Friday, February 25, 2011

Gaddafi's last stand?

9:00 AM (Eastern USA time)

There is fierce battle in Tripoli.  Gaddafi's last stand, I hope.

Although foreign journalists are not allowed into Tripoli, the people there are communicating with the rest of the world via Twitter.

Béhéeddine HAJRI
ya rabb RT @ Ya rab please protect the people of Tripoli and let today be gaddafi's last day.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Libya, Feb. 22, 2011

#Cartoon - The Courageous People of #Libya #Feb17 #Jan25 #Gad... on Twitpic

The Times They Are A Changin'
Bob Dylan

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Joshua Bell in Recital, Take 2

I bought a ticket to hear Joshua Bell on January 26, but I didn't go because of the snow.  Only about 300 people showed up for the concert, and a complete power outage stopped the performance.  The crowd milled around in the dark lobby, where Josh played "Variations on Yankee Doodle Dandy" and gave out autographs.

The concert was rescheduled for the following week, and this time I went. I am so glad that I did, because it was a truly fantastic concert. 

The first piece on the program was Brahms Sonata 2 for violin and piano.  Even with two master performers, the piece did not move me. 

The second piece, Schubert's Fantasy in C Major, was the high point of the scheduled performances for me.  I had prepared for the concert by listening to a podcast in which Josh  talked about the music he would play, and I was intrigued by what he said about the Schubert.  He surprised me by saying that the Schubert piece was more in the Romantic period style than the Brahms.  He described Schubert as a great melodist whose works are very tuneful, and I hadn't thought of Schubert in these terms.  Josh went on to say that the piano part of the Schubert Fantasy is very difficult to play.  The first few notes of the Fantasy swept me away.  The piano played shimmering ripples of sound. with a warm, light feeling.  I felt as if there was a warm breeze under me, lifting me up and carrying me along.  I felt my breathing become slow and deep, in synch with the music.  The violin entered so softly that it was barely perceptible, but when the violin played a little louder, its sound was just like that of the piano -- warm and soft.  Soon, the sound of the violin was more prominent, and it took off in a true flight of fantasy.  There was some technically difficult work in the violin part, which Josh did not mention in his podcast.  He played it beautifully and without showing off.  He even played a very narrow vibrato.  His style was subtle, not shouting, but he still conveyed emotions very strongly.  I believe that this accomplishment is is a sign of a great master.  I loved this piece so much that I looked for recordings of it on Youtube and, but none of them was very good.  Most of the pianists played with a clunk-a-clunk-a sound, and none of the violinists could play with the subtle beauty that Josh did.  I am so very glad that I heard that performance live.

The last piece on the program was Grieg's Sonata.  In the podcast, Josh said that this was the first time he has performed this work in public.  He said that he likes to add at least one new piece to his performing repertoire each year to study and improve his musicianship.   The music sounded a lot like Norwegian folk music and folk dance music.  It was definitely Romantic and even showy at times.  Josh let go and showed off with his fiddle.  Of course, he played beautifully.

Then came the encores.  To everyone's delight, Josh played Wienawski's Polonaise Brilliante.  I could see people in the audience move up to the edge of their seats and sit bolt upright to listen. The Wienawski is technically very difficult to play and wonderful to listen to.  It has lots of fireworks and great melodies.  It was fun to hear Josh play it with superb technical and musical showmanship.
For the last encore, Josh and the pianist played one of Chopin's Nocturnes.  I don't know who arranged the piece for violin and piano, but the two instruments complemented each other beautifully.  Its mood was gentle but sparkling.  It was a happy piece to end the program with.

This concert had a coda.  Josh was giving out autographs, and while standing in line I talked  to some interesting people.  One was a teenage boy carrying a violin case.  He was a wunderkind who had started taking Suzuki lessons at age 4 and is now quite accomplished.   He told me that he wanted Josh to sign one of the two satin ribbons placed in his case as a bow holder.  I asked him about his bow.  He is now trying out some of them and favoring a Hill bow.  These are in the $4-10K range, so I'm not familiar with them.  He is also trying out some violins at a lutherie which carries instruments at $10K and up.  He knew a lot about everything related to the violin, and he shared a lot of his knowledge with people standing in line.  When we got close to Josh at the autograph table, we saw someone open her violin case and give Josh the instrument to sign with his Sharpie pen.  We really wondered about that.  When he got near Josh, the virtuoso obviously recognized him.  He jumped up and shook hands with great warmth.  The two chatted for a little while, and after Josh had autographed his bow holder, he went around to the other side of the table so that his mother could photograph him with Josh, who gave him a big hug.  The student's mother asked Josh to autograph her son's practice folder.  Josh paused briefly to think and then wrote "May you be happy playing your violin always."  I thought that was beautiful.  When I got to speak to Josh, I asked him about signing the violin.  He shook his head and said "I really didn't want to do it."  He signed my program, which I will give to my luthier.  I really liked Josh's style.  He was very laid back, unpretentious, and warm, especially with fans he knew.  He gave us a great ending to a great concert.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A new look at old photos

I have been going over some of my old digital photos and reworking them with my photoediting software, Photoshop Elements and Aperture.  In many cases, I get surprisingly good improvements.

One of the most powerful abilities of photoediting software is bringing a photo out of what looks like darkness.  I took a series of pictures at a gathering of folk artists from Bolivia at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2004.  My camera's batteries were running low and I had neglected to bring spares, a mistake I have not made again.  Here is a dramatic before-and-after pair.


I also used photoeditors to bring out the true colors of a Painted American Lady butterfly I photographed in 2006.