“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.”.

Before I get into the post, I apologize in advance for the formatting. I’ve been having issues with WordPress recently and it making me exceedingly frustrated. Of course, my lack of tech savvy could be the real culprit (but GRRR either way). Happy Monday, beautiful people. Speaking of the beautiful…
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Just finished reading The Richard Burton Diaries. Oh my lands! What a journey it was. As usual, I’m late to the book signing, the diaries came out in 2012, In fairness though, by that time, RB had been dead for almost 30 years. Hopefully, he won’t hold it against me. May he rest in lavish, bookish, and superior peace.

My humble take on the inner wordings of flawed greatness, turns out Richard Burton was not just an accomplished actor, but also a gifted writer. The diaries are a superb read, magical and moving for their realism, and gut wrenching for Burton’s sometimes biting cynicism. If you’re not familiar with Richard Burton, he was an acclaimed Welsh actor of both film and stage, probably best known for movies like Cleopatra, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, (my favorite) Where Eagles Dare, and his renounced stage performances as Henry V, and Author of Camelot. One also can’t think of Burton without mentioning his turbulent romance and marriages to the legendary and glorious Elizabeth Taylor. The latter takes on a leading role in his diaries. In one passage he writes of Taylor:

“I have been inordinately lucky all my life but the greatest luck of all has been Elizabeth. She has turned me into a moral man but not a prig, she is a wildly exciting lover-mistress, she is shy and witty, she is nobody’s fool, she is a brilliant actress, she is beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography, she can be arrogant and wilful, she is clement and loving, Dulcis Imperatrix, she is Sunday’s child, she can tolerate my impossibilities and my drunkenness, she is an ache in the stomach when I am away from her, and she loves me!

Their relationship was one for the ages and fascinating in the way only tormented love can be. However, it’s not as intriguing as Burton himself, with his melodic voice, rugged good looks, and command of the English language (both written and spoken) Just look at how eloquently he described the wonders of traveling:

“Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares, and the slavery of Home, man feels once more happy. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood. Excitement lends unwonted vigour to the muscle, and the sudden sense of freedom adds a cubit to the mental stature. Afresh dawns the morn of life. Again the bright world is beautiful to the eye, and the glorious face of nature gladdens the soul. A journey, in fact, appeals to Imagination, to Memory, to Hope-the sister graces of our mortal being.

Burton’s diaries begin in 1933, when he was just a young lad of 14. They conclude in 1983, the year of his untimely death at the age of 58. The journals provide an intimate glance into his private life and innermost thoughts. Thoughts that come across as lyrical, profound, self indulgent, deeply introspective, surprisingly scholarly, and always captivating. Like all of us, Burton had his demons, his vanities, his disappointments, his heartaches, his less than moments but also his successes and Mohammed mountaintop, (isn’t life a glamorous hoot) glimmer and glimpses. In some parts, the book reads like a Hollywood gossip column, in others, an erotic love story (always on the precipitate of becoming a Shakespearean tragedy), and in still others, a collection of Dylan poems with Yates’ Revolutionary Road thrown in to make you ponder the banality of even the most extraordinary of lives.

As an aside (and noteworthy, for all of us reading fiends), his love of books almost rivaled his love of Taylor. He consumed volume upon volumes of reading material. He read ferociously and obsessively from every genre. His knowledge of literature was extraordinary. He was very opinionated on the novels he read too. His summation of The Godfather and the Bond books made me chuckle. His knowledge of Shakespeare and Blake was astonishing. I’ve added a few of his suggestions to my reading list. Thanks RB! I think he’d probably hate that I’m calling him that. It beats Dick though.
The impression left upon completion of the book, Richard Burton was a multi dimensional, brilliant, curious, tender, sometimes lovable, other times unlikable man but a man who was always authentic, generous, and genuine in his assessment of himself and the world around him. Like most creative types, he did have periods of misanthropy and depression. At times he was full of self loathing and a natural born critic, both of himself and others, but he tempered his harshness with an engaging wit. He was wickedly funny. If I had to sum up Richard Burton, I would say in my pedestrian and utterly lacking way, he was a bit of a Dickens character, mixed with Oscar Wilde and King Lear.
Oh and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I highly recommend The Richard Burton Diaries. It’s a stellar read for anyone who is a fan of old Hollywood, rags to riches tales, love stories, engaging writing, and tortured men with faces like a Greek God. Men who don’t mind getting deeply personal with their journals. Note, the writings really take off around his 1965 entries. You can see his progression as a writer. Richard Burton was more than apt with a turn of a phrase and danced his way through the pages with the grace of Baryshnikov. If you choose to read the diaries, you will come away with an intimate portrait of a wonderfully complex, indelibly flawed human. He may have been Hollywood royalty but his heart was just like ours, one that bent and broke on occasion. I wish I could do justice to his musings, but you’ll just have to read him for yourself.

-Tosha Michelle


The best scene from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” The acting is mesmerizing.

https://youtu.be/g1IDWOtBDTg

Book Review: Confessions of A Reformed Southern Belle: A Poet’s Collection of Love, Loss and Renewal By Tosha Michelle via @tdmiller820917

A lovely review of my first book of poetry. I’m so unworthy but deeply moved by Tracy’s kindness. My poetry at the time was still evolving. Please check out Tracy’s blog NGE and follow.

TheNerdyGirlExpress

Solitude is both a blessing and a curse for a poet. With the Muse often the only companion, a poet is forced to confront those overwhelming emotions prowling around the brain. While there may be some trepidation dealing with these emotions, such honesty can be insightful and refreshing. To remove the bandages covering one’s emotional scars is the first step towards healing.

Tosha Michelle is an emotionally accessible poet. Her verse puts a mirror up against the soul. In her writing, we see the joy, the sorrow, the love, the loss, the hope.

The renewal.

Confessions of A Reformed Southern Belle: A Poet’s Reflection of Love, Lost and Renewal, is a stellar poetic gem. The book provides rhythmic perfection, imagery as well the journey towards one’s roots with the comfort that nostalgia offers.

She shows us the beautiful melancholy of lovers whose destinies might take different paths but whose hearts…

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THE RAVEN by Sylvain Reynard (A Review) When Nevermore becomes Once More.

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The Raven.  Synopsis.

“Raven Wood spends her days at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery restoring fine works of Renaissance art. But an innocent walk home after an evening with friends changes her life forever. When she intervenes in the senseless beating of a homeless man, his attackers turn on her, dragging her into an alley. Raven is only semi-conscious when their assault is interrupted by a cacophony of growls followed by her attacker’s screams. Mercifully, she blacks out, but not before catching a glimpse of a shadowy figure who whispers to her…

Cassita vulneratus.

When Raven awakes, she is inexplicably changed. She returns to the Uffizi, but no one recognizes her, and more disturbingly, she discovers that she’s been absent an entire week. With no recollection of the events leading up to her disappearance, Raven also learns that her absence coincides with one of the largest robberies in Uffizi history – the theft of a set of priceless Botticelli illustrations. When the baffled police force identifies her as its prime suspect, Raven is desperate to clear her name. She seeks out one of Florence’s wealthiest and elusive men in an attempt to uncover the truth about her disappearance. Their encounter leads Raven to a dark underworld whose inhabitants kill to keep their secrets.

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Review 

Once in a great while a book comes along that you can’t put down. Sylvain Reynard’s The Raven is one of those books. I fell in like with Reynard’s literary prowess with his Gabriel’s Inferno trilogy; after reading The Raven, I can say I am head over heels, crazy, twerking in the street Miley style, Tom Cruise chair-jumping, forget that bass, Meghan Trainor is sure to be all about this novel, IN LOVE with this man’s prose. He has my undying book devotion until pen doth us part. The Raven is everything you could want in a good read: intelligent, witty, thrilling, sexy and hard to let go of. It’s the type of book you’ll spend all night reading and not feel guilty about it in the morning. You’l l even want to take it home to Mom. It’s hard to express how much I love this novel, but I will try.

Let’s dish about the heroine of the book, shall we? Raven Wood is strong, feisty, determined, witty and real. She has overcome adversaries with grace and lives a life of purpose. This woman knows how to make the proverbial lemonade out of lemons. She compassionate and brave, to use the vernacular, she is a total bad ass. In a book age where the romance genre is inundated with wimpy, subservient, spineless, superficial women, Raven is a breath of fresh girl power air. I love her.

Of course you can’t have a heroine without a hero, or in The Prince’s case antihero. He is very much an alpha, Byronic male but atypical in his otherworldly abilities. At first glance he seems mercurial, but underneath beats a tender but tormented heart. Still, he is a force to be reckoned with, but Raven is up to the task. Together, they are a formidable match. The chemistry between the two leaps off the pages.

Reynard, in signature style throws in literary, cultural, historic, art and aesthetic references. There’s a strong Machiavellian theme throughout the book and a huge nod to Cupid and Psyche. He’ll also have you clamoring to catch the next flight to Florence, Italy. The Florence Tourist Board owes him a commission. You’ll feel like you are taking the Renaissance Walk and touring the Uffizi Gallery. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the rich history of Florentine art. There are even analyses of a few of the great artworks of the Renaissance, deftly explaining them in terms of the religion and politics of the time.

Reynard took some creative risks with this novel and did it in an audaciously ambitious way. The dividends pay off. His style is terse but lyrical, bold and edgy Gritty and visceral. His voice is original and commanding. The novel manages the delightful tricks of being harrowing and romantic, suspenseful and intellectual. He effortlessly weaves in themes of justice, mercy, loss, hope, love, redemption and good old-fashioned fortitude of character. The Raven is a fearless and flawless read by a remarkable author.

Excerpt from The Raven 

In the distance, the Prince could hear voices and muffled sounds.

He approached silently, almost floating across the floor.

Desperate groans and the rustling of fabric filled his ears, along with the twin sounds of rapidly beating hearts. He could smell their scents, the aromas heightened due to their sexual arousal.

He growled in reaction.

The corridor was shrouded in darkness but the Prince could see that the professor had his wife up against a window between two statues, her legs wrapped around his waist.

Her voice was breathy as she spoke, but the Prince tuned out her words, moving closer so he could catch a glimpse of her lovely face.

At the sight of it, flushed with passion, his old heart quickened and he felt the stirrings of arousal.

It was not his custom to observe rather than participate. But on this occasion, he decided to make an exception. Careful to remain in the darkness, he moved to the wall opposite the couple.

The woman squirmed in her lover’s arms, her high heels catching on his tuxedo jacket. Her fingers flew to his neck, undoing his bow tie and tossing it carelessly to the floor.

She unbuttoned his shirt, and her mouth moved to his chest, as murmurs of pleasure escaped his lips.

The Prince felt more than desire as he watched the woman’s eager movements. He caught a glimpse of her exquisite mouth and the toss of her long hair that would no doubt feel like silk between his fingers.

She lifted her head to smile at the man who held her close and he could see love in her eyes.

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​The Raven – Book One of The Florentine Series 2/3/15

BN
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-raven-sylvain-reynard/1119619658?ean=9780425266496

Amazon

Amazon Canada

iTunes
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-raven/id888019240?mt=11

The Prince by Sylvain Reynard (a review)

The Prince is Sylvain Reynard’s novella that bridges the gap between his beloved Gabriel trilogy and his upcoming Florentine series. In the story, we are reunited with Gabriel and Julianne and introduced to a whole new set of enthralling characters. Notably, a mysterious and sinister other worldly being who wants the illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy that Gabriel acquired years ago. Unbeknownst to the professor, the illustrations were stolen. Now their rightful owner wants them back and is out for blood.

Reynard’s Prince is certainty no Prince Charming, even if he has the looks for it. No, he’s more of a Machiavelli prince, a master manipulator, ruthless with little regard for moral justification or the heads he might have to crush. The chasm between good and evil has never been so strongly felt. “It is better to be feared than loved.” Our dark antagonist embodies these words. However, I sense that there is more to The Prince than meets the eye. Perhaps, he wasn’t always so mercurial?

Reynard’s writing style is edgy and sexy. This novella oozes darkness and intrigue. I’m not normally a fan of the paranormal romance genre, but leave it to the sly fox to reel me in. Curse and bless you, Sylvain Reynard. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us in The Raven.

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Ask Me Anything.

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Disclaimer: I am a book elitist. You know one of those obnoxious folks who always thinks the novel is better than the movie. When my friend Allison Burnett decided to turn his coming of age book Undiscovered Gyrl (2009) into a film, I was skeptical.  Could he really stay true to his artistic vision? Would the film live up to the book? And more importantly would this die hard Undiscovered Gyrl fanatic like it.   Guess what? It does and I do.   “Ask Me Anything” is flawless, captivating and poignant. It is every bit as gripping as the novel, no one, not even, Ms. Book Snob herself can accuse Allison of betraying his beloved novel by butchering it when it goes Hollywood.  I’m not ready to turn down my nose just yet though. In fairness, Allison wrote, produced and directed the film. He had full creative control.  In other words, he made his own book and did a darn fine job of it. I was one of the fortunate ones that got to prescreen this extraordinary film and trust me this is a not to be missed.

The story centers on Katie Kampenfel played masterfully and heartbreakingly by Britt Robertson. Robertson gives an empathy generating performance.  Katie is a beautiful, spirited, witty and troubled young woman who has just graduated high school. She decides to take a year off before attending college. She begins her sabbatical by getting a job at a local bookstore working for Glenn Warburg (Martin Sheen). Bored with her college aged boyfriend Rory (Max Carver) she sets her sights on 32-year-old film professor, Dan played by Justin Long.

When she starts an anonymous blog, we get a voyeuristic look into her life and inner most thoughts which are uncensored, hilarious, and gut-wrenching. Things quickly take a dark turn when we learn of Katie’s troubling past with her alcoholic father, played by the rugged Robert Patrick. As the film progresses a dark secret from her childhood comes to light, Dan stops talking her calls, and she finds herself drawn into another toxic relationship with an older man played by Christen Slater.

The movie just like the book will leave you breathless, disturbed, and, dare I say, changed. The acting is exquisite, the cinematography is flawless, and the writing is superb. You will fall in love with Katie and be drawn into the haunting and stirring agonies, the unwonder years-desires, sex, self-destructive behaviors, the the insatiable longing to be loved.   You may even see a little of yourself in Katie. “Ask Me Anything” will resonant and linger long after the closing credits.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other star of this film, the soundtrack featuring original music by undiscovered female artists all under the age of 21.

The film is set to be release on Dec 19th.

Watch the trailer here.

Friedrich A Kittler: Essays: Literature Media and Systems: A Review by Tosha Michelle

Friedrich Kittler’s work describes a ‘post modern Tower of Babel’ which is paradoxically,
organized, or unleashed, by fractal theory which demonstrates that we, or society, do not
control technology but in fact technology totally controls and maneuvers us.

Kittler uses an iconic movement, or moment, from popular culture to define what he means
when he quotes Mick Jagger’s’ words: we can’t always get what we want but we get what we need. Meaning that the Frankenstein machine like monster that society has become gives us only what we need to exist.

Kittler is more or less saying that a fractal-army of techno-vampires has sucked the life
blood out of the human spirit and now that we, society, have been bitten there is no going
back: or undoing the processing of the fracturnally evolving system.

Kittler argues that the only problem that this Transylvanian system of  technology has in completing it conquering of the human spirit totally is in how this system is to hide from us, or what is left of us, the fact that we the subjects have lost, or are losing, our identity.

We might argue that Herbert Marcue’s One Dimensional Man: 1964: offered humankind the chance of more possibities against the unfreedom of technological systems.

It seems for Kittler, as for Michael Focault, an authentic opportunity for individuals to
escape for humankind from becoming zombified, cyborgs, or vampires who line dance before the throwns of the technological systems is not even a remote possibility. The classic popular cultural movie Night of the Living Dead gives us a vivid and nightmarish aesthetic look at the phenomena of today’s society but we might say that there is a mocking humor in the directors cut.

Perhaps then the block buster, The Matrix is closer to the reality or non-reality that Kittler is arguing. The government originally banned this film for one reason or another?

However, we might argue that the development of fractal philosophy, or fractal theory, has other potential, and possible, and more optimistic ways of taking humankind forward in the 21st Century. Medicine and treatment along side the mapping of genes for instance.

Antonio Gramci said pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will is the way forward and even though the Frankfurt School seemed full of doom in some of its arguments of objectivity it did offer that people were political and that a great refusal was also possible if we in society took a critical distance and a gave our self the chance to imagine alternatives from other perspectives.

Walter Benjamin’s work without doubt influenced Marshal Berman’s extraordinary book of
hope: All That Is Solid Melts into Air: 1983: which certainly challenges the arguments of the system and fractal totalities of Foucault and Kittler. We might argue then that Gramci’s optimism of the will is a spirited challenge arguing that people in society can change society.

Gramsci said that culture means the exercise of thought, the acquisition of general
ideas, and the habit of connecting causes and effects together. He argued that culture
means thinking well, whatever one thinks, and therefore acting well, in whatever one does:
optimism of the will once more.

When Gramsci wrote the words pessimism of the intellect optimism of the will he wrote it
from inside a prison cell and he wrote it as a message of hope for others. Gramsci argued that we must speak of a new struggle for a new culture which is intuitive to a new way of feeling and seeing reality.

Gramsci’s cultural words of optimism challenged the hegemony of totalities and the grip of
power that systems of totality have on society. Gramsci argued that hegemony was active in all realms of culture and social organization Gramsci’s optimism of the will can be seen as a direct argument against Kittler’s argument that the human spirit is no more.

Gramsci argued that a development of the will, or freedom of the will, was not beyond the individual to achieve.

Stewart Hall’s understanding of political activism, alongside academic theory, as an
essential way forward is hopeful also. For example, the Popular Cultural movement of the
Punk Rock phenomena of the 70s and 80s demonstrated how politics and aesthetics are fundamentally linked together by the relationship between performer and audience. The performer is not beyond the reach of the the person in audience just as those who dwell in the academic ivory tower also have to get their hands dirty.

Kittler offers no hope to a society of free will through popular culture, and just as Foucault does, Kittler turns each and every possibility of a developing universal imagination of Milky Ways, somewhere over the rainbows, and Never Lands into cul de sacs. The magical
spirit of humanity and looking through the looking glass from either way is shaped into a mind bending barbed wire matrix from which there is no escape: or no freedom of thought.
Marshal Berman makes this kind of argument in the introduction of All That Is Solid.

Stewart Hall talks about the potential of global citizenship and the possibility of freedom in a way that is lost under the fixed ideas that there is one space, one globe, one citizenship, and one morality, but that the reality is that otherness is the way forward.

Hall argues that the interconnectivity of popular Friedrich A Kittler: Essays: Literature Media and Systems:and globalization acts as structures of power that creates conflict instead of the possibility a universal vision. Hall’s argument on popular culture is one that demonstrates how the interconnectivity of globalization is used in the dimensions that Kittler argues but Hall argues that such totalization does not prescribe humankind a definitive future under such a pessimistic cloud.

In support of Kittler theory someone quoting Einstein said that God doesn’t play dice with the universe. Einstein also said that those who think that they know what the true is are getting shipwrecked on the laughter of the Gods.

Friedrich A Kittler:
Friedrich A Kittler: Essays: Literature Media and Systems: ISBN 90-5701-071-2

Answers.com: Dictionary: A Dictionary which is a Part of Popular Cultural Phenomena:
Fractal: A geometric pattern that is repeated at ever smaller scales to produce irregular

shapes and surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry. Fractals are used

especially in computer modeling of irregular patterns and structures in nature

Antonio Gramsci:
Gramsci, Antonio, Selections from cultural writings. London (Lawrence & Wishart) 1985

Stewerert Hall:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBfPtRaGZPM
Interview of the sociologist and social thinker Stuart Hall:
by Pnina Werbner.Feb. 01. 2008:

Mark Kingwell-The People’s Philosopher

One of my favorite contemporary philosophers is the University of Toronto professor, author, essayist, and critic Mark Kingwell. He apparently has quite the following in Canada, but we Americans haven’t caught on yet. I discovered his work by accident last year while doing research for an interview with New York Times bestselling author Sylvain Reynard. Reynard who writes under a pen name, is an anonymous Canadian author who is shrouded in mystery. If you’re curious about him, click here.http://http://www.sylvainreynard.com/ He’s a brilliant guy, kind to a flaw, and his proses are effortless. No one aside from Jesus does redemption better.

But I digress. Kingwell’s name came up an article on Reynard. There was speculation that perhaps Kingwell and Reynard were one in the same. Having read both their works, I don’t see it. Their literary voices are vastly different. Reynard seemingly is a strong man of faith. Hope and redemption are prominent themes in his books. Kingwell, from all accounts, is a  atheist. He refers to himself as a rehabilitated Catholic. There are other glaring differences, but we’ll save those for another time.

Kingwell has written twelve books. You can see a list of his work here.http://http://www.philosophy.utoronto.ca/directory/mark-kingwell/ Today I want to focus on two of my favorites. A Civil Tongue (1995) and In Pursuit of Happiness: Better Living from Plato to Prozac (2000).  In A Civil Tongue, he takes on political discourse and culture. He believes social justice can be achieved through an open and honest dialogue. He refers to this as “the talking cure.” He is a proponent of tolerance, reason and civility — how very Canadian of him. In a time when political discord is out of control, his ideas are refreshing. Imagine a world where we actually discuss our political views in a rational, sane way, where we offered up ways to make a difference, where the blame games were nonexistent, and we listen to the other side. Imagine if we not only listened but showed respect for others’ point of view. If we could change political discourse, we could change the world.

In Pursuit of Happiness: Better Living from Plato to Prozac (2000) explores the nature of happiness and human nature in an engaging and entertaining way. Pop culture references are found throughout — everything from The Simpsons to Pepperidge Farm goldfishes. Naturally the works of some of the greats in philosophy play a prominent role. Spoiler alert: Aristotle plays a leading role in the book. Kingwell is a fan. He also takes us into the New Age movement with a hilarious anecdote of his time at a happiness camp. He tried Prozac just to see what all the fuss was about.

Kingwell asserts that happiness isn’t a feeling. Happiness is not about “feeling” good all the time. “Sometimes good enough is enough.” Reflection and introspection about one’s life are crucial to peace of mind.
It is not enough to just be in the world; one must also feel connected to humanity and the collective good. This can be an arduous task in our modern society in which we are inundated with information. This constant stream of noise that can leave us feeling out of the loop Kingwell refers to as “upgrade anxiety” –the feeling that we have to catch up. This feeling can zap us of our energy and overwhelm us.

Paradoxically, no man is an island. Much emphasis is placed on intimate relationships as being fundamental to happiness, yet solitude has sparked some of the most creative minds in history. Kingwell also states the seemingly obvious, that material goods can’t buy happiness. Happiness is not about getting everything we want. In fact, having all of our heart’s desires can lead to unhappiness. It is in the striving that we find meaning.

A Civil Tongue (1995) and In Pursuit of Happiness: Better Living from Plato to Prozac (2000), are books everyone should read. Kingwell’s writing is flawless without being pretentious or preachy. His wit is a thing of wonder. He’s truly the “every man and woman’s philosopher.” He’s hip, snarky and smart. Who needs happiness camp or Prozac when you have a Kingwell book?

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