Review: Son of a Witch

(Originally posted in 2011 via Goodreads)


Son Of A Witch


Son of a Witch
by Gregory Maguire 

Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0-06-074722-0
Format: Paperback


Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West was a fantastic novel. It had a little bit of analysis and advice on virtually every aspect of human (and non-human) life. It touched on areas of religion, politics, and almost every kind of relationship, from parents and children to lovers, scorned and otherwise. Every sentence seemed related to every other sentence, there was a thread binding all of the themes and characters together; in short: Wicked succeeded in portraying a more realistic version of life in Oz. It also did a very good job of turning the sugary Baum characters into real people with a range of emotions and a lot of dirt under their fingernails, so to speak.

Maguire’s well-intentioned sequel, Son of a Witch, is by no means a “bad” book. That title is reserved for Karen Miller’s fantasy, and Stephenie Meyer’s vampire novels. Son of a Witch does, however, feel devoid of… well, much of anything. The protagonist, Liir, is a completely overlooked, lonely, and very somber person wandering through a strange and unfeeling world after the death of the Witch, who may or may not have been his mother, as was stated in the first book. He begins on a quest to find Nor, a little girl with whom he grew up, and his possible half-sister. This story is very much about Liir’s journey to become a stronger and more mature person, though we’re left wondering whether he really makes any grand strides in that journey.

Son of a Witch is also peppered with the same somewhat embittered analysis of life within Oz that permeated Wicked, but the observations on religion, human behavior, and the like are not quite as moving, and Maguire is taken to rambling several times in the novel, sometimes eliciting an aggrieved but patient sigh from this reader in the attempt to get to some actual plot development. Characters come and go from chapter to chapter, sometimes never to be seen again. It seems as though Maguire tried very hard to do the same things he did with Wicked: showing the different human attributes different people brought into Elphaba’s life, but doing that with Liir. It’s just not as interesting, though. Luckily the novel is not terribly long, because I found myself getting a little impatient several times during the book.

In Wicked, Oz was filled with characters that had a realistic, though often negative, view of the world, but that’s been taken to the extreme in this novel: it seems as though every single character is a bitter nymphomaniac beneath the surface, out to exact some revenge on the world. Then there is the obvious absence of Elphaba: Maguire paints the world of Oz as being completely empty without her. Exactly how notorious she was was never explained in the first novel, and we’re still wondering exactly what the citizens of Oz thought of her in the sequel.

I want to say that this book was thought-provoking and emotionally evocative. It did a little of the former and a little more of the latter. Liir spends a lot of time mulling on… well, just about everything. He never seems to come to any conclusions though: by the end of the book, Liir seems just as confused about the world as he was in the beginning, he just accepts it easier.

There’s also simply not a lot of action. The ending was incredibly anticlimactic. The most exciting thing that happens is that Liir and a huge flock of birds fly by the emerald city in the shape of Elphaba, for no real apparent reason. I felt the same about the flight of the Conference of Birds as I did about Nessarose’s shoes in the first book: what is the point, really? Elphaba was intent on having the shoes, and her personal reasons for claiming them I understood perfectly, but the idea that the Wizard could somehow use the shoes to exact control over Munchkinland made no sense whatsoever.

In the penultimate scene of the book, Liir uses Candle’s (possibly magical) ability to play her instrument to somehow bring life from the scraped faces of dragon victims and reverse the spell placed upon the Princess Nastoya. However, this happens completely inexplicably; Liir is just struck with the idea and runs with it. Are we supposed to believe this is some innate knack at sorcery? Even Elphaba did remarkable things by ACCIDENT. Liir calculated what he was doing with the faces and Candle’s domingon. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The one part of this novel I really enjoyed was Liir’s relationship with Trism. While things begin on a pretty romantic note with Candle, she becomes distant and bitchy pretty quickly, and by the end of the book doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with Liir. Liir is even supposed to have impregnated Candle without having any memory of it! In Wicked, Elphaba inexplicably gave birth to a child without having any memory of the event, and now in the sequel, Liir loses his virginity with no memory of the event! That’s pretty ridiculous. Liir couldn’t well have had sex with Candle when he was in a coma, and I find it hard to believe he just mysteriously blacked out the night he may or may not have impregnated her.

But as I was saying, the relationship with Trism is perhaps the only thing in the book I was rooting for. The two work well together, they share the same ideas, they communicate easily, and they have a lot of passion for each other. Also I might be a little inclined toward the gay relationship because of all the sexy man-love, but that’s beside the point: the two of them genuinely seem to care for one another. Of course things begin in a pretty rocky fashion when Trism attempts to kill Liir, but he breaks down in the act and immediately surrenders to his emotions and becomes a friend and lover to Liir. Liir even seems to feel more passionately for Trism than he does Candle.

Let’s talk about the ending. It left me extremely dissatisfied. Liir returns to Apple Press farm, only to find it deserted, and he finds the seemingly dead body of Candle’s baby wrapped in Elphaba’s cloak in the barn. Thinking it to be dead, he takes it in his arms and slowly begins to realize that it’s not a corpse, but a live baby. Liir draws his own conclusions about where Candle went and why, but he has absolutely no evidence to support it, and we’re left knowing NOTHING about the whereabouts of Candle, Trism, or even the Goose who was staying at the farm. And then of course we have the final line of the book, that the baby “cleaned up green.” The child has green skin, and that is pretty much the proof that Elphaba was in fact Liir’s mother, that the broom responds to Liir because of a natural aptitude at magic, and the baby is Liir’s daughter (despite him not remembering the CONCEPTION).

There’s also the matter of Liir’s quest to find Nor, which is all but abandoned by the end of the book. The message “Elphaba lives!” scrawled on a wall in the Emerald City is revelead to have been written by Nor, and Maguire attempts to make it a moment of triumphant epiphany, but it’s not, and by the end of the book Liir doesn’t seem very concerned with finding Nor anymore, and doesn’t seem to have any idea of where to go with his life. It doesn’t end on a high note or a low note, it ends right where it begins: in a state of confusion. This may have been done on purpose as a reflection of Liir’s personality, but it’s an awfully bleak way to end the book.

This book is definitely not on par with Wicked, but it’s worth reading if you enjoy the characters. It’s still somewhat enjoyable, even though every character in the novel seems to be in possession of some embittered wisdom about the world, there is almost no climax, and the few moments of happiness Liir experiences are fleeting and don’t seem to offer much hope of his ever having some long-term joy in his life. Gregory Maguire is a good author, and clearly perceptive about human nature, but Son of a Witch is pretty lacking in excitement or development of characters and plot beyond a few fleeting scenes of romance.

Growing Up

I believe I’ve decided on a direction for some important things. Not a concrete life-altering decision, but I feel I have a sense of direction now. It began last night, when I realized that podcasts downloaded from iTunes are in MPEG format, and my GoGear Vibe mp3 player will not play iTunes’ AAC files, thus why music downloaded from iTunes has to be converted to another format in order for me to play it. But when I realized that podcasts (at least all of the ones I have anyway) are in MPEG format, I realized that I could put them on my mp3 player and finally be able to listen to them at work, because usually I listen to music, and for some reason that is both annoying while I’m trying to work and makes me lose my concentration. Talking, however, is wonderful background noise that keeps me occupied on something else so I can kind of mentally get out of doing the job while my body takes over and does it.

As you know, I’ve been interested in Wicked lately, though I’ve known about the musical for a while and I’ve read the novel, but now I feel I can really understand and appreciate it more, rather than before when I was probably just desperate for something to be interested in so that I’d fit in somewhere. I didn’t really give the book a fair short, I zoomed through it without paying much attention, and found some parts of it incredibly boring, but probably because I wasn’t in an analytical mood and wasn’t really matutre enough of a reader or thinker to examine the messages portrayed in the book.

So, last night I discovered the wonderful world of iTunes U. This appears to me a huge catalogue of free, educational and informational podcasts. I download one that was a series of comments from writers on their own writing process, and tips for the budding author. I also downloaded a lot of podcasts when I realized I could actually get them onto my mp3 player, and kind of decided to make the one I have now my “podcast/talk mp3 player,” and not have so much music on it. Partially because I don’t want to edit the information and it would be hard to sift through podcasts and music, and also because of the file sizes. So, if and when I ever get an iPod, it could be my music player.

Back on subject! I downloaded a lot of podcasts, almost all of them in some way related to Wicked, and I didn’t necessarily intend that, but there you have it. I’ve become interested in Kristin Chenoweth lately, who really is an amazing talent, and a hilarious and personable human being who just can’t help but feel yourself drawn to. She has an autobiography I do believe I’ll be getting called A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages. Also, and I don’t mean this disrespectfully to her, I did not realize how much older she is than she seems! Now, I know that could sound like an insult, but I mean it as a compliment. I literally thought she was in her 20’s. She projects so much youthful energy that you’d never know she’s out of her 20’s, and yet, as I learned in the interview I listened to today, she’s also a very professional and adept actress and singer. I’ll post the podcasts at the bottom so you can go check them out, they’re all free and available on iTunes, which is of course also free. So really you could go get them right now, nothing’s stopping you! 😀

Three of the podcasts I downloaded were interviews with Gregory Maguire (one interview of which also included Canadian fantasy author Susan Cooper and was in mostly question and answer format). Gregory Maguire is hilariously witty, really personable, and very intelligent. He’s basically a culmination of a lot of character traits that I really admire and want for myself. Also, this has seriously piqued my interest in Wicked, and also in writing.

I have had an interest in writing for some time. When I met my boyfriend in 2008, I was going through a very strange and honeslty self-destructive period of my life where I seemed to be obsessed with sadness and loneliness, and I found myself, as I have so often been in my own personal life, secluded and upset. When I met my beautiful boyfriend, he changed my life, but it was a difficult change, because I had to leave the realm I’d built for myself and step out into the real world of love and emotion, instead of the vain world of self-pity I’d created. This was not easy for me, and was probably the most difficult personal journey I’ve ever undertaken. I think at some point I just checked out emotionally, because I was so frustrated, and as a result experienced a very long period of emptiness, not one in which I felt not feelings, but one in which I was very confused, and so turned my interests into unhealthy obsessions that I wasn’t really all too interested in (this is the real reason for the period of my life that I, in the last blog, unreasonably and ridiculously blamed on Lady Gaga of all things). In January of this year, when I started this blog, I was beginning to broaden my thoughts, to become myself again, and in fact, become a new incarnation of myself. In a funny way, 2008 was a year where I was a caterpillar, opening up to romance and experiencing it’s facets, budding as an author, and trying as hard as I could to experience feelings, whatever kind, so long as they were intense. My emotions were erratic and frayed, and without much focus or guidance, but I was overjoyed to be experiencing emotion and living a life filled with it. 2009 was my first year with my boyfriend, who I for some of the time took for granted and admittedly can still do, it’s a personal battle that I still struggle with. 2009 was a year so devoid of emotion, so scared of it, that I just spent my time longing for a simple answer, secluded and frightened. And now, here in 2010, which is going by so fast, I feel like I’m beginning to evolve, and to mature into the adult and human being I want to be.

If you haven’t gotten it yet, I’m going for the catterpillar/butterfly metaphor here, because it fits my situation quite eerily, since the various stages of my life seem to be happening in year incraments; not necessarily starting at the beginning of each year, but in about a year’s time nontheless. In ’08, I was a caterpillar, wandering the damp earth of emotion, clinging to anything I could and unable to grasp maturity, in ’09 I found myself in a cocoon, seperated not from the world but from myself, trapped inside my own mind and body, unable to break free, and finally here in 2010 I find myself growing, thinking, questioning, living, and doing whatever I can both to break free of the world of the cocoon and be sure that I never go back to it, and slowly fluttering my new wings as an adult, giving my life a new direction and setting my eyes on the open sky to which I can now fly, setting the tasks of my new life before me.

Perhaps hoaky, but meaningful.

I still haven’t gotten to my point! I’ve decided that I think I’m going to make creative writing, and the study of writing and of literature, my focal point. I’m drawn to the intelligence of it, I’m drawn to having a large vocabulary with which to articulate a message, I enjoy weaving sentences into sequence, and I enjoy being knowledgable, feeling like I’ve worked to better myself, and in my own way, better than the people I’ve seen throughout my life. I have been surrounded by a family and a lifestyle that is what I consider “trashy,” distasteful, and disgusting. Drugs, ignorance, abuse, discord, anger, low standards of one’s own life expecations, and plain lack of intelligence, these are the things I’ve seen from my family and their friends. I do not want to be one of these people. I haven’t been raised up in povery, but there’s something so infuriating to me about the type of people who spend their nights drunk at a fourth of July party, screaming about how they love America and Jesus when they really only love those two concepts because of what they’ve been told to love, they’re too ignorant to open up their own minds or hearts and allow coherent thought to enter. They care only about quick pleasure, and respond with animalistic violence and fury when their lives, which to me are lived insignifacntly in tiny disgustiing trailers filled with drugs, alcohol, and the ever-expanding retinue of children from vairous fathers, threaten to change or grow.

I know that may sound a little harsh, and it is, but I’m just jaded to this kind of community. It’s not any kind of racism or endorsement of a class system, I just don’t understand why people choose to live this way. It’s not necessary. I know that there are people who don’t want to be in that situation, but the people I have a problem with are the people who enjoy that situation, who enjoy being “trashy.” It seems like such a waste of the gift that is life, and the gift that is intelligence. What would an animal give to be as powerful as we are, the humans, who with our minds and not our physical strength, meager compared with many in the animal kingdom, can move anything, do anything, become anything? It’s outrageous that one would decide not to enrich themselves in some way, not to ponder some thought, but simply to live only for small pleasures that are fleeting and gone in an instant.

I just feel that I’ve grown up a bit today, just listening to Gregory Maguire speaking, giving me, a young person confused about which direction his life should take, an idea of what to do with my own. I enjoy being an eloquent person, though I may not sometimes exhibit it, and I enjoy writing; my only real problem is that I don’t know what to write about. I’ve tried boring fantasy, it doesn’t feel right, though I want to write fantasy. I’ve tried romance, and while it was, personally, my most successful writing, it still was repetitive and whistful, not really holding any aim, not really bringing much message. My first attempt at a novel yielded an effort to say the least, and a good idea of the direction I wanted to take it in, along with another novel idea being born and becoming part of the first novel’s universe, but all of it went left unfinished, and while my writing wasn’t stellar, it was writing, and it was an effort, and it was something.

I think I may have overdosed on music. I immerse myself in artist after artist, but move on to another one within a month or two, and the old music becomes bland and repetitive to me. However, I still do want to make music, and learn to play the piano, and hopefully I’ll be making my first investment in that direction soon: I asked my old chorus teacher what kind of microphone one should use to record live piano, and he recommended buying a USB Mic, and that’s what I intend to look into. He said the price range begins at 60 dollars, and that seems like something I can handle, so I’m hoping to go the day after my birthday to Best Buy and try looking at some microphones. If I do, I can finally successfully record some of my music, which I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, and which would be exciting for myself and my friends.

The next sound investment would be to either have my broken piano key fixed, and subsequently my piano tuned, or to find a new keyboard/electric piano. Both of those tasks are fairly expensive, and aren’t pressing anyway, so I’m going to currently focus on my more important life goals:

First, I need to get my driver’s license. I need to get some more driving experience and take my driving test again. Once I’ve got my license, I can stat working on getting my car fixed, and then I can find a job, have my own transportation, and begin college, because I don’t want to do either of the two aforementioned before having my own transportation.

Once I’m more on my feet and able to handle myself in the adult world, I think it will really help my relationship with my boyfriend, and hopefully we can begin finding a place to live together. It’s all very exciting that this is right at my doorstep, but now I feel a lot more confident about making the first step.

So, in summation, I think things in my life are taking a positive direction, and “I’m determind to succeed”, as Galinda would say. Wicked reference, now, when it’s clearly already been mentioned four blogs in a row? Of course!

Thanks for reading, whoever you may be, at the time of writing this I have no readers, and I’m actually glad for that, because that means this is more of a journal. I really do this for my own benefit, it gives me a work to proud of, a place to write, and it’s entertaining. I will now list the podcasts/iTunes U audio files I’ve been listening to. I haven’t yet mentioned all of them: two or three are Tori Amos interviews, one is a Kathy Griffin interview, and one, from iTunes U, is a very informative and encouraging album featuring comments from authors about their creative process, and tips on writing.

Podcast/Individual Podcast Title/Release Date/Length

BCO Morning Show Podcast/Tori Amos/12-14-2009/5:32
BCO Morning Show Podcast/Tori Amos/12-2-2009/12:32
The BOOKER Show Podcasts and Audio/Kathy Griffin/5-5-2009/9:55
KTBG’s Bridgecast/Tori Amos/12-3-2009/10:09
SHN – Backstage/Episode 49- Wicked, Gregory Maguire/no date given/17:27
Top Shelf | Blog Talk Radio Feed/ A discussion with Gregory Maguire – Dec 10, 2008/12-10-2008/48:23

iTunes U
Collection/Individual Title/Release Date/Length

Arts – Audio/The Writing of Fantasy/3-24-2010
ATW – Downstage Center/Kristin Chenoweht (#139) February, 2007/2-26-2007/53:12
Start Writing Fiction/7-7-2009 (just download the whole thing, for some reason when I downloaded it I seem to have missed 2 tracks, but there are 7 total tracks)

Have a good day everyone, I definitely recommend the Gregory Maguire Top Shelf interview, and the Kristin Chenoweth interview, though all of these are good listens.

Think of it as Personality Dialysis

Lately I’ve been listening to Stephen Schwartz’ musical Wicked a lot. I disocvered this musical in 2007, and so much time has passed since I last listened to it that I feel I really appreciate it even more now. It’s just really grand, it touches on perhaps every aspect of humanity, every aspect of “good” and “evil,” and every aspect of perception of the two. It really is truly inspiring.

The novel by Gregory Maguire

After discovering the musical, I of course read the book on which the musical is based, Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. This is a great book and I can’t wait to read it again, because I don’t think I was mature enough to really grasp it and also I think that is the kind of book that gets better the more you read it, because it’s so full of symbolism and imagery, of metaphor and so many lessons and observations about life, politics, religion, and sexuality. There are also two more books in the series, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men, neither of which I’ve read yet, but I look forward to once I’ve re-read Wicked.

After reading the book, I at first felt that the musical didn’t quite hold up to it, and there are many people of that opinion. However, after having a lot of time away from the two and experiencing the musical again, I feel that the two are completely seperate entities. I feel that musical is based on the novel, but is more of a direct prequel to The Wizard of Oz. It ties the two together beautifully, and though it doesn’t contain the same powerful, direct and dark imagery from the novel, it certainly expresses the same core messages of the perception of good and evil. Though it doesn’t touch directly on religion or sexuality the way the novel does, it’s also important to remember that the musical is a completely new and seperate production from the novel, it’s merely based upon it. I feel that the novel and the musical complement one another perfectly, and both are full of meaning and truth. I would recommend that anyone who has seen or heard the musical read the book, and vise versa.

Wicked: 5th Anniversary 2-Disc Special Edition

I’m also excited about the new soundtrack. The Original Broadway Cast recordings have been re-released in a two disc digipak (and I do love digipaks) set. The first disc is the original soundtrack, and the second disc has recordings from various productions of Wicked from around the world, and a remix of Defying Gravity. Also, it’s just so beautifully formatted, and I love a well-formatted album.

The music of Wicked really has a magical feel, something about the instruments used just fits perfectly for Oz. I’m really not a huge fan of the original film The Wizard of Oz, but Wicked is just outstanding. I think after seeing/hearing Wicked or reading the novel, anyone would probably hold a grudge against The Wizard of Oz, and hate seeing the characters they now love marred.

If you’ve never seen anything from Wicked, I would suggest starting with Defying Gravity, there have been numerous performances of the song on late night shows and variety programs, the first I saw was the performance at the Tony Awards. Popular is a hilarious song with fantastic lyrics, and I love seeing Kirstin Chenoweth as Galinda, I just think she does such an outstanding job in that role. Another of my favorites is No One Mourns the Wicked, the song which opens the show, and the climactic No Good Deed (followed by it’s reprise, Mach of the Witch Hunters). Really, ever song is great, and one of my favorite’s, Wicked Witch of the East, isn’t included on the soundtrack but there are live recordings of the original cast on YouTube. It’s a great song that really shows Michelle Federer’s (who originated the role of Nessarose) talent, I wish there were a high quality recording of the song.

Well, that’s really all I have on my mind at the moment, I’d definitely recommend checking out Wicked, both the musical and the novel, if you haven’t already. Both are thought-provoking, emotional, hilarious, and have an air of magic and sophistication that really pull a viewer in and give them a lot to think about. That’s probably the best thing about Wicked: you take something away from it. You walk away with it with a question or an observation about humanity, it changes your attitude or improves it, it at very least provokes thought, and that’s really the best you can ask for in a novel or a production.

Never Was A Cornflake Girl

My copy of Tales of a Librarian came in! I ordered the two disc edition of Tori Amos’s Tales of a Librarian, which if you remember is a collection of her work up to 2003, including songs from every album up to that point except for Strange Little Girls, and it also has 4 new previously unreleased tracks as well. The first thing that struck me when I opened up the packaging is that it’s a beautiful album. You know I’m a sucker for a well-formatted CD, and this was by far one of the best formatted CDs I own. I actually thought this was going to be in regular two-disc jewel case, but it’s actually paperback! It’s a digipack, which is my favorite, and it opens up, and then opens up again. So, when you first open it, you have the two folds facing down over the CD and DVD, and on these are some pictures of Tori on a beautiful pink and white background with the songs on the CD and DVD listed in order of the Dewey Decimal system (since the theme is librarian). Then you open it up, the CD is brown and the DVD is pink, and on the left side opening fold is a picture of Tori and a basic outline of the Dewey Decimal system. On the right fold is the CD booklet, and all of this is formatted on this beautiful pink and white case, the CD booklet is wonderfully formatted, it’s filled with all the lyrics of the songs and a ton of pictures of Tori Amos as a librarian in all stages: nice librarian, innoent librarian, sexy naughty librarian showing off her legs in heels, etc. It also has the Dewey Decimal classification for each song on a list falling from the left side (which is also shown on the front cover).

So far, I like every song I’ve heard, and it was nice to hear the original version of Precious Things, which I was afraid would be really 90’s and boring, but it wasn’t, and it’s surprising that her music sounds so current when a lot of it is from the early 90’s. I think she’s an artist who’s always way ahead of her time, and I’m really surprised that back in 1994, someone was making music that would sound like a lot of music does today, and she’s probably responsible for some of the music today, I know Amy Lee has been compared to her numerous times, and I’m sure she’s inspired plenty of musicians, including myself. Also, she has songbooks for all of her albums, including this one, and they’re not Hal-Leonard!

Quick explanation on that: the first songbook I ever got was Evanescence’s Anywhere But Home. If you’re a fan of Evanescence and particularly their first album Fallen, and want to learn to play their music, this is the book to get because it contains all the songs on Fallen except one (Hello, which is actually the one song on Fallen I would be interested in playing above all else if I were buying an Evanescence songbook, but I’d already learned how to play Hello from sheets I got on the internet, and a little piece of Jesse trivia: Hello is the first song I ever learned to play via sheet music, with no help from anyone), and it also has a Korn cover, two songs that were cut from Fallen, and Anywhere But Home’s previously unreleased studio track: Missing. I’d also suggest getting the album if you’re an Evanescence fan; Amy’s voice is a little unruly at times, but the new material and the live versions of some of the songs (Bring Me To Life has a pretty intro, Farther Away is like two minutes longer than usual) are worth getting if you’re a fan.

So, as I was saying, Tori Amos has songbooks for all of her albums, and none of them are done by Hal-Leonard! What do I have against Hal-Leonard, you ask? Good question. I currently own two songbooks, the first was Anywhere But Home, and the second I got was the Hal-Leonard songbook for Lady Gaga’s The Fame. It’s awful. First of all, I realize that it’s pop music and it doesn’t really include a lot of piano, but the songs are just watered down versions of the originals, with the right hand doubling the vocals of the singer have the time and the left hand playing some simple arpeggio that has nothing to do with the way the song sounds. On top of that, oftentimes in Hal-Leonard books, the songs are written in the wrong key! And they even admit to it, it says at the bottom that it’s recorded a half-step higher or a half-step lower. Why would we want sheet music that’s a half-step in the wrong direction? What purpose does it serve? Why couldn’t they just print the sheet music in the correct key? It doesn’t make any sense to me, and even in the sections of The Fame where piano is actually included (like Beautiful, Dirty, Rich), the piano part from the song is completely left out in the sheet music! It doesn’t make any sense.

So, that means that Amos’ songbooks are either done by she herself, or at least another company that knows what they’re doing. My Anywhere But Home songbook was not Hal-Leonard, and all the songs were in the correct key, and was essentially spot on. So basically, my view on songbooks now is that if it’s not Hal-Leonard, it’s probably a good songbook. Since Tori is a pianist, I assume she would want her fans to have the actual material and not a watered down version of it to play for no real reason other than to use as a guideline for your own version. The only reason I could think that she wouldn’t be directly involved in it is that she’s known for playing things by ear, before she was a solo artist she had a short-lived stint as lead singer and pianist of a band called Y Kan’t Tori Read, which I gather is not very impressive, and Tori’s said she has no interest in re-releasing the album. That makes sense, since most of the band members were studio players, the record company gave up on promoting the album after two months, and in the band’s only music video, Tori is the only member present. So, I think that the Tales of a Librarian songbook would probably be a very good investment.

A few weeks ago I found an old copy of Pink Floyd’s famous movie The Wall at the flea market, and we finally sat down and watched it. This movie gets a lot of criticism for being way too trippy and people often say that you have to be on drugs to understand it. While the movie was really spacey, confusing, and jumped around from timeline to timeline quite a bit, it still altogether made a little bit of sense, and wasn’t so unwatchable that you had to be on drugs to watch it. The movie was a combination of real-time acting and animation, usually switching back and forth between a real-time scene and an animated sequence. Only once during the movie two the two worlds mingle. Also, the main character, Pink, breaks a LOT of TV’s. Seriously, he must have 5 or 6 televisions in his house, because he breaks a new one every five minutes. Of course, the most fun part was when Happiest Days of Our Lives started, who wouldn’t be excited?

The most interesting parts of the film were the animated sequences, in every one of them there were things that morphed over and over, constantly changing into other things, and honestly I don’t remember many specific examples, but I know during the climax of the film, The Trial (a song which I used to listen to on my iPod, riding around town on my bike), some of the characters morph into one another when they speak. One animated sequence early on features two flowers engaging what is obviously a visual representation of intercourse, in which the “female” flower devours the male, a theme present in Pink’s life.

I was surprised to find out, though, that the film doesn’t feature all of the music from the album! That’s probably a good thing, because the movie would be about twice as long if that were so, but I was surprised that Hey You wasn’t included in the movie. That’s one of The Wall biggest singles!

I’ve also been listening to another famous concept album, Queen’s A Night at the Opera. I really like what I’m hearing so far, and until now, the only Queen songs I’ve really been familiar with are the ones featured on an the Queen Greatest Hits: We Will Rock You Edition I bought back in 2006. , which I until this point, I’ve pretty much only heard the Queen songs featured on a Greatest Hits album I bought around 2006. This was one of the first albums to really start inspiring a story from me, I was smack in the middle of my classic rock phase, and Queen was just right for me. I’d never really heard Another One Bites the Dust or We Are the Champions in their entirety, and I’d never even heard of Killer Queen before, but all of these songs inspired me and began to form a story in my head. Most of it was never written, but the characters it inspired are still there.

Speaking of Queen, I learned via the Biography channel’s special on Queen quite a while ago that Freddie Mercury made and album with Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballe, who we really admired. It’s called Barcelona, and how could a collaboration between Freddie Mercury and an opera singer not be good?

Incidentally, The Wall and A Night at the Opera were said to be My Chemical Romance’s two biggest inspiration for their concept album The Black Parade.

Well, I have the new Rocket Summer album, but I haven’t listened to it yet. If you’re not familiar with this artist, The Rocket Summer is a musical project by musician Bryce Avery. He writes all the music, sings all the songs, and plays all of the instruments. I think that’s cool and I respect that. I’ve really only heard one of his albums, Do You Feel, and I like it. His song So Much Love was one of my favorite songs when I was 18. My only real problem with The Rocket Summer is that the music is sometimes unbelievably corny, and there are lots “Yeah”s and “Oh!”s and “Come on!”s thrown into every sentence. A lot of the lyrics are still really meaningful, but at other times it feels like he just couldn’t think of anything to include in the middle of a sentence so he stretched out the word “Oh” to be four syllables, or threw a few “Yeah yeah!”s to fill in space. While the songs can come off as being way too over the top and deliriously joyful, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and a lot of the music is really uplifting, which the world needs more of.

I’m really a big fan of Italian dance/electronica group Flanders. The only problem is that they rarely ever release anything new! In the past 4 years, they’ve released three songs. But they’re good songs. They actually have a new single out called Time, and I can’t explain it, but their music just really hits me, I really like it. Their song Behind is a very special song for me, it always takes me back to when my boyfriend and I first met, and it just makes me fall in love with him over and over again.

I’ve been listening to musicals lately, not the least of which is Stephen Schwartz’ Wicked, a musical based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. Both the novel and the musical chronicle the life of Elphaba, a child born with completely green skin and a talent for sorcery, who aspires to become the Wizard of Oz’s grand visier, but faces opposition from a cruel world intolerant of those who are different, namely Oz’s Animals: animals in Oz who have the same level of consciousness and intelligence as humans. Elphaba works toward equal rights for Ozzians and Animals, but faces a lot of opposition, and faces the challenges that will lead to her being known as the Wicked Witch of the West. The story does manage to distance itself from The Wizard of Oz significantly; it chronicles the event leading up to the moment Dorothy arrives in Oz, during, and after, without ever showing Dorothy, an aspect which I think both preserves the integrity of the original and adds greatly to Shwartz’ musical.

Another of my favorite musicals is Repo! the Genetic Opera. Though the film was released in early 2009, Repo! was a stage show long before then, in production since 2002.  The movie quickly became a cult classic upon the release of the film soundtrack months before the movie ever went to theaters, but Repo! never gained any widespread commercial success. The film starred an unlikely cast: Spy Kids’ Alexa Vega, hotel heiress Paris Hilton, and even Phantom of the Opera heroine and pop recording artist Sarah Brightman. Repo, like most other musicals, has a lot of positive messages: there are heavy undertones both of self-acceptance and society’s reliance on industrialism and the desire to be perfect.

The basic plotline is that in the “not too distant future,” organ failure becomes a wordwide epedimic, killing off a large part of the worlds population, and scientist Rotti Largo discovers zydrate, a substance that comes from human organs that somehow or another is involved in surgery so that people can have their failing organs replaced with new ones. Organs are sold by Largo’s company, GeneCo, at a high price, and if buyers don’t make good on their payments, a “Repo man” is sent after them to collect the organs, in other words, assassinating the individual and taking the organs by force while they’re alive. The story chronicles Repo man Nathan Wallace and his daughter Shiloh, who is unable to live in the outside world due to a blood condition. Nathan’s deceased wife Marni is the central tie that binds all of the stories main characters together: former lover Rotti Largo, husband Nathan, daughter Shiloh, and close friend Bling Mag, who becomes the face of GeneCo and stars in their Genetic Opera. Repo probably deserved a lot more attention than it received, it was only shown in a few theaters throughout the country.

Here’s an interesting coincidence: there’s a movie being developed called Repo Men, that, you guessed it, has almost the exact same plot. But from what I can tell, it’s not produced by any of Repo!’s producers, it just completely steals the plot from the musical. That’s pretty pathetic, and it really sucks that the producers of Repo! worked for years to create a stage musiacl and film that’s really and truly about something, just to have the plotline stolen by a big company to make another action film that will garner millions of dollars. It’s kind of sick.

On another subject, I’ve also been giving thought to my future album, whenever I finally begin really seriously writing it. I really only have 2 or 3 songs I think will make it, and a few others that were kind of thrown together or I just don’t like as much. But what I’ve been thinking about today is the subject matter, I’m thinking it would be cool for the album to be called Male, and this is an idea I’ve had for a while now. I’d like to make an album that showcases what it is to be male, what is to be a man, but on the other hand, is really about being human.

The women’s rights movement is an important thing, and I wouldn’t want this album to seem cheuvanistic at all, in fact, it’s meant to be the opposite. I feel like sometimes men get a bad rep, both because throughout history women have been opressed and men have been exalted, and because men for some reason are always talked about in brute terms. When one in modern society thinks of men, there’s a connotation of being warlike and animalistic, and it’s just not true. Men are always considered to be the warriors, and with the modern women’s rights movement, men are often talked about in a non-flattering way, women like to make joke’s at men’s expense that we’re all devoid of the same intelligence they are, that we’re childish and rude, and that we only understand basic human needs like food and sex. I do not appreciate that at all, being male, and I think that society really has a warped view of what is to be male.

There are so many double standards when it comes to male and female, on both sides. Women have plenty of reason to accuse men of having a double standard when it comes to them, it’s been true for ages, but socially, there are a lot of double standards about men. I’m sure you’ve probably thought at some point that there are certain things girls do together than if guys were to do, they would automatically be considered gay or just socially unnaceptable. One time in school I remember having a discussion with a group of people who were telling me that there was an age at which it was no longer appropriate for guys to spend the night at each other’s houses. Female friends sleep in the same bed together, in their underwear, they paint each other’s nails and are very physical with one another, they model clothes for one another and change in front of one another, there are some situations in which women bathe together, but men could not do any of these with a friend without being shunned or assumed to be gay.

This also leads me to another point I’d like to make: the infamous “feminine side.” Men who, say, did any of the activities above, slept with one another in the same house, room, or bed, on a friendly basis, or cried in front of their friends, or changed in front of another man when it was entirely possible for him not to, would be considered to be doing things that were “feminine.” When men show emotion, it’s often said they’re “embracing their feminine side,” but perhaps there’s not really a “feminine side,” but just a human side. Human beings all feel the same emotions, be they male or female, but because women are known to oft express theirs more than men, men who do the same are said to be “feminine.”

Perhaps even men who are overtly flamboyant are not feminine either, but merely human. Flamboyance is a human trait, present in both men and women, but with women it’s considered acceptable, where with men it’s considered to be an indication that someone is feminine or homosexual. If a man does something that a woman does, it’s understandable to say that it’s a feminine behavior, but one cannot just attribute that activity solely to women.

There is of course a good counter argument against one of these observations, because the majority of men who are overtly flamboyant are homosexual, and therefore societies observations on this are correct. But being a homosexual does not make you a woman. Just because a man is gay doesn’t mean he’s female on the inside, it in fact means that he’s more male than any other men. Being gay is perhaps in some ways the purest form of being male.

A lot of this is very abstract, and I’m not specifically trying to push any one idea, but I think that people should still think, think about everything, and that there is no reason why society should shun people or put anyone down, be they man or woman.

The album would be a celebration of being male, and people would probably be surprised and hear a lot of things that they considered to be female. But I think that’s the point, men are so used to only showing one side in society, it’s not considered manly to be involved in the arts or to dance, or to sing soprano. But it is. It’s all part of being male. It’s not shameful, it’s beautiful, and it’s a part of being male that men and women should all embrace rather than reject.

If men are oppresive to women, and women are understandably bitter and become oppresive to men, then in another thousand years women will rule society and men will begin to become oppresive to women again, and it will continue forever. The opposite of masculism and feminism are not one another, but acceptance. Human should be happy to be human, and not have the walls of male and female dividing, because really, what behavior or emotion is not common to both genders? I think that’s why so many musicians try and express androgyny: Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson, LaRoux, because it represents being human, rather than being one type of human or another.

The good thing is, we live in a time where people are all learning to accept one another as human beings. Not male or female human beings, not black or white human beings, not French human beings or Asian human beings, but humans, people. People are learning not to practice tolerance, but love and acceptance. Tolerance is it’s own form of discrimination: if you tolerate something, the connotation is that it’s negative and must be tolerated. But being a human being is not a negative thing, it’s a beautiful thing, and we should all forget about tolerance and learn acceptance and love. People have all sides, good and bad, but those sides and those feelings are common to all human beings, not just one group or another.

So, maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea for the album to be called Male, because then it would be focusing on the secondary message of defending males, rather than the central message of acceptance and love.

So, remember to love one another. Have a great day everyone. 🙂