Music on Mondays (12-5-16)—Why don’t you ask him?

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

As I make it through my digital music collection this round, I’m trying to pay greater attention to albums and songs that I really like. My intent is to actually determine which album and which song might be my favorite of all time. I’m out of the ’60s and have been able to determine my Top 3 Beatles albums:

  1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  2. Rubber Soul
  3. Abbey Road

I finished 1979 yesterday and am pretty sure that “Tusk” is my favorite album by Fleetwood Mac. That reminded me of an incident back in early 1979. On May 25, 1979, I took my wise old grandmother and my only two female cousins from Kingsville TX to Los Angeles CA to see my grandmother’s oldest living son (my dad was the oldest but was 18 years deceased at that time). We would be staying for nine days. Grandma usually stayed at her son’s house while my two cousins and I went touring throughout the Los Angeles area. We were typical tourists, not missing anything and all of us having our own cameras.

One day we went to the University of Southern California and walked around. Being the musician that I was at that time (piano, violin, and voice), I never missed an opportunity to visit a quality music department like that at USC. The Trojan Marching Band was practicing and we were going to watch them play and march for a few minutes. They starting playing a song that really piqued my interest, and it took a week for me to get the song out of my head.

Fast forward to late September 1979 and I started hearing a song on the radio that I thought I had heard before, but that couldn’t be because it was a new single by Fleetwood Mac. “Tusk.” It wasn’t I bought the album, also titled “Tusk,” that I realized what was going on. Fleetwood Mac recorded “Tusk” with the Trojan Marching Band at Dodger Stadium. I don’t know the date of that recording, but what we had heard at USC was the band practicing “Tusk.” It is my favorite song from the album. Here’s a video of a practice at Dodger Stadium. Not all of the music from the video made it into the final edit for the album but you can hear all of what we heard that day on the USC campus.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Be a unique star

My wise old grandmother

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My wise old grandmother always said, “If you don’t get up early, you won’t see the sun rise.” She was always up before sunrise. I wasn’t far behind her. Here is this morning’s sunrise through the dirty window of my home office in La Mesa CA:

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

With that out of the way….

A few more quips from my wise old grandmother:

“If you’re not sleeping with someone, you don’t know what they are thinking.”

“Ten percent of the people will love you because that’s the kind of people they are. Ten percent of the people will hate you because that’s the kind of people they are. Eighty percent of the people will love you or hate you based on your actions and words. So be nice.”

“Children aren’t born with hatred in their hearts. Mom and dad teach them that, usually through religion.”

I believe she was right on all counts.

I have been a member of a home inspector trade association for 13 years. There are about 10,000 members. I led a marketing seminar at its national convention in 2007, which is when a very significant member of the association found out I was gay. He wasn’t happy, telling me that he always thought gays should be killed. I brushed it off , thinking that if he got to know a gay person, he would change his mind. Apparently that has not worked.

I have had significant interaction with that person over the past nine years. A couple of days ago I was on the association’s message board and all sorts of Trump-approved hate was spewing. It’s allowed on the message board under the guise of free speech. He was participating and left a comment stating that maybe now that Trump was president, gays, illegal immigrants, and blacks would be killed. “Can’t go wrong with that.”

That definitely caused me to rethink my association, and I have decided to move on. However, that also means that my latest venture, House Key News, is being put on the back burner because I believe my main target audience all are Trump supporters. I’m not going to intentionally associate with those kind of people, especially now that they apparently have approve to spew their hatred in public.

My fallback is Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos. I have let it slip over the past year, but a recent sale a few days ago has encouraged me to make it numero uno.

House Key News had a main target audience of about 20,000 people—home inspectors. Photographic Art has a main target audience of about 3,000,000 people—Realtors, loan agents, title agents, and escrow agents. They can use Photographic Art as unique close-of-escrow gifts instead of the standard $50 gas or restaurant card, a plant, a bottle of wine or champagne, etc.

Photographic Art also can be used for birth gifts, birthday gifts, graduation gifts, marriage gifts, divorce gifts, new business gifts, anniversary gifts, just because gifts, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Be a unique star

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Oh. My. God. They elected HIM?

I live in my own little world

When I got 100% of my data back from the simultaneous hard drive crashes, I resolved to spend at least 30 minutes each day going through my million-plus pictures and videos and actually cataloging them.

I’m probably about 5% through the task. Right now I’m simply deciding which to purge.

I’ve never discarded images before because, as my wise old grandmother used to say, “What comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with.”

(I never bugged her about ending her sentences with prepositions….”

If I have five pictures, though, all virtually identical, I’ll choose the best one and chunk the other four.

I’m also looking for pictures that I can use as comment pictures, mostly on Facebook.

Comment pictures are always much more fun that typing text.

Following is a picture I found a few minutes ago. The facial expression is great but the picture was on the cusp of being a throwaway, which is why I created the ellipse to put the Wolf’s Guenon in. Adjusted shadows, highlights, blacks, contrast, and sharpness, and got something worthwhile.

Oh. My. God. They elected HIM?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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I’m going all the way to the end

I live in my own little world

I have been an avid reader since about the age of five, at least. I had started piano lessons under mom at the age of two, and she told me when I was five that when I started school “next year,” I would have to take lessons for a second instrument. Before she would approve the second instrument, I had to write a research paper on the instrument or someone proficient with the instrument. I chose the violin and decided to write my paper on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I was a big fan of The Nutcracker. Mom was always taking me to the library so I could work on my research, and that’s when I fell in love with libraries.

I go often to the various branches of the San Diego Public Library and the San Diego County Library. If I’m ever homeless, just look for me at the new San Diego Central Library. Looks like this:

New San Diego Central Library on February 2, 2013

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Throughout the years, Stephen King has been my favorite author. Sadly, though, I gave up on the last two books of his that I tried to read, “Bag of Bag of Bones by Stephen KingBones” and “Lisey’s Story.” I gave “Bag of Bones” 227 pages before calling it quits, and “Lisey’s Story” got 100 pages; 100 pages is normally my standard for giving a book a chance. I had started “Bag of Bones” first, and since it was by Stephen King, my all-time favorite author, I kept giving it “one more chance” before I finally said, “No! Enough is enough.” When I became disenchanted with “Lisey’s Story,” I figured that if I could call it quits on one Stephen King book, then none of his other books deserved any more chances than I was willing to give anyone. So “Lisey’s Story” got 100 pages and that was it.

I still have quite a few King books to read but with two consecutive disappointments, I have decided to take a break from King.

My husband, who has worked at bookstores all his life—Borders, Brentano’s, Waldenbooks, Barnes & Noble, and Warwick’s—gave me a pre-published advance reader’s copy of a Lee Child novel, “Night School,” a Jack Reacher novel. It’s so new that it’s not even in Wikipedia yet! I liked it so much that I decided to read all of the Jack Reacher novels before returning to Stephen King.

Gone Tomorrow by Lee ChildMy second Jack Reacher novel was “Gone Tomorrow.” Took me three days to read it. It’s very good and Child’s writing style with lots of dialogue means that it’s easy reading, too.

So, back to the library.

I decided to check out two books. First time I’ve ever done that outside of research. I came home with “61 Hours” and “Nothing To Lose.” I started “61 Hours” yesterday morning and finished the day on page 74. I already know I’m going all the way to the end.

61 Hours by Lee Child

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (11-28-16)—My Maserati does 185

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

1978 was the first year where I had my own apartment and a good-paying job, and could buy whatever music I wanted, when I wanted. No having to wait for sales or hoping someone would give me an album for my birthday or Christmas.

In looking back at 1978 now, I don’t think it was one of the best years in the history of rock ‘n’ roll music. The Bee Gees might disagree with me….

I have 40 hours, 29 minutes, and 10 seconds of music from 1978. Many of my favorite artists released albums in 1978:

“Rarities” by The Beatles
“London Town” by Wings
“Street Action” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
“Heavy Horses” by Jethro Tull
“But Seriously, Folks” by Joe Walsh
“Double Vision” by Foreigner
“Octave” by The Moody Blues
“Who Are You?” by The Who
“Skynyrd’s First & Last” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
“52nd Street” by Billy Joel
“Jazz” by Queen
“Minute By Minute” by The Doobie Brothers
“Never Say Die” by Black Sabbath

A few groups caught my attention with debut albums, follow-up albums, or albums in the very early years of their careers, and have become favorites of mine over the years: Quiet Riot, Rainbow, AC/DC, Foghat, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Dire Straits, The Cars, Whitesnake, Boston, Midnight Oil.

Two groups that I never really liked released albums that I did like: The Rolling Stones with “Some Girls” and The Police with “Outlandos d’Amour.”

By the slimmest of margins, I believe I would have to choose The Cars eponymous debut album as my favorite from 1978. There’s not a bad song on it, and I can sing all the songs, in order, while sitting on the beach.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The list of #1 hits from 1978, according to the Billboard Hot 100 chart, looks like this:

Jan 7 – “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees
Jan 14 – “Baby Come Back” by Player
Jan 21 – “Baby Come Back” by Player
Jan 28 – “Baby Come Back” by Player
Feb 4 – “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees
Feb 11 – “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees
Feb 18 – “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees
Feb 25 – “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees
Mar 3 – “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” by Andy Gibb
Mar 10 – “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” by Andy Gibb
Mar 17 – “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees
Mar 24 – “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees
Mar 31 – “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees
Apr 7 – “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees
Apr 14 – “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees
Apr 21 – “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees
Apr 28 – “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees
May 5 – “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees
May 12 – “If I Can’t Have You” by Yvonne Elliman
May 19 – “With a Little Luck” by Wings
May 26 – “With a Little Luck” by Wings
Jun 2 – “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” by Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams
Jun 9 – “You’re the One That I Want” by John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
Jun 16 – “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb
Jun 23 – “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb
Jun 30 – “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb
Jul 7 – “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb
Jul 14 – “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb
Jul 21 – “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb
Jul 28 – “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb
Aug 4 – “Miss You” by the Rolling Stones
Aug 11 – “Three Times a Lady” by the Commodores
Aug 18 – “Three Times a Lady” by the Commodores
Aug 25 – “Grease” by Frankie Valli
Sep 1 – “Grease” by Frankie Valli
Sep 8 – “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey
Sep 15 – “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey
Sep 22 – “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey
Sep 29 – “Kiss You All Over” by Exile
Oct 6 – “Kiss You All Over” by Exile
Oct 13 – “Kiss You All Over” by Exile
Oct 20 – “Kiss You All Over” by Exile
Oct 27 – “Hot Child in the City” by Nick Gilder
Nov 3 – “You Needed Me” by Anne Murray
Nov 10 – “MacArthur Park” by Donna Summer
Nov 17 – “MacArthur Park” by Donna Summer
Nov 24 – “MacArthur Park” by Donna Summer
Dec 1 – “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond
Dec 8 – “Le Freak” by Chic
Dec 15 – “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond
Dec 22 – “Le Freak” by Chic
Dec 29 – “Le Freak” by Chic

22 of the 52 weeks were topped by people with the last name Gibb, and I spent a lot of time at the dance clubs dancing to their music.

Of the 1978 singles, I’m going to go with “Kiss You All Over” by Exile as my favorite.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Probably my favorite song for 1978, single or album cut, is “Life’s Been Good To Me” by Joe Walsh. Just can’t stop singing it whenever I hear it.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Nazi America—I’m not all in

I live in my own little world

On April 15, 1993, I left College Station TX in the dead of night in a souped-up-lowered-blacked-out-windows-Flowmaster-exhaust 1989 Mustang GT. In the car with me was $5,000 cash and 100 CDs. I was headed to Canada to go to sleep, permanently. At the age of 38, I had lost any incentive to try to reconcile gay Russel with my Mormon (mom) and Catholic (dad) upbringing, not to mention the extremely conservative friends I had made during my four years at Texas A&M University.

It only took two days to get to Canada, but suddenly I was having fun. Not a care in the world and over $4,800 left to spend anyway, anyhow, anywhere.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I was having so much fun that I wound up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Spend 2½ days there having fun with openly gay people, two of whom were from Houston, had moved to San Diego in 1988 in order to do the same thing I couldn’t do, and were in Vancouver celebrating their fifth anniversary. They convinced me to give a chance to any big city on the West Coast. San Diego was my last stop, but here I am.

I managed to find the “Coming Out Support Group” and “The Center for Social Services.” That was a code name for “The Center for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Services.” In 1993 still, the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender were forbidden words, so much so that the phone company would not provide phone services to any company with those words in the name.

My office managers at my two businesses in College Station, and a long-time friend from Houston, sold my Texas assets, allowing me to consider myself retired at the age of 38. On to more important things.

I spent my days at San Diego’s gay beach (Blacks Beach), slept and ate in San Diego’s gay neighborhood (Hillcrest), and spent the rest of my time at The Center reading anything and everything about being gay in the United States in the 1990s. Being gay in San Diego at that time wasn’t easy but it was a lot easier than in Texas.

I remember one night I had partied at a gay bar in Hillcrest, believing that it was quite safe to be gay there. Sadly, it wasn’t. Seven rednecks had piled into a truck and driven to Hillcrest from East San Diego County specifically “to beat up some fags.” They chose a male couple who were walking home, hand in hand, from the same bar I had been at. I always thought that it could have been me because I was alone.

Although they were caught, I no longer felt safe. It took me several years before I would feel safe again. Society seemed to be making progress.

I came out to everyone, family and friends. Very few of my Mormon and Catholic relatives were accepting—der. The most accepting was my wise old grandmother, the same one who had adopted one of Utah’s greatest juvenile delinquents and gave him eight years of her life when she didn’t have to. My favorite aunt and uncle were absolutely despicable in voicing their hatred in letters to me.

Interestingly, my friends were much more accepting than my family. My new San Diego friends still were having difficulty believing that I was gay because I liked sports, had a Virago 1100 motorcyle, had a customized Mustang GT…. I seemed to be everything except the gay stereotype.

On the other hand, my Texas friends were like, “Uh, you didn’t know? We knew. You were always the most effeminate of our friends…. We didn’t care but we’re glad you’re still alive.”

I spent 11 months working on sexual orientation issues to the exclusion of everything else. In March 1994, I re-entered the work force through a temp agency. My intent was to work Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday while continuing to work on sexual orientation issues the other four days.

The temp agency sent me to a company working as consultants in the cell phone industry, an industry that was booming in the mid-1990s. Somehow I wound up as a consultant working in Detroit, flying home to San Diego once a month. It was my first trip home, on May 26, 1994, that I met my soon-to-be lifelong partner, Jim, at the Coming Out Support Group.

We moved in together in 1995, commingling our lives in every respect—money, music, sports, life…. Well, I still don’t like the Lakers (Go Celtics!) or Dodgers (Go A’s!)….

We got domestic partnered (such an ugly term for love) when that became legal in 2003, and got married (gay married!) in 2008 when that was legal for a short six months. When the California Supreme Court ruled that our marriage would remain legal, we celebrated in Hillcrest. Then in 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality would be the law of the land. We celebrated again, in Hillcrest.

Society had come a long way. Little did we know that the hatred was still there. After the presidential election on November 8, I’m back to no longer feeling safe. I’m much older, can’t run anymore, and probably still look too effeminate for some people.

When Jim and I went out to eat Friday night for our Thanksgiving meal, I saw this little corner coffee shop:

Meshuggah Shack

Meshuggah Shack

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That’s the Meshuggah Shack in San Diego’s Mission Hills neighborhood. It was too dark on Friday to take a picture so I got up with the sun on Saturday and headed over there. After taking my pictures, and noticing that many people were watching me, perhaps thinking that I was a red-person-domestic terrorist, I walked up to the counter. A guy and gal both asked if they could help me. I said that I didn’t want anything other than to thank them for putting up the welcome signs. Then I put $20 into their tip jar and walked back to my car. I was crying, but I felt so good.

I keep thinking of a dystopian future where every commercial enterprise has to put signs on their businesses telling the public which people they will serve and which they will not. Those signs make it easy for hateful people to target specific businesses. Stephen King, are you reading me here?

While I currently work from home, much of the clientele for my business enterprises live in other states. Red states. And I know from internet message boards that they are only too happy to espouse the hatred and violence for others that our president-elect did so well. In order to make my business enterprises work, I need to meet people on a personal level. I am afraid to do that because I don’t want to visit those red states and those red people.

I really don’t know what to do. I’m trying to hang on, but as the number of hate crimes spikes in all states, it’s becoming more and more difficult to enjoy life, and I’m not 100% sure that I want to go back in time and live in a hateful society again.

If this is our president-elect’s idea of making America great again, I’m not all in.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Friday Flower Fiesta (11-25-16)—YOU…. are in trouble!

Friday Flower Fiesta

Many decades ago, in the year 1966 to be precise, the Principal of my elementary school, Charles H. Flato Jr. Elementary School in Kingsville TX, came around to my sixth grade class asking for volunteers to be school photographers. The school provided the camera and film, and had its own darkroom, and—get this—volunteers would get into all school events FREE! That included sporting events. I was sold.

It was only a few months later that I got into trouble with that same principal, Mrs. Ruby Gustavson. It seems that every time I developed pictures in the darkroom, I used, in her own words,”ten times as much paper and developer” as the other students. She never found out why, and I never told anyone, until now.

I was experimenting, trying to make a collage using one picture but sixteen pieces of paper. I would take a piece of paper and expose it to just one section of the picture. Then I’d take another piece of paper and expose it to a different section. When I finished, I had sixteen pieces of paper that, when laid together, created a collage. Similar to this:

Rose collage

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Obviously I was using a lot of paper and developer chemical. I don’t remember if I succeeded fifty years ago but I do remember spending a lot of time in that darkroom after school. Since I was still the juvenile delinquent that my wise old grandmother (MWOG) had adopted a year earlier, every time I came home late from school, MWOG wanted to know why. Where had I had been? What was I doing?

“I was developing pictures in the darkroom at school.”

Finally, enough was enough, and MWOG came up to the school one day after school was out, walked into Mrs. Gustavson’s office, and asked if I was there. Mrs. Gustavson didn’t know if I was, so she and MWOG walked down to the darkroom. There I was. With many of my paper trials hanging up drying. Individually they all looked like wasted paper—collectively, they looked like one of MWOG’s roses from her rose garden. Using Mrs. Gustavson’s own words again: “You…. are in trouble.”

Yep, I was in trouble. My experimentation came to an end, and I was allowed one hour and no more in the darkroom each day. I had to check in with Mrs. Gustavson anytime I was going to be in the darkroom, and she instituted surprise visits to the darkroom while I was there. She was sneaky….

In today’s world, a photographer’s darkroom is something like Photoshop, or Photo-Paint, or Paintshop. I use Photoshop mostly because it’s the de facto standard, meaning that there are billions of tutorials online. There also are things called “plug-ins” and “actions” that other people have created to do things automatically that might take me a month to figure out how to do.

The picture above was made using an action from Panos FX called “Big Pictures.” They have several dozen actions, and I have them all. Some of their actions are free; those that cost are very reasonably priced, especially if you use them a lot. Check ’em out.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Zoey the Cool Cat,
exhibiting her Panos FX book action.Zoey the Cool Cat book