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Monday, Feb. 12

February 12, 2018

Poetry Workshop: Two poems today: Shafran and Giffin.

Remember three things that poets don’t get a pass on:

  1. Who’s talking to whom.
  2. Verb choice.
  3. Setting.

For Wednesday: our next three pieces. Aloi/Pilch/LeRoy.

Plan on a new poem for the blog Friday, unless I inform you otherwise on Wednesday.

CNF Workshop: Today was a work day; Becca’s annotations and comments were checked. Her piece will be workshopped when we have time, this week or next, so please keep bringing it to class so you’ll be ready when it’s time.

Luke and Rachel’s pieces are due to be workshopped on Wednesday. Please stay aware of your due dates, and keep in mind that Round 2 will be here before you know it – so start working on that piece ASAP (it’s another “free” round – no prompt).

Comics: We were down several people today. Nevertheless, we covered a fair amount of ground:

  • The background of the Golem,  a character from Jewish folklore. In the Jewish Talmud, Adam is referenced as a “golem,” meaning a person created from clay. (In Hebrew, “golem” means “shapeless mass/unfinished.”) But the golem we’re talking about was a clay figure who was brought to life to protect the Jewish people from the pogroms that have been enacted against them throughout history.
  • While there are Golem references throughout history, the major story comes from the 16th century: The Golem of Prague. (There is, however, debate about when this legend originally began circulating: many scholars believe the story dates from the early-to-mid 19th century.)
  • Here’s a story about this legend, from The New York Times. And here’s another about a Golem reniassance.
  • It was also the subject of three films — the first two of which predate The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. (However, they’re both lost — only the final Golem film, made in 1920, survives. Here’s a still from the first version, though): Der_Golem_1915.jpeg
  • We mentioned the Golem because, like Frankenstein’s monster, he is a mythical creature who — even if he does good — is unpredictable and hard to control. Stories about Golems often include a section where the Golem goes on a rampage. In the story of the Golem of Prague, Rabbi Loew activated the Golem by writing the Hebrew word “emet,” or “truth,” on his forehead. The only way to de-activate the Golem was for Rabbi Loew to rub out the first letter, making the Hebrew word “met,” or “death.”
  • Why all this talk about Golems? As a prelude to our discussion of Batman, the second major superhero, and the antithesis of Superman in many ways. Batman is Golem-like: as a vigilante, he is unpredictable and difficult to control. He protects, but he has an edge — a chip on his shoulder. Which makes sense, knowing his origin.
  • In other words, we already see the fundamental split between superheroes. Superman is an immigrant dedicated to serving his adopted planet. He works with the authorities. He wants to be loved and accepted. He is a defender. Batman, meanwhile, lost his parents. He wants revenge on those who took them from him. Woe be to the authorities if they get in his way. He is an avenger. (Small “a.”)
  • I gave you a handout about the Golem/Batman connection. There’s a one-page version of Batman’s origin, by Bob Kane — the guy who gets disputed credit for creating him. I highly recommend this post for some background about his “co-creator,” artist Bill Finger; disputed credit is a feature of superhero comics as essential as long underwear.
  • We noted that, like Superman, Batman quickly got his own comic book, after debuting in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. That issue #1 featured two fixtures of Batman lore ever since: Batman 1.JPG

(I misspoke in class today; Robin actually predated The Joker, barely, in 1940. His age isn’t given in this appearance, but here’s a sample):

Detective Comics #38

  • Your assignment for Wednesday is to answer, in a well-written paragraph, one of the most vexing ethical questions of superhero-dom: Is it moral for Batman to enlist a minor like Robin in his fight against crime — especially since, as Bruce Wayne, he’s also the boy’s legal guardian?

BatCat: We are about halfway done with marbling. Ghost Woodpecker is almost completely printed.

New Media: Things went slowly today, for which I apologize. We set up your blogs; you made me an administrator; and we discussed copyright with relation to the art you choose for your blog — which I wasn’t completely prepared to delve into.

For tomorrow:

  • Take a few minutes and customize your blog. It doesn’t have to look great; it shouldn’t look like crap.
  • Have your first post ready. I gave you back the written version; be prepared to post it tomorrow in class.
  • We’ll be talking about comments tomorrow — including the comments you’re going to leave for each other’s blogs.

Survey: Screenwriting: Today I collected your homework assignment (Squirrel script analysis) and we discussed it in class. I also handed back Assignment #2 with annotations/comments – if you have a lot of notes and need some further explanation or just want to talk about it, please come see me (before school, preferably). If there is anything you’re confused about, we need to address it now, before we get to the more technical formatting stuff.

Your homework for tomorrow is to come up with an idea for your own Pixar-style short (no dialogue). You just need a rough idea – no need to write anything. You’ll need to use this idea in class, so make sure you come up with something! Doesn’t need to be spectacular yet, it just needs to be.



Friday, February 9

February 9, 2018

Poetry Workshop: Today we started, finally: McKinzie/Starr/Wolfe.

Comments and annotations due for Kennedy/Shafran/Giffin Monday. Expect the second poem to be due next Friday.

CNF Workshop: Today we workshopped Olivia and discussed your hypothetical encyclopedia essays.

Comments: need to be stronger. Remember, annotations are a great place to make small changes, ask questions, and leave on-the-spot reactions in addition to fixing technical things. Online comments shouldn’t just rehash your annotations – they should address bigger-picture ideas, things that can’t be summed up easily, such as theme, POV, voice, narrative, etc. They should be more substantial and more thoughtful, generally.

Annotations: if I told you they were “light” today, try to make a stronger effort for next time. Fix errors as you see them, ask questions, write in reactions, mark awkward passages, etc.

Commenting in class was very good today, thank you.

Becca’s essay is for Monday; Luke and Rachel are for Wednesday. All remaining due dates have changed.

  • Monday, 2/12: No new postings. [Becca’s essay due to be workshopped.]
  • Wednesday, 2/14: Alexa & Chip [Luke and Rachel to be workshopped.]
  • Friday, 2/16: Spencer & Yasmine [Alexa and Chip to be workshopped.]
  • Wednesday, 2/21: Layla & Sarah [Spencer and Yasmine to be workshopped.]
  • Friday, 2/23: Marena [Layla and Sarah to be workshopped.]

If you have questions, ask.

Comics: We tried a six-panel drawing assignment today, based around a scenario where a student remembers a homework assignment, has to tell their teacher they don’t have it, and is told the assignment isn’t due today. We did this to get a feel for the ways that panel breaks and perspective shifts can change the way a story is told, no matter your drawing ability.

I gave you a handout that contained Action Comics #1 (the first appearance of Superman) and a much later, early Seventies retelling of his origin. People noticed the differences in artwork and even lettering: that the earlier stuff looked much more quickly done, and was far more expository in its text. The reason is (pretty) simple: comics were for kids in those early days. No one dreamed that adults would read this stuff, or at least not take it seriously. Comic books were done fast, cheap, and targeted towards the very young reader. Certainly no one thought of this stuff as art — least of all the guys who made it.

For Monday: know the legend of the Golem. To be clear, this is homework. That means I reserve the right to ask you this question and expect an answer.

BatCat: We will likely need to stay after sometime in the coming week(s). Check your schedules.

Podcasting: Today we finally listened to Project #1. Not bad! Start thinking about what you’re going to do for Project #2 and who you’re going to collaborate with. Here’s the sheet again: Radio 2.2.18 – Project #2.

For next Thursday: do your weekly listening and read the handout from yesterday (“How to Make Radio” comic). Next week is Hannah’s turn to share an excerpt. See you then.

Survey: CNF: Today we continued going over how to turn Mr. McDaniel’s unwelcome revelation into a full-fledged five graf essay. Along the way, we mentioned two specific types of moments:

  • An embedded moment is simply a moment that is contained within a riff.  Often it’s a flashback to something the riff reminds you of, or is related to your other moments.
  • A montage moment is, just like in the movies, a collection of related moments. Sometimes we use montage to quickly show the passage of time (the Disney Channel example) and sometimes to demonstrate that a series of moments were very similar. A good example is the montage in The Lion King, where both things happen: Simba slowly grows up in the course of the “Hakuna Matada” montage, but it’s also true that most of his days with Timon and Pumba were similar.

Then we read/heard the David Sedaris essay “The Youth in Asia,” which you can hear again here.

We did this to show that moments are usually just funny or unusual stories until we collect them for some greater purpose: in this case, to ask the questions “Can pets replace one another” and, more poignantly, “Can pets replace people?”

We talked as well about the idea of being counterintuitive, which we might simply call going against the norm. “You should treat other people nicely” or “It’s nice to share” might be fine guidelines for everyday life. They’re also boring themes. I would 1000X rather read an essay where the theme was “It’s a mistake to share” or “Maybe we should treat some people badly.” A counterintuitive theme doesn’t guarantee a great essay — but it doesn’t hurt.

You have a choice of the three prompts we went over in class yesterday for your next essay, which is another five paragraph moment/riff/moment/riff/moment job, and is due next Thursday.

Thursday, February 8

February 8, 2018

WWTWWT: Quiz on the pre-Socratic philosophers.

Then we talked about Socrates, who was best known for:

  • always asking questions. he did this in pursuit of the only thing he cared about: the truth. He believed that gaining knowledge will lead us to the truth, and that the truth equalled goodness. Therefore, it should be a human’s highest purpose.
  • being humble. One of his key lines was, “The only thing I know for certain and that I don’t know anything.”
  • having a great P.R. agent. In this case, his pupil Plato, who wrote about him — that’s the main way we know what he thought — and his views (while also including some of his own views, as well).
  • drinking the hemlock. He pissed a lot of powerful people off, because his questions often exposed contradictions and revealed that they didn’t know as much as they claimed. So he was sentenced to death by hemlock-sipping.
  • pioneering induction, which is reasoning from the specific to the general. (Deduction is the opposite: reasoning from general to specific). Induction has become a cornerstone of the scientific method, though in its most base form, you could also call it stereotyping.

Read the section on Socrates for Tuesday.

Book History: Today we went over the reading assignment (you added more info into your notes from that reading) and then we tried to invent pens. If you didn’t come up with one that you think is useable, you can a) come up before school or during lunch to work, b) wait till Tuesday and take your chances on the spot, or c) decide to use brushes.

On that note, we will definitely be working on the papyrus assignment on Tuesday! Hooray! (The stuff came in.) As discussed in class, your designs will be checked at the beginning of class – remember, your design should communicate an important event in your life (with or without actual words) and needs to be sketched out ahead of time. Here’s the sheet, again: Book History 2.6.18 – Assignment 2, Planning for Papyrus.

If you don’t have a sketch, I will not give you your piece of papyrus. So do it! Ahead of time!

Siren: Oh, what an ad campaign.

Publishing: Thanks for staying busy.

Daily Prompt: 

Podcasting: Today, you reported your weekly listening. For those of you that didn’t do it, I threw you a little extra time to get it done. This WILL NOT happen in the future – weekly listening is a standing assignment, and it cannot be handed in late (unless you’re absent). In the future, if you don’t have the notes, it will be an automatic zero.

So! You handed in Project 1, and we’ll be listening to them tomorrow.

A reading assignment for next Thursday was handed out.

Survey: CNF: Today you turned in your first essays.

I had you write a moment based on one of three prompts:

  1. A time you confronted a fear.
  2. A time you learned that adults don’t always tell the truth.
  3. A time that made you change the way you felt about school (for good or ill).

Then we created a “moment tree” — just a series of three related moments.

We used Mr. McDaniel’s moment as an example of how to identify and use these additional moments. Your assignment for Friday is to create your own “moment tree” on the back of the cards I gave you.

Tuesday, February 6

February 6, 2018

WWTWWT:  You turned in your Groundhog Day responses. Then we briefly discussed Democritus (say it like “democracy”) and Leucippus (Loo-sippus), who posited that the world was made of tiny particles (that we now know as atoms). It was a significant theory — it was 1) metaphysical, in that it tried to explain the nature of reality; 2) monistic, in the sense that it suggested everything is made up of a single thing; and 3) agnostic, at least, about the possibility of a god or gods. It simply proposed that the world is made up of atoms — but not who made or directed them.

Then we talked about Protagoras, whose field was ethics. He was one of a group of philosophers called Sophists, who might best be described as BSers. Their view was that it’s the quality of the argument that matters more than its substance. This probably seems like a cynical view — because it is. (We discussed one of the great modern examples: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”)

Protagoras is best described as the father of relativism, which we can describe as the view that there is no absolute, universal truth — a view that has many adherents today. Every “truth,” in this view, is relative to other factors. (Moral relativism, then, is just the view that there are no absolute rights or wrongs in behavior. Cultural relativism is the view that no culture is inherently superior. Linguistic relativism is the view that there’s no privileged way to view a text — even if you’re the person who wrote it. Etc., etc.)

Protagoras thought this way, in part, because of his belief that “Man is the measure of all things.” There is no “God’s-eye view” to provide us with those absolute rights or wrongs. There are just men — my word against your word. And mine will win out if I present it better.

The issue with relativism, as philosophers since Plato (and perhaps even before) have pointed out, is this: It argues that there can be no absolute truth. But it claims one big exception: the statement that “there can be no absolute truth.” Therefore, it carries the seeds of its own destruction. That hasn’t stopped it from surviving, and maybe even thriving, because it is a brilliant argument, if an inherently cynical one.

You could say, then, that this is one thing Protagoras had in common with Democritus and Leucippus (besides the fact that they all hailed from the coastal Greek city of Abdera): they all developed philosophies that were not dependent on a god or gods for backing. All three were explicitly secular philosophers — again, like more than a few modern philosophers.

Thursday: a quiz on what we’ve covered so far. That would include:

  1. The four branches of philosophy, and what question each tries to answer: metaphysics (what is the nature of reality?), onotology (what is the nature of human reality/existence?), epistemology (what can we know and how can we know it?), and ethics (how should we act?)
  2. Why Greece, as the seat of Western philosophy? (It was essentially stable — by the point we are discussing, anyway; it valued education and inquiry; and it had no overarching system of religion that might prevent philosophical inquiry.)
  3. Monism: a metaphysical belief that the world is made up of a single substance.
  4. The great divide in Western thought: philosophies based on the evidence of the senses (Thales, Heraclitus, Democritus and Leucippus) and and philosophies based on the evidence of reason (Pythagoras, Parmenides).
  5. The pre-Socratic philosophers themselves — the six mentioned above, plus Protagoras — and what each believed.

Book History: Today we briefly discussed the use of the “wax” tablets and then took notes (tablet, diptych, triptych, polyptych, extant). Reading is pushed to Thursday.

The oldest extant wax tablets were pulled from a shipwreck dated to around 1400 BC (off the coast of turkey – scroll down for tablet image). We compared this to some later tablets: from 128 AD and from 138 AD . Wax tablets were used for centuries after this – some businesses used them well into the 1800s. Now, though, you can still buy them – but they’re made mostly for medieval reenactors (or serious Luddites, I suppose).

After all of this, we moved back to the beginning and looked at papyrus (watched the first 6 minutes of this: Assignment 2 was handed out: Book History 2.6.18 – Assignment 2, Planning for Papyrus.

If you are going to bring in a stick for extra credit, the point is to carve the end into a pen point, so keep that in mind, size-wise. If you’re feeling particularly not-adventurous, you could also just buy a wood pen at Pat Catan’s – they are quite cheap and can be found in the calligraphy section.

Siren: We introduced our new managing editor, Mr. Aloi. He spoke about some of his ideas. We had a discussion about libel and how to cover a difficult story.

Remember: copy is due Thursday. I’ll make an exception for the teachers/Valentine’s Day piece because it doesn’t have to go live until next week.

Publishing: Mostly marbled & printed.

Daily Prompt: Karis, write in your journal. Carter, don’t forget yours. Today some of you read from last week’s activity Midland, the Musical Scavenger Hunt. Karis, write in your journal. Carter, don’t forget yours. I gave you an article to read and respond to–posted on here Feb 2018 The Fantasy of the Writer’s Lifestyle for Jake. Karis, write in your journal. Carter, don’t forget yours.

New Media: You got into groups to discuss your first blog posts.

I gave out the permission slips, which I would like returned tomorrow. Get yours here: New Media 2-6-18 – Blog Permission slip

These slips also give details about grading and expectations. Ask if you have questions or concerns!

Survey: Screenwriting: Today! We read an excerpt from Up (finish the last five pages on your own time) and watched a couple of Pixar Shorts in class, trying to figure out how they’re constructed in terms of three act structure. We watched Knick Knack and Lifted (both can be found on YouTube).

For tomorrow:

Monday, February 5

February 5, 2018

Poetry Workshop: Round One poems were due. Gave out the packets. For Wednesday: annotations and comments for McKinzie/Starr/Wolfe.


  • Annotations are due before class starts. I’ll collect them before we do announcements. A successful annotation doesn’t mean the paper is covered in red ink, but it DOES mean you did more than circled the poem and wrote “Love this!!!”
  • Online comments are due by 8:45 a.m. on the due date. If you post at 8:45 a.m. (or thereabouts) every day, the comments still count. But I will notice. Believe me.
  • Comments should (in an ideal world) happen after you’ve read the poem a few times, annotated it, and then thought about what your big picture view of the poem is.
  • A successful comment should 1) point out anything that’s working in the poem already, 2) ask any questions you have about the poem, and 3) make suggestions to improve the poem.
  • Annotations are worth five points each. Online comments are worth 10 points each. And each day (unless you’re absent), you will get a five point verbal grade. How do you get the five points? Speak up at least once a day and say something intelligent.

CNF Workshop: Today we discussed “Consider the Lobster” and finally went over both the syllabus (CNF 2.5.18 – Syllabus) and comment guidelines (CNF 2.5.18 – Comment Guidelines). Online comments only; annotations due regardless of absence; no excuses. If you care about your grade, make sure that your work is always high quality and always complete – that way, if something weird does happen, such as a technology glitch, you shouldn’t feel any major repercussions. Questions? See me.

You got Olivia’s essay for Wednesday – comments need to be posted by the beginning of class and annotations will be checked at the beginning. I will also be asking you about the hypothetical essay you’d write based on the prompt you got in class (using an out-of-date encyclopedia to find inspiration, or perhaps a metaphor, to talk about something else, kind of like “Consider the Lobster”).

Comics: We finished Look…Up in the Sky. (Testable) takeaways:

Comics were an evolution from the pulps and the Sunday funnies:

The earliest comic books were collections of reprints from Sunday comics. Famous Funnies (1933) is generally considered the first American comic book, although there had been hardback reprints of newspaper comics as early as the mid-19th century, and there was also a collection called The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats — reprints of Hogan’s Alley, a comic strip that featured The Yellow Kid, in the late 19th century. (This was the first periodical to be called a “comic book.”) Comic compilations were also a way for some publishers to get more bang for the buck by keeping their presses running after printing Sunday funnies.

New Fun #1 (1935) is considered the first “original” comic book. It was published by National Allied Publications — later to become known as D.C., after its series Detective Comics. Issue #6 featured the debut of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman. They would create an occult-powered superhero, Dr. (Richard) Occult, the “Ghost Detective,” who is the oldest character still active in the D.C. Universe. (He was a kind of cross between fictional private eye Sam Spade and Dr. Strange.)


Superman was not an instant smash — and he started out evil.

We get the term “superman” (probably) from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who used the term “Übermensch” (or “over-man”) to refer to a superior man, unbound by traditional morals or ethics. Nietzsche didn’t get a lot of traction from this idea in his lifetime, but his sister helped make it palatable after his death. Unfortunately, it was the fledgling Nazi Party that found the concept irresistible.

In 1933, Jerry Siegel wrote a story for a fanzine he created. It was called “Reign of the Super-Man,” and it starred a bald-headed bum who gets psychic powers from an experiment. He used them for evil, then later lost them, and lived the rest of his life in regret.

Reign of the Superman.jpeg

This version didn’t take, but when Siegel teamed with artist Joe Shuster, they began refining the concept. Superman became an alien sent to Earth, and a force for good. But the newspaper syndicates where Siegel and Shuster tried to sell the story weren’t interested. (At one point, Siegel even tried working with more established artists, thinking that Shuster was the weak link, but again, no bueno. Shuster was reportedly so angry that he burned all their work except the cover.)

It wasn’t until Max Gaines (who had pioneered Famous Funnies, and would found the later-infamous E.C. Comics) suggested that Siegel and Shuster contact Detective Comics, which had bought out National Allied Publications, that Superman finally found a home. Resigned to the idea that Superman would never be successful, and just hoping he would see print, the duo sold the rights to their creation for $10 a page (about $2,300 in today’s dollars, and adjusted for inflation.) It was the first great example of comics creators getting screwed by the system.

When he finally saw print, Superman WAS an instant smash.

He debuted in 1938, in Action Comics #1. Within a year, he had his own book — a new concept for superheroes. Within a couple of years, he was a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, was appearing on a radio serial, was being merchandised heavily, and was known by millions.

Here’s his original origin story, from Page 1 of Action Comics #1:


Superman pioneered the guy-with-problems secret identity.

This is a little different than the bored-rich-guy-fights-crime, an archetype that goes all the way back to the Scarlet Pimpernel (and soon after, Zorro). Superman and Spider-Man don’t have THAT much in common, but even Stan Lee, who would make this feature the rock on which his comics empire was created, admitted that Clark Kent — the mild-mannered pushover — was a big influence on his thinking.

Superman was a success in part, because of his roots — and he quickly evolved.

Gene Simmons said it best in the documentary: Superman is essentially a sci-fi rewrite of the story of Moses. A special baby is sent away from his home to avoid certain death. He arrives in a new land, where he establishes himself as the leader of his people. This was a concept that would have had particular resonance for Jewish American readers of the time. But it also spoke directly to a core American belief: anyone can be an American, no matter where they come from, if they believe in our ideals and are committed to the concept of the “melting pot.” 

Here’s a short explanation of Superman-as-Moses.

When he debuted, Superman was a lot less super. He couldn’t fly; he leapt. He was strong, but not nearly as strong as he’d become. And things like X-Ray vision and heat vision were a ways off. It took him a while to generate a rogue’s gallery, too: while his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor first appeared in 1940, Superman spent most of his early issues battling gangsters and corrupt politicians. He was a man of the people, whose job was to clean up corruption of the worldly kind. Some of Superman’s evolution had to do with his radio show, which made some important refinements to his character, which stuck (the “Faster than a speeding bullet…” tagline comes from that show), and introduced some important supporting characters (like teenager Jimmy Olsen) to his universe.

Superman’s greatest strength was also his (real) greatest weakness.

Early on, it was clear that having a hero as powerful as Superman would create problems. The creators of his radio show invented kryptonite (shards of Superman’s exploded home planet, Krypton) in 1943 as a way of addressing this issue. But Superman still became steadily more powerful through the 1940s and 1950s.

One way D.C. dealt with this was to keep him (and other heroes) out of World War II, in the comics at least. (It was — correctly, I think) thought to be insulting to the troops overseas — plus, why wouldn’t Superman just end the war himself? But as time went on, his creators decided to kick this can down the road by simply expanding his universe (Superboy! Supergirl! Krypto, the Super Dog!), rather than dealing with the implications of Superman’s godlike status.

Superman was big and strong enough to survive the superhero purge of the 1950s — but the sweeping changes of the 1960s were another story.

Superman was pure and wholesome in a way that Batman and other heroes weren’t, so critics like Dr. Fredric Wertham couldn’t really land a punch. But when America began to question its underlying beliefs, post-1963, Superman began a slide into irrelevance and corniness.

Superman’s changes in the 1970s and 1980s reflected the changes in comic readership.

G.I.s had been reading comics as far back as World War II. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that comics publishers began to realize that readers were skewing older and older. Comics weren’t just for kids; they had an audience of adult readers who took the stories seriously, and considered comics a valid art form. Comics would get more sophisticated plotwise, as well as more realistic and reflective of the real world, and — naturally — more violent.

BatCat: We’re making progress.

New Media: We talked briefly about categories (which are a part of the WordPress site architecture) and tagging — the differences, and how they might help or hurt you.

The best description is probably that categories are like the table of contents in a book, and tags are like the index. Both have value when you’re trying to find something.

But we could also make the comparison to a recipe box. Categories would likely be useful if we’re trying to find something (do I look for this recipe in the Entrees category, or Desserts, or Appetizers?), while tags (here are all the recipes that contain #butter) might be less so.

A lot of this depends on the sort of blog you’re planning. Regardless, tagging, for you guys, will be optional. Also note that not everyone agrees about the usefulness of tags. Here’s a decent overview (there are lots and lots of them) of the differences.

You turned in your homework: the name, tagline, synopsis and three ideas of sample posts for your blog.

For tomorrow, your assignment is to type out a sample post — consider it your first. It should be between 300-500 words, and if your blog needs an introduction beyond what you have given it in the synopsis, this would probably be the place to do it.

Our plan for this week is this:

  • Tomorrow we will share these sample posts and collect more feedback.
  • I will give you a permission slip which must be returned Wednesday. I will also give you what amounts to a course syllabus, which will primarily be concerned with guidelines for posting (deadlines, expectations, prohibitions, grading, etc.)
  • On Wednesday, we will set up the sites in class. You will give me admin rights, and we’ll go live with your first posts. You’ll also have your first official blog posting assignment for next Monday.

Survey: Screenwriting: You handed in Assignment 2, we read an excerpt from Toy Story 3, and you took more notes on three act structure. No homework.

Friday, Feb. 2

February 2, 2018

Poetry Workshop: I gave you a little packet of autobiographical poems, including Jim Daniels’s great “Helping My Brother With His Resume.”

One of them we read aloud — “Charles Harper Webb,” where the author of the same name talks about his name, what it means and his thoughts on having it. We had a short discussion about names and their challenges — which is similar to the discussion we have in Survey CNF — and you created an image that best represents for you your own name, whether good, bad or ambivalent.

Your first poem is due Monday at 8 a.m. on the blog. Expect me to give you Monday to work on your responses to the first-round poems.


  • The Round One poem does NOT have to be based on one of the prompts we’ve done this week. It can be; it can also be something new and unrelated, or something old.
  • If you’re concerned about formatting — and you probably should be — then just post a link to your poem on the blog.  (Word docs or even PDfs are fine.)
  • If you link to Google Docs, PLEASE make sure you’ve allowed the piece to be shared with others.
  • Don’t overthink this. Any poem is better than no poem at all.

CNF Workshop: Read “Consider the Lobster” for Monday.

Comics: Today we talked briefly about this story I told you Wednesday: about a guy who was given super powers by his mad scientist father before he was born. He had super strength and speed, and other amazing powers, but when he tried to use them for good, he was misunderstood, ridiculed and persecuted by the people he wanted to help.

That hero was Hugo Danner, who appeared in a 1930 novel called Gladiator, by Philip Wylie:


He had the proportionate strength of an ant, and could leap like a grasshopper. But his unhappy life (which ended when he was struck by lightning on a mountaintop) seems to mirror modern superheroes like Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk and even Batman, who are feared and looked down upon by those they are pledged to save.

But the main character who has been tied to Danner is Superman. Some accounts of Superman’s creation by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster claim that Siegel had read Gladiator, though he later denied it. This might be because in 1940, after Superman became popular, Wylie threatened to sue D.C.

(For the record, Siegel claimed that John Carter — the sci-fi creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who also came up with Tarzan — was the real influence on Superman.)

If you want to read Gladiator yourself, the ebook is available for free here.

Anyway, Siegel and Schuster — like many of the early comic book pioneers — were Jewish. And the idea that so many Jewish Americans would seek to create superhuman protectors of humankind — the early history of comic books is filled with an all-star cast of Jewish writers and artists, who built the industry; here’s a great little recap that we might touch on next week — is hard to divorce from world events of the time.

During the 1930s, Hitler was rising to power, and anti-Semitic propaganda and violence were spreading not just throughout Germany, but Europe as well. German Jews saw restrictions placed on their employment — they couldn’t work in civil service, travel freely, or even count on an education. In the fall of 1938, the year Superman debuted in Action Comics, more than 100 Jews were killed during Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night,” or “The Night of Broken Glass”), and synagogues and property were destroyed.

As a result, Jewish emigration to America (and other countries) climbed during these years. These immigrants, and their children, were aware of conditions back home, and the seeming powerlessness of the powers-that-were to do anything about it. The desire for a superhero to address these evils makes a lot of sense in this context.

More on all this next week; we spent much of class watching what I think is an excellent documentary from 2006 called Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman, which features commentary from such superfans as Mark Hamill, Gene Simmons and Stan the Man Lee. It’s good enough that we might well finish on Monday. Besides, where else could you see this?

Superpup meme

BatCat: We continue to do things.

Podcasting: If you handed in Project 1 today, congratulations! You are getting extra credit. And you’re done.

If you did not hand in Project 1 today, you have a full extension till next THURSDAY (beginning of class). If you discover that you need help, ask early in the week. Questions on Thursday – including Thursday morning – will not be well-received.

Weekly listening is also due next Thursday, as usual. It will be Cora’s turn to share some audio.

Also, here’s project 2: Radio 2.2.18 – Project #2

New Media: Don’t forget your blog assignment for Monday!

Survey: CNF:  Today we reviewed the moments and riffs in the David Sedaris essay “Today’s Special.” It was a little tricky because moment and riff aren’t quite as neatly separated in this piece as they were in the examples I gave you. (That’s why I gave you the examples.)

Remembering that moment is what happened and that riff is your commentary on that moment, the essay looks like this:

Moment: David Sedaris and his friend Hugh are at a fancy New York restaurant, getting ready to order from a super-fancy menu.

Riff: Sedaris talks about how ridiculously fancy many New York restaurants are.

Moment: Back to the original scene. The food comes and Sedaris is dismayed.

Riff: Sedaris talks about how restaurant food wasn’t always this overcomplicated. He makes a comparison to an earlier time.

Moment: Back to the original scene. Sedaris and Hugh decline dessert. They leave the restaurant and spot a hot dog cart. Sedaris buys a hot dog, thankful that he found some simple, honest food.

It’s not quite as simple as I described — but it’s close enough. And this is the kind of essay you’re going to write, for at least the first couple of times around.

In particular, we want to begin and end with a moment: specifically, because we need that imagery early and late in essays. Just like in poetry.

I collected your “first” moments, and you wrote a riff for them.

For next Thursday, you are to write a five-paragraph essay (no, no the dreaded “five-paragraph essay” from English class) that alternates moment and riff like this.


Yes, type it.

Thursday, February 1

February 1, 2018

WWTWWT: You watched the first half-hour of Groundhog Day — in honor of tomorrow, and also because it’s one of the great philosophical movies. You saw enough to complete the prompt I gave you comparing Phil Connors to Sisyphus; you can just write your answer on the back of the handout (which is drawn from this longer piece). These are due Tuesday.

Then we talked about Heraclitus and Parmenides. Just like Thales and Pythagoras, there was a fundamental difference in the way these two metaphysical fellows saw the world.

Heraclitus (like Thales) used the evidence supplied by his senses to suggest that everything is in a constant state of change — that change, in fact, is the fundamental substance of the world. His money quote is that “you can never step in the same river twice,” later paraphrased in the opening lines of Disney’s ultra-politically-correct (at least for 1992) fable Pocahontas.

And Parmenides (like Pythagoras) appealed to reason when he said that change is just an illusion — because our senses can trick us. He thought, instead, that nothing really changes, and that we are all, in essence, one.

Again, we have the same schism: the senses versus reason. Get used to this idea: you’ll be hearing a lot of it.

Book History: Today you handed in Assignment 1, we talked about it a bit, and then you made “wax” (actually modeling clay) tablets. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to use this tablet as much as possible between now and Tuesday, specifically to replace instances in which you’d use a piece of scratch paper (lists, calculations, notes). We’ll talk about your experiences (hopefully) on Tuesday, when we’ll begin adding more to our timeline and notes.

Also, permission slips: you need to have them signed. Please bring them in ASAP if you didn’t do it today.

Siren: February copy is due no later than Feb. 8 (one week from today). If you don’t have to interview anyone, it should really be in by Tuesday, Feb. 6. If you don’t have a story, see me.

Publishing: Hang in there, everybody.


Podcasting: You reported your first weekly listening and we heard an excerpt from Brandon’s podcast of the week, Critical Role. The rest of the block was work time; your first projects are due tomorrow. Please email or share them with me on Google drive: I’m looking forward to seeing what you all come up with! 

New Media people: I gave you back feedback from yesterday’s blog rating exercise.

For Monday: please have:

  • A (final) name for your blog
  • A one-line tagline describing it.
  • A one-paragraph synopsis describing the blog in more detail, and who it should appeal to.
  • Three ideas (just one-liners) for posts.

Survey: CNF: Today we went over the difference between moment and riff. You marked up a couple of samples, differentiating between moment and riff.

We brainstormed a list of firsts, and I asked you to write a moment related to one of them on an index card for tomorrow.