Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stuff for a Sunday!

Some links before we head out to brunch in Manhattan, as people do! (I am so going to miss this city...but more on that another time!)

:: A couple of Star Wars links first. Here's an interesting interview with Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and co-wrote Return of the Jedi, and has now returned to Star Wars to write episodes VII, VIII, and IX. Kasdan also wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark and Silverado, two other faves of mine.

:: Here's an interesting history of Marvel Comics's first foray into Star Wars comics, back before the Expanded Universe or the Prequels or just about anything else. There were some really fun stories in those Marvel comics, and I especially liked the creative team that was in charge at the end of the series's run; I wish they'd have had more time to flesh out the story they were working on before the series's abrupt cancellation.

:: Exploring an active volcano via kayak. Don't try this at home, kids!

:: Many years ago -- in 1980 or so -- my mother took me to see the Ice Capades when we were living in Portland, OR. The chief attraction was Dorothy Hamill, of course, but to our dismay, Ms. Hamill did not perform when we went, because she was sick or something. But still, I got to see the Ice Capades! I'd pretty much forgotten all about it until a random check of the RetroSpace Flickr stream, whereupon I found that they posted captures of some of the pages from that Ice Capades program. I had this program book, and wow, does this take me back to when I was no more than nine years old!

Ice Capades 1978

And yes, the Ice Capades really were that cheesy, which is why it was awesome!

That's about all...behave, folks, and regular stuff should resume mid-week! (Today's our last full day in NYC and then tomorrow we're on the Amtrak all day.)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankfulness (Something for Thursday -- Thanksgiving edition)

Wow...hard to believe it's been a year since the last time I was thankful! There seems to be so much ugliness in the world right now, but I wonder if that's not always the comes and goes. But the beauty and the good things remain, and I am thankful to be privileged enough to be in a position to realize it.

Here is my ongoing list of things I'm thankful for, tweaked for this year. Further posting may be sporadic for a few days, as I'm on vacation with The Family in the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, the Town So Nice They Named It Twice, New York, NY! Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

Bib overalls, writing, Star Wars, Hayao Miyazaki, Guy Gavriel Kay, John Williams, Person of Interest, Sarah Shahi, Lois Macmaster Bujold, Cutthroat Kitchen, Alton Brown, Veronica Mars, Enrico Colantoni, Adele, Idina Menzel, Kristen Stewart, "Let It Go", Arrested Development, chicken dances, Freaks and Geeks, The Musketeers, indie authors, Ithaca, Cayuga Lake, the Rochester Lilac Festival, fleece pullovers, scarves, retired racing greyhounds, our new house, a room for all my books, George Lucas, Gordon Ramsay, Hector Berlioz, Sergei Rachmaninov, Wicked, showtunes, raisin bran, The Oatmeal, the Sterling Renaissance Festival, antique shopping, taking ridiculous numbers of selfies, Guardians of the Galaxy, discovering that a coworker and I have the same second-favorite Madonna song, handing copies of Stardancer to my friends, Asian Star (our favorite local Chinese restaurant), Arriba Tortilla (our favorite local Mexican restaurant), Firefly (our local cupcake joint), Firefly (the teevee show), Castle and Beckett, A Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk (thanks for the memories, Tommy!), snow, sun, learning to live with a dog, watching two cats learning to live with a dog, hiking in the woods with the dog, drinking rum, single-malt Scotch, science, the stars, new friends online and off, finding out how cool my coworkers are, Princesses Tariana and Margeth, Lieutenant Rasharri, John Lazarus (hopefully you’ll find out who he is nest year), Aeric Seaflame (someday....), being tantalized by story ideas, figuring out a way out of a plot jam, getting a pie in the face, holding The Wife's hand, listening to The Daughter play music and video games, the feeling of getting home, the sense that I've figured out the plot, life, the Universe, and everything.

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of my readers and interactors throughout the Cyber-world! May the Holiday season be one of joy, and even if joy is hard to find, please try to take a moment and find some beauty!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Symphony Saturday

Ooooh, here's one of my absolute favorites. There's just something about Russian Romantics that always calls me home. I don't really know why that is; it's nothing genetic or ethnic or to do with genealogy. To my knowledge, there's not a drop of Russian blood in me, anywhere. But this group of composers, along with their post-Romantic brethren, seem to speak to my heart more than most other groups or national schools or whatever you want to call them. I don't want to indulge too much in sweeping generalities, but there's just something about the way the Russians can engage in lyrical brooding that appeals to me on an elemental level. Beautiful sadness, I think -- or the awareness that there are things in this world that can break your heart simply by being as beautiful as they are. There must be a German word for that feeling, or some lovely phrase in French.

Anyway, up today is the Symphony No. 1 by Vasily Kalinnikov. You have almost certainly not heard of Kalinnikov, because the fates dealt the music world a cruel blow when they afflicted him with tuberculosis. Kalinnikov was a deeply talented composer who was just starting to take flight when he died at the age of 35, becoming yet another "Oh, what if!" artist.

His first symphony is full of everything you would expect from a Russian Romantic symphony. It's full of amazing melodies (just try getting the first subject of the first movement out of your head after you've heard it), singing chromaticism, brooding churn in the lower registers, and cyclic construction that brings themes from the previous movements back for the finale. The delicate opening of the second movement is one of the most magical segments of any symphony I've ever heard, and that finale -- what an astonishing climax Kalinnikov creates, when he summons that delicate love song tune from the second movement to be the main focus of the symphony's glorious conclusion!

Maybe I'm being over-the-top in my praise of this work, but don't take my word for it. Here's the Symphony No. 1 by Vasily Kalinnikov.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Something for Thursday

I love Russian music. Composers from that land (and its various "satellite" countries) really have this way of letting it all hang out, don't they? Here's a short selection: the Sailor's Dance from The Red Poppy, by Reinhold Gliere.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Linkage Clearing House!

Some links that have been gathering dust in my bookmarks!

:: "Why would you waste cream and sugar on anything that you don't like?" Nifty little video on one restaurant's tradition of celebrating departing crewmembers with a pie in the face.

:: Universes that blur the line between SF and fantasy. The genre lines are not sharp borders....

:: Found: Map of Middle-earth, annotated by JRR Tolkien himself.

:: Behold the most complicated watch in the world. This thing is amazing.

:: The tangled cultural roots of Dungeons and Dragons.

:: Unopened mail...from 400 years ago.

:: Making a Dagwood sandwich...and, if you're so inclined, making the original Dagwood sandwich.

:: How the ballpoint pen killed cursive. I've never been able to make up my mind about cursive and whether or not it should still be taught. I've never really understood the logic of learning to write twice, but I don't get the idea that it hurts anything to learn, so...I dunno.

:: They've found a new earliest use of the F-word! (And by the way, if you're one of those who thinks the F-word is an acronym, please stop. You're wrong.)

:: Making The Warriors. I never saw that movie, but I've sure heard of it.

:: How Richard Scarry updated Best Word Book Ever to reflect a newer world.

Finally, on a much more serious note, two pieces that pretty much encapsulate my thinking on the horror that's been unfolding in the world the last few days: The Price of Civilization by Jim Wright, and Paris by John Scalzi. I honestly don't have any great prescriptions for making our world better, although I do cling to my faith that we (as a species) are getting better, albeit so very slowly that sometimes it doesn't seem like we're getting better at all. I do hope that we don't completely give in (and by 'we', I mean the Western powers and not just the United States) to the eternally-seductive notion that if we just let slip enough of the dogs of war, for a long enough time, we'll eventually kill all the bad guys and let the credits roll on a victory. History just doesn't work like that; it never has, and I see little reason to expect it to work that way this time.

With that, I go back to writing. Excelsior, and live well, people!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Symphony Saturday

Belgian composer Cesar Franck wrote only one symphony in his life, but it's a mainstay of the symphonic repertoire for reasons that become obvious upon hearing: it's a powerful work, lyrical and brooding and, in the end, optimistic. Franck'd reputation is mainly established by works he wrote toward the end of his life, and the Symphony in D minor is one of those. There was not much of a French symphonic tradition to speak of in the 19th century, which partly explains why the work was apparently poorly received at first, but like many great works, its reputation grew over the years where now it is considered, rightfully, a masterpiece.

Of particular interest is Franck's use of cyclic form, in which melodic material from earlier movements is used in later ones. I've always loved cyclic works, which partly explains my own fierce devotion to Tchaikovsky's Fifth and Rachmaninov's Second Symphonies.

Here is Cesar Franck's Symphony in D minor.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bad Joke Friday!

A panda walks into a bar and says, "I'll have a rum...

















...and coke, please."

The bartender says, "OK, but why the big pause?"

The panda holds up his hands. "I was born with them."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Something for Thursday

Even despite the movie's gaping historical inaccuracies and Kevin Costner's less-than-robust attempt at a British accent, I still like the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I especially love its sweeping score by Michael Kamen, who is to my mind one of the more underrated film composers of the last few decades. His death -- eleven years ago, and the same year as Jerry Goldsmith's and Elmer Bernstein's passings -- was especially cruel, because he should have had a few decades' worth of music left inside him. I'll always wonder what we might have heard.

Anyway, some kind soul uploaded the entire score album to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to YouTube (minus the wildly overplayed Bryan Adams song), so here it is. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015



Yes, folks, the day has come: Book II of The Song of Forgotten Stars is now a reality! Details are over on the official site, but the important thing is: THE WISDOMFOLD PATH is a GO!!!

More commentary to come, but for now...WOW!

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Symphony Saturday (the Return!)

I've been meaning to dust off this once-regular feature of mine, in which I take time each Saturday to explore the world of that grandest of classical music forms, the symphony -- and what better time than right now?

During the 19th century, Italy did not have a great symphonic tradition as did other nations in Europe. In Italy, opera was by far the most popular form of musical composition, and practically zero symphonies by Italian composers of the Romantic era have entered the standard symphonic repertoire. This is not to say that there were no Italian symphonists during that era, however.

Giovanni Sgambati achieved some renown for his piano music, but he also wrote two symphonies, the first of which is the subject of this post. Listening to the work, it is easy to hear the heavy Germanic influence that Sgambati felt. He was an eager champion of German and Austrian music in Rome, and this symphony, with its decidedly Teutonic feel and sound, definitely shows that. It is clear that Sgambati felt more attuned to the line from Beethoven to Brahms than that from Cherubini to Verdi. The work does not feature the kind of lyricism one might expect from an Italian, but it is full of the kind of Germanic writing that is notable in many a symphony from the north.

Sgambati’s Symphony No. 1, like many an obscure work, deserves to be heard more than it is. Enjoy!

Friday, November 06, 2015

Bonus Bad Joke Friday! (Visual Pun Edition)

Saw this yesterday and posted it to Facebook. It made me laugh.

Bad Joke Friday

"Sorry, but I'm dealing with a lot of pressure at work!"

--When a barometer complains

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Monday, November 02, 2015

It's NaNoWriMo time!

Here we go, folks!

BETRAYAL! TRAITORS! Lord, I love writing! #amwriting #MyWIP

Posting will be a bit more infrequent and more reliant on pictures and such this month, so bear with me as I try to crank out 50000 words. Yipes!

The book is the on-again, off-again Dumas-inspired adventure tale, The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy (not the actual title). I actually ended up starting this one over from square one, and I'm liking the direction it's taking thus far, so we'll see how it goes!