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Wednesday, March 1

March 1, 2017
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Poetry Workshop: Reading quiz #2: “I Hear America Singing” and “I am the People, the Mob.”

We began Round 3 with Bullock, Kennedy and Bett.

I gave out four more poems for Friday: Erb-White, McDanel, Koscinski, Hamilton.

Fiction Workshop: Today we set the due dates for Round 2. Here they are:

  • Friday, March 10 – Greer, Ian
  • Monday, March 13 – Faith, Ash, Layla (W)
  • Friday, March 17 – Cecil, Becca
  • Monday, March 20 – Bailey, Cassidy, Henry (W)
  • Friday, March 24 – Joanie, Spencer
  • Monday, March 27 – Victoria, Hannah

If you’re due on a Friday, you will be workshopped the following Monday. If you’re due on a Monday, you will be workshopped that Friday with the exception of Layla and Henry, who will be workshopped the Wednesday after their respective due dates. Confused? See me.

In class, we discussed the short reading assignment for today (Sherrie Flick on flash fiction). In class, you  began a writing exercise in which you chose a landscape and recieved three brief character descriptions. On each description, there is a note to “not mention” something about the character. On each card, beneath the description, allow the character to talk about/describe/meditate on the landscape. Try to evoke character without mentioning the necessarily excluded information.

These will be due next Wednesday. If you were absent, please see me for further explanation.

A flash fiction packet was also handed out; this needs to be read for next Wednesday as well.

Family Values: Today we watched The Honeymooners, Season 1, Episode 7: “Better Living Through TV” from 1955.

This episode deals with Ralph’s penchant for get-rich-quick schemes, which victimize him yet again. We pointed out that he (and Norton) made a low but respectable wage for 1955 — $62 a week. That would be around $30,000 today: not rich by any means, but above the poverty level, at least. However, Ralph — like many people today — dreamed of “making it big.” And as Alice points out, all he’s done is sacrificed money that could have been spent on tangible items like a refrigerator and a washer. In that sense, Ralph is as gullible as the people who are sucked into Ponzi schemes and emails from Nigerian princes.

Credit cards were fairly new in the mid-1950s, but debt wasn’t. However, it has assumed an increasing percentage of people’s incomes. Here are some figures for U.S. households:

Average household income: $56,000

Average credit card debt (among all households with credit card debt): $16,000

Average mortgage debt (among all households with mortgage debt): $170,000

Average automobile loan debt (among all households with automobile loan debt): $28,000

Average household interest paid annually: $6,600 (more than 10 percent of the average annual income)

Obviously, not all households have mortgage payments or car loans or student loans (or even credit cards), so these numbers would be lower if we spread them across all American households. However, there are plenty of homes with one, two or all three types of loans, and these numbers give us an accurate picture of what the people who owe, owe.

We point all this out to 1) stop you all from getting credit cards 🙂 and 2) to help illustrate the economic pressures that drive this show. Money is almost ALWAYS lurking under the surface of Honeymooners plots, and sometimes the fights about it (like today) turn nasty. This was a very funny sitcom; it was also much more real than the shows that preceded it. And we’ll see how this grittiness will inspire some of the (other) most popular sitcoms of all time.

I gave back notebooks. They were OK-ish, but please for the love of something, date your entries!!!

BatCat: Today we continued to discuss design matters. If you’re a little frustrated, that’s okay! It’s hard to do this at all, let alone without a design/art background. We have plenty of time and some good ideas so far – we will figure it out. Just stay open-minded.

Comedy: Today we had a good discussion about the Hays Code, which began with your responses to this quote from the preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde.

“There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well-written or badly-written. That is all.”

We talked about the ways in which the Code’s attempt to promote morality through films 1) has been mirrored by similar debates about books, music and videogames, and 2) its acknowledgement early on that movies were going to be a different art form than literature or music.

It’s worth quoting a section of the Code directly:

A. Most arts appeal to the mature. This art appeals at once to every class, mature, immature, developed, undeveloped, law abiding, criminal. Music has its grades for different classes; so has literature and drama. This art of the motion picture, combining as it does the two fundamental appeals of looking at a picture and listening to a story, at once reaches every class of society.

B. By reason of the mobility of film and the ease of picture distribution, and because the possibility of duplicating positives in large quantities, this art reaches places unpenetrated by other forms of art.

C. Because of these two facts, it is difficult to produce films intended for only certain classes of people. The exhibitors’ theatres are built for the masses, for the cultivated and the rude, the mature and the immature, the self-respecting and the criminal. Films, unlike books and music, can with difficulty be confined to certain selected groups.

We began watching The Philadelphia Story, a romantic comedy from 1940 that is post-Code. Your notes should focus on what might have been circumscribed by the Code — that probably wouldn’t have been prohibited, say, in a film like She Done Him Wrong.

Middle School Lit Arts: Today we took a fourth quiz on Night, and discussed afterward the concepts of 1) symbolism, as it pertains to “human night” — the inhumanity of the prisoners to one another, of which there were plentiful examples in this section, and 2) “a means to an end.”

This is a phrase that means, in essence, that we use one thing to get another thing. We may use a low-level job that we hate as a way of getting a promotion, or we may read a book that we might not enjoy because we want a high grade on a quiz 🙂

However, there is (fairly) widespread agreement that people ought not be treated as just a means to an end. Most of us have felt “used” by someone else: this is what we mean when we say it. It’s why we are repelled by the scene in this book where the Nazis throw bread crusts into the crowd of prisoners. The people are no longer people: they are just a means to an end (entertainment).

That was all pretty heavy stuff, so we did a writing/drawing activity in the second half of the block.

For next week: finish Night! There are only about 20 pages left.

Survey: Screenwriting: Today we finished screening Strangers on a Train. Your notes for this film are due on Friday.

Also due on Friday: your first screenplays! Please make an effort to print before class starts – you can come up here in the morning, before class, to do so.

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