The Message of Christmas

Hopefully by now, the dust has settled, and frantic frenzies can now be turned into some placid ponderings…

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 TV) remains my all time favorite Christmas special.  Charles Schulz has wittingly shrunk all humanity into his pint-sized Peanuts gang.  Aren’t we all but tiny specks in the vast universe, and yet our strives and questions are ever so close and immediate.

And for Charlie Brown, little did he know that by throwing up his arms and ranting his disappointment and frustration, had asked the existential question for us all:  “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

And for Linus, little did he know that by answering this question, had delivered not only the Message of Christmas, but the crux of Christianity, pointed us all, the peanuts of the universe, to the way of reconciliation and redemption.

…Out of the mouth of babes (Psalm 8:2)…

A blessed Christmas to all!

Last Minute Gift Ideas

Music CD’s, easy to pick up, easy to wrap, and light-weight enough to carry when you’re in the midst of Christmas shopping frenzy.  But what I’m recommending here are not your current top releases of the season, like Josh Groban’s Noel, selling 2.1 million copies so far this Christmas.  (UPDATE: Josh Groban’s Noel has just climbed to the no. 1 spot as the best selling CD of 2007 in the US, close to 2.8 million copies sold.)  Nonetheless, the following selections are equally enjoyable, and will likely make a pleasant surprise for your recipient.  

I’d give them all  ~ ~ ~ Ripples out of 4.   Actually, any CD from these artists is worthy of giving, although the following titles are my favorites.

CARLY SIMON — Into White

A collection of some familiar tunes, in Carly Simon style, making the new arrangements sound soulful and at times…even better.  Simon’s signature deep alto voice makes titles as simple as Oh! Susanna sound like a folksy classic.  Other numbers include the Beatles’ Blackbird, and familiar tunes like You Are My Sunshine, Scarborough Fair, Over The Rainbow, all offering a much more serene and moving rendition.  I particularly enjoy Devoted To You medly with All I Have To Do Is Dream…oh the wonderful Everly Brothers, re-interpreted by Carly Simon. You Can Close Your Eyes is particularly poignant, with Ben and Sally Taylor, Simon’s children with ex-husband James Taylor. The album also includes two new tunes, Simon’s own Love Of My Life and Ben Taylor and David Saw’s I’ll Just Remember You, which, in Simon’s own words, “…the most beautiful and simple song I’ve ever heard.”  All in all, this CD is one true gem, serenity in audio mode.

                                                                           

                                                   

EVA CASSIDY — Songbird

Like so many artists before her, such as Van Gogh and Jane Austen, to name a few, Eva Cassidy received her honor and recognition posthumously.  1996 marked her untimely death from melanoma.  Since then, Cassidy’s Songbird album received Gold in 2000 and Platinum in 2001.  Her soulful soprano voice transcends the genres of folk, jazz, and country into a sublimation of a unique vocal style.  Fields of Gold starts off this album.  Just for this song, it’s worthwhile to get the CD.  I find Cassidy’s rendition much more soulful and poignant than the original Sting version.  Other songs include Autumn Leaves, Songbird (in Love Actually, 2003), Time Is A Healer, I Know You By Heart.  Yes, there’s also her own interpretation of the classic Over The Rainbow, bringing into it her signature fine vocal and acousitic guitar playing.  A valuable collection.

                                                             

JOHN COLTRANE — Coltrane for Lovers

If you’re a jazz lover, this is a must-have (you probably own it already).  If you’re not a jazz lover, this is a must-have.  It’ll introduce you to what jazz can do to your whole psyche.  A compilation of Coltrane’s tenor sax playing some soulful and quiet romantic tunes.  You don’t need to be a jazz lover to be attracted to these soothing and sensitive renditions.  I find it particularly relaxing listening to this CD while driving alone at night…quite a listening, and driving experience.  Selections include numbers with Duke Ellington on the paino, and Jimmy Garrison on bass.  A most enjoyable title for any lover, music or romance.

Amazing Grace for Christmas

 Amazing Grace

This is one amazing film about an extraordinary man’s fight against slavery in 18th Century England.  The story chronicles Christian Parliamentarian and social reformer William Wilberforce’s mammoth battles in the British political arena to abolish the slave trade.

At that time, slaves were shipped from Africa to the West Indies in appalling conditions, many arriving dead.  They were chained to work on sugar plantations of British owners. Abolishing the slave trade meant a threat to the very economy of Great Britain.  William Wilberforce had given up twenty youthful years and his health to champion the anti-slavery cause.  Three days before his death, he saw his life-long advocacy triumphant as the abolition bill passed in the House of Commons, demolishing the institution of slavery in all of the British Empire.

The film is a display of superb artistry.  First of all, it benefits from a well-written screenplay by Steven Knight.  The award-winning Knight’s other film Eastern Promises (2007) has just garnered 3 Golden Globes nominations including Best Picture.

The exceptional cast is most satisfying to watch. Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd is William Wilberforce, whose performance is intelligent and engaging.  He is effectively supported by a mass of extraordinary British actors, among them the veterans Albert Finney and Michael Gambon.

Albert Finney plays John Newton, the Pastor and mentor of Wilberforce.  It is from Newton that Wilberforce draws his inspiration and strength for his cause.  Newton himself used to be a slave trader.  His ephiphany came during a deadly storm while he was on a slave ship. The tempest he encountered reflected the torrents of guilt billowing in his own conscience.  Ultimately yielding to a merciful God, Newton was totally changed.  He abandoned the slave trade, his own livelihood, and became a Christian Pastor, spreading the message of God’s love and the freedom God had intended for all people. His writing of the tune and lyrics of Amazing Grace summed up the poignant conversion in his life.

The meticulously researched and designed period costumes and set, together with the fine cinematography bring out a beautiful and engaging film.  In many scenes, I feel like I’m looking through a portal of Rambrandt and Vemeer’s paintings in motion. 

The DVD is packed full of commentary and background information.  The music video of Chris Tomlin playing the piano and singing his contemporary version of Amazing Grace is both a visual and audio delight. 

One note of caution though, the film follows closely the British Parliamentary proceedings and political debates of the time.  Those anticipating a more romantic rendition may not have their expectation met.  However, I find the film very educational, informative, as well as inspiring.  What better gift to give this Christmas than the message inspired by the song Amazing Grace:

Chris Tomlin – Amazing Grace

(My Chains Are Gone)

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace

~ ~ ~ 3 Ripples

2008 Golden Globe Nominations

The list is out, and the winner is….

James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features, distributor of the film Atonement, which claimed 7 Golden Globe nominations. Schamus has been riding high on his winning streak with Lust Caution, which he co-wrote and executive produced. Director Ang Lee’s Lust Caution recently garnered 7 Golden Horse Awards in his native Taiwan, after snatching many other film awards including the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year.  The movie also got the nod from the Golden Globe for a Best Foreign Film nomination.

That’s the glamour of winning (being nominated in 7 Golden Globe categories is already a win).   Such is the licence to bask in the recognition, the exposure, the praises, the esteem-boosting limelight and afterglow in the movie business, no wonder Schamus said, “I’m back from Taipei and I’m on such a high.” 

 And in another corner, I see another film quietly being recognized, receiving one acknowledgement.  Julie Christie is nominated for her role in Away From Her.  That’s the sole recognition of this Canadian film by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at the Golden Globes.  I can see film director Sarah Polley quietly pleased, for I think she knows but is too modest to admit that it takes an inspiring and talented director to bring out the acting best from her actors.  That at 28, she could work well with the reclusive and iconic Julie Christie, and Canadian veteran actor Gordon Pinsent speaks volume to her maturity and skills.

Recently honored by the New York Critics Circle with their Best First Film Award, as well as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s New Generation Award, Sarah Polley once said during an interview:

“I don’t’ think that there’s any chance that I would get nominated. I mean I really hope that the actors have a shot at it …it would be such a dream come true if they were acknowledged…”

Such gracious words from a 28 year-old just serve to prove that it doesn’t need a Golden nod to have a golden future. Be prepared, Sarah, to see many dreams come true.

Lacock Village: Popular Film Location

From Bath, I took a 4-hour afternoon excursion out to the Stonehenge and Lacock Village on a Mad Max Tour. Stonehenge, I’ve always wanted to see, but Lacock is a serendipity. I joined a small group of 9 other visitors in a mini-bus parked across the Bath Abbey. As soon as he stepped into the bus, our guide and driver Charles clarified that he wasn’t Mad Max. The Bath family-run tour company was named after owner Maddy and her dog Max. On top of this piece of crucial local tidbit, Charles was most helpful in furnishing us with all sorts of information we ever wanted to know and ask about the Cotswold area and our destinations.

I’m debating whether I should post pictures up here because any picture of the Stonehenge would seem like a visual cliche, for it’s probably one of the most recognizable stone arrangements in the world. However, mine are different, I thought, not for artistic value, but mainly because they are taken by me personally, and not from any postcards, or downloads from the Internet. So here they are, Arti’s contribution to the photo world, two more pictures of the Stonehenge.

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The ride out to the Stonehenge from Bath was about 60 minutes. The day was December 2, 2007. It was very, very windy and cold that day out in the open field where the Stonehenge was situated. Fortunately the rain let up a bit as we stepped out the mini-bus, giving me the chance to walk around the mysterious arrangements, in time to take about 20 pictures as I circumvented the site a couple of times. The audio guide was most helpful, but as I was confronted by the very sight, the sound seemed to fade into the background. I was busy taking my pictures, fighting against the fierce gale and the imminent threat of pouring rain. The what, the how, and the why of the Stonehenge remain a mystery to this day.

After an hour’s stay at the site, we hopped back onto the bus for our next destination: Lacock Village. Before the tour, I had not heard of this place. It was a serendipitous find…and a pleasant surprise indeed.

From Charles, we learned that Lacock, a National Trust medieval village preserved for its historical elements, is a popular spot for film productions. But before I give away all the films that has been made here, and actually, only a particualr one that I was most interested in, first here are a few shots of the Village. As we arrived, it was around 4 pm, but dusk had already set in. In the rain and cold wind, I was only able to take a few shots as I grabbed my umbrella under my arm. Looking at them now, they correspond closely to the time of day where the actual scene appears in the film. To enhance their visibility, I’ve lightened them a bit here.

Recognize these buildings? Imagine there were no cars and the road was not paved…

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Yes, they were shots of Meryton in the BBC (1995) made for TV miniseries Pride And Prejudice…the ‘wet shirt’ version with Colin Firth, as Charles expertly informed us. Yes I know the version, I told him, my favorite. The Red Lion in the third picture was used as the exterior shot of the assembly room where the Meryton Ball took place in the beginning of the movie. That was when Darcy, Bingley, his sisters and Mr. Hurst got off the carriage to attend the country Ball in the evening, eyeing haughtily at their surroundings (except Bingley of course).

Other than Pride And Prejudice, Lacock was also the film location for Emma (BBC 1996), the Harry Potter movies, and most recently the new Harry Potter production (2008 ) by Warner Bros. on another street. But the Village of Lacock probably won’t be easily recogized in that movie because the facade of the buildings there had been changed for the filming. The 1995 BBC Pride And Prejudice production used the authentic buildings as they appear in the above photos. I recognized them as soon as I turned into the street that late afternoon,…adding a serendipitous Austen touch to my Mad Max excursion.

The photos you see in this post are taken by Arti of www.rippleeffects.wordpress.com. December, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

If you see them and/or any parts of the texts in a site other than Ripple Effects, then you know they have been copied without permission. I thank my readers for alerting me in the past, and I continue to appreciate their watchful eyes in the future.

Jane Austen’s Bath

CLICK HERE to read my newest post on Bath:  Bath’s Persuasion

In early December, my travels took me to another World Heritage Site: Bath, England.  Jane Austen lived there from 1801 – 1806 after her family moved from her birthplace Steventon when she was 26.  The City of Bath at that time was a meeting place of high society, the centre of fashion and the hub of stylish urban development, with elegant and spectacular Georgian buildings and Palladian architecture.  What’s interesting is, today’s Bath remains more or less the same as it was in Jane’s time.  The buildings have been maintained in such immaculate condition that a visitor to Bath today can actually walk the paths of Jane’s and behold the city and landscape she had seen, and eat at a place that she could have frequented, the Sally Lunn’s.  This little bakery and eatery is located in the oldest house in Bath, dating back to the 1400’s, a historical site even for Jane.

Jane Austen chose Bath as the setting for Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both novels published posthumously.  According to sources, in particular Claire Tomalin’s biography Jane Austen: A Life, Jane did not like the City of Bath.  The superficiality and frivolity of high society were met with her satirical critiques.  Further, her disdain could well be caused by the very purpose she suspected of her parents’ decision to move there:  opportunities to meet favourable suitors for their daughters.

Nevertheless, for me as a modern day visitor to Bath, and a Janeite at that, I’m impressed to learn that most of what I see have lasted through hundreds of years.  The Roman Baths, the Bath Abbey where the first king of England Edgar was crowned in 973 A.D., the Pump Room, the Gardens, The Royal Crescent, Queen’s Square, The Pulteney Bridge, the same streets and architecture are situated just as they were in Jane’s time.

Here are some of the famous places in Jane Austen’s Bath.

Jane Austen’s first residence in Bath 1801 – 1805, No. 4 Sydney Place:

Jane Austen’s Residence 4 Sydney Place

Jane Austen’s Residence No. 4 Sydney Place

Jane Austen’s second residence in Bath, No. 25 Gay Street, now a dentist’s office:

JA’s second residence No. 25 Gay Street

Gay Street:

The Street Where Jane Lived

Queen’s Square across from Gay Street: Good spot for people-watching for Jane and Cassandra:

Queen’s Square across from Gay Street

The Pump Room: The meeting place of the Who’s Who in Jane Austen’s Bath:

“In the Pump-room, one so newly arrived in Bath must be met with…”  –Chapter 9,  Northanger Abbey

The Pump Room

The Pump Room Exterior

The Royal Crescent:  Georgian buildings spectacularly arranged in a crescent form, where the rich and fashionable took their Sunday afternoon stroll in Jane’s time.  Jane’s view is satirically clear:

“…they hastened away to the Crescent, to breathe the fresh air of better company.” –Chapter 5,  Northanger Abbey

The Crescent

Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon:

Pultney Bridge Over the River Avon

Sally Lunn’s:  Famous buns since the 1680’s:

Sally Lunn’s

All photos originally taken by Arti of www.rippleeffects.wordpress.com

Text and photos All Rights Reserved, December, 2007.

More interesting posts coming up…and for Janeites, look for Lacock Village in my next post.

Update:  Due to the keen interest from readers of “Jane Austen’s Bath”, I’ve published another post, “Bath in December“, with more photos of my recent visit to that beautiful City.  After you’ve finished reading this post, you’re welcome to visit “Bath in December” and… enjoy!

Petra: Indiana Jones On Location

I’m still travelling in far off places, but just a few pictures to whet the appetite of those who have been so eagerly waiting.  Thanks for your patience.  I’ve been longing to share with you all my experience, the sights and sounds of distant lands, obscure to North Americans but definitely very popular places to explore for those in other parts of the world.  I feel like a wanderer in the Tower of Babel, hearing a myriad of unknown languages, not only from the natives of those lands, but from the crowds of visitors around me.

 The most amazing sight so far I must say is Petra, the city carved out of rocks, right in the red mountains of southern Jordan, about 3 hour’s drive southwest of the capital city Amman.  Petra was the land of the Edomites, descendants of Esau, twin brother of Jacob in the Old Testament of the Bible.  The ancient city was first constructed by the Nabataeans, and later came under Roman rule.  Earthquake and flooding had destroyed much of the city and it remained obscure for centuries until rediscovered by a Swiss explorer in 1812.

The ancient ruins of Petra was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.  Excavation has been an international effort towards which Brown University’s archaelogy and anthropology departments have contributed substantially.  Follow this link to their fabulous website  http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Anthropology/Petra/

Petra was the location for parts of the film Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989).  You might recognize the famous facade of the ancient temple (The Treasury) which is the entrance to this amazing city in the rocks.

(First a word about COPYRIGHT:  I’ve travelled far, walked great distances and ridden on a donkey to take the following pictures, PLEASE DO NOT COPY.) 

Entering the red mountain region:

Entering the Mtn Region

A glimpse through the crack:

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Beholding the real wonder:

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The City carved out of rocks:

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Again, photos taken by Arti of www.rippleeffects.wordpress.com 

November, 2007.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 

More to come in future posts.  Thanks for waiting.

Reading and Rereading

Update: As this post is published, the National Endowment for the Arts releases the results of a national reading survey.  Click on the post “To Read Or Not To Read” on December 29, 2007 to find out more. 

A recent poll in the UK revealed that 77% of 2034 people surveyed reread books.  Further, a fifth of them re-read their favorite book more than five times.

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According to this survey conducted by Costa, here’s the list of the most reread books in the UK:

1.  The Harry Potter series, JK Rowling

2.  The Lord of the Rings Series, JRR Tolkien

3.  Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

4.  The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

5.  Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

6.  1984, George Orwell

7.  The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown

8.  The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

9.  Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

10. Catch 22, Joseph Heller

Interestingly, there’s yet another survey polling UK readers’ choice of ‘books they can’t live without’.   And here’s the list:

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
8 Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

 Who says the classics  are no longer relevant in today’s day and age? 

Out of curiosity, I wanted to find out whether similar research had been done in North America.  I found nothing for either the US or Canada.  I wonder if that is indicative of something. 

However, I did manage to locate one book-related poll for the US.  According to an Associated Press-Ipsos study conducted in August 2007, one in four adults in the US, or 27% of those surveyed, read no books at all in the past year. 

Again, I wonder if that is indicative of something…umm… just another poll.    

Miss Potter for Christmas

It’s not too early to make up a Christmas gift list, or actually start some Christmas shopping. I’ve a recommendation here for a DVD that you can safely watch with your children. But you’d also want to watch it by yourself too, because then you can savour in solitude the touching moments an adult can appreciate, and yes, shed a private tear, and let the movie work its magic freely in your heart.

Miss Potter (2006) is the story of Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit, one of the best loved children icons of all times. The film is a gem glittering with acting talents. As Beatrix, Renée Zellweger (Oscar for Cold Mountain 2003) brings to the screen a most delightful character, her genuine and innocent demeanor captures the audience’s heart the very moment she appears. She receives nominations this year for a Golden Globe and a Saturn Award for her role in Miss Potter, and well deserved.

Ewan McGregor (of Star Wars and Moulin Rouge fame, no relation to farmer McGregor) plays the slightly comical first-time publisher who has made history with his appreciation and confidence in the talents of Beatrix. The two naturally fall in love. Like a Jane Austen novel, such a relationship is frowned upon by Beatrix’s upper-middle class family and openly forbidden. But this time, a hundred years after Jane, Beatrix boldly confronts the inequitable and restrictive Victorian values and norms.

Emily Watson, herself an Oscar nominee for her role in Gosford Park, (and she is excellent in Angela’s Ashes), plays a lively supporting role as McGregor’s unmarried sister. The social issue of the unmarried female in a male-dominated society is freely explored through her outspoken character, but not without poignancy.

I must mention the song written for the movie, which has won the 2007 World Soundtrack Award for Best Original Song Written for Film. “When You Taught Me How To Dance” is sung by Ewan McGregor in the film during a mesmerizing and moving scene. As the credit rolls in the end, this touching tune is heard again, this time in its entirety performed by Katie Melua. Now, she’s another story to write about.

The captivating soundtrack matches the beautifiul scenery and period costume, together with the excellent script and the whimsical animation of Beatrix’s animal friends, make the movie utterly enjoyable and gratifying, but still delivering effectively the depth of sentiments and the dramatic twists and turns.

The DVD includes background on Beatrix Potter, commentary by director Chris Noonan and a making-of documentary with extensive interview with Renee Zellweger, plus a music video performed by Katie Melua singing “When You Taught Me How To Dance”. A valuable collection and I’m sure, a welcomed gift.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

Beatrix Potter: A Journal (2006)

Beatrix Potter A Journal Book Cover

As a companion to the movie, and another great gift idea, is the book Beatrix Potter: A Journal which came out last year. A visual journal in the vein of Nick Bantock, the book is an imaginary scrapbook Beatrix would have made to chronicle her own life, with handwritten entries and notes, amusing drawings, little attached booklets, photo albums, and letters that can be taken out from envelopes. The book corresponds amazingly well with the movie, like a visual commentary.

Here are a couple sample pages from the journal:

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~~~3 Ripples for both Movie and Book

Batman Sequel: The Dark Knight on Location in Hong Kong


From Beowulf to Batman, we are a people of hero seekers, real or imaginary.  Our incessant quest seems to be even more acute in recent years as Hollywood plays a major role in fanning the flame.  The latest frenzy is in Hong Kong, where the new Batman movie The Dark Knight is filming on location.

To be released in July, 2008, the Batman sequel will again feature Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman, Lucius Fox.  Reportedly, Jack Nicholson was furious to find out that Heath Ledger will be replacing him as The Joker.  For the first time, Batman is going to venture out Gotham City, and the Metropolis of Hong Kong is the very location (plus Chicago and England) director Christopher Nolan finds most suitable for the superhero’s new crime fighting scenes to take place.

Thanks to my Hong Kong correspondent, I received these fresh photos, taken near the filming location in Hong Kong Central.  Crowds gathered to watch from a distance, many eagerly taking pictures of the filming.  The insatiable quest for the hero figure is indeed universal:

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The International Finance Centre (IFC), where Batman reportedly will jump off:

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Filming inside the famed Central-Mid-Level Escalator Walkway System:

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Photos copyright:  IPTV, November, 2007.

Used by Permission.

Update Jan. 22, 2008: Heath Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment today.  He was 28.

Adora Svitak: “Tiny Literary Giant”

“Knights!  Clear the square of townsfolk!” the Duke cried.  Within a few moments, the square was empty except for the Duke, the Duchess, Myles, Didoni, and the large, burly knights who were guarding the Duke.  The men put the litter down, and the Duchess lay down to rest.  The Duke was telling Didoni what he wanted on his portrait.

“Make me look strong and majestic. I want no one to think that I am a weakling, like my soft older brother the King,” the Duke said imperiously.

“Knights! Clear the square of townsfolk!” the Duke cried. Within a few moments, the square was empty except for the Duke, the Duchess, Myles, Didoni, and the large, burly knights who were guarding the Duke. The men put the litter down, and the Duchess lay down to rest. The Duke was telling Didoni what he wanted on his portrait.  

“Why not paint a suit of armor?” Myles suggested before he could stop himself.

“Yes! The lad has quite the idea!” the Duke exclaimed. “Paint me in a suit of armor, with nothing amiss. Make my eyes as sharp as an eagle’s, and my nose straight and curved at the end. My lips I care for not— but make them solemn.”

Didoni nodded.

“It shall be done of course, your Grace,” Didoni said, already beginning to sketch on his canvas.

                                —- Excerpt from Adora Svitak’s Historical Fiction

  

 Adora Svitak Website

Just as I was saying in my last post that I’d never come across any literary prodigy, the name Adora Svitak came up on my computer screen last night.  The above excerpt is one of the sample writings from her website,  where you can also find her poems and fantasy writing.  Adora is a 10 year-old girl from Redmond, Washington.  Whether you want to label her a prodigy or not really does not change what has taken place in her life.  Here are the milestones so far:

Age 2.5: 

Could read and write simple words.

Age 3.5:

Read her first chapter book.

Age 4:

Started writing short stories.

Age 6:

Got a laptop from her Mom, writing began to take off.

Age 7:

Published 296-page Flying Fingers, a collection of her own fiction and writing tips for others (with her Mom).  Appeared on Good Morning America, interviewed by Diane Sawyer, who called her “Tiny Literary Giant”.  Met Peter Jennings and was given his book The Century For Young People, which remained her favorite.  Started Adora’s Blog.  http://www.adorasvitak.com/Blogger.html

Age 8:

Had written over 400 short stories and 100 poems, typed 60-80 words per minute, read 3 books at a time, 18 books a week.  Oh, that’s nothing, you might say, “My kid could do that.”  Just wait, Voltaire’s Candide?

Another book in the work, a collection of her poems called Dancing Fingers.

Promoted literacy to children in the UK.  Here’s The Guardian report: http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1713183,00.html

Age 9:

Completing her first full-length novel Yang in Disguise,  serving as a spokesperson for Verizon Reads campaign for literacy, working on an animated computer program to help develop childhood literacy.

Montel Interview: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/439176/adora_svitak_9_year_old_author_criticize_george_bushs_iraq_pol/

Note: According to her interview on Montel, the proceeds of her book Flying Fingers will be going to the National Education Association and she would auction off some of her works to raise money for the victims of hurricane Katrina, rebuilding libraries in schools.

All in all, I feel that this gifted little girl doesn’t really care whether you label her “literary prodigy” or not.  She’s having the time of her life in her reading, writing, cooking, playing, and helping others how to read and write…  And, how many 10 year-olds can have the terms “Writer, Poet, Humanitarian” to describe themselves on their website?   http://www.adorasvitak.com/Main.html

But is this Art?…But is this Prodigy?

The comments in my last post have spurred some insightful ideas on the whole notion of what Art is, and whether a child’s production can include such inherent elements as soulful expression, and purposeful creation driven by theoretical stance.

I think a more appropriate question is, “But is this Prodigy?”

In his review of the documentary My Kid Could Paint That, New York Times film critic A. O. Scott acknowledges that it is natural for parents to cherish their children’s work. Those doodlings and finger paintings posted on the fridge door are priceless. He goes on to say:

The untaught sense of color and composition that children seem naturally to possess sometimes yields extraordinary results, and the combination of instinct and accident that governs their creative activity can produce astonishing works of art.

Except that these magical finger-paint daubings and crayon scribblings aren’t really works of art in any coherent sense of the term, but rather the vital byproducts of play, part of the cognitive and sensory awakening that is the grand, universal vocation of childhood.

The influential abstract art critic Clement Greenberg had made the following controversial remark: 

In visual arts, prodigies don’t count. In music and literature, yes, but not in art.”

The statement reiterates his view that:

The making of superior art is arduous.”

I tend to agree with him. 

I have seen music prodigies, not having reached the ripe old age of 10 or 12, performing complex pieces of classical compositions.  In contrast to a child pouring paint and spreading it out intuitively with her fingers, I saw behind those performances the countless hours of excruciating practice, the intricate and sometimes impossible eye-hand coordination, the mastery of the theory and the appreciation of the structure of the work, to ultimately evoking the very spirit intended by the composer as they perform. 

Not only that, the best of them make it deceptively simple.  They make the audience feel that they are watching a natural, born with such ability and talent, rendering hard work an oxymoron.  I’m not doubting there’s intuition and instinct involved.  But in every superb playing I see intuitive musicality alchemized with extraordinary mastery of skills and discipline. 

As for literary prodigies?  Maybe because of my limited exposure, I have yet to read one.