Wednesday Poem: December Magic ~ Pandita Sanchez

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December Magic

Waltzing with the wind,
in crocheted gowns of white lace…
flurries of snowflakes
sway to sweet divine music…
that only angels can hear.

Pandita Sanchez

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Christmas Special: The Nutcracker Suite ~ Tchaikovsky

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Although not a piece of literature, I couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy Christmas Day than listening to The Nutcracker Suite and enjoying a glass of wine:

I hope you all have a safe, happy and blessed holiday.

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Review: The Day the Music Died ~ Blair Evans

The Day the Music diedThe Day the Music Died is a story of a young man’s loss of the only thing in his life he had ever truly loved – music. Academia and mainstream culture (read: ‘Bullshit’) have destroyed it and subverted it to the point where great music can be hidden from society and nonsense can pass for greatness. For the next ten years, void of any centering influence in his life, Cameron Forsyth lives in a life of delusion and make-believe; looking within himself in order to decipher the difference between talent, inspiration and acts of sheer chance, in the hope that he may resolve what was to him an event tantamount to musical decide.

A divide soon appears between reality and Cameron’s reinvention of events and the world around him.

2 Thumbs-UpThis is a debut novel for this Author, and if you are offended by pornography you may want to choose to give this a miss.

The main protagonist is a credible and likeable character, well written by the Author who manages to imbue in him traits and emotions that can be found in people the reader interacts with on a daily basis.  His journey from devotion to disillusionment is well documented, and the Author makes the reader feel as if they are taking this journey with the character, as well as being able to identify those times in their own lives when they have also undergone this change in viewpoint.  Although I found the main protagonist to be likeable, I also found him at times to be a little trying on my patience, and some of the ways in which he reacted to events ranging from humourous to violent were a bit too much to handle.

The book contains many observations from the Author on our society, especially the cultures and subcultures out there; these observations are insightful and conveyed through a tongue in cheek wit that is especially humourous.  The Author also uses a lot of innuendo and, although this is wholly appropriate is some circumstances, after too many pages of it constantly rearing its head I began to tire of it; many readers of this may find that, as I did, it also leaves very little room for the reader to use their imagination which was a very disappointing part of this novel for me.  With a little less of the vivid imagery, and more being left to my imagination, this novel would have been much more enjoyable.  There are also large parts of this book that weighed down with too much information and explanation, again taking away the reader’s ability to use their imaginations.  All in all I personally didn’t enjoy this read as much as I hoped I would as I do like reads that make me think, and this fell short in that area despite the numerous chuckles it gave me.

I would recommend this book to those readers who are looking for something a little on the risqué side.

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Porgy And Bess

September 2, 1935:

Porgy and Bess Completed

Porgy and BessIt was on this day in 1935 that George Gershwin officially completed the score for the opera Porgy and Bess. Nine years earlier, during tryouts for his musical Oh, Kay! (1926), Gershwin picked up the novel Porgy by DuBose Heyward. Set in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina, the book told the story of a crippled beggar named Porgy, a beautiful drug addict named Bess, and her abusive lover, Crown. Gershwin immediately envisioned it as an opera, and he wrote to Heyward asking if he wanted to collaborate. The novelist agreed, but not before he and his wife finished adapting the novel into a play, which had a new ending and became a hit on Broadway. The play became the basis for the opera. Gershwin intended to call the opera Porgy, just like the novel and play.

For several years, the opera was put on hold as George and his brother Ira worked on other projects. Then Heyward wrote to Gershwin with a dilemma: he had received a request for the musical rights to Porgy from a famous white actor, who wanted to play Porgy in blackface and collaborate with a different composer and lyricist. Heyward preferred to work with Gershwin, but he had lost money in the stock market crash and was feeling desperate. He asked whether they could consider bringing the white actor into the project, but Gershwin was adamant that he wanted a black cast, and convinced he could make his own version of Porgy a success even if someone else beat him to it. The other version fell through and was never made.

Gershwin kept hoping to find time to devote himself to the opera, which he called “a labor of love” — but he needed money, so he continued accepting smaller jobs that promised a decent cash flow. Finally, he found the break he needed: a lucrative gig hosting a radio show in New York, Music by Gershwin, which was sponsored by a laxative chewing gum called Feen-A-Mint. Gershwin became the target of plenty of jokes, but he said afterward that without Feen-A-Mint gum, there would be no Porgy and Bess. It took him almost two years to finish the opera — 11 months to write it and another nine months to do the full orchestration. About orchestrating, he wrote to his brother Ira: “It goes slowly, there being a million notes.”

While he was writing Porgy, Gershwin received a letter from a young soprano named Anne Brown. She was a star graduate student at Juilliard; she had heard that Gershwin was writing an opera and wanted an interview. At his request, she came to his apartment to sing for him. She brought music by Brahms and Schubert, and Gershwin played along as she sang. Then he asked her to sing a spiritual. Brown was offended and told him so — she didn’t think black people should be expected to sing spirituals. He backed off, but she changed her mind and sang “A City Called Heaven” a cappella. Gershwin was so moved that he was speechless. Not long after that, he called Brown back, told her that he had written the first 33 pages of his opera, and asked if she would come over again and sing the role of Bess. From that point on, he wrote with her in mind, and she often came over to sing new parts for him. Before the show opened, he asked her to meet him at a  cafe for an orange juice, and told her that he had decided that her role was so important he was changing the name of his opera from Porgy to Porgy and Bess.

Rehearsals for the opera began in August of 1935, before the finishing touches were put on the score. After the first day of rehearsals, the opera’s director felt overwhelmed and depressed, but that night while he was in bed, he got a call from Gershwin, who said: “I always knew that Porgy and Bess was wonderful, but I never thought I’d feel the way I feel now. I tell you, after listening to that rehearsal today, I think the music is so marvelous — I really don’t believe I wrote it!”

Despite many positive reviews, Porgy and Bess was a commercial flop, running for only a few months and losing its initial $70,000 investment. The composer used his royalties from the opera to pay back the copyists who had prepared the score. Gershwin died unexpectedly of a brain tumor two years later.

Happy Labour Day all, and book reviews will resume on 3rd September 2013.

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Review: The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature ~ Jeff VanderMeer et al

Steampunk BibleSteampunk—a grafting of Victorian aesthetic and punk rock attitude onto various forms of science-fiction culture—is a phenomenon that has come to influence film, literature, art, music, fashion, and more. The Steampunk Bible is the first compendium about the movement, tracing its roots in the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells through its most recent expression in movies such as Sherlock Holmes. Its adherents celebrate the inventor as an artist and hero, re-envisioning and crafting retro technologies including antiquated airships and robots. A burgeoning DIY community has brought a distinctive Victorian-fantasy style to their crafts and art. Steampunk evokes a sense of adventure and discovery, and embraces extinct technologies as a way of talking about the future. This ultimate manual will appeal to aficionados and novices alike as author Jeff VanderMeer takes the reader on a wild ride through the clockwork corridors of Steampunk history.

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This was a beautiful book with lavish illustrations tracing the Steampunk movement. Its origins in the industrial revolution and the literature of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, to its influence in modern-day fiction, fashion, art, craftsmanship, and film, are all documented with beautiful photography, illustrations, and prints on almost every single page of the book; it’s worth reading just for the visual experience as the layout of the pages has been well thought out to give the reader a feast for the eyes.

There were some sections that I found rather disappointing. For example, the section on Steampunk fashion made me feel that if I didn’t have the right boots/goggles/work belt, then I wouldn’t be considered to be serious about my Steampunk.  This smacked of the elitist point of view to me, as I know many people who have some outstanding costumes and have won prizes, but don’t check all the blocks they say are necessary in this book.  Also the section on much went on just a little too long for such a new sound.

However, I did find the book thought-provoking and insightful, and made me consider that Steampunk and other movements are actually springing up all around the globe full of people wanting to disconnect from our technological and virtual society. The do-it-yourself ethic in which Steampunk is highly invested, focuses on creating things with your own hands in order to reconnect with the world around you while at the same time giving yourself  meaning and purpose in your life; we can see this mindset slowing taking hold through various avenues such as homesteading and self-sufficiency groups.

I would recommend it to readers who are interested in this genre, if it can be called such; those who are just dipping a toe into Steampunk, and anyone else who would like a beautiful, and unusual coffee table book.

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