Happy Thanksgiving–2022!

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Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone has a wonderful day today.

Please remember to recognize the positives and the blessings in your lives.

And please remember to give thanks to those who help us in many ways. So many are away from home, friends, and family, and we should all give them a moment of thanks.

Please try to remember those who are less fortunate, and try to find some kindness and to continue to spread it throughout the year.

To my friends, including my many blogging friends, and family, –thank you! I am grateful for all of you.

I would also like to ask all of you:  For what are you thankful?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Education Quotations

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“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”

                                                                              Margaret Mead

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“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”

                                                                              Thomas Paine

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“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

                                                                              Plato

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“Education is essential for the improvement of humanity, and it must continue throughout a person’s life. We are never too young nor too old to learn. We must embrace curiosity about the world around us, and we should learn every day of our lives.”

                                                                             Charles F. French

Celebrate Authors–It’s National Authors Day!

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Today is National Authors Day! Please help celebrate all of the authors in the world, both living and dead. Without writers, the world would be a far less interesting place. Authors create worlds for readers to experience and wonders to view in their imaginations.  Writers are the conscience of society as well as the givers of entertainment. 

I applaud all the authors out there! 

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Have A Happy Halloween And A Blessed Samhain!

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I want to wish everyone both a Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain!

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On the pre-Christian Celtic calendar, October 31 was Samhain, pronounced Soo-when or Sow-when, and it marked the day when the world of the living and dead where at the closest. It is also the end of year, with November 1 as the start of the next year. This day is one of the most important Gaelic/Celtic/Pagan/Wiccan/Druidic holidays of the year!  And please do not worry about the devil–he is not a part of Samhain. There is nothing evil here.

Samhain/Halloween is a day to remember those who have passed and to think of the future.

So, enjoy the day, dress up, have candy, party, and raise a toast and wish all a Happy New Year!

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My Favorite Horror Films: 4: Dracula

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When I first considered doing an examination of my favorite horror movies, I thought that going decade by decade would be sufficient, but I realized that some periods have far more excellent films than others.  A simple examination of 2-4 movies from the 1930s will not work, so I am going to look at one film at a time for that decade. I will begin with Dracula, a film I love, and which I have taught in college classes such as Literature and Film and Gothic and Horror at both Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.  I also hold the novel to be an excellent and very important book.

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Dracula, made in 1931, and released for Valentine’s Day–a nice touch–was a huge success and established Bela Lugosi as a top box office star. This production was itself based on the very successful theatrical play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and James Balderston. Stoker’s novel did not see great success during his life, but after his death and the success of the play, it became one of the best selling novels of the 20th Century–worldwide.

Carl Laemmle Jr, capitalized on the story’s growing popularity and produced the movie.  Tod Browning, who had directed Lon Chaney Sr. in several movies, directed this piece. This film is highly atmospheric with a Gothic set and influenced by German Expressionism. Lugosi was brilliant with his authentic Hungarian accent and menacing presence. His performance and voice set the standard for the image of Dracula and vampires for decades to come. Dracula was a sensation and terrified people; today’s audience would probably find it slow and not at all frightening, but that reflects our jaded views that have been glutted with gore as the staple ingredient of contemporary horror.  This film depended on story telling, atmosphere, and acting. The film’s success created an era of classic horror films through the 1930s and part of the 1940s with Universal studios leading the way.

Additionally, Dracula is generally accepted by most film critics as one of the best horror films made.  I certainly consider it to be one of the best and most important.

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It is an interesting and little known detail of film history that in addition to the English language version, Universal also made a Spanish language film at the same time.  The  two films shared the same sets, and the same basic scripts, but with different actors and a different director: George Melford directed, and Carlos Villarías stared as Dracula.  While not as well known, an argument can be made that this is a better film than the more established English language version.  If you ever have the opportunity to see it, I recommend that you do.

MY FAVORITE HORROR FILMS: PART 3: THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI

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In this post, I will continue my series on favorite horror films, now focusing specifically on movies of the 1920s.

Another  brilliant horror movie of the 1920s is Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — The German title is Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari — (1920). The plot of the film centers on a mad scientist, Dr. Caligari, a hypnotist, played by Werner Krauss, who exploits a sleepwalker, Cesare, played by Conrad Veidt, to commit murder. It is one of the earliest horror movies and ushers in a decade of greatness in film-making, especially in German cinema.

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The true power of the film is in its cinematic style, that of German Expressionism, which is based on the artistic movement of the same name. German Expressionism uses sharp angles, deep shadows, heavy use of darks and lights, and distorted forms to explore the psychological impact of visual images. In this art, the world is often not as it seems to be, and the artists explore distortions that lurk under the surface of apparent normalcy. What is perceived is often deeply disturbing and challenging.

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Weine employs these revolutionary cinematic techniques to disorient, frighten, and interrogate the audience. Cesare is a common man, forced by an arrogant authority to become a murderer, which is clearly a commentary on the dark forces at play in Europe in the early parts of the 20th Century, some suggested by contemporary writers. As Weine suggests, the mass of people in Europe would, in the coming decades, be manipulated into creating the horror of Nazism and the Holocaust. I am not claiming that Weine somehow could see into the future, but that he perceived the traumas occurring in Europe, and those distortions appear in his film. Like Weine, other writers, such as Franz Kafka, also saw such coming disturbances.

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While only some of Franz Kafka’s brilliant and disturbing literary works had been published at this point–“Metamorphosis” (1915)– is the best example, Kafka’s treatment of the darkness and alienation in society could be an influence on this movie. While it is not certain, I believe it is the case. Regardless of if this is true or not, Weine creates a deeply disturbing movie, one that maintains its power to this day, one that I recommend for all lovers of film.

Favorite Gothic and Horror Novels: Part One: Dracula

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I have ready many books over the course of my life, and books have become a central part of who I am. I read books for pleasure, for study, and for examination. I teach books in my literature classes at Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College, I write about them in scholarly work, and I write novels. As I was considering the topic for this post about Gothic and Horror novels, I knew almost immediately which book I should begin with.

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I have spoken of Dracula before in a series about books that have influenced me the most, but in this series, I will focus on those that are Gothic and Horror, which is fitting, given the upcoming holiday of Halloween.

So many come to mind and are possibilities for discussion;  among these novels are Dracula,  Frankenstein Dr. Jekyll and MrHyde, Carmilla, The Shining, Interview With The Vampire, and many others. I hope to cover these and other books during this series.

Today, I will focus on Dracula and what its influence on me was and is. This was one of the first Gothic novels I had read, and its power caught me immediately. I was a youngster, probably 12 years old, when I first read this novel, and I was drawn to the images of dark castles, terrible villains, and the supernatural. This book helped to set me on a path both of study and writing from that point to today.  That I love Gothic is still clear, because not only do I teach Gothic literature, but also I write it.

Dracula, however, had a much deeper impact on me that simply the horror aspect; I was drawn to the idea of the need for good people to oppose evil.  It is a theme that, on the surface, might seem simplistic, but a person need only look at the history of the 20th Century into our contemporary time to see that evil does exist, especially in the form of people who would oppress, torment, exclude, and bully others. Of course, I am not making an argument that the supernatural evil in this novel exists, but that human evil certainly does.  The Nazis demonstrated that human horror in its full capacity, and Putin continues to show that face of human evil.

In this book, a fellowship of human beings is created, and they decide to fight a creature, an ancient vampire, that is far more powerful than anything they could have imagined, and they do so at the risk of their lives.  This act of defending others, even if the people do the battle are put at risk, became a central part of my ethos.  There will always be those who would bully and oppress others, and they must always be opposed.  While in early high school, Dracula helped to form that idea in my mind.

Dracula is a far more complex book than many in the academic world give it credit for being, and it is one that I recommend highly. If you have not yet read Stoker’s brilliant book and you love horror, then you should read it!

Are there any horror novels that you love? I would certainly enjoy hearing from you.

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Book Banning Quotations

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“I hate it that Americans are taught to fear some books and some ideas as though they were diseases.”

                                                                     Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

 

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“Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.”

                                                                     Judy Blume

 

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“Censorship and the suppression of reading materials are rarely about family values and almost always about control, about who is snapping the whip, who is saying no, and who is saying go. Censorship’s bottom line is this: if the novel Christine offends me, I don’t want just to make sure it’s kept from my kid; I want to make sure it’s kept from your kid, as well, and all the kids. This bit of intellectual arrogance, undemocratic and as old as time, is best expressed this way: “If it’s bad for me and my family, it’s bad for everyone’s family.”

Yet when books are run out of school classrooms and even out of school libraries as a result of this idea, I’m never much disturbed not as a citizen, not as a writer, not even as a schoolteacher . . . which I used to be. What I tell kids is, Don’t get mad, get even. Don’t spend time waving signs or carrying petitions around the neighborhood. Instead, run, don’t walk, to the nearest nonschool library or to the local bookstore and get whatever it was that they banned. Read whatever they’re trying to keep out of your eyes and your brain, because that’s exactly what you need to know.”

                                                                                 Stephen King

 

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“Reading what you wish and maintaining the right to choose what to read is a fundamental requirement for democracy and freedom. Censorship must always be opposed, and books need to be read by those who wish to read them.”                                                                                                                  Charles F French

Banned Books Week 2022

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This week, from September 18 through September 24of 2022 is National Banned Books Week. Book banning and censorship is a crucial issue that should unite readers and writers. Throughout the world and humanity’s history, governments, churches, and other institutions have banned or attempted to ban and censor books.

Most of us are familiar with the images from Nazi Germany in which thousands of books were burned by the Fascists. All banning, however, is not so explicit. Sometimes in the United States of America, books are challenged, especially in the context of not being allowed to be taught in the classroom.

I oppose all such censorship. As a writer, it is an obscenity; as a teacher, it is an imposition of chosen ignorance; as a reader, it is an intolerable abomination. We must unite and oppose book banning, in all of its forms.

Fight for your freedom to choose what to read.

Here are several important links about this issue:

Banned Books Week

American Library Association

I will later, this week, in honor of this important cause put out another call for readers to become part of my unofficial group that opposes censorship–The Underground Library Society, The U. L. S.

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In the meantime, I ask all of you this question: what is a book that has been banned or challenged that you love?

I choose To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

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Welcome Fall, and Happy Mabon!

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The beginning of fall has arrived, and I am delighted! This is my favorite season of the year, followed by winter! I know many will disagree with my love of winter, but I hope you do enjoy the autumn season.

So I wish you all a happy Fall Equinox and a happy Mabon, the Celtic/Wiccan/Druidic celebration. Decorate your homes, talk a walk, and when the crisp weather sets in, go outside and breath deeply.

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I love the foods of fall and the wearing of sweaters, flannels, and sweatshirts, not to mention ice hockey! The colors of autumn fill me with happiness. This is a joyous season.

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By the way, if you are worried, there is NOTHING Satanic about this celebration. Wiccans and Druids do not recognize the existence of Satan, so if you are Christian, please welcome this season also!

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