Summer Travel II – III

Lots of travel this time of year. We just got back from a cruise with Jeannie’s family. It was her mother and father’s 50th wedding anniversary and they wanted to take all the kids and grandkids. We’re very happy for them and feel quite lucky both sets of our parents have made it this far.

Rewinding a bit, the weekend after Buffalo we went up to Albany to visit with Martin. He’s building a massive deck out back of his house, and it was about half done the day we were out there. We left Lizzy to stay a spell and help out Kathleen, but were all reuinted the following weekend. We went camping with Martin, Kathleen and their kids, Nick and Lisa and their kids, and a whole bunch of Nick’s extended family. I think we had eight campsites. I always feel like camping is a lot of work, especially the preparation, but then once we get there it’s always such great fun. Hiking, making fires, sleeping in tents, good food and drink, and all that. This year it rained both nights. Not enough to stop us from doing stuff and having fun, but everything was wet when packed up, so we had to roll it out to dry after we got home.

Of course camping isn’t for everyone. Some people are more cruise people. I’ll admit I’m not one of them. I had my doubts beforehand. I didn’t want to be stuck on a boat with nothing to do and/or seasick the whole time. But all was well and it was a great time.

It was a 4 day cruise, which was enough for me, and we had a cabin with a balcony, which was nice. The ship itself was really neat. It’s the Carnival Splendor, which is the 46th largest cruise ship in the world today (it was in the top ten when it was new just 8 years ago) and about as big as can be and still fit thru the Panama Canal. It’s 950 feet long and 16 or 18 stories high above the waterline. Taking off from NY harbor it barely fit under the Verrazano Bridge. Less then 20 feet to spare! Everything inside the boat was a bit smaller than normal, but very efficiently designed so you didn’t mind. I had less than inch clearance under most doorways, and very little shoulder room.

Once we were away there wasn’t much to see other than the sea. We saw dolphins twice. Once was first thing in the morning, six or so of ‘em playing in the ship’s wake, which was delightful, and later there were dozens of ‘em, but not as close. We saw whales too, one evening watching the sun go down, and some lovely sunsets. But it was mostly overcast so not much in the way of stars. The port of call was St. John New Brunswick, a nothing-ish town that was a cross between St. Catherine and Seattle in tone. We took a hike and saw the local gorge, where the famous Bay of Fundy tides ran upriver and created interesting whirlpools. We had lobster rolls for lunch at a pub, saw a little whaling museum, and the kids got souvenirs. The terrain itself was interesting and weather was much colder in the bay of Fundy than near home. All in all quite charming.

On the boat there were lots of bars and restaurants, pools and hot tubs, movies and even a casino. Even though there were thousands of people it didn’t feel cramped. The food was really, really good, and there was lots of it in all varieties, from buffets to big dinner banquets. The whole thing really well run, very impressive. Lizzy got into playing the various trivia contests they had, and won a golden “ship on a stick” trophy. The main attraction, of course was just hanging out with the family. Alot like camping, but less forest, more ocean, and less work. It’s great to see all the nieces and nephews for an extended spell. They had a great time all together. All but two are now into middle school and high school, and becoming such interesting people. Of course Denis and Sylvia, who’ve have been on lots of cruises, had a great time too. This was the way they wanted to celebrate.

Next up: Ohio!

College Art

This is the time of year when I usually organize my studio, throw out a bunch of old origami, and find a place to put my new origami paper. This year along the way I found a cache of art that I made in college. Having recently visited my Alma Mater, and recalling times there penniless and free, I thought I’d give it a look. Some were graphic design projects for classes, along with album covers and posters for my band, T-shirt designs (Campus Crusade for Cthulhu, UBCon ’90) and things like that. Others were from a drawing course I took, still life subjects, human figures, landscapes and architecture. Some were pretty good, so I wound up photographing a few of them. I might publish a gallery of them eventually. Meanwhile, here’s one, a 10-minute-or-so sketch looking out the window of the Bethune building (which is apparently no longer owned by the university) into the back parking lot on a cold, overcast winter day. You can see the tower of Hayes Hall in the distance thru the trees.

Posted in Art

Summer Travel I

Just got back from a trip upstate to visit family and friends. Saw my parents and my brother Martin and his family. Had some BBQ and took in the fireworks show at the local park on the 4th. Saw Denis and Sara, whose pool is broken, and then Larry and Jackie, who are on their way to Vegas and San Francisco to celebrate their anniversary. Nick and Lisa and their kids were in town too, so we all went up to Niagara Falls together. I haven’t done the falls in a few years, although I grew up near there and know the place well. We used to ride our bikes up there before I could drive. Anyway, we did the Maid of the Mist and trekked all the way out to Terrapin point, and ended up at the bar there. Great day for it.

Next day we went on a tour of SUNY at Buffalo. Lizzy is going into 11th grade in the fall, and so is Nick’s oldest son so it’s time to start looking at colleges. Jeannie, Nick and I all attended UB a long time ago, and Jeannie and I met and fell in love there, so the tour brought back alot of memories as well as alot of comments on everything that’s changed with the campus since that time. Lizzy seemed favorably impressed by the whole thing, and is starting to think more about what she wants to do with her life and what it’ll take to get there.

Origami USA Convention 2015

Rewinding a bit, the annual Origami USA convention was a week ago. It was another great convention this year, although a bit more low-key than some. In addition to being a week earlier than usual, we were at a new venue, so I’m sure that had something to so with it. The place was Manhattan College in The Bronx. It’s nice and close to my house, with free parking. The campus is pretty hilly, however, with a whole lotta of steps to climb between buildings.

First thing I noticed was the exhibit hall was very nice, much better then the sub-basement at FIT. It had good lighting and was central to everything so we got lots and lots of visitors. I arrived there first to help cut up paper for the giant folding contest Sunday nite. Saturday when I showed up the exhibit hall was packed.

I had a whole lotta new stuff in my exhibit, mainly airplanes and spaceships from a new book I’ve begun working on. I designed about ten or twelve new models, and diagrammed six of them. I’d been working pretty hard at diagramming right up until the start of the convention, so most of my new models for the exhibit were folded just a day or two before the start.

I discovered a great new paper from the lode I got from Brian back in the wintertime. It’s called Metallic Lotka. He also calls it tissue foil, but it’s not the same as the handmade tissue you commonly find. Much thinner and stronger, and shiny on one side with just a bit of sparkle. Perfect for airplanes and spaceships. Only thing is I only had 30cm sheets, but I found out it comes in 40cm and 60cm sheets as well. I ordered a bunch and expect I’ll make the bulk of models to photograph for my book out of it. In the near-term I’m gonna fold some of my completed designs out the stuff for Centerfold in Ohio next month.

I taught two classes to test my new diagrams. One was intermediate airplanes and spaceships, and the other was complex. For both I passed out diagrams and folded along, which worked well. In the complex class I led with the biplane. Everyone got thru it and did a nice job, and I got some good feedback as to how to refine it. In the other class I taught my Art Demo Rocket, Retro Rocket, Supersonic Transport, and Jet Airliner. All of them went over quite well, and again I got some ideas on how to refine them.

Lots hanging out with origami friends. One night I got involved in a fairly deep discussion of the finer points of diagramming with John Montroll and Jason Ku. John’s diagramming style is fairly definitive to me and I use the majority of his conventions. Meanwhile Jason diagrams in the Japanese style and spent a year working at Origami House, whose books are perhaps the most high-quality in the world. They certainly tackle some of the most advanced models ever diagrammed. So that was really fascinating. The next night John sat down and read thru my diagrams and gave me a bunch pointers and things to consider. This comes at a good time since I’m just undertaking my second book.

Coming soon: pictures!

RUSH in the Garden

I saw Rush at Madison Square Garden last night. I swear they just keep better and better. This is the first time I’ve seen them in the Garden and it might’ve been the best Rush show yet. And that’s saying a lot. First time I saw them was back in the Moving Pictures era, and they’re the only band I’ve seen more than the Dead (and its isotopes).

Rush played for over three hours in two sets. The opener was a 10-minute-plus suite of songs from Clockwork Angels. From there it was into some more of their recent songs. The first 45 minutes was all 21st century schizoid heavy metal. After a while it became clear that they were working their way backward thru their discography. By an hour they were up to Roll the Bones. They skipped a good deal of their late 80’s and early 90’s synth era stuff, but that’s okay cuz they covered a lot of it last tour with a string section, to great effect. They did a few songs off Grace Under Pressure and Signals, including Losing It, with a guest violinist (an alumni of the Clockwork Angels String ensemble). Closed the first set with Subdivisions.

That left the second set to focus on their Moving Pictures and earlier stuff. They played quite a few songs I’d never heard them do live before (in addition to One Little Victory and Losing It in the first set.) The first big surprise was Jacob’s Ladder off Permanent Waves. Then they did a good chunk of the 20-minute epic Hemispheres, segueing into Cygnus X-1 from A Farewell to Kings. (They skipped La Villa Strangiato but I guess that’s okay cuz they did that 2 tours ago.) Then came a complete version Xanadu, with Alex on the doubleneck Gibson 6- and 12-string, and Geddy on the doubleneck Rik combo bass and guitar. This was followed up by condensed version of 2112, beyond just the overture and Temples of Syrinx, but skipping some of the slow bits in the middle. Like the Hemispheres/Cygnus medley and the opener, it was more than just a highlight and it held together compositionally as a complete extended work.

Going back even further, the first encore was Lakeside Park, and then into Anthem. From there it was What You’re Doing of course and closing with Working Man. My only disappointment was they skipped By-Tor and the Snow Dog, which is perhaps my all-time fave.

Needless to say, the playing was first rate. All of them were on. Lots of amazing basswork by Geddy, and Alex just shined on guitar. I think Neil Peart has made up new parts, or at least or new interpretations of a lot of the old stuff. Or maybe he was just improvising and still that tight. Either way, he had a whole different kit for the second set, apparently a replica of his (or the original) kit from back in the day. Meanwhile Geddy has updated and streamlined his synth rig considerably over the years, and Alex is singing backup these days. Both Geddy and Alex changed their axes so often I doubt either of them used the same instrument for more than two songs the whole show. Seeing them trot out the ‘ol doublenecks, and Neil’s tubular bells, for Xanadu was particularly fun. (I guess Alex’s must be new; the story was his old one was stepped on by a circus elephant baskstage at Maple Leaf Gardens in the 80’s and they haven’t performed that number live since.)

Anyway, I was blown away by the whole thing, and Neil’s playing in particular. The light, laser, video and pyrotechnic show was amazing too. One number the whole stage was in flames. It was actually scary. My only criticism is the acoustics in the Garden smeared the upper treble so you couldn’t always here the guitar clearly.

The rumor is that this their last tour. I sure hope that turns out not to be the case.

Left Hook Videos, Part II

I created a bunch of videos for the Dudley’s gig, including some new medleys and some whole songs: Domino, Hold On I’m Coming/Soul Man, Knock on Wood/Get Ready, In the Midnight Hour/Mustang Sally, and Them Changes/I Got You. Looks like a heavy concentration on the soul side of the set. Have to balance it out with more rockers next time. Meanwhile here’s the link:

There’s a pretty good amount of overlap between these and the FN set, so the next step is decide which ones we want to link on the web site. Coming soon. Also I’ve started making a CD from the show so we can use it as a tool to book more gigs. Onwards and upwards!

Left Hook Videos, Part I

I put a whole bunch of videos from the Left Hook show at Fisherman’s Net back in April. I was using a new camera and new editing software so it took a little while, but now you can go and check it out:

I made six medleys of some high points of the show. Each one is about two minutes long, with about four songs. I also put up four whole songs: I Got You (I Feel Good), Them Changes, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, and Drift Away. For each there’s three renditions: BBH is broadband high, BBL is broadband low, and Cel is for cel phones and mobile devices. Down the line I’m gonna set up a page to serve the right one automatically.

Next up I’m gonna go thru the video for the Dudley’s show and post some footage from that. Meanwhile, here’s some pictures from the Dudley’s gig:

This time we even got some shots of our drummer Gus!

Summer Kick-Off

Hi, I’m back. Been busy traveling and other stuff, getting an early start on my summer. I went upstate to visit my brother Martin and then on to the Adirondacks to see my good friend Mark for a few days. Nice just to disconnect from everything and spend a few days on my own. Martin and family are doing well. Abbie is now past two. Out of baby phase and into little kid phase. She’s trying hard to keep up with her big brother, who is trying hard to keep up with *his* big brother. Meanwhile out in the yard they have chickens and ducks and guinea fowl running around and squonking all the time. Great fun.

I haven’t been up to the mountains in a while and it was good to reconnect with nature and to see Mark too. The weather was beautiful and bugs not too bad, so we did a bunch of hiking and canoeing. Very peaceful, just awesome. Mark is doing well too, busy running his own business building web sites for everyone (it seems) in the region. On my last night there I sat in with Mark’s band Crackin’ Foxy. They do old-timey gypsy jazz, and are quite good. Two female singers for an Andrews-sisters-ish sound, two guitarists and a standup bass, with Mark on banjo and ukulele. I played soprano sax and had a great time.

On the drive home coming out of the mountains I wrote a new song.

Lizzy had a concert at her school for her a cappella group and the school band (obviously not performing together). They were really excellent, even surprisingly so. In fact the a cappella group got invited to sing the national anthem at a Yankee game next weekend!

On Memorial Day weekend we had a big ol’ barbecue and had a bunch of friends over. Everyone is so busy all the time so it’s good to see people and hang out. Also went rollerblading for the first time this season, and took the Mustang out for a nice long ride. In between lots of yardwork (today it finally got actually *hot*), working on music, my web site and of course origami for my new book. I now have 16 models designed, including a brand-new Quadrocoptor, and two new models diagrammed and the diagrams for two more well begun. Only a month until convention and lots to do!