Monday, November 27, 2017

Cottage for Sale: a woman moves a house to make a home by Kate Whouley

Mozart's Piano Quartet no. 1 KV 478 is being performed here.

Cottage for Sale, Must Be Moved: A Woman Moves a House to Make a HomeCottage for Sale, Must Be Moved: A Woman Moves a House to Make a Home by Kate Whouley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was not exactly what I was expecting but it still had its merit.

As you've probably read in the blurb. A woman who lives in a Cape Cod house on, where else? Cape Cod sees an advertisement for a colony of vacation cottage homes for sale. For a mere three thousand dollars she could own one of them. She visits the colony, falls in love with one particular cottage, and buys it.

The next several hundred pages contain her adventure in the world of conquering bureaucrats, getting permission to travel with a cottage, getting it to her property, but promising not to disturb the wetlands, which her property borders, arguing that she will not have more than three bedrooms because the cottage is going to serve as her office and what difference does it make anyway?

She also has trying adventures with the various contracters to move, build, paint, pour cement and what not.

In the end it all comes together, a rougher ride than she expected but who can predict these things?

Whouley's writing style is engaging and she makes what must have been a tedious process sound interesting.

My only complaints are that she could have developed the characters more. I realize this was non-fiction and one can only know so much about men who work on your house, but she never really lets us know her friends and family, either. One particular person, Barbara, whose family owned the property, had a lot of potential and I would very much have liked to have gotten to know her better but we only get a glimpse of her in the beginning and at the end when she is bedridden. It seems an entire story took place while we were attaching the cottage, but we never get to learn of it.

The other complaint I have is that the author writes everything in present tense. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hate reading a story in present tense. If you are not writing in second person you have no business writing in the present tense. It drains any color or rhythm her writing might otherwise have had. All the sentences limp along: subject verb. subject verb. subject verb. It's like listening to someone with one of those ugly monotone voices. A voice with no lilt, no lift, no melodic line. As a musician, I cannot tolerate voices of people who refuse to listen to themselves. As a reader, I feel the same way about tone deaf sentences.

On a positive note, I found her yearning for male relationships entertaining, but only because, being single after an ugly divorce, I was that person. With so many males crawling all over your house, surely one of them is The One. I won't tell you in case you like to be surprised.

I could comment on the unrealistic expectations of a forty-something woman who has never married and perhaps that is why she has never married, but you may want to draw your own conclusions.

Is the book worth reading? It's not War and Peace, but it was a fun, if small, rollick.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Greek Myths Volume One and Two by Robert Graves

It's been a sad week.  My little dog Breeya had to be put down.  Unlike Odie, she was not completely incapacitated, but she was so anxious and unhappy.  All night long she would run in and out of her doggy door and howl.  It wasn't typical howling.  It was a hoarse rasping.  She could not see or hear and was confused.  I finally had to decide if this ghost of the beautiful dog I once knew was worth preserving.

Derek, Breeya, Odie and me.  When we were young.

A couple of days later, I went to feed my guinea pigs to find Little Bear dead.  No sign of trauma, nothing.  He was only two years old.  I don't know why he died.

I have actually been more shocked over Little Bear than Breeya who had been sliding down the hill for the past year.  Little Bear was fine that morning when I was holding and cuddling him. When I went out to his pen in the afternoon he was lying very still in the tall grass.  We looked him over thoroughly.  There is nothing to indicate why he died.

Josh with Little Bear and Percy

Death, even with pets, is filled with sorrow.  I have been checking up on my little fatso, Percy, throughout the day, to see if he is OK.  So far, just as fat and sassy as ever.

Sorry to turn this into a lamentation for my pets.  It's been a rough year on that front.  At least there's still Percy and Hercaloo.

Hercaloo looking down at the piggies.  Trying to decide which one to nip, no doubt.

I find Paul Hindemith's Harp Sonata reflective and peaceful.  You can listen here.

The Greek MythsThe Greek Myths by Robert Graves

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Robert Graves is quite thorough in writing about the myths and at the end of each story, he provides foot notes that can be as long as the story itself.

Some of the footnotes are speculative. "This god replaced an earlier pagan god etc.". It is difficult to know these things or the origins of any of these stories. But Graves gives his educated guesses and they are worth pondering.

In Graves' version the myths are not child friendly and a lot more graphic than I remember Edith Hamilton's version. I have not read Hamilton's version in many years, so I suppose I could be wrong. She also includes stories that Graves leaves out.

Graves seems to lean heavily on saga, which I appreciated since I recently read the Iliad and the Odyssey. He also fills in the gaps those two poems leave, letting us know how the Trojan War began and what happened to some of the key players such as Achilles, who is alive in the Iliad, but already dead in the Odyssey.

Another asset to Graves' collection is that he provides a cohesive chronology which seamlessly ties the gods and their origins, and also the heroes and their adventures together.  This allows the reader to gain a greater understanding of how all the stories fit inside of each other's story.  For example Heracles and his labors overlap Jason and the Argonauts.  In Graves' version we can see each myth separately, but also how they are a part of each other's story line.
I do not know if Robert Graves has a certain predilection towards the salacious (his books, I, Claudius and Claudius the God were pretty lewd) or if he is simply preserving a faithful translation of the stories. He has been criticized for relying too heavily on Suetonius' histories, who is also known for creating scandals that are not as historically reliable as they should be.

Simply put, The Greek Myths Volume One and Two , are filled with violence and perversion. Every single story contains murder and rape. No Greek hero is exempt from practicing treachery, adultery, and, in one instance, necrophilia. Leaving children out for exposure was common. Many of the heroes were spared from an early death by compassionate shepherds, or even female animals who nursed them.

Women are treated savagely by men, and especially Zeus who ravaged the countryside without mercy.

These women were not only the victims of this heinous crime but they also got to be punished for it by the ever jealous Hera.

The female goddesses were not much better than the gods. Both male and female gods' sense of justice was based largely on caprice and selfish ambition. There seemed to be very little reason other than a cruel nature behind any of their actions.

Ancient Greece is known for being the intellectual epicenter of the B.C. epoch, but I have to conclude that these myths, as Robert Graves tells them, were formed during a much earlier time when the Greeks were no more than tribal barbarians steeped in pagan practice that by today's standards of morality seem demonic.

It certainly gives me a greater appreciation for our concepts of justice, mercy and humanity that we take can take for granted in our country.  These values did not always exist and sadly, do not exist in many parts of the world.

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Hand feeding Little Bear grated carrot.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Penny Dreadfuls: Sensation Tales of Terror compiled by Stefan Dziemianowicz

I think it would appropriate to listen to J.S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor while reading my latest post.

Penny Dreadfuls: Sensational Tales of TerrorPenny Dreadfuls: Sensational Tales of Terror by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

" Penny Dreadfuls were cheaply printed, inexpensive publications written to titillate the masses with shocking thrills and lurid horrors. Over time, "penny dreadful" became a catch-phrase for any story steeped in gothic horror that pushed the limits of what was acceptable in popular fiction." From the Dust Jacket

This is a collection of twenty short stories, some novellas, of gruesome and horrific stories of varying quality. Some, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Edgar Allen Poe's The Pit and Pendulum deserve their place as timeless horror classics. Others probably needed to be left in the nineteenth century.

They are all Victorian in style which is to say they possess a certain melodramatic flair with damsels in distress and genteel men determined to save them. Many would have been considered quite horrible in their day but can be taken in stride in our jaded era.

The worst in my opinion was written by Bram Stoker, of all people. He wrote a disgusting little short of two psychopathic young boys who torment and murder babies and get away with it. Not sure what he was going for in that. It did not scare me, just filled me with revulsion towards the writer as much as the characters. Why write a story like that?

Some writers not much known today, wrote some good, scary tales and wrote them well. One was by James Hogg, a lamentably little known writer, who wrote a wonderful short called George Dobson's Expedition to Hell. A carriage driver has a horrible, hellish vision and when he awakes he discovers no peace (I don't want to give anything away so I leave out the details).

Another was by John Galt (who is John Galt? chuckle...if you haven't read Atlas Shrugged, forget it) where he describes a young man's nightmarish experience as a coma victim taken for dead and what happens thereafter.

Of course the Piece de Resistance and the last story in the collection is The String of Pearls better known as Sweeney Todd. I had never seen the movie or musical and do not know what attracted anyone to converting this story into a form of visual entertainment, but it kept me on the edge of my seat, biting my nails for the entire book, which is a couple hundred pages.

All in all, a great diversion for the month of October.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God edited by Ned Bustard

Feruccio Busoni (1866-1924) was an Italian pianist who lived during a time when he met many of the famous composers whose works he performed.  Here you can hear him playing Franz Liszt's La Campanella (Bells) Etude.

It's been quite a week.  Last Sunday, I received a call from one of my sisters that my father had fallen and knocked himself unconscious.  It was serious and he ended up in ICU for the weekend.  My mother has macular degeneration and can no longer drive.  Therefore, I packed up myself and my bird and began the ten hour drive to my parents house on the Gulf Coast in Florida.

I was pulling out of the driveway when my other sister called to let me know that while my dad was back home, my mother was now in ICU for a racing heart.

My mother has had stage four lung cancer for five years now.  She has been on three different chemo drugs, all taken orally, but this last has been hard on her heart.  The doctors shipped her off to Pensacola for a cardio ablation.

This is a procedure where they insert a needle through the thigh and work their way up to the heart and burn two holes in it.  The next three months, as the heart heals, the holes scar over and these scars prevent the heart from fibrillating.

Who discovered that is what I want to know?  Who came up with the idea of burning holes in the heart and figured out it would keep the heart stable?

Both parents are home and I and my one sister who flew down had a lovely visit with both parents as they recuperated.  I hated to leave and I'm certainly going to miss those sunsets on the water, which is how we ended every day.

Grandma loves her grand bird and Hercaloo was quite put out with me when we returned to Texas.

But enough about my adventures.  Here is my latest book review.  I found this book in the library in Golden, Colorado when I was visiting one of my sisters.  Naturally I wasn't satisified with only reading it, I had to own it.  I don't understand my pyschology but I must own the books I hold dear.

You may or may not be a Christian, but I think the writers of this book had some interesting insight into the history of art and what place does religious belief have in the expression of it.

Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of GodIt Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God by Ned Bustard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was Good is a collection of essays by various international artists who have reknown in their field. These fields vary from oils, to sculpture to mult-media. The book includes several photographs of their work, something I find to be one of the valuable attributes of this book.

Besides art, all of these artists have one other thing in common: they are believers in Christ. Though their particular denominations and creeds vary (some are reformed, some are Baptist, some non-denominational and at least one is Roman Catholic) they each offer something as to what sort of philosophy a Christian should have when expressing themselves through the visual arts.

They are all in agreement that Christians were once the powerhouses of art as is evidenced by the Cathedrals and millions of paintings housed in museums all over the world. In fact if one took away religiously inspired art from Europe there would be a significantly smaller amount of art and architecture to see, largely limiting the tourist trade to good restaurants and nude bathing. And we are not even including classical music.

Somewhere along the line, Christians not only lost their standing in the artistic community but seem content to embrace a limited vision of how art should be expressed by believers. This is obvious if one visits any number of churches where the theologically rich tradition of singing hymns, some of them hundreds of years old, sacred music played on the organ and other classical instruments have been tossed in favor or a more "contemporary" sound which has more in common with pop songs on the radio then deep, meditative worship.

Each artist in this book contributes an essay providing their own opinion, insight and philosophy of what art means to Christianity. What purpose does it serve and how should it be expressed.

Some write about the definition of beauty and offers a time line of how that concept has changed over the decades and centuries, including the twentieth where it was deemed undesirable to make works of art that were beautiful.

Another gives a historical account of what art meant to religious figures in the past two thousand years.

Still others contemplate how art should be expressed by believers. Should Christians only create art with an overt Christian message or is their world view implicitly expressed simply because as Christians, they cannot escape expressing this view through their chosen mediums. Is one a Christian artist, or an artist who happens to be Christian?

Should Christians only give happy, sentimental views of life or should they make art that exposes the grime as well?

These and many other ideas are explored throughout these essays.

While I found much of what they said to be valuable, although I did not agree with everything and found one or two of the philosophies esoteric, I think that many would benefit from hearing what they have to say whether you are a Christian or not.

I found that all the writers were people who may have their eyes toward God, were firmly grounded in the realities on earth.

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Herc and me back home.  Tired but glad to be back in Texas.