As Garfield fights for life, Arthur lays low in Murray Hill

There are several enemies in Candice Millard's 'Destiny of the Republic', the terrific narrative history of the assassination of President James Garfield during the summer of 1881. The most obvious foe is the delusional Charles Guiteau, who believed himself the nation's savior when he shot President Garfield twice at a Washington DC train station on July 2, 1881. Then there were the microbial infections transmitted during improperly sanitized operations performed by Garfield's doctor at the White House, causing blood poisoning that worsened the president's suffering and ultimately killed him.

For the purposes on this blog, however, I was drawn into the tales of two New York politicians who became victims of rumor-mongering that summer. Powerful New York senator Roscoe Conkling was seen as a political rival of Garfield's, a thorn in the president's side, especially considering Conkling's own political protege -- his pawn, really -- was Garfield's vice president, Chester A. Arthur. Traumatic crises in this country are frequently accompanied by a churning undercurrent of suspicion and conspiracy, and Conkling and Arthur became victims of just such a shadowy accusation that summer.

Many believed Conkling to be culpable of the assassination attempt himself -- perhaps not of pulling the trigger, but of fostering and encouraging the discord that inspired it. It's not a stretch to consider Conkling an embodiment of the spoils system which determined hundreds of government jobs through political affiliation. Guiteau thought himself unfairly left out of that patronage system when he attacked Garfield that hot July day.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Fifth Avenue Hotel, the luxury accommodation at 23rd Street off Madison Square that became Conkling's second home and a regular scene of political intrigue for the Republican Party. Conkling endured the disintegration of his political career from his rooms here.

Meanwhile, many were mortified at the very thought of Arthur, hardly a universally admired figure, ascending to the presidency. While the president lay incapacitated in Washington, there was even debate as to when presidential responsibilities should cede to the vice president. Nobody seemed enthusiastic at the prospect of a President Chester A. Arthur.

Thus, Arthur essentially spent his summer hiding out in his townhouse at 123 Lexington Avenue (at right), fearful of seeming overly ambitious even as the fate of President Garfield seemed uncertain. On the day the president finally succumbed to his injuries, Arthur sobbed uncontrollably from his shuttered home as servants shooed away the press. Several hours later, he was sworn in as the 21st President of the United States on September 20, at 2:15 a.m, from the green-shuttered parlor of his home here.

'Destiny of the Republic' is a swift, thrilling read, certainly worthy of the praise it received when it was released last year, bringing in a cast of icons (including Alexander Graham Bell and Joseph Lister) to present a frightening world of medical uncertainty and strange madness.

High Reading Hopes

You often hear people say "my eyes were bigger than my stomach" when referring to eating. I have been sitting here trying to brainstorm how I can change that into my reading hopes are bigger than my realistic amount of free time. I couldn't think of anything catchy but you get the picture. If you go back to this blog post posted a month and a half ago you will see I had high hopes to read several books over Christmas break. Let's do a recap-

How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World. I got this book a few weeks ago and read it cover to cover in a matter of days. I had been dying to read it after seeing it all over the blog world. It did not dissapoint! It was actually a good reality check. I think I will leave it at this for now because I want to do a seperate blog post about it!

Decision Points by George W. Bush- I have not read this yet but it is still on the "reading wish list"

The End of Molases Classes by Ron Clark- YES! Finished it, love it, recommend it to all teachers! This book is very motivational for the teacher in you. It is split into three sections- for the teacher -for parents -for the community. I found the teacher part the most intersting and only skimmed the other parts.

The Essential 55 by Ron Clark- I got it for Christmas (thanks mom!!) ..but haven't had a chance to read it yet. I will be very soon though!!
 The Friday night knitting club by Kate Jacobs- I'm half way through this book but keep stopping in the middle to read other books. (I'm telling you my hopes are bigger than reality!) I've heard great things about it so I can't wait to finish it. Maybe I will get on that tonight.

So that's the update- some have been read, some are still on the reading list. You would think I would read them all before I add even more books to the list but nope, my hopes are big! I have found more books to read!

Every Other Monday by John Kasich- My mom gave me this book for my birthday and I am just kicking myself for not reading it yet. Soon mom, soon!

The 10 Women You'll Be Before You're 35- This was suggest by a blog friend and I immediatley ordered it. I can't wait to read the first chapter about being a new college graduate!

The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson- to be honest I have no idea what this book is about but it too was suggested by my mom. She says it's great!

and even though my list is way too long my eye was drawn to two new books at Target. When I got home I was still thinking about them so needless to say, they have been ordered from Amazon and will be making their way to my hands very soon.

MWF seeking BFF: my yearlong search for a new best friend.

The Four Ms. Bradwells- I knew I had to get this book because 1) anything with pearls on the cover has to be a winner and 2) the back cover stated "a book you will want to share with your mother and best friend"  my sister laughed at me because I saw that and thought ..I have a mom and friends! ha, it's obviously not too difficult to convince me a book is good!

Happy Reading Friends!

Where did the weekend go?!

I know I say this every week but seriously.. where did the weekend go? It always goes by SO fast! I had a very enjoyable weekend and am sad that it's already over. First I have to thank you for all of the good lucks and kind words on Friday! My observation went PERFECT. I got all great remarks from my university supervisor and may or may not have even been told it was the best lesson she had observed so far! Friday night a friend of mine and I went out for drinks at a local Mexican restaurant. It was fun to catch up and unwind, aka talk about something other than teacher stuff for once. (Although my students did still get brought up several times, haha) Saturday I slept in until about 9. I used to think 9 was early to wake up on a weekend but now that my body has adjusted to 5:30am 9:00 felt amazing! I spent my morning doing laundry and cleaning some before I met up with my sister. Ginny and I spent the entire day together and had the absolute best time! We started off the morning with a cup of coffee from Krispy Kreme.  

Isn't she precious? (;

Once we were energized and ready to go we made a trip to Target and to wash my oh so dirty car. I got a new pair of yoga pants and I am in l-o-v-e with them. They are so comfy!! My old pair is beyond worn out and needs to be retired. We had lunch at a local restaurant called The Daily Grind. Ginny had a chicken salad sandwich on sourdough bread and I had a shrimp and avocado wrap. Both were delicious and healthy! After lunch we came back home and went on a nice long walk. The weather could not have been any better this weekend! 60's in January? I'll take it!

After a night out on Friday and a full day Saturday I decided to stay in that night and work on lesson plans. I am weirdly excited for an adjective lesson I am doing Wednesday. Can you guess what my students will be doing? (I sent this picture to a friend of mine who responded with "you are the only 21 year old girl I know who would stay in on Saturday night to color..")

Sunday morning I met my sister for church which is always refreshing. Later in the afternoon I went on a 5 mile walk with Ginny and my roommate. We discovered so much that we didn't realize existed (and we have lived in the same area for the past 3 years..) We found a new park/pathway by the Tar River, a historic graveyard, and new shops. Who knew! Part of the walkway we went on cut through the woods. We found an area that was all marsh- no it's not pretty, but it did surprise us that we had no idea this was so close to our house! So of course we took a picture, haha.

The rest of Sunday was very low key.. lots of blogging, lesson plan writing and pinning. I have been a bad ZTA the past couple of weeks and skipped out on Sunday night chapter meetings because I'm normally so tired and have to wake up early. I did go to this one though and I am so glad I did! A few guys from a fraternity on campus stopped by the house to serenade us with the most precious song and deliver flowers. It was very sweet and the perfect way to end the weekend!

I hope you had a great weekend!

Introducing the BASSO CANARIES

If you are free next Monday evening, why not spend an hour or so with The Basso Canaries, Singapore's latest vocal duo...


Where: The Arts House

When: Monday 6 February 2012. 8pm

How much: $12 only (a good bargain!)


Founded in 2011, The Basso Canaries are two young local baritones Andrew Xiao Chunyuan & Steven Ang. These two vocalists have known each other when they were private students of Madam Elena Ng Choy-Luan, a famous Singaporean vocal educator, and perform together often in duets and as section leaders of choirs. As both aspire to professional careers in the arts, they have decided to form a performing duo with the moniker of The Basso Canaries.

The programme includes:

A selection of Chinese art songs

MAHLER Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen

BARBER Three Songs after James Joyce

ANDREW XIAO Three Years and Eight Months (World Premiere)

Steven Ang is an up-and-coming performer and arts journalist in the region. Currently studying classical vocal music in Taipei’s Soochow University, his main teachers are Singaporeans Reuben Lai, Elena Ng and Taiwanese Sun Ching-Chi.

Steven is active in the theatre, classical music and choral scenes and has performed in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Mainland China. Companies he has worked with include the Singapore Broadway Playhouse (ensemble actor), Echo Philharmonic Society (bass section leader and soloist), Musical Theatre Ltd (supporting role, undertaken in only two weeks), Singapore Symphony (chorus member), Taipei’s Cherubim Singers (vocal ensemble) and YinQi Symphony Chorus. Recent performances include recitals in Taiwan and Singapore, charity performances and chorus member for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Verdi’s Aida (co-production by the Taipei Symphony and Opera di Roma, undertaken in only 18 days).

In addition to performing, Steven is also the founder and editor of local opera e-zine The Mad Scene ( and Classical and Opera columnist for Time Out Singapore. His writings have also been featured in 8 Days and The Straits Times.

Born to a family of artistic culture, Chunyuan graduated recently from Singapore Raffles Music College with a Foundation Degree, equivalent to the UK’s Higher National Diploma as certified by the University Of West London. Xiao became interested in singing during his secondary school days and this led him to come to a decision to learn singing in 2005 with Madam Elena Ng Choy Luan, a Singaporean soprano, notably famous for educating good singers. Under her tutelage, Xiao was awarded Grade 5 Merit by ABRSM that year.

Xiao was chosen to record the theme song for the Adidas China commercial advertisement in 2008. He was part of the pioneering batch of music students at the Singapore Raffles Music College, studying for an Advanced Diploma in Classical Singing. Late 2009, Xiao was transferred to Mr. William Lim, well-known opera and oratorio singer in the Asia region. In 2010, Xiao was awarded 2nd prize at the 4th Zhong Sin International Music Competition, Male Vocal Open category. He also received a Diploma in Singing by the London College of Examinations Board, Thames Valley University. In late December 2011, Xiao received the honour of being one of the vocalists chosen to perform all new vocal works by Singaporean composers. In addition to singing, Xiao is also a composer and arranger. Two of his new works, Ding Dong Bells and The Ring That Left Behind have received their world premieres on 12th February this year. His music is available at and

The pianists for the evening are Beatrice Lin and Iris Koh.

TAN DUN'S MARTIAL ARTS TRILOGY / Singapore Festival Orchestra / Review

Esplanade Huayi Festival
Singapore Festival Orchestra
Esplanade Concert Hall
Friday (27 January 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 30 January 2012 with the title "Tan Dun's trilogy a feast for the senses".

The one sure sign that Chinese culture has been wholly embraced by the global mainstream and consciousness was how Hollywood greeted Ang Lee’s martial arts epic movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon of 2000. Central to its phenomenal success was the Oscar-winning original score by Chinese-American composer Tan Dun, whose music has become as much a part of cinematographic lore as the scores of John Williams, Miklos Rozsa, Sergei Prokofiev and Erich Korngold before him.

The Martial Arts Trilogy presented Tan’s music from three wuxia movies for concert hall consumption in the form of three concertos, performed alongside action sequences projected on the screen. Suites would have been the more accurate description for these scores, as the music unfolded in multiple disparate movements, providing a capsule overview of the narrative.

Heard on its own, the 45-minute long Hero Concerto for violin and orchestra, written for Zhang Yimou’s film about the first emperor Shi Huangdi, might have been a tiresome prospect. However the magic about movies is the contemporary synthesis of various art forms into a glorious whole, serving present times what grand opera did for the 18th and 19th centuries.

Effectively written music makes a movie come alive by providing the story-telling an added dimension for the senses. Thus Wang Jiamin’s violin pyrotechnics, abetted by Zhao Xiaoxia’s atmospheric guqin, came to ably portray the self-sacrificing hero and heroine amid gravity-defying swordplay, intimate love scenes and breathtaking landscapes.

SSO Principal Cellist Ng Pei Sian reprised Yo-Yo Ma’s role for the Crouching Tiger Concerto, containing the most familiar music of the lot. Going beyond mere notes, his demanding part, full of sliding portamentos, violent pizzicatos and assorted effects, lived the role with absolute gusto. The Singapore Festival Orchestra, surely now the Republic’s de facto film orchestra, responded to Tan’s precise and dramatic directions with great immediacy and responsiveness, with a busy percussion section particularly relishing their parts.

The Banquet Concerto, with pianist Sun Jiayi as pugilist in a fiery red dress, had the least Chinese-sounding music. Tan cited as compositional influences Bartok and Stravinsky, for their raw percussive ostinatos, but it was the unbridled lyricism of Rachmaninov that stood out. That was perhaps the very reason, despite the death and mayhem it accompanied, that sent the full-house audience home happy and sated.

Two Maestros Meet: Tan Dun with Chan Tze Law, Music Director of the Singapore Festival Orchestra.

Sunday Inspiration

I received this in an email and just had to share. It's a little long but definitley worth it- I think we all need a reminder of what is important sometimes. Happy Sunday(:

The prayer in blue type and God in red type

Our Father Who Art In Heaven.
Yes?Don't interrupt me. I'm praying.
But -- you called  - ME!Called you?
No, I didn't call you. I'm praying. 

Our Father who art in Heaven.
There -- you did it again!Did what?
Called ME.
You said,
"Our Father who art in Heaven"
Well, here I am....
What's on your mind?
But I didn't mean anything by it.
I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day
I always say the Lord's Prayer.
It makes me feel good,
kind of like fulfilling a duty.
Well, all right.
Go on. 

Okay, Hallowed be thy name .
Hold it right there.
What do you mean by that?
By what?
By "Hallowed be thy name"?

It means, it means . . good grief, 
I don't know what it means.
How in the world should I know?
It's just a part of the prayer.
By the way, what does it mean? 

It means honored, holy, wonderful.
Hey, that makes sense.. 
I never thought about what 'hallowed' meant before.

Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Do you really mean that?
Sure, why not?
What are you doing about it?
Doing? Why, nothing, I guess. 
I just think it would be kind of neat if you got 
control, of everything down here like you have up 
there. We're kinda in a mess down here you know.
Yes, I know;
but, have I got control of you?
Well, I go to church.
That isn't what I asked you.
What about your bad temper?
You've really got a problem there, you know.
And then there's the way you spend 
your money -- all on yourself.
And what about the kind of books you read ?
Now hold on just a minute!
Stop picking on me!
I'm just as good as some of the rest 
of those People at church!

Excuse ME..
I thought you were praying
for my will to be done.
If that is to happen,
it will have to start with the ones
who are praying for it.
Like you -- for example ..
Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups.
Now that you mention it,
I could probably name some others.
So could I.
I haven't thought about it very much until now,
but I really would like to cut out some of those things.
I would like to, you know, be really free.
Now we're getting somewhere. 
We'll work together -- You and  ME.
I'm proud of You.
Look, Lord, if you don't mind,
I need to finish up here.
This is taking a lot longer than it usually does. 

Give us this day, our daily bread.
You need to cut out the bread..
You're overweight as it is.
Hey, wait a minute! What is this?
Here I was doing my religious duty,
and all of a sudden you break in
and remind me of all my hang-ups.
Praying is a dangerous thing.
You just might get what you ask for.
Remember, you called ME -- and here I am.
It's too late to stop now.
Keep praying.  ( pause .. . )
Well, go on.
I'm scared to.
Scared? Of what?
I know what you'll say.
Try ME. 

Forgive us our sins, 
as we forgive those who sin against us.
What about Ann?
See? I knew it!
I knew you would bring her up!
Why, Lord, she's told lies about me, spread stories.
She never paid back the money she owes me.
I've sworn to get even with her!
But  -- your prayer --
What about your prayer?
I didn't -- mean it..
Well, at least you're honest.
But, it's quite a load carrying around all that 
bitterness and resentment isn't it?
Yes, but I'll feel better as soon as I get even with her.
Boy, have I got some plans for her.
She'll wish she had never been born.
No, you won't feel any better.
You'll feel worse.
Revenge isn't sweet.
You know how unhappy you are -- 
Well, I can change that.
You can? How?
Forgive Ann.
Then, I'l l forgive you;
And the hate and the sin,
will be Ann's problem -- not yours.
You will have settled the problem
as far as you are concerned.
Oh, you know, you're right.
You always are.
And more than I want revenge,
I want to be right with You . . (sigh).
All right, all right . .
I forgive her.
There now!
How do you feel?
Hmmmm. Well, not bad.
Not bad at all!
In fact, I feel pretty great!
You know, I don't think I'll go to bed uptight tonight.
I haven't been getting much rest, you know.
Yeah, I know.
But, you're not through with your prayer, are you? 
Go on....
Oh, all right. 

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Good! Good! I'll do that.
Just don't put yourself in a place
where you can be tempted.
What do you mean by that?
You know what I mean.
Yeah. I know.
Go ahead... Finish your prayer. 

For Thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory forever.
Do you know what would bring me glory --
What would really make me happy?
No, but I'd like to know.
I want to please you now..
I've really made a mess of things..
I want to truly follow you...
I can see now how great that would be.
So, tell me . . .
How do I make you happy?
YOU  just did.