Genre of the Week: 18 and Life by Skid Row

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As we’re talking about gun violence and looking at ways to stopping it, we’re also looking at the causes of this rapid increase in violence which has especially hit schools the hardest. I had a chance to listen to a speech made by four survivors of the shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida as well as the interviews that followed. The students that survived the bloodbath knew the killer (who is behind bars) and were very angry at how this was not stopped earlier. These four were born the same year as the infamous Columbine massacre that took place on 20 April 1999 and have grown up used to mass shootings, including those in schools.  Here’s a quick preview of the speech:

One of the key issues we’ll need to work on as we look at reforming gun control laws is also the ways to reform the mental health system and make schools and public places safe. But how can we do that if we have people running around irresponsibly waving guns around and firing aimlessly at people, killing some in the process and permanently scarring others in the process, like it happened with Columbine, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, Cold Springs and now Parkland?

One way is to look at how parenting has changed over the years. In the past 40 years, we have gone from being strict Puritans who spank and hit children in order for them to behave to being those who allow children anything and everything they want to, even if it means running over teachers, law enforcement officials and the like at the same time. Parents have struggled to find a middle ground in order to allow for controlled growth- meaning growing within their boundaries and knowing what is right and what is wrong. It means taking responsibility for their own actions and accepting the consequences for their wrongdoing. A one-day suspension from school for fighting or showing disrespect is painful but should be a lesson for the future. It’s by teaching children how to respect others and learn the Golden Rule: Do onto others as they would be done onto you. This includes stories and fables to be told regularly but also normal interaction with people and understanding their feelings.  And if parents cannot do their job, have another foster parent or relative take over for a while, someone who can foster the child’s growth and show them the values of life.

This Genre of the Week looks at a scene that is very typical in today’s society today: a teenager who has gone wild because of years of being overly controlled and abused by his father. His recklessness by using alcohol and guns led to his downfall as he lost not only his family and best friend, but his own life. And as alcohol regulations has worked in keeping people away from the booze, gun regulations can do the exact same thing and even more. But even with gun regulations (which can work), we need to look at reforming our society and investing more time and especially money to reforming our society, starting with the health system, then the school system and lastly the family. This way we don’t have any more wild ones like in this song by Skid Row entitled 18 and Life, produced in 1989.

 

 

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Skid Row was formed in 1986 featuring lead singer Sebastian Bach, guitarists Scotti Hill and David Sabo, drummer Rob Affuso and bassist Rachel Bolan. It still produces heavy metal music to this day but with ZP Theart as the lead singer. 18 and Life was produced in 1989 and made it to the Top 4 in the US and Top 12 in the UK. It even won a gold platinum that year. The band is based in New Jersey.

 

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Holiday Genre: Lord Octopus Went to the Christmas Fair by Stella Mead

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Before returning to my visits to the Christmas markets of 2017, I would like to tie this holiday genre with the Christmas market tour, for it has to do with shopping and finding things for friends and family-

or in this case, family and extended family. 😉

When this poem was written by Stella Mead in 1934, it appeared in the comic strips before becoming part of a treasury of Christmas Stories which Ann McGovern put together in 1942. And while the character was indeed an eight-armed underwater beast, the thought of buying the right gift at the right place at the Christmas Fair still comes true today.

And so, Lord Octopus Went to the Christmas Fair just like the author went to the Christmas market for shopping and food. Enjoy! 🙂

Lord Octopus went to the Christmas Fair;

An hour and a half he was traveling there.

Then he had to climb

For a weary time

To the slimy block

Of a sandstone rock,

And creep, creep away

To the big wide bay

Where a stout old whale

Held his Christmas sale.

 

Lord Octopus went to the Christmas Fair;

An hour and a half he was traveling there.

His two little girls and two little boys

Were waiting at home for their Christmas toys;

And dear old Granny,

And fat Aunt Fanny,

And Cousin Dolly,

And Sister Molly

Would think Lord Octopus quite unpleasant

Unless he brought them a Christmas present.

 

Lord Octopus went to the Christmas Fair;

An hour and a half he was traveling there.

He purchased two hoops for the little boys.

He purchased two rings for the girls as toys.

He bought for Granny

A sweet nightcap,

To please Aunt Fanny

A game of snap;

For cousin Dolly

A winter wrap,

For Sister Molly

A sea-route map.

 

With hoops for the boys, for the girls round rings,

The wrap, and the rest of the Christmas things,

Tied up into parcels and packets strong,

Lord Octopus merrily went along.

On every arm he hung a present,

And said, “It’s really rather pleasant

To have eight arms instead of two.

What can those human creatures do

With just two arms for all the toys

They have to buy their girls and boys?”

Source: McGovern, Ann (Ed.) Treasury of Christmas Stories  New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1960. 

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Holiday Genre: Time to Forgive

 

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Another typical German Christmas tradition we usually see during the holiday season are the commercials. Using special themes that connect Christmas with family and love, store chains produce scenes that bring family and friends together, following the events that happened during the year as well as basing some of them on personal experiences of people working there.

Two commercials come to mind that were televised during the holiday season, both of whom focused on the theme of forgiveness. Forgiveness of the sins committed against family, friends and even mankind. Forgiveness which means starting over again and mending the ties that were ripped apart because of war and conflict that didn’t need to happen but it did.  Forgiveness which means loving again.

In the first holiday commercial, forgiveness meant reestablishing a bond between a parent and a child. In this one, produced by the German grocery chain Penny, the mother seeks out to her daughter, years after they had a fall-out during the daughter’s pregnancy. The mother’s journey was like a walk in the woods- meeting obstacles that were as painful as it was recalling the memories of the two together. The end result is not what is expected except that they both came home:

 

In the second commercial, the scene took place in the future, where artificial intelligence invaded mankind and chased the humans away into forests and other dugouts. While the three-legged machines looked for other natural life forms- most likely to kill off, one of the robots discovered the holiday the humans had been celebrating after coming across first a poster of a show entitled “Wonderful Christmas” and then a Christmas tree and pieced together how the celebration took shape. While reenacting the scene with manequins didn’t function, the robot sought human life to better understand their life, taking with it, the Christmas star to give to the family that it found. In the end, the grocery chain Edeka offered the viewers a glimpse of how two groups can come together:

While the theme forgiveness was clearly in connection with events that have unfolded since US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017- name any conflict, because he had his hand in the apple pie- it showed how conflicts can permanently damage a relationship in ways the parties cannot comprehend until years later, when it is all too late. When Siegmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minster mentioned in an interview that Germany was breaking off ties with the US on foreign policy, it had to do with conflicts between both countries on virtually everything, combined with accusations (mostly were considered fake) and the unwillingness to compromise. The damage has, according to Gabriel, become irreversible that it may be impossible to mend ties, even after Trump leaves office. Other countries have also expressed concern that America will be so isolated that it will become something like in the commercials above. But perhaps this wake-up call is needed in order to come to terms and realize that we need to work together and forget about our egos or even our nostalgia.

Maybe by looking at the commercials we can come to terms and try and forgive, regardless of how long it takes. ❤

 

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Holiday Genre: Schweddy Balls

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As we look back at the holiday season, I found a few genres that are worth mentioning and also worth using for the next holiday season. Our first one features a flashback to  December 1998 and the parody of National Public Radio produced by Saturday Night Live, based in New York City. Since its first show in 1970, SNL has produced some of the best parodies and series on record, making people laugh until they either cried or peed their pants. This scene comes from the NPR parody series “The Delicious Dish,” (based on the real NPR’s The Splendid Table) with a splendid name to kick off the holiday spirit. It even made the Rolling Stones Magazine’s Top 20 of SNL’s All Time Best List at Nr. 20! Enjoy! 🙂

 

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Genre of the Week: The Flying Robert by Heinrich Hoffmann

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Many of us have heard of and/or watched the pretty British lady with a smile on her face, flying with an umbrella into someone’s home and into the hearts of many children and parents alike, turning a messy house and environment into one that that is orderly and bearable for all to enjoy. Mary Poppins was an early Disney cult that children have been watching for over 50 years. With songs and magic like it was written by Walt Disney, the book series, written by P.L. Travers and featured seven books, would not have been an American canon (under the setting of classic Children’s books in America converted into film) without the help of the main actress, Julie Andrews. 🙂

And while one person flew in with the umbrella, another flew away with his own. It is unknown whether P.L. Travers concocted his book based on another poem by German poet Heinrich Hoffmann, but it is one where if you don’t know about it and happen to come across a painting with a person flying away with an umbrelly, it’s a grave misunderstanding.

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My daughter drew this scene of Robert flying away a while back and my first impression was Mary Poppins losing control of her umbrella. It was probably because of all the times I watched this scene from the Simpsons:

But in all reality, while Mary Poppins (or even in this episode, Shary Bobbins) stressed the importance of cleanliness, respect and love, in the poem by Hoffmann, written in 1845, looks at a disobedient boy, who when a storm appears, decides to go outside in the wind and rain, while the other children went inside.

In the end, the boy was in for a surprise…..

The poem can be found in German as well as English, by clicking here.  The poem shows the importance of risks when doing something a person should not do. This partially explains the reason behind having Santa Claus (or Father Christmas in English; Weihnachtsmann in German). In case your child is naughty, you might want to direct him to this piece.

And may God have mercy on that child’s soul. 😉

 

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About the Author: Heinrich Hoffmann was born in 1809 and died in 1894, both in Frankfurt/Main. He was a physician and a psychiatrist who also devoted some time to writing. While he wrote about satire, his primary works were based on his writings he did for his son for Christmas. This included Struwwelpeter (Slovenly Peter), which was part of a large collection of works published in 1854. As a psychiatrist, Hoffmann discovered the pychological disorder schizophrenia during his time in an asylum, where he observed the conditions of the patients and tried successfully to help them. Hoffmann had three children with his only wife, Teresa; only one of them preceded in death before his time. A museum devoted to Hoffmann’s work can be seen in Frankfurt/Main.

 

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Genre of the Week: Really, Really Big Questions About Faith by Julian Baggini

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As we come up on the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses posted by Martin Luther, which created the Lutheran Church, the next articles will focus on Martin Luther, his relationship with Christ and how it affects Christians today.  Apart from some activities to come, some books and videos will be included here.

This includes this book which provides a question about God, religion and how He influences society- if He influences society as a whole.

Written by British philosopher  Julian Baggini and translated into German by Michael Schmidt with the Title Thinking about Mr. God,  this book provides an overview on religion and focuses on key questions about why we have religion, how has religion helped or hindered us (as a society) and about the existence of God, biblical events and if we even have a soul.

Baggini categorizes the questions into the aforementioned topics plus the question on the right to choose religion.  Each question features a summary with some key facts that are thought-provoking for all ages, yet also can be presentable in the classroom. These questions include the existence of God, such as:

What does God look like?

If we have God, why don’t we see him?

Can God be female or is He really male?

Is God fearful or to be feared?

Does God heal us, let alone speak with us?

Do we help others in need when we believe in God?

 

Then we have questions about religion, which includes why we have many religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and others. Then we have others like:

Does religion cause war? Peace?

Does religion make us better people

Does religion make us equal in terms of gender, sexuality, social class, animals, etc.?

Do we have a choice in religion? If so, which one is the best?

These are questions that are provocative and require a lot of deep thinking before one can come up with a truthful answer, just as truthful as it was during Martin Luther’s time.  Before his 95 Theses, he took his walk from his home in Mansfield to Erfurt on 17 July, 1505 when he was caught in a thunderstorm near Stotternheim. Fearing for his life, Luther prayed to St. Anne and promised her to become a monk, which he took his vows in 1506 and was ordained in 1507. It was during that time that he studied and prayed to God, but also questioned the Church about their beliefs in Christ and the way they handled people- providing indulgences to some and excluding others. Luther believed that religion was supposed to be open to those who want to believe Christ. The 95 Theses was based on the critical questions he had. However, even after the creation of the Lutheran Church, other followers had their questions about their faith and decided to create their branches of the Lutheran Church, hundreds of which still exist because they each offer a special aspect of Luther that people wishing to answer the questions about God can choose and fulfill their faith.

If we were to look at this book and compare it to Luther’s question of faith, they are parallel for like Luther, the author of the book provides us with a chance to question ourselves about our faith and whether our religion fulfills our expectations. If not, and if the church cannot change because of their ways, then the question is how we believe in God and if we have the right faith or if we should look for the answers to our deep questions elsewhere. The book is not just open for people looking for a religion but also for people who have just as deep questions about faith and religion as we do- you and me.

In my case, my question would be why we are here at this specific time and what is my mission here? That has yet to be answer despite my successes as a writer and teacher.

 

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Julian Baggini received his PhD in Philosophy at University College in London in 1996 after writing a thesis about the philosophy of personal indentification. He founded the Philosopher’s Magazine in 1997 and has a website dealing with microphilosophy (click here for details). He has written over 30 works and numerous essays dealing with philosophy, religion and people and their roles on Earth, just to name a few. He has also done TED Talks including this one below, which he talks about the real you. He still resides in London.

 

 

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America is a Gun by Brian Bilston

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As we’re still answering (or trying to answer) a lot of questions as to how a 64-year old retiree could lay carnage with automatic weapons shot from a hotel onto a crowd of people, while praying for and providing love and comfort to families and friends of the 58 people who lost their lives in the worst shooting in US history, I stumbled across this poem an aquaintance posted in one of the social network group pages I’m in a few days ago. While we try and find constructive ways to toughen gun laws in the face of our current administration and the National Rifle Association, this poem sums up the culture that America has when it comes to guns.  Germans have bratwursts, soccer, handball, castles and the Baltic and North Seas, are obsessed with travelling and foreign languages and believe that peaceful negotiations are the key to success and harmony. Americans have one thing that makes them strong when in use but very feeble when trying to negotiate, and that is the gun.  And while we make our feeble attempts to crack down on gun violence and ban certain weapons, in the eyes of the outside and those whose lives are gone and whose families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintences are mourning and trying to answer the most difficult questions, the United States of America and its natural inhabitants are characterized by one element: the gun.

This poem is dedicated in memory of the victims of Las Vegas in hopes we can look at this, ask ourselves if this is what we want ourselves to be and most importantly:

Why?  😦  

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