Trump’s message to Osakis third grader: Dream big!

“I fainted at my desk. I just fell down, like hard,” third grader Robert Lee said. “I was very happy.”

This was his reaction to receiving a personal letter from President Donald Trump.

Every other year, Michelle Dunn’s third and fourth grade class take an interactive approach to learning about different states and regions across the United States. Since a countrywide field trip isn’t an option, the third and fourth graders send a “Flat Stanley” version of themselves around the country.

The St. Agnes students read the children’s book, Flat Stanley, that tells the story of a little boy who was flattened by a billboard and goes on all kinds of adventures. In the story, Flat Stanley’s parents thriftily decide to mail Stanley instead of buying him an airplane ticket.

And so the tradition began of students creating paper versions of themselves and sending them across the world to different individuals. The student’s Flat Stanley is accompanied with a letter instructing the recipient to send a postcard back to the student detailing their adventures with Flat Stanley and then to send the letter and Flat Stanley on to someone else.

“A lot of our kids don’t leave the state,” Dunn said. “It’s a good experience for them to learn about the other places that are out there.”

The children research the different states they receive postcards from and then present their postcards and state research at a big celebration of learning event in May for their parents.

Most kids send their Flat Stanley to their grandparents or aunts and uncles. But Robert had a different plan in mind. He wanted to send his Flat Stanley to the Oval Office.

“Well, I voted for the President so I just wanted to see if he would respond because he’s a busy man,” Robert said.

“I have never had a student want to do that before,” Dunn said. “It was great but at the same time I wasn’t expecting him to send something back. Everyday Robert was asking me if we’d got anything back.”

Robert sent another Flat Stanley to his grandmother’s friend in California. But he believes that version was destroyed in the wild fires there. As other kids were receiving postcards from across the U.S., Robert held out hope that he’d hear from the president.

They sent Robert’s Flat Stanley to the D.C. in September and a large envelope arrived in January complete with an official letter describing Flat Stanley’s trip to the Harry Truman Bowling Alley and tour of the White House. Flat Stanley now sported his very own official White House tour badge.

“He went bowling,” Robert said. “I like bowling. For my birthday I’m probably going to go bowling. I’m turning 10.”

Robert said he and his mom have big plans to laminate the letter and hang it up on his wall at home. The President shared some inspiring words with Robert that he has taken to heart.

“Make good ideas. Dream big,” Robert paraphrased the letter. “You can make a change in the world.”

Franke Lectures to explore ‘New Orleans in the American Imaginary’

New Orleans in the American Imaginary” is the topic for the spring Franke Lectures in the Humanities sponsored by the Whitney Humanities Center.

This semester’s series has been organized in conjunction with the Yale College seminar taught by Joseph Fischel, associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, and Crystal Feimster, associate professor of African American studies. Natasha Trethewey will deliver the opening lecture, “‘Bellocq’s Ophelia’: New Orleans in the American Imaginary,” at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28.

Trethewey, who served two terms as poet laureate of the United States (2012-2014), is the author of four collections of poetry: “Native Guard” (2006), for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; “Thrall” (2012); “Bellocq’s Ophelia” (2002); and “Domestic Work” (2000), which won the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for best first book by an African American poet, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize, and the Lillian Smith Award for Poetry. Her book of nonfiction, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” was published in 2010.

Trethewey has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She is a Board of Trustees Professor of English in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. In 2012, Trethewey was named poet laureate of the State of Mississippi and in 2013 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Other guest speakers and lectures in the series include:

Wednesday, April 4, 5 p.m. — Tom Piazza, “Improvising Identity: New Orleans and the American Dream.” Piazza is a celebrated writer on American music. His 12 books include the novels “A Free State” and “City of Refuge,” the post-Katrina manifesto “Why New Orleans Matters,” and “Devil Sent the Rain,” a collection of his essays and journalism. He was a principal writer for the HBO drama series “Treme,” and winner of a Grammy Award for his album notes to “Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey.” In 2015 he received the prestigious Louisiana Writer Award, given by the State Library of Louisiana and the Louisiana Center for the Book. His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Bookforum, The Oxford American, Columbia Journalism Review, and many other periodicals. He lives in New Orleans.

Wednesday, April 11, 5 p.m. — Mitch Landrieu, “NOLA 2018: New Orleans Tricentennial.” Landrieu has been mayor of New Orleans since 2010. His mandate upon election was to get New Orleans back on track and bring the city together as “one team, one fight” to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. Prior to becoming mayor, he served as Louisiana’s lieutenant governor, leading the post-Katrina effort to rebuild the tourism industry and the tens of thousands of jobs it creates. Before then, he represented the Broadmoor neighborhood in the Louisiana House of Representatives for 16 years, where he established a record as a reformer. Landrieu also had a successful law practice for 15 years and became an expert mediator, focusing on alternative dispute resolution.

Wednesday, April 18, 5 p.m. — Lynnell Thomas, “New Orleans at 300: Tourism, Historical Memory, and Post-Katrina Reality.” Thomas is an associate professor of American studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her book “Desire and Disaster in New Orleans: Tourism, Race, and Historical Memory” (2014) examines the relationship of tourism, cultural production, and racial politics in pre- and post-Katrina New Orleans. Thomas’ scholarship has appeared in several journals, including American Quarterly, The Black Scholar, Journal of Urban History, Performance Research, and Television and New Media. She has published book chapters in HBO’s “Treme” and “Post-Katrina Catharsis: The Mediated Rebirth of a City”; “In the Wake of Hurricane Katrina: New Paradigms and Social Visions”; and “Seeking Higher Ground: The Race, Public Policy, and Hurricane Katrina Reader.”

All events will be held in the WHC auditorium and are free and open to the public.

The lectures are made possible by the generosity of Richard and Barbara Franke, and are intended to present important topics in the humanities to a wide and general audience.  

For more information contact the Whitney Humanities Center at 203-432-0670 or [email protected]

Caffeine hit: dodging bullets for a coffee dream

Coffee run: Dave Eggers (left) grips the reader with the retelling of the dangerous missions of Mokhtar Alkhanshali (right)

Coffee run: Dave Eggers (left) grips the reader with the retelling of the dangerous missions of Mokhtar Alkhanshali (right)

Dave Eggers’ gripping real-life tale of Yemen’s coffee king is stranger than fiction

Like millions of people across the world, I can hardly get out of bed without a cup of coffee. And given the chance, I will wax lyrical about the relative merits of Yirgacheffe and Huila, or explain the Scylla-and-Charybdis dangers of under and over-extracting espresso. Of course my friends know much better than to set me off like this. After all, coffee is just a hot drink. And not being able to get a good flat white is the definition of a “First World problem”.

Dave Eggers’s gripping new book, about one man’s real-life quest to resurrect Yemen’s coffee groves and bring their produce to California, puts a different perspective on things. Flat whites might be a First World luxury, but they are made from a largely Third World product. Coffee is a “seventy-billion-dollar global commodity” that ties some of the richest areas of the world to some of the poorest.

This is not news, but the fact remains that the beans that wind up in the cups of connoisseurs are grown in places such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia and Java, largely hand-picked and hand-processed by people who, if they are lucky, might earn in a day what you or I pay for a single cup. And if they are doing it in Yemen, they will be earning that wage against a backdrop of drone warfare, Saudi air strikes and the constant back and forth of militias locked in an ongoing civil war.

You might think, then, that it would be madness to try to get coffee out of Yemen, and you would be right. Much of The Monk of Mokha, written up by Eggers from three years of interviews with its Yemeni-American hero Mokhtar Alkhanshali, is stranger than fiction. Eggers follows the American-born Mokhtar from the poor, desperately seedy Tenderloin district of San Francisco, to his parents’ native Yemen, and back again, via a seemingly endless succession of scrapes and near-death experiences, until the whole enterprise takes on a kind of hysterical absurdity.

At one point, attempting to get coffee samples out of the country, Mokhtar, in a taxi rigged up to run on gas from a tank stuck on the back of the boot, drives into a firefight. The car, somehow, does not have a reverse gear, so he and his cousin have to get out and push it to safety. Mokhtar tells how they broke into giggles, “pushing a taxi with an exposed propane tank while machine-gun fire rattled over their heads”, unable to run away because all their coffee was inside.

This is not even the tensest moment. Well served by Eggers’s straight-plank prose and sense of narrative, Mokhtar’s story is as gripping as anything in Eggers’s novels. The later parts of the book trace his desperate dash across Yemen in search of a way to get himself, his partner and his beans to a trade fair in Seattle. Every checkpoint they have to pass is a heart-in-mouth moment. Each time Mokhtar is stopped, neither he nor the reader can predict whether he and his companions will be waved through, taken off to be shot, or guided towards hot showers in a plush hotel. It says something that this is the kind of non-fiction book where one has to be wary of giving away spoilers.

It is a superb story, and Eggers neatly wraps it round the history of coffee. Though little comes from there now, Yemen was the birthplace of coffee as we know it. According to the origin tale favoured by Mokhtar, it was a Sufi monk named Ali ibn Umar al-Shadhili from Mokha who first spotted the invigorating properties of the small red berries native to Ethiopia. The beans inside are said to have helped him and his fellow mystics reach “a kind of religious ecstasy”. From the 16th through to the 19th century, Mokha was the world’s major coffee port, only falling into decline as colonial powers spread their dominance and set up plantations elsewhere.

Nowadays, Yemen is”one of the world’s most menacing places, and home to burgeoning al-Qaeda and Isis cells”. Which is the overriding reason behind Mokhtar’s quixotic mission. Not a coffee snob himself, he is driven by entrepreneurial spirit and a desire that Yemen be known again for more than “terrorism and drones”.

It is about being able to have pride in a heritage and a religion that for most Americans, even as they consume a brew birthed by Sufi mystics, summons up little beyond extremism. This is clearly where the meat of the tale lies for Eggers. Like his latest novel, A Hologram for the King, and 2009’s foray into non-fiction, Zeitoun, The Monk of Mokha is about the meeting of American and Muslim cultures, and someone stuck between them.

Eggers is, as much as anything, a one-man social conscience for America, his writing intertwined with activism and philanthropy. As with Zeitoun, money from this book will go to a charitable foundation for issues relating to it, and like Zeitoun it shines a light on a story that says something about America and the world today. .

If Eggers’s writing about the “hardscrabble” world of Tenderloin with all its “junkies and hustlers” occasionally thuds towards cliché, it is impossible not to root for Mokhtar. And as with all good bildungsromans, it is as much the reader as the hero who receives an education.

Indo Review

WWE Hasbro Book is on Kickstarter Now, and it Looks Like a Collector’s Dream, Brother

WWE collectors: you are needed. Currently seeking funding on Kickstarter is a book that aims to be the ultimate resource of information on the classic Hasbro wrestling figures. These classic figures, made in multiple poses and featuring battle actions, are some of the most-beloved and collectible figures based on wrestlers you can get. I have personally been collecting them since I was a wee-little lad consumed with Macho Madness. I have been waiting years for something like this to be made. Check out some photos from the book and the projects page down below:

I grew up with the wonderful world of the WWF. Back when everyone was a superstar and became names you’d remember almost 30 years later. Most of these heroic superstars were immortalised, forever, in wrestling figure form.

We’re embarking on the start of an amazing journey that we hope will see a whole series of these special edition action figure books produced.

The first book is almost 60 percent complete and has brought together the entire wrestling figure collecting community.

We didn’t want to do a run-of-the-mill guide. We thought bigger! Let’s track down the men who designed the figures and let’s find their real story. Let’s track down the wrestlers the figures are based on and find out their thoughts. Let’s track down the people that have been collecting these figures and all the hidden gems that come with them.

The reaction we’ve received from superstars from this era, and the superstars today, has been amazing, in addition to celebrity endorsements from both sides of the pond. We’ve drafted in a professional editor, writers for NBC and other TV networks, world-renowned graphic artists and designers, and more. We believe we have built the best possible team for this project.

When possible, the original artwork for the designs, prototypes images, and rare one-of-a-kind collectables will be documented in this book! We don’t have access to everything that has ever been released but we’ve documented everything we’ve had information on.

What we hope to achieve is producing THE definitive book and resource on the action figures from this period.

It looks like this book is a dream come true. From concept art for unproduced figures to dedicated pages to each figure, it is hard to imagine this will not in fact be THE book to own on this era of wrestling collecting. Fingers crossed it may include the old ads from magazines and such as well.

If you would like more information, or to contribute yourself, check it out here.

(Last Updated February 10, 2018 1:16 pm )

What’s your dream date? Minnesota romance writers tell us theirs – Twin Cities

Love. Love. Love. It’s supposed to be in the air Wednesday, when flowers, candy, perhaps a bracelet urge someone to “Be My Valentine.” But maybe a cupid-bedecked card is all the budget can handle. It’s the thought that counts, right?

So let’s indulge in fantasy. What is your perfect Valentine’s Day celebration? What would you do if money, time, kids, jobs were no object?

For answers, we turned to winners of the most recent Midwest Fiction Writers (MFW) Chapter Awards. The 75-member organization, an affiliate of Romance Writers of America (RWA), welcomes anyone in serious pursuit of producing a work of romance, including novels and short stories. Here’s what they had to say.


all-american-cowboy-dylann-crushHer Valentine dream: “I have three children so it’s been a long time since I had any kind of date with my hubby. First, my husband would make arrangements for someone to watch the kids all by himself. That one act right there could already catapult us into ‘best date ever’ since it would be a first, but since this is my dream date, it’s going to get even better. Next, he’d surprise me with a drive down to New Ulm. We’d stop for a wine tasting at Morgan Creek Vineyards and then pop over to Schell’s Brewery to see the peacocks and take a tour. He’d take me out for a repeat of the best steak I’ve had in my life at George’s Fine Steaks and Spirits right on Minnesota Street. Then we’d check in to Bingham Hall Bed and Breakfast where we’d stay in the Elijah Suite because it has a whirlpool tub and a fireplace. I’ll leave the rest to your readers’ imaginations, but I can guarantee you there would be a couple’s massage, a whirlpool for two and no 9-year-old coming into our room in the middle of the night because he can’t fall asleep. Ah, nirvana!”

Her career: Dylann writes contemporary romance with what she describes as “sizzle and sass.” A romantic at heart, she loves her heroine’s spunky and her heroes super sexy. “All-American Cowboy,” first in her Holiday, Texas, series will be published July 3. It’s about a city boy who meets a fierce cowgirl in a town where every holiday is celebrated. Dylann received the MFW First Sale Award.

Bio: When she’s not dreaming up steamy storylines, Dylann can be found sipping a margarita and searching for the best Tex-Mex food in Minnesota. Although she grew up in Texas, she lives in a Twin Cities suburb with her unflappable husband, three energetic kids, a clumsy Great Dane, a rescue mutt and a very chill cat. She loves to connect with readers, other authors and fans of tequila.

Fort Smith woman supports others with book, nonprofit, personal story – Entertainment & Life – Times Record

Overcoming tragedy was a challenge Yolanda Winston of Fort Smith has had to face — not once, not twice, but multiple times. A local wife, mother, veteran, motivational speaker and newly published author, Winston is quoted in her recently published book, “Word of God in Motion: One Woman’s Struggle to Save Her Family After Great Tragedy,” as saying it has been her “lifelong dream to overcome life’s trials and tribulations and give God the glory.”

Her book and its companion journal, “Word of God in Motion: Keys to Unlocking Your Hopes and Dreams,” were published and released in October. Winston’s book and journal are now available for sale at

A vehicle accident claimed the life of Winston’s 5-year-old son, Marquis, in 2011. Marquis was thrown from the car his dad, Winston’s husband, was driving when the wheel separated from the vehicle. A recall was later issued.

Winston dealt with the tragedy by faith, she said. For many years, her husband, on the other hand, dealt with the death of their son with “drugs and alcohol.”

Amidst the tragedy, Winston faced personal challenges, but she put her trust in God, she said. When her own life was “falling apart,” she asked God how she was supposed to trust him. When Winston said she had reached “the breaking point,” she was “mad at God,” and she asked him why her life was “so broken.” God gave her the strength to trust him, she said.

In 2015, Winston’s mom was diagnosed with stage IV rectal cancer, which had metastasized to the liver. Winston was “15 years strong in the military” at that time, and she “dropped everything (to) take care of (her) momma,” she said. For six months, Winston cared for her mom, who lived two hours away.

Royal Neighbors of America awarded Winston a $200 grant through their Difference Makers Fund for her 501(c)(3) Carepacks for Cancer Caregivers Inc., to create care packages for caregivers, she said. The organization was “birthed out of” the pain she had endured.

The mission of the Fort Smith based nonprofit is “caring for those who care for others,” according to Assistance can be obtained by contacting the foundation at (479) 310-5651, through email at [email protected] or by using the request form located on the organization’s website.

The assistance affects both the caregiver and the patient, Winston said. However, she has not identified any organizations that offer help specifically for the caregiver, the “one doing a lot of the work,” she said. Winston wants “to honor those people who take time out to care for others.” Her goal is to provide tangible things, like weekend getaways, hotel expenses, gas cards, etc., for caregivers of people with stage IV cancers, she said. She wants to encourage caregivers “not to forget about themselves.” Currently, she is seeking sponsors to enable her in “taking a really difficult time and making lemonade out of lemons,” she said.

A March 2017 writer’s workshop Winston attended in Fort Smith taught Winston how to set goals, she said. Surrounding herself with positive people was also promoted through the workshop. Assistance overcoming adversity as she worked on the book she had been writing was another benefit of the workshop, and she learned how to meet people professionally and get her book published, she said.

Winston attended the workshop with “a draft and a dream,” she said. There, she met her future publisher, Iris Williams, owner of Butterfly Typeface Publishing in Little Rock. It was as a result of the workshop that her “draft” was later completed and her book and journal became a reality.

Through journaling, Winston said she found her own personal relationship with God. She conversed with a minister from Alaska on a six-hour flight after she had asked God how she could witness to other people amidst her own challenges. “As he was talking, I was jotting notes,” Winston said.

The notes Winston recorded during the flight helped her break Scripture down “like you would for a third grader,” she said. The journal encourages reading Scripture; praying for knowledge, wisdom and understanding; personal application of the Scripture passage; and expressing the desired outcome, she said. She also encourages being persistent, no matter how long it takes, she said. “God will give you an answer.”

In her book, Winston shared how God brought her through pain and adversity, she said. Three degrees — an associate in health services management, a bachelor in business management and a master in human resources development and training — did not prepare Winston to overcome adversity, she said. Winston shared her story hoping to help someone accomplish their dreams and goals, endure their circumstances and “deal with adversity.”

“Even though I’ve struggled, I know you can make it,” Winston said. She encourages others that when “it gets hard” and you are lonely, “try to keep a positive attitude.”

“No matter what you face, there is a way to overcome,” Winston said.

Designer Christian Siriano Brings Dresses to Dream About to Life

Dresses to Dream About
(Courtesy Rizzoli USA)


Project Runway winner Christian Siriano debuted his namesake collection at New York’s Fashion Week in 2008, and just under a decade later, the designer has brought his chic creations to the page in Dresses to Dream About (Rizzoli). The designer’s first book ushers fans through each intimate stage of Siriano’s design process, from his earliest sketches to the gorgeous finished gowns that grace runways, department stores and specialty boutiques around the globe.

With more than 150 sketches and photos—including shots of Siriano at work in his Manhattan studio, plus commentary from the designer himself—Dresses to Dream About gives an insider look into the world of high fashion. Siriano, who studied under Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen in London, says of the creation process, “Like watching a film, there is always a story and something to remember. With this book, I want to share that story.”

Launch the gallery for a glimpse at some of Siriano’s stunning creations featured in the book.

Author enters ‘The Dedd House’ | Local News

VALDOSTA – Danny Dedd returns from military training to a nightmare.

A car wreck has killed his young pregnant wife and his parents. They died on the way to pick him up from the airport.

Bearing such a heavy loss, even his lifelong dream of being a Navy pilot cannot buoy him. He receives an honorable discharge before beginning a new life, living off his large trust-fund inheritance. A life with risks of its own.

Danny gambles, placing increasingly larger bets with a bookie. He buys a private jet and regularly flies to Las Vegas where he gambles and meets several women … can any of them comfort him after the loss of his wife?

Valdosta-based author Jamey LeVier keeps the action fast paced and piles twist upon twist in his recently released novel, “The Dedd House.”  

A book signing is scheduled for later in the week at Book & Table Book Store in Downtown Valdosta.

LeVier has also written the novel “Rose Buddies.” He is a member of the National Novel Writing Month Society and regularly attends writing workshops and webinars, according to his bio information. 

He is from Pennsylvania and now lives in Valdosta with his wife, Jennifer, which is the same name of Danny’s wife in “The Dedd House.”

LeVier writes in a style that keeps readers riveted to the action and turning pages to learn what happens next. Suspense is high and the twists will leave readers stunned. Readers should be warned the book contains strong language, violence and graphic sex scenes. 

Some readers may have a tough time with the book’s conclusion. LeVier writes in an introduction he had a tough time finding a conclusion. LeVier said he woke from a vivid dream with the idea for the novel. Based on the dream, he created an outline for everything but the conclusion.

He didn’t have an ending until weeks later. He’d already written the majority of the book without an ending then another dream, another “aha” moment in the middle of the night.

“I rushed to my writing chair and penned the ending as quickly as my hand would go, and then returned to bed in awe of what just happened,” LeVier writes in his introduction.

Jamey LeVier is scheduled to sign “The Dedd House,” 6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, Book & Table, Book Store, 120 N. Patterson St. The book will be available at the store. The book is published by Balboa Press.

Trump: Do android presidents dream of electric sheep?

I wonder, these days, if the American president is an android.

It is a question that has intrigued me since I read, a few weeks back, Philip K. Dick’s classic sci-fi novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” The book, published in 1968 and later adapted into the movie “Blade Runner,” is set in what was then the distant future, in the year 2021. It’s an apocalyptic, post-nuclear war planet, in which most non-human life has died off, most of the few humans remaining have emigrated to Mars, and the ones who have stayed – living off of synthetic foods and satisfying their craving for nature by nurturing electronic, faux-animal pets – are waging a constant war for survival. Their enemies are not only the radioactive dust clouds that poison their environments and ultimately their bodies and minds, but also human-looking, and human-imitating androids, conscious slave-robots-gone-rogue who are competing with humans for dominance over the scarified planet.

The latest generation of these organic robots look and act so human that only highly trained bounty hunters can tell the difference. In the end, it comes down to empathy: No matter how well-designed, well-programmed, and adaptive the androids are, ultimately they always fail complex empathy tests, their intellectual responses to certain questions designed to trigger empathy correct, but their physiological responses faulty.

Androids can, when the occasion demands it, sound quite normal, quite human. The problem is, their words are just words. They don’t have the moral core to genuinely feel the emotions they are trying to publicly present. And, ultimately, their actions reflect that lack of moral restraint.

In other words, they are fakers: They are smart enough to say the right things when asked about situations involving pain and suffering for other people or animals, but their bodies betray them. Their eyes don’t dilate in quite the right ways, their blood pressure and heart rate doesn’t shift as would a genuine human’s when asked to envision hurtful scenarios.

In the author’s world, empathy remains the defining characteristic of what it is to be human. Replicas – while they might be physically stronger, intellectually superior, better problem-solvers – in the end don’t have the same moral caliber as homo sapiens.

By these measures, there is a strong case to make that Donald J. Trump is a replica, a dangerous android unleashed on a wounded planet.

Here’s my reasoning:

The number of people damaged by his actions or his words is vast, and growing vaster. Taking 800,000 Dreamers and their families hostage isn’t politics-as-normal; it’s a sort of Marquis de Sade exercise in sadism. Arbitrarily withdrawing Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans, who have been in the country two decades, and suddenly declaring them illegal – and, by extension, making it likely that they will end up being separated from their hundreds of thousands of U.S.-citizen children – is a similar act of capricious cruelty.

Calling the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and Central America “shitholes” isn’t simply a diplomatic slip-up; it’s a stunning and deliberate slap in the face to the hundreds of millions of residents of those regions. Urging the police to beat up suspects isn’t just tough talk; it’s an active encouragement to use the force of law enforcement for harm rather than good.

Glorying in the ability to inflict torture on terrorism suspects is, similarly, a grievous abdication of moral responsibility. Playing nuclear chicken – my nuclear button is bigger and more powerful than yours, and mine works – with North Korea isn’t just crass, it’s also playing Russian roulette with the future of the entire globe. Sabotaging global climate change agreements isn’t merely short-sighted, it’s actively contemptuous of the environment upon which the great web of life on earth depends.

All of this would make Trump simply a cruel, nasty, maybe even pathological man. What makes him an android is that, on occasion, he can pivot just enough to say the right things.

Take the absurd spectacle of last week’s State of the Union speech. There Trump was, talking about bringing everyone together, celebrating a “New American Moment,” urging the two political parties to get over their mutual loathing and vote on vast infrastructure investments. Some of the passages, carefully read off of the teleprompter, sounded, dare I say it, quite reasonable.

But that’s just it: In Philip K. Dick’s world, androids can, when the occasion demands it, sound quite normal, quite human. The problem is, their words are just words. They don’t have the moral core to genuinely feel the emotions they are trying to publicly present. And, ultimately, their actions reflect that lack of moral restraint. Because they don’t actually care about other people, and how their actions impact them, when push comes to shove they are entirely opportunistic.

That’s Trump to a tee. He – or it, as the androids are labeled in Dick’s masterpiece – simply isn’t programmed to feel others’ pain, to see the world through others’ eyes. The replicas, wrote Dick, “possessed no ability to feel empathic joy for another life form’s success or grief at its defeat.” Such a creation was, he wrote, “a solitary predator.”

In a much newer book, “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff describes Trump retiring to his White House bedroom to eat fast food in bed and then phone his friends to complain about his day’s press coverage. When he finally puts the phone down and drifts to sleep, does the decrepit old android dream of electric sheep?

movies to watch while you sleep

This year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam had a rich selection of filmic fare, as world renowned directors such as Guillermo del Toro appeared alongside lesser-known filmmakers. Yet, the most interesting aspect of the festival wasn’t actually a film.

During the first week of the festival, the Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, opened a hotel, Sleepcinemahotel. This one-off project was a fully functioning hotel, with an open-space dormitory that had beds, hammocks and showers. For €75 you got a place to lay your head, with breakfast included. Nothing out of the ordinary you might think.

Yet, 24 hours a day, hypnagogic images – the sort of thing you see in your mind as you drift off to sleep – were projected onto the hotel’s walls. There were no loops, so the same image was never projected twice during the five days that the hotel was open. Images were of sleeping animals, sleeping humans, clouds and water. When asked why he had chosen this selection of images, Weerasethakul said:

The sea is a place that inspires you to think, to align various thoughts. The horizon is the border between day and night. It evokes contradictions, such as death and life, consciousness and dreams.

In an interview with Film Comment magazine Weerasethakul said that he wanted the guests of the hotel to create new images in their minds, as the ones projected on to the hotel walls infiltrated and affected their unconscious.

In the morning the guests were encouraged to write these dream images down in the “Dream Book”.

Dream sequence

This film-dream experiment calls into question the purpose of cinema and its function as a medium built on a clear narrative. Dreams and the unconsciousness are key components of the director’s productions. He is deeply embedded in the art house and film festival circuit – and the Rotterdam film festival has had a pivotal impact on his career. He received financial support from the Hubert Bals Fund in 1998, and ever since then, his films have been consistently screened or have been in competition there.

Critically acclaimed: Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
自由馴鹿 (ZiYouXunLu), CC BY-SA

Weerasethakul is also known for his art installations and short films. In April 2016 he presented an all-night screening at the Tate Modern in London, consisting of four feature films and 28 shorts. During a preceding Q&A, Weerasethakul actively encouraged audience members to sleep during the screening in the hope that the images would affect their dreams. With the opening of the hotel in Rotterdam, Weerasethakul’s project, which aims to blur the boundaries between film viewing and dreaming, reached its apex.

Weerasethakul’s films have consistently had an ethereal, dreamlike quality. His loosely constructed narratives allow for moments of quietude and reflection. As such, his work is associated with the “slow cinema” aesthetic. The hallmarks of this particular style are the use of extremely long takes, static images, moments of quietness and contemplation, along with an absence of action-packed narrative – instead favouring the visualisation of the everyday existence of his characters.

But is it art?

Clearly, this can be seen as the polar opposite of much of the mainstream market. This aesthetic has received much criticism, most famously by Nick James in his editorial for the April 2010 edition of Sight & Sound (not available online).

Yet, to some degree, it has also been present in mainstream fare. One of the most celebrated sequences in cinema is the extreme long shot of Omar Sharif as he rides a camel over the crests of monolithic sand dunes in Lawrence of Arabia. This pertains to some of the hallmarks of slow cinema, yet a narrative is still present after this seminal sequence.

If cinema is considered an art form as well as a commercial medium, audience expectations are going to dictate the pleasure derived from films from specific market sectors. Weerasethakul’s films can be considered a hybrid form, situated between cinema, art and dreams – outside of the mainstream. So new thinking is required to assess its value.

An art gallery allows people to meander through various artworks: paintings, sculptures and moving images. Some works may construct a narrative of sorts, drawing links with the art around them – whether that be thematic or based on the creators. Others are individual pieces that require time to absorb their beauty. Some create a sense of pace and urgency, others a sense of calm.

If all of these diverse styles, emotions and themes can be placed under one roof, why can’t they be seen on screen at the same time? Why not allow for still images within a film that are there for aesthetic beauty rather than narrative fulfilment? Sleepcinemahotel is Weerasethakul’s most direct culmination of art and cinema: the moving image, with the static.

Given that most people have a camera phone, there is a concern that the currency of the still image is becoming debased. But the moving image is alive and well. Weerasethakul shows us how to present the two forms in the same filmic text, allowing us to appreciate the moving image as well as the still frame, not just as narrative entertainment – but as art forms.