Martin Luther and the Apple Tree

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This Food for Thought Commentary ties in the series on Martin Luther and the Apple to look at one important aspect in society today, which is people and proof of power versus praxis.

I would like to start my commentary with a story about the German word, Mogelpackung. Known in English as the sham packaging, in the literal sense of the word, it implies a product that is half-full and whose contents have the worst quality imaginable, but is fully packaged in bright shiny bags, thus making a person buy it because of its appearance.

It happened at a time when I was 13 and living with my parents at a university town in Minnesota, known as Marshall. My father was professor for technology at the university there, and every time he was teaching, I would hang out with my aunt and her (now ex) husband in the art department, where the latter was producing world-class paintings and offering classes, such as modeling, painting, sculpting and the like. And for the record, I was his “guinea pig” for one session of modelling, having to earn money to pay for film after using my mother’s camera for taking pictures. 😉

 

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But given the size of the campus, I would usually roam around every department and come across vending machines that were in each building. One day, I happened to find a vending machine and with 50 cents in my pocket, I bought a small bag of Ruffles potato chips, only to find that upon opening the bag, the contents were not even half full. Worse was when eating them, it tasted like it had been in the machine for YEARS!!! They were stale, dressed in salt!!!

When I mentioned this to my aunt upon returning to the art studio, she explained the concept of sham packaging and how companies try successfully to take that extra quarter out of the pockets of the innocent  just to earn that little money for their machine- a half-full package that is vacuum-packed but dressed in aluminum covering to make it look glamorous.

Companies can be really sneaky, can’t they?

But when looking at our society today, we not only see sham packaging everywhere but going beyond vending machines and shopping malls and mega-retailers. People can be shams too. One in three people on average are considered narcissists- people who take advantage of others for the purpose of personal gain.  It is unknown how a person can become a narcissist except to say that environmental factors, such as personal experience and trauma, external influence from others, the strive for new trends, craving attention and sometimes personal revenge are factors that can contribute to having a narccist personality, aside from a childhood upbringing where abuse, neglect and being controlled by parents and other family members. Sometimes the use of technology, like social networks, or a strict religious upbringing can play a role.  In either case, when a person promises the world and gives you a gagging grin are the people whom you want to avoid at any cost, for narcissists are capable of getting their way at the expense of others and enjoy watching others suffer from their defeat. These people can be best compared to sham packaging as I mentioned at the beginning- glamoring and god-like on the outside, but evil and incompetent on the inside- both in terms of hard skills as well as soft skills.

 

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The serpeant was a complete sham when it offered Adam and Eve an apple from the Apple of Wisdom, according to the readings of Genesis. End result- God expels them from the Garden of Eden. But can an apple be a sham package?  Absolutely not; they have their own natural color, each one representing its own flavor- and to a certain degree, one’s reaction upon tasting it.  😉  Yet the apple can be a symbol of strength and wisdom, learning about life and the people who live in it, contributing for the better or worse. If we were to eliminate the apple from our own diets in both these aspects, we would become barbarians battling for the best using all forms of measures to submit our prey before going in for the kill.

 

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This is where Martin Luther comes in. When he created the 95 Theses 500 years ago, he was planting the seeds for the apple tree that would later become the Lutheran Church. The purpose behind the separation from the Catholic Church was simple: The Church was also greedy and not paying attention to the needs of the people, but to the privileged, whose lives were spent in a glass ball, whose wall was thick enough to block out all the pleas and blind out the plight of poor. Yet one very perplexing comment that was extracted from Luther is making us think about how sharing or shamful the prophet was:

 

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree!

 

One has to look at the circumstances that led to his comment. After the theses were posted a rebellion  broke out among the peasants who felt cheated by the church. The Peasants War broke out in 1524-25 resulting in the casualties of more than 100,000 people. The revolt failed as the peasants were put down by armies supported by the aristocrats in the kingdoms of Saxony, Bavaria, Thuringia and Alsace.  Churches were looted and burned. Priests were murdered. And already many of Luther’s followers were interpreting the 500 theses in their own way, setting the stage for fragments of the Lutheran Churc. This included the conflict between Luther himself (who favored a middle approach between the aristocrats and the peasants) and Thomas Müntzer, who favored justice for the peasants. The conflict resulted in a fallout between the two and an everlasting feud which lasted until Luther’s death.  Luther’s establishment of the church was meant to bring the people together, just as the apple trees were planted to bring people together. Yet it seemed that what he actually did, by supporting both sides,  was instigate violence, thus making him look like a sham, as well as the others. While the uprisings did stop in 1525,  the theses brought out those who believed in change and it was badly needed, yet it brought out those who used the changes for the purpose of the gain of power. The theses criticized the Church for its practices but never made suggestions of how to change it, resulting in Luther being ostracized by many in his circle of friends of family. Yet these critical points allowed for other followers to establish their branches of the church.

 

If Luther was considered a sham, then most likely because of the ideas that were as thoughtful as the package of potato chips, yet when looking down at them, they were unappealing to the Church, resulting in its bitter taste, and salty because of the people who used his thesis for their own set of religions, some of which that still exist today are too strict and the themes too controversial.  But Luther was not a sham in reality. He saw the suffering of the people and ignoring the pleas of the shams wishing to undermine his work for their gain, he planted the apple trees for them, by opening the doors of the church to them so they can learn the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. His comment would best be interpreted as the modern terms of “If I had turned back the clock, I would still do it,” yet his comments, although considered sham by critics, indicate that he would still continue to plant the apple trees for the people to ensure that they had their share of wisdom and strength, instead of the sham packaging that the Catholic Church had offered at that time.

 

To sum up this lengthy discussion on sham packaging and the apple tree by Martin Luther, one has to connect the half-full package of potato chips from the vending machines with the apples, planted and harvested by Luther and compare it to the events of 500 years ago with that of today.  While it is easy to turn down the potato chips in favor of the apple because of its nutrients and all the other advantages it has, looking at it from the standpoint of Christ, it is much easier to decide how to believe as long as the religion is open to all and loving to all. Looking back 500 years, the people didn’t have the luxury of potato chips but saw the packaging of the Church and decided for the alternative. And therefore, it was much easier for them to choose the apple that opened the door to Jesus.

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Genre Tip: The Boy and His Puppy: An Inseparable Love Affair by Unknown Author

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Author’s Note: This story has been circulated around for many years, and the first time I heard this story was when I was in high school, and the story was part of a sermon at a church in my hometown in Minnesota- over 23 years ago. It was a story about love between a boy and animals, but also love based on understanding and common experience between two entities. It was a story of how love can produce an everlasting bond which cannot be broken.  I came across this story most recently because of some experiences that I and many others witnessed, where people and even plants, who are unloved and neglected, are taken in by those of us who are willing to give them a chance at life, no matter the circumstances. I will not go into detail for privacy reasons, but our willingness to open the door to those in need and adopt the ones most neglected fosters openness and love in ways we could never imagine it before.

When the story came out, no one knew who wrote it, nor was there a title to it. It just read please share. I’m doing this honor but leaving credit at the end to the person who wrote this (unknown author) because this story is as touching today as it was over two decades ago. It’s still giving us something to think about. 

 

A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups, and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard.

As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt tug on his overalls.

He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.

“Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.”

“Well,” said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat of the back of his neck, “these puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.”

The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket,
he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. “I’ve
got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?”

“Sure,” said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle. “Here Dolly!” he called.

Out from the doghouse and down ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur.

The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight.

As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed
something else stirring inside the doghouse.

Slowly another little ball appeared, this one noticeably smaller.

Down the ramp it slid. Then in a awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up….

“I want that one,” the little boy said, pointing to the runt.

The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would.”

With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe.

Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.”

With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup. Holding it carefully he handed it to the little boy.

“How much?” asked the little boy.

“No charge,” answered the farmer, “There’s no charge for love.”
Read more at http://www.reshareworthy.com/boy-surprises-farmer/#4AEqeZJj4LOhI33U.99

and Man Told A Boy Not To Get The Disabled Puppy But Is Surprised By The Boy’s Response

 

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Genre of the Week: Sojourns and Sayings of Martin Luther by Heinz Stade

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The art of music is the best food for one who is troubled, for through it the heart is contented, inspired and refreshed.

 

Sometimes even the best writers, teachers, priests, and people working in the field of law need music to produce ideas and ease their souls, to reflect on the situations that went wrong and look ahead to the future with a plan. Even as I write this, I listen to classical rock music and think about the ways to address Luther and the problems we face today, not to mention how we look at Luther from our own eyes. Literature is one of the aspects to look at, as it shows us how Luther lived and conveyed his message to his followers, let alone how his teachings have affected the Church to this day.  Sometimes even having a collection of quotes gives a person an insight into his experiences and how he can share them with others. After all, quotes and sayings produced from one’s mouth can speak more volumes than any lecture, speech or talk because it is based on one’s own achievements. This is why I usually write and keep a set of my own quotes for my own use because of my experiences that can help others having similar experiences like I did.

 

Several books have a collection of quotes written or told by Martin Luther, pending on the sources. I will present two of them I found during my recent visit to Wartburg in Eisenach. The first one is a collection of sojourns and sayings of Martin Luther, a collection of quotes put together by Heinz Stade but based on a German work by Susan Kubitz, released in 2015 by Rhino Press.

 

Available in English, French and Spanish, Sojourns and Sayings is divided up into cities where Martin Luther’s influences were at his best and where most of his written works are found and recorded into history, from the parents’ home in Möhra (Thuringia) and Mansfield (Saxony-Anhalt) to his place of birth and death in Eisleben, to his days as a student in Erfurt and as a reformer there and in Wittenberg. There was even quotes from the city of Torgau, where protestant history was written, and Luther’s wife, Katharina von Bora died in 1552. His quotes are not only categorized based on his stay but also in categories, such as family, pursuit of knowledge, Christian people, work and idleness and on God and the world for each of the respective aforementioned towns. The quotes book is so small, one can carry it with in his backpack and read the quotes while travelling, let alone use it for insurance coverage (that topic will come later).

 

But how useful are the quotes from the book? I took a few excerpts out and categorized them myself to show how Luther interpreted them, connecting them with the current scenery, which from Luther’s perspective would be justified to remind society of how our gifts should be handled with care, the fruits of this world should not be abused, and lastly, how we should respect and love our own neighbors regardless of their social, cultural and other backgrounds, unconditionally and wholly.

 

So without further ado:

 Love, Marriage and Relationships:

 

This one needs no explanation because of a lengthy column I wrote about on this topic (click here to read). But to sum up, Luther was against impure relationships for it would otherwise hurt the natural settings, which to a certain degree is justified, but in today’s standards, the choice of who to love lies solely on the person.  But here are a few worth mulling. The third one is so true, which led to my wife and daughter, the latter we are teaching the fruits of life so she can carry it on for future generations.

 

If anyone is about to marry, let him not ask after the woman’s father but let him ask in what odor the mother is held. Why is this? Because the ale is as good as the barrel smells.

 

Bedding and being bedded- that comes easy, even out of wedlock. But the best of all ways to plight your troth is by children, for they are the finest wool from the sheep.

 

The world cannot do without its women, even if men were to bear the children alone.

 

 

Growing up:

 

For parents who try to force their children to doing things they don’t want to do just because they made mistakes in their lives: Don’t do that. Let them grow to become who they themselves want to be. This is Luther’s reason why:

 

Youth is like the juice of freshly pressed fruit. It will not keep. It has to ferment and brim over.

 

 Judging other people:

 

In this category, I have a nice quote for those who claim to love their neighbors but act differently, which questions otherwise: How can you love your neighbor but judge them too prematurely and not even be there when help is needed? There are a few people on my list who I hope will read this.  Luther has some ways of handling people who are different in some aspects but in the end, they are like us- humans who have just as much right to live here as the people during Luther’s time. Here are his quotes:

 

No man or woman is so evil that in them there is nothing praiseworthy at all.

 

Man is a creature made up of life and death, pleasure and grief, desire and satiety, love and hatred, understanding and folly.

 

Take this as your guide- not to defame your neighbor elsewhere by talking about him, but to warn him in secret, so that he may change for the better.

 

 Education:

 

Education is one commodity which is becoming underappreciated by the year, as institutions are charging more for access, hiring teachers who are not open to different cultures and learning styles, and lastly, becoming so chaotic that even the bottom line slogan for it is clouded. Furthermore, when looking at Betsy DeVos, minister for education in the US, having someone who undermines the basic foundations of the country’s education system in favor of education for the privileged contradicts what Martin Luther had preached for in his 95 Theses: religion, education and the Bible for all and not for the elite. Here are some quotes that support educating the general public, which includes the importance of learning the language:

 

The task and duty of the teacher is this, not only to teach what he knows but also to disprove the teaching of opponents.

 

Without the language we shall never keep the gospel. Languages are the sheath: the gospel, the sword of the spirit, is held in them (….)  If we fail (which God forbid!) in this, paying no heed to the common speech, we shall not only lose the gospel but we shall end by being able to speak and read neither Latin nor German.

 

 Hard Work:

 

Hard Work seems to be another commodity of today’s society that is clouded. Hard work does not constitute 10 days in a sweat shop or manufacturing facility just to earn money and gain physical strength. The psychological aspect has to be included, which means jobs in the administrative section, such as teaching, journalism, etc. can also be included. Man is born to work but also to be proud of his work, as Luther quoted:

 

Hard work makes you healthy and strong

 

There shall be no toleration for feasting day in day out, for dressing in luxury or for lecherous excesses.

 

God wants no lazy idlers, but each should work hard and faithfully, following his calling and fulfilling his office, that God give him blessing and cause him to thrive. Man is born to labor as the birds are born to fly.

 

 

Being Yourself and Succeeding:

 

And lastly, one cannot be onesself with loving onesself for his own work, bringing up matters of concern to the forefront and initiating change to satisfy onesself and others surrounding him. This was the slogan for Martin Luther as he fought to preserve and foster the personal identity of others instead of following the beliefs blindly like a herd of sheep:

 

It is always customary to make out of a little spark a big fire.

 

What is at the end of all laws is love.

 

Be refreshing! Be clear! Be brief!

 

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Genre of the Week: Jack and Diane by John Mellencamp

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This genre of the week looks at a customary that celebrates the initiation of children becoming adults. In Germany, we have what is called Jugendweihe. First established in 1852 by Eduard Balzen, Jugendweihe is mainly a non-Christian event where a child is officially initiated into adulthood come the age of 14 years. Prior to that, the youth can participate in events that focus on history, culture, politics, work, sexuality and independent living, just to name a few. By the time a child reaches the age of 14, celebrations take place, marking the initiation into adulthood; some organized by the Humanist Association of Germany and the Association of Worker Welfare, others by the schools and families. The youth has a first-hand experience at what adult life is like. The only exception is of course, driving. That happens 5-8 years later- much later than the youth in the United States. There, having a driving license and a car at the age of 16 marks the beginning of the stage to adulthood, which ends by drinking legally, five years later.

I kid you not on this one, especially as I’m an American expat! 😉

Jugendweihe runs parallel to its Christian form, known as confirmation. For church-goers in the United States and in some pockets of Germany, confirmation also marks a stage going into adulthood. Yet with confirmation, regardless of which religion, it is the third and final stage in being united with Jesus Christ as well as being part of the religious denomination, after baptism and the first holy communion. It is the first of two graduation ceremonies in America’s schools, where the names are announced and the blessings and sacraments are given. The second is of course, high school graduation, where the diplomas are received and the graduates proceed to move into a new chapter in their lives.

While confirmation usually occurs at a fixed date by the churches of different denominations, Jugendweihe usually occurs at different times between March and June. The dates vary based on the projects and schedules issued by the schools, the aforementioned associations and lastly, the families of the child who is going through the initiation. Still, as a general rule, the age of 14 is the magic number signaling the departure of childhood into adulthood. It is the third most important phase in a child’s life after Zuckertüten Fest and the Graduation from Elementary School going into one of the three forms of high school in Germany.

A while back, I was asked by my students if there is an English equivalent to Jugendweihe. We do but in Christian terms but really, without a name. That is unless you listen to John Mellencamp. 😉

Jack and Diane was produced by the rock singer in 1982, and it focuses on the two main characters growing up in a rural community in America. While they develop differently going from boy and girl to a man and woman, they fight to stay young as long as they can, yet they soon realize that they are becoming adults and pursue their dreams together. The scenes in this video are typical of American culture during that time, yet you can find similar ones in Germany as well, with the discotheks, soccer, hanging out in shopping centers and even biking down trails and bikeways. In either case, this Genre of the Week looks at Jugendweihe from a musician’s point of view. One could go as far as proclaiming Jugendweihe as Jack and Diane Day in English! 😀

Still, I don’t think it would go down that well because of its age and the cultural differences. 😉

Or would it?

You decide as we dedicate this song to the 14-year olds that have celebrated or are about to celebrate Jack and Diane Day.  Enjoy! 😀

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Born in Seymour, Indiana in 1951, John Mellencamp has been coined as one of the 10 best singers/ musicians of all time in the US by many critics and colleagues. Jack and Diane made it to the top and stayed nr. 1 for four weeks in 1982. That and Hurt So Good came from the American Fool soundtrack, which is considered the best of his 23 albums he’s released since 1976. He still resides in Indiana but in Bloomington. You can find him online by clicking here as well as through World Cafe. An interview on how he’s opened up on music and arts with Forbes Magazine can be found here.

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

Mr Peabody's Apple

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.

Swing and Hit

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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