Monochrome Mondays

Here we go with yet another Monochrome Mondays on this first day of Spring. Yesterday was a particularly nice day and I went for a walk down some different streets in our neighborhood. While snapping various photos I was reminded that photography does not always have to be about big, epic scale type photos of landscapes or action shots. Sometimes it can just be about ‘things’. Things that may on an ordinary day mean nothing to you, but then on another jump out at you as if to say ‘Take a picture of me.’ That is what happened yesterday. Our neighborhood is a mix of small warehouses and industry along with residential areas. As I rounded a corner of a street I don’t recall having walked on before I saw this storage yard with an entire fleet of small cranes. The kind with  those jumbo tires used on small construction sites. There was something about how the sunlight was glaring off the rows of them that made me want to take some shots. Thanks to my wife for coming up with the title, which really does suit it.

Also, on a technical note for the other photographers out there, this was among the first shots taken on my brand new camera! It is a Nikon D3400 with an 18-55mm lens. I’ll also be using my new 55-200mm and the nifty 50mm lens now regularly too. After 6 years the D3100 was starting to act up and be less reliable, so I’m very excited to have new equipment again!

Symphony In Metal

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Photo Shuffle-The Street Where You Live

I love accordions. There I said it. In all honesty though, I have never understood why the instrument has been subject to such hostility from some corners. It is an extremely versatile instrument, and a key ingredient to a range of styles, from folk music across Europe and Latin America, and right here in the U.S. with Cajun and Zydeco music especially. Be it a piano accordion or some degree of button style it can do so much as an instrument and I have always enjoyed what it brings. It is a good solo instrument capable of subtle nuances, makes great dance music, and can really rock when it wants to. Yes, I said that too. Accordions rock.

I love accordions so much I could make you a long list of my favorite players, mostly from English and Celtic music, with others from Cajun and Zydeco. But it would also include a fabulous musician and singer I am happy popped up today here on Photo Shuffle. Her name is Ginny Mac, from Fort Worth, Texas. I first became aware of her a few years ago,  watching her perform with the band Brave Combo at a festival. They were a band I had been familiar with for years but never managed to see. A great party band with an astonishing repertoire of music from around the world. You have never heard the Hokey Pokey until you have heard their version! Much as I was enjoying Brave Combo’s set, when Ginny stepped up to the microphone to sing I realized she definitely had something special going on.

So I did the usual social media thing and began following her musical activities since leaving the group not too long after, as well as backtracking to her older material. Ginny is just an incredible talent. Versatile in both voice and her playing on both accordion and piano. Capable of rocking out to a Chuck Berry song, or singing the Cajun standard Jole Blon, followed by a Patsy Cline number for good measure. I absolutely admire musicians who are versed in so many styles. A big part of that for Ginny I suspect is the versatility of the accordion and what it can actually do. Make sure you watch the clip at the bottom of the post with Ginny explaining that herself far better than I can.

Much as I thoroughly enjoy all those styles, I found myself particularly drawn to Ginny’s interpretations of some of the old standards. Take ‘On The Street Where You Live’ for example. Originally from the musical My Fair Lady, it was covered by the likes of Dean Martin, Vic Damone, Nat King Cole and dozens more. It is not really a type of song  that I normally listen to, but I realized something awhile back. Where once I used to automatically dismiss much of this style, probably a result of some of it being ‘inflicted’ on me as a youngster, I can now appreciate the songs themselves more. So while I do not see rushing out to buy the complete works of Vic Damone in the near future, I can at least acknowledge that a good song is a good song.  Groups like Hot Club Of Cowtown and singers such as Ginny Mac have made me realize that with their interpretations.

‘On The Street Where You Live’ is actually a great example of this. I have been familiar with this song of course, almost certainly because of My Fair Lady which my parents had the soundtrack for. Listening to Ginny’s cover of it though, the dreamy words really come through. Though the street where I live (seen in the photo above) is not so dreamy, and definitely not filled with larks and lilac trees or enchantment pouring out of every door, it is home. Where my beautiful wife and I live with our two cats.  I realized that I missed all this imagery in the more schmaltzy versions of the song, Ginny Mac’s accordion driven re-working really fits the song. But that accordion being  such a versatile instrument, somehow also captures the feel of those versions with a full on orchestra.  Which makes me thankful for such talented musicians as Ginny Mac constantly thinking and working on their music. Finding ways to reinterpret music and going back to basics. And using an accordion to do it is icing on the cake! Please check out her website and social media for more clips-http://www.ginnymac.com/

On The Street Where You Live-Music By Frederick Loewe, Lyrics By Alan Jay Lerner

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*Photo Shuffle is a short slice of my regular blogs based on setting my Ipod on shuffle and matching up one of my photographs to whatever comes up.

Ginny Mac

Monochrome Mondays

Hello again! Since this week leads into Saint Patrick’s Day, I decided I would share another photo of Ireland today. Readers of this blog from the start will know that I have written about Ireland and Irish music before. Here on Monochrome Mondays I have also featured  some shots of Ireland, but I think those have all been shots along the fabulous coast of Donegal. This one is different though. It is still Donegal, but it is a photo of a wonderful old tree on the land where my mother and her siblings grew up. Seeing it again set against the sky on a beautiful summer day it reminded me not just of the actual tree roots that have kept it alive all these years, but also of family roots. Last year most of us gathered for a special event (which I wrote about here) but one evening a smaller group of the immediate family had a dinner at the old house. Looking around at this gathering I was struck by the contrast between the two. Strength of nature, strength of family. Tree roots, family roots. Irish roots. Nothing else like it!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day all!

Tree On Family Farm, Kilcar Co. Donegal

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Soundtrack Of A Photograph, Part 16

2 years ago while in the process of moving, I sat down and wrote this series. My idea was to view some key periods of my life as ‘seasons’, using both music and my own photos of trees to come up with what I call a musical biography. I remain proud of it, and find myself looking back at the series quite often, which is not something I do with a lot of my other posts. I think I realized that I had stumbled on an idea worth pursuing further. I am re-posting this today because after much thought, I am announcing that I have started work on a book version of My Four Seasons- A Musical Biography. I will be using the same theme, working in some of my other posts, expanding some sections, shifting others around. There is no target date, and I will still be writing new posts here, but I am ready to get this going! Looking forward to sharing this all with you in the not too distant future.

Soundtrack Of A Photograph

My Four Seasons, An Introduction

Way back in Part 4 of this blog in November of 2013, I wrote a blog using  photos of trees I had taken over the years. Most of those photos were taken from a perspective of looking at trees from a distance, peering up at them. This past year, while on a beautiful spring day’s photo excursion in Central Park, I accidentally stumbled on a new approach to taking photos of trees. I certainly do not claim it to be my own, but I quickly realized I loved the perspective it presented to me. What happened is that there was a large flowering tree in full bloom on a pathway. While several other people near by stood and took their own photos standing  back and looking up at the tree, I had a flicker of a thought to go under it instead. I ducked under the…

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Monochrome Mondays

For the first time here on Monochrome Mondays I am cheating slightly with something that is not a monochrome shot. Well…it actually is, but it isn’t at the same time.  You see, most of these shots in this series have been fairly recent ones taken with my digital camera, when monochrome is a menu option. A few were shot on actual black and white film. Today’s choice was shot in digital…but in color. The monochrome on this Monday comes from the subject itself being (or appearing in black and white). Kind of a cool distinction to monochrome photography that the end result can appear that way, even if actually photographed in color. Anyway, this shot was taken in one of my favorite old buildings in New York City-The Customs House, which is near Battery Park. It now houses the Smithsonian National Museum Of The American Indian, but the building itself dates back to 1907. It is an absolute gem of a building, with lots of wonderful architectural features. Best of all for me is this elliptical rotunda, one of those structures that begs having a photograph of it taken every time I visit. Hope you all can get there yourself someday!

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Musical Laughs

 

Half Hearted Hand Shake

Half Hearted Hand Shake

I have to come right out and say that I have been off my game with writing so far this year. It isn’t that I have run out of things to say, or music to listen to, or photographs to take. I just…have not been myself lately and feel a lack of focus or desire to sit down and write. But awhile back I had an idea that I have decided to pursue in this post, and while fresh air, exercise, or a good night’s sleep are all good cures for getting yourself out of a funk, there is one other key-laughter. I am aware that this blog might sometimes come off a little heavy handed as I recount the emotional lure that photography and music have for me. But laughter does too, so I wanted to write something that shared my bent over in stitches, shrieking with laughter side as well.

Comedy is a subjective thing of course. There are many types and styles to choose from. Everyone from the ancient Greeks to Shakespeare incorporated comical elements in their stories to loosen the audience up and maybe add a few seats to the arena. Writers like P.G. Wodehouse mastered the art of comic stories with the lovable but bumbling Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves. The early days of cinema were comedy heavy with the greats of silent film like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.  Television got in on the act almost immediately and some of the most successful early TV shows were comedies such as I Love Lucy. Later it became even more absurdist with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and other shows of pure silliness. At some point  stand up comedy became both ground breaking and lucrative for the best performers.  In the last 30 years or so, animated shows like The Simpsons exploded in popularity. With all of the above you can certainly find something to match your style-everything from slapstick to raunchy humor and everything else in between.

One aspect of comedy I have always enjoyed and appreciate however are sketches that combine music and comedy. Though there are countless plays and musicals that accomplish this, I especially enjoy the more modern form.  I could cite dozens of examples,  but the videos here represent some of my favorites. I wanted to focus on some moments of pure humor. Perhaps I should say humour because I have long had a particular devotion to British humour. Here are just a few of my musical favorites to watch.

First up is an absolute classic from Monty Python-The Lumberjack Song. What I came to realize over the years watching the original series is an admiration for how ridiculous the sketches must have been when conceived and discussed before filming. How on earth do you come up with ideas like the Fish Slapping Dance, or mountaineers scaling the sidewalks of a city street? How does one sell the idea of The Ministry Of Silly Walks, Dead Parrots, ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition’ or men named Raymond Luxury Yacht (pronounced Throatwobbler Mangrove), to name but a few memorable sketches to TV executives? The same holds true for the Lumberjack Song, as you sing…Sing…SING……

Next up is a classic from the sketch show A Bit Of Fry & Laurie with Stephen Laurie and Hugh Fry. No wait…Fry Stephen and Laurie Hugh. Blast it…I mean of course, Stephen Fry, and Hugh Laurie. When you get annoyed with life just remember to kick some ass!

Now we go to a scene from the show Black Books. Credit to my wife for turning me on to this show with the worst shop keeper (with the best bookstore!) ever-Bernard Black. This scene features Bill Bailey as the much maligned and overworked assistant Manny, figuring out that despite being forbidden to learn piano as a child he has long hidden talents on the instrument (showcasing the very real talent Bill Bailey has on the instrument).

Next is a clip from the wonderful Lenny Henry, featuring some very real tasty guitar work by Jeff Beck. There is a huge body of Lenny’s work I have not seen, but you don’t need to see much to know that he is both a gifted comedian and not too bad of a singer either.  His role as the master of the verbal put down Gareth Blackstock in the series Chef! (who you must never, ever ask for salt on one of his dishes, or worse still, incur his wrath which might lead to a request to see your blood outside the body) will probably always be my favorite. Lenny fully takes on the persona of the characters in his sketches. Just like he does so convincingly here as a blues singer, replete with a ‘great’ harmonica solo.

Finally, having just seen the recent David Brent-Life On The Road mockumentary, I  had to include the classic song Free Love Freeway, first performed on one of my favorite shows ever-The Office. The show has many cringe worthy moments between the employees of the office, but none more so than Ricky Gervais’ portrayal as David Brent.

The thing I realized in putting this post together is that the best musical comedy songs make one laugh at their ridiculousness, while still conveying a sense of being a real song. This is actually the crucial element. The Lumberjack song would not work without the Canadian Mounties choir. The Fry & Laurie sketch would not have the same impact if Hugh Laurie had not decked himself out in shades and slicked back hair. The Black Books scene is so great because Bill Bailey is actually a really gifted musician, while the Lenny Henry sketch had much greater impact with the talent of Jeff Beck. Lastly, Ricky Gervais shows how difficult a skill all of this really is.  He had to believe in the song, and pull it off as David Brent performing it, not as Ricky Gervais the actor. Not at all easy to do when you really think about it.

I’d love to hear some of your favorite comedy moments of all time-be it from a TV show, stand up, or movies in the comments below.

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Monochrome Mondays

Well we are just a few days away from March now, which is a sure sign of spring here. Speaking of signs (what a clever transition huh?), I have a thing for old signs like this one. No matter where you go in the city, you inevitably come across an old building that has a faded sign like this painted on the building itself. This particular one is around the corner from our apartment, and the building does not contain an Iron Works anymore. I’m not quite sure what is there actually, but whatever is there, I’m glad that the old sign remains in place for me to take photos of and preserve. So much changes in this world today, and I think that is why I like to seek out shots like this.

Iron Works

Iron Works