The entire first week back at the fellowship has passed and not one blog entry from me! Thus, you will be robbed once again of all the laborious detail and given the bare-bones info on our first week up and running, so to speak... It's been a good week of speakers at the fellowship, kicking off with Susan Douglas, Chair of Communication Studies here at UM and author of Where the Girls Are: Growing up Female with the Mass Media and co-author of The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women. Our calendar said Douglas would be speaking to us about Women in the Media, but she mixed things up a bit by speaking about - then asking the fellows' feedback on - a couple of areas she was interested in, including celebrity "journalism." Some interesting stuff and, perhaps best of all, the format really opened it up to become a group discussion about some topics in mass media today and it's surprising how little chance we get to share opinions in a group setting.
Wednesday was a special Director's Lunch - and who doesn't like to eat free on KWF? Brad Bushman, Professor of Psychology and Communication Studies, shared with us some of his compelling research on media and violence - specifically focusing on the impact of violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto.
Some chilling stuff, really, and it's funny that we require complicated science to tell us what seems so instinctive and obvious -- people who play violent video games demonstrate increased aggression. What migh surprise some is that people don't have to play the games often or for very long in order to increase levels of aggression - 20 minutes'll do it. I'm reluctant to judge anyone who tackles the task of parenting, but I honestly can't imagine why on earth any parent would allow their child to play games that glorify violence and criminal behavior, especially in graphic detail. Easy for me to say, I suppose.
Thursday evening, some Fellows were positively jelly-kneed to meet Alex Kotlowizt, journalist and author, perhaps most notably of There Are No Children Here. That groundbreaking feat of reportage was the result of spending a year following two brothers in a Chicago public housing project and it is, I think, the kind of seminal work many journalists would love to someday produce.
Kotlowitz shared with us some interesting perspectives about writing non-fiction and the importance of story - and I'm always most interested when we're talking about the craft of writing.
Speaking of which, it looks as though I'll be doing quite a bit of that this semester, although not in the MFA fiction class i'd hoped to get into. Seems they don't let auditors in those courses and, as disappointed as I am, I can completely understand. Instead, I let a couple of the fellows talk me into tackling Screenwriting.
If the first meeting of the class, which is taught by Detroit Free Press film critic Terry Lawson, is anything to go by, it's not a light commitment. But I think (think!) I'm equal to it. It's not like I'm itching to get my fantastic movie idea on paper or harboring any ideas that I'll one day make it to Hollywood.
But I am intrigued by the intensly organized approach to creating a screenplay. I think the methodology - moving from a treatment to an outline to a step outline to a script - will be unlike any writing approach I've taken and I'm actually pretty excited to be challenged. The mere fact that I'm intimidated as hell about the process probably means I'm going to learn something.
As I mentioned before, I checked out the Primo Levi class taught by Ralph Williams and I'll likely stick with that one. The class on Gender & Women in Post WWII Europe wasn't quite what I was hoping so, on a lark, I'm going to check out Women & Islam with Fara tomorrow. That would bring me up to three classes - and that's plenty.
I haven't even had a chance to contact 826 Michigan to see what my involvement will be this semester. I'd hoped to tutor, but my class schedule looks to be making that nigh impossible. I've been playing with this idea of doing a weekly writing workshop for kids, just an hour or so focusing on guided writing exercises to keep their creative muscles flexed. I'll have to see if that's something I can do on a Monday or Friday since those are my only afternoons left.
In the midst of all that madness, we finally vacuumed up the last of the cat hair from the old digs and have (almost) everything put away in the new house. It's amazing how much more settled I feel now, but it sucked up most of our weekend.
Tonight, however, John Bacon has arranged for us to rent out a skating rink for an hour - from 10 pm to 11 pm. I think he thinks we're all still young enough to stay up that late or something. So I've burned a CD of the same cheesy tunes I used to roller skate to in the early 80s and we'll see how many times I fall on my ass or other assorted parts.