Music on Mondays (2-27-17)—Black Velvet if you please

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

I didn’t have anything specific for today’s Music on Mondays post so, since it’s February 27, I thought I go back 27 years and see what the #1 hits were for 1990 and how many of them I have in my collection. There were 26 hits that made it to #1 in 1990:

  1. “Another Day In Paradise” by Phil Collins
  2. “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” by Michael Bolton
  3. “Opposites Attract” by Paula Abdul and The Wild Pair
  4. “Escapade” by Janet Jackson
  5. “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles
  6. “Love Will Lead You Back” by Taylor Dayne
  7. “I’ll Be Your Everything” by Tommy Page
  8. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O Connor
  9. “Vogue” by Madonna
  10. “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips
  11. “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette
  12. “Step” by Step” by New Kids On The Block
  13. “She Ain’t Worth It” by Glenn Medeiros Featuring Bobby Brown
  14. “Vision Of Love” by Mariah Carey
  15. “If Wishes Came True” by Sweet Sensation
  16. “Blaze Of Glory” by Jon Bon Jovi
  17. “Release Me” by Wilson Phillips
  18. “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection” by Nelson
  19. “Close To You” by Maxi Priest
  20. “Praying For Time” by George Michael
  21. “I Don t Have The Heart” by James Ingram
  22. “Black Cat” by Janet Jackson
  23. “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice
  24. “Love Takes Time” by Mariah Carey
  25. “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston
  26. “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” by Stevie B

Of those 26 songs, I have five in my collection:

“Another Day In Paradise” by Phil Collins

“How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” by Michael Bolton

“Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles

“It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette

“Blaze Of Glory” by Jon Bon Jovi

Of those five, “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles by far is my favorite. Although the song is from 1990, I first heard it in 2003 when one of my employees was playing it in the office. He even told me that one could buy Black Velvet at Costco. I can confirm that. Ever since then I no longer drink virgin Sprite because Black Velvet is an excellent additive.

Black Velvet, Canadian Whiskey

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Out & About—This church, that church, and God’s Garage

Out & About San Diego

Back in 1966 or so my great grandfather died. He was buried in the Catholic Church in San Antonio in which he had been born, baptized, first communionized, married, and attended for 50 years. All was well.

Three years later, my great grandmother died. The family thought that she would be buried in the same church as her husband.


During those ensuing three years, the Catholic Church had redrawn its dioceses, and it turned out that my great grandmother now lived in a different diocese. Interestingly, the new church for the new diocese had been built right across the street. So even though my great grandmother probably knew that she had been placed in a new diocese, she kept attending the same church she had been going to for 50+ years. All was not well.

I think that’s when I realized that manmade religions really weren’t for me.

Back in 1994 I was working in Detroit and decided one day to walk Grand River Avenue from Washington Boulevard to West Eight Mile Road, which was close to the office. I had been told that it was called Eight Mile Road because it was eight miles from downtown. That was an alternative fact spouted well before alternative facts became popular. On almost every intersection, four corners, were four churches. Usually they were different denominations but occasionally they were the same—two Catholic churches, or two Presbyterian churches. I understood because of what had happened to my great grandmother 25+ years earlier.

While I will always question whether or not an all-powerful, all-knowing god requires these monstrous cathedrals be built to worship him (or her), I do appreciate their architecture. When I was in Pacific Beach a while back looking for the library, I came across two huge churches right next to each other: St. Brigid Parish Catholic Church and Christ Lutheran Church.

St. Brigid Parish Catholic ChurchSt. Brigid Parish Catholic Church

St. Brigid Parish Catholic Church, Pacific Beach, San Diego, California

St. Brigid Parish Catholic Church, Pacific Beach, San Diego, California

Even though I grew up in the Catholic Church, did the CYO thing, went to Catholic School and Sunday School, I have never heard of St. Brigid. Wikipedia to the rescue!

Saint Brigid of Kildare or Brigid of Ireland (c. 451 – 525) is one of Ireland’s patron saints. Irish hagiography makes her an early Irish Christian nun, abbess, and foundress of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare in Ireland. Her feast day is February 1, which was originally a pagan festival called Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring.

The saint shares her name with an important Celtic goddess, and there are many legends and folk customs associated with her. Some scholars suggest that the saint is merely a Christianization of the goddess. Others suggest that she was a real person who took on the goddess’s attributes. Medieval Art Historian Pamela Berger argues that Christian “monks took the ancient figure of the mother goddess and grafted her name and functions onto her Christian counterpart.” Professor Dáithí Ó hÓgáin and others suggest that the saint had been chief druidess at the temple of the goddess Brigid, and was responsible for converting it into a Christian monastery. After her death, the name and characteristics of the goddess became attached to the saint.

Well, there ya go. Once again I learned absolutely nothing that could make my life better. So let’s move on to Christ Lutheran Church, founded in 1954 as Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pacific Beach, San Diego

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pacific Beach, San Diego

I’m familiar with Lutherans and Christ but I wondered why Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church seems to have dropped the Evangelical from its name. So I went to Wikipedia again to see just who these Evangelicals are and why they had been banished from their own church.

Evangelicalism, Evangelical Christianity, or Evangelical Protestantism is a worldwide, transdenominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement. Evangelicals believe in the centrality of the conversion or the “born again” experience in receiving salvation, in the authority of the Bible as God’s revelation to humanity, and in spreading the Christian message.

Its origins are usually traced back to English Methodism, the Moravian Church (in particular theology of its bishop Nicolaus Zinzendorf and his community at Herrnhut), and German Lutheran Pietism. While all these phenomena contributed greatly, John Wesley and other early Methodists were at the root of sparking this new movement during the First Great Awakening. Today, Evangelicals are found across many Protestant branches, as well as in various denominations not subsumed to a specific branch. The movement gained great momentum during the 18th and 19th centuries with the Great Awakenings in the United Kingdom and North America.

The Americas, Africa, and Asia are home to the majority of Evangelicals. United States has the largest concentration of Evangelicals in the world; its community forms a quarter of the population, is politically important and based mostly in the Bible Belt. In the United Kingdom, Evangelicals are mostly represented in the Methodist Church, Baptist communities and among low church Anglicans.

Alas, I’m not having much success on this last Sunday in February for again I have learned absolutely nothing that could make my life better.

My wise old grandmother taught me to add laughter to each day, so I shall end with some laughter. Just north of these two churches was God’s Garage:

God's Garage, Pacific Beach, San Diego, California

Now that’s funny.

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Out & About—If it’s old, I’m there

Out & About San Diego

I tried taking a shortcut out of an older residential area the other day and got lost instead. In the process of getting lost, though, I discovered the “Old Town Stairs.” Looks like these:

Old Town San Diego stairs

Anytime I see something looking like that, I’m parking the car, grabbing my camera, and taking off.

There was a sign at the foot of the stairs telling me that part of the trail ahead was used by soldiers and families two centuries ago to walk from California’s first Spanish mission and presidio to the area below where they had their gardens and livestock. Eventually the long walk caused many families to build homes in the valley below, resulting in what now is known as Old Town San Diego. Many archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians believe that the Carrillo House, now being used a golf shop for the Old Town golf course, was the first. The golf shop is the oldest adobe structure still standing in San Diego. It is clearly visible from the path:

Pro shop at the Old Town golf course

The path leads to the Presidio and mission (pictures and more about the Presidio, mission, and current Serra Museum are here).

The path was very quite and secluded, and I was the only person on it that morning.

Path from Old Town to Serra Museum

Path from Old Town to Serra Museum

The Old Town stairs are at the intersection of Mason Street and Jackson Street. The gray dashed lines on the map below are paths you can easily walk:


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Out & About—They had cats!

Out & About San Diego

I delivered packages for Amazon Prime Now from October 2015 to August 2016. During that time, most of the orders to be delivered were just a few of sacks of groceries. One day, though, I only had one order, but the complete order of over twenty sacks filled the trunk and the interior of my car to capacity. Everything was going to what I now know is a Buddhist temple. Looked like this:

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

The temple actually was split in two with the other half being located a block away:

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

I know absolutely nothing at all about Buddhism so I went to Wikipedia for help.

Buddhism is a religion and dharma that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings attributed to the Buddha. Buddhism originated in India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, from where it spread through much of Asia, whereafter it declined in India during the middle ages. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada (Pali: “The School of the Elders”) and Mahayana (Sanskrit: “The Great Vehicle”). Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion, with over 500 million followers or 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists.

Buddhist schools vary on the exact nature of the path to liberation, the importance and canonicity of various teachings and scriptures, and especially their respective practices. Practices of Buddhism include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, study of scriptures, observance of moral precepts, renunciation of craving and attachment, the practice of meditation (including calm and insight), the cultivation of wisdom, loving-kindness and compassion, the Mahayana practice of bodhicitta and the Vajrayana practices of generation stage and completion stage.

In Theravada the ultimate goal is the attainment of the sublime state of Nirvana, achieved by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path (also known as the Middle Way), thus escaping what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth. Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

Hmmm. I fear that I still know absolutely nothing about Buddhism….

While I was roaming around, I got pictures of four cats making their homes on the property:

Buddhist Temple cat

Buddhist Temple cat

Buddhist Temple cat

Buddhist Temple cat

I don’t care who you are or what you believe, if you are a kind enough human to take care of the most vulnerable among us, including wildlife but especially cats and dogs, you’re alright with me.

Following are some other pictures of the Temple buildings and grounds:

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

Buddhist Temple in San Diego, California

I admit that when it comes to religious buildings, I find most of them interesting but gaudy. With the money that it took to build them, I wonder how many homeless could have been sheltered, how many sick could have been cured, how many hungry could have been fed.

Do the all-powerful, all-knowing gods of the world’s religions really care so little about people worshipping differently, or worshipping others? Are they really sitting there watching television and rooting for their favorite football or basketball superstar?

This touchdown is for you, Jesus

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Out & About—Mission Hills with a downtown view

Out & About San Diego

When I was delivering packages for Amazon Prime Now at this time last year, one of my goals was to find interesting places, nooks and crannies, that I probably wouldn’t find on my own. One such place I found was 1802 Puterbaugh Street in Mission Hills. It sits on a large lot on a high hill with a beautiful view of downtown San Diego.

1802 Puterbaugh Street, San Diego, California

View from 1802 Puterbaugh Street, San Diego, California

According to public records, the house was built in 1911 and has 2,088 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 1½ bathrooms. It also has a 2-car garage, something that may or may not be original to the property. Mission Hills in 1911 was an upscale, affluent neighborhood. It still is. Many of the people who lived in Mission Hills in 1911 could afford cars, and in today’s world their cars typically are top-of-the-line BMW’s, Mercedes-Benzes, and similar luxury cars.

Since it was dark when I made my delivery, I noted the address and went back a few weeks later during daylight to get some pictures. I thought the home might be a historical landmark but I haven’t found it on any lists so far.

The home last sold on September 7, 2010, for $650,000 to a man and woman with different last names. I mention that because on September 1, 2015, the man relinquished to the woman his interest in the property via a Quit Claim Deed. In other words, he simply gave her his share of the property, no questions asked. Sounds like a parting of the ways.

1802 Puterbaugh Street, San Diego, California

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Beware of photographers bearing alternative pictures

How I Did It

I don’t have much respect for photographers who spout that their pictures are straight out of the camera. All that tells me is that they haven’t explored all that their cameras can do.

In today’s world, even cameras are photoshoppers. For example, on all my Canon cameras (XSi, T2i, T6s), I can change the in-camera settings. I push the Menu button, scroll to Picture Style, choose it, and then I can choose Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Def. 1, User Def. 2, and User Def. 3.
For each of those choices, I can then set the Sharpness (0 to 7), Contrast (-4 to +4), Saturation (-4 to +4), and Color tone (-4 to +4). Other settings on the camera allow me to modify exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, or even add creative filters (Grainy B/W, Soft focus, Fish-eye effect, Art bold effect, Water painting effect, Toy camera effect, Miniature effect), crop the picture, and change the brightness.

One also should realize that the little computers that power our cameras are more powerful than the 1960’s computers that sent man to the moon and brought him back safely. Why not use that power? In order to use that power, though, computers require software to make them run. Just like I prefer Photoshop over Photo-Paint and PaintShop Pro, I prefer the Canon software engineers’ programming over the programming from the engineers at Nikon, Sony, and the others. It’s not always about price. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to let the Canon software engineers, who may or may not be photographers themselves, decide for me how I want my pictures to look. Ain’t gonna happen. What they have given me in their software programming is just the basics with which to start.

One of the best reasons for joining a photography club is to see what cameras other people are using and what their cameras can do. One of the little ol’ ladies in my camera club, 77 years old, uses no post-camera processing software. However, she has a Canon 70D. You should see her “post process” in her camera, both before and after she takes the picture, looking at and changing the histogram, the noise, the brightness, and anything else that suits her fancy for a particular picture or time. She knows every setting on her camera, and she knows how to use those settings, too. But she had always claimed that her pictures are “straight out of the camera.”

I pointed out to her one day that “post processing” really meant “after you take the picture,” not after the picture leaves the camera, and not necessarily using Photoshop on the computer back at home. I explained to her using her own camera and actions. She now understands, and since she has higher power connections in the camera club, the president asked me to do a “post processing” seminar for the camera club. We had around 200 people that morning; very few of them had ever explored their camera settings, preferring to think that they were expert photographers because they knew what P, A, ISO, Av, Tv, and M meant.

One of our younger male members loves sunrise and sunset pictures, but he doesn’t like getting up before noon, and by the time sunset arrives, he’s too busy with the wine & women. I showed him how to use the settings on his camera to get a sunrise/sunset picture at 2:00 p.m. any day of the year using his in-camera settings. Now he’s the happiest guy on Earth.

I enjoy post processing on my computer using Photoshop since I have a big computer screen, a fast computer, music to listen to, a cat in my lap, and a margarita on the desk. Trying to do post processing on a little 3-inch LCD screen with little buttons, out in the wild, is not my idea of fun.

So as I said, I don’t have much respect for someone who spouts that their pictures are straight out of the camera. All that tells me is that they haven’t explored all that their cameras can do or that their command of the English language is not yet sufficient to understand what “post processing” means.

Here are a couple of sunrise/sunset pictures of mine. Can you tell whether or not they are sunrise or sunset?

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Sunrise from the top of Mount Helix in La Mesa, California

Those two are fairly easy because you have a 50% chance of being correct since the sun is in the picture. As long as I didn’t actually put the sun in the picture (which I can do with Photoshop), you know they are either sunrise or sunset. But what do you do if the sun is not in the picture, like these three:

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Sunset in La Mesa, California on December 10, 2016, looking east

La Mesa sunset

Those pictures are mid-afternoon pictures. The clouds and whatever was happening behind them were creating some interesting effects with the sun. I used some in-camera settings to accentuate the effect and then completed the process at home in Photoshop.

So beware of photographers bearing alternative pictures in this new world order of alternative facts.

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Music on Mondays (2-20-17)—I once was a choir boy

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Each day after I have accomplished 90% of my goals for that day (I always was an A student), I reward myself by exploring the book “Top Pop Singles” by Joel Whitburn. I’m looking for music that I like but don’t have in my collection.

Radio used to be my preferred method of discovering new music but I haven’t listened to radio since CD players started appearing in cars back in the late ’80s. However, with YouTube, Spotify, and various music sites like, it’s not difficult to have a listen to music without buying it. Now, with car stereo systems accepting flash drives, bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, I don’t see me ever going back to radio.

Here are five of the individual songs I added to my collection this past week:

“Wild Women Do” by Natalie Cole, 1990
I always liked this song from “Pretty Woman” but not enough to buy the Soundtrack back in 1990. Over the years I forgot about it. Last week I re-discovered it and bought it.
It spent 10 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, peaking at #34.

“Time for Letting Go” by Jude Cole, 1990
Jude Cole had 5 minor hits from 1990-1993. This was his second.
I had never heard of him or his music before last week.
“Time for Letting Go” spent 15 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #32.

“Shelter Me” by Joe Cocker, 1986
Although I knew of Joe Cocker because of his covers of Beatle songs
(“With A Little Help from My Friends” and “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window”), I never really liked his music enough to buy it.
I knew just enough about him to have an intelligent conversation
about him and his music. This song doesn’t sound like Joe Cocker.
“Shelter Me” spent 4 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #91.

“C’mon Everybody” by Eddie Cochran, 1958
Eddie Cochran was was just 21 when he died in 1960 in a car accident.
I was 5, and living in northern Utah,
so this type of “devil music” never made the radio stations there.
I’m only now discovering his music.
“C’mon Everybody” spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #35.

“Run To Paradise” by The Choirboys, 1989
The Choirboys had one hit. This is it.
It spent 7 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #80

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