Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gamelan Performance Ritual

I recently had an opportunity to witness/participate in (and photograph) a performance ritual built as a visual story upon an Indonesian gamelan. It was an ambitious undertaking, constructed with volunteers in just a few hours with no opportunity for a full rehearsal and performed in an open air pavilion.


The story - performed as ritual for a neo-Pagan audiance - centered around the Goddess Hecate, and her tempestuous encounters with Baron Samedi and Rangda. The storyline of this diaspora pantheon was not always clear, but the symbolism employed throughout certainly created a mood of the Divine's relationship to human life and death.


The nearly two-hour story was enhanced by a bevy of dancers who filled multiple roles; as entertainers and attendants to Hecate. Instrumentation strayed from traditional Indonesian gamelan to include doumbek and other hand drums such as a riqq or tar (I could not identify them properly).


As mentioned, the symbols of death and the underworld were present throughout. As the ritual/performance drew to a close, the audience/congregation was encouraged to approach and receive a personal benediction from Hecate. Many chose to do so. All in all an interesting ritual experience. There are more photos in this SLIDE SHOW.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

With Rain You Get Rainbows. And mud.

I was gone last week, and even though there was Internet access, I chose not to avail myself of it. For me this was a working vacation: I was vending my service as a portrait photographer at a festival. The week worked out pretty well, and I even made a little bit of money after covering all my expenses. I might have done a little better, but there were ... issues.

First off, it rained. A lot. The first night of the festival we got approximately six inches of rain. That is pretty noticeable when people are camping! The rain created mud. And puddles. And mosquitoes in abundance.



But when there is rain (and it rained every day until the last day, dangit) there are frequently rainbows, and in this case a rainbow with a very unusual sky.

Yep, the sky was that color! (DS3_0677)

And it is also true that rainbows come in a variety of forms! This double rainbow was very entertaining.


Without the rain, chilly temperatures, mud, and mosquitoes I would have had a very successful week. I also learned a lot about the back end equipment I need, and so a laptop that is not ten years old will have to be acquired before I do more festivals where I have to deliver product on-site. The one I was using was just too slow for what I was asking of it. When it was a hot, new model, digital photos were in the 1.5-3 meg range. Mine are all running around 6-10 megabytes, and I shot 1,200 of them. Tasks that might take 3 minutes at home were taking 10-15 minutes, and simply rotating an image was over 5 seconds. Over the next weeks or months I will be keeping my eye out for a good used laptop in the 2-4 year old range. A Mac would be fabulous, but I'm not fussy and I am feeling frugal.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No One Speaks For Us

"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there." ~ Will Rogers


Part of my life of success (at least moderate success) is that I assess my current state periodically and wonder if I am doing all I should be. This is especially true as I struggle with being self employed during a singularly awful economic recession and while our current Governor is taking radical steps to dismantle the middle class at a local level. Those people are my potential clients. When they are taking significant pay cuts, mandatory furlough days, and having their very job yanked out from under them, they get scared and do not spend money on non-essential items or services. What I face - at the big picture level - is a government (in this case, exclusively Republican driven and backed by massive amounts of cash and influence from the very rich and the largest corporations) that is bent on slashing services and wages for the lower end of the earning curve and throwing money and tax breaks at the largest corporations and wealthiest citizens. This is not a surprise as the business portion of our legislation is bought and paid for by the large corporations, fronted by Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce. Our government thinks WMC speaks for all business. It does not. But what can I do about it?

What Wisconsin, and the nation at large, needs is an organization made up of small business owners to represent us at the state and national level. A group that consists of the tens of thousands (state) or millions (national) of sole proprietors like me as well as those hard working folks who operate a Limited Liability Corporation, own a couple of restaurants or taverns, have a cleaning or home-repair business and employ a few dozen people. No one speaks for us.

We need it badly. And we need it soon. If you agree, then share this thought widely. It will only work as a grass roots initiative created and operated from the bottom up. It needs a clear message that can be easily shared. Something like, "When the middle class thrives, my business thrives and America thrives."

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"...and to the Plutacracy for which it stands"


"I pledge allegiance to the logo of the Corporate States of America, and to the plutocracy for which it stands, one nation under surveillance, incorporated, with literal injustice for oil." ~ Jim Hightower

Wisconsin's legislature met to day in an "extraordinary session", which near as I can tell is an almost-never used format to pass emergency legislation such as stripping state workers of collective bargaining rights with little interference from the pesky opposition (or the damned nuisance public). Tomorrow will reveal the bastardy to which we have been subjected, but I am confident that it will not be pretty.

About the only good I see coming out of this is an entire generation of activists is being raised.


Of course, how they will get an education as the Republicans gut funding for all levels of education is not readily apparent. It will take a decade to undo all that this administration is doing in weeks. What stuns me is the lock-step manner the other Republican Legislators are marching along. Do they really all think this is a great plan for Wisconsin? What's in that Tea?

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Summer Kicks Off with the Waterfront Festival

I do not often have posts with pictures of children because I do not often take photos of children. Adults in public I consider fair game to be photographed (as does the law) but I generally refrain from shooting children unless the parent(s) are right there to observe. This past weekend was the first of four public music festivals, and being on the East Side was totally kid-friendly and well attended by hoards of happy children.


The venue is a waterfront park that is long and narrow. It is bounded on one long edge by Lake Monona and a quiet road on the other. There is a large playground area that is sort of fenced off (more of a visual barrier than an actual physical one) for the festival so the kids are somewhat contained in their play.


I love kid energy, and found myself drawn over and over to the play area. It was so much fun to see scores of kids playing and watch all the happy faces, and the occasional tearful one.


There were hundreds of adults there too, listening to free music, drinking beer, and eating a wide array of foods from local restaurants. Perhaps a dozen vendors had booths set up selling wears that seemed appropriate for the expected audience. There was also a busy booth collecting signatures (pledges only at this time) to recall our amazingly radical Governor. Here is a shot of the venue. Way at the opposite end you can see the large stage for the bands.

Good Day For A Festival (DS3_0148)

Once the weather cooperated on Sunday afternoon, the festival really became a fun event, and I saw a lot of people enjoying the day. Summer is officially kicked off!

There is a small SLIDE SHOW with all the images from the day. Enjoy!

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Spring Winds Down, and I'm Ready For Summer

All the wet, cool weather has not completely hampered some amazing things in my backyard! First, the hail seems to have missed destroying this lovely glass sculpture that decorates the yard.


And our short-lived blast of hot weather allowed the veggies to actually, you know, grow as though it were late spring and just a few days shy of summer! Here are the first of the cherry tomatoes.


Along with the tomatoes are the peppers. Mmmm!


And finally, it has been a while since I posted a gratuitous cat shot, so here is one more of the lovely Nala.


I bid a warm welcome to Summer!

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

You Can't See Me!

It somehow seems appropriate that since my previous post was about bright color in unusual places, this one should - serendipitously - Be about camouflage. Today while helping my sister do some strenuous yard work, we spotted this well hidden moth:


A neighbor moved it to a location of dark brown mulch and it was clearly agitated. When I moved it back to the tree, it immediately settled down and remained in or near the same location for the next hour. Even from the side it was not easy to see.


Nature doing it's best to keep the moth alive.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Color of Construction

Every so often I encounter something that makes me stop abruptly and dig out my camera. Often I do not end up using those photos for anything in particular, it was just something that caught my eye and I wanted to capture it. This is one of those.


There is construction going on everywhere in the city. A number of major routes, or more to the point, my routes are undergoing reconstruction. It is a pain to get many places I go to routinely. There are also heavy trucks and earth movers everywhere, and piles of the bits and pieces that one normally does not see because they are underground. This pile of tunnel access covers and grates - already bright orange with a coating of rust - are brand new and awaiting installation. The intensity of the rust drew my attention, and the lines made me want to take the photo.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

One Day Longer, One Day Stronger

Yesterday was something like Day 115 of the People's Protest against Wisconsin Governor (temporarily) Scott Walker and pretty much everything he stands for. A recent poll shows that among Democrats he has a favorable rating of just 8%, yet among Republicans in the state his approval rating is 87%. Polarizing much? I am curious to see how that 87% feels about him when his proposed slashes to the school budgets begins to directly affect their children or grand children.

Here is a photo from yesterday's rally, with two fellows holding a sign I think will become quite popular.


And here is a photo taken on February 15th, the day after protests really started to pick up steam. At this point Walker had been in office approximately 30 days, and had already managed to polarize the state.

Rally Against Gov. Walker and All He Stands For

For four months We The People have had to keep rallying and marching and suing and remaining vigilant against the Machiavellian actions of this Governor. In about a month there will be recall elections affecting six Republican senators and three Democrat senators. It is possible that the balance of power will shift - slightly - so that the Governor does not have such a free hand to pass legislation that directly affects those in the state who are least able to care for themselves and rewards the wealthiest. And then in November there may well be a recall election for the Governor himself. Of course, those recall elections require the Governor and his toadies at the Department of Administration to actually make those elections happen. Such a glaring conflict of interest!

We are not done fighting. As I heard a speaker say a few days ago, "Democracy does not stop once you have cast your vote on election day." To those Tea Party Republicans who shout, "You lost! Get over it!", I reply,


You can see all my photos from the protests is this SLIDE SHOW. The most recent are up front.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Al Khemia Plays Ride The Drive

Madison held the annual "Ride The Drive" event today. Several main roads are closed to auto/truck traffic and only human powered vehicles are allowed. As a way to keep the event fun-filled, there are about a dozen local bands who perform at a couple of locations.


The band with which my wife plays - Al Khemia - was one such band, and they performed in the tunnel under the Monona Terrace Convention Center. They perform classic Arabic music from all over the Middle East, and today they had guest dancers with them.


Mostly the dancers improvised, and did it pretty well. The band seemed popular to the passers-by, and at one point more than 40 people had gathered. People came and went as the spirit moved them, so few were there for any length of time. They played for an hour, and there was a steady stream of mostly bicyclists passing, so many people were at least treated to a moment of their music and dance.


In all, those who listened were pretty well entertained. I know that I was.
Here is a link to a small SLIDE SHOW of more photos.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Get Down! Get Funky!

It is all about perspective (well, and light...). I was shooting at cars today and have some perspective to share as a way to compare and contrast. This is a decent enough shot:


The only problem is it lacks punch. Compare it with this one:


Now we are talking! Here is another pair using the same variation:




One of the best guidelines for photographers is to change your perspective. It is essential with kids and pets, but amazing things happen with other subjects too. I will leave you with one more that I thought worked really well:



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Travels With My Sister

Yesterday I spent again with my sister the sister. We traveled north from Madison to Durward's Glen, a favorite picnic spot for our family many years ago. It hold special memories for some of us siblings.


It is a small but interesting slot canyon carved by the action of a creek. At times, with sufficient rainfall, the creek becomes not at all gentle but rather a raging destructive force.


From there, after a quick lunch break, we hopped over to Pewit's Nest, another Wisconsin natural area. Often during the week there is no one there, but yesterday there were a number of young adults and kids, some of whom entertained us by climbing the chasm walls and leaping into the only pool of water deep enough for such activity.

Making the Leap

I was a bit jealous and wished to join them, but I was not dressed for remaining wet for the rest of the day. Another time, though, I will do so.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Wingra Spring

My sister the sister (she is a nun) is visiting, so I am spending a few days taking her to interesting places. Yesterday we were at the Arboretum hoping to catch the lilacs in bloom, but they were already done. For the most part it was pretty much looking at plants not in bloom. There were a few, like this rhododendron.


We found the most delight when we walked down to the spring. She got to imagine people getting married there, and I snapped a photo of us to share with the rest of the family. You get to see just the spring.

Wingra Spring (DS3_9683)

For the above shot I once again added both the circular polarizing and neutral density (ND4) filters and used the lowest possible ISO and highest (smallest) possible aperture so that I could get longer shutter speeds. In this case the shutter was open for 2.5 seconds. This photo was the 29,767th I have taken with this camera (in approximately a year and a half).

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