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1. Entertainment Round-Up: Jared Leto’s Joker hair, Marvel Movie Marathon, Warner Bros’ CEO claims DC Movies are “edgier”, Age of Ultron “behind the scenes” vids, iZombie premiere


It’s been a slow news day today, post Age of Ultron trailer, but I did go see Chappie last night (it’s terrible, I suddenly fear for the Alien franchise). Here’s your quick round-up of today’s entertainment-related news:

– Per Latino Review, Jared Leto‘s hairstylist Chase Kusero just posted a picture on Instagram of a “work in progress” look at Jared Leto’s Joker hair as it will appear in Suicide Squad. From that back-shot, it looks very Greg Capullo-esque:

The end of an era

A photo posted by @chasehair on

– As we’re on the verge of Avengers: Age of Ultron debuting, in just under two months, it should be no surprise that theaters are planning big Marvel movie marathons. But it’s not just Phase 2 they’re showing, no sir/ma’am, it’s the entire Marvel oeuvre to this point. Starting April 29th at 6 pm and ending just before 10 pm or so the next day, select AMC and Regal theaters across the country will be showing all 11 Marvel Studios films in their order of release.

Here’s the full schedule:

6:00 p.m. – Iron Man
8:25 p.m. – The Incredible Hulk
10:35 p.m. – Iron Man 2
1:00 a.m. – Thor
3:10 a.m.  – Captain America: The First Avenger
5:30 a.m. – The Avengers
8:48 a.m. – Iron Man 3
11:15 a.m. – Thor: The Dark World
1:45 p.m. – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
4:20 p.m. – Guardians of the Galaxy
7:00 p.m.– Avengers: Age of Ultron

As you can see, you can take a nap during Iron Man 2, and maybe run out for IHOP around the showings of Iron Man 3 or Thor: The Dark World. Otherwise though, there’s no breaks built in and you better make good use of that unlimited refill on the popcorn and sodas!

Those who are feeling a little more time crunched can instead opt for Cinemark‘s Avengers double bill. I remember I tried to do something like this once with The Lord of the Rings movies right before The Return of the King came out. By the time I got to the third film, I was ready to see Frodo tossed into Mount Doom. But more power to anybody that gives this one a go!

Variety spoke with WB’s CEO Kevin Tsujihara for a piece about the possibility of audiences facing superhero fatigue, an assertion that he dismissed. Yet, the quote that fans are zeroing in on specifically is one that posits WB’s upcoming DC-based superhero slate against the meteorically successful Marvel one:

“The worlds of DC are very different,” he said. “They’re steeped in realism, and they’re a little bit edgier than Marvel’s movies.”

“Edgier” is a word I wish he hadn’t used, as that brings to mind many of the major criticisms that detractors struck Man of Steel with: that it was film too grim for its own good, among many other complaints. Whether that will prove true for the upcoming offerings in 2016 remains to be seen. Where I feel like WB should set the DC films apart from Marvel is by making them more auteur-driven, rather than forcing an overall edict of realism onto Aquaman and Shazam!. The one big Achilles’ heel that Marvel has is that they’re a bit “samey” in their approach, in that every film has to fit the same tone, plot beats, and has to uphold the on-going universe above all else. There’s no real room for a director to really lay his stamp onto the characters the way Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan did for Batman and Sam Raimi did for Spider-Man (the good ones anyway, whichever those are, I’ll leave to your discretion). But, I can’t think of anything less appealing than a cinematic universe that operates just like Marvel but in the same gray sludgey tones as Man of Steel. For all its faults, the MCU at least has some great color throughout and is a good deal of fun to watch on the biggest screen possible. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I’ll be pleasantly surprised come next year.

– After Marvel’s early Age of Ultron trailer release, today they let loose with a few short behind the scenes videos with Cineplex featuring Joss Whedon and Jeremy Renner while in the midst of filming:

-Last but not least and just in case it slipped your mind; on March 17th, the same day The Flash returns to CW, iZombie will be debuting just after, here’s a trailer for the upcoming adaptation by Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars) of Chris Roberson and Mike Allred‘s Vertigo comic:

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2. Module | 002


Module 002 | This is a variation of module 001 with a leaf shape cut out of the center of the module. The image above shows the top view.


Module 002


M002 | Vase


Bottom Closed | I left the vase in the living room over night and when I saw it in the morning my daughter had made a new variation by closing the vase and turning it over.

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3. Mahou Shounen Breakfast Club and “the toxic ever present white gaze.”

There’s no question but that in American culture the predominant view is one that is rich, white, male, straight and Christian. And while “The male gaze” is pretty well known, we’re getting to learn about the “white gaze” as well. Have you ever wondered what it looks like? Now we know. Except it’s from New Zealand AND America.
Shocking isn’t it? Here is some more of that toxic white gaze:

The gaze in question is Mahou Shounen Breakfast Club a newish webcomic by New Zealander Katie O’Neill and American Toril Orlesky. Or rather it WAS, because despite praise and anticipation, the duo pulled the plug on the comic after a mere 13 pages after it was accused of cultural appropriation because it was a comic set in Japan with Japanese story lines that was by two white kids from across the globe. And also because one of them responded to a troll on Tumblr in a way that the Tumblr police deemed inappropriate. Here’s that crime again.

Deb Aoki has heroically (and I mean it HEROICALLY) compiled the entire saga, which played out on Twitter, in one epic epic Storify. Normally I would embed it, but it’s so huge and epic it would crash your browser. Anyway I cannot recommend enough that you read the whole thing because the wise Aoki takes this molehill and tackles an entire mountain of the question “Do You Have to Be Japanese to Make Manga?” which is a huge one that this Storify doesn’t answer…but it does raise more and more questions.

For the digest version, shortly after MSBC began running, an ANONYMOUS questioner on Tumblr asked on O’Neill’s tumblr:

Anonymous asked: God damn this is why I hate it when ignorant white people like you try to make stuff about Japan just because it’s trendy. Learn how to write kanji that isn’t so awkward before you even think about making a story set in the place the language is from. 嫌なら自分の文化を使え それとも世界で他の文化が色々があるんだろう。

Hey! I actually have a BA in Japanese and speak it with some fluency (though it’s been a few years since I graduated), and the kanji in the logo is based off a font I got from a Japanese website! Thanks for your concern, but if you’re basically saying that white people should only write about white people that’s kind of messed up. We’re always going to be open to criticism and concerns, so if we get something wrong let us know!

O’Neill’s answer was deemed to be flippant and somehow racist (even when other people pointed out that ANONYMOUS wasn’t that great with Kanji either.)

Things intensified on the twitter and tumblr of cartoonist Iasmin Omar Ata, theirself the author of a well-received webcomic Mis(H)adra:

Anonymous asked: oh my god thank you for calling out msbc i’ve been side-eying that project since forever….


hey! i’m glad you’ve noticed the issue, too. honestly, i’m shocked at how people haven’t really called out the creators for a) their blatant cultural appropriation, and b) the awful “it’s fine” response to that ask. the whole thing is garbage and unfortunately is just another reminder of how toxic the ever-present white gaze is. i hope that soon we can do away with this kind of thing in comics because i for one am up tohere with it.

Orlesky and Ata also hashed it out on twitter:

And even if they had a point, Ata was definitely being a jerk about it. The response did not fit the crime.

While some people—even Japanese people—said they saw nothing wrong with MSBC, unfortunately, O’Neill and Orlesky decided to pull the plug on the comic even though it is not clear from anyone anywhere aside from anonymous trolls what they did wrong:

Note on Mahou Shounen Breakfast Club

As I’m sure you’ll know, last month we launched our webcomic, Mahou Shounen Breakfast Club! We were very excited about it, however we absolutely do not want to hurt anyone with it and we are concerned that this is unavoidable. From the outset we tried to be aware of issues such as cultural appropriation, fetishization and stereotyping and did our best to avoid them and write in a nuanced manner. We hoped that extensive research and experience living and working in Japan would be enough to make a portrayal that wasn’t hurtful. We can see now this was incorrect and not possible, and we don’t wish to create a comic that will hurt people, so it seems the solution is to simply stop. We sincerely apologise to anyone who was upset by it.

Thank you everyone who had faith in our comic skills before we even started, and who has given us kind feedback about the art especially! It means a lot to us that people feel this strongly about us as creators, and we will absolutely be working together again in future! Feel free to keep following the strangestarcomics blog if you’re interested in our other projects!

Now I’m willing to write part of this off as young, insecure cartoonists who are still figuring things out and not really being able to take possibly faulty criticism well. There are lots of tweets around that subject on the Storify above. I know we live in a time of identify politics where cultural appropriation is a terrible crime. Of course that didn’t stop Osamu Tezuka from culturally appropriating Walt Disney and Robert Louis Stevenson to invent manga in the first place, or Naoki Urasawa from drawing a manga about half English half Japanese insurance inspector, or any of a thousand other example of the cross pollination that makes cultural exchange a wonderful thing. Culture isn’t a bag of potato chips —you don’t chomp it up and then it’s gone. It’s an ocean that flows and ebbs and freezes and evaporates and becomes different things everywhere.

Which isn’t to say that, YEAH, people from one culture can misunderstand and fetishize people from other cultures. And it’s good to point that out.

But did Mahou Shounen Breakfast Club ACTUALLY DO THAT???? Japanese-New Zealand Cartoonist Jem Yoshioka wrote about this and this is possibly the most well meaning and infuriating document I’ve read this month.

Yoshioka runs down a FAQ of why she agrees with O’Neill and Orlesky shutting down the strip, but fails to explain any reason why the critics were correct. For instance.

In the case of MSBC too much hinged on the Japanese setting, so they have decided it’s best to stop making it.

WHAT NOW? Because a story is set in Japan and that setting effects the story it is bad? God forbid she ever watch Lost in Translation.

Also, here’s a great straw man:

Isn’t this exactly the same as when Japanese people write about western countries or white people?


No. Western countries and white people occupy a significant place of power within our global world, economically and culturally. To put it simply, the whole world is drowning in white culture, so it’s not culturally appropriative to write a story about white people or set in a western country. There’s a strong power imbalance in favour of western countries and white culture(s).

If anything I find this attitude MORE dismissive of Japanese culture than a wee tribute. Hundreds of millions if not billions of people are influenced by Japanese culture, billions more by other Asian cultures which are strong and thriving and, yeah, ignored by Westerners who think that US culture is the be all and end all of world culture. That just isn’t true. Posing Japanese culture as a timid weak hothouse flower before American aggression is just an insult to Japan, as American children clutch their Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers cereal spoons while playing with their Transformers.

But then we get to the meat of the matter:

What are the issues with MSBC specifically? It seemed fine to me. I’ve seen way worse stuff get made.


MSBC doesn’t necessarily look like cultural appropriation. The kanji is correct, the landscapes are representative of real Tokyo landscapes, and while there were a couple of inaccuracies around the reality of the voice acting industry, that’s an acceptable leap to make for the sake of storytelling purposes (see all movies ever that feature computers, science, engineering or hacking as plot points).

OK so aside from being an actually awkward story, nothing wrong here.


However, even though it was respectfully well-researched and executed, MSBC did personally make me feel a bit weird. MSBC intentionally draws on anime and manga tropes, which can be problematic and reductive in their representation of women, gay men and often focus on specific elements of Japanese culture. There is also a lot of white western readers of this material who are still early on their journey of understanding the difference between respect and appropriation, often with a heavy side of racial fetishisation and overly romanticised ideas of Japan.

Now what tropes would those be that were revealed in the 13 pages of Masou Shounen Breakfast Club? The TROPES that CAN BE problematic and reductive.


Not were. It isn’t shown that MSBC used these tropes in any problematic and reductive way. Just that they COULD HAVE BEEN.

It’s fine to use these tropes, but it’s important to take the overall environment into account when writing them as a white westerner. While Katie and Toril were obviously aware of this when working on MSBC and worked hard to make sure they didn’t fetishise or stereotype, the genre itself and the wider effect it has within the community makes it difficult to achieve that.

Get that now? Because other people fucked it up, Katie and Toril probably would too, so they had to shut things down after just 13 pages before they did it. Once again, no actual crime, we’re talking total pre-cog here.

For a lot of people MSBC won’t be considered anywhere near appropriative or fetishistic, and that’s just where you are on your own journey. For me personally it does approach a line that makes me uncomfortable. I would have kept reading anyway because I enjoy the storytelling and illustrative style, but I think that feeling would have stayed with me the whole way through. The weird thing is that if they had kept going I likely would never have said anything about how I felt, because I would have been too scared of being instantly shot down about it, feared I was being silly and felt I’d never be able to properly articulate my issues. I am overjoyed to know that Katie and Toril are the kind of creators who are respectful and listen to this kind of feedback this seriously.

Yoshioka seems like a very nice, reasonable person, and I totally dig her art, but…what exactly is the crime here? The comic made Yoshioka feel uncomfortable because…feelings.

And eventually someday she would have been upset by it.

Got that? She was sure that someday she would get upset by the way that these two were sure to fuck things up. Two non-Japanese people—even with knowledge of Japan—doing a comic set in Japan was fetishistic no matter what the context or content. Just the concept was enough to ensure that lines would be crossed.
If O’Neill and Orlesky decided to pull their comic because they didn’t want to hurt even one person’s feelings, well then, okay. I get it. Hurting feelings is bad. I also suggest that they get out of any creative endeavor in the future because all great art hurts feelings, causes feelings and in general shakes things up. It isn’t safe and it isn’t afraid. Under these rules that Yoshioka lays out, no great comic would ever have been completed because some element of its creation MIGHT have been used incorrectly in the past.
If you have been reading my writings for any amount of time, you know that I’m a fan of multicultural diversity, and of multiple viewpoints and creators of every sex, religion, creed, race and sexual orientation getting a chance to tell their stories.
I’m also a huge fan of cultural context for stories that examine how the preconceptions of a work of art are reflected in the execution. But I never want to see these criticisms used to PROACTIVELY SILENCE ART.
The problem with a lot of the sociological criticism that we’re seeing now is that it sets up a Zeno’s Paradox race against some kind of Platonic ideal that has never been proved to exist. Nearly all art has a cultural context that insults SOMEONE. If I take all the anti-MSBC arguments above and reduce them to a fine gravy, it DOES come out that no one should ever write or draw a story about a culture or place other than their own because they might get it wrong. White people should stick to white people (aka the status quo), black people should stick to black people and Japan should never write a story that takes place in another culture (because I’ve read plenty of manga that fetishized some bizarre element of American culture.)
Fetishishing is wrong, orientalism is wrong, appropriation for cool points (Hey Iggy) is wrong. But absorbing the rich cultural stew of the entire world and trying to express it in your own art and comics is not wrong. And as far as I can tell, that’s the crime that O’Neill and Orlesky were convicted of in tumblr court, and that’s a shame.

Concept art for Mahou Shounen Breakfast Club.

[The first version of this post misidentified Toril Orlesky as being from NZ rather than from the US,  and Iasmin Omar Ata as male. I regret the errors but it doesn’t change a thing I think because I judge people on their behavior not their identity.]

9 Comments on Mahou Shounen Breakfast Club and “the toxic ever present white gaze.”, last added: 3/5/2015
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4. Paper Module | 001


Module 001 | I have made paper spheres using square modules, but I wondered what would happen if the modules were rectangular. I was able to make a sphere with a rectangular module as shown in the image above. It takes 30 modules to create a sphere as shown above.


Module 01 | the proportion of a small playing card (1.25 in x 1.75 inches).

What if? | This is my favorite question and so I began building with the modules to see what else besides a sphere could be created and came up with a paper vase.


M001 | Side View


M001 | Top View

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5. Picture Book Rules

Ten commandments (or not!) for writing picture books.


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6. Selfie Sweepstakes Reviews: Drawbridges Open and Close

DrawbridgesDrawbridges Open and Close; by Patrick T. McBriarty; illus. by Johanna H. Kim. Curly Press, 2014. 40pp. ISBN 978-1-941216-02-6. $15.95

Gr. K-3. I was glad I had read this book prior to my recent visit to Ft. Lauderdale, where everybody gets around by car, negotiating a host of drawbridges back and forth across the Intracoastal Waterway. Although the book opens (heh) confusingly with “Next to the drawbridge is a bridge house,” it then settles into a clear and nicely-patterned account of the six steps taken (by the Scarryesque Bridge Tender Todd, a fox) to open the bridge for passing boats and then the six to close it so that street traffic may resume. Coloring is vibrant without being over-lavish; the drawing of the all-animal cast is a little awkward but that of the bridge and boats and vehicles is neatly-lined, and the cutaway diagrams that show how the bridge works are excellently informative. One terrific spread shows the open bridge, the passing boats and the impatient cars from an amazing bird’s-eye-view. Perhaps the focus is a bit narrow, and it’s not said how generalizable the information is (do all drawbridges work this way?) but children with an eye for the way things work will be happy with this picture book. R.S.


[This review may be distributed freely and excerpted fairly; credit to “Read Roger, The Horn Book Inc., www.hbook.com.]


The post Selfie Sweepstakes Reviews: Drawbridges Open and Close appeared first on The Horn Book.

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7. Book Review: The Boy Who Loved Rain by Gerard Kelly

From Goodreads:
They say that what you don't know can't hurt you. They're wrong.

David Dryden, pastor of a high-profile church in London, is admired for his emphasis on the Christian family.

But all is not well in his own family. He and his wife, Fiona, have been glossing over his son Colom's erratic behavior. Then, when a commitment to die is discovered in Colom's room after the suicide of a school friend, David finds himself out of his depth--and Fiona, in panic, takes Colom and flees.

A wonderful, intelligent, and searching novel about the toxic nature of secrets, and the possibility of starting again.
Kelly isn't just a fiction writer, he also writes poetry and non-fiction.  He's hugely prolific and his interest in poetry is evident throughout the book.  However, I'm not sure this is for the best.  I kept getting the feeling as I read that this was a first draft.  There was so much information provided and so much description that just didn't add to the story or to the quality of writing. I think it's full of great potential, but I didn't feel like it was as polished as it could have been.

Entertainment Value
Positives first: I loved reading a story where a family is Christian but the story isn't about their faith.  It plays a large role in the lives of the characters and certainly has an impact on the story, but it wasn't the central theme of the story and there wasn't a religious message to be gathered.  The characters were also nuanced and, for the most part, believable.

I did feel like a ton of description could have been taken out without hurting the novel and would have made it more fun to read.  I wanted to be engrossed because I feel like the plot has a huge amount of potential, but I just never got to a point where I overcame my apathy towards the characters.

There's definitely an audience for this book.  It will appeal to fans of women's literature and "ripped from the headlines" stories.  I also think it would be a great choice for readers of Christian fiction who want more than a story with a moral.  That said, it just wasn't for me.  I never really started to care for the characters and found myself bored at times.

Thanks to TLC for providing me with copy to review.

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8. Tag Galaxy Weather Studies

At this time of year, weather is the perfect multidisciplinary study. Weather is on everyone’s minds, whether you’re facing winter storms or signs of spring. There are perfect literature options like mythology about weather gods or parables and poems about the wind, plenty of science topics connect with weather and each one brings in math, and weather phenomena have inspired music, too.

Here’s a lesson that makes a great introduction to any unit on weather.

Visit Tag Galaxy to begin. You’ll have a place to type in your first word: weather.


Soon you’ll see a swirling collection of planets labeled with related words.


Click on the “sun” to see images from FlickR brought together to create an amazing graphic.

tag-galaxy5 tag-galaxy6

You can bring in more images, and you can also explore each of the “planets” in this way, discovering more words and more images. You can click on any picture to see it more closely — here’s a beautiful image from “rain”:


Tag Galaxy can be mesmerizing, and it rewards exploration. Show it first on your class projector and let everyone ooh and ahh for a while. Then let students explore the tool on their own computers.

Here are some ideas of what to do next:

  • Have students list the words they find that relate to weather. Let students write individual words on cards or cut outs and hang them from the ceiling or post them on a bulletin board.
  • Ask students to choose a word and then an image to use as a writing prompt. There are thousands of choices, so everyone should be able to find something inspiring.
  • Making a globe from photos in real life would be a big job, but you can make a smaller version easily. Have students print out, draw, and/or cut out pictures of weather. Use a round template to make circles from the pictures, and then a triangular template to fold in the edges. Connect the edges to form a sphere, as shown for the “Disco Ball” ornament at this paper craft page.

At this point, your class should be excited about weather and ready for some learning!

The post Tag Galaxy Weather Studies appeared first on FreshPlans.

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One of the more obvious teasers run by Marvel in the build up to announce Secret Wars was Dale Keown’s image of Peter David’s Future Imperfect series. Back in 1992, David and George Perez told the tale of a dystopian future where an evil version of the Hulk, known as Maestro, laid waste to the heroes of the Marvel Universe in the Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect mini series. While he was killed in the  series by the Hulk we know, the character has recently appeared in Spider-Man 2099. Today, Hollywood Reporter announced that a new Secret Wars tie-in would revisit the world of the Maestro.

Set to release on June 3, Future Imperfect by Peter David and artist Greg Land will tell a stand alone tale of the Maestro wreaking havoc on Battleworld. David has also promised a big surprise when readers find out who’s leading the charge against this out of control monster, “I will tell you this: there’s a character in the series referred to as ‘the boss,’ a person who oversees the battle against the Maestro. I feel pretty confident in saying that no-one will be able to guess that person’s identity until it’s revealed on the last page.”

An interior page from the book was also displayed and shows a female Red She-Hulk. Though the writer would not say if the character was Betty Ross as in the current Marvel U.



It was also revealed today that the Maestro is officially the big boss of Marvel’s Contest of Champions mobile game. Currently available on iOS and Android the mobile fighter lets you build a team of heroes or villains as you fight through a tournament in the game’s own Battleworld. The game is free to download and actually is one of their more interesting titles for fighting boredom in convention lines.


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10. Toon Thursday Flashback Edition: Social Networking for Writers

Sadly, the passage of time has not made this one any less accurate... Happy Thursday! This work is copyrighted material. All opinions are those of the writer, unless otherwise indicated. All book reviews are UNSOLICITED, and no money has exchanged... Read the rest of this post

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11. Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! Created for the Coral, Mint, Black and White Challenge at Spoonflower.com. Voting taking place here. © 2015 by Lisa Firke. All rights reserved.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! Created for the Coral, Mint, Black and White Challenge at Spoonflower.com. Voting taking place here. © 2015 by Lisa Firke. All rights reserved.

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12. Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month Year 5!

It's March again, and that means that Lisa Taylor of Shelf-employed and I are once again co-curating Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month, a celebration of books for young people which celebrate notable women. Despite the progress that has been made, schools still spend comparatively little time on women throughout history; fortunately many books have been published for young people of all ages on a range of fascinating figures which can be used by teachers to supplement the curriculum or by parents at home. I hope you will check out this year's blog contributors, who include everyone from African-American ballerina Misty Copeland to award-winning nonfiction writer Sue Macy. You can "follow" the blog, subscribe by e-mail, and also follow the posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, if you prefer!  A complete list of this year's contributors is available on the blog as well.

If you're in the Los Angeles area, I believe you can still order tickets for the 35th anniversary celebration of the National Women's History Project, which will take place on Saturday, March 28 at the Autry Museum and offers the chance to meet the 2015 honorees. It's a terrific opportunity to celebrate women's history with others.

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13. Big thanks to my friend Laurel for getting me out to some life...

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14. "Seinfeld" actor ​Daniel von Bargen dies at 64


Daniel von Bargen, who played George Costanza's dim-witted boss Mr. Kruger on "Seinfeld," has died. He was 64.

Von Bargen died Sunday in the Cincinnati area, Harry Gilligan, owner of Gilligan Funeral Homes, confirmed Thursday. Gilligan said he couldn't provide the cause of death, names of relatives or any other information. WLWT-TV in Cincinnati first reported the death.

In addition to his "Seinfeld" role, von Bargen portrayed Commandant Edwin Spangler on "Malcolm in the Middle." His film credits include "The Silence of the Lambs," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "Lord of Illusions." He also had appearances on "Law & Order," "The West Wing" and "NYPD Blue."

Von Bargen was a versatile actor and great co-worker, Bob Colonna said via email. Colonna got to know von Bargen during their shared time at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island, and while filming several TV films.

"He was much loved, for himself and his work, both of which were unassailable," Colonna wrote.
Von Bargen made headlines in 2012 when he called 911 after shooting himself in the temple. He told police he was supposed to go to a hospital that day to have some toes amputated because of diabetes complications and had already had one leg amputated. He said he was feeling depressed before he shot himself.

No funeral services were scheduled, Gilligan said.

Tempus fugit

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15. The Mural Artwork is Done - Phew!

Because of World Book Day, I'm out visiting schools all this week (all over the place as usual) but, luckily, I just managed to get my mural artwork finished first. It was a skin-of-the-teeth thing - I didn't sign it off until 7pm last Friday night. 

I'm enjoying being out and about again, as I have been locked at my computer for ages. The artwork stage has taken 3 weeks, working really long days mostly, but it is finally done. Hurrah! Below are the various sections, travelling around the walls anti-clockwise (ie from right to left), viewing what will be floor-to-ceiling once it's installed (though the emptier sections will be obscured by furniture):

There were so many different jobs to do and of course much of it took longer than expected - I think it's because I underestimated just how many individual characters and little objects I could cram into the huge space. Luckily, Wakefield Libraries have been absolutely LOVELY and said they will pay me for the time I've actually spent on it, rather than what I originally quoted them.  

Every one of the new, high-res scans that John did of the various animals, books, trees etc had to be individually matched to their position on the low-res template I created earlier, re-sized to fit and then laboriously cut off the children's white, background paper in Photoshop.

Each component also had to have it's 'levels' balanced, to match the weight of the rest of the design, and then have extra colour added, so it was punchy enough. I even had to subtly go over some of the children's pencil outlines in Photoshop, thickening them up where they were too spindly. 

And that's without all the graphic elements I had to draw for the background, like the distant forest and the various kinds of grasses and bushes. 

Because I had to create the artwork in 6 sections (to keep the file sizes from blowing the brain of my computer), I also had the job of making sure the different sections joined accurately. That was a bit of a nightmare to be honest, as one millimetre's inaccuracy at each joint would obviously add up, and then the error would also be multiplied by 4, because of the artwork being 25% of the actual size. Yikes.

I was very good at remembering to 'save' all the time, not just to the computer, but also to an external hard drive, just in case any of the files decided to corrupt along the way. I got away without 'losing' anything, which is a great relief.

Then, just when I thought it was all finished, I realised I had forgotten the area of 'bleed' beneath the library's computer table! I had remembered to continue the design behind the bookshelves, so I don't know why I forgot the table. Tired I guess.

The colour boosting was the last job. I wanted to keep the mark-making from the children's colouring, so I made my final artwork translucent, then created a layer beneath the design, where I 'scribbled' half-opacity colour, so the effect was subtle and blended seamless with the children's coloured pencils. It was time consuming, but was worth it, as the boost made a huge difference. Look at the difference between the section above and part of the same section, before the extra colour:

Notice too, in some places I had to do extra tricksy things with the colour in Photoshop: look at the original colour of the desk, immediately above, then the colour it ended up.

Did you notice by the way, in the 2nd section from the beginning, I left my 'signature' on the computer screen? Sneaky huh? 
Actually, I suspect that most of this area will be obscured by book-bags, but I only really put it in as an after-thought.

The next stage is a final chat to the printer who will be transferring my design to wallpaper, ready to paste onto the walls. I'm a little concerned about how on earth we will manage to get things to line up where they are supposed to, what with crooked walls and wonky ceilings. For instance, all the creatures' feet, which need to be on the level with the tops of the bookshelves. 

I am crossing fingers it all works out okay, as there isn't much I can do about that side of things.

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16. Ancillary Sword

I loved Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie so much I was a little worried that I might be disappointed by Ancillary Sword. I began reading, holding back just a little, expecting disappointment and not wanting to invest too much but before I knew it I was in deep and happy as a clam. When I turned the last page I didn’t want it to be done. More please! There will be more. In October Ancillary Mercy will be published. I fear that will be the conclusion to the story and I will be bereft.

Ancillary Sword picks up right where Ancillary Justice left off. Breq, who is an ancillary and used to be a ship called Justice of Toren, has been given the command of Mercy of Kalr. She was given the command by the Lord of the Radch herself. Mercy of Kalr no longer has an ancillary crew, though the previous ship’s captain required all her crew to behave as if they were ancillaries. An ancillary is basically a human who has been implanted with all kinds of equipment and forced to become part of the ship’s AI. The ancillaries are soldiers but also the eyes and ears and mobile bodies controlled by the ship.

Breq in the singular is rather lonely. She could become an ancillary of Mercy of Kalr but she would then no longer be Breq. Because Breq used to be an ancillary she can communicate with Mercy of Kalr in a very different way than a human captain would be able to. All of the humans on the ships have implants that gives the ship access to their eyes and ears as well as their body’s functioning (heart rate, blood pressure, etc). The job of the ship AI is to take care of her humans. Because Breq is an ancillary, the ship can actually show her what the crew is doing through their eyes and ears. It is a small comfort to the lonely Breq.

Mercy of Kalr is sent to guard Athoek Station. On this station is the sister of the lieutenant Breq loved when she was Justice of Toren. So there is an interesting plotline there. We also have Lieutenant Tisarwat who is brand new and only seventeen, assigned to the ship by the Lord of the Radch. But Breq figures out pretty fast the Tisarwat is actually an ancillary of the Lord of the Radch and the ancillary bits are not working out so well in that body. There is also another ship, Sword of Atagaris which does still have ancillaries. The Radch empire is falling apart and there is a question about whose side Sword of Atagaris and her captain is on.

Toss into all this the continuing questions of identity that began in the first book. But add in another question — what is justice and what does it mean?

‘What is justice Citizen? […] We speak of it as though it is a simple thing, a matter of acting properly, as though it’s nothing more than an afternoon tea and the question only of who takes the last pastry. So simple. Assign guilt to the guilty.

Of course it is never simple and perfect justice can never be truly dispensed.

The writing is great. The pacing excellent. Since Breq can see and hear through the eyes of her crew (they have no idea she can do this) the perspective is constantly changing but is never confusing. It works really well for keeping all the balls in the air and all of the plotlines moving ahead together at the same time, there is no “meanwhile back at the ranch” kind of thing. Leckie does a good job of giving depth to even minor characters. And it’s just an all around great romping story. Ancillary Justice won a Hugo and a Nebula. Ancillary Sword is currently up for a Nebula. I can hardly wait for Ancillary Mercy!

Filed under: Books, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy Tagged: Ann Leckie, Imperial Radch Series

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17. I have an interview up on Mommikin  — ‘Creative Moms...

I have an interview up on Mommikin  — ‘Creative Moms Unite!’ —…lotsa mutual inspiration going on at this site, I recommend a thorough perusal.

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18. Onesie Mumsie picture book - illustration process

I'm very excited to announce my second picture book, Onesie Mumsie (written by Alice Rex), is due for release April 2015. That's only a few weeks away!

Above is a video showing my illustration process in fast forward from pencil drawing to final colour illustration. The illustration took just under two hours to complete in real time. I scan my pencil drawings and watercolour washes, then complete the rest in photoshop using custom made brushes.

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19. The Fallacy of Thinking on Your Feet

“You really need to be better at thinking on your feet. You were way too quiet in there.”

That’s the fun feedback I got from my boss after a very long “brainstorming” meeting. This was early in my career and I really let it get to me. For years after, I sweated meetings and routinely kicked myself if I hadn’t thrown out a handful of frenzied ideas along with the rest of the group.

I got over it. Eventually.

It took years to learn this about myself, but I finally realized and accepted that everyone doesn’t need to think at the same pace to be effective. I also learned that group brainstorming sessions are complete bullshit. Typically they become an exercise in everyone making sure the room knows how smart they are. I’ve never been part of an idea-vomiting party that resulted in a great solution. Usually they fizzle into an apathetic pile of half-baked concepts that nobody knows how to execute.

I used to listen to my colleagues whip up complex schemes on the fly and bat them around the table like wadded up pieces of paper. I could follow the conversation, but trying to get my own creativity operating in the melee was almost impossible. I had the confidence to speak, I just couldn’t think.

For a while I researched all kinds of articles online to see if I could change the way I operate. I was so sure that I was somehow inadequate. Sure enough, the Internet assured me that I was indeed totally lame because I couldn’t toss out fully-formed ideas like walnuts in a salad.

They made me feel like crap. The thing is, I’m a smart person. I’m a creative person. And one of my unique skills since childhood has been coming up with simple analogies for complex concepts. So it was pretty ridiculous that I was being shamed into feeling that I just couldn’t keep up and had to change.

Here’s how it works for me. I’m an observer, a sponge, a Bounty paper towel of things going on around me. So after I soak up everything in the room, I go away to a quiet place and wring myself out into a basin. It’s only after gaining true understanding of an issue that really juicy and effective ideas get compiled by my brain.

I still admire quick thinkers. It can be fun to watch, and I’ve worked with some truly genius people who could access their brains as quick as a Gmail search.

I’m not going to be that person. More importantly, that’s completely okay. I don’t have to be. You don’t have to be, if that’s not the way you operate.

Think about how you come up with your best ideas. How does it work? What do you do to make that happen? Because the path you took to get there is not going to work for someone else. In the end, the result is what matters. We need to teach our kids this little secret so they can confidently contribute to a team.

I’d love to hear how you operate. Toss it out there in the comments. NOW! Quick! You’re taking too long…

But seriously, I’d love to hear from you. Take your time.

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20. African literature at American universities

       A couple of weeks ago Yale professor Wai Chee Dimock wrote about A Literary Scramble for Africa, occasioned by the annual MLA-centered hiring-ritual.
       Dimock reported that:

To our surprise, almost one-third of the people we ended up interviewing were again working on Africa, and not even the usual suspects: Chinua Achebe, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer. The field seems to have grown up overnight and turned into something no one had foreseen. Here and there we ran into some vaguely familiar titles -- Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow, NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names, Helon Habila's Oil on Water -- but, for the most part, people were writing about authors we had never heard of: Senegal's Boubacar Boris Diop, Tanzania's Ebrahim Hussein, Congo's Sony Labou Tansi, Uganda's Monica Arac de Nyeko, Mozambique's Mia Couto, Malawi's Shadreck Chikoti.
       You may have heard my anguished cries -- though at the time I only tweeted a few initial reactions. But it's good to see that there's now a more comprehensive, measured response: Aaron Bady writing about Academe's Willful Ignorance of African Literature -- well worth a look.
       The PEN World Voices festival (NYC; 4-10 May) this year is 'On Africa' -- with at least one of these 'authors we had never heard of' in attendance (Boubacar Boris Diop); I'm curious to see whether this helps raise the African profile.
       I'm embarrassed about many lacunae at the complete review (though often it is more a case of not enough -- applicable to almost all categories -- than none at all), and the sampling of African literature under review is certainly among them. And yet: familiarity just with the reviewed-here titles -- limited though the selection is -- could have saved Dimock some ignorance-embarrassment. Which is, in itself, sad: what you find here really doesn't even scratch the surface -- and at least in academia they should be aware of far more.

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21. Review: ALL-NEW HAWKEYE…Ready…Aim…Run


All-New Hawkeye (2015-) 001-000


Storytellers: Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez

Colors: Ian Herring, Ramon Perez

Letters: Joe Sabino

Publisher: Marvel



Jeff Lemire’s works have been very hit or miss for me. Sweet Tooth is a book that I still adore. His work on Green Arrow was solid, but his Constantine issues felt rushed or cut short. When Marvel announced that he would launch a new volume of Hawkeye with artist Ramon Perez, it definitely got me curious about All-New Hawkeye #1.

My immediate thought after finishing the opening chapter is that there isn’t much to go on in the first issue. The story recalls events from Clint Barton and his brother Barney’s childhood as on-the-run orphans. These events are interwoven with Clint and Kate Bishop currently invading a hidden Hydra fortress in search of the evil organization’s latest ultimate weapon. While the opening chapter definitely doesn’t lack substance, it does however leave a lot to the imagination as far as where the story is going in this arc.

There are two groups of people this book is for; fans of Lemire/Perez, and fans of anyone ever using the Hawkeye name. Just like the previous volume, while the book is called Hawkeye, it could have just as easily been called Hawkeyes, and that should tell you the value readers get in the book. If for some reason you missed the Fraction/Aja run on Hawkeye, don’t worry Lemire’s story is quite fresh and welcoming to new readers. Because of the book’s subtlety and elegance, All-New Hawkeye might put off those who expect mega Avengers scale battles in their comics, but those readers most likely never got on board with Fraction’s run either. Also, don’t worry that the last issue of Fraction’s run hasn’t come out yet, this one stands on its own.

Ultimately, All-New Hawkeye #1 is just flat out fun to read. The flashbacks of Clint and Barney growing up are gorgeous. Ramon Perez’s watercolors present an interesting dichotomy when compared to Ian Herring’s more traditional color work in the book, but both are solid and don’t stray far from what made Hawkeye one of Marvel’s most unique titles. Jeff Lemire is no stranger to writing archers, and it looks as though he’s going to infuse needed depth into Clint Barton’s upbringings, while taking anyone who has carried the name Hawkeye along for the ride. For an opening issue, the book could have used a little more setup. Based on the stellar watercolor work and witty banter between Clint and Kate; we liked All-New Hawkeye, but it still has a little bit to prove before we love it.

If you pick up one Jeff Lemire book this week, make it Descender from Image Comics. Should you find yourself with an extra $4 then give All-New Hawkeye a shot.

Tell us what you thought of Hawkeye here or @bouncingsoul217 

As always with Marvel, first come first served.


code: TMA7S7Y6PUVS


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22. Orhan Pamuk Q & A

       Orhan Pamuk (The Museum of Innocence, etc.) was at the Cairo Literary Festival a couple of weeks ago, and in Al-Ahram Weekly they have a Q & A Mona Anis and Youssef Rakha conducted with him there, Ottoman culture in disguise.
       Lots of interesting stuff -- including:

There are readers who are following my books, but say in the United States I am most famous for Snow, while they don't care about that book in China. They definitely care about My Name is Red there [...] These are issues I like, and these I think for example Chinese or Korean, Asian readers care about while American readers don't care much about the issues we have with individuality. American readers want to know about political Islam, or they care about My Name is Red in the sense of artists, drawing, they did this kind of miniatures, very interesting, but not as an issue of today. Or, for example, in Spain my bestselling book is Istanbul
       And, amusingly:
That's the problem with interviews. You do an interview and you define a certain situation that's resolved in two years' time, but 16 years later they're still quoting.

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23. Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Rachel Joyce. 2012. Random House. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

The novel opens with Harold Fry receiving a letter in the mail from a former friend, Queenie Hennessy; it is a goodbye letter. Though they haven't seen each other in decades, she wanted to tell him that she was dying of cancer. He's shocked, to put it mildly. Though in all honesty he doesn't think of her all that often, now that her letter is in his hands, he is remembering the woman he once worked with and what she once did for him. He writes a reply and prepares to mail it, but, on his way to the mailbox, it doesn't seem enough, not nearly enough. His reply is so short and inadequate. So after a brief conversation with a stranger about cancer, he decides to have a little faith and embark on a pilgrimage. He will walk to see Queenie in her hospice home. In his mind, logical or not, he's connected the two: walking and healing. He'll do the walking, but will it work?

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a character-driven, journey-focused read. From start to finish, readers are given a unique opportunity to walk with Harold Fry, to really get inside his head and understand him inside and out. It's a bit of a mystery as well. Since readers learn things about Harold chapter by chapter by chapter. The book is very much about Harold making sense of Harold: that is Harold coming to know himself better, of making peace if you will with the past and present.

I liked the book very much for the chance to get to know Harold and even his wife. (At first, his wife thinks he's CRAZY. Crazy for thinking up the idea, crazier still for acting on it. It just does not make any sense at all to her. WHY WALK OVER 500 MILES TO SEE A FORMER COWORKER YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IN TWO DECADES?!

It was a very pleasant read. Harold meets people every single day of his walk, and the book is a book of conversations.

It is set in England.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Never hurts to be prepared: Saint Patrick's day "test run" #leftfieldnyc #trickers #greenshoes #long

Never hurts to be prepared: Saint Patrick's day "test run" #leftfieldnyc #trickers #greenshoes #longwingboot #menshoes #menstyle #menswear #shoeporn #saintpatricksday by yolowastaken

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25. Artist of the Day: Chris Youssef

Discover the work of Chris Youssef, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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