Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Snap, A Set and A Song - Water

It's time again to link up with Thea at A Snap, A Set and A Song for this week's theme of Water.

This one had me thinking a little bit. While I have lots of pictures with water in them, I wanted it to be a bit unique and something that you would know was "me".

The Snap

Anyone who has gone to Walt Disney World (or Disneyland in California or Tokyo) and has ridden The Jungle Cruise, is familiar with Schweitzer Falls, named after (of course) that famous African adventurer, Dr. Albert Falls. However, the highlight of The Jungle Cruise has to be this view as you go behind Schweitzer Falls ... so ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you ... The Backside of Water. *

The Set

Growing up in Brooklyn, I lived just a handful of train stops away from Coney Island. Before there was a Walt Disney World, or even a Disneyland, Coney Island was MY Disney World. At one time there were three very famous amusement parks there, but by the time I was born, only one, Steeplechase, was still in operation. Before the days of air travel, Coney Island boasted the most popular beach in the United States. My set presents a history of the fashions of swimwear (there's your "fashion" again) you would have seen there over the years. (Many of these shots actually were taken on the Coney Island beach, including the background.)


The Song

Back in Walt Disney World, one of the things that we enjoy doing in our down time from the theme parks, is taking a boat out on one of the many waterways that you will find in WDW. This area is our favorite as we can boat past resorts, golf courses, and Downtown Disney. So join me, my wife and my daughter on one such boat ride.

* For those of you unfamiliar with this classic Disney attraction, it is known for its launch skippers with their terrible puns and bad jokes, many of which - such as "the backside of water" - are legendary!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kids and Their Electronics

When I was a kid, the only electronic "toy" we had in the house was a black and white television. I suppose my first electronic toy was a transistor radio that my aunt bought for me for a birthday back in the 1950's.

When my own children were young, video games where just getting started and very few families had them. To be fair, we did have an original Pong and then an Atari 2600 system, but they were strictly for the use of my wife and myself, not the children. They were too busy with a number of bands and playing sports - not to mention spending time with their friends. When he was in college, my son did buy himself a used game system, but he never became addicted to it, and it too soon was gathering dust.

However, today video games are not confined to the television, and you can play them wherever you are thanks to smart phones, and tablets. I have to admit that even my wife and myself take time to play our games on our smart phones when things get a little slow or we are waiting for something, such as in a doctor's waiting room.

But as fun as it is for us, recently we have noticed the many very young children who are routinely playing games on electronic devices, and my grandsons are no exception. For a long time now, they have loved to see pictures or videos on my wife and my phones, but now they are also very adept at playing games on them as well. We have put a number of learning games for children of their age (2 1/2) on our phones and our tablets, and they enjoy playing with them. However, they also like playing some of the games that my wife and I have for our own entertainment ... my apologies to any of my friends who have received a short Words with Friends word that come from one of the boys.

I have learned, however, that when I give them either the phone or the tablet, that it is in my best interest to turn the wi-fi and 3G off since the boys have been known to order a $400 camera (shipped overnight and had to be returned) and a lunchbox (caught before shipping) from my daughter-in-law's tablet, and ordered a new game from my wife's.

Yet, as much as they insist on the electronics, we try to limit the time spent on them or they will want to play with them for hours on end. The television was the electronic babysitter of my youth, but smart phones and tablets seem to be filling that role for today's youngsters. My grandsons are as happy reading or being read to as using the electronic games. They also enjoy playing with physical objects as well. Now with summer right around the corner, it's also possible to get out to the playground, take a walk on the beach, go to the zoo and all of those activities which are so important and that grandparents (and parents of course) love to do with them. These are the traditional activities which they love doing as much as my kids did or we did as kids.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Snap, A Set and a Song - Green

It's time again to link up with Thea at A Snap, A Set and A Song for this week's theme of Green.

Why not stop by A Snap, A Set and A Song and link up with your own Snap, Set and Song?

The Snap

When I read that word Green,I knew that even though there are many things that come to mind, for me the first is always the same. It goes back to the very first baseball game that I remember going to (I had been to Ebbets Field before the Dodgers left Brooklyn, but I was so young that it is barely on the periphery of my memory). It was 1962 at the Polo Grounds, and it was the first Mets game that my father and I had ever gone to since it was their first year in existence. Having watched baseball only on black and white television in those days, the very first thing that struck me as we entered the seating area was just how green the field was!

To this day, when I walk into a ballpark, it is the green of the field that still brings a smile to my face.

In 1964, The Mets moved out of The Polo Grounds (which had been home to the NY Giants until they left NY after the 1957 season) and into their brand new home - Shea Stadium. I spent many afternoons and evenings there with my families - first the one I was born into, and then the one I started. Those were wonderful times. After the 2009 season, The Mets would move into a new ballpark ... this was my last look at the green grass at Shea Stadium.

The Set

Although only the football team that I root for wears green as their normal uniform color, other teams in other sports often wear a special green uniform on St. Patrick's Day in March. (In baseball, this is during Spring Training.)  My set this week is a collection of green uniforms worn by the teams I root for in football (NFL), hockey (NHL) and baseball (MLB). (So does this qualify as a fashion set then Thea?)

The Song

Staying with the sports theme, and The Mets in particular, for the song, I go back to 1969. Before that year, the 8th of their existence, The Mets had never had a winning season, let alone a World's Championship. The Miracle Mets not only won more than they lost for the first time, but won their division (the first year of divisional play), the National League pennant, and The World Series! In the euphoria after they won, the team actually cut an album (vinyl of course - this was the days before cassettes, CD's or MP3's) and one of those songs was The Green Green Grass of Shea which they went on to sing on TV on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was lucky enough to find a video on YouTube using this very obscure cut, and while the images are from the 1986 World Champion NY Mets, here are the 1969 World Champs ... singing!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Salvaging the photos ...

It has been a long winter for me when it has come to getting out and taking photos, but after a bit of rain here in the spring, it was a nice day and I decided to head out to take a few (hundred) photos. I originally was thinking of going back to one of the two places that I usually find some interesting shots, but then I remembered that there was another place that I had been wanting to check out, but hadn't yet done so.

Living on an island, there are a lot of areas where the water (rivers, bays, ocean, etc.) touches the land. Right near my house is a NYC park that is right on the water, which I haven't been to in the many years since I used to hold baseball practices there with my son's team. I didn't know what I would find to photograph, but I decided to go and see.

I consider myself a pretty good photographer (have a look at Gathered Images, my photo blog), having been taking pictures for many decades, and I have a good grasp of the technical skills to take the kind of photos I enjoy creating. But something happened to me this day, and I got so involved in the picture itself, that I forgot one or two of the basics, and was very disappointed with the overall results. In other words, I had the knowledge and the tools to do it right, but didn't.

In the old days I would have tried to make some fixes in the darkroom, but today's tools are even better. I always save RAW files along with the jpegs, so I had good files to work with in Photoshop. Here are a few of the photos I have tried to salvage. (You can see a few more from this day here.)

Certainly there is no lack of sea birds here - as anyone who has parked their car along the shore can attest to ,,,

Shall we go out on the yacht?

This isn't my usual duck pond near which I have taken many duck pictures - these are much more adventuresome ducks, and there were many of them cavorting in the waves.

Though there was more than waterfowl enjoying this first nice day in a while ...

Next time I go back (and that will be soon) I intend to be much more disciplined. So keep a look out for more photos from this location.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Snap, A Set and a Song - Musical

It's time again to link up with Thea at A Snap, A Set and A Song for this week's theme of Musical. This is a very special theme for me and my family, as you will see. We have been involved in many aspects of music for most of our lives.

Why not stop by A Snap, A Set and A Song and link up with your own Snap, Set and Song?

The Snap

If you have read my recent post, All You Have To Do Is Dream (and if you haven't, why not?),  you would know that I have now spent a lot of time in show pits - first as a violist, and then musical director/conductor. Ever wonder what it looks like in the pit with the orchestra? While each venue is different, and some "pits" are actually just spaces near the stage, here is a look at one in which I have worked. The larger shot was taken while the stage and sets were still being built. You can see my script on my left and my score and notes in front of me. You may also notice the set of claves and the slide whistle on my stand. Yes, I even got to play a few instruments during this show. (Little Shop of Horrors)

In the insert, you see me (thanks to my son taking this picture) actually conducting during a performance. (This was an unusual set-up as most of the band was actually behind me here.) You can also see a bongo drum to my left which I played as well.

The Set

This set shows just some of the involvement of my family in music. I concentrated only on the musical theater aspect and not some of the other bands that we have played in - together and separately. 

Going clockwise - me (and my viola) in a show pit ... my wife and I at the Tony Awards presentation at Radio City Music Hall in NYC ... my son and daughter at an early rehearsal of Guys and Dolls (my daughter was visiting and decided to sit in) ... my son coming from backstage after his final college performance in Chicago (The Musical, not the city ... note the soprano & tenor saxes, the clarinet and the stand to hold them all) ... me conducting one of my show bands.

The Song

This week, you will notice that all three parts of this post are "home-grown" so to speak. (No chance of us picking the same video this week Thea.) This is closing night of Fiddler on the Roof at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center here on Staten Island. That is my son on clarinet and my daughter on flute. This has special meaning for me as it was the final performance of the final show my daughter would play in a pit band for me, as shortly after this night she moved to Florida.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Family Traditions

When I was younger, almost all of my extended family lived in one place - Brooklyn, NY. Because of that there were many times that the families got together and when we did it was a huge group. Very often it happened at the Jewish holidays. Extended family has always been a close knit group in our family.

Today, almost all of us have moved from Brooklyn - some not far, and others over a thousand miles away. Still others are no longer with us at all. Occasionally we still have family get togethers, though they are now smaller than in days gone by.

This past weekend was Mother's Day ... and what did that mean? Yes ... my father's birthday!! My dad is one of those who no longer lives nearby, having moved to Florida full time now, but he is here for a visit and to celebrate his birthday with family. On Saturday, his birthday, we gathered at my brother's house. These get togethers are a also welcome chance for my grandtwins to spend some time with cousins such as my brother's sons, my sister's sons and my cousins and their twins. Sadly, my daughter - one of those who live over a thousand miles away - was not able to join us this day. (Last year at one of our family get togethers I Photoshopped her in to the "official" picture. I behaved myself this time and didn't do that.)

(top: my grandsons, Lukas and Sean - bottom: my nephews, Nathan and Jeffrey)

One family tradition that has come out of these get togethers, is the four generation family portrait. As you can imagine, with five children 3 or under, this can be a challenge. Want to see just how much of a challenge it is? Have a look ...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Snap, A Set and A Song - Autumn

It's time again to link up with Thea at A Snap, A Set and A Song for this week's theme of Autumn. Yes, I know it is mid-spring here at the moment, but don't forget, Thea lives in Australia and it is Autumn there in the southern hemisphere.

The Snap

Autumn here in New York is a beautiful time of year. When the leaves turn to their fall colors, it is an amazing sight to see. This was early Autumn last year, and the leaves were just starting to turn.

The Set

Here in the US, the fall is an amazing time for sports fans, especially baseball fans. It's the time of the Fall Classic ... The World Series! My set highlights two of my favorite autumns.

The Song

No need to say anything - the music speaks for itself.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

All You Have to Do is Dream

Yesterday I was reading Life and Other Crises, a blog written by Kerri Sackville, whom I have known for a while online. Shortly after I "met" her, she published her first book, and has just recently had her second book published. (Unfortunately, neither are yet available here in the US.)

Her latest blog post speaks to the fact that one of her dreams had been to be interviewed by the media;
When I started writing, I used to fantasize about being interviewed in the media. It seemed like an incredibly glamorous thing to do. Sometimes I would actually interview myself at home, just chat to myself in my kitchen, ask myself questions whilst I was chopping up veggies or washing the dishes. I always asked myself really interesting questions.

Now that I've released two books, I have done quite a few interviews, and let me tell you - it is pretty glamorous.
That started me thinking about a number of things in my own life.

While it had never been an active desire of mine, I found myself the subject of many interviews during a period of time in March of 1977. You can read all about that here.

As a result of that incident, my picture was on the front page of all of New York City's newspapers, and in this city that means that a lot of people see it.  The next weekend I was downtown, shopping with my wife, and while I was waiting for her, a woman stopped me to ask if I was the one who spoke with the president, and when I informed here that I was indeed, she asked me to sign an autograph for her!! I was happy to accommodate her but it took me a moment to think of what to write as this was not something that I had expected nor was prepared for. While I was signing for her, I suppose others in the store saw what was happening, and started pulling out papers and lining up for their own autograph. When I looked up, there was a long line of people waiting to meet me. I can guarantee that no one had any idea who I was or why people were asking for my autograph, yet there they were! My wife, who soon spotted this queue, informed me later that she did indeed hear a number of people on the line ask who I was. The most common answer was, "I don't know." I wonder how disappointed they were when they found out.

Kerri's post was entitled When a Dream Really Does Come True and was about dreams of hers that have come true, along with some that haven't. I posted the following reply to her post, and with her permission relate what was in it here.

I could tell you about how my dream of having my writing actually be read reached its peak in the mid to late 1980's when I was being published here in the US and in the UK - and being read almost all over the world - you would be able to identify with that dream ... but ...
... the dream that even topped that had it's roots as far back as 1964! That harkens to a time when I first played in a pit orchestra in junior high school. I was the strange one who would go to a Broadway musical and watch the conductor in the pit as much as any actor onstage. (I still do!)
I started playing in the pit of a Community Theater group in the Upstate NY town in which I attended  college. Still, I imagined myself as the musical director/conductor. I would conduct while listening to show music in my car! (Yes, I got many strange looks!)
I got married and moved to my current home, where one day my wife and I attended a Community Theater production after which I commented that the piano/violin they called their orchestra was a poor substitute for a proper band, and found myself speaking with one of the group's officers after the show. I may have slightly ... errr ... exaggerated my experience as a musical director. (shhh - it's our secret, okay?)
Months later I got a call from the founder of the group asking if I would be interested in the position. I agreed, and for the next decade and more, realized my dream of conducting in a show pit. And to make it better, both of my children - excellent musicians in their own right - played with me for many of those years. (I did feel like a total fraud for a while - especially when we received the music for that first show and my daughter had a look and exclaimed, "I think you bit off more than we can chew!" We pulled it off famously though, I'll have you know!)
Since then I have musical directed/conducted many shows for many organizations (and played in a few as well), including my most recent gig at St. John's University!

As Kerri asked at the end of her blog post - So what about you? Have any dreams come true for you?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kids and the Arcade -or- It's all my Dad's Fault!

It was all my dad's fault.

I was talking to him on the phone shortly before my son was about to show up with the grandtwins. I was trying to decide where to take them to keep them entertained - not to mention try to feed them. It was then that my father, remembering when my kids were young, suggested Chuck E. Cheese's. I don't know if he was being serious, or even knew if the chain still existed, let alone that there was one just a few minutes from my house, but the more I thought about it, the better the idea sounded. Here was a place that they could run around, play some games, be entertained, and eat pizza ... sounded like a plan to me!

For those of you who don't know Chuck E. Cheese's, it is a chain of arcades that mostly cater to young children (although the one near us seems to be aimed at teens more than the one that we used to take our children to). They also feature animatronic entertainers who perform on a regular schedule, and serve (what passes for) pizza (barely).


So that night my wife, son and I took the boys to Chuck E. Cheese's for the first time. They quickly learned that they needed tokens to play the games and ride the rides. And they loved the fact that after they played a game, it gave them tickets! They didn't know what these tickets were for, but they collected them.

They discovered that they could ride rides, such as this Kiddie Coaster, over, and over, and over ... just as long as they had the magical tokens!

And all the new games that they learned to play!

Yep, they discovered Chuck E. Cheese's! So the next time we came to pick them up and asked them where they wanted to go, naturally they wanted to go there. In fact, now as soon as they know they are going to go out with us, they tell us as soon as we arrive where they want to go.

As I said ... it's all my dad's fault!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Snap, A Set and A Song - Rose

It's time again for a challenge from A Snap, A Set and A Song. The theme this week is ROSE, which is very appropriate as I have just returned from Walt Disney World where EPCOT was holding the annual International Flower and Garden Festival.

A Snap

A Set

The original idea for the A SET was a fashion set, but I have once again decided to take it in another direction and so I present my set ... Famous People Named Rose! (How many can you name? Use the comment box below to let us know. Hint: there is a connection between someone in the set, and the song below.)

A Song

I had a few choices for the song, and I realized that they all came from Broadway shows. Since I have Broadway almost in my backyard (or is it my front yard?) I grew up going to Broadway shows. And so it was for my children as well. When they were very young, my wife and I took them to the circus at Madison Square Garden. After it was over, we decided to walk over to Times Square and then, quite spontaneously, checked to see if any discounted tickets for any (about to start) matinees were available. As it turned out, we were able to get tickets for a revival of GYPSY which was then running. This would be their first Broadway show ... but not their last by any means. Here is Patti LuPone singing EVERYTHING'S COMING UP ROSES from GYPSY. (Patti LuPone won the Tony Award for her portrayal of Mama Rose.)