Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dog Day Afternoon

While taking photos of puddles in our neighborhood ballfield for an upcoming Zone page that has to deal with drainage, I happened to see two dogs carefully watching me. So I slogged through the mushy grass to get a photo. I shot this one quickly and hoped for more photos, but the camera-shy dogs disappeared behind their fence when I got closer.

This kind of setup is a perfect opportunity to take an eye-catching, if obvious photo. A small, aggressive white dog with a scowl on his face and a large black dog with a laid-back attitude. How can the photographer go wrong? (I don't know which one was 'Boots' and which one was 'Maxiumus.')

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Voyevode

While working I find an odd textural rhythm going through my brain. It's the background string section of Tchaikovsky's "Voyevode." I am fascinated by this work to the point where I bought the score. I could not make heads or tails of it. It was way too complex for me. But my violinist son could sight read the violin section and play it without ever having heard it.

Below is an interesting tidbit found in one of my internet searches. It explained a lot about what could have been going through the composer's mind.

Rather confusingly, Tchaikovsky wrote two works called Voyevode. The first Voyevode was his first opera, written in 1868 when he was 28. It was not a success and he abandoned it. Only the overture still survives as his Op.3. More than 20 years later, he came across a ballad by Pushkin with the same name, and decided to write a short tone poem based on it. He composed it in 1890, at a time of crisis. His patron and supporter, the Countess Nadezhda von Meck, who had supported him emotionally and financially for 13 years with a stream of correspondence, commissions and money, withdrew her support. Tchaikovsky was devastated and bitter, and never really recovered from the blow.

The story of Voyevode is simple and harsh. A Provincial Governor (we might call him a Sheriff, the Russian word is a Voyevode) returns home to find his wife in the garden with her lover. Giving his servant a gun and ordering him to shoot his wife, the servant shoots the Voyevode instead. Pushkin’s ballad is ironic, dry and unemotional, but Tchaikovsky’s version is full of intense emotion. Perhaps the story of a man deceived and abandoned by a woman, and his unexpected death, carried a resonance for him in feeling abandoned by Nadezhda von Meck? Whatever the truth, within three years Tchaikovsky himself was dead, in unexpected and (still to this day) unexplained circumstances.

The first performance was conducted by the composer in 1891 and was quite successful, but Tchaikovsky decided the piece was no good, and after the concert he tore up the score, and would have destroyed the orchestra parts too had the librarian not gathered them up and refused to hand them over to the angry composer. As a result the work was only published in 1897, four years after Tchaikovsky’s death, from the preserved orchestral parts from that first performance. (It has been suggested that maybe one of the percussion parts went missing after that first performance, because the percussion scoring now is surprisingly thin – only timpani and side drum, where one would expect at least cymbals and triangle too).

The work is in three sections – the two outer sections representing the urgent stormy tensions between the Voyevode and his wife, and the central section being the love affair between the wife and her lover. The final section concludes with the fatal shot, and a dark sombre ending that looks forward to the darkness of the 6th symphony.

I have several recordings but I recommend the recording by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony's version with Eliahu Inbal conducting. It's an amazing performance--the best I've heard. Here's the review I wrote for before I knew about the Pushkin story that inspired the work:

Listen to this masterpiece and you may be reminded of a Russian winter. At midnight. Spring is so very far away that it seems an impossible hope. But there is a brief respite from the frozen winds on this moonless night: A small fire inside a Russian peasant dwelling provides some feeble warmth. Unlike his other tone poems, there is no love theme here, but it is still splendid and flows like a shot of vodka. Then suddenly SLAM--the door is shut. We are once again lost in the numbing brutality of the Siberian winter. The ending is similar to the 6th symphony only this time it is even less gentle and sympathetic. There is no heartbeat or the slightest speck of hope. Just a Stalin-like cruel ending. Tchaikovsky tore up the score and called it 'rubbish.' This is very curious and indicates the distressed state of mind he was in before he drank the cholera-laden water. Fortunately they reconstructed the work from the remaining orchestral parts.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Viola Update

My teacher gave me a passing grade on the study shown here. I played it so many times that I found I had the work playing in my mind over and over too. I can't say I'm able to play it perfectly even now, but I did come close a few times.

I think I'm over the 'wall' that deters many beginners from continuing to play a musical instrument. There is still plenty of frustration, but I now look forward to practicing and practicing longer (when I have the time) and I know am making progress despite inevitable plateaus.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vote For Ron Paul!

Best Kept Secret Of The 2008 Presidential Candidates!

1. He supports the Constitution.
2. He has never voted for a tax increase.
3. He is against The National I.D. or Real I.D. Act.
4. He supports the rights of private property owners.
5. He wants us out of the U.N.
6. He is for 2nd amendment rights
7. He wants to shrink the federal government, not expand it.
8. He does not belong to the CFR (Council On Foreign Relations).
9. He wants to end the I.R.S..
10. He wants to cut government spending.
11. He is against eminent domain.
12. He is against the NAFTA Superhighway.
13. He is against the North American Union Or SPP (It Exists Google It).
14. He is for the principle of sound money.
15. He is against the idea of the Amero (Google It).
16. He is philosophically opposed to big government.
17. He voted against the misnamed Patriot Act that stripped us of our Rights.
18. He is for the Bill Of Rights.
19. He will not forcibly implant us or our troops with microchips or
like devices
20. He has delivered over 4,000 babies and values life.
21. As a doctor, he is informed on the health care issue.
22. He favors guarding our country over policing the world.
23. He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
24. He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
25. He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
26. He has never taken a government-paid junket.
27. He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.
28. He voted against regulating the Internet.
29. He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program.
30. He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to
the U.S. treasury every year.
31. He is against a mandatory draft.
32. He understands inflation is not just the prices going up, but rather the value of money going down.
33. He’s a Vietnam Vet
34. For the first time in a long time, you will not be voting "for the least worst".
35. You will help undo the damage done to our country over the last several decades.
36. He is our last hope for a free nation.

If You Care For America Vote Dr. Ron Paul

Saturday, August 11, 2007

From Sheep to Sweater

I got word that the Zone pages will indeed start up again this fall. I am currently working on the September pages. I came across this little graphic that I did last year for the Puyallup Fair. I am putting it here just for grins. (click to enlarge).

On a happy note, by prized blueberry bush is putting out a bowl-full of tasty ripe berries every day. I like this time of year!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rooster vs. Mullahs

Here's a blast from my past. My uncle in South Carolina was cleaning out various items from his office when he came across this old clipping that my mother had sent him many years ago. He snail-mailed it to me and it brought back a lot of memories of my first newspaper job at the San Angelo Standard-Times in West Texas.

It was mid 1979 and I had just graduated from Angelo State University after a grueling summer semester. I wasn't exactly sure what I would do and so I was delighted to receive an offer for full-time work. The low pay did not concern me--to me it seemed like a lot of money compared with the bakery job that put me through college. More importantly, I had a chance to sit in a chair, design and draw--and get paid for it.

This was also the year of the hostage crisis in Iran. Jimmy Carter should have supported the Shah who was trying to modernize Iran. Instead he helped usher in Khomeini and all the religious Muslim fanaticism which we must still deal with today. I was asked to draw some small cartoons that would appear above the nameplate on the front page each day that would help show the paper's support for the hostages. At first everyone thought the crisis would end in a few days. Instead, it dragged on for over a year until Reagan was elected. The cartoons were a big hit. I used the S-T's 'fighting rooster' and mascot, General Beauregard, to represent America. (Beauregard was a confederate general--I'm sure the rooster has been renamed by now due to today's pervasive and unctuous PC thinking). Anyway, the cartoons whetted my appetite for editorial cartoons and I began drawing a few for the editorial pages. Most of them were clunky and ill thought-out, but they generated a lot of buzz. Most of my cartoons dealt with Texas politics. Soon I had a syndicate going and sent cartoons to other newspapers in Texas. Many were also republished in a college textbook.

A few years later I left for San Antonio where I was promised the editorial cartoonist job at the Express News (along with a lot more money). I was told their cartoonist had been offered work elsewhere. I soon learned that this was totally bogus. The cartoonist had no intention of leaving and saw me as an interloper (or worse). Naturally he was not happy and neither was I. Instead of editorial cartoons, I worked on feature pages and designing 'wingo' ads and promos. I was also asked to work on serious informational graphics. I had done some for the Standard-Times but I really didn't know what I was doing. They had another star cartoonist there named Bob Dale. He drew very quickly and had the slick style of cartoonists from an earlier era. Everyone loved him. I was a big fish in San Angelo. In San Antonio I was a small fish--a nobody. Worse, I was not very good at design and info graphics. I became frustrated and so I left there to work for the competition--the now defunct San Antonio Light. They had an info graphic expert there who helped whip me into shape and also some good designers who really helped me out. The editorial cartoonist there did not think I would ever make a good editorial cartoonist. He said I wasn't mean enough. He was right. I enjoyed the drawing part of them but I really didn't like taking pot shots at politicians even if they deserved it. It didn't sit right with me. Also, I was subject to grumpy/depressive streaks. I love to laugh, but forcing out humor on a daily basis would not come naturally to me, especially since the situation in the world seemed way too serious for that. Lastly, I did not at that time have much of a political ideology. I didn't know if I wanted to be a liberal or a conservative. I wanted to be able to change my mind on subjects over night. A big no-no for cartoonists.

So I gave up hopes of enjoying the glamorous life of editorial cartooning. Instead I became a designer, an info-graphic artist and illustrator. I don't presume to be expert in any of these fields, but I have achieved a certain measure of competency and I'm happy with my accomplishments. I'm glad I gave up cartooning even though on occasion I get a brilliant idea for an editorial cartoon. And even today I could still draw General Beauregard kicking an Iranian mullah.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ron Paul for President

My original intent was to post about my graphics business and not to turn my blog into a series of political rants (I love to rant!) I don't admire many politicians, but this man is an exception. I have read many articles he has written and with a few exceptions, I almost always agree with him. We need to return to our Constitution and dismantle the Federal Reserve which is neither federal nor a reserve. It was illegally created and it is a means to bankrupt our country while concentrating wealth and power into the hands of a few. Ron Paul knows that those who control our money control our country. Their inflationary system of money and taxes has made us progressively poorer while placing our country deeply in debt.


Ron Paul's office has confirmed reports that the Texas Congressman is set to run for the 2008 Presidency. Paul unites opposition to the war and the police state at home across the entire political spectrum and in contrast to the current gaggle of criminals running the White House, represents everything that America truly stands for. A gargantuan effort in support of Ron Paul needs to be mobilized now to prevent Americans from being hoodwinked once again into electing a different puppet of the same dark establishment in 2008.

Paul first ran for President as the Libertarian candidate in 1988, receiving a massive 400,000 votes. He now commands the support of those all across the political spectrum, from libertarians through anti-war Democrats to real paleoconservative Republicans.

Paul has been in and out of Congress since the 70's and is universally hated by the Republican elite, who routinely back Democrats against him just to try and get him out of office. The former Vietnam flight surgeon is the perfect candidate for President and activists from every corner of every political persuasion should mobilize now in an attempt to help Paul shatter the power monopoly of the Republican and Democrat establishment who have worked together for decades to slit America's throat in the interests of power, greed, and ego - all working towards the realization of a new world order.

The Texan represents a dying breed in Congress, those who actually cast their votes in accordance with the Constitution and not at the discretion of lobbyists or the fear that the elite will tarnish their political careers if they don't continually support the establishment. As a result Ron Paul is the elite's worse nightmare, simply having him on the ticket itself will be a massive public relations blow, and that's why media organs will probably be activated to try and discredit him before 2008.

Paul was one of only a handful of Republicans to vote against the illegal invasion of Iraq, contenting rightly that the Constitution clearly states that only Congress can declare war. In bucking a trend, Paul was anti-war long before the majority of the country came around to a similar way of thinking following the catastrophe of the occupation.

While Democrats soft-peddle and cozy up to Bush, creating phony arguments about the level of troop presence in Iraq and ignoring the majority will of the country to bring the troops home immediately, Ron Paul's opposition to unnecessary wars of intervention has remained steadfast throughout his entire political career.

If a gargantuan effort is made from now until the end of 2008 to heighten Paul's media profile and forward him as America's last hope, he truly has a significant chance of giving Jeb Bush, Rudy Giuliani or whichever elitist puppet the Republicans choose to put forward a real run for their money.

At the very least it's a chance to attract attention to some serious issues and hold the establishment's feet to the fire. But with the favor of the political landscape continually swinging away from the scam repeatedly run by the Republicrats and Democans, we should really start off on a positive footing and consider the fact that Ron Paul, though still an underdog, has a real chance of becoming the next President.

According to the Associated Press, "Paul bills himself as "The Taxpayers' Best Friend," and is routinely ranked either first or second in the House by the National Taxpayers Union, a national group advocating low taxes and limited government."

On every single issue of national importance - borders, the war, limited government, U.S. sovereignty, tax and the federal reserve - Ron Paul stands for populist ideals that the country is screaming out for after seven years of hell under Bush, preceded by eight years of disgrace under Bill Clinton.

Ron Paul voted against the Patriot Act, opposes the draft, advocates the abolition of the income tax, urges the re-introduction of the gold standard, and stands against initiatives to strip the U.S. of its sovereignty such as CAFTA and the FTAA.

From reforming Marijuana laws to supporting an unregulated Internet, to supporting the 2nd amendment, Ron Paul hits home with keystone populist issues across the board.

During several appearances on The Alex Jones Show, Ron Paul has consistently upheld his commitment to civil liberties, slammed the militarized police state that Bush has created and also called for immediate impeachment proceedings to be brought against the current incumbent of the White House.

President Ron Paul could truly return America to the great nation it once was and his decision to run is an exciting development that we should all embrace and stand beside him in the fight to restore some form of dignity to the office of President that has been completely absent since the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.

"Congressman Ron Paul is a dream candidate, a super patriot, a total Constitutionalist, an American hero."

"We must elect him President."

--Alex Jones


Here is a link to some of Ron Paul's columns. Forget the same old Republicrats and Democans. Vote for Ron Paul!


Primary Objectives
Stop the polarization of America
Stop the domination of the Democratic and Republican parties over our political system
Shut down the Federal Reserve system
Return America's gold to Fort Knox and have it audited
Have Congress and the IRS, in a public forum, reveal the law that requires Americans to pay a direct, unapportioned tax on their labor.
Make computerized voting illegal in all 50 states
Keep the internet free and out of the control of large institutions
Rescind the law called the Real ID Act so Americans never have to carry a National ID Card
Make it illegal to implant RFID chips in human beings
Educate juries to the fact that they have the right to determine the law as well as the facts of a case
Educate juries to the fact that they are not obligated to follow the instructions of a judge
Stop Globalization because it is the path to a one world government
Protect our borders
Restore the environment
Put an end to the Patriot Act