Sunday, August 30, 2009

In Danny's Wake

So a week after Hurricane Bill gave us those 20-footers, Tropical Storm Danny (a tropical depression by the time he passed offshore here) didn't kick up nearly as much fuss. Still, it was a good day for surfing. I didn't get as many shots this week, so I decided to post all the ones that passed quality control rather than waste a web gallery on 6 photos. Here ya go!

Caution! Hot-dogger at work!

Dropping in.


The slippery slope.

Whitewater surfing! This is my friend Justin Casey, a very good surfer indeed.

Going home...

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger
I've put up a new entry on the Just A Song blog - Iris DeMent's "Let the Mystery Be"; please come visit!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Talk About... Pop Muzik!

Including the video of Kraftwerk playing "Autobahn" in concert as part of my Theme Thursday post yesterday got me to thinking about what I was listening to way back in the "old days". The old days in question would have been the late '70s into the early to mid 80s. I had discovered synthesizers as early as 1968, when Wendy (then Walter) Carlos released Switched-on Bach; the sound of that analog Moog beast used on that recording was fascinating. Soon after that Keith Emerson incorporated a Moog modular monster in his rig and hit that wild 3-octave portamento jump in "Lucky Man", and a lot of people in the music business looked at each other and said "What the hell was that and where can I get one?"

Most of the synthesizer music being played in the '70s was experimental and to a large extent not very commercial. The Kraftwerk piece played yesterday was an example of that era; along with Kraftwerk I was listening to Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Jean Michel Jarre. This music wasn't made for Top 40 radio play - no "songs" to speak of, and a single piece of music might take a whole album. There were slightly more commercial versions of synth music, but even they weren't really radio-format dreams; Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and others tended to have long pieces (although not as long as Schulze's 4-hour extravaganzas) with surreal lyrics that were not exactly radio-friendly. They got played, but they never got a big audience.

But along came Punk. At first Punk was just a bunch of Cockney yobbos who barely knew how to play their instruments, and the instruments they barely knew how to play were guitar, bass, and drums. But as the new musicians learned to play, they started looking around and some of them discovered synths. And what the Punk aesthetic brought to the synth world was the idea of song. Alluva sudden synths were an important part of the short, edgy Punk/New Wave stuff showing up on the radio. The instrument was energized! I loved (and still love) a lot of the music that came out of that era, and below are some of my favorites from back then.

The first video is by Robin Scott, and American expatriate living in Paris who recorded as M. This is "Pop Muzik", his big hit (many of these songs were big hits in the UK and Europe; the US really didn't take very well to the new aesthetic). I love the dead-pan delivery of this hilarious satire on Top 40 radio!

I really loved the Flying Lizards, the next group. They did one album, and it basically deconstructed a bunch of iconic pop standards, including "Summertime Blues", "Sex Machine", and this one, Barrett Strong's "Money", a big hit for The Beatles. Again, note the dead-pan approach. Also , click here for the original "official" video for the song, which has had embedding disabled on YouTube; it's really worth watching. The video below is a live performance, on Top of the Pops, I think.

Another name out of the mists of time is the Human League; most people remember them for the awful earworm "Don't You Love Me Baby". But before Phil Oakley lost his mind and hired those two tweenybopper singers and entered a career (mercifully short-lived) of making treakley, happy-happy pop bubblegum, Human League was a serious experimental band, almost in the Industrial genre with their heavy, noisy treatments and synths and their dark lyrics. This tune - "Being Boiled" - is a prime example of the Human League at its best.

One of the movements within the post-Punk synth genre was known as the New Romanticism, and the ultimate New Romantic band was Ultravox. Under the leadership of John Foxx, Ultravox had been a fairly experimental band incorporating keyboards and a violin. But the lead guitarist left, and Foxx left to pursue his musical vision as a solo artist (and let it be known I'm still listening to John's ongoing musical career). But keyboardist/violinist Billie Currie didn't want Ultravox to die, so he convinced former Thin Lizzy guitarist/keyboardist/lead vocalist Midge Ure to come aboard. They'd done a project together that was pure New Romantic called Visage (yes, I own the vinyl album on that one, too), and Currie thought Ure was just what the band needed. He was right; Ultravox, and especially the yearning voice of Midge Ure, went on to be the flagbearer of the New Romantic movement. The music is yearning, and so are the lyrics, either yearning for the loved one or yearning for a better world (in the true Romantic manner). The following video is a live performance of "Vienna", a classic New Romantic piece.

Last but most certainly not least... Talk about edgy, aggressive Punk attitude incorporating the usual Punk guitars with synthesizers - Gary Numan is the poster boy for that. He's still living that life and making that music, although nowadays he's sounding a bit more like Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails). Still, there's only one Gary Numan, and here's an early live TV performance of "Are Friends Electric".

And that's what I was listening to around 1980. I hope you've enjoyed it!

Text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Theme Thursday - Limousine

I'll start out by admitting that I don't like limos; to me they're a symbol of greed, egomania, and hubris. Whenever I see one I get a strong urge to start lighting and tossing Molotov cocktails; they just seem to scream "We need a revolution!" So I didn't approach this theme with a lot of enthusiasm.

However... I thought of a few places I could go in town where I'd at least find vehicles that are used to ferry people and do so in a manner that definitely catches the eye. Not the stretch limos, which we get overrun by in the tourist season. Something unusual. Yeah, that's the ticket!

So... I couldn't find a VW Microbus painted up with murals and peace signs ("The People's Limousine", you know). But the Hotel Viking has an interesting vehicle they ferry people around in, including brides and grooms using the hotel.

Then I thought of the funky old antique car at Mrs. Astor's Beechwood, one of the Bellevue Ave. mansions, privately owned and run as a theater company - when you take the tour, the guides are dressed as and act like the house's servants, and little theatrical vignettes are acted out in various rooms of the mansion, sort of like an in situ "Upstairs, Downstairs". Mostly what they used the car for is ferrying their own actors around town in costume to lure customers. But they hire it out to wedding parties and the like, so I considered it a candidate for today.

Ah, now we come to the good stuff - the music I've collected for this week. I decided to have some fun with it! Let's start off with the Rolling Stones and their paean to the Rock & Roll lifestyle, "Black Limousine", performed live in 1981.

Believe it or not, I used to have a real thing for Eurodisco - Telex, Falco, etc. - so when I ran across this next video I was definitely pleased. This is Hubert Kah, a German singer, with "Limousine".

When I fed "limousine" into YouTube's search engine, this next video was up near the beginning of the list. I couldn't have been more pleased! It's the perfect spoof of the gangsta rap "let's party in the limo" schtick, and it's hilarious. This is Rootbeer's "Pink Limousine" video.

Okay, so this last one has very little to do with limousines, but I couldn't help myself. Since I mentioned Eurodisco and German acts further up, and because this whole theme is about automobiles, I went and tapped my own roots. Kraftwerk was the seminal synthesizer band in the music business; they've been cited as an influence on artists as wide-ranging as David Bowie, Ultravox, and Afrika Bambaataa. Without them there wouldn't have been a Eurodisco. So I figued since we're talking about cars today, no matter how specific, I just had to post a live show video of Kraftwerk doing "Autobahn". Heh, heh!

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Salt Marsh

Walking around today, I arrived at the Hazard Rd. end of Gooseneck Cove when conditions were exactly right: overcast, soft light, high tide, calm waters, and birds feeding. I knew things were going right when a Green Heron fluttered down out of the sky to land among the reeds to the left of the road. Down on the high-tide-flooded mud flats two Snowy Egrets and a Great Egret were chasing down lunch. And down the road and around the corner the Double-Crested Cormorants were off Tern Rock and down in the water feeding on the influx of food flooding in with the tidal flow. It was a day of soft light and reflections, perfect for photography.

Green Heron

Great Egret

An immature Snowy Egret

A pair of immature Double-Crested Cormorants

While I was photographing the Cormorants an older man and his grandson came up to look. The man was not at all happy with the Cormorants, complaining that they were "consuming too much" and that this was the reason for fish shortages, as Gooseneck Cove is an important breeding ground for local fish populations. Of course, he's wrong. These Cormorants and their ancestors, and the Egrets and Herons and Terns and Ospreys and Blues Crabs, etc., have been feeding on the small fish in these waters for eons - long before the first humans came on the scene - and the fish populations have never fallen short because of their feeding. It's we humans who are interfering, overfishing and destroying the breeding grounds of the fish. It's a shame that man saw fit to blame Nature for a problem he (he's a local fisherman) and his/our kind actually caused. Maybe his grandson will learn better.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Surfin' Hurricane Bill

As I mentioned Friday, one of the events of this weekend was the offshore drive-by on Hurricane Bill. Our weather wasn't much affected (except for the suffocating humidity it pushed up the coast in front of it), but it certainly kicked up the surf around here yesterday and today. I went down to Ruggles Ave. around low tide yesterday (the best time for surfing in that spot), but Bill hadn't really kicked things up yet, and I was having battery issues with the camera. So I went back down today; I was out at Ruggles from 9:30 to 1:30, and there were lots of nice waves and lots of people to play on them. People were getting nice long rides and plenty of room to play and hot-dog. And a big crowd on the Cliff Walk above to cheer them on, as well as the usual photography contingent (including me) pointing their telephoto lenses seaward. It was a grand day!

I've included just three photos here in the interest of space. If you want to see more, I have a web gallery of the best shots here. Enjoy!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Coaching in Newport

Every summer Newport is invaded by 19th century British mail coaches. Apparently, when the railroad took over the job of moving the mail over long distances in the UK and the US, the wealthy snapped them up and created the sport of coaching, involving the ability to control the four horses which pull one of these coaches. And the sport lives on; all of the coaches on view this weekend were driven by trained drivers. You can read more about it here.

In any case, since Thursday the twelve coaches involved have been parading through the streets of Newport twice a day, following routes which were engineered to pose the coaches in as many of the area's scenic spots as possible. And they are very impressive-looking trotting by the crashing waves or down shaded country lanes. But this morning, before taking off on their morning parade, they trotted up Bellevue Ave. to The Elms, where they strutted their stuff and showed off their paces to throngs of viewers. I can't even begin to tell you about each of the coaches, their whips (the sport's name for the drivers), or the horses pulling them, even though each was thoroughly explained by the master of ceremonies while they trotted about the field; I was too busy taking pictures to also take notes. The first shot is the parade up Bellevues Ave.; the rest were taken in The Elms' spacious back gardens.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Flotsam

Just some photos from today and yesterday to fill in the space between Theme Thursday and the weekend. There are two things coming this weekend here in Newport that are guaranteed to generate more photos. One is the annual Weekend of Coaching, when 18th and 19th century horse-drawn coaches parade around the scenic areas of the city; I'll be going to a driving exhibition on the grounds of The Elms, one of the Bellevue Ave. mansions, tomorrow (Saturday) morning, and then I'll follow them around town for a while. The other photo op is the fact that Hurricane Bill will be passing by out to see, and while we don't expect to see any tropical storm weather here, it will be giving us some pretty spectacular surf, and I know the gang will be out there off Ruggles Ave. riding those waves. I'm planning on Sunday, when the surf is supposed to be at its peak, but I may drop down there tomorrow after the coaches to see if it's building up yet. Meanwhile, here are some loose ends.

Another shot of Touro Synagogue featuring the new gardens

The White Wood Asters, a Fall flower, are starting to bloom in Ballard Park

False Turkey Tail Fungus (Stereum ostrea), which seems to be growing all over the place in Ballard Park

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Theme Thursday - Shadow

This Shadow theme this week brings me back to my hand-made Tarot deck. The traditional #15 Major Trump card is The Devil; I renamed it after the Jungian archetype The Shadow because the two basically mean the same thing. The shadow represents the repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts lurking in the unconscious mind, the part of ourselves we're reluctant to show, and which we tend to project onto people we don't like. It's almost literally the "shadow" of the persona, the face we show the public. As a culture, we've conveniently projected those parts of human nature that we don't like onto the mythological antithesis of the deity, hence the figure of the Devil, Satan, Ahriman, devils, jinn, etc. He's a convenient scapegoat for avoiding dealing with our own shortcomings.

The interesting thing about the shadow is that Jung stresses the point that it's in the shadow because these are things we repress rather than integrate into the personality. Much of Jungian psychology is concerned with integrating those repressed instincts, compulsions, impulses into a healthy persona. Jung theorized that the repression itself is what makes these energies "evil", and that free from repression they become something positive: aggression becomes optimism, repressed sexuality becomes relationship, violent anger becomes passionate advocacy.

In the end The Shadow (both the archetype and the card) represents transformative energies rather than evil or danger. True, transformation can involve a certain amount of danger, but in the end the transformative energy of The Shadow is more challenge than threat. As you can see, The Shadow can be an interesting card to turn up in a reading!

Finding a music video this week was interesting. I fed "shadow" into YouTube's search engine, and the results were fascinating. There were some classic results, including D.L. Byron's "Shadows of the Night" (made a hit by both Pat Benatar and Rachel Sweet), the Rolling Stones' "Have You Seen Your Mother (Standing in the Shadow)", and "Shadowland" from the Broadway musical version of The Lion King. But I chose something new to me instead. I've never heard of this Finnish band, The Rasmus, but I found both the song and the video "In the Shadows" intriguing. I hope you're as intrigued as I was!

Photo & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger
And if anyone is interested, my photographic portfolio is now online.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Photo Album Preview

As some of you might remember, back in the Spring I was talking to some people involved in my favorite hang-out - Ballard Park - about putting together a photo album of the birds I've shot there. I kept putting it off because there were some birds I wanted to get better shots of than the ones I had; I succeeded in some cases and failed in others. Oh well...

In the meantime, I came to the decision to offer not just a bird album but also an album of my macro shots of flowers and bugs and all. So I finally got it together today and uploaded it online so the people at The Friends of Ballard Park can look at it and decide if they want it. No, I'm not charging for it; this is definitely pro bono, mainly because I think the exposure is more valuable. In any case, if anybody wants to look at it, I've put it here. In the meantime, here are three shots included in the album.

Female Eastern Towhee near the General Hazard Overlook

A Leucage venusta Orchard Spider near the remains of the quarry's stone crusher

And last but not least, Lily-of-the-Valley along the Valley Trail

Let me know what you think.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hot & Humid on Gooseneck Cove

I went out for my usual Sunday constitutional and went through two, count 'em two, bottles of water. 93% relative humidity can make even the mid 80s feel tropical; it also went a long way toward making this particular 56-year-old with a cardiac history wonder if it had been a wise move to even come out the door today. Not to worry, I was only miserable, not endangered. But I did manage to get a few decent shots.

A Snowy Egret catches lunch

"Someone to watch over me..."; a parent watching over a baby Common Tern

A Double-Crested Cormorant drying off after a swim

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, August 14, 2009

Les Paul, June 9, 1915 – August 13, 2009

Les Paul pretty much changed the face of the music industry: inventor of the first solid-body electric guitar; inventor of the multitrack tape recorder; and creator of such recording techniques as overdubbing, tape delay, and phasing. And to top it off, the man was one helluva guitar player. He passed away yesterday at the age of 94, a full life and a life well-led.

And of course I've gathered together some videos (I do so love YouTube!). The first is an example of the work Les did with his wife and musical partner, singer Mary Ford, performing "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise" from their TV show Les Paul & Mary Ford at Home.

Les Paul collaborated with a lot of other guitarists, but my personal favorite has to be his collaboration with Chet Atkins. When they played together they billed themselves as Chester & Lester, and that name gives a clue as to the fun they had when they played. Here they are on a TV special playing "Avalon".

But Les didn't limit his collaborations to his contemporaries; he was also known to sit in with rock musicians and match them decibel for decibel. Most of the guitar greats of the golden age of guitar rock cite Les Paul as a major influence; Jeff Beck has been quoted as saying: "I've copied more licks from Les Paul than I'd like to admit." And speaking of Jeff Beck, here he is jamming with Les on the concert stage, obviously having a blast!

Thank you Les! You've left a legacy no one will ever match, and we're in your debt.

Photo & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Theme Thursday - Festival

Since the theme this week is "Festival", I've decided to go with the famed Newport Folk Festival, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year on August 1 & 2. George Wein, the producer of the festival, brought back a lot of the original line-up, including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Judy Collins. He went back to the festival's roots this year, sticking to folk music rather than inviting a lot of pop acts gone acoustic. I couldn't go (I'm currently unemployed and couldn't afford tickets), but NPR streamed the main stage acts and also recorded the acts on the smaller stages, and you can now go listen to the festival archived here.

The last time I was able to go to the Newport Folk Festival was 2005, so here are some shots from that year. I already posted a shot of the Del McCoury Band when the Thursday theme was "Swing", but believe me, there were a lot of other fine acts that year.

The Bela Fleck Acoustic Trio

Bethany & Rufus, with Bethany's dad Peter Yarrow, on one of the smaller stages

Buddy Miller & Friends

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings

Emmylou Harris was supposed to have been there that Sunday, but her mother fell down and broke a hip, so Emmy canceled. Gillian and Dave weren't on the schedule but were there as part of Emmy's act that weekend, her "Voices In Harmony" tour, so they stepped in and took her place. Emmy's Mom recovered and is apparently still around and kicking these days.

In the old days of the festival, back in the '60s, not only did you have the stage where the acts played, you had "workshops" where you could jam with folk musicians and hone your skills. You could learn how to play dulcimer with Jean Ritchie, or harmonica with Sonny Terry, or watch various instrument makers do their thing. Those days are long gone; people nowadays don't seem to want to participate, they want to be entertained.

With the loss of the workshops a lot of the more unusual or unique folk acts disappeared from the Newport Folk Festival. But not totally; some occasionally unique acts will play on one of the two smaller stages. But once in a while you get something on the main stage that'll surprise. As for instance this appearance on the main stage in 2006 by Tim Eriksen, showing up with 70 New England area Sacred Harp singers (also known as shape note singing), performing "Calvary" (p. 300 in The Sacred Harp, in case there are any shape note singers out there who want to sing along).

And from this year's 50th anniversay celebration, Judy Collins pulled Joan Baez on stage and they sang Joan's "Diamonds and Rust", which Judy plans to cover on her next CD. Let's hope the producers insist on another duet!

All nostalgia'ed up now? Good! I hope you've enjoyed this week's look at "Festival"! And don't forget to check out the rest of this week's Theme Thursday entries.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One Shot, Three Pictures

Despite being the hottest day so far in our Summer, and with the added insult of around 90 - 95% relative humidity, I went out for a walk. I even did a good stretch of the Cliff Walk, which has no shade anywhere (although at least there was a slight breeze off the water from time to time). But I have no AC here in my apartment, just a fan in my bedroom window, so I needed to get out and about.

And I was rewarded. On the little beach at the end of Marine Ave. there were a bunch of Ruddy Turnstones, a member of the Sandpiper family, running around looking for goodies in the cast-up seaweed and racing around in front of the slowly-advancing tide. I got lots of shots of them, both with and without the telephoto lens. One shot really stood out, because it not only offered an excellent bird portrait in a tight crop, it also had some scenic elements that made a wider crop possible as well. So I played a little. First I did a very tight crop to get a good portrait of the bird. Then I expanded the crop so that I got some beach and some of the advancing tide. Then I converted that shot to black & white. I like all three, so here they are.

Portrait of a Ruddy Turnstone:

"Watchin' the tide roll in...":

"Watchin' the tide roll in..." in b&w:

Of course, having used the line as the title for the photo, I just had to include the song as well - the late, great Otis Redding singing "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay". Yeah, I know it's a beach not a dock, but the tide rolls in no matter where.

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lunch with an Osprey

I had been out walking for a bit yesterday despite the heat and humidity. I stopped at the grocery store for some this 'n' that, and going around back to take the shortcut home I heard an Osprey making a racket. Well, that's not unusual, given that there's a semi-permanent nest atop the broadcast tower there at Toppa Field. But there was nobody up in the nest. Instead, the Osprey making all the noise was on a lighting stanchion closer to the street, and lo and behold it had a fish!

This was one of the two young'uns of this year's brood; the other one was across the field sitting atop another stanchion. Aside from other indications (like fewer black markings on the neck and chest and orange rather than yellow eyes), the best way to tell its age is the fact that it's now August and this bird is still staying around the nest. When the young birds finally fledge and don't need Mama and Papa to feed them any more, the adult birds head off; since they're not raising youngsters any more, they no longer need a nest. But the kids hang around the nest until migration time, mainly because the nest is the only roost they're familiar with. So the following three shots are of one of this year's brood enjoying some lunch.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sunday Stuff

My usual Sunday stroll resulted in some decent shots, for once. So many of my walks lately have only produced one, maybe two usable shots, so I was surprised to get 5 that passed quality control today. Let's see what we have...

A Slender Spreadwing damselfly in the Aspen grove in Ballard Park

Swamp Rose Mallow in the cattail swamp by Salt Marsh House

A wall of Impatiens in the front garden of Gooseberry Landing

Two baby Common Terns on Tern Rock yelling "Feed us! Feed us!"

A baby Common Tern seeing if its wings will do what the adults' do. Not quite yet!

And a bit of news... I just learned that folk legend Mike Seeger died Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 75. Mike was the half-brother of Pete Seeger. His main claim to fame was reviving and preserving the music of the backwoods South, and especially the music of Appalachia. He co-founded the New Lost City Ramblers in the late 1950s with John Cohen and Tom Paley, and they took their music to places where it wouldn't normally have been heard. They were a major inspiration to the infant Folk revival of the '50s and '60s. You can read an appreciation of Mike Seeger's life and work here.

Here's Mike in the Smithsonian Folkways Studio performing "Walking Boss" on an old fretless banjo back in 2007. Good-bye Mike; you'll be sorely missed.

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger
PS -Don't forget to pop over to Just A Song for my entry on Gillian Welch's "Elvis Presley Blues".

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Leftovers & Odds & Ends

These are photos I took in the last week but that didn't fit in with the stuff I published here during that time. I have a habit of setting out with a purpose, but if something catches my eye on the way there, I'll catch that. The female Goldfinch watching me gyrate and hop about like a maniac while I tried to get a shot of her with no branches in the way (top left) was taken on my way back home after getting the shots of the rock sculptures I published on Monday. The Buttonbush bloom (top right) was taken Sunday on my walk, but when I got home I was more focused on getting that shot of me with the Newcastle Brown Ale for Megan. And the shot of Touro Synagogue (bottom) came about because I've been wanting to take that shot over the new gardens eve since Sunday, when they finally opened that new courtyard (part of a renovation project including a visitors center), but the lighting was just too bright. We finally had an overcast day on Thursday, and I rushed down to get this shot in just the right light.

Citizen K's been visiting Ireland for a good chunk of this summer, and in his blog entry this morning he described how he got trapped in a parking lot by a landscaper's truck and rig. Being who I am, this set up a musical association in my head, and all I could think of was the Genesis song "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)", about the lawnmower man sitting down to lunch at 1 o'clock. So I hopped over to YouTube and found the appropriate video, a vintage one with Peter Gabriel still performing frontman duties. So enjoy! (See Paul, I knew I'd find one!)

Photos & text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger
PS -Don't forget to pop over to Just A Song for my entry on Gillian Welch's "Elvis Presley Blues".