August 28, 2012

Steel Impressions

Last Wednesday evening, I went to the public library to see a free jamboree by New York's premier steel drum band, Steel Impressions. The group specializes in the music of the Caribbean which includes reggae, soca, and calypso. Within the first ten minutes of the show, the audience was clapping along with the songs and all of the children in house were dancing in the aisles. It was definitely a feel-good type of night. The steel pans have a very unique timbre and each piece was carefully woven into a tapestry of bell-like tones. Selections included Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" and the energetic "La Bamba." The only damper on the evening was the actual weather; the show was supposed to performed on the library's outdoor green patio, but rain had moved it into the Community Room. I can only imagine how beautiful this whole experience would have been in the fresh air under a canopy of stars.

After the performance had concluded, the members of the group were ready and willing to answer questions from the audience. They talked for quite a while about their instruments and their music. They were very friendly and I was intrigued by the history and background of the steel drum. It was nice to see people so excited to share their gifts with others. They also took the opportunity to show the range of the instrument by playing Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor." A fascinating night, for sure. I couldn't help but think that I would really like to experience this music again someday in a tropical setting. Love & light...

"If God is for us,
who can be against us?"

~Romans 8:31


August 21, 2012

Field Station: Dinosaurs

I can recall my very last day of Kindergarten. The teacher gave each child in the class a book; mine turned out to be all about dinosaurs. I can remember the awed feeling I would get as I leafed through the pages of that book looking at the drawings of these incredible creatures. Last Sunday, I was able to recapture a little bit of that amazed feeling; I took a ride to Secaucus, New Jersey to check out their newly-opened attraction called "Field Station: Dinosaurs." Upon arrival, I purchased a ticket (which folded into a passport to be stamped at various outposts) and walked on to the dusty paths that lead all around the complex. The park is sort of a prehistoric safari that takes visitors on a hike through five different areas: Base Camp, The Quarry, The Plateau, The Fire Pit, and The Lookout. Along the way, life-sized dinosaurs pop out of the landscape moving their limbs, swishing their tails, and roaring. The dinosaurs are finely-detailed and impressive. Species include Triceratops, Dilophosaurus, Velociraptor, Pteranodon, and Stegosaurus, with a few unusual creatures like the Pachycephalosaurus and the Quetzalcoatlus. Rambling through this epic menagerie, I really got a feel for what the world must have looked like in the way back. I was lucky to have picked a day that would be warm and sunny to make this trip. The setting was perfect and my snapshots came out looking great.

One of my favorite photographs is the one I took of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. On the distant horizon, behind the roaring T-Rex in his Cretaceous setting, one can make out the hazy silhouette of the Empire State Building and the New York skyline. I absolutely love the dichotomy of ancient and modern.

As the park isn't that big, it was good for about two hours worth of fun. Other than the animatronic dinosaur experience, Field Station: Dinosaurs has little more to offer. There are a few prehistoric-themed activities that aren't very exciting and not much of a food selection for lunch. I would have to say that admission price for this attraction is set a bit too high, but it was still a good way to pass a few hours. For a little while, I was a Kindergarten graduate again. Cheers!

"Do your best to present yourself to God
as one approved, a worker who does not need
to be ashamed and who correctly handles
the word of truth."

~2 Timothy 2:15


August 18, 2012

Marquee Marc & the Philharmonic Bunch

Last Saturday, I had a fantastic day of art and culture with my dear friend Marquis McCheever. After meeting up at my house around noon, we hopped in the Santa Fe and headed over to the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor. Currently on display throughout the museum's two floors is a vast exhibit of the works of Marc Chagall. This boldly colorful and gravity-defying art drew in my eye the moment I stepped into the first gallery. Filled with symbols such as flowers (life) and roosters (virility), the museum's lower level houses a range of Chagall's work from some of his earliest pieces up to the very last painting of his life -- an image of Job, which he painted at age 98. As I browsed through these beautiful galleries, I found many ideas that keep recurring in Chagall's art such as circus motifs and crucifixion scenes. While standing in front of one of Chagall's more famous crucifix paintings, Mr. McCheever made an insightful observation about me: "I can tell by the way you live that you're a follower of Jesus, not a follower of the followers of Jesus." At first, it sounded like a bit of a paradox, but then I think I began to understand what he was saying. If someone sees me as reflecting God's love by example through actions and not by words alone, I'm very pleased with that and I have to take it as a compliment.

Le clown vert, 1970-75

Femme ane, 1927-28

Les maries au cirque, 1965

Crucifixion en jaune, 1975-80

La famille et le coq, 1978

Les chardons, 1931

Roi David jouant a la harpe, ND

Moujik rouge, 1960

L'ane vert au cirque, 1978

Le village fantastique, 1968-71

Maries au dessus du bouquet, 1970-75

Le peintre et son monde, 1969

Job, 1985

The upper level of the museum features several rooms of Marc Chagall's Bible etchings. These show well-known scriptures from the Old Testament depicted in marvelous works of art. As Marc Chagall himself explains: “The Bible is life, an echo of nature, and this is the secret I have endeavored to transmit."

"And Pharaoh said unto Joseph,
I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it:
and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand
a dream to interpret it."

~Genesis 41:15

"And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him
in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked,
and, behold, the bush burned with fire,
and the bush was not consumed."

~Exodus 3:2

"And Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord 
in the presence of all the congregation of Israel,
and spread forth his hands toward heaven."

~1 Kings 8:22

"Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine,
and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof,
and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines
saw their champion was dead, they fled."

~1 Samuel 17:51

"So David went and brought up the ark of God
from the house of Obededom into the city of David
with gladness."

~2 Samuel 6:12

"So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron;
and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord:
and they anointed David king over Israel."

~2 Samuel 5:3

"In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon
in a dream by night: and God said,
Ask what I shall give thee."

~1 Kings 3:5

In the evening, after Marquis had given me some much needed tech help with my wireless router, we were out again to Heckscher Park in Huntington. On the main stage, the Arts Council was hosting its finale for the 2012 series. The Long Island Philharmonic under the musical direction of David Stewart Wiley was giving a concert under the stars. As twilight began to ebb, I sat on the lawn with soda in hand, listening to music from Mozart, Beethoven, and Berlioz. Also on the program was "The Toreador Theme" from Bizet's "Carmen," themes from Star Trek, and selections from "The Sound of Music." As an encore, Mr. Wiley brought the children on to the stage to be guest conductors. I looked over at McCheever several times during the concert and I noticed that he had been brought to tears by the power of the music. When I asked him later about what he had taken away from this Saturday with the arts, he replied, "A feeling that I have no excuse not to go out there and do something productive for humankind. I was inspired, refreshed, revitalized with new vision toward the future." It was definitely a day of good vibrations. Cheers!

"He who guards his lips guards his life,
but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin."

~Proverbs 13:3


August 14, 2012

Discounted Dragons

If there is one thing that I have always loved to do it is going to live shows. Back in my college days, I would go to perhaps two concerts per week. However, in the last two years or so, ticket prices for such events have really crept up and gotten much too expensive. When small venues start charging $50.00 per person to see a local tribute band, it is obvious to me that things have gotten out of hand. The truth of the matter is that I just can't afford to go to everything anymore. I really need to pick and choose the shows that I want to see and preferably use discount codes when purchasing.

On Saturday, August 4, I went out to Nassau Coliseum to see Dreamworks "How To Train Your Dragon" Live Spectacular. I'd seen the show advertised on TV and it looked incredible. A discount code brought ticket cost down to an acceptable level, so I was OK with laying out the money. Judging from crowd size, there are a lot of people having the same feelings as me about buying tickets. The coliseum was not even half full.

"How To Train Your Dragon" did not disappoint. The performance was every bit as marvelous as advertised. As the house lights dimmed, I was transported to the island of Berk -- home to a group of Vikings who are doing constant battle with dragons. The action taking place on the arena floor is a true kaleidoscopic extravaganza for the eyes. There are dragons flying high above the heads of the audience, breathing fire and bellowing guttural roars. Viking ships sail stormy seas. The audience even gets an overhead look at the action as Hiccup (our loveable main character) climbs the coliseum walls while scaling video images of jagged cliff faces and rickety bridges. I'd never seen anything like it.

Mostly, the tale is a heartwarming one. I really enjoyed the movie when I saw it and the live show brought the story to an entirely new level. Much enjoyed. Love & light...

"My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge."

~Psalm 62:7