Review of “Catching Fire” movie

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How would you rate the movie?

I think for a followup movie, they did a very good job of keeping the excitement of the original while driving in new elements.  As far as seeing it without the first movie, it has the elements it needs to make sense.  Although I think some of the training elements maybe should have been a bit different.  In the book, there are numerous scenes of studying Haymitch in his winning of the games previously that they skipped on.  Although this likely was a good decision as the younger fans would more enjoy the focus on Katniss and Peeta characters. Additionally, this would have dragged out the train tour scene visually.

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How well do you think they followed the book?

In each adaptation of a movie from a book there are shortcuts taken to focus on the key scenes.  Do I think they got that right?  Very close.  They did eliminate some foreshadowing of District 13, which probably made sense in that the ending becomes a complete cliff hanger if you haven’t read any of the books.

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Another section they slice off is the electrification of the fence and the finding of the house to retreat to in case of the revolution coming.

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What do you think are the successful factors?

The whipping scene is very strong and captures the brutality of an authoritarian regime.  There are historical parallels in modern society with slavery.

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Are there modern regimes using brutal methods?

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Sure, look at the Sudan where they publicly whipped a woman for adultery under Islamic fascist-style governments.  In Saudi Arabia they stone women.  Below is a photo of stoning in Somalia, again by a Islamic extremist group.

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As with the book, the structure of the Hunger Games changes over time and there are surprise plot twists.  This is a classical must-have feature for a sequel to have long-term success as the audience will bore of the same plots repeated as is common in many serial novels.

Because of the cover-up of some of the foreshadowing of the ending, the ending is very strong and comes to the audience in a blast.

 

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The fact that they focus on the results of the slow burning uprising really enhances how the general population of Panam is rising up.  Visually, its actually stronger than the sense you get in the book, which is trickier.  In the book, you have to describe the uprising and keep it top of mind.  In film, you can show the crowds getting more and more extreme, so it is burned into your retina memory much faster.

Why do you think this series touches such a nerve in the population?

One of the themes is a domineering political center, the Capital, stealing all the resources in abandonment ways of splurging while the rest of the population is starving.  Historically, this happened as the Nazis rose to power in Germany and as the war progressed, but also recently you can see similar trends in the US government. You saw this as a troubled teen took on the Boston bombing or the hacker group Anonymous beginning to challenge all different power groups worldwide.

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Boston Bombing and Police 2012

Are you saying the US is becoming Nazi Germany?

No, not yet.  What I mean to qualify is that you do see a militarization of the police to an extent never seen before in US history.  In my lifetime, I have seen AK47s wielded by the Polish Communist police, but now we are seeing the US police, SWAT and all other police forces carrying machine guns to protect us from terrorism.  A great example was the police response to the Boston bombing in 2012.

Another example is the response to the JFK assassination in 1963 and the 2013 women who rammed the white house road blocks.  In one case you have lax police protection, which allowed the opportunity of assassination.  In the other hand, you have a dental practioner with her child in the car gunned down by over zealous DC cops protecting the White House. This is major upset from likely too few cops to too extreme cops in 5 decades.

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Have you done any artwork on this theme?

Yes, I did do an artwork on the Hunger Games and will likely just leave it at one work for the entire series of books and movies.  My painting focuses right on the time when Katniss decides to volunteer in District 12 and show self-sacrifice to preserve her own sister while Effie, representing the Capital powerful elite excess, draws out her name with a beautifully decadent accent.  She then tells the reapees that “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

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May the Odds be Ever in your Favor

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Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

Interview of “Techtonic Turbulent Tide” painting

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Why did you decide to paint this theme?

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On March 2011, this massive tidal wave overwhelmed the coastline of Japan. The cause was the massive 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan that caused the massive ocean swells.

As the event unfolded, I knew I had to paint this tragic site unfolding on TV.  The impact was multiplied when the nuclear plants on the coast, the worst being the Fukushima plant.

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Why do you think the authorities were slow to release data to the public?

At the time of the disaster, the plant managers thought they had the plant under control.  Then the US embassy released a danger zone for the plant much larger for than the Japanese authorities that caused panic for the public there.

There was also a slow release of the number of victims that died in the tsunami.  This was a cultural difference in that Japan they only release statistics once the bodies have been confirmed.

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What has been the cultural impact of the disaster?

Historically, Japan has always been hit by tsunamis resulting from massive earthquakes, so there is a large historical connection to this disaster in art. Here we see the famous Great Wave woodblock print in the 1830s with Mount Fuji in the background.

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The Great Wave off Kanagawa – Hokusai

Are there popular artworks related to nuclear disaster?

Yes, since the US dropped the atomic bomb twice on Japan at the end of WWII, there have been fear stories related to the effect of nuclear contamination.  The best known are Godzilla and other giant beings movies of the 1950s

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What is the text in your painting?

The lettering says “Tsunami” in Japanese and the background is Chinese paper.  It would have made more sense to use Japanese paper, since no Japanese nor Chinese would by a cultural combination like this.

 

Are any works available? 

Check my shop at www.shawnshawn.co

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

Interview of Kofie Augustine

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Where did you see Kofie’s work?

I first think I saw it at the LA Art show painting a massive canvas in his signature Vintage Futurism style.  We drove in one day from San Francisco to LA and back.  It was a really insane road trip for art junkies.

I just saw his work again in the White Walls Gallery and recognized his work again.  The amount of detail in his work is truly intense.  He uses the tiniest paint pens, ink pens to capture great architectural line and structure in his work.

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How long do you think it takes to do such a painting?

Well, first you need decades of work to get to this level.  You can see his work progress from his earlier free hand graffiti in the 90s under KOFIE to more fixed straight line and pure geometrical shapes in his recent work.

What does his graffiti work look like?

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Why is the work so linear?

Well, Kofie started out dreaming as an illustrator and he still free-hand draws frequently in his work.  Likely, he sketches some of the paintings first beforehand, but that is a guess.

Why did he call it Vintage Futurism?

As a kid, he loved to collect vintage found items from the street then later yard sales, junk yards and other yards to put into his works.  His earlier work has stencils from older adverts or futuristic signs incorporated into the work.  His more recent work in the show has been stripped of most of the textural and graphic elements.

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How has he influenced your work?

Well, I immediately went and bought even more drafting elements at the local art store.  I myself was always interested in architecture, so the connection to my work is very close.  Obviously, I have to put in more years to get to Kofie’s level.  After that I knocked out a painting yesterday, which I will photograph shortly. Below is an earlier work of mine in a similar angular geometric style.

This is the scene of the bombing of Libyan civilians by Gaddafi before he was captured and lynched by the rebels.

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Tribal Terror in Tripoli – ShawNshawN

Here are my works post-Kofie show:

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4 Band Resister 1, 4ImageImage

Miracle of Belo Monte 2, 3

What is Kofie’s website?

His website is prolific and well-laid out as well with great info on his development.  He is at www.KeepDrafting.com

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

 

Interview on “This is not a pipe” painting

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So why did you choose to rip off Magritte?

Well, I wouldn’t call it a rip off, but really a dedication to the genius of Magritte in a modern take.  The original was done as a statement against realism in painting.

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How did Magritte respond to the public’s reaction to the painting in 1929?

“The famous pipe.  How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff the pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture “This is a pipe”, I’d have been lying”

Why does Ronald Reagan sign your painting?

Again, I took the joke one step further by having a dead US President signing the work as well, so in 100 years from now they will wonder if Reagan commented on Magritte or I came up with it myself.

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The curious fact is Reagan actually induced smoking of Chesterfields earlier as an actor.

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Later he came up with the “Just say no to drugs” campaign with Nancy helping to promote the campaign to eradicate the rising cocaine trade in the 1980s. Nancy Reagan travelled over 250,000 miles trying to campaign to stop the use of drugs during the Reagan administration.

How did the Reagans go about the war on drugs?

Below is the classic TV commercial on the the effects of drugs on your brain used by the US government.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub_a2t0ZfTs

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During the Iran-Contra scandal, Reagan with the CIA helped supply weapons to the Contra.  Some members of the Contra were actually selling cocaine after US aid was cut off.  Politicians speculated that the CIA had been involved in the drug trade.

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Why is your pipe metal vs. a wood pipe?

This gets to the actual subject of the painting.  In Magritte’s painting he is talking about a tobacco pipe.  In my painting I am referring to a crack cocaine pipe.  I choose metal over glass to enhance the gruesomeness of the habit.

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What are the other symbols in the background?

I have the three big cities where cocaine and later crack hit the streets: New York, Miami and Los Angeles.  I used the symbols of popular sports teams to symbolize those cities and the sports stars who were also using the drug.

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Besides the illegal drug ingredient, you need baking soda or alumunium bicarbonate or ammonium bicarbonate.  I symbolized the other ingredients from the two companies likely profiting during the 80s scurge.

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Additionally, the tools are a lighter and a spoon.  So I have the top lighter and silver spoon makers in the US.

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Of course, the most famous victim was Whitney Houston, who I used from her star on the walk of stars in Hollywood.

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Are any works available? 

Check my shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShawNshawNart

 

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Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

Interview of “8:46 am in the morning” painting

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So where were you the day of 9/11 attacks?

I was driving to work and decided to see my wife, who worked at a local hotel in Berkeley.  Everyone was crowded around the TV, watching the towers burn. After 20 minutes, I drove on and heard the rest of the attacks unfold on the radio.  It was a challenge to drive, but all the drivers were muted zombies driving, no one drove aggressively as we grieved together.

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What is this painting title?

This is the time right when the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.  I had been painting an abstract painting and then this image started to form and I realized when I finished that it was the attack on WTC with the characteristic metal support beams on the building and explosion of the plane as it disintegrates on impact into the building.

What were the first days like afterward?

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One of the proudest moments was seeing that Art.com decided to print 100s of posters to create a massive flag on all the windows of their building. Imagine 70% of the face of this building was a massive US flag.  Immediately afterwards there was a shortage of US flags as everyone wanted to commemorate the civilian deaths around the US.

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How did artists respond to the tragedy?

Many people at first were drawn to the US flag and then people got enraged at the senseless attack on civilians not involved in US foreign policy.  People were really shocked that Osama bin Laden actually took responsibility.  People were upset at the Bush administration later for letting the family members related to Osama escape quickly out of the US.  Of course, they likely would have been lynched in the aftermath.  Above we see a massive mural by Shepherd Fairey and Saber on the 9/11 attacks.  I personally painted a type of flag painting as well, but never showed it as it was very vengeful type of work.

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“Would you like to play a game of thermonuclear war?”

What is the story in this painting?

Well, I had painted the US flag in off colors and green, which were the colors in the Saudi Arabia flag. As we know now, 11 of the bombers were Saudi in the group called “Al-queda”.  The branch in Saudi Arabia is trying to overthrow the monarchy supposedly and establish an even tighter religious ruling in Saudi Arabia.  The lettering of the Saudi flag is repeated in the painting.

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What does this lettering say?

“There is no God, but God and Mohammed is the messenger of God.”

Basically, the flag is stating that only Islam is the correct version of religion and we will enforce it by military means of the sword.  How many Saudi citizens think it is their duty to start a jihad just based on their flag design?  You have similar issues in Pakistan, where the capital is called “Islamabad”, basically the town of Islam.  How many Pakistanis think it is their duty to spread Islam as the only correct version of religion and piety?

Is there other lettering in your flag painting?

In the top left, where the 50 stars would go are the coordinates of the Mecca and Medina.  Medina is the capital of Saudi Arabia and Mecca is the holy capital of Islam, where muslims go each year in their holy journey required once in their lifetime.

Why didn’t you decide to show this work?

I was unhappy with the work and spattered it in paint and later had no idea how to finish it.  Seeing other works like from Saber, I came to realize we as artists were showing the blood shed of the event on the US flag.  The attacks were an abomination to what the US citizen believes as moral justice in the world ie. you don’t attack citizens in war, especially when you just start a war.  Below is a series of Saber’s flag works.

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So what is the title of your work about?

Basically, the title is a reference to “War Games”, a classic movie of my childhood.  The main character is a computer high school student nerd, who hacks into school system to change his grades. He then fumbles upon a secret Department of Defense computer that he can play multiple games.  One of the games is “Thermonuclear War”.  He starts to play and the computer decides the game is real and begins planning a nuclear attack on the USSR.  The student mush convince the computer that the endgame is only destruction of the world with no true victory in any scenario.

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In my painting, the coordinates of Mecca and Medina are a new updated version, where the US decides to nuke Saudi Arabia for the 9/11 attacks, since so many of their citizens were behind the attacks.

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What do you think of the conspiracy theories that came out after the dust settled?

Well one theory was that the WTC 7 was not in the attack.  When I first heard this, I thought these guys are just not processing the attacks as possible and thought there must be some type of government conspiracy to attack Iraq and Afganistan.  But really, would the US government be able to pull off such a massive conspiracy theory?

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One of the newest wrinkles in this particular story has been uncovered by Edward Snowden.  He claimed that Saddam Hussein actually planned a simultaneous attack to blow up WTC7 on the same day as al-Queda attacked with 4 planes.  Who knows if this was possible, but based on some photos like the one above you definitely start to wonder.  The conspiracy here is the disbelief that the US would actually invade Iraq without reason seeing the US as impervious to invasion, so an actual attack would have been justified if Saddam had attacked.

The reality is that it is possible that the US government just decided to invade Iraq.  We did it in Vietnam and then passed the War Powers Act of 1973 to prevent US presidents from unilateraly declaring war without Congress permission after the disaster of limited engagement in Vietnam.

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Interview on “Toxic Cafe of Lac-Magentic” painting

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So why were you inspired to paint this theme?

I heard of the tragic accident at Lac-Magentic with the whole town basically obliterated and grew curious to how this explosion happened.  A train was parked by itself above the town, the conductor goes for a cup of coffee, the train runs away downhill and then blows up an entire town.

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Who do you think is to blame in this tragedy?

Well definitely the policy of allowing one conductor to a train with hazardous material looks very foolish.  I think the fact that this train carrying such type of explosive material should be under guard 24/7 to prevent such a catastrophe.

Isn’t guarding this oil 24/7 extreme?

Well, look at the situation this way, what if the explosion was intentional or had been intentional? The minimum thing MMA, a US based company, could do was at least guard the train.  Looking at the statistics of declining train derailments from 3000 in 1980 to 500 in 2010, the advent of a terrorist connection is unlikely.

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Has there been a major train terrorist attack post 9/11?

Yes, in 2004, terrorists hit a major train depot in Madrid. They blew up the four trains three days before the election and thanks to the initial bungled investigation of the PP, the party was overthrown in the elections.

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Have you ever been close to a terrorist attack?

In fact, I landed a few hours after the terrorist bombing of the Madrid airport garage.  We were stuck in the plane for an hour at least before they secured the airport for people to evacuate the planes.  As we came out of the airport we saw 4-5 levels of the front of the garage blown up.

When I lived in Spain there were bombings by the local Basque terrorists called ETA.  In 1993, they blew up seven people in a van in the streets of Madrid. Additionally, they set a second bomb next to the US and French Embassies, but the second bomb cause was unsolved.  I lived about 6 km away at the time.

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Why is ETA striking terror in Spain?

Well, Spain suffered a dictatorship after the Civil War in the 1930s.  Franco used very repressive ways to eliminate other language groups and political competitors: anarchists, communists, socialists and regionalists throughout Spain with the exception of his native Galician.  People were forced to learn only Castillian (what we know as Spanish that conquered the Americas).  During the dictatorship of 42 years, the only political action was to use terror.  In this case ETA formed to overthrow the dictatorship and establish themselves as a free country.  After democracy the group continued in their terror campaign despite having achieved language protection, preservation and respect within Spain’s new democracy.

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ETA mural in the Basque Country

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March against ETA, 2010

Why do you think ETA continues?

In many ways it represents the poor transition to democracy in the 1930s and the continuation of the original Civil War of 1936-39.  Hopefully one day the terror will end.

 

Are any works available? 

Check my shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShawNshawNart

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

Interview on “Remember the 5th of November” painting

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So what is this title about in November?

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It is a line from the V for Vendetta movie in which V, the lead freedom fighter rescues a girl about to be raped by the secret police of the futuristic London and says…

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What exactly is he referring to?

In London, there is a Guy Fawkes holiday that falls on November the 5th, 1605.  It was the night that Guy Fawkes tried to overthrow the current King of England by blowing up Parliament.  Later it became a grand holiday that people dance to and light up bonfires.

In the futuristic movie, this holiday was banned and forgot, so the villain/hero decides to retry to blow up Parliament to overthrow the dictator Adam Sandler from power.

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Are there any parallels in our present day?

Well, if you look at UK they have over 1.4 million cameras run by CCTV to watch for crime.  This is equivalent to one camera every 32 people in the whole country mostly in urban settings.  This same use of cameras could be used as a way to control the population if an autocratic government came to power as in the movie V for Vendetta.

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In the US, the government set up Prism under the NSA.  The government story is that they only use it to check on the location of your phone number.  While Edward Snowden claims that they are using it to track any civilian virtually online with data up to 7 years in the past.  Sounds like a witch hunt of the civilian population.  This makes Nixon and McCarthy era look like Sesame Street in comparison.  This tool could easily be used to control a civilian population under an autocratic regime.  With the current Obama regime using the IRS to hinder the popular vote to possibly skew a popular election, you definitely have to be wondering where this is heading.  Are we still in a democracy?

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If you look at the US Constitution, the 4th Amendment strictly says government is not allowed to illegal search.  If you look at the NSA and Prism, this is an illegal search of the whole US population at will.  The government claims these are in check in under a secret court FISA.  Why does the court have to be secret?  Are the courts and President truly following the US constitution they are sworn to uphold?

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Which scene is the painting about?

In the film, the hero/villain survives a violent fire of the labs they run human experiments.  These experiments alters his DNA to have super-human traits while at the same time inventing a cure to the terrible virus the government unleashes on the population to seal the absolute power they take over the government.

How did the fictional dictator come to power in the film?

The group uses paranoia of the virus infection, hatred of minorities and fear.  As the inspector in the film finds out the genius of the plan is the fear instilled in the population.

Are there parallels in today’s world?

If you look at modern TV anchors, rather than reporting the news objectively they state their opinions.  Usually, it is how one side or the other is racist, hates minorites and is not worth listening to.  In a true democracy, people debate the issues and concede when they lost a logical point.  Do we have that in the current TV shouting matches we have nowadays?

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Are any works available? 

Check my shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShawNshawNart

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact