Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cuba for Christmas 2015

These photographs were taken in 2012, our last trip to Havana. This trip, a gift from my wife to her children and son-in-law, will only be a week, but we won't stray too far from Havana like we usually do. I am looking forward to seeing what changes have taken place since Obama and the Cuban leaders have opened things up. New Year's Eve we will spend at Dona Juana, whose lobster special is pictured second from bottom. We'll finish dinner well before any fireworks get set off, if that is indeed what they do in Havana. It will also be wonderful to show our favorite city to Jenny, Josh, and Tyler, not to mention getting out of the dreary, dank weather we've been experiencing here in Northern California. Can't wait to touch down!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Stanford-Notre Dame Football November 28th, 2015

I do not normally attend college football games in person, preferring to watch on TV and suffering through the interminable breaks for advertising every five minutes. In person, for me at least, it's a worse experience. However, the opportunity to watch the game from the sidelines was too hard to turn down. And, what a game it was, with Stanford marching down the field in 27 seconds to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired. The bottom two shots are only two of about 14 I took in just over a second. Above that is a touchdown early in the game as the tight end out-jumped the Irish defender. Above the touchdown shot is Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey ready to take a snap, and then Quarterback Kevin Hogan at the line of scrimmage. Big games like this also bring out celebrities, like Alex Rodriguez trying to rehabilitate his reputation by posing with youngsters.

Friday, November 27, 2015

San Francisco at Night 11/21/15

Last weekend, a group of 35 eager young photographers got on a yellow school bus to try their hand at night photography. We had about a 50-50 mix of digital photography students and members of the school photography club. Tom, Don, Bob, and our driver Hector and I were the chaperones, instructors, and cooks. We begin our tour of San Francisco at Crissy Field with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and a bar-be-que area with picnic tables. The first and fourth photographs show the students lined up to get shots of the bridge at sunset before we move to the Palace of Fine Arts. In the Spring, the sun sets directly behind the bridge, but this time of year it sets further south, out of view for our photographers. While we walk the couple of blocks to the Palace, Bob and Hector are busy BBQing burgers and dogs, and an hour later we go back to eat under the illumination of flashlights. After dinner we drive across the Golden Gate to the lookout on the Marin side to get a look back at the City and the bridge. Our final stop is the Embarcadero where we take 30 second photographs of the Bay Bridge and the remnants of the pier that used to sit there.

Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook:Acoustic Squeeze, Great American Music Hall, SF 11/20/15

Billed as the "At Odds Couple" tour because of their long history of acrimony, the duo was in fine spirits and good voice. The elaborate stage set was fun as well. They also had a fine new album to showcase, and longtime Squeeze fans were not disappointed. We were guests of our friends and fellow Squeeze fanatics George and Julie, who was celebrating a birthday. The lads even gave her a few bars of "Happy Birthday." Thanks for a great evening with many good friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Richard Thompson Electric Trio, The Fillmore, November 2015

Richard Thompson rolled into town on the heels of his new CD "Still" and thrilled a sell-out crowd with both old and new compositions. There are many music lovers who have no idea who he is, but for those of us who appreciate great guitar playing, stellar song-writing, and a dynamite band, he couldn't come around often enough. My friend Mike Kemp and I enjoyed a typical guitar extravaganza and a catalogue that stretches back more than forty years. The Fillmore is an outstanding music venue going back to the 60's. Well worth the work night drive up to the City.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Left Bank Metro, Paris, 1997

This photograph taken near the Seine during a long Thanksgiving weekend in 1997 is a favorite of mine. The bare trees, the wet streets, the women in high heels dressed up for shopping, the gendarmes strolling, the woman waiting for someone, the yellow awning of the famous bookstore, the kiosk, and the metro stop all seem like quintessential Paris to me. 

Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1997

In 1997, my wife and I took a Thanksgiving trip to Paris, courtesy of a ACIS, a student travel group we have led trips for. It's cold, rainy, and the sun comes up late and sets early in Paris this time of year. It's also at its most beautiful. We stumbled upon what has been one of our favorite parts of Paris, returning each time we visit. Rue Mouffetard is one of the world's great market streets, stretching a half mile or more and filled with markets, restaurants, bistros, specialty shops, and bars. This particular day we came across some musicians busking for francs.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Joe Jackson

The main reason I went to HSB this year was the attraction of Joe Jackson. I've been a fan since his first record in the late 70's, and I think his last two are among the best he's ever recorded, including Fast Forward, the new one I've been listening non-stop to since I got it Monday. He's never been a showman. The lure is the music. The two teenagers in love in front of me clearly didn't get it, but they were pretty much digging each other to the point of distraction. All was going along swimmingly until Joe took off his dark glasses. Yikes! Bad face lift warning! Once he put them back on, I was able to concentrate on the music rather than wondering, "What the hell was he thinking?" Jackson is a superb musician, songwriter, singer and arranger. The crowd of over 20,000 clearly agreed with my assessment. Waiting over 5 hours for him to step on stage was worth it.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, The Waco Brothers

I had heard of the Waco Brothers as they have played Hardly Strictly a few times before, but knew nothing about them. They led off the morning with an energetic and visually entertaining set, marred by speakers clipping or cutting out every few minutes. The volume was turned down for the subsequent acts thankfully. The band is from Chicago but their leader, Jon Langford, is from Wales and led a fairly popular punk band in England, the Mekons. No one in the band is blessed with a great voice and the songs aren't instantly memorable, but they're fun to watch jump around with reckless abandon. Another example of the tremendous diversity of acts at HSB. At this point in the show, the acres of grass behind thiose of us up near the front was empty, and a walk to the food vendors was no big deal. Later in the day there were probably 20,000 people there.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Lera Lynn

I had never heard of Lera Lynn until last Saturday and wasn't expecting too much, but her bio in the program was interesting, so I approached her set with an open mind. I was not disappointed. She has a beautiful voice and, more importantly to me, writes great songs. Accompanied by bass, drums and baritone guitar with a very noirish distinctive sound, she put on a terrific 55 minute set. I had actually seen her before without knowing it. She had a recurring role in the second season of True Detective, which I confess I didn't finish, She played a singer in a dive bar where the two protagonists meet every episode and she sings in the background. She worked with the legendary T-Bone Burnett on the soundtrack for the show.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, San Francisco, Boz Scaggs

On Saturday, October 2, 2015, I made my first trip up to the city in three years to attend Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in Golden Gate Park. The logistics of going to the show have gotten worse. The parking is a nightmare, the crowds are suffocating, and going from one stage to another is a waste of time if you want to actually see the performance. Upwards of 700,000 people flock to San Francisco every year for the three day, completely free lineup of both big and lesser known acts. My strategy now is to pick one of the seven stages, get there about 10;45, plop my chair down, have a bite to eat, and wait an hour for the show to start. This year I picked the Tower of Gold stage which was featuring The Waco Brothers, Lera Lynn, Boz Scaggs as the headliner, and Joe Jackson. Between sets I was able to walk over to the adjacent stage and get a taste of Paul Weller and The Milk Carton Kids. Neither was worth the effort. Pictured above is Boz Scaggs, a San Francisco institution who got his start in the Steve Miller Band before branching out on his own in the early 70's. He had a powerhouse band and still has that silky smooth voice with a lot of Texas in it. It's just not as powerful as it once was. His bluesy guitar playing is still as sweet as ever. I haven't seen him live in many years, and it was great to get the chance once again.