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Opera weekends… January 31, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life, Literature.
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People’s reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic; they either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.” — “Pretty Woman”

I think I agree with this quote, but the addenda does need to be: reaction to a GOOD opera. My first trip to the opera was a night seeing two shorts “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliaci”.

The show opened with Cavalleria Rusticana which was decent, but my reaction to it was thinking the soprano was okay and the tenor had no panache. The set was moderate, up to the grand Easter procession at the end.

Thankfully, the next was “Pagliaci” and this opera gave me the “love it or hate it” reaction mentioned in “Pretty Woman”. I was enthralled. The story was captivating, even though you knew how it would end. But then, don’t we usually know how these ‘scorned love’ stories end in movies and books? The tenor and the soprano were able to act with their bodies and voices and the actress in me was amazed. The staging was stunning as well, stark and beautifully reflecting the story line and letting the singers and important moments be highlighted with splashes of color. It was so inspiring I created an entire character whose climactic point of life was centered around Opera and the “Pagliaci” work, as well as it’s themes of loneliness, betrayal and revenge.

One of the really intriguing things about Opera is how often we forget that it used to be “entertainment for the masses”. There is a /reason/ daytime tv features “Soap Operas”. The themes and plots aren’t high brow or esoteric. One of my literature professors insisted that, no matter your field, no literary critic is worth his or her salt if unfamiliar with opera. The storylines and symbols permeate our culture, still today.

And I still think you can’t beat “art” painted for more than just one sense for inspiration and enjoyment.


Wednesday Book Review: The Penelopiad February 10, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Critiquing, Literature.
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The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood is a retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope’s point of view. Called by man a Feminist or sometimes just Feminine novel, it examines the famous characters from the Odyssey and gives the other perspective on one of the most famous women in literature.  Atwood’s prose is what makes this novel so difficult to put down, you almost immediately step into Penelope’s head space and you forget that you already know the ending to the story. It’s refreshed beautifully, and the Odysseus/Penelope relationship isn’t idealized, but there’s something compelling about seeing another side of the story. And while the perspective is from Penelope in the 21st Century Hades looking back on the events, the book manages to avoid gross anachronism in characterizations. I particularly liked how Margaret Atwood rewrites the end, where Penelope in the Odyssey doesn’t recognize Odysseus, which never seemed to make sense in the Penelopiad her cunning is shown as she uses her wits to help him in turn. Penelope is as clever as Odysseus in this version of the myth. Now what I didn’t like is the last few chapters of the narrative, where the narration style becomes more poetic and the book more openly feminist and theoretical. It seemed after all the story to be preachy or to overstate the message of the book itself.

Genre: Historical fantasy

Age: Adult, mature teen

Content: Sexual references, rape, death, murder

Overall: 4/5  paws

All in a new year’s work… January 11, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life, Literature, Plans.
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It’s about time I came out of hibernation. Don’t worry, even my family was sending me phone messages asking me “Kristen, where have you been?” I don’t know what it is about that end of semester crunch, but I always end up vanishing for a good week or two and avoiding having to be much of anywhere. But I’m back, and going to dutifully return to keeping up with posting among other things.

So what are the New Years Resolutions on this end? I have a few, actually.

1) Manage to work on Dissertation proposal AND papers early to save the fits of tears and horror, that come with Comprehensive exams.

2) Lose ten pounds, which involves eating better, DDR every day for 45 minutes, and sleeping more.

3) Finding time to write creatively. I  took a vacation from that too into the realm of online RPGs, papers, and working 2 jobs+classes.

4) Donating 3/4 of my closet… and replacing it over the next few months. 90%% of the clothing is old… very very old. Retirement to pasture old…. I don’t know why I keep shirts I hate, and never wear and they stay clean because I’d rather wash clothes at midnight than wear them. It’s strange.

5) Continuing with piano and singing… because it’s fun!

So what resolutions did you all make?

Book Review: Zoot Suit and other plays October 27, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Literature, Movies.
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This is a book of three plays by Chicano playwright Luis Valdez that question the various media images of the Mexican American in American popular culture. The plays deal with the Bandido Mexicano in the American West, the image of the Pachuco during World War II and the images of Mexicans in movies and television. I thoroughly enjoyed all three plays, including the metatheatrical elements that divorce the play from the traditional “fourth wall” realism. The characters are aware they are roles in a drama, and speak directly with the audience or comment on the theatrical works themselves. Valdez also introduces other metatheater elements, such as the ‘invisible’ Pachuco advising Zoot Suit’s protragonist, a musical chorus that sings out the social context of the works, and the unique settings: from a juxtaposed Melodrama Stage and Realist jail cel, to a play set in a movie studio. While all of these plays would be best Seen rather than read, they’re enjoyable to read as well. The character interactions are rich, the dialogue is both tragic and comic, and this alternative perspective on the American Past is interesting for any reader without being exclusionary. Speaking a little Spanish is a plus, but not neccesary.

Rating issues: There’s harsh language, racial and sexual references

If you want to see Zoot Suit in it’s entirety, Youtube has it available.

Death of the author? October 12, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life, Literature, Musings, Television.
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I’m in a class called Literary Theory, which is driving me crazy. I tend to be fairly practical minded so the idea of worrying about questions that will never have answers bothers me. Most recently we read Michel Foucault’s “What is an author” and Roland Barthes’ “Death of the author”.  In short these essays tried to define a value for the ‘author’ and if who wrote something matters as much as what is written?

It left me thinking several things:

  1. The act of ‘selling’ books has made the author more important, because it’s a sale-able commodity giving rights and ownership of a text to the author becomes important.
  2. Names sell. In Homer’s time stories sold… but now, having a name to link to a work tends to sell more than a type of work. The question is, how do you get a name known.
  3. Would we still want to sell our stories if once they were published, our names were stripped from them? Even if we use a pseudonym, it’s still an “identity’ we associate with our writing.

The idea that the author’s personality and personal worldview doesn’t affect the production of a text bothers me. I know that there’s a little bit of my personality in almost any character I write, so I have trouble believing that’s not the case with most authors. It reminds me more of the episode “The Chase” from Star Trek, where Picard tells Riker about the Kurline civilization and the belief of one individual being more a “community” of voices. Check it out, it starts at about 3:00 – 3:30.