Lovely

lovelyphotoThe Kickstarter movement has changed the way films and other artistic projects are produced. This website/organization allows individuals and groups to raise funds among the general populace for creative projects, from professionally produced films to student-produced musicals. I myself have contributed to several Kickstarter projects, like the Veronica Mars movie. I donate money to the artistic endeavors I would really like to see hit the screen or projects that I really believe in. The art collaboration of Lovely was one of the projects I believed in the most.

Lagoon Love by Brittney Lee

Lagoon Love by Brittney Lee

Lovely: Ladies of Animation is an art book/project featuring the personal art of six women artists, all of whom work in animation. These women—Brittney Lee, Claire Keane, Lisa Keene, Lorelay Bove, Victoria Ying, and Helen Chen—spend most of their time working on art for animated films like Wreck It Ralph and Frozen, but Lovely was a chance to showcase their original art. As a die hard fan of animation artists and a firm believer in the importance of art and women in art, I had to support this project. And I’m not the only one who felt that way. Though the Kickstarter goal was only $7,000, the campaign raised over $118,000. Along with the book, Lovely debuted an art exhibit at a gallery in Paris, featuring the original traditional paintings, digital paintings, and paper sculpted art from the collaborative book. Recently, the Center Stage Gallery in Burbank opened a small exhibit, the only American showing of the artwork from the “lovely ladies of animation”.

Celestine by Claire Keane

Celestine by Claire Keane

I was fortunate enough to go to this exhibit. I’d already spent hours pouring over the art in the book, but I was so excited to see the pieces in person, and I was not disappointed. The exhibit is one room, so not very large, but the art is worth it. You can see pastel drawings of 1920’s flappers by Claire Keane, daughter of legendary Disney animator Glen Keane. You can see prints of the digital paintings of Lorelay Bove and the original paper sculptures of Brittney Lee. All of Lisa Keene’s pieces are traditionally painted portraits of various dogs, featuring captivatingly strong brushstrokes. And, befitting the L.A. setting, pictures inspired by classical Hollywood films by Helen Cheng. It was a wonderful little exhibit, and I highly suggest going and supporting this project. Also, buy the book. It’s a great collection.

Elizabeth, Grace, Audrey, and Marilyn by Lorelay Bove

Elizabeth, Grace, Audrey, and Marilyn by Lorelay Bove

Kickstarters are a great way to support art you believe in. The reasons why art is important is for another blog post. Suffice it to say that I adore the work of these six artists. I believe in the work they do for companies like Disney, but I also want to support their art away from the studio. They’ve created some wonderful art, and I can’t wait to see what they all do next. They’ll have my support for any and every Kickstarter!

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Music for the Soul

Despite appearances, I am not much of a music snob. You like One Direction, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, it’s fine by me. I enjoy pop music. I like folk music. I like basically everything except sexist rap and twangy country music. But even though I liked all different kinds of music, I still think there is a genre that is the best. Music that requires more talent, more dedication, more hard work and more insight than any other genre. Music that transcends this world and touches the soul. Music that is the closest to heaven you can get in this life. Classical music.

The fact that classical music is the most phenomenal sound out there doesn’t belittle other types of music or render them obsolete. In fact, all good music stems from classical music. But there is something so special about classical music, something I think contemporary audiences have largely forgotten. Yeah, pop songs are catchy. Yes, folk songs are poetic. But classical moves the soul in a way no other genre can. Yet most people today don’t listen to it, don’t even remember it really. In a tiny attempt to bring classical music a little of the attention it deserves, here are some composers that make up a good introduction to classical music, for both the novice and the veteran of classical music.

ChaykovskiyI’ll start with my favorite, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Born in Russia, Tchaikovsky became his country’s first real international success as both a composer and a conductor. He’s best known for his ballets—of which Russia had a rich history—such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker. Because Tchaikovsky composed so much of his music for ballets and operas, his music conveys stories better than any other composer (in my opinion). Even his concertos and symphonies convey stories through emotion.

Recommendations from Tchaikovsky’s work: March Slave (Op.31), Swan Theme (No. 9 from Swan Lake), March (No. 3 from The Nutcracker)

Portrait Of BeethovenThis is obvious, but the next composer I’d recommend to anyone would be Ludwig van Beethoven. Born is Germany, Beethoven is probably the most famous composer of all time, or maybe tied with Mozart. It might be cliché to name him because even the classically illiterate know about him, but his music is so special, and sometimes that gets lost in his popularity. He is probably most famous for his Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, but all of his works convey more emotion than every all the other composers combined. While Tchaikovsky was a storyteller, Beethoven’s music is pure, raw emotion. I sometimes wonder if any musician ever felt his music more deeply than Beethoven. His deafness only adds to the beautiful drama of his works and his story.

Recommendations: Seventh Symphony (Second movement, Op.92), Piano Sonata No. 14 (Moonlight Sonata)

There are so many other composers I could go on and on about, but for the sake of time, I will only mention a few more. Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi is most famous for his Four Season violin concertos, but he wrote so much beautiful music that is worth checking out. Less well known is French composer Gabriel Faure, who wrote one of my favorite pieces: Pavane in F. Sharp Minor (though he is probably better known for composing Clair de Lune). And as a (very mediocre) pianist, I must mention Polish composer Frederic Chopin because of his amazing piano pieces like Nocturne No. 20.

The width and depth of the classical world of music is vast. There are so many amazing composers, symphonies, operas, ballets, concertos, sonatas, and so much more (all of them readily available and pretty cheap on iTunes). These are some of the composers and compositions who really got me into classical music, and I hope they can do that for you too.

Once Upon A Time

onceI made the fateful/wonderful/terrible/inevitable decision to get Netflix recently. I love TV shows, and I didn’t want to deal with commercials any longer. Plus, I like having the ability to watch an entire season without having to wait a week for the next episode. Part of the reason I signed up for Netflix was also my decision to finally watch Once Upon A Time.

I remember when OUAT first aired. Everyone was obsessed with it. All my friends watched it and constantly told me to watch it. They assured me that I would love it, that it was right up my alley. And, I’ll admit, I do love fairytales. I was hesitant, though, because something when you love something a lot, you hate to see it done badly or simply done a way you don’t like or wouldn’t have done yourself. So I avoided OUAT for a couple seasons, but I kept seeing things on Tumblr and Pinterest and eventually those teasers were enough to make me cave. Now I have to admit that all my friends were right. I do love OUAT. I’m hooked.

OUAT tells the story of fairytale characters—from Snow White to Jiminy Cricket to Little Red Riding Hood—who used to live in the magical realm called the Enchanted Forest. However, the evil queen Regina cast a curse, transporting all of them to the modern world of Storybrooke, Maine, where she is mayor and none of the characters remember who they are. The only chance for the curse to be broken and for the characters to remember who they are is 28-year-old Emma Swan. Emma has not had an easy life, growing up an orphan in the foster care system. But when a little boy named Henry shows up at her door on her birthday, claiming to be the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago, Emma find herself in Storybrooke. Henry tells her that she must break the curse.

once upon a time collage

Each ensuing episode follows Emma’s difficult task of breaking the test, or rather Henry’s difficult task of convincing her that the fairytales are real. Meanwhile, the evil queen/Mayor Regina Mill/Henry’s adoptive mother tries to thwart Emma to keep the curse in place and keep Henry’s affection for herself. Regina is also busy trying to make the fairytale characters’ lives miserable. But while this is all happening in the real world, each episode also flashes back to their lives in the Enchanted Forest. This is where I think the show’s strongest hook is.

The fairytale narrative is told backwards. The opening scene of the pilot is how it ends—the wedding of Prince Charming and Snow White, Regina enacting the curse. The viewer gets to see how every character ended up in the fairy tale world. Then, each time there is a flashback to life in the Enchanted Forest, it’s all about how the characters ended up the way that they are. We know that Snow White and Prince Charming ended up together. Slowly, the show reveals how that happened. We know that Regina hates Snow White. Slowly, the show reveals how she came to feel that way. This narrative structure is powerful and addicting. It’s the thing I love most about the show. It’s fascinating to unravel a character’s story backwards, to work towards their beginning when you already know the end. I would love to write/read/see another story with this narrative structure.

once upon

I also love the interpretations of the fairytales. The writers stay true to the essence of the fairytales while giving them new twists and interpretations that appeal to a modern audience. I’m also amazed at how the writers link all the fairy tales together. OUAT is the most intricate story web I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how they juggle so many characters and storylines, but they do it in marvelous fashion. Everytime you get an answer to one mystery, they introduce two more mysteries. This show is like a storyteller’s drug. You have to keep coming back for more.

If fairytales are your thing, you’ll love OUAT, but I think that anyone interested in an unconventional narrative structure or anyone who likes large, complex stories will also love this show. I’m almost down with season 2 and I can’t wait to start season 3 (and get to the Frozen characters in season 4!!!). So excuse me while I go watch another episode or three or ten.

La Fin, Percy Jackson

the-blood-of-olympus-coverI finished The Blood of Olympus, the conclusion to Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series or the second Percy Jackson series, a while ago, but I guess I needed time to process before blogging about it. I needed time to process the fact that this book was not just the end of the series, but the end of a rather significant phase in my life. Rick Riordan may write more books about Percy and his friends, but even if he does, I think The Blood of Olympus marks my end to these wonderful re-imaginings. I’ve been through two book series with Percy, and have enjoyed every adventure, but now it’s time to hang up my hat/pen turns into a sword/lightning bolt.

I read the first Percy Jackson series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, forever ago, it seems. I was younger, way into Greek and Roman mythology, taking Latin classes, and so beyond excited that I had found a book series that incorporated so much of the mythology I loved. Percy Jackson was so novel back then. I’d read retellings of fairytales and myths before, but nothing like this. Rick Riordan didn’t just put the old myths into new words, he transported them into another world—my own modern day American world—and the stories came to life with a vibrant new gusto. Camp Half-Blood became a Hogwarts-type place, somewhere readers could dream of going where magic and adventure was so possible. It seemed like you, the reader, could be the next Percy Jackson, a hero. And the books brought ancient mythology back to a modern day audience.

Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan

Perhaps this is the real debt owed to Rick Riordan. He inspired a love for the Greco-Roman classics in a new generation. Kids everywhere were suddenly interested in taking Latin, in reading Greek myths, in restoring a world that was so foundational to storytelling in the first place. It’s remarkable the influence Percy Jackson has had on a generation, and I’m sure Homer, Virgil, Horace, and all the others are applauding Rick Riordan from their graves.

That will be part of Rick Riordan’s legacy—the rekindling of the classic world. But part of his legacy will also be the impact of his many memorable characters—Percy, Annabeth, Grover, Jason, Hazel, Frank, Leo, Nico—and their adventures. The Percy Jackson books will be around for many generations to inspire young readers to be heroes. It’ll join other books on the shelves like Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, The Magic Treehouse, and many others that will introduce young readers to new and marvelous worlds. Even though Percy’s story is at an end for now, he’ll always be there, and we’ll always be grateful for him.