Saturday, October 14, 2017

SAMUI SONG (Directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang) ***






Beautiful Viyada is a bored Thai soap opera star married to a Belgian Buddhist sculptor who insists she come to the prayer meeting. A rape happens in their home, and one suspects it was with the consent of her own husband. It is she who is raped by the Buddhist leader, so she hires a man to kill her husband. She changes her life to escape the hell of it all, retreating into a village, but the assassin hunts her down and blames her for his mother’s death; he never got paid, as she escaped. It was very convoluted at the end, as she ends up happily married to the man who raped

Monday, October 9, 2017

ARION BAROQUE ENSEMBLE: THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VIVALDI

Vincent Lauzer

Bourgie Hall, October 8th, 2 pm.

You can’t go wrong with Vivaldi especially when you have a master such as Vincent Lauzer on the stage. This concert focused on the dark and the bright side of Vivaldi's musical genius. And to help us along, there was a star in our midst: Vincent Lauzer. He's a master on baroque recorders, and he pulled them all out for this program. Vivaldi’s largo movements provided wonderful contrast to his allegro sections, and each piece, other than the vocals from “Air Cosi potessi anch’lo” from the opera Orlando Furioso and “Mio dolce amore” from the same opera, as well as another work titled, Nisi Dominus – proved that Vivaldi created astounding recorder concertos. Mr. Lauzer defies human tongue and finger dexterity. He turned his recorders into magical mesmerizing musical gods. He is brilliant. Likewise, when Claire Guimond showed off her incredible technical skills when accompanying on flute the singer for the evening, we were enchanted. Ms. Guimond is one of those rare artists who is able to express emotional dynamics on the flute. Her control, like Mr. Lauzer’s is phenomenal.

Unfortunately, the same dazzling effects from these artists were not continued once  mezzo-soprano, Meg Bragle took the stage.  This surely was an unintentional dark moment in the evening. There was no authentic nor much emotion in Ms. Bragle’s performance; her projection was flat. I was stunned by her inability to emote except in the fourth stanza of Nisi Dominus.  However, how she held that last note on the word, ‘ventis’ was incredible.  good. Her control was fine but honestly, there was not climax in any section of her  Her breathing and phrasing are exceptional and her lower quiet tones are effective enough. I think she was nervous or not at her best perhaps. Still, she did stick out as a far less seasoned artist than the others. But I felt she knew she was not “into it”, as they say.

 Praise must be given to Alexander Weimann. He commands the harpsichord while conducting, often raising his right hand to direct the orchestra and having it land lickety-split on the page to turn it. He’s a multi-tasker performer for sure. I would say that the brightness of the evening radiated through Vivaldi as Lauzer, Weimann, Guimond and the orchestra itself brought his light to us. But it began to fade when the vocalist stood under it.

As Arion enters its 37th season, we must say, “congratulations!”


Monday, October 2, 2017

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN SAINT-SAUVEUR: KAREN MAJOR TOOK US ON A RIDE






MY DOG ZAK WITH KAREN AND HER HORSE TOD







ALL ABOARD

AVA (Directed by le Mysius) **





An ophthalmologist tells Ava she has retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that starts off with reduced vision in low light and a shrunken field of vision before full blindness sets in.
Ava takes out her frustrations on her mother Maud, a flaky working-class woman who keeps trying to keep Ava’s spirits up during their summer vacation by the sea. Ava is repulsed by her mother’s sexuality, and even more cross when she gets saddled babysitting her little sister.
 Ava meets a disaffected slinky-hipped Spanish gypsy named Juan, who is about 18 and whom she keeps seeing around town whose only companion is his dog Lupo. Ava and Juan end up becoming a kind of Bonnie and Clyde in a ridiculous plot which includes a gypsy wedding and fleeing form the police and Juan’s bother whose bride was once a girlfriend of Juan’s. She comes to the couple’s rescue
as they flee. Stupid euro trash music and over-the-top primitive costumes dawned by Ava and Juan makes this film less than what it should have been. A silly film that shows more breasts than it does intellectual brilliance and inevitability.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

SMCQ OPENS ITS SEASON WITH ECLECTIC PROGRAM




Thursday, September 29


 This concert was the 6th in the series of homage performances

Without a doubt, it was José Evengelista’s “Monodias españoles” – the final piece in the program that thrilled the audience at Pierre Mercure Hall in Montreal.  Written in 1989 but transposes for orchestra in 1995, the work’s seventeen short vignettes presented the colourful musical flavours from different regions in Spain. At the piano was the incredible Louise Bessette whose timing with the orchestra was impeccable.

These pieces were entertaining and much more melodic than the musical fare that proceeded it.  American composer, Sky Macklay’s “Microvariations” opened the evening with a work that was so fragments, full of instrumental stuttering from instruments and percussive backing, it came off as being chaotic rather than hypnotic. It did not engage us as we tried to follow some kind of cohesion in the piece.

Jean Lesage’s wonderful work was splendidly rich and musically pleasing. With passages that seemed to emulate Debussy and Stravinsky, it sounded like both were taking an exciting trip while on acid. Titled “Le concert des anachronisms délibérés”, it employed   piano, harp, clarinet and strings, and so the full bodied melody had fascinating impact. Likewise, “Clos de vie”, also by Evangelista  was instrumentally rich with banjo, electric guitar, strings, piano and vibraphone conveyed  to me various images of  rain , creepy crawly insects in the Amazon  and a dark house of mirrors with psychedelic lights.



The evening was all in all a great way to once again showcase out-of-the-box music written by great composers – all marvelously conducted before our eyes by Walter Boudreau –  artistic director of this orchestra.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

FNC FILM REVIEWS: LET THE CARCASSES TAN ( Directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani)*





A lot of “Kill Bill’ chaos in this gory film that uses all kinds of hyper-close-up shots and horizontal pans that move from one face to the other. It has been placed appropriately in the Temps Zero category of the festival. The betrayals take a back seat to the butchery in this film which  will not appeal to the plot orientated cinephile. Despite the artsy experimentation, the stupid story based on a novel becomes an apocalyptic yawn where guns shoot of in mouths, at art work, at carcasses and lots of rocks. The setting is in Corsica, and the hide-out cast of sleazy characters who live totally on the edge are anti-society, especially cops. They’ve hole up in a ruin by the ocean. After a road hoist where gold bullions are stolen and lives are taken, the gang of guys and a tough gone-mad woman who  has endured  all kinds of bondage (past images) in the sun on a crucifix of sorts, The constant sound of their leather jackets throughout the movie was annoying, but the music was spot-on. Fantasia festival comes to mind when you watch this film.

                             ------------------------------------------------------------------

 AVA (Directed by Lea Mysius) **






An ophthalmologist tells Ava she has retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that starts off with reduced vision in low light and a shrunken field of vision before full blindness sets in.
Ava takes out her frustrations on her mother Maud, a flaky working-class woman who keeps trying to keep Ava’s spirits up during their summer vacation by the sea. Ava is repulsed by her mother’s sexuality, and even more cross when she gets saddled babysitting her little sister.
 Ava meets a disaffected slinky-hipped Spanish gypsy named Juan, who is about 18 and whom she keeps seeing around town whose only companion is his dog Lupo. Ava and Juan end up becoming a kind of Bonnie and Clyde in a ridiculous plot which includes a gypsy wedding and fleeing form the police and Juan’s bother whose bride was once a girlfriend of Juan’s. She comes to the couple’s rescue
as they flee. Stupid euro trash music and over-the-top primitive costumes dawned by Ava and Juan makes this film less than what it should have been. A silly film that shows more breasts than it does intellectual brilliance and inevitability.

                ------------------------------------------------------------------- 


HONEYGIVER AMONG THE DOGS (Directed by Dechen Roder) ****
 

I loved this film, but the title should have been "...among the gods". Its cinematography is an art piece in itself. Chodan a stunning pious woman is on the run.  Detective Kinley follows her into the forest posing as a teacher. Chodan has been accused of killing the head nun of the village’s nunnery. But her mystical references begin to change Kinley’s thinking. Is she really a murderer? The film ahs some funny moments that contrast to the lyrical fell of this Bhutan film. The twist at the end is certainly full of surprise.
                          _____________________________________________



MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS  ****
(Directed by Mouly Surya)

 
Poor beautiful Marlina lives high up in the mountains with her hubby who is crouched in the corner. He’s dead and is about to become a mummy. A gang of thugs visit Marlina and steal her livestock and one rapes her. Before they all can, she has concocted a poison that kill all but two. Marline decapitates the leader who has raped her. She has his head and travel on a bus with strangers and her pregnant friend. This film is a bit Kill Bill, Spaghetti Western and the music is right from that genre. Spectacular scenery, macabre humor and blood move the film into its own surreal hypnotic dimension that will surely enter the film cult realm. Men are dastardly in the story, and women are the warrior heroines. The female filmmaker might very well be making a statement about men from Indonesia. Slow moving but we are in it for the long haul.
                     ____________________________________________

 

                               SAMUI SONG (Directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang) ***



Beautiful Viyada is a bored Thai soap opera star married to a Belgian Buddhist sculptor who insists she come to the prayer meeting. A rape happens in their home, and one suspects it was with the consent of her own husband. It is she who is raped by the Buddhist leader, so she hires a man to kill her husband. She changes her life to escape the hell of it all, retreating into a village, but the assassin hunts her down and blames her for his mother’s death; he never got paid, as she escaped. It was very convoluted at the end, as she ends up happily married to the man who raped




Sunday, September 24, 2017

ADVENTURES WITH GRAPENUT



PHOTOGRAPHER’S GORGEOUS PICTURE BOOK LOVINGLY CAPTURES THE LIFE OF A SPECIAL LOON FAMILY AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM

                                                                             all photos taken by John Rockwood  



John M. Rockwood has spent years and years kayaking and photographing loons living on New Hampshire’s lakes. 




In this particular book, he recounts how he made the “acquaintance” with a four-day-old lone chick he spots swimming near the Grape Islands on Lake Massabesic. He thinks it might be a chick that belongs to a loon pair, he has named the Grapetons. They were banded for ID by the Loon Preservation Committee. John had been photographing this devoted pair of loons for the past six years.






The Plot Unfolds

Amazingly, this little chick seems to ‘adopt” John as his new buddy.  He hovers around John’s kayak, making small hooting sounds. Could he be after a piece of the snack John is eating? Desperate to feed the chick, John makes his way to shore to catch minnows for the little chick he named Grapenut. 


 




Soon the Grapetons are running across the water to warn the little chick of danger; in fact an osprey was in their midst.  John soon becomes the baby sitter for the newborn until his parents return within the next hour.



A Mutual Attachment

In this incredible true story John keeps his lens on Grapenut and his parents as they teach him the ways of the water. 





Grapenut and John become joined at the hip, except when the little fellow would play Hide and Seek with him. Indeed, Grapenut proves to have a mischievous but fetching personality. Seven visits later, Grapenut is on his 46th day of life. John discovers Grapenut’s stubborn idiosyncrasies that do not always  work in his favour. One specific day, he witnesses Grapenut in a very dangerous eating situation. In fact, John finds out the little guy has a stubborn streak that nearly costs him his life.




Using simple text, and stunning photos, the story vividly chronicles something so rare and amazing. John warmly captures the near day-to-day growth of Grapenut. He witnesses the Grapenut’s klutziness and set backs in events that lead to his adulthood. Most importantly, John and Grapenut are friends for life.

The book is educational as John explains many aspects in a loon’s life. The story is inspiring. It is an incredible testimony to John’s love and knowledge of loons. A portion of he proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Loon Preservation Committee in Moutlonborough, New Hampshire (www.loon.org), and the Audubon Society of New Hamsphire (www.nhaudubon.ord).



 You can order Adventures with Grapenut at:  www.loonphotog.net



 

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Wondrous Performance of Magnificat with Matthias Maute and Friends








On Saturday, January 21, a large-sized audience was inspired by a rare concert that sublimely resurrected the utmost beauty inherent in Baroque music. The supremely noble interior of Montreal’s new Bourgie Hall (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) with it stunning array of stained glass windows was sacredly fitting to the Magnificat program offered by conductor and recorder player extraordinaire Matthias Maute and his Ensemble Caprice.  The choral music sung by the18 artists offered typically reverent praise of God in lyric. The effect was magical mysticism. Bach’s Magnificat and Arvo Pärt shared most of the compositional honours – the former having been born in 1685, the latter still living. Yet the message of each was clearly similar as each verse resounded brilliantly in the Baroque vein; the technical virtuosity of the vocalists and mid-sized orchestra was noticeably unified. The message was mainly of praise, glory and humility, though solemnity and reference to those who shun God’s omnipotence was evident in Part’s Magnificat. In each of his two choral songs, the choir was godly in tone and phrasing. The voices were immeasurably unified; the harmonies were glorious in colour and mood. The final notes, always lingering into the distance until silence spoke the final beat. Soloists Shannon Mercer (soprano), Philippe Martel (bass) were particularly captivating in Bach’s Magnificat.  Matthias Maute’s lively energy swooped over the musicians, leading them on to perform with gusto the Bourée and Gig in Bach’s Suite III BWV 1068. Although it got off to an uneven start, an exquisite balance of expression and tempo effortlessly overtook the first flaws of looseness in the overture.
The program opened with Antonio Lotti’s Crucifixus à 8, and tears came to my eyes. This choir was outstanding. Superb colouring and a multi-layering of voices in deep minor harmonics was both haunting and eternal.  Finally, in contrast, the robust energy of the entire ensemble showed off its spritely sparkle in Bach’s Magnificat. Everyone left feeling uplifted - that all was right with the world.





Tuesday, September 19, 2017



DANCING AND DREAMING WITH YOUR DOG
AT VERMONT’S PHINEAS SWANN B & B INN





Wonderful hosts welcome dogs as warmly as they do you!
Imagine sitting in a lounge chair, gazing at gorgeous gardens. while listening to water gently flowing from fountains and skipping over rocks in a narrow river just a step away. 









Birds flit among a gazebo and apple trees.



  

Some settle in colorful birdhouses hung in rows on a facade.  





                   
    Nearby, weather-worn signs and items from another era bring a smile to your face. 









Your soul is drifting into a cocoon of nostalgia nestled in the bygone days of Montgomery Center in Vermont. 




Then you see the face of a huge bull dog staring right back at you, and he has a pipe in his mouth! Are you dreaming? No, you aren’t. You’re at a very special inn with a very funny-sounding name. Welcome to Phineas Swann B & B Inn!















                                                      
                                               A true pet-friendly haven

Best of all, your dog(s) at your feet looking very content. You’re thinking how lucky you are that you didn’t have to leave your pup at home. No separation anxiety. Yippee! Both of you can wake up to this utopian piece of paradise for as long as you want. That’s because the folks at Phineas Swann Inn know how important it is for you and your canine to enjoy a stress-free holiday together. No wonder it ranks among America’s top three B & Bs for pet friendliness. 



 This is the place to park your pup



 









 The humor is dog darn good!




Two extraordinary people make this B & B  a beautiful experience
Married couple, Lynne and Darren Drevik – the inn’s hosts – were both born with a huge hospitality gene. Not a trace of pretension or personality stuffiness in either. The minute you walk in, you notice how happy they are; their good- -natured manner and casual ease probably comes in part from knowing all about leaving behind city clamour in search of calm and inspiration in nature. I was looking for that too when I booked my reservation at this acclaimed B & B.
In 2013, Darren and Lynne quit their high-powered jobs in New York City to change their lives in a meaningful way. Lynne was a logistics manager at Colgate, and Darren had corporate writing contracts – fresh off his chief editor position at two newspapers in Georgia and South Carolina.  He’s written a novel titled, “Appalachian Trail”, and his recitation of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” is impressive.  Ask him to speak Spanish using his native Tennessee accent. Very entertaining!


Darren Drevik


After looking at three Bed and Breakfasts for sale, the couple settled on the Phineas Swann B & B – named after a man who once lived here with his 13 children in 1880. They kept the funny name, and even have a book with his photo in it.


Charm and authenticity
Lynne is an avid antique collector, so many of the treasures you’ll see at the inn reflect back to 1780 when Montgomery Center was founded. The furniture, unique items and décor are a harmonious blend of country chic and old-world ways.











Having passed through five owners, the historic building was not always a B& B. It was an 1880 farm-and-barn dwelling that underwent renovations. 


The result is a remarkable B & B that features nine country-style bedrooms each with its own fireplace and ensuite bathroom (save for one). Rich in wainscoting, with original oak floors in many areas and graceful crown molding, each is utterly appealing, peaceful, and private. Six of these rooms are ready to welcome your cherished dog. Another perk: all rooms have phones and your call is free anywhere in North America!


Ambiance and pleasure in loving comfort
If you’re not punch-happy about pets, don’t worry; you’ll never see them in the inn’s main large house which comprises several inviting rooms.
The living room boasts really comfy couches and period armchairs that act like lazy boys. 




Stained glass windows are a stand-out feature in the main house.




The fireplace enhances the warmth of this sitting area as it captures the ambiance of the room’s former farmhouse roots. 


 




Updated with charm and class, this main room beckons you to lounge as long as you wish while munching on all the free snacks and beverages and the amazing chocolate chip cookies freshly baked every day by Barb, the inn’s consummate chef.





A spacious dining room with separate wooden tables looks out onto the splendid floral ground that also includes a Jacuzzi – all part of your sensory pleasing experience.  


Pampering for everyone – dog or no dog
As mentioned, dogs are not allowed in any part of the main inn, so upstairs, three pretty rooms awash in pastel colors house non-dog accompanied guests.  It’s the unattached buildings just outside the main inn that are designated for canines, such as the stunning carriage house with its four spacious bedroom rooms – two upstairs, and two downstairs (I stayed in the upstairs “terrier room”). 


 




Big beds, big space, beautiful colors


                                                           
An original light in the Carriage House



A painted snowboard  greets you at the landing of the Carriage House



                                                                      Picturesque rooms











The carriage house, along with the other dog-friendly suites, even comes with towels for your canine companion.




Conveniently located, the carriage house is a mere stairwell and veranda away from the main house. The River house that faces a small section of the Trout River has two separate upstairs/downstairs apartments that also welcome your dog. 





Gardened grounds – most planted by Lynne – are there for your dog to enjoy.









Lynne and Darren have three of their own dogs that are not free to roam into your space.  But they do own over 500 ceramic dogs. You can’t miss them; they’re everywhere: on shelves, tables, high chests, low chests, even the floor, Can you spot your breed?




The bells are ringing for me and my gal
Phineas Swann Inn creates a fabulous four-season environment for romance, weddings and more group affairs. Darren is also a pastor, and so when Lynne purchased a very big antique church bell, Darren was inspired at Lynne’s urging to build an open-air darling cupola on the grounds. When couples marry, they swing the rope attached to that bell, and love is sealed forever. 






Wedding receptions take place under the enormous white tent top where over 145 guests can be seated most comfortably to enjoy the evening along with the gourmet food, prepared by Lynne, Darren and Barb. The newly weds can choose from one of three options: pasta, fish or chicken.
















 

Lynne and Darren have their own gift: the newly married couple can enjoy their honeymoon night free and toast their union with a free glass of champagne.
I fell in love with Phineas Swann B & B Inn, and went on the hunt for a husband to be, just so I could get married under that cupola where both of us could swing the bell and live happily ever after. I found no hubby but the inn’s morning meal sufficed as a sweet substitute.






Breakfast is a belly-full of variety
Deb has been at the inn for years, and she is a master cook and baker. In fact, when I landed, she was in the middle of making the wedding cake for an incoming wedding. She also makes gluten-free food goodies. During my four-day stay, I savoured Darren’s homemade black berry sauce. It was poured over thick, tender black-berry-filled French toast... A tasty veggie round sausage was also served, and on another day, I gobbled up the soufflé-type baby Dutch pancakes topped with apples. I also tried their smoked bacon. All food is freshly prepared and most ingredients come from the farmlands that dot the area. Of course, there is Greek yogurt served with blueberries, an array of cut-up fresh fruit, juices and cereals to fill you up even more! 











 














Music nights, fall foliage tours and sleigh rides during winter also define Phineas Swann Inn’s way for enjoyment. To prepare you for those harsh winters every Wednesday, ladies from the 9-member co-op store, called Fabric Folks (located across the street) flock to the Phineas Swann to knit, sip wine and dig into Barb’s cookies.






Lynne also has her knitting needles in hand. Is there anything this wonder woman can’t do? Did I mention she just became a grandmother too? Congratulations, Lynne!


In Vermont, this is the perfect place to hang your hat. There's no other better B & B to stay at -- with our without the dog. 
I'll be back with my dog, Zak.





Phineas Swann B & B Inn is located at:
195 Main Street
Montgomery Center, VY 05471
Call: (802) 326 4306.

For information and reservations, click here: www.phineasswann.com.
You can also email them at: info@phineasswann.com





Phineas Swann B & B Inn is ideally located. It’s only eight miles from Jay Peak Resort, and sits amidst breathtaking Green Mountain scenery. I definitely wanted to explore the North East Kingdom, and so Lynne arranged two half-days for me to pursue a personal custom-guided excursion given by Montgomery Adventures.  
Click here to read about my adventures and the amazing man who brought me into the wilds.




A salt cave and more healing therapies await you





Also across the street from the Phineas Swan inn is one of the North East Kingdom’s most unique healing hideaways. Called, Vermont’s Salt Cave and Halotherapy Center, this cozy place houses a salt cave. But its creation came with a cost for owners Sarita and Nafis Khan whose vision to promote well-being and holistic health is their great passion. 





Creating this salt cave involved the transporting of thousands of pounds of pink salt from Poland. After much arduous work, the former barn morphed magnificently into a magical healing salt cave. 



We actually imported 20,000 pounds of pink salt from Poland.  4,000 pounds is the amount of crystal salt we placed on the floor which is reminiscent of a beach.  The remaining 16,000 pounds are from the salt boulders and rocks that have created the wall of the cave.  We only used white cement over foam to create the stalactites on the ceiling. This way there was no need to use any glue as the walls are mortared together and the cement is on the ceiling, not salt.”
There are also 52 salt lamps embedded into the walls and floor releasing negative ions for relaxation and air purification.
You will be walking on those 4000 pounds of glistening crystal salt to get to your resting lounge chair. For the next 45 minutes, you’ll enjoy the soothing sounds of two waterfalls while benefiting from their heavily saturated negative environment – a toxin flusher – so to speak.  



 The spa offers a 30-minute treatment where you simply rest your hands and bare feet on specially heated Himalayan salt block. Research shows this is great for joint and arthritic issues. I sat for a minute just to “try” it and it was very relaxing.

This spa has much to offer: an infra-red sauna hot stone treatment, massage, Reiki and sound healing. I loved all the natural products they sell and the colourful salt lamps you’ll see in their boutique. Meeting Sarita and Nafis has its own healing effect. They give you their full attention, and their caring is sincere. Prices are a steal!

   
  



Email them at: relax@vtsaltcaves.com