Friday, May 30, 2014

A Wednesday Trifecta...meat, monsters and music!

 It was my buddy's birthday dinner on Wednesday at Ruby Tuesday.

Well, actually, his birthday was about a week ago, but RT sent him a birthday coupon for a free burger.

It was good till the end of May.

I had celebrated MY birthday last month for at least a week so this makes sense.

He had a burger and I went for a sirloin steak with low carb interesting trimmings. Well, maybe the onion rings could be challenged as "healthy."

This monster meal was followed by a 3-D viewing of Godzilla at the IMAX at nearby Citadel Mall.

I had forgotten (spoiler alert!) that Big G was actually trying to protect us from two (or more?) other monsters.

I Googled and saw possible sightings in the early trailer that included the always-popular Mothra, and maybe Rodan.

Also speculated were Kaiji and Gigan.

Had just had dinner so was not tempted by the Godzilla-size really big barrel of popcorn.

Everything is bigger in IMAX.

The third part of the trilogy that night was at the Pour House in West Ashley.

The headliner act was The Lee Boys but we were taken with the 4-time Grammy Award winner "opener" Trae Pierce and his funky T-Stone band.

They wore caps and tees with TPTS on the front and had the weekday crowd up and dancing.

The leader Trae had on a sporty top hat that captured your attention as well as his music.

The Florida high energy variety dance band put on quite a show and - close to midnight - the main act took over the stage.

I am a big fan of Robert Randolph and the Family Band so know and enjoy the sound of the steel pedal guitar.

Roosevelt Collier was in fine form and drummer Earl Walker set a torrid pace.

At one point this large family band invited the openers up on the stage with them.

We were able to see 6 stringed instruments playing at once.

Backed by two keyboards , drums, a singer and a few others. Yikes. You got your cover charge worth that night.

Oh, I forgot to include a picture of the free hamburger from Ruby Tuesday. Meh.

Suffice to say, the free meal coupon had a value of $9 and the one that he had made cost $11.

We skipped dessert because we were heading to the 3-D movie.

All in all, it was a great night.

A good mixture of taste and talent.

In the midst of Spoleto and Piccolo-Spoleto.

(Click on the photos for more detail.)

So far none of my Spoleto events had featured even one cold beer.

This evening made up for that.

Celebrate an Arts Festival in moderation.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

"G'day....All together, now!"

Another exciting and off-beat Spoleto event.

This acrobatic ensemble from Australia has obviously worked together before.

For a long time.

With extreme confidence in each other and in the team. Each was someone "you could lean on."


The event was called "A Simple Space: Gravity and other myths," held in the reconfigured Emmett Robinson Theatre at the College of Charleston.

 Usually the seats are tiered steep stadium-style but this time, some of the audience was seated onstage.

And, all around the small performing area.

Several were plucked from the audience to be part of one scene!

I was seated at the top, on the last row, so not a candidate. Whew.

The "volunteer" participants fortunately had only a passive role amid the active trained performers.

At one point though, the audience was asked to toss red, white and blue soft rubber balls onto the stage.

Extended handstands were maintained by the group as the balls rained down in the oddly-lighted stage area.

Even with long training,  arms started to quiver and the legs scissored to maintain the upright balance.

The audience continued to pelt them until the last athlete softly eased down.

The close confines of the room meant we could hear the heavy breathing as the acrobatics wore on.

A "pole lamp" in each corner shifted the lighting from full ON to carefully plotted lights from first one side then from the other. And other combos.

My camera and I, sitting up high, had to adapt as the lighting changed and a high speed shutter was never possible.

Still, I got at least one shot that I liked.

And an increased appreciation for the work that goes into body building and the meaning of team and individual excellence.

(Click on the photos for details but don't expect much more clarity. It is what it is.)

Nobody fell during the rather brief show - less than an hour - and the pace was rapid until human bodies tired.

They far exceeded the point where I would have been exhausted, flat on my back, laboring to catch my breath. Yeah, like I'd even try.

Good show!

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Friday, May 23, 2014

My "Night At The Opera."

 So, MY theatrical experience was elevated last night at the Sottile Theatre downtown.

My buddy received an invitation to the LAST dress rehearsal of the Spoleto Festival USA 2014 performance of Kat'a Kabanova.

This was even better than going to the first "real" performance during this year's Spoleto. I could be relaxed in khakis and an open-collar shirt. And break out my camera.

I'll start at the end so you can see the show involved a very large cast.

Here they are taking a final curtain bow at the end of the last rehearsal.

This is my first opera in years and this was sung in Czech.

A large screen overhead flashed the English translation, so we all were able to follow the libretto.

The lead of Katrina was sung by American soprano Betsy Horne (white dress).

It is her U.S. professional debut.

The role of her adulterous lover Boris was sung by tenor Rolando Sanz. The timid cuckold husband Tichon was played by tenor Dennis Petersen.

The manipulating mother-in-law Kabanicha was played by Jennifer Roderer.

Would hate to tangle with that battle-axe. Sheesh!
The meddlesome Mom-in-law is seen second from the right.

The spineless hubby is the short guy in a hat and dark overcoat. He is to the right of our hapless soiled heroine in white.

The story takes place in a small Russian village and people keep saying "let's run away to Moscow."

I have never been to Russia so can't comment on Moscow.

But I do plan a trip to Prague later this year to check out the Czech Republic for my first time.

One clever scene had all the doors pop open at once and people "outside" are being drenched.

Yes, real water is showering down and members of the cast have umbrellas and newspapers over their heads in the downpour.

I grew up here  in Charleston, going to what then was the Gloria Theater, and this was my first indoor rainstorm there.

During the curtain call, the two leading ladies caught hands and took a bow together.

On the left is Megan Marino who plays Varvara. She is a foundling in the household who provides a way for the lovers to meet on the sly.

The Spoleto Festival USA orchestra and the Westminster Choir were conducted by Anne Manson.

Her blond hair and baton could be seen in a spotlight, in the pit, leading the music and vocals for the show.

I am sure real opera lovers will leave with wildly different memories from this production than what I observed.

It was definitely a change-of-pace for me from music at the Pour House, Music Farm, Tin Roof, etc.

(Click on the photo for more details.)

On opening night there will be beer, wine and water for purchase. This last dress rehearsal event was dry.

Another change from how I usually enjoy a musical evening.

Enjoy opera responsibly.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Old and the New....

 The 3rd annual Charleston Beer Garden had something for everyone.

Beer, of course, and pretzels and food trucks and live music.

But, out on the Ashley River, something was going on that caught everyone's attention.

A "Jetski-powered FLYBOARD."

Attach one end of a long hose to the output of a Jetski and the other to a modified snowboard with two water jets and away you soar.

I don't know if it was part of the planned event or just some gutsy daredevils in swimsuits.

I saw something like this online in a Fireman's Rodeo where  a first responder tries to "ride" a charged hose.

If you've  ever dropped your garden hose, you know the power in that small tube.

It hops and skips over your yard, spraying everything at random.

Would not want this dervish whirling around like crazy in MY front yard.

This rider seemed in control as he went up, down, almost making a loop and dunking himself a few times.

Watching all that activity made me thirsty so maybe it was part of the organizer's plan.

As I understand it, about two years ago some SUNOCO gas stations began to dispense beer as well as gasoline.

The Craft Beer Exchange is available at convenience store stations in New York state... and here in Charleston.

The Beer Garden outdoor fun day was started to let the local people know about this new "convenience" store.

The map that was handed out Saturday shows 14 stations in this area where you can top off a 64 ozs. growler (glass jug) to truly "fill 'er up."

In addition to this new water activity, an old standby from the 1950s also was artfully displayed - The Hula Hoop.

Used properly, it twirls around your body and a smooth flexing of the hips and torso keeps it spinning.

This young lady was very good at keeping the round hoop in motion.

I learned years ago NOT to attempt doing what she made look so easy.

I wandered around Brittlebank Park, sipping on 3 ozs samples from different brewers.

Checking on different learning centers, I saw sessions aimed at home brewing and other topics.

Gives a new meaning to "home schooling."

It was a beautiful day and the event was well planned.

Entry was computer tracked so the admission ticket I bought weeks ago popped right up and I went on in.

FREE water was dispensed at several sites around the park so all the bases were covered for a mild day in May in the Lowcountry.

Yes there were ample players engaged in Corn Hole, the popular beanbag tossing activity.

A nice "court" was set up and each side took turns tossing and turning.

As the afternoon wore on, it appeared the target was shrinking.

More  and more tosses missed the board completely as the beer flowed.

The admission price included a souvenir plastic pint cup and tickets good for five 3 ozs samples.

I tried a few beers that were new to me and eventually settled on a pint of porter Espresso from Palmetto Brewing Company, the oldest in Charleston.

As the sun sank slowly in the West, the crowd dwindled.

Many probably were heading out for an early dinner but I wanted to hear the complete set by Patrick Blake's Whiskey Diablo.

They finished at exactly 7:59 pm.

Hula Hoop lady was there to the end, doing her thing.

And doing it well.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Attend Beer Gardens responsibly.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

"When the moon hits your eye, lika big pizza pie..."

I came out of a meeting Wednesday night and looked up at the moon obscured by clouds.

As I walked toward my car, the clouds were uncovering the moon.

I stopped, took out my camera and waited for the shot I wanted.

(My small camera has a wee tripod attached all the time so I was able to sit it atop my car.)

Sure beats lugging around a full-size one for the moment you might need it.

Under different conditions - like a Super Moon sighting - I have captured more details of the moon.

Again, it was with my small-but-mighty Canon sx260 and its phenomenal 20x optical zoom.

This planned outing with other members of my Photography Group, did involve a regular tripod.

It was a clear night and the moon appeared quite a bit larger than usual.

That - and sharp focus - made for a nice shot.

Hint: set focus between 225,623 and 252,088 miles.
My previous camera - the Canon S90 - had only a 3x zoom so items appear farther away.

I switched from film cameras to digital about 12 years ago and, as they say, I have not looked back.

Oh sure, the first small P/S (Point & Shoot) ones had a screen on the back about the size of a postage stamp.

The newer ones don't even have a viewfinder.

Once I got the 20x zoom, I realized just how much I had missed the heavy gadget bag on my shoulder, filled with a variety of lenses.

It's still a good idea to look up every now and then even when you are NOT carrying a camera.

And be careful where you park.

If you can see a sign like this near your car, birds can see your car.

With a bulls-eye on it.

'Nuff said.

(Click on the photos for more detail.)

I wouldn't stand by that sign looking up too long either.

Unless you're wearing a hat.

And maybe a rain poncho.

Loiter responsibly.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Remember "There's a Ford in your future" ad slogan?

What if that Ford was a Shelby Cobra?

I had a small sports car back in the 60s and did a Road Rally or two..

But my small TR3 was a cream puff compared to the muscle cars of that era.

And especially Ford Mustangs with an attitude.

At Bessinger's Barbecue on Savannah highway, 1st Wednesday means Classic Car Show.

It runs from 6 pm  to 9 pm and get there early to find a parking space.

Members of my Photo Group like to spend times with fellow camera fans and check out "what's new."

It's really a family-friendly event so kids are everywhere, having a good time looking at "old cars." Ouch!
Sometimes you just HAVE to use a fisheye lens effect.

Especially when space is cramped and cars are so close together.

This was a Ford 1957-59 experiment that just didn't have enough research into hydrology to make it work smoothly.

It also lacked adequate trunk space.

Actually none. That's where the convertible/hardtop was stored.

Here some youngsters show they have already  learned to "Buckle Up For Safety."

Even when they are seated in a car probably older than their dad.

Or maybe even their Grand pop.

Notice that restored fire engine behind them.

I thought there might be a problem when it rolled up, siren blaring and red lights flashing.

Kids flocked over and were encouraged to climb aboard.

It was lovingly restored and acts as an "ambassador" for the Charleston FD.

Sometimes just simple lines and curves reach out to the camera.

I have heard that people sometimes have an urge to touch and try to squeeze those coiled exhausts.


Remember an exhaust can be VERY hot.

Pictures rather than burn blisters are better souvenirs of a car show.

More and more two wheel bikes are appearing at this show.

This evening there were 3-wheelers on display.

Some with the single wheel in the front and some with it in the rear.

I had seen a 3-wheeler on a recent trip to Charlotte and found out they can run between $20,000 and $30,000.

It depends on what model you choose and what add-ons you pick.

Saw a German WWII cycle with a sidecar attached.
The stern Wehrmacht soldier kept a wary eye on passersby as he wore a menacing machine gun strapped across his chest.

A recent signpost souvenir from France was tucked in behind him.

Parents would have to explain what that was all about to the excited, scampering children.

Found out that the judging is done by the participating exhibitors.

A fee is paid to enter a car, a bike or a fire engine and then they are given a ballot or score sheet to tally points..

Truly judgment by your peers.

Wonder how the vintage Peugeot/Citroen exhibitor scored this one.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Do yourself a favor and check this out in the coming months.

You really "auto."

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

It's Second Sunday again? Duh, May has just started.

Second Sunday has become a paradise for Street Photographers.

We meet in front of the Starbucks on King at Calhoun around 2 and spend several hours roaming up and down King Street with our cameras.

Looking for a single shot that tells a story.

Our members include nature lovers, landscape and architectural fanciers, pet lovers, wedding photographers, portrait shooters, and wannabes with their first camera or phone cam.

With my background in news photography, my eye lights on different scenes.

I sometimes write the caption in my head while I'm taking the picture.

This one would be "Ready, Get set...GO-Pro." Actually, I had no idea what Gregg Hoffman was doing but it looked interesting. 
He was holding a $400 GO-PRO camera up in the air, attached to a clamp-on tripod. 

His phone has an app(lication) that lets him see what the camera is seeing. Gregg was shooting video but also could do still shots. 

He's with the marketing group that promotes Second Sunday.

One of the newest members of our Photo Group is Sam who recently moved here from Virginia.

She had staff from Fire Street Food  restaurant posing in the doorway and made sure she had her picture before they could get back to work.

It's a friendly King Street Sunday crowd as seen by this youngster eager to pet the puppy. 

The caption I was putting with this shot was "Is it OK for this little girl to touch me?"

The temps had dropped a bit, the humidity was tolerable and there was some spotty cloud cover.

Good weather for the crowd and not bad for photography. 

Bright sunlight can produce harsh shadows that need to be lightened.

I spotted a family wandering along and saw the boy was wearing a patriotic red, white and blue outfit.

All he lacked was a shield to portray a young Captain America.

A small crowd was gathered around a stand serving up Italian Ice and I moved around to get an angle that featured him.

His expression changed, I clicked and the caption wrote itself:

"What, there is no AMERICAN ice here?"

Stopped to listen while a salesman explained the advantages of buying a new LEAF.

It's the battery-powered car that goes about 110 miles on a single charge.

"Battery charging stations are already popping up around the state and GPS in the car locates where they are," we were assured.

Unlike the Prius and other Hybrid cars, the Leaf runs on a plug-in battery only and there is no gasoline engine as a backup. One person asked how many miles to the gallon it gets and was told "zero gasoline, zero emissions."

As predicted, darker clouds rolled in late in the afternoon and some thunder was heard.

No rain fell though. 

At least not on King Street. 

Certainly not on the marketing people.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

I was out on Savannah Highway Wednesday night for the Bessinger Bar-B-Q classic car show.

I'll post some pictures later and remind you to mark another item on your calendar: 

First Wednesday means Car Show 6 pm to 9 pm.

Thanks for walking along with me today.

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Walterboro ROCKS!

Today was a nice day to sit back, relax and watch all the people passing by.

I'm thinking it's been about 15 years since I've spent time in Walterboro.

Actually I am a week early for the 8th annual Walterboro Antiques, History & Arts Festival May 16 and 17.

I am sure I had not strolled around before at the South Carolina Artisans Center or walked a bit along the delightful split-rail fenced Great Swamp Sanctuary hiking trail.

My week-before-the-Festival preview visit included meandering around the Colleton  County Museum & Farmers Market.

A former fellow native Charlestonian offered me some special sausage that contained no preservatives or nitrates.


I had to stop and sample  Chef Dana Cheney's Creamy Potato Garlic Soup.

It is made with one and a half pounds of baking potatoes, peeled and diced.
And other ingredients including 2 tablespoons minced garlic...or more.

The recipe booklet he handed out says it is OK to use leftover mashed potatoes.

There was beautiful scenery at the Great Swamp and the slightly rising walkway meant it would be downhill on the way back to the car.

Or was it the other way around?

Pamphlets touted the 12 antique stores in town and the circle formed by two nearby easy on, easy off exits from Interstate 95.

"Drive The Loop" is suggested.

Had to stop and take a picture of Bishop's Body Shop when I noticed two giant hedges had been trimmed to have the shape of  a car and a truck.

Clever greenage/signage.

I had admired such plant topiary art at Disney and the San Diego Zoo but never thought of cutting and shaping bushes to make your business stand out.
Out at the former Henderson Field, I saw the monument to the Tuskegee Airmen who had trained there during WWII.

And the original 1940s signal beacon light that had guided planes to safe landings at the aviation training facility.
After tasting the distinctive garlic, I did pause at the Farmer's Market and savor seeing mounds and mounds of veggies marked "picked last night." 
(Click on the photos for more detail.)

Shop for produce responsibly.

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Friday, May 02, 2014

No, you don't just lengthen an electrical short..

Do you know that sinking feeling you get when your lights start to dim and flicker?

When your tv shuts down unexpectedly. Your computer goes dark. But, you're not sitting in the dark

Some lights are still on.

What the...?

You are due somewhere in a little over an hour and need to get moving.

So you check the circuit breaker but nothing appears wrong there. In fact, the overhead light is on in that room.

A battery-powered vacuum device is still humming along but emergency lights have come on in some rooms.

Dark on one side with lights shining on the other side.

Do I call and cancel an important meeting? No.

I reached my handyman buddy Lee and he said he could be there in about 30 minutes. Cutting it close.

Actually he was there in 25 minutes.

He agreed it looked like a circuit had tripped. Maybe more than one.

Flipping them off and then on again did not solve anything so he removed the cover of the circuit breaker box and said:

"Wow, there's your problem!"

He pushed a wire and sparks flew.

Unhurt, he pointed out the thick wire going into the circuit breaker had pulled loose and was barely inside where it should be.

Lee killed the power, reinserted the brass end and tightened it down firmly.

When he restored power, lights came on, I could hear the tv and I saw everything was back to normal.

He said that loose wire could have caused a fire and severely damaged my house.

Lee likes to say he can spot and fix a problem - especially plumbing and electrical - and be done in less than an hour.

This took about 20 minutes and I was even a little bit early for the meeting.

Thanks Lee.

Need a Handyman who is good and honest?  Click the link for details.

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