Posted in episodes

Episode 20: Masks

The homework for the episode:
Pete: Mother Night, 1961 novel by Kurt Vonnegut
Martha: Hannibal, episodes 1.01 (“Aperitif”), 1.07 (“Sorbet”), and 1.10 (“Buffet Froid”)
Mark: Enigma, graphic novel by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo published by Vertigo Comics in 1995

We are joined for this episode by friend of the show and Pete’s brother, Mark Rhomberg! Welcome, Mark!

We’re back to our metaphorical roots, examining plot and character elements in our discussion of Masks. We look at them both literally and figuratively, and there may or may not be a round of patting each other on the back for not assigning any straight forward superhero stories (although we still manage to talk about Batman, because, well, duh).

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: Revolutions podcast, hosted by Mike Duncan
Martha: Monster Factory on YouTube, a Polygon production
Mark: Take Care, 2011 album by Drake

If Martha seems detached and quiet during this segment, it’s because her internet kept dropping her from the Skype call. Awkward! She joins in long enough to talk about the piece of pop culture she’s ACTUALLY excited about, her brand new MoviePass (although she’d be more excited about it if it would actually work!). Pete gets down with history and everyone gets to chastise Martha for not being able to recall any Drake music.

You may have noticed we had no pre-reading post up before this episode – that is an accident of busyness, and nothing more! The big questions we address in this episode:

  1. What is the impetus a character might don a mask, and what function does that mask serve? What are the literal and figurative masks our characters wear?
  2. How do these characters get “lost” behind their masks (if, in fact, they do)?
  3. How does the idea of wearing a mask assist a character function in society when they might not otherwise be able to do so, by being their “true” selves?

We also touch briefly on the pros and cons of wearing a mask, how that can be used as a defense mechanism, and the central issue posed by Vonnegut in the introduction to Mother Night: “We are who we pretend to be.”

Our theme was inspired by a tumblr post by Neil Gaiman, which we discuss and which can be found here. The Wonder Woman page can be read here; it’s a page from Wonder Woman Annual #1, written by Greg Rucka and art by Nicola Scott and Liam Sharp.

We don’t get into a lot of detail, so for anyone who didn’t read Enigma, our discussion probably gets a little confusing – in brief, the reader finds out that the title character was basically abandoned down a well for most of his life where he developed psychic powers, lived off lizards, and never learned human feelings. When he is found by the world, he adopts the guise of this esoteric comic character in order to have some kind of purpose that isn’t just psychically manipulating lizards or his mom.

On November 22, we’re doing something a little lighter and going guest-less to talk about some of our favorite media to consume around the holidays. Your homework is to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas because it will probably come up!

Follow us online @DYDYHpodcast, e-mail us at show@homeworkpodcast.com, and find us on Facebook.

You can follow Mark on twitter @MARKRHOMBERG. Check out his awesome bars Splash Studio and Nine Below if you’re ever in Milwaukee.

And remember, if you have questions, comments, or ideas for a show, give us a shoutout here or send us an e-mail to show@homeworkpodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in supplementary material

Footnotes to Episode 19

(Written by Martha S.)

At some point in the episode I remarked that I thought it was interesting that we all picked genre media – what I mean by that is that we all picked media that falls outside of “realistic fiction.” “Genre” books or film is typically a term applied to science fiction, fantasy, horror, anything that has a distinct genre other than literary fiction, drama, comedy, etc. And I think it’s worth noting that music and sound potentially has a larger role to play in these kinds of narratives, because they do more work to indicate the intended tone or mood of a piece of media.

For example: picture the opening sequence of Jaws.

Without the iconic music, it’s a woman swimming in the ocean (until she gets eaten by the shark, obviously). We as the audience don’t know to be anxious about her nighttime swim without the music; that’s what causes our deep-seated dread. The camera work does a lot of heavy lifting, especially once Chrissie Watkins (played by Susan Blacklinie) starts getting yanked under the water and the camera forces us uncomfortably close to her panic. But it’s those iconic musical beats that underscore the danger and sear the scene into our minds.

Keep those beats in mind. Because genre film can also be more easily changed by the musical undercurrent. Remember the scene in Jurassic Park when Grant and Sadler get to see dinosaurs for the first time?

The music is grand, sweeping, majestic. It makes me cry with wonderment, even as an adult woman. Now mute that clip and play it again, with the Jaws theme underneath it instead. Giant dinosaurs, giant shark – it’s not hard to reimagine the scene as a scary one, when we’re not being told aurally that this is a moment of wonder and awe.

 

Posted in classroom connections, episodes

Episode 19: Sound & Music

The homework for the episode:
Pete: Blade Runner, 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford
Martha: American Horror Story: Asylum, season 2, episode 10, “The Name Game”
Dan: Mulholland Dr., 2001 film directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts

We get technical this week as we examine the ways that sound, music, and silence are used in various forms of visual media. Our guest for the episode is Dan Karlin, of SOOL Radio fame, who joins our discussion as we get into, amongst the other things, diegetic music, creating tone with sound, and how Martha gets anxious when a movie doesn’t have any score at all. It’s no accident that we’re talking about yet another Ryan Murphy joint, or that all of our media happens to be surreal in nature – truly, sound is the thread that weaves a visual story together.

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: 2017 LCD Soundsystem album, American Dream
Martha: “Love Nikki Dress Up Queen” mobile game
Dan: “Always on Time” by Ashanti and Ja Rule

Welcome, Dan!

If we had recorded a mere hour earlier, Martha could have impressed everyone with some super awesome podcast she was listening to on her commute home – instead, you get to hear her try and describe the ridiculously addictive (and just pretty ridiculous) mobile dress-up game, “Love Nikki.” Dan and Pete both share their recent musical adventures, which are on very opposite ends of the sound spectrum while also both managing to be completely rad.

We have fun getting both more technical and more interpretive than ever before, as we struggle to decipher the aural stylings of a David Lynch film (spoiler alert: not even Lynch knew exactly what he was talking about), a cult cyberpunk classic, and a moment of gothic absurdity. Some things we discuss: how music can be used to underscore or indicate tone, utilizing silence and the absence of music (not always the same thing!) as a cinematic device, and how to bring aural literacy (in addition to visual literacy) into the classroom as a teaching tool.

The quote on David Lynch’s relationship to sound design is taken from an interview with John Neff, and can be found here.

On November 8, we will be joined by none other than Pete’s brother Mark to discuss Masks. Here’s your homework:

Pete: Mother Night, novel by Kurt Vonnegut
Martha: Hannibal, episodes 1.01 (“Aperitif”), 1.07 (“Sorbet”), and 1.10 (“Buffet Froid”)
Mark: Enigma, graphic novel by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo

Follow us online @DYDYHpodcast, e-mail us at show@homeworkpodcast.com, and find us on Facebook!

And remember, if you have questions, comments, or ideas for a show, give us a shoutout here or send us an e-mail to show@homeworkpodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Pre-Reading

Prelude to Episode 19

(By Martha S.)

Episode 19 of Did You Do Your Homework? was fascinating for me to prep for. Music and sound are definitely an integral part of the cinematic experience for me, but I consider them as part of the whole – I don’t listen to orchestral soundtracks very often because they feel wrong to me when they’re not woven in with the visuals they accompany on screen. I tend to think that a soundtrack that’s too noticeable is a bit of a failure (not that it can’t be good music, just that the intention should be for it to be one part of the whole).

We looked at three pretty different pieces of film for this episode, including a David Lynch film, a 1980’s cyberpunk romance, and another Ryan Murphy TV episode. All three utilize sound, music and silence in fascinating ways, and I hope you’ll join us tomorrow for our discussion (joined by friend of the show, Dan Karlin!).

Your homework for tomorrow:

Pete: Blade Runner, original flavor
Dan: Mulholland Dr.
Martha: American Horror Story: Asylum, episode 10: “The Name Game”

Posted in extra credit

Pen-and-Paper Role Playing Games in the Digital Age

By Pete R.

There are many useful things that traditional pen-and-paper role playing games can teach children and teens: problem solving skills, collaboration, empathy, statistics, storytelling, general interpersonal skills, and countless more. Artistically minded players might draw their characters or major events in their games; narratively minded players might create elaborate backstories, or take on the role of game master and tell their own stories.

However, kids and teens today are also deeply embedded in technology. Not that people aren’t willing to put aside computers, phones, and tablets and pick up a pencil and paper. But some people are more interested when technology can be implemented. Luckily, there are a plethora of options for this. Wizards of the Coast, which published Dungeons and Dragons, has D&D Beyond, which allows players to create their characters online. Many games that use the d20 system have a system reference doc (SRD) website or wiki, which allows quick lookup of spells and other rules. Such resources are useful for both players and game masters––if you game with a laptop, it’s much quicker just google search the name of a spell than flip through a rulebook.

One of the best resources is Roll20. This website allows players to create characters from a variety of systems, and lets game masters develop everything they might need. While it can be used for high tech in person games, it is ideal for playing with far-flung friends. I myself have led a game of Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons with a group that lives literally across the United States. For teens, this can be an invaluable resource if friends move away but want to keep gaming. It can also help teens who live in more isolated, rural settings find a group that they might not be able to meet with in person.

Finally, technology can make gaming more accessible from the sheer price level. There are countless online dice rollers and plenty of free resources for players and game masters. It’s possible to roll up characters and play a game with nothing more than a smart phone and a wifi connection. It’s not the best option, but it means that cash-strapped students don’t need to shell out any money in order to play.

I’m sure there are many more resources that I haven’t touched on here. The important thing is that distance, isolation, or financial limitations are no longer limitations for teens looking to let their imagination run wild and roll some (possibly digital) dice. And for those who love technology, they can incorporate a whole suite of interesting technological flourishes to their games. And of course, there’s still the opportunity for people to crack a physical book and take out some pencils and paper and play like people have been playing since 1974.

Posted in episodes

Episode 18: Tabletop RPGs

The homework for the episode:
Try out an RPG (or join your regular table for a session)!

We’re geeking out hardcore this week with a discussion on tabletop gaming – specifically pen and paper RPGs (although Martha will be the first to admit to you she now games with a laptop and tablet handy, since it’s WAY too much work to remember all the spells on her Cleric’s spell list). Prior to recording this episode, Martha played in and GM’d at two different Pathfinder tables, which tells you all you need to know about how she spends her free time, really.

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
Martha: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork on audio book
Rachel: The Girls Next Door tv show

Welcome, Rachel!

Pete tells us about the book he’s reading currently, demonstrating that he has more of a tolerance for historical nonfiction than anyone Martha has ever met in her entire life. We all detour for a bit to talk about audio books, which Martha can’t live without and Rachel’s never tried (hint: the key is a good narrator). And then Rachel sends us back to the mid-2000’s with the reality comedy TV show The Girls Next Door, and we all take a moment to be righteously indignant about the Playboy Mansion.

Look, I (Martha) have already spent too much time telling you all that she’s trash for reality TV, so this shouldn’t shock you, really.

We are leaving our three-media homework model to the side for a moment to try something different! This ep, we share our experiences with tabletop roleplaying games, and discuss the values we think they have, particularly in an academic and educational environment. We share games that are particular favorites, what we grew up playing, why we enjoy them – and how we’ve passed that on to the students we interact with.

In an interesting plot twist, it turns out that we all pretty much got started gaming seriously because of Martha’s husband (my path is a little murkier and started earlier than we were actually together, but it is a true fact that many of my early high school gaming memories involve my husband in some way).

Martha mentions Risus, the Anything RPG, which you can find totally for free here.

On October 25, we’re back to the standard format and talking about Sound and Music in Media with friend of the show Dan Karlin! Here’s your homework:

Pete: Blade Runner, 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford
Martha: American Horror Story: Asylum, season 2, episode 10, “The Name Game”
Dan: Mulholland Dr., 2001 film directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts

Follow us online @DYDYHpodcast, e-mail us at show@homeworkpodcast.com, and find us on Facebook!

And remember, if you have questions, comments, or ideas for a show, give us a shoutout here or send us an e-mail to show@homeworkpodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Pre-Reading

Prelude to Episode 18: Tabletop RPGs

We’re doing things a little differently this week: instead of assigning homework and talking about three distinct pieces of media, we have more of a round-robin discussion about tabletop RPGs. For anyone not familiar with the jargon, a tabletop roleplaying game is a game you play collaboratively in a group of people, probably all working to the same goal or telling the same story. You create a character to inhabit, and that character progresses through the course of the story, or campaign. Some examples include Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, White Wolf’s Vampire or Werewolf, Shadowrun, or Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, to cherrypick a mere handful out of HUNDREDS of possibilities.

We are joined by special guest and friend of the show Rachel Hilbert, who has been playing games for several years (sometimes with co-host Martha). Some of the things to think about before listening to the episode:

  • What value do RPGs potentially have in an educational environment, such as a library or classroom?
  • How can we use them in an academic/educational way?
  • How have our (your) experiences with RPGs informed how you approach storytelling?

I hope you guys dig the episode – it was fun to mix it up a little bit! In the meantime, here’s some background reading that helps inform our take on RPGs and academia.

Tabletop in the Classroom: How I use RPGs to teach by Udolf Alfisol
Creating An Educational RPG Adventure for Your Classroom by Adam Watson
Creative Tabletop Gaming: ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ and Libraries (Oh My!) by Thomas Vose

Posted in supplementary material

Ambition: Not as Unflattering on a Lady as You Might Think

(Written by Martha S.)

Why does Macbeth get to be a tragic figure, and Lady Macbeth the maligned instigator? Why is it a common sight in rom-coms for career-driven women to get “caught” by a romantic lead? Why are ambitious women so frequently tarred as bad people in narratives?

Look, if you’ve been around the blog at all you know I’m pretty passionate about gender dynamics in media – I’ve tried to make it an episode theme, but it feels too big right now, so it’s been back-burnered until I can get a better handle on it. Until then, it’s probably where my mind is going to go most frequently following an episode, especially when we don’t get a chance to touch on it while recording. In our last episode, we did briefly light on the subject of gendered ambition: specifically, that while ambition in general is usually a negative character trope, men are more frequently allowed to be ambitious (or driven, or passionate, or goal-oriented, whatever) than women without being narratively punished for it.

Women are culturally trained to think of all other women as competition. Because the world is constantly comparing us to each other, we grow up comparing ourselves to each other, and are usually trained to find ourselves the one that’s wanting. We’re not allowed to call ourselves the best, or to find ourselves the superior one – in an environment that demands that someone be “the best.” To do so is to be branded stuck up, conceited, a bitch. Ask any girl who’s accepted a compliment on a dating app how fast that turns into “You’re not actually that pretty.”

Media is a reflection of cultural attitude. So we get narratives with harpies, with shrill wives, with backstabbing mean girls, with cold career women who just need the right man to warm them up and put a baby in them. And you get people like me, who are going to shove the opposite narrative at you in the hopes that some day, by boosting these stories, we’ll drown out the people who say that girls can’t be friends.

Without further adieu: narratives featuring girls who are ambitious and also great.

Abigail Rook in the young adult series Jackaby by William Ritter, first book published in 2014. Abigail leaves her wealthy family in England to pursue a life that encompasses more than just playing the piano, getting married, and looking pretty. She is an aspiring archaeologist who becomes an accidental assistant to a supernatural investigator. Abigail’s ambition is interesting because it grows over the course of the series – in book one, she has mostly unformed desires to do something with her life, instead of being consigned to the house. She originally goes on an archaeological dig that ends up being mostly farce, and when she realizes that, she moves on to more and bigger opportunities.

Diana Prince, also known as Wonder WomanDiana’s opening line in the 2017 film directed by Patty Jenkins is “I used to want to save the world.” Indeed, this origin story is not only about a woman dreaming of ending all war – it’s about the only woman who actually can. Her aspirations are noble and lofty, and the narrative makes it pretty damn clear that they’re attainable, as well.

Jane Grey in the 2016 novel My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. This fantastical retelling of the story of Lady Jane Grey imagines Jane as an intellectual who prefers books to boys, who would rather use a sudden political opportunity to actually improve her home country than for personal gain, and ultimately as an alive person (which is less than what history gives her, I’m afraid). Jane discovers she has a taste for ambition when her family uses her as a political pawn, only to discover that she won’t be used for other people’s purposes – no, if she is to have power, she is going to use it the way she sees fit.

Judy Hopps in the 2016 animated film Zootopia, directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore. Judy Hopps is a bunny in a big world full of predators, and she defies all expectations to become the first bunny cop in the city of Zootopia. And she does so in a montage that makes me cry every time.

Peggy Olson from the critically acclaimed 2007 tv series Mad Men, created by Matthew Weiner. From the secretary pool to ad professional in her own right, Peggy is a great example of a lady that gets her career AND her man (spoilers for the end of Mad Men, I guess). She is also an example of a character that the internet doesn’t like very much! The internet can suck it, Peggy rules.

 

 

Posted in episodes

Episode 17: Ambition

The homework for the episode:
Pete: The soundtrack to the 2016 musical Hamilton
Martha: Glee episodes 1.01 (Pilot) and 3.22 (Goodbye)
Lizzie: There Will Be Blood, 2007 film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano

The story of one of our founding fathers told in catchy hip-hop verse, chronicling his rise from nothing to his final downfall at the hands of a political rival.

A plucky group of high school students from all social cliques join musical forces to compete in show choir.

A man builds an empire in the oil-rich fields of California, in a so-called epic tale of American capitalism, greed and violence.

Pride cometh before a fall, but does ambition necessitate isolation, violence, and sacrifice? That’s the question on everyone’s minds as we explore ambitious characters from the beginnings of America, to 1900’s California, and to the halls of modern day high school. Only now am I (Martha) realizing that this is the most musical material we’ve ever covered in one episode – perhaps ambition is too large a feeling to be discussed with mere words?

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: Paradise, debut album by Knox Fortune
Martha: Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
Lizzie: Netflix original series American Vandal

Welcome, Lizzie!

Pete takes another opportunity to plug his brother’s music, but when your brother is Knox Fortune and putting out tunes like these, how can you blame him? Martha finally broke down and bought the super-sized book accompaniment to Hamilton, mostly so she can read along to “It’s Quiet Uptown” and cry a lot. Lizzie introduces us to another Netflix original series in the styles of true crime drama, which Martha immediately binged over the course of two days and can ALSO highly recommend. Anyone calling it an eight episode dick jock has thoroughly missed the point of the series, but that’s a topic for another podcast.

Today we’re talking about the potentially fatal character trait, Ambition.

  1. When we talk about characters having “ambition,” how do we differentiate that from goals or drive? Should we?
  2. Is ambition a positive or negative force in the stories we looked at?
  3. How does ambition get gendered in these narratives?
  4. What is the cost of ambition? Does ambition inherently require sacrifice or loss?

We kick things off by discussing the differences as we see them between ambition, goals, drive, passion, and greed. We diverge for a while to discuss Ratatouille, which pretty handily illustrates the shades of meaning there; we all get very emotional about Hamilton, and Lizzie and Martha get emotional over There Will Be Blood (but not really in a good way, TBH).

Other things for you to check out: Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the 2005 biography that inspired the show; the PBS documentary about the making-of Hamilton, titled “Hamilton’s America,” which you can watch on PBS.com with a WTTW Passport account

On October 11, we’re doing something a little different and diverging from our usual format to talk about Tabletop Roleplaying Games withe special guest Rachel HIlbert! Your homework for next episode is to try out an RPG if you’ve never played before – to get started, check out RPG Now for tons of free modules and rule sets.

Follow us online @DYDYHpodcast, e-mail us at show@homeworkpodcast.com, and find us on Facebook!

And remember, if you have questions, comments, or ideas for a show, give us a shoutout here or send us an e-mail to show@homeworkpodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Pre-Reading

Prelude to Episode 17

Episode 17 is a banger, y’all – our guest host Elizabeth Buehler joins us for a discussion on Ambition and how it drives a narrative, what it costs our main characters, and a whole bunch of other stuff (specific, I know – you’ll just have to listen to the episode!).

Some of the questions we seek to address are:

  1. When we talk about characters having “ambition,” how do we differentiate that from goals or drive? Or do we?
  2. Is ambition a positive or negative force in the homework?
  3. How does ambition get gendered in these narratives?
  4. What is the cost of ambition? Does ambition inherently require sacrifice or loss?

As a refresher, the homework for the episode is:

Pete: The soundtrack to a little 2016 musical Hamilton
Martha: Glee episodes 1.01 (Pilot) and 3.22 (Goodbye)
Lizzie: 2007 Paul Thomas Anderson film, There Will Be Blood

As always, you can reach out to us at any time with questions, comments, or ideas at show@homeworkpodcast.com; find us on Twitter @DYDYHpodcast; or chat us up on Facebook.