Looking back at Melbourne and New Zealand, 2002

In September of that year I went on a two week trip to NZ and said city in Australia and took, as per usual, a slew of photos. This was a few years before I finally had a digital camera, though. But I’m working through scanning all sorts of old photos as has been mentioned and today finally went through a batch from that trip. The Flickr set is here and here’s a selection, with some accompanying text here and there from a series of posts elsewhere from the time:

My posts on Melbourne itself didn’t really match with the photos, mostly talking about hanging around with Tim, Amanda, Keith, Sasha, Andrew G and James D, but of the ones I have that I put up, most are from the Royal Botanic Gardens to the south of the city center:

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

Including a few shots of the flying foxes in the area:

A flying fox, flying

Similarly my thoughts about Auckland were mostly about people there like Damian, Elizabeth, Andrew and others rather than what I took as photos but here’s some from-the-top-of-an-old-volcano shots:

Auckland!

And more of Auckland

Then off to Dunedin:

Looking down Dunedin's High Street

Where I hung out with friends like Di, Rainy and SK, among others:

-)

And I posed in front of Robert Burns’ statue:

Rhetorically curious

And enjoyed the local brews:

*hic*

One night I got to see Martin Phillips do an ad-hoc Chills show:

The Chills!

And had this to say:

But I had been warned. Some had seen shows, some had said that it was like a bad cover version of the Chills, generally speaking I expected nothing. But they were playing a cheap ($2.50 American) benefit show, an afternoon one, on the University of Otago campus at the pub. Rainy, Di and I were sitting around at another pub nearby and we decided ‘why not?’ and gave it a whirl. At the very least one of the opening bands — the Lonesome Throats — was said to be entertaining, and they were.

And the Chills themselves? Di was dismissive of the most recent show, and I didn’t know what to think. But Phillips looked in good health, the band seemed to know what it was doing…and it turned out I was a lucky guy. The newer/less familiar songs sounded pretty good. The covers of the La’s “There She Goes” and Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” — the latter of which got Di up and shaking groove thang — were damn all right. And the classics? “I Love My Leather Jacket” had all that cool clear surge one could want, the other oldies were a blast and a half and “Pink Frost” ended everything just the way it should.

The dance floor was filled with people Phillips’ age, people Di’s age, kids only eight or so years old, or younger. A Dunedin celebration that was unexpected, and all the more wonderful. I got a bit of a blessing, and I can’t complain.

Another day we all went down to St. Clair Beach (that’s Liz walking along there):

Liz on St. Clair's

And another day…well I’ll let my words from then do the talking:

Somedays you just get lucky. And yesterday was like that. I had thought I’d do the book store scrounge-around on that day, as muttered above, and had vague plans for same. But I had mentioned to Rainy and others about wanting to get out on the Otago peninsula at some point, and taking a bus tour was suggested. I think I’ve muttered elsewhere that I’m really not one for package tours of any kind — I prefer chatting with friends about interesting things and places in favor of patter and the obvious ‘sights’ sold as such.

But what the hey — this was going to be my best (and maybe my only?) chance to go out there, and the weather was slightly cloudly and breezy but not either terribly windy or massively rainy, so I took all that as a sign. I booked a ticket for a combination trip that buses folks out to the end of the peninsula and from there to a combination working sheep farm/nature preserve. The owners, canny people, realized that a good way to increase karma and profits would be eco-touring, and on their lands are various beaches where seals and a particular rare breed of penguin — the yellow-headed, I think it’s called — are found, among other beasties.

Across Otago Harbour

And me? Well, I grew up near the sea, Navy family and all. I’m always used to the edge of the land, as I like to think of it. I like knowing that a continent ends. For me, some of the greatest and most intense personal pleasures of my life have been found while standing out on the edge of the sea, looking out across the ocean separating Olympic Peninsula from Vancouver Island while standing in the sunset on a western cliff on San Juan Island, or gazing out towards the Outer Hebrides from the Isle of Skye, right near the edge. These to me are personal, almost holy places — societal programming via Romantic sensibilities and theories of the sublime, perhaps. But I cannot and will not deny the power and grace I feel there, where there is nothing but short trees if any, wind hissing through the grass, waves crashing on the shore and an endless blue vista reaching out to an infinity.

I got that yesterday, out on Taiaroa Head at the end of Otago Peninsula. There the land and sea all blend, while the mainland of New Zealand is just right there — the way down the water to Dunedin is a pocket of contained beauty, the founding of the city a logical consequence of colonial interest and personal practicality. I looked out, slightly to the north and west — I could see sudden cliffs and mountains almost rising out of the water, and deeper inland the snow-covered mountains still there at the heart of the island, while the ocean swept out like a dream. Cormorants nested or flew in the air, and I was at perfect peace with everything. I could only imagine was a cold winter’s night might be like, with howling winds and a storm rising, but my time there was quietly dramatic and haunting enough. Every last fantasy of building the ultimate getaway isolated from everything and surrounded on almost all sides by ocean came to mind — a silly idea, of course. But not one to be ignored by my psyche, at the cost of denying who I am and what impulses I can feel.

Spot the cormorants if you can

And that was only the beginning, though, in ways — for the tour of the penguin and seal beaches were both worthy. We were a small group — the bus driver, two English tourists, the guide and myself — and that helped. The driver himself hadn’t seen much of this particular tour, so there was enjoyment all around. On the way down to view the seal beach, we passed by where they often come up the cliff to sun themselves, and there in a small pool separated from the path only by a two strand rope fence were four small seals in a pool, learning to swim or otherwise just sunning themselves. Kick in every last anthropomorphic interpretation ever, and why not? Big bulbous seal eyes are frankly the cutest things on the planet. :-) And they were just as curious about us — one, noting that we didn’t threaten, made his or her way up from the pool, followed by the rest. We didn’t touch them or feed them anything, we just enjoyed their presence. Logically, my camera had to get jammed at that point, but I still got in a couple of pictures before we moved on — some memories will happily stick forever, though, and that’ll be one of them.

Aw.

Swim!

-)

Seeya...

Then to the penguin beach — an even more dramatic setting, the photographs won’t be able to capture the sheer sweep up from the beach along the various cliffs. They’re shy ones, these kind of penguins, but they’re loud — you could hear their calls from across the beach as we stood in the hide clinging to one side of the small bay formed there. At a distance, one then another penguin would emerge from the surf, determinedly climbing the sandy slopes with a waddle, pausing every so often to stretch and relax. Near us, two penguins were in some low bracken and might well have begun to nest. Like the headland itself, like the seal beach, I could have stayed there forever.

The penguin beach

On the drive back I drunk it all in, going over the memories in my mind. I hadn’t planned this, at all — I just got lucky, like I said. And for that, I treasure it all the more.

Well, there was more after that — Di leading the International Telepaths for a couple of shows:

The International Telepaths!

Yet more telepathing

Space Dust doing a reunion show:

Space Dust at the Arc Cafe

Ducklingmonster and Di showing their impeccable DJ taste:

Kimono My House!

And then back to Auckland for a brief visit before heading home:

A last view north of Auckland

Yeah, I’ll be back. One day, soon.

And for today, specious logic as related to celebrities

I kinda love this utter bizarreness, courtesy of LAPD chief Bill Bratton:

“I figured I’d come over and straighten out — we have no intention of participating in today’s hearing. It’s a total waste of time. We have sufficent laws on the books that we enforce to deal with this issue,” Bratton said, still sweaty from his workout and with a towel hanging around his neck.

“If you notice, since Brittany (sic) started wearing clothes and behaving; Paris is out of town not bothering anybody, thank god; and, evidently, Lindsay Lohan has gone gay, we don’t seem to have much of an issue.

“If the ones that attract the paparazzi behave in the first place, like we expect of anybody, that solves about 90 percent of the problem. The rest of it we can deal with.”

The implication here being, in part:

  • There is no market for photos of Lindsay Lohan going gay that would attract photographers.
  • Apparently, ‘to go gay’ is the equivalent ‘to behave in the first place.’

But perhaps I’m missing something.

A year’s worth of pondering it all

Or, in other words, happy anniversary to this place. The proof is here if you need it.

On balance it’s been a good year, a surprising one at many turns. When I started the blog, as I explained in this post a few days after the initial one, I did so with these stated reasons in mind:

A desire to eventually create a low-key central clearing point for all my scattered work and interests separate from social networking sites, a handy ‘contact me here’ spot in general, a place to more generally muse and test out ideas beyond the very irregular blog thoughts on Myspace, and probably more reasons down the line that I haven’t fully brought on board yet.

This all pretty much stands as the general reasoning still behind the blog, a step which took quite some while to take. Inasmuch as I have any sense of myself as a writer, I was always at least faintly (and often greatly) surprised at the idea that people might want to read such a thing, but I’d received enough suggestions I should consider it that I eventually came around to the idea. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be the new number one site on the Net or any similar nonsense, but at the same time I felt a bit concerned that I’d essentially be talking to myself.

Now, I don’t really do diaries or personal journals — the few attempts I’ve tried over time have always tired me out after a few days, and while there are plenty of diaries others have written when I’m quite glad exist (I’ve recently redipped into Joe Orton’s diaries, done at the prompting of his agent, which contain some of his sharpest work, self-conscious but vibrant), they always struck me as something that would take up more time to write about than to live about, though I can sense the importance of them for others. A friend recently shared some selections from her earlier journals with a group of us via Facebook, and it prompted much comment and discussion, but they also reminded me why I’m glad I don’t have similar things to look back upon except via memory and discussion with others.

So I didn’t want to talk to myself — else why have something public! — but I wasn’t too sure what reaction I would get. I did know very clearly that I wanted to avoid simply having a ‘music blog’ in the broadest sense of the term, and the name of the blog was consciously chosen with that in mind. In that I ended up with my own overall hobbyhorses shouldn’t be surprising, and as I’ve said before I am well aware that what miniscule profile I have in the world at large lies with my earnest scribblings on the music I enjoy the most (or, in some cases, the least). Certainly I’ve used the blog for occasional thoughts on music that I haven’t intended to publish or work on elsewhere, being mostly immediate reflections or the occasional concert report or the like, when not linking to pieces published elsewhere.

But otherwise I wanted to use it as a place for general thoughts about many different things that I hoped would be of enough interest for readers…whoever they might be. My sense of an ‘audience’ is one of the most unfocused things I possess as a writer — it’s a bit curious to be in a position where one has regular employment and outlets for writing work that has a potentially huge reach while at the same time only receiving irregular feedback from both editors and readers. More on the one hand would definitely help improve my writing in general, more on the other, well, that’s admittedly a handy ego boost! This all said, I have been grateful for what I have received over time and figured, “Well, I must have something to offer…”

I don’t want to turn this into a huge step-by-step overview of where the blog went from there, really — it’s not needed and imposes some overall narrative that is inapplicable, and inaccurate. It was always as much impulse as it was planned, and more often the former than the latter. I’ve received a nice amount of hits on a regular basis over time with a clear sense of a growing audience on that level alone, and that combined with subscribers to my blog feed made it clear someone was indeed reading. (Another sign was the frankly absurd number of blog referral hits that were coming through from people specifically searching my name. Maybe that ‘fan club’ of mine has taken on a life of its own.) Just the fact that I got linked in the blogroll at such a high profile site as Balloon Juice was a thrill enough.

I suppose if there’s a regret it’s that I would love much more regular discussion in comments, but then again I don’t always know what will catch people’s attention, or if what I write about is interesting enough in the first place, obviously. I don’t suffer any angst over my blog entries tending towards the longer side than the shorter — one of the more self-defeating things I ever read on the Net was someone saying that one needs to write only in short bursts because that’s all that people will be able to stand, and I find that ridiculous nonsense that says more about that person than the world in general. But maybe the length does almost overwhelm the impulse for discussion at times — nothing I write should be seen as a set-in-stone piece, merely trying to capture thoughts buzzing around my head — and then again I should really be commenting more on other blogs in turn!

In that I hope some of the posts have been a resource or general source of interest to folks, then I’m glad, and I’ve received enough comments over time — especially on the food/recipe ones, perhaps unsurprisingly! — to know that’s the case. And perhaps one of the most enjoyable side benefits of all is knowing that a number of my relatives read the blog just to see what’s up with me. Because hey, why not?

I’m my own worst judge of my writing but if I had to name a handful of pieces I found enjoyable to write and which I think act as reasonable enough samples of my work, it would be these:

But I’ll end by noting that my most popular piece in terms of comments and blog hits should, by its very nature, have never been written, because there was no need to write it in the first place, because the event that prompted it should never have happened.

Would that it were so.

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to all my readers. Hope you keep finding things of interest here.

So yeah, that earthquake

I’m fine, all. Sharply felt, for sure, and there’s a ton of books off the shelves in the library but all is well otherwise.

USGS site on the quake here for reference.

The Dark Knight echoes outward

[EDIT: Folks, please take it as read that if I'm talking about a movie from here on in on my blog I'm almost certainly spoiling at least some of it. If not all of it.]

My earlier piece on the movie, if a bit lost in some of the personal stuff I’ve dealt with recently, has gained a fair amount of readers and bits of praise, such as Ian Mathers’ kind comment. But it’s only one of a new horde of pieces coming out due to things like this:

“The Dark Knight” sold an estimated $75.6 million in tickets at North American theaters from Friday to Sunday, according to Warner Brothers. Among other records it delivered the best second-weekend gross in recent Hollywood history.

“This picture has really taken on a life of its own,” said Dan Fellman, Warner’s president for domestic distribution.

…“The Dark Knight” has sold $314.2 million in tickets domestically in its first 10 days of release, a record. The film is still rolling out internationally.

Numbers are a mug’s game — everything from general inflation to rising ticket prices to much more conspires to make recent box office smashes look bigger than they are — but even the kind of self-congratulatory flackery which always comes into play like this can’t hide the fact that the movie has touched a nerve. I ended up seeing it again on impulse Saturday night — more about which in a bit — and my showing was almost totally sold out, while there was a lengthy line for the next available one when I left. Still early days yet for some of the more airy predictions (easily beating the Titanic record? c’mon, folks) but one thing’s clear — there’s huge repeat business already (I know several people who have caught it multiple times like myself and/or are planning on further) and it’s being more openly and immediately talked about in conversations I’m in or in casual ones I hear at work or elsewhere than any film like it in quite some time.

And this has played out onto the blogs and elsewhere, and to link everything would be superhuman. There’s just too much to note, but I’ve stumbled across a few worthy of attention. Among some recent takes worth your time — not because I agree with them all, I should note:

Alfred Soto’s ‘The Dark Nought,’ which articulates many of the specific concerns I felt upon initial impact and then extends this into a negative take rather than a positive, a fully understandable approach. The flamewar in the comments reflects, if at a distinct remove, the kind of pouncing going on vis-a-vis critics like David Edelstein and Joe Morgenstern. Edelstein’s understandably haughty response didn’t entirely do him much good, frankly (his brief footnote on Kit Kittredge actually reads much better as an implicit counterargument, even if it brands him as a spiritual heir to Sydney Pollack more than he might guess), but he, as does Alfred by default, at least realizes what century he’s living in and communication medium he’s being most read on, whereas Morgenstern and his friend Patrick Goldstein, whose story I’ve linked, confess to surprise and bafflement. A little late in the game there, guys.

Then again even I can be taken by surprise by the obvious too — namely, that despite the fact that the country is happily ready to see the back of him, the current president has not defenders but his own slavering fanboys who will not hear a word against him. Still, there’s something amusing about the rats still on that sinking ship, and to what lengths they’ll twist anything current in pop culture to help themselves out. As a prime example, consider Andrew Klavan’s ‘What Bush and Batman Have In Common,’ an already notorious and deeply hilarious Wall Street Journal piece that, in attempting to engage the movie’s broadest strokes as simultaneous text and subtext, becomes a paean to a vision of Bush that I honestly thought nobody was damn fool enough to believe in anymore. (Mind you, this hijacking of current memes of interest for larger points is hardly limited to the right, as Spencer Ackerman’s own treatment of the film makes fully clear. Commenters on Ackerman’s response to Klavan spell that out clearly enough, but Ackerman’s original jab to Klavan still works: “…try not to prove my points about the inability of conservatives to conceive of national security beyond the complexities of a cartoon.”)

In marked contrast, Thomas S. Hibbs’ ‘Christopher Nolan’s Achievement: The Dark Knight’ is a far more readable conservative meditation on the film, which surprised me greatly appearing as it did in the often-bemusing First Things, one of those journals that professes irritation that philosophy and political and social developments can occur outside of a religious structure instead of everyone always paying attention to them. But Hibbs knows his film noir — and his Nolan in general, elegantly demonstrated in the first couple of paragraphs — as much as he does his moral and philosophical inheritance and addresses them all in a way that avoids the pitfalls of Klavan for the most part even though he skates towards the edge of it more than once. Instead, Hibbs does what few writers seem to have done so far, namely tease out the moral quandary of Bruce Wayne’s character as central as opposed to only focusing on the Joker as lord of hideous misrule, and does so in a way that while essentially paraphrasing and justifying Gordon’s concluding speech in the film instead of analyzing it allows for Wayne’s possible collapse in the future, that rightly appreciates that the film does not truly end a story but provides a pause because the form requires it.

Finally, Tom Ewing’s ‘Bruce Wayne, Auf Wiedersehn’, in his as-ever inspired fashion, looks both at the film a bit but also places it in two larger contexts well worth remembering. The first is one that is widespread if a bit buried in the commentariat mix online, so credit to Tom for digging it out: what he terms the ‘retconned disappointment’ in the pre-Nolan Batman films of the last two decades, reaching back not only to encompass Schumacher’s grotesqueries but Tim Burton’s first two smashes, despite the fact that both received much praise and love at the time. I addressed this (and admitted to it) briefly in my own piece (“…Burton and company had their own approach and if I can’t even bear to think about it now much, I enjoyed it a heck of a lot at the time…”) so it’s good to read a more comprehensive study that recaptures the anticipation, excitement and widespread satisfaction with the first Burton film in particular and how it differed from Frank Miller’s near contemporary redefinition of the character. This in turn allows him to address his second larger context, namely what’s happening right now in the comic version of the Batman story, with Grant Morrison’s “Batman RIP” arc playing out and what it means to the character and to the idea of the ‘Proper Batman.’ Put it all together and end on a great Superman riff and you have Tom at his very best, drawing together a slew of connections and swiftly analyzing something more thoroughly than most can manage, with deft wit at work from sentence to sentence.

As for myself, I was hanging around on Saturday with my friend Matt Maxwell — you owe it to yourself to check out his marvellous comic Strangeways — as we were both guests at the Saturday wedding, having known Chris for many a moon. Matt hadn’t seen it yet so one thing led to another and while we couldn’t catch an IMAX screening — sold out and then some — there was a regular screening we could catch that was about to start. Matt’s own reactions to the film, if he chooses to write about them, will be up via his blog link there and/or elsewhere so I won’t speak for him, but he seemed to be about in the place I was after I first saw it — massively entertained, aware of things that didn’t quite work, and a little shell-shocked. And Matt’s a wonderfully sharp and cynical guy so to see anything like that happen to him is an honest surprise.

As for me? The sheer unease with which the first showing left me had by default changed — since I knew the story now, there wasn’t anything for me to expect or not expect on that front. A different experience, as with any rewatching, and it allowed me to focus on more of the film’s details this time out.

What I think was the biggest change lay with the quieter performances now standing out all the more strongly. Arguably this was about everybody in comparison to Heath Ledger but some work was still just there, nothing more — most obviously Morgan Freeman and to a lesser extent Michael Caine. But Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart’s work, especially in their joint scenes but not limited to them, felt much stronger; if anything Oldman might yet prove pivotal for the entire arc of whatever kind of series of films this turns out to be in the end. Over on ILE, Roz made a cogent comment: “I love the subtle change in his character between the two movies – the weary idealist cop now newly-energized and given a purpose. The old Gordon could never have jumped to the Mayor’s defense the way he did, dude could barely operate a Batmobile.” It gives the final sequence with his family, Batman and Dent (if not the still awkwardly phrased final speech) much more heft than I first appreciated, and by keeping everything about the character toned down — strong but understated, as can be sensed in the sparring with Dent in the latter’s office near the film’s beginning — he glides through the movie with comfortable ease (while playing a clearly not entirely comfortable with himself character, even!) as well as necessary, logical intensity that matches the beats and points of the script.

Perhaps in keeping with this, Ledger’s best moments now clearly included the most dialogue-free parts — his drawled “…Hi” to the injured, bed-ridden Dent, his humming to himself during the chase sequence, as if following his own internal soundtrack, and as I’ve talked about before and elsewhere, the sublimely unsettling ‘puppy leaning out of a window’ moment. To repost the still I put up last night:

Lost somewhere inside

What I’d remembered from seeing it the first time was the serene sense of the Joker at his happiest and wordless — and this right after having killed a number of different people at the police station, not to mention Rachel Dawes’s death. ‘Disturbing but lyrical,’ to quote a friend again. This time around the sonics of the scene had a stronger impact — sound muffled and distanced, music (if there was even music?) at its most minimal, a couple of tones. In motion and in the film, it captures a sense of release and freedom that feels, more than anything else, perversely American — isolated, speeding, free. As Matt mentioned to me after the film, Ledger’s accent is one of a twisted Midwest, centered somewhere, out there, but with no vocal anchor here it’s fully decentered and let loose — the ‘dog chasing after cars’ that the character soon describes himself to Dent as being.

Yesterday in the LA Times this fairly ridiculous piece ran, which I recommend for entertainment value if nothing else. Its theme can be simply summed up as ‘gosh isn’t it interesting how there’s this highbrow and there’s this lowbrow and people enjoy both!,’ with a dollop of paranoia about standards and canons. Friend Anthony pulled out this part for scorn and I don’t blame him: “If the marketplace is left entirely unfettered, we’ll lose a lot of what we consider valuable — not just J.S. Bach and John Coltrane but shows such as “Deadwood” and nonchain bookstores.” The substitution of ‘we’ for ‘I’ or ‘some of us’ is the crux, and my own summation of where the article ended up was ‘yeah, let’s have an embracing-all culture and let’s codify a new canon that does it right with sophistication so we can feel good about ourselves.’

It shouldn’t’ve surprised me at all, then, that the new canon proposed towards the end would expand to include this:

What I’m talking about — what I hope the demise of rigid hierarchies is leading us to — is a flowering of work that draws on the whole range of culture but with a genius of structure and sophistication as well….It’s what I expect to find when I see ” The Dark Knight,” which, let’s not forget, was made by Christopher Nolan, an outsider (and literature student) whose first masterpiece, “Memento,” was a bizarre personal vision made with very limited connections to the Hollywood mainstream.

It’s the flowering of the ‘at last comics are MATURE’ point of view run cartoonishly rampant, something that mistakes the compendium of impulses and interests that are part of one’s life and thought with an approved set of keywords that legitimizes rather than describes — the ‘outsider,’ the ‘literature student,’ with ‘sophistication.’ It’s not out to describe Nolan or The Dark Knight, it’s out to make oneself feel okay for liking both in the first place. It’s as much an attempt to claim the film for something as Klavan and Ackerman’s pieces were, and succeeds just about as well, becoming a vehicle for axes to grind or hobby-horses to ride.

The Dark Knight doesn’t exist in a vacuum but it is potentially well on its way to becoming an isolated touchstone, a Silence of the Lambs to Batman BeginsManhunter (an inexact parallel on many levels but nonetheless appropriate enough). Only time will tell.

A little update on the Quietus

Been working on a variety of things that will be due for them — hopefully soon! — but in the meantime they’ve got a mash-up contest going while there’s a recent piece up from Chris Roberts about Heath Ledger’s Joker that’s worth a read, though I’d actually argue that there are few reactions I’ve seen or heard which have consciously viewed his work in The Dark Knight as a ‘coded suicide note,’ which makes this less of a cutting observation than planned. But more on that and other recent takes tomorrow, when I’ll have more to say about that film yet again — though this photo from the Quietus story is worth a showcase:

...and puppy dog tails, that's what Jokers are made of.

It may well be the most iconic image from the entire movie, in the end.

So there was a wedding yesterday…

And very good fun it all was! My photo set from the last couple of days can be found here but here are my two favorites:

Kristin

Kristin and Chris

Yesterday was just crazily busy in general — all this, ending up at a mass dinner meetup between friends of the groom and then seeing The Dark Knight once again on top of it all. I feel pretty shattered today as a result but probably a post or two down the line here.

Peter Walker in the key of E at UC Irvine

I first heard of Peter Walker a couple of years back when the half-tribute album/half his own work effort A Raga for Peter Walker came out. I was quite impressed and end up writing a review of it for the All Music Guide some time later.

Here at UC Irvine, a KUCI regular, Sam Farzin, has been doing yeoman’s work in making the campus a good place for all sorts of bands to play at or near — and as a result UCI is now at its best for such shows since the early 1990s, when my friend Jen Vineyard helped oversee or contribute towards a slew of memorable shows ranging from noontime free performances to concert hall tours. Sam’s group helping do all this is Acrobatics Everyday — you can also find them on Facebook — and I strongly encourage spreading the word about them — and any musicians reading this should check it out if they’re heading towards OC and think they could fit the bill! (Upcoming shows include Indian Jewelry and Captain Ahab.)

So anyway, the other week Sam announced that Peter would be doing a small performance here and I very much looked forward to it and was well rewarded — he’s a chatty, entertaining raconteur with a slew of great stories, his own independent view of the world and someone who enjoys home and travelling in equal measure. The set mixed both the Spanish/flamenco pieces he concentrates on these days and the earlier raga-inspired material that helped make his initial name in the 1960s, along with the American folk tradition he grew up in — one song he introduced as a combination of all three, and a beautiful number it was — and in a late afternoon setting with the natural light just being the way it was, couldn’t ask for better. From where I was sitting, as you can see from this camera angle, I could look down the guitar neck at a number of points and see the deftness with which he played demonstrated constantly — very impressive and involving.

He’s got a couple of new albums on the way, including one on Birdman, and can be found on MySpace. Check him out and wherever you are in the world, see if he’s playing nearby. You’ll find yourself well rewarded.

And did I mention more old photos…

there’s going to be a slew added here today, but first I had to put up a batch of them that my mom took when I was six in Coronado — all absolutely lovely. Thanks mom. :-)

Just hamming it up

I ruled at Battleship, I'll have you know

In front of the house in Coronado

I...am...a sensitive artist

Gotta watch out for that esprit decor in the military

The deep, deep amusement this story causes me. Please be sure to read it all — but while Ms. Donnelly is the one who digs her own grave most completely, credit must be given to her compatriot for a real winner:

Donnelly was followed by Jones, a tough-talking businessman who suggested that the military’s tradition of “selfless service” would be undermined by gay men and lesbians. “In the military environment, team cohesion, morale and esprit de corps is a matter of life and death,” he said. His written statement spelled it “esprit decor”; it also warned of “a band of lesbians that harassed new females,” and noted his own military experience when “the only way to keep from freezing at night was to get as close as possible for body heat — which means skin to skin.”

Honestly, ‘Esprit Decor’ sounds like it should be the name of a second-string cross-dressing MC introducing Kiki and Herb. Actually for all I know it is.

It’s worth noting that a number of the panelists were also veterans — and that they weren’t impressed much. The conclusion of the article is telling:

Shays, his voice rising with Yankee indignation, continued to lecture Donnelly: “I think the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is unpatriotic. I think it’s counterproductive. In fact, I think it is absolutely cruel.”

Donnelly said something about her respect for the service of gay veterans. “How do you respect their service?” Shays demanded. “You want them out.”

Donnelly seemed to have unified the lawmakers — against her. The next questioner was Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired Navy vice admiral. “I couldn’t ask it better than you did,” he told Shays.

Quite.

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