Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scenes from the Macro-World - Quarry Flowers

Sunday I stopped in the meadow on the floor of the old quarry in Ballard Park. They always let the meadow grow without cutting for most of the Summer so visitors can get to see our native wildflowers. After standing in the Quaking Aspen grove for my weekly dose of Mama Gaiea's spirit energy, I went stalking flowers you all haven't seen yet this year. So far it's just the Daisy Fleabane (top photo) and the Canadian Thistle (bottom photo). More will be coming - the Yarrow is almost ready for me to shoot; maybe this weekend.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sight & Sound - Jeux d'eau

Fountain on a private estate on Bellevue Ave., shot at shutter speed 0"5 (1/2 second).

Music: "Jeux d'eau" by Maurice Ravel

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, June 26, 2009

Out and About Yesterday

I went walking yesterday, seeing as it would be the last rainless day for at least a week. I took a lot of pictures, but most of them were experiments that didn't work. However, I got these three, which I'm pleased with - another photogenic Snowy Egret down by the Green Bridge on Gooseneck Cove, and two macro shots from different angles of some Indigobush growing by the road.

Also, a quick note - I have a new entry up on Citizen K's Just A Song blog, this one exploring the song "Over the Rainbow", with videos of Judy Garland, Jane Monheit, and my favorite, Eva Cassidy. Check it out when you get a chance.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Theme Thursday - Summer

The schooner Aurora off the Rose Island Lighthouse, Photoshopped to look like oil on canvas.

And of course the only song to use with this - "Sailing" by Christopher Cross:

Photo © 2008 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sight & Sound - Simplicity

The Great Friends Meeting House (1699), in Newport, RI

Music - Appalachian Spring: Calm and flowing (Shaker melody "Simple Gifts") by Aaron Copland

Photo and text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger. Don't forget to visit my first entry on Citizen K's Just A Song blog.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer Solstice

On Gooseneck Cove, taken while celebrating the Summer Solstice at the spot where I usually celebrate. This picture was taken yesterday because it's raining today. The temperature was around 65º F/18º C, no sun, lots of fog. Oh well, at least everything's green. Happy Summer!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Well my goodness! Colette Amelia at The whole ball of wax in a nutshell has bestowed an award on me - the "I Love This Blog" award. I'm flabbergasted, flustered, gobsmacked, speechless... Apparently this award is something like the Oscars of the blogosphere, an award for merit voted by your peers.

There are, of course, rules to accepting these awards, as is usual. For this award they are:

1) Grab the Award and link love the person from whom you got the award.

2) Pass the award to different bloggers who you think are deserving of this award.

3) Write a post about the award and there you’ll link the person who gave the award to you and those people who you’d like to pass the award.

4) Continue your passion in writing because your hard work will always be appreciated.

Thank goodness this one doesn't make you pass it on to 10 people as some do. It's easier, and more meaningful, to pass it on to a treasured few. Here are mine:

Mouse (aka Kimy) @ mouse medicine, a fellow photographer who has an uncanny ability to match words with images.

K. @ Citizen K, political commentator extraordinaire, lover of all things NOLA, fellow lover of the best in music, and especially fellow Red Sox diehard fanatic (Swing, Big Papi, swing!).

Stephanie @ Rocket Scientist, an old friend from Gather.com who also has two most excellent Blogger blogs (the other is Ask Me Anything) who really is a rocket scientist. She's also a science fiction/fantasy author, a lover of cats, and the mother of the adorable Roxie.

Willow @ Life at Willow Manor, who posts contemplative pastiches on life in an old, old stone house and whose meditative style is much like Colette's.

Kelly @ Red and the Peanut, a fellow birder and photographer who manages to capture the personalities of her subjects so well, and who is so good at seeking out and finding the birds who are the hardest to find.

There are others who I read on a regular basis, and I don't want them to feel left out. It's just that these blogs have the most depth in their content and seeing them in my feed lets me know that I'm in for a treat. Congratulations folks, you really deserve this award!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Leftovers for Friday

I got some very good shots on Wednesday, but because of the Biblical translation article and Theme Thursday I never got to put them up here. Well, it's a slow day here and rainy weather kept the camera blind, so I'll post those pictures today.

In Ballard Park I came across a tree full of the wheezy calls of agitated Tufted Titmice. I stopped to look and noticed a lot of activity up in the foliage - a lot of flitting and hopping about looked to be going on. Finally several of the culprits came out onto branches where there was less foliage cover and finally I got it - the baby Titmice had just fledged, and they were exercising their newly gained freedom. Although there were also several adults around keeping an eye on things, and several of the tykes were doing the feed-me dance - mouths open, neck extended, and the wings fluttering rapidly. This little one to the left sat still the longest, so he got his portrait taken.

Down on Gooseneck Cove off Hazard Rd. there was a Snowy Egret preening like mad. Unfortunately, there was also enough of a breeze blowing that the effects of combing were often undone. I got two shots I thought were the best examples of what the poor little bugger had to put up with. I call this one Egret Punk.

But I really like this one. The stance, the lion's mane of hair swept straight back over the head and down the neck... give that bird a baton and you have the stereotype of the classical orchestra conductor. So I call this shot Egretto Toscanini.

Okay, I'm all caught up now!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Theme Thursday - Roof

I went out collecting interesting roofs this week, wandering around looking for the perfect subjects. As you'll see, I have a preference for slate or cedar shingle roofs, and Victorian round towers. There are a lot of interesting roofs in Newport, and these are my favorites.

This first one is The Waves, at the end of Ledge Rd. on the point known as Land's End. It's on the Cliff Walk, so it's easy to look at from a variety of angles.

This house is along the dogleg end of Bellevue Ave. I love the towers and the copper ornamentation.

A Stick-style house on Rhode Island Ave., seen from the back on Everett St. I've always loved the varying stages of the roof-line on this house.

This is "Villino" on Red Cross Ave., built in 1882 and designed by Stanford White. It's always looked like a house from a Nathaniel Hawthorne story to me.

And this last house is a classic - the Katherine Prescott Wormeley House, 1876, at the corner of Red Cross and Old Beach Rd. It was designed by the famous Victorian architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White from New York, who designed many of the houses for the "400" on the East Coast of the US. We locals call this the "Turkish Delight" house, for obvious reasons!

I thought long and hard about this week's Theme Thursday video. I know so many people are thinking of "Up On the Roof", so I went a little further afield. It's not about roofs, but this song is certainly about being above all the mundane daily stuff - "Sittin' On Top of the World", by Cream at their 2005 reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall. For me, this is a far superior version than the one on the original album, because Clapton plays a meaner, leaner, gutsier blues rendition here, pretty much abandoning the earlier "psychedelic" trappings and going right for the roots. Yeah! Slowhand!!!!

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Twisting Translation to Fit an Agenda

The history of Biblical manuscripts and textual criticism is full of tales about monks messing with the manuscripts in an attempt to force the text be be more aligned to the church's idea of orthodoxy, and also tales of translators who used their knowledge for the same purpose. The Textus Receptus (Latin: received text) is probably the prime example of this. It was the Greek text of the New Testament that Dutch Catholic philosopher Desiderius Erasmus put together as the foundation to be used for translation to Latin (and later other languages). Most Reformation-era vernacular translations of the Bible relied on it - Martin Luther's German Bible, Tynedale's and King James' English translations, and even the Catholic English translation, Douay-Rheims.

But Textus Receptus is badly flawed. Whenever Erasmus couldn't find an existing early Greek manuscript, he translated St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate to Greek. He also included scribal marginal annotations as actual text. The most famous of these was the Johannine Comma, which occurs in two verses of the First Epistle of John, 5:7 - 8. Without the comma these verses read: "For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree." This apparently wasn't trinitarian enough for a Fourth Century monk, who added a more suitable addition in the margin. Erasmus added it to the text itself, so that the verses then read (here in the King James Version): "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one." [The bolded portion is the added comma.] Later scholars who put together the Greek texts which all modern translators and scholars use recognized the nature of the addition and eliminated it as it deserved.

Why did Erasmus do such a thing? He was out of favor with the Vatican, not only because he was well-known as a humanist philosopher, but also because he acted as adviser to Martin Luther for a time. But without the Vatican's sponsorship Erasmus would cease to have a means of livelihood, so Textus Receptus was his bid to get back into Rome's good graces; he gave them the text that would best please them. But history hasn't treated him as well as the Curia did, and most now recognize his "received text" as anything but.

But this sort of finagling with the original text didn't end in the 16th Century. It still goes on today, which is what spurred me to compose this post. Let's take a look at what's commonly known as "The Lord's Prayer", the version in Matthew 6:9 - 13. Here's the original Greek (from the Nestle-Aland text, 27th edition):
9) ουτως ουν προσευχεσθε υμεις πατερ ημων ο εν τοις ουρανοις αγιασθητω το ονομα σου
10) ελθετω η βασιλεια σου γενηθητω το θελημα σου ως εν ουρανω και επι γης
11) τον αρτον ημων τον επιουσιον δος ημιν σημερον
12) και αφες ημιν τα οφειληματα ημων ως και ημεις αφηκαμεν τοις οφειλεταις ημων
13) και μη εισενεγκης ημας εις πειρασμον αλλα ρυσαι ημας απο του πονηρου
My translation of these verses is:
9) Instead, you should pray this way: Our father in heaven, your name be revered.
10) Bring down your kingdom, fulfill your will, as in heaven so upon earth.
11) Bestow upon us today whatever bread we need.
12) And forgive us our debts just as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.
13) And do not force us to endure test after test, but rescue us from the evil one.
Now I need to establish some background. There are some old New Testament texts in Syriac, a variant of Aramaic. The earliest was put together by Tatian in the 2nd Century, called the Diatessaron, which was a book that harmonized the four canonical Gospels, i.e. didn't arrange them as four separate books but arranged them according to similar narrative threads. A later 4th Century text in Syriac eventually developed into the New Testament of the eastern monophysite churches, such as the Assyrian Orthodox and related denominations; it's called the Peshitta (Syriac "simple, common").

Why do I bring this up? Because there's a school of thought called Aramaic Primacy which considers the Syriac texts to be the real "original" text of the New Testament, rather than the Greek. They believe that because these texts are in a variant of the Aramaic spoken in Roman Palestine in Jesus' time, therefore these texts are more "authentic" than the Greek. There are serious problems with these claims.

Solid scholarship shows that these Syriac texts were actually translated from Greek to Syriac. Even Tatian never claimed his Diatessaron to be original. He split from Rome (he was a disciple of Justin Martyr and after Justin's death renounced Rome and moved back to Edessa) and considered his Gospel Harmony to be a way of casting the Gospel into the vernacular of his people. He considered Greek to be the "imperial tongue" and Syriac to be the language of the common people, and acted accordingly. The Peshitta was viewed in the same way, as a thumbing of the nose to the Byzantine and Roman powers who sought to control the Mediterranean world. This motive has much in common with Reformation-era vernacular translations of the Bible; Luther and the Protestant scholars of England who crafted their translations were thumbing their noses at Rome.

And the claim that these Syriac texts are more authentic because they share a language with Jesus is shaky at best. The Aramaic dialect of Syriac differs significantly from the seven Palestinian dialects extant at the time of Jesus; they were from different branches of the Aramaic family, the Palestinian being in the Western branch and the Syriac being in the Eastern. This would be like the difference between Gothic and Old Norse - both in the Germanic family of languages, but different branches (Old Norse in the Northern Branch and Gothic in the Eastern), and while they might be able to understand each other somewhat, it wouldn't be anywhere near complete understanding, due to differences that culture and environment (such as loanwords from neighboring non-Germanic languages). Add to that that Palestinian Aramaic was antique compared to 2nd Century (the Diatessaron) and 4th Century (the Peshitta) Syriac, and you end up looking at that "same language" claim with a large handfull of salt.

Still, the Peshitta is the Biblical translation of choice for the non-Byzantine derived Eastern churches, and in that function there can be no problem with that. The issue I'm addressing in this post comes from a particular translation of the Matthean "Lord's Prayer" passages by a particular person. First, let's look at the Syriac text (I have to use a graphic image version because apparently the Web doesn't recognize Estrangelo script):

My translation of this is:
9) Pray therefore like this: Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10) Your kingdom come, your will be done, as in heaven so on earth.
11) Give us this day the bread we require.
12) And forgive us our offenses as we also have forgiven those who have offended us.
13) And do not bring us into trial, but deliver us from the evil one. [For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever.]
[Note: that last bit in brackets at the end of verse 13 is one of my prime arguments against the Peshitta being more "authentic" than the Greek texts. It's actually a Greek doxology from the Greek liturgy, added to make sure everybody saying it knew it was a prayer. It's not a Syriac addition, it's a Greek one!]

Now that's pretty straightforward and except for the liturgical doxology tacked onto the end, it pretty much follows the Greek version. But just in case anybody distrusts my translation, here's the translation of the same verses (minus the introductory "Pray therefore like this...") by George Lamsa, Syriac scholar, Aramaic Primacist, and the man who first introduced the Peshitta to western audience:
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
Give us bread for our needs from day to day.
And forgive us our offenses, as we have forgiven our offenders.
And do not let us enter into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever.
See? Basically the same words. But...

There's another Aramaic Primacist who has a version of the Lord's Prayer that sounds nothing like this. In fact, it's not really a "translation" at all, more a paraphrase, or even more accurately a commentary. This is by Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz, who fancies himself a modern-day Sufi and who imposes a metaphysical New Age philosophy on his Syriac translations. Which is fine in and of itself, except that he bills his translations as "translated directly from the original Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus." Except that it's not, it's ostensibly translated from the 4th Century (and later) Syriac Peshitta and the words he uses in his translation have little or nothing to do with the Syriac words of the text. You be the judge:
O, Birther of the Cosmos, focus your light within us -- make it useful
Create your reign of unity now
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light,
So in all forms,
Grant us what we need each day in bread and insight:
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of other's guilt.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
The power and the life to do,
The song that beautifies all,
From age to age it renews.
I affirm this with my whole being.
Now do you see anything but a mere whiff of a nod towards the original Syriac text in this? No, me neither. This is pure, unadulterated New Age metaphysics, and this guy is using the Peshitta to push it. Whether I agree with his take on this is immaterial; as I said above, I probably would never have even noticed this if he had billed it as his own, personal commentary on the Lord's Prayer, which is what it is. But he had to bill it as "translated directly from the original Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus." And that it's not, as anyone can plainly see. It basically puts him in the same class as Erasmus, willing to twist Holy Writ to serve his own ideological purposes. And in the world of Biblical scholarship, that's a big no-no!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, June 15, 2009

Things Seen Today

I was out collecting roofs today for Theme Thursday (and oh! I've found some jim-dandies!), and in the course of my wanderings I found some other things worthy of note.

After I was done with my wanderings and on my way home from a post-hike visit to the grocery store, I was on my way home cutting through a very treed residential area when I heard a Downy Woodpecker making a lot of noise, and then out of the corner of my eye saw a feathered form flying into a tree across the street from me. I stopped, put my grocery back on the ground, and pulled out the camera. The bird, a male, dropped down from a branch to a bare trunk, and lo and behold, there was the head of a baby male Downy Woodpecker poking out of a hole in the trunk; Papa was feeding him! I got out the telephoto lens for this and managed to get a good shot of the baby looking out of the nest, and a so-so shot of Papa feeding him.

But earlier in the day, while down on the rocks at the end of the Cliff Walk shooting the roof of The Waves, the house there at Land's End, I saw a whole patch of Scarlet Pimpernel growing in a crack between the rocks and just had to switch to macro mode, get down on my belly, and star shooting. This is the best shot of the lot.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Roy's Newport Gumbo

After reading CC Miranda's article about The Sauce Boss, and after doing more research on the man and posting my own article here last week, I got a hankerin' for some gumbo. But I'd paid rent last week and was broke, so I had to wait until this week to make some. So Tuesday I hiked down to the grocery store to buy the fixings.

I started with a basic gumbo recipe, but I adapted to make use of local delicacies, such as substituting the local Portuguese sausage chouriço for the Cajun sausage andouille. [Note: No, I did not replace shrimp with local lobster; shrimp is still a lot cheaper!] Also, although my grocery store often has okra, this week they didn't, so I substituted green squash, and it was lovely! But other changes I made had more to do with personal taste and, frankly, concessions to cholesterol issues, like substituting vegetable oil and olive oil for butter. So with that explanation out of the way, let's get down to business.

Oh yeah, this produces roughly 10 servings of gumbo.


3 or 4 tbs. cooking oil (peanut oil preferred)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 large onions, chopped; 3 large stalks celery, chopped; 1 lb. green squash, chopped; 2 large Bell peppers, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed

8 cups water

1 lb. plum tomatoes, diced (and use all liquid and pulp) OR 1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped; 1 sprig fresh thyme; 2 bay leaves

1 pinch salt; 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper; 1 pinch black pepper

1 lb. chouriço (or Spanish chorizo), cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce; 1/4 cup lemon juice; hot pepper sauce to taste

filé powder


1. In a large skillet (or a wok), heat the vegetable oil and sauté (or stir fry) garlic, onions, celery, squash, and bell peppers until golden brown. Set aside.

2. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup flour, and cook in a large stock pot over medium high heat, stirring constantly. This is the roux, and it makes or breaks your gumbo. Cook it until it turns a velvet, chocolaty brown. Stir in the sautéed vegetables and the chicken. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is evenly browned. Stir in water and tomatoes. Add the cilantro, thyme, bay leaves, salt, cayenne, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat , and simmer for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the shrimp and chouriço to the stock pot. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice, and splash in the hot sauce to the desired heat level. Simmer an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, remove the bay leaves, and sprinkle on filé powder. This is crucial: Do not add the filé powder while the gumbo is still on the heat; it'll turn stringy. Remove from the burner first, let it sit for half a minute, and sprinkle on about a palm-full of the powder, and stir. You can add more until you get the desired thickness. But do add it; it acts as a thickener and it adds its own unique flavor to the gumbo. I've seen gumbo recipes without filé powder and I never understood why they left it out!

4. Serve over rice. Chow down time!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, June 12, 2009

Looking at the Beatitudes

Last week a friend on Gather.com published an article about the Sermon on the Mount and asked what certain phrases really meant. As someone who reads Koiné Greek and who has also been involved with Biblical Studies for a good long while, I thought I'd lay out some of the things I've come up with, and also discuss some of the existing scholarship on these.

First some decisions had to be made. My friend was dealing specifically with some of the Beatitudes, so I decided to keep it at that rather than tackle the whole Sermon on the Mount. There are also two versions of this sermon, one in Matthew 5 and the other in Luke 6. I chose to go with the Lukan version. Both versions are obviously derived from a common source; they share intent and in places identical wording.

Most contemporary Biblical scholars accept the existence, based on internal textual evidence, of a common "Sayings Gospel", a basic list of the words of Jesus as remembered by those who were around and which were passed down (orally at first) in the early Christian community. Early German scholars called this the "Q" document, from the German word Quelle - source. The authors of Luke and Matthew seem to have shared this document as their primary source.

I'm going with Luke for the Beatitudes rather than Matthew because the author of Luke seems to have stuck closer to the source; the wording is simpler and more terse in Luke while the author of Matthew seems to have done some serious editing, adding to the verses shared with Luke, adding whole new verses, and leaving out other, and in my view very crucial, verses. Luke follows classic Jewish oratorical style - reversal: positive/negative, praise/condemnation, congratulating/warning. The author of Matthew eliminates the reversal pattern by leaving out the negative and ignores the whole original point.

So let's go to the text. First, here's Luke 6:20 - 26 in the original Greek:

20) και αυτος επαρας τους οφθαλμους αυτου εις τους μαθητας αυτου ελεγεν μακαριοι οι πτωχοι οτι υμετερα εστιν η βασιλεια του θεου
21) μακαριοι οι πεινωντες νυν οτι χορτασθησεσθε μακαριοι οι κλαιοντες νυν οτι γελασετε
22) μακαριοι εστε οταν μισησωσιν υμας οι ανθρωποι και οταν αφορισωσιν υμας και ονειδισωσιν και εκβαλωσιν το ονομα υμων ως πονηρον ενεκα του υιου του ανθρωπου
23) χαρητε εν εκεινη τη ημερα και σκιρτησατε ιδου γαρ ο μισθος υμων πολυς εν τω ουρανω κατα τα αυτα γαρ εποιουν τοις προφηταις οι πατερες αυτων
24) πλην ουαι υμιν τοις πλουσιοις οτι απεχετε την παρακλησιν υμων
25) ουαι υμιν οι εμπεπλησμενοι νυν οτι πεινασετε ουαι οι γελωντες νυν οτι πενθησετε και κλαυσετε
ουαι οταν καλως υμας ειπωσιν παντες οι ανθρωποι κατα τα αυτα γαρ εποιουν τοις ψευδοπροφηταις οι πατερες αυτων

And then here's my own translation of the Greek:

20) And he raised his eyes to his listeners and preached: Congratulations, you poor, for God's domain belongs to you.
21) Congratulations, you who starve now, for you will be filled. Congratulations, you who weep and wail now, for you will laugh.
22) Congratulations to you when people detest you and exclude you, and rail at you and drive you out and call you evil because of the Son of Man!
23) Rejoice on that day and leap for joy! Behold, your reward in heaven will be abundant. Remember that their ancestors treated the prophets the same.
24) But beware you wealthy, for you've already received your consolation.
25) Beware you who are filled now, for you will famish. Beware you who laugh now, for you will mourn and wail aloud.
26) Beware whenever everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors regarded the false prophets.

This is much easier to understand than the version in Matthew, because the full pattern of reversal language used in Luke is absent in Matthew. This is the full "the last shall be first and the first, last" treatment laid out loud and clear. You lucky man, you're poor, and that means that God is going to give you everything. But you rich guy, you've already gotten all you're going to get. This is classic Jewish prophetic oratory. It rings like a bell!

It's also a vision of Jesus that many Christians are afraid to deal with. It exalts the poor and powerless and it warns those who are complacent with the status quo that they're heading for a fall. This vision of Jesus condemns the disparity between rich and poor and calls Christians to fix that disparity. If you're the kind of Christian who goes to church every Sunday, tithes, maybe even serves on the church board or the altar guild, and thinks this is all it takes to be a "good Christian", then this vision of Jesus will scare the willies out of you. There's nothing smug or self-satisfied about what he calls his followers to do. He wants to shake things up, turn the world upside down and give it a good tumbling. Stasis, status quo, are the enemies of the spirit; so says this vision of Jesus. A friend of mine who was an Episcopalian priest who considered Daniel Berrigan his role model used to say: "If you're a minister of God and you're not in trouble with the authorities, you're not doing your job."

On the other hand, this vision of Jesus also doesn't sit well with the Christian Right, and you won't notice people like Pat Robertson or James Dobson or any other of their gang preaching this vision of Jesus. Why? Because the very people they condemn, the Jesus of this vision raises up. And what they have become are the very things this Jesus warns to beware of. No, I doubt you'll ever hear James Dobson preach this Jesus. I also think Mr. Dobson would probably be very frightened if this Jesus ever appeared on his doorstep.

That's what I think the whole point of the Beatitudes is - to point out that the world is out of balance and needs to be re-balanced. It gives the poor and oppressed a source of hope, and it warns of disaster for the rich, the powerful, and the complacent. And what more appropriate message for the times we now live in?

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Theme Thursday - Swing

Sorry, no playground swings, rope swings, tire swings, or whatever here. As a musician, when I hear the word "swing", I think of music. Ella singing "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. Doowop doowop doowop doowop doowop doowop doowow!" And the King of Swing, Bennie Goodman. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys with rollicking Texas Swing. And on it goes.

But the music doesn't have to have swing in the genre name or in the title; if it swings, it swings no matter who's playing it. For instance, take this picture of Del McCoury and his band at the 2005 Newport Folk Festival. You can tell just by looking that these guys are swinging!

Okay, I know I'm biased, but Del and the boys are the best damned bluegrass band in the business, bar none. Just to show you how much of a fan I am, left to right: Ronnie McCoury, mandolin; Robbie McCoury, banjo; Alan Bartram, bass; Jason Carter, fiddle; and Del McCoury, guitarist and vocalist extroadinaire! And can they swing? Well, here's Del, Ronnie, and Robbie playing with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band playing "Take Me In Your Lifeboat". You tell me whether they can swing or not.

But of course, I can't do a post about "swing" without presenting the King of Swing himself, Benny Goodman, playing the swingingest song in history: "Sing, Sing, Sing", with that jungle drumbeat from Gene Krupa, that great trumpet line behind Harry James, and Benny's patented wail. Put on your dancin' shoes, grab your partner, and get ready to swing, swing, swing!

Photo & text © 2005 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

SVF Foundation Open House Pt. 3 - Exotic Fowl

One of the cooler things about the SVF Foundation's annual open house is the first part of the farm operation you come to after entering at the Beacon Hill Rd. entrance - the chicken coops. And these are definitely not you Grandma's chickens from down on the farm; there are some pretty exotic-looking poultry fowl here. Unfortunately due to weather and atmospheric conditions this year the birds were kept in the coop. Luckily I have some good shots from last year's open house, so all is not lost. Let's go look at some crazy birds!

This is a Dominique. The breed dates back to the early settlements in New England. It was the dominant American yard bird until the Rhode Island Red was developed in Little Compton in the late 1700s (most American yard flocks from the 1800s on were predominantly RI Red and/or Sussex breeds).

These are Guinea fowl. I seem to remember seeing "Guinea hens" on some of the Amish farms up in Lancaster County, PA during my childhood in MD. They are noisy critters, and set up a noise like an old Model T Ford creaking and sputtering down the road. For this reason they're also nicknamed "Barnyard Watchdogs". They also seem to be good at keeping the resident insect population under control, especially ticks. Hmmmm... As odd as they look and as obnoxious as they sound, it looks like there's good reason to keep them around!

This is an Americauna. The breed was developed from the South American Araucana breed. They're also called "Easter Egg birds" because they lay green to blue (and all the shades between) eggs.

Alright, who thought giving this bird a perm was a good idea?! Heh, heh! This is an Appenzeller Hobenfitzer, which comes from the Appenzeller farming region of the Swiss Alps. Well, they are living on the Swiss Village Farm, after all! I just love the almost Kliban-like patterns those black and white feathers create. That and the mop top make this bird the most popular with the annual visitors, especially the younger ones.

This is a Spangled Hamburg rooster; isn't he a beauty? And a dead ringer for Foghorn Leghorn! Spangled Hamburgs are one of the oldest known European breeds, and were probably established in England during the Roman invasion of the 4th Century CE.

And of course the whole reason for the SVF Foundation - a new generation to carry on the genes of the heritage breeds.

Finally, here is the sign identifying the various breeds, propped up in front of the coops so we could all ID the birds we were looking at. If you click on this photo it'll open up a full 1024 x 768 resolution file so you can take a close look at all the heritage breed poultry fowl the SVF is currently preserving.

And that ends the tour of the Swiss Village Farm open house. I hope you've enjoyed your time here.

© 2008 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

SVF Foundation Open House Pt. 2 - The Beasts of the Field

The SVF Foundation's main function is to preserve heritage, threatened, and endangered farm animal breeds. The old breeds carry certain immunities and strengths which are often bred out of modern hybrids in the race to breed animals that yield more meat, more eggs, more milk... SVF is dedicated to preserving those breeds whose genetic make-up is more immuno-resistant to common animal diseases and natural resistance to such things as heat, footrot, and other plagues of livestock. To read further about this, click here to read more about their mission, and click here to read about the animal breeds at the farm and what their genetic value is.

And now, without further ado, here are some of the livestock who were on display last Saturday. By the way, when visiting the page for animal breeds, make sure you look up the info pages on the animals pictured below.

There were several animals in the stone pens in front of the cow barn in the "valley". This is a Belted Galloway bull. He was making quite a bit of noise Saturday morning. I don't know if it was lunchtime and he was letting them know it, or if he was jst trying to find somebody to converse with. There are a bunch of these over on the other fields at Hammersmith Farm. You can't miss that black and white striped design!

In the other pen in front of the barn were two pregnant Milking Devon cows. They were both snoozing and not making any sound at all.

These newly-sheared sheep were in the village's "common" in the center of the circle. I have no idea why they were there, other than for decorative purposes, maybe. After all, any self-respecting village common needs sheep grazing on it; it's cheaper than having to use a lawnmower and they leave fertilizer behind that helps the grass recover from their grazing. "Green farming" in a nutshell!

Outside the valley and out next to the Piggery were special pens to display this years prized possessions in the sheep and goats category. And as luck would have it, this year I was actually there for the sheep shearing demonstration. That's some thick wool!

This is a Hog Island Sheep, from the island of the same name off the coast of Virginia. These are a critically endangered species which have gone feral; they were once domestic sheep but long ago left without human interaction. Ferals are important because they preserve genetic material lost from successive hybridization in modern breeds, and they can thrive on minimal forage.

And this is a Hog Island lamb. Hog Islands can come in four distinct genotypes: black, white, horned, and polled (without horns). This little one shared the cage with the horned white sheep above and a black polled sheep which may have been its dam; I didn't pay enough attention to discover gender.

This is Chip, the Tennessee Myotonic Goat. Myotonic goats are also called "Fainting Goats" because their congenital myotonia causes their leg and neck muscles to stiffen when frightened, giving them the appearance of fainting. Chip is special because he was the first embryo transfer performed by SVF, as well as being the first Tennessee Myotonic goat to be born from a frozen embryo. They take very good care of Chip!

This is a Gulf Coast sheep. These are descended from the flocks brought over by the Spanish in the 1500s, and they've adapted to become heat tolerant. In fact, they have no wool on the face, legs, belly, and throat. A little natural air-conditioning, as it were.

And last but not least, the most important creature on the farm - Dakota, the resident Border Collie. Dakota makes sure none of the sheep and goats stray, makes sure they're safe, and herds them back to the barns at the end of the day. Dakota is a sweetheart, but don't distract him while he's on duty; he'll just ignore you.

And those are just some of the "beasts of the field" living at the Swiss Valley Farm. Tomorrow we'll take a last look at the farm, this time at the exotic poultry. This place has some really wild-looking chickens!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, June 08, 2009

SVF Foundation Open House Pt. 1 - The Buildings

The SVF Foundation preserves endangered heritage breed livestock and poultry breeds. They operate on the 35 acres of the Swiss Village Farm as well as on 11 acres on the adjacent Hammersmith Farm. Normally visitors aren't allowed onto the grounds of the farms in order to protect the endangered breeds from the danger of disease or invasions of "outside" species that could cause problems. But every year on the first Saturday in June the SVF Foundation opens the Swiss Village Farm, the centerpiece of the properties, to the public.

From the SVF website: "In 1909 Arthur Curtis James, purchased 'Beacon Hill' the former Glover estate, in Newport, Rhode Island. He gradually acquired surrounding property until the estate consisted of 125 acres and the old Manor House formally known as 'Edgehill'.

"In 1914, James started building 'Surprise Valley Farm'- known as 'Swiss Village' to the locals - to house a prize herd of Guernsey cattle he had inherited from his father. He then hired Grosvenor Atterbury and Stowe Phelps as architects to design a village patterned after those in the Italian region of Switzerland. The loose stone resulting from blasting out the 'valley' was used in the farm buildings."

Yes, you read that right; James had the top of Beacon Hill blasted out to create his little "Surprise Valley". It was named "Swiss Village" first by the locals who worked for the James family; everybody swore it looked like a little Swiss village in the Alps. And it's those buildings we're going to look at in this first part of a three-part series on Saturday's visit.

Just up the road from the welcome sign above and across from the poultry coops (not in today's article because they're modern buildings) is the slaughterhouse with its attached smokehouse. This is such an "English country cottage" look, with rolled eaves in imitation of a thatched roof. The smokehouse is the little round attached building in the background left.

Past the slaughterhouse the road comes the the blasted out "valley" and its buildings. This is the view from in front of the carpentry shop, looking across at the barn complex, service buildings, and the bridge. These roofs are tiles rather than shingled. You can see why the workers called this a "village".

This is another view of the barn complex, this time from the top end of the valley, taken from an area to the right of the above picture.

This is a view of the bridge taken from in front of the barn, and the building next to the bridge is the carpentry shop. The bridge served as an aesthetic closing of the circle created by the blasted-out valley and the buildings circling it. The bridge also served as the focus of a daily evening ritual - marching the cattle in from the fields over the bridge to the barns.

Opposite the bridge on the upside of the valley is the creamery. Milk from the Guernseys owned by the Jameses was turned into butter and cheese here.

Outside the circle on the other side of the bridge and bordering the fields is the piggery. I guess the name is self-explanatory. Even though it has nothing to do with the building, that millstone certainly adds to the bucolic ambiance of the structure.

Back inside the circle of the valley and up a grassy lawn next to the creamery is this wisteria arbor. It was here that Mr. and Mrs. James would watch the parade of the Guernseys over the bridge at sunset and toast the "milk toast", clinking their mugs of fresh milk together. I guess the urban wealthy had some odd ideas about country life!

The next in the series will take a look at the livestock - lots of sheep, some cattle, goats, and a very smart Border Collie. The last will be dedicated to the exotic poultry, mostly chickens, on the farm. Until then!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger