Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

image photo : Dragon eye

I have never been a big fan of Stephen King.  Years ago I read one of his novels, Misery, and while I admit that the writing was excellent, the book was too intense for my liking. So I was surprised that this book was recommended to our book club. 

This book was published in 1987 and is unlike any of King's scary, gory  thrillers.  He wrote it for his 13 year old daughter who didn't like the scary stories. It is a tale about a make believe kingdom with princes, kings, queens, heroes and heroines, and an evil sorcerer.  

I very much enjoyed this book.  Again, King is an excellent writer.  I loved the warm narration as if we were sitting by a fire, and the narrator was telling me the story like we were old friends.  I developed compassion for the characters, even the ones who at first glance didn't deserve compassion.   King's writing elicited emotional responses from me as I read.  I certainly was aware that King could conjure up emotion in his readers.  After all, it was while reading Misery that I actually had a startle response, jumping clear out of my chair.  In The Eyes of the Dragon I cried when the two princes, brothers, were reunited.  

This is an older book, one I had neither heard of nor would have attributed to Stephen King, but it is a great read nonetheless. I'm sure his daughter loved it.

image photo : Blue dragon
Open Stock Illutrations and Photos

5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gershwin Gala with the Utah Symphony

Last weekend my husband and I  went to Rhapsody in Blue night at the Utah Symphony.  While we knew would hear the concerto, we were surprised that we would also be entertained by Broadway soprano, Lisa Vroman.  The evening was conducted by Jerry Steichen.


These two together were hoot and wildly entertaining, not to mention talented.  Lisa rocked her three gorgeous gowns as well.  Lisa's voice is clear, fabulous, and emotional in both opera style and Broadway belt.  I was delightful to hear her sing the well known songs as well as pieces I'd never heard before.  

Oh, and the performance of Rhapsody in Blue by Jason Hardink, wow! He's handsome to boot!

I am so familiar with this piece and yet the phrasing was different than any I'd  heard and I loved it.  There might have been a few rhythm glitches with the orchestra, but they passed quickly and I was left wondering if it was a glitch or if it was suppose to be that way. 

It doesn't hurt to have handsomeness twice. Thus, photo #2.

In some of the original 1924 reviews this concerto was called trite, feeble, sentimental, and vapid.  This either means those of us who love this concerto are trite, feeble, etc.  (I've been called worse.)  Or it means that the reviewers didn't know a great, new, modern masterpiece when it hit them in the face.  I prefer the latter theory.  

The night wouldn't have been complete without mentioning the fantastic clarinetist, Tad Calcara. It is not in many symphonic performances that the clarinet is featured, but with Gershwin the clarinet shines.  And Tad made it shine.  Rhapsody in Blue wouldn't start out nearly as amazing without that well played glissando at the beginning.  


Tad even wore an official Artie Shaw jacket.  The conductor showed the certificate to the audience to prove it.  The jacket sealed the deal on an amazing clarinet performance.  


Another 5 star evening with the Utah Symphony.

Friday, November 9, 2012

100 Day Hustle Half Way Mark

Foster here, reporting on the 100 day Hustle sponsored by Kelsey Sews.

I'm so glad I did this because it has made me somewhat accountable to myself, and I've gotten a lot done. 

White Retro Blouse--done and blogged about here.

Block of the Month for Oct, Nov, Dec.  October and November--done but not photos.

Place mats for wedding gift--done and blogged here.

Pillow for a b-day--done and blogged here.

Jumper for white blouse--not done and debating if I want to finish it at all.  I'm thinking I might look like a sausage in it.  Still thinking about it.

Anise jacket--not started but the materials are purchased and gathered.

Bind Scrappy Quilt--done.

Pillow Sham #2--blocks made but sham is still undone.

Knitted and crocheted simple gifts--mostly done but not blogged about.  I'm going to post pictures.  Therefore,  family members, this is the time you should stop reading so you can't see your gifts.

 Detail of basket weave stitch close up.

And last, begin Starlet jacket--not even close.

Onward and upward for the next 50 days!  Thanks for spurring me on Kelsey!

Kelsey Sews

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Scrappy Springtime Quilt #3 Finally Finished

I finally got the binding on my scrappy springtime quilt.  But it is fall, you say?  Yes, I started this last May!  I actually made this quilt for winter time to use when I was longing for spring.  The pops of color represent the new growth and the coming of spring.  Is that too much deep thinking for a quilt?  

I decided to make the binding using some strips that I had pieced together for another project.  I ended up not using the strips so I cut them on the bias to make bias tape. It was slightly difficult to cut the pieced strips on the bias and even more difficult to run all those seems through my bias tape maker.

I think the result was nice and scrappy to go with the look of the quilt.  I did the binding by machine as I didn't have the time to do it by hand.  I respect those that do.

Now I have a comforting quilt for this winter that will remind me that spring is around the corner!

See Scrappy Springtime Quilt Part One and Part Two.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bryce Canyon Queen's Garden Hike

A few weeks ago in October, my family and I once again traveled to the lovely Bryce Canyon National Park.  

We took an easy trail down to Queen's Garden to see a rock formation that is said to look like Queen Victoria.  We continued our hike back up the Navajo Trail to Sunset Point. Except for the blog watermark, I didn't do any editing to the following photos.  These are exactly the colors as we saw them.

Our Descent

This is Queen Victoria.  Do you think it looks like her? I think so.  Perhaps my British friends could weigh in on the matter.  

Our Ascent

The second half of this hike was more difficult with steep inclines and a series of switchbacks.  

We also took a smaller hike, Bristlecone Loop, at the south end of the park.

I love Utah! 5 out of 5 stars for the beautiful National Parks.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Devil's Trill by Gerald Elias

Devils Trill
Many moons ago I played the violin.  I guess I still play, but not at the level I once did.  I even had the opportunity to have some fabulous teachers and master classes with members of the Utah Symphony.  Mrs. T. was the concert mistress of the Utah Symphony at one time, and she was my teacher from 6th grade to graduation.  You'd think I'd be better than I was with all this fancy training, but that would require something called "dedicated practice" instead of, "I wonder what my friends are doing while I'm stuck here practicing.  I'd better call."

All regrets aside, my mother, who funded all that impeccable training and is deeply distraught that I didn't keep it up, invited me to see Gerald Elias, former assistant concert master of the Utah Symphony and now mystery writer, lecture on his book Devil's Trill.  This was not just a book talk.  Elias played three of the many musical selections mentioned in the book.

What an enjoyable evening we had listening to Elias talk about his book and the the seedy and greedy underworld of classical music.  I never experienced that world myself.  In college while playing last chair in a professional symphony in California, I was more worried about my homework (I  put this in here for my mom) and if I would be able to get to the beach the next day.  I just wasn't caught up in the drama.  

Mom and I loved the musical selections as well.  I even once played the Bach Sarabande that Elias did, only he played it much better.  Thus, the difference between a professional musician and a beach bum.  When it was over, I bought the book and got it signed.  

Here is what I loved about the book:

I loved that I didn't love all the characters.  Daniel Jocobus, the protagonist,  is a crotchety, slovenly, chain-smoking, blind, old violin teacher who would rather wallow in his misery than teach his gifted students.  His lack of any lovable personality traits is precisely what makes him so enjoyable.

I loved the plot.  The violin itself is the villian in the story. This three-fourths sized Stradivarius instrument never actually existed but was created by the author and is central to the plot of the story.  The violin was made in Italy in the Golden Age of violin by a countess for her lover, Piccolino.  Her husband, in a jealous rage, kills Piccolino and thus the violin is forever named after him.  The violin is cursed forever more.  In the 20th century, the violin is played every thirteen years by the winner of the Grimsley Competition, a competition for 9 to 13 year olds.  This competition is funded by a non-profit organization that is steeped in corruption. The violin is stolen, a murder committed, and Jacobus begins the search for the violin and drags his 19-year old student, Yumi, with him.  

Stradivari violin photo
I loved the philosophical explanations about the music and why the composer wrote the piece the way he or she did.  I loved the discussions about playing the music for its beauty not just for the technical precision and the 'wow' factor.

It was informative and interesting to read how, within the confines of the story,  Elias explains the monetary value of a stringed instrument, and it is not necessarily based on how a instrument sounds.

And I loved some of the descriptive passages and "one-liners."   Let me share my favorites.
     "It seems as though competitions for child musicians, especially violinists, are no less cruel to them than cockfighting is to its bloody contestants.  And cockfighting is illegal."

From the prologue: "the book is about an often-shadowy netherworld of violin dealing, where dark currents of greed swirl quietly through the seemingly dignified white-tie-and-tail world of classical music.  In the current market, where good violins are no longer affordable to the professional musicians who would play them, fragile masterpieces from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries become a currency of obsession to dealers and collectors, and scruples are as rare as the instruments themselves."


Here is what I didn't like:

The nitty-gritty language. My mother said,  "It sounded like a bunch of rednecks at a demolition derby instead of college educated musicians at Carnegie Hall."  You see, my mom was quite colorful in her description without adding one swearword! I don't remember the professional musicians I kept company with ever using the kind of language that was in the book.  Then again, I wasn't a part of the seedy underworld of classical music.

Second, there was a sexual scene involving the young student that didn't need to be in the book.  It didn't further the plot or help me understand the characters more.   It was as if the publisher said, "Gerald, sex sells.  Throw something sexy into the middle of the book to keep the readers hooked." It just didn't need to be there.

I know that when one openly complains about language and sex in a book, they are often criticized and called a prude.  Even my former teacher Mrs. T, who is still my friend and is the most proper elderly lady you've ever met, seemed to brush off the language because the explanations of the music were done so beautifully.  So I'm a prude in my choice of literature.  I embrace my prudishness. I am free to say that the book would have been just as good, if not better without those items.


I'm going to give Devil's Trill four stars.  I recommend this book whether you are a musician or not, because of its original premise and colorful characters.