Year in Review: The Arts

This year was crazy and everyone seems to be bidding 2017 good riddance. However, there are so many beautiful things that I discovered and enjoyed this year! Though Facebook tried to make my “year in review” (and somehow managed to gather all of the photos I am least inclined to post), my true year in review consists of my favorite pieces of art that, though not necessarily created in 2017, I was fortunate enough to enjoy this year.

My Artistic Year in Review

(basically a list of my favorite things)

Sculpture: Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne”

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While I adore all of Bernini’s works, this one struck me and seeing it in person during a trip to Rome was extraordinary. The expressions on the character’s faces are so alive and the stone itself seems to move and breathe with the grace of dancers. Looking at it made me feel more alive, as if Bernini were sculpting my movements as I circled the glorious work. Gazing at it made me more aware of myself as a creation “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Painting: “The Woman in Red” by Giovanni Boldini

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I stumbled upon this painting on Pinterest and immediately knew I needed use it for my junior piano recital poster and more than a few people asked me how I managed to get a painting of myself… It was humorous having to explain that no, the woman in the painting is not me as I was 1) never a model and 2) was not alive during the Impressionist era. Still, this made the work more personal and I am thankful to now have a reproduction of it hanging above my piano at home.

Architecture: Glasgow Cathedral – Glasgow, Scotland

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I was disappointed to find that the choir was on sabbatical and would not be doing evensong during my stay in Glasgow. However, both the inside and out of this building are stunning. I felt an incredible sense of awe as I entered and spent more than a few minutes just sitting in the pews praying with my eyes open to the splendor of the Beautiful that lends itself to objects of beauty (couldn’t help the Plato reference there). Also, just outside the Cathedral is the Necropolis, a Victorian cemetery that is filled with crumbling old tombstones, wildflowers, and stories waiting to be unearthed. A hike up the hill of this graveyard gives the most spectacular panoramic view of the Cathedral and Glasgow as a whole.

Theatrical Production: Hamlet starring Andrew Scott

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I love the West End and, when I had a free night in London, was so ridiculously excited to find cheap tickets to see Andrew Scott (aka Moriarty from BBC’s Sherlock) star in a version of my favorite Shakespeare play. Not only was Scott terrific, but the production put a Cold War era twist on the story that worked perfectly. (Pro tip: purchase “obstructed view” seats for last minute tickets; they are cheaper and often the view is still quite good.)

Musical: Jane Eyre by Paul Gordon and John Caird 

Of the books written by the Bronte sisters, Wuthering Heights is so far my favorite. However, the Jane Eyre musical redeemed a novel that I formerly considered “too tidy and stiff.” The music is beautiful, the lyrics are brilliant, and the story is made infinitely more human and powerful. Only one other person I know has ever heard this soundtrack, but I highly recommend it to any literature or music lover as it is excellent in every possible way.

Instrument: Bagpipes

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While I regret my expense of 100 pounds on a set of bagpipes I cannot play to save my life, I fell in love with their music. It turns out, the astringent sound of bagpipes has a calming effect on my overactive mind since it drives out all other thoughts than “I am a Scottish warrior princess and I can do anything.” Plus, I fell in love with Scotland and now bagpipes sound like home to me. (Oh, and I use the terrible video of my first attempt at playing them as a conversation starter or ender, depending on who I’m talking to.)

Piano Piece: The Dante Sonata by Franz Liszt

Learning this piece made me cry. A lot. And bleed. And sweat. You think I’m kidding? No. It’s literally a piece about the Inferno. But the wonderful ties between music and literature (my two loves) are what got me through and I am so happy with my final performance of this piece! (Check out the link above!)

Symphonic Work: Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony 

Not only is this great running music (see post “The Eroica 10k”), but it is just incredible for any occasion. Nothing is more empowering than listening to this symphony. Not even bagpipe music. From a more analytical standpoint, it also has the key features of Beethoven’s style: fighting against strict measures, dynamic contrasts of volume and mood, powerful instrumentation, and- best of all- the underlying idea of an anthem to a single great soul.

Album: Notos by the Oh Hellos

http://music.theohhellos.com/album/notos

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I love everything by the Oh Hellos, so I was delighted to find that they recently released a new album! It is marvelous and made a long drive across the desert so much better. (Obviously I listened through it more than once.)

Poetry (large scale): The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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This was mentioned in a lecture I heard at Cambridge by Malcolm Guite. As soon as I returned home, I purchased a copy and read it with awe. It was so beautiful and mysterious and I still have yet to decide my exact thoughts on it, which makes me love it even more. Highly recommend, but especially if read aloud with great expression. It inspired my performance of the Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata and Liszt’s “Dante” Sonata with its storms and spirituality.

Poetry (smaller works): The Singing Bowl by Malcolm Guite

https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/the-singing-bowl-a-poem-and-a-new-book/

I listened to these read aloud by the poet on a drive from California to Arizona whilst watching a sunrise. It was a lovely hour of poetry, theology, and natural beauty. Although I’d loved his lecture at Cambridge, hearing his original poetry read aloud made it so much more powerful. It is inspiring to know there is a modern poet who sings in the tune of the greats yet maintains his own clear voice.

Novel: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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I expected this book to be as dry as dust, which- since it is about the ocean- is ironic. However, I came to appreciate the great depths of this narrative (pun intended, as always). There is a great deal of philosophy hidden throughout and, as with Coleridge, I have not yet determined my exact ideas regarding this book. I have many theories, though, and am itching to write a thesis on it… Oh, and there are tons of whale facts, so that’s interesting! Others might argue they distract from the plot, but I naturally have a theory on why they are, in fact, essential to the overarching themes. Do your brain a favor and dive into this book!

YA Novel: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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This was the brain candy that I needed after a semester of heavy study. However, it was far from mindless! It was clever, endearing, and exciting all at once. I raced through it in a matter of a couple of hours and am glad to find another YA author that writes passion about mythology, relationships, family, and hardship in a believable way, incorporating wit and suspense with brilliance. (Basically, I was glad to find a YA novel that I could read in public without feeling ashamed. This one was far from an embarrassing teen romance and I was proud to read it at my favorite coffee shop for all to see!)

Short Story: “The Scythe” by Ray Bradbury

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Every story in Bradbury’s The October Country inspired both love and fear in my literary soul. I am admittedly a Bradbury fanatic and accredit him with inspiring me to try my hand at short stories, but I believe my admiration is merited. “The Scythe” is a short story with the emotional depth and character development of a novel. It is mysterious and beautiful and tragic all at once and I will happily force any one of my friends to borrow my copy and read it, as well as all of its sibling stories.

Library: Tynsdale House-  Cambridge, England

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I could have stayed in that creaking, musty library for days. It was colorful with the spines of diverse books and alive with the buzzing thoughts of its scholars busy at work. I found an empty desk that I swear had my  name on it… A brilliant and intimate literary/theological destination that I look forward to visiting again.

Movie: Dunkirk 

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Many have complained about this movie, but I found it to be remarkable. It was simultaneously heart-wrenching and heart-warming and, overall, one of the most powerful cinematic experiences I have ever had. Kenneth Branagh is a magical human being, but the entire cast was terrific. The storytelling, comprised of three different amounts of time and three different locations (land, air, and sea), was captivating and fit together with the intricacy of a well-crafted, multi-narrator novel. The soundtrack, minimalism with effects such as the “shepard tone” to enhance the intensity, effectively kept me on the edge of my seat and my senses as alert as if I were one of the characters in the midst of war. The acting, visuals, story, and music were all phenomenal and, combined, made for a film that, like Dunkirk itself, will not soon be forgotten.

Bonus…

Dessert: Stroopwafel

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Is it a waffle? Is it a cookie? Who knows and who cares! Just put it on top of your cup of cocoa and enjoy its melty, delicious caramel goodness!

Coffee: Cappuccino from Costa Coffee

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To my dismay, the U.S. is not advanced enough to have Costa Coffee shops on every corner…Sorry, Starbucks. However, I enjoyed enough of their cappuccinos during my month in the U.K. to hold me until my next visit. (Yes, coffee is an art. I mean, look at that palm tree!)

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Poll: Best Part of Movies are Concessions

 

PHOENIX, ARIZONA- Polling of consumers leaving a current blockbuster film reveal that the best part of the movies are, indeed, the concessions.

“But we don’t just mean popcorn and jumbo sodas!” said customer relations director Jack Hughs. “It turns out that the concessions made by viewers are what allow them to enjoy almost any movie that the market produces.”

When asked what kinds of concessions, Mr. Hughs replied, “Oh, there are a wide variety, much like our candy selection.”

These include:

  • ignoring obvious plot holes
  • Junior Mints
  • allowing for archetypal characters with little to no development
  • excusing poor pacing
  • never expecting singers to actually sing
  • Mike and Ikes
  • being dazzled by painful CGI animation
  • extra-butter popcorn
  • excusing the cliche and predictable as “heartwarming”
  • extra medium diet fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan soda water
  • ignoring lazy filming mistakes
  • enjoying soundtracks that sound roughly like pop radio
  • nachos
  • excusing cultural or historical inaccuracy for the sake of a good story

“We are thinking of expanding our menu to incorporate all of these,” said Mr. Hughs.

95% of those polled, including Local Millennial Kale McBirkenstock, are in favor of this.

“People come to the movies to be entertained, plain and simple,” Miss McBirkenstock said when interviewed. “I mean, I just want to watch something that makes me- like- not even.”

Her boyfriend, Lux Filterton, added, “Yeah, after all, the point of art is to just give you all the feels. Oh, and the more gratuitous violence, sex, and language, the (expletive) better…those are powerful literary techniques, right?”

This poll reveals potentially good news for the film industry, though; the less thought consumers want to put into their viewing experience, the less thought producers need to put into their cinema. As a result, nearly 200 new movies are expected to premiere between January and February alone and, while critics are lamenting the decline of well-crafted storytelling, crowds are applauding what has been described as “spectacle…without all that nasty substance.”

 

Beautiful Lines

As a writer, I spend a great deal of time editing and lamenting over my own work. Admittedly, I probably should spend more time revising papers than text messages, (yay, overthinking!) but in either case I am painfully aware of my weaknesses as a writer.

However, sometimes I surprise myself as the ink on my page forms something truly lovely. My next story will not be published for at least a few more days, but in the meantime, here are some lines that I found to be beautiful (or, at least, intriguing) as I reread my first draft:

“I recognize the bounce in her step. It is the dance of a writer who has just written something with which she has fallen wholeheartedly in love.”

 

“On occasion [my journal] explodes into poetry and that’s when I know I either am going to be brilliant or mad.”

 

“I like this little idea of mine, in all its ragged swaddling clothes of free verse.”

 

“She either doesn’t believe me or is undaunted by lunatics. If the latter, she will make an outstanding writer.”

 

“Finals are over and the university students are coming to life again…I like to see them laughing again, going on dates again, reading for pleasure again. Best yet, all three at once.”

 

“They are flirting by arguing whether Jane Austen or Emily Bronte is better. I hope they settle on Austen…any relationship founded on Bronte is doomed from the start.”

 

“A steaming beverage in a warm mug is often the friendliest of muses. To the creator of such, I owe this work.”

 

Writing: Expectations vs. Reality

  1. Expectation: Showing off your stellar vocabulary. Reality: Spending ten minutes trying to remember how to spell “potpourri” because you’re too proud to look it up.
  2. Expectation: Writing elegant rhymes to express your emotion. Reality: Sounding like an angsty Dr. Seuss.
  3. Expectation: Writing free verse poetry that seems authentic and avant garde. Reality: Sounding like an angsty and, now, drugged Dr. Seuss.
  4. Expectation: Scribbling thoughts on random scraps of paper because inspiration strikes at unexpected moments. Reality: Looking like a conspiracy theorist at best or a serial killer at worst as you frantically try to assemble your notes.
  5. Expectation: Making keen, discrete observations of your surroundings for later use. Reality: Looking like a creep when you make eye contact with a potential character and being mistaken for a critic as you analyze your favorite cafe.
  6. Expectation: Having movies and theme parks made after your bestselling novels. Reality: Writing silly blog posts late at night. (Unless you are J.K. Rowling, in which case the reality is still “having movies and theme parks made after your bestselling novels.”)
  7. Expectation: Carefully crafting characters that perfectly follow the planned plot. Reality: Controlling your characters is like herding winged cats. Not only are they cats, but now they can fly.
  8. Expectation: Planning a time to write and doing so in an orderly fashion. Reality: “THE VOICES IN MY HEAD SAID I MUST WRITE NOW!” (usually “now” is in the middle of another project, late at night, or somewhere without any form of writing material whatsoever)
  9. Expectation: People reading your silly blog posts all the way through and gaining an internet following. Reality: Your fan club continuing to consist mainly of your grandma, your best friend, and the fake cat lady blog your mom made to spam you.
  10. Expectation: Having many writing woes to blog about. Reality: Only being able to come up with nine and realizing that is also a problem you can add to the list.

I had fun jotting this down and think this might turn into another #WriterProblem series! Do you have any writing expectations vs. realities? Share them in the comments!

____________ Publishers Release New “Mad Lib” Editions Just in time for Holidays

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An excerpt from Gone with the ________, one of the classics scheduled for rerelease in Mad Lib Edition by _________ Publishers.

NEW YORK, NY- Prominent journal and book publishing company formerly known as Weakly Publishers has changed its title to “________ Publishers” in light of their new initiative, the ‘Mad Lib Editions.’

Books and journals formerly published by this company will be reprinted in new, special edition ‘Mad Lib’ format during this holiday season. Or, should we say, this __________ season.

“‘Mad Lib’ format is a new style we are very excited about,” said chief editor Richard Washy. “Basically, the reader is able to make the book or article into whatever they want!”

Mr. Washy went on to explain that this new format is simple in design but sure to thrill readers of all tastes because it has the capability of appealing to all by saying absolutely nothing definite. Any adjective, pronoun, or even name that is potentially off-putting to readers is replaced with a ___________ in which the reader may insert whatever word they would  prefer. This allows for a comfortable reading experience, which is perfectly in line with _________ Publisher’s mission statement of “Making the World a __________ Place, One _________ at a Time,” as well as their belief that reading is intended to be, as intern Kale McBirkenstock describes it, “a sort of silent Netflix, but with less thinking.”

Marketing specialists at ____________ Publishers predict that bestsellers of these new releases will include titles such as:

  •  Make America _______ Again
  • To ________ a Mockingbird
  • The Origin of ________
  • Moby _______
  • and, of course, the highly anticipated second edition of __________

The publishing agency declined to release more titles, but promises that upwards of 50 books will be reprinted as official ‘Mad Lib Titles.’

“I’m really excited about this initiative,” commented a popular paranormal romance author who preferred to remain anonymous. “It could really help the sales of my books to cut some of the actual writing.”

Focus group results are positive as well, with feedback such as:

“Wow! I never knew reading could be so much fun!”

“Wait, it says to insert a noun. What’s a noun?”

“I had no idea that all of the hobbits in the Fellowship of the Ring were female socialists! Wonderful plot twist!”

And, to the delight of Mr. Washy and the board of executives, “I’ve never before felt so comforted by a novel! Who knew that Where the ____ Fern Grows had such an uplifting ending!”

“It is wonderful to hear that already ‘Mad Lib’ books are making reading a pleasant, affirming experience for people of all preferences,” stated Mr. Washy at the close of his interview.

In the spirit of Mad Lib books, it does indeed seem that there is a bright, if indefinite, future for the _____________ of literature at _____________ Publishing.