Fred Rogers did it right and we can gain from his sage advice and guidance. I’ve always admired Mister Rogers. Is it really that difficult for a man to be gentle and sensitive? I am certain a lot of us don’t think so. The age of Trump, with its unkind and insensitive mindset, is a travesty. There is nothing courageous about it. And then you take a look at what can be accomplished when you listen to a child and do something positive.
Fred Rogers managed to do quite a lot of good in his day, don’t you think? Well, this upcoming documentary, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, appears to offer up a lot to be joyful and inspired about. As is the case with many documentaries and books of this nature, the timing is perfect. 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on PBS.
WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? will be in select theaters as of June 8, 2018.
“Jane Two,” a novel by Sean Patrick Flanery, is a quirky coming-of-age story with a zest for life that you’ll find contagious. Our main character, Mickey, never got over his first true love back in childhood. But, as he sees it, that is not tragic at all. His childhood experience has made him the man he was destined to be. With that in mind, Flanery makes the most of giving Mickey plenty of life lessons, some pretty outlandish but all quite entertaining.
Sean Patrick Flanery (photo credit John Schell)
There are numerous examples of excellent coming-of-age stories. I love all types, everything from Philip Roth’s novel, “Goodbye, Columbus,” to the classic TV series, “The Wonder Years.” I think Flanery’s work falls somewhere in the middle: fun and highly entertaining but also reaching to literary heights. Flanery is so insistent upon turning the young Jane, the object of Mickey’s infatuation, into a large-than-life force of nature that, at times, he elevates his writing to magic realism. It is a natural inclination. I have felt it in my own writing. But then you need to deliver and Flanery does.
There isn’t a familiar trope that Flanery is not ready to make his own. For instance, Mickey writes numerous love letters to Jane but he mails them to a pretend address. In his youthful logic, he believes that, if his notes were meant to reach his love, the postman will have figured out where to deliver them. It is a small Texas town, after all, maybe the postman could be bothered to be part-time matchmaker between the football player and the hippie painter with flowers in her hair.
Flanery’s most endearing contribution to the genre is Mickey’s grandfather who proves to be an endless source of wisdom. But, more than that, given his special stature in the community, this is a hero, role model, and mystic all rolled into one. A beloved retired deputy sheriff from Lake Charles, Louisiana could be nothing less than that. So, Mickey is definitely in good hands with his grandpa. There’s also grandma, and both parents, to count on. The only drawback is Mickey’s sister who harbors a serious dark side.
An important thing growing up in a small Texas town, some might say the only thing that matters, is football. Lucky for Mickey, he takes to it exceptionally well. It is there for him to help prove his manhood and sees him into adulthood. A child, boy or girl, is constantly searching and testing. For Mickey, the arena is a neighbor’s lawn and then a high school stadium. Grandpa is there to keep Mickey focused. He does this along with some other colorful characters who bring to mind the tough but sometimes shortsighted guys in Mike Judge’s animated series, “King of the Hill.” Ultimately, it is Grandpa who comes back to talk some sense and remind everyone that life is short and one best get on with it.
Like I say, Flanery is mindful of coming up with some doozies of his own for the young love genre. As the cover suggests, there is something unusual going on that might turn out to be pretty symbolic. And, sure enough, Flanery creates quite a memorable set of scenes involving a pair of sneakers strung up a flag pole. For one thing, it is not nearly as simple as it may look. By the time we are deep into what is going on, we know we’re reading something that is going to stick with us and we will return to. Just the right frame of mind to be in for such a story of everlasting love.
“Jane Two” is a 304-page hardcover, audio book, and e-book, published by Center Street, written by accomplished actor, director, and writer Sean Patrick Flanery, available as of April 5, 2016. For more details, visit Center Street right here.
And be sure to check out the official JANE TWO website right here.
Do you like to write lists of goals you’ve set for yourself or give yourself little private pep talks? Of course, you do! We have plenty of bad energy out there to navigate through. A lot of us out there have already picked up on the benefits of self-help, particularly meditation. Yumi Sakugawa has a new book, “There is No Right Way to Meditate and Other Lessons,” published by Adams Media. Here, she provides a highly accessible, and quite invigorating, look at a peaceful world full of peaceful people.
It all began with an epiphany that Yumi had when she was 23-years-old and feeling very blue. She came to the realization that she was NOT her thoughts. She certainly wasn’t her negative thoughts. It is a simple enough concept and yet it is also a very powerful concept. This is a book that gently, and soothingly, offers observations on how to avoid negativity and gain a better sense of balance.
Yumi maintains a lighthearted tone throughout with her prose and whimsical artwork. For instance, she suggests that you get lost in the woods so your bad mood doesn’t know where to find you. It’s not too lighthearted. It’s just right. These are mind over mind exercises. So, the humor needs to ring true. The inner world won’t respond to a mere joke.
There’s such a genuine expression of joy and reassurance here that you’ll find it irresistible. No right nor wrong. No irony. Just a goal of self-love. Perchance to dream. Ah, dreams are a serious business. The mind demands convincing. Yumi will do this by presenting the reader with a rock. The rock is heavy. Anxiety is heavy. However, once you start to feel the rock’s ridges, it begins to feel less heavy. Yumi invites you to desire a better life without thinking too hard about it. Enjoy the now. That is exactly where you need to be.
“There is No Right Way to Meditate and Other Lessons” is a 160-page hardcover and is published by Adams Media. You can also find it at Amazon right here.
Ella is an enigmatic beauty. She seems so ethereal and unaccessible. And then, one day, her defenses down, she stumbles into a romance with Jake. This sounds like the start of another great Bill Plympton animated feature. It takes me back to some of my earliest memories of his work. I had seen at least some of his stuff on MTV back in the day. All I can say is, if you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to dig deeper.
Bill Plympton is one of the greats. He has a way of looking at the world that is truly original. He stepped into the spotlight with his Academy Award-nominated short, “Your Face,” in 1987. He was courted by Disney but he chose to remain independent. He’s the only animator to single-handedly draw every frame of a feature film–six times. Plympton cartoons blaze upon the screen: joyful, erotic, and full of wonder. And so that leads in to, “Cheatin’,” Bill Plympton’s latest feature.
Things don’t just move in his animation. They jiggle, ripple, undulate, sway, and sashay. There’s a perpetual sexual tension metaphorically attached to nearly everything. We begin with the long fluttering ribbon attached to Ella’s hat. In this feature, our two lovers are quite a mismatched pair but they definitely have a spark between them.
If Ella was ever aloof, Jake wears down her reserve. He rescues her twice, both times with great sexual connotations. But that’s only the beginning of our story. No sooner does boy meet girl, it seems, than boy loses girl. In fact, these two had become quite the couple when things go terribly wrong. Outside forces relentlessly work against them. For example, one of Ella’s rivals attempts to lure Jake away while he’s mowing the lawn. She carpets the sky with a pulsating pattern of her laundry. Ella retaliates with a counter-strike of her own laundry.
What happens next involves an elaborate process of regaining love. This includes a wayward magician and his mysterious “trans-soul machine.” Perhaps this contraption will shed light on what has thwarted our lover’s happiness. As this dangerous and uncertain path unfolds, our story spreads out with hints of grand opera, science fiction, and crime noir.
As in all Bill Plympton features, we find that human longing and desire, in one form or another, cannot be ignored and is seldom, if ever, denied. Amid a rogue’s gallery of buffoons and dimwits, lovers race toward each other’s hungry bodies. Sexuality will find its release whether it oozes from the walls or drips from the ceiling. And, amid the melting butter and bubbling coffee pots, a more complex story unfolds. While sex makes the world go round, Bill Plympton, like Federico Fellini and Terry Gilliam, provides much more. The content is implicit, not explicit. It’s a mix of the tragic and the comic that proves so pleasing.
“Cheatin'” is in theaters and online as of April 2015. For more details, visit the official website right here.
The whole idea behind the film, “Forev,” is wasted youth, or youth wasting away and just waiting to be rolled over and swept away. That’s pretty much how the characters in this movie often feel like. Not always, but it’s a tendency. When you’re right in the thick of being young, you can feel quite lost and that can bring on some loopy choices. Why not marry your next door neighbor since he’s just as lonely as you are and he seems pretty cool? Life has brought Sophie (played by Noël Wells) to this conclusion. And, oddly enough, her neighbor, Pete (played by Matt Mider) is into it.
CHEATIN’ is the latest work from animation master Bill Plympton. If you’re in Toronto on the 15th of June, you’ll want to stop by and catch it at the Toronto Animation Arts Festival International. Hot on the heels of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, TAAFI is the natural extension to the festivities. But perhaps you’ll catch CHEATIN’ in Lawrence, Kansas or maybe Karkow, Poland. Check out the full screening list here.
Toronto Animation Arts Festival International – TAAFI – celebrates the many forms of animation from around the world, while supporting and nurturing the community that creates them. At TAAFI 2014 (June 13-16), you can immerse your senses in all things animation on Toronto’s Waterfront (Corus Quay & George Brown – Waterfront Campus)!
More details on the screening of CHEATIN’ at TAAFI follow: