Sunday, December 21, 2008

Year End Music Picks for 2008

So Here are the 10 Albums that came out this year I enjoyed the most. I know its predictable to put a mega-act like Coldplay at the top of a list, but its my list so I can. The best live show I saw this year (and there were many) was the Hold Steady at the Cat's Cradle on August 12th. Bar rock never sounded so good...

1 Coldplay - Viva La Vida
2 The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
3 Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
4 Schooner - Hold on too Tight
5 Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight
6 The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead
7 British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music
8 Grand Archives - The Grand Archives
9 Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop Drop and Roll
10 Far Beyond Frail - A Girl, Almost

Honorable mention: Bon Iver - For Emma, Billy Bragg - Mr. Love and Justice

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Darkroom Printing...

Along with the songwriting lately has been some darkroom printing. When I started shooting black and white film I did it with an eye toward printing it myself. This seem a bit away when I was just learning how to focus and shoot an SLR 6 months ago. But a goal none the less... One of my Flickr contact was selling his enlarger very cheaply and I could not resist the idea of at least starting to collect the pieces required. It came with a very nice 50mm Nikon lens. So I have slowly bought all the other necessary pieces and yesterday I printed my first darkroom print.

First RC Print...

Lots of chemicals to mix (its easy like a recipe) and of course you have to agitate the developing image constantly and have a decent digital timer. All of these things added up to the image above. My main problem was I forgot to stop the aperture down after focusing the image in the enlarger and I ended up frying test strips of paper as it had been exposed to too much light. After the first 10 strips it hit me ahh f/8 oh yeah! (f/8 lets in alot less light). Then I was off to the races and it was all fine tuning from there. I can see the focus pretty well, but this is a different kind of focusing and it will take me a while to get good at it. Focusing the enlarger is not as fine control as the camera, (I can see why my friend might have sold this one). Its very good but I bet there must be even better focusing mechanisms. But I'll learn on this. When I finally got the exposure right on the print I did last night and found all this negative dust in the first good print. Must remember to buy canned air! Eventually I printed 4 lovely clean prints of this gatepost.

Friday, November 14, 2008

And an Island all to Myself... (almost)

Wild Horses

One of the illusions we like to create when we look at photographs is that the space is vacant but for us (the viewer) to travel into it. Pristine territory, uncharted and unspoiled. Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to Shackleford Banks with my son's scout troop and we camped on an uninhabited strip of land 9 miles long and at its most a mile wide. A beautiful varied ecosystem with wild horses, marshes, sea and sound. Truly uninhabited and a definite winner for photography and solitary wandering.

The ponies above are what some people in North Carolina call a banker pony. Really a horse but they are called ponies because they are smaller than some horses, as they grow only about 14 hands high due to harsh living conditions. In the 16th century, these horses ancestors came from Spain via Hispaniola to live on one of the islands off the coast of North Carolina that make up the Outer Banks. If you ask the residents of Harkers Island about the horses, they will tell you that they have always been there. That they swam ashore from sinking ships long before the English came. Shackleford Banks, where they live, is only nine miles long and is located just east of Morehead City and Beaufort North Carolina. You can read more about them here

The little island of Shackleford banks is considered an Outer Bank of North Carolina meaning it faces the Ocean on one side and a sound on the other and a trek of a mile or so each way will easily get you from one side to the other. The environments on this island are many as its like a desert in some places a swamp in many others. The ponies prefer the sound side as its not as windy and more grass grows there. The ocean side beach has many thousands of perfect beautiful shells that are not collected by people very often as the island is uninhabited.

The horses roam the dunes and marshes and swim in the small channels between the Shackleford Banks and the nearby tidal flats, which ebb-out on the low tides and disappear again with the next high tide. They have survived where man could not. They have endured through hurricanes, droughts, north-easters, so'westers, and the centuries.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What's Sarah Palin Doing Now?

Ummm, spying in my blog I think...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Did It! - Now back to work!

I have been involved in the Obama campaign since April of this year. The euphoria we felt winning a long and hard fought primary was only a respite from the longer slog that was ahead. For the run up to the presidency I worked in my area (Norther Orange County) as a data manager for the Obama campaign. Our immediate director Craig Perrin was focused and results oriented to say the least. I spent the last 3 weeks of the campaign making sure the canvas packet data made it into the National Democratic Party voting system. This system along with the primary use of represented real innovation in campaigning in that real time information about voters and volunteers was reported to Chicago and Democratic Headquarters every night. The canvasers had packets of names and knew if the voter was undecided and needed persuasion or just need to be reminded to get out and vote. This made a huge difference. Using this system volunteers could access calling lists and scripts and key the results in real time after each phone call. It was unprecedented organization. Even so it had its interesting moments leading up to election day.

Election Weekend Sign Scuffle

Hillsborough (where I live) is an area in transition. You have alot of Democrats moving into a conservative area bringing their emphasis on organic food markets and concerns about walkability and want to patronize locally grown produce, locally owned restaurants and stores (the Small and Slow movements). When we made a large signs that said "Hillsborough is Obama Country" and posted it on the highway just north of town and on the main street here, they caused quite a stir. The one on the main street caused an accident from gawkers and the one on the highway just made a group of motorists angry. I got a call from Craig Perrin asking what the law was for the signage in Town and I looked it up and drove out to the site. A policeman and a man in Army fatigues were there clearly discussing not only how are sign did not meet the ordinance, but that they did not like it personally. Neutral law enforcement - ummm, not so much. The man in military uniform goes on to argue that we are "brainwashing people" with our sign telling them what to think. We respond that its a first ammendment right to say what you think, we'll make our sign compliant and still say the same thing. The officer and the man in uniform both went on to complain that they fought in uniform so "people like us" could "do that" (pointing). Thanks very much but it is indeed our right and people have been fighting for this right for generations up generations in peaceful and not so peaceful ways. We modified our sign. But overnight the McCain people put up two larger signs that combined were almost twice as large as the Obama signs had ever been. We called the code enforcement but they were still up for an entire day before they were modified.

Election Day

6:30 AM I am up and headed to the polls to be a greeter in the pouring rain. I get there and there is a sparse turnout early. The biggest problems are the rain. The the Republican table across the walkway from us had a nice tent and some interesting characters working there (to say the least - one of them a odd Palinesque woman with an amazingly alarming smile). We finally get a nice awning about 8:00 am. So soaking wet we put this thing up so the our materials and people will stay dry. Poor voters - every one that comes up is approached by someone Dem or Repub. So gentleness is the way to go. Remember that you are a greeter not an accoster.

9:00 AM Door hangers. The amazing computer system knows when you've voted and how you did. So we also know who has not. That's what this effort is about. One of the ways the Obama campaign could win (so I was told) in North Carolina is to turn out 20% more vote in the Triangle and Obama takes the state. So off we go to do door hangers and get the last voters out to the polls. We had done such a good job in early voting that 40% of North Carolina had voted early. My precinct here in Hillsborough - 74% of us had voted by election day! So packets and maps from the computer system and in the car and off you go. At this point the packets are as thin as they have ever been due to the fact that we had hit so many of them so well for early voting. The last holdouts required driving between houses not strolling from house to house.

1:00 PM Lunch break in Carrboro.

2:00 PM Back to Obama HQ in Northern Orange. Still doing door hangers and carrying packets, volunteers coming and going furiously. With an apparent non-entry of packet data the only way to generate new lists of people who had not voted was to read the voting list from the polls (legally obtainable at 3 points during the day) and manually update the packets by reading the names of those who had voted in an area and finding them in the packets, crossing their names off and sending the packets back out. So a large group sat at a table while names were read from the voting rolls and marked off the walk packets. These packets went back out again.

4:30 PM The word comes that the emphasis is on Durham now (Orange county went 72% for Obama in the final tally!) so everyone here is supposed to go to Durham. I stay behind with a data manager from the state Obama organization and do paperwork hand tallying votes from the actual voting record.

6:15 PM Brain fried, very tired (I woke up at 5:00 AM I was so wired about today) I go home, watch returns and very satsifiedly go to bed after it is made clear Obama has won. I was genuinely moved upon hearing this it made me a bit choked up having waited so long.

This is the sea change I think. The majority the Obama voters in NC were under 60. The majority of the Republican voters are over 60. The youth movement is finally here. The movement my generation had hoped it was. My generation has been watching and hoping and taking it on the chin a bit. Clinton was our moment, but he helped lose the future for us in his ill-fated second term. This is a new day its not politics as usual, its not lip-service its plain, solid real-service time. The community networks that Obama inspired (never make fun of a community organizer)hopefully will live on so that the American people, the stakeholders, can have a voice.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Save the Country

Billy Bragg

Everyone who played the get out the vote rally on November 1st in Chapel Hill were absolutely fabulous. Memorable moments were created by every band who played. The one that stuck with me most (probably due to this political season) was Billy Bragg.
Billy showed up as a late addition to the bill and gave a rousing set full of politcal observation. His set began with him saying "this is a public service announcement - from the rest of the world." He went on to praise America for being on the threshold of great change that involved overcoming race as part of the bargain. He began the set with the uptempo "Sexuality" from Brewing Up with Billy Bragg. The set moved on to more substantive political songs including Laura Nyro's "Save the Country" which was very apropos with lyrics like:

I got fury in my soul,fury's gonna take me to the glory goal.
In my mind I can't study war no more.
Save the people! Save the children! Save the country now!
Come on, people! come on, children!
Come on down to the glory river.
Gonna wash you up and wash you down.
Gonna lay the devil down, gonna lay that devil down.

With the generations of children and parents milling around on a sunny afternoon this all seemed relevant. The other song that stuck in my mind was a new one from his album "Mr. Love and Justice" called "I Keep Faith in You." Billy said (and I am paraphrasing here) no matter what happens November 4th this song gets me through. Basically reminding himself that he trusts humanity to save itself:

I know it takes a mess of courage
To go against the grain.
You have to make great sacrifice for such little gain,
And so much pain.
And if your plans come out to nothing,
Washed out in the rain,
Let me rekindle all your hopes and
Help you start again,

I keep faith in you.
Yes I do, I keep faith in you.
I keep faith in you.

He closed his mini set with the rousing stand-by "There is Power in a Union." With voices singing in unison his time in Chapel Hill had come to a close.

Money speaks for money,the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?
What a comfort for the widow,a light to the child
There is power in a Union

Saturday, November 1, 2008

dBs, Billy Bragg and more rally for Obama

Merge Records sponsored a get out the vote rock etravaganza at the University of North Carolina to rally support for Barack Obama. The schedule for this show was a "who's who" of North Carolina bands including Superchunk, Bowerbirds, Ivan Howard (of The Rosebuds), The dBs, Megafaun and non North Carolinian, post-folk rocker Billy Bragg among others.

The Chapel Hill show was the second time that Superchunk has rallied for Obama. The first time was during the primary with Arcade Fire. Check out the blog entry for that show here.

The Chapel Hill show was outside at Graham Terrace (adjacent to the Morehead Planetarium early voting site. The show began at 9am and ran until almost 3pm.

More about this show later for now here is the line-up and some of the photos...

The Chapel Hill, line-up:
The dBs
Superchunk (acoustic)
Ivan Rosebud
Billy Bragg
I Was Totally Destroying It
Greg Humphreys
Regina Hexaphone

I Was Totally Destroying It

Greg Humphreys


Billy Bragg

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A New Old Camera

B Square

This is the very first image from my newest camera a Yashica A Twin Lens Reflex. The Twin Lens Reflex has a viewing lens and a lens that actually takes the picture. So you don't exactly see the image until the film is developed. You peer into the top of this camera at a 3 inch square of ground glass that reflects the image you are photographing like some sort of phantom television. This camera is 48 years old and has very limited shutter settings. With 100 speed film on a cloudy day most of the shots I took required me counting the seconds off on my watch for the exposures. Those exposures are called "B" exposures as you get to decide how long they are. 120 film (what this camera uses) is square format so the output does not require the whole portrait/landscape discussion in my head I do with 35mm. Seems I like portrait alot when shooting 35mm...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Gravel Truck at the Cave

Thursday the 23rd saw Mitch Easters "Let's Active Cover Band," Gravel Truck quietly saunter in to the Cave and blow it apart with vintage rock goodness. Shortly after 10 pm the shout of the phrase "emotions are enemy agents - go home!" marked the beginning of a set of music that spanned the life of that 80s pop icon Let's Active. The band was spot on and Mitch Easter was masterful on the guitar once again. With this group of musicians backing him up this material was as muscular and tuneful as ever. With Jon Heames on the drums and Tim Lee (Windbreakers, Tim Lee 3) on bass, this band had solid grooves to hold up Mitch's fluid guitar and sprawling melodies. A rocked up "Every Word Means No" quickly followed its harder edges working decidedly in its favor. Songs Like "Ornamental" and "Horizon" reminded me of how heavy Let's Active could be. These songs absolutely sounded like they belonged in the canon of rock classics. Wistful and poppy, "Reflecting Pool" was a nice change of pace song in this set. The set closed with a classic reading of "In Little Ways" leaving me wanting to catch this version of Let's Active material anytime.

Set List:

Easy Does
Every Word Means No
Every Dog Has His Day
Still Dark Out
Reflecting Pool
Bad Machinery
In Little Ways

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shower the People - James Taylor at UNC Chapel Hill

Ok it does not get any more Chapel Hillian than this, James Taylor on the campus of the University of North Carolina at twilight on a beautiful, clear autumn day gently, intuitively serving up the hits one after another to a respectful, loving audience. It got to me. It was so in synch that the carillon in the bell tower played the quarter hour notes exactly when they would harmonize with JT.

This terrific evening of music started without the usual political rally proding and poking, but rather a gracenote for all those who had already voted and were working with or supporting the Obama campaign. Playing solo, James Taylor sprinkled in politics and started with a beautiful sobering open tuned "America the Beatiful" played and sung as only he could do it. He spoke about how sad it was that the word Government had come to be so reviled, about how purposeful and hopeful the Obama campaign was. A movement he said that had not had its like since the run of Bobby Kennedy according to JT.

As for the music. James was inspired tonight to great heights by the limited seating (making for intimate surroundings) and the beautiful scenery. He played all his hits and some great covers from his new album of covers. The set began with "Something in the Way She Moves" which he said was the first song he wrote worthy of playing for anybody else. I will say now that James Taylor voices on the guitar better than anyone I have seen in person and that his improvisational style and skill make his songs fresh even within their familiarity. He hasn't just been playing his hits for years he's been honing them. He knows where the melody could change just a tiny bit for the better here and there keeping the whole intact for the deep memory acquired from years of listening to recorded versions. A lovely version of "You've Got A Friend" introduced by a story of learning the song watching Carol King do it over and over during their nights at the Trubador in the early 70s. He worked up his version then and said "he had no idea he would be doing it practically every night for the rest of his life."

I want to say quickly that James was in Amazing Voice, he sounded like the early James Taylor, timbre, range and the comfortably familiar tone all in tact. Hits like "Sweet Baby James", "Fire and Rain", preceeded the material from the current cover record. And those were treats especially the Leonard Cohen song "Suzanne" which is a stunner of a song musically and lyrically. He also covered the Jimmy Webb hit "Wichita Lineman" from that record as well.

At the end of an hour of music the moment had come at last for "Carolina in My Mind" and sublime and perfect it was with 5,000 quietly accompanying the harmony. Taylor was in the moment all night long tonight. No band just him connecting with us.
He was funny, affable and damn good. He enjoyed himself enough to give us "Mexico" and "Close Your Eyes" as encores. But he also gently reminded us to vote and be proud of our support for Barack Obama.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Yes Sir, I am an Artist....

I went today on my out and aboutness to the Circa 1958 Art Show at the Ackland Art Museum. It covers the sweeping themes in art around the time the Ackland opened in 1958. The exhibit features the work of Frank Stella (paintings), Robert Rauschenberg (collages), Claes Oldenburg (Sculpture), George Segal, a wonderful Andy Warhol image called "The Gilded Lilly" of a gold leafed lilly image inside a gold hi-heel shoe, decorated with glue on bric-a-brac. The catalog for this show goes on to say "Artists also began installing galleries and other informal spaces with interrelated objects and sounds to surround the viewer, invite exploration, and create 'environments'. As Happenings and Environments evolved, other artists, including Yoko Ono... ...created art objects that forced the spectator to consider his or her relationship to the work."

Hence the part where I got to be an artist today. There was a large gilded frame with a metal sheet within and a hammer and a box of nails and viewers were encouraged to get a nail and add a nail. I asked, the guard said "you are allowed to touch that piece, yes" to which I responded and "and hammer a nail..." he said yes. So PRESTO! I am contributor to this year's "A Painting to Hammer a Nail In" by Yoko Ono(and a nail by me...). When I was done I looked at the guard and said proudly "I'm an Artist!"

(This is a previous version, not the deluxe mirrored version I artistically drove a nail into today...)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


As in NOT digital. I just finished my first roll of film ever. It was easy for me to decide to mix things up and play with film. There is definitely a different look to the images and there is something about the magic of shooting it and NOT seeing it, trusting it and yourself. The waiting for the results builds the anticipation and in some cases some regrets when you see the pictures and you remember and learn. "Won't do that again" and "How about that!" were things I was mumbling to myself as I reviewed this first roll. So I will try to tone digital images Black and White less to make it clear what is what. I personally have found the two analog cameras I own from the late 60's 70's to be an apex of storts for their technology. They are large and heavy and made of substance, no plastics, real viewfinders. I love my digital camera and will continue to shoot it along with these as well but its a different thing. I shot alot of this simultaneously with the digital so some of my first film images will corespond with locations and shots previously presented digitally, but this wont be the case after this first roll is posted. I posted this very large so you film people can nod and enjoy the grain. I'm very pleased t so be able to say; Nikon L35, Ilford fp4 plus, unaltered scans strait out of the camera...


View on Grey

or View large on black

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Peak technology is past too (for some things)

So my new interest in photography has reminded me of something interesting. That digital is nowhere, nowhere near the apex of perfection that analog achieved in its total evolution from the 1890s to the 1970s. In music recording or photography for two cases in point. The mania for vinyl is more than sentimentality. It sounds good. If you have a good turntable from the 60s or 70s you know they are works of art with their strobe tuners and exquisite tone arm mechanisms that pump out smooth analog tube recordings through a tube amplifier. Warm golden stuff that. Digital equals convenience and a level of quality, but not sublime yet. Same is true with digital cameras, they are fabulous and convenient but the feeling and aura of the old 35mm's or medium format cameras still lingers. Its been such a pleasure for me to move into shooting with analog cameras. They focus differently, the feel different (heavier for one) and this peak technology can be had pretty cheaply. In one case for me I bought a Nikon L35 at the thrift store for three dollars.

Heavy metal casing, excellent lens, range finding, simple use a true SLR in the most compact form that real analog quality would allow. (That means its still pretty big in 1979) The other analog camera I have is a 1966 minolta srT. Its a brute of a camera, heavy, heavy duty. Super lens, super mirror in the camera itself. Its alot of fun to not look at a little digital LCD and really focus on the subject in a way that you can see the depth and the nuance of what you're shooting. Alot of people with digital cameras will never know how difference and still make lovely images. It's the nuance that they miss. Hopefully I can make that feeling come out in the pictures.

So as we get set to switch from analog to digital everything give digital time, someday it will be as elegant as analog was/is. Remember analog had the better part of a century.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

El Greco to Velazquez at the Nasher

The Nasher Museum at Duke University is home to a unique show of the artistic taste and acumen of Spain at the time of Philip III via the inventory of his favorite the Duke of Lerma. This period of history was vital for Spanish art and literature. The first image to grab my attention was El Greco's "The Vision of St. John." The painting depicts scenes from Revelation where those worthy of heaven are raised and clothed. It has an exaggerated composition with St. John himself in the foreground reacting to the scene behind him and looking to heaven. The figural arrangement of this painting (and all of El Greco's work to me) is amazingly modern. The standing and floating figures are not unlike a Cezanne line drawing from centuries later. The paint treatment, brush strokes and perspectives are way ahead of their time in all the El Greco images I saw. El Greco's crucifixion image of Christ is detailed lovely and dark. Its small scale meant for a private devotional space yet the image itself is deep with texture and landscape.

The volume and intensity of Religious works in the show is a testament to the power and influence of the Catholic Church and the cultural reinforcement of the teachings and values of it. This kind of art could viscerally inspire and demand adherence to doctrine.

The first Velazquez I encountered was his Immaculate Conception in all its beauty and apparent celebration of the divine in the mortal. The image of Mary is that of a non-idealized young woman beautifully executed. Her ordinariness makes her extraordinary. She is standing on a full moon in front of the sun surrounded by clouds. The tonalities in this image are soft and somber. None of the drama of color portrayed in the other similar images. To me this image was made to inspire contemplation of the divine mystery on a more human scale. Another Velazquez that telegraphs a story is his portrait of Luis de Gongora y Argote. The suprisingly modern image shows the embittered face of a cynical and lost poet. Someone who has been worn by the machinations the Spanish court.

One of the few other images that stuck with me that were not by these two masters was Vicente Carducho's "The Stigmatization of Saint Francis", Showing St. Francis himself literally being drawn to Christ in a surreal scene. The figure of St. Francis flying to a crucified Christ on a winged crucifix. The idea of a personal relationship with Christ might be the intent here or showing the rapture of St. Francis in his attraction to God in Christ. There is something in this painting that invokes for me the work of Fra Angelico some 200 years earlier.

There is a room full of still life paintings and a large display of pottery and glassware from the period along with Royal portraiture all well curated and displayed for the public.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Obama Acceptance Speech

I listened with interest to Barack Obama's acceptance speech last night in Denver. When he finally said he was going to enumerate what change meant to him I started jotting notes. This was what was on the pad when I was done:

- Tax breaks for job creation - not shipping jobs overseas
- Promotion of startup companies
- A tax cut for 95% of Americans
- A tax increase on the top 5%
- Energy independence by 2010
- Investment in American Teachers
- Service based scholarships for College bound poor.
- Tackling Healthcare, guaranteeing Americans the same level of healthcare that Congress recieves.
- Equal pay for men and women.
- Within policy disputes focus on areas of agreement rather than an all or nothing approach to legislating. (Abortion was an example cited where both sides of the aisle could cooperate on pregnancy prevention programs.)
- Renew the Military, but pursue policy as the big stick primarily.
- Action not talk on Afghanistan
- A timeline for pullout from Iraq (Iraq is creating a deficit for the US where the Iraq government has a large surplus).
- End Bush Policies:
Attacking Iraq won't stop terrorism.
Supporting Georgia is straining old alliances

Catch-phrases that stayed with me were "Change doesn't come from Washington, it comes to Washington" and "This election isn't about me, its about you"

A good speech. I still want more specifics. On to the debates to focus the differences.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Hold Steady at the Cats Cradle - August 12, 2008

Ok so this was my first THS show ever as I missed them last year and I was going to be damned sure I didn't miss them again after the buzz they generated. I love the album "Boys and Girls in America" and am pretty high on "Stay Positive" AND it was the day before my birthday, so no excuses this time, except I didn't have a ticket AND it was sold out. I had an unexplainable weird feeling of uber-confidence about getting into this show. So I just went with it. Sure enough I managed to get into the show (Thanks Billy, and yes I do owe you one.) just as THS were starting their set. Shoulder to shoulder with everyone else we were sweatily catapulted to some kind of rock nirvana. The energy of the crowd really got the band pumped up.
Craig Finn (who is the unlikeliest looking frontman ever) brought an amazing intensity and ,dare we say?, showmanship to the set as well as his trademark vocal/verbal irony. Tad Kubler supplied the rock on the lead guitar. His tone was stunning and his playing even better. Galen Polivka on bass certainly held it all together with Bobby Drake, these two are definitely the bedrock under THS's trademark throb. I love it when a band sounds better than their record and you know their recordings were not augmented by the studio but potentially limited by what can go through a wire. Definitely the case here. I'd list particular favorites but it was all good. (really). Although this stretch of back to back "Party Pit", "Navy Sheets", "Chips Ahoy", "Stuck Between Stations" was very satisfying indeed.

Here is the set list:

Ask For Aderall
Constructive Summer
Yeah Sapphire
Sequestered in Memphis
The Swish
U Can Make Him Like You
Party Pit
Navy Sheets
Chips Ahoy
Stuck Between Stations
Cheyenne Sunrise
One For the Cutters
Lord I'm Discouraged
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
How A Resurrection Really Feels
Slapped Actress
Both Crosses
Stay Positive
Most People are DJs
Killer Parties

Monday, August 11, 2008

Don Dixon and the Jump Rabbits

On August 2, 2008 Don Dixon and his band the Jump Rabbits (Jamie Hoover and Jim Brock) plugged their new album of covers called "Nu Look" with a performance at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro. The album is a gathering of songs from southern 80's pop history reincarnated by this no-nonsense rock trio. Featuring songs from Parthenon Huxley (rick rock), the dBs, Matt Barrett and others this 10 song CD bristles with muscular grooves and nostalgia. The opener was Jeffrey Dean Foster and it started so early I unfortunately missed it. The Jump Rabbits set began with selections from more recent Dixon albums and then they preceeded on to play the whole "Nu Look" album. Hightlights include a very agressively rhythmed "Amplifier" by the dBs, a suitibly peppy "Sputnik" (HEY!), Told You So (a Dixon chestnut) and capped the set with a euphoric "Six Pack" (Matt Barrett). Ironic that such a depressing lyric could rock so hard. Regardless it was masters of R&B and Rock hard at work. The encore included a terrific funky version of "Calling out for Love" which Don co-wrote with Marshall Crenshaw.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Compound Images Without Photoshop

Yes you can make a complex image within an image without Photoshopping it to death. I decided to try out a technique of photographing an image in combination with a reflection made by a pane of glass. The result was really nice.

No-Photoshop Compound Image Hydrangea

Arranging the framed glass on a tripod and angling it to create the reflection at sunset and photographing straight into it. One complex image, no photoshop required.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who wants to know?

Ummm... that response can be put to the test by reviewing the access logs for any website. I was curious how my blog was being used and was very surprised to see how far away people came from (everywhere) and what they were interested in (everything).
Seemingly random for the most part one meme did emerge from a quick look through the rough data. E-Readers. People don't have enough information and want to see what people are using and how they like them. They're naturally nervous about giving up their comfortable, dog-earable, tactile books!

Here are a few queries that landed on this page via Google using the Search Words "e-reader comparison." Among the many were users from Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK, The Metropolitan Government of Nashville, Tennesee, NASA in Greenbelt, Maryland, The Republic of Korea, Edmonton, Oklahoma, Villagen,Switzerland, Bellevue, Washington, and Budapest, Hungary (at 8am their time, proving internet addiction is universal!).

Other notable queries involve someone from Ile-de-France, Paris looking for information on Don Dixon, someone from Western Finland looking for "cruel to be kind" and Ron Sexsmith (umm, Ron didn't do that one but the are mentioned together in my blog entry of the Nick/Ron duo show), as well as Glen Tilbrooks' legion of fans reading up on the show he did here at the Pour House last year. So keep dropping by whatever the keyword is that gets you here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Flickr favorites

These are some of my favorites from my photostream at Flickr lately...

Yep, its still raining

River Walk I

Crayons at the Diner

Sunday, July 13, 2008


The tale of two friends and not-so-simple twists of fate, Reprise is first-time Norwegian director Joachim Trier's artful dialogue on art, love and a bit of punk rock. The film opens with best friends Phillip and Erik standing at the mailbox, knowing their whole lives are about to change at the simple act of mailing their first manuscript to the publishers. Fast forward to Phillip, whose novel garners instant acclaim and turns him into a cult celebrity and has had a life-altering breakdown. Erik, still struggling with rewrites of his novel, is still editing away, determined to follow in the footsteps of Phillip and the idol of their youth a mythic Norwegian cult author.

Reprise features great performances from Anders Lie as Phillip and Espen Hoiner as Erik. Espen Hoiner hits all the right notes with his portrayal of the less talented, harder working Erik, who's quiet longing for the status and talent effortlessly attained by Phillip draws us in. Anders Lie is terrific as Phillip, the immensely talented, complicated, complex and fragile artist. Phillip goes through a typical teenage transformation to a gifted adult, later through creative burnout, and a severe mental breakdown over an obsessive relationship with his girlfriend. Erik has a ringside seat for meteoric rise of Phillip and watches with wonder at the unfolding destruction of his friend.

Philip later moves into some surreal headspace where he plays with the idea he can control/transform his reality by counting backwards. The incantation of the counting summoning the intended result. Through a chain of coincidence Erik achieves some assurance and accolades from the mythic author who inspired him in his teenage years. Humorous and angst ridden these characters and their director are interesting to watch.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Jennifer Curtis at Gate Wood

Jennifer Curtis appears regularly as featured soloist and as collaborative chamber musician across the United States and abroad. Also an accomplished composer, her compositions have been performed in New York City, at The Spoleto Festival among others. She received her Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School, where she was a student of Robert Mann. Jennifer was also recently presented by Artists International in her New York City Carnegie Hall recital debut. The New York Times has recognized Ms. Curtis' talent in print as well.

So a lucky few gathered at Gate Wood in Chapel Hill this Sunday to hear a performance by this fine artist in a house concert setting. Gate Wood has a beautiful large space perfect acoustically for hosting an event like this. The program was varied and each performance quite spirited. Ms. Curtis introduced each piece with some explaination of her connection to it. The program was three pieces: Bach Partita No. 2, Caprice #10 by Paganini, and a composition of her own titled "Cave Paintings."

The Bach Partita was exuberantly played start to finish. The piece is of six movements: Allegro, Allemande, Courant, Saraband, Gigue, and the lovely Ciaccone. The violin itself was a joy to hear. It is an 18th century Panormo from Cremona, Italy (cradle of great violin making). The match of the instrument and the player is evident here as the emotion and tone of Ms. Curtis matched the sound the violin was making perfectly. A lengthy piece it moved along effortlessly from the bow of Ms. Curtis. The Saraband and the Chiaconne were particularly memorable. The performance started beautifully but became more focused as this piece moved along.

The Paganini Caprice was introduced as something all violinists play at every competition and audition. Ms. Curtis reminded us they not only reinforced technique but were good music as well. Good music indeed. Short and sweet but raucusly rowdy this frothy confection was played with brio.

The last piece was the most interesting in some ways. She played her own composition which she called "Cave Paintings." She said it was a result of her not going to conservatory immediately and persuing her love of playing Appalachain Bluegrass, Latin Music and the Blues among others. The piece began with an introduction that was an homage to the great Fritz Kreisler, but diverged from there to pizzicato sections sounding like spanish guitar and smooth beautiful, slow double stops reminiscent of Appalachia. A wonderful program by a talented artist.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Weaver Street comes to Hillsborough

Coming May 17th
Coming at the end of May
Coming June 10th
Coming June 17th
Coming June 19th! - 10AM

After many delays and much anticipation (and alot of changes to the printed banner) the Weaver Street market is finally open here in Hillsborough. Having been chairman of the Historic District commission at the time this project was proposed I must admit I was all for approval of almost ANY building that would include a downtown grocery store. Access to a food store within walking distance of downtown makes Hillsborough a truly livable, walkable community. The first day of shopping was a complete success with the lawn jammed with diners and the store crowded with shoppers.

Friday, June 13, 2008


The images above are photos I shot and can be found on my Flickr stream at Flickr has become my latest web 2.0 addiction. Its like facebook for photographers. People see your photographs, comment on the ones they like (often what they like about it) at the same time you get a world's worth of different views from behind the viewfinder. One of my photographs (the one of the parking lot light) was picked for a Flickr group "All But One" where every photo in the stream had one thing askew from the rest. The Admin for the group lives and photographs in Russia and he found my picture posted in another group and claimed it for his as well. Watching Flickr is as interesting as participating yourself so check it out if you haven't and get clicking that shutter if you have.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Whats on the Shuffle?

The iPod shuffle being smaller is an exercise in choice. I use my shuffle all the time when I exercise and work around the house so the collection on it tends to be really cohesive or extremely diverse here's whats on it at the moment.

REM - Accelerate
The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
Radiohead - Pablo Honey
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Greatest Hits
The Daysleepers - Drowned in the Sea of Sound
U2 - Unforgettable Fire
Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight
The Rolling Stones - Some Girls
Coldplay - Viva la Vida single

What does this collection say - who knows. Most of the uptempo stuff is a reaction to loads of folk-core, slow, quiet, acoustic records that have been filling up the record store and my cabinet. The Dodos, Owen, Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, Kings of Convenience, Junetile and endless amounts of beautiful acoustic quietude thats beginning to all blend and be the same record. I love all the aforementioned acoustic stuff but its summertime, even on my iPod.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fictional Fun

My daughter Cara and I sat around one cold winter day last year and dreamed up a character that was a cranky, cantankerous, crusty old uncle. The scenario was that he had to watch a very, very bored 8 year old nephew and we dreamt up things he would say to the poor kid to keep him busy and away from his uncle.

Hey Look Kid Here's...

An umbrella, you're a Japanese lady
A book, your're smart
Scissors, you're a barber, go talk to your mother
Soap, you're clean
an apron, you're a cook tonight
A cardboard box
A stick and a blanket, you're an Indian
your thumb, you're a hitchiker
The grass, you're in Hawaii
A basket, you're the Easter Bunny
A quarter, you're the tooth fairy
Go climb the chimney, you're Santa
A candle, you're a jack-o-lantern
An ice cube, you're an Eskimo
A knife, you're a samurai, go talk to your Uncle Tony about that bet we made last night
A pillow, you're a pregnant lady
A bucket of soap, you're Cinderella
You can walk, you're a model
A dot, you're from India
A tub of water, you're a deep sea diver
A paper airplane, you're an astronaut
I'll poke your eye out, you're a pirate
At your clothes, you're a hobo
A hose, you're a firefighter
A cross, go fight the vampires
A leaf, you're greek
A leaf, you're adam
A washcloth, you're your mother
A flashlight, turn out the lights you're a train.
A bottle of wine, you're your Uncle Tony
Some dirt and your finger, you're a painter
Some twigs, you're a beaver
My ring, you're a king
Your mothers shoes, you're an elf
A triangle, you're in the symphony
A cowbell, you're a rock star
A nail, you're a carpenter
Use your eyeballs, laser tag, talk to your mother
Your mothers earrings, its a basketball hoop
Don't talk, you're a mime
A match, you're Satan
Some cheese, you're French
At your smile, you're from West Va
Some duct tape
Take off your clothes, you're Lady Godiva
A mask, you're spiderman
A doughnut, you're a cop
A tree, you're a hippie
An egg, you're a hen
An apple, you're William Tell
A carrot and two pieces of coal, you're a snowman
Some tinfoil, you're an antenna
You're a vampire, go bite your sister
A hat, you're a magician
A screwdriver, you're a burglar
A virus, go play with your little friends
Stand by the side of the road, you're a stop sign
Some flour, you're old
A chair, you're your grandpa
The classifieds, find a job
A suitcase, you're a tourist
A needle, you're a seemstress
Some breadcrumbs, you're Hansel and Gretel
A glove, you're Michael Jackson
A rock, it's your pet
A barbie, you've got a date
A lottery ticket, you're a loser

Monday, June 2, 2008

It's a New (to me) Car...

No its not whats behind curtain number three Monty... Its what I bought today to carrry me enjoyably through a few middle years of my life. A nice snappy Swedish designed, American made Saab 9.3 convertible. I have always wanted a convertible since I was sixteen so the wait is over for me at last. I was able to get a considerably good trade and great service from Chapel Hill Auto on Franklin Street (ask for Luis he's a good guy trying to make a living like the rest of us.)OK so its not a "new" car but its a "new to me" car and thats good enough. I really enjoyed driving it today and can't wait to see it perform on the highway. The Toyota is a great car but with grown kids its time for a car I can enjoy a bit eh?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hillarys Race Card

A quote from this article:

"They were particularly unnerved by Clinton's comments earlier this week that appeared to be racially insensitive or racially calculated when she said, "Sen. Obama's support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again."

Let me just say to Hillary that I'm glad to be a white slacker for Obama...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Yes He Did

An exciting day for Obama supporters in NC! I enjoyed working at Obama headquarters in Orange County quite a bit. Mostly because the people there were not only committed they were nice people. Daniel and Adam (2 of the field directors for Orange County) were patient and communicated well with all the volunteers. We knew what to do and it all became routine and easy (except for canvassing). So here's to them and all the others who pitched in locally. Daniel has been with the Obama campaign since South Carolina running field offices in various counties all over the country. So he particularly savored this win and our amazing countywide support level (77% of Orange County went for Obama). When the announcement came from CNN the whole office cheered and ran outside to wave signs at passers-by and cheer some more. It was gratifying to see everyone happy and anticipatory of a possible win in Indiana at the NC victory gathering at Top of the Hill. I hope everyone involved in this primary win gets to do it again in an Obama for President campaign this fall.

Indiana Update: This from the Huffington Post

"Conversely, the significance of Clinton's victory in Indiana was undermined by indications that a statistically significant number of Republicans, perhaps as many as 7 percent of all the votes cast, were following the suggestion of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh to cast ballots for her in the Democratic primary."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

"Rock Day" in Carrboro

Friday saw what was dubbed "Rock Day" in Carrboro by Kirk Ross (Editor of the Carrboro Citizen) in a conversation I had with him. "Rock Day" it was indeed. The day would see 3 generations of legendary triangle rock musicians take the stage as well as a Billboard 100 indie act on Carrboro's own Merge label. It all started at 2pm at a Obama for President free concert featuring Chapel Hill legends Superchunk. Plain and simple Superchunk brought the rock. The angular two guitar attack of Mac McCaughan and James Wilbur was in full effect along with the energetic throb of the rhythm section of Laura Ballance and Jon Wurster.

Arcade Fire was up next on this warm afternoon. Based in Montreal, Quebec, Arcade fire seems an unlikely candidate to play for a political rally in the USA. Nonetheless supporting Obama, Arcade Fire played a revelatory set of songs for the partisan crowd. Arcade Fire's two releases on the Merge label, (Funeral, Neon Bible) are as different as oil and vinegar in tone. Neon Bible having huge production values and Funeral very much the no-tech recording. Neither of these releases reveal the power and sheer capability of this band. You have to see them to appreciate what they do.

Both of these bands made a modicum of political statements and mostly stuck to what the do best - rocking out.

Later that night at the Cat's Cradle was a return engagement of the Pressure Boys after a twenty year hiatus. Opening up this show as another long dormant triangle band - Sneakers. Sneakers consisted of Robert Keely (bass), Chris Stamey (guitar), Mitch Easter (guitar) and Will Rigby (drums). One half of this band went on to form the dBs and Mitch Easter went on to become the producer and recordist of many great southern pop acts as well as the lead singer/songwriter for Let's Active. For a band that was formed in high-school the songs this combo wrote together are still classic pop-gems after all these years (I would not want to play any songs I wrote when I was seventeen for anyone!) A particular highlight of this set was "S'il vous plait." Tight muisicanship and big sound were the trademarks of this set of music. Added musicianship was provided by Wes Lachot (piano) and Chris Stephenson(percussion).

Finally the end of this evening of "Rock Day" featured the Pressure Boys (now men) in this benefit reunion show. I remember the P-boys as energetic, frenetic and amazingly good. But they are also great showmen and the pre-eminent party band. They had the crowd dancing early and kept them moving till the last notes of the encore (an amazing version of "Radar Love" followed by a mostly acapella "You're wondering now") rang out. Rob Ladd banged out the familliar and complex dub beats over the bubbling bass of Jack Campbell. Bryon Settle handled the guitar chops with amazing range and style. John Plymale reminded us he may be the best frontman/singer in triangle band history. Greg Stafford, John and Je Widenhouse held down the brass section with solid playing and arranging. Highlights are too many to name but include "Where the Cowboys Went" and covers like "A Message to You Rudy." So much energy over the length of a 2 hour set of well-rehearsed songs was really impressive. The P-boys haven't missed a beat. Awesome.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Obama and Clinton

You know its an unusual political season when I can see both former president Clinton and Sentator and presidential candidate Barack Obama within 7 days of each other. Bill Clinton turned up at the ball field around the corner from my house quite unexpectedly and with as much ado as the small town of Hillsborough could muster. Speaking from the back of a pickup truck the Hillary campaigners were trying to look folksy. Its no secret that I am an Obama supporter, but I went to give the ex-president his due. The hype man for the event before Bill spoke was going on about making the "Kool-aid" of the event sweeter. How does he do that? By throwing out t-shirts of course. After throwing a few out he said "man, this Kool-aid tastes a whole lot better." Not a great metaphor, Kool-aid and politics. So having said that he went on to say that the men in the crowd should look around at the women there as they were our future congressmen, senators, mayors and county commissioners. Ummm, its not 1943 anymore. Chapel Hill councilwoman Sally Green was in attendance as well as Francis Dancy from the Hillsborough town board, and the woman who wound up introducing clinton was the mayor pro tem of Charlotte. So another goofy phrase from this guy. After the crowd spelling H-i-l-l-a-r-y alot Bill Clinton swooped in an hour late and gave a fact filled, friendly stump speech. He was touting the Pennsylvania win and urging everyone to go to the early voting location next to the ball field. This is smart campaigning. The attendees could leave and vote for Hillary right there. Bill Clinton has a command of facts and figures which cannot be denied, but when he talks about job creation and the economy I tune him out. Ever since NAFTA and GATT the twenty five dollar an hour job in America went away. Then President Clinton promised these two important trade agreements would strengthen our economy and they have gone on to play a role in most decent factory jobs in the USA leaving the country.

Barack Obama came to Chapel Hill's Dean E. Smith center and brought along 19,000 of his supporters. In one of the biggest indoor events in the Obama campaign, the liberal stronghold of Chapel Hill was indeed a welcoming location for the candidate. (Jesse Helms once threatened to put a fence around it) The evening began with Music from a live band while people showed up hours early for the late night speech. The early speakers on the podium offering support included Congressman Mel Watt and Senatorial fixture David Price. A parade of speakers between 9 and 10:30 that night made the wait for Senator Obama seem interminable. Sam Perkins the NBA and former UNC standout was the next to last speaker. Seems they covered all their bases culturally at Carolina. Finally Senator Obama came out to raucus applause smiling and waving. He went straight to work and kept the platitudes to a minimum. Senator Obama covered the economy (the Bush tax breaks withdrawn, new incentives for the middle-class), the war(S)(let's get out of Iraq and win Afghanistan), restoring American foreign relations and goodwill abroad, strengthening and rebuilding the military, and reminding us all that ultimately this election was about alot of things but it was mostly about the people of America. Senator Obama is not about the quick-fix that solves nothing. Case in point the federal excise tax on gasoline. He was not for removing it. The short term gain would only be about twenty five dollars and the long term cost would be not conserving energy and not developing new energy resources. Hillary Clinton supports removal of this tax for the summer driving season to show her support for the middle class, but I am with Senator Obama on this. No short term "feel good" fixes. Let's solve the problem. All in all not alot of new ground here, not as many facts as Bill Clinton could muster in a nano-second, but very effective and inspiring stuff indeed.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Cruel and the Kind: Nick Lowe & Ron Sexsmith at the Artscenter

Last night saw two very different philosophies d'amore share a very strong common musical bond. Nick Lowe and Ron Sexsmith have more in common than just being on the same label (Yep Roc). The most obvious gift they share is a love of songcraft; which was fully on display last night.

Ron Sexsmith started the evening off with a terrific set of songs both old and new. The very first number (one of my favorites, "Former Glory") set the tone for a heart-on-the-sleeve performance. A significant portion of his set was material from his new U.S. record "Time Being" which will be released this summer. A particular standout from this section of the show was "Jazz at the Bookstore." Which speaks about the search for authenticity in the contrivances that are coffee shops and bookstores these days.

Jazz at the bookstore
And Blues in the coffee shop

There's a man standing at the crossroads
With a dark roast in his hand
Living in white yuppy hand
Over by the milk and sugar stand

Other memorable songs were "Cheap Hotel" (the story of an abused wife and mother making her getaway), "Never Give Up" and two chestnuts from the early Ron Sexsmith catalog; "Strawberry Blonde" and "Secret Heart." Opined Sexsmith, "Everybody has covered this song (Secret Heart) and I'm still not rich yet..." With clear voice and nuanced, evocative guitar playing this was an amazing opening set.

The ever dapper Nick Lowe followed up with a set of old and new material as well. A striking difference in style, if not form, made this set musically lean and focused. Harkening back to classic songs and song stylists like George Jones, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, Nat Cole, to name but a few, all factor into the Nick Lowe style.

Some of the old up-tempo classics helped keep this mostly crooned set lively. Songs like "I knew the Bride", the 1979 "Cruel to Be Kind" (which made the US Top 40) were in direct counterpoint to songs like "All Men are Liars" and "Where's My Everything" (featuring the bitter lyric "Where is the beautiful family home / That I was promised on the news at 10.")

Alot of Lowe's lyrics are directly observational. Songs like "People Change" or "Lately I've Let Things Slide" are straight up reporting from the trenches of experience. Particularly effective among the slower numbers were "The Beast in Me" (written for ex-father-in-law Johnny Cash) and the brand new "I Read Alot."

So after lifting you up and sending you crashing back down thematically, Nick makes it alright after all by closing with the ever true, not even remotely ironic "Whats So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding."

Practically the highlight of the evening was the encore called "My Baby's Gone" (by the Louvin Brothers) featuring these two great singers harmonizing together. I would gladly pay to see that for an entire show.

ADDENDUM: props to Lintqueen for the encore songtitle.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wembley, Shakermaker at the Local 506

Thursday the 17th saw a lively triple bill at the Local 506 of Wembley, Shakermaker (with a CD release party besides)and Hundred Air. I missed Hundred air, but what I did see was good homegrown pop. Wembley kicked things off very nicely with a short, tight, energetic set. I love any band with a song called "Death Incarnate" that can be one of their livelier numbers. While older songs made an appearance here (notably "crumbs" and a rocking version of "Jeanie") the newer material really (available on a giveaway CD that night)really made an impression on me. The new songs "Moon", "The Quiet Life" and "40 Hour Week" were well constructed and memorable. This band gets better and better and singer/guitarist Neven J. Carswell's singing is remarkable. Neven is integrated neatly in this unit with Elizabeth Hull (piano), Elizabeth Hammond (drums) and Tracy Summer (bass) this band is well worth your time to check out.

I stuck around to catch Shakermaker play songs from their new eponymously named new CD. I found this 5 piece band to be even better than their very good tracks on their myspace page. Energetic, up-tempo pop with the added texture of Tom Moorefield (father to guitarist Jesse) on pedal steel. Songs like "Sunday Ladies" epitomize what is nice about Shakermaker; catchy melody, good singing and interesting lyrics, oh and bridges in the songform. Unmistakable songcraft, keep an eye out for them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Shine a Light

I was expecting Martin Scorsese to do a Last Waltz-type summing up of the Rolling Stones in their new film Shine a Light. But what we got was a look at a vibrant working band some 40 years into their career. There were some considerations for age (Mick evidently burns up under too many lights)and status (the royal attitude of the Stones kept the set list elusive until the last minute). This concert film clocks in a a nudge over two hours. My instinct tells me (having seen that tour in 2006) that the show itself was much longer. So what do we learn that we don't already know? Keith says that
he and Ronnie together "make one pretty good guitarist." Mick expends himself on the crowd while the others can stay in the head space of the music. Charlie Watts is the calmest maniac on earth. I think we knew this stuff. But what I hadn't noticed was the
complete authority and authenticity the Stones bring to Rock 'n Roll. They have transcended the bravado and reach of their early records to mature mastery of the form.

Monday, April 14, 2008

NC Symphony with Michael Collins

I went to the a remarkable program with the NC Symphony featuring basset clarinetist Michael Collins. The program was bookended by two Mendelssohn pieces without the clarinetist. The overall tone of the evening was uptempo as all the music was emphatic. The Mendelssohn Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream was an agressive start, energetically played and well executed.
This was followed by the entrance of Mr. Collins and a note-perfect performance of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A Major. Tonally beautiful throughout there was a substantial ovation at the end of this piece. The second half of the program began with a world premiere of Elana Kats-Chernin's Ornamental Air for basset clarinet. Agressive tight note clusters powered this piece along. The comparison I made as I was listening was a very modern extension of Gershwin. The composer was attending and the piece was recieved very well. The concluding music for the evening was the Mendelssohn "Italian" Symphony. An uplifting and amazing piece of music. Especially interesting for its minor key last movement. Again well played and conducted. A good night of music all around.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I'll Take (Hamburgers in) Manhattan....

The inevitable NYC blog post. Having recently returned from Gotham here are a few musings about my trip. Staying in midtown (yes, midtown, it worked out to be a nice place to stay--really) the launching pad for this visit was well situated for site seeing and dining. I must say I have never seen parts of the city look better or the people be friendlier. Central park was as well kept and beautiful as I've ever seen it. The hotel location was just a few short blocks north from the Empire State Building and a few blocks south from Rockefeller Center. Walking from this location, I quickly became aware that the end of March can still feel like a bit of winter in NYC (at least this year).

The hotel location on W 39th put it right in the border area between Times Square and the Garment District (think giant sculpture of a button). Now everybody I know in the city told me there was not anywhere to eat in midtown. I found a couple places worth mentioning. First off Carmines on 44th. Family style Italian in rich, full of character surroundings. Good service, nice price, some saltimbocca alot of raviolli, my my... Also ate at Johns Pizza on 44th for lunch which is inside an old church/tabernacle gently remodeled into a restaurant. The stain glass ceiling in this place is worth going in just to see and the food is perfect for lunch. Brick oven pizza, great salads and bread.

The Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum of Art are 3 of my favorite places to waste alot of time in in NYC. Too much to ever see in one lifetime, I am always amazed what I missed the last time when I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What's great is now you can take non-flash photos in many areas of the museum. I noticed this last year at the National Gallery of Art as well.
Timeless beauty this, from an ancient Egyptian temple (the Temple of Dendor) to Van Gogh and Warhol.

Now for the hamburgers, On our way to look at the NYU campus around Washington Square (where my daughter got admitted to school, although she says she is ultimately attending UNC), we ventured on into Greenwich Village and had dinner at the hamburger restaurant RARE first(vegans beware of the next bit). I am given to understand there is a RARE location uptown as well btw. OK, the proverbial $20 hamburger but what a hamburger. I had the Murray's (one of the oldest cheese shops in NYC) burger and it was amazing, loaded with the cheese of the week (Some smoked gouda fabulousness) ummm, bacon, lots of bacon, red onions etc. That with a pint from the bar and some of the amazing fries (they have 4 kinds of fries) will hit you right after a long day of schlepping around the city.

The arch at Washington Square featuring that very promising Presidential candidate George.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

High Dynamic Range Images

High Dynamic Range Images are made with your digital camera by taking one shot and bracketing the exposures. Most new SLRs can do this automatically now so it is really easy. You then feed the pictures to the HDR software (Photoshop CS2 or Photomatix) and it combines the multiple shots into one really detailed shot called an HDR. HDRs are not viewable on regular computer screens without an HDR viewer. The software allows you to "tonemap" the image so its viewable on a computer screen. Read more about it here. Its an interesting way to photograph because you don't know exactly what you have until you "develop" it with the software. I took some test shots around UNC on a blustery, nearly rainy day and they came out really nice.
You can see some of them here

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Obama Calling...

Or rather me calling for from a house gathering of democrats in Chapel Hill and reminding the good people of Texas that they can vote twice in tuesdays primary. *I suppose only in Texas could you vote twice in one day. Roughly a third of the delegates from Texas will be selected tuesday night at 7:15 CST when the polls close by a caucus of voters who to qualify will have already voted in the election during normal polling hours. (How crazy can Americans make democracy, really?). So this afternoon a group of concerned yet-to-vote voters turned out to help remind the potential Obama voters in Texas to go to the caucus as well as vote. If they were supporters of the other candidate we were to wish them well and... move on. Most of the people I spoke with had voted early and for Obama and welcomed the additional information. So if my call sheets are any indication (who knows?) things sounded pretty good in the numbers I called.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Special Topics in Calamity Physics features the Epic Tale of one Blue van Meer. Full of words like "Timberlaked" and "paninied" (as in sandwiched) and oddly capitalized Special Events as well as endless numbers of book quotations and citations (see The Book of Books and Their Citations, Torchlite Publishers, 1989), this book is entertaining and insightful for most of its 700 plus pages.

Blue van Meer is a remarkably unique voice emerging from the pen of Marissa Pessl (who is from Ashville BTW). Not unlike other young, plucky, wiser-than-their-years heriones of late (see Juno, 2007), Blue is presented with a much-larger-than-normal slice of life's problems in her senior year of high school in Stockton, N.C. This book confidently creates its own world with memorable characters and slowly entraps you into wanting to know all the unexpectedly conspiratorial details behind the murder of a teacher at Blue's elite private school.

To begin quoting this book is to quote the whole thing but here are a few to tide you over until you can read it for yourself:

"Denial is like Versailles; it isn't the easiest thing to maintain."

"Very few people realize, there's no point chasing after answers to life's important questions," Dad said once in a Bourbon Mood. "They all have fickle, highly whimsical minds of their own. Nevertheless. If you're patient, if you don't rush them, when they're ready, they'll smash into you. And don't be surprised if afterwards you're speechless and there are cartoon tweety birds chirping around your head."

On walking while being tipsy: "I stood up and tried to make my way to the door, but my legs felt as if they were being asked to measure the universe."

On being on a stakeout: "We were stationed somewhere, oceans from home, afraid of things unseen. Leulah was shell-shocked, back straight as a flagpole, her eyes magnetized to the door. Jade was the senior officer, crabby, worn-out and perfectly aware nothing she said could comfort us so she only reclined her seat, turned on the radio and shoved potato chips into her mouth. I sort of Vietnamed too. I was the cowardly homesick one who ends up dying unheroically from a wound he accidentally inflicts upon himself that squirts blood like a grape Capri Sun."

"If that weren't enough to knock the wind out of me, she had to go entirely Southern Gothic, dragging the Devil and his grin into it, and whenever someone with a fudgethical Southern accent said devil, one inevitably felt they knew something one didn't-as Yam Chestley wrote in Dixiecrats (1979), 'The South knows two things through and through: cornbread and Satan' (p. 166)."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Picturing the World

Ackland Art Museum has a very powerful and oft-times disturbing exhibit of photographs by North Carolina's photo-journalists. A good photograph like any good art has a power to move. Some of these photographs not only are beautiful they can be a firm kick in the solar plexus. Photo-journalist Adrea Bruce's pictures of the Iraq war are not only beautiful they are deeply moving. A powerful image of a child crying after the accidental shooting of her parents by American soldiers is particularly poignant. Janet Jarman's series of photos following a Mexican family's odyssey in America tells the tale better than any words on paper could. Their initial condition, their aspiration to come to America. The cultural and class divide once they get here and their ultimate failure to secure an economic foothold here. There is a particularly telling picutre of the young Mexican girl Marisol staring over the fence of her new American backyard at a little American girl of the same age. The American Girls' parents have forbidden her to play with Marisol, and yet they meet at the fence, the great cultural divide of class and economics. Not all the pictures tell sad stories. Often you would not know a photo represented a harsh reality based on it content and composition. In this case its well worth it to read the explanations and enjoy the art even though it might unsettle the mind.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Future is so Meta: DJ Spooky at UNC

Friday afternoon in the Great Hall at UNC there was a lecture / performance by DJ Spooky a.k.a. Paul Miller. Paul is the master of the cultural remix and its most eloquent advocate. His talk began with the idea that modern artists, writers, composers and technical people began fragmenting and segmenting and remixing culture at the beginning of the 20th century. He cited the evolution of collage, stop motion photography and other technologies for developing what he called the "photoshop quality" of mind. That mind is a layered, changable, multi-faceted experience and the 20th century has been mostly about simultaneous fragmented experience.

He also explained that disciplines that used to be considered separate (writing, composing, art) are being increasingly blurred and unified by software. Combine this trend with the amount of data we can collect and store digitally in the 21st century and you have a deeply experiential art/remix culture blurring the lines of art and creative disciplines. Paul offered that historically art has been valued for its scarcity (it was all originals or limited copies)and that the future of art was its endless digital availability (as its all copies). He created his own remix experiment by giving everyone one of 5 remix cds he made in different genres (classic pop, jazz, reggae, etc...) He encouraged us to burn them for friends and remix them crossing up the genres.