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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:


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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

September 4, 2019 [LINK / comment]

A history of rock music, Part III:   from O to W

Following up on my previous not-quite-fair-and-balanced self-review, "A history of rock music, Part II: from H to N" (on June 11, ending with "N is for Neil Young"), here is Part Three of my incredible musical odyssey through the alphabet. Each of the sections below covers one of the weekly open mic nights hosted each Wednesday by Fritz Horisk at Queen City Brewing in Staunton.

O is for Ozark Mountain Daredevils: On June 19, I was on the letter "O," and there was less than zero probability that I would perform songs by any other group than my sentimental favorite, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Since they aren't as well known here in the east as they are in their midwestern "homeland," I took a couple minutes to explain their origins and defiantly idiosyncratic career paths. In particular, after their two big hits ("If You Want To Get To Heaven" and "Jackie Blue"), they turned their backs on the commercial rock star world and focused on developing their own unique style, blending folk, bluegrass, and rock musical styles. I played five songs altogether that night, including an extra "encore" song that each of us did. Even though this material was very familiar to me, Craig Austin's percussion helped me out a lot!

* : first time in public; ( # ) = with harmonica

Andrew Clem, Craig Austin at QCB

Yours truly, accompanied by Craig Austin at Queen City Brewing on June 19. (Photo courtesy of Fritz Horisk.)

P is for Pink Floyd: One week later, on June 26, I made a 180-degree turn in musical genres, covering some challenging songs by one of the very best British rock bands, Pink Floyd. Until two years ago, I only knew a couple songs by them, but all of a sudden I became almost obsessed with learning and mastering their songs. In fact, now they're one of my specialites. The weather was beautiful, so we played outside on the patio, and the friendly crowd kept getting bigger as the night progressed. It was a very interesting and enjoyable evening of music, as all the performers excelled in the creativity department. At the time, I didn't have a Pink Floyd shirt, so I wore a Police T-shirt, since that would have been another logical choice for the letter "P." The first two songs went pretty well, while the latter two were marred by a couple flubs:

* = first time in public; ( # ) = with harmonica

Q is for Queen: In his Facebook post summarizing the July 3 open mic event, Fritz Horisk characterized the music as "fantabulous," and I have to agree. There was a nice-sized turnout in spite of the stormy weather, and once again the musicians put on quite a varied and interesting show. I was on the letter "Q" in my weekly alphabetical progression, which left very litte choice for me other than to play songs by Queen. (Alternatives included Quarterflash, of which I know exactly one song, and Queensrÿche, of which I know none at all.) Now you might think it simply absurd for a solo acoustic musician to even attempt songs by one of the most daring exemplars of the glamor/progressive rock genre, but if you had been there that evening, I am quite sure you would have been convinced otherwise. To my surprise, I came pretty close to nailing all four songs, and the audience reaction was overwhelmingly appreciative. I was grateful for the rousing applause. Would I dare to attempt something like that a second time? I'm not really sure. But in any event, that was a nice feather in my cap.

* = first time in public; ( # ) = with harmonica

R is for Rolling Stones: July 10 was another night when there wasn't much doubt what I was going to play. The only other group beginning with the letter "R" whose songs I play is REO Speedwagon, and I only know a couple of those. The problem was not choosing the group but rather choosing which songs by that group (Rolling Stones) to play. There were a lot of songs I hated to leave out, such as "Gimme Shelter." I got off to a good start with a song I only learned recently, after learning that it ("Street Fighting Man") was one of the Stones' favorite opening songs. It has a cool bass riff after each refrain, and I pulled that off very well. Overall, it went pretty well after that, but could have been a little better.

* = first time in public; ( # ) = with harmonica

S is for Supertramp: One week later (July 17) I did four songs by that enigmatic British group from the 1970s, Supertramp. (Among the most likely alternatives were Seals & Croft, Sheryl Crow, Simon & Garfunkle, and Steve Goodman.) Two of the songs were first-timers for me, and all four sounded very good. The audience response was very positive, but as Fritz noted right after I played, the crowd noise level was rather high. Supertramp is among my signature specialties that hardly anyone else I'm aware of even plays. Aside from their creative melodic styles, I enjoy playing Supertramp songs because I get to play harmonica of most of them -- usually recreating the saxophone part.

* = first time in public; ( # ) = with harmonica

T is for Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers): The very next week (July 24) I was at it again, but I arrived a bit late so I was only eligible to do three songs. I could have played Three Dog Night, but there really wasn't much doubt that I was going to pay tribute to the late, great Tom Petty. The atmosphere playing outside was just about ideal, and the crowd response was very nice. All three songs I had performed before, and they sounded fine:

( # ) = with harmonica

U is for U2: On the last Wednesday of the month, July 31, there wasn't much doubt that I was going to do songs by U2. (Uriah Heep was the only other choice, and I hardly ever play those songs.) It was a somewhat underwhelming evening, not living up to my expectations. Since turnout was low, extra time was available, so each of us was allowed two "encore" songs. It occurred to me (too late) that I should probably learn their song "Desire," in which Bono plays harmonica.

* = first time in public; ( # ) : with harmonica

V is for Van Halen (??!!) After making it to Queen City Brewing seven weeks in a row, I actually skipped a week before returning on August 14. (I was busy preparing to teach in the fall semester, and the songs by the "default" group [ -- there being no other real choice -- were more challenging than usual, thus requiring more practice.]) As with Queen and perhaps the Grateful Dead, it was probably a stretch for me to take on Van Halen's hard rock material, but I came through intact, and people really liked it. Obviously, all four songs were "first-timers" for me. A lot of folks were singing along on "Dancing in the Street" and "You Really Got Me," which was nice. Whew!

* = first time in public

Yours truly -- the host!

The next week, August 21, I set aside my alphabetical odyssey because, for the very first time, I was the host of the open mic event! Imagine that. Fritz Horisk was on vacation, and asked me to take over for him, and since I have a complete set of musical equipment (microphone, amplifier, speakers, speaker stands), I was ready to go. (Fritz lent me his microphones since he always provides for extra performers, just in case.) I wasn't sure how many people would show up, but we had a nice-sized turnout. For the first time, my friend from church Matthew Poteat made an appearance at the QCB open mic night, and he played one song, an original. Several other regulars were there as well, including John Dull, Craig Austin, Dianne Byrer, Melissa Hudson, Christina Dubay, and Den Frumen. A regular audience member named Ron Rammelkamp led the females in an a capella rendition of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Anyway, not being bound by the alphabet, I was able to mark the 50-year anniversary of two big events that took place in the summer of 1969: the Woodstock music festival and the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, which happened just a few days after the release of David Bowie's first hit single. Of course, I had to play an Ozark Mountain Daredevils song. After everyone had played (including one extra song each), I closed the evening with a Beatles song (just like Fritz often does) and one of my crowd-pleasing favorites, the first hit single by Billy Joel.

@ written by Joni Mitchell
* = first time in public; ( # ) : with harmonica

"Return to normalcy"?

W is for (The) Who: Finally, last week (August 28), I resumed my alphabetical fixation by tackling the letter "W" -- The Who, of course. I did pretty well on the first one, but missed some of the special guitar parts on "Magic Bus." Who knows, maybe no one noticed. The last two songs sounded very good, and I was happy how it all went.

* = first time in public; ( # ) : with harmonica

Tonight I was on the letter "X," which was quite a challenge, but I'll put off doing a review of that (and revealing the group/groups) until after I finish the whole alphabet.


August 6, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Summertime travel highlights

Summer is not over yet, but with the fall semester and school rapidly approaching, it might as well be. I had hoped to travel to South Dakota this summer, but scheduling conflicts (and my own indecisiveness) prevented that from taking place. As with my previous travel-related blog post (May 16), most of what follows are mere short-distance excursions, with the notable exception of Virginia Beach.

On June 2 (a Sunday), Jacqueline and I went on a casual drive to Goshen Pass for a picnic. We drove past Augusta Springs on Route 254 but didn't stop there. We did make a brief pause at the old bridge over the Maury River in the town of Goshen, and a bit later an unscheduled brief walk across a suspension foot bridge that I had never seen before. Apparently it's a favorite fun spot for local folks. Just a few miles after that we arrived at our destination, and I was surprised that relatively few people were there, given the beautiful weather. I was afraid that all the picnic tables might be taken already, but there were plenty available.

Maury River Goshen Pass

Maury River at Goshen Pass (June 2)

As noted in my July 9 birding blog post, I made several trips to the Hearthstone Lake (in northern Augusta County) area this summer, as part of a bird breeding survey. After one such outing on June 17 (solo) I stopped afterward in the nearby village of Stokesville, which was largely destroyed by a flood in 1949. For years I had been trying to capture a suitable photograph of the iconic bridge there, and at last I found the perfect vantage point to do so: along the river underneath it!

Stokesville bridge

Stokesville bridge (June 17)

Exactly one week later (June 23), I was joined by three Augusta Bird Club members on another visit there, during which we saw the construction activity at the Hearthstone Dam. (It was a Saturday, so no workers were there.) I look forward to seeing the lake itself once the construction has been completed, hopefully this fall.

Hearthstone Dam construction

Hearthstone Dam construction (June 23)

Virginia Beach

Early on July 13 Jacqueline and I drove to Virginia Beach, as mentioned in my recent birding blog post (Aug. 2). After a five-plus hour drive, we arrived in the early afternoon, and had a picnic at First Landing State Park, where we made further plans. It turns out that there is excllent access to the beach there, so we only spent a short time driving through the high-rise seafront district of Virginia Beach, stopping to buy souvenirs and that's about it. Our previous visit to Virginia Beach was in November 2014, but I never wrote a blog post per se about it; you can see several photos at my Chronological (2014) photo gallery page.

First Landing S.P. boardwalk, trees

The boardwalk between the visitors center and the beach at First Landing State Park. (July 13)

In the evening we had a great dinner at Croakers Neighborhood Grill (near Pleasure House Point Natural Area; see below), after which I watched the Nationals-Phillies game on TV at the Red Roof Inn. On Sunday morning, we had breakfast at Waffle House and then went to the Pleasure House Point Natural Area, which features sandy trails and lots of Loblolly Pine trees that surround a picturesque pond. (It was there that I saw a Blue Grosbeak and some Brown-headed Nuthatches.) We then headed to First Landing State Park, at which point Jacqueline went straight to the beach while I went birding along the inland swamp trail for a couple hours. I joined her about 11:00, and we stayed until about 12:30, soaking up the sun and taking a few more bird photos. It was just wonderful. Finally, we drove straight home to Staunton.

Pleasure House Point Natural Area pond reflecting trees

In the early morning light, a pond at Pleasure House Point Natural Area reflects trees like a mirror. (July 14)

Our Nation's Capital

As recounted in a recent baseball blog post (July 29), I went up to Washington D.C. to see a Nationals baseball game on July 28, along with Matthew Poteat and his son Julian. We parked on the south side of the new soccer stadium (Audi Field) that was completed just over a year ago. It is located about two blocks southwest of Nationals Park, and looks very impressive. It is certainly a big improvement over RFK Stadium, where D.C. United played until the end of the 2018 season.

Audi Field NW

The northwest corner of Audi Field in Washington, home of the D.C. United soccer team.

The above photos, along with many others, can be seen on my Chronological (2019) photo gallery page.





Major world languages

Language 2002
(mn)
2010
(mn)
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
(mn)
2010
(mn)
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.

Niebuhr's
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 wikipedia.org:

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.

.