Tenacious Dedication

Talent + training + tenacity is just about unbeatable.

Misty Midwest Mossiness

I feel nostalgically melancholy today.  I am remembering a time, about a decade ago, when I seethed with frustration surrounding a disappointing rejection my daughter suffered through.  When I requested an explanation for the rejection, the response I receive accused my daughter of “not being dedicated enough.”  In my mind, “not dedicated enough” became “not rich enough” because the evidence supporting that theory appeared overwhelming.  Other more affluent students with less talent and training achieved admittance, while my daughter was passed over.

Across the intervening years, I’ve watched and listened to my daughter devote countless hours in vocal training and coaching, music studies, daily practicing, auditions, rehearsals and performances.  Her perseverance, tenacity and, yes, dedication, knows no bounds. Her vocal coach is amazed out how extraordinarily large my daughter’s voice is, the largest she has heard.  I weep with pride, joy and love when I get a chance to hear…

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Book Review: The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers

Three Stars

“The next step is always unimaginable until it’s occurred.”

Variations of Arthurian legend has been a cottage industry of western literature for almost a millennia. Power’s take is innovative and well-developed. That his sixteenth century embodiment of the Briton hero is egotistic and a rogue fits the pattern. The melding of the fantastic and the historic worked, mostly. A nod to the history of beer.

“I never used to think much of coincidences, but these days I practically trip over them in the street.”

Quibbles: Modern vocabulary jars the reader out of the sixteenth century setting. Words like bouncer, toast, sleeping bag, bowling pins. A week and a half to travel from Trieste to Vienna? I wouldn’t count on rusty, old chain mail to stop a rapier thrust.

“A morning for a nigh-density volley of prayers.”

The story telling was better than the rating implies, but it’s been done.

“Am I one of the cards? Or a coin in the pot?”

Book Review: Behind the Throne by K. B. Wagers Three Stars

Book Review: Behind the Throne (Indranan Wars #1) by K. B. Wagers

Three Stars

“I could have come home. My whole life could have been different.” “We all live with such a burden.”

Well-written science fiction adventure that rises above mere space opera by Wager’s fully conceived and presented non-Earth Hindu female-dominated culture. The narrative follows the protagonist closely, so the reader is dragged along with the rapid pace of the action, but the cultural, religious and technical details are melded in expertly.

“Practically everyone is hiding something … including you.”

Quibble: Bodies in space do not implode.

“Now I was finding out that my timing was as [bad] as my judgment.”

Telegraphed many of her punches. While the protagonist was kept off balance by the rapidly evolving action, she picked up on everything and everyone too quickly, robbing the story of uncertainty. It’d have been nice if she’d been wrong about someone.

“Concentrate on what you know. The rest will sort itself out, or it’ll kill you.”

Satisfying close for this opening episode in a greater story.

“We don’t get to say everything that needs saying before the end.”

Movie Review: Walt Disney’s Moana (Five Stars)

theatrical release poster

theatrical release poster

Movie Review: Moana, directed by Ron Clements and John Musker

Five Stars.

Great story, great visuals, great songs. A little humor, lots of courage. Great feeling of how Polynesian culture is tied to the sea. (So much better than the cringe-worthy The Princess and the Frog, Clement and Musker’s last outing for the mouse house.)

Auli’i Cravalho”s first role. Wow. Dwayne Johnson can sing!

Go see it. Take a child if you must, but you’ll enjoy it yourself.

Book Review: A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George (Four Stars)

Book Review: A Great Deliverance (Inspector Lynley #1) by Elizabeth George

Four Stars

“A vestige of time dead, being devoured by time to come.”

Lord Peter Wimsey rides again, sort of. An updated lord-as-sleuth tale with a grittier approach than Dorothy Sayers original from the 1920s. This series, from the 1980s, reflects more modern times, but still the quintessential England of literature and music as much as manors and manners. Not at all a Holmesian tale; much more personal and pyshological. (One hopes the BBC didn’t rape these as they did the Cadfael mysteries.)

“The police were antagonists to be thwarted rather than allies to be helped.”

Deep, complex characters. Everyone has a skeleton, if not a demon, in his or her closet. This book takes the reader deep inside the heads of just about everyone as New Scotland Yard investigates a horrific crime in Yorkshire. (I visited the Yorkshire dales in the late 80s, George’s good descriptions fail to express the bleakness and the beauty. Words fail.) This book is not for the timid or weak stomached. That more than one character vomits is appropriate and realistic. (You’ve been warned.)

“One can’t run forever.” “I can.”

The accents and vocabulary are a bit over-the-top, especially of the Americans, who I’m sure are portrayed just as most British viewed us then. George occasionally slips: “Bob’s your uncle” is not an expression Americans would use.

“The whole situation was an irritating, howling, political maelstrom of thwarted ambition, error and revenge. He was sick of it.”

Americans forget–more likely never knew–that England in the 1980s (when this book was written) was more socially divided that the United States today. Margaret Thatcher’s election set off a cultural war the likes of which we are just now seeing here. English were (I lived in Oxfordshire in the 1980s) much more class conscious. The attitudes expressed by Sergeant Havers were typical of commoners then. English gender attitudes are integral to the plot as well.

“Mothers have a way of taking things a bit personally. Haven’t you noticed?”

The text suffers jarring shifts in point of view, which perhaps were caused or exacerbated by formatting issues. Apparently this edition is an optical scan of the original text; numerous errors have slipped in. (“Shell stand that,” when “She’ll stand that” was obviously meant.) Do all English call speakers amplifiers? As in, “Enormous amplifiers sat in all four corners, creating at the center a vortex of sound.” (I know what council houses, boots and dust bins are; not what Americans think.)

“… before Lot finds me.”

Great writing. Great characterizations. Intense drama and conflict. But also a story of courage and compassion. Quite the climax, and yet plenty gaps are left in our knowledge of Havers and Lynley to engage the reader in his further cases. Looking forward to more.

“Death closes all.”

Book Review: Across a Billion Years by Robert Silverberg (Four Stars)

Book Review: Across a Billion Years by Robert Silverberg

Four Stars

“We (archeologists) are enemies of entropy; we seek to snatch back those things that have been taken from us by the years.”

Classic science fiction. Considering it was written in the 1960s, this book’s science fiction works better than many current offerings. It flunks sociology, as do many contemporaries.

“The first rule of archeology is be careful with the evidence. No, that’s the second rule. The first one is find your evidence.”

Twentieth century attitude towards rape; twenty-first century attitude toward inter-species sex. Some cringe-worthy moments. Our “hero” is meant to be clueless, but he’s also a chauvinistic ignoramus (at best).

“It’s unhealthy to gulp down a surfeit of miracles; gives one indigestion of the imagination.”

Topics of interest: Silverberg invented believable slang, acknowledging that languages evolve in four hundred years. Worked. Twenty-fourth century Israel includes the former United Arab Republic (Egypt, Iraq and Syria). Androids are an emancipated minority.

“Communication by pantomime isn’t terribly satisfying.”

Telepathic communication is discussed as “a full meeting of the souls. It is the end of secrecy and suspicion, of misunderstanding, of quarrels, of isolation, of flawed communication, of separation.” That was holy writ in the 1960s. Not so long as humans have greed and pride, not to mention psychopaths. Those who control those impulses would be censored regardless of the mitigating factor of their behavior. Communication is good; knowing each other’s every thought, not so good.

“If we haven’t succeeded in blowing ourselves up by A. D. 2376, we’re probably to make out all right. Maybe.”

Book Review: The Devil’s Novice by Ellis Peters (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Devil’s Novice (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #8) by Ellis Peters

Four Stars

“There’s many a young man has got his hearts wish, only to curse the day he wished for it.”

Upon my fourth reading, I raise my rating one star because this story compares so well with other historical fiction. In addition to the murder mystery, this tale brings to the reader an understanding of a historical setting which borders on the mythic, an introduction to a medieval craft (in this case, making charcoal), reflections on life then and now, a love story, and the fun of a tale well told.

“He’s innocent enough, God knows, to believe that other men are as honest as he.”

Readers seeking a story grounded closer to fact than the average epic fantasy, which usually loses itself in horses that run forever, swords that never dull, clerics who call down lightning bolts and enough nihilism for a lifetime, Edith Pargeter’s series on the life and times of this former Crusader and now monastic should be welcome. That’s why I’m on my fourth reading of this series.

“Despair is a deadly sin, but worse it is mortal folly.”

Book Review: Flatlander by David Niven (Three Stars)

Book Review: Flatlander by David Niven

Three Stars

“The thing about poetic justice is that it requires a poet.”

A series of self-contained mysteries involving a man with extra sensory powers a hundred years in the future. Most of the stories involve some sort of locked-room crime which Gil Hamilton must solve, often at personal risk, using his “imaginary arm.” Our hero is clueless about females but, unlike Mike Hammer, sensitive to three sets of ethics confusing lunie morals.

“Having a hole shot through him can make a man think.”

One unique problem of writing science fiction about the future is the pace of technological innovation now. These stories are only twenty years old, but read as if they were written half a century earlier. Niven’s twenty-second century protagonist lacks many abilities you take for granted: cell phones, the internet, for example. Though his “programming” information searches sounds a lot like googling. Data bases are still seen to be separate, restricted with the go-to information source being a 180-year-old man.

“Having babies is basic.”

Also, from the perspective of 1995, Niven foresaw world population of eighteen billion, resulting is a kind of subsistence-level existence for many. “I don’t see how we can avoid the crowding or the rigid dictatorial population control without the blessing of a major war or plague.” Malthus has at least one disciple. In contrast, even China has abandoned its draconian one-child policy. World population has not yet stabilize (and a lot could go wrong even then), but it appears that world population will peak nearer ten billion. Body part transplants play a major role in several tales, as he explores the morality of harvesting parts from unwilling donors. Niven claims, “India has been disassembling condemned criminals for transplants since 1964.”

“Nobody looks like a killer when he’s asleep.”

Side note: Niven assumes believe the great discovers will still be made by brilliant, if eccentric people like Howard Hughes and Albert Einstein.

Quibbles: A lunar landing would not “pass north of the city and curved around.” A high-powered continuous wave laser would explode flesh, not neatly slice it. (Seen Star Wars too many times.)

“Criminals don’t like locked doors.”

Book Review: Sword of the Bright Lady by M. C. Planck (Four Stars)

Book Review: Sword of the Bright Lady (World of Prime #1) by M. C. Planck

Four Stars

“Sometimes peoples would rather cling to a pretty lie than face an ugly truth, especially if the lie is one they’ve told themselves about themselves.”

Kept from being a typical Connecticut Yankee in medieval European culture by the strong internal voice of our displaced protagonist and his strong sense of right and wrong. Better than average story of a stranger in a strange land.

“… with hope came fear. The mixture was indistinguishable from anger.”

Both magic and faith work, the latter healing and rejuvenating. The former produces fireballs.

“I must respect the will of the gods, assuming I can figure out what that is.”

Humor is integral to the story. Christopher recognizes the emperor’s clothes, but also sees worth and potential in his rustic new surroundings.

“This is how we defeat Evil. It cannot comprehend Good. Well, that and fireballs.”

Minor typos, such as “abject lessons.”

“My cynicism remains untroubled by hope.”

Cover art quibble: a revolving receiver rifle pictured while the text describes a rolling block design. Very different looking.

“You underestimate yourself. Stop it. It’s stupid and weak.”