Sounds From A Spinning Wheel – Review of Tellings of the Wheel, Vol. 1

 
When listening to Tellings of The Wheel, Vol. 1, I would characterize it as thematic, not just in regards to the theme of The Wheel of Time as a whole, but also in that the music for each song feels appropriate. All of the songs on the album draw me in and I think to myself, “Yeah, I can see this.” From the opening of “The Wheel Weaves” until the closing of “Far Dareis Mai,” there is progression and love; progression in the story line and love for the content, for the source material.

 
The song “The Wheel Weaves” pulses with intent; it has a direction, it’s a song that leads. But the conclusion conveys that there may be more to the story than we originally thought. Which to be fair, with the Wheel of Time, we saw that play out. It reminds me of the Prophecies that were discussed in the series: they foretold what would happen, but it didn’t necessarily play out in the way we expected. This song says to me, “Come with me, you won’t regret it.”
 

Then we move into some character songs, the first three of which could be described as archetypes — “The Sheepherder,” “The Trickster,” and “The Blacksmith.” “The Sheepherder” starts out with a longing, a desire for more; the character wants life to be exciting. “The Trickster” conveys intelligence and mischievousness, and a sense of unpredictability. Whereas, “The Blacksmith” is powerful and cautious at the same time. One can gather from “The Blacksmith” that the character wants to be gentle and deliberate.
 

The next two character songs are “Egwene” and “The Wisdom.” “Egwene” illustrates a character with purpose, who knows what she wants, and yet, is apprehensive. One can really sense a nervousness about Egwene from the song. On the other hand, “The Wisdom” demonstrates a serenity, which while comparing that to Nynaeve in the first book can be comical — to describe her as serene — it is very definite that serenity can come from knowing one’s role and how one fits into the community. Nynaeve definitely knows how she fits within Emond’s Field. So, the serenity that “The Wisdom” conveys makes sense to me.
 

Jumping ahead to “Trollocs,” “Shadar Logoth,” and “Machin Shin,” one can find the danger, the threat, within all of these songs. They all convey evil and tension within their chords. The threat from these beings, from this location, is palpable. To be quite sure, I never want these songs to be the overlay in my life, as beautiful as they are.
 

Tellings of the Wheel, Vol. 1 is a work of art. While I only mentioned a few of the songs, each and every one conveys a love for The Wheel of Time. Clocking in at 40 minutes, 13 seconds, the 23 songs, go by quickly, but one can still be immersed in the music. If you love the series, I would highly recommend you listen to this album.

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Sounds from a Spinning Wheel – Profile of Christian Szczesniak

Sounds-Christian

 
 

As I was listening to Tellings of the Wheel, VOL. 1, in preparation for an installment of the Sounds from a Spinning Wheel series in which I review music inspired by the Wheel of Time book series and, in the future, written for the Amazon Prime series, I thought it would be neat if I could talk with the composer and musician who created this album. So, I did what all normal people would do, opened the Twitter app, and Tweeted at Christian Szczesniak. Thankfully, not only did he answer, but he was very gracious in my request for a conversation. And so, we messaged back and forth, and set up a time that we could talk.
 

On one level, I had seen that he is a prolific musician but at the same, I was oblivious to the fact that he is an accomplished, prolific musician, until I spoke with him. After all, his guitar playing can be heard on Celine Dion’s “A New Day” album, as well as Edwin’s “Another Spin Around the Sun”. He stated that after he met his wife, he stopped touring. And, in 2001, after signing a contract with SONY ATV Canada, he began to gravitate toward advertising, film, and television; his music can be heard on “The Great Food Truck Race”, “Flip or Flop”, “Alaskan Bush People”, as well as the Nickelodeon show “Mysticons” (and his music for the episode “The Coronation” was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award). Christian is also proud of his work on “Mysticons” because of the LGBTQ representation in the show. So, given all this background, what is his connection to Wheel of Time? He has composed two albums inspired by The Wheel of Time book, Tellings of the Wheel, Vols. 1&2, and Rob Christianson, known for his artwork based on the Wheel of Time was a very vocal advocate for Christian to be composing the music for the Amazon Prime Series. Obviously, this is a person who has a deep affinity with and love for The Wheel of Time.
 

Christian Szczesniak was born in Washington, D.C., USA, in July 1970, and as a young child, the family moved to Toronto. At the age of 13, he started playing guitar, and from the ages of 14 to 20, played under Eli Kassner (Canadian Classical guitar teacher and musician). At the age of 18, he got a job at Smith Way Books. Initially, Christian was a fan of Terry Brooks, but two years later, The Eye of the World was published, and he was an early fan of the series, and that has carried through since then.
 

In our conversation, we discussed the decision to give Thom a guitar instead of a harp, in the Amazon series, and Christian said he supported that decision because he thinks it works fine and is adaptable. He also stated that he would not use the music he has composed for the two volumes of Tellings of the Wheel, as he does not think this music would be adaptable. Instead, he would write and compose new music for the show. He also stated that if he had been chosen to be the composer for the series, or is tapped in future seasons, that this would be the single most significant moment of his lifetime and would not know what to do afterward.
 

Christian also remarked that one of his favorite things about the “The Wheel of Time” is that each character is unique and well developed. This remark came out of our discussion about which character we see ourselves as or would like to be like. Christian admires Lan a great deal, and your humble writer sees himself more as Basel Gill.
 

Mr. Szczesniak continues to compose music; his most recent release is named “Textures of Fear”, released in April 2021, which he describes as a soundscape. His next project is Textures of Sci-Fi. I did ask Christian what his dream was, and his response was to go to Prague, and play in the Prague Symphony Orchestra, with his dad conducting. Ultimately, Christian is concentrated on making good music.
 

I am thankful for Mr. Christian Szczesniak’s willingness to take time out of his day to speak with me, as well as agreeing to have a profile written on him prior to my reviews of the Volumes of Tellings of the Wheel.

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National Craft Month

CraftMonth

 

In 1994, the Craft & Hobby Association designated March as National Craft Month in order to help people “rediscover and learn about the benefits of crafting.”[1] As with many other organizations, the Association rebranded in 2017, as The Association for Creative Industries. This organization bills itself as the “premier trade association for the global creative arts products industries. AFCI is committed to its vision of a healthy, vibrant and innovative community that enriches people’s lives through crafting and other creative activities.” [2]
 

What is a “craft” though? Some may equate it with a particular skilled trade such as being a carpenter, while others may think of it as “The Craft,” the 1996 movie featuring Neve Campbell. There are many, many different perspectives on crafting, but according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the first definition is: “skill in planning, making, or executing;” while the second entry is “an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill.”[3] This definition covers quite a wide array of activities, and so can be an indication that crafting communities are very inclusive.
 

In the community of TarValon.Net, we are holding a year-long project named The Great Charity Hunt, in which members are encouraged to contribute in some fashion to particular charities or causes. Each month there is a challenge, and it so happens that the challenge for March synchronizes with National Craft Month. March’s challenge is to “use your crafting skills in order to create as many cage liners/cuddle pads as possible for your local animal shelter before March 31, 2021.”[4] So, not only is March’s challenge a way to utilize one’s skills, it is also used as a way to help out local animal shelters.
 

At the Tar Valon Times, we would like to encourage those who enjoy crafting to show off your skills and your progress to the world. Of course, at TarValon.Net we have two forums in which to do so. First we have the “Hand Crafts” forum, in which there are discussions about “crafty pursuits;”[5] and secondly, we also have the “Costume/Cosplay” forum,” a place to discuss the making and wearing of costumes!”
 

Whether you pursue crafting as more of a hobby or whether you have your own business, the marking of National Craft Month is important: crafting brings with it benefits. So, craft away!
 

[1] National Day Calendar – Craft Month
[2] Creative Industries
[3] Craft in the Dictionary
[4] Heroes of the Horn – March Challenge
[5] TarValon.Net Hand Crafts Discussion Forum

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TVTT Novice/Recruit Edition – Heart Health Month

TVTT Novice Recruit

 

Throughout the year, there are months that are dedicated — both in the United States and throughout the world — to advocacy for many different causes. Here at the Tar Valon Times, we would like to highlight some of these months. Many that we will be focusing on will center around health, while others may center around societal advocacy. As we close out February, we bring you one of the month’s focuses in the United States and in Britain, which is Heart Health. (This article has several footnotes for your reference and more information.)
 

Personally, being mindful of the health of my own heart is important to me; my paternal grandmother, one of my father’s sisters, and my father himself have had a condition called atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate, which can increase risk of strokes, heart failure, and other cardiac conditions. Sometimes medicine can help treat symptoms, but in other situations pacemakers or other medical procedures are necessary.[1] Also, six months ago one of my good friends, age 37, had a severe heart attack. One hundred percent of his Left Anterior Descending artery was blocked, one which is typically called a widowmaker.[2] Thankfully, he survived, but there are mental consequences as well: depression and anxiety among them. So, those are my experiences that center around heart issues, and I would suspect that other members of the site have similar stories.
 

The two organizations that I am getting the information in this article are the American Heart Association (AHA) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Both of these organizations are advocacy groups: they provide public relations campaigns, particularly during the month of February. Another way they provide knowledge is through the collection and release of statistics about cardiovascular and circulatory diseases. Perhaps the most substantial way the American Heart Association and the British Heart Foundation contribute is through the funding they provide to researchers. What has the AHA done with their funding? The AHA “has funded 14 Nobel Prize winners and several important medical breakthroughs, including techniques and standards for CPR, the first artificial heart valve, implantable pacemakers, cholesterol inhibitors, microsurgery and drug-coated stents.” [3] The BHF has conducted research in the areas of Congenital Heart Problems, Heart Rhythm Problems, Heart Failure, Heart Attacks, Heart Valve Disease, and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. [4]
 

What does heart disease look like, “by the numbers?” Well, in the UK, there are 7.6 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases; 450 people die each day from a heart or circulatory heart disease; there are more than 100,000 people admitted to hospital each year due to heart attacks; and on average, there is one stroke each minute.[5] In the USA, in 2017, Cardiovascular Disease accounted for 868,662 deaths; while in 2018, Strokes accounted for about one of every 19 deaths; while any-mention cardiac arrest mortality was 393,872.[6]
 

So, how about some facts and myths about heart health? Fact: A Broken Heart is a legitimate medical condition (It’s also called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy). Fact: Poor Oral Health increases heart disease risk. Myth: Exercise and Diet are my only solution to better heart health. In fact, lowering stress levels and increasing sleep quality greatly impact cardiovascular health and wellness.[7]
 

Taking care of one’s heart is important, and can impact our health overall; of course, we also know that other health conditions can affect heart health. Here at the Tar Valon Times, we want to advocate for being mindful of the health of our members. As a community, as a family, we want the best for one another. One of the ways we can care for the heart, and one of my favorite pastimes, is listening to music.[8] So, as Roxette sang, and DHT reminded us, “Listen to Your Heart.”
 

[1] Cleveland Clinic
[2] Healthline
[3] Heart Fact Sheet
[4] BHF
[5] HBF Statistics
[6] Heart.Org
[7] Active Beat
[8] Health at Harvard

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Member Spotlight: Aintza Bisera

Member Spotlight Aintza

 

Atane cautiously walks into the darkened offices of one of his mentors, Aintza Bisera Sedai; the message he had received from her mentioned that he should bring his writing materials. “Aintza Sedai? I’m here…with my quill, ink, and parchment as you ordered…” As he begins to look around, he starts in surprise as his mentor sits mounted on her flaming horse.
 

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“Mistress? Your horse? How? Your offices? The stables…” Atane’s voice trails off.
 

“Oh, Atane, Atane,” Aintza Sedai laughs. “You know Poot, right? My trusty steed.”
 

Atane knew Poot alright, as the horse had made a habit of trying to bite him when given the task of feeding it treats.
 

“Anyway, I wanted to see if anyone would notice if Poot were in my offices; and if they did, what they would say,” stated his mentor.
 

Atane mentally rolled his eyes; Aintza Sedai was a bit quirky and had an odd sense of humor, but she was a good mentor.
 

“You may be wondering why I summoned you, with your writing materials for that matter. Yes, yes. Well, I thought it would be fitting for me to be interviewed for the Tar Valon Times. I mentioned it to Aleita Sedai, and she thought it was a grand idea. So you, my dear boy, will be the one interviewing me. Shall we begin?”
 

As one may expect, this month’s Member Spotlight is Aintza Sedai — Aes Sedai of the Brown Ajah, Mayor, Moderator, and Game Master. She graciously made time to answer the questions posed to her. Aintza lives in Texas with her husband, Ael, and their cats (including the kitten, Poot). She is a Health Insurance Benefits Agent, which means she tells people what their insurance policies do or do not cover. As with many occupations with an emphasis on explaining services, she encounters many people who take their frustrations out on the person trying to help them. She would ask those reading this to remember that the representative of the company is a person and does not take joy in the suffering of others.
 

Aintza1

(Aintza and Ael)

 

When asked about her multiple roles in the community, Aintza explained them in this manner: “As Mayor I am membership admin for Citizens and Resident Citizens. When a new person joins, I am their first contact for questions and anything they need! We have some really fun things coming up, so keep an eye out!
 

Game Master encompasses Mafia Admin, Frivolous Fun Mod, and now Online Events/games. So basically, I run and mod Mafia games, make sure things are moving smoothly in the games forum, and help run games in the Tar Valon Discord. For example, every first Sunday I hold a movie watch party – March is Hamilton! And my roles are definitely complimentary, my main goal as an Admin is to make sure everyone is having fun!”
 

Aintza2

(Stubbz having fun)

 

She is also, as previously mentioned, an Aes Sedai of the Brown Ajah. She chose Brown because, in short, the Browns are her home. Ultimately, her and her Brown siblings share a very similar sense of humor; not only that, but they have also supported her the times when she has needed their support. She values their honesty, the skill with GIFs, the fact that one can count on them to be passionate and curious about their interests, and that they will tell a person, or group of people, how they feel.
 

Aintza 3

(Poot informing you of thoughts)

 

Aintza’s favorite memory from the Tower also involves the Browns. As she described it, “My favorite memory was actually a pretty low-key Sunday morning at my second Anni talking about Star Wars with Stasia and Ashlyn, two of my Brown Sisters. It was nice and comfy. But I have a lot of great ones.”
 

When discussing guests, and new citizens, she wants to tell them that this community is like no other. She’s met some of her favorite people and best friends on this site; it’s worth sticking around for the people alone. And as Mayor, she’s committed to helping people get acclimated to the Site and the community as a whole.
 

What other interests may she have? Well, if she could have other pets, one would be a Vulptex (from Crait); and the other would be a Porg (from Ahch-To). Both of these creatures are from Star Wars. Aintza also enjoys reading, recently having read all the Bridgerton novels; but she has a particular affinity for Neil Gaiman, especially his work “American Gods.” For her, it stems from the fact that she has always been interested in mythology; with American Gods touching on many different Pantheons and the concept of Old Gods vs. New Gods being of particular interest.
 

Aintza also has some show recommendations: “The Boys” and “American Gods,” but cautions that both of these shows can be very graphic. She would also recommend Battlestar Galactica. However, she states that her preferences in movies cannot be trusted; on the list of movies she enjoys are: the Mummy movies, Beerfest, the original Dune, and anything/everything Star Wars. She demands that you watch The Clone Wars tv show. Now. She’s not brooking any argument.
 

If she were to live in another setting, it would be the Mass Effect world, for it is familiar, yet space can be explored. Also, she is Commander Shepard. Ael will tell you, just ask him.
Thank you for joining us for another installment of the Tar Valon Times Member Spotlight. See you next time!

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