Category Archives: Culture

Great Ideas at TEDx Seattle

TEDx Seattle at McCaw Hall, Seattle Center

TEDx Seattle at McCaw Hall, Seattle Center

You’ve seen TED talks on YouTube, right? You can always go right to the source at TED.com. If you’re unfamiliar, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED began in 1984 as a conference that today covers just about any topic. These are powerful short form talks in more than 100 languages.

Considering the "Greater Than" theme

Considering the “Greater Than” theme

Have you ever gone to a TED event? Well, there are a number of these around the world. I went to an independently run TEDx event here in Seattle. You can discover more about TEDx Seattle right here. With a zeal to learn and a trusty notepad, Jen and I took in a day of TED talks. For fans of TED talks, you can imagine how cool that is!

KCTS, a proud sponsor of TEDx Seattle

KCTS, a proud sponsor of TEDx Seattle

This is the first year for TEDx Seattle, formerly known at TEDx Rainier. This last Saturday, we settled into our seats at McCaw Hall at Seattle Center and were utterly delighted with each presentation: from Ranae Holland, a biologist-turned-reality TV star on the hunt for Bigfoot all the way to Suzanne Simard, a forestry expert advocating for all us to address climate change.

The theme for this event was “Greater Than,” an umbrella concept that reinforces our sense of community which is greater than the sum of its parts. The talks were further divided into sessions: curiosity > assumptions; future > today; together > alone; and > sum of the parts.

We had stopped by Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Pine and overheard a couple of young women. One said to the other: “And you can spend your whole life in public service, like Hillary, and still lose to a man!” That’s a good sense of what clings to the air and will remain in the air for years to come. So, heading to our TEDx event seemed like quite a fitting place to be: a place to try to make sense of the rifts and the shifts we are currently experiencing.

I was curious about how each talk would act as a thread to a larger conversation. Can we answer the big question, How do we all come together? Celeste Headlee, a longtime host at National Public Radio, made the case in her talk that we are far more isolated than we may realize. The healing won’t take root, said Headlee, until we respect each other and form authentic bonds. That struck a positive and constructive chord that reverberated throughout the conference.

Scott Wyatt talks about urban density.

Scott Wyatt talks about urban density.

As the day progressed, Jen and I got really caught up in the talks. In fact, there were so many ideas presented that it is a bit overwhelming to attempt to recap everything and do it justice. I will focus on just a few with some brief comments. Scott Wyatt, a partner at architecture firm NBBJ, hit the nail on the head regarding the critical mass we have reached as a crowded city. Part of the solution is to adapt and that is what Wyatt covered. With more and more of us shoulder to shoulder, it compels us to find ways to live in harmony.

Another compelling talk was on artificial intelligence presented by Oren Etzioni, an entrepreneur and AI researcher. His main point was that the robots are not coming for us and never will. No, it’s quite the other way around. It is up to us to embrace the new tech as it is ultimately there for us and to help us come together.

Eliaichi Kimaro. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Eliaichi Kimaro. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Eliaichi Kimaro presented an outstanding talk on her journey of self-discovery. Given the opportunity and the motivation, Kimaro found herself making her first documentary without any prior filmmaking experience. She set out to tell the stories of her ancestors in Tanzania. What she came back with were stories that would summon deep reserves for healing and transformation. Her wish for all of us is that we flood the world with our stories. You can visit the website for Kimaro’s film, “A Lot Like You,” right here.

We also greatly enjoyed the talk by Judge Wesley Saint Clair who has some impressive ideas on providing options for youth who find themselves in criminal court. No, he said, this is not a Hug a Thug program. Instead, it is a no-nonsense program that provides these youth with an opportunity to become part of the community. It was a moving talk and the judge deserves all the support he can get.

We ended the day on a high note with Suzanne Simard, a professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia. Her talk covered the intricate and complex nature of ecosystems. Simard made clear that climate change is very real. Ultimately, we all must come together, as Simard stated, not only for our sake but for the sake of our planet Earth.

In these uncertain times, we can always count on brave and thoughtful people to speak the truth.

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Filed under Culture, Design, Entertainment, KCTS, Seattle, Technology, TED Talks, TEDx Seattle

Interview: Paul Buhle and ‘Bohemians: A Graphic History’

Drawing of Paul Buhle by Steve Chappell

Drawing of Paul Buhle by Steve Chappell

Paul Buhle is busy these days with various comics projects. He is truly a friend to cartoonists. And, as we find out in this interview, there’s a good story behind that. In fact, there’s plenty to talk about when you engage in a conversation with Paul Buhle. Today, his latest book, co-edited with David Berger, is out and avaiable, “Bohemians: A Graphic History,” a 304-page comics anthology that explores the world of bohemians in America from about 1850 to 1950 (my review here). It is published by Verso Books and you can find it here.

Paul Buhle retired a few years ago from Brown University where he lectured on History and American Civilization. He has written and edited numerous books on labor, culture, and radicalism. Now, Mr. Buhle finds a good portion of his time devoted to editing books that tell their stories through comics.

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Filed under Bohemians, Comics, Comics Anthologies, Comics Reviews, Culture, History, Interviews, Verso Books

WHERE HAVE ALL THE HEROES GONE? Gloria Swanson and a Talk About How We Got Here From There

Gloria Swanson photograph by Edward Steichen, 1924

Gloria Swanson photograph by Edward Steichen, 1924

“Where have all the heroes gone?” asked Sherman. He asked this plainly and earnestly, without even a hint of irony. He looked to be about 16-years-old and not remarkable at first glance, just a kid. He wore a cardigan sweater, had messy hair, a well-worn t-shirt, jeans, and Converse high tops. Maybe a geek but not a proud geek.

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Filed under Commentary, Creative Living, Culture, Essays, Facebook, Henry Chamberlain, Heroes, Hollywood, Internet, Media, movies, Silent Movies, Social Media, Superheroes, writing

KICKSTARTER: A NIGHT AT THE SORRENTO at 30 Percent Support

A night at Sorrento Hotel Henry Chamberlain 2013

A NIGHT AT THE SORRENTO AND OTHER STORIES is a quirky batch of comics that is steadily gaining ground as the subject of a fundraising campaign at Kickstarter. It launched on April 3 and has reached the 30 percent mark in pledges. The campaign runs through May 6. You can view it HERE.

Now, here’s the thing about this one, it has a raw honesty to it that it shares with other Generation X artists. That’s where this artist, Henry Chamberlain, dates back to. That sort of blunt honesty has been refined over the years although an outsider’s view still remains. Think of Charles Burns, for example: acerbic, alienated, yet very heartfelt and authentic. You can find that in this collection of comics. That’s important to bring out here because this book includes the graphic novel, ALICE IN NEW YORK, which is an older work and very much aligned to that spirit. The other part of the book collects recent work, done in the last three years, that originated with 24-Hour Comics challenges. Altogether, you get one artist’s vision over a span of many years.

So, let’s focus in with a few more words about the graphic novel, “Alice in New York” that is part of this collection. What makes it share a Gen X sensibility has to do with the main character’s feeling of being at a loss. For many of a creative and intellectual bent, it just felt like we were in for a long stretch of lowered expectations. Sure, that’s pretty shortsighted. But, growing up in the ’80s, with Reagan and Thatcher running the show, with the Baby Boomers having hogged the spotlight for so long, with a perpetual rehash of pop culture, it didn’t look so good. Of course, we all knew things would change one way or another but it fostered a healthy sense of cynicism and self-deprecation.

You have the main character, Henry, a young man on his first visit to New York City still holding on to dreams of previous generations, from the myth of the Great American Novel to the lure of fifteen minutes of fame. Is it any wonder the boy is a wreck? But, he stumbles upon just the right circumstances and meets the right people to help him out. Is he too lucky? Well, sometimes you make the most of what you get, create your own luck. Add to that a little magic from Alice in Wonderland, and you have a story that transcends any generation which is what you want to do in the end!

Generation X’s way of life is not for everyone. You basically had to be there. Just saying that is so Gen X. If you’re looking for something to read that is a voice of a generation, while stubbornly refusing to be labeled, and ending up being so much more, then check out this work at Kickstarter HERE.

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Filed under 1980s, 24 Hour Comics Day, Art, Books, Comics, Comix, Culture, Generation X, Kickstarter, New York City, pop culture

Let’s raise the stakes

Our friend, Cristian, is very close to his goal. Time to go in there and help the guy out!

Cristian Mihai

Three days left. $282 to go. Let’s raise the stakes, shall we?

Basically, I’m going to put all of my best essays on art, writing, and stuff like that, write some new ones (at least 50% of the content will be new content), and release it as an e-book compilation. Only the good stuff. And here’s the special offer: everyone who contributes on this campaign will receive an e-copy, regardless of how much they contribute. Even if it’s $1, you’ll still receive an e-book that’s going to sell for $2.99 when released.

Also, there’s a new perk: Sponsor – for $50 you get your name listed as a Sponsor on my website (in the sidebar) for the rest of the year (that’s like advertising on one of the most popular blogs around here). Also, you get your name listed in the Acknowledgements section of my upcoming novel, La Tiers Du Cylindre. Only…

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CULTURAL AMNESIA 101: THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

If the humanism that makes civilization civilized is to be preserved into the
new century, it will need advocates. These advocates will need a memory, and
part of that memory will need to be of an age in which they were not yet alive.

— Clive James, “Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts.”

My friend, Roy, was telling me all about his favorite radio station, WFMT and its celebrated “The Midnight Special” program where folk and satire and oddball antics collide. It used to be more common to find eccentric shows on the radio dial. Thanks to YouTube, if you know where to go, you can still find a lot of treasures. And, of course, you can still tune in to WFMT and listen to “The Midnight Special”  archives whenever you want or check the “The Midnight Special” site for a station that carries the syndicated show.

Here are just three personalities from yesteryear that Roy mentioned to me in relation to his adventures in late night radio. There are plenty more but I thought it interesting to focus on these three as a set given that I did not find them through trial and error but from a real human being. These are entertainers you would have found on the radio in the ’50s to ’60s: Flanders & Swann, Anna Russell and Tom Lehrer. What do they share in common? Well, Roy loves them and that’s really a good place to start. Given what I know about Roy and my initial sampling, all three of these acts have a wry sense of humor and love of musical whimsy.

Flanders & Swann – “The Hippopotamus Song”  This is one of the songs that Flanders &  Swann are best known for. You can hear a theater crowd roaring with laughter. Very cool. Very vaudevillian.

Anna Russell – “The Ring of the Nibelungs”  If you like Victor Borge’s antics, then you’ll love Anna Russell. She’ll bring classical music down to Earth for you.

Tom Lehrer – “The Elements Song”  This may be your lucky day, or night, if you’re new to this song. It is a major hipster find that keeps being covered by new artists.

You start to think about it, these entertainers, perhaps more obscure for some audiences, will bring to mind other entertainers from that time period, Victor Borge, The Smothers Brothers, Woody Allen, and then other entertainers up to the present, They Might Be Giants, Flight of the Conchords, Sarah Silverman. It’s all just a matter of keeping an eye out for new talent, new to you. One of the most asked questions by casual observers is a very direct and honest question, “How do you find out about all this stuff?” It’s not a question to dismiss by any means! The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind: Just ask, search around, pan for gold, if you will. Not so long ago, one of the most respected ways of stumbling upon something cool and new was to go look in the bins at your local record shop. You know, with the passion for vinyl unabated, specialty shops are still there for you to explore.

Remember the movie, “High Fidelty,” about a record shop owner, played winningly by John Cusack, and his staff who were walking encyclopedias of pop culture? All very pre-internet. You were sort of at the mercy of the hipster geeks who seemed to have hoarded all the information. A small price to pay in retrospect. Either they took pity on you, actually liked you, or cast you out as soon as they set eyes on you.

Remember Jack Black in that movie? He was the ultimate gatekeeper of cool. If he didn’t think you could handle it, or should handle it, out you went.

Pretend Jack Black decided you were okay and recommended to you Flanders & Swann, Anna Russell and Tom Lehrer.

This is all part of a grand continuum. It’s a particular mindset: folky, lefty, offbeat. A way of life. So many interconnections. Until next time, chin up, and don’t forget the patron saint of lowkey deadpan humor…

Mr. Bob Newhart. Don’t ever forget Bob.

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Filed under Comedy, Culture, Entertainment, Humor, Jokes, pop culture, Radio, Vinyl Records

ART: Andrew Schoultz & Richard Colman at Cooper Cole

Cooper Cole has a show up that speaks to my heart. It’s in the spirit of the sort of work I strive to do. What struck me, right away, is the energetic movement created by the repetition of horses in some of Andrew Schoultz’s paintings. I’m not sure what it is saying since I don’t have the catalogue handy but I am eager to learn more. I am also intrigued with Richard Colman’s work, just as ambiguous as you’d expect but with a distinctive look about it. The show featuring the two artists is entitled, “Destroyers,” and seems to be a fairly apt description.

Press goodies follow:

Andrew Schoultz & Richard Colman
Destroyers
June 1, 2012 – June 23, 2012

Opening reception Friday June 1, 2012 / 6 – 10pm

For press and sales information please inquire with the gallery.

COOPER COLE is pleased to present a two person exhibition introducing american artists Andrew Schoultz and Richard Colman to their first showing in Canada.

Andrew Schoultz / Hand Repetition (Dark Horse Projection) / Acrylic, gouache, ink, and collage on paper / 30″ x 22″ / 2012

Andrew Schoultz’s mixed media work recalls a historical and political ephemerality that is faced with the inevitable fate of repeating itself. He explores themes such as power struggles, conflict, and sociopolitical hardships through detailed line work and vivid symbolism. While alluding to these scenes from the past, his frenzied yet whimsical work negotiates a familiarity with contemporary plights. Schoultz has exhibited globally in countries such as Denmark, England, Italy, the United States, and now Canada. His work can been seen in institutions and collections such as the Andy Warhol Museum, Torrance Art Museum, Hyde Park Arts Center, Laguna Art Museum, Progressive art Collection, and Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, amongst others. Most recently he exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, taking part in a two person exhibition in dialogue with the work of artist Paul Klee. Schoultz currently lives and works in San Francisco, California.

Richard Colman / Untitled, Figures Behind Pitchers / Acrylic and enamel on paper / 24″ x 20″ / 2012

Richard Colman’s work blends figurative imagery and bold geometry. Typically using symmetrical compositions, Colman explores themes of human sexuality, societal hierarchies, life and death. His work ranges from small to large scale painting, murals and installations. Colman has been working as a professional artist for over a decade and recently completed a commissioned mural for Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles. He has exhibited internationally in countries such as Denmark, England, the United States, and now Canada. Colman currently lives and works in San Francisco, California.

Pairing these two artists and friends together creates an interesting dialogue highlighting their signature styles while exploring new territory through a variety of mediums including; painting, drawing, collage and installation.

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Cleveland Amory and the Dawn of Pop Culture

There was Andy Warhol. And there was Marshall McLuhan. But, also leading the way at the dawn of contemporary pop culture, there was Cleveland Amory. This post is going to be personal. It’s going to be one that I highlight and refer back to and I hope might inspire you. Amory’s was a remarkable life. He was gifted with something any blogger would appreciate: a way with words. He was such a keen observer of his times and what lay ahead. When I was describing my blog to a friend awhile ago, I mentioned Amory. It made sense in that instance although I’m not sure my friend caught the significance. It felt like an epiphany to me: I hadn’t thought of Amory in years, and now, it was clear that I should look back to what I knew about him and learn more. I think, as I recall, my friend nodded, as we continued our conversation. For all I know, he had just nodded, did not actually know who Cleveland Amory was! And there lies the purpose of this post. I want you to know, or rediscover, Cleveland Amory and see why he’s such a big deal.

In the beginning,  and that would be at the end of World War II and with the rise of American prosperity, there was pop culture and it was good–but it had a ways to go in defining itself. Cleveland Amory arrived at the party just as it started. Fresh out of college, Harvard no less, Amory wrote his first bestseller, “The Proper Bostonians,” in 1947, which chronicled the world of old families and their old money. Amory was describing a world that held to the highest esteem those that fit into what was then known to be “high society.” Amory, an honest social observer, was not hesitant about questioning the importance or relevance of the “blue bloods.” He was one of them. He was also quick to note their decline and the emergence of a new order, celebrity culture. And with each new bit of insight, Amory took it all with a grain of salt. He was not enamoured by any of it. He was amused by it which makes him such a healthy role model for those who keep up with and write about pop culture. The man had his priorities straight. In the end, what he really found compelling was the rights of animals. He founded The Fund For Animals, which would go on to merge with The Humane Society. Instead of only focusing on social commentary, he was able to parlay his formidable connections and skills to help animals in a variety of ways from harm by hunters, questionable practices in laboratories, exploitation and slaughter.

A book that opened my eyes to the multi-faceted Mr. Amory is the impressive biography written by Marilyn Greenwald, Cleveland Amory: Media Curmudgeon and Animal Rights Crusader. That book has gotten me to thinking about spreading the word about Cleveland Amory. The comic strip below is a taste of what I’m working on. Here is a moment of truth for Amory. He is enjoying one of his peaks of popularity as a regular commentator on “The Today Show.” He is already on the board of directors of The Humane Society and his animal activism is growing. With his platform to say whatever he wished, with no prior approval needed on his commentary, it was just a matter of time before Mr. Amory rocked the medium he was so much a part of on behalf of animals…

Suffice it to say, there are no more annual “Bunny Bops.” It was also the end of Amory’s free rein at “The Today Show.” His scripts would be tightly supervised from then on. His days at NBC were no longer so golden. But that’s when a new door opened at “TV Guide.” My interest in Cleveland Amory goes back to childhood when I read his reviews in “TV Guide” towards the end of his time there as chief critic. I’m just old enough to remember finding him to be a really cool dude in an upper crust sort of way. He was clearly someone of refined sensibilities who had taken upon himself the burden of making sense of the new untested mass medium. He wrote his “TV Guide” columns from the 1960s to 1970s, just as TV was coming into its own. It’s no mistake that “YouTube” takes its logo directly from “TV Guide.” Television and “TV Guide” used to go hand in hand, both leading each other into uncharted waters. Even “Entertainment Weekly,” today’s influential media weekly, can not truly compare with the impact of “TV Guide” in its heyday, with its analysis and support of television. I was just a little kid back then but I was already hip to what “TV Guide” was doing and the one person who most personified the effort to make sense of television was Cleveland Amory. Thankfully, Amory did far more than make sense out of television. He helped us all make more sense of how to live a worthwhile life.

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Filed under Cleveland Amory, Commentary, Culture, pop culture

EvolutionMan Has The Answer For Man Nails, Man Skin and More

When Ben Affleck grew out his hair, the entertainment press dubbed the hair covering his forehead, “man bangs.” They couldn’t just be bangs. And the same thing happens when a male celeb is seen with a bag. Instantly, that becomes a “man bag.” If it’s sandals on men, they become “man sandals” which doesn’t even make any sense.  And it goes on. Just add “man” to about anything that has a guy treating himself to the finer things in life. “Manzilian,” anyone? Speaking for us guys, I believe we’re more than mere man skin.

Men will do whatever they want anyway. If we want to take care of ourselves, we will, because guys have evolved. That’s what leads us to an exciting new line of men’s skincare and grooming products, EvolutionMan.

The founder of EvolutionMan is Marco Berardini, a celebrity groomer whose clients include Patrick Dempsey, LeBron James and supermodel, Marissa Miller. His line of products are used by other celebrity groomers like Sonia Lee who gets stars like Neil Patrick Harris and Anthony Hopkins red carpet ready.

Visit the EvolutionMan Web site and you’ll find an assortment of skincare products to make you look and feel great. “Wash & Buff,” for instance, won the award for best face scrub in Men’s Health Magazine. And EvolutionMan products are packed with natural ingredients that make your skin more attractive and healthy.

Here at Comics Grinder, we’re all about style and taste. We just received a goodie bag from EvolutionMan and we thought we’d share with you what we found.

PURE BLING – We’ll start with the latest addition to the EvolutionMan line: nail polish for men. Again, no need to call this “man nail polish,” unless you really have to. With “Pure Bling,” a guy can test drive nail polish since this is simply a clear varnish, boosted with vitamins. All it does is provide a guy with more healthy and attractive nails. What could be better? I’ve found it to be just fine. My nails look and feel great and I have gotten compliments on them. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Maybe next time I’ll try a color.

CLEANSE & SHAVE, WASH & BUFF AND MOISTURE PROTECT — Yes, this could be your daily regimen. You “Cleanse & Shave” to get that close and refreshing shave. Follow this up with “Wash & Buff” to get rid of dead skin cells and reinvigorate your skin. And then complete the process with “Moisture Protect” to add moisture and protect yourself from UV rays with its SPF 20.

REVITALIZE EYE GEL – You could take things one step further and give your eyes a bit of a lift with “Revitalize Eye Gel.” Just a little dab under both eyes to give you a more refreshed look and up things in a more balanced and healthy place.

LIP BALM – And any guy should have some lip balm handy. Too many guys go around sporting dry and cracked skin in such a prominent place on the face.

That said, all guys should do themselves a favor and check out what EvolutionMan has to offer them. I am inspired by EvolutionMan and you guys will be too.

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Finding An Authentic Voice for 9/11

It is a necessary thing to aim the bar high when attempting to present the most remarkable expressions about 9/11. But we shouldn’t get so intimidated by the subject matter that we end up falling into stilted language and a stilted vision. I was reading The New York Times and was surprised by what I read in a think piece entitled, “Outdone by Reality,” by Michiko Kakutani. The writer couldn’t think of any novel that truly captured the raw feeling of 9/11. The one that comes to mind for me is “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer. Kakutani does mention it but dismisses it within the portion of his article he entitles, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” The problem with that novel, for him, is that it resembles the structure of Gunter Grass’s “The Tin Drum,” which also has as its protagonist, a boy named Oskar. I would simply say that is part of the art of the novel. But no, for Kakutani finding the words is oh such a struggle. I don’t think so at all. In fact, Foer’s book does a remarkable job of not being on a high horse, shrugging one’s shoulders and weeping because the words aren’t there.

The words are there! You just need to organize your thoughts. The character of Oskar, a very precocious 9-year-old, speaks for the turmoil felt by so many after the 9/11 tragedy. In this case, Oskar lost his father that day. It’s a very symbolic and effective construct. Oskar is a mess. He finds a key among his father’s belongings. For most of the story, he is seeking the lock to that key. We seek our own answers too. Are they all at the same level of intensity? Of course not. You could be someone living on the Upper West Side or in Kansas City and not have lost anyone in 9/11. The connection to the event, for most of us, is what we consume from the media.  Are we all traumatized by the event, rendered mute? No, that would be nutty in the extreme and highly prententious at the least. Anyway, I am veering off the topic. I just think Mr. Kakutani had a job to do: write a think piece for The New York Times. And it reads as such. Take from it what you will. It’s just human nature. You can live in close proximity to where a major event occurred and still have a, say, provincial view of it. For Mr. Kakutani, it was the installation in 2005 of Christo’s “The Gates,” a series of saffron draped gates that dotted Central Park, that he acknowledged as a successful work of art that addressed 9/11, albeit indirectly. Well, that is Kakutani’s neighborhood. He let down his guard and enjoyed the art. Now if he could just go back and give Mr. Foer’s book another chance, assuming he ever read it in the first place. Well, he can always see the movie starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock and complain about how off the mark that movie was to healing our collective wound. It’s a major motion picture. It probably will miss the mark but it could spark a better understanding for many who have not even heard of the book yet, much less its paying tribute to “The Tin Drum,” both an excellent novel and film.

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