Sunday, March 25, 2012

David Wax Museum

What do you expect to see or hear when you are going to a wax museum? Whatever your preconceived idea is, it does not fit The David Wax Museum who performed at the 1200 Club at the Holland Center last Friday night.
The David Wax Museum is a musical group of three people. Their music is a combination of folk, country, blue-grass, and spirituals with a strong influence of current indie rock music with a Mexican flavor.
This group is like a museum in that their music is based on traditional folk songs but definitely have a blended mix of old and new together in one song. Guitars and a fiddle were the basic accompaniments, but also used were the drum box, Cajón, a small Mexican guitar called a viheula, and a donkey’s jawbone as a rhythmic percussive instrument.
The group leader is the energetic and versatile David Anderson Wax who is extremely talented and just has a great time performing his music. Also notable are the unique talents of Suz Slezak along with the mellow harmonies of their percussionist, guitarist, and vocalist, Greg. The combination of the three was a rousing fun night of interacting with three unconventional performers.
Some of the folk songs performed were “It’s a Bee Keeper Drawing Honey from Our Hearts”, “That’s Not True”, “Beatrice”, “Look What You’ve Done to Me”, “I’m Not Trying to Get Away from Anything for Anyone, I’m Trying to Get Away from You”, and the controversial “Chuchumbe”.
Although many of the songs were based on Mexican folksongs, the performed numbers were mostly telling the stories using updated music and harmonies in English. You could really understand and enjoy the humor and vitality of each song.
The David Wax Museum is an up and coming musical experience which has been reviewed and noticed both by National Public Radio and Time Magazine. Their enthusiasm and artistry make each song an enlivening experience. The variety of instruments along with their powerful voices definitely delighted this audience who eagerly rewarded the performers with a standing ovation. Fortunately, the performers recognized this and continued with a blue-grass gospel song, “Let Me Rest in the Wake of the Lord” and concluding with their rendition of “Yes, Maria, Yes”.

Devil's Trill

Devil’s Trill
Gerald Elias
Minotaur Books
ISBN: 978-0-312-54181-1
306 pages

“Perhaps the power of music is greatest because it is temporal rather than spatial, meaning that once it is heard it is gone forever.”
In Devil’s Trill, it is obvious that many musicians do not easily blend into society. These gifted few, expect more from themselves and others, while not always living in the everyday world. Many have their own eccentricities that in turn allows them to experience and communicate music on a level that is difficult to achieve and understand.
Daniel Jacobus is one of these. He is an excellent musician. However, he has difficulties with people.
Even though blind, he is considered to be one of the best violin teachers alive. For those few who are fortunate enough to become his students, they are challenged by using their technical and artistic expertise to truly create music as the composer chose to communicate through his writing. There is a difference between being technically correct and playing music. If his students refuse or fail to notice this, Daniel does not hesitate in humiliating anyone. If the student quits, Daniel feels that it is for the best.
Daniel is also not a fan of the Grimsley Competition for violinists. This competition occurs once every thirteen years. The winner must not be over thirteen years old and is awarded the privilege of using the “Piccolino Stradivarius” in a concert at Carnegie Hall. The winner this year is Kamryn Vander who is only nine years old. However, the prize violin is stolen before the performance and Jacobus is the most likely suspect with a motive to take it. Unfortunately, Daniel also met with a rival teacher who coached Kamryn and who is strangled by a G-string from a violin. Guess who is missing their G-string?
Sometimes friends are as valuable as music, and for Daniel, Nathaniel Williams is just that person. He currently works with an insurance company and specializes in the music recovery of stolen instruments. Their friendship has endured many years since they performed together years ago. Also, accompanying the two is Daniel’s new student, Yumi Shinagawa, who seems to have secrets of her own.  Why is she involved?
Devil’s Trill is an adventure into the world of concert musicians with the challenges of the business of public relations balancing the artistry of music. This mystery does not glamorize the business and competitiveness in concert music.
The author, Gerald Elias, is a world-class violinist and conductor, who wonderfully describes the inside world of concert music while still showing awe and respect to the art of making music and writing an excellent mystery.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Siege of Darkness

Siege of Darkness: Guardian of the Seventh Realm Part II
J. W. Baccaro
Whiskey Creek Press
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-61160-080-3
$ 17.95
277 pages

Darshun Luthias knows that his destiny is foretold in a prophecy. Now is the time for him to fulfill this
but will he choose correctly. The appeal of evil and power is enticing.

Hearing the war drums of the enemy, the warriors for the city of Zithel prepare for battle, leaving the
city to defend it before attacked. However, while waiting for the battle on a field, the warriors discover
there is no one to fight. Quickly, they return home fearful only to see complete destruction. They were
tricked. Leaving Zither with little protection, the city was quickly massacred. All the families, including
children were murdered. They were lured into a trap which is only the beginning.

The evil army of Asgoth now has three of the elemental earthly crystals needed for the Demon Lord
Abaddon to take over this world. He only needs one more to achieve this feat. The only thing
standing in his way is Darshun who is beginning to understand his destiny. He knows that he needs to
save whatever is left that is good while realizing his own weaknesses. By being one of the nearly
extinct race of the Nasharin, he still needs to discover what special abilities and gifts he is just beginning
to control and utilize. What special talents does he have?

This sequel to The Prophecy of the Guardian continues the story of Darshun and the
challenges he must face to fulfill his destiny, both personal and for humanity. The more he
discovers about his heritage, the more he begins to understand his purpose.

The Siege of Darkness is much darker than the first novel. The numerous characters are many who
have already appeared in the first novel. The pacing is fast and the strength of this sequel is Darshun’s
discovery about his past heritage. The various creatures are well-described and easily viewed as a
threat to the human-like creatures. With the constant battles, there is never a dull moment.

The Siege of Darkness fits perfectly as a sequel to The Prophecy of the Guardian with a direct continuation of the story. This is definitely not a standalone novel and would be extremely difficult to understand without having read the first novel. However, a character list to refresh readers would greatly enhance the story for any reader. To assist, there is a short summary of The Prophecy of the Guardian in the beginning of this novel.

The quest of good versus bad is the underlying force driving Darshun against all odds is thrilling now. With the addition of Kelarin, the elf who knows way too much, this gives a depth to the character and the novel.

With the pursuit of goodness, I look forward to the next novel by New York novelist, J. W. Baccaro in this series in the Guardian of the Seventh Realm.


What do you get when you mix a 1970s progressive hard rock group with a college orchestra? Volume in terms of loudness is definitely one thing. You also get the rock group, Kansas, with the Heartland Philharmonic, the UNO orchestra last Saturday night at the Holland Performing Arts Center.
Kansas, the band, has joined with D’Addario & Co, a leading company in making musical instruments and accessories, in a project to raise money for the music departments of various colleges and universities throughout the country. So with the assistance of conductor and arranger, Larry Baird, this band is joining college orchestras throughout the country in a concert featuring their music while promoting the study of music.
Playing many of their classics with an orchestra supporting and supplementing their sound was an experience with hearing what you already know but adding to enhance the music into a fresh approach.
Hearing “Dust in the Wind” live from this group was truly phenomenal. Even an updated violin challenge from one of members of the Heartland Philharmonic put a slightly newer and fresher arrangement to this classic. Yes, their hair has definitely grayed, but their voices, musical talents, and passion for making music have not faded. These five men were having a great time doing what they do and love, playing for audiences.
Phil Ehart has been the drummer since the group’s creation. He plays with intensity, expertise, and brilliance. Just watching this phenomenal drummer made every member of the audience realize the level with which he plays. Richard Wiliams is also one of the original members with a truly gifted hand at with various guitars providing those harmonies and strong rhythms which have been such a part of this group’s identity. Steve Walsh plays keyboards and sings the lead vocals. His voice rings as clear and decisive as many years ago with even more passion now for what he enjoys most. Billy Greer was great on guitar and vocals. Dave Ragsdale was energetic with his phenomenal violin and vocals.
The night proved the difference between playing music and making music. These men now are choosing to perform with these orchestras to keep music programs available, too keep their musical skills fresh, and to have the joy of playing music. They also have found the fountain of youth with their energy, expertise, and musical abilities in doing what they love and what the audience was thrilled to hear.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Wreckage

The Wreckage: A Thriller
Michael Robotham
Mulholland Books
June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-12640-3
$ 24.99
448 pages

Luca Terracini is a journalist living outside the safe-zone in Iraq during the year 2006. Luca is following a
story that scares other journalists. What happened to all the money hidden in Saddam’s Iraq and the
money sent from the United States to rebuild the country? As he investigates, it seems that someone is
does not want him to find the truth in this story. He is being constantly followed and it is obvious that
someone is trying to kill him.

Vincent Ruiz discovers that he has been a victim of a scam. It begins with a young attractive couple who
argue. The boy becomes physical and hits the girl. The victim, the target, witnesses this and
sympathizes with the hurt girl. While talking with the girl, she discovers that her purse has also been
stolen by the angered and now disappeared boyfriend. The girl is taken to the witnesses home where
she can take advantage and steal the household valuables. However, someone kills the boyfriend and
wants the girl dead. Why? Also Vincent needs one of the stolen items. His daughter is promised her
mother’s comb on her wedding day which is quickly approaching.

Richard North, a vice-president of a bank, disappears. With a pregnant wife, a young son, and marrying
into this banking family, he is the obvious scape-goat for money missing from the bank. Obviously, this
missing man could be dead. The frantic wife hires a private investigator. What happens to him?

How are these three people part of one story? The interweaving of these three creates a gripping and
enthralling tale which is fortunately based on these fictional characters but based on real situations.
Why is someone going to the trouble of having all three of these people dead? What is so important
that it is worth three people’s lives? Where is all the money?

The Wreckage is a well-written tale in which much of it could be true, based on the real
disappearance of millions of money for Iraq. This allows a possible explanation about the money with
realistic characters and plausible explanations. The variety of characters is definitely balanced with
every possible aspect covered.

The stories of these three are the thrust of the story as their lives point towards an eventual
overlapping. Who lives? Who dies? Where is the money?

Michael Robotham is an Australian author who has lived in London. He has previously written the
books The Suspect, Lost, The Night Ferry, Shatter, Bombproof, and Bleed for Me. He has also written
many autobiographies with numerous celebrities.

The Wreckage is a memorable action adventure tale with haunting realism.

Mr. Hobbs' Vacation

How many of us have ever gone on a much needed a vacation to rest and reenergize? Unfortunately, our plans do not always work the way we intended and sometimes a vacation can be more work than our regular everyday life. This is the situation with the current play at the Chanticleer Theater, “Mr. Hobbs’ Vacation.”
Mr. Roger Hobbs intends to get away by renting a cottage near the ocean on this vacation with his wife and teenaged daughter. Joining them will be his pregnant daughter and her husband who is an economics professor. This seems to be the perfect get-away to relax with the family.
The vacation community of Rock Harbor relies on renting their cabins to visiting tourists by quickly adjusting their priorities and prices during this season. When the family enters the cabin, the “charm” quickly becomes hard work with the cleaning, redecorating, and even having water available, not to mention clean water. Added to that are “friends” who also see this cabin as a great opportunity for their vacation, cheaply.
The production staff outstandingly and efficiently makes this show a success. Every aspect of this play is carefully planned and executed with precision. The acting cast was led by Tim Daughterty in the lead role of Mr. Hobbs. His wife and daughter are Denise Putnam and Jesse St. Clair. This delightful family experienced numerous realistic situations that as Mr. Hobbs’ stated, ”We should be lucky to be a part of it”. In other words, everyone has those times that make great memories but are not our preferred activities at that particular point in time, or sometime anytime.
“Mr. Hobbs’ Vacation” continues for the next two weekends. The performances are at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday nights and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday through March 25th. The tickets are $17 for adults, $14 for seniors and $9 for students. For reservations contact the box office at 712-323-9955 or
With the lesson of this play emphasizing “being lucky to be a part of it”, why not be a part of this play and enjoy the Chanticleer Theater (while you still can).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Death of Kings

Death of Kings
Bernard Cornwell
Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-196965-2
322 pages

Frequently the courageous person is the one who makes a decision and then is responsible for that choice. Uhtred wisely makes decisions quickly but does put himself in another’s place and does learn from past mistakes, both his own and others.

Death of Kings is the sixth book of Bernard Cornwell’s ‘The Saxon Stories’ and can be read as both a standalone or part of this series. Please recognize that if it is read as a standalone, Cornwell does quickly summarizes the previous events that impact this particular book.

Beginning in the year 898 A.D., England is divided between the Danes and the English, as well as the Norse gods and Christianity. King Alfred has the dream of having a united Christian England with one language. Unfortunately, the numerous rulers trade loyalties all too easily and it is difficult to know about alliances that are constantly changing. With Alfred dying, many view this as an opportunity for their personal gain even though Edward, Alfred’s son, is to be the next king.

Bernard Cornwell brilliantly demonstrates the problems of the times with the divided loyalties of leaders as well as divided religious tensions that prevent unification. Added to that Uhtred has a serious relationship with Æthelflæd, Edward’s sister who is married to another.

Being that I had not read the first five in this series, I found the first pages overwhelming with names that are extremely similar to each other. Granted these were real people, but the similarity of their names without prior knowledge took time to really differentiate.

The character of Uhtred, was a bit over the top in that he seemed to succeed in everything and that he was hated for his brashness. (Imagine Rambo in the year of 898 A.D.) The conflicts of the time were the strength in novel. The reader feels that they are making the history with the characters as the story is revealed.

I would recommend this to everyone. This history was long ago but seems to be repeated with different weapons and there are just different names and places. Unfortunately, there are lessons to be learned that we seem not to comprehend. Learn from the past. Read Death of Kings.


What do you call music that gets your feet dancing and your fingers tapping while you’re still sitting in the chair? I heard this term “chair dancing” from audience members Sunday afternoon about the concert by Danu.
Danu is an Irish ensemble which consisted of five entertainers who together play traditional Irish music. The afternoon was filled with music, energy, laughing, cheering, clapping, and much foot tapping which was quickly turning into “chair dancing”.
Playing accordeon (Yes, this is spelled correctly.) was Benny McCarthy whose steady beat and strong leading harmonies was the foundation of this ensemble. He was also the one who started dancing in his chair with his feet while seating and playing his instrument. Eamoon Doorley was masterful with his bouzouki which is played similar to a guitar but has a tonal quality that makes this sound warm and rich in tonal quality. Oisin Macauley was both energetic and musical with his fiddle and vocals. Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh beautifully both sang and played both the flute and the tin whistle. All four of these performers are from various parts of Ireland. Martin O’Neill is a Scotsman who is half Scot and half Irish. He is truly a master of the bodhran, which is a type of drum. He demonstrated his rare talent to the audience with his solo. It is truly amazing the sounds that he can create with this instrument. (If you have not seen this instrument, watch him on You Tube.)
This was delightful for the final event in The Arts Center season.
Many of the songs had Irish names and the literal translations from “Peggy’s’ Nettles” which was about putting nettles in a bed to wake someone up, to a romantic song of a young girl who is married to an old man and is trying to get rid of him, to a song about running around the house and behind the dresser, to a song about cutting toenails, to being homesick, to a song about drinking, to when a man meets a young woman, marries her, and sees her for real the next morning, all these songs and more made for a “chair dancing” and memorable afternoon with Danu.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kidnapping Henry Kissinger

Kidnapping Henry Kissinger
Peddler Creek Press
September 17, 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-105-50772-4
276 pages
Kindle version $9.99

The turbulent 1960s were a time when our country was changing and change is not always
easy. Between the civil rights, women’s rights, equal rights, civil disobedience, sexual
preferences, abortion, the use of drugs, free love, music changes, and the Vietnam War, all
of these eventually seemed to evolve our society into a different world.

Living in Kansas at this time, Joe Ball was delighted with being offered a full scholarship
to Cornell University. Since Joe was a loner and his childhood left him orphaned, he
discovered this opportunity to become a part of something and to belong. The anti-war
movement filled this void in his life.

Joe didn’t want to burn his draft card like his friends. He actually just sent it back to Kansas. While he is involved with this movement, his only real crime is taking his lawyer’s advice. When questioned by a grand jury, Joe is told that he can refuse to testify. That causes him to be imprisoned until the year 2006. This is obviously a case of where crime and the punishment are not just. Being that Joe has no family, no one cares, visits, or questions this injustice, his prison sentence is lengthy.

As Joe leaves prison, he expects to find a country with the Constitutional rights of the 1970s, not a post 9/11 country where many rights have been restricted by Homeland Security.

Kidnapping Henry Kissinger is actually the telling of two stories that eventually merge into one. The approach involves Joe reestablishing himself in a much changed world of 2006 while simultaneously looking at Joe in the late 1960s as he enters Cornell and begins his new life.

The intertwining of the fictional Joe’s past with the real people and events was insightful giving depth to all the characters as well as a history lesson. Being with Joe in the present is a genuine and appalling reality of how our Constitutional rights have been restricted due to the post 9/11 war on terrorism.

The author, Coleman, pen name for Joe Gilchrist, lived in Oklahoma and received his education in New York at Cornell, where he actively participated in the civil rights and peace protests of the 1960s. Much of this story is based on his earlier life. He now lives and works in Wisconsin.

Through the eyes of Joe Ball, Coleman has masterfully written a history of the people in this country and how and why we have changed. Whether it is for the better is left to the reader.