Thursday, April 29, 2010

Theme Thursday - Bicycle

The League of American Wheelmen was founded by Kirk Munroe and Charles Pratt right here in Newport on May 30, 1880. It was founded to promote bicycle safety and sponsored rallies and races as well. They were also involved in the Good Roads Movement, created to promote the paving and maintenance of roads throughout the US, well before the advent of the automobile. Now known as the League of American Bicyclists, it keeps a list of bicycle-friendly cities and towns, and promotes the idea of turning unused railroad tracks to bicycle paths. There's a small 3-feet-high granite memorial to the LAW in Touro Park facing Bellevue Ave.

For today's video and musical enjoyment, my first pick just had to be Queen's "Bicycle Race", also known as "I Want to Ride My Bicycle". There were a lot of choices on YouTube for this song; I picked this one because the slides used were just right for this week's theme.

Now the next bit is a little more history. Remember the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, and especially near the end when Dave disables HAL's memory? HAL ended up "singing" "Daisy, Daisy" (also known as "A Bicycle Built for Two"), part of his start-up sales pitch program. Well, Kubrick borrowed that from Bell Labs' Max V. Mathews, who in 1961 created the program to make the Bell Labs' big IBM 704 computer sing the song. Being the electronic/computer music geek that I am, I actually have a copy of that historic recording; here it is:

Max is still with us, and he's one of my heroes. He now teaches at Stanford University, one of the hotbeds of computer and electro-acoustic music, and was Scientific Advisor with IRCAM (Institute de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) in Paris. His focus is on performance, i.e. creating programs to allow the performer to use the computer in live performances. He's been a huge influence on people like Donald Buchla (synthesizer and digital interface inventor) and Thomas Dolby. Which brings me to the final video: Max himself in 2007 improvising over the original program for "Daisy, Daisy", this time on the much more convenient laptop computer rather than a room-sized IBM 704. Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sight & Sound - Ivy on a Stone Wall

Kenilworth Ivy (aka Ivy-leaved Toadflax) on a stone wall outside the Common Burying Ground.

Music: "Sunlight", by The Youngbloods from the 1969 album Elephant Mountain

Photo © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's Cherry Blossom Time in Newport

Our Ornamental Cherry trees are painting the town pink.

Congdon Park and First Presbyterian on Broadway.

Looking at the Old Stone Tower in Touro Park through a veil of Cherry blossoms.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Earth Day in Ballard Park

Well, okay, Earth Day was Thursday, but we had the annual festivities in Ballard Park today because everybody besides me has a job and can only do things on weekends. Earth Day in Ballard Park is always commemorated with a little bit of a clean-up for two hours (which I had to opt out of this year due to my crooked cervical discs acting up and shooting fire down my left arm if I over-exert) and a walk along the trails to look at the beauties of the park. Rather than having to always be stopping to take pictures and then having to run to catch up, I took note of possible photo ops and came back later to take pictures. What I have for you today are scenes of the Earth in Ballard Park waking up after a long Winter's sleep. Enjoy!

Ferns poking up out of the ground and uncurling themselves along the Twin Ledges Trail.

High Bush Blueberry blossoms on the Joseph Cotton overlook.

Shadbush (aka Serviceberry) blossoms along the Southwest Trail.

Wild Strawberry in the Quarry Meadow.

Ground Ivy near the entrance to the Quarry.

This Carolina Wren was singing away along road near the Hazard Rd. entrance to the park.

And this Chipping Sparrow was singing away on the other side of the entrance.

Wood Anemone along the Valley Trail.

Believe it or not, very early Crabapple blossoms on the tree at he intersection of the Valley and Twin Ledges Trails.

Happy Earth Day!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Theme Thursday - Draft

Some of you probably figured I was going to go this way on this theme. I'm not a big football fan, so the NFL draft isn't a biggie for me, and not being a writer, I don't have any drafts, rough, first, or otherwise. But who can deny the beauty of draft beer, fresh from the tap? Ahhhhhhh! How come bottled beer never tastes like this?

I knew I had to get a shot of beer taps; luckily my next-door neighbor is the Café 200, so I walked over and asked Pat, the owner, if I could do a shoot of his taps. That's them below left. And that's my own collection of beer glasses below right. Now about that bottom shot... I usually don't post photos that aren't my own, but this one is so gorgeous, and so much better than any of my shots that it gives me a goal to strive for. It's the tap line in a London pub © by Bruno Girin in 2005 (license information posted at the foot of this article).

This week's videos are entirely in keeping with this beer take on the theme - three of my favorite Guinness commercials. Have a Guinness, it's good for you! Oh, and don't forget - good things come to those who wait!

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger, except the London pub tapline picture, © 2005 by Bruno Girin and used under Creative Commons Attribution, Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Monday, April 19, 2010

Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995 - Lest We Forget

For those who assume that all terrorists are foreigners who look, dress, and worship differently than themselves. On April 19, 1995, a massive truck bomb was exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, injuring 680 and killing 168, including 19 children under the age of 6. Were the perpetrators Arab or Pakistani Muslims? No, they were Americans who considered themselves "patriots" defending American liberty - Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. We need to remember that our own people are as inclined to despicable acts in the name of God, Country, or whatever as any foreigner.

Music: "In Paradisum" from Gabriel Fauré's Requiem

May the choir of angels receive you and with Lazarus, once poor, may you have eternal rest.

Photo © 1995 by Charles H. Porter IV

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Very Curious Hawk, and Some Music

Our biweekly bird walk took us to Miantonomi Park on the North End of Newport; it's a treasure trove of migratory songbirds in Spring, although this week in April is still a tad early to get much action. Still, it was a good walk, and at one point we came across this older male Red-tailed Hawk, who stayed on his branch even when we walked right under him. From his expressions, I think he was trying to figure out what we were and what we were up to.

Just for the heck of it, I thought I'd include the song playlist I have in the sidebar here in this post, too. Since I listen to a lot of Blues on other media (mostly radio), I don't have much in my personal CD collection. But I have some treasures in my collection, and I thought I'd put a few of them together as a playlist on my DivShare account. This is some of the music that gets me going!

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, April 16, 2010

Scenes from the Macro-World - Ballard Park Scenes

Today it's rainy and raw, with temperatures only around 46ºF (7.8ºC); thank goodness there's no wind! Yesterday, however, it was sunny and warm, with the temps getting up around 65ºF (18ºC). And it just so happens that I was out wandering around in Ballard Park in that nice weather, with the camera in macro mode and looking for what super close-ups I could get. Two shots worked very well.

The Wood Anemone is starting to come up along the trails back in the woods, a sure sign that Spring is moving along at a good pace despite the impression given by today's weather.

Quaking Aspen trunks in the Aspen Grove in the old quarry.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Theme Thursday - Lunch

I decided to get some pictures of two of Newport's time-honored lunching traditions.

Handy Lunch on at Thames and Pope Streets has been around for a long, long time. I moved to Newport in May of 1974 and Handy Lunch was here. The oldtimers on Lower Thames St. tell me Handy Lunch was around as long as they can remember, and some of those folks are well into their 80s. It used to be the place for breakfast and lunch for the fishermen and lobstermen working on the nearby docks (Brown & Howard Wharf and Parascondolas's are just up Thames St.). But it didn't become Gary's Handy Lunch until Gary Hooks came to Newport in 1977 in Ted Turner's wake; Gary was one of the many Southerners who came up here with TT when he skippered Courageous in the America's Cup trials of that year. Gary decided to stay (most of that crowd did), and he bought Handy Lunch and totally redid it and changed it's image from a typical working-man's greasy spoon to a tourist destination that still survived on a local clientele. He redid the interior to look like a classic '50s diner but kept the menu at typical diner fare - burgers, fries, eggs and bacon, etc. Still cheap, still popular, and still going strong.

The sign may say Blue Rocks Market, but most of us still call this Sig's Deli. Back in the late 1920s Sig and Tilley Margolis opened up in the heart of the old Fifth Ward, Newport's traditional Irish neighborhood. They made a good business out of being a Jewish deli in a Catholic neighborhood, especially on Sundays, when all the Christian businesses were closed. Maurice and Brenda Margolis took over the business in the '60s but kept the name Sig's. By that time Sig's Deli had become the mainstay of lunchtime Newport. In the Summer, if you were heading for Gooseberry or Hazard Beaches on Ocean Drive, or if you were heading out to Brenton Point for a picnic, you stopped at Sig's to get your picnic fare. Lots of area businesses used Sig's for holiday office party goodies. It even served as a grocery store, carrying a lot of everyday food necessities for those Fifth Warders who didn't feel like going "all the way up the hill" to Bellevue Ave. to the A&P or Almacs to do grocery shopping. But most of all, Sig's sandwiches and cold cuts selection were the pride of the city. I still haven't eaten a Reuben as good as the ones I got at Sig's.

After the turn of the current century Maurice and Brenda were looking to retire, but nobody in the family wanted to take it on, so they ended up selling the business a couple of years ago to Ingrid Martin, who owned Blue Rocks Catering, located in Middletown behind Easton's Beach. Ingrid and her crew did some work on the place and reopened, still keeping the Sig's name, but last November they finally changed the name to Blue Rocks. So far the reception has been mixed. Reports say the food is still good, and they've stayed with deli fare and are keeping the prices about the same. But for a lot of Newporters the change has signaled the end of an era, and the place just isn't the same.

Video time! I couldn't do a post on lunch without including the greatest skit in television comedy history - Monty Python's "Spam":

This next one isn't about the meal itself, but rather it's by the singer Lydia Lunch. Lydia came out of the late '70s American punk movement out of New York City, which also gave us Blondie, Television, The New York Dolls, and others, and which pretty much grew out of Andy Warhol's projects, the main inspiration of the movement being The Velvet Underground and, oddly enough, Laurie Anderson. Lydia's music started out very much Punk, but slowly morphed into out-and-out avant garde. This piece, "Touch My Evil", is an example of the latter.

And last but not least, nobody my age can ever forget the Campbell's Soup "Soup and Sandwich" commercial. Admit it; every time you hear Ol' Blue Eyes start to sing "Love and Marriage" you hear the words as "Soup and sandwich, soup and sandwich..." Whoever their ad agency was back then were sheer genius. Enjoy

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday Potpourri

Let's start off with a photo:

I was out walking earlier, chasing down photos for tomorrow's Theme Thursday post, and I decided to integrate that into a harbor walk. I know, I know, you've seen the fishing docks on the State Pier many times before here, but I can never resist this scene. Especially today - why are there so many boats at home and not out on the water, especially in the middle of the week?

Last week Citizen K did a post on the myth of the poor, mistreated South during the Reconstruction. He focused on three books on that post, and I was so impressed that I looked them up at my local public library. One of them was in the stacks, but I had to request the other two from other libraries in Rhode Island. Yesterday one of those books arrived: The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox, by Stephen Budiansky. It's a fascinating read so far, but there was a particular point made in the Prologue which resonated very loudly with me. Budiansky was talking about the myth (much like what we'd call an "urban legend" now) of the "bloody shirt", based on the actual beating of a northerner serving as superintendent of schools for a county in Mississippi in 1871 (he had the gall to institute integrated classes in the public schools) during the Reconstruction, but embellished by certain southern vested interests to make the actual victim into the bully (they accused his allies of waving his bloody shirt on the floor of Congress in accusation, an incident which in fact never occurred). And Budiansky related that to the beating of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor by South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks in 1857. All to make this point:
A footnote, but a telling one: To white conservative Southerners, the outrage was never the acts they committed, only the effrontery of having these acts held against them. The outrage was never the manly inflicting of well-deserved punishment on poltroons, only the craven and sniveling whines of the recipients of their wrath. And the outrage was never the violent defense of "honor" by the aristocrat, only the vulgar rabble-rousing by his social inferior. "The only article the North can retain for herself is that white feather which she has won in every skirmish," declared one Southerner, speaking of the Sumner-Brooks affair. Only a coward would revel in a token of his own defeat.

The Bloody Shirt perfectly captured the inversion of truth that would characterize the distorted memories of Reconstruction the nation would hold for generations after. The way it made a victim of the bully and a bully of the victim, turned the very act of Southern white violence into wounded Southern innocence, turned the very blood of their African American victims into an affront against Southern white decency; the way it suggested that the real story was not the atrocities white Southerners committed but only the attempt by their political enemies to make political hay out of these atrocities. The merest hint that a partisan motive lay behind the telling of these tales was enough to satisfy most white Southerners that the events never happened, or were exaggerated, or even that they had been conspiratorially engineered by the victims themselves to gain sympathy or political advantage. (p. 5)
These two paragraphs stopped me in my tracks, because you see, the descendants of these same people are still using the same passive-aggressive tactics now. Evangelicals and other conservative Christians who have chosen to declare a "culture war" on our Constitutionally secular society use the same tactics when accusing the rest of us of "persecuting Christians", depriving them of their First Amendment rights. How are we doing that? By passing laws that prevent these people from imposing their internal religious laws on those of us who don't share their beliefs by making those laws the law of the land. By passing laws that prevent these people from persecuting others who don't share their beliefs or who don't admit the validity of their laws outside the purview of their own churches. So if I lobby for an equal employment law that ensures that gays and lesbians be granted the same benefits and inheritance rights that I enjoy, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Don Wildmon and their minions claim that I'm persecuting them because I won't let them persecute others, that I'm depriving them of their freedom of religion.

This twisting of the truth goes on all the time. If you can stomach it, listen to Glenn Beck, and Steve Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh, and Bob McDonnell, and Sarah Palin, and their ilk. They all indulge in this passive-aggressive tactic of blaming the victim and claiming victim-hood for themselves by twisting the logic so much that a pretzel would look straight in comparison. That's the real cultural inheritance the world of Gone With the Wind has left us. So much for "Southern gentility"!

Since tomorrow's post will be taken up with Theme Thursday, I'll celebrate the traditional meaning of tomorrow's date, April 15, in finishing up today's post. Have fun with this Beatles song!

Photo & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger. Quotation from The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox © 2008 by Stephen Budiansky

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Comes to the City

This is sort of a "Part II" of yesterday's entry on my trip to Providence. Yesterday I gave you "art" shots; today is dedicated to the signs of Spring popping up in the urban environment. The shots were taken around or down in Waterplace Park in downtown Providence.

Looking over Waterplace Park at the downtown Providence skyline from Francis St.

The bronze bridge over the basin in Waterplace Park.

Looking up at the Westin Hotel (the two tall buildings in the background) from the courtyard between the Union Station restaurants and Waterplace Park.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Brought You These from Providence

I went up to Providence today to use a $25 Borders gift card that was burning a hole in my wallet. Naturally the camera came with me, and I had my eye out for the unusual, whether by subject matter or from a compositional perspective. I have three pictures that worked, especially when converted to black & white.

From the central atrium of the Providence Place Mall. I like all the intersecting planes in this, and also the wedding-cake effect of the galleries on each floor as you look up to the top.

Across the street from my bus stop in Providence is the John O. Pastore Federal Building, aka the Providence Post Office. It's a WPA project, built in 1939 - 1940. What especially grabs my attention every time I wait for the bus to take me home is the Art Deco cast concrete ornamentation over doors and windows. Especially the two below, over windows on opposite ends of the front of the building. The artist was one Raymond Barger, but it's obvious that he studied the central Post Office Building in Washington DC and took his style from Rockwell Kent. In fact, I was ready to believe that Kent did these because they're indistinguishable from his other work. The relief sculptures depict the different methods by which the mail is delivered. I'm an Art Deco and Rockwell Kent freak, so these always put me in a good mood, even when the bus is late.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Scenes from the Macro-World - Blueberry Futures

The first blossoms on a High Bush Blueberry bush on the Joseph Cotton Overlook in Ballard Park.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, April 09, 2010

April Wildflowers

I went out for a long walk yesterday and was pleased to see that Nature outside of the gardens was blooming to beat the band. There are certain wildflowers that I look for to tell me that Spring has really and truly gotten started.

Along the Hazard Rd. entrance to Ballard Park are some amazing carpets of Lesser Celandine. That's really how they grow, in thick carpets of yellow and green that seem to whisper "Take off your shoes and walk here!" Despite the name, these are not in the Celandine family, but in the Buttercup family. They grow in damp, low-lying areas, often near running water.

Lesser Celandine flowers are pretty good-sized, about the size of a small Dandelion. But my favorite flowers are the very tiny ones that I have to crawl to on my belly to get a good macro shot of them. There are a few that are early Spring bloomers. Below left is Thyme-leaved Speedwell, with tiny, tiny little white-with-lavender-stripes flowers. You won't see those lavender stripes unless you bring along a magnifying glass or have a macro setting or lens for your camera; that's how tiny the blooms are. Some members of the Mint family are also early Spring bloomers with very small flowers: Heal-all below right, and Ground Ivy at the bottom. They also tend to grow in low-lying damp areas near running water, and grow in carpet-like masses.

But tiny wildflowers aren't the only things blooming right now; trees are starting to get some color, too. No leaves quite yet, but some trees get flowers and catkins early on, like these Black Willows, sprouting their light-green catkins beside Hazard Rd.

I'll leave you with this view of the shores of Gooseneck Cove starting to take on some early Spring color. Given the warmer weather we've had lately, not to mention the rain, these colors should gain intensity pretty soon. Enjoy!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Theme Thursday - Box

Some handcrafted boxes hanging around my place.

Two boxes made with Fimo™, a polymer clay you can bake in your oven at 180ºF (82ºC) to harden. I play with Fimo™ from time to time, mostly making beads and stuff, but lots of people make things like this with it, so I tried it out about 10 years or so ago. I like how they turned out.

The case for my alto recorder, made from a Royal Jamaica #10 Downing Street cigar box. I can't leave things alone. The recorder came in a really boring gray cardboard box, and I just couldn't deal with that, so I found this gorgeous cedar cigar box and used acrylic paints to put some Hopi designs on it.

Another cedar cigar box drafted to serve alternative duty. This is the box I keep my Soulcards™ in. I glued the original box cover for the cards on the lid and created the raised designs with wood glues, painted everything a deep burgundy, and then applied synthetic gold leaf over it all and rubbed very hard so the red would show through somewhat. Heh, heh! I did warn you that I just can't leave things alone!

I decided to carry that idea of handcrafted creativity on to the videos for this week. I'd already found a clip of the "This Is My Box" aria from Amahl and the Night Visitors and another of the Grateful Dead singing "Box of Rain" when an idea occurred to me - antique music boxes. And I found some beauties! This first is a German Polyphon-Musikwerke AG music box, one of the world's premier companies making gear-driven disc music boxes in the 19th Century. This one is playing a 17 inch disc of "Heimliche Liebe":

Another Polyphon box playing "Tagwacht":

This last one has my friend Willow written all over it. This is the ultimate piece of Victoriana - a 27-inch Regina changer music box (the 19th Century version of a jukebox) playing "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls". Willow, the minute I saw what tune this one played, I knew I had to post it for you to see. Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ravi Shankar - One of the Gods in My Musical Pantheon

And Raviji turns 90 today! He's alive, kicking, and still going strong. He still performs, and he has a definitely busy touring schedule; check out his website. The man just doesn't slow down! He's a great advertisement for a vegetarian diet.

Most of us "of a certain age" were introduced to Indian music through Beatle George Harrison's discovery of Raviji. Who can forget the introductory musical piece by Raviji and his ensemble which kicked off Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh. The Maestro went on traveling throughout the West introducing hungry souls to a music they'd never heard before, to our great benefit.

But he didn't stop there. He also pursued the possibilities inherent in the meeting of Eastern and Western musics. He has collaborated with such musicians as George Harrison, Yehudi Menuhin, and Philip Glass. He's written two concertos for orchestra for the London Symphony Orchestra, the first conducted by André Previn and the second by Zubin Mehta. He wrote a third concerto for his daughter Anoushka, another world class sitarist (with a father like that how could she help it?), and the Orpheus Camber Orchestra in 2002. He's scored movies, one of which, his score for Gandhi, was nominated for an Academy Award. He's had a busy life, and we're all the richer for it.

To celebrate Raviji's birthday I thought I'd post some videos highlighting the different aspects of his career. First is what he's always done best, music from the Indian subcontinent. This is Rag Charukeshi, accompanied by the late, great Ustad Alla Rakha on tablas and an unknown tamboura player.

The second piece is a collaboration with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, called Prabhati.

And last but not least, Raviji's collaboration with Philip Glass - Passages - comes this piece, "Ragas in a Minor Scale". Enjoy!

Happy Birthday Raviji! And may you have many more!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Fun, Fun, Fun at the Beach!

Yeah, you read that right. Not for humans, though; the water's way too cold for any dipping in the water unless you're wearing a wetsuit. But the dogs didn't seem to mind a frolic on the beach on this gorgeous, knock-yer-eyes-out Spring day that included much fun in the water. I was on the Cliff Walk for a while and came across a scene on Belmont Beach at the end of Marine Ave. While a Song Sparrow serenaded them from a sprouting Beach Rose bush (left) and a Common Loon looked on from out in the ocean (right)...

... these three dogs were in full frolic. Their masters were boring, way too busy talking to each other and paying only minimal attention to their pets. For instance, this poor pup is desperately trying to get his master's attention: "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon! Throw the ball! Please? Throwtheballthrowtheballthrowtheball! You know you want to!"

Meanwhile, the other two are running up and down the beach, wrestling in the water, and running up to shake the water all over their masters to get them to come frolic with them. Here's the water wrestling:

Then a little shake, shake, shake!

And then it's, "Let's go shake on them, too! Maybe then they'll come and play!"

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger