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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Film, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 523
1. Essence of Mannstyle: Blackhat


Mannstyle
No film director gets the sound of gunfire like Michael Mann. It's not just that he typically uses recordings of live fire; plenty of people do that. There's an alchemy he performs with his sound designers, a way of manipulating both the sound of the shots and the ambient sound to create a hyperreal effect. It's not the sound of gunfire. It's a sound that produces the effect of standing close to the sound of gunfire.


Mann is celebrated and derided for his visual style, a style so damn stylish that any Mann film is likely to get at least a few reviews saying, "All style, no substance." I can't empathize with such a view; for me, style is the substance of art, and if any object has value beyond the functional, that value is directly produced by style. (Which is not to say that Mann's style is above criticism. Not at all. But to say that it is "only" style, and that substance is something else, something that can be separated from style, seems nonsensical to me. You may prefer the style of an Eric Rohmer or Bela Tarr or a Steven Spielberg or just the general, conventionalized style of mainstream Hollywood or mainstream TV ... but it's still style, and it's still substance created and transmitted through style.)




What generally goes unnoticed about Mann's style is how the aural and the visual work together. The visuals can be so ostentatious, so determinedly symmetrical (in his early work) or abstract (in the more recent films) or supersaturated or obscuringly dark, that the strangeness of the soundtrack remains unremarked. One of the most sensitive viewers of Mann, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, noted it, though, in his review of Blackhat, pointing out the "patchy sound mixes" and "sound design [that] is deliberately erratic, rendering a good fifth of the dialogue unintelligible..."


Yes, and more: since his first abstract-expressionist film, 2006's Miami Vice, Mann has cast non-Americans as American characters for some of the leading men (Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, Chris Hemsworth) and non-native speakers of English as the leading women (Gong Li, Marion Cotillard, Tang Wei). The men do a good job with their American accents, but it creates an extra level of artificiality for them to work through, an extra way for them to distance their everyday self from their character.


The women wrestle with English well, but their tones and rhythms are noticeably different from a native speaker's, and the effect is to further make the dialogue difficult to apprehend, to distance the words spoken from their meanings and heighten their aural qualities.


The dialogue in Mann's movies, regardless of whether he's the writer, is unmistakably the dialogue of a Michael Mann movie — there is Mannspeak just as there is Mametspeak. It's clipped, jargony, declarative, pulpy. It sometimes drives critics crazy ("laughable" and "ridiculous" are words I've frequently seen used to describe the dialogue in Mann's movies). The actors tend to fall into similar rhythms from film to film, and you could play a one or two minute clip of dialogue from any of Mann's films, particularly the ones of the last decade or so, and you'd know it was dialogue from a Mann film, just as you can easily identify clips of dialogue from the movies of Robert Altman, Woody Allen, and Terrence Malick. Couple the dialogue and how the actors speak it with a recording style that is more common to amateur documentaries, and the effect is odd and, if you're able to tune into it, intoxicating.


The ways we understand and get to know characters in these movies are also very different from the techniques of conventional Hollywood cinema. Mann's always presented psychology via action, but in his most popular films — that is, his films of the 1990s — there's a pretty standard approach to psychology. That all changes with Miami Vice, where a new distance is placed between viewer and character while at the same time the filmmaking heightens the sense of our subjectivity melding with theirs.


Now, the characters thoughts, feelings, and desires no longer inhere within the character, but are, instead, expressed through the light, colors, angles, and sounds of the world as it is conveyed to us. Mann's characters are no longer characters so much as they are figures in a landscape, and the landscape is an extension of those figures' feelings.


That's why it doesn't much matter whether you can understand all the dialogue. The dialogue is just sound, and it's how that sound fits with the images (the light, the color), and how those images and sounds flow together, that matters.


Odd and even alienating as Mann's style has become, there's a profound unity to its effect. More and more, he's come to make movies that feel not so much like dreams as like insomnia.


This style is not what we might expect from someone as concerned with verisimilitude as Mann. He prefers going to locations rather than building sets; he makes his actors do months of preparation; he hires numerous consultants to get all the details right. And then, shooting and editing the film, he obscures it all, swirls it, hollows it out, fragments it into collages of drift, burst, and glimpse until all that is real feels utterly artificial. Mann's ultimate aim seems to be affect: to evoke a feeling of the hyperfake real, of the deeply flattened surface, of a world rendered into electricity jumping across a flat plane of endless night.


Blackhat
Blackhat lost a lot of money. According to Box Office Mojo, it is Mann's least financially successful film since The Keep, a movie he's mostly disavowed. Produced for a reported $70 million, Blackhat has earned only 10% of that investment back and supposedly had the 11th worst opening for a film in 2,500 or more theatres since 1982. It is likely to end up being one of 2015's biggest flops, and that's saying something (for all the talk of Jupiter Ascending being a disaster, the Wachowski's film had some success in foreign markets and looks like it's made back its production budget, at least. Blackhat cannot say the same).


This is not especially surprising. Blackhat is marketed as a techno-thriller (the trailer, while hinting at Mannstyle, is pretty exciting), and its plot is, indeed, that of a techno-thriller. But anybody who goes into the movie expecting a techno-thriller is likely to be disappointed. "Boring" is a word commonly used in viewers' responses to the film.


The thrill is not in the movie's narrative, which gets subsumed and sublimed into Mannstyle. The thrill is in the movement, sound, and editing. Mann's affinities are more with Wong Kar-Wai than with any standard action filmmaker.


We could talk about the ideas in the movie, ideas about surveillance and punishment and information and reality. It's not for nothing that there are references to Foucault, Lyotard, and Derrida (The Animal That Therefore I Am) early on. But these ideas are not expressed as ideas that one can talk about and debate: they're ideas that are felt, sensed, whiffed, dreamed. They can't be separated from the mode of expression.


That's Mann's real accomplishment here. Ideas, like the books in Nick Hathaway's cell, get left behind.


The traces of those ideas, though, pulse through our circuits and burn across the night sky.


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2. Mad Max: Fury Road

Before I start talking about Mad Max: Fury Road, I should probably say that I haven't seen any of the other films in the Mad Max series, and that I'm not feeling a particular need to catch myself up.  This should not be taken as a criticism of Fury Road, which is indeed as brilliant and exhilarating as advertized, and whose gorgeous, pulse-pounding action scenes put the rest of Hollywood's

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3. ICYMI: Dragon Bewares Videos!

VIDEO 1: Claudette is back!

VIDEO 2: What’s Your Favorite Thing About Dragons?

VIDEO 3: What Should be Claudette’s Battle Cry?

VIDEO 4: What’s do you like about dragons?

VIDEO 5: How would you fight a dragon?


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4. Razor Sharp Takes a Festival Winning Heroine to Comics and Feature Film

By Kevin J. Johnson

“Razor Sharp” is an exciting new project from writer/director Marcus Perry and actress/stuntwoman Amy Johnston (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). The story combines the sleek futuristic trappings of Aeon Flux with a bit of slapstick wit from The Pink Panther and a little bit of Samus Aran from Metroid thrown in for good measure. Forced to take on a corporate criminal syndicate in the distant future of Los Angeles, Veronica “Ronnie” Sharpe, a cat-burglar-gone-good must decide between saving a child genius held captive or saving her own neck.

Imagine J. Scott Campbell’s Danger Girl brought to life sans the male gaze and patronizing cheesecake poses, with a large heaping dose of Ripley-esque badassery and cyberpunk cityscapes. A proof of concept short features the heroine in action turning a squad of goons into rag dolls. The fight choreography and digital backlot betrays its no-budget status, highlighting the team’s “money-on-the-screen” ethos.

 

The crew is made up of dedicated “action movie junkie(s), and we all grew up obsessed with comic books,” says Perry, “so we wanted to create a character that embodies that passion.” Sharpe is definitely cut from the same cloth as female legends that writers such as Chris Claremont, John Bryne and Gail Simone have brought us.

And what’s more, the Razor Sharp team seem just as committed as the aforementioned in bringing a full-fledged heroine to life, where other major motion pictures have stumbled in the past. “Veronica’s not a damsel in distress, or somebody’s girlfriend,” Perry continues, “she’s in command, full of vulnerability and humor that I hope will catch people off guard.”

The creative team are stocked with industry vets who have delivered for audiences in the past, and know how to maximize a budget. And now, they have their opening salvo with “Razor Sharp,” along with a fully-visualized world, a companion comic book, and accolades from several film festivals. Perry and co are looking to expand their short film into a feature-length extravaganza, and count me in.

With films as brutal as The Raid or John Wick adapting a back-to-basics bare-knuckle approach to fight scenes, it’s refreshing to see a project as appealing as Razor Sharp but just as committed to raising the bar in action cinema. Spearheaded by their accomplished lead Johnston, the crew promises to deliver a striking new style to the big screen.

You can visit the official Facebook page and  the team on Twitter to find out more about the film.


 

Out of all the nerds talking about things on the webs, KJ literally ranks among the tallest. Check out his reviews, ramblings, proclamations and declarations on his website.

1 Comments on Razor Sharp Takes a Festival Winning Heroine to Comics and Feature Film, last added: 5/4/2015
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5. May -- Opening Doors of Wonder, books, kids, dogs and movies

 

    Forbidden ForestCentaurs
   

Opening the doors to a child's imagination...

An 8 year old girl, after reading the first chapter in a manuscript, helped convince her father, the CEO of Bloomsbury, to publish Harry Potter. It had previously been rejected by eight publishers.

HgwrtsWinterThe Harry Potter book series that followed has found an enormous and passionate following around the world. The seven books in the series have been published in sixtyseven languages. The books have taken readers to Hogwarts and beyond, to a world of wizards, flying broomsticks, and magic wands ...a world of the imaginationThere are over 450 million books in print. There are eight movies that have translated the the books into fantasy adventure films with a worldwide gross of over seven and a half billion dollars... there are websites, games, theme parks, as well as a wide variety of merchandise.

The Harry Potter books were the catalyst for the major cross-over phenomenon of adults reading YA books, a change in the book buying  marketplace that continues to this day. 

And it all started with the imagination of J.K. Rowling -- and an 8 year old girl who liked to read, who helped open the doors to a world wonder, a world of fantasy, magic and imagination for millions of children, teenagers, moms and dads around the world.

The centaurs in the Forbidden Forest and the Hogwarts school are from the Harry Potter movies.

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JKRowlingGuardian "Many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are". J.K. Rowling,  Harvard Commencement Speech, 2008

 
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The Courage to Love...

Lev Grossman, journalist, critic, and best selling author -- Warp, Codex, and the Magicians series -- wrote a very personal, insightful and in-depth appreciation of the legacy of J. K. Rowling, the Harry Potter series, and the Deathly Hallows. It was published in Time  Here are excerpts...

"Deathly Hallows is of course not merely the tying up of plot-threads, it's the final iteration of Rowling's abiding thematic concern: the overwhelming importance of continuing to love in the face of death....


VoldemortHarrySo we have known for a while that Voldemort cannot love, that he has been spiritually ruined by his parents' deaths, and he will kill anyone to stave off his own death. Harry, though also an orphan, has found the courage to love. "Do not pity the dead, Harry," a wise man tells Harry in Deathly Hallows. "Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love." Characterologically speaking, the greatest question that remains in Hallows might be whether Harry can do this — that is, whether Harry can find it in himself to pity the man who killed his parents..."

Grossman then writes of mixed feelings, including sadness, following the completion of Deathly Hallows, the final book in the series...

HarryThe sadness is more an instant nostalgia for the unironic, whole-hearted unanimity with which readers embraced the story of Harry. We did something very rare for Harry Potter: we lost our cool. There is nothing particularly hip about loving Harry. He's not sexy or dangerous the way, say, Tony Soprano was. He's not an anti-hero, he's just a hero, but we fell for him anyway. It's a small sacrifice to the one that Harry makes, of course, but it's what we, as self-conscious, status-conscious modern readers, have to give, and we gave it. We did and do love Harry. We couldn't help ourselves."

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ArmChairBooks2 Reading... 
"Losing one’s self is, after all, one of the rewards of reading. The opportunity to inhabit another self, to experience another consciousness, is perhaps the most profound trespass a work of literature can allow." - Eula Biss

 

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Opening the Door for Hermione 

"You really are the cleverest witch of your age"  HermioneWand

These are the words of Sirius Black, at the close of the movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. 

In the book, at this same moment, Sirius spoke to Harry, and says,"We'll see each other again. You are -- truly your father's son, Harry."

Seth Lerer, writing about Theaters of Girlhood in his history of Children's Literature, cites this telling movie moment as a "benediction of female accomplishment"... "this movie takes as its telos the authority of girlhood. It makes Hermione the real performer of the story: the stage manager of HermionePotionsLabmagic; the director of its time shifts, costume, and control.The film becomes a girl's film, one in which the female audience can find their affirmation. Yet the book remains, despite Hermione's obvious centrality, a story about men and boys: about Harry's search forfor his relationship to his dead father; about his need to find surrogates in Black, or Dumbledore."

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Harry's Destiny...

"J.K. Rowling never shies away from the great existential mysteries: death and loss, cruelty
and compassion, desire and depression. Harry  is anything but sheltered and protected from the evils of Voldermort. Think of those fiendish Dementors who are experts in making you HarryHermioneHogwartsOminouslose hope...The presence of loss and the threat of death perpetually hover over the boy magician and he becomes heroic precisely because. like his literary predecessors, he is destined for greatness even though he also possesses the weaknesses, failings, and vulnerabilities of all humans." -- 
Maria Tatar, writing about Theaters For The Imagination, in her book, Enchanted Hunters, The Power of Stories in Childhood. 

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YALECCClogoThe Mind of the Dog

Dog lovers find dogs to be quite special. Dogs are forgiving, affectionate, helpful, and unconditionally loyal.

Therapy dogs help people to heal from emotional problems and support people with physical problems. And they enable kids, helping them to learn to read.

Dog owners often feel that their dogs know what they are thinking.

How much of this is instinct, intuition, or conditioning? What is going on in the dog's mind? What are they thinking?

Yale University has established a Canine Cognition Center to better understand the dog's mind.Here is an excerpt from their website: 

YalecccDogBannerHuman"The Canine Cognition Center at Yale is a new research facility in the Psychology Department at Yale University. Our team of Yale scientists studies how dogs think about the world. Our center is devoted to learning more about canine psychology—how dogs perceive their environment, solve problems, and make decisions. Our findings teach us how the dog mind works, which can help us to better develop programs to improve how we train and work with our canine friends."

 Here is a link to an informative CBS documentary news broadcast on the research and goals of the Yale  Canine Center : Studying the Brain of Man's Best Fried. This video includes scenes where the research tests with the dogs is taking place.

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 Castle in the Mist is the second book in the Planet Of The Dogs Series...Here is an excerpt... "The trail became rougher and then, through the trees, CITM-Dogs in a snowy forest-blog sizethey saw the ancient castle of the Black Hawk warriors.  It was an awesome sight.  It had been built as a fortress castle long ago – before the memory of people could recall.  It was later abandoned and lay empty for hundreds of years until the forest people began to use it once again.  It was a large, solid structure with two towers rising above the walls.  The ancient stones rested on granite bedrock, and the back wall rose straight up from the vast waters of the lake.  As they approached, the sun was setting and mist was rising over the waters.  Soon, the mist would move over the land."

To read more, and for sample chapters from all the books in the series,visit our Planet Of The Dogs website.

We have free reader copies of the Planet of The Dogs book series for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at planetofthedogs@gmail.com. and we will send you the books,. 

Jordyn castleOur books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...Librarians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.

 
The illustration from Castle In The Mist is by Stella Mustanoja McCarty. The photo is by C.A.Wulff.

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An Alternate Universe... The Harry Potter Legacy

Michiko Kakutani is a highly regarded book critic for the New York Times. Following the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in the series, she wrote a review of the book and an affirmation of the Harry Potter Legacy.

Here are excerpts:

"It is Ms. Rowling’s achievement in this series that she manages to make Harry both a familiar
HarryHermioneDangeradolescent — coping with the banal frustrations of school and dating — and an epic hero, kin to everyone from the young King Arthur to Spider-Man and Luke Skywalker. This same magpie talent has enabled her to create a narrative that effortlessly mixes up allusions to Homer, Milton, Shakespeare and Kafka, with silly kid jokes about vomit-flavored candies, a narrative that fuses a plethora of genres (from the boarding-school novel to the detective story to the epic quest) into a story that could be Exhibit A in a Joseph Campbell survey of mythic archetypes.

In doing so, J. K. Rowling has created a world as fully detailed as L. Frank Baum’s Oz or J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, a world so minutely imagined in terms of its history and rituals and rules that it qualifies as an alternate universe, which may be one reason the “Potter” books have spawned such a passionate following and such fervent exegesis. 

The world of Harry Potter is a place where the mundane and the marvelous, the ordinary and HarryRonOwlthe surreal coexist. It’s a place where cars can fly and owls can deliver the mail, a place where paintings talk and a mirror reflects people’s innermost desires. It’s also a place utterly recognizable to readers, a place where death and the catastrophes of daily life are inevitable, and people’s lives are defined by love and loss and hope — the same way they are in our own mortal world." 

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Celebrating Reading

 

 

OldLibrarySignLiz Burns, activist librarian, blogger ("its all about story"), book reviewer (YA and chhildren's books), and author (PoP Goes the Library) wrote a post about libraries and reading. Here is an excerpt:

"As libraries, especially public libraries, take a look at programs and resources and books within the context of the Common Core --

GlasgowLibraryManReadsRemember. We are more than the Common Core. We are also about escaping into literature. We are about the joys of getting lost in a book. We are about celebrating the act of reading for the sole reason that some of us like to read. Or, rather, love to read.


And that simple pleasure, well, sometimes, it does get attacked. Is the person reading the
right books? What are they learning from those books? Is it making them a better person? Is it Books3uplifting? Does it have a moral? Is deep reading going on? Is the reading being done the "right" way? Will this make someone a better employee? Is reading too passive? Isn't it better to be making something than reading? Isn't it better to be talking to people? Don't people have better things to do than read? Than read that book?

I think one of the wonders of libraries is that it is still a place for the person who loves reading. Libraries are more -- we are the sum of our parts, more than any one part of our mission. And part of that more is, and should continue to be, celebrating reading and being there for readers."

 


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Planet Dog Foundation  Has Awarded More than A Million Dollars in Grants to Therapy Dog Organizations...

Chicago's Canine Therapy Corps was one of the recipient organizations.  

CTCPhotoSteveGrubmanCanineTherapyCorpsThe Canine Therapy Corps (CTC), with over 100 volunteers, helps to heal and bring hope to children and adults with a wide range of difficult and painful problems including autism, cancer, PTSD, addiction recovery problems, emotional behavioral problems, rehabilitation and senior issues and more.

The kids and therapy dogs in this excellent CTC  video will touch your heart...the video includes interactions and healing moments with kids, dogs, therapists, parents and volunteers.

Here is their Mission Statement:

The Canine Therapy Corps...

CTC_Keshet_25Empowers and motivates individuals to improve their physical and psychological health and well-being by harnessing the human-animal bond;
Provides goal-directed, interactive animal-assisted therapy services, free of charge, using volunteers and certified therapy dogs;
Advances animal-assisted interventions through research and collaboration.

The group photo of CTC dogs is courtesy of Steve Grubman

 

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Imagine That

An Interview with Jack Zipes, By the Editors of Interstitial Journal, on how media and marketing have reduced the cultural value of Fairy Tales...

Here are excerpts:

..."The nineteenth century, especially in Europe and North America, became the golden age of fairy tale collecting that led to the foundation of folklore societies. By the twentieth century, the fairy tale and other simple folk genres began to thrive not only by word of mouth and through
OlPosterWizardOzMusical2print, as they had for centuries, but were also transformed, adapted, and disseminated through radio, postcards, greeting cards, comics, cinema, fine arts, performing arts, wedding ceremonies, television, dolls, toys, games, theme parks, clothes, the Internet, university courses, and numerous other media and objects. Among the modes of hyped advertising were posters, billboards, interviews, window dressings, department store shows, radio, tv, and Internet interviews, ads in newspapers, magazines, and journals, and all the other kinds of paratexts that accompany a cultural product. As I argued in my book Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre... Hyping is the exact opposite of preservation and involves, as I have argued, conning consumers and selling products that have a meager cultural value and will not last. Some recent fairy tale films produced by the mainstream culture industry reveal how filmmakers and producers hype to sell shallow products geared primarily to make money. They use the mass media to exploit the widespread and constant interest in fairy tales that has actually deepened since the nineteenth century..."

The interview continues with examples of marketing compromises made to achieve financial success that blur or change the integrity of the original tales.  

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 A fairytale doesn’t exist in a fixed form... 

"Like a mother tongue, the stories are acquired, early, to become part of our mental furniture
CoverCottageintheWoodsCatherineCoville(think of the first books you absorbed as a child). The shared language is pictorial as well as verbal, and international, too. Such language – Jung called it archetypal – has been growing into a common vernacular since the romances of classical antiquity and the middle ages – Circe from the Odyssey and Vivienne from Morte d’Arthur are recognisable forerunners of fairy queens and witches, and the sleeping beauty herself first appears in a long medieval chivalric tale, Perceforest. A fairytale doesn’t exist in a fixed form; it’s something like a tune that can migrate from a symphony to a penny whistle."

 This is an excerpt from Marina Warner’s Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale 

 

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The New Edition of Born Without A Tail

In her original book, Born Without a Tail, C.A. Wulff chronicles the true-life adventures of two animal rescuers living with an ever-changing house full of pets. She takes us on a journey from childhood through adulthood, sharing tales, (mis)adventures and insights garnered from a lifetime of encounters with a menagerie of twenty remarkable animals.

BwatcoversThe new edition also has a prologue about Wulff's journey into advocacy; and, it also has several additional photos. Here’s what some readers have said about it:

 “I can’t say too much about this book, it’s more than a ‘dog book’ it’s RocketatOUACStore
a people, animals, life book.
I was hooked from the first page and read it straight through, and have re read it since, enjoying it just as much the second time around.  Anyone who’s ever had a heart dog, a misfit cat, ever been touched by the love of an animal should enjoy this book. It’s a keeper.
 

“A collection of funny and heartwarming tales that shaped the life of a young animal advocate. Inspiring and written from the heart.“ I was touched by this account of love, friendship, responsibility and true selflessness. If you love animals you will not be able to put this book down.“ .

The book covers and the photo of Rocket are by C.A. Wulff.

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LogoBetterLumos is part of J.K. Rowling's effort to make the world a better place. Her focus is on children and poverty. She is the founder of Lumos, one of several charities she supports. Here are excerpts from the Lumos website:

Across the globe 8 million children are living in institutions that deny them individual love and care. More than 80% are not orphans. They are separated from their families because they are poor, disabled or from an ethnic minority. As a result, many suffer lifelong physical and emotional harm. 

Urban slumMeanwhile, the numbers of children in so-called orphanages continues to rise in areas outside Europe. Lumos has now begun work in the Latin American and Caribbean region. We have started in Haiti, where approximately 30,000 children are currently living in almost entirely privately funded orphanages. Once again, we find the familiar ratio of 80% non-orphans, and recognize the driving force of poverty. 

Lumos has a single, simple goal: to end the institutionalization of children worldwide by 2050. This is ambitious, but achievable. It is also essential. Eight million voiceless children are currently suffering globally under a system that, according to all credible research, is indefensible. We owe them far, far better. We owe them families.

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WCDogsLogo

Nancy Hauser's Way Cool Dogs has two new articles with excellent guidelines for people thinking of getting a dog. One article is an overview, dealing primarily with breed and size...Here is an excerpt from the second article:

 "All dogs need a certain amount of affection, attention, grooming, mental stimulation and physical activity. But different dogs need different levels of each, and should match that of their owner. For example, do you want to brush your dog or have the time? Are you going to be at work most of the day, and have a dog sitter rounded up to care for your pet while you are gone? These things all need to be well-thought out at all dogs are different with different needs."
 
Both articles will link you to the very helpful Dog Breed Selector.

Abc-animals-animated
 
Way Cool Dogs also offers: ABC Animals-Animated Flashcards where you can record your own voice or sounds. This is from their site:
 

"It’s finally here – our ABC Animals – Animated Flashcards mobile app for iOS!Image is in WCD folder in Blog Material)

ABC Animals – Animated Flashcards is an animated flashcard app for iPhone and iPod with 52 beautifully illustrated animations of adult and baby animals. Featuring phonics and a slideshow! Record you own voice and sounds and download free coloring pages!"

 

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 The Power of Illustration at the Eric Carle Museum EriccarleMusem-logo

UliShulevitz

If you have an interest in the power of illustration to ignite children's imagination, and you'll be in New England in the coming months, consider visiting the  Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA. where multiple exhibits are taking place.

 
AliceBolamEricCarleMuseumChildren's memories of early books have often been enhanced by
illustrations of worlds of wonder. As an adult, the mind still carries images from these early journeys. Historians attribute much of the great success of Taylor's versions of the Grimm's Tales in early nineteenth century England to the illustrations of George Cruikshank.
 
The Eric Carle Museum is featuring exhibits by four outstanding artist/illustrators: Alice Bolam Preston (1888-1958);  Eric Carle ; Uli Shurevitz; and Gustav Dore. 
 
Many of Dore's illustrations are considered to be pioneering classics. Here is an excerpt from the museum's website regarding Dore and his
influence on modern illustrators:

 
DoreRedRidinghood2"Sleeping Beauty,' 'Little Red Riding Hood,' and 'Beauty and the Beast.'  Doré’s timeless illustrations are presented in this exhibition along with the works of contemporary children’s-book illustrators. Allowing for a side-by-side comparison, the influence of Doré becomes apparent in the works of famous contemporary illustrators like Jerry Pinkney, James Marshall, and Fred Marcellino..." 
 
The Eric Carle catipillar logo is by Eric Carle; the flying boat illustration is by Uli Shurevitz; the fairy in the garden illustration is by Alice Bolam Preston; and the Little Red Riding Hood illustration is by Gustav Dore. They are all part of the Eric Carle Museum exhibits. 

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        AdspringreadsPOD2012  

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       The Planet Of The Dogs series is in China

        HBG

The Chongxianguan Book Company in Beijing has published the
complete Planet Of The Dogs series in China. They have translated the text and produced new illustrations (above) and covers. On the left, are illustrations from the Chinese books. On the right are illustrations from the English version. Deanna Leah of HBG productions introduced the books to our Chinese publishers.You can visit the Chinese web page for Planet Of The Dogs through this link: CHINA 

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  GirlDogWomanBookNew York City R.E.A.D.  Update

Intermountain Therapy Animals have been responsible for developing R.E.A.D. programs and training more than 3000 registered therapy reading dog teams in the USA, Canada, Europe and beyond to South Africa. European countries include Italy, Finland, France, Sweden, Slovenia and Spain. All of  this since 1999.

New York City has a growing and vital program, New York Therapy Dogs R.E.A.D.®, under the direction of Nancy George-Michalson. Here, in her words, is a brief summary of their activities ...

"Our ITA R.E.A.D. teams are being placed in a variety of schools and the NY Public Libraries working with children with Autism, ESL students and developmentally and emotionally challenged children as well as children who are just curious about reading to a therapy dog. The response from the staff and families has been remarkable."

If you have a dog, live in the NYC area, and have considered therapy reading dog work, click the link above. Or, you can write directly to Nancy at NGM-ART@nyc.rr.com

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"If you must keep your dog outdoors, construct an excellent dog house and kennel based on considerations of your dog’s breed, age, health status, your climate and environment, and safety and health features. Schedule daily activities so that your dog doesn’t become depressed or frustrated, leading to difficult behaviors. Never chain your dog.

It is now a well-established fact that dogs are social, pack-oriented animals who thrive on human companionship and are happiest while living indoors as part of the family. When you bring a new dog into your family, the dog learns to view your family members and your other pets as his or her pack.

Everything proceeds well as long as your dog is content with his or her place in the pack. Many behavior problems can be avoided with a little extra effort or training to make the dog comfortable with this position. CITM-Children in he castle-blog size

The most devastating thing the leader of a pack can do is to isolate an individual from the pack to solve a problem; different problem behaviors will likely arise. The dog might become profoundly depressed or anxious. Nuisance barking is common among dogs kept outdoors. Also, a lonely, isolated dog might disassociate from the family pack and cease to be watchful or protective of the family. You must schedule daily play time or take daily walks. Engage in a new activity with your dog such as nose work."

Anna Nirva, editor and prime mover on Sunbear Squad, continues this post with detailed, comprehensive considerations and guidelines for creating a Humane Dog House.

The illustration, from Castle In The Mist, of the children and the dog, is by Stella  Mustanoja Mccarty.

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"Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without doubt the best deal man has ever made." -- Roger Caras
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6. A New Challenge: On-Line, Illustration Workshop


Fans of the little videos John and I occasionally make for my YouTube channel, will be interested to hear of my latest venture. I confess, I am rather excited myself.



A few Urban Sketchers friends of mine, including the truly outstanding Paul Heaston, and Marc Holmes, have recently signed up to run on-line workshops for a company called Craftsy. Paul and Marc's lessons are excellent, as you would imagine (but if you want to sign up for them, do it via the artists' own websites, as that way they get more commission). 

Craftsy classes are not just in urban sketching though: there are all sorts of things you can learn, including children's book illustration... See where this is going?

Yes, that's right - they have invited me to do a class on illustrating picture books, concentrating specifically on character design and development. Now, I really enjoyed making our studio-based films, but this is the real thing: the film will be shot over a 3 day period in a proper, real-life, film studio. And not just that... it's in the USA! Okay, so now you know why I am excited. 



I have been stealing time where I can over the last week or so, to write down everything I can think of on character creation. It helps that I do a lot of illustration workshops in schools on this theme, as it can be hard sometimes, trying to remember the stuff that you know really well. My next job is to collate these ideas into Craftsy's specific lesson-plan structure. 

Once that's done and has got the OK, I will work with a Content Editor to talk further about the specifics of how we turn those learning points into a filmed workshop (which specific characters I will draw as demos, what practical assignments I will set etc). When that's sorted out, I am assigned a Producer to work with, fine-tuning various practical elements of the project and the logistics of what needs to happen when. Apparently, we'll even be discussing my wardrobe (new dress needed..?)


Then comes the exciting bit: Craftsy are going to fly me out to where they are based, in Denver. I'm booked into the film studio for September 9th - 11th. Another adventure! I am doing rather well on that front just lately.

It's early stages and nothing much will happen for a while, as I have my other commitments to work on first, mainly my Urban Sketching People book, but I'll keep you posted (of course). Once the filming is done, there will be about 6 weeks of post-production editing before it's released. If all goes to plan, it sounds like we should have it ready to go live around the middle to end of October. Watch this space!



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7. Film Review: Samba

The benefit of reviewing a film later than usual (I could not for the life of me make it to any of the Samba media screenings, so Think Tank Communications provided me with a double pass to see it once the film was out) is that you get to hear what other reviewers think about […]

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8. Dogs in digital cinema

Supplementing real dogs with digital animation produces performances that have benefits on many different levels. Firstly, they are much more effective dramatically because they can become more anthropomorphically expressive to suit the needs of the story. Economically they are less time-consuming and therefore less expensive because the performance is no longer determined by the unpredictable or intractable volition of real animals, however ‘well-trained’. The problems that arise even when working with ‘professional’ dog actors can be exasperating.

The post Dogs in digital cinema appeared first on OUPblog.

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9.


Look what I was sent this week:



The lovely Missus B emailed to ask permission from myself and Damian Harvey. I'm not sure that she actually needed it, but it was lovely to be asked and even lovelier to listen to her reading our book. 

If you have children of the right age (or just like to have a story read to you - I know I do...) then take a look.

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10. A stunning documentary: “New Year Baby”


The other night I downloaded and watched New Year Baby, Socheata Poeuv’s documentary about uncovering her family’s story in Cambodia. This movie…..this movie is something amazing.

Poeuv was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. She was called the “lucky one” as her parents, two sisters and brother were all subjected to life under the genocidal government and lived in labor camps until the country was liberated by the Vietnamese. Eventually, they all emigrated to the US and settled in Texas.

As she explains in the movie’s opening minutes, when she was twenty-five Poeuv went home for Christmas and her mother gathered the family together to reveal to their youngest child the big secret about how they were all really related. Her parents then decided to travel to Cambodia for a visit and Poeuv and her brother joined them with camera crew in tow. The trip became a way for Poeuv to learn about what happened to extended family members in the four years under the regime, how many relatives they lost* and how they were all able to get out of the country.

This is all incredibly emotional and inspiring (you will cry, trust me), but equally fascinating is the story of how Cambodians have buried their history in an almost national attempt to forget what happened. None of them can forget though (of course) so the official Cambodia versus the personal one are locked in a quiet and continuous battle of “let’s just not talk about it.” This is made brutally clear in the film when Poeuv’s local guide unexpectedly comes face to face with the former member of the Khmer Rouge who ran the hospital where his mother and sister died. He can not stop himself from asking what happened and his face as her utter incompetence comes through….well, his face is pretty unforgettable.

After making the movie, Socheata Poeuv founded an organization called Khmer Legacies which collects testimonies, stored at Yale University, from survivors of the Khmer Rouge. The project is set up to help preserve Cambodian history, a critical need. From the website:

…there has been no collective outlet to remember and heal for ordinary Cambodians. In fact, in Cambodia today, the history is often not taught in schools and some in the younger generation grow up believing that the genocide did not happen at all.

New Year’s Baby
is family history at its best; not only did the film maker learn her family’s own true story but she is now working to preserve an entire nation’s. We all should accomplish so much in our lifetimes. I can’t recommend this film enough.

*Approximately two million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge.

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11. March Surrounded by Wonders, kids, books, dogs and movies

    Hänsel_und_GretelAlexanderZick

 

Hansel and Gretel...

Life was harsh for the country people who told this story to relieve the  cruel reality of their daily existence.

Hansel and Gretel encounter abandonment, fear, hunger, cannibalism, and magic...they are lost in a cruel world of kill or be killed.

The children must rely on their own courage and ingenuity to survive and prevail.   

Welcome to the world of the wonder tale.

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Wonder Tales before the Grimms 

VERSAILLESLEREVEDUNROI-9During the reign of Louis XIV, cultural endeavors in all the arts were encouraged and highly regarded in the court of Versailles. Writers, including Moliere, Racine and Marais, were respected and often admired. Ideas were in the air in the salons of Paris and in the court itself.  

Marina Warner, edited The Wonder Tales, Six French Stories of Enchantment, introducing the reader to the European birth of the fairy tale and making a case for calling then tales of wonder. Among the writers with stories included are Charles Perrault, Marie-Catherine D'Aulnoy and Henriette- Julie De Murat. Perrault was perhaps the most influential, if one considers the stories (from folk tales) he published under the title, The Tales of Mother Goose. These eight stories included Cinderella, Blue Beard, Little Red Riding hood, and the Sleeping Beauty in the Woods. 
 
Here are excerpts from the Oxford University Press overview of the book...

"Once upon a time, in the Paris of Louis XIV, five ladies and one gentleman-- all of them 
aristocrats-- seized on the new enthusiasm for "Mother Goose Stories" and decided to write Bluebeardsome of them down. Telling stories resourcefully and artfully was a key social grace, and when they recorded these elegant narratives they consciously invented the modern fairy tale as we still know it today."

 

Heroes and heroines are put to mischievous tests, and their quest for love is confounded when their objects of desire change into beasts or monsters. Still, true understanding and recognition of the person beneath the spell wins in the end, for after wonder comes consolation, and after strange setbacks comes a happy ending. In Wonder Tales, a magical world awaits all who dare to enter."

 

 

 
The illustration of Blue Beard is by Gustav Dore. 
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Good but Grimm Bedtime Reading

 Mary Leland, in the Irish Examiner, has written a most insightful and interesting article on folktales and myths and the life and times of the Brothers Grimm. She also writes about Jack Zipes and the significance of his recent translation of the original  version of Children's and Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm. 
 
CruikshankElvesandShoemakerHere is an excerpt from the beginning of her excellent article:

"Many readers may argue with the poet Schiller’s assertion that ‘Deeper meaning resides in the fair tales told to me in my childhood that in the truth that is taught by life.’ Even so, perhaps those same readers will admit that the belief, quoted in Bruno Bettelheim’s master-work ‘The Uses of Enchantment’ (1976) has some validity.

They will certainly do so if they acknowledge the staying power of the fairytales told or read to them in childhood, and if they remember that strange hinterland in which mystery, search, loss, redemption and triumph still bring some imaginative consolation to the perceived injustices of the very young.

The fact is, as Jack Zipes discusses in his fascinating anthology, fairy tales incorporate the truth that is taught by life...."

The illustration of the Elves and the Shoemaker is by George Cruickshank.

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The Grimm's Wonder Tales Sweep England in the Nineteenth Century

OpenEditionBooksLogo

David Blamires, in a very comprehensive and rather scholarly article for Open Book Publishers, details the impact on readers in England of the  Edgar Taylor translation (1823) of the Grimm's original Childrens and Household Tales. The article provides both overview and details of the English versions throughout the 18th Century. Blamires credits the illustrations by George Cruikshank as being very important to to wide popular acceptance. 

RapunselbyGeoCruickshank "Without a shadow of doubt the single most important German contribution to world literature is the collection of traditional tales made by the Brothers Grimm and first published in two small volumes in 1812-15. It outshines Goethe’s Faust and such twentieth-century classics as Mann’s Death in Venice or Kafka’s The Trial by virtue of an infinitely greater readership. Not only have the tales been translated in whole or in part into virtually every major language in the world, but they have generated countless new editions and adaptations and become the cornerstone of the study of folktales not only in Germany, but throughout the world... 

When Edgar Taylor made the first translation of the Grimms into English
as German Popular Stories, translated from the Kinder und Haus Märchen, collected by M.M. GeorgeCrukshankCinderellaGrimm, from oral tradition (London: C. Baldwyn, 1823), the fairytale as a genre was very much in the grip of the French. Of course, such truly English fairytales as ’Jack the Giant-killer’, ’Whittington and his Cat’, ’Tom Hickathrift’, ’Tom Thumb’ and ’Jack and the Beanstalk’ had circulated in chapbooks, but English tales were not systematically collected until later. It was the fairytales of Charles Perrault, Madame d’Aulnoy and Madame Leprince de Beaumont that dominated the scene..." 
The illustrations of Rapunzel and Cinderella are by George Cruickshank.

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Born Without A Tail Returns

Logofull bp Logo2_flatPreferredThe enhanced second edition of Born Without A Tale, by C.A. Wulff will be published later this month by Barking Planet Productions. The book is a heartwarming life journey memoir by of Wulff's never ending rescues, healings, and adventures with a melange of dogs and cats. 

Here's a description of the first edition from Amazon:

When your home has a revolving door for abused and abandoned animals, keeping pets takes
on a whole new dimension! Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-rending, Born Without Bwatcoversamp_sm (2)a Tail chronicles the true-life adventures of two animal rescuers living with an ever-changing house full of pets. The author takes us on a journey from childhood through adulthood, sharing tales, (mis)adventures and insights garnered from a lifetime of encounters with a menagerie of twenty remarkable animals.--

And here is an abridged sample of a review...there are many more on Amazon : 

"I can't say too much about this book, it's more than a 'dog book' it's a people, animals, life book. I was hooked from the first page and read it straight through... The writer has a great way of drawing you in, making you at home in her world. Anyone who's ever had a heart dog, a misfit cat, ever been touched by the love of an animal should enjoy this book. It's a keeper."                                     -- Bookpleasures.com

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TALES OF FAERIE lge header

Lost Wonders Found In An Immersive Theatrical Experience

Imagine walking into a warehouse converted into an environment of wonder where you find clairvoyant ravens, a runaway princess, and elves with magic powers.  I discovered all of this is happening in London when I read a recent post by Kristen in her Tales of Faerie blog. Here is an excerpt...  

GrimmTalesPhotobyAngelaB."Any readers who live in England/will be travelling to the UK this spring? There's a unique fairy tale play going on, Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales for the Young and Old: An Immersive Fairy Tale, adapted and directed by Philip Wilson....

Reviewers seem overall very impressed with the play, especially the format. Instead of an audience sitting in chairs in an auditorium, they follow the characters through a large warehouse with different sections set up as each fairy tale. Props to the creators of this play for not only staying faithful to the Grimm fairy tales, but introducing audiences to lesser known tales, such as "Faithful Johannes" and "The Three Little Men in the Woods" (which seems to be the audience favorite)."

ThreeGnomesinForesGrimmIllstrationHermannVogelIn the words of Philip Wilson (Director & Adapter) of this theater piece:

"I love the fact that, in German, these are known as 'wonder tales' rather than the more twee term 'fairy tales': and so audiences coming to the Bargehouse will find themselves plunged into a parallel universe in which extraordinary adventures happen - and the darker side of these stories will come to light..."

For more information and a video, visit Grimm 

Photo by Angela B; Illustration by Hermann Vogel

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PawsGivingIndependence

Paws Giving Independence (PGI) is a multi-faceted, grass roots organization, located in Peoria, Illinois, that does wonderful work in providing service dogs for people with disabilities. Their PGI MontyyFourthGradedogs serve people ranging from the Jesse Brown Veteran's Hospital in PGIMontyChicago to the Peoria Children's Home Youth Farm. 

The photo on the left is of Monty, who recently had his first day of school with his new friend, the young girl in the photo. They are both in fourth grade. Monty now lives with her in her home, and they go everywhere, including the school bus, together.

Monty was trained by a Bradley University student as part of the Wags for Mags program, initiated by Paws Giving Independence (photo on the right).This ongoing program of student volunteers works directly with people and training the dogs for service. Anyone with a disability can apply for a PGI service dog. Saturday, June 6, 2015, is the day for PGI's  Running With The Dogs Day. 

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Dogs As Healers in the Planet Of The Dogs Series

 In the first book in the Planet Of The Dogs we are introduced to Bella, the healer lady of Green Valley. And it is through Bella that people have their first experience with dogs as healers...the first Therapy Dogs. Here is an excerpt...

"The next morning, just as daylight brightened their home, Tomas and his family had another POD-Healer and the dog-blog sizevisitor, Bella, the healer lady. Bella helped the people of Green Valley when they were having babies, or when they were sick. She had a large garden of flowers and herbs that she used when healing people. All the people in Lake Village, including Omeg, liked her and respected her. Bella had been dreaming of the dogs and understood the reason they had come to Planet Earth. 

Before Bella reached the house, Robbie and Buddy, who now slept in the barn, sensed her arrival and ran up the road to greet her. The family was happy to see her and to find that she welcomed the dogs. They  were  surprised that Bella was  so comfortable with Buddy, who lay at her feet while she sat at the table drinking a refreshing cup of mint tea. Bella had an even bigger surprise for everyone. She said, “From my dreams, I have learned that the dogs can help me in my work. I know they have the power of love and the power to help people heal,” she said. Tomas and Sara looked at her in amazement. Daisy and Bean were not so surprised. Then Bella said, “I want to take the little dog to visit Delia, the sad one...”

For sample chapters from Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes,  A Christmas Tale -- and more information about all of our Barking Planet books -- visit our Planet Of The Dogs website.  

POD-Daisy&Bean-blog sizeFree copies of the Planet of The Dogs book series  for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, and librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs...simply send us an email at planetofthedogs@gmail.com.

"In PLANET OF THE DOGS, Robert McCarty weaves an enchanting story that will delight the young reader as well as the young reader's parents or grandparents. Parents and grandparents should be forewarned, however, that their young readers will be pleading with them unrlentingly for a visit to Green Valley."  Warner V. Slack MD, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Father, Grandfather
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All Barking Planet Productions Books are available on the internet at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other booksellers --  as well as your local independent bookstore. 

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LitWorld and World Read Aloud Day

LitWorldReadingAloud

LitWorld brings literacy, reading, books, and empowerment to disadvantaged children.

LitWorld celebrated their annual World Read Aloud Day on March 5th.

"World Read Aloud Day allows members of our year-round programs to invite more people into their literacy community and brings LitWorld’s messages to the rest of the world. World Read Aloud Day is now celebrated by over one million people in more than 80 countries and reaches over 31 million people online. The growth of our movement can be attributed in large part to our network of partner organizations and “WRADvocates” – a group of reading advocates and supporters taking action in their communities and on social media."

Visit their website and learn more about their wonderful work: LitWorld

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The Wind In The Willows

WindWillowsMole

 

"But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, but can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty in it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties."--Kenneth Grahame, The Wind In The Willows; Illustration, E.H. Shephard

 
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I was drawn to read this book. 

Cover frontThe Motherless Child Project is terrific and timely. The central character, Emily Amber Ross, a 16 year old girl, is bright, interesting, conflicted, and very likable. The fact that she lives in a home where there can be no mention of her mother and her childhood becomes a driving force in her life. The story builds into a suspenseful, compelling, poignant rush of events. The ending is exciting and satisfying. I would think that word of mouth will be significant. In addition to being an excellent, and meaningful read -- The Motherless Child Project would make a great YA crossover movie. 

Janie McQueen and Robin Karr are the co-authors of The Motherless Child Project

 

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 The Unintelligible Truth of Folktales

Laura Miller, in Salon, conducted an excellent interview with Maria Tatar on the occasion of the publication of The Turnip Princess. Here is an excerpt:

What do you in particular find so compelling about this form?

Speed_goldenhood1"What I really love about fairy tales is that they get us talking about matters that are just so vital to us. I think about the story of Little Red Riding Hood and how originally it was about the predator-prey relationship, and then it becomes a story about innocence and seduction for us. We use that story again and again to work out these very tough issues that we have to face. My hope is that this volume will get people talking about not just the stories and the plot but the underlying issues.

Milan Kundera has this quote in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” about painting that goes something like: Painting is an intelligible lie on the surface, but underneath is the unintelligible truth. Folktales are lies, they misrepresent things, and they seem so straightforward and so deceptively simple in a way. It’s the unintelligible truth beneath that’s so powerful, and that’s why we keep talking about them. They’re so complicated. We have a cultural compulsion about folklore. We keep retelling the stories because we can never get them right."  Illustration by Lancelot Speed

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Ugly1894DucklingCover"He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him;” 

 “It is only with the heart that one can see clearly, for the most essential things are invisible to the eye.” 
― Hans Christian Anderson, The Ugly Duckling

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Animated Movies and Inspiration from Tales of Wonder 

ImagesLast year (2014), the Oscar for the best animated film -- Frozen -- was "inspired" by Hans Christian Anderson's classic story, The Snow Queen. In addition to substantive story changes, this Disney fantasy removes the dark fear and danger of the original and substitutes dazzling animation, fast pacing, and romantic gloss. Frozen has a sound track of soaring romantic music. the film also won an Oscar for best song: Let It Go.

Disney achieved their goal. In addition to recognition by their peers in winning the Oscars, the film has been extremely popular and made a great deal of money, grossing $1,274,219,009. That figure represents an incredible number of children and adults experiencing the Disney version of the story.

Here is an excerpt from Anderson's original Snow Queen, which, unlike the film, I find permeated by a sense of the ominous, of danger and events beyond control...

Snow_qween5"There stood poor Gerda, without shoes, without gloves, in the midst of cold, dreary, ice-bound Finland. She ran forwards as quickly as she could, when a whole regiment of snow-flakes came round her; they did not, however, fall from the sky, which was quite clear and glittering with the northern lights. The snow-flakes ran along the ground, and the nearer they came to her, the larger they appeared. Gerda remembered how large and beautiful they looked through the burning-glass. But these were really larger, and much more terrible, for they were alive, and were the guards of the Snow Queen... but all were dazzlingly white, and all were living snow-flakes."

Hopefully, many more children, having experienced the Disney version, will be drawn to read the original.

Illustration of the original Snow Queen is by Vilhelm Pedersen.

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Little Red Riding Hood...There are many versions and many interpretations in film, TV, CaleAtkinsonLilRedtheater and illustration of Little Red Riding Hood. The story had a major role last year in Disney's production of Into The Woods, a film inspired by a popular Broadway musical.

On a more modest scale, Cale Atkinson, a talented young Canadian illustrator, created a delightful short animated  version (1:37) of Red Riding Hood on Vimeo.

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Disney's Big Hero

Big-Hero-6--3This year, Big Hero 6 , also a Disney film, has won the Oscar for best animated film. This time , inspiration for the film was inspired by a Marvel comic story. The film is a significant departure from the original. Humor, imagination and outstanding animation bring Hiro, a brilliant teenage robotics inventor, Baymax his robot, and the fantasy future world of San Fransokyo to fun-filled life.

Disney, through the collaboration between Winnie the Pooh director Don Hall, and Chris Williams, director of Bolt, succeeded in adding charm and fun to the original premise; as a result, Big Hero 6 found a large audience worldwide: $546,225,000 (this figure will grow with winning the Oscar).

Here is a link to the delightful trailer: Big Hero 6.

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 Disney Returns with Cinderella on March 13. 

CinderellaPoster2015Cinderella back and, once again, has a cruel stepmother ... If Kate Blanchett was my cruel stepmother, I would be most grateful if Helena Bonham Carter was my fairy godmother --  especially if Kenneth Branagh was my director. This comment is based on watching the trailer for Cinderella - the next Disney movie.  

See for yourself:  Cinderella Trailer...and listen to the soaring music.

The advance reviews suggest this Cinderella will please and delight young girls and their families. Personally, I'm still marveling at the movie created by Linda Woolverton, Robert Stromberg, and Angelina Jolie in Malificent, inspired by Sleeping Beauty.

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TheGuardian
Alison Flood writes about the drop in popularity of JRR Tolkien's books in the UK in an article for the Guardian. The article suggest that movies have been a primary influence in the reading choices of UK students. Perhaps Peter Jackson's Tolkien-based films don't inspire readers. Here are excerpts...

"Annual What Kids Are Reading report sees dystopian fantasy and larger-than-life comedies dominate... 

TolkienBooksJRR Tolkien’s fantasy novels have been elbowed out of the annual lineup of the most popular books for schoolchildren by a deluge of dark dystopias and urban fantasies.

The seventh What Kids Are Reading report, which analyses the reading habits of over half a million children in over 2,700 UK schools, revealed today that Tolkien’s books have dropped out of the overall most popular list for the first time since the report began six years ago. In previous years, Tolkien’s titles have featured within the chart’s top 10 places, mostly among secondary-school children.

Instead, this year in secondary schools the most popular title was John Green’s tale of a heartbreaking teenage romance, The Fault in Our Stars, followed by two dystopian stories: Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire, from the Hunger Games series, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent, set in a world where people are classified according to their personality traits...."

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WCDogsheader9

 Nancy Houser posted an informative article in Way Cool Dogs on Separation Anxiety in Dogs. To people who don't know dogs, this may sound a bit over the top. Dog owners, however, will appreciate this fact-filled article.


"Separation anxiety in dogs is that dreadful moment as they fall apart in front of our eyes as we WCDSeparation-Anxiety-in-Dogs-650x723walk out the door, leaving them … alone. We could be be having a medical emergency, a day of shopping, a day of hard work, an exhausting afternoon at the grocery store … or maybe even a quick trip outside to check our mail. And truthfully, it does not matter. Every situation becomes a period of hell for dogs with separation anxiety, an animal who is a social animal that needs a lot of companionship.

Where and when we  go does not matter; what matters is the fact that we are gone and they are not. They are at home, and alone.  Mother Teresa once said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”   She was speaking of humanity, of course, but current dog studies are proving that dogs not only have intelligence but similar emotions and emotional disorders as we do, and should be treated as such.

What is canine separation disorder?

According to dog experts, canine anxiety is divided into three different categories:

  • Noise anxiety
  • Separation anxiety
  • Social anxiety.

Canine separation disorder is considered to be one of the most common causes of behavioral problems in dogs..."

The article continues
 to analyze of canine anxiety disorders; Read more:Separation Anxiety.             The illustration is by Nancy Houser

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The Wonders of Reading for Children

An excerpt from Neil Gaimon's impassioned presentation on the importance of libraries, books and reading:

"There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out,
TomThumbDaumlingbecause every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.

Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian "improving" literature. You'll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant..."

This link, Neil Gaimon, will take you to all of this excellent presentation as reprinted in the Guardian.  Illustration of Tom Thumb by Alexander Zick.

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 “We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” 
―  Ursula K. Le Guin      

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SunbearSqBigLogo

 How To Greet A Dog...and How Not To Greet A Dog (or cat)....

Unlearn polite human greeting behaviors … greet a dog or cat safely...Here is an excerpt and link to an article by Anna Nirva...

Yesterday at the shelter where I volunteer, a group of new volunteers were being led through the dog kennel room as part of a shelter volunteer orientation tour. I was returning a dog to a kennel after a
Dog 1.26 by 2.173 incheswalk, and several of the volunteers left the group to investigate the dog as I was leading him toward his enclosure. Two well-meaning people quickly approached the young dog straight-on, with hands outstretched, staring directly into the eyes of the shelter dog. Chief, the dog, a young, sensitive coonhound mix, feeling threatened, immediately moved through the open gate to the back of the kennel with his tail tucked and head lowered. “What’s wrong with him?” one of the new volunteers asked.

I had just found the topic for my weekly post...

In the western world, we are taught at an early age to greet new people by approaching them with upright posture, looking directly into their eyes and offering a hand to shake or squeeze. It becomes second nature to us, so as a result, many of us animal lovers greet every living thing–except bugs–using those same “good manners.”...

We must UNLEARN that set of social rules to avoid frightening dogs, cats, and other animals... read it all on SunBear Squad

The illustration from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty

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" You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

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12. Jupiter Ascending

It's been less than a year since Tasha Robinson coined the phrase "Trinity syndrome," and yet it's already become one of the most useful terms in pop culture criticism.  Named for the female lead in Lana and Andy Wachowski's The Matrix, Trinity syndrome refers to a movie in which a female character is depicted as cool, competent, and badass, but always and inexplicably in the service of a much

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13. An A-Z of the Academy Awards

After what feels like a year's worth of buzz, publicity, predictions, and celebrity gossip, the 87th Academy Award ceremony is upon us. I dug into the entries available in the alphabetized categories of The Dictionary of Film Studies-- and added some of my own trivia -- to highlight 26 key concepts in the elements of cinema and the history surrounding the Oscars.

The post An A-Z of the Academy Awards appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on An A-Z of the Academy Awards as of 2/22/2015 6:59:00 AM
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14. Fifty Shades of Grey Film Review

Warning: While not overly explicit, this blog does acknowledge the existence of, and briefly discuss, sex. If you’re not keen to read a blog about such things, I suggest you temporarily avert your eyes. I couldn’t attend the Fifty Shades of Grey preview, so fronted up for the 10am session on the day of the […]

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15. Feb- Storytellers, Books, Kids, Dogs and Movies

 

   Töölö 2015 015

                            Storytellers and The Oral Traditon

The photo is of a statue of a woman who could recite (sing) 32,000 verses of poetry
from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. Her name was Larin Paraske (1833-1904), one of the last Finnish Rune singer-storytellers. During  the Finnish renaisance of the nineteenth century , artists, writers, and composers (including Jean Sibelius) listened to her interpretation of the Kalevala. The Kalevala was passed on for centuries by rune singers. In earlier times, there were hundreds of Rune singers in this land of lakes and forests.

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Cinderfellas: The Long-Lost Fairy Tales

Here are excerpts from an excellent article about the soon to be published (February 24), The Turnip Princess. The article is a preview from the New Yorker of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "Lost" Fairy Tales. It was written by Maria Tatar, who also wrote the English translation of the new book.

..."Schönwerth’s tales have a compositional fierceness and energy rarely seen in stories King-Golden-Hair-008gathered by the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault, collectors who gave us relatively tame versions of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” and “Rapunzel.” Schönwerth gives us a harsher dose of reality than most collections. His Cinderella is a woodcutter’s daughter who uses golden slippers to recover her beloved from beyond the moon and the sun. His miller’s daughter wields an ax and uses it to disenchant a prince by chopping off the tail of a gigantic black cat. The stories remain untouched by literary sensibilities. No throat-clearing for Schönwerth, who begins in medias res, with “A princess was ill” or “A prince was lost in the woods,” rather than “Once upon a time…”

This fascinating article continues, describing the cultural shifts that resulted in the softening of Franz_Jüttner_Schneewittchen2these folk stories, and noting many instances where stories that were originally about boys, became stories about girls.

" ...Boy heroes clearly had a hard time surviving the nineteenth-century migration of fairy tales from the communal hearth into the nursery, when oral storytelling traditions, under the pressures of urbanization and industrialization, lost their cross-generational appeal. Once mothers, nannies, and domestics were in charge of telling stories at bedtime; it seems they favored tales with female heroines."

Tatar offers several examples of these changes. Here is her summary of a change in role that struck me as a vivid example, a precurser of the Princess and the Frog...

"Equally charming is the  story about Jodl, a boy who overcomes his revulsion to a female frog MaxfieldParrishFrogPrinceand, after bathing her, joins her under the covers. In the morning, he awakens to find himself in a sunlit castle with a wondrously beautiful princess..."

Greater Understanding of Fairy Tale Magic  

...Here at last is a transformation that promises real change in our understanding of fairy-tale magic, for suddenly we discover that the divide between passive princesses and dragon-slaying heroes may be little more than a figment of the Grimm imagination."

The illustration of Snow White is by Franz Juttner. The illustration of the Prince and the Frog is by Maxfield Parrish.

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Tales Told by People 

 "...Von Schönwerth spent decades asking country folk, labourers and servants about local habits, traditions, customs and history, and putting down on paper what had only been
passed on by word of mouth.
In 1885, Jacob Grimm said this about him: "Nowhere in the SnowWhiteWalterCranewhole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear." Grimm went so far as to tell King Maximilian II of Bavaria that the only person who could replace him in his and his brother's work was Von Schönwerth."

This excerpt is from an early Guardian article by Victoria Sussens-Messerer reporting on the discovery of a trove of "new Fairy tales" by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth

The illustration of Snow White is by Walter Crane.

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The Original Tales of the Brothers Grimm

OriginalFolkandFairyTalesBrothersGrimmZipesJack Zipes has translated into English, for the first time, the original volumes (1812-1815) of folk and fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. 

Zipes, a pioneering scholar and prolific author of books relating to folk tales, fairy tales, legends and myths, has also written an insightful and  informative article on the Brother's Grimm, their motivation, methodology, and the world in which they lived and worked. The article, The Forgotten Tales of the Brothers Grimm, was published in the The Public Domain Review.
Here are excerpts...
 

"...Turning to the tales of the first edition the first thing a reader might notice is that many of the stories...were deleted in the following editions for various reasons, not because they were poorly told but because they did not meet some of the requirements of the Grimms... 


RRHDore...
The second thing a reader might notice about the tales in the first edition is that most of them are shorter and strikingly different than the same tales edited in the later collections. They smack of orality and raw contents. For instance, Rapunzel reveals that she has become impregnated by the prince; Snow White’s mother, not her stepmother, wants to kill the beautiful girl out of envy... 

...The literacy of the informants, however, did not diminish the folk essence of the tales
that, as the Grimms and other folklorists were to discover, were widespread throughout Europe and told more often than not in dialect. The tales came to the tellers from other tellers, or they read tales, digested them, and made them their own. Indeed, we always make tales our own and then send them off to other tellers with the hope that they will continue to disseminate their stories...

And yet, the Grimms, as collectors, cultivators, editors, translators, and mediators, are to be thanked for endeavoring to do the impossible and to work collectively with numerous people and their sources to keep traditional stories and storytelling alive. In this respect their little known first edition deserves to be rediscovered, for it is a testimony to forgotten voices that are actually deep within us. Hence, the irresistibility of the Grimms’ tales that are really not theirs, but ours. "

The illustration of the wolf about to eat Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother is by Gustav Dore. 

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                    Vogel2

Grimm Legacies: The Magic Power of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales      by Jack Zipes was published in December, 2014 (Princeton University Press) as a complement to his translation of the Original Fairy Fairy Tales (above). Here is a review: 

GrimmLegaciesDec2014Princeton"In this landmark work of fairy-tale scholarship, Jack Zipes comes to grips with the multiple legacies of the Brothers Grimm in German and Anglo-American cultures. With nuance and inexhaustible insight, Zipes shows how mythmaking, marketing, hype, Americanization, the appeal of collective action, and utopian longing have sustained 'the magic spell' of the Grimms' tales throughout two centuries of use and abuse. Anyone seeking to understand the popularity of the Grimms' fairy tales or their richly diverse reception will do well to begin here."--Donald Haase, editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales


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The Rune Singer Storyteller begins Poem 1 of the Kalevala... 

AkseliGallenKallela-KullervoDepartsForTheWar"It is my desire,  it is my wish
to set out to sing,  to begin to recite,
to let a song of our clan glide on,  to sing a family lay,
The words are melting in my mouth,  utterances dropping out,
coming to my tongue,  being scattered about on my teeth."

Translation by Francis Magoun from the Kalevala poems compiled by Elias Lonnrot (1802-1804)

The illustration is from a painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

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PawsForAutismPaws 4 Autism is "helping families help their kids connect to the world 4 Paws at a time." 

The following excerpt is from the Planet Dog Foundation  (PDF) which provided a Grant to help Paws 4 Autism fulfill their mission.

"Paws 4 Autism utilizes specially trained dogs to help children with autism and their
PawsForAutism.4families. The PDF grant will specifically fund the Canine Assisted Social Skills in Education Program (CASSIE) which provides social and communication skills training for individuals aged 6-14 who have autism...Paws 4 Autism is 100% staffed by volunteers."

Visit the Paws 4 Autism website to learn more:

"Paws 4 Autism CASSIE program is currently working with 32 families in Kansas City, with a wait list of over 200 and growing..."

 

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World Read Aloud Day is March 4, 2015


WRADNepalWorld Read Aloud Day is LitWorld's Celebration of reading. In 2014, over 75 countries participated. 

This photo is from Nepal

Every year, on the first Wednesday of March, World Read Aloud Day calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.

 "World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their futures: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their stories.

WRADPhillipinesWorld Read Aloud Day allows members of our year-round programs to invite more people into their literacy community and brings LitWorld’s messages to the rest of the world. World Read Aloud Day is now celebrated by over one million people in more than 80 countries and reaches over 31 million people online. The growth of our movement can be attributed in large part to our network of partner organizations and “WRADvocates” – a group of reading advocates and supporters taking action in their communities and on social media. "

Here is the link for more information or to be a part of this wonderful event, LitWorld.

The photo on the lower left is from a World Read Aloud Day group in the Phillipines.

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"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me that any talent for abstract, positive thinking.
Albert Einstein~(1879-1955)

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  IntlChildrensDigitalLibraryThe International Children's Digital Library (ICDL)

 Free Children's Books on the Internet in a huge digital library. Many of them appear to be from another era.  From their site...


AesopFables.jpg1"The ICDL has been visited by over three million unique visitors since our launch in November, 2002.

  • The ICDL collection includes 4619 books in 59 languages.
  • Our users come from 228 different countries.

Free access to high-quality digital books from around the world. Browse by age, genre, book length, character types, or even the color of a book's cover."

Here is the Link: ICDL

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SurlaluneBlog_header

Tell Me A Story 

SurLaLune , Heidi Anne Heimer's website for Fairy Tales and Folklore is a veritable constellation of fairy tale books, information, annotations, illustrations, and links. Here is a excerpt from an article she posted on folklore, fairy tales and the oral tradition of storytelling.    

RapunselbyGeoCruickshank"...Then there is the whole explanation of how folklore comes from oral storytelling tradition. Be aware that this website and most fairy tale studies deal with literary fairy tales, tales that are once removed from oral tradition, set down on paper by one or more authors. Once the story is written down, it becomes static in that version. It is no longer only folklore, but part of the world's body of literature. In contrast, the beauty of storytelling is how the same story is slightly different each time it is told, even by the same storyteller. Oral fairy tales are elusive creatures that folklorists study, record and try to trace through history. It is an invigorating field of study, but not the one I have pursued on SurLaLune. Note that sometimes the literary fairy tale came first and was then absorbed back into oral tradition, such as with 'Beauty and the Beast.'"... 

The illustration of Rapunzel is by George Cruickshank.
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The Planet of the Dogs, as the Story Was First Told



POD-Daisy&Bean-blog sizeDaisy and Bean,
who lived on a farm near Lake Falls Village (on planet Earth), found themselves on the Planet of the Dogs. They were the first humans to be there. This was long, ago, before there were dogs on planet Earth.

They had been chosen as emissaries, to help with a transition --  the dogs had decided to come to earth to help people learn again about loyalty, courage and love. And they needed to learn how non-violent solutions could turn back invaders. .

The following excerpt takes place following a huge gathering of the dogs,who had come to hear the decision, by Miss Merrie, Queen of the dogs, and the Dog Council, about helping people on earth....

 
"Rex, a big shaggy dog -- bigger than Buddy, and very old -- then spoke. 'You must not tell anyone about visiting the Planet of the Dogs.  People won’t believe you, and they’ll think that you aren’t telling the truth, or that it was just something you imagined. And some will become frightened and tell false stories about you. And this will interfere with our efforts to help people. You must keep your visit here a secret. Can you do that?' ”

To read more, visit the Planet Of The Dogs

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Free Books for Therapy Reading Dogs

JezebellPOD00000005Therapy reading dog owners, librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs --  If  you email us at planetofthedogs@gmail.com , we will send you free reader copies from the Planet of the Dogs Series...Read dog books to  kids and dogs.

The photo is of therapy reading dog Jezebell, seen here with a reading student friend. They were part of teacher Julie Hauck's pioneering Pages for Preston reading program for second and third graders in the Longfellow Elementary School, Sheboygan, WI.

 

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Up On the Woof

Uponwoofhdr2
 

 "I’ve been accused of treating my dogs like children, but I honestly see that as more of a badge of honor than a criticism. After all, the more science learns about dogs, the more ArielWaldoapparent it is that they are like children. They are as bright as any toddler, and because they are completely dependent on us, it means they stay babies all their lives. That means it’s our responsibility as pet parents to make sure their physical (food, water, shelter, safety, hygiene, play, medical) and emotional (love, encouragement, comfort) needs are met. It means teaching them, and seeing that their lives are enriched and that they are intellectually stimulated."

The excerpt above is by C.A. Wulff, from her Up On The Woof blog. Wulff is a dog loving animal advocate/activist; book reviewer and columnist (Examiner); yelodoggie artist; author of dog world books; and associate publisher at Barking Planet Productions.

In the Spring, Barking Planet Productions will publish an updated and revised edition of Wulff's fascinating memoir, Born Without a Tale. 

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Oh,_the_Places_You'll_Go
Your off to great places,

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So...get on your way!
-Dr.Seuss

 

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New Cinderella from Disney opens March 13.

CinderellaPoster2015

 

Cinderella returns.. Will it be Sugar Coated Survival Skills or will the spirit of Malificent return?

After the success of Frozen, which glossed over Hans Christian Anderson's Snow Queen, it's no telling. However, the director (Kenneth Branagh) is excellent, as is the cast (Kate Blanchett, Lily James, Helen Bonham Carter, Richard Madden).


Frozen, with its romantic music and sugar coated romance, is a favorite to win an Academy Award (February 22).
 

Here is a link to the trailer: Cinderella

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In Defense of Little Girls Who Like Princesses

Lizzy Burns wrote a caring, thoughtful, and very lively blog defending little girls who like playing princess. Here is an excerpt... 

"There is nothing wrong -- absolutely nothing wrong -- with your young child liking princesses. ClioApril-2012Any princess...I get annoyed at the gendering of toys and books -- Legos and science are for boys, feelings and dress up are for girls -- but that is because Legos and science and feelings and dress up are for any child, boy or girl, and problematic messages are sent by calling one "boy" and one "girl."

Princesses (especially pink sparkly princesses) can be problematic not because they are pink sparkly princesses but because what it means to be a princess, to want to be a princess, and how society views that, along with misunderstandings about the nature of play and imagination (and I'd add, that goes for children, teens, and grown ups.)

I'm not the first person to talk about princesses, what they mean, what they don't mean, and the depth and substance that is needed for the "princess talk..." 

Here's a link to read it all: Lizzy Burns

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The Tin Man Returns in a theatrical perfomance piece invoving actors, puppets, a musical soundscape and innovative staging. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times Review by Laura Collins Hughes...

Led by a Tender Heart, Before It Is Ripped Out

‘The Woodsman’ Tells the Tin Man’s Tale

"Using words is dangerous in this eastern corner of Oz, yet sound is everywhere: the mournful music of a violin, the rasp of a witch, the spooky wind of the woods.

 

Woodsman2A movement piece with puppets, James Ortiz’s “The Woodsman” is an elemental reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s world of Oz. The spectacle is handmade, infused with breath and light...
This is the Tin Man’s back story: how a regular human named Nick Chopper (Mr. Ortiz) came to be a rusting pile of metal in need of a heart. The story, laid out in a spare spoken prologue in this largely wordless piece, involves the witch who rules this part of Oz. Her only apparent vulnerability is an aversion to sunlight..."

Here is a link to the full review: Laura Collins-Hughes

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How to Create a YA Phenomenon, in Nine Easy Steps by Amanda Dobbins

Humor, Irony, tongue-in-PC, and truth mix in this article from New York Magazine's Vulture Website. Here's an excerpt...

"The Divergent series has sold 5 million books and is regularly called 'the next Hunger Games' or 'the next next Twilight.'Interested in writing the next next next teen franchise? Here’s a step-by-step guide. 

DivergentBookCover1. Start a blog.
Early online readers got to watch Roth write Divergent, find an agent, and sell it to HarperCollins—all in real time on her website. By the time the book was published, “she was already a social-media phenomenon,” says editor Katherine Tegen. 

Pro tip: Blog about lots of things!
A list of non-writing topics mentioned on Veronica Roth’s blog: dead raccoons, traffic lanes, sweet-potato soup, spiders, a OneRepublic CD. 

2. Don’t be afraid to be trendy.
The Hunger Games was big at that point, but there were a couple other books that were on the cusp of the dystopian-sci-fi trend—Matched and The Maze Runner. But the timing just worked so that Divergent ended up...Read it all: Amanda Dobbins

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WCDogsLogo"How to find the best vet for your pooch
is about providing the best care for your dog. Dogs have a way of working their way into our heart and becoming more than just an everyday pet. If you have a pet dog then the chances are that they have become a firm member of your family. For this reason alone you are going to want to make sure that they receive the best veterinary care, which involves the best choice of vet. You probably wouldn’t visit a doctor with a bad reputation, and you will want the same for your dog..."

Read more on Nancy Hauser's Way Cool Dogs: Best Vet

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Motherless Child Project.

The voice of Emily Amber, a 16 year old girl in South Carolina, pulls you in. I rarely read YA MotherlessChildProjectbooks and I'm still in the process of reading The Motherless Child Project. However, I can report that a compelling momentum drives this story. Here is an excerpt from early on in the book...

"...In my house, no one talks about anything concerning my mother, not dad, not Jon, Nicky nor me. The best way I can explain it is like this - when it's a fact in your life that your mother is MIA, and you know you'll never get anywhere by asking where she is because you tried numerous times with bad or worse results, you just move on with your life. What else can you do?..."

I'm looking forward to reading all of the Motherless Child Project and reporting on Emily Amber in the next Barking Planet blog. For more information, visit author Janie McQueen.

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SheSpeaksBark-Logo_HorizontalOn Jan 29, Kaitlin Jenkins, posted an article  on her blog, She Speaks Bark,  about National Seeing Eye Dog Day. I found her article to be warm-hearted and informative. Here is an excerpt... 

"Guide Dogs, or Seeing Eye Dogs as they’re often called, provide support and independence to
GuideDogsforBlindClickerImage2014visually impaired individuals. Often, the companionship of the seeing eye dogs allows a visually impaired person to take many of their daily tasks back into their own hands. Suddenly a world that was always limiting a person is once again re-opened, and they’ve got a constant companion who is looking out for them at all times. The partnership between a trained guide dog and their person is something to behold, and it’s something I’ve always found incredibly powerful and fascinating."

GuideDogsBlindLogoHeaderHer article led me to Guide Dogs for the Blind. This outstanding organization, located in San Rafael, CA, and Boring, OR, offers a lifetime of support to visually impaired people. In their own words...

"We are a passionate community that serves the visually impaired. With exceptional client GuideDogs2services and a robust network of trainers, puppy raisers, donors and volunteers, we prepare highly qualified guide dogs to serve and empower individuals who are blind or have low vision. All of our services are provided free of charge; we receive no government funding."

Here is a link to their humorous guide to Blindness Etiquette video...I smiled, laughed and learned.

The photo of the woman and her dog is courtesy of Guide Dogs for the Blind

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CinderellaRackham"She was made to work like a slave from morning to night. She had to get up at daybreak, carry water from the well, clean the fireplace and the fires, cook all the food and wash all the dishes. But that wasn't all, because the sisters did everything they could to make things worse for the poor girl...And when she was done at the end of the day, could she look forward to a comfortable bed? Not a bit of it. She had to sleep on the hearth, in among the ashes and the cinders..."

Cinderella - from Philip Pullman's Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm

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A Dog's Life, Outside and Inside

Anna Nirva,in her Sunbear Squad blog, discusses how dogs are
Sunbearsquad-logosocial animals who are happier, and usually healthier, when they live inside. There, they can be part of a pack (people are also members of their pack). Often, however, dog owners choose to keep their dogs outside and this can necessitate -- if humane conditions are to prevail -- the need for a proper doghouse. Here is a brief excerpt: 

"If you must keep your dog outdoors, construct an excellent dog house and kennel based on considerations of your dog’s breed, age, 5 Doghead 7-1.457 by 1.68 inches
health status, your climate and environment, and safety and health features. Schedule daily activities so that your dog doesn’t become depressed or frustrated, leading to difficult behaviors. Never chain your dog..."
 

Anna offers detailed, comprehensive, information and considerations ranging from the dog's physical limitations and the local environment to design features that will help the dog to stay safe and healthy. Here is a link to read it all: the Humane Dog House. 

The illustration by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty is from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale.

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A man may smile and bid you hail
Yet wish you to the devil;
But when a good dog wags his tail,
You know he's on the level.
--Author unknown

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16. Five Comments on Birdman

It's been two days since I saw Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman and I'm still feeling exhilarated.  On the most basic level, this film is like nothing else I've seen in a movie theater in a long time, possibly forever, and I urge you to see it simply for the experience (and ideally in a movie theater, since this is a work worth being immersed in).  It's also a hard movie to write about, with

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17. Selma and re-writing history: Is it a copyright problem?

A few days ago The Hollywood Reporter featured another interesting story concerning Martin Luther King or – to be more precise – his pretty litigious estate.

This time the fuss is about already critically acclaimed (The New York Times critic in residence, AO Scott, called it “a triumph of efficient, emphatic cinematic storytelling”) biopic Selma, starring David Oyelowo as the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

The film starts with King’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964 and focuses on the three 1965 marches in Alabama that eventually led to the adoption of the Voting Rights Act later that year.

The King estate has not expressly objected to the making of this film. However, back in 2009 the same estate had granted DreamWorks and Warner Bros a licence to reproduce King’s speeches in a film that Steven Spielberg is set to produce but has yet to see the light. Apparently Selma producers attempted in vain to get permission to reproduce King’s speeches in their film. What happened in the end was that the authors of the script had to convey the same meaning of King’s speeches without using the actual words he had employed.

Put it otherwise: Selma is a film about Martin Luther King that does not feature any actual extracts from his historic speeches.

Still in his NYT review, AO Scott wrote that “Dr. King’s heirs did not grant permission for his speeches to be quoted in “Selma,” and while this may be a blow to the film’s authenticity, [the film director] turns it into an advantage, a chance to see and hear him afresh.”

Indeed, the problem of authenticity has been raised by some commentators who have argued that, because of copyright constraints, historical accuracy has been negatively affected.

But is this all copyright’s fault? Is it really true that if you are not granted permission to reproduce a copyright-protected work, you cannot quote from it?

“The social benefit in having a truthful depiction of King’s actual words would be much greater than the copyright owners’ loss.”

Well, probably not. Copyright may have many faults and flaws, but certainly does not prevent one from quoting from a work, provided that use of the quotation can be considered a fair use (to borrow from US copyright language) of, or fair dealing (to borrow from other jurisdictions, e.g. UK) with such work. Let’s consider the approach to quotation in the country of origin, i.e. the United States.

§107 of the US Copyright Act states that the fair use of a work is not an infringement of copyright. As the US Supreme Court stated in the landmark Campbell decision, the fair use doctrine “permits and requires courts to avoid rigid application of the copyright statute when, on occasion, it would stifle the very creativity that the law is designed to foster.”

Factors to consider to determine whether a certain use of a work is fair include:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is commercial or for nonprofit educational purposes (the fact that a use is commercial is not per se a bar from a finding of fair use though);
  2. the nature of the copyright-protected work, e.g. if it is published or unpublished;
  3. amount and substantiality of the taking; and
  4. the effect upon the potential market for or value of the copyright-protected work.
Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern, 1964. Public domain via Library of Congress.
Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern, 1964. Public domain via Library of Congress.

There is fairly abundant case law on fair use as applied to biographies. With particular regard to the re-creation of copyright-protected works (as it would have been the case of Selma, should Oyelowo/King had reproduced actual extracts from King’s speeches), it is worth recalling the recent (2014) decision of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in Arrow Productions v The Weinstein Company.

This case concerned Deep Throat‘s Linda Lovelace biopic, starring Amanda Seyfried. The holders of the rights to the “famous [1972] pornographic film replete with explicit sexual scenes and sophomoric humor” claimed that the 2013 film infringed – among other things – their copyright because three scenes from Deep Throat had been recreated without permission. In particular, the claimants argued that the defendants had reproduced dialogue from these scenes word for word, positioned the actors identically or nearly identically, recreated camera angles and lighting, and reproduced costumes and settings.

The court found in favour of the defendants, holding that unauthorised reproduction of Deep Throat scenes was fair use of this work, also stressing that critical biographical works (as are both Lovelace and Selma) are “entitled to a presumption of fair use”.

In my opinion reproduction of extracts from Martin Luther King’s speeches would not necessarily need a licence. It is true that the fourth fair use factor might weigh against a finding of fair use (this is because the Martin Luther King estate has actually engaged in the practice of licensing use of his speeches). However the social benefit in having a truthful depiction of King’s actual words would be much greater than the copyright owners’ loss. Also, it is not required that all four fair use factors weigh in favour of a finding of fair use, as recent judgments, e.g. Cariou v Prince or Seltzer v Green Day, demonstrate. Additionally, in the context of a film like Selma in which Martin Luther King is played by an actor (not incorporating the filmed speeches actually delivered by King), it is arguable that the use of extracts would be considered highly transformative.

In conclusion, it would seem that in principle that US law would not be against the reproduction of actual extracts from copyright-protected works (speeches) for the sake of creating a new work (a biographic film).

This article originally appeared on The IPKat in a slightly different format on Monday 12 January 2015.

Featured image credit: Dr. Martin Luther King speaking against war in Vietnam, St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota, by St. Paul Pioneer Press. Minnesota Historical Society. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

The post Selma and re-writing history: Is it a copyright problem? appeared first on OUPblog.

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18. Coherence

The second stop in my short trip through 2014's lesser-known genre filmmaking is James Ward Byrkit's Coherence.  Which turned out to be fortuitous, as the comparison between Coherence and The One I Love revealed some interesting similarities, as well as telling differences.  On the surface level, the two films feel very different--The One I Love is intimate and tightly focused, while Coherence is

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19. The Imitation Game and how far we’ve come

THE IMITATION GAME

SPOILERS: If you don’t know the story of Alan Turing and want to remain completely in the dark in regards to the plot of The Imitation Game, probably don’t read this.

As a dedicated Cumberbitch, of course I had to see The Imitation Game, in which my boyfriend Benedict Cumberbatch portrays genius and father of the modern computer Alan Turing.

Turing was a British mathematician, cryptographer, and marathon runner who helped break the Nazi Enigma code to bring an early cessation to World War II. The machine he used to break the code, “Christopher,” is the precursor to technology we use everyday, whether it be a computer or smart phone.

Post-war, Turing was found guilty of gross indecency, due to his homosexuality (a crime at the time) and sentenced to two years chemical castration through oestrogen injections in order to dissolve his libido. Due perhaps to the effects of the oestrogen, he killed himself at the age of forty-one.

Turing was never ashamed of his sexuality. He died a genius and a homosexual who has since been recognized for his accomplishments and for the unfortunate turn his life took as a gay male in the super paranoid 1950s.

The film, Imitation Game, follows Turing’s entire life through flashes into his past at boarding school, his present at Bletchley Park during World War II, and into his sad, horrible future, during the process of his chemical castration when he seemed ready to lose his mind.

Cumberbatch was ideally cast in the role of this awkward genius. He brings comedy, heart, and charisma to a man whose own mother called him “an odd duck.” The supporting cast is similarly enthralling, led by Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode (and a truly heart-wrenching portrayal by lesser-known Matthew Beard).

Screenwriter Graham Moore deserves every award possible for his flawless movement through time, choosing the moments in Alan’s life that shaped him the most. And I’d be remiss to not mention director Morten Tyldum, who guided and shaped the film into an emotional rollercoaster of joy, tragedy, and rage.

Cumberbatch has admitted he did not leave filming unscathed. During one scene, for instance, he had to portray Turing having an emotional breakdown. Surprise, surprise, Cumberbatch actually had a breakdown and couldn’t finish the scene.

director-morten-tyldum-narrates-620x400He told the Los Angeles Daily News, “I just got completely lost in his tragedy. I tried to pace myself for the scene, but I could not stop crying. I could not stop keening for this guy who was wronged. It disgusted and profoundly upset me.” As an audience member, I felt the same about Turing’s fate.

The film is brilliant in execution. The performances are spot-on. More than that, though, The Imitation Game informs people of what happened to Alan Turing and what happened to so many men like him in the first half of the twentieth century.

Gay men were once the drug dealers of today. They were persecuted and imprisoned for their “crime” (sexual preference). Can you image that happening now? No, but that doesn’t mean we’re in any way out of the woods where gay rights are concerned.

A dear friend of mine was recently attacked via an online discussion board at her college. Fellow students found out she was gay and offered to help her. They wanted to take her someplace where she could be “healed.” They wanted her to know she could be fixed, but as I told her, “Honey, you can’t fix stupid.” We still live surrounded by ignorance, and no matter how well intentioned, my friend’s fellow students really hurt her feelings.

Steps have been taken to stop discrimination against gays. Gay marriage is being allowed in more and more states around the country. We’re certainly not putting people away for sodomy anymore. (Half the straight population would probably be behind bars, too.) But there is still a long way to go for more than just gays—for the rights of all races, sexes, and creeds.

The Imitation Game is really about choices: choose who you love, choose who you save, and choose who you want to be. Finally, choose to accept the way you were born.


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20. ...It Slipped onto YouTube, When I Wasn't Looking!



Look what I found on YouTube today, by pure chance:


Some of those who have a copy of When You're Not Looking! at home, might notice that the text is a little different to the original version. It was reworked for a later US edition.

Great job Lily and Lola!

0 Comments on ...It Slipped onto YouTube, When I Wasn't Looking! as of 12/25/2014 8:32:00 AM
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21. JANUARY- The Stories Never End, Kids, Books, Movies and Dogs

 

  Töölö 2015 012

     Folklore from Germany, Fairy Tales for the World

It was an era that began with the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars. The years that followed were marked by internal conflict and political disagreement. 

Life was hard. Wealthy land owners and nobility controlled nearly all of the land. Most Jean-FrançoisMillet_Gleaners_people were farmers, living in rural areas. Books were few and few people could read them. Serfdom kept many people poor.

This was the time of the cumbersome German Confederation, created by German princes to retain their control in a time of growing upheaval and conflict.

The shifting sands of power lay in 37 principalities and four cities. Uncertainty reigned.

Folklore and folk tales were an integral part of people's awareness. Forests played a major role in these stories. The forests were deep and often dangerous.

We know that stories -- folk tales --  were often told by country women when several
GrimmTalesWalterCranegathered together in a neighbor's farm home while sewing, weaving and cooking.This was their social life. Perhaps men told these stories in markets, or taverns, or around a campfire.

 The stories that were told were collected by the Brothers Grimm and remain today the foundation of our children's fairy tale literature.

Next month, on February 24, we will see the publication in English of over 70 tales collected in Bavaria by a contempoary of the Grimm Brothers, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth. The Grimm's admired Schönwerth and his work.

The collection is now entitled The Turnip Princess, The book has been translated by Maria Tatar, author of many books on children's literature, blogger (Breezes from Wonderland), and chair of the Program on Folklore and Mythology at Harvard. 

The painting is by Jean- Francois Millet. The bookcover is by Walter Crane; the translation from German is by Lucy Crane.

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The Stories Never End

“It has generally been assumed that fairy tales were first created for children and are largely the domain of children. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Rackham-tree+girlFrom the very beginning, thousands of years ago, when tales were told to create communal bonds in face of the inexplicable forces of nature, to the present, when fairy tales are written and told to provide hope in a world seemingly on the brink of catastrophe, mature men and women have been the creators and cultivators of the fairy tale tradition...."
 

Inevitably they find  their way into the forest. It is there that they lose and find themselves. It is there that they gain a sense of what is to be done. The forest is always large, immense, great and mysterious. No one ever gains power over the forest, but the forest posses the power to change lives and alter destinies....”

The illustration is by Arthur Rackham

The above quotations are by Jack Zipes,  the author of many books on myths, folklore, and children's literature including The Brothers Grimm, From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World. 

OriginalFolkandFairyTalesBrothersGrimmZipesRecognized as a pioneer in the field of children's literature, Zipes latest publication is a translation of the first edition (1812-1815) of the The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (see the Guardian article below). The first edition (Volumes One and Two), of 156 tales, had previously never before been translated into English. By the time of the Grimm's final edition in 1857, "immense changes had taken place".

The original edition of the Grimm's fairy tales incorporated oral tales, legends, myths, fables and pagan beliefs. The book was intended for adult readers. This edition is illustratrd by Andrea Dezso.

 

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Hänsel_und_GretelAlexanderZick


TheGuardianWriter for the Guardian create leading edge articles on fairy tales, folklore, and children's literature. 
 Philip Oltermann  recently wrote about von Schoenwerth, The Turnip Princess and Maria Tartar. Alison Flood  wrote about Jack Zipe's translation of the first edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. 

Both of these books are major events in the world of folklore, fairy tales, and children's literature..

Illustration by Alexander Zwick

Tatar's Translation

Here is an excerpt from Oltermann's article:Forgotten Fairytales Slay the Cinderella Stereotype...

The stash of stories compiled by the 19th-century folklorist Franz Xaver von Schönwerth – JohnBatten_hanselgrizzle1recently rediscovered in an archive in Regensburg and now to be published in English for the first time this spring – challenges preconceptions about many of the most commonly known fairytales... 

Harvard academic Maria Tatar argues that they reveal the extent to which the most influential collectors of fairytales, the Brothers Grimm, often purged their stories of surreal and risque elements to make them more palatable for children. 

“Here at last is a transformation that promises real change in our understanding of fairytale magic,” says Tatar, who has translated Schönwerth’s stories for a new Penguin edition called The Turnip Princess. “Suddenly we discover that the divide between passive princesses and dragon-slaying heroes may be little more than a figment of the Grimm imagination.” 

Zipes' Translation

Here is the headline from Alison Flood's article: Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales Have Blood and Horror Restored in New Translation....

ByCarkOfterdingerTownMusiciansBremenThe original stories, according to the academic (Zipes), are closer to the oral tradition, as well as being “more brusque, dynamic, and scintillating”. In his introduction to The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, in which Marina Warner says he has “redrawn the map we thought we knew”, and made the Grimms’ tales “wonderfully strange again”, Zipes writes that the originals “retain the pungent and naive flavour of the oral tradition”, and that they are “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious”, with the Grimms yet to add their “sentimental Christianity and puritanical ideology”.

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The Frog King or Iron Henry...an Excerpt from the new Jack Zipes translation of the Brothers Grimm... 

Frog king

 

"The princess became terrified when she heard this, for she was afraid of the cold frog. She didn't dare to touch him, and now he was to lie in her bed next to her. She began to weep and didn't want to comply with his wishes at all. But the king became angry and ordered her to do what she had promised, or she'd be held in disgrace. Nothing helped. She had to do what her father wanted, but she was bitterly angry in her heart. So she picked up the frog with two fingers, carried him upstairs into her room, lay down in her bed, and instead of setting him down next to her, she threw him crash! against the wall. "Now you'll leave me in peace, you nasty frog!" 

 

"The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep to one version or one translation alone is to put a robin redbreast in a cage. A fairy tale is not a text..."- Author Phillip Pullman

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Perrault-cinderella-rackham-en

 Wonder Tale...An alternative term for “fairytale” is “wonder tale”, from the Germanwundermärchen, which catches a quality of the genre more eloquently than “fairytale” or “folk tale” because it acknowledges the defining activity of magic in the stories. The suspension of natural physical laws produces a heightened and impossible state of reality, which leads to wonder, astonishment, the ’ajaib(astonishing things) sought in Arabic literary ideas of fairytale... An excerpt from How Fairy Tales Grew Up, by Marina Warner, author, critic, in the Guardian

 

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D186df_a1ad551d7b1540eea43367a1daaf45da.png_srz_p_258_108_75_22_0.50_1.20_0A Fair Shake for Youth..uses therapy dogs to help disadvantaged children "build empathy, self-esteem and reduce bullying...

"31% of New York City youth are living in poverty - often facing challenges of inadequate housing, under-performing schools, violence and fractured families.  Many kids see few possibilities for the future...  

A Fair Shake for Youth partners with schools and community organizations to bring therapy dog teams to disadvantaged and vulnerable middle school-aged youth...The kids discover (the) social tools and build a view of themselves that enables them to envision greater possibilities for their lives... 

Hands On and a Curriculum that Resonates 

FairshakeThe Fair Shake program can be integrated into the school day, after school, weekend or summer camp programming.  The ten-week curriculum includes hands-on work with the dogs and dog-related topics covered by speakers, demonstrations"...read more about this excellent, results-oriented program at Fair Shake


Video: See Fair Shake in action 
when Isabella and Samantha, two young girls, tell us, in their own words, of their experiences with the dogs and the Fair Shake for Youth program.

A Fair Shake for Youth has been the recipient of a grant from the Planet Dog Foundation

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Reading...

 The following is by librarian Liz Burns, excerpted from her outstanding blog, A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy 

"I read for fun. Not for enlightenment, not to be a better person, not to learn about the universal 20141128_183146_resizedhuman experience. I read to get scared, I read to fall in love, I read to feel less alone, I read for adventure, I read for so many reasons that all fall under.... because I want to.

And if that's why I read, why shouldn't that be OK for teens and kids?

Oh, I get that just like I have things to read with a purpose for work, they have things they have to read with a purpose for school.

But that's not the only way or reason to read. And, especially outside the school environment, reading for fun, rather than reading "because", should be championed.


It shouldn't be a guilty pleasure.

It should just be ... a pleasure."

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy was founded on April 2, 2005 with a welcome post that set forth a mission statement: to write about "story. Because it's all about story: the stories we tell, the ones we believe, the ones we read, the ones we watch. The ones we want to believe in; the ones we're afraid of. The stories we tell because we're afraid. While the majority of my posts are about children's and young adult books, I also write about television and film, sometimes adult books, as well as publishing and library news." - Liz Burns

In the photo by Susan Purser, Chase reads with his friend, therapy dog Rose

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Aesop's Fables Never End


WalterCraneCover"No author has been so intimately and extensively associated with children's literature as Aesop. His fables have been accepted as the core of childhood reading
and instruction since Plato, and they have found their place in political and social satire and moral teaching throughout medieval, Renaissance, and modern cultures...

...Fables have long ago escaped the confines of the nursery and the schoolroom. Their readerships have included parents as well as children, masters as well as slaves. rulers as well as subjects..." 

Seth Lerer writing on Aesop's Fables and Their Afterlives in his book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History From Aesop to Harry Potter

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  PawsitivelyPetsFINAL

The Loyal Dog and Her Not-So-Loyal Owner

Ann Staub, a former vet tech, caring person, mother, and blogger on Pawsitively Pets (dedicated to all things animal), wrote a touching account of finding a lost dog, and the sad aftermath. Here is an excertpt and link:

My hopes and dreams of a spectacular reunion were destroyed with what I learned next. The family member I was helping didn't want the dog back. He "wanted his friends to adopt her from where ever she was at"...

There would be no reunion between loyal dog and not-so-loyal owner. And I find it both depressing and infuriating.

I'm not an emotional person. I don't get teary-eyed over things that most people do. Perhaps this is one of the "strengths" that allowed me to become a good veterinary technician. This, however, made me cry.

This dog was adopted from the animal shelter about 3 years ago. After about a year, those people no longer wanted her so my family member took her in. Now, he no longer wants her so someone else will take her. How many more times will she face this same situation? Will she be thrown out like trash again when she's old and sick?...This is a good dog and she deserves so much better than this. 

 So I guess it's up to the people who know better to educate those who don't. If you have a friend or family member that wants to get a new pet, tell them that pets are a lifelong commitment. Ask them if they are prepared to care for that animal during the entire duration of their life.

 Here is a link to read the entire article and see photos...Ann Staub   

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 Stories Never End --  If You Can Read

WRADSurinameWorld Read Aloud Day is coming this year on March 5, 2015

LitWorld celebrated World Read Aloud Day with disadvantaged children in over 75 countries last year..." motivating children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creating communities of readers...showing the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people."

The photo was taken in Suriname.

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Kidlit_centralKidLitosphere has helped many readers find their way to these pages. Here is an excerpt from their home page...   

 

POD-The bear-blog size"Some of the best books being published today are children’s and young adult titles, well-written and engaging books that capture the imagination. Many of us can enjoy them as adults, but more importantly, can pass along our appreciation for books to the next generation by helping parents, teachers, librarians and others to find wonderful books, promote lifelong reading, and present literacy ideas."  Here is a link to Kidlitosphere. 

The illustration from Planet Of The Dogs is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty 

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Our story begins long, long ago, before there were dogs on Planet Earth. 

POD-The map-blog sizeThere was plenty of space in those days for people to settle and grow things. Many of the places where people lived were very beautiful. There were clear lakes and cool streams with lots of fish. There were fields and woods with game to hunt. And there were rolling hills and open plains with plants growing everywhere. Many people settled in these places of abundance and prospered.

And then, invaders came. Where once there had been harmony and friendship, there was now fear, anger, and unhappiness. Something had to be done -- but what could anybody do? No one knew it at that time, but help would come from the Planet of the Dogs. 

                                        Read Sample Chapters of the Planet Of The Dogs Series.

POD-Stone castle-blog sizeOur books are available through your favorite independent bookstore or via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...

Librarians, teachers, bookstores...Order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.

Therapy reading dog owners, librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs -- you can write us at planetofthedogs@gmail.com and we will send you free reader copies from the Planet of the Dogs Series...Read Dog Books to Dogs...

The map of Green Vally and the illustration of Stone City are by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty

"Any one of these books would make for a delightful—and one would assume cherished—gift for any child.  All three would be an amazing reading adventure." Darlene Arden, educator, dog expert, and author of Small Dogs Big Hearts. 

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A Master of Childhood Dreams...His Stories never End   Miyazaki Wins Again, After 11 Animated Features

By  in the New York Times.

Hayao Miyazaki was given an honorary Oscar on Nov. 8 at the Governors Awards ceremony,
one that he can put on the shelf next to the statuette he won in 2003 when his masterpiece, “Spirited Away,” was named best animated feature... 


Spirited-away GirlStoneIdol-2What makes his films so memorable — from the great ones, like “Spirited Away,” which is a coming-of-age tale, and the ecological fables “Princess Mononoke” and “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” to less profound but still captivating works like“Kiki’s Delivery Service” and the mesmerizing “My Neighbor Totoro” — is something that’s harder to label. You know it when you feel it: the mastery of tone and emotion, embodied in every gesture, expression, movement and setting, that give the films a watchfulness, a thoughtfulness, an unaffected gravity. To watch a Miyazaki movie is to remember what it was like to be a smart and curious child..." 

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 The Hunger Games-Mockingjay Part One

This third episode of Hunger Games is relevant to disturbing real world events. Like like the to
earlier films it is entertaining . However, this episode has more substance as Andrew Lapin writes in his excellent and thoughtful review for NPR, "all of these images have resonance in real events of this year." The film has grossed over $700 million worldwide thus far and still drawing audiences. 
Here is an excerpt from his Andrew Lapin's review:


Mockingjay2"When producers were laying track for the Hunger Games series years ago, they couldn't have foreseen how discomforting author Suzanne Collins' descriptions of a war-torn authoritarian state would look on the big screen in 2014. In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One, Jennifer Lawrence witnesses and/or learns of: towns reduced to rubble, refugee camps next to mass graves, public executions of innocents with burlap sacks over their heads, law enforcement gunning down protesters in the street, and a military bombing a hospital filled with civilians. All of these images have resonance in real events of this year, generations before Collins predicted civilization would devolve into a regime that maintains control over its citizens with televised death matches..
."

Here is a link to this insightful review:Andrew Lapin's review for NPR 

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Into The Woods:

Fairy tales are combined in this Walt Disney adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's broadway musical hit...71% of the critics (Rotten Tomatoes) wrote favorable reviews. However, there were often reservations in the reviewer's responses.

Here is an insightful excerpt from Jerry Griswold's article on Maria Tartar's Breezes from Wonderland blog:


IntoWoodsLRRHood"It is rated PG. But kids watching the film in my local theater seemed dampened by the mopey second half. They laughed at the cleverness of the first act, as well known storybook characters crossed into each other’s stories and interacted; still, it should be said that when it comes to clever fairy-tale mash-ups, “Shrek” does it better. But as for the second act’s dreary sharing of existential facts (regarding mortality, adultery, etc.), all in the name of growing-up and becoming undeceived, well, kids aren’t big on Weltschmerz. And that’s because, as James Barrie complained in “Peter Pan,” the young are gay and heartless."

Here is a link to the trailer:Into The Woods 

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The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson has had enormous box office success with films inspired by Tolkien's Middle Earth books. It seems, however, that Tolkien's ideas have again been overcome by Jackson's computer generated violence. Here is the opening of Andrew O'Hehir's review in Salon...

The-Battle-of-Five-Armies-Comic-Con-Poster-570x846"Presumably everyone now understands that Peter Jackson’s bloated “Hobbit” trilogy has only an arm’s-length, tangential relationship with the classic children’s novel that J.R.R. Tolkien first published in 1937, essentially launching the epic fantasy genre that now dominates so much of popular culture...

And here is an excerpt from Nicolas Rapold's review in the New York Times....

"What this adaptation of “The Hobbit” can’t avoid by its final installment is its predictability and hollow foundations. It’s been said before, but Mr. Jackson himself is still haunted by the past: For all the craft, there’s nothing here like the unity and force of “The Lord of the Rings,” which is positively steeped in mythology and features (wonder of wonders) rounder characterization than the scheduled revelations on display here..."

Here is a link to the trailer: Five Armies

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WCDogsLogo

Nancy Houser, has several posts on her Way Cool Dogs blog about puppies, from "Taming Puppy Aggresion" to "Wonderful Small Puppies for Children". Here is an excerpt and link from : 6 Incredible Reasons to Get a Rescue Puppy 

"When you save a rescue puppy, you are saving its life. Many shelters have to put dogs to sleep because they can’t afford to keep them. When you decide to take a rescue animal home with you, you are giving it a second chance in life. Many rescue dogs used to have owners, but their owners treated them poorly or abandoned them. Pets deserve better than that. You have a chance to make a real difference to an animal’s life, and so you should take it..."

Read more: http://www.waycooldogs.com#ixzz3OW6latfA

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The Giver

GiverSchoolGroup

I haven't seen The Giver (released in theaters last year) nor read Lois Lowry's YA book, The Giver (1993). However, it was favorably cited by Jerry Griswold, Director of the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature, and author of Feeling Like a Kid, Childhood and Children's Literature. Therefore, I did some research...

GiverSkyI found enough information on the internet to be intrigued. The Giver is a different take on a dystopian future; relying more on concept than violence. The trailer and descriptions/synopsis provide a provocative look at a different approach to dystopia, quite at variance from the strife ridden simplicity of YA films like Divergent and the Labyrinth.  

The book of The Giver was well received as a young adult book, winning a Newberry Award in 1994 as well as awards from the ALA, the NEA, and the School Library Journal. It has sold over 10,000 copies. The film, however, didn't fare well at the box office and has already been released as a DVD. Here is the Film Critics Consensus according to Rotten Tomatoes: "Phillip Noyce directs The Giver with visual grace, but the movie doesn't dig deep enough into the classic source material's thought-provoking ideas."

 Here is the trailer forThe Giver...

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Empowerment for Animal Advocates in C.A. Wulff's Book 

How to Change the World in Thirty Seconds, is empowering...it's  the internet
made easy, the internet as a tool, the internet as a dog's best friend... a book  and a way to make a difference...  for dog lovers, animal advocates and anyone who wants to make the world a better place.
 

Arielrocket-boyHere is an unedited Amazon review excerpt by Johanna:"This is probably the best "how-to" book I have ever seen. It is written in a very conversational manner while being extremely educational. Along with giving step-by-step instructions on how to use each advocacy tool, Cayr gives some background on each website, organization, and group, and explains how each is set up and how the different helping processes work. She walks you through the necessary steps and gives tips... 

Rocket Boy, the dog in the photo by C.A. Wulff, one of her pack of rescued dogs.

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YA Book Preview of The Motherless Child Project by Janie McQeen  and Robin Karr.

 

MotherlessChildProjectI don't often discuss YA books. However, I have long admired Janie McQueen's previous Magic Bookshelf books and I am currently reading (report coming in my next blog) her poignant new book The Motherless Child Project. 

Meanwhile, I am posting an excerpt from Midwest Book Review:

"To say that The Motherless Child Project is a book about change and self-discovery would be doing it an injustice: it's so much more... Any teen reader looking for a powerful, compelling story--especially those who are motherless themselves, whatever the reason--will find The Motherless Child Project a powerful saga worthy of attention and acclaim."--
D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
 

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Jingles...a book, a toy, and dog rescue

The Story of Jingles is the first book in the newly launched Operation ResCUTE series. Each Book comes with a Stuffed Animal Set. And each purchase helps to rescue a dog!

Here's the review by C.A. Wulff in the Examiner...

Jinglesdog-box"The book, authored by Jingles, is 24 pages long, with full color illustrations. It comes adorably packaged in a window box with a stuffed animal of Jingles and an “I am a ResCuter!” Operation ResCute sticker for the child. The second book in the series will feature a rescue dog named Tanner. Operation ResCute has a contest underway to find a third dog and his/her story.

Kids will love the book and the toy, and parents will love the message. Giving this as a gift will make you feel great, too, because 100% of the proceeds go directly to animal rescues."

The ResCUTE books and stuffed animals are not available in retail stores, but can be purchased on amazon and through the organization’s website." 

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The Hugging Bears  (from the Guardian)

HuggingBears"Inspired by the delightful statue of two bears on display in Kensington Gardens in London, "The Hugging Bears" is the story of two bear cubs, Ruggley and Teddi, who live with their mother in the wintry wilderness. A sudden and violent encounter with humankind changes the cubs' lives forever.

Told with great simplicity and much heart by Carol Butcher, and featuring charming colour illustrations by Sue Turner, "The Hugging Bears" will be enjoyed by young children everywhere. The book also has a useful message about human's often unkind treatment of wild animals."

The profits from this book will go to the charity Happy Child International, which supports the street children of Brazil.

 

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SheSpeaksBark-Logo_Horizontal


FFF "Fences for Fido is a group of volunteers who get together to build fences for dogs in Oregon who are currently living out their lives on a chain. They do fundraisers and accept donations in order to make this work possible. On their facebook page, Fences for Fido share many inspirational photos and videos of the building process, and especially the happy dogs taking their first off-chain run in their brand new yard- always great! I love how this organization focuses on the positive aspects of what they are doing, and come from a non-judgmental approach. I believe these two things are the key to their success so far..."

The above information is from She Speaks Bark, Kaitlin Jenkins dog-loving blog. Kaitlin wrote about this being National Unchain a Dog month; as part of the article, she wrote about Fences for Fido. I, too,  much admire the work they do, having previously written about them in this blog. Here is the link to read more of her excellent post about the wonderful work of Fences For Fido: KaitlinJenkins

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When Library Time Means Screen Time

EbooksBy ...The Stories Do End and the Games Begin: this is the experience of Lisa Colon as reported in Motherlode in the New York Times.  
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22. Playing the Celeb in Brighouse:


The school visits kicked off really early this year. My first event was immediately after New Year: I was the guest of honour, opening the gorgeous new library at St Andrew's C of E Infants. I got to cut the ribbon and everything. 


I hope you're impressed by how well my dress coordinates with the school colours!

The children in the photo are members of the School Council, so also rather important. After the ceremony, I sat and signed some books for the library and they gathered round to watch. They were so excited and amazingly cute. Listen to them chatting to me while I draw a warthog in a copy of Stinky!:



The rest of the day was a series of storytelling sessions. It was such a lovely school. The children were a delight and lots of parents came along to sit in. 

Teachers filmed a lot of the sessions. Here I am playing my usual flipchart guessing game with one class, seeing how long it takes them to work out what I am drawing:


It's a shame that the teacher is filming from the wrong side really, but you can still tell how great the kids were. There is another, really brilliant film of me doing my Bears on the Stairs poem with another group, but it was emailed in two halves, so I'll post it up a bit later, once we have stitched it back together. It's really funny, so well worth waiting for.

Another fun game I play at the flipchart is drawing the anaconda from Class Two at the Zoo, and letting the children decide who will be in the snake's mouth. Sometimes they nominate a teacher, sometimes I get volunteers. This time it was Namory who got gobbled up: 


I am so lucky to have a job which lets me share such lovely times with children (and then pays me for the privilege!) 

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23. Why You Should See Selma

In celebration of MLK Day today, we wanted to share two perspectives from Lee & Low staff members on why you should see Selma, the new movie based on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Much has been said about the lack of Academy Award nominations for the movie, but nevertheless moviegoers are uniformly in agreement that Selma is one of the best movies of the year. It offers a meaningful historical context for current events and a springboard for deep discussion, making it a valuable learning experience as well as a straight-up great movie.

Here’s why we think seeing Selma is one of the best ways you could spend MLK Day:

Jason Low, Publisher: The director of Selma, Ava DuVernay brings the audience a lean, gritty fight for voter rights during the civil rights movement. The depiction of Martin Luther King, Jr. is especially poignant. The name Martin Luther King, Jr. is a household name and a holiday. His name is the stuff of legend. But what many fail to realize is that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man with faults and insecurities just like everyone else. The film does not shy away from King’s marital problems caused by his infidelities or self-doubt and indecision resulting from the battle fatigue and weight of leadership when so much is on the line. DuVernay’s King is so human that we fear for his life even during the quieter scenes because humans are vulnerable and these were dangerous times.

still from Selma
still from Selma

Conversations between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr. are riveting. The political needle was just as difficult to move in 1965 as it is today. The Voter Rights Bill was as messy an issue as any US president would have to face. The bill was steeped in violence and racism and Johnson’s instinct to postpone action was derailed when John Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams tried to lead a march of six hundred protestors over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The nonviolent protestors were savagely beaten by state police and news cameras captured a brutal, bloody war for all Americans to see.

I brought my family to see this film. Bearing witness to the bravery it takes to protest nonviolently for equal rights was (to me) the chance to see history at its most heroic. Although fifty years has passed since Selma took place, the film feels eerily current. Protests over police killings of unarmed black males are happening all over the country and continue to be front-page news. Watching a film like Selma is difficult, but all the more reason to see it. Great movies will move you, make you feel something and Selma does all of these things very deeply.

Rebecca Garcia, Marketing and Publicity Assistant: During Common’s acceptance speech for the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, he said, “Selma is now.” Even though the Selma to Montgomery Marches were fifty years ago, this film reminded me that the Civil Rights Movement was a hard battle and took a long time to take effect.

David Oyelowo does an excellent job as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King in this movie struggles with self-doubt, isn’t the perfect husband, and even makes decisions that have other leaders in the Civil Rights Movement question his leadership skills. But this is the Dr. King we all need to see. He’s human and flawed, but is still inspiring and courageous.

While watching the movie, I was reminded of the many protests happening around the country in the wake of the Ferguson and Staten Island grand jury decisions. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Change is an arduous and bitterly long process. Selma serves as a reminder of what has been accomplished and what we still need to accomplish. Selma doesn’t hold back when it comes to the violence faced by protesters.

Ava DuVernay presents us with a flawed, realistic and ultimately human Dr. King. While David Oyelowo does amazing justice to Dr. King, I felt that the talented actresses in the movie (Carmen Ejobo, Oprah Winfrey, and Lorraine Toussaint to name a few) weren’t utilized to their full potential. Even so, Selma is a relevant and timely film that everyone should see. Take tissues with you.

John Lewis in the Lead cover
buy “John Lewis in the Lead”

Additional Resources:

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement

Free tickets to see Selma for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students

Essay about challenges to the historical accuracy of Selma

Did you see Selma? What did you think?

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24. Ending the World with Hope and Comfort


A friend pointed me toward Sigrid Nunez's New York Times review of Emily St. John Mandel's popular and award-winning novel Station Eleven. He said it expressed some of the reservations that caused me to stop reading the book, and it does — at the end of her piece, Nunez says exactly what I was thinking as I put the book down with, I'll confess, a certain amount of disgust:
If “Station Eleven” reveals little insight into the effects of extreme terror and misery on humanity, it offers comfort and hope to those who believe, or want to believe, that doomsday can be survived, that in spite of everything people will remain good at heart, and that when they start building a new world they will want what was best about the old.
I don't mean this post to be about Station Eleven, because I didn't finish reading it and for all I know, if I'd finished reading it I might disagree with Nunez. I bring it up because even if, somehow, Nunez is wrong about Station Eleven, her points are important ones in this age of popular apocalypse stories.

Let me put my cards on the table. I have come to think stories that give readers hope for tolerable life after an apocalypse are not just inaccurate, but despicable.



We are living in an apocalypse. Unless massive changes are made in the next few decades, it's highly likely that the Earth's biosphere will alter drastically enough to kill off most forms of life. At the least, life in the next 100-200 years is likely to be less pleasant than life now (if you think life now is pleasant). Writing apocalypse stories that mitigate these facts lulls us into complacency. Such stories are their own form of global warming denialism. (Of course, if you are a global warming denialist, go right ahead — write and enjoy such stories!)

Tales of surviving an apocalypse give us comfort fiction, a fiction predicated on identifying with the survivors and giving the survivors something worth surviving for.

It is highly unlikely that you, I, or anybody else would be a survivor of an actual apocalypse, and it is even more unlikely that, were we to survive, the post-apocalyptic world would be worth staying alive to see. To imagine yourself as a survivor is to evade the truth and to indulge in a ridiculous fantasy. To imagine yourself as a successful survivor — someone who doesn't suffer terribly before finally, painfully dying — is even worse.

To tell stories of apocalypse that seek to be at least somewhat realistic and yet are not as painful as stories of actual, historical catastrophes is sheer escapist fantasy. Apocalypse stories that do not want to be escapist fantasies must be as harrowing and painful as the most awful stories of the Nazi Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge's atrocities in Cambodia, the Rwandan genocide.

I'd think this would be obvious, but many people ignore the fact: to tell a story of an apocalypse is to tell a story in the midst of mass death.

To tell a story of apocalypse that is not limited to a small area — to tell a story of the end of the whole world — is to tell a story about mass death on a scale far beyond the worst historical atrocities.

To tell a story of apocalypse in which people's lives are not even as difficult or painful as the lives of millions and millions of people currently alive on Earth moves beyond escapist fantasy and into the realm of idiotic irresponsibility. (This, perhaps, is why some of the better apocalypse/dystopia stories are written by people who are not middle-class white Americans.)

In Eyes Wide Open, Frederic Raphael reported Stanley Kubrick's assessment of Schindler's List: "Think that was about the Holocaust? That was about success, wasn’t it? The Holocaust is about six million people who get killed. Schindler’s List was about six hundred people who don’t."

Obviously, the appeal of such stories is that they let us indulge in the fantasy of success. We love rags-to-riches stories for the same reason. We love stories about our soldiers wiping out lots of evil enemies because we escape imagining ourselves to be the enemy in the sniper's sights.

Who is this "we"? That's a good question for any story that aims for an audience to identify with protagonists, but it's especially good to ask of apocalypse stories. Do you read Left Behind imagining yourself to be one of the good, one of the saved? Do you read Station Eleven imagining that yes, you too could find a way to make a life for yourself in this world?

Or do you imagine yourself among the diseased, the tortured, the suffering, the unsaved, the dead?

"But," you say, "such stories offer us visions of human goodness even in the face of adversity! They alleviate pessimism. They help us to hope."

And that is why they are detestable.

The popular Anne Frank statement that Nunez alludes to in her Station Eleven review — "I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart" — was not written in Bergen-Belsen. The story of Anne Frank is not complete until you tell the story of her and her family's suffering and slow death in a concentration camp. A survivor who claimed to have talked with Anne said she was weak, emaciated; that she suspected her parents to be dead; that she did not want to live any longer.

(If you want a happy ending, stop your story before the end.)

To write a story in which apocalypse is not especially awful — or is, even worse, somehow desireable — does nothing to help prevent the apocalypse we face, the apocalypse we live in.

Mass death should not be a self-help allegory.


I may feel so strongly about this because I grew up amidst (and still live around) militia culture, and militia cultists love to fantasize about the end of the world. They don't just dream; they try to live it. They stockpile food, ammo, weapons. They build shelters. They imagine all the ways they'll be heroes when the end comes. For some, it's literally a dream of The Rapture; for the less Christian fundamentalist among them, it's a kind of Rapture allegory, providing the same pleasures, the same confirmation of your own correctness. Apocalypse becomes not a horror but the opportunity to create the best of all possible worlds. Genocidaires always think their violent dreams are necessary, justified, virtuous.

The Walking Dead is popular with a lot of these folks. Step into a gun shop and you're plenty likely to hear at least one person talking about "the zombie apocalypse". It's a code phrase and an allegory: a code for the end of the boring world, an allegory for the time when the well-prepared (white, patriarchal) militia will ascend to its rightful place of honor, when the weak liberals and anti-gunners will die the sad deaths they so deserve, when it will be open season on all the zombies (read: immigrants, black people, etc.). Dreamers dream themselves among the survivors. They dream themselves into heroism. Instead of boring everyday life, they get to show their courage and strength and preparation.

Don't feel your life lets you express your inner heroism? Imagine yourself a survivor of apocalypse. Now you have a hero story.

Imagine yourself finally getting to use those tens of thousands of 5.56 rounds you stockpiled back when ammo was cheap. (You were one of the smart ones. Where are all the people who made fun of you now? They're dead, you're alive. You're the real man. Good for you. You win!)

Don't imagine yourself dying slowly, painfully. Don't imagine yourself wanting to die. Don't imagine disease, starvation, brutality.

We want stories to make us feel good about humanity, or at least about ourselves. We don't want realistic apocalypse stories.

That's what's behind so much of this dreck, isn't it? That somehow we know we're facing doom, and we don't want to feel bad about our own participation in that doom. We want doom to be on our own terms.

For the militia type, apocalypse stories are a way to imagine yourself into heroism. For the relatively wealthy and privileged, apocalypse stories are an opportunity to imagine our way out of the oppressions we benefit from.

(When I've assigned students to read Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, there's always been someone who says, "This doesn't feel like science fiction. This feels real." True. And it's a real that hurts. Because it should.)

If you want to tell an apocalypse story, tell a story about well-intentioned people suffering and dying. Tell a story about people like yourself not only being helpless in the face of catastrophe, but being witless progenitors of it.

(One of my favorite apocalypse stories is Wallace Shawn's The Fever. It's a story of the apocalypse of a well-intentioned man.)

Don't tell a story about how people like yourself are such great survivors. In truth, they probably aren't, and indulging in a fantasy of your own people's survival is breathtakingly arrogant in a story set amidst mass death.

(If the effects of your imagined apocalypse are less painful than the effects of Hurricane Katrina, you are writing despicable kitsch.)

I'm not saying tales of apocalypse are inevitably drivel, or even that they have to be a parade of endless horror, brutality, and suffering (though they should probably be mostly that). I'm saying we don't need apocalypse kitsch any more than we need Holocaust kitsch.

Watch the movies Grave of the Fireflies and Time of the Wolf. One is a historical film about the firebombing of Tokyo, the other is about a near-future apocalypse, its cause unknown, its effect coruscatingly clear. It's these films' affect that is most interesting to me, the ways they show disaster and the response to disaster, the ways they make you feel, and what those feelings are. These are not nihilistic stories, they don't deny human compassion and even goodness, but they also don't soft-pedal the suffering that happens with the end of a world.

Or think of it this way: If you had a time machine and could go back to Anatolia before 1915, Germany in the mid-'30s, Cambodia in the early '70s, Rwanda in the early '90s — if you could go back to those times and write stories, what sort of stories would you write? Stories of people surviving impending apocalypse?

If you want to tell stories to help prevent the extinction of the biosphere, don't tell stories that make that extinction seem bearable.

If you want to imagine the end of the world, realize what you are imagining.

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25. The One I Love

I wrote some half dozen full-length film reviews in 2014, and looking back, almost every one of them revolves around the theme of how difficult it is to find genuinely intelligent, thoughtful SF movies.  "Intelligent," in this context, means a willingness to engage with the SFnal tropes that drive a story, to explore their implications on the film's characters or even its world, instead of

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