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Monday, December 10, 2012

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon

Monday Night Book Discussions
(written by Billie Letts)
Salina Public Library
Salina, KS
© Lydia Lowe  12/10/2012

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon . . . What a delight!  This book is all about community and how people relate to each other within a community.  The community in this book is a cafe in a small town in Oklahoma, where we meet a Vietnam vet who hires a Vietnamese man to work for him, there's a female drifter, a woman who mothers everyone she meets with a teenage daughter that refuses to be mothered, a fella with anger issues, and an assortment of secondary characters, including an entire Baptist church.

The rich characterizations make this book an incredible read.  The sheer volume of characters is amazing.  All operate within the cafe setting and yet have their own lives within other communities which are in the broader community of the town.  There are even two animals in this story who also have lives of their own within these other broader communities.  One wonders how the author keeps everything straight and then conveys the same to the reader.  But the author does and does it well.

I especially enjoyed the way the author turns a phrase.  The humor within the story causes the reader to sometimes pause and reflect on whether they've actually read what they thought they read.

Some examples: "A week later, the little locomotive in the city park was defaced with the word 'Niger' painted on its side either by a racist who couldn't spell or someone with an obscure connection to the age-old river which twists its way through West Africa."

Another one: "The heat of summer held on in Sequoyah until the last Thursday in September when a steady soaking rain fell from early morning until midafternoon, ending a thirty-seven-day drought and twelve straight days of temperatures exceeding a hundred and three, to which caladiums, scarlet sage, nasturtiums and Duncan Renfro succumbed."

This is a book you'll want to read again and again, it's just like visiting with old friends.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kenny Rogers with Billy Dean

The Stiefel Theatre
Salina, KS
© Lydia Lowe 12/02/2012

Kenny Rogers with Billy Dean . . .What an unusual Christmas show!  Kenny Rogers took the stage first.  He sang a variety of his hits, (The Gambler, Coward of the County, Lucille, Lady, Through the Years, Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town, You Decorated My Life) told a few jokes, and some stories.   He spoke about earlier shows and audiences.  

Then Kenny left the stage and Billy Dean took over.  The music went from soft, sweet, ballads to high energy.  Dean sang a few songs, (Only Here For A Little While, Somewhere In My Broken Heart, You Can't Count the Cost, Billy the Kid) spent some time bonding with the audience, and recalling his time on Star Search, where he won and it started his career.

Kenny Rogers then returned to the stage to finish his song set. He even showed some clips on a giant screen from The Gambler movies.  It was great fun for the audience to sit back and remember those movies.

This was a unique way to showcase the talents of both artists and their diverse musical styles.  It happened so seamlessly on stage, one fading into the other.  There was the calm country ballad styles of Kenny Rogers followed by the high energy of Billy Dean’s rocking country style.

After a brief intermission, Billy Dean took to the stage and it was all about Christmas music.  There was snow falling on the stage from up above as a children’s chorus from the area schools provided background vocals.  Kenny joined the group on stage for a song or two, including one called "Mary Did You Know" which was a duet he had sang with Wynona Judd at an much earlier time in his career.  Judd appeared via a video clip on the big screen.  

The concert was a feel good concert full of musical hits, Christmas standards and nostalgia.  Not to be missed.      

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The State of Now-Small Town

(Formerly The 140 Conference)
The Fox Theatre
Hutchinson, KS
© Lydia Lowe 11/15/2012
The Presenters of The State of Now-Small Town
A group shot from the stage
The media on the mezzanine

Friday, November 16, 2012

Merry Ex-Mas

Merry Ex-Mas
Sheila Roberts
© Lydia Lowe  11/13/2012

     I received an advance copy of this book in the mail and I'll have to say that after reading the dust jacket notes about what this book was about, I wasn't all that interested in reading it.  Women and their ex's during the holidays?   I read the book anyway, and I am so glad that I did.

     The book draws you into the town of Icicle Falls where we meet Cass Wilkes, owner of the Gingerbread Haus, who is an extraordinary baker.  There's Ella O'Brien, who owns Gilded Lily's which is a clothing store, and then there's Charlene (Charley) Albach, the owner of Zelda's, a fine dining establishment.  We also meet their ex's: Mason Wilkes, Jack O'Brien and Richard Albach.

     Set against the backdrop of Cass's daughter, Dani's upcoming wedding, and the beginning of the holiday season, all hearts converge on Icicle Falls.  I won't give away what happens, but the themes of understanding, reconciliation and betrayal all make an appearance.  But there is so much more.   You'll have to read the book to find out about the lives and loves of Icicle Falls.

     I enjoyed this book so very much.  I just wanted to move to Icicle Falls and hang out with the characters in the book.  The women in the book seemed like good friends that I was catching up with while I read the book.  This book was easy to read, moved along at a steady pace and kept my attention throughout.   Definitely a must read!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Anthony Gomes

Bishop Street Bar
Salina, KS
© Lydia Lowe 11/05/2012

Anthony Gomes . . .We hope this won't be Anthony Gomes final concert in Salina.  This show didn't have very good attendance due to a last minute venue change, the size of the venue and now the booker has moved out of town.  Hopefully someone will step forward to make sure Anthony Gomes continues to play to his vast audience in the Salina area.  Those who didn't make it out for the show due to the venue change and the size of the venue, you missed a fantastic show.  Does Anthony Gomes deliver any other kind?!

Monday, November 12, 2012

All The Time In The World

Monday Night Book Discussions
(written by E. L. Doctorow)
Salina Public Library
Salina, KS
© Lydia Lowe 11/13/2012

All The Time In The World . . . a book of short stories.  I am not a fan of the short story.  Short stories are like snapshots, fun to look at, but there's not much going on.  I like a little more meat to what I read.  I want well developed characters and situations to play out.  I want to invest myself in the writing as I read it.  Short stories just don't fill any of these needs.

The first several stories were fine.  Not bad, although I found them to be hard to believe and really hard to care about.  Then I came upon the story, "Liner Notes: The Songs of Billy Bathgate".  I didn't like Billy Bathgate when I was forced to read it in high school and I can't imagine why the author had to continue it with a short story.  I wished I'd skipped it.  I didn't, however.  All I thought about while I read that tripe was that I wish someone would just put a bullet in Billy Bathgate's head and get this over with.  Needless to say, I couldn't continue with the book after that story.  Life is to short to waste time on bad literature.  I didn't see the movie version, but looked it up on the Internet.  It sounds like it would have been really good.  Since Doctorow distanced himself from the film, it must have been outstanding.

I did glance toward the back of the book, just picking out a page or two here or there and happened upon a story that looked promising, "The Writer in the Family".  I read that and can honestly say that one was pretty good, not good enough for me to continue reading the book, but at least there was one redeeming story in the book.

If you have "all the time in the world" and absolutely nothing better to do with your time, and your thinking of taking a nap, this would be the perfect book for you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

USAF New Horizons Clarinet Ensemble

The McPherson Opera House
McPherson, KS
© Lydia Lowe 10/28/2012

New Horizons Clarinet Ensemble  . . . The McPherson Opera House played host to a special concert by the United States Air Force New Horizons clarinet ensemble.  The band played a variety of music which included everything from jazz to ragtime, show tunes, marches, and classical music.  No matter what your musical preferences, there was a tune for every musical taste.

The band started its set with “Dizzy Fingers” which I had never heard before but is now one of my new favorite tunes.  It’s a fast rollicking tune that gets your toes tapping.  I have a love/hate relationship with the tune “The Girl From Ipanema”, another tune that the band played.  I’ve heard so many versions of this song and some of them are just so incredibly bad.  But I loved the version that the band played.  The timing was exceptional and I felt like I was actually there at a sidewalk cafĂ© in South America as the girl from the song walked by me.   

The clarinet players took a break to catch their breath and a marimba was wheeled onto the stage and Sr. Airman Gary Steinberg played a couple of tunes on it.  Quite the highlight of the show, as the audience was unfamiliar with this instrument and the sheer size of it as well as how it was played was an instant hit.   

Some of the other songs that I enjoyed from their set were:  “Fly Me to the Moon”, “Summertime”, and of course, the final song which was a medley of military marches.  It was hard not to feel patriotic while all branches of the armed forces were recognized.

This band is playing in the area for a few weeks, so if you get a chance to go and see them, do.  It is definitely worth your time.   Get there early, as they have CD’s of their music that you can have for free.  It’s a great concert and a CD you can take home to listen to again and again.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Passing Zone

The McPherson Opera House
McPherson, KS
© Lydia Lowe 10/19/2012

The Passing Zone . . . what do you get when you mix in one part comedy, one part athletic ability, one part skill, one part magic, and one part showmanship?  Well, you get a lot of parts known as The Passing Zone.  Whether you classify this juggling team of Owen Morse and Josh Casey as comedy or circus act, you're right.

The running comedy themes throughout the show are hilarious and worth going to see on their own.  But when you add in the juggling, the sheer timing and athletic ability that it takes to pull off a lot of their stunts; everything from juggling fire torches while balancing precariously on unicycles and on boards set on top of a ten pound drum laying on its side, to chainsaws weighing several pounds that are actually running at the time, to audience members wearing flaming hats while holding spinning plates as knives are thrown back and forth around them; the timing has to be perfect.  And this juggling team makes it seem so easy, when you've got to know that these juggling stunts require amazing amounts of practice time.

Then there's the site gags.  The bowling ball to the face that turns out to be a regular rubber ball, the two dozen eggs carefully balanced in the air on a plank of wood that intentionally falls out of the their cartons onto the audience in the front row but are really ping pong balls, as well as a variety of other gags.  You'll have to go to the show to see the rest.  No wonder they were finalists on America's Got Talent.

The Passing Zone is definitely worth the price of admission.  If you didn't see the show at The McPherson Opera House, you  missed a lot.  Don't let this happen again.  Check out their website on the links page to see some of their act, and then find one of their shows and go to it.  You won't be sorry.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Journey To Inspired Art Quilting

Journey To Inspired Art Quilting
Jean Wells
© Lydia Lowe  10/19/2012

     Are you interested in taking your quilting to another level?  A level beyond the basic block pattern and into the realm of possibility?  If you answered yes to these questions then you are ready for Jean Wells newest book, “Journey to Inspired Art Quilting”.

     Wells uses the art that we have around us every day that many of us miss.  She holds up nature as inspiration, seasonal changes in weather, unique windows on homes, peeling paint on houses, you name it and she incorporates it into her designs.  She juxtaposes diverse elements together to create quilts that exist only in dreams.  The whole concept lifts the reader up into imagination and a different level of art and design.

     Using photographs, journals, sketchbooks, and thoughtful questions, Wells guides us on a journey that includes small assignments to wet your appetite and encourage your own creative endeavors.  She covers everything from inspiration, to color to design, to imagery/embellishment, to artful presentation.  Through a series of assignments Wells leads the reader on a journey to a more inspired quilt.

     This book is not for everyone.  If you are an advanced quilter and interested in new techniques, this is a must read.  If you are a beginning quilter, just starting out, this book would be a bit of a challenge.  Basic techniques are not covered.  There is a supplies section at the back but it is more for reference than for instruction.

     I found this to be a delightful book and I can’t wait to try the assignments to learn more about art quilting.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


The Stiefel Theatre
Salina, KS
© Lydia Lowe 10/05/2012

Kansas. . . When you say the word Kansas it makes you think of a flat piece of land in the middle of the United States.  Until a garage band from Topeka Kansas emerged onto the national stage with the name- Kansas.  Suddenly, Kansas was cool.  The band is still around and they still sound incredible.

One of the things that I love about bands from the ‘70’s is that they are all about style.  There are speakers and amps crowding the stage, there’s usually a unique backdrop behind the band, there’s always a light show, usually there’s the unexpected instrument, and just great music.  This show had it all.  The backdrop featured the cover the first album, self-titled Kansas, which is also a picture of a famous painting that is in the Topeka capital building of John BrownThe light show was like none  that I’ve seen at more recent shows, the music was fantastic, and I’ve always heard that you’ve got to have a fiddle in the band.  The unique and unexpected instrument in this band is a fiddle.

Kansas played all their hits.  There was Fight Fire with Fire, Point of No Return, Hold On, Dust in the Wind (which started out as a way to practice scales and ended up being a #1 hit) and the show closed with Carry on Wayward Son that had the entire audience on their feet.   The crowd knew every song and sang along.  What a great night, a fantastic band and wonderful music.