Book Review: Shabaikai

Bill E. Clarkson’s first full length novel, Shabaikai, is a riveting page turner. Shabaikai gets its title from the river, Shabaikai, that runs along the Bohemian Grove. It is at the historical Bohemian Men’s Club that the story all ties together. Just as the river has unexpected twists and turns, so does Clarkson’s novel. Shabaikai cover

The story begins in the teen years of two very different people; Guido, an Italian immigrant, and Jesse, a well off young man born into a wealthy Californian family. Shabaikai takes readers on a journey through both of the young men’s lives. Clarkson masterfully leads readers through the men’s stories with alternating chapters. This is effective because readers see the contrasts and similarities between the two men’s experiences more clearly.

While Jesse and Guido never meet, their children do and quickly build a family of their own together. Anna, Jesse’s daughter, and Joseph, Guido’s son, make a happy and successful home until tragedy strikes. As a result of this horrible tragedy, Jesse takes his grandchild, Joseph and Anna’s son. He raises his grandson and feeds him nothing but lies while Joseph tries to get his family back on their feet. Joseph later finds out about all the lies his son has been taught but isn’t allowed to be reunited with him. Joseph’s life takes even more unexpected turns as he reunites with Guido.

Shabaikai is a historical drama that will keep you enthralled until the very last page. Clarkson gives readers a glimpse of what early 20th century America was like including the violence and organized crime that came with prohibition. Clarkson does a great job representing each social class and how they were affected by prohibition, the creation of the auto industry, and crime.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and learning about the history of Northern California along the way. I found this book to be quite inspirational as characters work their way up the social ladder. Shabaikai is also an intense drama that kept me interested and wanting more. Not only do I suggest reading Clarkson’s novel, Shabaikai, I also suggest putting time aside to read it because you won’t be able to put it down.

Cuddle Up. It’s Showtime!

Choosing a movie to watch is a little like choosing food to eat; sometimes you feel like hot and spicy and sometimes you just want warm and comfy. There are times you even choose the salad because the veggies are simply good for you. Well, today I’ve got some of each to chat about.movie

I think the entertainment industry has finally figured out that for the most part we all love Christmas. Hallmark and other film industry machines have been adding a few new “made for TV” movies every year and recently they have definitely stepped up the pace. So much so, that we now have the 60 day “Countdown to Christmas” instead of beginning the run on Thanksgiving. I, for one, love it and the rest of you get something different than the Murder She Wrote reruns.

What is truly awesome is that they have instituted Classic Thursdays. So far, just this year, I have watched Holiday Inn, Holiday Affair, and Christmas in Connecticut. The Bishop’s Wife is just sitting waiting for me to have a free couple of hours. These have got to be someone’s “warm and comfy!” They certainly take you back to a different and maybe even more gallant time.

I’m a real sucker for the typical Hallmark movie fare year ‘round but never as much as Christmas. I was just thinking this morning (with a chuckle to myself) that the hardest part of making some of these has got to be finding a title. You would have to find something Christmas-y, but it would need to be clever…and yet somehow set your movie apart so year after year the viewing audience would remember it and say, “Oh, Season of Miracles is on today,” as I do.

So, I’ve talked about the wonderful (?) predictability of Hallmark long enough. They aren’t the only channels capitalizing on our penchant for schmaltziness, but probably the best.

Whether you are watching TV or renting movies, you will find your summer salad or your box of popcorn. The Nativity Story is definitely your salad. A story about Christmas, for Christmas. It is virtually impossible to focus on the true meaning of Christmas with all the sales and gimmicks going on around us. Even Black Friday has been moved up by the marketers, and tell me, really, is Black Friday the unofficial start of the Christmas Season? In the midst of all this, we must never forget the true meaning of Christmas, and movies like The Nativity Story do just that. It is beautifully crafted.

On my short list this year is, Merry Madagascar, with my grandkids. I am a closet penguin fan so my gk’s will just have to suffer through it since they are starting to grow past that era. Also, on that list is one of my big screen favorites, The Holiday.

Kirk Cameron’s: Saving Christmas is in theaters this season and hopefully Polar Express will be back on the 3D screen again. I will definitely look for it. It is one of those movies just made for not only the big screen, but 3D!!

So, I have a little gift for you Christmas movie lovers! www.countdownuntilchristmas.com is a comprehensive TV Christmas Movie Guide. Enjoy, and as always email me at chastings@rockcliff.com.

Handel’s Messiah: A Tradition of Christmas Music

The Christmas season is a time of great joy, goodwill toward men, gift giving, and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is also the season of joyous Christmas carols and many worldwide performances of George Frideric Handel’s famous oratorio, Messiah.
Most people are familiar with this great work, but many do not know that in 1741 Handel, unbelievably, composed Messiah in just 24 days! The very famous Hallelujah Chorus so moved England’s King George II that he rose from his seat, thereby establishing a custom that has become universal whenever it is sung. “The raising of the chorus to the role of principal dramatic protagonist constitutes Handel’s most significant contribution to the oratorio,” wrote Martin Bernstein in his book, An Introduction to Music.

The Oratorio
An oratorio is a composition for solo voices, chorus, and orchestral accompaniment with a scared text. It is usually performed without scenery, action, or costumes. Handel’s oratorio, unlike Bach’s, were written for an audience, not specifically for a congregation. The text, or libretto, is in English, not Latin, and is based on selections from the scriptures.

Handel, when performing Messiah, used a small chorus of men and boys, and women appeared as soloists—unlike today’s presentations that often use very large choruses and orchestras.  “Messiah remains Handel’s best loved work,” wrote McKinney and Anderson in Discovering Music. “In its massive choruses, beautiful solos and fine orchestral background, it embraces an affectionate and intimate portrayal of the Christ story through its three phases – birth, death and resurrection.”

Handel composed Messiah in London where he was already an experienced and successful composer of Italian operas. He turned mainly to oratorio writing after becoming dissatisfied with opera. He used it to express his own dynamic personality, incorporating the elements of his dramatic opera style. After Handel mastered the form of the Oratorio he became the undisputed master of English music.

Handel
Born in Halle, Germany in 1685, Handel was an extrovert who did not come from a musical family at all. His father, a barber/surgeon, did not want young George to be a professional musician, but wanted him to be a lawyer instead. Handel relished travel and spent much time traveling and living in other countries – always assimilating the musical styles of the countries he visited. He was able to study music composition and learned the violin, oboe, clavier, harpsichord, and organ, of which he was a master.

In 1703 Handel’s lust for travel took him to Hamburg, where his music was first heard by a large and appreciative audience. Next, he ventured to Italy in 1706 where his interest in Italian opera peaked. His three-year stay in Italy was met with great success. Handel then assumed the post of Kapellmeister at the Court of the Elector, George of Hanover – who later became King George I of England.

Handel received an invitation to visit London that proved to be a pivotal turning point in his life and career. He composed Italian opera for an English audience that was hungry for good opera. Here he was met with tremendous success and adulation. From 1712 until his death, England became his home. As opera was waning in London, a new form of music was to become his greatest triumph – the oratorio.

Handel, unfortunately, became totally blind in 1753, but this did not stop his work as a composer or performer. His secretary wrote down his last works as he dictated them. Handel composed 46 operas, 32 oratorios, chamber music, keyboard songs, and many instrumental works, including Water Music and The Royal Fireworks, both still popular and performed today. He died in 1759.

Handel’s final resting place in Westminster Abbey, attests to the fame and esteem the British public held for the German composer who became English.

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Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Oratorio, Messiahmusic

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The kingdom of this world is become
The Kingdom of Our Lord and of His Christ,
And of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever
And He shall reign for ever
And He shall reign for ever
And He shall reign for ever
King of Kings,
For ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And Lord of Lords,
For ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
King of Kings,
For ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And Lord of Lords,
For ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
King of Kings,
For ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And Lord of Lords,
For ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
King of Kings,
For ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And Lord of Lords,
For ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Kings of Kings
For ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever,
King of Kings,
And Lord of Lords,
King of Kings,
And Lord of Lords,
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
King of Kings,
And Lord of Lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!