Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Down By the Salley Gardens - Pittsburgh Historical Music Orchestra w/ Ti...

My first performance with the Pittsburgh Historical Music Society Orchestra took place at the Depreciation Lands Museum Ice Cream Social in Allison Park, PA on July 17, 2016.
For this gig, this was the only way to really position the camera without it getting in everybody's way, so hopefully next gig will bring a better view of us and our fabulous 18th century clothes!
Enjoy and more will be coming!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

More Reflections...

I saw something really refreshing just now when I logged onto Facebook. An avidly anti-Trump Facebook friend made a post inviting Trump supporters into a conversation on why they feel he would be the best candidate. And after reading through that thread, I gotta say: What a great conversation on that thread! And yes, many valid points were brought up. There was no "but...but...he'll make Amurrica gr8 again!"
While I'm not a Trump (or Hillary) supporter (if I had to describe my beliefs, I'd say they are along the lines of "Green-Libertarian"), it made my day to see this type of open dialogue. This is EXACTLY what I was saying a few days ago. Most people are media worshipers (whether they will admit to it or not) and we have been conditioned to not trust each other, knee-jerk react based purely on emotions, have immediate hate (yes, hate) for those that believe differently than you (and yes, that includes politics), etc. Yes, I know Trump supporters, Bernie supporters, even a couple Hillary supporters, as well as my third party people. And you know what? NONE of them are bigots or freeloaders, looking to game the system or put women "in their place".
Now I'm not saying that there aren't people supporting these candidates that hold those kinds of beliefs. But, the ones that I have met are mostly very reasonable people that WANT to see things improve. They just have different ideas of getting there. That is why we NEED open dialogue. We NEED to at least try to understand why and how people come to the conclusions they do. Otherwise all you are left with is venom and THAT is a big reason why nothing ever changes or gets done. And while social media has been amazing in many ways, it has also added much fuel to the fire. And of course, the mainstream media will only have you seeing the worst of the worst.
Case in point: the media is NOT your friend, nor is it there to give you a fair and accurate description of what's going on. It never has been. Most of the ugliness of society is due to people listening too much to a biased media source of choice, getting together in an ideological hive mentality echo chamber with a group of 'yes men and women' and refusing to listen to others because those 'others' my have a different viewpoint. THIS is what keeps us divided and at each other's throats.
To those that say "I have no interest in hearing that other person's perspective,' well, you are part of the problem. But those like that Facebook friend who opened up dialogue on his page, even if he didn't agree with it, I thank you for trying to be part of a solution.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Blood Will Tell, by C.S. Donnell

As those that follow my blog and my work likely know, I took part in a couple online cyber cons put on by Brain to Books this passed spring and earlier this month. In addition to meeting some really cool other authors and potential readers, I also snagged a few books to review.

The first book I am reviewing is C.S. Donnell's Blood Will Tell. As far as genres go, this one is a tad difficult to categorize. Though I would be more likely to place it in the categories of crime thriller, romance, and family drama with a touch of horror.

Family ties. A good thing, right? Not if you come from Amy's family. Amy escapes her gilded cage only to find herself alone. One by one, everyone disappears from her life, including her baby daughter on the day she was born. Eighteen years of futile searching end when a letter arrives and leads her through a maze of shifting identities, kidnapping and attempted murder. Will she find the answers in time?

I will start by saying that the story gripped me from the very beginning. There was just enough intrigue within each chapter that left me wanting to read the next and find out what was going to happen. The characters were very well-written, appeared to have many layers, and the love story that is intertwined with the mystery and drama added a great touch.
When I first started reading it, the story reminded me a little of the popular V.C. Andrews book, Flowers in the Attic (minus the all the incest), having a similar dark family secret theme of someone being locked away and shut off from the rest of the world. Add to that some beautiful, poetic prose, the author immediately had me roped in. I will say, though, that while the first half was a definite win for me, the second half of the book lost a bit of the magic that made the first half so great. As I read on, the plot seemed rushed and I didn't feel that the writing was on par with the lovely prose present in the first half of the book. For me, this was rather jarring and it seemed like the author was trying to cram every last person's story and point of view in at the end. This left me wishing that more time had been taken to develop the characters and their stories further (there was HUGE potential to do so there, especially with the very complex plotline). Sure, this would have made the book longer, but I also think it would have allowed me to empathize more with the characters and feel as if I were part of their journey like I did in the beginning of the book. Instead I just felt a sort of disconnect in the latter half. This was especially so with one particular key character that seemed to be just 'thrown back in' at the end.The premise of the conclusion was great and there was still some good characterization, but I think that a little more fleshing out would have taken it up a few notches from being a good book to an excellent book. And yes, it was certainly a good book. C.S. Donnell has a talent for putting words together beautifully and creating complex storylines and characters. She had me wanting to continue reading and see how it would all come together at the end.
All in all, it ended up being quite a fun and enjoyable read. Blood Will Tell is one of those books that is great to chill out with and read while sitting outside on your porch during a summer night. So I say add it to your summer reading list!

Check out Blood Will Tell on Amazon

Friday, July 8, 2016

Some Words on Recent Events...

My brain is swimming with so many thoughts after what's happened in the last couple days. No, I don't have all the answers but there is one conclusion that I CAN come to. We are very compartmentalized, very ideological and tend to generalize EVERYONE and EVERY GROUP. At least once a day I see Facebook statuses along the lines of "if you don't agree with me on A, B, and C, just unfriend me now." That's it. No discussion, no trying to understand how the other person thinks or how he or she might have come to believe what they do. Nope, just assume that you know EXACTLY why (and of course it's always because they're a freeloader/bigot/misogynist/anti-cop/fill in any other favorite 'ist' or 'ism' of choice) because apparently everyone on Facebook is not only an expert on human psychology but able to see into the minds of all humans, past and present. I also find it interesting when I or others post articles or other pieces (contemporary or historical) showing humans from all walks of life coming together or something like women in the 17th century being respected business owners, those postings only get a handful of likes (if that). But some oh-so-clever meme or click bait poking fun at Donald Trump's hair (because if that's not important, I don't know what is)? It's getting hundreds of likes and shares. Again, if it doesn't fit in with a specific narrative, most don't seem to want to hear or read it, regardless of what it is. And it leads me to think that people really don't care about the issues at hand as much as they say they do and instead are more concerned with being the one that can say 'haha! see? I'm right!'
I know this sounds very cynical but frankly, I'm sick of it all.
EDIT: I will add to those of you at least trying everyday to make an effort to spread a positive message instead of blind finger pointing: you guys rock.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4th of July Everyone

A very poignant song for #4thOfJuly with lyrics to really listen to. In the midst of all the turmoil, be thankful for what we all do have and never take any of it for granted.

Goodnight all and stay safe.

Friday, July 1, 2016

My Recent Trip to Gettysburg

Kicking off the next 5 episodes of The Parting of Veils with scenes from my recent trip to Gettysburg, PA, where one of the most brutal battles of the Civil War took place. Sites included in this episode are the Bechtel Victorian Mansion, Miss Betty's Ghosts, The Dobbin House, and The Lincoln Train Museum. Enjoy and if you have a chance to visit Gettysburg, do it! :)

Bechtel Victorian Mansion

Miss Betty's Ghosts in Gettysburg

The Dobbin House

The Lincoln Train Museum

Thumbnail art by William Max Miller