Posted in supplementary material

Episode 22 Follow-up: Villainous Revelations

(Written by Martha S.)

I almost assigned homework for this episode that was very much not heroic in nature – ultimately, I did not, because I liked that our discussion was learning towards those moments in media that make you want to stand up and cheer, not that make the bottom drop out of your stomach. I am, however, fascinated by this kind of face-heel turn, particularly when I as the audience get to realize that a narrator or protagonist I’ve been following is not the person I have been lead to believe (in short: I love a well-written unreliable narrator).

The homework I almost assigned is a novel by Laure Eve title The Graces, with a narrator you come to realize is incredibly unreliable. We don’t even get to know her real name – the first person narrator chooses the name River, and not only refers to herself as such through the whole novel, but only relates when others call her that as well. Her name remains a mystery to us even when her past is revealed, which is perhaps the point: River’s chosen name, and the narrative she chooses to tell about herself, is more revealing than any name given to her by a parent.

In The Graces, River is a new student at a high school dominated by the Grace siblings, three high schoolers that occupy the upper social echelon that we’re all familiar with via teen dramas. The Graces are beautiful, popular, witchy, and a little bit other – people are just a bit afraid of them. Through the course of the book, River desperately tries to work her way into their inner circle, becoming a friend, confidante, and eventual parasite to their familiar dynamic. River, you see, has a secret: for all their talk of magic and ritual, the Grace siblings are mere pretenders to the magical throne. River has real powers, in that she can make things happen just by wishing them.

She wishes a girl would shut up. That girl gets laryngitis. She wishes a boy, competing for the affections of her crush, would go away. That boy is swept out to sea.

The reveal of River’s power, and her awareness of this power, is a remarkable moment in the book, because of how unassuming and meek she has made herself seem to the reader. I think there is a manipulative way of pulling off this reveal, that feels cheap and like the author has been hiding information from the reader; there is also the reveal that makes you go back through the book to look for all the clues that lead to this place, and realize it’s not so out of the blue after all.

The other example that I want to bring up is Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which manages the character crystallization moment for both its hero and antagonist characters, in a way that neatly swaps your expectations of both of them. Doctor Horrible is an essentially good guy who aspires to villainy; when he finally has his determining moment, it is hollow and riddled with despair. Likewise, the “heroic” Captain Hammer, who has been a vainglorious scoundrel through the whole story, finally achieves his crystallizing moment for us all to realize: he’s a coward.

One of the things that a crystallizing moment can do for a character is not only show you who a character truly is, but cause you to reflect on your expectations for a story. It’s always satisfying for a story to fulfill what you want from it; I would like to posit that it can be just as satisfying for a story to fulfill a desire you didn’t even know you had.

Posted in episodes

Episode 22: Moments of Character Transcendence

The homework for the episode:
Martha: The Wee Free Men, 2003 novel by Terry Pratchett
Pete: Serenity, 2005 film directed by Joss Whedon and starring Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyck, and others
Caitlin: Wynonna Earp, 2016 TV show, episodes 1.02 (“Keep the Home Fires Burning”) and 2.12 (“I Hope You Dance”)

A nine-year-old girl faces down a cruel, immortal queen who dares invade her home and steal her family.

A ragtag crew of mercenaries stands against the ruling power in the universe, determined to confront them and make right an act of abject horror.

Two women (and a few determined men) chase the legacy of a legendary gunslinger by defeating his demons, and they do it while a baby is being born.

We are joined for this episode by friend of the show Caitlin Flynn! Welcome, Caitlin! Caitlin also happens to be Pete’s cousin, and yet another Oak Park native.

This may be our most ethereal topic we’ve covered yet, but it’s a good one to look at in the framework of a narrative (and we try to at least define what we mean by “character transcendence” before getting too in the weeds on it). Basically, we’re looking at stories where a character has a defining moment that tells us who they are and what they’re about. But first….

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Martha: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Caitlin: The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

It’s a very literary edition of credentials (probably because we’re all trying to meet our Goodreads reading goals at the last minute). Caitlin and Pete are both frustrated by the lack of a third installment in Patrick Rothfuss’ series, while Martha has only amazement for anyone willing to commit to the Wheel of Time novels at this point. She’s also abandoned her professional TBR pile in favor of Mira Grant’s newest watery horror expedition, and she has no regrets about that.

So, what DO we mean exactly when we say “moments of character transcendence”? It’s a lofty phrase, but what does it mean? The characters we’re examining – a witch-in-training, a lost and damaged super genius (and her various protectors), and a pair of feisty demon hunters – all have a moment that crystallizes who they are, what they stand for, and what their stories are trying to say.

The two main questions we drive at in trying to pinpoint these moments are 1. Where in the story do the characters achieve this crystallization, and 2. What do these moments say about the characters? Additionally, we delve into how these moments help us as the audience understand what the narrative is trying to say.

A warning: Martha gets incredibly emotional pulling out a quote from The Wee Free Men, and everyone braces for an argument over Serenity that doesn’t end up going down. We also don’t address in the episode that we all picked stories featuring women, who are all strong but not Strong Female Characters, which in retrospect was probably deserving of some kind of mention!

We’re taking a bit of a break for the next release day – due to holiday travelling schedules, Pete will be responsible for making sure you all have something to listen to, although what exactly that will be is TBD! After that, on January 17 it’s DYDYH’s one year anniversary! We will be joined by our very good friend and original co-host Calee Schouten to discuss something that is also TBD (but we’ll get you that info as soon as possible).

Happy holidays to all of our listeners! We appreciate every download, view and share. See you in 2018!

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 episodes

Episode 21: Transformation

The homework for the episode:
Pete: The Wicked + the Divine, vol. 1: The Faust Act, by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen
Martha: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Sarah: Fright Night, 1985 film directed by Tom Holland and starring Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, and Amanda Bearse

We are joined for this episode by friend of the show Sarah Caputo! Welcome, Sarah!

We’ve talked about identity and character growth, and now we discuss Transformation and all the ways it changes us (heh). We have some feelings about character agency, the virtues of self-driven transformation vs. the non-consensual kind, and the use of metaphor, among others – and can we just say a special Thank You to Sarah for getting us to watch this masterpiece of 80’s camp horror?

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: Political blog posts linked from Twitter (like this one)
Martha: Animal Crossing Pocket Camp on mobile
Sarah: Live show from Maria Bamford

Pete is reading about depressing political stuff as per usual, but it does sound like his reading would be helpful to anyone trying to lie to the FBI (spoiler alert: don’t). Martha has once again been drawn into the seductive world of mobile gaming with the new Animal Crossing property, while Sarah, the lucky duck, got to experience Maria Bamford LIVE and IN PERSON.

We go a little long in this episode – I would apologize, but we got very swept up in the discussion of character agency, and that is a topic I (Martha) could discuss FOREVER. So be glad we didn’t go EVEN MORE longer! Anyway, in this episode we discuss the following broad questions:

  1. How do the characters in our homework transform? How do their physical, emotional or mental transformations inform their characters and character growth?
  2. Are these character transformations metaphors or stand-ins for anything? If so, what are they representing?
  3. What difference does self-induced vs. non-consensual transformation make to our characters?

We get a bit in the weeds on this one, but only in the most interesting ways, I promise. Our homework subjects run the gamut from pop stars to vampires to plastic surgery-obsessed teenagers, which makes for some extremely interesting parallels. Martha gets to blow Pete’s mind when she informs him that Uglies was written in 2005, paving the way for basically all dystopian supergirl fiction. We all get super excited about Fright Night because let’s be real, Prince Humperdink playing a vampire named Jerry is basically the best thing ever. We also get deep into a discussion about character agency and where the line is between agency and compulsion.

On December 20, we are joined by friend of the show Caitlin Flynn to discuss the (poorly worded, perhaps) topic of Moments of Character Transcendence. Our homework:

Martha: The Wee Free Men, 2003 novel by Terry Pratchett
Pete: Serenity, 2005 film directed by Joss Whedon and starring Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyck, and others
Caitlin: Wynonna Earp, 2016 TV show, episodes 1.02 (“Keep the Home Fires Burning”) and 2.12 (“I Hope You Dance”)

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

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @tinyrevOKC and Instagram @tiny.revelations. Check out her Etsy store Tiny Revelations, where you can find very cute art, cards, and now even shadow boxes (which make great gifts).

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 extra credit

Is it time for Christmas music yet?

(Written by Martha S.)

In our most recent episode, I told you all that my family is pretty dedicated to about half a dozen Christmas albums that we have been listening to on repeat for the last 30 years. I gave you one name – A Very Special Christmas, circa 1987 – and now I’m going to tell you the others, because they’re great albums and we’ve finally arrived at the ~socially acceptable~ time of year to be listening to Christmas music.

I’m gonna list these in alphabetical order, because I’m too close emotionally to try and rank them by favorite. I’m ALSO going to include links to my favorite tracks where applicable, for no other reason but that I feel like it.

The Bells of Dublin, The Chieftains (1991)
“A Breton Carol,” ft. Nolwen Monjarret

A Celtic Christmas, Windham Hill (1995)
“Soillse Na Nollag (The Lights Of Christmas),” ft. Altan

Christmas Extraordinaire, Mannheim Steamroller (2001)
“Do You Hear What I Hear”

A Christmas to Remember, Amy Grant (2007)
The title song, duh

Traditional Christmas Classics, various (1989)
“Sleigh Ride,” by Leroy Anderson

A Very Special Christmas, various (1987)
“Do You Hear What I Hear,” Whitney Houston
“Gabriel’s Message,” Sting

A Winter’s Solistice, various (1992) (I think)
“A Wexford Carol”

An honorable mention must also be given to A Very Veggie Christmas from Veggie Tales (1996), which I was inexplicably obsessed with for several years (their versions of “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “He Is Born The Holy Child” were my favorite for a very long time).

 

Posted in episodes, extra credit

Extra Credit episode 20.5: Holiday Faves

Hello and welcome to our holiday break episode! Thanksgiving is tomorrow and we’re all super busy making pies or eating turkey or watching football, so we have a nice light episode for you. No homework required!

We still have credentials for you, because continuing education is a very important part of being a pop culture podcaster:

Pete: American Ulysses by Ronald C. White, specifically the audiobook format
Martha: Pokemon Ultra Moon, Nintendo DS game

We’re all about nostalgia on this episode, from Martha returning to her favorite video game franchise down through all the specifically Christmas holiday specials we kind of said we wouldn’t be talking about. We touch on some family traditions, like Pete’s family seeing a movie on Boxing Day to Martha’s family listening to the same six Christmas albums every year, pretty much on repeat. The point is: our  pop culture traditions are as much a part of our holiday experience as trimming the tree or opening presents.

Here’s the full list of the specific media we discuss (general traditions not included):

Martha

Remember the Titans, 2000 film directed Boaz Yakin and starring Denzel Washington
The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993 film directed by Henry Selick and starring Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara and Danny Elfman
A Very Murray Christmas, 2015 Netflix special starring Bill Murray (and others!)
A Very Special Christmas, 1987 compilation album (full track and artist listings here)
A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965 film directed by Bill Melendez, written by Charles Schultz, and scored by Vince Guaraldi
The Twilight Zone, 1959 television show created by Rod Serling

Pete

The West Wing, episodes 2.8 (“Shibboleth”) and 3.8 (“The Indians in the Lobby”)
Elf, 2003 film directed by Jon Favreau and starring Will Ferrell
The holiday musical stylings of Sufjan Stevens
The Dark Knight, 2008 film directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale

What are your go-to holiday favorites?

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.