It was Easter Sunday 1969 and I was a boy. My parents had staged an Easter egg hunt in our garden, and I was searching beneath a cherry tree, inside the dog’s kennel, and eventually also in our tiny grove of lilacs. And that’s where I found it, covered with branches and leaves: a single record in a black sleeve. The center of the sleeve read “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” by The Beatles. I rushed into the house, turned the record player to 45 rpm, and put it on. I must have listened to the song a dozen times. Then, finally, I turned the record over and tried the B-side. That was the moment they had me. I fell in love with The Beatles.
It goes without saying that the Germans’ unrivalled fascination with the Native people of North America is not exactly a well-kept secret. Case in point: the annual Karl May Festivals in Bad Segeberg and Elspe. But I’ve always wondered whether this fascination might be mutual. Spoiler alert: It is.
In 2017, Anishnawbe writer Drew Hayden Taylor set out in search of Winnetou. What he found ranged from the amusing to the unsettling. In other words, the perfect material for his documentary film, Searching for Winnetou, where the fine line between appropriation and appreciation becomes a bit blurred. Curious about the making of? Then click on our exclusive interview with the writer. Read more »
Erich Mühsam (1878-1934) was a German-Jewish antimilitarist anarchist essayist, poet, and playwright. I can check most of those boxes. I tried anarchy in my 20s; it didn’t fit. And while my maternal grandparents were German, I started life in New Jersey.
Since 2003, I have maintained my writing office, research library, and a small performance space in the same building in Berlin where Mühsam worked and lived with his wife Zenzl. Alt-Lietzow 12. There is a plaque dedicated to Mühsam beneath my window. His spirit is everywhere here. He sat where I sit. Climbed the steps I climb. Feared what I fear.
Nature doesn’t really care whether there are human beings or not. I’m sorry to break this to you. – Margaret Atwood
I’m not sure what I need to comment on first – the bloem or that wry, newsflashy quote. Let’s start off with the easy things first – the quote. Canadian environmental activist and contemporary Scheherazade, Margaret Atwood, really knows how to drive her point home and reverse perspectives. Isn’t it utterly refreshing to hear Nature’s point-of-view? Although She may not care about our existence, we should definitely be concerned about Hers – especially on Her special day – April 22 – a.k.a. Earth Day!
Now you might be wondering what a bloem is or maybe you’ve already guessed by now that it’s a portmanteau or a blend – a word formed by clipping two words and then merging them: blog + poem = bloem. If you ask me, it’s quite a simple equation and an appropriate tribute to World Book Day, which happens to be on April 23. If you’re interested in words, literature, the future of books, and their connection to the environment – for there is one – then you are cordially invited to sample my bloem, “The Future of the Library: The Future Library,” which serves as an appetizer for the main course, an interview with Margaret Atwood about this fascinating literary and environmental project.
One week before Christmas and no gift in sight?
Allow me to assist you out of your plight
For who really wants one more thoughtless gift?
Doomed to be piled on the re-gifting snowdrift
So why not create a story to tweet
In 140 characters – short and sweet
Well, actually in 280 characters or less as Twitter has recently doubled its tweet length. No Twitter account or money is required – just a bit of time. There’s no reason to fall under the glamour of the pre-holiday commercialization craze. All you need is a seed for a story that you can let grow and trim back into shape. You can do the old-school thing and write or type it on a decorative piece of paper. Then just stuff it into a little stocking. Of course, you can text or WhatsApp your gift of twiction as well. In search of ideas? Then take a peek at some of the twiction from my creative writing students.
What is it like to grow up in an Old Order Amish community? Can the allure of tradition and a sense of belonging to such a community override the longing for freedom and the opportunity to experience the great wide world? This unrelenting push and pull between secure Amish community life and the tempting siren song of the outside world have shaped ex-Amish author and blogger, Ira Wagler. In his best-selling memoir, Growing Up Amish, the author offers his readers an honest, bittersweet, and moving account of how he left the Amish, only to return and eventually leave for good.
As one of the guest speakers at the Plain People Conference, Ira Wagler gave a heartfelt talk as well as read excerpts from his memoir about coming of age and his first love, Sarah Miller. But why don’t you listen for yourself?