Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

And here are some favorite tunes to ring in the New Year. In Vienna they celebrate by waltzing:

Of course, it ain't New Year's Eve without a chorus or two of "Auld Lang Syne":

Happy New Year everybody!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Gloomy Winter Day

It's the end of December and still no snow; everything is gray or brown and drab. So today I went wandering around with the camera looking for shots that would emphasize that mood. I no longer have access to the laptop that has Photoshop CS3 and the Exposure 2 plug-in (and they won't run on this computer, either), so I'm having to go back to working with plain old Photoshop CS and the techniques I was using before I came across the versions that made life easier. Come to think of it, having to work for that result is definitely a satisfying experience! I converted to b&w in the channel mixer and applied some aging via layers and blending, and these are the result.

© 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Warm fires, candle-lit trees, evergreens, cakes and cookies and tea with lots of ginger in them, candles, the smell of evergreens and gingerbread baking, holly with bright red berries, snow... For me, this is the experience of Christmas. Nobody put it as well as Mel Tormé in his "The Christmas Song", and nobody sang it better than Nat Cole. So light the fire, kick your feet up, and enjoy the velvet tones of the best voice in the world. Merry Christmas!

Photo & text © 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Glad Yule!

It's that time of year again, when the days are short and the nights are long, when the snow falls and the winds blow cold and hard. And in the dark and cold we light candles and gather around the fire to drink hot drinks and sing carols with melodious voices to lure the Sun back north again. It's my favorite time of year; I love the snow and tramping in the snow, coming home to warmth. A blessed Yule to all!

It snowed enough here in Central PA last Winter to get some good snow pictures for this year's traditional (well, it's my tradition, anyhow) slide show. The music is by the late Johnny Cunningham - "King Holly, King Oak", from the Windham Hill sampler Celtic Christmas. It's set up like one of my Winter hikes - tramping around in the snow and at last coming home to a fire in the stove (although I've moved into my own apartment now and there isn't a fire any more. Oh well...). Enjoy!

And speaking of traditions, I think I started a new one a couple of years ago. I'm making the posting of the video of Jethro Tull's "Ring Out, Solstice Bells" part of the annual Solstice post. Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Self Portraits

Tomorrow's post will be my annual Winter Solstice greetings, including my annual slideshow-with-soundtrack, and I'm currently hard at work at putting it all together. But you know me; I'm never only working on one thing. So about that title...

Yesterday the Silver Fox mentioned my old Green Man self-portrait, and I promised I'd repost that. So here 'tis:

His Silverness also mentioned my recent clean-shaven appearance, a yearlong pain in my life necessitated by my living conditions. But now I'm living on my own and not having to keep peace in a household not my own, so the beard is growing back. Here's the progress so far:

Not up to my usual standard, but it's getting there. Maybe next Winter I can take a new Winter King picture.

Okay, back to working on tomorrow's post!

© 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

King Street Decorated

King St., Shippensburg's main drag, is all gussied up for the holidays. I took the camera with me on the way to grocery shopping and caught some scenes. All we need now is snow; at the moment it's raining!

McLean House is always festive-looking at this time of year:

Knute's Pub & Grill gets into the season in a big way:

The Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter has a thrift shop on King St., one of their ways to fund the shelter. They decorated the storefront to depict Dickens' A Christmas Carol. There were five scenes, but only these two came out well; reflections in the glass were a real problem. But at least the scene with Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Present came out well, and if you look closely at that second shot you can see a reflection of the artist hard a work capturing the scene.

Then there's The Lollipop Shop. It's always pretty festive looking, but this time of year the owner is in her element and having the time of her life. It looks it, doesn't it?

This house reminded me of Newport; it's that almost-Federal style from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. But where in Newport it would usually be built with clapboard siding, here it's faced with brick, a characteristic of the area. It looks even more in period decorated for Christmas.

And then there's my own contribution to the decorations. I didn't make my wreath this year as I've done in the past; what with moving and all I just didn't have the time. But we sell these at work, and they all looked good, so I bought one and added a bow. Voila!

© 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Open Letter to Lowe's

[Note: I work for Lowe's. And I'm not a Muslim. And no, I don't plan to quit my job. But I am very, very disappointed in the people who run the company I work for, and felt I should register my objections.]

I work for Lowe's, in the garden center at the Shippensburg, PA store. I enjoy my job, and I'm grateful to Lowe's for hiring me. I was unemployed for over three years, my applications turned down time after time; I can't prove it but it was obvious that my age was a major factor in those rejections.

I had to leave my home of 36 years in Newport, RI to go live with my family here in Central PA, and after about 5 months here I was hired by Lowe's. Apparently they respect the the knowledge and life experience of a 58-year-old; there are a lot of us over-50 types at the store. I like my job with Lowe's; I enjoy working in the garden center, I like the people I work with, and the managerial staff is way less dysfunctional than many I've worked under. In many ways it's felt like home.

Until now. I'm distressed and disappointed by Lowe's decision to withdraw its ads on TLC's All-American Muslim show. There really is no logical, rational reason to do this, especially in light of the fact that Lowe's advertises its social responsibility programs, including its workplace diversity and inclusion policies (all of this is documented on their website, here and here). As it says on the website:
Lowe's dedication to diversity and inclusion grows from the steadfast values of our employees and extends to every corner of our company. We draw upon the strength of collaboration, bringing together many unique individuals in the workplace and the community to better meet the needs of our employees and our customers. Recruiting, developing and retaining a diverse work force ensures a welcoming customer experience, enhances partnerships and strengthens community involvement.
In light of this, the decision to withdraw ads from a show about American Muslims makes no sense; it's directly counter to its stated diversity and inclusion policy.

Equally disappointing, it seems the decision to withdraw was made after an avalanche of emails launched by the Florida Family Association, a fringe far right evangelical Christian group who objects to the show's depiction of Muslims as average Americans and not fanatical bomb-throwers, and who threatened boycott if Lowe's continued to advertise on the show.

If the suits in Mooresville, NC (Lowe's corporate headquarters) are worried about that boycott, I can reassure them on that count. If the membership of the FFA exceeds 1,000 I'll be surprised. As an influence on the American body politic they're a microdot. That wouldn't amount to much of a boycott. In fact, I'll bet there are more American Muslims who shop at Lowe's (or at least did before this) than members of the FFA.

The FFA sources its arguments against All-American Muslim to anti-Islam activists Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, evangelicals who see Islam as a threat and/or rejection of their own narrow Christian evangelism. It is, in fact, sectarian fear and jealousy, something that should have no place in the business world. Their arguments are made up of misrepresentation, outright lies, and gross (and deliberate) exaggerations. It's a tissue of falsehood from start to finish.

How do I know this? Because I've been involved in interfaith activities and organizations for well over 30 years. I've spent my entire adult life in dialog with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, et al. I've known many Muslims, both American-born and immigrants, for decades. I have a copy of the Qur'an in my library and an electronic copy of the hadith (traditions attributed to Muhammad) on my hard drive. These people are just people, just like you or me, and their spiritual beliefs are really no different or more intense than any other believers.

None of the propaganda spread by the FFA, Spencer and Geller and their ilk, matches the Muslims I've known or their religious scriptures. In fact, their propaganda is the 21st Century American equivalent of Nazi propaganda against the Jews in the '20s, '30s, and '40s. It's bigotry, plain and simple.

So I'm disappointed in Lowe's. I find it distressing that a company that prides itself on diversity and inclusion has allowed itself to be influenced by a group steeped in bigotry and hate. Lowe's values and mine no longer seem to be in sync.

There's a phrase posted throughout the store and on our computers: "I am Lowe's!" I'm not so sure that's true any more.

© 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Out the Back Way

These are some buildings behind my house; they flank our back parking area off Neff Ave., the alley that runs behind us. One is a garage and the other is a small engine repair shop, as the sign says. I've only ever seen somebody at the shop once; I can only hope he gets more business in the summer!

I processed these with Exposure 2's "Selenium Warm/Cool" filter because I thought it gave it that perfect Depression feeling. Neff Ave. always looks so '20s/'30s to me.

© 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, December 09, 2011

More Scenes from the New Place

Some more scenes from the new digs. I figured my bedroom was actually the least cluttered of all my rooms, and I like the bedroom set I found at the used furniture store. And for those of you who know me all too well - yes, that's actually a full size bed! For those not in the know, the joke is that I've been sleeping on twin size for most of my adult life.

The highlight of the neighborhood is the little postage stamp-sized park across the street from my house. During Corn Festival several acoustic acts performed there, using the gazebo as the stage. It's the perfect set-up: a park across the street and a Subway, a laundromat, and a Turkey Hill store (ice cream) all within steps of my front door. The drawbacks? King St. is Rt. 11 and tends to be busy; it's pretty noisy with traffic noise at night, and next Summer I'll be right smack in the middle of Corn Festival. Oh well, the pluses outweigh the minuses in this case!

© 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, December 08, 2011

New Digs

I'm now fully moved in to my first post-Newport apartment. The furniture was delivered Tuesday. In the rain. My brother and I moved the heaviest of my stuff - the computer, my CD collection, my library - yesterday. In even heavier rain. Today the sun was out and seasonably chilly weather arrived, and the Comcast guy came to hook up my cable and Internet. And here I am! I'm still putting things away, so the place is still sort of cluttered. These two shots are of relatively uncluttered spots.

Part of the living room, featuring my Archie Bunker chair.

The new headquarters of Roy's World.

2010 saw me hit bottom, and the time in between then and now has been a limbo time of being dependent on family for a roof over my head and food in my stomach. Thanks to them I'm back on my feet again - employed and living independently. The perfect song for that is "Handle With Care" by the Traveling Wilburys, a joyous paean to getting back on your feet after having been down. Enjoy!

Photos © 2011 by A. Roy Hilbinger