Once Upon A Time

Down and Nerdy Episode 32: Once Upon a Time

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James and the gang are back together this week to kvetch about the heat and humidity, but don’t worry, they also got into some  topics that didn’t involve sweat and lethargy.

Tomi Ungerer

The Three Robbers“Far Out Isn’t Far Enough” took up the first half of the show.  The documentary, available on Netflix, delves into the life of Tomi Ungerer, a controversial figure who at one time was the biggest thing in children’s publishing.

Born in Alsace in 1931, Ungerer lived through the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.  Ungerer’s artistic gifts blossomed early, but he was a terrible student.  After being invited to leave the Municipal School for Decorative Arts in Strasbourg, he began a period of restless wandering that led him to America.

In 1957, Ungerer met Ursula Nordstrom, a towering figure in children’s publishing, who was an editor at Harper and Row in New York.  This meeting led to the publication of Ungerer’s first book, “The Mellops go Flying”, about a family of pigs.  The book won a trove of awards and set Ungerer on his way.

During his career as a children’s book author/illustrator, Ungerer also worked in advertising, magazine publishing, as well as creating political posters speaking out against the war in Vietnam.  Ungerer also published books of erotic art that eventually led to a falling out with the children’s publishing intelligentsia.

After being blacklisted as a children’s book author, Ungerer married and left the country, moving first to Nova Scotia, and then to Ireland.

The documentary paints a picture of a sensitive man who has retained a child-like fascination with the world, despite heavy loss.  It’s his response to the loss, his sense of making something good of the bad, that is among the many interesting things about Tomi Ungerer.  Watch this film!

Once Upon a Time

Next, James introduced the gang to a game called Once Upon a Time.  It’s a storytelling game where participants draw five cards containing elements that must be included in a story they will tell.  Additionally, a card is drawn with the last line of the story.  This being a fairy tale game, each story begins with “Once upon a time….”

This is a great game to play with the family, to help kids (and grownups) get their heads around the mechanics of how to move a story from beginning to middle to end.  It’s also great exercise for the imagination.  Try it out!


Finally, the gang recommended some TV shows that have caught their attention:

  • “Orange Is The New Black” – Scott is in love with Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), who is to OITNB what Walton Goggins is to “Justified.”
  • “Orphan Black” – Rachel keeps pushing this show, so we must watch it.
  • “Fargo” – Kevin and James both agree that this is must-see-TV.
  • “The Leftovers” – based on a Tom Perrotta novel, Kevin is really looking forward to this series that sounds like a post-rapture world.

Everyone agreed that “Halt and Catch Fire” registers as a big “meh” and has a stupid name.  How’s that for in-depth criticism?

Click here to stream the episode.