More news from the urinal:

As a teacher on campus, there’s always the possibility of coming across students I’m teaching or have taught in the restrooms.  This morning right before class, I made a pit stop at the urinals.  One of my students walked up and took his place a couple s places down.  I could tell he was looking my way, and so I looked to see if he was going to say anything.

“Morning Torg,” he said, sort of laughing.

“Am I the first professor with whom you chatted at the urinal?”

“Yes,” he said, looking thoughtful, as if he had more to say.   “I”m not quite sure how to say this.”

“Uh, huh.”

“I think you’re the first professor I’ve ever talked to.”

It might be that he meant outside of class, which would be bad enough, but I think he may have meant that he’d never talked with any of his profs anywhere.

What will you do your documentary on? Do you want to work with others?

As I’ve been conferencing with students, I’m finding that many students aren’t in love with their documentary project and they wish they had some people to work with.   I’d like for all my students to reply to this post and share their idea, whether or not they are feeling confident, and if they’d like to work with a couple more people.

The documentary film will be worth 15% of your grade: 5 for engagement of audience (using voice over, transitions, credits, music, etc), 5 for the presence of research, and 5 for an understandable message/story/argument.

Here’s the link to my tutorial for moviemaker:

http://www.youtube.com/user/williamtorgerson#p/u/0/fVgDk6Nnjxg

Some Documentaries I Reccomend:

Matt Austin Don't You Forget about Me
Don’t You Forget About Me / The Work of John Hughes

A group of filmmakers go on a quest to meet the maker of films such as Vacation, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Breakfast Club. Watch the trailer here.

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Food Inc.
Food Inc.

In the classes I teach, we try to start by figuring out a research question so we can enter into hot pursuit for answers.  This documentary offers a great example of the research question:  Where does my food come from?  Under what conditions was it produced?  Watch the trailer here.

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Trouble the Water.  An Inside Look at Hurricane Katrina.
Trouble the Water. An Inside Look at Hurricane Katrina.

An inside look at Hurricane Katrina from two who survived the storm.  Watch the trailer here.

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Maxed Out
If you want to know what the credit card companies are up to, watch MAXED OUT

Whoa!  Some of the folks in this film–the bill collectors–are some nasty people.  Watch the trailer here.

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No Impact Man
No Impact Man

Here’s a radical experiment by a Manhattan family who works toward leaving a minimal environmental footprint.  Watch the trailer here.

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The Story of Stuff
The Story of Stuff

Not sure this is quite a documentary.  More like an important lecture about all that stuff we feel like we have to buy.  Watch the trailer here.

Real Life in Fiction

If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway.
–Stephen King, from On Writing

     In my short story “Eye Contact” a woman texts her husband a kiss “mphwaa,” (or something like that—I need Megan here to remind me of how to spell it) and then goes into a hotel and commits adultery.  This this string of letters meant to be a textual kiss is something that my real-life wife actually sends me.  This character in my story has my wife’s sister’s red hair, and probably her taste in shoes and handbags.  The character is also a pharmaceutical rep, a job that wife used to do, and a job that my buddy’s wife does now.  It’s a profession which I know just enough about that I might be able to lay down the relevant details neccessary to convince a reader to fall into what John Gardner called, “the fictional dream.” 

     My wife used to be a little obsessed—I think she’d admit—about who was who in my stories and what parts of the stories had actually happened to me.  I tried to explain this to her, but I think that it took her discovering the little details of our life in my stories for her to understand how it all worked, at least how it works for me. 

     If my stories were milkshakes, then here are some of the ingredients:  actual details of people I know and places I have been, situations I have personally experienced, heard about, or seen on the news, and everything I can dream up.  All of that gets tossed into a writing blender and eventually out comes a story, part real life, part imagination.  

     Among readers, I’m recognizing two poles: one pole is where strangers reside.  These are people who don’t know me and who have never been to Winamac, Indiana where I grew up, Bourbonnais where I went to college, or any place else I have lived.  These people read stories with no suspicions about what character might be who, as if each character has a real-life secret identity.  Somewhere between the poles are the people who know the writer just well enough to think they know who is who.  I think these people are the most dangerous when it comes to logical leaps off the wrong end of the boat dock.  They might see the coach in my novel Love on the Big Screen and think that my fictional man is the actual coach I had when I played basketball (mostly watched from the bench) at Olivet Nazarene University.  The truth is, I’ve known a lot of coaches (having been one for eight years) plus there are all those coaches I’ve watched from afar: Bob Knight, Bob Huggins, Rick Majerus, Rick Pitino, etc. and so when I write a coach, I’m thinking about what will serve the story that is unfolding before me.

     Opposite the pole where total strangers gather round, is the actual person who is rumored to be a character.  I have a friend with the last name Zaucha, a name I used in my novel for it’s capability of transforming into the nickname “Zuke.”  I wrote that friend and asked him if he was cool with me using his name.  If this friend thought the character was him, then he’d rightfully be able to say, “Bill has told a lot of lies about me.”  And if my book was nonfiction, he’d be right.  I used Zuke’s name for a reason I just shared.  The rest isn’t him and someone who says I’ve said X or Y about him would be wrong.

     What’s set me to thinking about this?  I think it’s been that I’ve got a few author’s visits planned, and some emails have come in about some of my stories. I can see that people are going to leap to conclusions about who is who in my books.  I’ve heard writers say they aren’t welcome in their hometowns anymore and maybe this is where I’m headed.  I don’t think it should be a surprise that my stories are often happening in the Midwest, that many of the details I can lay down are ones I’ve either witnessed, heard about or actually experienced—maybe for example powering that little boat I used to cruise the Tippecanoe River on—and so I’m hoping not to face too many accusations that a story like “Eye Contact” suggests that my wife is dying her hair red and sneaking into hotels.