Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
All day last Sunday, and into the evening, Kris and I made our way back home to Leesburg, VA, after visiting friends and family in Pittsburgh, PA. Predictably, it was a very long and somewhat painful journey back, along the PA turnpike, only made more bearable thanks to Kris' Integrative Nutrition pod casts, which are required listening for her courses, and truly fascinating to listen to. While driving home, I had expected the usual mix of steady traffic flow and snail-paced, bumper-to-bumper crawls. I also expected the worst with regards to impatient drivers, out of control tempers and other irrational human behavior sometimes caused by post-holiday travel conditions, unfortunately. While we did experience this on occasion during our drive, I tried my very best not to be a part of this kind of thing, actively, mindfully keeping as positive an outlook as possible, reflecting on the fun we had while in PA and looking forward to getting home and getting some sleep. I even joked at one point to Kris, while stuck for nearly an hour in an endless line of cars, without moving, saying to her "What Would Dyer Do", which was something we saw on a T-shirt when we saw Doctor Wayne Dyer, one of our favorite people in the world, speak in NYC a couple of months ago. Shortly after, a young woman was struggling to get her car in a lane while approaching a major toll booth at the PA turnpike. She kindly pulled up near our car and looked at us to see if we'd let her in, in front of us. I always make it a point to at least let one car in during these situations, more or less out of both principle as well as logic, so of course I let her pull in front of us. Shortly after, another car tried pulling in front of us, the driver using an entirely different strategy, if you want to call it that. Personally, I don't find aggressive, bullish behavior too appealing, as most people don't, I would imagine, which was exactly what this man was trying with us. Normally, I might have let one more person in, but I simply couldn't justify the validity of this guy's approach. He didn't even look at us, or signal, or anything. He simply kept trying to bully his way in, which was completely unnecessary. I understand that people can be selfish jerks and not let others in, but this just was not the way to go. So, hopefully he tried a different, perhaps kinder method, which hopefully worked out for him. What was completely unexpected however was when Kris and I had finally pulled into the toll booth to pay for our ticket. The woman in the booth informed us that the driver in front of us had already paid for us, saving us the eleven dollar fee. As we drove out from the booth, pleasantly surprised by this rare gesture of thanks, we passed the young woman in her vehicle (the one we had let in earlier), rolled down the window and yelled out a big, smiling, waving "thank you!". These kinds of things you just don't witness too much at all this time of year, or in this type of situation, sadly.
While we were sad that my mom wasn't there to share Thanksgiving with us any longer, we kept her in our thoughts during this time, and thoroughly enjoyed our time together, spending time with our awesome little nephews (above pics) as well as out and about in Pittsburgh (pics below), which I'll soon post more, much better photos of here.
Thanksgiving can be many things to many people. For me, personally, it's certainly not about how many items I can purchase at a discount (we managed to avoid that, thankfully) and it definitely does not revolve around poultry. For me, it has so much more to do with the everyday moments and the simple and kind gestures we tend to take for granted, something of which I was happily reminded of while stuck in an endless line of post-holiday traffic on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Blech 2, the second installment of classic Warp records, and Warp-related music old and new went down at Pittsburgh's Wood Street Galleries last Saturday night. My friend Chris (Slinky) and I were happy to play out some of our favorite tunes that evening, ranging from the more down-tempo and ambient style, to the dance-friendly tracks, as well as the more abstract stuff. A special thanks goes out to Chris for organizing the event, to Jonathan for all of his help, to Mary and Shaun for the choice beverages, to the folks who attended and especially to those who danced, and anyone else I might have missed. I also want to thank my legs and feet for not giving out on me while dancing like a happy madman to some of Chris' set. It was a real fun time and we hope to host another one in the near future!
Below is a classic from Black Dog Productions "Bytes" album, under the Balil alias, entitled "3/4 Heart", still sounding fresh as ever nearly two decades later. Until next time.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I'm still on a roll with the India ink when making these Splotch Monsters, and went even looser when painting it onto the tan craft paper. I really tried to go for some type of ancient look with them I guess. Now I'm moving on from the tree theme and the craft paper, back to white watercolor paper. This time I'm going to do more medleys, or combos, just to achieve some sort of dynamic of interaction between some of the beasties in a composition. This should keep things pretty interesting this month.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Last Saturday afternoon I stopped by the Franklin Park Center for Performing and Visual Arts to check out the annual Barns and Farms art exhibit and opening. As always, it was a great show with a lot of works on display this year. This comes as no surprise, as the Loudoun County countryside provides an endless stream of inspiration to artists from all over the area.
Many of the works on display were beautiful, representational pieces taking a more literal approach to the theme.
Some of my favorite pieces were the ones taking on a more unique, even abstract approach. I really liked the sculptural piece above, especially.
I was so glad to see one of my favorite local artists, Robert Friedenberg have another one of his marvelous drawings at the show. I met Robert briefly last year at a Franklin park exhibit, and was glad to purchase a couple of his prints when my wife and I stopped by his home last summer for the Western Loudoun County Studio Tour.
I submitted a painting for the exhibit as well, and decided to not include a single barn in the painting. Can you find it? I'm as much a country boy as I am a city slicker, at home in either environment. This probably comes as a result of living in the suburbs, right smack in the middle of the two. While I saw lots of deer, cattle, ravens, crows, and the occasional turkey, turtle and fox growing up in Pennsylvania, I hardly ever saw a vulture, or as some call them, buzzards. You'll see them a lot in Northern Virginia however, either in the sky or sitting in a wake, in some trees along the local country roads. Some people dislike them, but I find them to be incredibly fascinating in so many ways. I think I'll be painting some more of these in the near future.
I absolutely love the fox photograph by Florence Biddle, who I had the pleasure of meeting. It shows the animal in such a majestic, peaceful and compassionate way, not being chased and brutally hunted down by men on horses. I would have bought this picture in a heartbeat if I had some extra cash, but unfortunately that's all going to car maintenance and a new computer this month.
There was a lot of exceptional photography at the exhibit, showing just how much the medium is a true art form in and of itself. The photo in the upper right (above) was one that grabbed my attention, with its rolling hills and fog, taken at Williams Gap by David Levinson. David explained to me his interest in bringing awareness to the beautiful countryside and farm land of Loudoun County, since so much of it is disappearing thanks to continued commercial and real estate development. Fortunately, Williams Gap, due to its historic status, is now a protected site, and David, who has photographed the place on a number of occasions, is free to shoot there any time he wants to now.
Jane Mann's "Waiting For Spring On Clover Hill" was perhaps my favorite photo of all, with its wide, horizontal format, rustic truck and cold, bare-branched tree atop a hill hinting at Winter's end with a slight patch of snow to the far left. The title, the presentation and subject matter all create a strong yet subtle sense of mood and emotion. And people say photography is dead.
As with all of the Franklin Park shows I've participated in, there was, once again a great variety of media and styles on display, all tied together by a single theme. Drop on by this wonderful place if you're in the Purcellville, Virginia area to see this exhibit which runs until December 30th, 2011.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Finally, they opened a new Mom's Organic Market in Northern Virginia! They have them all over neighboring Maryland, but a couple of weeks ago, a new one opened right down the road from where my wife works, in Herndon.
I instantly fell in love with this place, who sells only organic food and healthcare items. So, no more searching the isles of the other grocery stores, to only end up mostly disappointed by the poor selection. A good selection of the food at Mom's also comes from local farms, which is always a double bonus.
What I love about the place as well is that they're all about the environment. They even have electric car recharging stations in their parking lot!
While it's all too easy to stock up on more than we need, their prices are reasonable and better than most places who sell organic. They also have a real good selection for folks who choose vegetarian and vegan diets. I made sure to stock up on the Field Roast for Thanksgiving, which in all honesty, tastes just as good, if not better than most meats I've eaten. For the conscious carnivore, they've got local, organic meats from animals raised on a natural diet, free of hormones and other unmentionable garbage found in factory farmed animals.
There's a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as well, many not typical of what you might find in most well-known grocers. Kris and I tried some new ones last week and couldn't believe what we've been missing.
Mom's keeps it real, literally, and the store isn't an overwhelming, endless maze of craziness, which seems to be the trend of a lot of new grocery stores. Just real, good food and health care products. The workers are as kind and friendly as can be as well. On a final note, make sure to stock up on some of that Spring Mill Bread, fresh off the cutting board. It's the best bread we've ever bought. Let's hope the rest of the world wakes up, and more Mom's open up all over the place. At least one in Leesburg, VA would be nice. Looking forward to our next visit soon!
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Featured above and below are two live sets from Mr. Eric Kowalski, aka Casino Versus Japan, courtesy of Attacknine Recordings. One is from the beautiful Beachland Ballroom in Ohio, where I was fortunate to catch Mira Calix and Plaid live about a decade ago, while the other was from NYC, both performed and recorded in 2010. After a very long hiatus, CVJ briefly resurfaced last year with a reissue of his very first record, as well as the very sublime, ambient "Night On Tape" compilation. The two performances featured here are from his brief tour, and both are more on the ambient end of the CVJ spectrum, though he certainly brings the beats, reminiscent of his Go Hawaii and Whole Numbers Play the Basics albums. Both performances are the audio equivalent of thick, dense layers of fog giving way to monolithic Asian mountain ranges. Both also fit on one CD, which I'm currently enjoying on my system in all its audible glory. To get both, simply fill in your e-mail and you'll instantly have access to download. I've been a subscriber to Attacknine for a while now, and they don't bug you much, I promise (not that I would mind). In the meantime, let's hope for that new CVJ album they've been promising for release this year, if not sometime next year at least.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Much like painting or drawing from life, taking photos can teach us to be present and "in the moment" more often. It's the tiny, seemingly mundane everyday occurrences, interspersed between the more grandiose that make living worth while, if we take the time out to slow down and pay attention. One of my all time favorite quotes comes from Ferris Bueller, when he says "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around, you might miss it." This is something I need to make a concerted effort to focus on this upcoming holiday season. In the meantime, while I've been pretty occupied with wrapping up a few big projects, I managed to look around some myself and captured some of those tiny moments from the past couple of weeks, to share with you, with the help of my I-phone and Instagram.