Genre of the Week: Mr. Peabody’s Apples, by Madonna

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This book is the first in a long series dealing with the Power of the Apple and how it plays a role in uniting a community and offering love, openness and ideas for a better world. A overture on the series you can find by clicking here

The first aspect of the apple we have looks at the truth. Lately, we’ve been confronted with several new terminologies that circumvent the real definition of the word we’ve chosen to neglect in favor of looking at news according to one person. No matter if it is fake news, alternative facts or the like, lies are lies, and rumors are just as big of a lie as the lie itself. And as one can read in this literary piece, written by a rockstar but inspired by the teachings of the Kabbalah and a founder of a rare religion, Baal Shem Tov, the power of a lie can be as damaging to a relationship as the power of the truth, which reveals pure facts and creates (or even mends) relationships.

The story takes place in a fictitious town called Happyville, and it deals with three key characters in the story: Mr. Peabody, Billy and Tommy. Every Saturday, the town would have a baseball game, where Mr. Peabody was the coach of the Happyville Baseball team, a profession which he holds just as dearly as that of a history teacher in elementary school, his other (but primary) job. One of the players, Billy, would help Peabody with the clean-up after the baseball game, and is considered one of the coach’s favorites because of his support for the team and his moral values.

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However, the character of Mr. Peabody is put to the test, when another student, Tommy, watches him take an apple from Mr. Funkadeli’s Produce Shop after the game, on his way home. Curious, Tommy decides to take his skateboard home but not before explaining Mr. Peabody’s actions to his friends. They observe this again the next Saturday after the baseball team played another game- and lost again, like in the first one. Thanks to the rumors that started spreading like wildfire, the whole town knew about it and the following Saturday after that……

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There was no baseball game, and the town was silent with only a handful of people on the streets- most of them staring at Mr. Peabody with mistrust. Arriving at the field that day, he saw Billy, who explained to him that many people thought he was a thief for stealing an apple.

Mr. Peabody’s response: Yes he takes an apple without paying, but because he pays for it when he grabs his shipment of milk from the store before the game, but picks up the apple after the game. Even the produce-seller confirmed his advanced payment for the apple. 🙂

Tommy received word from Billy about this and went over to Mr. Peabody to apologize for the rumors and asked what can be done to make up for it. Apology accepted but in return, Mr. Peabody asks Tommy to bring a feather pillow to the baseball field an hour later. As windy as it is, he is to do the most unthinkable with the pillow……

And this is where we stop here.

 

You can take a guess at what Tommy does with the pillow at the baseball field, but the action is something that shows us a valuable lesson: Sometimes even a simple way of making up for the tiniest mistake is impossible to do.

Sometimes facing up to the crime and taking the punishment for it is the best way to teach a person a lesson. If you lie in court, you face prison time for perjury and obstructing justice. If you lie to your partner, you face the biggest possibility of a break-up. If you lie to your parents or elders, you lose priviledges or even get spanked. And if you are the leader of a country, even alternative facts can lead you to lose the respect and support of your people, no matter how many wars you lead your country into. In either case, Mr. Peabody’s Apple shows the readers that even a single apple represents the truth involving the character and those around him.

As Madonna wrote, Tommy represented the truth from his point of view and his rumors are along the same lines as the alternative facts presented by President Trump and his White House staff, which the majority of Americans and the rest of the world have long since figured out. His friends making rumors represent the followers of Trump who either have embraced his policies or even accepted him as President without a fight. Harsh and hurtful as it is, I cannot say anything else more but the truth there. Billy represents the person who seeks the truth for himself and accepts the situation as it is, while looking for action that is appropriate. In this case, he understands Mr. Peabody’s logic and does nothing except tell Tommy about it, which led to the pillow episode. Had Mr. Peabody actually stolen the apple, his reactions would have ranged from asking “Why?” to not forgiving him for it. Who knows?

And the person with the apple, Mr. Peabody, he represents the main person in the story who takes action and is ready to explain why. He symbolizes the truth which is an open book, and if opened and read properly, people would understand why. One could implement Mr. Peabody’s actions to the actions taking place right now, whether it is refugees coming to Europe and North America for a better life because of their home regions being torn up by war and no solution to even rebuilding, or even thel logic of trying to nationalize a country to protect the workers from globalization, the phenomenon which is dominating the landscape and bringing countries together to fight problems that are destroying our world, including poverty, scarce resources and most importantly, the environment.

Mr. Peabody’s Apple represents the truth which we seek when we want to understand the actions of others and the lies (be it pure, rumors or even alternative facts) that we try to wrap around, yet it is as sinful as eating the “Apple of Wisdom” prescribed by the Serpeant, which led to Adam and Eve being expelled, according to the Book of Genesis. If we see something that we may see wrong from our end, instead of spreading rumors and lying about it, we should confront the matter and find out why. After all, as I’ve written an earlier piece about confronting the truth, we do have the ideas and tools to make things better for us. We just need to use it properly so that we don’t offend others who might turn around and take action against us in return.

This is where I’m reminded by a quote I posted recently on my old facebook page, which I’m currently dividing up between Trump fans and anti-Trump fans (will have to explain this in a later post):

Never judge others by their behavior before judging your own first. It’s very likely that your actions can influence their opinions about you.

Like in the story, when judging others by their actions, it leaves an impression on them and helps them judge you by your own behavior. If you choose to be ignorant, you can expect the most rotten apple (or one that is tainted with harmful chemicals). If you choose to be open and find out the truth, you can have the best harvest of apples you can imagine. And perhaps one courtesy of Mr. Peabody if you find out more behind his actions and story. 😉

 

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Author’s Anti-alternative fact:  The same rockstar, pop singer and actress, who wrote Material Girl, Crazy for You, Vogue, Take a Bow, Jump and This Used to be My Playground also wrote over two dozen books, mostly during the first decade of the third millenium, including the English Roses collection, Yakov and the Seven Thieves, and The Girlie Show. Mr. Peabody’s Apples, released in 2003, was the second of five children’s books and dozens of short stories and has even made it to Schloastic Magazine in the USA. This includes lesson plans for elementary school.  Madonna splits her time between London and New York and continues to sing and act to this day. You can find more about her via website.

 

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Genre of the Week: Are You Lost in the World like Me by Steve Cutts and Moby

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In the past four years, many artists have come up with creative ways to address the audience with issues that we seem to ignore. These include environmental problems, social pathologies- like metal illness and broken relationships, greed and even the development of a concrete form of dystopia, where humans are a cog of a corporation that keeps running day and night, at the expense of our own lives. We’ve seen many documentaries on fracking, the extinction of bees and the perverting of the education system to favor the elite and make the rest become cogs for the corporate machines, done by well known journalists and photographers. But we have seen a steep increase in films and animations from grassroot organizations and people, whose main purpose is to make the situation as gloomy as possible- as a way of sobering society.

Steve Cutts is one of those up-and-coming artists who has been painting the situation as realistic as possible, but through animation. Born in London, Cutts is an illustrator and animator, having produced satires that focus on the faults of modern society. His animations have a combination of very graphic details with a background resembling Mickey Mouse in the 1930s and 40s. The exception is that we are subtracting Disney’s favorite pet with characters who are either greedy, victims of the rapid changes of society or the has-beens- people who had their heyday in the 1970s and 80s but have found themselves washed-up in favor of progress.

The first animation was released in 2012 entitled MAN, which focuses on man’s behavior towards the environment. Using the themes of that plus animal rights, Cutts focuses on how humans abuse the environment for their own gain. Over 20 million views were recorded when the film was released and has been seen by 20-fold ever since. Other animations produced by Cutts can be found on his website by clicking here.

And this takes us to the genre of the week and this animation, Are You Lost. This one deals with our obsession with social networking and the Smartphone. While things are falling apart in our society today, the only comfort is with the device which has hundreds of functions, including selecting the right partner, rewinding to nostalgia, capturing tragedies and finding Pokemon in a sanitary landfill. The worst thing is how our society is decaying because of the need of a small plastic device that is replaceable over people that are not. This includes the child as the main character in the film, who is left out completely because of the people who once they have a device in their hand, there is no return…….

…..or is there? While the music, provided by Moby and the Void Pacific Choir has a gothic taste combined with techno-music, this film looks at the addiction of the Smartphone and how we have become too dependent on it instead of other people. And while other addictions, like drinking, smoking and even being inactive are easy to overcome if we are committed to the task, this one is rather difficult to near-impossible to overcome because of the need to stay connected to people and news, even though they don’t matter to us at home. It is like we care more about the device than the problems that we have to address at home; many of them Cutts addresses here and in all his other films produced up til now. It leads us to the question of whether we can get by without the device for a full day and look at what really matters to us. And if this film is not enough to wake a person up, here’s a situation worth considering:

You see a person in despair, wanting to kill him/herself- like in this film, whose animation is based on the work of Max Fleischer. You have a Smartphone in your hand and are in a deep conversation with someone a half a world away. You see the situation. Do you drop the phone and rush to the person’s aid, or do you watch from the sides and hope someone will do it for you?

It’s easy to be lost in a crowd and let the events unfold as they happen. But sometimes, just switching the phone off and doing something about it will save not just the life of that person, but in the end, your own, as well. Think about it when you watch this…..

 

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Moby (a.k.a. Richard Melville Hall) is an American musician whose specialty is producing electronic music and remixing songs produced by other artists, like Michael Jackson and the B-52s. He gained national fame in the 1990s with the release of the albums Everything is Wrong and Animal Rights, the first of a total of 13 albums that have been released since then. “The Systems Are Failing”  is the latest album to have been released in 2016 and includes the song “Are You Lost in the World, Like Me?” which includes Steve Cutts’ animation. Moby had asked Cutts to produce the film, while the Void Pacific Choir provided the vocals. Moby is a vegan, advocate of animal rights and an environmentalist and has also written essays on these topics as well. He resides in Los Angeles.

 

 

Genre of the Week: Break Free by Eugen Merher

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Here are a pair of questions for you as we look at the Genre of the Week:

  1. If there is one thing (game, hobby, any activity) that you want to do very badly in your life- even if it is done only once- what would that be?
  2. If there is one thing that you used to do that you want to do once more before you die, what would that be?

Both of these questions are in connection with this short video produced by Eugen Merher entitled Break Free. It was produced for the German shoe company Adidas and focuses on an elderly man in a nursing home, who used to run marathons when he was younger. Frustrated because he was confined indoors and realizing that there is not much time left, he puts on his shoes for one last time and pursues his dream one last time. Despite early mishaps, he gains a lot of confidence and support from his friends and neighbors, who in the end help him achieve his goal, which is to break free and make that one final run. This doesn’t need further explaining. Just watch the video, reflect on it based on the questions I posed and if needed, have some Tashentücher (Kleenexes) ready. ❤  🙂

 

Produced for Adidas in December 2016 but personally in memory of a relative of his, the shoe company rejected this piece for unknown reasons, so Merher posted it onto youtube, receiving many appraisals and positive feedback. The Files stumbled across this and found this very unique and thought provoking-enough for Merher to receive this honor.  This is the eighth short clip that Merher, who originate from Moldova but moved to Germany at the age of five, produced in a very short time span of 1-2 years. He has already produced three short films this year and will surely rise to fame with many accolades and international recognition in due time. More on his work (including the films), plus a short biography of his work can be found via website here. He has a youtube page which you can access as well.

The Flensburg Files congratulates Eugen Merher on receiving the Genre of the Week Award for this moving piece that will drive many to pursue the one thing in life they wish to do, regardless of age and other circumstances. The theme for this clip break free. If you are constrained in any way, there will be enough ways to break the cycle. And in the end, when all measures fail, the last one will do the trick.

So go on, go your way and break free! 🙂

 

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Literature of the Week:Warum der Esel Martin heißt – Neues von Martin Luther by Uwe Steimle

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In connection with literature and Martin Luther, we have a literary piece that I came across that one should have a look at. It is written by Uwe Steimle. Born in Dresden in 1963, Steimle studied theater at the University of Leipzig, having graduated in 1989, Steimle was a successful actor, having starred in the German mystery series Polizei 110, as well as movies like Sushi in Suhl- a film about a Japanese restaurant in the Thuringian town, which the character Rolf Anschütz created.  Steimle was also a successful author, having written Meine Oma, Marx und Jesus Christus and Heimatstunde.  This book of the week is his third. Published in 2016 on the eve of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther and his 95 Theses, this book is a collection of stories told by people having an association with Luther’s past in the places where the Reformer left his mark, such as Eisleben, Wittenberge and at Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, just to name a few communities.

This review was written by fellow columnist Juliane Klingler, who writes for the Heldenstadtbewohner, a column which she and her husband Alex write about life in Leipzig and things people can do there, regardless of budget. The link is available here.

While this review is written in German, it is a rather short summary which will give you a glimpse on life in the Lutherstatdt, with some comments about Martin Luther and religion. I won’t go further but ask you to continue reading from here. A link where you can find out how to purchase the book is at the end of the excerpt.

Enjoy! 🙂

 

2017 ist ein Thema- ganz besonders hier in Mitteldeutschland- ständig präsent: das Reformationsjubiläum, der 500. Jahrestag des Thesenanschlags von Wittenberg.  Und Martin Luther? Der ist inzwischen überall präsent: im Film, als Panometer, auf Kaffeebechern und Spielkarten, als Puppe und auf T-Shirts. Etwas ist jedoch im Laufe der Zeit verlorengegangen: die restlichen 5 Thesen. Aber: sie sind wieder da! Gefunden von Uwe Steimle!

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Mehr dazu/ More on that: https://heldenstadtbewohner.com/2017/02/25/uwe-steimle-warum-der-esel-martin-heisst-neues-von-martin-luther/ 

 

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Genre of the Week: Last Note of Freedom by David Coverdale and Meryl Streep

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On a crisp, cold morning, one man takes his dog through the valley. All covered in masks and coat, he searches for answers after facing heartbreak- a heartbreak of biblical proportions with more questions than answers. The only way to go on is going up. The question is how.

As 20 January, 2017 approaches us, we face this tragedy not knowing what will happen next to our lives, our families and even our freedoms. Do we fight the trend, go with it, ignore it or start over?

This is why I have two Genres of the Week with this particular theme: Fixing the broken heart with art, starting over from scratch, starting a new chapter knowing that once you’re at rock bottom, the only way to go is, indeed, up.

The first one was a speech by famous actress Meryl Streep, which happened as she received the Golden Globe Awards for Lifetime Achievement on 8 January, 2017. While she does not address the man leading the trend, she addresses the need to put an end to this intolerance, by mending and winning the hearts of those affected by this tyranny.  The second is a song produced by David Coverdale, the lead singer of the former rock group Whitesnake, which was a popular band during the late 1980s and early 90s. Entitled Last Note of Freedom, produced for the movie Days of Thunder in 1990, the melody of the song, combined with the lyrics also takes us to that time, but provides the listener with hope for something better, although the question is how to do this?

Although I normally would do an interpretation of the Genre, I decided to leave it as is and allow you to reflect on the two, allowing you to decide what to do when being in the situation as we will be entering in a few days: rock bottom and in the world of no hope or peace. It’s something a friend of mine once showed me last year while looking at a tragedy close to home thanks to a storm that caused widespread damage to a small town in Saxony. Better to think instead of comment, plan instead of bicker and most importantly, do instead of doing nothing.

And with that, I will do just that and allow you to reflect. God bless you.  ❤

 

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Genre of the Week: German Christmas Highlights

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Presents opened, check! Visiting and spending time with relatives and friends, check! Dining on goose with Klöse (potato dumplings), check! Complaining about the presents- well, not quite there yet. 😉

Another Christmas has come and gone and soon will be gone is 2016- the year of the unexpected. But still, it doesn’t hurt to have a look at our Christmas celebration and compare them to some celebrations we have seen either live in person…..

….. or on TV.  😉

Some of you are probably wondering how Germans celebrate their Christmases in comparison to Americans, English and people in other countries. A couple examples come to mind which combine Christmas with a sense of humor and a culture that is typical of Germany- at least among the older generations.  Some of you have seen them already but for those who haven’t, here is a little sample…..

The first one is from the comedian Loriot, whose talents included playing three people in one scene, driving people up the palm tree, including his side kick Evelyn Hamann, and presenting a dry sense of humor only Germans and people with a fond sense of cultural openness can understand. All of these are seen in this clip filmed in 1978 entitled Christmas with the Hoppenstedts:

Loriot’s career lasted over four decades until his retirement in 1991. He passed away at a ripe age of 91 years in 2011. Hamann had passed five years before. A tribute to the two can be found here.

The other example worth noting is Christmas with the family of Heinz Becker. The character Heinz (played by Gerd Dudenhofer) is a typical worker whose erratic behavior and clusiness keeps his wife and son on their toes, especially at Christmas time as seen in the episode Alle Jahre Wieder (Back Again), filmed in 1994, which the term “TIMBER!” can be seen towards the end. 🙂

 

The TV series ran for 12 years with interruptions in between, with its last episode airing in 2004. Dudenhofer also worked with Loriot on a few of his episodes, including Papa Ante Portas (1991) prior to getting the main role in Heinz Becker. He still works as a cabaret artist to this day.

With 2017 around the corner, we will most likely be greeted by this classic which is as ritual as a Tatort film on a Sunday night in a cafe in Berlin. Dinner For One was aired in 1963 and was based on sketch written by Lauri Wiley. It features an old lady celebrating her 90th birthday, her butler, lots of sherry, brandy, wine and port, and I’ll let you look at what happens next. 😉

 

The Genre of the Week has come to an end for 2016. More will be coming in the new year, but not before presenting you with the rest of the Christmas markets in Germany that the author visited and are in the writing stages after taking a long break and feasting on goose, Klöse and red cabbage- the cornerstone of every nutritious German meal for Christmas. 😉  Stay tuned!

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Genre of the Week: The Man Who Hated Christmas by Nancy Gavin

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What comes to mind when you think of Christmas? The tree? The market? Santa Claus? Presents? What aspect of Christmas do you like the most? For me, Christmas is about donating time, money and energy for a cause that is deep in the heart and one that has an everlasting effect on the community, whether it is helping out at the church on a Sunday, doing a fundraiser to help find a cure for cancer, working in a homeless shelter or even singing for money to be donated to a worthy cause. All of these we have done over the holidays because we know what it is like to either have witnessed certain events in our lives or know someone who has experienced hardships. Christmas is more about what you and heart and soul can do for others in the community and not about shopping for the largest gifts.

This is the central theme of this Genre of the Week entitled The Man Who Hated Christmas by Nancy Gavin. Originally published in the Women’s Day Magazine in December 1982, the story was based on the concept of the White Envelope in the Christmas tree, where as a gift to the family, one member donates her time, money and energy in donating to the right cause. The result was turning a sad face of a man who disliked Christmas because of the materialism involved into one who turned up the corners- way up- and hence, the project was launched, which has been going strong ever since. Gavin died two years after the story was published, but the white envelope tradition continues to this day. You can learn more about it by clicking here.  A youtube version of the story is here for you to learn why Christmas is important in ways that make that next computer, flatscreen TV and robot look like a thing to be left on the shelf. Listen to the story and then go out and do something for the community, not just this holiday season but also beyond. Enjoy! 🙂

 

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