Friday, July 31, 2009

Jesus the Merry Prankster (For All the Sourpusses Out There)

You know, if you took the attitudes and the facial expressions of a lot of conservative Christians to heart, you could easily believe that Christianity was this horribly sober-sided, humorless religion. And if you took some of the English translations of Jesus's words at face value, especially in the translations that the sober-sides favor, like the King James Version, then you'd get the impression that Jesus wasn't a particularly happy guy.

But you'd be wrong. There is a great deal of humor in the Gospels. The problem is that the translations into English (and other languages) just don't bring out that humor. And that problem is caused by the attitudes of the translators themselves, who translate according to their own agendas, and unfortunately many of these translators take themselves and their agendas far too seriously. A lot of the cultural context of first century Palestine and the nuances of the original Greek are left on the cutting-room floor because these guys are focused on getting across the concept that this is Very Serious Business. But if you study the context and the Greek language, there really is a lot of humor in Jesus, especially in the way he expressed himself.

I'm not going to do a full exposition here on humor in the Gospels. You can do that on your own; just Google "humor of jesus" and you'll find a goldmine of information. I'm just going to look at an incident that brings out Jesus's bantering style of repartee.

In the 21st chapter of John, after the Resurrection and after Jesus has appeared to the disciples twice in Jerusalem, Peter decides to go back up to Galilee and start trying to earn a living again. He grabs John and James the sons of Zebedee, Thomas, Nathanael, and two others and says, "Look, I'm going fishing." And they said, "We'll come, too." So off they go. They're out in the boat all night, and by morning they haven't caught a thing. So when the sun comes up in the morning, there's a man on the shore, and he shouts out to them, "Children, do you have any fish?"

That's how the English Standard Version (ESV) translates the question in John 21:5. The King James version has it: "Children, have ye any meat?" And the more modern and often more informal New International version has it: "Friends, haven't you any fish?" Reynolds Price, in his book Three Gospels, translates it: "Boys, nothing to eat?" I like this, because it jibes with my own translation; it has an air of affectionate ribbing as a result of love and a long friendship with these men.

In Greek, the question reads: παιδια μη τι προσφαγιον εχετε (Paidia, me ti prosphagion echete) Now paidia is the diminutive plural of pais - boy. Also, prosphagion indicates something that can be eaten with bread - meat, fish, etc. The whole sentence is very slangy Koiné Greek. A close translation would be: "Kids, have you caught anything to eat?" In the context of the situation and the slang, the man on shore is asking them "Hey guys! You catch any breakfast yet?"

In the light of this little excursion into Greek slang, look at the scene again. These guys are out on the boat all night without catching a thing. Then this fella on the shore shouts out to them "Hey guys! You catch any breakfast yet?" The voice and manner seem familiar, and somebody says "Who's that joker?", while somebody else grumps back to the joker-on-the-shore "No we haven't, thank you very much!" So the guy shouts back "Try the other side of the boat. I bet you'll have better luck there." So they do, and sure enough they get a full net. Meanwhile, John bar Zebedee's been thinking about the voice and the joke, and the lightbulb goes on, and he says "Hey, that's the Lord!" And Peter jumps up startled, and says, "You know, I wonder..." And he peers toward the shore and says "You're right, that IS Jesus!", and he jumps overboard and starts swimmimg to shore.

You see, the disciples figured out who it was on the shore of the lake because Jesus had affectionately poked them in the ribs like this all the time during his ministry. The humor was always there, and that's what gave him away.

There's lots more of this in the Gospels! Jesus was a consummate punster and player with words. He also used satire and irony in his parables, and especially in his dealings with those who took themselves so very seriously; he loved poking fun at the pomposity of the priests and the scribes. But you have to look for it, because the translators have buried that humor under an avalanche of stifling seriousness. Do the Google search I mentioned above and you'll see what I mean. And especially check out Elton Trueblood's The Humor of Christ, a classic in the field.

Jesus may have wept, but he also laughed. Maybe Christianity would be more attractive if his followers laughed more, too.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Theme Thursday - Button

Hmmmm... Right from the start I knew that the "button" theme was gonna be a problem. My first thought had been the kind of buttons you pin on your jacket - campaign buttons, chamber of commerce booster buttons, tourist buttons, etc. But I'm not a button wearer, so I don't have a great collection of classic buttons such as I've seen in antiques malls and online. I was thinking of the buttons on clothing, but I thought that sounded boring. And after that I was stuck.

Yesterday I was getting desperate. The thought struck me that I probably had a fairly varied collection of clothing buttons around here; I do my own repair sewing, and I have things like that just laying around. I looked, and sure enough, I found a potpourri of odd buttons and some sets. I also thought that I could do something with them on that piece of black velvet I do macros on. And so my first photo of this post was born.

Then the thought hit me - I have a whole wall full of buttons: my stereo system. But of course! Complete with blinking lights and all. Well, okay, lights aren't in this theme, but certainly the button part is. And so the second shot was born.

Okay, that's enough on the pictures. What'll I do about music? Well, of course there's the button accordion, and the button accordion is one of the mainstays of traditional Irish music, so I had a whole field of choices for that one. I picked this one of John Whelan, a traditional Irish musician who now lives in Connecticut, doing three reels: "The Killavil". "The High Reel", and "The Fermoy Lasses". These are real get-up-and-dancers, so you might want to get out of your chairs about now!

And because that's just how my mind works, I remembered that in Great Britain and Ireland the accordion is commonly called the squeezebox. Ayuh! Those of you who know me well already know where this one is going. The thought of "squeezebox" inevitably led me to The Who and "Mama's Got a Squeeze Box"; I just couldn't resist, even though there are no buttons involved (unless it was the clothing buttons Daddy had to get through to enjoy that squeezebox!). So to close out this week's Theme Thursday post, here's The Who. Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Walkabout

No errands today, so I headed NW from my house to walk around and see if there was anything that wanted its picture taken. I figured I'd do my usual cut through the Common Burying Ground on my way to visit the Point - the old colonial section of town - and the waterfront along Washington St.

In the Common Burying Ground I noticed a bird flitting around that on first glance looked like a Tree Swallow, except that it was too big. And when it perched on a gravestone, it was obvious it was no Swallow. This is an Eastern Kingbird, in the Flycatcher family. This one wasn't making any noise, but in general these guys are noisy as all get-out!

From there I wandered through the Point; alas, nothing caught my eye. But it was a different story when I came to the top of Washington St. and looked at that curving section of the start of the Newport Bridge. Something about the lines of this grabbed me. And when I got home I converted to black & white, where it works even better.

But the best view of the bridge came a little later. When I got down to Battery Park I noticed another photographer (with a very impressive set-up) staring intently at the bridge, and when I looked, I saw what had grabbed her attention: a fog bank was moving in and doing very interesting things to the bridge. But Battery Park wasn't good for the shot I wanted to get; too many boats between me and the bridge, and too "head on" of a shot. So I walked back up Washington St. to get more of an angled shot.

And that was my photo safari of the day!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Potpourri

More results of me carrying my camera whenever I go out the door. Today was errands day - a visit to the library and a stop at the grocery store. Between the library and the grocery store I headed over to the Cliff Walk at Marine Ave,. then went through the campus of Salve Regina University on my way back to Bellevue Ave. and the local Stop & Shop.

In the waters off the little beach at the end of Marine Ave. I noticed some black dots among the white heads of the Herring Gulls floating in the surf. As I got closer I saw that, sure enough, those black spots were the heads of Laughing Gulls. These gulls tend to spend more time far out to sea rather than close to shore, so it's rare to see them close up from land. Here's one of them.

Cutting through Salve on the way back to Bellevue Ave. I snapped another shot of a faux-Tudor building across Ruggles Ave. from the Carey Building because I like the rustic look of it, especially the patches where the stucco had peeled off showing the underlying brick; the wear somehow makes the place look more "authentic". This time I decided to play a little in Photoshop - I applied the "Dry Brush" filter to the photo, and then superimposed an "Ink Outlines" filter over it, and got the following result. I like it!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Tenants

As usually happens this time of year, Double-Crested Cormorants are starting to roost on Tern Rock. I was down there today so I got a couple of shots of the new tenants settling in.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, July 24, 2009

High Surf Advisory

Yup, that's what I woke up to on the radio this morning. Just to make sure, I went to Weather Underground and read the surf forecast; same advisory up. So as soon as breakfast and morning chores were done I went straight down to Ruggles Ave. It was a bit of a disappointment; the waves weren't very high - maybe 3 to 5 feet (and 5 feet would be pushing it) - but there was some action. I stayed for about 2 hours, moving around to get better angles. These are the best of today's shoot.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Theme Thursday - Shoe

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I'm an inveterate hiker. I'm always walking, always looking for a new trail I haven't been down yet. I hike along back roads, in forest trails, through swamps and salt marshes. When I was a kid in Boy Scouts I got to hike a good portion of the Appalachian Trail, from down in the Blue Ridge in Virginia up into Pennsylvania; not all at once, but in the course of the years. I've hiked in the Rockies, I've hiked in Maine, and I've hiked on Cape Cod. I like to hike.

So naturally I have shoes that fit my lifestyle. Those shoes in the photo above are all the shoes I own except for two pairs of sandals (both Tevas, a flip-flop pair and a pair of the typical strap over the toes and strap around the ankles walking sandals Teva is famous for). Even that pair in the front, which I bought for work (whenever I manage to find a job) and general around-town walking in colder weather, are walking shoes - Propet "Village Walkers". Yep, I like to walk.

And of course, for a dedicated walker celebrating his hiking boots, what better song than "The Happy Wanderer"? I went searching the other night and among a lot of worthy candidates, this version stood out. Actually, it cracked me up - it's a hoot! [Note: And it kicked off the search for polkas that resulted in the post immediately before this one.] Enjoy!

Photo & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hey Everybody - Let's Polka!

I know there are people who read this blog on a regular basis who are going to have severe problems with cognitive dissonance when I state that yes, I really do like polka. In fact, polka and the waltz are the only two "traditional" dances I know how to do. But see, I grew up in the Baltimore area, where there are a lot of central Europeans - Germans, Czechs and Slovaks (who we called Bohemians and Moravians back in the day), and Poles. So believe me when I tell you that polka has always was always huge around Baltimore back then. Oh, not on the radio, at least not on the big stations (although there were a couple of small stations that played only polka); but at church halls, VFW and Knights of Columbus halls, and the like, polka ruled. And let's not forget that Baltimore was one of the bigger markets for The Lawrence Welk Show.

So last night as I was looking for the appropriate video for my Theme Thursday post, I ran across a wealth of polka videos (no, you're not gonna have to suffer through even more polka on Thursday) and thought I'd share some. Our first sample is "The Sauerkraut Polka" by the Original Tiroler Echo. It's a real floor-stomper, so grab your partner, hitch up your skirts, and off we go!

The next is an old favorite, the "Beer Barrel Polka", but it's played by a group called Tekla Klebetnica from the motherland of Poland, so it has a rougher, more "down home" feel!

Now here's a real hoot - the "Bayrische Polka", played by a full brass band. But catch that trombone soloist - ain't she something else?

Next we have some home-grown polka, the "Pennsylvania Polka" (remember this from the movie Groundhog Day?) featuring the great Frankie Yankovic (more on him in a bit):

Okay, Frankie Yankovic, the Elvis of the American Polka scene, born 1915, died 1998. If you heard any polka at all from the '30s through the '80s, you heard Frankie. People practically worshipped the man (I did say he was the Elvis of polka, right?). So anyhow, here's Frankie Yankovic and his Yanks playing the "I Have a Wife at Home Polka"!

This last piece isn't a polka, but if you have a polka band you had damned well better be able to play the "Blue Skirt Waltz"! There are areas of the US where a wedding reception just isn't considered legitimate unless the band plays the "Blue Skirt Waltz". Here we have the classic version by the Lawrence Welk Orchestra (and of course that's Myron Floren playing the accordion!). Enjoy!

Text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, July 20, 2009


Star-Gazer Lilies growing in the little park at the end of Coddington Wharf.

And I couldn't help myself, I just had to include Marlene Dietrich singing "Lili Marlene"!

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gooseneck Cove in July

Two views of Gooseneck Cove, looking north from Ocean Drive. As you can see, it was a gorgeous day in Newport today.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Newport in Bloom

There are flowers everywhere you look in town now.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Theme Thursday - Stage

Music is big in Newport, RI, and most of its musical stages are outdoors. Most famous, of course, are the Folk and Jazz festivals held every August out at Fort Adams. There's also the Sunset Music Series held over several weekends throughout the Summer at the Newport Yachting Center. Technically they're under a tent, but still...

There's also a summer-long musical festival, every Sunday from 3 to 6 pm, featuring local music acts. It's called the Newport Independent Music Festival, NIMFest for short. The acts play to assembled crowds in King Park from the Spencer Pavilion (pictured at left, also known as the King Park Gazebo). Usually there are two acts to a show, an opening act of a single performer or duo, usually acoustic, followed by the big act of the afternoon. Musical styles range from jazz to Irish (Jim McGrath and the Reprobates play every year) to rock to R&B to blues to zydeco and even, this year, to Tex-Mex (with Los Viejos Muchachos - The Good Ol' Boys in English). A good time is usually had by all.

I haven't been to any this year, but last year I went to most of the shows. for me, the highlight was the Maher Brothers Band, who play a great blend of rock, blues, and r&b. These guys were great, and I got busy taking pictures of them in action.

This week's Theme Thursday video is from one of my favorite movies, Baz Lurman's Moulin Rouge! starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. The whole movie is about performing a play being written by McGregor's character, but the following scene is from the time when everything seems to be falling apart, and Harold Zidler (played magnificently by Jim Broadbent) tells all involved - "The Show Must Go On". Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2008 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sight & Sound - Day Lilies

Day Lilies along Gibbs Ave., 7/13/09, and manipulated in Photoshop™ to resemble an oil on canvas

Music: "Simple Gifts" performed by Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma

Photograph © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger
PS - I have a new post up on Just A Song; this one is Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill".

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Sunday Constitutional

I went for a long hike yesterday, as I hadn't had a chance in a while, given the weather we keep getting. The day started out overcast and misty and ended up sunny, so there were some interesting challenges for photography. In any case, I came home full of sunshine and fresh air and felt great.

In the old quarry in Ballard Park the meadow is going full steam ahead. I got a beautiful "meadowscape" shot, but I'm going to put that at the end of this so everybody goes home sighing. Meanwhile, the diffuse overcast lighting made it possible to get this nice macro of Yarrow blossoms without the whites burning out. I love these delicate little blooms!

Meanwhile, down on Gooseneck Cove off Hazard Rd. this gorgeous Great Blue Heron was preening and keeping an eye on me. This is the first time in a long while that I've been able to get close enough to a Great Blue to get a decent picture, so I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Around the corner and all the way down to Brenton Point State Park, where the annual Kite Festival was in full swing this weekend. Can you tell?

Around the bend and up the road on the way back into town, we pass by Hammersmith Farm, part of the SVF Heritage Breeds farm. Today the animals in this field - two Llamas, two Donkeys, and two of a whole herd of Shetland ponies - decided to come up to the stone wall out of curiosity, which effectively stopped traffic on Harrison Ave. and brought the kiddles and camerapersons running. Here's one of the Llamas coming to see what's going on. The other Llama decided it would rather stay out in the nice sunny field.

Both Donkeys cruised that stone wall for all the petting they could get. I kept this one amused for a while. If ever a face said "Pet me", this one does.

This Shetland pony was also doing the wall-begging thing. Believe me, these critters got all the attention they could ask for! And I got the chance to tell several people about the SVF Foundation and the work they do preserving heritage breeds of livestock and poultry.

These horses in the next field over weren't particularly interested in the goings-on down by the road. They stayed up on their hill looking picturesque. They're gorgeous animals, aren't they?

Around a couple more corners and down to Newport Harbor at King Park on the homestretch with visions of iced tea dancing in my head, I looked out in the water off the baseball diamonds and did a double-take. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. No, can't be! Pulled out my Audubon and looked; by golly, it is!

It's a Winter duck where nae Winter duck should be - a male White-Winged Scoter in Newport Harbor in July! This guy should be up on the lakes in Maine and Minnesota raising a family, not getting a tan in sunny (for once!) Newport. Later today I'll report this sighting to the local bird people.

And from there it was an easy walk home. But as promised, I'll leave you with a nice view of Ballard Park's quarry meadow, a nice spread of Yarrow, Blue Salvia, St. John's Wort, and Spotted Knapweed by the stand of Quaking Aspens. A peaceful spot if ever there was one!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, July 10, 2009

Scenes from the Macro-World - Sunlight Made Tangible

I was in the quarry meadow in Ballard Park again today and got some more macro shots of the flowers there. The St. John's Wort is up in force finally (top photo), and I got a better shot of the Chicory (bottom photo), which is much more prolific now than it was when I took the picture of some last week. Enjoy!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Theme Thursday - Ghost

I don't really have an opinion on ghosts. I know people who swear they've seen them, but I've also heard plausible explanations for what they saw. Personally, I've never seen a ghost. However... I do believe all living things leave something of an "energy signature" behind when they leave. So who knows? In any case, I have a poem I wrote in 1981 about Newport's primary colonial-era residential neighborhood, combined with some shots of the area.

The Point - Newport

Such a pretty street,
all gas lamps, brick walks,
and old, old houses.
What happens here at night,
after we've gone to bed
and the last, long peal
of the midnight bell has been
swallowed by the dark?

Then rockers rock
and stairs creak
with remembered weight.
Teacups clatter
and clink in their saucers
in memory of long-past parties.
Books float from shelf to table,
opening to a well-worn page,
or to the flyleaf inscribed
in a long outdated hand.

Do those who live here awaken
and tremble
at the sounds
of midnight movement?
Or do they turn and sigh,
in the atmosphere of peaceful security?

Old houses aren't haunted;
they're just nostalgic.

-A. Roy Hilbinger, November, 1981

Speaking of haunted houses... This week's video for the theme concerns English literature's most famous haunted house, and the couple who haunt it. The novel is Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, and the video uses probably the most haunting piece of music ever written about that book: Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights". And the video also uses scenes from the best movie of the novel, the 1939 movie starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. Enjoy!

Photos, poem, and text © 1981, 2007, & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Let's Go Fly a Kite

I went out to Brenton Point State Park today to watch people fly kites. Brenton Point is the perfect place for this, being where Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, so there's always a breeze out there. Today we had a stiff 15 mph/24 kph out of the NW shifting to WSW (while I was there; it probably shifted further to SW later in the afternoon). With the bright blue skies and bright sun, it was a perfect day to be out and enjoying the great outdoors.

There was lots of color up there in the skies today, along with a lot of multi-line kites, which you can make do flips and soar from here to there and back again.

There were also plenty of traditional single line kites, although there was nothing traditional about these shapes! Plenty of color still, you notice.

But the star of the show is a guy who's out there every weekend with his synchronized kites. He has three two-line kites with long, dramatic tails that he puts through their paces. If you think controlling one kite is tough, try controlling three! Here are some shots of what this man can do with three kites.

And of course you can't look at kites without thinking of Mary Poppins and the song "Let's Go Fly a Kite". This version is from the stage musical. Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, July 04, 2009

America the Beautiful

A field of Oxeye Daisies at Fort Adams, July 4, 2009

And the best version of "America the Beautiful" ever, by the one and only Ray Charles:

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, July 03, 2009

Scenes from the Macro-World - More Quarry Flowers

We're coming up on the peak season for members of the Aster family (Asters, Daisies, Thistles, and a wide range of others including, believe it or not, Goldenrod), and some of the earlier starters are up. Below we have: top left - Spotted Knapweed; top right - Chickory; and bottom - Yarrow.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger