Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Would there be someone to sing a song for you?

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I have been putting off the writing of this post for a month.
Today I just felt this is going to be the day I am going to talk about it.

It's not going to be funny, or witty or entertaining, so if you are in for that, skip that post! But if you want to read something from the hearth, I think you'll like this.

I am going to talk about a special person, who I never knew or met, but who's death affected me greatly for the past month.

You all remember that I did a huge article on the Native American Festival in Saratoga, and after I finished it, I promised that I am going to talk about the dancers, but this never happened right?

Well, it didn't happen sooner even though I have been thinking about it pretty much every day since visited the festival, because I never knew how exactly to explain what happened there.

Meet Don Barnaby( Micmac), the Head Male Dancer of the Saratoga Festival.

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I have seen him dancing at the same festival in 2007 and he struck me as very lively, very fun and outgoing person, very friendly.
This time, when we went to see the dancers, I couldn't believe how he danced! It was like he wasn't there, like he wasn't human at all, he was just dancing in the rhythm and the rhythm was him.
It was striking to see such a personal experience shared with so many people on the dance arena, like it was a private moment that we were not supposed to see.

After the break, they've announced that Don Barnaby wants to sing a song that is not in the schedule, a song for his cousin Grace ( I think her last name was Condo) who passed away the previous night.

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He could have left.
He could have refused to dance and just head back for the funeral.
But he didn't.
He started talking, you could see how hard this moment was for him, because of the connection he had with his relative, he spoke about her, very briefly, explaining what a valued member of her community she was, one of the elders in her tribe, how she helped people and what a nice person she was.
He couldn't talk very much, apparently distraught, so he just asked us to stand up, to put the cameras down and to give her a silent minute while he was singing for her and to think about all the people we have lost.

I have no idea what song he sang. He didn't say the name, the song wasn't even in English, so nobody could understand the exact words he was saying but he just mesmerized us!

Nobody was moving, you couldn't hear even birds.
It was completely quiet and only his voice was breaking the silence with this very beautiful and sad song.

He said that he was thinking if he should go back or not, and he decided to stay and honor her memory in front of all the people here, who would honor her, think about her, talk about her and remember her on the day of her death!

What a beautiful way to show somebody respect!

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I was completely speechless.
I wanted to go and talk to him, but I just couldn't. I was just standing there, listening to him, seeing his pain and feeling it through his voice.


At this exact moment you could feel Grace's presence there with us. You could see all the people who stood still around us, bowing their heads, some of them embracing each other, some of them with tears in their eyes, and you could feel the presence of all the people they have lost.

The air was heavy with love and sorrow!

Thinking about the people who are not between us is never easy, talking about them even less easier.
But singing a song about them is something different.

I hope there would be at least one person who would honor my memory with a song the way Don did for his cousin Grace, God bless her soul and God bless his big heart!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Still Alice - book review

I usually write about the books that impress me in some way- good or bad, and I couldn't but share my thoughts on this one, because I feel it's really important to let people know about it, read it, think about it and their lives.

This is not one of the books you love.
This is one of the books you appreciate exists.
I highly recommend the book for the value of the author's experience shared on the pages,not for it's value as a piece of literature.

This is a book that every person should read, no matter personally affected or not by the disease and it's mandatory for the people who are experiencing the disease or have relatives suffering from it.

However, the author is everything but a writer. The same topic would be better written by many other writers, without the scientific knowledge Lisa Genova offers. The characters are not likable and in places I felt like she treated them unfairly by forcing them to act unnaturally. This I think is due to a lack of experience in writing, maybe her next book will be better, who knows, but I really hope she writes with a co-author that writes better than her. She can contribute immensely to understanding the disease, but although you can see her compassion for the people who suffer from it, she can't recreate it in writing.

Her characters are mechanic, the emotions are like statements, overall the book feels like a raw material. Which is not necessary a bad thing, if she improves her way of writing.

The book was engaging most of the time, although sometimes I felt like the author included scenes that she even wasn't sure why, just for the purpose of having them. They didn't build the character or benefit the book in any way.

The book is like one of those none-sugarcoated pills that you have to take and you know it's going to make you better ( and give you understanding in this case), but you'll have to taste the bitter wrapper of it.

Read it! You won't regret it!
Even if it's not the best piece of literature you've read, it might be the book that will change you forever!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Native American Festival Saratoga 2009- Part II

As a person who appreciates and creates art, I cannot but be pleasantly surprised that in times like this, when it is so difficult for everybody, there are people who are really blessed to to be able to earn bread and butter with their unique talents.
I feel so inspired and so motivated by what I saw at the festival, that I really wanted to share with you the amazing work of these people.

You might think that the child-like excitement is unusual for me but I am really extatic about the things I learned and the people I met and I deeply admire the talents of each and every one of them.

You can check out here the first part of this article.

The first thing I saw when I walked in was the pottery of Ada Jacques ( Onondaga, Turtle Clan). Here pottery is not just like a regular pottery. You can see the spirit of the past in them, telling you stories from long ago.
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These amazing baskets were in Kenneth Thompson's vendor booth.
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Here are some “bells” as well:
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Can you imagine the amount of detail in these?! They are very small! Inconceivable!
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Then I stumbled upon this talented lady's booth and saw here making a turtle totem pole, right there! It was so unbelievable watching her work that I didn't want to bother her with questions, but a little boy was so interested in the totems that she left here work and started explaining what a totem means and why it has turtles, how you make one etc.
Here totem poles were beautiful works of art! Her name is Andree Dennis Newton and she makes many more things, not only totem poles.
The things you see here are Adirondack Spirit Gourd masks. Preparation of the hard shell gourds involves wetting them down, scrubbing clean the outer shell, cutting, soaking, and scraping the interior, and then drying them again before beginning the mask facing. The gourds are colored with stains, oils, acrylics, and sand, then adorned with unique materials including feathers, horse hair, porcupine quills, glass, stone, bone, beads, and tamarack cones, as she writes in her website.

I believe this purse is hers too:
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The amazing bone bracelets and chokers are some of the things that were plenty and from beautiful to incomparable. They were worn as ornamentation and for protection too ( They provided physical protection of the neck and the jugular vein during battle and fighting ). Bone chokers varied in style from tribe to tribe. Usually they are made from hair pipe bones,leather strips and both glass and metal beads.
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I found this amazing article on bone chokers, that explained that on top of physical protection, bone chokers are also believed to provide spiritual protection of the voice. By wearing it, the spirits of the animal they come from can provide protection from all kinds of sicknesses.

It is also believed that the spirit will also provide you great speaking ability, to speak from the heart so to say. In this article the author was explaining that there is a different meaning for each strand the choker has:
1) One God
2) Affirmation
3) Completeness
4) Earthly Situations/Seasons/The Four Directions.
5) God On Top
6) Human Accomplishment
7) Spiritual Perfection
8) New Beginning

Take a look at the website, it has very interesting information you might like!
And what is a native American festival without dream catchers? The dream catchers are believed to entangle in their “web” the bad dreams and slip the good ones through the center whole. Check out this very interesting legend about the dream catchers.

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I have always been fond of dolls, but the Native American ones hold a special charm for me. Made out of clay by Tammy Tarbell-Boehning these are the dream of every girl- big or small and an amazing collectible too!
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Made by hand, the uniqueness of these dolls just stuns you!
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One of the big surprises of the festival for me was this craft, that I had never imagined to be done this way! Michael and Tonia” Iakonikonriio” Galban are an artistic duo in craft and real life too.
The craft that Michael was demonstrating was porcupine quill work. You can read more about it on Michel and Tonia's website here.
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I asked Michael to demonstrate for me how exactly he does it and he gladly obliged.
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First, he soaks the quills, then he cut's the ends and then he sews them on piece of leather.
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The amount of work you put in such a piece is breathtaking! He said that it takes 25-35 hours to finish a piece! He is making reproductions for museums, historic sites, movies and private collectors.

Talking about talented people, check out this video that was made on of James Durand Flint Knapper, introducing the Ishi Stick and who it was named after on the day of the Native American Festival.


He was even nice enough to let me capture him work. He is self taught, can you believe this?!
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This was his booth:
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Check out his videos on YouTube about arrowheads and more.


Steven John, Master craftsmen, Artis, Sculptor and Stone/Wood/Bone Carver as he describes himself blew me away with the detailed work on such a hard media to work with as bone is.
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Just look at those antlers!
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A very talented master flute maker and recording artist Al Cleveland shared his knowledge of flutes in the morning part of the festival.
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I have listened to him and I was thinking....I always loved music. I myself play the piano a little bit, but always enjoyed others to play for me better. However, I have a thing for flutes and bagpipes. If there is an instrument that I believe plays right from the hearth and into the soul...I believe that is the fluite. Don't believe me? Check out his CD and then tell me about it!!!

Aren't they beautiful?
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Last but not least of the vendors I want to tell you about two people who devoted their lives to preserve the tradition of Abenaki basket making. Sherry and Bill Gould are Western Abenaki Brown Ash basket makers, making their baskets the traditional way. I had the privilege to watch them both work and I was amazed how simple yet effective this method is!
Bill makes a tiny cut, then with a wooden hammer hammers on top of the wood and thing strip peels off the tree.
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Then Sherry moistens and cuts the strips down to the size splint needed for any given basket.
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Two artists also captured my attention.
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David Kanietakeron Fadden ( Mohawk painter and storyteller from the Wolf clan) who grew up in a traditional family of artists, naturalists and storytellers. His illustrations have appeared in books, periodicals, animations, and the Discovery Channel’s “How the West Was Lost: Always the Enemy.”
Here is one of his books for children, When the Shadbush Blooms

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The second painter was Dawn Dark Mountain( Oneida tribe of Wisconsin), that had presented the most incredible watercolor paintings and prints I've EVER seen! Her work is so crisp and inviting, I don't believe anybody who sees it can easily forget it.
I encourage you to check out her website, you wouldn't regret it!
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There was a lot of fun for the kids too! A whole tent of things like basket weaving with plastic cups, scavenger hunts, bead accessory, face painting etc.
The scavenger hunt was organized by Children and Nature Saratoga .
Check out their website, you can find out about awesome feature events for kiddos, books etc.

And since every good Native American festival needs storytellers and singers this one had plenty!
I want to mention the brilliant, engaging and amusing performances of James Bruchac, author, animal tracker, cultural eduator and wildernes expert( see picture left), Perry Ground ( see picture right), Kay Ionataiewas Olan, Kontiwennahawi ( women singers), David Kaniatakeron Fadden, Downland Singers, Nettukkusq Singers, Tom Obomsawin, Iron River Singers( check out their videos here ), Rez Dogs and Shenandoah Dancers.
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You can check out the videos feauturing some of the story tellers and musicians


I wish there was time to show you more, unfortunately there were so many people, that I would need to write a book to be able to fit them all in.

Next part would show the traditional dancing and a special post dedicated to a special person.

You can check out here the first part of this article.

Native American Festival Saratoga NY 2009- Part I

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Native American Festival Saratoga 2009

As you know from my previous postings about it, this past weekend I attended the Native American Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY with the intention to write about it again.

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Two years ago I have written an article in 2 parts on my blog, that you might find interesting, since it's very educational about the nature of the festival.

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I would be very short on the Native American terminology and basic rituals, since I've already published that in 2007, because this time I spent significant amount of time talking to the people presenting their art and their crafts and I learned so much more about them, that I can't wait to share all this with you. I highly recommend you read post 1 and post 2 from 2 years ago, since it is quite different from this one and by knowing what the festival is all about it would make you appreciate this article even better.
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Since the first time I've attended the festival in 2007 I was very eager to go again, because it was an experience I just can't compare to any other.
There are all kinds of festivals- different nationality, different cuisine, religion, even types of fruits and vegetables, and I have visited many, but not one of them had touched me in such a way, as the Native American Festival.
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Some might say, it's just cultural thing, but it's not. It's the way you feel when you are there, it's the kinds of things you learn about the people around you and about yourself too. I admit I have cried at least 2 times when I was there and I laughed 200 times more, but most importantly, I've discovered a part of me, that I never new existed and a hunger I don't think can be easily satisfied. I want to know!

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I want to know everything and I want to learn even more after that, because the Native American traditions and culture are as long as the longest river and as wide as the widest field multiplied by the size of the sky and the depth of the ocean.
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I was so impatient to get there that I printed the wrong directions and we took a wrong turn. :-) For 10 min we were so close, yet not enough to the festival that I could almost feel it but not quite. I felt like a teenager on a date! :-)

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We finally got there and now I have to mention that I want to say thank you to the people organizing the festival ( The Ndakinna Education Center& the Saratoga Spa State Park) for being so kind to provide me with a press pass for the event! Thank you!

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My first impression was, that the festival grew smaller and not in the sense of size, but as attraction variety.
There were not as many dancers as before, there were a lot more storytellers and musicians and some of the demonstrations that I really liked ( like the Birds of pray, canoe making, wigwam presentation) were missing.
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I wasn't disappointed! On the contrary, it kind of gave me a different perspective on the festival. When you go to a place like that, usually the vendors are just that- vendors. And here is the misconception that made me miss this important part of the festival the first time. I was so busy hoping on from attraction to attraction, from performer to the next, that I spent very little time in the vendors area, just casually going through it. True, I really liked the crafts, but that was about it.

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This time, it really gave me the opportunity to go and talk to the people making these crafts. You wouldn't believe how much I learned! It was unbelievable to hear the stories they had to tell, to watch the way they were making their craft ( and there were a lot of them doing in on the spot!) and to my surprise they were even letting the people try and make it themselves!
It was totally different experience than the first time, but in the best sense possible.

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The next post will show you dancers through my eyes- who I met, what I learned and how fascinating this experience was! Check it out by clicking here!

Monday, September 28, 2009

" What happened to you?!"

That's the question I've been asked more than 10 dozen times the last 2 weeks.
I'm still here, I'm alive, although I've been fighting some nasty virus that was trying to keep me in bed as much as possible, and I of course hate that.
So, I'm recovering well and I'm under pressure for the next big thing I'm about to announce!

I'm going to be at Vitoria Adamo Day Spa on 13 and 14th of November, showing my boxes and cards, maybe some hats, paintings etc, so if you want to stop buy and say hi, I'll be there! :-)

As you can imagine, I am working on boxes, candle holders, picture frames, etc with the woodburner and I haven't even started on the cards. :-( I wish I wasn't sick but what can you do?!

So, that's why I didn't have too much time to post, I hope you will excuse me, but just wanted to let you know what is to come. And here is the schedule:

- 1st of October- The Cake Challenge starts, the theme is " 3D" cakes. I hope I can manage to make one, because I want to donate it for the Harvest Hoedown at my son's school.

- 3&4 of October- I'll write an article about the Native American Festival in Saratoga Springs. I hope the weather would be OK. It's every 2 years and it's amazing!

- 6th of October- My Watercolor classes start.

- 8th of October- the Oil painting classes start ( I intend to keep you updated on both classes as much as I can)

- 23th of October- I have to have that cake ready for the Harvest Hoedown, so wait for the post and pictures! I hope I can manage to make a tutorial as well.

- 1st of November- The discussion and revealing of the cakes from the Cake Challenge begin.

- 13&14 of November- I'm at the spa not to relax,but to show my art&craft things.


And these are the things that I'll post about...not to mention the things I have on the side, like school stuff, extracurricular activities and trivial things like cooking dinners etc :-)

So, check whenever you can, I promise I'll post the new crafts as soon as I can. I'll have more updates on the Food blog, since I have some recipes just waiting to be shared!

Enjoy the colorful Autumn, my favorite season!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

" Julie&Julia"- the movie

The scene:
Early morning yesterday.
I've send Kid No.1 to school, my husband to work and was trying to catch some more Z's after a long night ( a lot of pyrographed boxes for the festival).

5 minutes after I snuggled with Kid No.2 and closed my eyes for a second time my cell rings.
Now, before I continue let me tell you something about my cell phone. You probably have heard about people buying an alarm clock by the way the alarm sounds, right? That's how I chose my cell phones- the nastier, the better. In other words, my cell phone is my alarm clock and it's alarm can wake up the dead. Seriously.
So, my phone rang but I was so tired that I couldn't open my eyes before I picked it up, so I had no idea who is calling at first, but tried to sound " not sleepy" anyway.

The conversation:
( very sleepy me)
- Yeees?
( a quite awake and fresh, but with great urgency voice on the other side)
- You've got to find somebody to drop the kids off tonight!!! Call your friends, just find somebody!!!

That's a lot of exclamation points for this early in the morning, after you worked the whole night before, believe me! After the 1 min of total silence that took me to process what I've just heard I came to 2 conclusions:
1. that was my husband
2. he wants me to get rid of the kids for the night

What on earth could that mean? We rarely go anywhere, so something must have happened! As a good wife, mother and woman, the kaleidoscope of Apocalypse pictures runs full speed trough my head. He finally says:
- I have a surprise for you!
That does it. A surprise is a big red flag, so the yellow light and the siren in my head have me awake in no time.
- What kind of surprise? What are you talking about? Did something happen? Are you all right? ( and so on and so forth with the speed of light)
As you can probably tell, I am not very big on surprises. Quite honestly, it's not that I don't like them. It's just I can't be surprised easily and the few times anybody managed, it was far from a pleasurable experience, so I have my reasons.
He goes:
- Do you want to be surprised or not?
- I would rather not, if you may.

Now for a 10 year marriage my beloved husband have learned not to question my quirkiness with things like that so:
- Well, I just got a pass for a pre premier showing of " Julie& Julia"
There is a big loud scream on my side at this point and then:
- Oh, my God, oh my God!!!! How? Who? When? How???
- It's in the fingers, baby! It turns out your husband is quite fast?

Now I'm puzzled what he means while he laughing clarifies that :
- One of the colleagues sent an e-mail saying she has a pass for 2 for the movie and asked if anybody wants it. I guess I was the first one to respond with and e-mail. ( he is quite smug about it) :-)
And I'm happy! Boy, you can't imagine how happy I am! Going out on a week night to see a movie I very much wanted to see, with no kids and with a perfect excuse to wear my new black skirt and show the world how much weight I've lost ;-)
God bless the colleagues with passes and the husbands with fast fingers! ( and remind me to bake this lady something!)

A hundred million plans go through my head and until I finally find somebody to take care of the kids for the night.
Now I'm afraid that something might jinx us ( as it usually happens with parents) and somebody might get sick or something, so I keep my mouth shut and pray. I can't believe this! I have NEVER seen a movie before it officially comes out in the movie theaters! And I sooooo wanted to see this movie!
It was only poring cats and dogs outside! Yupeeee!!!

While walking out of the theater with my fancy strap sandals my feet got wet, but I didn't feel it. I could have been run over by a car and I wouldn't feel it! I was writing! I was writing in my mind this review and I had all these phrases that I wanted to use and all this cool stuff to say....I couldn't wait to get home, jump in my pj's, grab a cup of tea and write!And that's what I am doing right now, though I'll probably publish this post tomorrow, since it's very late and I don't want to publish stuff I am not sure I didn't write half asleep ( it actually happened one time! :-).

So, for those of you ( shame on you!) who don't know what is the movie about you can see the trailer of course, but in a couple of words, the movie is about Julie Powell and Julia Child. Julie Powell started a project- a year assignment to make every single recipe in Julia Child's cook book. They are both real and their stories are real. The movie is based on Julie Powell's book and it is a parallel between the two women's lives.

All in all, I loved the movie, but why is the more serious question. I have a simple answer.
I loved it, because I could very much relate to it. It's like it was written about me, like my life was on the screen and I could see it from the perspective of someone, sitting in a movie theater, nibbling on popcorn and saying " Yes, you are indeed like that".

I've got the list, I'm not kidding:
- Turning 30 this year- check
- Crazy about cooking - check
- Looking for my life's meaning and purpose- check
- Lovely, supporting husband- check
- a Blogger blogger- check
- series of unfortunate events happening through life- check
- A passion to write but not sure if I can- check

What else is missing?
Aaaah, the happy ending of course!!! Hm....is it, really? Is it too late? Too early?

We'll see( about that) !!! :-) :-) :-)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince Movie Review

I just came home from the movie theater and I simply had to share with you, otherwise it would have burst out of me like an alien.

I have very mixed feelings about this movie.

For me it's maybe the most controversial from the series ( and I have seen them all a million times).
I am honestly puzzled! What is the target audience that David Yates aims, seriously? Is it teenagers? Is it kids? Is it adults? I have been sitting in the theater and I have been trying to figure that out, but I really couldn't tell. The poor guy is trying so hard, that he totally missed the point of creating this movie!

And the poor editing, ah the poor editing!!! The movie seemed like separate shots glued together with Windows movie maker! And this is the theatrical version, God help us when the DVD comes out!

So, let me sum up the movie for you,
-one moment Harry is having this teenage crisis with girls, the next one he is dumb-struck from a luck potion, sheepish smiles everywhere,Hermione is one moment crying, then she is attacking Ron with humming birds, her date is throwing up on Snape's shoes, Harry almost kills Draco in the restroom and then just walks out of it with waltzing steps without anybody saying him a word about it,a lot of snogging everywhere, a lot of "funny" ( dumb and dumber style)moments, 5 minutes of Daniel Radcliffe's T-shirt in the right corner and Dumbledore's beard in the left corner of the screen ( when he is dead),Dumbledore takes interest in Harry's love life (what the heck was that all about?!)...should I go on?

Seriously, it looked like half ( if not all) of the actors in the set were playing high most of the time. I have seen these people ACT and they are brilliant! What on earth is this director thinking into leading them to act like lunatics?!

I grant Yates couple of things that were OK, like the bridge attack and the moment everybody in the school sees Dumbledore is dead and raising their wands, I liked the metaphor of burning Weasley's house, although it's not in the book I think it served it's purpose, but other than that there were a lot more important things that were omitted and I don't even dare predict what are they going to pull out of their hats to fix that in the next 2 movies.

And it's not like they lacked time, it's almost 3 hour movie for Pete's sake!

I have learned ( through practice) to look at the other movies as a separate entity, not as a book transcript and this have served me well though the years. I have really, really enjoyed all of them, once I ignored my knowledge of the books. This of course is true for the most movies shot by a book too.
But I have a real difficulty with this one. I am totally confused by it and by what exactly was the director's intention on adding new totally useless stuff and skipping really important parts.

So, in other words I'll watch it again, but only because I am such a huge fan of the series and I love the actors in the movie and when I watch it, I'll imagine how the things happened in the book and how the movie SHOULD HAVE been shot.

But for me, David Yates showed us AGAIN he is the wrong person for the job by taking this huge budget, this brilliant set of actors and turning an amazing book into a bunch of rubbish.

Well, he succeeded in one thing. I'm seriously starting to pray everyday that somebody finally puts him out of his misery and finishes the job he is obviously unqualified and incapable of doing.
Undoubtedly a masterpiece massacre in my eyes!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kindle discount!!!

Great news people!!!
Amazon just lowered the price of their 6" Kindle!Check it out!



I had the chance to use it for a couple of hours and it's the best thing ever! I really want to make myself a 30th birthday present, but we'll see ;-)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Boston through my eyes - II part

I was afraid that the rain would spoil the fun, but it was quite on the contrary, it was awesome 4th of July.
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In spite of the rain and fog, some people were up for a swim with the Duck tour.

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With all this fog, I thought I switched continents and we are in London.
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or Venice
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It turns out wet weather is the perfect time for a zoo visit. Couple of friendly toucans invited us for tea.
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The bears were providing the honey as usual of course, some of them even got a taste while waiting.
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Only the flamingos were in very pinkish-happy mood:
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We visited Prudential and I took couple of pictures from the top.
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Can you believe this is the 52nd floor?
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Here is something I haven't seen in years- sugar crystals on a stick! That's what they served us with the coffee.
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A nice walk through the city was just what we needed after 3 days of rain.
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Sun+water+kids= always winning combination.
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Add some modern architecture to the taste and you have the perfect vacation.
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Isn't it awesome?
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I wish we had the time to try one of these:
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In the park there were celebrations for 4th of July and some people even got dressed for the occasion:
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What?! Of course we had to know if the sword is real!
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Boy, I miss this kind of clothing.
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Isn't she unreal?
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What is a trip without a couple of live statues:
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And my favorite street musicians:
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Some were busy feeding the horses, other ones were riding them for an eternity.
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The sun came up and life was beautiful enough for a beach visit. Short visit ( because of the cold water) but nice one.
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We even had the time to find a house for a hermit crab.
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And happiness fit in my palm.
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So, I am looking forward to the future, when we would visit again.
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