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    The 28th annual GLAAD Media Awards occurred over the weekend and there was no shortage of celebrity star power on the red carpet. For the uninitiated, “the GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community and the issues that affect their lives.” At the ceremony, held at the Beverly Hilton, shows like Blackish, Modern Family, and Transparent were among the many that were nominated for the work in outstanding visibility among marginalized groups.

    Talent wore blue “&” pins for GLAAD’s Together campaign – representing GLAAD’s work on intersectional issues including immigration, racial justice, women’s rights, and LGBTQ acceptance. Rebecca Sugar passionately expressed, “I am excited that audiences are demanding compelling stories.” Those stories are not in short supply.

    Our Lady J, writer of the Amazon Original series Transparent, stated that, “The only way to move past hatred is to move forward through the heart.” Heading into its fourth season, Transparent was the recipient of the GLAAD Outstanding Comedy Series award this weekend and promises to deliver powerful stories and performances.

    Joining the cause, Moonlight continued making waves in Hollywood. Winning the award for Outstanding Film — Wide Release, Moonlight racked up another great honor. On visibility, Tarell Alvin McCraney, writer of Moonlight, stated “There are nuances to conversations that we need to have...there are young people who are having that conversation and want to create and see works that represent them in that way.”

    Following is a complete list of GLAAD Media Award recipients announced Saturday in Los Angeles. Additional awards will be presented in New York at the New York Hilton Midtown on May 6.

    • Vanguard Award: Patricia Arquette  (presented by Luke Perry and Jeffrey Tambor)

    • Stephen F. Kolzak Award: Troye Sivan (presented by Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Tranter)

    • Outstanding Film – Wide Release: Moonlight (A24) [accepted by: Tarell Alvin McCraney and Trevante Rhodes

    • Outstanding Drama Series: Shadowhunters (Freeform) [accepted by: Matthew Daddario and Harry Shum Jr.]

    • Outstanding Comedy Series: Transparent (Amazon) [accepted by: creator Jill Soloway with stars Alexandra Billings, Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, and Trace Lysette, and producers Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst]

    • Outstanding Film Limited Release: Other People (Vertical Entertainment

    • Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series: Eyewitness (USA Network)

    • Outstanding Individual Episode: “San Junipero” Black Mirror (Netflix)

    • Outstanding Daily Drama: The Bold and The Beautiful (CBS)

    • Outstanding Comic Book: The Woods, written by James Tynion IV (BOOM! Studios)

    The 2017 GLAAD Media Awards will air on Logo on April 6 at 10 PM ET/PT, after the world broadcast premiere of Strike A Pose. Additional awards will be presented at the GLAAD Media Awards event at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on Saturday, May 6.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    Despite the irony, Donald Trump has officially declared April to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The unfortunate reality is this month is needed because sexual violence and abuse still play a major role in societies across the globe. Just this week, The New York Times dropped a report detailing Bill O’Reilly’s history of settling sexual harassment accusations out of court and President Trump came to his defense. We’re only one week into the month…

    It’s clear movements like Sexual Assault Awareness Month are needed. The reality of rape culture can’t be denied and misunderstandings around consent are prevalent on university campuses across the country. Consent is above all else the most important thing in sexual encounters.

    Lack of consent leads to sexual assault. If you are planning on touching another person’s body in any way, you NEED to ask for consent first. Consent is the sexy and endearing key to sexual encounters. Need some convincing? Steve Shives’ new video highlights the five awesome things about consent.

    1. It’s Empowering: Consent means you get to decide. Respect consent and empower other people to control their lives in private and intimate circumstances.

    2. It’s Affirmative: Consent should be enthusiastic. It does not mean “not no.” Consent should be something both parties are excited about. It shouldn’t be a collective shrug.

    3. It Can Be Given Or Revoked At Will: You’re well within your right to grant consent or revoke it at any time. If you’re not comfortable, say so.

    4. It Allows Everyone Involved To Have A Good Time: Consent isn’t an obstacle you have to overcome. With consent, things are safe, clear, and no one feels pressure to perform outside of their comfort zone.

    5. It Keeps You From Becoming A Rapist: no explanation needed here.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    What does it mean to be fully human, and what is it worth? It is difficult to quantify the value of the humanities, but we know that investment there yields a big bang for the soul and for the buck. In the current cost-cutting climate, the value—indeed, the very existence—of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has been called into question, though it costs the average American 50 cents a year.

    One local beneficiary of the NEH is the Kansas Humanities Council (KHC), with its 45-year track record of strengthening civic life. In 2016, KHC provided over 700 free programs to nearly 400,000 people in all 6 sections of the state. The benefit in terms of education, history, and culture is immeasurable, but the real crop KHC grows is community.

    KHC’s Poet Laureate of Kansas program, adopted in 2013 from the Kansas Arts Commission, is one of our nation’s 44 state poet laureateships. These programs point to poetry’s ability to explore essential values in an age of distraction. Poetry helps us find common ground and develop greater understanding of our shared home, from the tallgrass prairies of the Flint Hills to the windy high plains.

    As poets laureate, we’ve crisscrossed the state many times, dodging blizzards and tornados to talk with fellow Kansans about things that matter. We averaged 50 public appearances a year—some at colleges, high schools, and grade schools, but most at small-town libraries and community centers. Anyone who thinks of poetry as elitist should ride along with us to Colby (pop. 5,387), or Kinsley (1,457), or Glasco (498), and see how many farmers, miners, nurses, children, and retirees fill up rooms.

    Having a poet laureate costs Kansas taxpayers almost nothing (the modest travel stipend we receive is paid for entirely by private donors), but the position could not exist without the tireless support of the Kansas Humanities Council, providing staff and resources to help us reach new audiences, particularly in underserved and isolated areas. KHC supports the state economy, bringing people together—often across great distances—which in turn bolsters hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses.

    Our state poet laureate program has a national reputation for excellence. We have organized conferences that brought dozens of other state poets and hundreds of participants to Kansas. We’ve published regular columns in newspapers statewide and produced award-winning anthologies featuring hundreds of writers for thousands of readers. Our thriving regional literary scene led the Association of Writers & Writing Programs to bring its 2020 conference—one of the biggest writers conferences on Earth, drawing some 13,000 attendees from around the world—to the Kansas City area.

    We believe in poetry as deep literacy—an experience that engages mind, emotion, body, and spirit. We also believe in Kansas, and the essential work of our superb state humanities council and our national treasure, the National Endowment for the Humanities. Please do all you can—contacting legislators especially—to ensure their continuation for the good of us all.

    Eric McHenry, Poet Laureate of Kansas, 2015-17

    Wyatt Townley, Poet Laureate of Kansas, 2013-15

    Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Poet Laureate of Kansas, 2009-2013

    Denise Low, Poet Laureate of Kansas, 2007-09

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    President Trump’s proposal to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and other arts-related organization is not only a blow to the cultural climate of our nation but also would be a serious threat to economic and job growth. According to a 2015 study by the Department of Commerce, total arts and cultural products and services output was over $1 trillion annually, contributing $700 million to the nation’s economy – or nearly 5% of all U.S. goods and services.

    Approximately 5 million Americans are employed in arts and culture-related jobs in television and film, publishing, music, video gaming, fashion, graphic design, advertising and related fields. In Southern California, approximately one in every three new jobs are in arts-related fields. Creative products and services are a fast-growing area, and one of the few where the United States is a leading exporter.

    Organizations like the NEA are an important contributor to economic growth not only by supporting creative endeavors, but even more importantly, by inspiring younger generations to pursue creative careers. Countless numbers of boys and girls who are exposed to the performing arts, music, design, fashion, video gaming and other creative expression will pursue careers in arts and culture and will contribute to the economic growth of our nation.

    Considering the important contribution of the creative industry to economic growth and job creation, the funding for the NEA ($150 million annually) is a pittance. Compare the small NEA budget with the much larger annual security expenditures for President Trump’s weekend trips to Mar-A-Lago and Melania Trump’s decision to live in the Trump Tower rather than the White House.

    The Republicans in Congress have long singled out the NEA for its cultural elitism, most of the agency’s programs are focused on bringing arts and cultural in all forms to broad and diverse segments of the population and exposing young people to the enormous possibilities of creative endeavors. What few people talk about is the tremendous contribution that the creative industries make to the economic growth and vitality of our nation.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    If you didn’t know, April is National Poetry Month. It’s a time to highlight the impact poetry can have on our lives. An impact that can’t be understated. Don’t believe us? This video from Cassaundra Sampson will remind you that love trumps hate, art changes lives, and that America is great.

    We’re more woke when we listen to one another. So take Cassaundra’s example and listen to her words. Don’t give in to hate. Speak to one another and share love, share poetry, and share knowledge.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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  • 04/05/17--15:28: High Noon -- Happening Now
  • When in despair with the fortune of our country, I began reading High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic, by Glenn Frankel. His thesis is that Carl Foreman, the screenwriter, created High Noon as a parable about how he was abandoned by friends and community when he stood up to the House Un-American Activities Committee for what he believed in—freedom of thought and speech.

    I was surprised to learn that when the Blacklist arose in the late ‘40s and ‘50s, a Democrat, Harry Truman, was President, we had a democratic Congress, and a liberal majority on the Supreme Court. Yet people were being forced to sign loyalty oaths to keep their jobs, and friends were harassed and pressured by HUAC to turn against friends, naming them as former Communists and causing them to lose their ability to work.

    Fear that Communists would take over the U.S. was so intense that many in government and the film business were willing to trounce on the liberties of others, often to save their own jobs.

    The similarity to the present is obvious. As Frankel writes, “Conservatives who had resisted the growth of the federal government…(under FDR) joined forces with embittered working-class populists who felt excluded from their share of prosperity.” They believed, Frankel continues, that “usurpers—liberals, Jews, and Communists in those days; gays, Muslims, and undocumented immigrants today—had stolen their country, and…they were determined to claw it back.”

     Yet in time, the country had recovered, tried to right some of the wrongs that had been committed, and stumbled on.

    Reading this was a tonic for the malaise I felt. I was sick of talking about politics, sick of being glued to the news—all Trump all the time. Sick of feeling worried and helpless, sick of emails asking me to sign petitions and donate funds for efforts that did not accomplish much.

    I began to seek refuge in music and books. I started binge reading as I never had before, four or five books at a time, downloading them on Kindle, listening on Audible, and reading weathered paperbacks like Gore Vidal’s Lincoln. It’s been a joy, and I’d like to tell you about some of the books that have succeeded in carrying me to alternate worlds.

    HIGH NOON. The book glides back and forth between the making of the film and the reign of terror conducted by HUAC, which resulted in the Blacklist. I was in junior high in L.A. at the height of the Blacklist, and had only a dim understanding of what was going on. My mother had a friend, though, whose sister was the wife of Carl Foreman, but I did not realize how masterful a writer he was or the torture he’d been put through.

    I remember that when my father drove me to U.C. Berkeley for my freshman year, his parting words were: “Don’t sign anything, and be careful what you join. I’ve seen how these things can come back later to hurt you and ruin your life.” What was he talking about? It was the Sixties, and I would soon be joining demonstrations for civil rights, marching around the Sheraton-Palace in San Francisco to demand that the hotel hire Negroes.

    Would I have joined the Communist party if I’d been young in the 1930’s, appalled by the Depression that put masses in the streets, jobless and hungry? Probably. Young people like Foreman and his wife, Estelle, who were idealistic liberals, were drawn to Karl Marx’s concept of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Later they became disillusioned and dropped out of the party, as did most on the Blacklist, but that wasn’t enough to clear them with HUAC. They were required to “name names” of people they’d known who’d been Communists in their youth.

    Would I have caved if called by HUAC, to protect my career? I’d like to think not, but I don’t believe that’s possible to know. Frankel’s book shows how people struggled with what to do, given poor options. Some took one road and others took the opposite. Foreman refused to cooperate with the committee, while Stanley Kramer, the film’s producer and a well-known liberal, tried to work with HUAC and cut Foreman from the film.

    Anyone who loves movies will be spurred, as I was, to watch High Noon again, to see Gary Cooper, as the town sheriff, making the walk to the train station alone, abandoned by his wife, friends and the entire town, who want him to run. But Cooper knows he must stay and face the four gunmen determined to kill him for sending their leader to jail.

    Although I knew how this would end, watching it on film left me awed and speechless. It’s clear why High Noon is taught in film schools around the world. But there were so many hurdles and conflicts in the production that no one who worked on it—especially the studio that funded it—expected the film to do well, let alone become a classic.     

    Decades later, Stanley Kramer told an interviewer that a film can have the highest quality ingredients—outstanding script, actors, director, music—“and you put the whole thing together, and you see it, and you couldn’t care less. Then a film comes along that has a kind of driving spine to it, that makes everything fizz. Wow! It terribly excites you. Now that kind of chemistry happened in High Noon.”

    NEWS OF THE WORLD, by Paulette Jiles. I downloaded the book after reading positive reviews, and was enchanted by the characters, the story, and the writing. Jiles was a poet before she wrote novels, and her exquisite voice and sweeping rhythm pulled me through this tale.

    In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Kidd, a retired officer in his sixties, travels from town to town in rural Texas, reading aloud from newspapers he collects from faraway places, to audiences who are starved for news of the world.

    At the opening, Kidd meets a 10-year-old girl, Johanna, who was kidnaped four years earlier by Kiowa Indians after they’d killed the rest of her family. She’s been “returned” to the U.S. army as part of a treaty, and the captain is enlisted to transport her to the home of cousins in San Antonio, 400 miles away. Johanna is angry and rebellious, with no memory of English or her name, and no wish to be “returned” to people she’s never met. It’s a forced road trip, by wagon, and I’ll say no more, except that when the book ended, I missed the characters and the Old West, in which I’d lived for two weeks, terribly.

    PACHINKO, by Min Jin Lee. The novel opens in 1910 in a fishing village in Korea. A teenage girl, Sunja, who works with her mother in their small boarding house, falls in love with a handsome and wealthy fish buyer from Japan. When she becomes pregnant, he tells her that he’s married with three daughters, but will set her up in her own house and support her and the child.

    The girl refuses, withdrawing in shame, but a missionary staying at the boarding house offers to marry her and raise the child as his own. He brings Sunja, the son she bears, and her mother to Japan, where Koreans are considered dirty and face harsh discrimination. The son’s biological father, the fish buyer, secretly keeps track of the family and helps them survive during World War II.

    Faced with limited options in Japan, Sunja cooks and sells kimchi in the open market, while men in the family find jobs in Pachinko parlors, where their hard work, although shady, eventually brings success and material comfort.

    Lee follows the family through four generations, and we come to love and suffer with all the new members of the family, each of whom is unique.

    Lee’s first novel, Free Food for Millionaires, was an acclaimed best seller, and Pachinko was named by Amazon a “Best Book of February, 2017.” I would agree.

    SIGN UP to receive future posts from Sara Davidson.

    What Books have you loved? I’m eager to hear you recommendations. Please let everyone know by leaving a COMMENT below.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    I hear (read!) wedding photographers chatting amongst themselves on social media and when I notice the same topics come up time and time again, I write a blog post about it.

    Because there's zero point in wedding professionals banging on about how brides and grooms 'just don't get it' when you’re planning on doing this only once in your life and you've never been told.

    You don't know what you don't know, right?

    So here are some of the hot-button subjects and real-life expert tips to help you communicate with your wedding photographer and in the end, to get better photos!

    Preparation and Planning


    When choosing your bridal party, make sure it’s made up of guys and gals who are not only your nearest and dearest but those who are attentive, helpful and resourceful.

    It may sound obvious but, with all of the goings on during a wedding day these guys are invaluable, not only to you, but to your photographer as well. You’ll be so appreciative of those who will put you and your needs front and centre of their minds throughout the day.

    Zoe of Zoe Campbell Photography


    Get ready in an uncluttered or sparsely furnished room/house with LOTS of natural light.

    Your photos will look better and, when a dozen family, friends and suppliers arrive, it will FEEL more relaxed (see above!)

    Wes from Wes Beelders Photography


    Ask your parents to have a quick look over your photo list prior to the big day, just in case you've accidently overlooked an important family member or combination that you may regret later.

    Natasha Botheras and Susan Callow from Teahouse Studios


    Find a photographer who you fall in love with - who you would catch up for coffee with on a whim, just to chat. Because that person is going to witness and capture some of the most important, intimate moments of your life to date.

    If you have a photographer who you feel uncomfortable around (even if you love their work!) your photos will reflect this; you won't look comfortable in your photos. If you don't 'click', your photos won't either and you will more than likely end up disappointed.

    Wedding photographers are people with big hearts who invest a lot in you and your day - we just want to love you! So, without a comfortable connection, nobody wins.

    Rachael of Rachael Elizabeth Photography


    Don’t over do it on your wedding day and give yourself plenty of time to plan everything.

    My husband and I gave ourselves 12 weeks (in peak wedding season) to plan our special day and whilst everything turned out okay, I ended up doing far more than I should have on the day to make it all come together.

    Because of our lack of lead time, most of the suppliers that we wanted to work with were already booked for other weddings so I took on the role of doing makeup, flowers and music together with styling and decorating myself and leant heavily on our family and bridal party for help too. It ended up being very hectic and I wasn’t able to sit down with my family and bridesmaids before the ceremony and just enjoy a glass of champagne or be spoilt and pampered having my makeup done etc. Instead I was running around like a maniac and no one should be doing that on their wedding day.

    Let others do that for you, hire the right people to make you feel special and just relax and enjoy the day for what it is, a beautiful celebration.

    If you can get your hair and makeup people to come to you at the one location, that’s a huge stress reliever too. The less driving around between locations you have to do on the day, the better for you.

    Emma of Emma Sharkey Photography



    The day goes so very fast so, to keep a more relaxed vibe on your day, allow a little extra time, just to soak it all in, and reduce the rush.

    It might seem like there is a lot of time between tasks; like getting ready and getting to the ceremony or moving on afterwards for photos - but there is always room for more!

    Deb of Deb Saunders Photography


    Take time to consult with your photographer about the practical timing for your day and listen to their advice. 

    I start working with my couples at least 6 -12 months out from their wedding date to ensure that no element is rushed and stressed. Your photographer, having attended and documented many weddings, will be able to guide you on timings but also just as importantly timing for beautiful light.

    It's both the moment AND the light that make your images.

    Emma of Emma Sharkey Photography


    Putting your dress on at least an hour before you're due to leave means that you'll have some time for bridal portraits - just you and your photographer - like a model photo shoot.

    It's your big day and you've put so much time and energy into planning your hair, makeup and dress; you look amazing. Ask your family and friends to leave the room and pose for some fine art-style portraits.

    These are the shots that you, your husband/wife, your children and grandchildren will look back on for many years to come so make the time to enjoy the process.

    Jewel of Jewel Chenoweth Photography


    It may seem obvious, but keep in mind that the more attendants you have (bridesmaids, groomsmen, flowergirls and pageboys), the more time you need to account for to do everything!

    More people means that it takes more time to organise them, more time/space to get ready, more time to get in and out of cars, and even going to the loo!

    Deb of Deb Saunders Photography

    Photographer Insider Tips


    No, I can't just photoshop them in/out and that's not what you're hiring me for.

    As a photojournalist, my job is to capture the story of your wedding day - how it unfolds, your emotions and the details.

    I won't change the colour of your wedding flowers in every shot, I won't remove that family member and I won't make you thinner in all of your wedding gallery.

    The things you think I can 'just photoshop' are more in line with magazine-level editing that costs thousands of dollars. But over and above that - this is you and this is your wedding day, for better or worse this is how it all happened. Embrace it and yourself and you'll love your wedding photos too.

    Jewel of Jewel Chenoweth Photography


    You don't want to receive every single photo that is taken on your wedding day - trust us.

    For example, you don't want the blinks, the unflattering ones, someone yawning etc. Please trust your photographer to give you a great series of images that showcases the best of your big day in all its beauty.

    Natasha Botheras and Susan Callow from Teahouse Studios


    Listen to your photographer's instructions.

    I know it may seem weird when you're asked to put your hand there, or tilt your head like that, but trust us, once you see the shot you'll understand: it's going to look awesome!

    Vicki from PeopleBooth


    Please understand that talking excessively while we're trying to shoot portraits means that the camera is capturing your lips moving.

    In deliberate, natural 'chatty' shots, that's awesome. But in more styled, artistic or family photos, it makes them very difficult to edit and look natural.

    Lori from Photos Xposed Photography


    It's important to work out ahead of time what you will do at the conclusion of your ceremony, after you have been announced.

    Are you going to head straight up the aisle and be showered with rose petals or will you greet your immediate family in the front row first? Whichever you decide, you want your photographers to be positioned and ready to capture the moment.

    Fiona from Two Tell A Tale


    Consider sending your bridal party off for a drink half way through the afternoon photo session.

    Now it's just the two of you and your photographer, and two things happen: 1, you get some quiet time together for the first time all day, and 2, the photos become something more magical. You can relax and focus on each other and what you've just been through.

    The photos show so much more connection! Bingo!!

    Pete of What Pete Shot


    Give us a good length first kiss ― just long enough to get the shot.

    I know not everyone is big on PDA and may get a little embarrassed but it’s an important photo. So please try to at least hold it for a few seconds to make sure we can capture the moment for you.

    Natasha Botheras and Susan Callow from Teahouse Studios


    Take time to enjoy your big day. I know this sounds cliche but it's so true.

    The more you are enjoying yourself, having a great time with loved ones and are in the moment the more emotion and love your photos will express. So many times if you are stressing the small stuff or rushing around or so busy with 'things' that you can't simply enjoy yourself.

    You want to be one of the best days of your life so let yourself be in that moment. Enjoy it and remember whatever you are feeling shows in the photos.

    Also light and location are a big thing. Consult with your photographer about these things. They want to give you the best photos possible so let them guide you through making you want work with the surroundings and natural elements.

    Carly from Stirling Photography


    If you face your officiant/celebrant for most of your ceremony, you're missing some awesome opportunities for emotive and unguarded shots.

    A good officiant will gently remind you to look at each other (or your guests) and a good photographer will capture the raw, real and beautiful expressions that will show on your face at those moments.

    Wes of Wes Beelders Photography


    Sometimes, slightly imperfect ends up being totally perfect. As long as you guys get married, everything else is just a beautiful detail. 

    Have a really good idea about what you want on your wedding day and by all means make plans so that things fall into place but also be realistic. Sometimes, even the best laid plans don't quite come to fruition.

    I worked with one couple once who asked a family member to bring their wedding cake to the reception... but they forgot! I ended up throwing together a tiered donut wedding cake for the bride and groom and it turned into a fabulous talking point.

    Emma of Emma Sharkey Photography


    So those lists... the ones magazines and blogs make titled "10 shots to tell your photographer that you must have on your wedding day"... you know the ones.... yep..... so take it out of that magazine.... scrunch it up ... put it in the bin.

    I once had a shot list from a bride with a list of photos and one of them being "fun happy shots". I had a great relationship with my beautiful bride and I spoke to her about her list and she was wonderful in understanding that working from that list would be a disservice to her wedding day.

    A wedding is an emotional and heartfelt occasion. The best photos are the ones of how your day is unfolding, right there, in the moment. If your wedding is full of laughter then, yep, your photos will be full of 'fun and happy'. If your wedding is full of intimacy and emotion, then guess what? You will get photos that reflect that.

    It's about capturing YOUR unique story. Of course the beautiful details and flattering poses are a given, but a complete shot list doesn't actually help your photographer. I would much rather get the photo of the real moments, like of your beloved nanna with tears in her eyes as she sees you in your dress, than having to be focused on a list of shots that need to be staged.

    Embrace your day and don't compare your weddings unique energy with others you have seen. This is another reason why you need to love your photographer's work and personality, so you can put your trust in them to capture your story.

    Rene from Blush and Mint Photography

    After The Big Day


    I know you’re excited to see your photos, but messaging me every week after your wedding won’t make the 8-12 weeks go any faster.

    I edit my client’s photos in chronological order so it’s fair and I can certainly understand that for some couples the time between their wedding day and getting their photos can seem like a long time. But I promise I haven’t forgotten about you and I am going as fast as is humanly possible because I want to get them to you asap so you can see for yourself how amazing they are; it’s one of the best parts of my job.

    So please wait until your contract term is almost up before asking me when your photos will be ready. We know you’re excited (we are too) but the time we spend answering your calls and emails is better spent working on your photos.

    Jewel of Jewel Chenoweth Photography

    Did you know many of these tips? What did we miss?

    Let us know in the comments.

    Originally posted on

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  • 03/30/17--12:43: Where Are The Women?

  • This past year, my 9-year old daughter and I watched our fair number of films, from “Trolls” to “Suicide Squad.” But my daughter’s favorite movie was “Hidden Figures,” a poignant film about a group of female African-American mathematicians at NASA in the 1960s who helped launch astronauts into outer space.

    Women and girls make up 51% of the population. But, decades of research conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University and supported by research conducted by Stacy Smith, Ph.D. at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, show that women and girls take up less space, talk less frequently, and are more often supporting characters than leads. Unfortunately, this minimized role of women and girls does not stay on the screen. It impacts the way girls view themselves and their role in the world. This is why we need more films like “Hidden Figures” as our children navigate who they are today and who they want to be when they grow up.

    Have you ever watched a children’s or family television program or film and wondered where are the women? You are not alone. The Gender Bias Without Borders study that the Institute conducted with UN Women analyzed the ten most popular films across each of the ten most lucrative territories, looking at G, PG, PG-13 films released between 2010-2013. This study showed that 29.3% of all 502 characters in the US top 10 films were female characters, 30% of the lead characters in the film were female characters, 0% of the films had a balanced 50/50 cast. Girls and women are hypersexualized, even in children’s programming and family programming, according to Equity or Eye Candy: Exploring the Nature of Sex-Roles in Children’s Television Programming. When women and girls are seen, they are mostly viewed as sexual objects.

    Women and girls are also heard on television and film screens less frequently than men. According to The Reel Truth: Women Aren’t Seen or Heard, women are given fewer lines compared to their male characters. The Reel Truth study analyzed the top 100 grossing films of 2014 and 2015 using the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (GD-IQ), a software tool developed by the Institute and funded by that incorporates Google’s machine learning technology and the University of Southern California’s audio-visual processing technologies. The Reel Truth study showed that, even though women are 51% of the population, men take up more space and speaking time than women. Male characters received twice the amount of screen time as female characters. When a film has a male lead, this gender gap is even wider with male characters appearing on screen nearly three times more often than female characters. Even in films with a female lead, male characters appear about the same amount of time as female characters.

    What is happening behind the camera? Based on the Institute’s Gender Bias Without Borders study mentioned above, 7% of the American directors were women, 13% of the American writers were women, and 20% of the American producers were women. Globally, of the 1452 filmmakers in the study from around the world, 20.5% were women compared to 79.5% for male filmmakers. This means that for every one female filmmaker, there were four male filmmakers. In the United States, so few women are hired as directors in television programming that the EEOC is in the process of negotiating a settlement with studios about systemic discrimination women face in the industry based on research conducted by the guilds.

    How do we increase the number of women and girls we on-screen and behind the camera? Entertainment companies can directly influence what the public sees. Filmmakers can influence what we see by choosing what to fund, how to distribute, and how to market a film or television show. Television and movie studios are mostly for-profit enterprises and are required by law to focus on their shareholders. Dan Franklin, in his 2006 book, Politics and Film asserts that changes in film content “are more a product of market demands than of the degenerate culture of Hollywood.” Does the market demand content that minimizes the role of women and girls in society or is the reverse true? The Institute’s Reel Truth study showed that films featuring female lead characters grossed 15.8% more on average than films led my men. Put simply: films with women who are the main characters make more money.

    If you are in San Diego the weekend of March 24-26, you can see women lead, both on- and off-screen, at the Women’s Film Festival organized by the Women’s Museum of California. Go to the museum’s website here to purchase your tickets. Bring your daughters, your nieces, young women, and young men.

    A few weeks after watching “Hidden Figures,” my daughter talked with me about how when she and a couple of classmates assembled a bridge with magnets and blocks and how proud she felt that it stayed together longer than the rest of the bridges. Last night, she made a new version of slime by trying a different combination of ingredients. She is now exploring engineering and science in a way that before might not have seemed interesting or possible. I think that watching “Hidden Figures” changed her view of her possibilities. As Geena Davis says, “If she can see it, she can be it.”

    Barbi Appelquist is an alumna of Barnard College, the all-women’s college of Columbia University, and chairs the Advisory Board of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Follow her on Twitter @appelgardner.

    This opinion piece was originally published in the 2017 Women’s Film Festival Blog by the Women’s Museum of California on March 15, 2017.

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    What was terrific last July is now superb. J.T. Rogers’ Oslo is the most engrossing new drama on Broadway. Director Bartlett Sher and his excellent cast have ramped up the tension, resulting in an altogether riveting evening. Let us add, a riveting three-hour evening which breathlessly speeds by.

    Rogers gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the negotiations which resulted in the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993. These were signed, to great acclaim, by Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat at Bill Clinton’s White House, with the mismatched trio ultimately sharing the Nobel Prize for Peace. But the headliners were not “in the room where it happened,” as it were; neither is the protagonist of Oslo, a Norwegian sociologist named Terje Rød-Larsen (Jefferson Mays).

    Terje, having spent time studying conditions in the Gaza Strip, realizes that no resolution can be found in the official, American-sponsored peace talks (with Israelis and Palestinians speaking indirectly, through foreign intermediaries). Working with personal contacts on both sides, the neutral Norwegian brings a Palestinian minister and a well-connected Israeli economist to a borrowed house in Oslo. Over nine months of intermittent meetings, the unofficial talks develop into a mutually workable pact.

    This brokered peace was seen as miraculous at the time; and on an obviously different scale, it is near miraculous that playwright Rogers has turned what might have been dryly dusty history into spellbinding, edge-of-your-seat drama.

    Oslo was masterful in its initial Lincoln Center Theater production initial Lincoln Center Theater production at the 288-seat Mitzi Newhouse Theater. The move upstairs to the 1,047-seat Vivian Beaumont was most welcome, given the throngs of dedicated theatergoers who are likely to love this play. But the transfer raised the question: how would this small, claustrophobic drama work on the larger, airier scale of the Beaumont?

    The answer is: equally well, or maybe better. At the Newhouse, Oslo benefitted from the closeness. Two Palestinians and two Israelis locked together, each side facing down the other over a small coffee table. Michael Yeargan’s set has been reconfigured for the considerably larger space, bringing a new element to the production; something vaster and far-reaching. With the actors spaced across the Beaumont stage, there is a new, global sense added to the play. Israelis and Palestinians are separated by a literal gulf. This has an even greater effect on the Norwegian Terje—who, by virtue of being neither Israeli nor Palestinian, and not being an actual diplomat—stands even more isolated than the others and from the others. One gets the notion that he is isolated, in the same room but in another world altogether.

    Mr. Mays—returning from his comedic spree as the prissy Bensinger of the Tribune in The Front Page—dominates the play as the unlikely peacemaker. At least some awards voters are already fretting over the inevitable necessity of favoring Mays over Kevin Kline of Present Laughter, or Kline over Mays. Which points to the absurdity of competitive awards; but someone has to win, we suppose. Jennifer Ehle, as diplomat Mona Juul (and wife to Terje) seems to have grown in her role; Mona is now an ever-constant presence. Ehle is precisely right. Even when she stands merely watching Terje, we sense her pulling the strings in a way that didn’t quite come across in the earlier production.

    A return visit to the world of Oslo allows us to further appreciate the supporting players; given the swift pace and the substantial doubling, you might understandably overlook some of the participants. Anthony Azizi and Michael Aronov are matched as the chief negotiators: powerful, wily and bordering on violent. Away from the table, both bring humor and humanity to their roles. Daniel Oreskes (as the canny and disheveled Yair Hirschfeld) and Daniel Jenkins (as the disheveled Ron Pundak) pair as the Israeli academics, referred to at one point as Laurel and Hardy. Oreskes doubles as a pointed caricature of Shimon Peres, while Jenkins also appears as a too-suave-by-half Norwegian diplomat.

    T. Ryder Smith and Henny Russell portray the Norwegian foreign minister Johan Horgen Holst and his wife Marianne Heiberg. (In the nepotistic world of Norway, Mona works for Johan while Marianne works for Terje.) They double as the married servants at the manor house, butler Finn and cook Toril; Toril provides much humor, during the tense negotiations, with her famous waffles. Ms. Russell essays a third role, in the final stages, as a tersely brusque Swedish hostess during the Shimon Peres scenes.

    All of this is combined into a Middle Eastern maelstrom of diplomacy and dramaturgy by director Sher. He has demonstrated his skill again and again, with such items as LCT’s South Pacific, The King and I, Golden Boy and The Light in the Piazza. Even so, the work here is exceptional. What’s more, he can be said to have instigated the project. Sher invited his friend Terje to see Roger’s 2012 Blood and Gifts at LCT; introduced the economist to the playwright; and arranged for LCT to commission the play that became Oslo.

    As for Rogers, this play marks his third New York production and his Broadway debut. Oslo is quite an achievement, and quite a play, and quite an evening of high-stakes theatricality.


    The Lincoln Center Theater production of Oslo opened April 13, 2017 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater

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    The sky is still twilight blue above the streets of Aberdeen at 21:00 this time of year and as you walk the city’s edge on the beach of the North Sea the winds pick up with a chilly bluster. Of course, that’s just for this minute. In a half hour it may be a gentle warm caress, or you’ll be pelted with hail and sleet mercilessly. Locals like to say that this northern Scottish seaside city has 4 seasons in one day. During one Street Art tour that we gave for 350 Aberdeenians on the day before Easter, we cycled through those seasons, twice.

    This is Nuart, the festival begun in Stavanger, Norway in 2001 by loveable bad boy and (some would argue) curatorial visionary Martyn Reed which invites Street Artists from around the world to partake in thoughtful aesthetic excursions on the street and in public space.

    The cumulative success of Nuart’s indoor/outdoor programs is now well recorded and looked to as a model. Remarkably they have risen despite tensions that occur when commingling frameworks of illegality and institutional acceptance; including a relatively new academic rigor that is now investigating the family of practices called Urban Art, their absorption into the commercial market as contemporary art, the badass anti-establishment musings of jilted outcasts who want nothing of it, and a somewhat romantic notion of communicating with the public in a meaningful dialogue.

    Ah, but this is the bumpy, potholed, slimy street along which counter-culture becomes culture and the marginalized becomes the mainstream – producing a modicum of nausea for all involved. While not explicitly aiming for legitimacy on these fronts, the Nuart Festival has gradually metamorphosed into a standard by which some others are judged, with reason.

    Now for the first time Nuart exports its hard won and uniquely prickly formula in a perhaps more reserved manner to this new, old city which lies 500 kilometers across the North Sea in Scotland.

    This is the stirring, storied North Sea known globally for the black oil lurking beneath it, and the two cities of Stavanger and Aberdeen have both been impacted greatly by the plunge of world-wide petroleum prices since the end of the last decade; a downturn described by London’s Telegraph as “vicious”.  We may have stumbled upon evidence of this during one of our walking tours when we remarked on the large number of people there who were interested in seeing the new artworks and one woman cracked with some sarcasm, “that’s because none of us has jobs.”

    And here we are with eleven international artists to ease the grayness of this historic and granite city by the sea where daffodils cover the meadow in Union Terrace Gardens and single malt whisky eases the sight of iron leg fetters in the 17th century prison museum called Tolbooth.

    When it comes to Nuart Aberdeen the people whom we met are nearly exuberant in their responses, even awestruck by the appearance of this new art in their city. With the introduction of aerosol, brush paint, wheat-paste, stencils, miniature sculpture, and poetry to street walls, it is as if a hidden pent-up desire for art in the public sector has burst open, a geyser if you will.

    “I think there are quite a lot of places now in Aberdeen that are quite plain. It’s like there are a lot of empty canvasses. It’s good to see something be done with them,” says Mark, who’s touring the new pieces through the streets with Julia, who’s originally from the capital Edinburgh. Map in hand, the couple appears to be about 30 and they say that while they’ve seen work like this in other cities, they’re glad to see something more youthful now appearing here in a historical seaport that boasts soaring, turreted and spired cathedrals and narrow stone streets.

    “I’ve been to Leipzig lots of times and there’s lots of sides of buildings,” says Mark, “they’re similar in size to these, with lots of murals in the city center, and it really kind of brightens the place up, makes it a lot more lively.”

    “Welcome to a city investing it its city and its culture,” says Councilor George Adam, the Lord Provost, a prestigious post and an ancient office with its roots in the 13th century. During a reception with other members of the Aberdeen City Council and the local business improvement district (BID) named “Aberdeen Inspired,” Mr. Adams says that he is excited by Nuart and has received a lot of positive feedback as well.

    Indeed, the reception from youth, middle aged and senior patrons at our 14 short-video film lecture and the sold-out screening of the premiere of “Finding Bansky” at the independent art theater Belmont Filmhouse was ardent, enthusiastic and full of inquiries afterward. The walking tours had more people than anyone had predicted, with a few people using canes and others pushed in strollers. It would appear that the worldwide Street Art phenomena had seemed frustratingly out of reach for some of the young people, who have been fascinated by it from afar. Seeing these works by international artists here in their city was like a jolt of electricity.

    During an entertaining slide show by festival participant Julian De Casabianca at the Lecture Theatre at the Anatomy Museum Thursday night, the steeply angled seats held a full capacity crowd, with many sitting on the floor and steps. The somewhat inebriated and raucous artists and students in their twenties hooted and hollered and pounded on desks during the 50 minute lecture which included mobsters, murder, the Holocaust, stolen artworks, and Street Art – specifically the museum art images which De Casabianca has been wheat-pasting on public streets for all to see for the last decade or so called “The Outings Project.”

    Martin Reed’s curation of the program is wise and the selections are contextual from the perspective that Nuart Aberdeen 2017 presents an array of disciplines from a solid thoughtful selection of perspectives, each attached to the history of graffiti and Street Art from their unique evolution of practices – as well as to the culture of Aberdeen.

    Germany’s Herakut dominates one concave wall of Aberdeen Market overlooking “The Green” with their improvisational blending of illustration style portraiture, textual flourish, and symbols germane to the city. De Casabianca chose images form the Aberdeen Art Gallery of two children – haunting in a narrow street known by local folklore for ghosts of children who were sold as slaves to America in previous centuries.

    Belgium’s Jaune peppers doorways and electrical boxes with multi-layer stencils of fluorescent-vested municipal workers in humorous scenarios. These are partnered in scale by small grey-suited and somber businessmen by Spain’s Isaac Cordal, which are hidden before your eyes and camouflage into the daily city until you discover one standing on a ledge, balancing on an electrical line, or sitting atop a CCTV camera.

    Norway’s Martin Whatson has perhaps the most obvious reference to the locality, with a golfing figure swiping into a plume of colorful graffiti tags. With Donald Trump’s golf course only minutes away, the piece raises an immediate association with a guy who is heartily disliked here. The Street Artist named Add Fuel create an enormous tile-patterned wall that refers to local motifs and decorative artisans on a wall that can be seen easily by pedestrians looking from Aberdeen’s Union Bridge the largest single-span granite arch in the world. Italy’s Alice Pasquini brings imagery of the harbor into her figurative pieces and Norway’s Nipper works directly with local artists to compile gifts of art posted on clipboards around the city.

    This is not to say that Reed is running from possible controversial material or opinion: Poland stencilist M-City is without doubt critiquing the oil industry with his oil barrels flying through the sky and tankers in the sea, the UK poet Robert Montgomery’s piece addresses topics like the definition of modernism, race, and social equality, and Australia’s Fintan Magee’s very large mural diptych obliquely references rising sea levels and man made environmental degradation.

    In review of the successful event and the relatively young history of the Street Art movement as one that is continually in motion, a few points come to mind as worth mentioning: The first is the ongoing discussion of illegal graffiti and Street Art culture giving way to legal mural festivals that have as their aim some form of business improvement and/or gentrification in a city, particularly when a city previously persecuted and derided the organic and illegal artists who began the scene.

    This situation is not specific to Aberdeen, but the concern probably will come up in conversations (including during panel discussions at Nuart) and at the very least it is an irony that art practices once reviled or verboten are now to some extent embraced as worthwhile because they can be economically advantageous. These are not direct relationships, but close ones certainly.

    Similarly there have been a few so-called Street Art festivals in recent years where the primary driver is commercial brand-building and while they give opportunities to artists they somehow cheapen the dialogue between people. It is always ironic, if inevitable, when a subculture becomes more closely associated with mainstream culture, sometimes specifically because of its cache as being rebellious. The trick here would be to accommodate the activist voices in the program, and clearly Nuart aims to do so with panache.

    An argument could be made that counters the quick-on-the-draw “selling out” charge that says true rebels are somehow abandoning their values by working for “the man”. From our perspective, we’re happy when artists are working, are treated fairly, and when people get to enjoy their work. Even in this second least affordable city in Scotland  where artist spaces are at a premium if not scarce altogether, it is a good development to see art on the walls outside and a public dialogue facilitated by art.

    This mural initiative will invariably jump-start two outcomes. One will be a renewed interest in the zone in which the art appears, driving foot traffic and, if all goes according to plan, new business initiatives and increased interest in the arts in general.

    Secondly, it will spur an uptick in locally grown Street Art. We already witnessed it mushrooming overnight on surfaces during the days we were in the city and were pleased to learn of many local artists who have been looking for opportunities for exposure in addition to this one and last years’ “Painted Doors” project, which was spearheaded by Aberdeen artist Mary Butterworth. As this local scene continues to coalesce in public space, one hopes that the city will challenge itself to find healthy and proactive ways to support this organic scene as well.

    Overall, the first year of Nuart Aberdeen has been hands-down successful by many standards, and talk of a 2018 program has already started popping up in discussions online and elsewhere. From what we could see and hear, the city is longing for more.

    “We want you all back! You showed us what can be done!” says Dr. Fiona-Jane Brown, the author of “Hidden Aberdeen” and founder of Graft Theater Company in her comment on Facebook to the Nuart team.

    “Haste ye back, loons and quinies!” says Morag Russell, another Facebook commenter as the Nuart artists, production team and assorted misfits say their final goodbyes in a posting.  The sentiment rings just as sweet at the song it comes from, like this version from Scotland’s legendary entertainer Andy Stewart

    We would like to express our gratitude for the professionalism and support of the Nuart Team, to all the volunteers whose work and dedication made our work more efficient and our stay a lot more pleasant, to the team at Aberdeen Inspired and to the people of Aberdeen for being such gracious and generous hosts, and to all the artists whose work we love and admire and for your inspiration and talent. Thank you. We hope to meet again next year.

    For more information on Nuart Aberdeen click HERE.


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    Cristina Nualart, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

    Since the turn of the 20th century, Vietnam has seen tremendous urban changes. Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City – a colonial, then communist, centre evolving into a dynamic modern metropolis. But relics of its past remain. The Conversation

    While working in Saigon between 2010 and 2015, I was captivated by rare glimpses of handmade shop signs, the pop culture remnants of a bygone era.

    Vintage zinc and a tasty noodle bowl

    In 1952, a street cart sold noodles on Tran Cao Van, a tree-lined street in what is now a prime location in Saigon. The owner made his living on that street corner for nearly 30 years. By the time Vietnam had won its wars, gained independence and settled (somewhat) into its new regime, the noodle-maker had upgraded from his cart to a nearby shop.

    He gave his restaurant the name of the street he had always worked on so that loyal customers would find him, and labelled the spot with large-scale, three-dimensional zinc signage.

    In the years to come, as Vietnamese who had fled conflict returned home for a visit, the restaurant’s reputation for tasty broth and a comforting bowl of pho grew internationally.

    Today, the owner’s adopted daughter, Hong, now in her 60s, runs Pho Cao Van. She practically grew up in the place, which has hardly changed since it first opened. Its two 1970s-era artisanal signs still hang, one inside the restaurant and one on the façade.

    Next to the hand-welded 3-D lettering outside is a beverage-sponsored plastic sign put up, Hong told me, in 1975, after the the fall of Saigon. The city was awash in uncertainty, so as a precaution against theft or plundering the family hid their expensive zinc sign inside until things calmed down. They substituted it with the plastic sign, which has stayed there since.

    As it happened, the electric light above the shop’s entrance was indeed seized soon after the sign was moved indoors. To this day, old metal signs are sold for cash in Vietnam, which is one reason why wartime signs are now so scarce.

    Vinh Loi’s watch shop

    An even older golden metal sign used to decorate the entrance to Vinh Loi’s watch repair shop in Cholon, Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown. Today, all that remains of the metal letters created around 1964 is an outline of dirt and blackened drill holes on the storefront.

    When asked about the marks, the owner seems delighted to inform me that the lettering was stolen three years ago. He believes that the letters were taken because they were old and valuable, which seems like a badge of honour for Vinh.

    Inside the shop, a golden row of Chinese characters on the back wall spell out the words “technology of watches and clocks”. They were installed nearly half a century ago, at the same time as the erstwhile outdoor sign. Bilingual signs are still common in the area where Chinese settlers made their home in the late 1700s.

    Generally, there is little appreciation of the heritage value of old signs, so the thief who stole Vinh’s lettering is unlikely to have prized the sign as an antique, as the shop owner likes to think. It seems more plausible that it was sold as scrap metal: the bronzed colour of the piece could have led a thief to hope for a high price.

    The bodybuilder who painted

    Another sign that has disappeared – sold, not stolen – is a hand-painted placard for a community gym, featuring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Phu Sy Hue, the gym’s first bodybuilding master, has been training weightlifters here since 1975, the year that the Vietnam-American War ended. It was around 1980, Phu recalls, that a hand–painted sign with a folk portrait of Schwarzenegger was first put up on the roadside.

    At the time, Vietnam did not receive tourists or have much contact with the world outside its borders, so the portrayal of the former Hollywood star is unusual. The sign was painted for the club by one of its members, Tri, a practising bodybuilder who had studied painting, though he was never a commercial signwriter.

    That profession has become so rare since the advent of digital printing in the late 1990s that few shops would now be able to commission such a sign.

    Some time in the early 1990s, an American tourist encountered the sign and, evidently impressed by the strange finding, bought it on the spot for a sum that, given the income disparity in the two countries, seemed like a good deal to both parties.

    Tri immediately started painting a replacement sign (the blue-hued lead image of this article), which hung on the gym’s entrance gate from the early 1990s till around 2013. It was then removed during construction work and left in the parking lot by the weight-training room. Again a foreigner with hard currency stumbled upon it and offered to buy it.

    The interest in these depictions is testament to the power of celebrities, spreading American pop culture far and wide. Since the fitness club’s renovation in 2015, a charmless digitally printed sign now advertises the bodybuilding facilities.

    HCMC in the 21st century

    Vietnam’s urban landscape is changing fast, but some things stay the same: the amateur bodybuilder and signmaker now runs a traditional medicine shop not far from the gym, and though Phu is now in his 60s, he continues to train.

    The phenomenal development of Ho Chi Minh City in the 21st century, documented by Erik Harms among others, has no doubt caused much vintage signage to disappear. As academics and the art world debate what merits collection and preservation in museums and archives, city centres – in Vietnam as elsewhere – continue to reflect society’s changing tastes.

    Research shows that the main reasons factory-made shop signs have become the norm across Vietnam are their lower cost, fast delivery and, above all, ease of acquisition. Today, signwriters are even harder to find in Ho Chi Minh City than its nostalgia-inducing vintage signage.

    Cristina Nualart, Researcher of Contemporary Art, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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  • 04/20/17--13:28: What Is 4/20 Anyway?

  • Cannabis has long been the target of criminalization and its use remains a hotly debated topic. Yet more and more states are legalizing the substance. They’re putting plans into action on how to regulate weed, and with countries like Canada planning legalization by July 2018, there’s no more burying the subculture surrounding cannabis. For those of you less tapped into “weed culture”, you may have heard the words “four twenty” thrown around. But what exactly is 4/20 and why do so many people blaze on this day?

    4/20 is typically thought of as a day where stoners smoke pot all day and eat junk food. However, marijuana activist Jodie Emery stresses that 4/20 is a day of activism where people around the world get together to celebrate cannabis and push for legalization of the substance.

    The classic myths are that 4/20 is a police code, or has something to do with Hitler’s birthday (he was in fact born on April 20th). There are also common rumors that 4:20 is tea time in Holland or that they are numbers in a Bob Dylan song multiplied. None of these are accurate.

    The true story is about as plain as it gets. 4/20 originates from a group of teens who called themselves “The Waldos.” The group allegedly had a treasure map that lead to an abandoned cannabis crop. They would meet at a specific location on school grounds at 4:20 PM. Naturally, they would smoke some ganja when they met. The set smoking time was then popularized by The Grateful Dead followers in the same area who spread the message as they toured with the band. It’s that simple.

    However, marijuana activism is an important step in combatting the repressive war on drugs. If Attorney General Jeff Sessions gets his way, cannabis will continue to be a schedule 1 drug in the United States. Schedule 1 is the most tightly restricted category reserved for drugs that have no currently accepted medical use.

    This is consistently proven to be false.

    Cannabis use can reduce anxiety, depression, and aides with conditions like PTSD. So, if you don’t agree with cannabis being criminalized: go outside today and resist.

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    If anyone ever tells you that you’re a lesser human being because you don’t want to have sex with them ― cut them out of your life. We all have rights to our own bodies and we all have the right to say no. We should all have the right to autonomy over our own bodies.

    When it comes to sexual activity, nothing is more powerful than the word ‘no’. If a person is trying to coax you into something you don’t want, you have the right to say no. If a person you’re with doesn’t make you feel safe enough to say no, you need to cut them out of your life.

    ItsBabyJ is here to remind you that bodily autonomy is your right. Just because a person has lots of followers on social media or plays on a sports team doesn’t mean they’re entitled to your body. Reserve the right to say no and reserve the right to your own body.

    There is no excuse for inappropriate sexual behaviour. That’s what Sexual Assault Awareness Month is all about. Let’s ditch the excuses and recognize that bragging about sexual assault is a problem. Get outraged about sexual assault and ensure your friends and family are asserting their bodily autonomy.

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    Have you ever considered where your clothing comes from? No, not the brand name, but the workers who stitched together your outfit at a tremendously small wage. Fast fashion brands like H&M, Nordstrom, GAP, and Forever 21 depend on vastly underpaid workers (as little as $4/hour) to make clothing at alarming rates to meet consumer demand.

    Most fast fashion brands can’t afford to be ethical, but you can. As today is Fashion Revolution Day, we urge you to consider the implications of your clothing choices. Today is designed to draw attention to the fact that much of the global fashion industry is opaque, exploitative and environmentally damaging.

    The fashion industry desperately needs revolutionary change. While we all love fashion, our clothes shouldn’t come at the cost of people or our planet. So, check out the video above from Remake. Perhaps it will help you reconsider how you consume clothing. There are ethical fashion brands out there, but you have to make the choice to seek them out. That’s what real change looks like.

    For more on how you can make a change with your clothing head over to Fashion Revolution Day’s website. It’s a valuable resource for information, activism, and how you can get involved.

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    If you can stand one more trip into the dystopian future, The Handmaid’s Tale offers a disturbing and powerful voyage.

    Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, the 10 episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale started rolling out Wednesday on the streaming service Hulu. The first three episodes are now available, then the rest will be released weekly.

    It’s not a lot of fun, and it’s not always easy to watch, but Elisabeth Moss leads a strong cast that keeps the story engaging as ordinary people seek a way to resist soulless totalitarians who repress and kill in the name of fundamental Christianity.

    Moss plays Offred, who after the totalitarian takeover of the United States — renamed Gilead — is forced to become a Handmaid.

    In this future society – though not far in the future – man has so degraded the environment that chemical pollution has rendered most women infertile.

    Handmaids are those few women who can still bear children. They are assigned to the families of the ruling elite, where they must engage in ritualized sex with the male rulers in hopes that they can provide these ruling families with children.

    This perverse system is justified by fundamentalist readings of the Old Testament, which were also cited when the fundamentalists took over the government and suspended the Constitution.

    Among other changes in this new order, women were reduced to the lowest Biblical levels of servitude. It became illegal for women to own property, for instance. Or to read.

    You can imagine how it affected the status of, say, lesbians and gays.

    This devolution from the old America happened somewhat quickly, Offred recalls, yet it also happened one step at a time. The old rights were gradually eliminated under the pretext of “keeping people safe” and protecting them from non-existent “terrorists.”

    As metaphors go, the ones in The Handmaid’s Tale are hard to miss.

    Offred, so named because her new master is Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes), was a regular person named June with a husband, Luke (O.T. Fagbenle), and a daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake). They hid out for a while, but were eventually rounded up. Luke is of no value to the new regime, but June is and Hannah might be.

    Offred remembers all this and sees no way back. So she has vowed she will tolerate all the humiliations, injustices and deprivations so she can survive long enough to one day search for Hannah.

    This means subjugating herself to the enigmatic Fred and his vicious wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), who tolerates Offred in direction proportion to how soon Offred can produce offspring.

    One day Offred’s assigned Handmaid companion Ofglen (Alexis Bledel) offers the first spark of hope that there might be a resistance out there.

    But the thumb of the oppressors is heavy, so even making the simplest contact with anyone else could be a hanging offense. Literally. This government loves to hang people in front of other people, just as a reminder who’s in charge.

    What elevates The Handmaid’s Tale beyond just another against-all-odds fight with cold, sneering authoritarians is that victims and oppressors share a common goal: the survival of the human race.

    No babies, no more human race. A new baby, any baby, is a win for everyone.

    The guardian of the Handmaids is Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), who rules with a heart of dry ice. No abuse, physical or psychological, is off the table with Aunt Lydia.

    Yet when one of the Handmaids delivers a seemingly healthy girl, Aunt Lydia exudes a joy totally at odds with the inhumanity of her daily conduct.

    While most of the story unfolds through the characters, Offred offers some silent commentary that reinforces her unspoken defiance and fills us in on how the United States got from there to here.

    In the process we see frequent extended close-ups of Moss’s face, unblinking and sometimes disturbing. Which is, of course, the idea.

    Moss does a terrific job conveying what it would be like to have your whole life taken away and replaced with a nightmare.

    A nightmare hosted by the most un-Christian people you could ever imagine, marching under the banner of the Lord.

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    Trigger warning: this post contains discussion about rape, sexual abuse and mistreatment of women.

    She’s special. She’s a princess. She has magic powers. She’s fertile. She has something they want and she’s locked up.

    Women in captivity fascinate us. In ratios somewhat disproportionate to real life, subjugated women drive the plotlines of movies and television. Browse lists of the most acclaimed and most popular entertainment and you will surely find the theme of the caged woman. Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones, Ma in Room — heck, even little Eleven from Stranger Things fits the profile.

    Therefore, it comes as no surprise that, yet again, a woman imprisoned, this time by an oppressive and religious government, is the protagonist in the brilliantly-crafted offering from Hulu, The Handmaid’s Tale.

    Like a good feminist, I read Margaret Atwood’s chilling novel. Truth be told, the book disturbed me so much that I couldn’t finish it. I found the story bleak enough that I abandoned it just before the last 30 pages and read the Wikipedia plot summary to find out the ending.

    Being kidnapped, held against my will and raped is one of my strongest fears. I consider this fear nearly every single day, certainly every time I’m returning home late at night. Why? Because I have to. Because I was raped. Because I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Because as women in this world, my fears aren’t irrational; they are real threats.

    It’s been stated extensively in the coverage of this series that the very reason The Handmaid’s Tale is so eerie is its plausibility. The circumstances seem familiar because they are familiar. We live in a patriarchal society. Women are currently enslaved, worldwide. A notorious abuser of women is the leader of our country. It isn’t unimaginable that we could return to a time in which all American women are treated as chattel, traded, controlled. In fact, part of the tale’s effectiveness is that it reminds you how little time we’ve actually been “free” and how, in many ways, we take our rights for granted — as if freedom, once won, need never be fought for again.

    I found it unnerving when I read that the cast, and even the producers, were diluting the message about female oppression. “I don’t feel like it’s a male or female story; it’s a survival story,” said showrunner Bruce Miller. Bullshit, I say. The show’s lead, Elisabeth Moss, told Vanity Fair that, in her opinion, the show is “not a feminist story.” She justified her statement saying, “It’s a human story, because women’s rights are human rights.” But she’s not quite right is she?

    Hillary Clinton and other women use the phrase “Women’s rights are human rights” as a rallying cry for a reason; declaring our equality loud and proud isn’t stating the obvious — it is an attempt to point out the injustice women currently face. For similar reasons activists yell, “Black Lives Matter!” These social movements call out the gaslighting to which we are subjected. Women’s rights are under attack. Black people are not treated equally. We march and scream because we know that oppression is real — even if those in power swear and up and down that it isn’t.

    So, why are female characters always being locked up? That’s a question I’ll discuss in my next column, which explores the fear of female sexuality.

    I’ll be blogging about The Handmaid’s Tale each week. See you next Thursday, and until then, I’ll meet you on Twitter.

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    In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, actress and filmmaker Rachel Leyco has released her new short film, “Say Something”. The short tackles the tough subject of sexual assault among romantic partners, which if often overlooked by traditional media despite the fact that most child and teen victims are assaulted by someone they know. The boundaries that exist between partners can make situations, like the one highlighted in Leyco’s film, complicated, but the same rules still apply. You don’t “get some” just because you’re in a relationship. Consent is still required. No means no. The film also highlights the power bystanders have to prevent sexual assault with the simplest of actions.

    On her YouTube channel, Leyco actively speaks out about issues that plague the American entertainment industry. She’s one of many young actors fed up with an antiquated system, and “Say Something” is her latest effort to bring real world issues into her work.

    Leyco recently sat down with Outspeak to discuss her new short, rape culture in America, and her upcoming projects.

    Outspeak: Can you tell us a bit about why you wanted to make "Say Something" and its importance to you?

    Rachel Leyco: This year, I made it a mission of mine to actively speak out on injustices in our society and break the stigma on issues that are usually swept under the rug. When I realized April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I knew I needed to create a story that would move others to take action in their everyday lives. Often, the depiction of sexual assault in film and TV is from the victim's perspective, but the majority of society are the ones on the other side of this - the bystanders. It dawned on me that in order to powerfully move others to take action on rape prevention, the story needed to be told from the outsiders point of view.

    O: Did you find it difficult to tackle the subject of sexual assault?

    RL: Sexual assault has always been taboo in our society, mostly in part due to the fact that it's a tough case to crack when it happens behind closed doors. But I've never been afraid to tackle controversial issues that matter, because I have such deep passion for love and justice. It's important that we use our voice, our actions, and our talents to create a safe and loving climate here on earth.

    O: How did you keep spirits high on set when dealing with a tough subject matter?

    RL: Fortunately, I worked with some of my closest friends and really open, passionate talented creatives on this set. From the start, I wanted to create a fun and comfortable environment so we shot the party scenes first. When it came down to the actual assault scene, my actors were already acquainted with each other and just so willing to really dive into it. It was hard to watch the scene unfold, but knowing the message makes it worthwhile.

    O: Sexual assault and rape culture are big issues in America right now, and we're seeing more and more court cases, often going the way of the accused. What do you think of the current state of things?

    RL: It's such a nuanced issue. It's really a case-by-case basis. But I'm so glad we're talking about this more and more. I'm proud that victims are stepping up and speaking out. We should never stay silent on the truth. It's so frustrating and unfortunate that college campuses try to silence victims when their reputation is on the line; they need and must do more to protect victims that come forward by a proper course of action in trial and investigation.

    O: You've been vocal about the issues that exist within the film industry on your YouTube channel. Sexual assault cases are cropping up with many beloved actors and actresses. It's obviously a good thing that it's not staying silent, but there's a lot of work to be done here. What are your thoughts on this?

    RL: I'm extremely proud and excited about shows like "13 Reasons Why" and artists, like Brie Larson, coming forward in support of spreading awareness. It's a brave step toward progress. I know the media has concerns about film and TV explicitly portraying sexual assault, as in "13 Reasons Why," but there was nothing glamorous about any of those depictions. They were real, raw, and true. Sugarcoating these issues will only prevent us from the truth that we need to know. The more we, as artists, can convey the reality of these tragedies, the more we can shed light on ways to improve and heal our world.

    O: What are your next projects in the works we can look out for?

    RL: I am currently developing two web series: an anthology drama on mental health and a dramedy about an undocumented immigrant. I believe these are some pressing issues that need to be explored on a more deep substantial level that can, hopefully, open up some dialogue and enlighten our society in the realities of these issues.

    For more details on sexual assault prevention and for helpful resources, visit

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    So, things have been getting a little stale in the studio lately, right?

    If you answered “yes,” here are 10 recommendations for things you can do to try and give yourself—and yourself—the chance to reboot and feel good about your work again.

    1) Revisit an influence

    However you can do it—by making a museum visit, reading books or magazines or searching the web—get back to looking hard at that one key artist who always inspires you. Take some time, study the work, drink it in. Ask yourself: “What is the magic in this work?” and ask yourself how you can bring some of that magic to what you do.

    2) Make the work you have never seen before

    This advice comes from painter Bo Bartlett, who offered it to a group of my students during a recent Skype session. Honestly, it’s pretty simple isn’t it? Ask yourself what you haven’t seen—in the galleries, in the magazines, or anywhere else—and give yourself the license to make it.

    3) Look harder at your own work

    There is a kind of “DNA” in your work that encompasses all your studies, ideas and influences over time. Look hard at some work from earlier in your career and then take something from it that deserves to be revisited.

    4) Take a day off

    Maybe the problem is that you simply need a break. Plan a day in your favorite place, possibly (hopefully) with a great friend and a great meal. Try not to talk about art. Oh, and stay off social media for a day while you are at it.

    5) Try a new medium

    You don’t have to spend a ton of money on supplies: just try a some new media or materials. If you are on a budget go Rauschenberg and try junk or recycled materials. Seriously...

    6) Burn a few things

    Take some of the work that has sat in your studio for years and take it to the dump or—if you are in a location where it can be done safely—burn it. You will be amazed how clean you feel afterwards. Don’t put it on social media and tell your friends “I’m offering bargain prices on some old work” because then your worst work will be turning up and haunting you for years.

    7) Reach out to an artist you respect

    However you can do it—via e-mail, phone, or in person—contact an artist you respect. Really, don’t be shy. Let them know that you would love to visit their studio and chat sometime. They might say “no,” but if they say “yes” you may just have a life-changing experience. Be brave.

    8) Lower your standards

    It sounds so wrong, but it can be so right. Is it possible you have forgotten how to have fun in the studio?

    9) Get rid of the best part

    When asked what he did when stuck in a painting, Picasso once answered “I get rid of the best part.” Sometimes the part that you think is great is actually holding you back.

    10) Please yourself

    Honestly, who are you doing this for? Are you still pleasing your friends, a certain critic, your ex-partner, the public as you perceive it, or your third grade teacher who you loved?

    Then stop it now and just try pleasing yourself for a change.

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    Nicholas Heron, The University of Queensland

    When he was captured by the Fascist militia in December of 1943, Primo Levi (1919-1987) preferred to declare his status as an “Italian citizen of the Jewish race” than admit to the political activities of which he was suspected, which he supposed would have resulted in torture and certain death. The Conversation

    As a Jew, he was consequently sent to a detention camp at Fossoli, which assembled all the various categories of persons no longer welcome in the recently established Fascist Republic. Two months later, following the inspection of a small squad of German SS men, he was loaded onto a train, together with all the other Jewish members of the camp, for expatriation from the Republic altogether.

    His destination, he was to learn, was Auschwitz; a name that at the time held no significance for him, but that initially provided a sense of relief, since it at least implied “some place on this earth”.

    Of the 650 who departed Fossoli that day, only three would return. Yet Levi’s magnificent testimony of the Lager, Se questo è un uomo (If This is a Man) – which he would compose in the immediate aftermath of the resumption of his life in Turin, and which was first published 70 years ago in 1947, making it one of the earliest eyewitness accounts we have – is far from a heroic description of his “survival in Auschwitz” (as the American title given to his text would have it). Although in an important sense it is also that.

    Indeed, what is striking about Levi’s contribution, still today, is the conspicuous absence of a heroic register from its pages, whose appropriateness in this context – which is in large part what Levi teaches us – must surely be as questionable as the temptation to invoke it is strong.

    With characteristic, but unsettling irony, it is the word fortune that appears instead in the very first sentence of his text (“It was my good fortune to be deported to Auschwitz only in 1944…”) and that sets the tone for all that follows. In the camp, it is not virtue that governs fortune; it is fortune that governs virtue.

    Levi was sent to the detention camp at Fossoli after his capture.

    Jacqueline Poggi/Flickr, CC BY-SA

    It is the original title of Levi’s book that in truth gives expression to what will be his principal concern. Yet this is easily misunderstood. It is not exactly a question, and certainly not one that solicits an answer. But it is not even a question whose answer would be provided by the text itself, which claims no such privilege.

    As we learn from the poem that opens the text, it must be understood instead to contain an implicit imperative: “Consider if this is man…” It is an order, a command (“I command these words to you”); one that is linked, moreover, to an imprecation:

    Carve them in your hearts

    … Repeat them to your children,

    Or may your house fall apart,

    May illness impede you,

    May your children turn their faces from you.

    It is thus an admonition that we (“You who live safe/In your warm houses”) not avert our gaze. But since Levi, remarkably, includes even himself in this category, it functions also as a kind of self-admonition.

    For the description of what Levi calls the “ambiguous life of the Lager” alters our understanding of the very structure of witnessing. And it does so by bringing to light the existence of a distinct oppositional pair much less evident in ordinary life: the drowned (i sommersi) and the saved (i salvati).

    In Auschwitz, all the ritual humiliations appeared as if designed to hasten the prisoner’s descent to what Levi termed “the bottom”. But this process was especially accelerated in the case of those he called the drowned: “they followed the slope down to the bottom, like streams that run down to the sea”.

    These were the prisoners who, for whatever reason (and the reasons were many), never adjusted to the brutal regimen of life in the camp; whose time in the camp was thus consequently very brief; yet whose number was apparently endless.

    In the jargon of the camp, these were the Muselmänner, the “Muslims”, whose tenuous existence, even prior to their imminent selection for the gas chamber, already hovered in an indistinct zone between life and death, human and non-human. These, according to Levi, were the ones who had truly seen all the way to the bottom: the ones who (as he would later powerfully record) had truly seen the Gorgon.

    With respect to the “anonymous mass” of the drowned, the number of the saved, on the other hand, was comparatively few. Yet by no means did it consist of the best, and certainly not of the elect. To invoke the guiding hand of providence in the midst of such atrocity was nothing short of abhorrent to Levi.

    Primo Levi in the 1950s.

    Wikimedia Commons

    He is unflinching on precisely this delicate point: with rare exceptions, the saved comprised those who, in one way or another, whether through fortune or astuteness, had managed to gain some position of privilege in the structured hierarchy of the camp.

    More often than not, this entailed the renunciation of at least a part of the moral universe that existed outside the camp. Not that the saved, any more than the drowned, are to be judged on this account. As Levi insists, words such as good and evil, just and unjust, quickly cease to have any meaning on this side of the barbed wire.

    It was nonetheless his conviction that those who had not fathomed all the way to the bottom could not be the true witnesses. Yet far from invalidating the survivor’s testimony this made it all the more urgent.

    According to Levi, it is the saved who must bear witness for the drowned, but also to the drowned. For in him is mirrored what he himself saw.

    “Consider if this is a man…”: the imperative issued by Levi’s text is thus not that one should persist in seeing the human in the inhuman. It is more like its opposite: that one bear must witness to the inhuman in the human. And that our humanity in some sense depends on this.

    Nicholas Heron, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, The University of Queensland

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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    There's a moment in an historical re-enactment when you start to question reality.

    For me, it came as I stood on the deck of the USS Alabama on a recent Sunday afternoon, watching two vintage Russian Yak aircraft barreling toward us low and menacing over Mobile Bay.

    On the deck of the meticulously restored battleship that served during World War II, pandemonium reigned. Sailors dressed in authentic era uniforms scrambled to load their weapons with blanks, tend to the pretend wounded and extinguish simulated fires. They're part of the USS Alabama Living History Crew, who take this kind of thing pretty seriously.

    How seriously? Well, for just a second, I believed the warplanes were going to take the re-enactors and their audience out in a burst of simulated cannon fire. I saw my 12-year-old son flinch. Then the warbirds pulled up and and soared south toward the ocean. The onlookers let out a collective gasp of relief.

    There's no better place to learn about WWII history than a road trip to Alabama and Louisiana. It's not just Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Ala., that will let you experience the war in a visceral way, the way the American South demands to be experienced. A short two-hour drive away in New Orleans, you'll also find the finest museum of WWII history, The National World War II Memorial Museum. You wouldn't expect to find two such opportunities so close together outside perhaps a major world capital, yet here they are.

    By itself, Battleship Memorial Park is worth the visit even without its history buffs and re-enactors. (They do their thing every other month, so you have to plan it right.) The USS Alabama, or the Mighty A as they call it here, looks as good as she did the day she was commissioned and is filled with "wow" moments -- and plenty of opportunities to lose your kids.

    I misplaced mine a time or two.

    While the little ones will be fascinated by the weapons, of which there are plenty, there's also enough to keep the adults occupied. Thoughtful exhibits and displays mark the walking tour of the USS Alabama. You could spend an entire day exploring the ship. The Mighty A has earned its place in history as the vessel that led the American fleet into Tokyo Bay on Sept. 5, 1945.

    Most tourists come to this area to experience Alabama's famous Gulf Coast, but the battleship is a worthy day trip and a sobering reminder of the sacrifices America and its allies made during World War II -- explosions and all. For a more immersive experience, though, you have to drive west and visit the World War II museum.

    Why would perhaps the world's finest World War II museum be in New Orleans, of all places? It all started as the D-Day Museum, which wouldn't have been possible without the amphibious landing vehicles built here and tested on Lake Pontchartrain by Higgins Industries. President Eisenhower credited Higgins and his boats for our winning the war in Europe. From there, the project expanded and was supported by Stephen Ambrose, a New Orleans resident and historian. Ambrose, then a professor at University of New Orleans, and Gordon "Nick" Mueller, the current museum CEO, were looking for a place to house the stories of veterans Ambrose was collecting and the memorabilia the veterans were giving to him.

    So it didn't surprise us when Tom Hanks -- the executive producer of the adaptation of Ambrose's book, Band of Brothers -- showed up to narrate the spectacular Beyond All Boundaries, a "4-D" multimedia explanation of the war. This is easily one of the most compelling presentations about war I've ever seen. If you're traveling with kids, you'll want to take them here first. The fog effects, pyrotechnics and moving seats really convey the drama of the conflict and set the stage for the exhibits that follow.

    My middle son, Iden, saw the medical warning that preceded the show, about the possibility of it aggravating "certain medical conditions" and asked me if we were going on a rollercoaster. But after sitting through Beyond All Boundaries he sat in stunned silence as the credits displayed. This was a rollercoaster of the mind.

    It's absolutely worth checking out the signature Campaigns of Courage after you watch the presentation. The Road to Berlin follows the conflict in Germany from the Normandy invasion to Germany's surrender. A second exhibit, The Road to Tokyo, charts the same course for Japan. The exhibits are highly interactive and deeply compelling. Visitors use special "dog tags" (they're actually plastic cards) to activate displays, which tell a personal story of someone who lived through the war.

    For us, one of the most sobering exhibits was on the power of propaganda, Winning Over Hearts and Minds, a short display of wartime propaganda posters. It prompted a frank discussion with my children about the subtle effectiveness of propaganda and some of its modern-day uses. You can't walk though these displays without seeing echoes of the current rhetoric used by politicians both in America and abroad.

    On a southern road trip, the last thing you would expect is a reminder of the greatest human conflict. But, thanks to a restored ship, a museum built in one of the unlikeliest places, and several loud explosions, you can find one that will stay with you for a lifetime.

    If you go …

    Where to stay
    The International House is a boutique property located a few blocks away from the WWII museum, but also close to New Orleans' famous French Quarter. The hotel, located in a former world trade center, has been carefully restored with lots of attention to detail.

    What to do
    Check out the Hurricane Katrina exhibit at The Presbytère, the Louisiana State Museum. It's a moving exhibit that follows this devastating hurricane and its aftermath and a testament to the city's resilience.

    What to eat
    You mean, what not to eat? With only two days in town, we never got past breakfast. That's Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee and Brennan's for one of their famous breakfasts. Try the turtle soup -- but don't forget the Sherry. I'll discuss the differences between Creole and Cajun in a future story.

    Christopher Elliott specializes in solving seemingly unsolvable consumer problems. Contact him with your questions on his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google or sign up for his newsletter.

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