ALMA DEUTSCHER – famous musical prodigy

Alma Deutscher learned to play the piano at 2, the violin at 3. She started to compose at 4, wrote her first piano sonata at 6. What’s extraordinary is not her playing and singing skill, though great. It’s her compositions which are extraordinary, and not because of her age, but because of the emotions in them and their maturity far beyond her years.

If you’ve ever wondered what a genius looks like, look no further.

“I’m not a little Mozart. I’m a little Alma.”

Composed at age 9, in 2014
3rd movement, Violin Concerto
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra – 2016

Scores for all instruments by Alma Deutscher

Composed at age 12, in 2017
2nd movement, Piano Concerto
Vienna Chamber Orchestra – 2017

Scores for all instruments by Alma Deutscher

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A DAY IN THE OUTBACK – Elfhome short story

The terrific Elfhome series by Wen Spencer is one of my favorites. Each book actually improves on re-reading. Click on a book cover to read its first few chapters & to buy the book. Below is a short story I wrote in the same multiverse.

A Day in the Outback


Laer Carroll

Character: elf security guard named Freezing Winter Night on Stone

(click image to see larger view)

Heather Weatherly awoke surprised that she’d been able to fall asleep at all last night. Events today might make or break her dreams of a secure income, something in short supply in Pittsburgh since it had been transported to the planet of the elves almost 30 years ago.

She might also die today.

She raised her voice enough to trigger her house AI. “Hey, Mama Bear, report.”

“Two friendlies waiting outside. Day expected to be bright but cold. Eight mid-level important messages waiting. Shall I start breakfast?”

“Yes. Keva Mocha and toasted bagels.”

“Got it, Boss.”

That fucking cheerful morning voice. For the thousandth time Heather swore she was going to reprogram it.

She made her usual toilette, faster than usual but more careful for all that. It included very subdued but attractive makeup. Her Mama always told her to put on good warpaint before every important endeavor.

She dressed in a long-sleeved flannel shirt soft as a baby’s butt, sturdy jeans with sewn-in light composite leg armor, torso armor, groin protector, all-weather combat boots, and her gunbelt. She double checked the four magazine pockets on the belt, made sure their magazines were fully loaded with armor-piercing bullets, adjusted the angle of her combat and utility knife, and jacked the slide of her Armstrong Special semiauto to ensure it was fully loaded and ready for action. Over it all she slung a composite-armored leather jacket with lots of pockets.

By this time the smell of coffee permeated her house. She double-checked the identity of the “friendlies” waiting outside. As expected, it was the two near-sekasha of the Stone Clan she’d hired from Steelcity Security for a week with an option to extend it to a month. They were Freezing Winter Night on Stone and Baking Summer Day on Stone, a female and a male.

Continue HERE

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ELFHOME series by Wen Spencer – terrific

I just finished reading for the Nth time the Elfhome series by Wen Spencer. It’s made up of five enormously engaging books. A sixth is in the works.

In a fictional multiverse in 2002 a Chinese space station activated a hyperphase gate to send the first of several colony starships to a star system with a compatible biosphere. But as a side effect it also sent a 50-mile circle of west Pennsylvania to a mirror planet in a parallel universe where magic works. It includes most of Pittsburgh and the area 40 miles south of it.

The books take place in 2031 and so far span the summer and part of autumn. One of the major players is an 18-year old scientific and engineering genius known as “Tinker” because that’s what she does: tinker. In the process she’s invented wheel-less motorbikes which hover a few feet off the ground – and in later books a ground-based hyperphase gate. The first book Tinker begins when she rescues the 200-something-year-old Windwolf from magical enemies. Later they fall in love, marry, and he transforms her into an elf.

It turns out that there’s a secret war on. The enemy is the oni from a third parallel planet, a form of human just as the elves are but with a more demonic nature. With an unchecked desire to breed they want to expand into Elfhome. In 2031 with their attack on the American mirror-continent leader, Windwolf, their covert war to invade Elfhome becomes overt. Caught up in the events are several other sympathetic viewpoint characters. Through Tinker, Windwolf, and them Spencer drops clues and short explanations which build up a fascinating multi-millenial history without bogging down the action.

Click on the cover images to read the first few chapters of each book and to buy them.

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The fabulous TANGO VALS

The third of the three types of Argentine tango is in 3/4 time: the tango vals. It has a fast tempo, so tango dancers typically only step on the first of the ONE-two-three beats. They may add a step on the two or three beats or both to add rhythmic variety.

The feeling is romantic and happy. It’s often used as a wedding dance, especially the first example: Desde el Alma (From the Soul) written by pianist, composer, and poet Rosita Melo at the age of 14.

The next couple are two of the leading traveling tango teachers and performers: “Chicho” Frumboli and Juana Sepulveda.

As a bonus here’s a brilliant milonga by them.

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The Argentine tango comes in three varieties, each using most of the same musical instruments and dance steps. Scores for the music typically have four, three, or two beats per measure, written with 4/4, 3/4, or 2/4 time signatures.

The 4/4 version of the music and dance are what most people think of when someone says Argentine tango. You’ll see it on the show Dancing with the Stars and similar programs.

The 2/4 version is bouncy and a bit fast. It’s called the milonga. Some people believe the tango evolved from the milonga, smoothing the steps and slowing their rhythm. Supporting this view, tango dance parties are also called milongas (confusing newcomers to the tango until they get used to the convention).

Here are two examples, a slow then a faster version of the milonga. The performers are two of the foremost teachers and performers: Sebastián Arce and Mariana Montes. Click this YouTube query for more milonga dance performances.

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Two great ARGENTINE TANGO videos

It’s been a while since I showcased some examples of a major obsession of mine: the Argentine tango. Here are two.

All art forms evolve. The tango does too, both the music and the dance. The first music example is from its very beginnings, one of the first true tangos, La Cumparsita, composed by Uruguayan Gerardo Matos Rodríguez. Almost everyone has heard it in one of its many incarnations.

The second example showcases one of the later tango compositions (from 1942!): Así Se Baila El Tango. It incorporated some very modern musical elements that today’s frontline tango composers are still exploring. (The dance shown here also has modern dance fusions – some introduced to tango danza as early as the 1940s in BsAs.)

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GIFTED – wonderful movie about a seven-year old genius

Stories about super-smart kids (or adults) all-too-often portray them unrealistically. As eccentric in some way: socially inept, physically awkward, or downright ugly. The truth is that they are typically pretty much like everyone else. And like most of us have both ordinary and extraordinary needs and problems.

(For more about what very-smart people are really like see my post: REAL GENIUSES: What are they Like.)

The preview below lays out the basic problem the two main characters are faced with: how to bring up a genius.

Frank (played very convincingly by Chris Evans) fears a repeat of what happened to his sister, who killed herself shortly after giving birth to Mary (very believably acted by Mckenna Grace). Grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan in a nuanced performance) fears Mary will be denied her potential by Frank’s insistence that his niece have a normal childhood instead of the intensely intellectual one his sister had.

How the two good people battle to a solution is a compelling story. I was impressed at the many subtle reveals and grace notes of the script by Tom Flynn and the realization by director Marc Webb. Grace also makes an adorable child, good hearted but in some ways too smart and strong-willed for her own good.

Gifted is available as a Blu-ray and DVD discs and streamed.

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Latest VORKOSIGAN SAGA book now in paperback

The 17th and latest volume of Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Vorkosigan Saga is now available in the conveniently sized mass market paperback: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

In this latest chapter of the Saga Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, Vicereine of the planet Sergyar, returns home to the planet. Greeting her is Sergyar Fleet commander Admiral Oliver Jole, an old friend of her and her deceased husband. He finds she has plans in which he may have a part – plans which may send his own plans for the future in unexpected ways.

Miles Vorkisigan, Emperor Gregor’s galactic troubleshooter, learns of those plans and launches himself and his wife and kids on a mission of investigation. To disturbing and comic effect.

For the first few chapters click the image.

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THE BIG SICK engrossing film

My lady friend and I watched The Big Sick this weekend. She suggested it, I was mildly interested. But as I watched it I became really engrossed in the story and the people in it.

There are no beautiful people saving the world from horrible villains or events. No big events, in fact, beyond the main event, which is the main character’s love getting so sick her doctors induce a coma to let her body better fight it. Just ordinary people dealing with several related problems.

The main character, for instance, is a citizen whose family left Pakistan decades ago for a better life. They feel what’s best for the MC is to arrange a marriage with a Paki woman. His love’s parents are horrified to discover she was in love with a foreigner, even though having only known life in the US his values and tastes are wholly American. How he and she and the two families cope with the situations are what make the story. It’s a small story, but I suspect you will have as good a time experiencing it as I did.

The Big Sick is still in theaters but is now available as a disc to rent or buy or stream.

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WONDER WOMAN Blu-ray disc available & news

Wonder Woman director Parry Jenkins has been signed to direct the sequel (for a Dec 13th 2019 release). According to the Hollywood Reporter story she gets oodles of money upfront & box office gross (better than BO net, which with studio accounting can be zero).

In related news the Wonder Woman Blu-ray & DVD discs are available starting today, Tuesday the 19th, in outlets such as Target, Best Buy, and Amazon. According to a review in Batman-news the disc has lots of extras.

To publicize the disc availability Warner Bros. had a 300-drone display light up the Los Angeles early night sky with Wonder Woman images. See the following for the show.

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