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review 2017-12-18 13:00
Disney At Dawn by Ridley Pearson
Disney at Dawn - Ridley Pearson

There are a few things I didn't care for, but overall, I enjoyed the book.

What can I say about this book? It is a fun read if you are a big fan of anything Disney, but also you really have to take into account that this is written for a younger age. I personally hate saying a book is for this age group, or that age group, but this book does kind of feel dumbed down, so it really fits for a younger age group. Though I don't like when books think they need to dumb things down in order for kids to understand it.

My only problem is that there were parts that I found boring and unneeded. I dragged my feet a lot while reading this. There were so many fantastical things you had to wrap your brain around. I felt the book should have focused on less; it felt like it tried to do too much.

The whole concept is amazing, of course, but also there were bits that were confusing. Maybe because of how unrealistic they were. As a reader, you really need to suspend your belief on some of the stuff this book goes into.

For the most part, I like all the main characters, though I wonder if we really need 7 children. Some of them do not seem to get enough screen time and could probably be condensed into one character.

There were hints of romance, or foreshadowing to romance in later volumes. I did not care for that very much, it felt sudden and out of place.

I also found it so funny how they kept referencing older Disney stuff, like Ashley Tisdale, Raven-Symone and High School Musical. Do doubt who the publisher was for this series. I feel like this really dates the books.

There are going to be kids who are like who the heck are those people. I found it interesting, because I grew up with them, but of course I do get annoyed when books name drop so much. I get why it was done for this book, but it was still a little odd and brought me out of the story. I should expect it a little since they are at Disney.


I'm holding high hope for the next volume.

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review 2016-10-27 21:18
Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto: A Novel - Mitch Albom

"All humans are musical. Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?"


Since the dawn of time, people have used music for everything: a cry for battle; a victory after a battle; to sooth a crying baby; to uplift ones spirit; to showcase how much one loves another and so on and so forth. Music always has meaning. Even if it's just the sound of someone plucking an old guitar, there is meaning behind what we hear.


And to Frankie Presto, sound means more than what we hear.


Frankie Presto is a huge successful musician. Well, he was. Frankie just passed away in a weird unexplained death onstage at a concert. Interviews at the funeral of his friends, family and acquaintances about how they met Frankie and what part in their lives was touched by Frankie himself or of his music. Many believed that Frankie just had that touch. That gift of sliding from one note to the next with such fluid motion that only a few guitar players have.


What if it was more than that?


What if it wasn't just him playing the guitar?


What if the reason you are so touched by this, it's because there is more at play here than just one man?


Follow the interviews and follow Music as Music takes you through the life of Frankie

Presto and how he became the person everyone loved.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1475282598
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video 2016-05-31 22:48



"adaptation of the classic fairy-tale about a monstrous prince and a young woman who fall in love."-IMDB.com

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text 2016-01-18 11:28
A Story about some Cats

Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber


Well, I have finally managed to see the one last musical that I really wanted to see – Cats. Maybe it has something to do with my love of cats, or many it was because of an episode of the Simpsons where they travel to New York and see a production and it is basically a bunch of cats running around on stage fighting. Okay, the musical itself may be about a bunch of cats running around of stage, but there is only one fight scene in it (and unfortunately it isn't the traditional cat fight that we all know and love). In fact the play is basically a bunch of cats singing and dancing, and that is pretty much it.


I have to say that I'm not a huge expert on musicals, and in fact I tend to avoid them (namely because there aren't really all that many that I really want to see – and the ones that I did want to see I have already seen), but I have to say that Cats wasn't what I expected. In fact at first I really didn't like it namely because there didn't seem to be much of a story. However I then discovered (after reading the program) that the musical is based upon a poem by T.S. Elliot called 'The Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats' and all of a sudden it started making sense.


Anyway, I have already written a blog post on this play, though I will finish of by saying that in the end I did quite enjoy it, and I have to say that I am really glad that I can now mark it off my list of things to do (I so hate the term 'bucket list'), however unless something really cool comes along (like, maybe, Miss Saigon) this is probably going to be the last musical that I see (though my brother my drag me along to something the next time I happen to be in London).

Source: www.sarkology.net/2016/01/cats-rather-extra-ordinary-production.html
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review 2015-09-19 00:00
The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature
The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature - Daniel J. Levitin First off, this book should to be retitled. Instead of "The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature" it ought to be called "Evolution and Music: How the Great and Powerful Evolution Gifted Us with Music." The six songs aspect of the book, in spite of the title and layout of the chapters, was more of an afterthought than the main point of this book, and the way that Levitin speaks of evolution is like he's speaking about a being, rather than a force of nature. Which brings up another complaint. I follow the Church's teaching on evolution laid out here, and as such, I would have been okay with discussions on evolution if Levitin had been willing to discuss evolution as the theory that it is, instead of trying to make it look like it is as much of a law as the law of gravity. It bothered me and I do think that there has been at least some evolution, if someone who believed purely in creationism was reading the book, then the constant discussion of evolution in this way would have meant that the said creationist would almost certainly have shut down and not considered the few interesting things that Levitin had to say, because of the way that discussions on evolution were carried out.

I was skeptical of the "six songs" view, and unfortunately, Levitin's meager discussions on the subject that gave the book its title, were not enough to win me over to his view. His six song types are friendship, joy, comfort, religion, knowledge and love.

In his discussion of friendship, he attempted to claim that work, propaganda, protest, war, and peace songs were all friendship songs. I'm sorry even if you can argue work songs into the friendship category because they help people to coordinate their movement, and you can argue that war and propaganda could be the same, or that propaganda and protest are the same, you can't put all of those together under friendship. In the chapter on friendship Levitin also tried to sell me drugs. Seriously, there were whole paragraphs on the effects of drugs, and why we should try them. He named some of his favorite artists who had used drugs 'responsibly,' but quite a bit of the discussion was just talking about what different drugs do to the brain, without even mentioning the effect they have on a person's enjoyment of music. It was in this dreadful chapter, also that Levitin decided that a) he could misrepresent history, and b) he could decide who deserves to be saved from genocide, and who doesn't.

Levitin said "I understood World War II--my grandfather had fought in that, and although the war was terrible, the reason for it was clear. A tyrant was trying to kill all the Jews; we were Jewish, and some countries came to our aid." While I do agree that the genocide of the Jews would have justified WWII, even if it weren't already justified, that isn't why any of the countries that fought Hitler fought him. Most of the countries of Europe were still anti-Semitic themselves, and it was the Holocaust that helped to wake them up to the horrors that this way of thinking could produce, and none of them were fighting to save the Jews. They were fighting to save themselves and/or their allies.

Levitin then claims, multiple times, that the war in Vietnam was not justifiable. I still don't know where I stand on the subject of the Vietnam war, the justifications for the Vietnam War are certainly less black and white than WWII, but it can still be justified. I have Vietnamese friends who would probably never have been able to escape the Viet Kong if the US hadn't gone to fight. The treatment of Cardinal Nguyễn Văn Thuận and other political prisoners of the North Vietnamese alone is enough to make one reevaluate one's position on the war. Add to that the fact that the Cambodian genocide occurred, in part, because the US pulled out (right when they could have won) and you may really be filled with doubt. I didn't live during the Vietnam War, so like I said, I really don't know where I stand on its justification, but what I got from Levitin's approach on the subject (that really didn't need to be in this book in the first place) was that the genocide of the Jews was evil and unacceptable (which is true) but the genocide of people in small Asian countries was fine (which is not true.)

The discussion of joyful songs was much more convincing than the discussion of friendship songs. For one thing, Levitin actually managed to (mostly) stay on topic, and not list a slew of different song types that he believes to be part of joy.

The chapter on comfort was also (mostly) on subject, but Levitin started it by telling half of a story, then explaining about his theories on why we find comforting songs comforting, and what songs we find comforting, before going back to finish the story. By that time I'd put the first half of the story out of my mind and mostly forgotten about it. It didn't seem very important, so the return of the narrative forced me to go back to the beginning of the chapter and remind myself of what the heck was going on in the story.

He used the same broken up storytelling/facts/storytelling in the knowledge chapter, to the same unfortunate mistake. He also seemed like he was doing a lot of name dropping throughout the book, but it was particularly bad in this chapter. Levitin did manage to make me want to travel to Yugoslavia and Gola of West Africa to hear the ballads and song/storytelling there.

I went into the religion chapter apprehensively. I am Catholic, and, in spite of his statement that he was Jewish, the vibes I was getting from Levitin was that he was either a liberal atheist or a liberal agnostic. He wasn't horrible, but he wasn't great either. At one point he said one of the most significant events of all times was the 'invention' of monotheism. -_- Even if he isn't Jewish now, having once been, you'd think he'd at least consider the possibility that monotheism has been around since before polytheism. He also made a statement that 'none of us have ancestors who died in infancy.' This depends on who you consider your ancestors, I mean, would a great-aunt or uncle who died in infancy not be an ancestor? Obviously no one from the straight line of your family has died in infancy, but the siblings of your great-great-great-grandparents could arguably be your ancestors. I also don't remember the verse of 'God Told Noah' that Levitin quotes, and frankly, it doesn't feel like it fits correctly into the verse rhythm. And his claim that we do 'jazz hands' on the word glory... Phfft. No we wave our hands back and forth above our head, we don't jiggle them next to our faces.

And then there was the love chapter. Levitin first acknowledged that what current society deems as 'love' isn't truly love, then goes on to talk about society's 'love' songs, as well as outright lust songs, but pretty much ignore the actual love songs, as well as actual love. Every chapter went on some kind of a tangent about how, when and why 'mother evolution' provided us with each kind of song, but the love chapter was the crowning glory of evolutionary tangents. Levitin talked about everything from why we are less likely to jump at the noise after seeing a pin pop a balloon a couple of times, to how our 'ear hairs' are similar to an insect's leg hairs. This chapter was just plain painful to read. It felt like Levitin was trying to draw it out as long as he possibly could. The last few pages were devoted to hero-worship of a couple of a couple of pop-musicians, none of whom I'd ever heard of.

That was another major problem with the work. Levitin mostly uses pop artists from between the 1960s and the 1980s, mostly from the US, Canada, and the UK. This may have made the examples recognizable for many people I'm sure, but I'm pop-musically challenged, and recognized very few of the artists and songs he talked about. Whenever he wasn't using pop-artists, he usually used hypothetical music that he believes the early humans would have used (often presenting his belief that they would have used these kinds of songs as fact, rather than a possibility.)

Because Levitin spent a relatively small portion of the book actually developing his hypothesis that there are only six kinds of songs in the world, he didn't even come close to convincing me to take this position. In addition to war, peace, propaganda, protest and lust, I feel that Levitin missed sad songs. He briefly mentioned this in the chapters on comfort and religion, and I do agree that songs of sadness and heartbreak will sometimes fall dually in those areas, but I also feel that they deserve their own category. Another type I felt that was skipped over was songs of determination. Determination songs could fall under protest songs, but while I was thinking of this I was thinking of Beethoven's fifth symphony, which was written right about the time Beethoven lost his hearing. Beethoven was depressed and seriously considered suicide, but chose not to because he thought that the music he hadn't written yet deserved to be heard. This quote; "I shall seize Fate by the throat; it shall certainly not bend and crush me completely," has been associated with the fifth symphony, and while the symphony is too complex to be called a 'song' if there is a more simplified vocal song encapsulating these feelings, then it would be a determination song without being easily placed in any of the other categories. And "Sweet Liberty" from the Jane Eyre musical is full of longing without being either a comfort song or a love song.

Then there are songs of vengeance. Where are they in Levitin's book? Or songs about making plans? Like In the Dark of the Night or Be Prepared. Even if we used the excuse that these songs aren't songs of vengeance or planning because they're in movies and only meant for entertainment, there would still be entertainment songs left without a category. Given the fact that Friends on the Other Side doesn't strictly fit into either making plans or vengeance, but simply acting on evil desires, where does that song go?

There really are an infinite number of categories and sub-categories that Levitin chose to ignore.

When I read the first chapter (that was really more like an introduction) I was thinking, okay, this book isn't great but it wasn't as bad as I'd heard it was, I can probably give it three stars. By the time I was done with the second chapter, I knew it wasn't going to be much fun, but was prepared to give it two stars. By the time I finally finished it, I could only give it one star. Sorry.

Hopefully this review wasn't as painfully long and rambling as Levitin's book. Anyhow, I'm off to reorganize it, remove all personal pronouns and (probably) shorten it so that I can turn it in as a book report.
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