Goals Bloghop: Winter, Kittens and Despair

Do You Have Goals bannerThis is a post for the ‘Do You Have Goals’ bloghop.

Goals. This is the day I’m supposed to talk about my writing goals and pretend I’m making progress toward them. Or some such. But this is not a good time for that.

You see, there’s winter. Which we wouldn’t have right now if they had listened to my advice and barbequed the groundhog for a Superbowl snack.

And then there’s the kitten thing. My favorite kitten, Therese, died recently. Not a big surprise, she was a dwarf kitten with loads of health problems. But it’s harder to get used to her being gone since I’m so used to checking on her constantly to make sure she was safe and well-fed.

IM001106And then there are my current health problems including hurting my back bad enough that for several days I was counting the minutes until I could take another dose of aspirin.

I have enough writing problems when I don’t have all these other things bringing me down. Talking about my goals would just make me wonder: what’s the point? I mean, I always used to think becoming a published novelist would be a way to stay off government handout programs, but now I’m on disability and Medicaid and food stamps and I’m pretty well trapped. And after so many writing failures I don’t much want to think about the odds of my overcoming my writing blocks to become a productive, commercially viable writer.

So I shall think about something else instead. Like: Jews! Why, in fantasy fiction, are there fantasy-world religions that are really Christianity (both by Christian and anti-Christian writers), and religions that are really Wicca/paganism, and religions that are really Satanic/Antichrist religions, but no fantasy world Jews. Couldn’t Shmuel slay dragons just as well as Erick the Untidy?

Or: recorders. Fantasy worlds are big on harps, lutes and gitterns (faux guitars, is my guess), but never recorders. And, hey, how about this? Recorders are made of wood. Magic wands are made of wood. How about recorders that work as magic wands? But only if you play the right tunes, Or recorders that summon dragons— why not? When I practiced my new garklein recorder for the first time, it summoned two of my cats right into my lap. And most dragons I know have cat-like qualities. Well, at least Vern does. And Bridger. And Bridger’s sister….

I think I am definitely cheering myself up slightly. Perhaps I really shall write a fantasy tale, about the time Shmuel Ragan defied the king’s law and hired three musicians to play music for his daughter Tziporah’s wedding. And one of them was the Whistling girl, who could summon dragons when she played her garklein recorder, whether she wanted them or not. And how the king’s Heraldic Knights burst in on the wedding reception and carried the three musicians off to the capital…..

Perhaps I shall. Or not. But I think it’s good for my mental health to believe that I shall. In spite of evidence to the contrary.

My New Garklein Recorder!

IM001172I’ve got a new addition to my collection of recorders— this one’s a garklein, the smallest size. Mine is a plastic Woodnote recorder I got from Ebay. (As you may guess, recorder playing is one of my Special Interests.)

Like the soprano and tenor recorders, the garklein is considered to be in the key of ‘C’, though it can play in other keys. I’m playing tunes I already know on the soprano & tenor recorders. The garklein is a bit more limited in range, though, but so far none of the songs I normally play is impossible to play on the garklein.

I made a YouTube video of me playing the garklein recorder— my first video with sound ever. Here it is:

The garklein is very shrill and some people say it makes dogs howl. My cats don’t mind it. Niki my old cat jumped in my lap twice while I was playing, and my 10 month old kitten Ender curled up on my shoulder while I was practicing.

The shrill sound can make practicing the garklein hard on the ears, so I wear earplugs. Enough sound comes through that I can hear it pretty well but my ears are protected. I suppose if I play for other people I should be in a large room or outdoors, or else pass out the earplugs— hey, they do that at my brother’s non-denominational church which has LOUD music.

The song I’m playing in the video is ‘Immaculate Mary’, also known as Lourdes Hymn. I first heard it in the movie ‘Song of Bernadette’. Here are the notes in case some other recorder person wants to play it. (It can be played on garklein, soprano or tenor recorder.)

Imacculate Mary

All My Blockflöte (Recorders)

IM001168It’s all my grandmother’s fault, really. My mom’s mom, Mitzi Langemann, who came over from Germany in the 1920’s, and taught her girls to appreciate all things German, a lesson my mom passed on to me.

One year when I was in my very early teens, we made our annual pilgrimage from Somewhere Out West to visit Oma Mitzi in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and Grandma Alice in Menominee, Michigan. And this year I brought along the newest of my prized possessions— a plastic recorder and a book on how to play it.

Oma must have heard me playing, and she gave me a wooden recorder that she’d brought over from Germany on one of her trips in the fifties. She said it came from Cousin Margret. Cousin Margret said it wasn’t hers. (Cousin Margret’s husband died very recently, so any prayers are appreciated.) Anyway, I got the recorder, and loved it even more than my plastic one, even though it was harder to play— a couple of the notes just didn’t sound quite right. It was years later that I discovered that my German recorder had German fingering, while my plastic recorder had Baroque/English fingering (also called Israeli fingering if you’re in Israel), and my instruction book presumed all recorders had Baroque fingering.

I played that recorder as my favorite for years, only replacing it in 2008. Here is a picture of it:

IM001171When I spent a year abroad in Germany, I managed to get a book of German folk songs for the soprano recorder. Noticing that the soprano recorder got no respect compared to the alto recorder, I bought an alto recorder— also with German fingering, now that I knew the difference. But I never got a book of instruction for the alto recorder, and mostly just played it as if it were a soprano recorder.

Now, in about 2008 I decided that my old German soprano recorder was getting too old and frail to be played much any more, so I decided to replace it. I did some research and decided that I’d really be better off with Baroque fingering, which was the original fingering for the recorder anyway. So I hied me away to Ebay and got me some more soprano recorders. The top picture on the page shows my entire collection of soprano recorders. Left to right they are:

1. My German recorder from Oma, German fingering.

2. Pearwood Mollenhauer 1042d Student, baroque fingering.

3. Selcol plastic recorder, does not play well, baroque fingering.

4. Dolmetch, plastic recorder from England, baroque fingering, nice.

5. Yamaha YRS-312B III, baroque fingering. A highly recommended plastic recorder.

6. Aulos 103J, plastic, baroque fingering, plays very well.

7. Aulos 703B, plastic, baroque fingering, Another highly recommended plastic recorder.

8. Peripole Angel Soprano Halo model PB6000, baroque fingering.

9. Concerti brand, made in Italy, German (or Italian?) fingering.

The recorder is available in many sizes in addition to soprano— they are: garklein, sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, bass, and great bass. All are chromatic instruments, but garklein, soprano, tenor and great bass are said to be in C, while the rest are in F. Because of this, I became interested in acquiring a tenor recorder during my 2008 recorder buying adventures— it uses the same fingerings I already know from the soprano. My final picture shows my recorder collection including my ‘big boys’:

IM001170The alto recorders are on the left. The first is Tudor brand plastic model with baroque fingering I got in an Ebay auction together with a tenor. The second is my German Moeck-brand alto of pearwood with German fingering.

My tenors are pictured below the sopranos. The top is an Aulos plastic tenor, baroque fingering, which I got with the Tudor alto. The Aulos plays very well though it requires more wind and is harder on the fingers. The lower tenor is a Mollenhauer of some dark wood, baroque fingering. It’s harder to play than the Aulos, plus the lowest note does not seem to play.

I also have a Heinrich brand wooden tenor recorder, but that one is somewhat of a problem and I didn’t unpack it to photograph it. It also has problems with the lowest note not playing, and is harder to play (fingers need to be wider apart), like the Mollenhauer rather than the Aulos plastic.

My personal experience on wood versus plastic recorders— on the sopranos, plastic recorders become hoarse-sounding after playing a while because of accumulating moisture. But on the tenor recorder, this does not seem to be a problem, so I’d recommend a good Aulos plastic tenor recorder (or Woodnote?) for anyone who wants to give the tenor recorder a try.

My recorder family is expecting some new arrivals soon— a garklein and a sopranino. I’ve also purchased a book— FINALLY— which gives instruction in the F-recorders (alto, sopranino).  I’m particularly looking forward to the garklein— it’s TINY— only six inches— and therefore difficult to play, especially if you have large fingers.

This is my take on the whole recorder experience: recorders don’t get any respect because so many people learn about them as a instrument for unmusical children to study in Europeanish elite schools. But they are fine little instruments— and economical. When I was looking at the fine wooden recorders of the good brands, at the level a musician would buy, they cost a few hundred dollars for the soprano and more for the larger— about the price of a cheap, crappy band instrument. And the best plastic soprano recorders— the kind real musicians might use as a practice instrument— are twenty to thirty dollars. Music for the poor, in other words.

CSFF blog tour day 1: Too Many Dragons?

One RealmIt’s day one of the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy blog tour, and once again our featured author is Donita K. Paul. And once again, the book, One Realm Beyond in this case, has dragons in it. And for some people, dragons are a problem, and not just because of the smell of dragon poo on your kitchen floor.

In the Biblical book of Revelation, the Dragon is not on our side. He’s a symbol of Satan’s power. And in Catholic churches across the land we can see Biblical representation of St. Michael the Archangel (defend us in battle…) slaying a dragonish-looking Satan.

The question is: are dragons like elves, dwarves, gryphons and other legendary characters, that we can fictionalize at will? Creatures that we can turn into good guys, bad guys, or both?

Or are dragons like demons and Satan himself— evil things that we cannot morally turn into good-guy characters for the sake of a work of fiction?

In the actual text of the Bible, the English word ‘dragon’ isn’t used. Get out your Strong’s Concordance and you’ll see that the Hebrew word is Strong’s # 8577, tanniym (dragon, sea monster), and the Greek word— the one used in Revelation— is 1404, drakon (a fabulous kind of serpent, dragon).

You can see that these words could be used to describe a demonic-dragon. But what about ordinary and natural monsters and sea monsters that many believed existed in those times? They could be described by such words, too. As could dinosaurs of various types.

We all understand that dinosaurs were not demonic creatures. And creatures like whales, sharks and the like that made ancient sailors believe in sea monsters were not demonic creatures.

And both in the Eastern culture and the Western one we have legends of dragons as a mythical or fabulous beast. In the Western world dragons weren’t very nice creatures— no more than the Midgard-serpent of Norse mythology is a creature you’d invite to a nice dinner party— but even the Western dragons weren’t exactly demonish in our folklore.

My own conclusion is that we can have both fictional natural dragons which we can depict as non-demonic creatures, and the Biblical, demonic Dragon. Just as we can believe that there are good angels and fallen angels in the real world.

The important thing is that we not confuse the two types of dragon, and in all the dragonish fiction I’ve read, this doesn’t seem to be done even be clueless non-Christian authors.  If a dragon is nice enough to be your friend, he’s not going to claim to be the book of Revelation dragon, misunderstood.

As a Catholic myself, I’d like to point out that good dragons can be written by faithful and well-informed Catholic authors, such as Vern the Dragon from Greater Treasures by Karina Fabian. So, therefore, when we learn Christian (but non-Catholic) author Donita K. Paul has a habit of writing about dragons, we need not fear. We just need to read, and judge for ourselves.

One Realm Beyond –  http://www.amazon.com/One-Realm-Beyond-Walkers/dp/0310735807/
Author Website http://www.donitakpaul.com/

Blog tour participants (please visit them!)
Julie Bihn
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Mike Coville
Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Emileigh Latham
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa Annakindt
Donita K. Paul
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Jojo Sutis
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Jill Williamson
Deborah Wilson