One with the Force

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Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia Organa
October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016
She drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.

The most ubiquitous picture of Carrie Fisher is that of her as Leia Organa, clad in a golden bikini, laying at the feet of Jabba the Hutt. The second most ubiquitous picture of her has Leia with a blaster in hand. Thus, Carrie Fisher was the original Star Wars princess, that was adept at both harnessing her appeal without a sex scene, as well as taking out the bad guys. She was succeeded by Natalie Portman’s Padme Amidala, Daisy Ridley’s Rey Skywalker (wink) and Felicity Jones’s Jyn Erso. I suppose it’s unfortunate that it all begins with the iconic golden bikini, but everything that follows is Carrie Fisher’s legacy. She played Leia with strength, courage and wit, and was not the typical damsel in distress of the 1970’s. While a legion of young boys worshipped her for her looks, a legion of young girls worshipped her because she kicked ass just as much as Luke and Han.

Of course Carrie Fisher grew out of the Princess Leia role, and as evidenced by the work she’s done in the past forty years that had nothing to do with Star Wars. It’s a full circle moment though that she had just completed her work on Episode VIII of the new post-Lucas trilogy before her death from a heart attack. Gone at 60 years old, far too young for the greatest Princess of my generation, the Star Wars generation.

She is one with the Force, the Force is with her.

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Amazing

George Michael
June 25, 1963 – December 25, 2016

George is the second icon of ’80s music to pass away in 2016, following Prince. I feel his passing greatly, as he is on the list of five artists that dominate the soundtrack of my life. His music accompanied me from my teens to twenties, from the early Wham! days in my teens to the nuanced covers of his worst commercial album in my thirties, music that I love dearly despite its lack of popularity. George had one of the most expressive, most flexible and subtly powerful voices around, being able to do quiet ballads and Freddie Mercury power songs with ease. In his later years, his struggles with addiction, legal issues and the loss of his life partner tinged most everything he did with an undercurrent of pain and weariness. Just as the joy of Wake Me Up Before You Go Go was everywhere when he was starting up, the struggles of being who he was and the things he went through can be felt in the strains of Jesus to a Child. I’ll never get to tick that item on my bucket list to see George perform live. The world is poorer for his less.

Thank you George, for sharing your amazing talent with the generation of kids that grew up with your music.

I struggled with the video to accompany this post, cycling through many tracks. I settled on George’s cover of The Long and Winding Road because… well, it feels right. Listen to it. You’ll understand.

A Mighty Pen

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Written earlier this month, in recognizance of the English Gunpowder Plot of 1605. (And yes, thank you Alan Moore for V for Vendetta, the movie isn’t as terrible as you make it out to be. But no, it doesn’t adhere to your vision.)

I have found that one of the pens that Neil Gaiman uses to write, I now enjoy immensely as well. It’s a German-made Lamy 2000 fountain pen, with the classic black Makrolon body. My version sports a medium nib, which writes a finer line than one would expect from a medium. The pen’s girth, weight and balance are all perfect, and I’ve been able to write many pages without the hand cramp becoming an issue.

All that, and the pen has a unique look, inherited from the German Bauhaus design movement. It’s quite attractive in its industrialness.

I acquired this pen with a bottle of Lamy’s limited edition Dark Lilac ink, and that was the first ink that I loaded into the pen via its piston. The partnership has been so good that I’ve gone through a few pen-fulls of the ink and haven’t yet felt the need for a change. I’m not even a fan of purple, but this shade has just the right feel of formality and rebelliousness to it that’s appealing to my sensibilities.

La plume est plus forte que l’epee!

Make Good Art

“And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

Make it on the good days too.”

Neil Gaiman

From Ashes

The last renaissance of my blog-smithing began on July 19, 2014 when I first discovered The Daily Post.  That instance of my spark died out on December 15th, 2015. Much of that spurt of creativity (such as it is for me) was driven collaboration with members of the “blogosphere” that I met and discovered some kinship with. Through the photographs and music links and text on this blog, my inner artist got to get out and play for a time.

That’s the problem with choosing to live in secret with my depression. When it strikes, my inner artist puts himself in the way of the darkness and holds it back. He’s the only one that can do it, and he does it gladly so that my waking self can function. So it’s been for most of this year, week after week of quietly fighting the darkness in the deepest recesses of my mind. I have always believed “was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.” This probably wasn’t that Nietzsche had in mind, but it still works. Throughout my life, my creative spark has faltered and perhaps even died. So far, every time, he wakes up when I serendipitously bring him into contact with something that sparks his interest.

I’ve written here before about the faint strands of my creative lifelines. One of those is a book, and another is a person. So the person released a book. I read the book. Then I went back and read that most important thing he has ever written, for me anyway. Which sent me back to the roadmap. This is a journey I’ve been on before. It’s familiar, but it’s never exactly the same.

While on this journey, I stumbled upon this:

Which led me to this:

Neil Gaiman started writing his novels longhand in the ’90s.

He told BuzzFeed: “I started with Stardust: It was (in my head) being written in the 1920s, so I bought a fountain pen and a big notebook and wrote it by hand to find out how writing by hand changed my head.”

“And it did, it really did. I was sparser, I would think my way through a sentence further, I would write less, in a good way. And when I typed it up, it became a very real second draft – things would vanish or change. I discovered that I enjoyed messing about with fountain pens, I even liked the scritchy noise the pen nib made on the paper.

“So I kept doing it. Sandman: Dream Hunters and American Gods and Anansi Boys and The Graveyard Book were all written by hand. The last two-thirds of Coraline was also written by hand.”

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(Photo credit to Hayley Campbell of Buzzfeed from the preceding link.)

I felt my inner artist stir. Well, more of do an Undertaker Zombie sit-up and look around, eyes wide open.

So for the past month, I’ve been writing again. On paper. With a fountain pen. Today, I felt able to write here with a keyboard again. Small steps. Sustainable steps.

Hello again.

 

My Year in Music 2015

What a difference a year makes.

In the final week of 2014 I was knee-deep in this weblog, spitting out posts in tandem with my new blog-friend Sugar. Today, I’m struggling to write again, and have barely posted in months. Sugar’s blog is gone, and I thank her and wish her well. All things come to an end.

However, I’m not giving up on this blog yet. I’ll call the last few months a setback, but will not make another empty “new year’s resolution”. I will plan on channeling more energy into writing here in the next weeks, and see how that goes. For this week, in cognizance of the year-that-was, I return to music, as I did in 2014.

Here’s the music that was 2015 for me. (No, I didn’t forget the Adelecalypse. Her new album didn’t really do anything for me, sadly.)

Little Toy Guns – Carrie Underwood

Carrie’s Greatest Hits album was released at the end of 2014. Its two new tracks, “Something in the Water” and “Little Toy Guns” were right at home on the album, country pop/rock driving tunes made from the same cloth as Carrie’s last album “Blown Away”. Towards the end of 2015, Carrie released her new full album, “Storyteller”, featuring a sound that leaned more towards bluegrass but still with the trademark Underwood pop/rock power. I love both albums, and combined they’re my most played music in 2015.

Run Away With Me – Carly Rae Jepsen

This was the year’s biggest surprise. On the heels of Taylor Swift’s massive 1980s pop-styled album 1989, Carly Rae Jepsen released her own 80s pop passion project album, E*MO*TION. I love the album, and hold it in the same esteem as Tay-Tay’s record, with maybe a bit less sheen and self-awareness. “Run Away With Me” has a sax line! They don’t do songs with sax lines anymore.

E Più Ti Penso – Andrea Bocelli & Ariana Grande

Every Andrea Bocelli classical crossover album is an event for me. This year, it’s movie soundtracks. Sold, sold and sold. The album, “Cinema”, got as a carrier track this collaboration with teen techno-pop princess Ariana Grande. It’s good, even if Ariana sounds like she’s being overpowered due to her breathy vocal. They should have just let her sing full voice instead of this borderline falsetto she’s using. Anyway, the standout track is “Mi Mancherai”, the theme from Michael Radfor’s 1994 Pablo Neruda sort-of-biopic “Il Postino”. There’s nothing on YouTube yet, so we get Andrea with Ms. Grande.

Can’t Deny My Love – Brandon Flowers

Speaking of 1980s-inspired passion projects, The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers also released one in 2015. His record, “The Desired Effect”, draws more from synth-laced new wave music than the Madonna-pop that Taylor and Carly Rae referenced. It’s a strong record, regardless of what the industry rags and critics said. Using musicians and producers from that decade on the album tracks is a plus in my book.

Ave Maria (JS Bach/Gounod) – Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott

Yo-Yo Ma is one of the greatest musicians of my generation. He’s also the greatest cellist of my generation, and one of the most prolific and inclusive. If you go to his artist page on Spotify, hit shuffle then play, you’re going to be transported to all manner of places. He’s incredible. So to my joy Ma released a new album, “Songs from the Arc of Life”, in 2015. It’s exactly what its title says it is – a collection of pieces that represent life, from birth, through childhood, adulthood and old age, then finally death. It’s rare for albums these days to have a structure that invites listening to its tracks in order, like chapters of a story. The track here, the well-known Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria”, is the first piece of the album. The sound is breathtaking, and this is a YouTube video. This is one of those albums where I actually got a physical CD, because there’s nothing better than redbook audio for something this amazing.

One more note on one of my favourite pieces of music: “Songs from the Arc of Life” includes a new recording of Saint-Saens’s “Le Cygne”, a song about the twilight of life. I previously posted Ma performing this piece, which happened maybe 20 years ago. I watched both again, and he plays the piece very differently, perhaps reflecting his emoti0ns now that he’s closer to the end of his life than the beginning.

If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me this far. This post is dedicated to Sugar – obrigado, for being my blog-buddy for a time. Be well, always.