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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: new york times, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 161
1. Angry Writer in ‘N.Y. Times’ Asks Disney: Why’d You Draw Maui in ‘Moana’ So Big?

The "N.Y. Times" is still a little unclear on this whole computer animation thing.

The post Angry Writer in ‘N.Y. Times’ Asks Disney: Why’d You Draw Maui in ‘Moana’ So Big? appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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2. Out of the Past

In the archives of the New York Times, materials about Germany and the rise of the Nazis to power are vast. It would take days to read through it all. Though it would be an informative experience, I don't have the time to do so at the moment, but I was curious to see the general progression of news and opinion as it all happened.

Here are a few items that stuck out to me as I skimmed around:

7 February

10 March

29 May

12 June


8 February

9 February

29 February

5 March

7 March

11 March

12 March

13 March

16 March

19 March

22 March

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3. Reflecting on A.O. Scott's new book, BETTER LIVING, in the Chicago Tribune

Who doesn't love a good A.O. Scott film review? (Well, I mean, who besides those directors, writers, actors, costume designers, or dialect coaches A.O. Scott might not be loving at that review moment?)

And who didn't love A.O. Scott and David Carr during the era of the New York Times video segment, "The Sweet Spot"?

Last week I had the chance to read Scott's new book, Better Living Through Criticism, for the Chicago Tribune. In what often felt like a very meta experience (critiquing a book about critiquing), I had this to say.

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4. Rising sea levels, and THIS IS THE STORY OF YOU

In a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Bob Kopp, whose web page describes him as a "climate scientist, Earth historian, geobiologist, and energy policy wonk," reported, along with his collaborators at Rutgers, Tufts, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, York, Woods Hole, and Harvard, a sobering rise in sea levels.

Having examined the rising seas over the past 3,000 years, Kopp and his team demonstrated, with 95% probability, that sea levels began to rise at "historic" rates in the 19th century.

It's not that this is new news. Indeed, we've been watching islands disappear, shore lines erode, storms hit with devastating force. We've worried over the future of entire countries. We've read words like these (Nicholas Bakalar) in the New York Times:
A three-foot rise in sea level in Malibu, Calif., for example, would put many houses near Malibu Beach under water. In New York, most of Harlem River Drive and Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive south of 168th Street would be inundated, and Ellis Island would be about half its present size. In Florida, Tampa and Miami would lose large areas of land, and much of the Keys would disappear.
We've been watching our world get remade because we've been remaking our world.

I set out to write This Is the Story of You because I grew up loving the Jersey shore (sand castles, Dippy Don's ice cream, crab hunting, bird sanctuaries). Because I watched, along with every once else, the devastation of Storm Sandy. Because I worry, endlessly, about our planet. As I read the news that we all read, and as I think about the next generation and all the challenges placed before them, I hope, through Story, which takes place in the aftermath of a monster storm on a barrier island, to remind readers of all that is at stake—and of all we still owe to one another.

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5. Artist of the Day: Enzo Pérès-Labourdette

Discover the art of Enzo Pérès-Labourdette, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

The post Artist of the Day: Enzo Pérès-Labourdette appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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6. Through NEGROLAND Margo Jefferson elevates the memoir form, and leaves me grateful, again

It was Margo Jefferson, the great cultural critic, who first put my name in the New York Times. In a review of another's book, in a closing paragraph, she made mention of something I'd penned in solitude and put forward with innocence and didn't even understand as well as she seemed to.

She looked up and saw me, and I, discovering her snatch of words quite by accident, never felt such gratitude.

When I read earlier this year that Margo had written a memoir called Negroland, I wanted it at once, bought it when I could, and put it on the top of a pile called (in my mind), "the books you'll be allowed to read once you have completed your tour of duty with all known responsibilities."

Yesterday I was done with all known (until next week) responsibilities. I picked up Negroland. I read.

And oh my, oh now: this. Like H is for Hawk, like M Train, like My Life as a Foreign Country, Negroland is the kind of book that elevates not just its readers but the capital M Memoir itself. It's personal—and otherwise. It's I, You, We. It's inquiry, declaration, admission, confusion—the story of the impossible ideals, hurtful expectations, pleasant privileges, and chaotic undertows that have been all bound up with being a member of the black elite. It's a book by an esteemed critic who was "taught to distinguish (her)self through presentation, not declaration, to excel through deeds and manners, not showing off" and who then (but always judiciously, always for a higher purpose) allows us in.

In a book of anecdote, history, cultural expose, and yearning, we encounter, on almost every page paragraphs as searing as this:
Privilege is provisional. Privilege can be denied, withheld, offered grudgingly, and summarily withdrawn. Entitlement is impervious to the kinds of verbs that modify privilege. Our people had to work, scrape for privilege, gobble it down when those who would snatch it away weren't looking.
 And this:
Being an Other, in America, teaches you to imagine what can't imagine you. That's your first education. Then comes the second. Call it your social and intellectual change. The world outside you gets reconfigured, and inside too. Patterns deviate and fracture. Hierarchies disperse. Now you can imagine yourself as central. It feels grand. But don't stop there. Let that self extend into other narratives and truths.
This year, when my beautiful son goes into bookstores he goes straight (his mother's child) to the memoir shelves. He, like me, views memoir as one of the best chances we have of broadening our vision, breaking down our walls, stepping out of our recklessly limited world view.

I have been taught by Margo Jefferson with her gorgeous Negroland. I have seen a little further. I have hurt a little more. I have been made grateful for both the seeing and the hurting.

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7. Artist of the Day: Zeloot

Discover the art of Zeloot, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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8. thoughts on dispositional gratitude, from my son and David Brooks

Did you read David Brooks on "The Structure of Gratitude" last week in the New York Times? His thoughts on being grateful, on "the sort of laughter of the heart that comes about after some surprising kindness"? His thoughts on those who seem "thankful practically all of the time"?


These people may have big ambitions, but they have preserved small anticipations. As most people get on in life and earn more status, they often get used to more respect and nicer treatment. But people with dispositional gratitude take nothing for granted. They take a beginner’s thrill at a word of praise, at another’s good performance or at each sunny day. These people are present-minded and hyperresponsive.

This kind of dispositional gratitude is worth dissecting because it induces a mentality that stands in counterbalance to the mainstream threads of our culture.

Brooks concludes: "People with grateful dispositions see their efforts grandly but not themselves. Life doesn’t surpass their dreams but it nicely surpasses their expectations."

I was struck by this column when I first read it. I thought of the most grateful person I know—my son—who  never fails to see the beauty in a day, the goodness in another, the possibility in an hour. Among the countless things I've learned from him is the power of looking for and seeing the good. It's a better way to greet the day. And it gets you going places.

So that my texts and calls from my son are always cast in light. Beautiful day, he'll say, on heading out. Good day at the office, he'll say at day's end. Just talked to a really cool person in the park. Just ran by the river, and it's gorgeous out there.

Beautiful day. Good day. Great day. Gorgeous. My son's messages are bits of magic—interruptions in any darkness or churning I might be feeling at that instant. Wait, I'll think when the phone pings and it's him. It really is a beautiful day. Or, yeah. Every day can be conceived or reconceived into some kind of happy.

Why not do that reconceiving, my son reminds me. Why not reap the rewards of looking for brightness? I don't always get it right; sometimes I wallow. But then a sunshine text comes in, and I think: Yeah. Right. Why not be grateful?

And so this post script. My son knows precisely what he wants to do with his life (the perfect job taps his great strengths in statistics, new media, pop culture, demographics, and trend spotting) and two months ago, he was hired as a contract employee at the perfect company. A six-month job, but glory, he was going to take it, and every day he's been there—happy to stay late, happy to do more, happy to take on more training, happy to do, happy to be around people he respects and people who clearly respect him. My son wasn't going to worry (like his mother tends to worry) that it was just a six-month contract. He was just going to love the days he had. He was going to remind me, when the topic arose, how lucky he was to be where he was. Right now. The future would come. But someday.

Turns out my son didn't have to worry. Turns out he was right all along. The future would come, and earlier this week he was offered a full-time job at this company that he loves.

I have to think his aura of gratitude worked in his favor. I have to keep learning from him.

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9. Artist of the Day: Natalie Andrewson

Discover the work of Natalie Andrewson, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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10. A Peek at the Relaunch of The New York Times Magazine

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 9.43.30 AMPhoto by David La Spina

The talented team behind The New York Times Magazine has been hard at work for four months overhauling and redesigning the publication, and if you’re like me you love any chance to peel back the curtain on a project like that. Thankfully, there’s a great in-depth look at the relaunch, including information about new columns, typefaces, page designs in print and online, and a whole lot more.

We have used the hammer and the tongs but perhaps not the blowtorch; we sought to manufacture a magazine that would be unusual, surprising and original but not wholly unfamiliar. It would be a clear descendant of its line. This magazine is 119 years old; nearly four million people read it in print every weekend. It did not need to be dismantled, sawed into pieces or drilled full of holes. Instead, we have set out to honor the shape of the magazine as it has been, while creating something that will, we hope, strike you as a version you have never read before.

Click here to learn more about the relaunch.

Filed under: News

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11. Philly is Number 3 on the New York Times "52 Places to Go in 2015" list, and I'm feeling pride

Not as if I haven't been saying that myself (well, sort of), right here, and in the Inquirer, and in my books. But huzzah. This is the New York Times speaking, not just some homegrown booster.

I am taking particular pleasure in this because I have had the privilege of working with some of the people who are making the radical difference. Let's put Brandywine Realty Trust high on that radical difference list, and Brandywine CEO Jerry Sweeney himself, who has quietly and collaboratively helped engineer a renaissance along the Schuylkill River Banks (through the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, which he chairs), in University City, and in the downtown nexus. Let's talk about outdoor artists like Jane Golden and Isaiah Zagar. Let's look at my alma mater and employer, the University of Pennsylvania, which keeps the greening coming.

In naming Philadelphia right after Milan and Cuba on its list, the New York Times, in its January 9, 2015 story, said this:

The making of an urban outdoor oasis.

A series of projects has transformed Philadelphia into a hive of outdoor urban activity. Dilworth Park, formerly a hideous slab of concrete adjoining City Hall, reopened this past autumn as a green, pedestrian-friendly public space with a winter ice-skating rink (and a cafe by the indefatigable chef Jose Garces). Public art installations, mini "parklets" and open-air beer gardens have become common sights. The Delaware River waterfront was reworked for summer 2014 with the Spruce Street Harbor Park (complete with hammocks, lanterns and floating bar) becoming a new fixture, following the renovation of the Race Street Pier, completed in 2011, and offers free yoga classes on a bi-level strip of high-design decking and grass. The city’s other river, the Schuylkill, has its own new boardwalk. To top it off, this spring, Philadelphia will get its first bike share program, making this mostly flat city even more friendly for those on two wheels. Nell McShane Wulfhart

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12. New York Times Best Illustrated list announced

Here it is! http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2014/10/30/books/review/2014-BEST-8.html?_r=1&

Usually this list matches up pretty well with our Calling Caldecott list with one or two big surprises. This year I am finding more surprises than matches. But you can be sure we will be locating the books that weren’t so much on our radar and will weigh in as we get our hands on them.

This list always seems to be a bit idiosyncratic. The team of three judges is comprised of one critic and two illustrators. This year they were Jennifer Brown (Bank Street College, Shelf Awareness), Brian Floca, and Jerry Pinkney. When Roger was on this committee, he said that rather than discussing the books together, each member added their favorites to the list, pretty much split evenly. I don’t know if this is how it always works, but the result is always an interesting list.

Please let us know in the comments which of these you love (or don’t) and why. Now I have to go look for some books…

share save 171 16 New York Times Best Illustrated list announced

The post New York Times Best Illustrated list announced appeared first on The Horn Book.

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13. About Peace

The New York Times Op Docs today offered 45 minutes of beautiful wisdom. Humans can cause peace. Bookmark

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14. on history sanitized and simplified for younger readers: let's think about this

In today's New York Times, Alexander Alter writes of the increasing number of "adult" authors who are reconfiguring their history books for the younger, still-book-buying crowd (or for those who buy books for them). She writes:

Inspired by the booming market for young adult novels, a growing number of biographers and historians are retrofitting their works to make them palatable for younger readers. Prominent nonfiction writers like Ms. Hillenbrand, Jon Meacham and Rick Atkinson are now grappling with how to handle unsettling or controversial material in their books as they try to win over this impressionable new audience.

And these slimmed-down, simplified and sometimes sanitized editions of popular nonfiction titles are fast becoming a vibrant, growing and lucrative niche.
I wonder about the wisdom of this—about the felt need to take well-written and absorbing histories and make them less than (for sanitized and simplified sound like less than to me) for younger readers. Let's first acknowledge what many young readers are capable of, which is to say, books rich with moral dilemma and emboldened by ideas. Let's next acknowledge what young readers need, which is to say the facts of then and now. 

You can already get that sort of thing in novels written for younger readers. Certainly Patricia McCormick is not writing down, making it easy, simplifying when she writes about the sex trade or the Cambodian war. Certainly Ruta Sepetys didn't make Siberia comfortable in Between Shades of Gray. Certainly M. T. Anderson didn't set out to make Octavian Nothing easy, simple, sterile. Certainly, Marilyn Nelson, publishing Carver, a life in verse for young adults, didn't think to herself, let me make this easy. She wrote each page smart, each page full of innuendo and terms to look up and mysteries, like this:

A Charmed Life

Here breathes a solitary pilgrim sustained by dew
and the kindness of strangers. An astonished Midas
surrounded by the exponentially multiplying miracles: my
Yucca and Cactus in the Chicago World Exposition;
friends of the spirit; teachers. Ah, the bleak horizons of joy.
Light every morning dawns through the trees. Surely
this is worth more than one life.
And certainly I, writing novels for young adults, am not setting history down in burnished, skip-over-it slices. Not when I write about the Spanish Civil War (Small Damages) or the shadowy blockade of the Berlin Wall (Going Over) or Centennial Philadelphia (Dangerous Neighbors) or 1871 Philadelphia (Dr. Radway's Sarsaparilla Resolvent) or Florence during the 1966 flood (One Thing Stolen). I am working to put a younger reader into the heart of it all. And sometimes that's not pretty. Sometimes that hurts. But that is history for you.

That's life.

YA writers have been writing sophisticated historical novels for a long time now. Why, then, suggest that those same YA readers need to be written down to when it comes to pure nonfiction? To the big stories. The telling moments. The individual against the state, the home versus the political, the science versus the dream, the big stuff that shapes who we became. Nonfiction for young adults, like novels for young adults, should be alive and deep and somehow true. It should respect the capabilities of younger readers.

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15. Spend time alone, and do not look away

Time spent alone writing the novel provided a different kind of instruction. “I learned not to look away at the moment when I should be paying the most attention,” he said. “The closer I got to the heart of a scene, to the really difficult material to write, the emotionally challenging stuff or the exchange in which the conflict is made most explicit, the more I’d look for a way out of writing it. This was out of fear, obviously, because you don’t want to run up against your limitations in craft, intelligence or heart. It’s much easier to duck the really vital material, but it kills what you’re writing to do so, kills it instantly.”

—Matthew Thomas, author of WE ARE NOT OURSELVES, in an email interview with the New York Times

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16. Artist of the Day: Celyn Brazier

Today we look at the work of Celyn Brazier, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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17. Scenes across the Berlin Wall, and a story about female graffiti artists, with thanks to Paul Steege

There is no sound in this video shot across the Berlin Wall in 1971. There doesn't have to be. The faces here say it all, the blown kisses, the raised binoculars, the East Germans who do not wish to leave the friends they spot in the West across the many walls, the many divisions.

This is chilling, heartbreaking, telling, historic, and I have my friend Paul Steege, writer and historian at Villanova University, to thank for sharing it with me.

Paul also sent along a link to this Julia Baird New York Times story about the rise of female graffiti artists around the world, which ran earlier this week. The story is fascinating, end to end, and begins like this:

For decades it was thought that the reason street art was almost exclusively male was because men were more comfortable with peril; many sought it. After all, street art is notoriously dangerous, exhilarating and risky.

It is, of course, usually illegal; many street artists work at night, in wigs or masks, wearing shoes made for running. One night, when the Australian artist Vexta, who is now based in Brooklyn, was painting neon-splattered, psychedelic images in an abandoned building with friends, the police arrived. She jumped through a hole in the wall, rolled under a shutter door and ran down the street to hail a cab. No one would pick her up, since she was smeared with dirt and paint.
 Ada, I think, as I read. Ada (Going Over). She might have been Vexta. She might still be.

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18. Important words about memoir, brought to you by Jesmyn Ward.

For any of those who might need just a bit more proof that it pays to, as I say "soften your stance" when approaching memoir, I offer these words from Jesmyn Ward, whose new memoir, Men We Reaped, is high on my reading list (but not read yet).

The story of Ward's memoir is featured in yesterday's New York Times in a piece by Laura Tillman. I excerpt from the middle of the story. I admire and applaud Ward's desire to find the larger story, for it is the larger story, always, that lies at the heart of memoir. She waited to write until she understood. She waited until she could identify meaning.

From the story:
“Men We Reaped,” to be published on Tuesday by Bloomsbury, is as much an existential detective story as it is a personal history, as Ms. Ward searches for a unifying reason that her brother, Joshua, her cousin C. J. and friends Roger, Demond and Ronald — all young black men — died within a four-year period. 

She writes first about Roger Eric Daniels III, who died of a heart attack at 23 while using cocaine.
“They picking us off, one by one,” a friend tells Ms. Ward in the book, as they watch the hearse leave Mr. Daniels’s home. 

Who, she wonders, are “they”? 

“Was there a larger story that I was missing as all these deaths accumulated, as those I loved died?”
“Men We Reaped” is that larger story. With a novelist’s skill, Ms. Ward mines her memories of the men, like the girlhood crush she had on Ronald, or the night she enlisted a friend to wake her sister, who was dating C. J., to break the news of his death. What she finds are threads of the past that linger in the collective present, specifically the role that the South’s legacy of racism has played in how these young men lived and died.

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19. slowly extricating myself from The Busy Trap

This beautiful young man is my nephew, a child growing up on the outskirts of London.  He is buoyant, instantly generous, loving, and a fine host at his own party.  I like how he smiles.  I like how he plays, how he relaxes with the hour.  I like how his job, right now, is happiness.

I thought of this happy kid as I read the New York Times Op/Ed piece (penned by Tim Kreider) on busyness, and its many bedevil-ments.  "If you live in American in the 21st century you've probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are," Kreider begins.  "It's become the default response when you ask anyone how they're doing: 'Busy!' 'So busy.' 'Crazy busy.'  It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint.  And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: 'That's a good problem to have,' or 'Better than the opposite.'"

Kreider was, of course, aiming his pen at me.  (Hey, as a memoirist/narcissist it's a conclusion I'm bound to draw.)  Crazy busy was my theme song.  Overwhelmed was my word du every jourI'd like to, but I can't.  Yes, folks.  That was me.  A lot of it was circumstance, pressures and responsibilities I had not actively chosen for myself.  But much of it stemmed from choices I had made—to endlessly shore up family finances, to write (again), to volunteer (some more), to chase spider webs at midnight that no one but yours truly can see.

Not long ago, I declared my desire for a lesser life—one less crammed with to-do lists, less amenable to busy boasts.  I wanted to, needed to, sleep more.  I wanted to live more.  I wanted to have more time away from the computer, more time in gardens, more time with books, more time to experiment in the kitchen.  I wanted, frankly, more time for walks with my son, more time to scheme up art projects with my husband, more time alone.  I bought close to three dozen books—recent classics I had missed—and set out to read them.  I made time for walks with long-time friends.  I sat and looked at photographs—not in a hurry, and for no applicable reason.

And when client work arrived, as client work must and will arrive, I didn't promise a next-day delivery.  I did the work, best as I could, same high standards in place.  But I didn't do it in a breathless rush when the rest of my timezone was sleeping.

I'm liking me better this way, but I know how hard it will be to avoid relapsing into BusyNess.  I am keeping Kreider's article close, therefore, for when I'm tempted to fall off the wagon.  I share this Kreider paragraph, with the hope that you'll read the whole:
Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more

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20. Miscellaneous Linkage: Weekend Edition


What’s been going on this weekend?

Bronys and pegasisters meet in New Jersey for “BronyCon Summer 2012″!

As Yahoo reports (via AP):

["Friendship is Magic" creator Lauren] Faust told The Associated Press at BronyCon on Saturday that she never imagined the show would be such a hit with teenage boys and young men. She said her main target was little girls, but she hoped to draw in moms and perhaps some boys with strong characters and compelling story lines.

“We live in a society where saying that something is for girls is the equivalent to saying that something is stupid, or saying that something isn’t worthwhile,” Faust said.

“I think that’s awful and I think that kind of attitude needs to be changed,” she said. “And these men are doing it. … They’re proud that they’re forward-thinking and modern enough to look past this misogynistic attitude.”

Faust said she, like the Bronies, is disturbed at the negative images some people have about men who like the show.

The New York Times’s chief movie critics, A. O. Scott and Manohla Dargis, ponder the meaning of an apparently invincible genre.

Scott and Dargis discuss why superhero movies are so popular, and what sort of meaning can be gleaned from the genre.

DARGIS They’re certainly avatars of reaction in how they justify and perpetuate the industry’s entrenched sexism. You just have to scan the spandex bulges in “The Avengers” to see that superhero movies remain a big boys’ club, with few women and girls allowed. Yes, there are female superheroes on screen, like Jean Grey from the “X-Men” series, but they tend not to drive the stories, while female superheroes with their own movies never dominate the box office. Most women in superhero movies exist to smile indulgently at the super-hunk, to be rescued and to flaunt their assets, like Scarlett Johansson’s character in “The Avengers,” whose biggest superpower, to judge by the on- and off-screen attention lavished on it, was her super-rump.

Your weekly article about comics and academia

drc superhero 200x134 Miscellaneous Linkage: Weekend EditionUniversity of North Texas professor Shaun Treat teaches “Mythic Rhetoric of Superheroes” in the UNT Department of Communication Studies.

Half of the University of North Texas students in professor Shaun Treat’s summer class had never read a comic book.

His WordPress blog can be found here.  The amazing syllabus is here!  What’s on the reading list?<

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21. Let's talk about the label-ization of books (and Kristin Cashore)

The other day I pondered my own capabilities as an interviewee and concluded that I still need a bit of work.

A lot of work?  Yes, indeed.  A lot of work.

In this New York Times By the Book interview, Kristin Cashore, author of the esteemed Graceling (which I read and loved) and Fire (and, now, Bitterblue) shows us how a real interviewee chooses words rightly.  For Cashore's unwillingness to cop to easy answers or generalizations, for her range of knowing and wisdom, I respect the whole conversation.  I especially respect Cashore's response to the question, What makes a great young adult book — as opposed to a great book for full-fledged adults? Her answer:
The fact that at the moment the distinction is being made, a young adult, as opposed to an adult, is the one reading it. In other words, I don’t entirely believe in the distinction. A great book is a great book, and it’s impossible to say what part of a person is going to connect to it. Age and experience aren’t always among the most relevant factors.
Perhaps I celebrate this response because I hold this opinion this myself—and have often tried to express it, with varying degrees of eloquence, in interviews and on panels.  Just as I have fretted over the labeling of individuals, the attaching of classifications or lower-case nouns (oh, he's a manic depressive, oh, she's a workaholic), I do not cotton to the label-ization of books, to distinctions between young adult books and adult books, say, or to the assignment of fixed and self-limiting categories.  

What adult, for example, should not read Thanhha Lai's Inside Out & Back Again, and what teen should not read the never-officially-stamped-or-stickered To Kill a Mockingbird? Why should the first thing one is told about Julianna Baggot's Pure be that it is a dystopian novel, as opposed to an intelligent and artful and imaginative novel? Shouldn't the readership of Vaddey Ratner's astonishing, forthcoming "adult" novel about a child growing up in the Cambodian killing fields, In the Shadow of the Banyan, be both teens and adults? Doesn't Ilie Ruby's forthcoming The Salt God's Daughter have much to offer any age, and can't we talk about its gentle mysticism, its magic as poetry as opposed to brand or tag?

Certainly, I know how hard this would make things for booksellers and librarians.  I know that commerce requires labels, depends on it.  But wouldn't it be lovely if readers talking to readers dropped the labels and distinctions?  If we said, among ourselves, You must read this book because it is, quite simply, a great book, and because it will transport you. 

5 Comments on Let's talk about the label-ization of books (and Kristin Cashore), last added: 7/6/2012
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22. can you tell the truth? (The Night of the Gun)

My respect for David Carr, the New York Times reporter, bestselling author, and (with A.O. Scott) Times video celeb, has been reported here.  What you've not seen on this blog is talk about Carr's reportorial memoir, The Night of the Gun.  By his own admission, Carr was a substance abuser of the very first order—a "maniac" who went from handling whiskey and cocaine (barely) to not handling crack to smacking women he loved with an open hand to raising twins while failing at rehab to carrying a gun he doesn't remember, or didn't remember until he started tracking down his own past. 

Like the scrupulous Times reporter he miraculously became, Carr sought out and interviewed those whose lives intersected his during his wilderness years.  He weighed his idea of things against police records and the recall of old friends.  He sorted, sifted, and spun in an attempt to understand not just who he was, but who he is, and how the was and the is somehow survive inside the same knocked-about skin.

It's fascinating reading, memoir painstakingly stitched. It has a lot to say not just about Carr's life, but about what truth is and what to do with all the stuff we can't rightly remember.  Here's an early paragraph that wisely captures one of my pet peeves (we shall read more about this in Handling the Truth)—memoirs filled with dialogue from hazy childhood days.
I read some of the classics of the genre, debunked and not.  After reading four pages of continuous ten-year-old dialogue magically recalled by someone who was in the throes of alcohol withdrawal at the time, I wondered how he did it.  No I didn't.  I knew he made it up.  It was easy and defendable, really, sublimating and eliding the past in service of a larger Emotional Truth.  Truth is singular and lies are plural, but history—the facts of what happened—is both immutable and mostly unknowable.  Can I somehow remember enough to type my way to an unvarnished recitation of what happened to me?  No chance.
A note for the curious:  I use Lana Roosiparg's gorgeous face as my photo of the day for no other reason than that it is a singular, and therefore, true one.  Lana is one of the four talented and lovely people recently featured in my husband's art.  This is an outtake from the photo shoot that yielded those hallucinatory worlds.

2 Comments on can you tell the truth? (The Night of the Gun), last added: 8/15/2012
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23. NYT Creates Separate Middle Grade & YA Bestsellers Lists

The New York Times will divide its Children’s Bestsellers list for chapter books, creating separate middle grade and YA lists. NYT editor Pamela Paul announced the news last night on Twitter. We’ve embedded her three tweets below.

The newly formed middle grade and young adult lists will account for both eBook and print book sales. However, the picture books list will continue to exclusively spotlight on hardcover titles. What do you think?

The Fault in Our Stars author John Green offered this comment on his tumblr page: “In news that only matters to publishing nerds, the New York Times has changed its bestseller lists to become format neutral (so it counts e-book sales and doesn’t distinguish between hardcover and paperback)…Those of you who follow my tumblr closely may know that for many weeks, I have been chasing Bill O’Reilly and promising to destroy him. But now we have been placed on DIFFERENT LISTS.” (via Publishers Weekly)


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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24. Erdrich's CHICKADEE and Smith's INDIAN SHOES in NY TIMES

On December 4, 2012, The New York Times published "Books to Match Diverse Young Readers" about books that featured characters who are "black, Latino, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native." Here's a screen capture of the article:

The first book on the second row is Louise Erdrich's Chickadee. If you click on it, you'll be able to read the first words of the book. On the third row, the last image is Cynthia Leitich Smith's Indian Shoes. I heartily recommend Chickadee and Indian Shoes and am glad to see them getting this attention in the Times. 

I am not familiar with The Year of Miss Agnes, but it was not favorably reviewed in A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. In it, reviewer Marlene Atleo writes that Miss Agnes is an eccentric and dedicated white teacher of Indigenous children, but that throughout, the message is that "Native people merely survive" and that "white people think..." Atleo's review includes an excerpt:
With Miss Agnes the world got bigger and then it got smaller. We used to think we were something, but then she told us all the things that were bigger than us, the universe and all that, and then all the things that were smaller. To small to even see. So people were sort of in between, not big and small, just in between.
Reading that excerpt, I see the trope of the white teacher rescuing the Indians from their primitive and ignorant ways. It doesn't make one lick of sense to me, though, given that Native peoples view ourselves as part of the world. I'm guessing that Alaska Native children in isolated areas already know that people are "in between." Isn't it, generally speaking, non-Native people who are the ones that need to learn their place in the world as caretakers rather than exploiters of the earth's resources?

If you choose Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things, avoid the other Alvin book, Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties. It features Alvin playing Indian.
I'm uploading this post on December 7, 2012. For those of you looking for holiday gifts, put Chickadee and Indian Shoes on your lists. Both are available from Birchbark Books in their "young adult" link.

Buy books from Birchbark Books! Support independent bookstores!

0 Comments on Erdrich's CHICKADEE and Smith's INDIAN SHOES in NY TIMES as of 12/7/2012 12:07:00 PM
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25. "You might as well be a mensch": Messages from My Father/Calvin Trillin

Yesterday was a celebration of my father on his birthday—a surprise cake among his many friends at his church, a lunch at his favorite, cafe, a somewhat disorderly assemblage of preferred foods from the Farmers' Market, organized into sub-specialty themes (here we have our cheeses and crackers, here our apple fritters, here our quiche, here our pecan pie), tickets to an upcoming high school production of Grease.

None of it being close to enough to honor the man who has always done so much for his wife (whose grave he still visits daily, even in blasts of winter cold), his three children and his three children's children. Kep Kephart has been a stealth benefactor, a man who has given without the slightest expectation a quid pro quo. Where there has been need, he has stepped in. Where there was college to pay for, he did. Where there were little TVs or kitchen pots that might have helped ease the lonesomeness of first studio apartments on Camac Street, say, little TVs and kitchen pots materialized. Where a trip away was precisely the cure for the tedium of too much stuck in a rut, a check arrived in the mail."Your father is a very good man," I was told, time and again, as I planned his surprise moment at the church. "We don't know what we'd do without him."

I was thinking about Kep Kephart, a Penn grad, devoted Presbyterian, retired businessman, and active consultant, while I was reading about Abe Trillin, the Jewish grocer of Kansas City, in Calvin Trillin's memoir Messages from My Father. Trillin's slender memoir never pronounces its guiding questions, its framing themes. Rather, it begins with a declaration—"The man was stubborn."and proceeds to limn the life of a father who may not have made a strong first impression, with his "unprepossessing name," his "prominent nose," and his "negligible chin," but whose manners, values, and behaviors were of presidential caliber and consequence.

The contempt Abe feels "for people who felt the need to pump up their own importance" was encapsulated in a term; "that sort of person was "big k'nocker" (a phrase that would have fit nicely in with the recent New York Times story about parental boasting "A Truce in the Bragging Wars"). The fun he had with simple things—silly phrases, songs, marching tunes—seemed more important, looking back, than anything money might buy. His tenderness in letting an employee go, his admirable work ethic, his decision to be remembered, most of all, by his choice of yellow-tinted ties—all this gentleness, all this manliness, all this fatherliness. Calvin Trillin may have inherited his father's stubbornness, but he noticed, and absorbed, the bigger lessons his father taught.

Perhaps for Abe, and therefore Calvin, it all came down to a single phrase: "You might as well be a mensch." I hadn't seen the phrase before (the word, of course, but not the phrase), but I think I'd like to make use of it now—to seed my thoughts with its power. Here's Calvin in his trademark simply meaningful prose, parsing the line for the rest of us:

Even the words to live by that I have always associated most strongly with him—"You might as well be a mensch."lack grandiosity. The German word Mensch, which means person or human being, can take on in Yiddish the meaning of a real human being—a person who always does the right thing in matters large or small, a person who would not only put himself at serious risk for a friend but also leave a borrowed apartment in better shape than he found it. My father clearly meant for me to be a mensch. It has always interested me, though, that he did not say, "You must always be a mensch," or "The honor of this family demands that you be a mensch" but "You might as well be a mensch," as if he had given some consideration to the alternatives.

I take mensch to mean a sweep of things, and also these essential things: Remember others. Acknowledge others. Be happy for what they achieve. Listen more than you talk, if you can. Don't make too much of your own glory.

For more thoughts on memoirs, memoir making, and prompt exercises, please visit my dedicated Handling the Truth page.

3 Comments on "You might as well be a mensch": Messages from My Father/Calvin Trillin, last added: 2/14/2013
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