Sunday, May 6, 2018

May at the Phantom Concert Hall!

Brush off that old jacket! Shake our that vintage gown! We've got concert tickets again!

Our connection at the concert hall downtown got us tickets to a big event, with a tribute to Paganini, that devilish master of the violin. A couple of violinists will be playing Pagainin's pieces, and then a noted pianist will be playing Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini," which is just amazing...



His ability is almost supernatural, isn't it? Simply amazing stuff.

How about a midnight supper after the concert? I've got something in the slow cooker that'll be ready by the time we're done at the concert...

Monday, April 30, 2018

Happy Walpurgisnacht! And Happy 10th Birthday!

Dust and Corruption is 10 years old!

Sorry I haven't been blogging much lately. I'm glad to have a permanent job but I'm learning new stuff and it's taking up a lot of mental energy. And in the evenings and weekends I'm giving my apartment a good going-over. I'm a lousy housekeeper and have let things go for far too long.

Plus I'm in a play in June, and rehearsals and learning my lines are also eating into my time.

I've got a stack of books to write about, though. I'll continue post the musical interludes but I've decided to drop the "virtual movie nights." And maybe once things calm down a bit I'll prowl around Baltimore and do some more photography.

Keep moving forward!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

WHOSE BODY? by Dorothy L. Sayers

In my teens, when other boys were reading Playboy or Penthouse, I was reading Dorothy L. Sayers. That explains a lot about my adolescence. Lord Peter Wimsey was my sort-of-role model for a while, although it never quite fit...I got tired of him after a while.

Lord Peter hasn't aged well...many modern readers find him annoying. And, I have to say, he kind of is. In the 20s we had a rash of aristocratic detectives, like Wimsey and Philo Vance, who would adjust their monocles and say a problem was "quite vexin'" and all that. It probably seemed terribly sophisticated and up-market at the time, but now seems cheap.

Still, Sayers had her strengths, and while Lord Peter is grating at times, there's enough here to draw a reader.

Lord Peter Wimsey gets a call one morning; a friend of his mother has a rather bizarre problem, in that there's a body in his bathtub, wearing nothing but a pince-nez. Peter joins with a policeman friend to look in on the situation....at first, they think the body is that of missing financier Sir Reuben Levy, as it really looks like him...but then closer examination reveals that the body is that of a poor man with bad teeth, not that of a wealthy upper-class gentleman. (A deleted bit of dialogue has Lord Peter glancing at the nude body and saying at once that it couldn't be Levy, as the man was clearly not Jewish...at the time, a reference to the foreskin's presence was considered too racy.)

Thus follows an investigation all over 1920's London to discover the identity of the corpse, and what really happened to Levy. Lord Peter is quite bright in spots, and has a temporary attack of PTSD (his "shell shock" is mentioned here but I don't recall it popping up later in the series). It's also here that one of Sayers' signature touches comes into play....Lord Peter identifies the killer at about the 2/3 or 3/4 mark in the book, and then spends the rest of the novel piecing his case together. No last-second revelations here!

So, despite an annoying central character, it's still a worthwhile read. There's some uncomfortable anti-Semitism here and there, but it's in the mouths of some unlikable people, so I'm willing to put that down to characterization. (In fact, anti-Semitism was one of the motivators for the murder.) Sayers has been accused of anti-Semitism in the past, although at least in this book she doesn't seem to paint all Jews with the same stereotypical brush.

I think I'll try to go through all the Wimsey books, in time. It'll be interesting to revisit them, and read the one or two that I missed so long ago...


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April in the Phantom Recital Hall!

We're back!

And tonight we're honoring the fits and starts of spring. It's been a rough season, with a few warm, pleasant days being followed by weeks of cold, dreary, rainy weather. And even occasional snows!

But tonight we're bundled up and visiting that old restored concert hall for a recital of some modern and ambient pieces...like Aphex Twin's "Avril 14th."



A rather nice piece, isn't it? And appropriate to this difficult season we're in...

I'm back for more fun, folks! I start my new job as a permanent employee on Monday! I've got a stack of books to review and I'm rarin' to go! So hang on tight...


Sunday, March 11, 2018

A Quick Personal Note

Sorry to not be around much lately....my non-blog life has been a bit crazy, in a good way. The company I've been temping with for the past year has extended a permanent job offer, so I'm eagerly waiting for HR to dot all the i's and cross all the t's. At the same time, I'll be put in a new part of the department, so I'm learning a bunch of new stuff. I'm excited and happy but also a bit stressed and anxious, as you can imagine. But seriously....health insurance! paid time off! job security! 

At the same time, I've been physically run down; sinus troubles, coughing, and a general malaise that strike every so often. I haven't felt seriously sick, just "off" as the saying goes, and I haven't had much energy to devote to writing for the past few weeks. I had my flu shot in the fall but wonder if I'm not fighting off something.

And, I'll be honest...the job offer is great but I've also found myself full of self-doubts and concerns that it's all a mistake and other people are more deserving....impostor syndrome and all that. It's made me realize that maybe it's time for a mental and emotional tune-up, so maybe I'll look into therapy once the insurance is up and running.

I'm not going away; I definitely will be back. I'll probably take another week or two before returning to all you nice people out there who read me. I have a growing stack of books to review so I'll definitely be doing them! Thanks for bearing with me.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

THE LAMP FROM THE WARLOCK'S TOMB by John Bellairs

Anthony Monday and Miss Eells are back!

Anthony and Miss Eells are browsing an antique shop when the owner mysteriously shows Miss Eells an old oil lamp, one that gives Anthony the willies but Miss Eells buys for s suspiciously low price. Anthony later borrows it from her to use as part of a science fair project...and he sees a gruesome phantom at the school (the illustration above) and a night watchman dies a bizarre death. More ghostly happenings, the theft of the lamp, and another bizarre death happen before they figure out what is going on and why.

This is one of the better works in Bellairs' world. The plot is a little wobbly at times but still makes sense, and the menace is real. The villain has a truly heinous plot in mind, but there's another factor that could do them in, that's not a deus ex machina but something lurking in the shadows from the very start. There's also some good, real detective work, some weird murals and artwork, an old house on an island, and a wintry setting. There's a fiery climax like something from one of Roger Corman's Poe films, but also a very nicely creepy denouement that I greatly appreciated.

There's a major nod to M. R. James in this one, specifically "The Tractate Middoth," in that you have a ghastly spectre of a bald man with cobwebs over his face, and a strange tomb. And there's a touch of the Lovecraftian universe as the Lamp of Alhazred, a relic from the Cthulhu mythos, is mentioned.

All in all, a fun read, and a worthy part of the Bellairs canon, probably the best book of the Anthony Monday series....and there's only one left...

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Phantom Symphony for February!

As an early February treat, we've scored tickets to the symphony. That old concert hall has finally been restored to its best self. We've got good seats and we're all happy to have something to do that isn't all wrapped up in Valentine's Day...which we're all hating for one reason or another this year. An evening of music is just what we need to kick off the month.

And tonight we've got a sinister chamber symphony from Shostakovich!



Catching our collective breath once it's over, we agree this is just up our alley, and just the thing to get February off on the right foot...