Hansel and Gretel Give Thanks Too

In honor of Thanksgiving sort of, a couple of new black and white horror stories, aka fairy tales, one dealing with classic German frightening forests and witches, the other with dictatorships and boarding schools…

Toon Books' new Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattoti

Toon Books’ new Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattoti

Hansel and Gretel’s enduring popularity might obscure the horror of the original telling, when the parents agree to “lose” their children in the woods since they’re unable to feed them, but modern fabulist Neil Gaiman brings back that heart-wrenching element in his latest telling of the tale put out by Francoise Mouly‘s enterprising new Toon Books imprint of adventurous comics and illustrated adaptations designed with the current pedagogical needs of school-age children in mind…  Hunger and desperation are at the center of this story, and the dark tone is clear from Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattoti‘s moody, inky drawings.

Another stark story about unfortunate children is Arcady’s Goal by author and illustrator Eugene Yelchin.  This book’s protagonist is separated from his parents when they’re deemed enemies of the state by the Soviet Russian government and is sent to an isolated school for other such political orphans.  Seems like a similarly mature situation, and one the protagonist has to try and improve on his own…

Children pulling themselves up by the bootstraps has a long literary history, from fairy tale protagonists to Dickens’ street urchins to gangs of mystery solving kids, and, like these two books, these stories can take a dark turn with kids abandoned and orphaned, comforts we take for granted cruelly stripped from them, and normalcy a very big bootstrap-pulll away if that…  At any rate, this seemed somehow relevant to Thanksgiving…  In that it’s, like, the total opposite…

Arcady's Goal by Eugene Yelchin

Arcady’s Goal by Eugene Yelchin

As long as we’re talking about Hansel and Gretel, let’s end with a bit of German composer Engelbert Humperdinck‘s charming 1893 operatic adaptation!  Besides the sort of macabre inverse-relation to Thanksgiving as the holiday of plenty, this opera is also very popular around Christmas-time, so it’s extra-holiday appropriate!  Also, there are sure to be several performances popping up this time of year (including at the Met Opera where the below clip is from)…

The opera of course also deals with the themes of hunger and need, and this production in particular is centered around food, both its absence and excess, as demonstrated here when Hansel and Gretel’s wildest dreams are shown to revolve around a sumptuous banquet.

Opera Fundraiser

The financial woes of New York City Opera raise their head again, with the news that if they cannot raise $20 million by year’s end, they may have to cancel most of this season and all of the next.

NYCO 13/14 Season

Towards this goal, they’ve launched their very own KickStarter campaign, hoping to raise $1 million by the end of this month.  It just started Sunday, and as of this writing they’re 2% of the way there…

Not sure what the most money raised on KickStarter has been (maybe $7 million for a high tech watch?), but $1 million seems ambitious…

I guess this is as good a time as any to share this neat video on NYCO‘s education initiatives, staging operas for New York School kids and sending artists to the schools as well.  This past year they put on Unsuk Chin‘s 2007 Alice in Wonderland, a very modern work, but i like that some kids’ first exposure to the “stuffy” medium of opera is something so unexpected…

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/68061675]

New York City Opera’s Opera is Elementary 2013 from New York City Opera on Vimeo.

This season’s planned opera is Tobias Picker‘s Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the book by Roald Dahl.  I actually saw this in its world premiere at the Los Angeles Opera in 1998!  For more on the work, visit Picker’s page on it.

Fantastic Mr. Fox at LA Opera

Tobias Picker with cast members of Fantastic Mr. Fox at LA Opera, 1998

Once again, here’s the KickStarter, in case you’re feeling generous…  Also, NYCO & BAM’s presentation of Anna Nicole starts next week, so hurry and grab whatever tickets may remain!

Cuddly Lil’ Bone Crushers

To accompany yesterday’s post on flu virus evolution comics, here’s a more in depth (and cuddlier!) one courtesy of Jorge Cham’s PhD Comics summarizing the work of Zhijie Jack Tseng, currently of the American Museum of Natural History, on the convergent evolution of savage bone-crushin’ jaws in hyenas and dogs.

You can also see a related comic version of this video, which is neat…  Always impressed by Cham’s animated thesis comics…  which you can see much more of on PhD TV!

Hyena-Dog convergent evolution comic by Jorge Cham

Copyright Jorge Cham

Wonder Women of (not through) History

If you’re like me and you missed PBS‘ screening of Kristy Guevara-Flanagan‘s documentary Wonder Women!, you’re in luck, because the whole thing is up on the Independent Lens documentary minisite for your viewing pleasure.

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines on PBS

It occurred to me after posting on Monday that my title sounded kinda familiar…  Here’s why:

Wonder Women of History by Alice Marble

As Brian Cronin lays out in this installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, Wonder Woman‘s 1940s series, by what was then All-American Publications, was graced with the #1 woman’s tennis champion as associate editor!  After retiring from her historic tennis career, Alice Marble went about publicizing Wonder Woman as a icon for young girls and wrote a back-up segment in each issue celebrating notable historic women.  Adorable, no?  Click on the image for the full post and the full Nightingale story too!

Alice Marble had a pretty eventful retirement, later claiming that she had worked as a spy for the US government during WWII.  When I was taking my first class on making comics, with cartoonist Tom Motley, I actually wound up using her as my subject!  Not the greatest, but if you’re curious about Marble or my art “skills”, the story is up in full on my woefully neglected DeviantArt account:

My short comic about Alice Marble

Ms. Marble, by Me!

Copyright to Make you Shiver

I had to give a presentation in class on copyright in the digital library world which was a pretty intimidating topic, so I was glad to find this neat resource from the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University.

This comic, by James Boyle, Jennifer Jenkins and the late Keith Aoki who illustrated it, focuses on fair use of copyrighted materials in documentary filmmaking, but the lessons are still relevant for all of us as plain ol’ concerned citizens… (read it for free here, or consider paying to support their work.)

The CSPD celebrates Public Domain Day on January 1st, the day that materials’ copyrights expires and they enter the public domain.  However, in 2013 nothing entered the public domain, all thanks to aggressive campaigning on part of behemoths in the content industry to keep extending the length of their copyright.  As it stands now, a work is protected under copyright for 70 years after its creator’s death, so just about anything created in our lifetimes will only be public domain several generations later.  Pretty ridiculous…

EDIT: I almost forgot!  As testament to how much time I spend reading the funnies online, I included this little gem by Anthony Clark (aka Nedroid) in my presentation:

"The Internet" by Anthony Clark

Copyright Anthony Clark

Got some laughs, and speaks to the constant struggle of anyone who shares their work online to protect their IP from shameless thievery…   >: (

Mostly Manga Maniac

Remember when I said I was just starting to dip my toes into the world of manga?  Well, judging by my line-up of library books on hold, I think I caught the manga bug:

My Library Holds

Not to mention, I’m finishing up Haruki Murakami‘s Norwegian Wood too, so it’s a full-out Japanese smorgasborg over here… (here’s an interesting Paris Review interview with Murakami, btw.)

I’m also picking up Ivan Brunetti‘s Cartooning which sounds like a good introduction to instructional cartooning.  Anything my comics crush Bill Kartalopoulos recommends is good enough for me.

PhD Comics explains Open Access!

Jorge Cham of PhD Comics occasionally takes a break from comics about graduate student life to create animated versions of academic talks or theses (or even make a live -action movie based on his comics!), and his latest such venture is all about Open Access in the scientific publishing community, an interesting subject to me as a library science student…

These videos can make a good introduction to some heady scientific concepts (like the Higgs-Boson particle and the CERN Large Hadron Collider), and you can seem them all at PhD TV.