They from Sheba shall come

Austria Carol Singers Locals dressed as traditional carol singers ride on horses on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015 in Dienten, Austrian province of Salzburg. Traditionally carol singers walk from house to house around epiphany to collect money for poor children in other countries. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

Austria Carol Singers: Locals dressed as traditional carol singers ride on horses on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015 in Dienten, Austrian province of Salzburg. Traditionally carol singers walk from house to house around epiphany to collect money for poor children in other countries. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

Greetings to all! The major holidays are done. On this second day of the Epiphany feast, I hope to persuade more kind souls to continue to help me tread water until my personal cavalry arrives in late May or June, when I will finally be apportioned a third of my late aunt’s estate. Her house and other property were sold. My portion won’t be great, but it should be enough to pay my bills long enough for me to finish writing my intensely-researched book to be entitled Be the Music : How Tori Amos Does it. I can continue writing here at the house of my friends in West Philly, where most of my research materials were recently brought from my storage unit. I now expect to be here for the duration.

I have been deeply touched and humbled by some generous responses to my recent pleas for help, as well as some of the more expected ones in the form of pre-ordered books. A shockingly kind soul contacted me and said she would take over the payments for my storage unit until I could return to making the payments again. At $214 a month, this promises to end up being at least $1,500. She said she couldn’t bear to lose her things as I had been on the verge of having happen to me, and she also suspected I own some unique and important items pertaining to Tori Amos. (I do.) She reminded me that we met at a concert in 1999 and had a conversation. She also said she heard Tori ask Mikewhy how I was at the fan meet and greet that afternoon. I’m not sure how all that adds up to her helping me out so much, but I am humbled and grateful. Whatever convinced this generous soul to take over the payments for my storage unit, it was about the single greatest thing anyone could have done to help me cope emotionally with this situation of living in the dining room of friends in West Philly while the vast majority of everything I own is in a storage unit in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Some people have donated to me more than once. One longtime friend from Maryland sent me a second $100 donation for Christmas. Someone in California with whom I have never even spoken on the phone, let alone met, has sent several donations and promises more. Someone I never even had an online exchange with sent me more than $100 from South America. Someone I had not heard from in more than 12 years popped up to say she wanted my PayPal email address, so no crowdfunding site would get any of the donation she wanted to send. She said she wanted to repay me—with interest—for a bunch of concert audience recordings that I had sent her on CD many years ago. I expected she might send me $20 to $50 to repay me for the CDs I made for her. We had first met online, then we spoke in NYC on the 2001 tour, then later on the phone once or twice. She SENT ME $500! That was way more than I gave her at 40 cents per blank CD. I was at wit’s end with worry when she did that, and I wept with relief.

I sent in an application via fax to the MS Society for some emergency money on Monday. I had called their MS Navigator just before New Year’s, and gotten an email from them with the forms for the application attached. Their email has other charity information in it such as for Catholic Charities which I have yet to explore fully. I question whether they will accept my application as I sent it, as it lacked a copy of a lease although I asked them for money to pay for back rent, because I don’t have a lease, my friends have just asked me to pay a small amount of money each month. I gave them $250 for each of the first four months I was here, June – September, but I haven’t had any money over and above my other bills and food since then, so I owe them $1,000. [Breaking update at 1 p.m. on 8 Jan 2015: The MS Society called and confirmed that they can’t send me any money for rent or utilities unless my name is on the paperwork, which it is not. They also won’t help me pay my phone bill or car insurance bills. She said she would send me a list of charities to ask for food. She suggested they might help me with rides to doctors, but then when I asked for a ride to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, she said that was farther than they would normally be able to arrange, but she would look into it.]

I spent all but 12 of the last few dollars I had Sunday on food. People here at the house have been sharing food when they prepare it, but some of the most regular sharers left town Monday for a long trip, and most of the rest will leave on a brief tour Sunday. I’ll need to buy more food this weekend. I saved enough cash to pay my January car insurance before it’s due, but my phone bill will be due on the 20th. Even with all of that, none of this is my greatest concern now, my greatest concern is that the house is behind about a thousand dollars on paying utilities, the same amount I had been expected to pay over the last four months. Should utilities start being cut off that would be a catastrophe.

I believe I have a ride to take me to the nearby Social Security Administration office Friday morning so I can wait around for a walk-in appointment to apply for SSI. My online application of months ago was recently rejected because I had not paid enough money into my Social Security account over my work years. I was under the impression that if my application was rejected on that basis, it would automatically roll over as a claim for SSI, but that turned out not to be the case. I had sent them some medical records by postal mail to bolster my case, but they replied telling me I had never applied for SSI. The first appointment to apply for SSI that they could give me was February 11, so I’m going into the office for a walk-in appointment. I hope the Johns Hopkins neurologist I saw in May was correct when she said that having MS is a fast track to getting on disability, and that they accept my claim Friday so I won’t need to rely on the good graces of kind people anymore after this post asking for more help.

If you know me and my PayPal email address, please help me out there if you can spare anything. Any amount small or large will be a great help. If you want to pre-order a copy of my book to be delivered after I finish writing it or maybe buy one of Karen Sparks’ wonderful four-color art prints of Tori Amos, you can head over to my Authr page and select a premium. If you want to donate to help me out, not get a premium, and we don’t know each other, please head to my Go Fund Me page.

Now that I have most of my books and other research materials here out from storage, I can get back to writing again.

shelves

There are a lot of distractions in this house, but I will soldier on nonetheless.

Great thanks again to all, and I hope not to need to write another one of these pleas.

Richard Handal

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Own Karen Sparks’ unique ceramic Storyteller Doll named Talula

I put the unique ceramic Storyteller Doll named Talula that Karen Sparks made for the cover of “Be the Music : How Tori Amos Does it,” up on my Authr crowdfunding site as a premium.

Be the Music book cover

I have loved Storyteller Dolls since I first saw one. I bought one to display where I write to remind me that what I need to stay focused on is telling the story. Storyteller Dolls were invented in New Mexico in 1964 by Helen Cordero of the Cochiti Pueblos. The idea of an elder passing the ancestor stories down to the next generation instantly made sense when I saw a doll, and it is important to me.

My long-time friend Karen Sparks is a wonderfully creative artist who is talented in many media. I first saw Karen’s work in person in 1999 after meeting her online the year before, so I knew how amazing her work is. Long ago she said she wanted to do the cover and maybe other needed art for this book, and I was happy that she said she still wanted to do it when I asked her. One day as I was brainstorming to come up with a cover design for “Be the Music,” I glanced over to the shelf by my turntable, and flashed on what I wanted the main design element to be.

I asked Karen if she was up for making a ceramic Storyteller Doll. Lucky for me she agreed. I suggested maybe the hair might be an orange, corn needed to be in the design, and maybe some pianos would be involved; Tori Amos and many little girls who play piano tell them their stories, so it makes sense that pianos are among the doll’s listeners. With Tori’s 1994 b-side “Frog On My Toe” in mind, in which her late, beloved grandfather she called Poppa has a conversation with her and shares some of his Cherokee wisdom, I’m sure Karen found putting a frog on the doll’s toe irresistible. We went back and forth in email and sharing photos for weeks, but all the wonderful elements and detail of execution are Karen’s.

Karen named the doll Talula. Talula: front. Talula: back.

Once we had Talula, we needed to figure out an overall book cover design. Again Karen wanted to do the art, and I had the kernel of an idea: let’s put Talula in front of a backdrop of mountains near Taos where Under the Pink was recorded in 1993. I found a photographer who makes such photos and sells them online, and she is a librarian, to boot. Lisa made some new images of mountains near Taos for us and we chose one. Then I extracted Talula from the background of the professional photographs Karen had gotten made of her, presented Karen with a mock-up design, then let Karen be Karen to choose fonts and do a final design. It turned out Karen is as talented with Photoshop as she is with other tools. I hope you are as pleased with what Karen created as she and I are, and that you will be inspired to learn more about my book project and support its completion.

Now that Talula has given her all for the book cover, it is time to let her go. I created a premium so you can donate to be able to own her on my Authr crowdfunding site. Talula is approximately 6½ inches tall, 7½ inches wide, 9 inches deep from the bottom of her feet to the rear hem of her dress, and she weighs 1,229 grams [2 pounds, 11.4 ounces]. As a fine work of art, she isn’t cheap, she’s $5,000, but there are premiums going for as little as $2 on the site.

Please help me promote my crowdfunding campaign for my book

BE-THE-MUSIC_front-cover-webI’ve gone live with my book project’s crowdfunding campaign on Authr.com. My book will be entitled “BE THE MUSIC : How Tori Amos Does It.” In addition to being able to pre-order eBooks, posters which have a photo of the wonderful Storyteller Doll sculpture Karen Sparks made for the book cover, and published thank yous by name are available as premiums on my Authr page. I need money to continue living where I am for an estimated six more months to finish writing my book, at which point, my investor from long ago will pay the costs of publication.

I’ve done huge amounts of research in many areas since 2000. I believe I have formed an understanding of how art works, and have devised methods to use to teach composers, performers, and listeners to have more fulfilling experiences with music, through using a careful study of Tori Amos, her family history, and her music.

I’ve become extremely mobility impaired over the last five years, and now I can only walk short distances with great difficulty using two canes. This rented house is set up so I can access most of my research materials despite my mobility problems. Should I need to move elsewhere soon, my materials would surely be more difficult to access. With as much work as I’ve done for this book, if I can’t get to my research books and other materials with ease, all my years of work could end up for naught. I’ve overcome a variety of obstacles over the years, including the slow, traumatic decline of my mother’s health, leading up to her death three years ago. Then I needed to hire a lot of people to clean out her cluttered house, and to help me set up this rented house with the research materials I had accumulated. All of this has been hugely complicated by my increasing lack of mobility, and was also expensive.

Please encourage your friends to check out my publisher’s crowdfunding site at: <http://authr.com/title/2677/be-the-music_.html>. I wrote a much longer biographical story which is on my blog. I hope those with time to read it and to check out the links will find it entertaining as well as informative.  🙂  The biographical piece is greatly tailored toward Tori Amos folk. Please find the address at the end of some of my pages on Authr. After an expected initial rush of interest by Tori Amos people, the intention is to continue marketing “BE THE MUSIC” mainly to music teachers so as to alter the way music is taught. A simple goal, is it not?

I hope many people will see the importance of this work, and will agree to support it at Authr.

Great thanks to anyone who helps publicize this. It’s going to be a great challenge. Each of you is my only hope.

Richard Handal

Miracle on the Hudson reminder

Miracle on the Hudson reminder

Four years ago this January 15th, 155 lives were saved by the actions of a long-experienced airline captain and crew when huge disaster was avoided by a brilliant hard landing on the Hudson River. This is a video playlist to help us remember this unique, moving story.