Here, There be a Writer

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Once Upon a Time there was a Milk House

Sometime when I moved back to Corning from Dallas I was introduced to CCC's Milk House. This is a little structure that sits between CCC's campus and Spencercrest Nature Center.

Once upon a time, on a slight incline just past Amelia Pond there sits (or used to sit) amid the tall grasses and shrubs sits the lonely Milk House. It has always been there. Keeping watch over the Amelia Pond and the surrounding landscapes. Where once people came to store milk, it then became a impromptu art gallery for the Mysterious Artist of Corning. It's roof was falling in and the floor was made of mud, but it we ours and our alone. Something to treasure! And treasure it we did...until the day that the Milk House no longer stood.

Milk House in Pastel
I am unfamiliar with the history of the Milk House, outside of the fact that I know it is a milk house. I just know that since I have been living in Corning, this rickety structure has been a special place. I often go up to Spencercrest for walks, or line rehearsals, writing, sketching, sometimes with friends, or most often to just to be alone, but always would I visit the little Milk House, even if it was muddy and i was wearing flats. There was a sense of forgotten peace. As with many dilapidated and abandoned places there is a draw to it. 

My friend, Katie O'Herron is the first person to take me to the milk House (shout out time). I was marveled by the this random little house (for that what I originally thought it was). But standing in the center of the tiny house and looking up to see sky through the partially collapsed roof. And then there the random artwork on display, mostly of suns and moons, it was a sight to behold. Often, it seemed that the artist would switch out paintings for other ones, much like a standard gallery would do. I loved to see what was there each time I went up there. I took many pictures. I felt inspired. I felt at peace.

Milk House circa 2009

Not long ago, maybe a year one of the local papers did a lengthy article about the Milk House and the Mysterious Artist (I should try to find that article and post it). No one seemed to know the artist, and maybe they didn't want to know. I know now, after my last visit I still love not knowing, just knowing that someone enjoyed having the Milk House there and was inspired to make art and share with the world. 

My last visit to Spencercrest yielded quite the surprised when I didn't see the little Milk House of the Hill, as I walked closer I relieved that the base was still there, but the Milk House was not. After the Tornadoes that ripped through the area and the rather windy Autumn and Winter, I guess I wasn't surprised that the Little Milk House didn't make it. I was pretty saddened by this. I could still see the path that the college made up to the house last year, and the worn entrance way. There wasn't much left, after the presumed clean up, some wood and shingles, and bit of the electrical pieces that were practically embedded into the ground. No sign of the painting. i do hope that they were saved and found a home.

I shall still make my regular pilgrimage to the Little Milk House on the Hill. Maybe I will be inspired to write a story or play about it.

RIP Little Milk House! May you live on....

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thoughts on Many Waters.....

"Many Water cannot Quench Love, Neither can the Floods Drown it"

Sometimes when I read a book, I don't always understand why I like it. I love to read  A LOT! I love fantasy (and some sci-fi) (James Owen, Anne McCaffrey, or Douglas Adams), mysteries (Sue Grafton or Ellis Peters),and sometimes the occasional straight fiction like the "The Reader" or "Revolutionary Road". I am fond of poetry and Shakespeare and the Meditation's Trilogy (also James Owen), oh and I LOVE young adult fiction like Roald Dahl, L. Frank Baum, and Madeleine L'Engle. I have just finished the "Time Quartet" series, and I thought I would reflect a bit about on one of the books, Many Waters.

Many Waters is a side story about the 2 Murry brothers, Sandy and Dennys (what a weird way to spell Dennys). It's a story about how they end up in Pre-Flood desert with Noah and his family. It's an interesting spin on the Flood Story and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Now this is the 2nd reading of Many Waters. I noticed a few things.

1. It's not really depicted as a Christian story. It's based on the story of the flood, but it's not really presented as a flood story. Noah isn't even named until about halfway through the book. You definitely feel like that where the story is set up in, but it's not blatantly presented, unless you are really familiar with some of the names (which I wasn't). I picked it up quicker because I read a number of bible stories in one of my literature classes in college. The story is written about the characters, the people, and there lives in that world. The flood in just a background point in the story and it doesn't really happen as  Sandy and Dennys get to go home right as the rains start to fall.

2. The writing is stellar. I never really felt like I was reading a YA (young adult) book. On the flip side I felt that it wasn't being written too thick either. It was a really nice blend of heavy subjects and simple and lovely concepts rolled together.

3. And I think this point is relevant because of Boston. That even when really bad things happen, there are some many good things also happen. Bad things happen to good people, "Whenever there's an earthquake, on a terrible fire, or a typhoon, or whatever, everybody get it. Good people get kill as well as the bad." but those bad things and bad people should NEVER outweigh the good in a person mind.  "There have been many last days...and they mark not only ending but beginnings." Beginnings! That right people, beginnings are just the start of another story. Sometime things have to end to begin elsewhere.Out of the bad, a many good things and people come together to help, "Many Waters cannot Quench Love, Neither can the Floods Drown it". It took me a while to realize where these lines come from , but it's the Song of Solomon.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
Many waters cannot quench love, 
Nor will rivers overflow it; 
If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, 
It would be utterly despised.

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
Many waters cannot quench love, 
neither can the floods drown it: 
if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, 
it would utterly be contemned.

Many Waters is probably one of my favourite stories now, both from the literature perspective and the moral lessons stand point. I have a greater respect for the stories of the Bible. It's good to know that college was useful after all :-). I read a number of biblical stories in "Bible as Literature" and The Psalms and the Song of Solomon were and still are some of my favourites, probably because I am a poet at heart.

Also, I have to point out the the "Time Quartet" is so beautifully crafted with it's blend of science, fantasy, and Biblical stories and poetry. There's a duality with the fantasy and faith, something that isn't easily done in literature, but here is works and it works well. Imagine Unicorns, Gryphons, Manticores, and Mammoths in the pre-civilazation world of desert shepards and the like. I recommend this book, or any of Madeleine L'Engles books to anyone who likes a good fantasy with a bit of science and doesn't mind the use a bit of faith as a back drop for the plot. Then check it out.

I leave you with some word, some VERY beautiful words; one more version, I think I like this wording  best:
 Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Great Big Sea in Buffalo, and Greek Food, and BACON!

Buffalo at Night
 Afternoon All!

I am back from my weekend away, and while I did not write, I did think. As Wallace would say, it was a Grand Day Out, or at least a Grand Island Weekend Out!

As is my usual, when Great Big Sea travel to Buffalo, NY I find my way to Grand Island, NY where a college friend lives and we get to hang out and have shenanigans. 2013 is Great Big Sea's 20th Anniversary Tour, with a double disc Greatest Hits and a friggin' awesome tour. I bought these ticket last year and waited in triumph for this day.

It has come and as of this post gone! But, truly a memorable concert with one of the truly awesome bands out there.

There are a few things I do need to point out. Great Big Sea is based out of Newfoundland Canada (see map) and it along with Labrador make up the farthest eastern Canadian province. It is a rich and cultural diverse land. I will save the historical lesson, but I do plan to visit both Labrador and Newfoundland someday soon, preferably in the Summer months (I hear the Winter's are pretty wicked). Newfoundland is the island and 2 of my favourite bands bands have come out of this far out there place; Arrogant Worms and Great Big Sea.
Great Big Sea is a wonderful blend of celtic, irish, egland, french, folk, and rock all roll in one. I was brought into the Sea early in college, but didn't really sink my teeth into their music until after I moved  back from Dallas. Something Beautiful was my first full album. If I didn't like them before (I did, but only knew 4 of their songs), I was in love now. The melodic vocals of Sean and the rock power behind Alan just made me melt, plus Bob on the fiddle was just my cup of tea (as I spent 9 years playing violin in school). They became my world!

So, 20th anniversary, check; tickets, check; bestest friend (one of three or four), check. I set off from my home in Corning, NY for Grand Island, NY. A trip of about 2 1/2 hours. I drive the scenic route up 390 to Geneseo to Rte 63 to Bethany, NY then Rte 20 thru Alden, NY. It's a pleasant drive and one usually filled with GBS tunes along the way.

The whole trip was a wonderful time with Laura, Krys, and Linda that included Greek food at Alton's on Saturday night, that means Souvlaki (beef) with olive and pitas with dill dressing and a Bacon-filled dinner Sunday before the concert with home Sangria and bacon wrapped chicken and bacon chocolate chip cookies. made by Laura and Krys (i wrapped the chicken in Bacon and cooked the bacon for the cookies. YUM YUM!

And the game afternoon with Krys playing Clue, which I hadn't played in year, and somehow managed to win. I was trying, but I think I got lucky. Anywhoo, I had fun. It was good times! I love my Buffalo peeps!

Before the Concert
All lit up!
 And then the concert, in one of the best venue to see the Sea, the Center for the Arts on the University of Buffalo's North Campus. Great acoustics and really decent seats. GBS rolled out the all of the hits and some of the new tracks recorded specially for the XX album. Personal favourites, that's always tough, but when they sing accapella, I melt; The River Driver, Safe Upon the Shore, or Come and I Will Sing You.

Their stage banter is also a point to be remember. The love interacting with each other and their audience, sometime Kris their drummer will walk around the stage while the rest of the guys are playing and interact with each of them, much to the audience's amusement (including mine). They play a few song that don't normally get played, What Are Ya'at?, Wave Over Wave, and Captain Wedderburn; still waiting for them to play Seagulls or Trois Navires de Ble.

I always said. give these guys a listen, they are totally worth it.

The Guys in action!! (Kris on the drums, Murray, Alan, Sean, and Bob)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fantasy Readers! Topn 10 Fantasy Series to Read....

It's been a long and quiet week in my world. Part of this weekend was planned for some of the bigger blogs that I have planned. What do they normally say: the best laid plans of Mice and Men? Well, it's true...I haven't really been focused this weekend. Not really sure why either. Maybe my brain wanted to be turned off this weekend, maybe I was bone dry in the creative department, or maybe I just didn't have much to say. So, whatever the reason, his head or his, oops, wrong train of thought. I am still very much dedicated to this blog and bringing you fascinating things to read.

While wracking my bleary eyed brain for an idea that wanted to be written I recalled that I had a list that I wanted to post on. I figured since nothing else was popping into my head, I would go with that. This week we are looking at some of my favourite series, these are all fantasy series, as I tend to live in a fantasy world. It's part learning more about me and a recommended reading list.

My top 10 recommended (favourite) Fantasy Series!

Honourable Mentions: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix

Hitchhikers is a challenge to read and full of English wit, but well worth
it to read.

Abhorsen series is a different kind of fantasy, but quite a fun and engaging to read.

Garth Nix Abhorsen Trology

Number #10: The Mage Wars Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon

This series I read in college. It has to be one of the first mainstream fantasy series I read outside of Lord of the Rings. I was and still am a Dragon Lover at heart, but a close second is the Gryphon (my preferred spelling). The Mage Wars has everything I could want in a series a broken Hero, fantastical beast, magic, and the ability to keep me interested. Mercedes Lackey's Valdamar world is quite the fascinating one that weaves between the different series, but each series also stands well on their own.  It helps to read each series (Last Herald-Mage, or Mage Storms), but the Mage Wars stands well on it's own. It's also the 'beginning of the series.

Number #9: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Okay, so some people will probably take offense to Harry being so low on the list, but I need to point out the I only read the WHOLE series when book 7 had come out, so I could read each book, back to back. I do love the fact that you see harry get to grow up, despite all of the crap that happens to him. It's not higher up because I have already a number of series that are further on the list, some a which I think are better written than Harry. I do number a number of points about the Potter series: the use of Severus Snape, the survival of Harry during book 7, and some really awesome characters Tonks, Lupin, Fred, and George to name a few. It's just not high on the list, sorry Potterheads!

Number #8 The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey art (not mine)
So, some of you are aware of my love for all thing Anne McCaffrey and Dragons. You might be  wondering why I have put Pern only at #8. Okay, yes it's lower, yes, but I still find the stories engaging and very easy to read. That trait is why I have ranked it lower. I do love a challenge when reading and the Pern novels (all of them) are easy in story plot compared to, say, Lord of the Rings or Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but I still enjoy them. The characters are what sell me on Pern. They are very real and relate-able, oh and the Dragons don't hurt anything either. Robinton was my first storybook crush, still is in many ways.

Number #7: Time Quartet by Madeleine L'Engle

These books are unique from my perspective as they use both science and faith as a plot driven. It's not often that you can find a book that utilizes both and still keeps the reader engaged. I had to read "Winkle in Time" is school. It was one of a FEW books that I enjoyed cover to cover. The high fantasy is definitely a selling point with me. The real Meg Murry was and still is a reason for my continued reading of these books. She is a very whining and obnoxious character that you feels less sympathetic, but I guess for me I can see the reality in her character flaws and that makes for good storytelling when she learns a lesson, even if it takes most of the book for her to do so. That brings me to a point, good storytelling has to have GREAT characters: Meg, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Aunt Beast these are characters you feel vested in. Madeleine L'Engle is also a Christian writer, but yet I don't feel that it's being shoved down my throat, her use of Bible verses in a nice touch to prove a point in her stories. Being of pagan-faith, one could say that that would potentially turn me off, but no so, I actually see how they add to the story. It's the macrocosm that Madeleine creates that makes me feel that sometimes the world has more than one answer to any one problem.

The subsequent books are just as good and continue the story of Meg Murry, Charles Wallace, and Peter O'Keefe, and later their children.

Order to be read in: A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, An Acceptable Time

Number #6: The Oz Books by L. Frank Baum

There are 14 books in Baum's series alone. I will not be evaluating all pf them, even though they are worth. The Oz books are an endearing series that I should note that the first book (based on the movie) is only the tip of the Oz Iceberg. While each book is technically an east read, when you look at the whole plot of the Oz series, you realize that Baum was a very detailed writer, who including many points in his stories and world. There is a bit of continuity with small points, such as the colour of Dorothy's kitten, but in the grand scheme of things Baum wrote 14 stories about Oz, I think a few minor story oops are forgivable. Why put Wizard of Oz on the list higher than Harry Potter, because, that why!

Number #5: Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Almost any Fantasy nerd would have this on their list (I said, almost). The writing in not the easiest, and the plot is sometimes WAY over the top, but it is really brilliantly written. The love and care the Tolkien gave to his stories shows. It's also what many other series base their concepts of elves, dwarves, wizards, and baddies on. It is worth the time to read them. I highly recommend any reader (specifically fantasy) to pick them up and read them, at least one in your life.

Number #4: His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman

No quite the standard series, but it is unique and that is the primary reason it made the top 4. One doesn't always expect such a series to pop up into the world. The darker subject matter was certainly a draw. I was recommended this series by my friend Jane and I haven't regretted it. I am going to be re-reading the Golden Compass again soon, as I am going to do a side-by-side comparison of the book and movie (yes, I know what I am getting into. Remember the Eragon review?).

Number #3: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Here is a another case of an easier to read series ranking high, but there's a reason. While it is easier to read, it also has quite the plot going on with epic battles and travels to the end of the world. It's on par epically as Lord of the Rings is, just that it was written for children. I also will point out the Lewis was a Christian writer (well he started off as an atheist first), but this is not a deterrent to the story. There are also some really great characters, like Reepicheep or the Pevensie Children.

Number #2: The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

A lesser known series that uses Celtic mythologies. It's more of a challenge, but very worth it. Susan Copper takes a number of Arthurian and Celtic legends and spins them in a new way. There is some great character develpoment here and an engaging story plot. While it is much less known, I will still recommend it to anyone looking for something new, something different. Start with "Over Sea, Under Stone", then "The Darkn is Rising", "Greenwitch", "The Grey King", and "Silver on the Tree".

Number #1: Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica by James A. Owen

This is a case of pure surprise and delight. This series will leave you guessing and there is always a surprise at practically every chapter. It's a labour of love for Owen and there is much to be proud of. i really can't say much more about this series, except, you NEED to read it, especially if you love an AWESOME high fantasy epic, with some truly memorable and lovable characters: Tummler, Unca, and Fred. An incredibly well crafted story that you should check out now. The last book is due out this November.