Monday, August 30, 2010

Summertime... winding down. And this shot of a guy fishing from his houseboat in the upper end of Newport Harbor sort of sums it all up. As does the song that follows the photo.

Photo © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Busy Sunday Afternoon on Sunny Newport Harbor

I ended up at King park on the south end of the harbor after a long hike. It was nice to sit on a shady bench and watch the busy Summer crowd on the water - lots of boats, and lots of people (and dogs) playing in the water - including the rather large cruise ship Caribbean Princess docked just outside. I decided to just post the photos; you don't really need captions for this. Enjoy!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday at Sachuest Point

I got up and out the door early this morning to go hit Easton's Pond and Green End (aka North) Pond; there had been reports of interesting sightings, including some Wood Ducks, and I wanted to go see, too. Unfortunately there was nothing unusual this morning when I was there, just some big old Canada Geese lounging around. Oh well... At that point I decided to head over to the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge because now is when the Tree Swallows gather in the thousands there, "staging", i.e. feeding up for the migration south for the Winter.

Of course, one of the iconic sights on the way to Sachuest Point is Hanging Rock, so I just had to get a shot. It's part of the Norman Bird Sanctuary and overlooks Sachuest Point, Sachuest Beach, and Easton's Point, offering beautiful views from the top. I call it "iconic" because it's come to stand for Middletown, RI, and they've even used it on the town seal.

Past Hanging Rock and out on Sachuest Point I was greeted by the staging clouds of Tree Swallows. They choose this place in particular because there are plenty of Bayberries and insects (I was getting eaten alive by the 'skeeters - mosquitoes for those who insist on proper English!); they fall on the Bayberry bushes to gorge on the berries and then they rise into the air and fling themselves about with open beaks scooping up the bugs. When they get fat and happy enough, they head south.

Along the trails in the Refuge I came across other photogenic sights. For instance, this baby Eastern Cottontail cropping grass beside the southern loop trail. It let me get fairly close and seemed more curious than fearful.

There were lots of butterflies out today - Monarchs, Cabbage Whites, American Painted Ladies, and Clouded Sulphurs mostly. I waited patiently while this Cabbage White fluttered around choosing a Spotted Knapweed bloom to settle on.

Since I started with an icon, I might as well end with one. This female Red-tailed Hawk has been hanging around the visitors' center since October and has become the unofficial mascot of the Refuge. Whenever I've been over there she's either been perched on the roof playing Queen of All She Surveys or over on some piles of dirt dug up while they make a new leachfield down the hill from the center. Today she was up on the peak of the roof looking down on all us peons!

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hoory! The Sun's Back!

Yup, it rained from Sunday through Wednesday, and there was even one shower yesterday (Thursday) morning, but by the afternoon the sun finally returned. I celebrated by walking down to Gooseneck Cove to see who was hanging out, and ended up out at Brenton Point as well, before making my way back to Ballard Park.

There wasn't anything interesting off Hazard Rd. on the Cove, but down on the Ocean Drive end at the Green Bridge it was feeding frenzy time - about 2 dozen Double-Crested Cormorants, a dozen Great Egrets, a dozen Snowy Egrets, 2 Great Blue Herons, and about 10 Common Terns. It was near high tide and the Cormorants were corralling the fish while the rest of the birds waded (the Egrets and Herons) or dove (the Terns) into the fray. Unfortunately most of this happened well outside camera range for me, although it was fun to watch in the binoculars. But I did manage to get a shot of an immature Bonaparte's Gull across the road on the ocean side.

On the way to Brenton Point I stopped at King's Beach, a state-designated fishing area on a rocky point into the ocean (not to be confused with King Park on the south end of Newport Harbor). This pair of Herring Gulls were taking their ease in the sunlight.

On Brenton Point the small shore birds were all over the place. I estimate that there were at least 3 dozen Ruddy Turnstones (top photo), including several immature birds (middle photo), and another 3 dozen or so Semipalmated Plovers (bottom photo).

Eventually I wandered back to Ballard Park, where I found not a bird, but this Whitetail Deer fawn crashing around in the underbrush in the (seasonally) dry end of the vernal pond on the Quarry floor.

That was yesterday. Today was even sunnier, and much drier and cooler, and I went ambling down on the Cliff Walk. Unfortunately there were too many people there for me to enjoy the walk, but I did manage to get a shot of this male American Goldfinch having a feast on the Bull Thistle he was perched on. Goldfinches just loooooove Thistle!

Yes indeed, it's so nice when the sun comes back after a long rainy stretch!

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Theme Thursday - Equal

Rhode Island was settled by spiritual refugees fleeing from the oppression of the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who insisted on persecuting and punishing anyone who didn't adhere to their belief system. The colony's Royal Charter of 1663, written by Newport's own Dr. John Clarke, guaranteed equal treatment for all expression of religion in the colony. Rhode Island became the beacon of religious freedom and freedom of conscience in the American colonies. As Newport was the colony and later state capital (until around 1920), much of the religious diversity gravitated here. So here are some photos of our historical spiritual diversity.

Touro Synagogue, 1763; the oldest synagogue in the US.

The Great Friends Meeting House, 1699; the oldest house of worship in Rhode Island and the home of the New England Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends (aka Quakers).

Union Congregational Church, 1835; the first free African American church in Rhode Island (now a residence).

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1929

And now for the music. I got into a Reggae mood this week, because when I fed "equal" into YouTube's search engine this tune was at the top of the list - Peter Tosh's "Equal Rights", performed by Afro Fiesta of Cape Town, South Africa, and recorded and filmed by the Playing for Change people.

And while we're in a Reggae groove and dealing with the Playing for Change phenomenon, how about a little Bob Marley? Here's his "One Love" performed by the Playing for Change Band live on tour, in this case in Madrid. Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2009 & 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sight & Sound - Still Raining

Day Three of rain in Newport. I got out and about, but not for long.

Photo © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sight & Sound - Sunday Washout

Our biweekly bird walk didn't last very long. I got this shot of the very odd clouds overhead on the way to meet the others at the Norman Bird Sanctuary. It started spitting during our first stop and really started coming down at our second stop. By the time we got to Gooseneck Cove at Hazard Rd. we didn't even get out of the cars. Oh well...

Photo © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Cure for Wingnuts, Conspiracy Theorists, and Other Chronic Grouches

Nature is the perfect cure for a sour, contentious, negative outlook on life. You guys really need to get outdoors and away from the TV more often!

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~John Muir

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.
~Rachel Carson

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.
~Henry David Thoreau

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.
~George Gordon, Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Photos and slideshow © 2009 & 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Theme Thursday - Brush

"Brush", eh? Well, let's see...

And now, the videos. I know it's not a brush, but the first tune I thought of was Elmore James's "Dust My Broom". Well, c'mon, you use a broom to "brush" things off, don't you? Anyhow, I'm pretty sure that both the Allman Brothers Band and Stevie Ray Vaughan did versions of this, but I couldn't find anything on YouTube. But I found something just as awesome - Irish bluesman Gary Moore doing as high energy a version of this tune as I've ever heard. Boogie time!

Of course, you use brushes to paint things, and back in 1966 the Rolling Stones used a brush to "Paint It Black". I found some good live concert footage from 2006, with Keef trying to pretend he was Brian Jones and looking like he rose from his coffin especially for this gig.

And how can I do a post on the brush theme without at least mentioning Bob Ross, with his misty mountains, staggered evergreen trees, and "happy little clouds"? I couldn't find a full episode of "Joy of Painting" on YouTube, but I found this quirky, endearing tribute to the Mop-Headed One by one Ron Barba entitled "Why I Don't Paint People". Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Across the Universe, and Across the Years

I watched Across the Universe last night; actually this is the second time I've watched it (the local public library has the special edition 2 DVD set). It set off a series of thoughts and memories, which in turn led to this blog post.

I'm a definite child of the Beatles. I know yesterday was the anniversary of Elvis's death, but frankly I never cared much for him. When and where I grew up, Elvis was who the hicks with the greasy hair and white socks listened to. When I got older and went back to listen to the '50s musicians with greater understanding, I was more attracted to Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens and Roy Orbison than to Elvis. Elvis was a little too tame and mannered for me, while the others played a rawer, edgier music that I liked a lot better.

But most of all I was just the right age for the Beatles when they hit the airwaves. I was 11 years old when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and they nailed me right to the floor. "Love Me Do", "Please, Please Me", "I Want to Hold Your Hand"; this was stuff I'd never heard before, never even imagined. Then the Rolling Stones and The Who hit, and I drifted over to them because, once again, here was grittier, edgier, bluesier music that was more to my liking (and this in a kid who had yet to discover BB King, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf!).

But then the Beatles did the Rubber Soul and Revolver albums, and once again I was hearing music I'd never imagined, and I was hooked for good. The post-Help! Beatles were my Beatles, forever and ever and always. It was more adult music than the teen love paeans of their previous music (Al Kooper calls it "I Love You Pimple" music), more complex, and starting to get more metaphysical and poetic. By the time they broke up in 1970 I was a firm fan, and still am, of the band and the solo careers they pursued afterward.

Except for a couple of numbers, the post-Help! Beatles are the Beatles of Across the Universe, too. Released in 2007, creator and director Julie Taymor created a musical using the music of the Beatles as the vehicle for the story of teens growing up in the '60s and engaging with a world in a profound state of transformation. There's certainly a lot of "hippieness" in the story, as well as drug references necessary to explain certain things that happened back then, but there's also an engagement with the social issues of the day - the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, the emergence of feminism and the Gay/Lesbian movement; it's all there. and it takes me right back to the ferment in my own life at the time.

One of the things Taymor tried to do in the film was to introduce younger generations to a time when people were passionate about the things they believed in. She says that she felt that the younger generations took so many of the cultural advancements of the '60s and early '70s for granted, so much so that the freedoms gained then were starting to be eroded without anybody caring or even noticing, and she wanted to relight that fire. For me, it pointed out just how much the things we fought for then have slowly slipped away.

Part of that was our own fault. We were so set, so focused, and we could only see things in black and white, good and evil. The irony is that many of us from back then got religion and became involved in the religious right and neo-conservatism, still seeing the world in the stark, black-and-white terms of the rigidly dogmatic. It still pains me to see so much of the passion involved in changing the world being channeled into a fearful reaction to those very changes. In many ways we were a very schizophrenic generation.

[An aside... Several scenes in the movie involved characters hitchhiking. Now I used to hitchhike everywhere, but last night I tried to remember the last time I did that, and discovered that it was probably around 1980 or so. It was around then that it started being very dangerous to hitch a ride; I had been getting lifts from some seriously creepy people around then and decided I could afford the bus after all. Now I wouldn't dare; the nation's highways seem to be the hunting grounds of serial killers and some seriously deranged individuals!]

Julie Traymor used 30 Beatles songs to move the movie along. Between arrangers, set designers, and choreographers, all these scenes are really well done. But two stand out for me. One is the setting for "Come Together"; it brings Jo-Jo, a black guitarist of the Jimi Hendrix variety, to New York from his home in Detroit, where he'd just buried his little brother, killed in the riots of 1968. It starts on the bus and follows as Jo-Jo makes his way through the streets of New York, sped on its way by the voice and the presence of the inimitable Joe Cocker. The choreography is seamless, and the musical arrangement of the song is absolutely fantastic. Take a look:

But for me the show-stopper is "Let It Be". The scene is two deaths and funerals, Jo-Jo's little brother in Detroit and a young soldier killed in Vietnam (the young soldier was the high school boyfriend of principal character Lucy, played by Evan Rachel Wood). And what's brilliant about the setting is that the song is set as a gospel song, with full choir and a soloist who gets the Spirit while singing (the song starts out with the voice of Timothy T. Mitchum, playing Jo-Jo's little brother). This is just a brilliant piece of work and really stands out in the movie:

One last video clip. This is from the special features disc, and it's from the "making of" documentary - the recording session with Timothy T. Mitchum and Carol Woods, the gospel singer in the "Let It Be" segment. In this, Julie Traynor explains why she made this movie, and shows the effect it had on the people involved.

Yup, real people did these things back then, and were involved and passionate about what they were doing. I think we need to relight that fire!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Mellow Sunday

I went wandering again today, and this is what I saw.

The first early White Wood Asters blooming in Ballard Park along the Southwest Trail. Fall is coming.

The moderate breeze made music, rustling the Quaking Aspen leaves in the quarry.

An immature Little Blue Heron feeding in Gooseneck Cove (yes, the young'uns are white!).

An immature Snowy Egret (left) and the immature Little Blue Heron (right) hanging out together in Gooseneck Cove.

© 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Walkabout

A few scenes from today's hike.

Gooseneck Cove at high tide.

Along the Twin Ledges Trail in Ballard Park.

The decorative wall around Harbour Court, the home of the Newport annex of the New York Yacht Club.

The Newport municipal pier at high tide.

The Sail Newport sailing class came ashore at King Park for a picnic.

And I'll close with a little humor:

"Whinin' Boy, I don't deny my name". One of this year's Herring Gull hatchlings (the brown one to the right) literally whining at the adult to be fed. Which reminded me of this song:

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Theme Thursday - Palm

Seeing as how I only post my own photos, I had visions of being really stuck on this week's theme. After all, despite the recent heat and humidity we're still not really the tropics, so there aren't any Palm trees here. And there's only one palm reader, and even with two pics - one of the sign and one of the storefront - that's a pretty sparse Theme Thursday post, at least for me.

And then the lightbulb went off in my head. We have plenty of palm fronds here in Newport: in the graveyard! Yes, you read that right; there are plenty of palm fronds in Island Cemetery. Remember my post on all that marble in Island Cemetery? Well much of that carving was influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement when it migrated over the Big Pond from England to North America, and one of the themes emphasized in that movement was Neoclassicism. Much of the stylistic elements in A&C came from the Greco-Roman civilization, and some of the elements within that came from Classical Egypt. And that's where the palm fronds in Island Cemetery come from. There are a bunch of Egyptian-styled marble monuments there, and some of them have palms on them. Below are three of the best examples. Below left is a detail on Philander Shaw's stone - not only do we have a palm frond, but also a classical Greek laurel wreath. Talk about mixed metaphors! Below right is the sort-of obelisk marking John B. Newton's grave, complete with palm frond and the Egyptian-style column capital. But the bottom photo is the best of all - that exquisitely over-the-top Classical Egyptian monument over the remains of August Belmont, the perfect illustration for Shelley's Ozymandias.

And then of course there's the above-mentioned palm reader. I have no reports of her abilities; since I do my own Tarot and I Ching readings I really have no reason to visit her,and nobody I know has ever visited her, either. Nice sign, though. And she looks like she's made the best of a pretty old and beat-up building.

And now it's time for the theme-appropriate music videos! Since we ended up the photography section with a palm reader, let's get the videos started with a trip to 1962 in the Wayback Machine. This is the original version of "Fortune Teller", known to most as a song played by the Rolling Stones on their first live album, Got Live If You Want It. But the song is older than that; it was written by Allen Toussaint (under the pseudonym Naomi Neville) and first performed by New Orleans legend Benny Spellman.

The next song I found by entering "palms" in YouTube's search box; Robert Plant's "29 Palms" was near the top of the list. From 1993, it's about the town of 29 Palms, California, deep in the Mojave Desert, based on Canadian singer Alannah Myles, with whom he was touring at the time. I like the song, and the video fits the mood of the tune perfectly.

When I think of palm trees I think of tropical islands and steel drums and drinks with umbrellas in them. And Calypso music. The undisputed King of Kings of Calypso is The Mighty Sparrow, so I thought I'd finish up this week's Theme Thursday post with The King of Calypso singing "Congo Man" in concert. Enjoy!

Photos & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger