I quite often get sent things to read and critique - novels, books, websites, magazines... but never before have I been asked to review an album before release. I suspect this is largely because I know very little about music... (Maybe one day I'll get drunk enough to prove this by publishing the contents of my Ipod but I'm perhaps a little sceptical there is quite enough red wine in the Midlands to get me quite that inebriated... I've got Jason Donovan on there for Goddess sake.)
However when one of my oldest and dearest friends asked me to take a listen to his due to be released album I was happy to do so. I'll be honest and admit that the reason I agreed was because I knew whatever Mr Pisanu wanted me to listen to was undoubtedly bound to be damn good. I'd ask that those of you with lesser ability don't start whizzing your offerings to this not so musically educated witch in the mail. I'm making an exception for this man and I'm making it simply because I genuinely believe he will become one of the most influential musical artists of our generation.
Andrew Pisanu is an independent singer songwriter who can sum up the passions of his life in one single word - music. He teaches it, writes it, sings it, plays a range of instruments to professional standard and boasts a credible track record of lead singer band performances. I firmly believe that for an artist to reach the true potential of his creativity he needs to feel the all consuming obsession for the metier in which he chooses to express himself. Andrew epitomises this idea, he does not simply listen to music, he is music. This has never been so obvious to me as when I heard his latest album - Collecting Diseases.
I've been telling the man for years that his talent is best showcased when his voice is the main feature of the music so I was delighted to see that this new album focuses primarily on the simplicity of one man with a beautiful voice playing the hell out of his piano. And he does have a beautiful voice - you can hear the husky sensuality of his Italian ancestry in every low tortured whisper. This is a man who understands sex (too bad ladies, he's gay) and that understanding translates to his music. (Listen to the building of the crescendo in the song "Until the rain stops," That's an orgasm if ever I heard one. A true manipulation of sexuality via the senses.
The range of his voice is exceptional - there's probably some technical term for it but as I don't know it I'm just going to say he explores the entire length of his vocal cords with the emotional intensity that has become the trademark of his work. I do believe however that he has a guest soprano on the album - on "Nazi Falls" - (either that or he has had some surgery that he hasn't told me about...)
Speaking personally as somebody who is more comfortable with the written word than the mysterious world of music, I have to say I am often very disappointed when a tune is able to perfectly capture an emotion only to be let down by trite or cliched lyrics. One of the things I have always admired about Andrew is his determination to convey his message with all elements of his art. As much effort has gone into the lyrics as the music, some of which could actually make a respectable claim to stand alone as modern poetry. I particularly enjoyed the poignancy of the lyrics in the song "You should be with me." (OK I'll admit I cried. Oh to be a romantic...).
Having a personal relationship with the artist, I'm aware of some of Andrew's own musical tastes and some of the influences can clearly be seen in this work. Its influence not imitation, Andrew has very definitely established his own voice and musical identity but even the very greatest of artists have inspiration and this particular musician is no exception. The raw simplicity of Tori Amos singing alone at her piano, the epic showmanship of Rufus Wainwright and the cynical ennui of Janis Ian are all very evident on this album. I'd also be able to guess if I didn't know already that Andrew is rather keen on Chopin. The second track "Better Off" has a very distinctive Chopin-esque feel. My husband described it as reminiscent of music belonging to a slightly dystopian ballet. I've mentioned a couple of songs already but what I would like to do is highlight a couple of my favourites on the album. Andrew will no doubt tell me I have picked the most easily accessible ones (he says precisely that every time we both like an album) but in truth I think an artist who can make me fall in love with a song on the first listening has got what it takes to make me come back and listen to the more complicated stuff. "John Doe" to be fair probably is the most mainstream song on the album but it would make a great single and it grabbed me from the first play. I also liked "Dot Cotton" (which for my American audience I will just explain is a character from a British soap opera. Nice to see Andrew hasn't lost his sense of humour...)This one in particular was a very intimate song and I can imagine it being sung impromptu to a small group of people, sweeping the mood of the room along with it. That really is the hallmark of the music I want to listen to - something that will make me feel. Like I said I know nothing about the intellectual or the scientific side of music and I'm not interested in all that nonsense anyway. I listen to music for the same reason I read books and poetry - to make me feel something. If it fails to engage my emotions then as far as I'm concerned no matter how clever it is, its failed. This is why I have always listened to Andrew Pisanu and why I will always continue to do so. He knows how to engage me on an emotional level and I can't ask any more than that from any artist.I'll leave you with a link to the music video from Andrew's album. Its pretty surreal but it sets the tone for the album beautifully. I'll also remind you that the album is out on 2.12.2013 and you can buy it here.
As anyone writing a blog in the modern world knows, it is of vital importance to ensure that proper credit is given for images used and that only images with publishing consent from the author are uploaded into your work. Images, whether they be photographs, illustrations, paintings...whatever... belong to the person who created them and as such that person has the right to determine if, when and how those images are used.
To be frank, the whole issue is a minefield - images are cross posted so frequently that it is often very hard to trace the original owner - and even then you can't be sure it isn't someone else trying to pass off the work as their own. There is also a substantial amount of confusion on the matter (I credited them, I don't have to ask.... Everyone does it.....) and sadly there are also some very unscrupulous and lazy individuals who think anything on the internet is fair game for them to pinch.Its a rare blogger indeed who gets it right all the time. I'm happy to hold my hand up and say I certainly don't. But I do try and although good intentions don't put bread and butter on the table of the artist, it is at the very least a better starting point than a blatant intention to steal.
So I've put together a few basic suggestions for people wanting free images for their blogs - taken from my own experience and my own frustration in trying to trace and track owner consent.
1. Probably the best source of free images on the web is Flickr. Some artists are happy for you to use freely, some have caveats. If you do a creative commons search on Flickr you will come up with images you are permitted to use in your work.
2. Google Images is possibly the worst way to search for a picture. Chances are if it appears high on the list it is going to be a very recognisable image and your theft will be spotted straightaway. Don't risk it.
3. Image tracking software such as TinEye
can help you trace and contact the image owner so you can ask for consent.
4. If you have a watermarked image and want to use it, Google the info in the watermark and ask the owner. I'd also suggest as a grey area that your usage will be looked upon more favourably if you leave the credit on and don't snip it off and claim the work for your own.
5. Again, artists are generally more receptive to you using their work if you promise not to alter it in any way. There is nothing worse for an artist than to come across an adapted version of one of their works, credited but bearing no resemblance to the original piece. Chances are that as a blogger you are a writer for a reason, don't go fiddling with other people's art.6. I like using stock.xchange as a source of copyright free pics. Very easy to use and the artists make it very clear what level of permission for use they are giving. You can also create an account and upload your own pics for use at a future time. It may even inspire you to start taking a few more photos yourself and build up your own stock.
7. The other big stock site I use is Deviant Art
- the pics tend to be particularly appropriate for witchy sites but you do need to be careful as uploading a pic to Deviant Art does not necessarily imply you are giving permission for others to use the pic. Check the fine print before using.
8. If you must use an image that doesn't belong to you and you cannot trace the owner, make it clear that it is not your image. This doesn't make using the picture legal and the artist still has every right to sue you but they will perhaps go a little easier on you if you are not claiming their work to be your own creation.
9. Try and be open minded as to how you want to illustrate something. Lets say I wanted to write a blog on the Goddess but all the pictures of Goddesses were copyrighted, I may choose instead to use a nature picture to illustrate the creation of the Gods, or I may choose to use an abstract picture of smoke to suggest the intangible nature of spirit. Don't be too dogmatic in searching for an exact image, browse a few and keep an open mind as to what might work.
10. Treat others as you would want to be treated. If you do find your own work on somebody else's site (it happens to me a lot) don't get a reputation for being a prima donna about it because you can bet your broomstick that the second you make a mistake yourself, your detractors will swoop down and pounce on you immediately.
Courtesy, as with blogging, as with life is everything.Image - From the Deguwitch's personal collection
A lot of books on the subject of Magic and/or the occult have now gone out of copyright and can be downloaded for free, quite legally. This is one of the best sites that I have come across for offering a really wide selection of books on lots of different topics for free.
For witches wanting to expand their online library (and their minds, lol) this is a great opportunity to sample some of the magic classics for free.
Link http://www.occult-underground.com/ebooks.htmlImage http://www.deviantart.com/art/For-the-magic-of-books-206213229 (Bucikar)
When another witch asks me to review and/or promote their work, I'm always glad to do so. Its great to see sister witches succeed in their publications, crafts, writing, music, whatever. And its nice to be asked to get involved. So I was delighted to be sent a pdf of Lynn Thurman's latest magazine enterprise and asked to have a read.
For those of you who don't know Lynn Thurman, she is the author of "365 tips for living a Magickal Life," and "A Witch's Guide to Spring Cleaning." She also runs a successful website of her own where she describes herself as a self confessed "inner goddess unleasher..." I don't know about you but I can certainly get behind anyone who identifies in such a way!
Lynn's latest venture, co edited by her husband Paul Thurman is an online magazine dedicated to the spirituality involved in living a magical life. Lynn has a real interest (and a very impressive resume of qualifications) in the area of alternative healing and life management and this magazine seeks to reach out and touch the growing community of people who want more from their lives than day to day mundainity can offer them. Not so much a magazine but a starting point for a tribe, a membership site where people can be accepted for their beliefs and move forward together with the support of her Goddess centric writings and community structure.
I've had a read and I liked what I read. There's a good mixture of serious articles and fun. I particularly enjoyed the account of how loyalty is to be valued in individual relationships. The idea is that the community work through a Goddess workbook together, setting goals and affirmations for individual progress through life with the help of a 12 part plan and little mini manifestos. Again, the emphasis is on mutual support and the value of belonging to a community. Its all about women who want "life and spirituality on their terms".It is, as Lynn says, so much more than a magazine.
I'll give you the link so you can have a look for yourselves: http://soulpathtribe.com/Disclaimer - Article is the genuine opinion of the Degu Witch. The Degu Witch does not do advertisements or paid promotion - if she doesn't like something, she doesn't write about it!
Some of you out there just don't seem satisfied with using your broom to sweep the floors. This lad shows how broomstick flying is done. He even makes it look easy...
These two haven't really got the hang of. But perhaps that makes watching all the more entertaining.....
This is one of the big questions. Generally as a simple rule of thumb, Wiccan witches follow the harm none principle, observe the teachings of Gerald Gardner, adhere to the Wiccan Rede and believe in the threefold rule and/or the idea of Karma. Traditional witchcraft is a craft rather than a religion, there is a much greater diversity of belief, more emphasis on solitary practise and workings include a focus on traditional folk magic and spirits. Traditional witches do not differentiate between light and dark magic but see all magic as a neutral force amplified by the intent of the witch.
I've found a rather interesting article that goes into some more depth on the subject (though watch this site, I'll be writing my own summary of the differences later this year).What is Traditional Witchcraft
Its a well researched article and mostly rings true. I'd argue with a couple of bits, such as the claim that only Wiccans have familiars or altars. I know plenty of Traditional Witches who use an altar, I do myself. I'd also dispute that only Wiccans worship the Goddess. Yes, Wicca is technically a religion rather than a craft and Traditional Witchcraft is secular, but many Trads can and do worship deity, including the dual nature of the Sun God and the Goddess. The roots for this belong in Paganism which can be a basis for either path.
The pentacle can also be used by both Wiccans and Trad witches and is not just a symbol of the Wiccan religion.
All things considered though, a good article, tackling some of the fundamental differences between witches as we know them today.Image taken from the linked site. Artist Daniel Gardner.
Great article highlighting some very very creepy places indeed. From the suicide forest in Japan where over 500 people have hanged themselves for no explicable reason to the Scottish bridge where animals fling themselves to their deaths (and when failing to die do it all over again), the house that was built to confuse ghosts and the deserted city of the Chernobyl disaster.
These are places even a witch wouldn't want to go alone...Link to the six creepiest places on EarthImage taken from the article in the link.
Mother Shipton is perhaps one of the most famous witches who ever lived. Born in the 15th century, her prophecies are still coming true to this day. The cave in which she was born remains a monument to her witchcraft and wisdom and is visited by those who would seek to learn more of her story and/or to make a wish in the famous wishing well. (And the well works, the Degu Witch can speak from experience!)
Knaresborough is also home to the famous Dropping Well, a flowing cascade which petrifies any item hung in its waters. The well is the only example of its kind in the country.
It was Mother Shipton who prophesised the invention of the telephone:
Around the world men's thoughts will fly,
quick as the twinkling of an eye.
A carriage without horse will go,
and air and underwater travel
Beneath the water, men shall walk,
shall ride, shall sleep, shall even talk.
And in the air men shall be seen,
In white and black and even green.
The website for the Mother Shipton Cave can be found here
and all images have been taken from this site. (I didn't think they would mind as I'm publicising it for them!)
Today I want to share this absolutely beautiful Facebook page with you. Its a collection of mandalas from all over the world from the simple to the intricate. Some astoundingly creative art work.
The mandala is a spiritual tool in the art comprised in the form of a circle. The focus and concentration involved in creating a mandala is a similar exercise to mediation, it clears the mind of clutter and allows the creativity to flow.
The mandala (translated from Sanskrit as "circle" ) is sometimes seen as a visual representation of the cosmos and can trace its origins back through the Eastern religions in particular Buddhism and Hinduism.
Mandalas can be made of anything, transient or durable, personal or comprising a universal theme. The examples given on this particular site are breathtaking. I'm not sure if prints of any can be obtained (might be worth asking) but a few minutes spent scrolling through the site will not be wasted, I promise you.
Image taken from the FB page being reviewed and links directly to the page.