#WYOA: week three

This has been a hectic and unproductive week for me—but it’s been a good week of classes.

Monday opened with some syllabus planning: the students decided to postpone our reading of To Be Or Not To Be—a book I am super-excited about—until after their first paper is due (the Monday of week five), and to put off their individual paper conferences until the Thursday and Friday before (so that we won’t have class on Friday, of course). Not major choices, but not minor ones either.

We talked about the review as a genre—I had to do some coaxing, but we compiled a list of common features (a “hook-y” opening paragraph, some short plot summary near the front, limited use of first and second person, no “I recommend” sentences, &c). Hopefully this will improve their papers—we’ll see how much they incorporate into their own writing. I tried to get them to talk about Fish’s How to Write a Sentence one last time—his division of sentence styles into “subordinating” and “additive” is intuitive and workable, and applicable to writing at all scales. They were unconvinced.

Lastly, we talked about the xkcd assignment a final time (last Wednesday, when they turned it in, we mostly talked about how they felt about writing it). I’d read and commented on all of them, and noticed that most of them were either totally implausible, or totally plausible, but very few managed to be both at the same time. (One that came close was about the civilization under the ice in Antarctica, built by NASA under Nixon; another was about the Coriolis effect necessitating rounded bullets.) I told them why I hate CARS—its premise is so totally implausible that I can’t even begin to suspend disbelief.

Wednesday we talked about three reviews of Man of Steel—in the New York Times, in WIRED, and at HitFix—that they’d read as homework. Our discussion of their responses to these reviews went well, and I hope it clarified for the students what things a review can be and do. Less useful was the “turn these reviews into outlines by taking the most important sentence of each paragraph” exercise—partly because I’d explained it by email, probably not clearly enough, and partly because only Dargis’s review worked that way. I talked a little about coherence in paragraphs, but that’s something we’ll have to return to.

The second half of Wednesday’s class was a bit more fun. I showed them this:

Page 15 of Ellis and Cassaday's Planetary, issue 1

…and asked them to tell me how to draw it. Then I showed them this:

Alan Moore; script for page 1, panel 8 of The Killing Joke

NOW WE ARE LOOKING AT THE POLICE CAR SIDE-ON SO THAT WE SEE THE UNIFORMED OFFICER STANDING FACE-ON TO US OVER ON THE LEFT AS HE STANDS WITH HIS BACK TO THE CAR AND COMMISSIONER GORDON FACE-ON OVER TO THE RIGHT, LEANING AGAINST THE CAR AND DRINKING HIS STEAMING COFFEE, MAYBE LOOKING UP WITH A QUIZZICAL AND CONCERNED LOOK OVER THE RIM OF HIS CUP TOWARDS THE EXTREME LEFT OF THE FOREGROUND, WHERE WE CAN SEE THE BATMAN ENTERING THE PICTURE FROM THE LEFT, IN PROFILE. SINCE BATMAN IS (a) CLOSER TO US AND (b) TALLER THAN EITHER THE COMMISSIONER OR THE PATROLMAN IN THE BACKGROUND WE CANNOT SEE THE TOP OF HIS HEAD HERE ABOVE THE BOTTOM OF THE NOSE AS THE FRONT OF HIM ENTERS THE PANEL ON THE LEFT. HIS EYES AND UPPER HEAD ARE INVISIBLE BEYOND THE TOP PANEL BORDER AND ALL WE CAN REALLY SEE IS HIS MOUTH, WITH THE BIG AND DETERMINED SQUARE JAW AND THE GRIM AND DISAPPROVING SCOWL OF THE LIPS. THE BATMAN DOES NOT APPEAR FROM HIS POSTURE TO SO MUCH AS GLANCE AT EITHER GORDON OR THE PATROLMAN AS HE WALKS PAST THEM EVEN THOUGH BOTH OF THEM STEAL GLANCES AT HIM WITH DIFFERING LOOKS OF UNEASE. THE PATROLMAN LOOKS UNEASY JUST TO BE IN THE BATMAN’S PRESENCE, WHILE GORDON LOOKS MORE CONCERNED ABOUT THE BATMAN’S POSSIBLE STATE OF MIND. RAIN DRIPS FROM EVERYTHING, INCLUDING THE BATMAN’S JUTTING AND GRIZZLED CHIN. GORDON GIVES THE LARGELY-OFF-PANEL VIGILANTE A PENETRATING LOOK OVER HIS COFFEE CUP, AND THE BLUE LIGHT ATOP THE CAR WASHES OVER ALL OF THEM AS IT CIRCLES.

…and asked them to draw it. (I’ve done this exercise several times, and stole it from SEK.)

I’m still reading through these; I’ll let you know how they were next week.

For today’s class, the students wrote three summaries of the book/movie they’re reviewing—one at 500-600 words, and two at 100-150 words (one spoiler-y, one not). We talked about their experience writing these for a few minutes, and then I had them write twenty-word summaries, on the spot. I haven’t read any of these yet, obviously—summaries are on the docket for next week.

We spent a big chunk of today’s class playing Five Card Flickr. We voted on which photos to use, and collaborated on the stories—we did two of them, neither of which ever really cohered, but they were wonderful and ridiculous and kind of violent. The students all seemed involved, even the ones who don’t talk much, which was nice. A good way to end the week.

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