Saturday, January 28, 2023

An Opera as a Graphic Novel?

Remember 2020? Course you do. Remember how all the shows and events were cancelled? Remember how long it took to get them started up again? So, in that in-between time, companies tried out different things. Online streaming. Behind the scenes videos. Arizona Opera put together The Copper Queen, which came out in theaters in 2021. But filming an opera as a movie instead of producing it as a live show is still a visual medium with performers and sight and sound and song. It was different--but not altogether. Their other experimental project that came out of that time was even more different.

I'm referring to the graphic novel of Carmen, which was adapted by Alek Schrader, P. Craig Russel, and Aneke. A graphic novel is long in the making. I believe it was announced in December 2021 and the Kickstarter campaign began the following spring. Kickstarter can be a bit of a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. Even though there were updates in the following months, I was still caught pleasantly by surprise to find the actual, physical graphic novel in my hands this week. 

One hardly knew what to expect from such a project. But it's quite a nice volume the team put together. It's big and hardcover (and printed in Canada). I haven't read many graphic novels, so I'm not the best judge of this. But it was easy to read and follow along with. The dialogue and action flowed. While the visuals were kept to a simple style, they still conveyed strong emotions--in the same dramatic way that emotion comes across when I'm watching an opera on stage. I also have never watched Carmen. Rather than taking that as a negative, though, it meant that I was able to see just how much I enjoyed the story in its own right and felt each emotional beat as I flipped the pages--even without having any previous knowledge of or connection with the story.

I left off hoping that I do get to see the opera in person sometime. The book was emotionally stirring, with plenty of action and drama. I enjoyed following the story and picturing the music. The bold color palette matches the bold plot and characters. 

The idea of a project like this seems like it's to get more people into opera who wouldn't normally be. But I wonder if it doesn't work the opposite way, in getting people who enjoy opera more into graphic novels. Someone who has never read a graphic novel before is probably more likely to read this book (because of the opera) than it is likely for someone who has never seen an opera (but is into graphic novels) to read it. I could be wrong about that. (And this conversation is also going along with the assumption that there are two different groups of people--those who watch operas and those who read graphic novels. But since they're both sort of niche things, I wonder if there isn't more crossover between the audiences than one would think. People who like one niche type of content tend to like many niche things.) But either way, crossover and artistic experimentation can be fun--and they really did do such a great job with this volume that it will be a satisfying read for whoever it is that comes across it. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Blue Stripes: Madagascar Vanilla Cacao Water

A few years ago, I wrote about the Cacao Juice from Repurposed Pod that I got at Black Butterfly over in Prescott. More recently, I picked up a bottle of Cacao Water from Blue Stripes Urban Cacao. I'm not entirely sure if this is a separate company or if it's just a newer name for the same company. Either way, Blue Stripes is definitely worth checking out. They like to focus on cacao as a superfood. As such, you will find not only plenty of cacao water on their website but also cacao fruit smoothie pouches and dried cacao. Dried cacao? I must needs check that out.

As I mentioned last time, the idea of cacao water or juice or whatever you want to call it is that a great deal of what's in a cocoa pod gets wasted in the production of chocolate. This makes me think of something Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate once said; he said that his favorite way to taste chocolate was as the cocoa beans surrounded by pulp, fresh from the pod. At the time, I never thought I would get the opportunity to taste such cocoa, as I'm not exactly planning any trips to a cocoa plantation anytime soon. (I have since found that you can guy cocoa pods online from specialty fruit importers--maybe someday I'll have a cocoa pod party.) But cacao water does get you just a step closer to looking at the whole pod, not just a processed product made out of its seeds (aka. chocolate). 

Most of my comments from before still hold for this product, except that this time I got Madagascar Vanilla. Other flavors are Mango and Chili Lime. Vanilla seemed like just a mild flavor element, which is why I started there, though the others probably go quite well, too. After all, remember, this is a tangy beverage. I likened the honey-colored liquid to a type of lemonade. So when you add vanilla to it, the effect isn't entirely unlike honey lemonade. Especially on the first couple of sips, your mind doesn't entirely know what to do with the flavors. Honey lemonade just seems like the most familiar thing to latch onto.

How do you describe it, besides to say that it is tangy? It isn't sweet, though the vanilla gives a hint of sweet flavor--and yet it is more sweet than some fruits. This is where the lychee comparison came in last time. Lychee also has that tangy almost sweet type of flavor. There is a thick and heavy aroma to the beverage this time that I don't remember noting last time--so I'm going to say that it comes mainly from the vanilla and not as much from the cacao. While, in theory, vanilla should make such a drink more palatable, I feel like I enjoyed the plain version more. It's been a few years, so I really can't say; I would have to do a side by side. It could be that last time was just when the whole idea was new to me, so I was very excited about the overall product. But I didn't feel like it was lacking in anything when it was plain. My recommendation at this point, then, would probably be to either get it plain or to try the Mango or the Chili Lime. 

But whatever flavor you settle on, the product is great. I like the idea of it, and I like the way it tastes. If it's a superfood beverage, well, it's a fun one. It doesn't taste anything like chocolate, if you hadn't realized that by this point. But it's a nice drink to keep on the refrigerator shelf between the coconut water and the açaí juice for days when you just want a little extra boost. 

Friday, January 20, 2023

Something Stirs in the Night

A rustle comes from deep in the dark of the desert. No, several rustles. Small and swift. Jackrabbits, maybe? The sound isn't right for a heavy javelina. Just turn to the side and take a look and see. There, in the light, a swarm of slippery critters, teeth gnashing in tandem. Perhaps their small size will be enough to keep you safe.

But oh, what's this? Something louder but just as quick. Maybe a slender, muscular mountain lion this time? Is that what haunts the hollows bellows the saguaros? But no, those cannot be raptors so fierce and so bold? Never have I heard of raptor desert-dwellers--unless they be the birds-of-prey type of raptors.

Just then a tearing, ripping noise enters in. Maybe accompanied by a snarl. Or was it a gurgle of pleasure? For just there, in the next patch of light, a feathered raptor dips into its moonlit dinner while its hungry friend approaches with hopes of communion. Let the unholy feast continue so long as the toothed mouths are filled with something other than you or me. Let's just try and keep moving, hope they haven't seen us, aye?

Alas, however, the last sound we hear is the loudest of them all. Surely no desert creature was ever so big as this. Two mountains of teeth and claw stand poised against each other, with the fell full moon between their jaws. Muscles ripple beneath scales and limbs stiffen in preparation for the conflict. Never was such a fight as this seen in the Sonoran--at least not for many years. If we were not so affrighted for our lives, perhaps we would be honored. Let's run now, shall we?

Pictures taken at Dinosaurs in the Desert at the Phoenix Zoo. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

To the New Year

New Years can be times for reassessing. Some years, I'm so excited to put together a new year's post about the perspective I want to keep to in the new year. But this year I've let half the month go by without posting anything at all. I think perhaps part of the reason is that I am too busy living to spend time chronicling the hopes--the hopes are here. I don't say, I hope for this or I hope for that. Instead, I say, I have this or am doing that. So I haven't been itching to post my thoughts--because I have been speaking them.

With that being said, however, I do have my new year's post here at long last. I think perhaps this year I'll reorganize my posting schedule. Years ago, I would post every other day. Then I switched to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. By last year, I started just trying to get two posts out per week--and I stayed very flexible on that. So I think I will go with the two posts per week idea more fully now, keeping the flexibility but also planning for it a little more than I did this past fall/winter. I still need to rethink which days of the week might be best. 

As far as general themes for the year, I have been so focused on identity the last couple of years. I needed to reset and remind myself that my identity stems from God, from who he says I am. And I want to continue that, of course. But now I think I am shifting more towards living things out. I spoke in abstract terms, in the starting place, at the core or base. Now I think I am building out more. You put on your clothing in the morning--and then, all dressed as yourself, go out to face the day. I'm moving past the morning, past the bridge--I think 2023 might just be the new day. And in the new day, I want to remain thankful. Sometimes it's almost easier to cry out to God during the storm than to keep acknowledging him as the giver of every good thing in the bright, sunny day. 

So this year I think the theme this year is reverence toward God through every season. He is the guide through them all.