Spying on Bertolt Brecht in East Germany

Brecht’s Lover by Jaques-Pierre Amette

 

Die Archivbilder zeigen den deutschen Dramatiker Bertolt Brecht als 20jŠhrigen (l) im Jahr 1918 sowie eine undatierte Aufnahme des Dichters (r) aus spŠteren Jahren. Brecht wurde am 10. Februar 1898 in Augsburg geboren. FŸr seine ersten StŸcke "Trommeln in der Nacht" und "Baal", die beide 1922 zur ErstauffŸhrung kamen, wurde er mit dem Kleist-Preis ausgezeichnet. Die mit dem Komponisten Kurt Weill verfasste "Dreigroschenoper" wurde 1929 in Berlin mehr als 250mal aufgefŸhrt und machte ihn international bekannt. 1933 flŸchtete Brecht vor den Nationalsozialisten ins Ausland. 1949 RŸckkehr nach Ost-Berlin, wo er mit seiner Frau Helene Weigel das "Berliner Ensemble" grŸndete. Bertolt Brecht starb am 14. August 1956 in Berlin an den Folgen eines Herzinfarkts. dpa (zu dpa-Themenpaket "100 Jahre Brecht" vom 2.2.1998 - nur sw)

See British edition at Amazon 

(4.5/5)

Pros: atmosphere, characterization

Cons: no solution for the enigma of Brecht

Jaques-Pierre Amette’s 2003 novel La maîtresse de Brecht became the hundredth book to win the Prix Goncourt. It was translated into British English in 2005 not as Brecht’s Mistress, but as Brecht’s Lover. The young and beautiful actress Maria Eich at no point in her assignment by the KGB (The German Democratic Republic’s Ministry of State Security [Stasi] was only officially formed in 1950, though continuing to co-ordinate with the KGB until 1990) to spy on Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), who has come to communist East Berlin after 15 years pereginations to Scandinavia and Hollywood is in love with Brecht, nor he with her. He uses her sexually and, for a time, promotes her career in the theater company, the Berliner Ensemble that he heads with his wife (used to his philandering with younger actresses) Helene Weigel. Maria’s KGB/Stasi handler, Hans Trow, is grateful for her zeal at copying every scrap of paper Brecht writes, including those he throws away. That Hans is in love with Maria is more plausible to me than that she is in love with him, but he is determined not to have sex with one of his agents, especially one whose assignment centers on keeping the sexual attraction of the most prominent cultural star of the East German state’s otherwise fairly dim firmament.

The novel opens with Brecht’s return to German soil in October of 1948. The “lovers” have little in common, including one-way (old to young) sexual attraction. “For Maria EIch, Germany was a new country, a series of green hills lined by birch forests, ruined motorways, clouds; for Brecht, it was a country to be rebuilt with money. A field for experimentation, a laboratory for an ideological revolution aimed at the younger generation. Neither of them had this country in common…. They would both eat at the same table, sleeping the same bed and never think the same thing at the same time.”

When that delight waned, by 1952, Hans Trow provided the forms for Maria to go to West Berlin, where her tubercular daughter and mother had been all along. She becomes a celibate teacher of German, most enamored of earlier German poets, Hölderlin and Heine, not paying much professional attention to the German poet she had lived with for four years. Brecht’s best-known plays other than the musicals with Kurt Weill were written in LA; he theorized and directed plays after returning to Germany, but wrote mostly poems and no major plays.

The novel captures the grayness of East Berlin and the dread of the whims of Stalin in his final years that even the secret police in far-away Berlin constantly felt. The title character is Maria, who is not an intellectual.

Though doubts have been cast (especially by John Fuegi) on how much of Brecht’s oeuvre was actually written by him, he was a gruff intellectual and an avowed Marxist, though of the heterodox Karl Krosch variety rather than a communist subservient to Moscow. Brecht’s most notorious support for the German Democratic Republic’s suppression of dissent came after the period covered by the novel, the GDR crushing of 1953 rebellion using Soviet military force. (He praised the regime for “safeguarding the socialist achievements,” even while living a life of relative privilege that included subscription western publications generally banned in the GDR.)

The characters in Amette’s novel are attempting to understand what Brecht really thought, especially about Stalinist communism. He chose to live (in comfort denied most residents) in the Soviet zone, but had an Austrian passport and Swiss accounts accruing his royalties. Many have considered him a hypocrite. I think that in a bipolar world he managed to prosper as a heterodox (usually) Marxist capitalist, and if he was a sexual predator, much of the prey, including Soviet-sponsored spies was willing to work with and submit to sex with him.

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

 

Fifty Shades Again and Again

Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed 

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Buy Fifty Shades Darker at Amazon for as little as $10.42 
Buy Fifty Shades Freed at Amazon for as little as $8.60

(5/5)

Pros: Holds your interest in more than the sex vignettes.

Cons: Small print is still my nemesis. Reading in the bathroom for two hours causes your legs to fall asleep.

Having already read (and reviewed) Fifty Shades of Grey, I couldn’t wait to read the next two installments. I planned to write a separate review of each, but as I read Fifty Shades Freed, it didn’t make sense to write about these two novels separately. To do so, I might end up giving away plot points instead of writing a review.

What I would like to explore is the “I couldn’t put it down” phenomenon that began with Fifty Shades of Grey. I fell victim to that sensation, too. But I didn’t observe it in my husband when he read it. I’m not using my husband as an example of all men, nor am I an example of all women. Yet, there is definitely a difference as to how we responded to E. L. James’ writing style.

I read all three books while in the bathroom. The overwhelming majority of us read on the toilet but are hesitant to admit it. That’s okay, I’ll be the poster child for readers on the go. I would plan to read until my main purpose had been accomplished. James’ style wouldn’t let me put the book down. Chapters end and begin at pivotal moments – creating and resolving cliffhangers. Even when the chapter break wasn’t during a dramatic or sexually driven section, it was always in the middle of something interesting. There are natural scene breaks within each chapter that I used to help me switch gears and get off the pot. Most of the time I was able to do that, but only because I had to get dressed for an appointment.

Another habit of mine is to read one book from beginning to end. When I’ve tried read more than one book at a time, I would confuse characters and plots. This is just how my brain works, period.

My husband’s reading style is completely different from mine. He reads two books at a time – one serious, the other light. He typically reads non-fiction. His favorite place to read is in bed, but he’ll also read in the living room or spare bedroom. He never reads in the bathroom – not even the newspaper. I think his reading style makes him immune to the “I couldn’t put it down” phenomenon.

Another interesting factor in the Fifty Shades series is that it’s set in the United States. With the exception of a few chapters in Fifty Shades Freed, nearly all of the story takes place in Seattle and Portland. Along with this, there is a lot of product placement. Christian give Ana an Apple Notebook, iPad, and iPod; a Blackberry, and cars from Audi. Perhaps this is a trend in newer novels, but it serves its purpose. Reading the actual product brand name makes the extravagance of Christian’s gifts believable for me. I can understand that he’s so wealthy that big ticket purchases don’t make a dent in his wallet. We all know what it costs to buy technology, and most of us would have to max out our credit line to purchase more than one of these items in a year while Christian buys them all within a week or two. Moreover, he can’t understand why Ana has difficulty getting used to having all this and more showered upon her.

Their sexual vignettes are described in excruciating detail. I was often breathless after reading these sections. Every possible sex toy, whether for domination or just kinky enjoyment, is described from Ana’s perspective. She’s never seen any of these items, so we learn what they look like and feel like through her before we learn what their names are. Sometimes, they’re not named at all.

Despite all the sexual acrobatics, this is a love story between a woman who had to work for everything she had and a man who had everything money could buy except for emotional stability – a flawed Prince Charming. Christian’s possessive tirades are almost his undoing. Ana has learned to be submissive in the Red Room but fights Christian toe-to-toe when her independence is at stake. Ana’s rebellious nature is nearly her undoing.

Without giving anything away, it’s safe to say that we learn more about Christian’s family, Ana’s friends and family, and all the events that made Christian the person he is today.

Now for the husband/wife seal of approval:
We both enjoyed all three books in the Fifty Shades series. As for the sex toys, I discovered that there was a lot out there that wasn’t covered in 37 years of a sexually active marriage. My curiosity was piqued. My husband was not as curious about them as I was. I teased him a little about being stodgy, but for all my curiosity, I wouldn’t actually buy any of those things. It’s nice to think about the possibilities.

Actually, I started imagining how Ana and Christian would do it in their 60s. In one escapade, Christian tells Ana not to go to the bathroom beforehand. If Ana and Christian were 60 and 67, she wouldn’t have made it through the cuffing before bursting. He might have had his own prostate-driven emissions.

All joking aside, I wanted to see Ana and Christian grow old together. Fifty Shades Freed gives a small glimpse of their near future together through a series of epilogues. I don’t want to give anything away, but James does a great job of tying everything up with a ribbon. Instead of calling it a happy ending, I prefer to think of it as a happy beginning. The very last entry in the epilogue series is a pleasant surprise that I refuse to expose. Trust me, it’s fulfilling!

I realize that I’ve been bouncing around more than I would in a standard book review. Fifty Shades has that effect on me. There is so much more than a standard book formula. Ana and Christian are stuck in my head, along with everyone they know. If James decides to write about middle-aged-to-senior Ana and Christian, I’d be first in line for more.

Dogs don’t lie

Lyin’ Like a Dog

 

dog cvr

See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: highly appealing, well written, fast paced, fun read

Cons: none noted

Richard Mason’s Lyin’ Like a Dog opens in a burst of words on 23 September 1945 as we find Richard sitting with his hound Sniffer, and musing about his birthday. In reality, it is the lack of festivity which is causing Richard such musings. With the awareness of lads his age, 12 today, Richard ‘fesses up that he is bent outa shape and sitting around feeling sorry for himself.

The framework for down home fun is set and actually is launched a page or so later on December 1944 when it snows on Christmas and Richard and his friend John Clayton Reed got to spend some time Christmas Eve with Uncle Hugh. Hugh was not their uncle, he was an old colored man living in a small cabin in the nearby woods. The boys carried groceries to from the store in town Hugh because he had trouble walking.

Plundering around the woods and down along the river bank, going to school, reading and re reading comic books, visiting Uncle Hugh and maybe, just maybe, getting to listen to a ghost story, Vacation Bible School and an evening revival highlighted with a truly unforgettable baptismal service conducted using the church baptistery; underscore some of the complications, troubles and unanticipated mischief a twosome of enthusiastic lads can get themselves almost without trying move the narrative along and keep the reader turning the pages.

Saturdays spent at the movies with other kids from school, perched atop the breadbox down at the grocery store jawing with friends are all a part of the chronicle. Scheming with best friend John Clayton to gain ownership of a hoped for one of a kind funny book having an upside down front cover to sell for big bucks, camping out in the woods when they were supposed to be camping in one or the other boys’ back yard, as well as angel food cake with pink icing and licking out the icing bowl are all a part of the tale.

Helping Daddy put in and, care for, the annual vegetable garden, embracing a bad miscalculation regarding a red pepper fresh from that garden, tug of war, gathering as a family around the radio to listen to Walter Winchell announcing the end of WW2, and, when one money scheme ends in disaster, another is quickly hatched; are sure to appeal to lads aged 11 and 12 years along with the generation who were themselves kids growing up and playing outside without TV and hand held game devices during the 1940s and 50s here in the US.

Running into trouble and facing possible harm to themselves during one of their forays into the woods culminates with the Richard and John Clayton become town heroes; while the work culminates with unease. Daddy has come home liquored up, again, and while Mama does not tie into him; Richard cannot quite put his finger on it, but he does recognize that there is something not quite right about the situation.

I definitely appreciated reading the escapades two pre-teen lads transmitted in the youthful jargon of storyteller, Richard Mason. The shenanigans and hijinks perhaps actually taken from the author’s life in rural Arkansas bring to this reader’s mind the tales my Daddy shared many evenings at the supper table concerning his growing up, in part, in rural Arkansas as sisters and I were growing up in rural California.

While my own growing up years was lived in the San Joaquin Valley, California during the 50s where we lived surrounded by cotton fields, grape vineyards and fruit and nut orchards and not swamp or woods; the big irrigation ditch carrying water needed for farming was the site of many adventure for 3 little girls and their friends as we too played outside without much supervision, or baby sitters and the like. We share tales told to parents only after we were grown and enjoyed watching Mama’s hair turning grey before our eyes.

The eleventh year of the lives of Richard and John Clayton introduced in book one of the Richard the Paperboy series, their friends at school and the little town of Norphlet, Union County, Arkansas takes place in the area just north of the Louisiana border where Union County, LA meets Union County AR. The setting is the troublesome WW2 period December 1944 to September 1945; time repeated during the 1950s as families gathered around the radio to listen to the evening news. Richard’s family listened to Walter Winchell report the war news WWII. During the 1950s families listened intently as Edward R Murrow told us of the events far away in Korea.

Lyin’ Like a Dog told in the first person, using local parlance, is a work having appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. This is a book reminiscent of Twain’s writings. While teaching 4th grade I read aloud daily and found girls and boys alike listened raptly as I read Twain and his Tom Sawyer adventures. Lyin’ Like a Dog will be placed in my Sub bag for reading a chapter aloud to students; should I received a call for classroom subbing in a classroom of 4th graders rather than my usual K 1 preference.

I had no problem visualizing or believing the antics Richard, John Clayton and others in the area experienced. Trying goofy, to adults, schemes generally centered on how to get rich, i.e. maybe bring home as much as $100!, beginning to notice girls, as well as the you can’t be serious!, activities including Vacation Bible School, revivals, a still out in the woods, jars of ‘shine, going barefoot, Big Chief tablets, a kid with a newspaper route, even the term colored man indicate another time and place many readers experienced during the early years of their lives.

Characters are well fleshed, locations are filled with imagery, names of the kids, John Clayton … both names used rather than just first name, Connie, Rosallie, plain simple names, and nick names Tiny for the big kid, Ears and the like are right for the time and place. Readers will be drawn into the tale from the opening lines as the storyline hijinks hold reader interest and keep the pages turning right on to the last when Richard ruminates over the carryings-on during his eleventh year and ponders Heck, I’m twelve now, and maybe I’m old enough to keep outta trouble…. But, naw, I can tell you right now if I told you that, I’d just be lyin’ like a dog.

 Highly comprehensible text, Lying Like a Dog will have a place in the home, library, school library, classroom and as an item in a gift box for birthday, Christmas or anytime.

Above all, I like the old photo c 1940s of a skinny kid, hands on hips, down at the calf pen, farm house in the background used as cover art.

I received a paperback ARC for review.

 Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend

 Amazon: About the Author

As a young boy R. Harper Mason lived on a small farm in southern Arkansas. He is able to vividly capture an era of American history, before air-conditioning, television and modern technology. His story reflects a time of brown sunburned feet, shirtless summers and very special country Christmases.

Mason earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in geology from the University of Arkansas. He worked for the King Ranch in South Texas, followed by an overseas assignment on well-sites deep in the Libyan Sahara Desert. Thirty years ago Mason started his own company, Gibraltar Energy in El Dorado, Ark. of which he is CEO and President. In the early 1990’s he was the president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation and wrote a monthly column for them covering state environmental issues. Mason also wrote an environmental column which ran in newspapers around the state and hosted an environmental radio show, both called Natural Solutions.

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Reviewed by Molly’s Reviews

molly   martin

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Product Details and Shipping Information from Amazon

TITLE Lyin’ Like a Dog

AUTHOR Richard Mason

GENRE reminisce

 Product Details

Paperback: 200 pages

Publisher: Createspace (Feb. 22 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1439271399

ISBN-13: 978-1439271391

 

Well Worth The Read

Something Is Rotten in Fettig  a satire

 

fettig jpg

See it at Amazon   not yet on Amazon

(5/5)

Pros: well developed characters,  excellent writing,  fun writing style, highly readable,  caricatures abound;  this one is a keeper, and I rarely enjoy satire

Cons: none noted

Interesting read               Recommended                 

Jere Krakoff’s Something is Rotten in Fettig is a satire comprised of some 265 PAGES of prose offered as 60 chapters, a page with acknowledgements, a list of the cast of characters, a table of caricatures, and an Epilogue.

Something Is Rotten In Fettig wittily satirizes a legal system that is very similar to our own and is practiced in a fabricated nation simply called Republic. The author adroitly names and uses a varied assemblage of distinctive player including lawyers, witnesses, the court system and judges, as well as trials and jury behaviors to deride countless of the activities we often see played on the evening news, or during trials themselves thought so noteworthy that they must be filmed in real time for the nation to consider.

The narrative begins with reader’s introduction to Leopold Plotkin around whom the tale unfolds. The infamous kosher butcher has been accused of Crimes against the Republic. From his pro bono lawyer, Bernard Talisman, right on to parents who have already packed his personal possessions, to his uncles who have promised to visit him in prison every third weekend and to The Monthly Contrarian a little read journal who, while considering Plotkin a hero, however had declared in editorial: “Regrettably, there is no realistic possibility for an acquittal” right to Plotkin himself; it appears that everyone seems to think Plotkin will be convicted.

Krakoff presents the travesty wreaked by local legal officials upon one of the neighborhood kosher butchers, Leopold Plotkin, a fellow who harbors a nearly pathological distaste for strife when the man unintentionally foments a predicament of such magnitude that he is propelled into a clash with every area of government.

To complicate matters Plotkin rebuffs every effort undertaken to force him to disengage his supposed transgression. Plotkin and his family are introduced and some of the background for Plotkin’s behavior is presented before the reader becomes a courtroom spectator as Plotkin is put on trial by a deceitful Prosecutor General.

The reader learns more of Plotkin and the varied characters peopling the work: there is Prosecutor General Umberto Malatesta’s Opening Rant, Plotkin’s Childhood Education under the tutelage of librarian Hinta Gelb and his Venturing out with Ana Bloom before the reader embarks on a whirlwind in which Plotkin is Conscripted into the Butcher Shop, gets Arrested, is Imprisoned in Purgatory, is visited by family and friends and is Exiled along with Chicken Plucker.

Indicted by a Secret Blind Jury leads to Plotkin’s arrest by the National Constabulary, before he is delivered to the infamous Purgatory House of Detention where he is to be housed with lunatics and other miscreants of the state until such time as his trial and expected guilt are determined.

The reader becomes an onlooker into the Trial of Plotkin as the Jury is selected and empaneled, opening Sermon and Rant, umm statements, are offered, witnesses testify, Prosecution and Defense offer closing Diatribes and the jury deliberates and finally offers a verdict.

Interspersed throughout the book are marvelous, author drawn, pen and ink caricatures of many of the characters introduced in the work. My personal favorites of the caricatures are those of his uncles Moishe and Misha Plotkin and the one of Ana Bloom.

Characters are well developed, many are despicable, again something many may think of some of the so called experts we may hear talking, perhaps as rants about a particular case in the public view on television.  This fast paced work is filled with good writing, presented in highly readable prose. The author has woven a thoroughly enjoyable view of some of the behind the scenes machinations we may have thought do take place as we read of cases in the morning news or we may have watched when one or another case is thought to be of earth shattering, public must see, necessity to broadcast via TV.

On the pages of Something is Rotten In Fettig the plotting and maneuvering taking place by the prosecution, authorities and others in their determination to find Plotkin guilty of something, whatever that might be in or out of what the laws of the society may be; tends to remind the reader of some of the shrieks of guilty, and justice must prevail as a suspect is all but tossed over a cliff before ever actually being arrested for the particular crime which has so outraged the populous.

All in all I found Something is Rotten In Fettig to be a very enjoyable, easy to read, simply fun work.

I received an ARC for review; I do not keep all books I receive, this one is a keeper.

Happy to recommend Something is Rotten In Fettig for readers who enjoy satire, and for those who may never have read a satirical work; this one may whet the appetite for more!

I hope writer Krakoff is busy working on his next satirical offering, and creates more of his marvelous caricatures.

About the Author  : From the book’s back cover:   Before writing Something is Rotten In Fettig author Krakoff was a civil rights attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project in Washington DC, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Mississippi and a legal aid program in Pittsburg.

Something is Rotten In Fettig, says the author was inspired by people, places and events he encountered while litigating, and a lifetime of observing both the best and the worst of the human condition.

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Reviewed by Molly’s Reviews

molly   martin

http://www.AuthorsDen.com/mjhollingshead

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Product Details : I do not yet find Something is Rotten in Fettig listed on Amazon

Title: Something Is Rotten in Fettig: A Satire

Genre: Satire

Author: Jere Krakoff

Illustrator: author

Pages: 276

Line/Publisher : Anaphora Literary Press, 2015

ISBN-10: 1681141973,

ISBN-13: 9781681141978

 

Available     Paperback

So Pretty in Pink

Hoppity  Ty®  Beanie Baby®

 

hoppity bunny

See it at Amazon 

[Rating: 5/5]

Pros: Ty product,  collectible,  cute as can be

Cons: none noted

Ty® Beanie Babies®’ Hoppity Bunny measures 8 x 3.7 x 0,8 inches of plushy polyester fabric. Hoppity is a honey of a sugar pink rabbit having bright black eyes, triangle pink nose and pink whiskers. Around her throat is a small pink ribbon tied in a bow.

Hoppity is especially appealing in pink. Only her tail is presented in white. Her large flappy ears indicate she is a lop type rabbit with ears drooping on either side of her head rather than standing erect.

Hoppity a popular Beanie for collectors and her companion Beanie Babies Floppity and Hippity make up the Bunny Trio. Surface wash only.

Born 3 April 1996, Hoppity’s poem reads:

Hopscotch is what she likes to play

If you don’t join in, she’ll hop away

So play a game if you have the time,

She likes to play, rain or shine!

All in all she is a perfect addition to my growing collection of Beanies.

For several years I used Beanies in my First Grade Classroom, as theme setters for holidays and the like. And, Beanies were used as sentence and story starters for Little Folks who might be stumped for what to write about.

As with other Ty Beanies I find the plush used to be soft, eyes are bright shiny, seams are well sewn, arms, legs, ears are secure and well attached. Pliable, poseable toy is filled with small pellets, and can be set on desk where Hoppity will sit, gazing, and will not tumble or sag.

Ever since 1993 Ty Inc., has fashioned 400+ different Beanie Babies in a diversity of sizes from wee softies appearing as a McDonald’s happy meal toys, to large Beanies measuring about 8 inches.

Hoppity holds appeal for boys and girls, and adults alike. Hoppity is intended particularly for those like and perhaps collect bunnies as do children and many adults.

Hoppity with the wee plastic eyes and nose is not recommended as a pet toy or for small children.

Ty Inc., established in 1993 when Ty Warner of Illinois produced his initial small critter shape, cloth bag, packed with small white, pellets sent to the market place has become a key contender in the toy race.

Beanies are available on Amazon, and I find them often at thrift and jumble shops as well as garage sales. If buying at jumble shop, yard sales and the like be careful to always check to be sure the Trademark Ty Beanie, heart shaped tag is in place to guarantee purchase is a genuine Ty product.

Recognized the world over; Beanie Babies, some might say they are filled with joy as well as pellets, are an over-the-top iconic, well-loved character in the toy market. Well made, sturdy seams to assure no bits on the floor, and for most of the softies having sewn nose and eyes, no pieces to swallow or otherwise cause harm, then again they are not indestructible. Ty Beanie Babies are some of the best loved toys adored by children and collected by adults everywhere.

Happy to recommend Ty Beanie Babies’ Pink Plush Hoppity.

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Reviewed by Molly’s Reviews

molly martin

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NOTE: Ty® Inc. is an American PLUSH ANIMAL Toy Company based in Westmont, Illinois.

The most famous line of products produced by this company are the BEANIE BABIES®, on the other hand, Ty also manufactures other lines of stuffed toys. The Ty logo is a red heart with the lower-case letters “ty.” A tag is found affixed to all Ty stuffed toys, and inside each tag is the name of the toy and a 4 line poem about it.

Since 1993, the year when Ty Inc. was founded; the company has mass-produced nearly 400 assorted Beanie Babies.

My personal introduction to the world of Beanies® was 1996 when long lines of adults could be seen extending across the restaurant and out the door, and at times down the sidewalk of local McDonald’s® eateries. Teenie Beanie Babies® Smaller, fun versions of Beanie Babies were included in McDonald’s Happy Meals®.

Several subsequent promotions took place with various wee Beanies available.

The lesson taught by Ty Warner, sole owner of Ty Inc., the company behind Beanie Babies may be do what you enjoy, do it well, promote and diversify.

My personal favorites continue to be the Teenie Weenies gathered from McDonalds children’s meals.

 

Ty Inc

280 Chestnut Ave

Westmont, IL, 60559 United States

Invisible by James Patterson – doesn’t hold up

Invisible by James Patterson

 

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See it at Amazon 

(3/5)

Pros: twists and turns

Cons: doesn’t hold up under careful scrutiny

My first thought, after finishing James Patterson’s twisty Invisible was “Cool!”.  But then I sat down and really thought about it, and realized that the turns and twists in this novel were more “gimmick” than cleverly thought surprises.

There’s a serial killer out there.  One who drips pure evil.  And he’s smart beyond belief.  To the point where he’s been getting away with his murders because no one even knows he’s out there.  He leaves the crime scenes looking like tragic accidents.  No one has a clue that a crime’s been committed.  So no one’s looking for our bad guy.

No one except Emmy, a research analyst with the FBI.  She’s the only one who thinks something is “off” about these accidents.  Getting others to believe her is near-impossible, until she finally finds proof that convinces the mucky mucks that there’s a killer out there.  Of course, knowing this, and catching the guy are two entirely different matters.

So that’s the premise, and what follows is pretty typical.  Slowly find clues, figure out who and what you’re dealing with, set a trap, etc. 

But Invisible comes with a few twists.  No, I’m not going to spoil it for you.  I’ll just say that the author wanted to inject some “surprise” into the tale and he did so.  And that’s always a fun thing for the reader.

But, if you then go back and examine the story with a magnifying glass, you’ll find a few inconsistencies, some plot holes, and some things that are just a bit hard to swallow.  In other words, if you want to really enjoy Invisible, don’t be a detail-oriented hard-nose, like me.  Because the story just won’t hold up to careful scrutiny.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you about the level of violence depicted in this book.  Granted, books about serial killers always contain murder and mayhem, but Invisible by James Patterson (and David Ellis) goes a bit beyond the norm in this regard.  It is not for everyone.

 Also by James Patterson:

Four Blind Mice
Kill Me If You Can
Mistress

The best movie with David Bowie

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrencemerry_christmas__mr__lawrence1_by_princessfirefly-d45z27v

(4.5/5)

Pros: performances, music, cinematography

Cons: sometimes gruesome

South African-born (Afrikaner) Sir Laurens Van der Post (1906-1996) was a British Army officer who surrendered to Japanese forces on Java in April of 1942 and was imprisoned at Bandung. He later wrote three books about his prison experience — A Bar of Shadow (1954), The Seed and the Sower (1963) and The Night of the New Moon (1970). — and another on the two years following Japanese surrender during with the Dutch attempted to re-establish their colony in the East Indies before an independence struggle forced them to leave.

The kinky (In the Realm of the Senses, Empire of Passion) Japanese director Ôshima Nagasi (1932-) adapted The Seed and the Sower (1963) into a movie mostly in English and mostly focusing on the Anglophone (British, Australian, New Zealander, and a traumatized Dutch soldier) suffering under the rule of an arbitrary, sometimes sadistic sergeant (Takeshi Kaneshiro in the first role in which he was seen outside Japan) who pays some heed to a bilingual (Japanese-English) physician, Col. Lawrence (Scottish actor Tom Conti), who is the sanest man around (echoing the physician in “Bridge on the River Kwai”).

The camp is commanded by a young, very elegant and very authoritarian Captain Yonoi (played by Japanese composer and singer Sakamoto Ryûichi , who also wrote the synthesizer-heavy soundtrack for the movie). Capt. Yonoi has nothing but contempt—well, some frustration mixed with contempt for the stubborn prison leader, Group Captain Hicksley (Jack Thompson), who is as obdurate but less elegant and personally brave than Alec Guiness’s commander in “Bridge on the River Kwai”. (Both were stuffed with racist views, but Hicksley is considerably more cloddish.)

Lawrence knows enough about Japanese culture to know the contempt the Japanese soldiers hold for anyone who would surrender, and, unlike Hicksley, knows that Japan was not a signatory of the Geneva Conventions either fort treatment of prisoners or war or against torture. The mysterious new prisoner, Jack Celliers. Intrigues Capt. Yonoi (and Col. Lawrence, who knew him when both were in North Africa). Playing another man who fell to earth, Celliers is a South African paratrooper who was dropped behind Japanese lines to sabotage things. He surrendered to save a Javanese village from being slaughtered, and was set to be executed as a criminal rather than a soldier.

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Capt. Yonoi is one of the three judges on the tribunal and makes the case that Celliers is a soldier and should, therefore, be incarcerated with POWS… under Yonoi’s command. There is something erotic but suppressed in Yonoi’s interest in Celliers, as Lawrence does not fail to note. Yonoi’s adjutant considers Celliers an evil spirit and attempts to kill him.

3 Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence

Celliers gets a variant on the punishment Col. Nicholson received after maddening the Japanese commander of the Kwai camp. Not least in being ultra-blond, Bowie’s Celliers also recalls the masochistic component of Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia, while the acquiescence in being sodomized by the enemy (a Korean guard rather than a commander such as José Ferrer) is farmed off to the Dutchman (Alistair Browning) in the opening sequence.

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” is unlike the Lean epics “Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Lawrence of Arabia” lacks explosions or other sorts of action scenes… and the American’s romance and derring-do grafted onto “Kwai” for William Holden; Celliers was leading native rebels, but this was before the start of the movie and is entirely offscreen. But like T. E. Lawrence, Celliers cares about the natives (there Arab, here Javanese) and is unconventional if not openly suspicious about His Majesty’s Army’s ambiguous colonizer role in an independence struggle.

7b0e148efea33d44291d5ec619d862e3I skipped over the first botched seppuku (hara-kiri) by the Korean guard caught in flagrante delicto. There are two more, none of which goes smoothly (I think the blades are thrust in too deeply, so that the body pitches forward, interfering with the clean sword thrust of decapitation). Interracial sex, contempt for it, and ritual suicide all pop up at the start, though the movie is told from the point of view of Col. Lawrence, who attempts to avert disaster both for the Japanese he somewhat likes and respects and for the terminally stubborn Hicksley and Celliers.

A lot of Ôshima movies end with cutting (Gohatto/Taboo, In the Realm of the Senses), and so does this one, though there is a regret-expressing humanist epilogue.

Ôshima set up many shots Ozu-style and there was little camera movement, though there were more close-ups than there would be in an Ozu movie. There are surrealist movies, reminding the viewer that this is an Ôshima movie. I think the movie drags in a lengthy colloquy between Celliers and Lawrence when they are caged together and Celliers drifts back to a lengthy guilty memory of failing his younger brother.

The Japanese director provides practically no back-story for the Japanese characters, but n elaborate one for Celliers. (We do learn that Yonoi was a supporter of the ultranationalist 26 February 1936 failed coup, but survived its suppression because he was away from Tokyo.)

Though eroticized violence is leitmotif in Oshim’s oeuvre (along with recurrent focus on the mistreatment of Koreans in Japan (Three Resurrected Drunkards, Death by Hanging), and as a lower caste in the Imperial Army in this movie), neither war nor intercultural misunderstanding is. A Japanese director taking an English memoir of captivity by the Japanese during WWII is at least as surprising, and perhaps a bit more than Clint Eastwood making “Letters from Iwo Jima” (distinct from “Flag of Our Fathers,” but still a look at the other side in a battle that provided the iconic image of the US Marines.

The pop singers, David Bowie (1947-2016) and Sakamoto Ryûichi (1952-), both look their parts as elegant loners and play their complicated roles as antagonists with great aplomb (with Sakamoto doing all the visible longing and frustrated erotic aching). Tom Conti (1941-) and Takeshi Kitano (1947-, who was billed simply as “Takeshi”) have less rigid honor-code-dictated roles and greater emotional ranges. Bowie sings “Rock of Ages” off-key and regrets that he cannot sing (which leads the troops to sing the 23rd Psalm). Sakamoto practices kendo and makes no music within the movie, though supplying an interesting soundtrack for it.

mr-lawrence-5                                      (Takeshi and Conti)

BTW, the camp filled with scrawny white people playing POWs was filmed on the Cook Islands, not on Java, and I think the city (Batavia then, Jakarta now) scenes were shot on New Zealand.

The movie received the full-scale Criterion treatment, with a fine video and audio transfer and a second disc of special features, including the original 4-minute theatrical trailer, a 28-miunte one of co-scenarist (Paul Mayersberg, who also wrote the other great Bowie movie, “The Man Who Fell to Earth” for Nicholas Roeg) 40 minutes of reminiscences about the shooting by Tom Conti, Sakamoto Ryûichi —who also scored ˆÔshima’s last film “Gohatto”and picked up an Oscar for the score of Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” in which he also appeared onscreen —,Tom Conti,, and producer Jeremy Thomas (butnot Bowie), 18 minutes by Ryûichi on the soundtrack, a 1995 documentary about van der Post (godfather to Prince William, btw) and a 29-minute 1983 making-of featurette.

And Mighty Tasty Too

Annie’s™ Organic, Bunny Fruit Snacks  BERRY PATCH flavor 

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See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: tasty, not sticky in hand or packet, non GMO, gluten free, organic ingredients, no artificial colors or flavors

Cons: none noted

Annie’s™ Organic, Bunny Fruit Snacks BERRY PATCH flavor  generated using real fruit juice and no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors are a mouthwatering, fun to devour, treat that are more nourishing than some of the more sugary nibble treats available for adults and children alike.

Even the package on the shelf is attention-grabbing. Bernie, Annie’s beloved pet bunny, emerging from a lemony yellow circle is found at the top of the front panel. Words Homegrown and Organic appear above and below the name of the product.   Flavor type is found midway on the panel above the signature cutout bunny located at the bottom of the pane.

Researching the Annie’s website I find Organic Berry Patch Bunny Fruit Snacks are a delicious mix of strawberry, cherry and raspberry flavored bunnies.

For those who are vegan; Annie’s Bunnies do not contain gelatin; are certified organic.

While I have no problem with gluten; I like having these snack items available to share with sis who must avoid gluten.

I do prefer food that are non GMO, do not rely on artificial colors, preservatives and flavors; these tasty little morsels made with real fruit juice provide 100% of the Daily Value of Vitamin C

Major Ingredients Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic White Grape Juice Concentrate, Pectin.  Color includes Black Carrot Juice, Flavors are natural.

Note: Ingredients, Nutrition Facts, and Allergen Statements can change. Always refer to the actual package for the most complete and accurate information.

I first was introduced to Annie’s tasty, healthy products while teaching First Grade. Each month the snack calendar was sent home, with each child’s name written in one of the boxes and Mrs. M’s name in the first two.

Parents often sent nice healthy, tasty snack items including Annie’s bunnies both gummies and crackers.

This attention-grabbing, purple card stock paper package filled with assorted peach, rose and magenta toned bunny fruit snacks features the traditional cutaway bunny revealing a ration of the tasty fruit flavored treats to tempt shoppers as they travel the aisles of the local big box stone.

I like the consistency of the gummies, soft; not hard, mushy or sticky in the box or the hand. Flavor is berry not strawberry, blackberry or raspberry; but berry nonetheless. The grape juice adds a little piquant tang that I find tasty and pleasant, rather than too sweet

Happy to recommend Annie’s™ Organic, Bunny Fruit Snacks BERRY PATCH flavor. 

Available on Amazon $12.75  4 cartons 5 pouches each

 

Perusal of the Annie’s website I find :    It all started with Annie

In 1989, Annie Withey co-founded Annie’s Homegrown, Inc. with Andrew Martin with the goal of making a healthy and delicious macaroni and cheese for families.

She wanted to show by example that a successful business could also be socially responsible.

Annie chose Bernie, her pet rabbit, to be the brand’s “Rabbit of Approval,” and she put her own address and phone number on each box to encourage customers to connect with her.

 

Annie’s Homegrown

1610 Fifth St

Berkeley Ca 94710

1968 Oshima Satire

Three Resurrected Drunkards (Kaette kita yopparai)

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[Rating: 2.6/5]

Pros:only 80 minutes long

Cons: rarely funny and not even that frenetic

Ôshima Nagisa (1932-2013) is most notorious for the torrid and graphic “Ai no korîda” (In the Realm of the Senses, 1976). Before that, he was already controversial as “the Japanese Godard” and a leader of “the Japanese New Wave” along with Imamura Shôhei (Pigs and Battleships), Teshigahara Hiroshi (Face of Another), Suzuki Seijun (Fighting Elegy) and Shinoda Masahiro (Samurai Spy). Neither Imamura not Ôshima shied away from depicting earthy sexuality or violence, or from criticizing US imperialism.

Ôshima’s 1968 film “Kaette kita yopparai” (released in English as “Sinner in Paradise,” but now part of the five-disc Critierion Eclipse “Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties” as “Three Resurrected Drunkards”) fiercely satirizes both the prejudices against Koreans in Japan and the American war in South Vietnam.

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It begins with three recent high school graduates from Tokyo on a beach on Kyushu, the southernmost of the major islands in the archipelago of Japan). They are acting out the grimacing Vietnamese man (Nguyen Van Lam) in a plaid shirt about to be executed at point-blank range by a South Vietnamese officer, Lt. Colonel Nguyen Ngoc Loan on 1 Feb. 1968. That iconic photo by Eddie Adams will be recreated at least four more times during the movie, and is multiplied just before the end.

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Ôshima did not directly criticize US actions in Vietnam. The iconic image for it shows only Vietnamese. The movie also satirizes Korean military involvement in concert with the US in trying to maintain the unpopular South Vietnamese regime (against the also frightening North Vietnamese one).

 

Because of a structure that should not be revealed, it is difficult to say much about the plot. The three boys whose Japanese names are never spoken, strip to their red briefs on the deserted beach and go into the water. At an excruciatingly slow pace, an arm reaches up out of the sand, pulls down two sets of clothes, replaces them with Korean army uniforms and two thousand-yen notes.

This leads to various outcomes, including being deported to Korea and shipped off to the Vietnam war, and the middle (in height) of the three falling in love with a young Korean woman (Midori Mako) who provides the movie’s one shot of naked female breasts. (There are also fleeting shots from behind of the boys dressing in a bathhouse locker room.)

The movie is much slower-paced than mid-1960s Richard Lester movies – with or without the Beatles – and differs from Three Stooges movies in largely eschewing bops on the head (and with less bickering). The most outright surrealist (or Cocteauean) touch is the arm reaching out of the sand.

The movie was probably daring and outrageous in Japan in 1968, but is close to being a yawner now. Mercifully, it only runs 80 minutes. I’d say the movie is playful in ways akin to Godard before his Maoist turn, which is still well short of praise. It provoked a few chuckles and attained some ironies, but Criterion would have done better to have included “Death by Hanging,” a more biting and similarly incoherent 1968 Ôshima film.

Christopher Rice’s debut coming-of-age of a bullied youth novel

A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice

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(3.8/5)

Pros: narrative drive

Cons: Bell Tower is literally “over the top”, one-dimensional villains (with guilty secret)

The Bottom Line: Overly melodramatic ending to a chronicle of a queerbaited/-bashed youth in New Orleans of the 1990s

I was absorbed in Christopher Rice’s first novel Density of Souls, which was first published in 2000, when the author was 21 years old. The Gothic romance aspect of the book and the sinister and stifling New Orleans atmosphere (especially that of Lafayette Cemetery with its above-groud burials) bring his mother (that would be Anne Rice) to mind. The queerbaited protagonist, Stephen Conlin, is the son of a poet who committed suicide before Stephen was born (too fine for this world in the view of his touch lowborn Irish wife). I hope that Christopher’s elite high school (Cannon) experiences of ostracism by his former friends (stereotypically nasty homophobic jocks Greg Darby and Brandon Charbonnet) were not similar to Stephen’s during the 1990s. Christopher definitely came from an intact family, but the gay son of a poet who killed himself cannot avoid qualms about oedipal dramas in the Rice family in which mother is the success, father the vastly less-read and less-famous poet (Stan)! (In an interview, Christopher stated “I’ve never gone overboard because I have such a strong family life.”)
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In addition to chronicling many sadistic rituals of adolescents and lots of “casual” cruelties, Rice whips up a hyper-melodramatic climax, set against a major hurricane. The pre-Katrina imaginings of evacuation and destruction has additional interest now. Although CR did not foresee the incompetence of government response, he did mention the dissatisfactions of those who took shelter in the Dome.

There are a lot of haunted characters, including the former grade-school friends who diverged radically in high school (the two football players savagely turning on Stephen, the bulimic young alcoholic Meredith also betraying their childhood friendship. She and a hard-to-believe compensatory character come through for him and not one but two star quarterbacks from Cannon fall in love with him.
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Monica, Stephen’s mother, cannot protect him at high school, but seeks to be protective of her hypersensitive son. He does not use her to procure studs for himself, unlike Sebastian’s mother in a more melodramatic Garden District opus, Tennessee Williams’s “Suddenly, Last Summer.” There is less hysteria here, though in addition to the suicide in the background of the sensitive man, there is murder, hate crimes, alcoholism, bulimia, class bitchery, and even a touch of incest (though their shared bloodline is unknown to the pair).

Riace menThough sometimes feeling the prose was overripe (in the Southern Gothc tradition) I was carried along as I was once upon a time by Interview with a Vampire (and by Dreamboy).Though the narrative is very discontinuous in revealing various sins of the past, I did not think that the writing itself was “jerky” as some complained. (There are no vampires or witches, btw, though a questioning/gay teenager has a more difficult time than some of his mother’s aberrant creations have had.)

 

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