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31 January 2011

Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix: Noteworthy

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, AZ struck a chord with me. Many chords, actually. A music-lover—though not, regrettably, a musician—I found the MIM one of the most amazing museums I’ve ever visited. The MIM combines geography, history, anthropology and musicology--and you even get to try your hand at playing some of the world's most exotic instruments.

The main attraction, of course, is the collection of musical instruments from around the globe. The MIM houses exotic instruments you’ve probably never heard or seen before: Imagine drums with heads of python skin. Some instruments are primitive and dusty, made of plant material; and some are sophisticated and shiny, made of precious metals. The instruments are as sophisticated as a Steinway piano and as crude as a rattle made of a bull scrotum.

Upon purchase of your ticket, you’ll receive a headset and a sensor that allows you to wander about the MIM without fumbling with buttons or dials. Just approach any of the dozens of screens, and your audio automatically synchs with the video.

"The most extraordinary museum you'll ever hear."

The MIM’s tagline—“Music is the language of the world”—sets the tone for a global educational excursion. Traveling through the MIM by continent and nation, you’ll find colorful instruments of every kind, ancient and contemporary. The video screens display musicians playing various instruments from their native country, sometimes solo, sometimes in ensemble, sometimes instrumental music only, sometimes with vocals.

Save time for the galleries on the ground floor:

• The Experience Room allows visitors to try their hand at harps, gongs, drums, keyboards, percussion instruments and a variety of other music-makers.

• Another gallery shows off a collection of automated music machine: Victrolas and player pianos, Nickolodeans and

• The Artist Gallery features various performers, including Paul Simon and Eric Clapton. The Family Center.

• Another gallery includes a number of “juke boxes” for visitors to step into, crank up the sound and even have a go at mixing music.

• The Family Room provides a respite spot for youngsters. Complete with colorful, kid-sized tables and chairs, the Family Room also includes books and educational toys such as globes and world maps or puzzles. There’s a family restroom and even a Nursing Room.

Also on the ground floor, a beautiful piano invites musicians to tickle the ivories for the enjoyment of other guests. On my second visit, a young man, probably high school aged, wearing a gray t-shirt, blue jeans, and an orange baseball ap on backwards, sat down and played impressively for a good half hour. After he left, the piano seemed particularly silent. About 10 minutes later, a pair of kids walked up and banged on the keyboard until a woman I assumed to be their grandmother sat down to play Chopsticks.

Tony Bennett called the MIM “my favorite museum in the world.”

The MIM itself is a harmonious building with expansive spaces, soaring ceilings, lots of natural light and architectural highlights. Art from around the world adorns the museum. Concert halls showcase visiting musicians. Outside, benches welcome moments of repose; and those who listen will hear the music of the water features.

Colleen Smith’s debut novel Glass Halo, set in Denver, was a finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Prize and was praised in The Bloomsbury Review. The novel is available online and through your favorite bookstore.

To learn more, visit and, become a friend on Facebook, or follow FridayPublisher on Twitter.

Wag your tale.


24 January 2011

Julian of Norwich's Hometown Reads As Literary Utopia

"All shall be well and all shall be well
and all manner of things
shall be well."
-- Julian of Norwich

The above quote has been my trusting in troubled times mantra for the last few years. The optimism appeals to me, as does the simplicity and repetition of Julian's statement. A mystic, Julian of Norwich wrote "Revelations of Divine Love," started in 1373 and frequently cited as the first English-language book published by a woman. Julian, despite her claims of being "unlettered," was one of the first bluestockings.

Julian of Norwich, pictured with a cat, in this icon.

In the Travel section of today's New York Times, Rachel B. Doyle reported on the literary tradition alive and well in Julian's hometown of Norwich: "Where Writers, and Readers, Feel at Home."

A medieval town located two hours from London, 31 medieval churches still stand. Many now serve as houses of word worshippers, settings for readings, salons, and writing classes, Doyle reported. The reporter also revealed that Julian, , an anchoress (religious hermit) "was likely bricked up inside a small stone cell during her 40-odd-years of monastic life."

The contemporary writer demonstrates a sense of humor about the ancient writer. "Julian's manuscript survived for almost three centuries in the care of nuns before it was finally published in 1670. Compared with what Julian of Norwich experienced, the long waits of modern writers trying to find a publisher can seem almost reasonable."

Other high points of Doyle's feature:

• Last year, 1.5 million visitors dropped by the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library.
• Across the street from the modern library, in a medieval church, the 17th-century writer/physician Sir Thomas Browne is buried.
• "An artist inscribed the entire text of Sir Thomas More's "Utopia"--written in 1516--on an old brick building.

Sounds like a town where people know how to wag their tales. I want to go!

COLLEEN SMITH’s debut novel Glass Halo, set in Denver, was a finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Prize and was praised in the latest issue of The Bloomsbury Review. The novel is available online and through your favorite bookstore.

To learn more, visit and, become a friend on Facebook, or follow FridayPublisher on Twitter.


19 January 2011

Fare Thee Well, Tom Walker, The Denver Post Books Editor: A tribute & hub page of my Post books pieces

I just got the sad news that today is the last day in the newsroom for Tom Walker, my Books editor at The Denver Post for many years.

Tom Walker was a prince of an editor. Fare thee well, Tom.

Originally from Louisiana, Tom plied his journalistic trade at The Denver Post for decades. A consummate professional, he had an office lined with bookshelves, and his job was to read. And, of course, to report on reading and books. As an editor, he had a light hand and never made many changes to my copy, but caught my mistakes and corrected them.

The Denver Post recently changed the Books format, reducing the pages from four to two, with additional Books coverage folded into A&E pages. I'll miss Tom's Books section, but moreover his professional presence--even though we mostly communicated via e-mail messages.

Fare thee well, Tom! Good luck with your golf game. And thank you for all the stories we collaborated on over recent years. You were a prince of an editor!

Here's a partial list of stories I published in The Denver Post Books section under the editorship of Tom Walker:

"Publisher! Publisher!" (The backstory of founding Friday Jones Publishing)

"The art of books unbound" ("Architexture" exhibit at Museum of Outdoor Arts)

"A passion that speaks volumes" (Antique & collectible books)

I'm sure I'll find more stories on which Tom and I collaborated as editor and writer; and I'll add them as I find them.

I miss you already, Tom.


03 January 2011

COLORADO COLLEEN: The coyote I did not see, the bald eagle I did

Today while taking a winter walk on the plains east of Denver, in Cherry Creek Lake Park, I watched my step as I made my way along the snowy, icy path. I had just looked up for a few steps and thought to myself, "I'm missing the mountains! I'm missing the views of the mountains because I am so concerned about watching my step."

Image shows frozen Shop Creek watershed at Cherry Creek Lake Park near Denver, Colorado.

I fell on the ice earlier this year. I was making the maiden voyage in my new snow boots when I stepped off the curb and went BOOM! I'm beginning to understand the old saying about how the older one gets, the scarier ice gets. Fortunately, I was not hurt, but it slowed me down a bit, make me more tentative on icy paths.

When I looked up again, I saw a man walking my way in the expansive park. He, too, had bundled up against the cold. He, too, looked relieved to get outside, stretch the legs, feel the fresh air and sunshine. As we neared one another, his grin widened. "Did you see the coyote?" he asked.

"Coyote?" I looked around, eager to spot the wily one. Disappointed I had missed the wildlife moment.

"He just crossed the path," the man said. "He was heading over to that watershed."
I explained to the man that I'd been too busy watching my step, careful not to slip on the snow and ice.

As we parted company, I looked around, realizing that the coyote did not have to let me see him if he did not want to: There was plenty of camouflaging cover.

But for the remainder of my walk, I tried to look up as well as down. I have seen coyotes at Cherry Creek State Park. Once, I saw a trio of them out on the ice not far from the edge of the woods. Once, I happened upon a bloody deer carcass, snags of pelt, bones upon the snow. I have heard the coyotes calling in the evening.

And on the return trip today, looking down and looking up, I did spot a bald eagle perched in a tree. As I walked gingerly along the path, I kept my eye on him, and did not miss the moment when he left that tall tree to soar off into the distance, my head up as I tracked him winging across the winter sky. Share/Save/Bookmark

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