Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Monthly Archives: August 2004
New submarine book: Rising Tide, the Untold Story of the Russian Submarines that Fought the Cold War by Gary Weir and Walter Boyne. Weir is a historian at the US Naval Historical center, and Boyne is a former director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The book is an attempt to chronicle Soviet military strategy for submarine warfare from about the end of World War II through the end of the Cold War and how it affected both Soviet and US policies during that time. There is some interesting material based on interviews with retired Soviet submariners, but overall, I felt the book was average — not a lot of depth, and it couldn’t quite figure out what story it wanted to tell, so it kept moving back and forth from technical to personal to political, and never really doing any of them true justice.
One of the stronger aspects of the book is discussing the problems inherent in working within the Soviet system, where quality control was many times questionable (and attempting to work in an environment that was, at best, unforgiving to flaws). A detailed discussion of the Kursk disaster also is intereting, but didn’t shed any real new information to me, and I don’t claim to have studied the incident seriously.
I useful and readable book, but it could have been much better. Not up to the quality of, say, Blind Man’s Bluff, which covers much of the same material from the American standpoint. But definitely readable. give it 3 out of 5.
As we were leaving the Clapton Concert (July 30, HP Pavillion), a woman exiting at the same time turned to her partner and said “I’m disappointed. he didn’t interact with the audience at all!”
that may have been the biggest complaint about the concert. And it was wrong — Clapton did interact with the concert; he just did it with his guitar and his voice. I can’t imagine Eric Clapton staring out at the crowd and yelling “hey, Detroit! clap your hands!” with false enthusiasm — can you?
San jose was stop 56 on Clapton’s 57 city tour. If any band had an excuse to show up tired and go through the motions, this one did. But from start to finish, it was an energetic, intense, artistic performance, starting with Robert Randolph and the Family band’s 45 minute opening act. Randolph and his steel pedal guitar pumped up the energy in the building from the first bars (Laurie is currently lusting for one. I keep pointing out that the instruments in the hands of a white person would turn out hawaiian music… snicker).
After about a half hour break, Clapton’s crew came out, and played for almost 2 hours. A good overview of the concert is here. I can’t add a lot to it. All of the artists were in good form (Branham seemed under the weather, and I never saw him sing — but he played a hell of a set, even if he seemed in pain at times. Or perhaps, that’s his zone, but it seemed maybe a bit of both); most impressive to me were (other than Clapton, of course), billy preston and chris stainton on the two keyboards, but everyone kicked.
I like to judge a concert by how the crowd reacts. If the crowd is into it, the concert’s working. If it’s lifeless, or milling or distracted (like at Fleetwood Mac), then the group isn’t doing it’s job. Not only was this crowd electric the whole evening — when Clapton went into wonderful tonight, you saw couples all over the arena stand up and sort of dance together in place…
Awesome evening. I’ve seen clapton once before, when he was touring songs of his blues roots (another awesome concert….) — first time I’ve seen him do his own material — and it more than lived up to expectations.
I need to admit this up front — I have a love/hate relationship with Fleetwood mac. I love Stevie Nicks’ voice, and Lindsey buckingham as a guitar player, and when she was with the group, Christy McVie’s vocals. But there’s another aspect of the group, when buckingham starts singing, where I just want to scream. When buckingham is doing his material, I just want to yell “Stonehenge” and go find something else to do.
So when it was announced that Fleetwood Mac would be playing San Jose, Laurie and I talked about it and gave it a miss. And then the Sharks made us an offer we couldn’t refuse — free floor seats, since we’re long-time sharks season ticket holders. At the price, how could you go wrong? So that’s how we ended up at the concert. And normally, with HP Pavilion’s wonky acoustics, I’d rather stay off the floor, anyway.
I’ve seen the group a couple of times before — the previous time in 82 or 83 in Oakland, when they were originally going to play with the Cars, and had to reschedule because Nicks lost her voice (so we ended up with Glen Frey as the opener, trying to prove he didn’t need the Eagles)
Prior to that, I saw them (sharing a bill with War) in Las Vegas, way back about 1973. And, in fact, I did walk out on them that night, thinking that the girl on the piano was pretty good, but man, I wish that guy would shut up… (some things never change….)
So back to HP Pavilion. Mick Fleetwood has grown up to look like Peter Boyle in Young Frankentstein. John McVie looks like, well, my dad, which always freaks me when I see my parents playing in a rock band (the joys of middle age). Lindsey seems to be channelling John Mcenroe. Stevie Nicks looked like if she did any more botox, she’d be immobile…
but, you know? what matters is the music…
Touring with the core members were a keyboardist (who’s name I’ve lost), two female singers (immediately nicknamed “high” and “note”), who were stuck as far to the edge of the stage as possible without having to buy tickets (their job: christy McVie’s parts, and covering Nicks’ lost range), a spare guitarist, a spare keyboardist/synth, a spare bassist, a kick-ass percussionist, and hidden way, way in the back a third drummer.
In other words, Fleetwood Mac is touring with a Fleetwood Mac cover band, on stage at the same time. Which came in handy a lot.
It was, in a word, a weird concert. Nicks started out struggling with her voice, but it finally kicked in. Buckingham seemed completely unable to match her in harmony for the first couple of songs (which had Laurie and I doing the ‘oh, oh” look at each other), but it finally more or less clicked in, although he struggled to stay in harmony all night. Nicks never had a huge range (9 notes? 10?), and it’s narrowed over the years, but who cares? it’s how she uses it, not how far it wanders….
but we (and the crowd could never quite figure out whether the group really wanted to be there or not.
You know, if buckingham wants to do the “dance the guitar riff tango” thing, that’s fine. It’s not a rock concert, I guess, unless you have someone doing the air guitar thing (while your cover is actually playing the music in the back…), threatening to trash the guitar, and overall, acting like a 14 year old in the garage pretending to be Jimi — but Buckingham did it four times during the concert. Hate to tell you this, Lindsey, but that act gets really tired. fast. (a quiet voice whispers “stonehenge”)
And that’s mostly how the concert went: when the band was doing Stevie Nicks stuff, the quality and energy ranged from “contractual obligation professional” to “pretty darn good”. When buckingham took lead (and let Nicks rest her voice), it got very, well, Spinal Tap. the band never really tried to connect with the audience, and the audience repaid the favor; lots of rustling and talking and cel phones and wandering around, and looking at watches was going on. Most of the band seemed going through the motions, except for Buckingham and Fleetwood; buckingham seemed intent on playing “look at me, I’m so great” all night (four smash the guitar ballets? sheesh), but have I noted I’m not really a Buckingham fan? (except when he shuts up and plays…)
Fleetwood and the percussion was, well, Fleetwood. kicked butt. animated. having fun. a bit scary at times, given how much he looked like Boyle… (grin). He and his fellow drummers were the best of the show most of the time (and I have to be honest, I kept hearing more drums than two guys could do, and I was wondering what was going on — it wasn’t until the end of concert intros were done that I realized there was a third drummer hiding in the back of the stage, which explained all of the sweeetening…
One of the great frustrations of the night was the percussion solo by Fleetwood. It didn’t show up until almost the end of the show, but when it did, it electrified the audience. Just turned them on and plugged them into the show — just as it was ending. And then Fleetwood carried it on, and on, and on; something like 20 minutes of watching him drum and prance (with drum machines on a vest) all over the stage. What started as a high energy, electric and great drumming turned into a painful, “how long will he carry this on?” torture; it wasn’t just me, either — I watched as increasing clumps of the audience started streaming to the exits rather than wait for the finale. my guess is between 5-10% of the audience left during his drum piece.
and that’s too bad — if he’d put that drum piece 20 minutes into the concert, and kept it to reasonable levels, they’d ahve owned that audience all night. As it was, much of the show was “going through the paces” with no real connect or energy, and when they finally did ramp it up and get the crowd going, it was way too late, and then they screwed it up again by carrying it on, and on, until we wanted to scream.
So ultimately, it was an occasionally good, mostly frustrating show. Most of the band coasted, except for Buckingham and Fleetwood, and they seemed more interested in showing off than entertaining. Maybe you like like kind of excess — but I sure didn’t, and from the number of folks fiddlign with stuff or just sitting there passive (or, later on, leaving), I wasn’t alone.
Next time, even if the tickets are free, I think I’ll pass.
Since I’m in a musing mood and relecting on the Clapton concert the other night, perhaps a few semi-related notes on me and music might be fun…
As a kid, I never had much of a formal introduction to music; my family’s taste was oriented towards 50′s crooners (think Ed Ames). I successfully avoided piano lessons, but instead, took up clarinet. Also, early on, it was drama, which means, of course, musical theater. Hello, Dolly!, South Pacific, and Oklahoma! are all still guaranteed to generate hives…
The early days, if you think about it, didn’t lend itself well to improvisation. Technically, I was a rather good musician (by 7th grade, I was 1st chair 2nd clarinet all county, and mid-chair first clarinet) — give me a score and I could master it. Put me in a group and I could play to it. stick me on a stage and tell me to just wing it, watch me freak. The perfect kind of orchestra drone, if that’s what you want… (and that’s not a complaint, either).
After 7th grade, orthodontia started, and woodwinds stopped. I was encouraged to switch (I wanted oboe, but was vetoed again — I still, honestly, don’t have a clue if the orthodontist had a clue or not about this), so I tried trumpet, then tuba; frankly, I found the brass family cold and uninteresting, so I more or less dropped out, and worried more about the drama side of life.
In high school, I discovered rock and roll — Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Three Dog Night, Deep Purple. (it wasn’t rock unless it was heavy…). One of the joys of iTunes is going back into my youth and rediscovering my old favorites, and seeing what holds up over time. I’m now a happy owner of all of the above, except for the Black Sabbath, which I now write off as youthful naivete or something.
After high school, I went to work at Disneyland for a few years. Not only did that reinforce my inherent disney-geekness (“in the tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki room”), it gave me access to something I hadn’t known about. At that time, Disney did a continuing summer series of swing at Carnation Gardens — I fell in love with a musical style for the first time (who cares that it belonged to my parent’s teen years, not mine). Basie played there at the time, Glenn Miller’s orchestra, others. Of course, I fell in love with Benny Goodman, but also Buddy Rich — and louis. It also exposed me to Honkytonk (just go sit in Coke Corner; it’s the same piano player as it was when I was working there, and he’s still amazing), and dixieland. I tried guitar once or twice, never stuck with it, but got fairly good at ukelele, for a while. but it just wasn’t high on the priority list of life.
But over time, music faded from the scene, pushed out by other aspects of life. I wasn’t playing, and I just wasn’t that interested in listening. It stayed at best a casual interest, after I also dropped out of the drama scene as well.
And that’s more or less where it sat for a long time. Some things grabbed my attention — theatrically, I became a fan of Webber (for his theatrics) and Fosse (now, can you name two styles so diametrically opposed?) and Gilbert and Sullivan; Laurie and I started attending Scottish festivals, which introduced me to bagpipes; somewhere along the line discovered steel drums .
Suffice it to say my musical background is, well, eclectic. And about four years ago, after years of mostly hibernation, it started waking up again (it’s not alone, a number of things from early in my life that I’d put aside have come back and rejoined me, such as my woodworking). and then came iTunes.
I’m in deep trouble. Although — dammit — I keep complaining because Rhino Records isn’t on the store. they’re tired of hearing it from me, too. (grin) (what’s on Rhino? how about Emerson, Lake and Palmer? I”m a huge analog synth fan…)
How eclectic? here are the concerts Laurie and I have gone to in the last year: Paul McCartney (twice), Eric clapton, Fleetwood mac, and Bette Midler. I also seriously considered Sarah McLachlan but the timing didn’t work (I’m also going to try to see Lion King before it leaves town, and I wanted to see Starlight Express, but it also didn’t work out). thanks to iTunes, I’ve finally started exploring classical music (especially baroque strings) and opera (Wagner’s Ring, in german. no kidding). And other stuff. It makes it so easy. Anbd everything I run into points to something else new, something else to explore. how wonderfully scary. I’ll probably wander off after Bach soon, then Brahms.
For me, concerts are fascinating events. Since I did so much tech crew (and at one point, I was theater/tech major, and dabbling in set design, before computers took over), concerts exist on many levels — I not only lose myself to the music, I find myself dissecting it, isolating the parts, critiquing the artists, and watching the crew and the results. Studying technique, studying the tech. But not too much; I’m there for the music.
If my first musical life was as technician, this musical life is one of exploration and examination. I’ve come to appreciate the subtle beauty of a bagpipe, the high energy clarity of steel drums; a good guitarist makes my day, an artist like clapton leaves me stunned, raptourous in tears. I’ve always been fascinated by the drummers — that’s beyond my ability, pure and simple, and the only thing that would come out of putting me behind a drum set is a call to 911 asking for the jaws of life to get me back out. And synths. Blame Keith emerson and rick wakeman, and blame Three Dog Night.
Back in high school, mid-70′s, they played a concert in Anaheim. Opening act was Neil Sedaka, of which less said the better. But that tour, they were touring with a guy called “the wizard”, owner of this huge, fascinating thing called a Moog. entranced, but I had no access to one, and it remained a “gee, wow” kind of thing. One can only wonder if I had gotten my hands on one, how things might have been different.
Just look at the technology today, though — for christmas, Laurie bought me a synth (yamaha PSR225-GM), which I love, but work, life and lack of time has limited how much time I’ve had to learn and practice, but I keep hoping that’ll change. and apple’s brought garage band, which is amazing to hack with (but see “time, lack of”).
And I’ve told myself after I get decent at keyboard — I’m buying myself a bass. or two. Laurie has her Dean spanish acoustic (but no time….), but after the Clapton concert, is lusting after a slide guitar (as played by robert Randolph and the Family Band, an awesome opener, but more on that later)… (as I put it — put that baby in the hands of a white guy, and you get hawaiian music!)
What’s in my iTunes right now? Here’s a highlight: 78th Fraser Highlanders, Alice Cooper, Artie shaw, PDQ Bach, Bare Naked Ladies, Bela Fleck, Billy Joel, Buddy Rich, Duke ellington, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Guess who, Ian Anderson, Police, Quarterflash, Richard Wagner, Royal Scots Dragoon Guard, Queen, the Tubes, Warren Zevon, the who, and Mozart.
Beware of party shuffle, it will fry your mind.
And, you know? I keep thinking about buying a clarinet again. But I don’t want to split my time and make it even harder to get my keyboarding going… But — I have plenty of time, the rest of my life.
you know? If I work at it, I could probably do a decent Benny Goodman cover.