Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The End of Mythology by A. Molotkov and John Sibley Williams

The End of Mythology by A. Molotkov and John Sibley Williams illustrates beautifully the power of the well placed word in this short book of poems. Filled with a combination of deeps insights and lighter thoughts, there are moments that evoke deep contemplation as well as intense emotions. There's even a bit of humor threaded through some serious poems. This small collection is easily enjoyed in one sitting while I have a feeling it will pull me back to its pages again and again.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Stop Procrastination: 30 Proven Strategies to Motivate Yourself and Stop Being Lazy by Arthur Joyce

  I read Stop Procrastination: 30 Proven Strategies to Motivate Yourself and Stop Being Lazy  by Arthur Joyce in one sitting. The ideas presented weren't anything new. The author's choice of words often left me shaking my head wondering if English was his second language. The structure also didn't really appeal to me. Overall, Stop Procrastination just didn't offer me anything new or a new way of looking at procrastination.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton by Anne Sexton

I listened to an interview in which Madonna mentioned that Anne Sexton's poetry influenced her. I was intrigued enough to research Anne Sexton because I'd never heard of her. Once I read a little about Sexton, I knew I needed to read her poetry, if for no other reason than to see if I could learn anything from her work that would help my own poetry writing. So I decided to buy The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton by Anne Sexton. I opted to take my time and only read a few poems a day when I started The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton. I wanted to think about the poems, to really internalize them, to study style, to learn from them. Some days it was tempting to read several. Other days I found it a struggle to read even one. Sexton played with words and social norms in ways that I can only imagine upset people when they were published. Her poems ripped into fairy tales and religion with the same irreverence in a way I found refreshing at times and uncomfortable at others, but those poems always made me think as good poetry should. She tackled life head-on in some poems and wrote all around topics in others. I found myself relating to her need to both expose and hide. Certain poems resonated with me on a deep level. Others had me scrambling for meaning. Still others inspired me to try new ideas in my own poetry. As I consciously and slowly worked my way through the over 600 pages of poems, I discovered some limits I didn't know I had. I thought how I'd never feel comfortable writing about some of the topics Sexton covered, but I also discovered a desire to push my work in different directions. The thing that's always interesting about a complete work is its range. There are poems in this book that will appeal to many as well as poems people will find offensive. And, while it shows a great deal of insight into the human condition, there are times when it feels incredibly, personally voyeuristic. I love poems that go to the depths of human experience, so this appealed to me.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Art of Love: Origin of Sinner's Grove by A.B. Michaels

The Art of Love: Origin of Sinner's Grove by A.B. Michaels weaves a story of love, lust, betrayal, and sacrifice that kept me on edge often unsure whether to cheer or boo a character's decisions as I waited to see if those decisions would succeed or fail.
The first part of The Art of Love is all about August Wolff's quest to find his riches and prove himself whether to his family or himself is up for debate. With the disappearance of his wife and daughter, Wolff finds himself in a quandary as he begins his new life after discovering gold. When his search for his wife and daughter repeatedly comes up empty, he adopts a life in San Francisco, California filled with the trappings of happiness.
Michaels then introduces Amelia Bennett, a talented artist, who is forced to make decisions for the sake of her family rather than her own desires. When the situation becomes unbearable she hatches a plan with her fellow artist and friend, Sander de Kalb, who has reasons of his own to want to start over, to leave behind their lives in New York for San Francisco.
After she and Sander move to San Francisco, Amelia often feels the pangs of the son she left behind but knows in her heart she made the right decision, not only for herself but for all involved.
As Amelia's popularity as an artist is on the rise, she meets August Wolff, whose reputation leaves her hesitant to get to know him. When he commissions her to paint a mural for him and find art for his home, she's intrigued by more than the project at hand as is he.
Michaels creates two flawed but lovable characters and surrounds them with characters the reader wants to know better. She weaves their story lines together in a way that engages the readers senses and confronts stereotypes. The Art of Love delves into the ideas of what love and friendship mean while looking at the complications of marriage and divorce. There's a sense of modernity about this historical novel that made me feel a bit sad that some things haven't changed more than they have since the 1890s.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall - Reviewed

The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall languished in my to-be-read pile for several years. I didn't really expect to find any secrets revealed. I bought it because I find belief systems and their origins fascinating. The Secret Teachings of All Ages doesn't so much reveal "secret teachings" as draw connections between current belief systems and ancient belief systems. While there is some supposition that what is being presented obscures the secret teachings, it feels like the books tries too hard to connect ancient mythologies, scientific discovery, and religion. The Secret Teachings of All Time uses stories of gods and goddesses as well as scientific and mathematical discoveries to show the development of modern day religion. Often as I read, I felt like the book disproved the theories it attempted to support. Overall, Hall provides an interesting assembly of teachings through the ages that will have readers questioning what they have long been sure they know for sure. Basically, I would describe The Secret Teachings of All Ages as attempting to document the evolution of religion in the world. Parts of The Secret Teachings of All Ages were certainly interesting making it worth the read, but it failed to convince me it revealed any true secrets of which the world is unaware.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Conrad Tao Dances with the Piano...

Watching Conrad Tao play piano is a bit like watching a dance between piano and man. As his fingers fly across the keys, his body and the piano emanate a rhythm that mesmerizes audience. His body bounces off the seat, hunches over the keys and leans back away from them as he plays. His who body emotes the music he plays. His performance on November 9, 2014 at LaSells Stewart Center in Corvallis as part of the Corvallis-OSU Piano International Steinway Piano Series included movements by J. S. Bach, Elliott Carter, Ludwig van Beethoven, Toru Takemitsu, Frederic Chopin, and Igor Stravinsky. He played each movement with an energy that emoted from the stage entrancing the listeners. I felt torn between wanting to close my eyes and float on the music and a desire to watch his dance with the piano. Toward the end of his performance, there was a segment that sounded strange to me. I'm no expert and can only report on what I like or don't like, but there was a small moment where I grimaced involuntarily even though I couldn't pinpoint why. My husband also caught this moment that sounded not quite right. Overall, I found the performance simultaneously rousing and relaxing, so I would definitely recommend seeing Tao perform if you have the opportunity.
Tao recently released his debut solo album, Voyages, for anyone who may be interested.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

My friend, Lori, sent me the novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, quite a while ago. I put it in my to-be-read pile without even glancing at the book description. I already had so many books to read, I just didn't know when I'd have time for it. Every time I saw it in the pile, I felt an urge to read it. When I finally did, I knew exactly why Lori sent it to me... I soon found myself immersed in nineteenth-century Chinese culture as well as the friendship of Lily and Snow Flower. Their deep connection and even their misunderstandings reminded me of the deep friendships, including the one Lori and I share, I've had in my life. See's descriptions of the foot binding process had me rubbing my toes and arches. Knowing the pain of ill-fitting shoes, I couldn't even begin to imagine how these young girls survived the foot-binding process. I cringed as I read passage after passage of the treatment of women of those days juxtaposed against the strength the women exhibited in trying times to keep their families from totally disintegrating. The hardships of life lead to a heartbreaking misunderstanding between Lily and Snow Flower that causes painful betrayal and a complete break in communication. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan pushed me to open communication in my own friendships and to search for ways to make the lives of the women of my day better.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Two O'Clock Heist by Joanne Pence

As the clock ticks to Two O'Clock Heist, Rebecca Mayfield finds herself enchanted and frustrated with Richie Amalfi once again. When Richie shows up at Rebecca's desk in the homicide bureau of the San Francisco Police Department worried she's been killed, she is torn between frustration, embarrassment, and affection. His determination to assure her safety ruffles her independent feathers even as she revels in his concern for her. Rebecca discovers the actual victim is a former police officer friend, who is being maligned for her tenuous, at least in Rebecca's opinion, connection to the Russian mob. Rebecca's loyalty to her friend combined with her determination to find the truth no matter how it turns out leaves Richie frustrated but determined to keep her safe even as she continuously puts herself in danger, or as she sees it as just doing her job, and thwarts his attempts to share his affection for her. Rebecca's independent streak is further challenged when she feels forced to move into Richie's guest room after her apartment is broken into and her beloved dog, Spike, disappears. The search for Spike had me blinking back tears and on edge fearing for his fate. As Joanne Pence weaves the intrigue around a series of burglaries, the victim's missing daughter, and the victim's possible involvement in the thefts, Richie's skirting the edges of the law pushes against Rebecca's dedication to enforcing the law challenging both to make decisions they might otherwise not make. The chemistry between Rebecca and Richie had me cheering them on even during those moments when I questioned their compatibility. Pence offers a refreshing change of pace with a male character who doesn't come across as the typical caricature of a man devoid of emotional expression as well as a strong woman who doesn't need saved from herself.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Consenting Adults by J. Lea Lopez

J. Lea Lopez reminds the reader that consent and eroticism make the best of friends in each of the five stories in Consenting Adults. Stories examine insecurities, fantasies, romance, and the eroticism inherent in consensual sex. While all the stories reference sexual conduct in some way, some are much for erotic and graphic than others. Some read more romantic than erotic, and some much more erotic than romantic. Lopez offers a quick, easy read in each of these short stories.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Gift of Wings by Stephanie Stamm

Stephanie Stamm takes us on a whirlwind journey through mysticism, mythology, and religion ideology in A Gift of Wings. As I settled down to read A Gift of Wings, I soon discovered myself pulled into a world that was all at once familiar and completely foreign. Stamm took me soaring through the air and dragged me through the streets of Chicago. She teased my senses and tested my sense of reality. My heart ached for Lucky. Lucky must make sense of her beloved G-Ma's transition into an assisted living facility just as she begins to have experiences that force her to question her sanity. When she learns that what thinks are hallucinations are real, she struggles to accept her new reality. When the people around her fight over the role she must play in the battle between supernatural factions, Lucky finds herself struggling to figure out who is good and who is evil. The decision is made for her when her cousin, an innocent, is attacked in order to force the issue. Lucky learns of family secrets and the deceptions that have kept her safe. I feared for Lucky. I cheered for Lucky. I wanted to scream at Lucky a few times. Mostly, I just wanted to save Lucky from her destiny even as she embraced it. Stamm creates a world that feels all too real filled with a cast of characters the reader loves, hates, and most of all wants to know better. A Gift of Wings forced me to think about how gifts that come with strings rarely have the wings to give us flight...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams

John Sibley Williams teases the senses and tantalizes the imagination in Controlled Hallucinations. Williams poems invite the reader to read and reread the lines that paint images one may dismiss until the next one brushes up against it. Controlled Hallucinations pushes the reader into new areas of comprehension. Williams, at times, presents strings of words that stop the readier in mid-thought waiting for the hidden revelation just on the tip of the reader's consciousness. At other times, Williams offers lines that will have the reader nodding in acknowledgement of shared experience and wondering if perhaps all of life is really just one large shared controlled hallucination.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve drops the reader into calm waters with violent waves waiting just below the surface to create turmoil. As Sydney recovers from personal loss she becomes entangled in the tidal pool that is the Edwards family. Sydney has been hired to tutor the youngest Edward child, Julie, to prepare her for a future no one has asked her if she wants. When the two Edward sons,Jeff and Ben, arrive, Sydney ends up in the middle of a lifelong competition that results in much confusion and chaos. Smack in the middle of family dysfunction built around family secrets and heartache, Sydney is pulled between the family members as she navigates her place in the family. Shreve writes characters that feel as if they could step off the page at any moment. In a story that feels like it should end before it does, the reader is glad it doesn't when the end finally comes. Body Surfing stays with the reader long after reading the final page with its hauntingly realistic look at pain, loss, and family life.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Fair to Die For by Radine Trees Nehring

A Fair to Die For by Radine Trees Nehring gently pulls the reader into the lives of Carrie, Henry, and their friends. Though part of a series, A Fair to Die For stands on its own. Nehring creates characters who live lives that feel like the reader could drop by for a cup of coffee and feel right at home even as they are sucked into mystery and mayhem. As Carrie seeks to make sense of revelations about her family, she's sucked into a web of danger and intrigue. Carrie's husband and friends rally around her to keep her safe and help her bring down the drug organization threatening her family and her community. Nehring weaves a mystery through the problems created by family secrets in this well written classic cozy with likable characters.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

One O'Clock Hustle by Joanne Pence

Joanne Pence plays with the cop-cozy dynamic in One O'Clock Hustle by making the cop a woman and the damsel-in-distress a dude-in-distress in a way that works really well. Rebecca Mayfield is known as a by-the-books homicide inspector, but Richie Amalfi, a man who lives by his own rules, lowers her defenses and has her questioning not only the rules but her own sense of right and wrong. When Amalfi becomes the prime suspect in a murder, he wants nothing more than to prove his innocence and get on with his life, and he will stop at nothing to do it. Amalfi doesn't even seem to realize he's a dude-in-distress as he runs around town trying to solve the crime he's accused of committing even when his actions tend to make matters worse. Mayfield is thrown into the role of protecting, defending, and investigating Amalfi all at once. To make matters more complicated, there's an undeniable attraction between them she's determined to ignore. Pence's characters exhibits an amalgam of strength, vulnerability, intelligence, and ineptness all rolled into a wonderfully human mash that makes them all the more real. Pence injects humor through the use of the unexpected as well as playing on images of stereotypes. One O'Clock Hustle hustles the reader through the streets of San Francisco on emotional high and lows as crime, frustration, and mayhem play a dangerous game with Inspector Mayfield and Richie Amalfi.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Secrets and Lies: Surviving the Truths That Change Our Lives by Jane Isay

Jane Isay takes us behind the backdrop into the effects of lies told and truth revealed in Secrets and Lies: Surviving the Truths That Change Our Lives. As I read this book, I nodded in recognition at times, I squirmed in discomfort at others, and I blinked back tears as I empathized with the people whose stories she shared. Isay concentrates on what we might think of as "big" lies, but her words made me think about the million little lies we tell every day to keep peace. As she examines the pain inflicted by both secrets kept and truth reveals, Isay pushes us to examine the lives we lead and the connections in our lives. Does the secret we keep help or hurt? Does the truth we seek to reveal help or hurt? Do we seek to keep secrets or reveal truths to assuage our guilt or to free someone else? We all have to examine our motives, and Secrets and Lies acknowledges that every situation is unique and yet eerily similar regardless of the secret being kept or the truth being revealed. Isay takes us into the journeys of several people whose lives were irrevocably changed by secrets kept and by truths revealed. Those stories left me discombobulated as I realized how often our reactions to secrets and lies revealed lacks compassion and leaves everyone involved hurting and alone. I like to to think I lean toward compassion more than toward judgment, but Isay made me wonder if what I think is compassion could be perceived as judgment. Secrets and Lies provokes thought, promotes compassion, and provides insight into why people keep secrets, why people reveal secrets and why people pretend they don't know the secrets right in front of them as Isay examines the impact of secrets and the revelation of truth.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dog Whistle Politics by Ian Haney Lopez

I seriously underestimated how much Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked the Middle Class Ian Haney Lopez would affect me. As I started reading, I expected a rehashing of contents I already knew. While there was some of that, there was also information about the history of racism in the United States that I never fully knew. I expected to read the book quickly without the need to pause and think about what I read. Instead, the book took me quite a while to read as I pondered the contents. As I read an examination of policies I'd long heard explained with twisted logic that never sounded quite right, I realized I've been mislead by half-truths and misrepresentation of facts. This particularly surprised me in regards to some historical policies that were conveniently glossed over or completely absent from my history classes. This book also answered questions for me about how people I think of as generally non-racist and who consider themselves non-racist say and do things that are so obviously race driven. This deeper understanding made me stop and think about my own life and how I perceive the world around me. As I read Lopez's words skewering Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, and liberals as well as those who forego any of those labels for engaging in dog whistle politics, I felt despair at times and hope at other times. Lopez encourages us to recognize dog whistle politics and dog whistle attitudes that incite needless fear, so perhaps we can begin to grow past the divisions that are so constantly thrust upon us. Still the question remains... Can we? Lopez points out the problems we face in a book that challenges preconceptions of what it means to be "colorblind" and "post-racial" as he points out the use of fear and stereotypes to keep people separated. As I read Dog Whistle Politics, I felt sickened at times, hopeful at others, angry at times, and filled with love at others. I hope this book reaches an audience beyond those who already understand and agree with its contents. In this examination of the history and continuation of dog whistle politics, Lopez asks us to seek understanding and make a plan for a better future together. Even as Dog Whistle Politics attempts to examine and educate the effects of dog whistle politics on the United States from myriad points of view, Lopez never apologizes for taking a stance against the use of dog whistle politics to keep us separated and unequal.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I started reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Vintage) by Cheryl Strayed with some resistance. I had heard many people gushing about Wild, and, far too often, I am disappointed by books people gush about. I tried to temper my expectations as I started the book. My resistance faded quickly. Strayed writes honestly, sometimes brutally, about her life and her experiences. The words often felt so raw they rubbed against my comfort zone bringing old insecurities, stupid decisions, and brazen moves to the surface. I winced in recognition of emotional states and shook at my head at decisions I would never have made because I wanted to change the trajectory of Strayed experiences. Wild immerses the reader in Strayed's decision making, or sometimes lack thereof. Strayed takes the reader along on a ride that at times feels like being pulled onto a trail without full knowledge of what one is doing just as was Strayed's experience. I felt immersed in the book to the point, my feet ached from her shoes as she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and my back tensed as she struggled with her backpack. My heart ached as she faced her mother's illness and death. I winced more than once as she struggled with family issues. As Strayed recounted her encounters with people both on the trail and off, she proves no matter how many people surround us, we can find ourselves alone and no matter how alone we feel, there are people with whom we can connect. Wild offers a wild hike through one woman's journey of healing and discovery.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin had been on my reading list for a very long time after a couple of people recommended it to me and I'd seen it referenced as describing the "right" way to market. Perhaps I'm a bit too cynical, but reading this book made me realize why I hate so much of the marketing we see today. While this book is a how-to book about marketing strategy, I have to admit the techniques within sounded a bit manipulative to me. I'm a straightforward kind of person, and I truly don't appreciate it when people wrap up their marketing techniques in thinly veiled manipulations. In theory, I can see how permission marketing is preferable to many types of marketing, but it's really not that hard to use it to provide false choice. The book makes some excellent points about not spamming people and respecting other people's space. Godin also clues in consumers that they are agreeing to receive marketing material when they sign up for a newsletter or for a mailing list of one sort or another as well as a multitude of other things including creating an account on a website. While these things can offer some valuable information, the end goal is to sell product. While Permission Marketing is geared toward those trying to market products effectively and without spamming people, it also clues in consumers as to just what permission marketing is and how often they agree to allow a company or an individual to market products or services to them. For that reason alone, it is worth a read. I found the book itself interesting even when the techniques described made me uncomfortable. I already understood that newsletters and website are marketing tools but reading Permission Marketing made me think about how often I've given over my email address without a second thought. And, that reminded me why I receive so many emails I never even open and waste time deleting. One thing is certain, after reading Permission Marketing, I will never look at commercials, advertisements, websites, or even newsletters the same way. As someone who relies on publicity and marketing for my livelihood, I find myself torn between my discomfort with the techniques and my need to sell product, even more so after reading Permission Marketing.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Robert Frost Three Books

I bought Robert Frost Three Books from a remainders table several years ago. I don't remember when, but I know the reason was two-fold. One, I love Frost's poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. For those of you who don't recognize the title, I think it's also referred to as the "miles to go before I sleep" poem. Two, I felt driven to study the work of well-known poets. I bought the book without even opening the cover, so imagine my disappointment when I discovered Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening isn't in the book. The book contains three of Frost's books, A Boy's Will, North of Boston, and Mountain  Interval. The poems in this book are divine. I read and reread many of them many times. They take the heart and mind on a journey through nature and human reaction. Wind and Window Flower reminded me of fleeting love and lost opportunity. The Vantage Point reminded me of the inner struggle between the need for solitude and the need for connection. Some poems, like Snow and The Self-Seeker, tell stories that seem both complete and incomplete by design. Interestingly, many of the poems seem as if they could have been written today. There is a timeliness in Frost's work that leaves the reader feeling suspended between the past and present ever pointing out what many of us know to be true, humans tend to repeat patterns of behavior and living until something shocks them into change. Frost manages to be weave complexity and simplicity into his words without ever sounding as if he's trying to be impressive.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community by Karen T. Litfin

I was really excited about reading and reviewing Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community by Karen T. Liftin before I even opened the book, but I don't believe I allowed my excitement for the topic to interfere with my objectivity. Ecovillages addresses several topics I find relevant to the day and to our future. Liftin took an entire year to spend time at ecovillages around the world. She explores what each of these ecovillages are doing to create a better Earth and a more sustainable lifestyle. There is a thread of living simply throughout the book that supports much of my own point of view. She addresses what she refers to as E2C2, shorthand for ecology, economy, community, and consciousness as the components that make up any society. She discusses in detail how each of the ecovillages she visited address each of the components of E2C2. While we may have these images of ecovillages of hippie communes, Litfin points out various ways in which this stereotype is far from the truth. I like that she ends the book by discussing how the ideas these various ecovillages employ can be scaled up to be introduced into communities already in existence. She addresses the reality that we can't all move into ecovillages and that it might not even be prudent to do so. Liftin makes her points well in an easy to read fashion that makes her message and the message of the ecovillages she visited very clear. Ecovillages is a discussion starter. Many times I stopped reading just to discuss points with my husband and to think through not only what she wrote in the book but the implications on my own life and the lives of those I know. Liftin writes with passion and clarity in every portion of the book. Her ideas and discoveries are presented well even when her topic leaves the reader with questions. Liftin provides a thought provoking analysis of her experience within the ecovillages. Ecovillages isn't just about sustaining the Earth but about sustaining a sense of togetherness and community through less consumption and more interaction.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Anderson & Roe at LaSells Center in Corvallis, Oregon

Anderson & Roe talking about
the music they would play.
Anderson & Roe energized LaSells Stewart Center in Corvallis, Oregon Sunday, April 6, 2014, with their piano duo. Their performance vibrated the very souls of those in attendance. When I attend concerts like the one Anderson & Roe performed last night, my soul longs to be musically inclined. I listen and enjoy but don't understand music the way I sometimes wish I did. I rarely recognize tunes from the notes being played. I can never explain to someone else why certain music resonates with me in anything coming close sounding musically talented. I have friends who can compare performances and give you nuanced reasons why something works and something else doesn't. Music like Anderson & Roe's makes my heart ache for such a connection to music. They play with such an effortless ease and energy the listener, the listener
can't help but feel inspired. 

They introduced the pieces they played and described a bit about their interpretations of each. 

Anderson reading a poem.
Roe preparing to play
They even read poetry before each set in their opening performance of Rachmaninoff, which they played on separate pianos facing one another. They moved into a portion of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, which they played on the same piano sharing space and reaching over and around one another. They finished out the first half of the performance playing Libertango by Astor Piazolla/Anderson & Roe on the same piano. I loved that they described this piece as being like a dancing a tango, and even invited the audience to dance the tango in the aisles. I smiled wondering if anyone ever has taken them up on that offer. The music certainly had my foot tapping, but I wasn't tempted to jump up and start dancing...

When they came back from intermission, they had changed clothes. The audience reacted to this unexpected occurrence with applause, which I found amusing. Still, it's not often you see a clothes change during a piano concert.

They started the second half of the performance with an interpretation of Mozart's work.They played these three pieces starting on one piano and moving to separate pianos for the second two pieces. They moved on to a an interpretation of a the Christoph Willibald Gluck ballet, Orphee et Eurydice, that grabbed the imagination and held on tight. They played this piece on the same piano again. For the final piece, they played an interpretation of the opera, Carmen, that condensed all the emotion of Carmen into thirteen roller coaster ride minutes.

Anderson & Roe meeting with fans.
Two encores held the audience enthralled as the second one ended the performance with Michael Jackson's Billie Jean.

After the two hour performance, they met with fans in the lobby for a while.

The energy of this performance made me want to seek out more of their work. Luckily, they have a website and a YouTube channel!

I hope Anderson & Roe continue to bring their vibrance and talent to the musical scene for many more years to come. Their interpretations of classical music invigorate and inspire as did their performance at LaSells Stewart Center.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Gender and Global Justice edited by Alison M. Jaggar

Gender and Global Justice edited by Alison M. Jaggar tackles an interesting, timely, and complex topic. The essays within seek to both ask and answer the questions of how gender affects justice and how justice affects gender. Though some of chapters in Gender and Global Justice feel a bit reminiscent of college papers, they deftly highlight the complexity gender plays in global justice. There are times when the words chosen feel as if they were chosen to impress rather than to better explore or explain the topic at hand, but the content outweighs these word choices. Jaggar compiled a set of essays that tackle the effects of things like migrant work, domestic violence, sex trafficking, tax policy, and family dynamics on gender inequality as well as gender inequality on all of these issues. The essays attempt to look at myriad sides of an issue, but often feel labored as they attempt to explore various sides without sounding like they're excusing injustices wrought by the effects of the realities of people's situations and choices. The academic nature of Gender and Global Justice draws attention to the importance of exploring solutions to gender equality and the problems it causes throughout the world without exploiting the issues to further a political agenda.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Keeping It Simple: Imagine Being Whole by Audrey Austin

As a practitioner of yoga and meditation, Keeping It Simple: Imagine Being Whole by Audrey Austin intrigued me. Austin explores and explains each of the chakras in easy to understand terms complete with exercises to get the reader in touch with the individual chakras. She simplifies the mysticism surrounding the chakras and gives the reader a sense of the power of paying attention to one's chakras as well as the role each chakra plays in balancing one's energy and therefore one's life. Anyone looking for a better understanding of the basic idea of chakras or even those just interested in better understanding why they feels more balanced after yoga and/or meditation will find Austin's Keeping It Simple: Imagine Being Whole interesting.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Vagabond Opera at The Majestic Theatre

Saturday night, March 8, 2014, a friend and I went to watch Vagabond Opera at The Majestic Theatre in Corvallis, Oregon. Our seats were close enough to see the color of the perfomers' eyes. The performance was energetic, exciting, and exhilarating. The eclectic mix of singing, dancing, instruments, acrobatics, and languages utilized kept the crowd engaged. The performers managed to make the audience feel almost like a part of the show without ever losing the entertainment aspect of their performances. Nothing felt forced or like it was done by rote. The performers genuinely seemed to enjoy their time on stage! It was delightful to experience, and I left feeling energized and inspired! I would suggest attending a show by Vagabond Opera if they visit a venue near you! And, for those in the Corvallis area, keep your eye on The Majestic Theatre for events!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Seducing Cupid by Karen L. Syed

Seducing Cupid by Karen L. Syed is a fun, sweet love story that made me in spite of myself. With a bit of the expected resistance to love so often found in love stories, Seducing Cupid manages to not be cliche. Syed twists the expected and gives a refreshing take on the discovery of a love connection. Seducing Cupid is a quick, fun, easy read perfect for a lighthearted escape from the real world.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Emily Dickinson Poems

Emily Dickinson: PoemsI picked Emily Dickinson Poems up thinking I should study Dickinson's work. I'm fairly certain I read some of her poems in high school and/or college, but I'm not sure. Anyway, as with any should, this book sat in my to-be-read pile for a really long time. Occasionally, I'd pick it up and read a poem or two and then put it back. It was that should that kept getting in the way. Finally, I decided it was time to read these poems. I planned to read a couple each night before going to sleep. Most nights I decided to read "just two more" when I finished my planned reading for the night. Dickinson evokes a lot of emotion in her writing even when her poems aren't particularly clear as to whether they're meant literally or symbolically. Often, the poems left me conflicted between two potential messages as the wording felt open to interpretation. Notes of depression float beside appreciation for nature wrapped up in religious ideology in Dickinson's poetry. A book well worth reading, especially for anyone interested in exploring why Dickinson is so highly regarded among poets.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Touch of Class Vintage Day Spa

A while back I decided to treat myself to a massage. I talked myself out of it for several months before I finally called A Touch of Class to set up an appointment. It was my second ever professional massage. I've never quite understood the appeal of a massage, and my first encounter didn't leave me wanting me to race back for another. Finally, in early January, I called and made an appointment for the shortest and most basic session offered.  I arrived to a small building in back of a house. Stepping inside, I immediately understood why they dubbed themselves vintage. The decor is homey and welcoming with none of the sterile atmosphere many modern spas have adopted. Both have their advantages. I sat a table set for tea in a room that looked like a tea house. The desk was discreetly tucked to one side.
The massage began with a complimentary infrared sauna session. I entered the sauna room. It's a small room with a couple of chairs, a water dispenser, cups, books, and a coat rack with robes on it. The sauna is tucked into a back corner. It's quite comfortable and relaxing. I ignored the books planning to meditate in the sauna, but I soon discovered I couldn't quite get into a meditative state. I'm not sure why.
The massage room is on the other side of the building, so I put on a robe, gathered my things, and headed over when my sauna session ended. The room was small with a massage table in the middle. It was surrounded by tables, chair, and cabinets. I settled on the table, and Linda came in to start my massage. She did a thirty minute massage with stones. She referred to the massage type as La Stone. I wasn't expecting the La Stone massage, but I found it very relaxing and even invigorating. I listened to her retrieve the stones and felt them as she pushed them into my skin. She placed two heated stones on my hands and left them there as she continued the massage. The stones felt smooth as the glided against and skin and pushed into my muscles. I felt tension drain away from places I didn't even know I held tension. She used some essential oils as well which were a bit strong for my personal taste but are likely just what others enjoy.
We chatted for a bit before I left. The experience was delightful. I look forward to another massage at A Touch of Class though I'm still not quite ready to make it a regular thing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Prasad Cuisine in Portland, Oregon

Prasad Cuisine, located in the front area of a yoga studio, is a great place to grab a quick bite. There are a few tables to sit and enjoy one's meal after ordering at the counter. We had two bowls, the chili bowl and the brahma bowl, and cups of hot chocolate. Both bowls were tasty and filling. The hot chocolate tasted good but was a little too sweet for our taste; however, it would probably work well for those who enjoy sweet hot chocolate. After the hot chocolate, neither of us wanted dessert. Prasad offers a quick, nutritious vegan meal in an inviting and comfortable setting but isn't the place to linger over a meal.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Two Cooks A-Killing by Joanne Pence

Joanne Pence's Two Cooks A-Killing is an amusing and entertaining mystery that centers around her series character Angie Amalfi and Angie's fiance, Detective Paavo Smith. Angie's naivete about the real continues to put her in dangerous situations as she makes decisions that leave the reader wanting to grab her by the shoulders and give her a good shake. I laughed out loud when Angie replaced the winery's wine with a better stating wine and serves it to the cast of those there for the shooting of the Christmas special of an old television show, Eagle Crest as well as the owners of the winery where the show is shot, especially when one of the sons of the estate's owner asks if it's their wine. Something about this book reminded me of the days when I used to sneak viewings of Falcon Crest because my parents didn't think I should watch the show. Two Cooks A-Killing: An Angie Amalfi Mystery is a quick, easy, fun, entertaining read.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Death of a Flapper by Marva Dale

Death Of A Flapper (Death By Decades) by Marva Dale immerses the reader in to the 1920s complete with a noir feel. The detective, the damsel in distress, mobsters, class division, and blurred lines inhabit the pages of Death of a Flapper. Dale creates a world filled with characters the reader will love to hate and hate to love - sometimes the same character at different points in the book. Private Detective Carney Brogan's obsession with murdered flapper, Alice Prado aka Arabella Germaine, goes beyond solving her murder as struggles with his own reaction to a portrait of her. As he investigates all possibilities, the reader alternately hope the murderer is one character and then the next creating a whirlwind of emotions as the story progresses.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Venus in Fur at The Majestic Theatre

The Majestic Theatre is currently presenting the play, Venus in Fur, a play within a play exploring gender roles and attitudes. Pat Kight directs this play in which two actors present the entire story without an intermission. Set during rehearsals for a play, the actors delve into the story within the play breaking to discuss the finer points and to attend to personal business. Vonda's ill-fitting costume seemed as much as prop as the furniture on the stage but still made me want to squirm for the actress at times. The story is intriguing and coaxes laughter as well as moments of introspection from the audience. As Vonda forces the playwright to defend his seemingly sexist words in some of the scenes, the audience alternately feels for him and agrees with her. He seems to think he's creating a strong female character while Vonda thinks he's creating a character coerced into playing a role she doesn't wish to play. In this struggle for dominance over one another, what appears to be usually appears to be something else moments later. Venus in Fur is definitely worth attending.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ramsi's Cafe on the World in Louisville, Kentucky

Ramsi's Cafe on the World, located at 1293 Bardstown Road, Louisville, Kentucky, has an extensive vegan menu as well as non-vegan dishes. The food is well-prepared using organic and local food. The service is friendly and accommodating. The atmosphere is inviting and comfortable. We ordered the Sahara Soup and Raw Hope Salad to start our meal. Both were quite tasty. The soup qualified as comfort food and the salad was light and crisp. For entrees, I ordered the Quinoa Kiki and my dining partner ordered The Spice Market. Both were delightful and filling even though we would've have preferred no oil. I'm sure the oil content would've been fine for people who eat oil. The mint green tea complemented the meal perfectly. Overall, we enjoyed a delightful dining experience. I would definitely eat at Ramsi's Cafe on the World given the opportunity.