All the Stories That We (Were) Told

By Nora Benitt

Pixar’s Rules of Sto­ry­telling by Pro­found Whatever

Life writ­ing – which includes a wide spec­trum of sub-gen­res such as (auto)biography, mem­oir, let­ter, diary, (dig­i­tal) life sto­ries, and oral his­to­ries – has a long tra­di­tion in the U.S. and is becom­ing more and more pop­u­lar all over the world. An abun­dance of arti­facts com­piled by famous, semi-famous, and not-at-all-famous peo­ple fill pub­lic libraries, pri­vate book­shelves, research cen­ters, social media, hard dri­ves, and web­sites. And that’s actu­al­ly not even sur­pris­ing since writ­ing and/or talk­ing about our­selves is a deeply root­ed cul­tur­al prac­tice and comes very nat­u­ral­ly to most human beings. We do it all the time: We tell a sig­nif­i­cant some­one how our day was, we put togeth­er our résumé when apply­ing for a new job, we talk about child­hood mem­o­ries with sib­lings or a close friend. How­ev­er, talk­ing and writ­ing about our­selves in an aca­d­e­m­ic con­text and, to boot, in a for­eign lan­guage is a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent story.

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Homeschooling and the Pandemic

By Mukta Dharmapurikar, Johanna Eichler, and Aaron Ming Meyer

While her neigh­bors rush down the street to catch the school bus, 14-year-old Lilah Had­den starts her school day at home. After spend­ing the morn­ing on math and cre­ative writ­ing with her moth­er, she takes a vio­lin class online, fin­ish­ing her day with inde­pen­dent read­ing. For two years now, home­school­ing has worked well for her. “I’m get­ting to … learn more of what I actu­al­ly want to learn about,” Lilah says, not­ing that she’s par­tic­u­lar­ly pas­sion­ate about music. But if it weren’t for the pan­dem­ic, the idea to school at home would nev­er have crossed her mind.

Covid-19 forced stu­dents around the globe to learn with­out phys­i­cal­ly going to school, as entire states and coun­tries went through long peri­ods of lock­down. It’s sparked new inter­est in home­school­ing alter­na­tives in places rang­ing from Des Moines, Iowa, to Ham­burg, Ger­many, where home­school­ing has been banned for over a cen­tu­ry. Stu­dents have dis­cov­ered that alter­na­tive school arrange­ments can offer more flex­i­bil­i­ty to man­age dif­fer­ences, pan­dem­ic stress, and distractions.

Home­school­ing — Gustoff fam­i­ly in Des Moines

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How to Break a Bookworm’s Heart

By Sara Cepollina

Michael Fass­ben­der, Marisa Tomei, and Alexan­dra Dad­dario: What do these three actors have in common?

You may not know all of them, but what you need to know is that they’ve all played a char­ac­ter from a book or a com­ic, and that they don’t look like their book-alikes at all! For some peo­ple, this may not be rel­e­vant, but for book fans, who’ve lived side-by side with their fic­tion­al char­ac­ters, it’s high­ly impor­tant that an actor who some­what resem­bles the pro­tag­o­nist in the book plays the role. I’m an avid read­er, and when­ev­er the rights to one of my favourite books are bought, I begin to think about the per­fect actor who would best fit the role.

“Jane” is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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A World Where Science and Indigenous Wisdom Collide: Some Food for Thought on Earth Day

By Savita Joshi

Robin Wall Kimmerer’s pres­ence is mag­net­ic. Step­ping out to the podi­um at the 2014 Bioneers Con­fer­ence – an annu­al forum for top­ics like cli­mate change and human rights – her sil­ver hair hangs loose­ly, fram­ing a pair of leather ear­rings dec­o­rat­ed with small pink flow­ers. She greets the crowd with a large smile, and when she speaks, the room falls silent and the audi­ence lis­tens closely:

“Let us begin today with grat­i­tude … of food to eat, of sweet air to breathe this morn­ing, the pre­cious­ness of water, the com­pan­ion­ship of clouds, and geese, and sug­ar maples. Grat­i­tude for each oth­er, for the priv­i­lege of our work togeth­er, and for the orig­i­nal peo­ples in whose home­land we meet, and for the more-than-human beings with whom we share the earth.”

Such poet­ic and ten­der, prayer-like words come as a sur­prise for some when they real­ize that these are the words of a sci­en­tist and professor.

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The Mesmerizing and Alienating Experience Called Mulholland Drive

By Mahsa Pakzad

Have you ever felt like not watch­ing movies for a while just because you saw one that’s so damn good you knew watch­ing any­thing else after it would just dis­ap­point you? This is the spell that Mul­hol­land Dri­ve has cast on me.

David Lynch’s 2001 movie was cho­sen by a BBC poll as the best of the 21st cen­tu­ry, yet for me, it’s more than that. For me, it’s the def­i­n­i­tion of art. Maybe that makes me too much of a New For­mal­ist, but I do believe that what counts in a work of art is not the ‘what’ but the ‘how’. Lynch takes what could sim­ply be a les­bian love sto­ry and explores its oth­er dimen­sions – jeal­ousy, tox­i­c­i­ty, rival­ry, and betray­al – while at the same time inter­twin­ing it with a Hol­ly­wood dream. Though this is fas­ci­nat­ing, it’s not what sets it apart. What ‘does’ set it apart is how Lynch tells this sto­ry in the form of an unnerv­ing, haunt­ing, sur­re­al­is­tic, Freudi­an mystery/thriller.

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Taking Peace for Granted

By Michael Lederer

Pho­to Cred­it: Michael Led­er­er | Pho­to of Genia Chef’s “The Great Game,” oil on can­vas, 2013 (frag­ment)

It’s so easy to take peace for grant­ed, when we have it.

In my 2012 book, The Great Game: Berlin-War­saw Express and Oth­er Sto­ries, the char­ac­ter Cal, an Amer­i­can writer liv­ing in Berlin, com­mits the sin of lament­ing peace as dull. Board­ing the train for War­saw at Zoo sta­tion, look­ing out his win­dow as the Reich­stag and Bran­den­burg Gate slip by, he reflects on how “con­crete, barbed wire and gun tur­rets had been replaced by a cur­ry­wurst stand, shoe stores, and oth­er unre­mark­able trap­pings of the every­day. Every­thing looked so nor­mal, as if peo­ple had nev­er argued let alone fought here. The grave­yard of com­mu­nism and fas­cism looked beau­ti­ful with its flow­ers and its riv­er in the sunshine.”

But Cal – named for his safe, priv­i­leged, native Cal­i­for­nia – was frus­trat­ed. “The banal­i­ty of today’s pros­per­i­ty be damned,” he thought. “‘Orson Welles was right about the cuck­oo clocks.’ On this day, Cal was not inter­est­ed in sun­shine, flow­ers and rivers. He want­ed shad­ows, smoke and bas­tards. He want­ed danger.”

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