on to writing more complex and interesting things (scenes, sequences, and scripts). This assignment is due next Monday, Feb. 13.

Gabi – there is a bunch of stuff in the box for you.


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