The True Magic of Imagination

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The study, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, concludes by noting that the Harry Potter novels may be especially effective at increasing the tolerance of their readers precisely because they concern themselves with made-up categories like Muggles and Mudbloods. More overt attempts to change readers’ views about real-life groups, Mr. Vezzali and his co-authors note, could prompt defensive or resistant reactions. By identifying with the fictional character of Harry Potter, and by drawing connections, conscious or not, between his treatment of people different from him and their own attitudes toward stigmatized groups, readers of these novels work their own kind of wizardry: the magic of the literary imagination.

Is anyone surprised that children’s books, which often feature outsiders, quirky kids, adventurous orphans, and nomadic heroes turn us into more empathetic people in real life?  I remember talking for hours with my older sister about the adult conversations we overheard and wondering how those grown-ups could possibly say the things they said.  It was not that we were young and innocent, and not even that we ourselves had a kind of outsider status as immigrants in a white, middle-class suburb, but that we were both voracious readers, developing an understanding of what it felt like to be marginalized or excluded–yet also brave and true–as we got inside the heads of David Copperfield or Jane Eyre.

Published in: |on August 15th, 2014 |1 Comment »

Trailer Released for INTO THE WOODS


The first trailer for Disney’s twisted musical, Into The Woods, has been released and gives fans a long-awaited look at the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s hit musical.
The starry live-action film stars Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, James Corden and Johnny Depp and is a far cry from the typical Disney Classic release.
The studio’s first theatrical adaptation of a Broadway musical sees a childless couple set out on a fantastical journey to end a curse placed on them by Streep’s evil Witch.
Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha), the teaser provides glimpses of all lead actors in action, including Streep herself, who appears to be having the time of her life.
Despite no singing, many of the film’s characters are heard uttering the line ‘I wish’, an oft-repeated lyric from the musical.
Published in: |on August 4th, 2014 |No Comments »

New Trailer for “The Giver”


Scroll down to see the new trailer!

And from Comic-Con 2014

Bridges said he had fought to produce the movie for nearly two decades, acquiring the book’s film rights a full 18 years ago. He told the crowd that he wanted to make a film his kids could watch. He originally intended to also direct the book’s adaptation and cast his father Lloyd Bridges in the role of The Giver. “That controversy I think scared some financiers away, but it also inspired me, the energy of this thing.”

The Giver takes place in a future society that was rebuilt “from the ashes” of a devastated planet, one without war, pain or suffering but also one devoid of imagination or free will. When 16-year-old Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is selected by the community to be its Receiver of Memories, his mind is awoken by The Giver (Bridges). Meryl Streep co-stars as the Chief Elder, who also serves as the chief antagonist when Jonas attempts to lead a revolt against this manufactured society.

Lowry doesn’t see the Chief Elder as evil, though, citing parallels between art and life: “It’s actually the same thing that happens when people try to ban the book,” she said. “They’re not evil people. They’re people who care about their children and want to protect their children. I always try to remember that when they write me letters saying, ‘Jesus would be ashamed of you.’


Published in: |on July 27th, 2014 |No Comments »

Doc McStuffins and Dolls


Nancy Kanter, general manager of Disney Junior Worldwide, which developed “Doc McStuffins” — and who suggested the character be African-American in the first place — said Doc’s wide-ranging fan base could be gleaned from a spreadsheet. “If you look at the numbers on the toy sales, it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t just African-American families buying these toys,” Ms. Kanter said. “It’s the broadest demographics possible.”


Published in: |on July 27th, 2014 |No Comments »

Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird

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Dwight Garner reviews Marja Mills’s The Mockingbird next Door.  At least now why know why Harper Lee never wrote another novel.…

Here’s Alison Flood at the Guardian on that same question as well as on  Lee and Capote.

Covering why Lee never wrote another novel after To Kill a Mockingbird – “it was hard to live up to the ‘impossible expectations’ raised by her first, and Nelle hated the publicity and hoopla”, writes McAlpin – Mills also details the friendship between Lee and Truman Capote, and their falling out. “Truman was a psychopath, honey. He thought the rules that apply to everybody else didn’t apply to him,” Lee told Mills, according to the author.…

And so much for the theory that The Mockingbird next Door grew out of a friendship: Lee first made her objections to the book clear in 2011, when she issued a statement via the Monroeville law firm Barnett, Bugg, Lee and Carter where Alice works, saying that she had “not willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills”. “Neither have I authorised such a book. Any claims otherwise are false,” wrote the Pulitzer prize-winning author at the time. A new statement, released on Monday in the US and published online in full by Entertainment Weekly, saw Lee write that “Miss Mills befriended my elderly sister, Alice. It did not take long to discover Marja’s true mission; another book about Harper Lee. I was hurt, angry and saddened, but not surprised. I immediately cut off all contact with Miss Mills, leaving town whenever she headed this way.”

Published in: |on July 20th, 2014 |No Comments »

Kate Bernheimer on Surviving An Adult World In Fairy Tales, And Real Life


Kate Bernheimer reminds us that stories like “Hansel and Gretel” are just as relevant today as they were 200 years ago.  We think of fairy tales as sheer fantasy but they can hit closer to home than we ever imagined.

I live in Tucson, Ariz. National news about thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border — some as young as 2 years old — is local news here. A front-page headline from this week’s Arizona Daily Star reads, “Immigration tension boils over in Oracle.” It’s subtitled “Protesters, supporters, clash; bus carrying children fails to show.”

The article featured a photograph of protesters, adults standing by signs scrawled with red and blue markers. “Remember the Trojan Horse” and “No se Puede” — “it cannot happen.” Protesters and supporters comment on whether the “youths” posed a threat to the community, as the sheriff claimed they did.

“Where did the children go? What will happen to them?” my 9-year-old asked over cereal and juice, which suddenly seems like a luxurious breakfast.

Kate Bernheimer, author of HORSE, FLOWER, BIRD and many other volumes connects this real-world situation with stories like “Hansel and Gretel” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”  I appreciate her recommendation of Grimm Reader, and I’m glad that we now have so many different reliable translations of the stories published by the Brothers Grimm.

Published in: |on July 19th, 2014 |1 Comment »

Peter Pan is Coming to Harvard’s ART: Finding Neverland Musical Runs from July 23-September 28


Published in: |on July 18th, 2014 |No Comments »

“All Children Should Be Delinquents”



John Beckman writes about thrill-seeking kids and how they learn to protect themselves.  His recollections brought back memories of breaking the windows of a long abandoned house in my home town–and having the police show up.  I was the only one who had not broken a window, but when the cops showed up, I had a rock in my hand–lesson learned.  Do delinquents play a leadership role in disruptive innovation?  Or are the delinquents the same ones being written up on the front page of today’s NYT’s story about sexual assault?…

The older we got, the more dangerous our fun became. We raced on wobbly plastic skateboards down smooth, fast Devon Drive. We crafted jumps from boards and bricks and caught premium air on our Schwinn Sting-Rays — which we also sent sailing off alone on comically reckless “ghost rides.” At one point or another, just about everyone took the plunge from the top of the train bridge into the mouth of Catfish Creek. And while I never had the guts to join the BB-gun wars over in the Southgate neighborhood, I deeply admired them.

But even at our most delinquent — swilling bottles of altar wine stolen from the sacristy or passing around fiery “suicide” concoctions siphoned from our parents’ liquor cabinets — we were learning.

Much of my very worst behavior flooded me with wild, unfamiliar feelings — feelings that, in lasting ways, mapped the outer limits of my ethics. In sixth grade, a shoplifting contest in a convenience store thrilled me to the point of nausea. It was an experience I never wished to repeat. And I still shudder to recall the hair-raising afternoon when three of us, armed with 7- and 9-irons, chipped a bucket of golf balls off a cliff, over four lanes of highway traffic and into the Regal 8 swimming pool. That night I couldn’t sleep for all my fear and regret.

A key component of all this fun, from the wholesome to the ugly, was that we sought it out on our own. Many parents (like mine) were actually quite strict and culturally conservative, but their prohibitions only inspired us to find rowdier and more independent diversions. But many other parents — most, it seemed — were just checked out; they were either exhausted by broods of seven to 12 kids (at one point we counted five such clans in a one-block radius from our house) or simply invisible.

Published in: |on July 13th, 2014 |No Comments »


Lois Lowry and Jeff Bridges discuss “The Giver” at the meetings of the American Library Association in Las Vegas. Lois Lowry describes herself as having an eidetic imagination, and she once told me that, had she been born 25 years later, she would have become a filmmaker.  The photograph as memory trigger and madeleine would make a great term paper (JK).  Lowry’s writing moves in a cinematic mode. “In my writing I focus lenses,” she tells us, and suddenly we have a mental image.  

Lowry, the experience of memory is strongly associated with photographs. She described looking at a black and white photo from her childhood and recalled how it instantly triggered memories of that time – even the smallest details, such as the color and texture of her socks. Photography also influences Lowry’s work as a writer. “In my writing I focus lenses,” she explained. “I’m almost always seeing when I am writing.” Bridges described a similar experience when he first encountered Lowry’s book 20 years ago. He initially was drawn to the book because the photo on the cover, which was taken by Lowry, reminded him of his father (actor Lloyd Bridges)

Published in: |on July 8th, 2014 |No Comments »

Trevor Blank on Folk Cultures of the Digital Age

Trevor Blank talks about everything from photo-shopped memes (see below) and emoticons to rants and conspiracy theories in an interview with Julia Fernandez.

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

Contrary to popular belief, folklore is just as much, if not more, of an agent of the present as it is of the past. As a folklorist, I am interested in vernacular expression; understanding how people forge traditions, share knowledge, and make meaning in everyday life is central to my work. For me, that centrally involves working with new media technologies and observing the ways in which they’re implemented by individuals and groups in everyday life.

It is critical to document the myriad ways in which folk culture adapts, influences, rejects and responds to changing cultural tides, especially amid the exponential growth of computer-mediated communication technologies. Folklorists are uniquely positioned to comment on emergent forms of communicative expression, noting traditionality and innovation in seemingly new material while contextualizing and interpreting the forms and meanings behind its deployment. Whereas other humanities and social science fields may favor statistical analysis, data mining and text collection/comparison, folklorists employ interdisciplinary approaches, often using ethnographic methods, that strive for a more holistic representation of research subjects. At the end of the day, the emphasis remains on individuals and groups– even if they’re united in an online venue.…

And I’m very eager to read his The Last Laugh: Folk Humor, Celebrity Culture , and Mass-Mediated Disasters in the Digital Age, which is next on my list of summer reading.  I’m hoping he has something to say about “Hitler responds to . . .”



Published in: |on July 3rd, 2014 |1 Comment »