Tag Archives: film/television/photography

The Weekly Text, 24 June 2022: Summer of Soul Lesson 4

Here is the fourth and final lesson plan of the Summer of Soul unit I wrote earlier this year. This lesson opens with this short reading with three comprehension questions on the concept of “a seat at the table,” i.e. joining in decision-making processes, particularly where those decisions concern oneself. The mainstay of this lesson is this reflection and assessment guide for discussion and note-taking at the end of this unit.

Because this is it. You now have access to all four lessons in this unit. If you expand this, or otherwise change it, I would be very interested in hearing what you did. I wrote this unit quickly to capitalize on student interest (Summer of Soul won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 94th Academy Awards in 2022). Even as I presented the unit, I recognized that there is a lot of room to expand and improve this material.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, 17 June 2022: Summer of Soul Lesson 3

If you’ve been following along for the past couple of Fridays, then here is the third lesson plan of the Summer of Soul unit I wrote last spring to take advantage of high interest in that superb documentary and the events it records and assesses. To carry out this lesson, the third of four, I begin with this short reading with three comprehension questions on the Baby Boomer generation as a do-now exercise. The primary work of this lesson involves this truncated reading on Woodstock and its accompanying discussion guide and note-taking worksheet.

If you would prefer longer-form materials on Woodstock, you’ll find those here. Otherwise, that’s it for another week.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Thin Man

The Thin Man: A comedy-mystery film (1934), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as the ever-bantering and happily tippling husband-and-wife team Nick and Nora Charles, who, with the aid of their wire-haired terrier Asta, investigate the disappearance of the tall, eccentric inventor Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis), who is the ‘Thin Man’ of the title. The screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich based their sparkling script on the novel The Thin Man (1932) by Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961), who is said to have based the wisecracking and mutual teasing of Nick and Nora on his own relationship with the playwright Lillian Hellman (1905-84). There were several more Thin Man films, generally less successful than the first.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

The Weekly Text, 10 June 2022: Summer of Soul Lesson 2

The second Friday of June 2022 brings from Mark’s Text Terminal the second lesson plan of the Summer of Soul unit I wrote this spring to capitalize on the interest in this superlative documentary–especially when it won a much-deserved Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and accrued similar honors at just about every film festival held in North America in 2021. This lesson accompanies a viewing of the film: I composed these ten questions to guide viewing of the film in order to meet the unit’s learning objectives, which is an investigation into why the 50 hours of footage shot at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival never took a “seat at the table” when film production budgets were handed out.

That’s it. No do-now; students just jump right in to a viewing of the film. The third lesson will appear next Friday.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Dexter Gordon

Dexter (Keith) Gordon: (1923-1990) U.S. tenor saxophonist, one of the most influential saxophonists in modern jazz. Born in Los Angeles, Gordon played in the big bands of Lionel Hampton and Billy Eckstine in the early 1940s, later working in small groups with Charlie Parker, Tadd Dameron, and fellow tenorist Wardell Gray. He was incarcerated on narcotics charges in the early 1950s, and moved to Denmark in 1962. A starring role in the film Round Midnight (1986) revived his career.

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Weekly Text, 3 June 2022: Summer of Soul Lesson 1

During the month of June Mark’s Text Terminal will offer a four-lesson unit on Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s 2021, Oscar-winning documentary, Summer of Soul. As you probably know, this film compellingly documents, using the long-lost footage the late Hal Tulchin shot, of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival held in Mount Morris Park, now known as Marcus Garvey Park.

Without further ado, and in keeping with the general practice at Mark’s Text Terminal of keeping the documents up front (ahead of my bloviation, that is) in posts, here is the first lesson plan of the Summer of Soul unit. I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Black Arts Movement, which I think is particularly salient to both this lesson and this unit. Here is a worksheet to guide research into the principals–spread across 50 years–involved in the production of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival and the long overdue documentary on it, Summer of Soul. Finally, here is the poster or handbill (or both) from the event itself.

Now, if you would like to develop this unit further (there is plenty of room for that, it seems to me, particularly if your students are interested), here is the unit plan. To write additional lessons, should you want it, here is the lesson plan template. If you write further lessons for this unit, and want to create materials using the format in these documents, here is the worksheet template.

Finally, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the A.M.E. Church (i.e. the African Methodist Episcopal Church) that I stacked in the planning materials folder for future use. One direction this unit might go further with, or serve as a jumping-off point for another unit, say, on the Black Church, using Henry Louis Gates’ recent series on the subject to explore the connection between the Black Church and the Civil Rights Movement. There was a a gospel day at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival–including, movingly, Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples sharing a microphone–and the film performs a badly needed service in making the connection not only between the Black Church and the Civil Rights Movement explicit, but also the connection between the Black Church and soul music. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I listen to some old O’Jays records, it sounds like the men in the group left their church choir rehearsal and went straight to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s recording studio. “Love Train,” in fact, is arguably a gospel song.

OK: more (perhaps considerably more) said than necessary. If this material interests you, stay tuned for the next three Fridays at Mark’s Text Terminal to collect the next three lessons.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Ryunosuke Akutagawa

“Ryunosuke Akutagawa: (1892-1927) Japanese short-story writer. Akutagawa’s skill in the short story led to the 1935 special prize in his name for aspiring writers. Known for taking forgotten tales from medieval collections and imbuing them with a modern psychology, Akutagawa’s stories are often eerie and bizarre yet frighteningly realistic. His best-known stories, ‘Yabu no naka’ (1922; tr ‘In a Grove,’ 1952) and ‘Rashomon‘ (1915; tr 1952), inspired Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon. Akutagawa excelled at exploring the dark and twisted channels of the human spirit, but his later autobiographical works reveal the darkening despair such exploration invited. Akutagawa committed suicide in 1927. Among his autobiographical works are ‘Aru aho no issho’ (1927; tr ‘A Fool’s Life,’ 1970) and his posthumous ‘Haguruma’ (1927; tr ‘Cogwheels,’ 1982).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Takamura Kotaro

“Takamura Kotaro: (1883-1956): Japanese poet and sculptor. Son of the noted traditionalist sculptor Takamura Koun (1852-1934), Takamura was a pioneering modernist in both art and literature, having spent years studying in Europe and the U.S. His sculpture reflected a passion for the work of Rodin, but his is best known as a poet. His 1914 collection Dotei (Journey) ranks as Japan’s first anthology of free verse in the colloquial language, anticipating the work of Hagiwara Sakutaro. Takamura’s most celebrated work is Chieko-sho (1941; tr Chieko’s Sky, 1978), a stunning verse record of the slow descent into madness of his wife, the painter Naganuma Chieko (1886-1838). Takamura’s reputation was tarnished by his unabashedly patriotic wartime poetry.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

The Lost Weekend

The Lost Weekend: A film (1945) adapted by director Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett from a 1944 novel by Charles R. Jackson about a struggling writer who surrenders to alcoholism one weekend after he falls victim to writer’s block. Starring Ray Milland, the film caused a considerable stir: representatives of the liquor industry offered $5 million of the negative, so that it could be destroyed, fearing the effect it would have upon sales of alcohol, and members of the temperance movement also tried to have the films stopped, suspecting that it might actually encourage people to drink. The novel and film popularized the phrase ‘lost weekend’ for any period spend in dissolute living or drunkenness.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Tin Pan Alley

“Tin Pan Alley: Genre of U.S. popular music that arose in New York in the late 19th century. The name was coined by the songwriter Monroe Rosenfeld as the byname of the street on which the industry was based—28th Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway in the early 20th century, around Broadway and 32nd Street in the 1920s, and ultimately on Broadway between 42nd and 50th Streets. ‘Tin Pan’ referred to the sound of pianos furiously pounded by ‘song pluggers‘ demonstrating tunes to publishers. The genre comprised the commercial music of songwriters of ballads, dance music, and vaudeville songs, and its name eventually became synonymous with U.S. popular music. Its demise resulted from the rise of film, audio recording, radio, and TV, which created a demand for more and different kinds of music, and commercial songwriting centers grew up in such cities as Hollywood and Nashville.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.