Andrew Clem blog home


Clockwise, from top left: Blackfriar's Theater in Staunton, VA, home of the American Shakespeare Center; National Cathedral in Guatemala City; church near Volin, SD; engraved stellae at ruins of Copan, Honduras; folk musicians in La Paz, Bolivia.

Culture and Travel montage shadow

Culture-related pages:

Travel photos

Religious blogs & sites

Local drama & music

Other Web links


My favorite movies

  1. Casablanca
  2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  3. Raising Arizona
  4. Fargo
  5. Shawshank Redemption
  6. Field of Dreams
  7. Bull Durham
  8. Fiddler on the Roof
  9. Patton
  10. Bananas
  11. Fort Apache: The Bronx
  12. Broadcast News

December 7, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Much, much more music!

Since my last solo musical show three months ago, I have cut back somewhat on appearances at the Queen City Brewing open mic nights. Instead of roughly three weeks per month, it's been more like twice a month this fall. I have also spent a bit less time learning new material, trying instead to polish the songs I already know, but I have not stopped entirely. Far from it! (I may have been at the September 19 open mic event, but if so, I didn't write it down.)

Here is what I have played at recent open mic events, beginning with October 10. This was soon after the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and I thought a song about excessive drinking in college would be appropriate, hence "Chug All Night," a little-known early Eagles tune. But the big "hit" of the evening for me was "Hummingbird," marking the departure of hummingbirds who head south every October -- or most of them, anyway! (See below.) The other four songs (which I had played in public before) went OK, although I wish I could have played the harmonica (denoted by the # symbol) more cleanly on "Gypsy Forest."

A week later, on October 17, I played three new (for me) songs, indicated with asterisks as in the list above. They all went surprisingly well. "Mr. Powell" is about John Wesley Powell, the first explorer to navigate the rapids of the Colorado River in its entirety, in 1869. I learned it a long time ago, but made some "final corrections" before doing it in public for the first time. "Under the Bridge" is one hell of a cool song from the nineties, and really impressed the bartender, Kyle. smile

On October 31 (Halloween!), there weren't many musicians present, so we each had to do a few extra songs. This time I had two new songs, both by Chicago. I did passably on the first three "encore" songs, but for the final song, I gave up on Jethro Tull's "Living In the Past" after flubbing the intro. That hasn't happened to me in a long time. So, I played Carole King's "It's Too Late" instead, and that went just fine.

Two weeks later, on November 14, I played three new songs (two by Chicago) and did "Hummingbird" again, in recognition of the surprise visit of a Rufous Hummingbird to the home of a local bird club member. (See November 10.) My friend from the bird club, Peter Van Acker, was in attendance, appropriately enough. The first song I played, "The Last Resort," called attention to the disastrous wildfires that killed perhaps a hundred or more people in California. It's all about ruining the wilderness with vacation and retirement residences, and of the consequent risks to the environment. I had just learned that song a couple days earlier, and managed to pull it off very well, I thought. My final song, "Elected," was of course a tribute to the congressional midterm elections that had just happened.

November 28 was frigid, and I had trepidations about heading out to play music, but I'm glad I did. I played four brand-new songs of very distinct genres, and the audience was very friendly and appreciative. I really wowed them with the first three songs, and Fritz Horisk kindly complimented me on "Wichita Lineman." For the fourth one I gave them fair warning of a slight change of pace, and to my surprise, some of the "older" folks were singing along! For the "encore" song, I did "Under the Bridge" again, but should have played the intro more cleanly. Also, I kind of messed up the chords on the final part of that song. Nevertheless, it was for the most part an excellent night, and Craig Austin's percussion added a lot. My set list:

( # ) = with harmonica

Chicago! Chicago! Etc.

As you might have noticed, I played five songs by Chicago, the first time I have covered that particular group. Not surprisingly, given that the band relies heavily on brass instruments, I used the harmonica in all five songs. I'm working on one other Chicago song, "Beginnings," but it will take a lot more practice before it's ready for public consumption!

I have also been learning more songs by Carole King and Joe Walsh, among others. A couple months ago I was working on Doobie Brothers and Three Dog Night but then set those aside. Maybe I'll get back to them soon...

October 25, 2018 [LINK / comment]

"Innings" and outings in October

In contrast to September, the weather this month has mostly been very nice, providing several opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Baseball consumes a great deal of my attention this time of year (hence "innings" in the title above), but I also make a point to enrich our lives by visiting various nearby places of special interest.

On October 4, Jacqueline expressed interest in a day trip, but wasn't sure exactly what she wanted to see. The weather was perfect, and we just had to go somewhere! After doing a Google (or Yahoo?) search, I came across the White Oak Lavender Farm, which sounded interesting, and it turned out to be exactly the kind of thing that she enjoys. It is located near the village of Cross Keys in Rockingham County, a few miles east of Mount Crawford, home of the famous Green Valley Book Fair. On our way there, we stopped at Leonard's Pond, a noted local birding hot spot; it was unusually full that day, due to the recent heavy rains. Upon arriving at our destination, we were immediately enchanted by the purple buildings, the big willow tree, and the gazebo out front. You can stroll through the scent-filled gardens and see the horse stables, and sample wine at an adjacent pavilion. Inside the gift shop are an assortment of soaps, lotions, and other products made with lavender oil. Jacqueline just loved it. I hit a home run! smile

On our way back to Staunton, we bought vegetables at a farm north of Weyer's Cave, and I stopped to take a photo of the famous "Turkey Monument" at the Rockingham County line.

White Oak Lavender Farm

The main building of the White Oak Lavender Farm. (October 4, 2018)

Maury River canoe trip

On October 6 I went along on a canoe trip along the Maury River that was organized by Stan Heatwole, and it was quite an adventure! It was the first such outing in the Augusta Bird Club, but the weather forecast was uncertain, and only two other members attended: Ann Cline and Caroline [Ford]. I wasn't even sure I was up for it, since I have been having pain in my right heel since the latter part of the summer, but I was told it wouldn't be strenuous. Aware of the risks, I couldn't decide whether to bring my Canon PowerShot camera, and ended up flipping a coin, which yielded a positive choice. Ann lent me a special waterproof bag to keep my camera sealed, which turned out to be extremely lucky! As I found out, it's not easy to hold a camera steady while floating along in a canoe, and I only got a few mediocre photos [of birds] while on the river. But the weather turned out to be just fine, and I got several nice scenic shots along the way.

At about 11:25 we "put in" about six miles upstream from Lexington, where one of the vehicles had been left. I shared a canoe with Stan, while Ann and Caroline (who are more experienced) each had a kayak. I learned (or re-learned) how to navigate rapids, which for the most part were fairly mild. But about shortly after noon, at the end of a set of rapids, our canoe suddenly collided with a boulder and instantly capsized! After recovering my bearings (and getting my glasses back on straight) I had to rescue Stan's dog (a very small breed), and then retrieved the various boxes and bags that were floating away. My cell phone was inside my pants pocket, sealed with a sandwich baggie, and thank goodness, that was enough waterproofing! We were both thoroughly drenched, of course, but aside from a few scrapes there were no injuries. We gathered our things to get semi-dry for about 20 minutes, and then resumed the trip. To my immense relief, my camera, my iPhone, and my binoculars all survived without any damage. Later on I realized that I had lost my Augusta Bird Club hat, but it was kind of beat up anyway, so no big loss.

The scenery was spectacular, with steep forested banks on one or both sides for most of the trip. It reminded me of John Wesley Powell's exploration of the Colorado River in 1869, when he and his group made it through the rapids of the Grand Canyon. On the botanical side, we found some Paw Paw trees, and I retrieved one of the fruits that was floating in the river. It has a creamy color and consistency, like a mashed banana or custard. I don't think I had ever seen one before. We passed under the I-64 twin-span bridge just before 2:00 and reached the end in Lexington at about 3:15. It was exhilarating to have made the trip successfully with no damage. The club will probably have another trip like this one next year.

Maury River, I-64 north bridge

The Maury River, under the I-64 bridge north span. (October 6, 2018)

Blue Ridge day trip

For the next two weeks, there wasn't much travel activity other than a couple visits to the Swoope area, where I was focused mainly on birding. But last Sunday, October 21, it was bright and sunny, so Jacqueline and I took a leisurely drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were hoping for a fall foliage display, but the leaves had barely begun to turn color, so the sights weren't as spectacular as we had hoped. I was likewise disappointed that hardly any birds were to be seen; it was probably due to the windy conditions, when birds tend to hunker down in the underbrush. We came across a Box Turtle crossing the road, and did a U-turn, but never found it, so it must have gotten to the other side safely. After spending a while soaking in the beauty at Twenty Minute Cliff, we turned back north on the parkway. We stopped in the village of Love, intrigued by a sign advertising Brunswick stew, but they were closed until 3:00 and we were too hungry to wait. So, we kept going and ended up having a sumptious late lunch / early dinner at one of my favorite places: the Blue Mountain Brewery on Route 151 in Afton. I even bought a six pack of their signature IPA, "Full Nelson." Delicious! smile

Twenty Minute Cliff Oct. 21, 2018

Twenty Minute Cliff, on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (October 21, 2018)

Other recent photos can be seen on the Chronological (2018) photo gallery page.

Major world languages

Language 2002
Chinese * 874 # 1,213
Spanish * 322 329
English * 341 328
Arabic ? 221
Hindi 366 # 182
Bengali 207 181
Portuguese 176 178
Russian * 167 144
Japanese 125 122
German 100 90

# : 2004 data for Chinese pertained only to Mandarin speakers, whereas data for Hindi speakers were defined more broadly.
Asterisks (*) denote the official languages of the United Nations, which also includes French (68 million speakers).

SOURCE: The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 & 2012

I speak Spanish, some Portuguese, and have dabbled in German, French, Italian, Russian, Catalan, and Quechua.

Major world religions

Religion 2002
Christians 2,038 2,281
Muslims 1,226 1,553
Hindus 828 943
Chinese folk 389 454
Buddhists 364 463
Sikhs 24 24
Jews 14 15
Local, other 32 379
Non-religious 925 798

The obvious discontinuities in the last two lines of data are of uncertain origin.

SOURCE: The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 & 2012

I belong to the Episcopal Church and am annoyed at the recent polarization. According to a Theology quiz, I scored as a "Classical Liberal."

Ten Commandments

  1. Worship ONE God only
  2. No graven images
  3. No taking God's name in vain
  4. Keep Sabbath day holy
  5. Honor parents
  6. No stealing
  7. No murder
  8. No adultery
  9. No bearing false witness
  10. No coveting what others have

Seven deadly sins

  1. Pride
  2. Covetousness
  3. Lust
  4. Anger
  5. Gluttony
  6. Envy
  7. Sloth

Proverbs 6: 16-19

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies,
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Romans 12: 17, 21

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr was a leading theologian of the mid-20th Century, and often wrote about foreign policy from a "Christian realist" perspective. From

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.