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Calliope Author Launches Book on America’s Self Image

The pressing issue facing Americans today: angry rhetoric replacing thoughtful discussion, based on seemingly impossible-to-resolve divergent views of America’s role in the world, a stark contrast to what decades before had been proud patriotism and a relativity unified front during times of crisis.

For years, prolific Chicago writer Rich Trzupek researched and observed trends that shaped American’s self-perception from its founding onward. In his new book, America’s Journey: Underdog to Overlord, Regrets to Rebirth, baby-boomer Trzupek delights readers beyond history buffs with little-known stories and memorable characters that reflect Americans’ changing view of themselves from the world’s scrappy Underdog to the superpower Overlord.

“My intent is to start a dialog about how we have arrived at this time when neighbors and co-workers are afraid to talk with each other, families are torn apart over political disagreements, and elected officials react emotionally instead of leading dispassionately with a shared American vision and goal in mind,” Trzupek explains. “Each chapter traces key events that brought us to today’s sense of regret or rebirth, depending on your assessment of America’s strengths and weaknesses.”

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New Creative Writing Magazine

We have great news for fiction and narrative nonfiction writers: we are launching a new quarterly literary journal to be published in print and online.

The to-be-named publication will feature emerging authors from our writing programs, but will also be open to submissions from authors and writers of any background. With the goal of cultivating short stories and narrative nonfiction work that wrestles with themes of liberty and freedom, the journal will publish a collection of 7-8 short works each quarter.

Stay tuned for more details, but if you’d like to submit something for consideration, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Fiction word count: 5,000-10,000 words
  • Memoir word count: 1,200-5,000 words
  • Essay word count: 500-2,500 words
  • Must grapple with liberty-related themes in some way
  • Email submissions to [email protected]
  • Deadline to submit for the first issue is March 10th

In addition, if you are an illustrator and would like to illustrate for the new magazine, please contact [email protected] with some samples of your work.

 

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9 Authors With Books That Can Transform Your Life

The Andrew Klavan Symposium

Section I – Opening Remarks

Click here for the series introduction and Part 1: “Finding God in the Blood and Guts of Birth and the Big Bang” by Fred Tribuzzo

Part 2: “A Search For An Authentic Life” by Alec Ott

Part 3: “Life-Changing Literature” by Chris Queen

Part 4: “To Know The Truth About The World” by Jon Bishop

Part 5: “The Long Road To Becoming An Essential Author” by David M. Swindle

Section II – Dialogue

Part 6: “If You Love Western Civilization, You Will Love God” by Fred Tribuzzo

Part 7: “Why God Does Not Want You To Worry About Anything…” by Alec Ott

Part 8: “The Bible As Artist & Author’s Muse” by Jon Bishop

Part 9:

(cross-posted from Mad Tab Blog)

Dear Jon, Alec, Fred, and Chris,

Throughout this dialogue you have each referenced other authors who have influenced you and who have reminded you in some way of Andrew Klavan’s work. Alec brought up C.S. Lewis, Fred invoked Thomas Sowell, Jon brought Augustine and monk-poet Thomas Merton into the dialogue, and Chris quoted the prophet Isaiah.

For many years I’ve been in the habit of list-making regarding books, authors, films and all sorts of subjects. And I don’t intend on breaking that habit anytime soon, in fact I’m doing the opposite: encouraging you and other writers to assemble lists too. In particular: who are the authors and books who most inspire you today? Which writers and titles are akin to weapons in your armory? Whose ideas and storytelling techniques do you adapt into your own?

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A Wrinkle in Time – Top 10 Fake Spoilers

Was anyone else assigned A Wrinkle in Time in middle school but couldn’t remember the plot if your life depended on it? Well fear not because it’s hitting the big screen on March 9th. To get you ready for this trip down faded memory lane, here are some fake spoilers:

10 - Disney introduces kids not only to the fantasy world of Madeleine L'Engle's writing but also their first acid trip.
10 – Disney introduces kids not only to the fantasy world of Madeleine L’Engle’s writing but also their first acid trip.

9 - Greatest suspension of disbelief required for Wrinkle in Time: Buying Chris Pine as an astrophysicist.
9 – Greatest suspension of disbelief required for Wrinkle in Time? Buying Chris Pine as an astrophysicist.

8 - Oprah's newest favorite thing: PLATINUM HAIR WEAVES!
8 – Oprah’s newest favorite thing: PLATINUM HAIR WEAVES!

8 - Every journey to save the universe starts with a spin through Wisteria Lane to check in with the Desperate Housewives from Hell
7 – Every journey to save the universe starts with a spin through Wisteria Lane to check in with the Desperate Housewives from hell.

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R.I.P. A.I.M.

The running man is dead. The running man, remember that yellow stick-figure in motion who used to greet you every time you logged onto AOL Instant Messenger?

The other day, something surprisingly-insignificant happened, AIM is no more. After more than twenty years it, is finally offline. Should anyone even care? Does anyone care?

I care, but I do not really even know why.

Maybe it is because growing up in the 90’s, AIM was an important part of who we were. We didn’t have smart phone – we didn’t have cell phones – but we were the first generation to grow up with the Internet. We learned to use the internet in school, something out parents never did. Our jaws dropped at the dizzying speed at which America got online, and dial-up providers worked their hardest to meet the demands of a fast, democratized internet. Each month AOL seemed to release a new version… 3.0… 4.0… 5.0… 6.0….

The internet was here to stay. They promised it would change our lives – and in more ways than we could have ever imagined – it has.

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A Conversation With Myself About Star Wars [SPOILERS]

I’ve been trying to come up with a pithy way to effectively review Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi, and the truth is, I’m stumped.

I was really looking forward to this film. But after two screenings, I think I need to come to terms with the fact that, well…. I just don’t like it that much.

And considering a lot of the reactions on Twitter, YouTube, and Rotten Tomatoes, I’m apparently not alone.

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It turns out that The Last Jedi has been incredibly divisive for fans.

In listening to commentary on YouTube channels like Screen Junkies and Collider, a lot of people seem to be throwing up their hands and saying that since the reaction to The Force Awakens (such as mine) was that it was a beat-for-beat remake of “A New Hope”, and since now some reactions to The Last Jedi are mad that it’s “too different” (more on that later), there’s just no way to please Star Wars fans.

There’s a grain of truth to this.

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Why We Hate the Prequel Trilogy

Last year, remember how traffic felt a little lighter on December 16, 2016? Or how there were a few less colleagues in the cubicle next to you crunching away on their Doritos? Or how our nations GDP dipped three points because everyone stayed home.

No, it was not because of the approaching holidays. No, it was not because of the wet winter weather gripping both coasts. It was because Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released in theaters and America took a collective national sick day as the hardcore Star Wars faithful, casual fans of nerd culture, and the allies of geeks everywhere took a day to visit a galaxy far, far away.

Why do I remind you of this? Because on Friday, December 15, 2017 this will all happen again. This time, in response to the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

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The Last Jedi – Top 8 Fake Spoilers for Episode VIII

Star Wars fever is about to break out into another $2 billion box office rash. Apply these fake spoilers as a preventative salve to stave off your own case of Force-itis.

8 - Whether it's your evil lair or your family room, the remote's always in the last place you look.
8 – Whether it’s your evil lair or your family room, the remote’s always in the last place you look.

7 - Watch Poe and Finn's desperate struggle not to end up as the Ron Weasley of this trilogy.
7 – Watch Poe and Finn’s desperate struggle not to end up as the Ron Weasley of Star Wars.

6 - Mark Hamill's just relieved now that the last movie he holds a lightsaber in won't be Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. 6 – Mark Hamill’s just relieved that the last movie he holds a lightsaber in will no longer be Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. (more…)

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How diverse was “Ghost in the Shell”, really?

Hello!

My name is Luke Guidici. I’m a filmmaker and writer and while this is the first post I’ve written on Smashcutculture.com, my work has been featured on the site. In addition to my own work, I occasionally write about film. My last in depth exploration was a two-part essay on the Heist Movie Genre, but recently I was reminded that I wanted to examine the issue of diversity in the live-action adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell.”

Movie adaptations are tough. For one it’s a different medium, which means somethings just have to be changed. I wrote about the process of adaptation here. It seems that no matter what is done, people get very upset with any changes from the original text. Whether it’s casting an actor that doesn’t look like the source character, a costume that is different, or a change in a hero’s powers.

Back when the film came out there was much internet outrage about the “whitewashing” of the lead character. People were offended that Scarlett Johansson had been cast in the lead role… instead of an actor with Asian ancestry. When I watched the movie, I was struck by how diverse the cast and world was. It had probably been 10 plus years since I’d seen the anime, so I wasn’t sure my memory served me correctly. I made a mental note that once the new film was available to purchase, I’d buy both and compare the two to see what sort of changes were made in the adaptation. And for good measure, I also bought the original manga, from which both are based.

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City of Ghosts: Movie Review

The documentary City of Ghosts begins at a black-tie gala in New York City.  A group of Syrian men mingle with donors and have their pictures taken.  “Maybe a little smile?” a photographer asks.  But they are thinking about the struggles of their home city, where there is little smile about.  They are part of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently,” a group of citizen-journalists who have documented the human-rights abuses of ISIS in the city of Raqqa, Syria.

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To Kill a Mockingbird Movie Review

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a story about race, poverty, and equal justice, all told from the eyes of a six-year old girl.

Scout, the inquisitive youngster we all know we once were, stumbles upon some very adult themes during the summers of her youth in 1930’s Alabama. Her father, Atticus, a well respected lawyer, is charged with defending Tom Robinson, a black man accused of attacking, and raping, a white woman. Through her eyes, the audience sees the injustices of racism and its inherent grasp on the legal system at the time in the deep south. Through all of it, Atticus sits his daughter on his lap and explains to her, as best he can, how wrong the world can be. Although he doesn’t explain to her the racial bias that played out in the court room with Tom Robinson found guilty for a crime he very well didn’t commit, his emotional closing statement speaks volumes.

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Thank You For Smoking Movie Review

The film “Thank You For Smoking,” starring Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor, is a satirical dramady about the cigarette industry’s leading lobbyist and the trials and tribulations he overcomes, not only in his career, but in maintaining the respect of his son.

Nick Naylor would, at first glance, appear to be your everyday, average guy, but the reality is he’s big tobacco’s smooth talking man on “the hill”. On a day to day basis he’s fighting the stigma of cigarettes, after all, everyone deserves a fair defense – even multinational corporations. As we pick up his story, he’s planning a strategy to combat new congressional labeling bill for cigarette products – a large skull and crossbones, reading “poison.”

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Fifty Shades Freed – Top 5 Fake Spoilers

No other film series has so successfully adapted pulp erotica into gold-plated pornography and come next February it’ll be time for another installment. To tide you over until the actual movie comes out, check out these fake spoilers.

5 - This is what happens when you hire a Dexter writer to punch up the script.
#5 – This is what happens when you hire a Dexter writer to punch up the script.

4 - Anastasia and Christian are happy they eventually decided to have a traditional wedding ceremony.
#4 – Anastasia and Christian are happy they decided to have a traditional wedding ceremony.

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Victoria & Abdul – Top 5 Fake Spoilers

20 years after Mrs. Brown, Dame Judi’s back in Victorian era wardrobe as… Queen Victoria. Audiences have been positively clamoring for Judi to reprise her role as the 19th century’s most famous baby factory so fair warning: FAKE SPOILERS BELOW!

5 - You've heard of actors sleepwalking through a part? Well, watch Judi Dench sleepsit through this one!
5 – You’ve heard of actors sleepwalking through a part? Well, watch Judi Dench sleep-sit through this one!

4 - Ms. Dench forgot to get the okay from the Weinstein Brothers before making a period piece about a British monarch so they sent a dead fish to the set.
4 – Ms. Dench forgot to get the okay from the Weinstein Brothers before making another period piece about a British monarch so they sent a dead fish to the set.

3 - Hungry for action? Just wait for the scene of butlers and maids practicing their bowing to an empty chair!
3 – Worried that a historical drama won’t have enough suspense? Just wait for the scene where the help practices bowing to an empty chair!

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Stephen King’s IT – Top 10 Fake Spoilers

Never has such a short book title filled so many pages. (1,138 to be exact) Remember when flipping past the old TV version would fill your nightmare quota for a month or two? Well, on September 8th you’ll have to drive all the way to a theater to get scared for 14 bucks (plus another 10 for the worst nachos you’ve ever eaten). To better prepare you for a night of thrills and chills, here are the Top Ten Fake Spoilers for IT…


10 - "Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's off to die we go!"
10 – “Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It’s off to die we go!”

9 - Meet the only Jewish kid in Maine not at a sleep away camp.
9 – Meet the only Jewish kid in Maine not at a sleep away camp.

8 - This "Terrifying Clown Is Here!" arrow was repurposed from a mall map.
8 – This “Terrifying Clown Is Here!” arrow was repurposed from a mall map.

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The Siege Movie Review

“The Siege,” starring Denzel Washington and Annette Bening, is a story of ‘blowback’ and the extreme measures government will implement to maintain control.

After the bombing of a U.S. facility abroad, American military forces capture and place in custody the man suspected to be responsible (the Sheik). It’s this action that sets off a chain reaction of retaliation. Soon after, in New York, unnamed Islamic terrorists attack the city and its people, demanding the Sheik’s release. Denzel, as the FBI’s chief counter-terror agent, chases the terrorist cells through the city, always rooting his actions in law and order, despite the directions of others. It’s when the terrorists blow up a federal building, killing 600, that the President steps in and declares martial law. The army goes block by block, door to door, and rounds up any and all Muslim people that fit their broad profile: male, 14-30 years of age. Beyond that, the military sees no moral conflict in torturing suspects for information, despite Denzel’s eloquent plea against it. In the end, the FBI works in the shadows to legally take down the terrorists and arrest the military men responsible for the reprehensible actions in the city.

This film deals with several major liberty themed points, namely: the idea of blowback, the morality of torture, law & justice, and the dangers of ‘racial profiling’. The film’s jumping off point is the tactical take-down of the Sheik, the man responsible for the bombing of an American facility abroad. While it is understandable to seek retribution for such an act, the film brings to light the idea of blowback – that foreign policy actions have unintended consequences. In this particular example, a “rouge” elements of the U.S. military engaged in his illegal extraction, undoubtedly invoking contempt that manifested itself in the bombings. This isn’t to say legal means of capturing the man would have had a different effect, but it is to say every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Beyond this, though only a minor plot point, it is revealed that Annette Bening’s CIA trainees are the very same individuals now terrorizing the United States. In regards to torture, and martial law in general, Denzel’s character has a rather powerful monologue, in which he regards the current situation as “shredding the constitution”, and in that effect “they’ve already won”. Finally, one of the biggest thrusts of the film is in regards to Islam and people’s fear of it in the wake of religiously charged attacks. It is in this point that the film’s message is most relevant given current American fears and political rhetoric. To this, the film shows the “lump sum” attitude as misguided, as the large net the military stretches to round up the last remaining terrorist cells doesn’t even catch one lawbreaker. Instead, this net catches the innocent, a point made by Denzel’s Lebanese partner searching frantically for his 13 year old son in the large cages.

1) Is martial law ever a reasonable option?

2) Is it a coincidence that the military’s racial profiling of Muslim individuals was completely ineffective? Was this a conscious decision by the film-makers?

3) Is this film an indictment of America’s foreign policy? In what ways is it?

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“Dunkirk” Disappoints

A guest post from Brian Watt of Ricochet.com

Yes, there are spoilers herein. If you are planning to see Dunkirk at a theater near you and don’t want to read about how the new Christopher Nolan film treats this historical event then you may be excused. Here’s a trailer of the film below that should serve as a visual break in this Ricochet post before the review begins.

Let me begin by articulating that I am an admirer of Nolan’s work. He breathed new life into the Batman stories and made something that had been targeted previously primarily to adolescent boys something that adults could find entertaining and at times thought provoking, exploring such themes as chaos, evil and nihilism. With Interstellar, he and his screenwriting brother, took the time to explore the actual science of the astrophysics that the film relies upon with renowned physicist Kip Thorne, so it would have an air of authenticity and highly-probable believability (well, the ending was a stretch). If only Ridley Scott had applied Nolan’s same discipline and attention to detail to the laughably unscientific, Prometheus.

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Twin Peaks: The Return

“I’ll see you again in 25 years,” Laura Palmer promised Special Agent Dale Cooper in the Red Room.  That was 1991, the end of the second season of Twin Peaks.  Since then, there has been a prequel movie, Fire Walk With Me, and multiple books to expand on the mythology of the series.  But this year, creators David Lynch and Mark Frost returned to the small screen with Twin Peaks: The Return on Showtime.

The small screen has gotten bigger in the intervening years.  TV has become more cinematic, with series like Game of Thrones. CRTs have given way to 65-inch flat screens.  Video production technology has made special effects cheap and seamless.  And streaming services have changed the TV business model by trying to attract subscriptions from niche audiences.  So it’s only natural that Lynch and Frost would revive their legendary television show.

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David Swindle’s African Odyssey

Travel DAYS: Sunday, July 2 – Tuesday, July 4

The flight from LA to Dubai went across Greenland and produced memorable views like this one:

The flight on Emirates was among the best I’ve ever had. In addition to tons of new movies, TV shows, and albums, they also had some classics, so I thought it appropriate to rewatch Casablanca given that we’ll be there in a few weeks:

I picked up my first Thomas Pynchon novel on Saturday, Inherent Vice, for the plane rides, primarily because I liked the movie and have been studying the genre (LA Detective mystery ala Raymond Chandler):

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Eric Ford Holevinski Explains How “The Restaurant” is Dishing Out More Than Spaghetti

Scarily relatable, surprisingly humorous, undeniably intriguing, Eric Ford Holevinski’s indie film “The Restaurant” has it all—from moments every food industry worker will understand to startling, jump-out-of-your-seat scares. As his first endeavor in filmmaking, Ford seems to have found subject material that draws from personal and universal experiences, while maintaining both humorous and horrifying themes. “The Restaurant,” a comedy-horror centered around a fast-paced New York City Italian restaurant, leads viewers into a spiral of scares and laughs as the busboy discovers a dark secret the manager is keeping. The secret? A customer-hungry entity in the basement that must be fed for the rave reviews to keep flooding in. Being his first foray into the indie film industry, Ford explained the motivations, developments and experiences of his career in the film industry in a Q&A.

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The Mist – Top 5 Fake Spoilers

Before you tune in to the next episode of The Mist, tune in to some untrue spoilers…

This went a lot smoother when they did it on Glee.
5 – This went a lot smoother when they did it on Glee.

4 - "Chief, we probably should have ran away in the half hour since the fog showed up."
4 – “Uh, Chief, we probably should’ve run away in the half hour since that fog started crawling towards us.”

3 - "I've been trapped out here since Frank Darabont made his Mist movie back in 2007. Let me in, man!"
3 – “I’ve been trapped out here since Frank Darabont made his Mist movie back in ’07. Let me in, man!”

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Top 5 Fake “Black Panther” Spoilers

Marvel’s first film of 2018 is all queued up so check out these fake spoilers…

We've all had that dream where we show up to our village completely naked.
5 – We’ve all had that dream where we show up to our village one morning completely naked.

4 - Like the best superhero movies, Black Panther teaches us to be afraid of all first-responders.
4 – Like the best superhero movies, Black Panther teaches us to be afraid of all first-responders.

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I like Underpants…

I never grew up reading the Captain Underpants book series by Dave Pilkey; they were as us old-folks say “before my time.” Still, something about the trailer spoke to me, and I found myself watching the film Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017).

Spoilers throughout.

In the film, best friends Harold and George, a storyteller-artist tandem obsessed with creating comic books, find themselves at odds with their fascist Principal Krupp. The Principal is obsessed with order, structure, and efficiency; all of which come at the expense of his student’s creativity, and innovation. With the use of a cereal-box hypno-ring, the two hypnotize Principal Krupp into believing he is the embodiment of their comic book magnum opus, Captain Underpants. With Captain Underpants as their principal, their harmless pranks become a welcomed addition to school, and art and music are returned to the school curriculum. They spend their day helping the Captain blend in as a convincing principal, and making sure he does not accidentally return to his natural Krupp state.

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A Scanner Darkly

There is a new drug out and it is called D. It splits the right and left hemisphere of your brain when abused too much. An undercover cop who is addicted to this new drug comes under investigation when suspected of drug abuse. The film involves several themes but most is the use of drugs and the war on them. There is an eerily familiar theme of government over-watch for our protection. This idea that they can keep us safe from ourselves. This world is faced with potential dangers such as drugs and addiction and in order to combat this the government assumes it must sneakily watch and attempt to control our lives. It is this endless cycle of the government creating drugs, people getting addicted, citizens begin arrested for said drugs, then the government rehabbing those individuals.

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