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1. Siren’s Song

Siren's Song Short StoryA Short Story By Manelle Oliphant

Abt 1000 words

A ship sales toward home. Joseph is excited to see his wife again and meet his 3 year-old-son. They will arrive in three weeks thanks to the shortcut through the Amar Pass. The water in the pass is easy to navigate but the creatures that live there are deadly.

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2. Awesome Adventure Time “The Original Cartoon Title Cards” Art Book

The first of two beautifully lavish books created to celebrate the distinctive designs behind the Adventure Time title cards. Combining sketches, works in progress, revisions and final title card art, the book will take readers on a visual guide of the title card development, with quotes from each episode and commentary from the artists – Pendleton Ward, Pat McHale, Nick Jennings, Phil Rynda, and Paul Linsley.

 


  • Hardcover: 111 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books (September 23, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1783292873
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783292875

 

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3. Week in Review, November 17th-21st

banner weekinreview 550x100 Week in Review, November 17th 21st

This week on hbook.com…

Jim Arnosky’s “Remembering Trina Schart Hyman” on the 10th anniversary of her death

Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson on her National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming! Here’s our starred review.

Reviews of the Week:

Read Roger:Being a White Guy in Children’s Books

Out of the Box:

Calling Caldecott:

Lolly’s Classroom: 

Events calendar

See overviews of previous weeks by clicking the tag week in review. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date on our articles!

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The post Week in Review, November 17th-21st appeared first on The Horn Book.

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4. Baby steps


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5. New James Patterson Children’s Book Inspires Animated Web Series

Collective Digital Studio will develop a five-part animated web series inspired by James Patterson’s forthcoming book, House of Robots. The story follows a fifth grader named Sammy and his robot named E (which stands for “Error”).

Here’s more from the press release: “It was never easy for Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez to fit in, so he is less than thrilled when his genius mom insists he brings her newest invention to school: a walking, talking robot he calls E—for ‘Error.’  The web series brings to life several scenes from the book as Sammy discovers the amazing secret E holds that could change him and his family forever…if all goes well on the trial run!”

The video embedded above features the House of Robots book trailer. The first episode will debut on the FЯED YouTube channel on November 28th. Each subsequent installment will be posted on Fridays.

Chris Grabenstein, Patterson’s collaborator for the I, Funny and Treasure Hunters series, served as the co-author for House of RobotsJuliana Neufeld, the artist behind the Treasure Hunters series, created the illustrations for this new project. Little Brown Books for Young Readers will publish the book on November 24th.

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6. Oxford Dictionaries Team Creates a ‘Word of the Year’ Infographic

Oxford DictionariesEarlier this week, the executives behind the Oxford Dictionaries announced that “vape” was chosen as the 2014 Word of the Year. With the popularity of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) on the rise, usage of this word has increased.

Over at the OxfordWords blog, the team posted an infographic to share “the history of vape and why we’ve chosen it for Word of the Year – as well as looking at previous winners of Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year over the past decade.” We’ve embedded the entire graphic after the jump for you to explore further.
(more…)

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7. Siren’s Song

Siren’s Song

Siren's Song Illustration by Manelle Oliphant

Siren’s Song, Personal Project: Digital

A Short Story

By Manelle Oliphant

To Download This Story Click Here

Joseph stood on the ship’s deck where he’d served for the last three years and stared at the miniature painting his wife had sent. The picture showed his smiling two-year-old son in a sailor’s outfit.

“I show him your portrait and tell him about you every day. We are very excited you will be home soon,” her most recent letter had read.

Joseph smiled. The shortcut through the pass would allow them to be home in a few short weeks. He would see his wife and meet his son. Best of all he could now retire from the navy. The crew had made a fortune on this voyage. His percent plus the money he’d saved from his pay was enough to buy a small house.

The ship’s bell tolled and someone yelled, “Amar Pass ahead! Make yourself ready.”

Joseph stuffed the letter and miniature in his pocket as he ran toward the helm. Sailing through the pass required strict protocol. Every sailor must have their ears plugged and be tied to the ship. One man steered the ship with his hands tied to the helm. The pass’s smooth water held few hidden rocks, despite the high hills on either side. The pass itself was safe. Any danger came from the creatures who lived there.

Commander Weldmen would steer the ship, and Joseph’s assignment was to help him prepare. When Joseph arrived Weldmen handed him some rope. “Get on with things Midshipman. We don’t have long.”

“Yes sir.” Joseph took the rope and waited while Commander Weldmen plugged his ears with wads of cloth. Then he tied the Commander’s hands to the wheel. Weldmen nodded and Joseph ran to the main deck.

The pass was in view. The sight filled him with dread no matter how many times he’d seen it before. He took some rope from Billy, another Midshipmen, and tied himself to the railing. He double checked its tightness around his waist, and stuffed his ears with cotton cloth.

The only sound Joseph could hear as they entered the pass was the breathing inside his head. Huge boulders jutted up out of the water on either side of them. He looked toward the shoreline where the sirens sat.

They were ugly. They looked like women but green and blue scales covered their skin. Instead of legs they had long tails, which flopped in the water like a dying fish. When the ship steered close enough they bit at the sailors with their sharp teeth.

All the while they sang a song Joseph couldn’t hear. The song enchanted men to drown themselves. Stories told of only one man who heard the song and survived. His shipmates kept him from jumping overboard and he lived out the rest of his days in an asylum. Joseph shuttered when he thought about it.

The movement loosed the cotton in his left ear and it fell into the water. Horrified he watched it fall into the water, and the beauty of the song wrapped around his heart.

Joseph reached up and pulled the other plug from his ear. Waves of song flowed through him. The water, clouds, and rocks dazzled before his eyes. He looked at the singing women and sighed. Such beautiful women! His heart leaped in his chest when one smiled at him. Her teeth shined like pearls and her scales glistened in the sun. She waved him over. He waved back. He thought about feeling her cold skin and wet tail. He imagined putting his arm around her tiny waist and pulling her close. Would she let him give her a kiss?

He tried to jump over the railing but a rope tied around his waist stopped him. He remembered tying the rope but couldn’t understand the reason. There was no danger here. He grabbed at the knot with his fingers. It wouldn’t budge. Curse his knot tying skill. He pulled a knife from his pocket and sawed at his prison.

Someone grabbed his arm. Joseph looked up. Billy shook his head and reached for the knife. Joseph scowled and jerked it away. Wasn’t Billy his friend? Now, when he thought back, he remembered all the times Billy had betrayed him. Why hadn’t he seen it before?

Billy reached for the knife again. Joseph hit him with its handle. Billy’s nose started to bleed.

Joseph smiled. Serves him right. He finished sawing and jumped into the water.

Cold engulfed his whole body and a current pulled at his legs. The sensations invigorated his body. He’d never felt so alive. He kicked to the surface and looked around. The ship had passed him. He waved at the men who watched him from the poop deck. Silly fools, they would regret not taking this chance. He turned to the shore and spotted the flirt who smiled at him before. He grinned and swam toward her.

He ignored the current pulling at his legs, and imagined running his fingers through her long clammy hair. His muscles grew colder but rainbows danced off her scales as the sunlight hit them. He smiled again. His eyes had never beheld such a feast. He had never heard such a song. He ignored his body’s protests and swam closer. His whole purpose in life was to make this beautiful creature happy.

She was so close now. She smiled at him again with her beautiful arrow-like teeth. Inviting teeth. Oh, to kiss her mouth!

The current pulled at his legs again, he fought it, but his cold muscles protested. His head went under water. He kicked hard and resurfaced. He reached for her. She sang her song. He relaxed and sunk again. He looked up through the clear water. She grinned at him. Water filled his mouth. He didn’t fight. Water filled his nose. He breathed it in. He could still see her smile. He had made her happy. Now he knew every event in his life, good and bad, had happened to lead him to this blessed moment.

November 6, 1895

My Dear Mrs. Hansen,

I understand you have heard the news of your husband’s death. I write to offer you my deepest condolences. I served with your husband on the Greenfly for the last three years. He talked of you often, and was very proud of his son. He showed me the miniature you sent. He looks like a strong healthy boy who takes after his father. I was with him as he went overboard and I know he thought of you ‘til the last. Your husband was a good man, and a good friend. It was an honour to serve with him.

With deepest sympathies,

Midshipman William Smith

 

The End

 

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this book support the author and the creation of other ebooks like this at http://www.patreon.com/manelleoliphant

Manelle Oliphant Patreon

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8. WD Poetic Form Challenge: Erasure Poem

It is time for another poetic form challenge. This time, we’ll be doing erasures. Click here to discover what an erasure is.

Since it’s a form that uses another piece of text as source material, I’m going to ask that all entries credit their source. Also, this is the one form in which I’ll let folks submit directly to me but only if you use the subject line: WD Poetic Form Erasure. Any variations may be deleted without being read.

So start writing them and sharing here on the blog (this specific post) or via e-mail for a chance to be published in Writer’s Digest magazine–as part of the Poetic Asides column. (Note: You have to log in to the site to post comments/poems; creating an account is free.)

Here’s how the challenge works:

  • Challenge is free. No entry fee.
  • The winner (and sometimes a runner-up or two) will be featured in a future edition of Writer’s Digest magazine as part of the Poetic Asides column.
  • Deadline 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time) on December 12, 2014.
  • Poets can enter as many erasures as they wish. The more “work” you make for me the better, but remember: I’m judging on quality, not quantity.
  • All poems should be previously unpublished. If you have a specific question about your specific situation, just send me an e-mail at robert.brewer@fwcommunity.com. Or just write a new erasure.
  • I will only consider erasures shared in the comments below or sent via e-mail using the specific subject line mentioned above. It gets too confusing for me to check other posts, go to other blogs, etc.
  • Speaking of posting, if this is your first time, your comment may not appear immediately. However, it should appear within a day (or 3–if shared on the weekend). So just hang tight, and it should appear eventually. If not, send me an e-mail at the address above.
  • Please include your name as you would like it to appear in print. If you don’t, I’ll be forced to use your user/screen name, which might be something like HaikuPrincess007 or MrLineBreaker. WD has a healthy circulation, so make it easy for me to get your byline correct.
  • Finally–and most importantly–be sure to have fun!

******

2015 Poet's Market

2015 Poet’s Market

Get your poetry published!

Learn how to get your poetry published with the premiere book on publishing your poetry: the 2015 Poet’s Market, edited by the always lovable and encouraging Robert Lee Brewer.

This essential resource includes hundreds of listings for book publishers, magazines, journals, contests, grants, and so much more. Plus, there are articles on the craft of poetry, business of poetry, and promotion of poetry. Beyond that, there’s an hour-long webinar, a subscription to the poetry slice of WritersMarket.com, original poems, poet interviews, resources galore, and more-more-more!!!

Click to continue.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53).

He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He loves learning new poetic forms, sharing them with the Poetic Asides poets, and then with the world (through Writer’s Digest magazine).

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Find more poetic treats here:

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9. Cake Massacre, ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ Edition

Following the grueling completion of each DreamWorks animated feature, the company's employees engage in a ritualistic cake sacrifice ceremony.

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10. Oscars 2014: Who Are This Year’s Visual Effects Contenders?

While the Academy still hasn't released a shortlist for the visual effects category, we identify the frontrunners in this year's Oscar race.

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11. Daniel Handler Contributes $10K to the We Need Diverse Books Crowdfunding Campaign

Daniel Handler 300Daniel Handler incited fury within the literary community for the offensive jokes he made at the recent National Book Awards ceremony. Handler, who served as the master of ceremonies, has publicly expressed remorse for those remarks and found a way to make amends.

Handler (pictured, via) revealed on Twitter that he plans to contribute $10,000 to the We Need Diverse Books Indiegogo campaign. For the next 24 hours, he will match whatever donations come in up to $100,000.

Below, we’ve collected all the tweets that make up Handler’s apology and announcement in a Storify post embedded below. What do you think? (via BuzzFeed)

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12. Fassbinder's Lili Marleen


I attended a screening of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1980 film Lili Marleen at the Fassbinder: Romantic Anarchist series at Lincoln Center last weekend, and it was an extraordinary experience. This is one of Fassbinder's weirdest and in some ways most problematic films, a movie for which he had a relatively giant budget and got lots of publicity, but which has since become among the most hard-to-find Fassbinder films (which is really saying something!). Despite a lot of searching, I didn't come upon a reasonably-priced copy of it until I recently discovered an Australian DVD (seemingly out of print now) that was a library discard.

The story of Lili Marleen is relatively simple, and is very loosely based on the wartime experiences of Lale Andersen, whose performance of the title song was immensely popular, and whose book Der Himmel hat viele Farben is credited in the film. A mildly talented Berlin cabaret singer named Willie (Hannah Schygulla) falls in love with a Jewish musician named Robert (Giancarlo Giannini), whose father (Mel Ferrer) is head of a powerful resistance organization based in Switzerland, and who does not approve of the love affair or Robert's proposal of marriage. A Nazi officer (Karl Heinz von Hassel) hears Willie perform one night, is captivated by her, and guides her into recording the song "Lili Marleen", which unexpectedly becomes a song beloved of all soldiers everywhere on Earth. Willie becomes a rich and famous star, summoned even by Hitler himself, while Robert continues to work for the resistance and ends up marrying someone else. By the end of the war, Robert is a great musician and conductor and Willie seems mostly forgotten, many of her friends dead or imprisoned, and Robert lost to her. She had no convictions aside from her love of Robert, but that love was not enough. (I should note here that there are interesting overlaps between the film and Kurt Vonnegut's great novel Mother Night. But that's a topic for another day...)

I was surprised to find that Lincoln Center was using the German dub of the film rather than the English-language original (it was a multinational production, so English was the lingua franca, and, given the dominance of English-language film, presumably made it easier to market). It was interesting to see Lili Marleen in German, but unfortunately the print did not come subtitled, and so Lincoln Center added subtitles by apparently having someone click on prepared blocks of text. The effect was bizarre: not only were the subtitles sometimes too light to read, but they were often off from what the actors were saying, and when the subtitler would get behind, they would simply click through whole paragraphs of text to catch up. My German's not great, but I was familiar with the film and can pick up enough German to know what was going on and where the subtitles belonged, but I missed plenty of details. The effect was to render the film more dreamlike and far less coherent in terms of plot and character relations than it actually is. Not a bad experience, though, as it heightened a lot of the effects Fassbinder seemed to be going for.

Afterward, I said to my companion, "That was like watching an anti-Nazi movie made in the style of Nazi movies." I'd vaguely had a similar feeling when I first watched the DVD, but it wasn't so vivid for me as when we watched the German version with terrible subtitling — my first experience of Nazi films was of unsubtitled 16mm prints and videotapes my WWII-obsessed father watched when I was a kid.





When I got home, I started looking through some of the critical writings on the film, and came across Laura J. Heins's contribution to A Companion to Rainer Werner Fassbinder: "Two Kinds of Excess: Fassbinder and Veit Harlan", which interestingly compares Lili Marleen to the aesthetics of one of the most prominent of Nazi filmmakers (and a relative-by-marriage of Stanley Kubrick).

Lili Marleen was controversial when it was released, not only because it is probably Fassbinder's most over-the-top melodrama, a film that defies both the expectations of good taste and of mainstream storytelling, but also because it arrived at a time when what Susan Sontag dubbed (in February 1975) "fascinating fascism" was on the wane (The Damned was 1969, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS was October 1975, as if to bring everything Sontag described to an absurd climax) while interest in earnest representations of the Nazis and the Holocaust was on the rise (Holocaust 1978, The Tin Drum 1979, The Last Metro 1980, Playing for Time 1980, Mephisto 1981, Sophie's Choice 1982, The Winds of War 1983, etc.). Lili Marleen is much closer to The Damned (a film Fassbinder loved) in its effect than to the films with similar subject matter released in the years around it, and so its contrast from the prevailing aesthetic regime was stark, leading to what seems to have been in some critics utter revulsion. It's notable that Mephisto, a film with very similar themes* and a significantly different aesthetic, could win an Oscar, but though Germany submitted Lili Marleen to the Academy, it was not nominated — and I'd bet few people were surprised it was not.

Even though it exudes the signs of a pop culture aesthetic, Lili Marleen can't actually be assimilated into the popular culture it was released into, partly because the aesthetic it's drawing from is passé and partly because it is deliberately at odds with conventional expectations. In a chapter on Lili Marleen in Fassbinder's Germany, Thomas Elsaesser writes that "coincidence and dramatic irony are presented as terrible anticlimaxes. With its asymmetries and non-equivalences, the film disturbs the formal closure of popular narrative, while still retaining all the elements of popular story-telling."



At the time of its release, there was much handwringing about the ability of works of art to create a desire or nostalgia for fascism in audiences, and Lili Marleen became Exhibit A. Heins quotes Brigitte Peucker: "One wonders whether, in Lili Marleen, Fassbinder’s parodistic style is not unrecognizable as parody to most spectators, and whether his central alienation effect, the song itself, does not instead run the danger of drawing us in." This is absurd. Fassbinder's style is parodistic, but it's also much more than that — it is multimodal in its excess — and I have about as much ability to imagine an audience member getting a good ol' nostalgic lump in the throat and tear in the eye while watching it as I have the ability to imagine someone watching Inglourious Bastards and mistaking it for Night and Fog.

Heins paraphrases Peucker as apparently thinking that "the often repeated title song may ultimately generate more sentimental affect than irritation". I can't believe that, either. For those of us who are not especially misty-eyed about the long lost days of the 1,000-year Reich, the song becomes as grating as it does for the character of Robert (Giancarlo Giannini), who gets locked in a cell with a couple lines of the song playing over and over and over again. What begins as sentimentality becomes, through repetition, torture.


The song is repeated so much that even if it doesn't irritate, it is stripped of meaning, and that's central to the point of the story, as Elsaesser describes:
When Willie says, "I only sing", she is not as politically naive or powerless as she may appear. Just as her love survives because she withdraws it from all possible objects and objectifications, so her song, through its very circularity, becomes impervious to the powers and structures in which it is implicated. Love and song are both, by the end of the film, empty signs. This is their strength, their saving grace, their redemptive innocence, allowing Fassbinder to acknowledge the degree to which his own film is inscribed within a system (of production, distribution and reception) already in place, waiting to be filled by an individual, who lends the enterprise the appearance of intentionality, design and desire for self-expression. 
One of the things I love about Lili Marleen is that its mode is utter and obvious kitsch, undeniable kitsch. It highlights the kitschiness not only of the Nazi aesthetic (which plenty of people have done, not least, though unintentionally, the Nazis themselves), but to some extent also of many movies about the Nazis. (I kept thinking of the awful TV mini-series Holocaust while watching it this time, and Elsaesser makes that connection as well.) We love to use the Nazis and the Holocaust for sentimental purposes, and representations of the Nazis and Holocaust often unintentionally veer off into poshlost. To intentionally do so is dangerous, even as critique, because it is too easy to fall into parody and render fascism as something absurd and ridiculous, but not insidious. The genius of Lili Marleen is that the insidiousness remains. It's what nags at us afterward, what lingers beneath the occasional laughter at the excess. There is a discomfort to this film, and it's not just the discomfort of undeniable parody — it is the discomfort of realizing how easily we can be drawn in to the structures being parodied: the suspense, the action, the breathless and improbable love story, the twists and turns, the pageantry, the displays of wealth and power. Our desires are easily teased, our expectations set like booby traps, and again and again those desires and expectations are frustrated and mercilessly mocked.


It's worth thinking about the place of anti-Semitism in Lili Marleen (and Fassbinder's work generally), because this was also part of the uproar over the film, an uproar that was really a continuity of the complaints about Fassbinder's extremely controversial play Garbage, the City, and Death. While not as brazenly playing with anti-Semitic imagery and language, Lili Marleen does give us a very powerful Jewish patriarch in Robert's father, played by Mel Ferrer, a character that can be seen in a variety of ways — certainly, he is an impediment to Robert and Willie's romance (clearly wanting his son to marry a nice Jewish girl), but I also think that Ferrer's performance gives him some warmth and grace that the Nazi characters lack. Nonetheless, while Lili Marleen is very obviously an anti-Nazi film, it's not so obviously an anti-anti-Semitic film (though there is a quick shot of a concentration camp, and Willie redeems herself by sneaking evidence of the camps out of Poland). Heins writes:
It cannot, of course, be concluded that the Absent One of all of Fassbinder’s films is The Jew, or that the sense of danger created by an unseen presence is racialized or nationalized, as it is in Harlan’s film [Jud Süss]. The malevolent other of Fassbinder’s films is more properly patriarchy and the police state, acting in the service of a repressive bourgeois order. In the case of Lili Marleen, however, we must conclude that Fassbinder did fail to effectively counteract the Harlanesque paranoid delusion of total Jewish power, if only because The Jew in this film is described as capitalist patriarchy’s main representative.
That point is astute, though for me it highlight the (sometimes dangerous) complexity of Lili Marleen: by employing certain features of Nazi storytelling, by putting clichés (aesthetic, narrative, political) at the center of his technique, and by seeking to wed this to the sort of anti-capitalist, anti-normative-family ideas common to his work from the beginning, Fassbinder ends up in a bind, one that forces him to trust that the various opposing forces render all the clichés hollow enough that performing and representing them does not give them new validity or justification — that the paranoia and delusion remain legible as paranoia and delusion. I think they do, but I feel less certain of that than the certainty I feel against the old accusations of glamourizing Nazism.

In addition to the title song, Lili Marleen includes an ostentatiously schmaltzy score by Fassbinder's frequent collaborator Peer Raben. It's schmaltzy, but also very sly — as Roger Hillman points out on the Australian DVD commentary, Raben includes brief homages to composers and works that the Nazis would not have looked fondly on, such as Saint-Saëns' Samson and Delilah. This technique is similar to the film's entire strategy: to booby-trap what on the surface is an overwrought deployment of old tropes.

Finally, a note on the acting: sticking with the concept of the film as a whole, the acting is generally a bit off: sometimes wooden, sometimes unconvincingly emotional. (It's acting a la Brecht via Sirk via Fassbinder.) The more I watch it, though, the more taken I am by Hannah Schygulla's performance. On the surface, it's an appropriately "bad" performance, one redolent of the acting style of melodramas in general and Nazi melodramas in particular. And yet Schygulla's great achievement is to find nuance within that — hers is not a parodic performance, though it easily could have veered into that. Instead, while abiding by the terms of melodramatic acting, it also gives us a transformation: Willie starts out awkward, not particularly talented, a sort of country bumpkin ... and she becomes a poised, distant, sculpted icon ... and then a refugee from all she has ever known and loved. There's still a sense of possibility at the end, though, and one Schygulla's performance is vital for: a sense that Willie may reinvent herself, may find, in this newly ruined world, a path toward new life.

Elsaesser suggests that Lili Marleen can be seen within the context of some of the other films Fassbinder made around it:
the three films of the BRD trilogy — shot out of sequence — are held together by the possibility that they form sequels. If we add the film that was made between Maria Braun and Lola, namely Lili Marleen which clearly has key themes in common with the trilogy, then Lili Marleen's status in the series might be that of a "prequel" chronologically: 1938-1946 Lili Marleen, 1945-1954 Maria Braun, 1956 Veronika Voss, 1957 Lola. Four women, four love stories, four ambiguous gestures of complicity and resistance.
It could be a tagline for so many of Fassbinder's films, not the least Lili Marleen: Ambiguous gestures of complicity and resistance. For a world entering the era of Thatcher, Kohl, and (especially) Reagan, Lili Marleen was a most appropriate foil.



-------------------
*In one scene of Fassbinder's film, Willie looks through a magazine and we quickly glance a picture of Gustaf Gründgens as Mephistopheles.

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13. Marvel vs. Pixar: Which Acquisition Made Disney Shareholders Richer?

Business publication The Motley Fool offers an interesting assessment of which Disney acquisition—Pixar or Marvel—generates more revenue for the studio.

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14. Determining the Impact Character of my time-travel novel.

Question: - I was wondering; is it ever possible to consider a specific circumstance, environment or event as the Impact Character in a story, rather than

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15. TEEN SPIRIT by Francesca Lia Block

I'll start with this: I think Francesca Lia Block likes Indians.

I'm just not sure what she knows about us. I kinda think she doesn't know a Native person.

By that, I mean one who is on-the-ground Native, as in living on the reservation, or hanging with the Native community in whatever city or suburb they're in, or, if they're in a part of the country where there is not a Native community, then, one who goes home to that community and/or talks to people from there a lot.

That on-the-ground identity is in stark contrast to the person who has a family story where a great great ancestor was Native. This group tends to romanticize who Native people are, and it comes out in dreadful ways. Case in point: mystical Indians. With powers.

Let's talk about Francesca Lia Block's Teen Spirit. I'll start with the synopsis (pasted here from Amazon):

Francesca Lia Block, critically acclaimed author of Weetzie Bat, brings this eerie and redemptive ghost story to life with her signature, poetic prose. It's perfect for fans of supernatural stories with a touch of romance like the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

After Julie's grandmother passes away, she is forced to move across town to the not-so-fancy end of Beverly Hills and start over at a new school. The only silver lining to the perpetual dark cloud that seems to be following her? Clark—a die-hard fan ofBuffy and all things Joss Whedon, who is just as awkward and damaged as she is. Her kindred spirit.

When the two try to contact Julie's grandmother with a Ouija board, they make contact with a different spirit altogether. The real kind. And this ghost will do whatever it takes to come back to the world of the living.

Francesca Lia Block's latest young adult novel is a haunting work about family, loss, love, and redemption.

Block has tons of fans. You can go to Goodreads and read all the things people like about her book. I'm giving you my view on what she does with Native content.

In the first chapter, Julie is with her grandma. First clue that you gotta pay attention to is that her grandma is wearing "Native American turquoise" (p. 13). That's fine. I hope it was the real thing, though, made by a Native person.

Hitting the pause button: did you know it is against the law to sell something as though it is Native if it isn't? Go read the text of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. My best guess, given what Block did in the Weetzie Bat books and in Teen Spirit, is that she doesn't know about that law because she doesn't know much about us at all. Somehow, I think that she has some image in her head, some super cool image of who she thinks we are, and that is what shapes what she does when she writes us into her books.

Back to Teen Spirit.

Julie is living with her grandma and her mom. But, alas, Julie's grandma dies suddenly. Right there in front of her. As she is dying, she tells Julie she has something to tell her but doesn't get it out. Looking at her lifeless body, Julie sees "a pale lavender radiance" (p. 14) hovering over her body and she hears some "baroque and strange, otherworldly" music playing, too. She doesn't tell her mom about it. With grandma dead, there's other things to worry about.

As that chapter closes, we learn about Julie's dad. She never met him. Julie was an in vitro baby. All her mom told her about him is (p. 18):
"that he was over six feet tall, full-blooded Cherokee, and had a master's degree in psychology."
And that he was a sperm donor.

Let's hit that pause button again. That bit of info raised all kinds of questions for me that I kinda doubt even occurred to Block. I went to a donor site online to see what I might learn. I wondered, for example, how they know a person is "full blooded Cherokee" or "Blackfoot." On one site, a chat window popped up immediately. I asked my "how do you know" question and they answer was that it is self-reported. I asked about tribal ID and learned they don't ask for it. Those questions matter, in light of another law (that I'm guessing Block doesn't know about): the Indian Child Welfare Act. It was passed in 1978, to keep Native children within Native communities. I could do some research to see if there have been any cases in which a sperm donor sought information about his child and how that would play out in a courtroom. But, I'll set that aside and get back to Teen Spirit. 

Why did Block go with a "full blooded Cherokee" sperm donor? Asking that question makes me think that maybe she knows that claiming a great great Cherokee grandma wouldn't cut it. If she has Julie's dad be Cherokee, for real, does that mean we're to believe that Julie's ability to see those lights around her grandma are legitimized by the sperm donor? Scary thought! Scary because it isn't any better. It is STILL mystical Indian stuff that does not work.

In the next chapters, Julie and her mom move across town, she gets a job in a dress shop that sells vintage clothes, and she meets a guy named Clark (his aura is green) at her new school. She also finds a Ouija board in the dresser drawer in her new room. She is intrigued by it, wondering if she can use it to talk with her grandma. Clark is freaked by it. Later, she meets another guy. His name is Grant (his aura is red), and though he tells her he is Clark's twin, we're going to learn that Grant IS Clark's twin, but that he died a year ago and that his spirit has entered Clark and takes over Clark's body from time to time.

So. Julie finds a card that a lady at an occult store had given her, to a place in Chinatown called Black Jade. Julie and Clark go there and learn from the lady there that Julie is "an intuitive" and that she probably got that gift from her dad. She gives them some treatments and tells them to see Tatiana Gonzales to get rose petals they need for a tea she wants them to use.

They call Tatiana Gonzales and then go to her house. There, they see milagros embedded in the outer adobe walls of her house. Tatiana greets them (her aura is indigo). She has powers, too (of course). She's petite, black curls "adorned with fresh gardenias and cascading to her minuscule waist" (p. 151). She tells Julia that her ability to see auras can be developed with practice.

Back at her house, Julia picks up a book with a poem by Emily Dickinson. She'd been reading aloud from it to her grandmother when she died. A piece of paper falls out of it. It is an advertisement for a store called Ed Rainwater Designs. It sells figures carved of bone, dream catchers, jewelry, and sage. Since sage is one of the things that they need, Julie and Clark go to that store (p. 166):
When we walk in we see an extravagantly tall man in sunglasses, sitting on a stool behind a counter. At his side was a three-legged dog that resembled a coyote. Both of them shone with almost blinding white light in spit of the dimness of the room.
They tell him they need sage for a ritual. He asks them (p. 167):
"Looking for some kicks? Some native enlightenment?"
Julie replies:
"No, sir," I said. "With all respect, we take this seriously. And even though I don't know anything about it, I'm half Cherokee."
Ed looks them over and then takes them out back. He gives them some special sage he grows and tells her to burn it, and that she'll know when the time to do that is right. Like the others, he tells her to develop her skills. Clark asks if he means the ability to see the auras, and Ed replies:
"More than that. Your friend has a gift that can magnetize certain spirits."
Enter another character! Amrita (her aura is metallic gold). She has very long black hair, wears a bunch of gold bracelets, and looks (p. 70):
"like a Hindu goddess statue. I wouldn't have have been surprised if she was hiding a few extra arms behind her back."
A Hindu goddess. Are you groaning? Or shaking your head? Or your fist, perhaps?! Ed and Amrita invite Julie and Clark to stay for dinner. Amrita teaches Julie how to meditate and then it is time for a sweat.

Pause button! I gotta get up and walk around a bit. Shake off some of this nonsense.

.....

Back.

Inside, Ed pours water on rocks that are on top of coals. They sweat. Ed prays. They come out feeling great (sigh).

Things eventually get resolved for both, Julie and Clark. And of course, they figure out that Ed is her father. She thinks she'll go visit him sometime. For now, she's gonna explore her relationship with Clark.

THE END

I hope that is the end. I hope Block isn't going to go from this to a book where Julie's "powers" are more developed. My overall sense is that Block is really taken with "other." She likes not-white peoples. She's put them in this book and in Weetzie Bat, too. People obviously love her writing. I wish she'd stay away from this kind of writing, though.

In a twitter exchange earlier this month, she apologized for the problems I described in Weetzie Bat. I thought it was a sincere apology, but she didn't say a word about Teen Spirit. I wish she would. Without addressing it, her apology rings very hollow. Very hollow, indeed.

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16. NaNoWriMo Tip #15: Consult Cheat Sheets

blue color

NaNoWriMo participants can use all the help they can get! That’s why we encourage consulting with cheat sheets—check out these three links:

(1) Author’s Craft cheat sheet from the Hello Literacy blog (via Shannon Ford’s pinterest board)

(2) The Hero’s Journey map from Storyboard That

(3) Ingrid Sundberg’s Color Thesaurus

This is our fifteenth NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day. To help GalleyCat readers take on the challenge of writing a draft for a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, we will be offering advice throughout the entire month.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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17. Small Town Council in Poland Bans ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ From Playground

Winnie the Pooh 200The town council of Tuszyn, Poland have banned Winnie-the-Pooh from a local playground. The politicians who made this censorious decree first examined A.A. Milne’s famous bear when they were trying to appoint a famous character as the face of this public space.

This group found Pooh’s lack of pants and questionable gender to be offensive and “wholly inappropriate for children.” All four Winnie-the-Pooh short story collections feature illustrations by artist E. H. Shepard; Shepard’s artwork consistently depicts Pooh not wearing pants.

Here’s more from the The Independent: “The meeting of officials was sneakily recorded a councillor and leaked to local press, according to The Croatian Times. One unnamed councillor can be heard discussing Pooh’s sexuality, arguing that ‘it doesn’t wear underpants because it doesn’t have a sex’ before another, Hanna Jachimska starts criticising Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne.” (via Jezebel)

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18. Reread #47 Black Beauty

Black Beauty. Anna Sewell. 1877. 245 pages. [Source: Bought]

I have been wanting to reread Black Beauty since I finished it in July 2012. I loved it then. I loved it now upon rereading. In fact, I think I loved it even a tiny bit more since I knew exactly what to expect. I was able to relax a bit more, not worrying that something horrible was about to happen. Granted, plenty of horrible things do happen. If not to Black Beauty then to others. But their is a sweetness, a hopefulness to the book that keeps it from being dark and gloomy.

What I loved best about Black Beauty is the narration. From cover to cover, I was engaged with her story, her narration. I loved the writing. The book is rich in description and observation. The worldview of the book has a just-right feel to it. It's very quotable. I loved the characterization. I cared about the horses. I cared about the humans in the story.

If you haven't read it, you should give it a try. Even if you don't like animal stories.

Favorite quotes:
"I wish you to pay attention to what I am going to say to you. The colts who live here are very good colts, but they are cart-horse colts, and of course they have not learned manners. You have been well-bred and well-born; your father has a great name in these parts, and your grandfather won the cup two years at the Newmarket races; your grandmother had the sweetest temper of any horse I ever knew, and I think you have never seen me kick or bite. I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play." I have never forgotten my mother's advice; I knew she was a wise old horse, and our master thought a great deal of her.
The next day I was brought up for my master. I remembered my mother's counsel and my good old master's, and I tried to do exactly what he wanted me to do. I found he was a very good rider, and thoughtful for his horse too. When he came home the lady was at the hall door as he rode up. "Well, my dear," she said, "how do you like him?" "He is exactly what John said," he replied; "a pleasanter creature I never wish to mount. What shall we call him?" "Would you like Ebony?" said she; "he is as black as ebony." "No, not Ebony." "Will you call him Blackbird, like your uncle's old horse?" "No, he is far handsomer than old Blackbird ever was." "Yes," she said, "he is really quite a beauty, and he has such a sweet, good-tempered face, and such a fine, intelligent eye--what do you say to calling him Black Beauty?"
"I suppose it is fashion that makes them strap our heads up with those horrid bits that I was tortured with in London," said Ginger. "Of course it is," said he; "to my mind, fashion is one of the wickedest things in the world. Now look, for instance, at the way they serve dogs, cutting off their tails to make them look plucky, and shearing up their pretty little ears to a point to make them both look sharp, forsooth. I had a dear friend once, a brown terrier; 'Skye' they called her. She was so fond of me that she never would sleep out of my stall; she made her bed under the manger, and there she had a litter of five as pretty little puppies as need be; none were drowned, for they were a valuable kind, and how pleased she was with them! and when they got their eyes open and crawled about, it was a real pretty sight; but one day the man came and took them all away; I thought he might be afraid I should tread upon them. But it was not so; in the evening poor Skye brought them back again, one by one in her mouth; not the happy little things that they were, but bleeding and crying pitifully; they had all had a piece of their tails cut off, and the soft flap of their pretty little ears was cut quite off. How their mother licked them, and how troubled she was, poor thing! I never forgot it. They healed in time, and they forgot the pain, but the nice soft flap, that of course was intended to protect the delicate part of their ears from dust and injury, was gone forever. Why don't they cut their own children's ears into points to make them look sharp? Why don't they cut the end off their noses to make them look plucky? One would be just as sensible as the other. What right have they to torment and disfigure God's creatures?"
"He had no business to make that turn; his road was straight on!" said the man roughly. "You have often driven that pony up to my place," said master; "it only shows the creature's memory and intelligence; how did he know that you were not going there again? But that has little to do with it. I must say, Mr. Sawyer, that a more unmanly, brutal treatment of a little pony it was never my painful lot to witness, and by giving way to such passion you injure your own character as much, nay more, than you injure your horse; and remember, we shall all have to be judged according to our works, whether they be toward man or toward beast."
Master said, God had given men reason, by which they could find out things for themselves; but he had given animals knowledge which did not depend on reason, and which was much more prompt and perfect in its way, and by which they had often saved the lives of men.
But what stuck in my mind was this, he said that cruelty was the devil's own trade-mark, and if we saw any one who took pleasure in cruelty we might know who he belonged to, for the devil was a murderer from the beginning, and a tormentor to the end. On the other hand, where we saw people who loved their neighbors, and were kind to man and beast, we might know that was God's mark." "Your master never taught you a truer thing," said John; "there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham--all a sham, James, and it won't stand when things come to be turned inside out."
"Only ignorance! only ignorance! how can you talk about only ignorance? Don't you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness?--and which does the most mischief heaven only knows. If people can say, 'Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm,' they think it is all right.

"Right, Joe! you did right, my boy, whether the fellow gets a summons or not. Many folks would have ridden by and said it was not their business to interfere. Now I say that with cruelty and oppression it is everybody's business to interfere when they see it; you did right, my boy."
Every man must look after his own soul; you can't lay it down at another man's door like a foundling and expect him to take care of it.
If a thing is right it can be done, and if it is wrong it can be done without; and a good man will find a way.
Our friend stood still for a moment, and throwing his head a little back, "Do you know why this world is as bad as it is?" "No," said the other. "Then I'll tell you. It is because people think only about their own business, and won't trouble themselves to stand up for the oppressed, nor bring the wrongdoer to light. I never see a wicked thing like this without doing what I can, and many a master has thanked me for letting him know how his horses have been used." "I wish there were more gentlemen like you, sir," said Jerry, "for they are wanted badly enough in this city."

 "My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt."
"Is it not better," she said, "to lead a good fashion than to follow a bad one? A great many gentlemen do not use check-reins now; our carriage horses have not worn them for fifteen years, and work with much less fatigue than those who have them; besides," she added in a very serious voice, "we have no right to distress any of God's creatures without a very good reason; we call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Musical Inspiration in dark times

“Heard melodies are sweet,” Keats wrote, “but those unheard are sweeter,” and for Joan Aiken they often provided the inspiration for stories full of  music which the reader can hear only in his imagination. She invented some marvellous musical creations, like a tune which when whistled or sung brings a cardboard cut-out garden to life, […]

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20. Thirty Fathoms Down

 

Things I am painting/stitching lately. I'm also dusting things off and getting ready to pop a few new prints up on Etsy. That should be all good to go the day after Thanksgiving, cross my heart.

What else, what else?

*Some real nice words about OMG: The Spell Bind over on the Disney Nerds blog.

*I saw Murder on the Homefront the other night and it ain't half bad. Granted the plot's a little thin, but oh goodness, the costumes. Seriously. Hats, wraps, teetering heels, even down to the acid yellow knit vest Lennox Collins sports, it's all a visual treat.

*I'm on pie duty again this year, which begs the very important question: what's your go to Thanksgiving dessert?

Happy weekends!

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21. Logical Story

Hi, I'm a member of a critique group and actively working on my second novel. Some critters complain about the logic of the story. They say it's impossible

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22. ‘Mouse in Transition’: Disney Dead-Ends and Lucrative Mexican Caterpillars (Chapter 12)

Steve Hulett on everything from "Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore" to "Katy Caterpillar."

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23. Being a White Guy in Children’s Books

BadBeginning Being a White Guy in Children’s BooksDon’t get me wrong. White guys working in children’s books have it good. In fact, it would be fair to say we have it pretty much made. But in the wake of host Daniel Handler’s remarks at Wednesday’s National Book Awards, I find myself thinking about the privileged but peculiar position white guys have in this field. (Some of what I have to say applies to the non-white guys, too, but I am not going to generalize that far.)

I wasn’t at the event and can’t bring myself to watch the video because I know it would have me writhing in empathetic embarrassment. So all of my information is from the transcript and subsequent internet outrage. And what I’m left with—even more than my happiness at Jackie Woodson’s win—is how sorry I feel for Handler, and how easily I could have fallen into the same trap. (I confess to some impatience with all the talk of him stealing Her Moment because Woodson is getting a way longer moment than any children’s National Book Award winner has ever gotten before. Quickly, who won last year?)

The main thing about being a white guy in children’s books is that you get a lot more attention—not to mention Caldecott Medals!—than you would otherwise, and than is really good for you. Award committees want you as a member. Conferences want you to speak. People look to you for a “male point of view”—especially when they are seeking to solve the perennial problem of The Boy Reader, attention to whose needs getting far more ink than the needs of his sister. If you’re good-looking—and here I speak from observation—you are really set. Molly Ivins would have said that you were born on third base, and, professionally speaking, she would have been right.

It’s a nice life that’s easy to get used to. But as Handler learned, it can bite you in the ass. There he was in the spotlight, doing what he’s been amply rewarded for doing for years, and he overreached. He was trying to show us that he was as cool as we’ve long been saying he was: I am so cool I can get away with a racist-not-racist watermelon joke. He couldn’t, and I’m sorry there was no one to tell him he wouldn’t. Or maybe he didn’t think to ask? It’s the least a guy can do.

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24. Alex Field’s ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’ is a Real Treat

Alex Field‘s talents as an author, publisher and speaker, her love of Christmas pudding, and her overt enthusiasm for Jane Austen all cleverly amalgamate in the latest of her series, Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding. Having previously featured her beloved Pride and Prejudice characters in Mr Darcy and Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck, Alex […]

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25. I’d been meaning to get out my scissors & create...



I’d been meaning to get out my scissors & create shadow box type stuff, next chance I got. Turns, out, this was a great chance. ReNeux clothing boutique in Taos, always puts on a compelling holiday show each year, and so of course, needs a poster design to match!



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