Saturday, May 30, 2009

Van Cliburn Part 2 (Deux)

More angles of the angels at Bass Hall. So dramatic and such a pretty day for an international piano competition. Thursday 5.28.09 was splendid for a semi-final round and I enjoyed my afternoon immersed in a completely different world. I kept my mouth shut and listened to the musicians, to the audience, and then read the paper for what I should have heard or appreciated.
The kids all sounded great to me. Nary a false note in my humble opinion. I've read reviews that there's grandstanding, or rushing, or a steely sound. Huh?? Mariangela Vacatello (Italy) played a Nocturne for the Left Hand that was awesome. I hope she doesn't lose points just because her right hand rested on the top of the Steinway. Ran Dank (Israel) played chamber music with the Takacs Quartet. He was absolutely fine on his Brahms Piano Quintet in E Minor. The Quartet was a tad annoying - lots of violin drama and shaggy hair shaking. It was hard to see our sensitive young man, but he sounded lovely to me. Finally, Evgeni Bozhanov (Bulgaria) an obvious crowd favorite, proved flamboyant, dramatic, and fun. I personally liked the more "modern" White Lies for Lomax by Bates. It proved intricate, familiar, and intriguing. Hmm - does it sound like I know what I'm talking about. Nah.
All in all, there's pacing. There are sound levels - loud, quiet, playful, and moody. Between movements, the silence is like the white space in a poem. Take your time, pause, and then move on. And there's plenty of drama to keep one's interest. Kinda like writing. Sometimes, there's description and sometimes there's action. Just keep turning the pages and you'll enjoy the full story or experience.
Whew! Check out for the live webcast and information. This prestigous competition keeps Ft.Worth Texas on the music map. Kudos to Bass Hall, Sundance Square, Parking lots, and the City of Fort Worth - all an entertainment experience extraordinaire.
(hiding her Billy Joel CDs for awhile)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Van Cliburn Part 1

Angel trumpets call. Steinways glisten. Bass Hall, Fort Worth TEXAS beckons - attend the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and you won't be disappointed. Fabulisimo - is that a word?? If not, it is now. Wow!
I know nothing about classical music, but left my writing computer to support the arts. Enter a whole new world, a realm of language with movements, artistry, and some damn fierce tinkling of the ivories. I attended the first semi-final performance this afternoon and was amazed at the skills. I didn't know when to clap - oops, not at the movements, but rather at the full blazing crescendo of sound. Don't cough, don't shuffle your feet, just embrace the sound and swoon - whether it's Beethoven, Brahms, or Liszt.

I'll be honest. I grew up with Billy Joel or Elton John banging the ivories, and I bet these kids could throw out some boogie-woogie. However, I'll discuss in Part 2 - sonatas in a minor key, suites for piano, or a nocturne I really liked. (yea - we're talking left-hand, baby.
I thought about this event and writing. There's a lot of similarities - pacing, drama, and arcs. I'll save that for part II
For anyone reading this in the vicinity of Fort Worth - get out there. Support a superb event and eat a burger at Billy Miners. Yum.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Read-a-thon

Happy Memorial Weekend!
Once Jim Nabors sings the Indiana song and they shout, "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines", Indy cars buzz like bees and go around in circles. Until someone drinks the winning glass of milk, you might as well sit poolside and read a book.
Just started reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. This is a serious hoot. Indeed, Mr. Grahame-Smith has adapted Ms. Austen's story, utilized her style and plot line, and inserted zombie attacks when necessary. Mr. Darcy admires Elizabeth for her deeply intelligent brown eyes and her dagger wielding skills. I'm laughing out loud not only for the story, but for the creativity shown. Goes to show, anything is possible. Rumor has it, Mr. G-S is now writing something that involves Abe Lincoln and vampires. I'll give a shout out to Quirk Books in Philly for publishing zany material.
Finished a delightful mystery by a first time author, Alan Bradley. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie introduces us in 1950 to Flavia de Luce, eleven years old, plus older sisters who torment her, a remote but loving father, a loyal gardener, and a man who expires in front of Flavia at 4 am in the garden. Flavia knows her poisons and works to uncover the mystery ahead of the Inspector. As she peddles her bike about the English countryside, we meet a cast of town characters, her father's long lost college roommates, and learn a bit about rare stamps. Well written, with an old fashioned style, and excellent pacing, this book is a winner. I look forward to further tales of Flavia, her nosiness, humor, and a love of chemicals.
Dip in the pool (brrrr), chow down a hotdog, remember those who came before us. And read!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


A gorgeous Sunday in Texas. Had to go somewhere, so my friend, Linda T., and I headed to Clark Gardens in Weatherford. Not too hot. Not too cold. Not too windy. Just right. It's the kind of place where you should seek a nook, sit, and contemplate the world.
Daydream and create. Word candy in the brain.

Life on a lily pad. Sunshine, water, and floating flowers. Perfection.

Endless pool effect. You can walk under this waterfall on the other side and feel the mist. Lots of paths to meander, criss cross, and enjoy. This day made me think of Boston's "More Than a Feeling" - that soaring tune that blared out of college windows in May a zillion years ago signaled summer. Open the windows and inhale fresh air.

How can I not create? Then again, I'm daydreamin'...................something will come out of it. Hope it does for you, too.

Friday, May 15, 2009

the power of a book

I just finished Colson Whitehead's Sag Harbor and I'm ready to go down the shore. Those were the words my family used as we rattled around the basement digging up beach chairs, rummaged through cupboards for beach towels, and filled a bag full of summer reading material. We drove to Ocean City, New Jersey. Joan's family headed to Stone Harbor, Helen's to Avalon. Everyone had their family traditions and locations. No matter what, everybody spent at least one evening on the Wildwood boardwalk.

Sag Harbor is an extremely well written fictional memoir of a teen, Benji, who's family always spends summers in Sag Harbor, the beach enclave for African Americans. Set in 1985, with the Cosby show as background noise, Benji reflects on being age 15. He and his brother, Reggie, get their first jobs and are in charge of themselves during the week. Weekends bring the parents in from the city and Benji is aware of parental dynamics and mild dysfunction.

I enjoyed the fresh voice, the well written casual flow of action, and Benji's humor. As a private school attendee he reflects on what it's like to reconnect with old friends each summer, learn the latest lingo, hear the newest music, and emerge from a scholastically privileged world. Sag Harbor appreciates the ebb and flow of summer beach life and conjures a worthy cool yet awkward character in Benji (wanting to be called Ben). I highly recommend this book. Dig your toes in the sand and revel in a smooth read.

Like me, you'll yearn for a summer down the shore.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bare Claws

How sweet that the family sitting behind us at the theater decided to treat mom to a movie.
However, perhaps X-Men Origins: Wolverine wasn't the smartest choice with a 4 and 6 year old in tow. As the movie critic for The Little Paper of San Saba, I am concerned for my readership (however small) and try to point out ratings and if there is excess violence, language, or sex. The rating system isn't perfect, but it does provide a guideline. PG-13 for this X-Men flick was a suitable code- teensy language and plenty of violence - and thus not appropriate for two young boys.
There is so much information published these days that I almost believe that folks are immune. Do people read reviews and ignore ratings? Rather like zooming through the yellow light (well, it isn't red yet), PG-13 is a stopgap on the way to R and what's a little blood and gore for youngsters? Having a high pitched voice ask questions throughout the film ( and not using a "we're in the movies, you should whisper" voice) should have sent a signal to the parents that they were in the wrong show.
I do believe in parental control of content. Parents should be aware of movie content for kids and it should be age appropriate. Parents should be aware of books and reading content, and available to answer questions.
And like Wolverine, I wanted to bare my claws in anger at folks with cell phone text screens, and at people who act like they are home watching a video - stop talking. Shut up! That's probably a rant for another day.
I shall close with a portion of my review - Wolverine is a slashing good time. It's a summer no-brainer, and Hugh Jackman flexes the pecs with resounding success. Enjoy this in a cheap matinee with a huge tub of popcorn. However, don't bring your four year-old.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother Material

My mother loved tulips. She even loved the tulips I handed her in my grimy little fist. Then I got a swat on my butt for cutting those tulips from her front garden. Oops. I'm not talking child abuse. My mother, all five foot of her, was extremely fair in doling out punishment. Generally it was a lecture about trust or right and wrong. As you stood there hearing, "You've disappointed me," you prayed for a swat just to get it over with. My mother truly did not give me dark material to write a heartrending memoir. Yes, I'm grateful and I suppose that's why I'm compelled to write humor or stories that harken back to innocent days.

My mother loved to read and I thank her for reading aloud to me as a child. I thank her for the weekly runs to the library and for buying me every Nancy Drew book in the series. I thank her for buying Mad Magazine. I think she'd be my biggest fan now and would put up with navigating the internet to read my latest on-line poem or even this blog.
My mom's been gone 17 years now. That's hard to believe, and I don't need Mother's Day to think of her. So this is my own little card of celebration.
I'll salute my mother-in-law, too. Joyce Faries is alive and well and has a green thumb, can sew, and is an amazing cook. Twenty years ago she had to acknowledge that her son was marrying a Yankee, but it's all worked out great ( I repeat, 20 years!!!). I truly couldn't be luckier, and again I don't have "mother-in-law" stories to write.
What the heck - I've opened the can of corn here - Mother's Day allows schmaltz and candy and flowers. In memoriam - my Nana Crowther, Nana Shutters, and Ray's Grandmother Ivy.
Much love.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Word Nerds Unite

It was a dark and stormy night...

Well, not really. It was a rainy dreary Saturday (5/2/09) and Sunday (5/3/09) Writers, agents, and publishers met at the Grapevine, Texas Convention Center for two rousing days of inspiration, perspiration, and motivation. Face it - it was a Word Nerd convention and I'm proud to be a member.

DFW Writers did a fabulous job of coordination. Close to 200 people attended. Forty workshop session were offered and the choices varied between learning the craft (dialogue, senses, and more) or discussing the new economic realities of publishing (traditional versus hybrid versus self).

Pitch sessions with agents proved the catalyst for nerves. Eager authors had ten minutes to tap dance a winning spiel before a selection of agents. Words to gladden the heart, "Send me a synopsis and three chapters." Yes, I heard those words and it made my day.

Now, I need to digest what I learned over this intense but exhilarating weekend. The final speaker I heard was Jeff Crilley, former Fox 4 anchor now publicist. The sheer joy he took in writing his book "Free Publicity", getting it self published, and now speaking about it (plus blowing bubbles) was infectious.

Work and write harder and have fun with it. Word nerds unite.