Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Debut Release of IO

The release of our album: IO.....BETA
WHEN?Monday evening 11pm - Still Stream Radio

My friend Tim and I have a little debut album being released this Monday! You might remember me mentioning our music project called IO? Well, we've been picked up by a newly-formed label named Node Records who will be distributing our music on not only their site but on iTunes as well.

Our project is entitled IO, and the music on this release is considered to fall under the music genre "ambient" or "atmospheric." Some may know it as space music. It may not appeal to everyone but it is very suitable for stargazing, meditating, imagining or sleeping. ;) It can also be used as soundtrack and backing music and it has been used as such in the past. The response was much bigger than we had anticipated, but we'll see where it goes!

To explore it for yourself, check out our web site. In the midst of many other things I've been teaching myself a little web development. Just like our music, this too is a work in progress, so your patience is appreciated! You can listen to our music for free just by going to our HTML site.

A Return to Beautiful June

From Branson I made my way to further shoots throughout northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. I became quite at home in the Ozarks, though you did find lake areas such as Table Rock that were popular with both fisherman and racing boats. Even in many of these areas the surrounding lush greenery enveloped clear waters. With the beautiful sun shining and active puffy clouds, it made my job most agreeable!

I met many different characters, such as a Italian-American from California that had brought her family's tradition of making and selling wine to the Ozarks. I also met a woman who not only got 4th place in the KC Royal BBQ contest for her ham, but was also struck by lightening with her entire family!

The best meal that I had was in the town of Flippin, Arkansas. It was the best Flippin meal I had. It was a Flippin potroast with a wonderful Flippin chocolate shake, right adjacent to the Flippin Pharmacy. OK, enough. But I really didn't think of the fun name until I was in the town and glanced over at a police car which noted, at the rear of the car, 'Flippin Police.'

I was able to spend some time on the rivers, taken out on the boats to get some nice shots. Turkey vultures (buzzards) were a common sight as were heron and many happy songbirds.

My return was made on up through Kansas City. It afforded me even more twisty, windy roads that remained nestled in the trees. The sky became stormy quite often and I got to witness some heavy thunderstorms in the evenings.

In KC I just had to make a stop at the infamous 'Gates BBQ.' My friend had been nice enough to, on more than one occasion, bring back some tasty sauces and rubs. So, I got me the big ol' platter and just had to clean that tray! The ham and their sweet sauce was oh so very good!

Then to the airport, for a 2 hour wait in the American Airlines cue to find out both of my flights had been canceled. But it worked out for the best, as, not only did I get home earlier, I got to fly on Midwest. They give you two wonderfully gooey chocolcate chip cookies on every flight! And although I made it to Milwaukee and was waiting for the plane to empty at 3:57pm when my flight home left at 4:05pm, I made it!!!

Back to the garden, the painted turtle that somehow found my pond and days of glorious late spring growth!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's Been Awhile!

The beauty of the Ozarks took me off guard a bit! After arriving in Oklahoma late Tuesday night, followed by a drive through a thunderstorm of wind-blown rainsheets, and a shoot in Langley, OK, I swerved into the hilly green of the Ozarks. The misty gray overcast created an eerie depth to the hills, reminding me somewhat of New Zealand.

To bring you up to speed, its been a busy run as of late. I did one all-day shoot at a property in VA. Getting around 11pm at night, for a 3.5 hour drive through rural North Carolina and on up into South-Central Virginia, my little Toyota Prius annoyed me with the glare that shines up from the dash, right into your line of vision. It was nice, however, to be able to come to a stop in the rural woods and pastures and gaze up at the beautiful stars, the electric car making no noise.

Back for just a couple of days, I was off again into Texas Hill Country. A stalwart favorite of mine, I shot a wide-spectrum of properties, my favorites always being the ranches. One of my first all-day shoots was at a very large resort that had its own airport and 3 golf courses. The people showing me about said that they get surprised when not at the resort, by the site of old people. They are so used to seeing the aged with plastic surgery that they sometimes forget the way that people are supposed to look!

The remainder of my shoots brought me all around the periphery of Austin. Yeah, I think Austin is a cool place, but when you are there, you feel like you could be anywhere. But to be so close to such interesting towns and distinctive places that surround it makes the drive two hours in any direction, well-worth the look.

One property sat above Buchanan Lake and was within a nature preserve. Many families had their dogs with them. Although it was raining on and off, the mistiness brought a coolness to the normally hot air and a coziness to the distant views.

I then stayed at my sister-in-law's place in Austin, where I learned to make Venezuelan arrapas (pretty much just a cornbread sandwich) with condiments being tunafish, mayo and guacamole and perhaps some meat and cheese. She had an arrappas-maker from Venezuela which was like a waffle iron with 4 dome-shaped depressions. You mix your cornmeal and water and make a UFO-shaped ball. Then you simply put it in the iron for around 10 minutes. Upon eating, you cut them open down the center, like a clamshell and scoop out a bit of the dough inside. Then, you put in your ingredients and make yourself a little sandwich.

Then it was to cowboy country! Bandera, Texas, the 'Cowboy Capital of the World' is an old-friend. With a tiny down-town of cowboy bars, gift shops and the local-favorite OST cafe, the pace is relaxed and people friendly. It takes about 15-20 minutes of further driving to bring you into ranch country. I got to spend extended time at a few. One in particular was a re-shoot. Last year, I had arrived just as one of the cowboys had died the previous day. This time there was no such drama other than a nice lightening storm the evening I had arrived. After grabbing a bite to eat at the OST, I drove across the pasteur. The horses looked so pretty, out in the open, with the lightening striking throughout the hilly, scrub-oaked land. I got out to take a few shots but got a little cowardly, not wanting to get struck by the lightening striking the ground all around.

The next day I had began at sunrise, to shoot the horses coming in from pasture.I had my cowboy breakfast and joined them out on the trail. They had heard and shook their head at my last 'bucking' horse-ride story and got me a nice casual mount. The guests I was riding with were mostly less experienced than me anyway, so no worries about unexpected adventures. I got some nice shots of the prettiest parts of Hill Country. My cowgirl guide had grown up riding horses with her cousins in this country.

My next shoot was a long one, but a fun one. It was a ranch that actual ran the rodeo in town. I was scheduled to shoot the Friday night rodeo the following evening. As I arrived the co-manager and I immediately went out to get shots. She was attending a wedding in Vicksburg, Mississippi the following day, and wouldn't be there for the day shoots. She hopped on her horse and I shot her as she rode down the middle of the river. The early-evening sun was breaking through the trees, over the rapids and one couldn't have asked for better shots. Shooting continued into the evening as the guests and cowboys and I made the most of the evening. Two of guests were girls from Australia, traveling the US and Canada. The other couple were Brits. We had our big ranch dinner at the ringing of the bell and then we went out back to make a fire.

A pretty impressive thunderstorm was rolling in, all around us. They hopped on the hay bales in the trailer and I jumped up in the bed of the pick-up with my camera and tripod. We drove through ranch trails and out onto farm fields. It was time to show the guests the Texas deer, which I call greyhounds, as they are so tiny. The cowboys shined the deer eating at the verge of the woods, with their lights. The darkness was ocassionaly illuminated with the flash of lightening bolts and cracking laughter of departing sobriety. There were fire flies, deer, farm fields, woods, and the crescent moon tucking in and out of the stormy clouds. I was able to get some shots of the deer when the truck came to a stop.

Then it was to the camp fire. As Willy Nelson played, lassoes were thrown, stories told and they even brought out the branding iron. After demonstrating on a few pieces of wood. The iron was dipped in white paint and all willing were branded on the butt. They had to 'mooo' and the spectators has to make the 'shishhh' sound of the branding. As cowboys, guests and videographer were indulging it made for a raucous time. Heck, with a motley group representing Britain, Australian, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Minnesota, what more could I wish for? But it was a long day, having shot since that morning at 7am and finishing up at 11:30pm that night. It was time for some shut-eye.

The next day there was more shooting, as always, but the excitement was in the rodeo! It had rained heavily the night before making the arena muddy and a threat to the horses. The owners were in full cowboy mode, getting rodeo ready. The sun helped to dry things out a bit and the workers did the rest. That night, the rodeo came to life. Trailer after horse trailer, pulled by many a Dodge Ram, pulled into the lot. The bulls were in their pens, and cowboys readied their gear. Many a cowgirl was riding their horse and one sweet sight struck me as very telling. It was the woman who had lead my ride the previous day, riding adjacent to her daughter, who was on her own horse, quite proudly.

I must admit that I felt a little bit of a traitor at first. Here were several of the ranches I had shot video for through the past year, all competing in the rodeo. But the awkwardness soon abated with shouts and hollers from many a cowboy, cowgirl, ranch cook and guest, calling out my name. Even the rodeo announcer walked by me stating, "Buddy, you're always working!"

So, the rodeo began with the march of the flags, barrel racing, bull riding and the like. It was something to be able to be right up with the bull and rider waiting for that gate to swing open. I got great shots, but did turn my camera away or off after one of the cowboys fell down under the bull, getting knocked unconscious.

I've seen enough rodeos in my life to wrastle with the ethical dilemma of the treatment to animals. When it comes down to it, yeah, I think that the animals are abused. But I liken it the abuse of cats and dogs, which happens on a much greater scale. I don't think most people know how to raise their dogs or cats and I see this a great form of abuse. I don't get as vocal as I would like, but the form of animal neglect I see daily greatly eclipses anything I've seen a rancher do. If we could criticize cat and dog owners as much as we do rodeos, people would see things a little differently.

Well, that was that for Texas. It is a shame that one becomes so accustomed to people speaking badly about Texas and Texans in the North. People go on and on ad nauseum. Most dangerous are the people with little experience that say the most. But I'll tell you this, in my travels, its been the Texans that have treated me with more hospitality, more appreciation and more gratitude then anyone I've ever encountered. They have a zest for life, a love of the outdoors, a sensitivity to how you are doing and seek to include you in whatever may be going on. I can apply much of this generalization to the entire south. Even as I write these words I received the weekly report from my junior videographer. I had sent him to WV, KY and TN. The south was a new experience for him. Without inquiry from me, he volunteered how wonderfully his experience with southerners contrasted from our other dealings in the NE and Midwest. No need to go on with specifics for now, but so much of what this Wisconsinite said was a 'ditto' to what I had observed for a very long time. As Louisianan Reese Witherspoon says that being brought up in the south gives one, "a sense of family and tradition" and taught her about "being conscientious about people's feelings, being polite, being responsible and never taking for granted what you have in your life." (Wikipedia!) That's that for now.

Then it was back for a few days then off to Oklahoma.

It was the experience in the Arkansas Ozarks that was really pleasant. I got to stay at some pretty nice cabins deep in the mountains. It was just me, a very cozy and clean cabin, with a deck that looked out onto mountain valleys. I actually thought they were prettier in the grey mist than the light. But there were limited bugs, an aloneness with nature and a good fire in a hearty brick fireplace. It matched many of the best experiences. The only thing missing was my pipe.

I continued shoots in such little mountain towns as Ponca, along the river of towering, sheer bluffs, and enjoyed most of the experience. I then visited the town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This was one of the more unique and eclectic American towns. It reminded me a bit of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. It existed in the extremely hilly Ozark woods and was originally the place people went to cure their ills. A Victorian town grew, full of history, artists, Unionists, homosexuals, UFO-ologists, movie stars, religious fundamentalists and everyone else you could possibly think of. It his home to an immense statue of Jesus and is the sight of an enormous Passion Play. People can be who they are. Even in the gigantic hotel I shot, built in 1886, you saw people in the most casual of dress and the man that showed me around the place was a minister and was growing a beard to be Santa Claus for Christmas.

Then, it was to Branson, MO. Now, I've asked for it, haven't I? With all my preaching about the wonderful South, this a different place entirely. I will try not to be negative, as it must be a special place for many people. But lets put it this way, just one of the billboards sum up much of what Branson has to offer. So, I close, for now, with a picture.