Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cecil, our hypocrisy... and Sanctitude. Music to restore hope.

Lioness and her cubs
Lioness, Sacramento Zoo
On a day when the world reacted to the news of yet-another, beautiful, wonderful, incredible, natural, beast being killed for the sake of one human's desire, not need, not food, just personal want and bloodlust and desire...

Between the tears the story brought to so many of us, the helplessness, the frustration and the pain... I had to wonder how long the story will last, how soon before we all move on to the next sensation, and forget the stolen life of Cecil. 

And that of his cubs, who will no doubt now become incidental victims to this crime of big-game hunting, as the life of the pride carries on, and a new leader assumes Cecil's place.

This is what I wrote on Facebook.

"Just think how much camera equipment, and how much safari-time, and how much generosity-towards-the-local-economy, etc. etc. etc. could have been paid for with $50,000, and with the same hunt-adrenaline and adventure and pride and prowess and skill and the capure of the most-beautiful lion photo ever... INSTEAD OF KILLING IT AND CUTTING ITS BEAUTIFUL HEAD OFF.
I am so very, very upset about the killing of (yet another) magnificent wild animal by (yet another) rich, entitled, white human being. Whether it's this dude with his lion, or that woman with the giraffe, they all make me sad to be human.
The internet is ablaze with this story. We're all upset because this magnificent lion had a name, and was known. The hunter is supposedly upset because he killed the lion-with-a-name, not some other unnamed but equally-magnificent leader of a pride, as he intended when he set out with a weapon and not a camera, or just his eyes. And yet... people, human beings, are also being shot and killed each and every day.Why are we not equally upset, repelled, angry, about that waste of life, too? Wars, gangs, crime, trafficking, "the right to bear arms"... aren't we all a little hypocritical?
RIP Cecil. We love you."
And so... I picked up nearest, unplayed-as-yet CD (yes, I do still buy physical copies, more-and-more vinyl these days again too). Katatonia, Sanctitude, almost-acoustic, Live At Union Chapel.
It was just the beauty my ears needed, tonight. Dark, calming, candlelit, soulful, hope. Music to restore hope.
Here's a sample from the video recording... check it out.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Chase Rice, country boy but rocking it at the California State Fair

Chase Rice at California State Fair
Chase Rice, California State Fair
I could tell it was going to be one of those country-girl nights; the audience was full of fresh-faced young ladies, every one busy with a cell phone; lots of cowboy boots and hats, despite the achingly-high Sacramento temperatures. After all, Chase Rice is a bit of a hearthrob: not yet thirty years old, he's one of the named cowriters on Florida Georgia Line's hit single "Cruise", has had all sorts of jobs and adventures already,,.. oh. He also survived Survivor (does that have anything to do with his female following? I'm guessing, just a little, though they obviously love the music too!

Chase Rice at California State Fair
Chase Rice, California State Fair
When Chase walked onto the stage, he said he wanted Friday's show to be the loudest of all the shows at the State Fair. (Given the stacks of amps and speakers, that shouldn't have been too hard.) I don't know if anyone measured the sound levels, but one thing I am 550% certain of is this: NO OTHER show at the State Fair provoked anywhere near as many selfies as Chase Rice's show. None. Not one.

Selfie time: fans enjoing the Chase Rice show
Selfies with Chase Rice, California State Fair
Fun, country, but with enough rock to make it the sort of music accessible to a huge audience. Twinkling eyes, a lovely smile, a strong voice... no wonder the girls are all raising signs with suggestive mottos lifted from Chase's own words...

Chase Rice at California State Fair
Chase Rice, California State Fair
In all seriousness: if you want to hear some good, rocking, country music, take a listen to Chase Rice's album, Ignite The Night. iTunes classifies it as "Urban Cowboy" and "Progressive Country". There's lots of mention of beer, girls, riding, tanlines, partying, Jack, smoke, and seeing the light. It's fun, it's country, it's Chase Rice.

Oh. And his band, they really, really rocked. (If anyone can send me the names for the unnamed band members, please do!)

Want to follow Chase Rice on tour? Find dates here: http://chaserice.com/events

Chase Rice and his band
Chase Rice's band, California State Fair

Brandon Autry, guitar, Chase Rice
Brandon Autry, guitar with Chase Rice, California State Fair

Jeremy Roberson, drums, Chase Rice
Jeremy Roberson, drums, Chase Rice at California State Fair (note the custom hi0hats!)
"I'm lost somewhere between Jack Daniels and Jesus..."

More photos from Friday's show at the California State Fair, see the Toon's Tunes Chase Rice photo gallery. Includes some fan photos: were you there?

Here's the latest music video from Chase Rice: "Ride" (which explains one or two of the signs in the audience!)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pacific Nations Cup, Bonney Field, Sacramento... Fiji vs. Samoa, USA vs. Japan

Fiji v. Samoa, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Fiji v. Samoa, Pacific Nations Cup, Sacramento
OK. This is not music. It was very, very entertaining though.

Scrum, Fiji v. Samoa, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Scrum! Pacific Nations Cup, Fiji v. Samoa, Sacramento
Thanks to California State Fair, I was allowed the opportunity to shoot my first professional sports event, last night at Bonney Field, Sacramento's home for Sacramento Republic FC, Sacramento's professional football (soccer) team. The event was a double-header: two matches, part of the Pacific Nations Cup rugby tournament, which plays an important role in preparing these teams for the Rugby World Cup, which will be held in London, England, later this year. First, in daylight, was Fiji v Samoa. Then later in the evening, USA Eagles v Japan.

People watching Fiji v. Samoa, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Fans enjoying the Fiji v. Samoa rugby match, Sacramento

Fans enjoying USA v Japan, Pacific Nations Cup
Fans enjoying the USA v. Japan rugby match, Sacramento
Growing up in England, and then living for many years in France, Rugby has always been part of the sports of my environment. We used to joke that American Football was extra padding and protection for people who dared not play Rugby (AKA, rugger)...

Don't yell, I know better now. There are different rules to the sport, for example for tackling (never "off the ball" in Rugby), and tackles can be lower (and potentially more dangerous) in American Football. And American Football seems, to me, to be more of a physical chess-game, while rugby (and Australian-rules football, if you want to get really brutal) is more brute physicality and tenacity. You don't see fat on rugby players.

Fiji v. Samoa, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Tackle! Pacific Nations Cup, Bonney Field, Sacramento 2015
But... Rugby is infinitely more exciting. IMHO, of course.

Fiji v. Samoa, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Pacific Nations Cup, Fiji v. Samoa, Sacramento 2015
The game flows: there are no stops and pauses while teams are changed and players constantly substituted for single plays or moves or even just to kick. Rugby is physical, and it is intense. Yes: it is intensly physical. Early on in the match, I was on the sidelines, shooting, not far from the corner post, and suddenly, both teams were running in that direction. You know on TV, when you see the basketball player run into a photographer when leaping after a ball? That's what I thought was happening, though last night, it wasn't one or two basketball players, it was thirty huge men, all looking something like Dwayne Johnson at the peak of physical training, and all coming to catch the ball and crush me and my cameras. I felt a bit like a rabbit might feel, about to be stampeded by stupendous herd of magnificent bison... luckily, the play stayed inside the pitch. Phew. Adrenaline.

Cooling down, Fiji v. Samoa, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Save some for the others! World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup

The match between Fiji and Samoa last night ended in a draw, and it was the most exciting draw I have ever seen. The final score: 30-30. Despite Rugby not being a mainstream sport here in the USA, Bonney Field had a huge crowd, and the supporters of Fiji and Samoa were wonderful. Later, the USA team, The Eagles, beat Japan, 23-18.

Scrum, Fiji v. Samoa, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Pacific Nations Cup, Fiji v. Samoa, Sacramento 2015
I have a huge amount to learn about sports photography. While the Fiji vs. Samoa match was played in very bright sunlight (and heat), making high shutter speeds easy, it had strong contrast and harsh highlights. The USA vs Japan match was after sunset, under floodlights, and the light is low, making a really fast, long lens essential (I was not equipped for that). You need high shutter speed: even at 500, I had some blur. You have to pan the movement, follow the plays, (or just sit in one spot and wait for that one shot). I didn't do well with depth-of-field: I want more bokeh. It really helps to know the sport; having become accustomed to American Football (and other USA sports') constant time outs, I missed a few plays, forgetting that rugby and football/soccer just get on with it, unless someone's injured or it's half time.

USA v Japan, Pacific Nations Cup
Pacifric Nations Cup, USA v Japan, Bonney Field, Sacramento
Yes, I'd love to do this again. Next time, I'll rent that extra-long, really fast, expensive lens plus a couple of extenders... In the meantime, I'm going to practice, and look at the best sports photography out there.

Fiji v. Samoa, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Pacific Nations Cup, Bonney Field, Sacramento, 2015
Many more photos from the Fiji versus Samoa match: click here.
All the photos from the USA versus Japan match: click here for the full gallery.

USA v Japan, Pacific Nations Cup
Pacifric Nations Cup, USA v Japan, Bonney Field, Sacramento
For other music/concert photographers considering sports photography: here are the big differences, once you are credentialed to shoot the event:

- there's no "three plays, no flash" rule: you cover the full game or match
- you have sideline access (with restricted areas, such as the players' box)
- you'll need the longest and fastest lens in your bag (or from BorrowLenses or similar): don't be surprised to feel lens envy when you see that guy carrying the Camera That Must Weigh Sixty Pounds
- no-one's going to give you eye contact or play for the camera; you have to capture the moment with no help from the "performer"
- you might want to take out insurance against being squished...

Pregame ritual war dance, Fiji v. Samoa, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Pregame ritual: dance!
And the similarity: it's all for love of the game, or the sport, or the music. If it wasn't for who is putting on the show, we wouldn't be there taking pictures. I hope these images have captured just a little of what was, for me, a wonderful opportunity to try something very different... and a wonderful, exciting event at Bonney Field!

Pregame ritual war dance, Fiji v. Samoa, World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup
Pregame ritual, jump!

Friday, July 24, 2015

More good stuff at the State Fair: it's the last weekend!

Tonight: Chase Rice in concert, and international rugby on Bonney Field! World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup, no less: Japan v. USA, and Fiji v. Samoa! And... if you have tickets to the rugby, it means that you have tickets to the fair, too!

I will be there. Rugby? Go Tigers!!!!  (Ooops... wrong city/country, I thought I was back in Leicester, England, just for a moment.)

Watch this space... rugby is played hard, without the helmets and padding of American football. (Different tackling rules though.)

Oh and course... there are LLAMAS!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Visiting Lazarus at the State Fair: and what you should know about hormone replacement therapy

Lazarus, Percheron, horse--a gentle giant
Lazarus, Percheron horse, California State Fair
Premarin sounds like an innocent treatment which is offered to women as hormone replacement. It's made from PREgnant MARes urINe.

Lazarus, Percheron, horse--a gentle giant
Lazarus, Percheron horse, California State Fair
PMU horses are bred, not for the foals, not for the joy of riding or companionship, but simply to "harvest" the pregnant mother horses's pee.

And that, girls, is what goes into those hormone replacements. Horse pee. Pregnant horse pee.

The brood mares, and the foals they produce, are nothing but a means to produce this money-making drug. The conditions that the mares are kept in vary from decent to horrible. The foals might be adopted out, but are often sent to slaughter... all for treating those annoying "hot flashes" (or "hot flushes" in the UK). Did you know that? Did you?

There are organizations who rescue, heal, and rehome these discarded, beautiful horses. Check out http://hope4horses.com, http://kisshorses.com.

The magnificent horse in these picture is Lazarus: named so because he was born during his mother's trailer ride from the PMU (Pregnant Mare's Urine) facility. He was close to death... but look at him now. Huge: 18 hands high, calm, tolerant, strong, friendly and gentle. He is a Percheron,

I have to go say hello to Lazarus each day that I'm at the state fair. Go say hello, and read his story. It's pinned to the horse box labelled "Percheron".

Lazarus, Percheron, horse--a gentle giant
Lazarus, Percheron horse, California State Fair
Read the full story of Lazarus here, and find out about the rescue center, Hope for Horses and Kisshorses.com 

And... do ask your doctor what exactly he/she is prescribing for you, when they suggest you need a hormone replacement. There are other treatments than abused and discarded horses. Find one.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Queen Nation, best tribute band ever! (Yes, I say that every year).

Queen Nation, State Fair, Sacramento 2013

Three years running, I've seen Queen Nation at the California State Fair. Last night, I didn't take the cameras. Wanted to just enjoy the show... and was it fun? Of course!

Thirty years ago this week, Queen rocked Live Aid. This week, Queen Nation took the State Fair by storm. Huge crowd, lots of singing along, great music. And people on their feet!!! (See note below.)

What makes ths tribute band so special? Great songs, the bands ability to step into the originals' personas, wonderful voices, fantastic energy, an obvious love of the original band,  fans who know and love the music, ... and Brian May's hair.

We're still dancing this morning. Roll on next year's show!

Catch up with Queen Nation around the USA: dates on their website: http://www.queennation.com/  Queen Nation are  Greg Finsley ("Freddie Mercury"), Mike McManus ("Brian May"), Parker Combs ("John Deacon"), and Peter Burke ("Roger Taylor").

(I still don't understand 'Merica's tendancy to Sit Down At Rock Concerts. Do you really think that anyone in the UK sat down when Freddie was singing??? Um... nope. Not once, not ever. You stand up, you dance, you sing along... America, sometimes I think you are very, very weird. So OK, last night you got it... eventually. You're catching on, at last!)

Pictures from previous years' Queen Nation shows at the California State fair here, in the Toon's Tunes Queen Nation galleries.

Ky-Mani Marley at the California State Fair: Maestro indeed

Ky-Mani Marley
Ky-Mani Marley, Sacramento
This week, Ky-Mani Marley's album, Maestro, is number one in the Billboard Reggae album charts... and this week, Ky-Mani shared his music with us here in Sacramento, at the California State Fair.
And beautiful music it is, too.

Ky-Mani Marley
Ky-Mani Marley, Sacramento
State Fairs must be strange places to perform. People constantly milling about in the audience; going for a beer or ten, staying at the show for a while before taking the kids the fairground, nipping off in case they miss the fireworks, getting the baby home to sleep...  yet Ky-Mani's audience grew throughout the show, as people wandering by were drawn in by the music.

Reggae, dancehall, R&B, soul... all there, in this man's music. I loved it. Beautiful, happy-sad, meaningful music. Ky-Mani's voice, like smooth blue mountain coffee running over rock. And a wonderful band too.

I loved Keepers Of The Light:
"We're fighting for our freedom,
We're dying for our rights,
Still in my darkest hour, oh dread
I found paradise".

Ky-Mani Marley
Ky-Mani Marley, Sacramento
Playing mostly music from Maestro and his own back catalog, Ky Mani also added one or two from his late father's repertoire, but these were not covers... they were Ky Mani's sharing of the Marley love. (E.g., Redemption Song, rising to a rock crescendo... beautiful!)

One Love. One Heart. Music. Summer. Happy. Beautiful. Maestro...

Ky-Mani Marley
Ky-Mani Marley and his band, Sacramento 2015
More photos from this wonderful show in the Toon's Tunes Ky-Mani Marley gallery. Further dates in Ky-Mani's tour can be found here: http://ky-manimarley.com/ 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

AFTERSHOCK PREVIEW: I can't drown my demons, they know how to swim... BMTH, live at Wembley, a review

Earlier this week, the 30th anniversary of Live Aid, and one of the venues was Wembley, a stadium-football-(soccer)-ground in London, England, UK. Wembley: full to the gills with people, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands.

And then, two days ago, a package that I'd been waiting for dropped into the mailbox with a satisfying thunk. Or rather, a satisfying scream, jump, howl, THUNK and so full-of-electrifying-energy that it probably moshed and crowd-surfed and roared across the ocean, across the skies, across the mail sorting room, into the truck, and jumped its own way here: Bring Me The Horizon, Live at Wembley, recorded on 5th December, 2014.... and once again, that stadium is alive, jumping, singing, yelling, writhing with energy. Just a lot more metal than Live Aid.

"This is our biggest show, ever", says Oli. (He hasn't been to Aftershock... yet. What is the capacity at Gibson Ranch, anyone know? Are BMTH fans going to test it???)

I am so very happy for these young men from England. They've been together for ten years now, and they put their everything into the show. Bring Me The Horizon (or BMTH) are Oliver (Oli) Sykes (vocals), Matthew Nicholls on drums, Matt Kean (bass), Lee Malia (guitars), and Jordan Fish (programming and keyboards), also joined by John Jones and a guesting Curtis Ward during this Wembley show. They've won awards. They've a huge, huge following of young-and-older fans in the UK, and now, the world. And they are coming to Sacramento.

"Jump! Jump! JUMP!!!"

(Don't expect to remain still during a BMTH show. Don't expect to just sit, and listen. Your feet may hurt. Your knees may not work for a week. You may leave cursing in Midlands' English. But you will not stay still.)

Homework for Aftershock:  practice jumping, crowdsurfing, more jumping, and singing along. These guys may steal the whole weekend...

"Go to hell, for heaven's sake."

Here's a sample. Turn up the volume. LOUD.

The Live at Wembley DVD set is currently out-of-stock at Amazon (WTH??? So glad I preordered it and yes, my name is in the book :-p ) but you can obtain Drown (single) from iTunes, along with the album Sempiternal. There are two live recording CDs, a booklet, and the live concert DVD in a gate-fold photo sleeve. The DVD, produced and edited by Tim Sidwell, worked on by a whole crew of cameramen etc., is just stunning. It's not a documentary of the show, or a happened-to-be-there filming: it captures the essence, the atmosphere, the energy and the whole Wembley full of BMTH fans.

(Zoltan Bathory, best-buddy, my love for this band is still all your fault. BTW, you still haven't friended me back on Facebook. I'm not hurt... yet!)

My birthday present to me: Bring Me The Horizon play at Aftershock in Sacramento on October 24th this year.


(They'll also be appearing at Rock Allegiance in Chester, PA, and at Knotfest in San Bernardino, CA too. Check out all tour dates, including UK dates, on BMTH's tour page.)  And those of you who are also Marillion fans will recognise the DVD production team and Toward Infinity from some earlier wonderful videos... we're all waiting (im)patiently for the PZ weekend video!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"These costumes that we're wearing... it's not our fault!" Led Zepagain, playing Led Zep again, at the state Fair

Led Zepagain, California State Fair, 2015
Swan Montgomery as Robert Plant, Led Zepagain, California State Fair
Bearing in mind that the original Led Zeppelin split up, finally and forever, after the untimely death in September, 1980, of drummer John Bonham, Led Zepagain may be the closest to the real thing that you're ever going to see, unless you have a time machine, or had the chance to see Led Zep live back-in-the-day. Sounding (and looking, yes, don't blame these guys for the costumes... these are 70's rock star clothes!!!) so much like the real thing, Led Zepagain put on a fun show.

Led Zepagain, California State Fair, 2015
Jimmy Sakurai as Jimmy Page, Led Zepagain, California State Fair
Playing the best-known Zep songs such as Black Dog, Dazed and Confused, and Whole Lotta Love, Swan Montgomery struts the stage as Robert Plant, Jimmy Sakurai is a great Jimmy Page, Jim Wootten ties it all together on bass as John Paul Jones, and Jim Kersey is back, alive, and drumming up a fever as John Bonham.

Led Zepagain, California State Fair, 2015
Led Zepagain, California State Fair
Watch out for them in your town! There's even a date in Japan! See more dates on the band's Facebook tour page and more info on the Led Zepagain website.

See more pictures from last night's show at the California State Fair by clicking on any of these images, or go to the Toon's Tunes Led Zepagain gallery.

More free concerts at the 2015 State Fair: http://www.castatefair.org/2015-attractions/2015-concerts-music/

Freestyle motocross: noisy, entertaining, wow, a drained lagoon... and there every day of the fair!

Jack in the Box Freestyle Motocross
Motocross, California State Fair 2015
Due to California's severe and ongoing drought, the lagoon (large pond) at Cal Expo has been drained, leaving an empty, concrete basin. What better use during the State Fair than as a location for some daredevil stunt motocross riding?

There are three sessions each day of the fair: 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.  I caught the show at 7 p.m. yesterday, before the Led Zepagain show. Fast-moving bikes, high in the air, a low but very-bright sun, and a large, crowded audience.

Jack in the Box Freestyle Motocross
Motocross, California State Fair 2015
The riders do some OMG stuff on these bikes: up a steep ramp, fly through the air, spin the bike or stand up on the seat or do a handstand or some other gymnastic move, land safely on the down-ramp, then go back around to do it all over again...

More photos in the gallery, or click on any of the photos in this article.

Jack in the Box Freestyle Motocross
Motocross, California State Fair 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

Thirty years since Live Aid... and Queen ruled. Seriously.

Thirty years ago today, London and Philadelphia rocked the world, raising money for the starving, the Ethiopean famine, seen by an audience of more than a billion people around the world; Phil Collins nipping over the Atlantic in Concorde so that he could perform on both sides; rock heros from Status Quo to Bruce Springsteen to David Bowie and what seemed like every rock star playing their greatest hits. Wembley, in London, and JFK stadium in Philly, full to the brim with rock fans. And... Queen ruled it. Hands down. IMHO, but still... they did.

BBC documentary above. If you never saw the full concert, (maybe you were not even born yet?), that crazy full day-and-might of music, there is a DVD set available but it is now pretty expensive.

Do you remember where you were when Live Aid happened?

Did you cry when you saw this? Will you still cry, still care, today? 

You can't go on, thinking nothing's wrong...

Friday, July 10, 2015

California State Fair time!!! Rides, animals, deep-fried food, and free concerts!

Riding the WaveSwinger on a sunny day
California State Fair
California State Fair opens today, and runs until until July 26th!

What are you looking forwards to most? The free concerts? The animals? The art shows and food shows and gardening exhibits and dancing and the hypnotist? Or the everything-wrapped-in-bacon-and-on-a-stick-deep-fried fair food? (Look out for more chocolate and bacon combos this year!)

Queen Nation, State Fair, Sacramento 2013
Queen Nation, California State Fair
I highly recommend seeing Queen Nation. They are my favourite tribute band! They'll be on the Golden One stage on July 18th. I'm also looking forwards to seeing War, Theory of a Deadman, and some new-to-me performers! A full list of all concerts, on all stages, can be found here.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Highly Suspect... one to watch out for at Aftershock (and see this video, learn to swim!)

Driving back from Santa Cruz, listening to Octane on satellite radio, and Highly Suspect's new single, Lydia, came on.

Great sound. Really looking forwards to seeing them at Aftershock this year. This Brooklyn band will be playing on Sunday, October 25th.

Check out the video. It was filmed, all in one take, completely underwater. The actress is world-champion free-diver and sports psychologist Marina Kazankova. Beautiful, scary, moving... still, scary. Can you hold your breath that long? I couldn't, not even when swimming several times a week. Wow.

Did you learn to swim, yet?

Go listen. This band is worth hearing. Very. Pre-order their upcoming album, Mister Asylum, on their website. (Expected release date, June 14th.) Highly Suspect are Ryan Meyer (drums and vocals), Rich Meyer (bass and vocals) and Johnny Stevens (guitar, vocals and synth).

4th July, holiday, holidays, vacation... and how to do an American vacation.

Happy dogs, Santa Cruz
I've been living in the USA for many years now, but only this weekend did I work out how to fit a European vacation into an American holiday*.

I grew up in England, where my mum and dad scrimped and saved throughout the year, to be able to take our family of six on holiday* (in American, "vacation"), every year. We'd usually go to the North Norfolk coast (here's one of my old stories about that coastline). It was always for one week, and we'd stay in a caravan ("trailer") or B&B or guesthouse. By the time I had started to work, it was the norm to take at least two weeks summer vacation/holiday, and maybe a week in winter, too.

The years I spent working and living in The Netherlands, and in France. Over there, three weeks, in one go, in the summer, is the norm. Plus other times during the year. No, it's not lazy or wasteful: people return refreshed, renewed, and ready to put their all back into their work or studies.

Here in the USA, vacation days are harder to come by. Fewer vacation days allowed, less encouragement (or mandate) to take them... more peer pressure not to. I spent a few months working for one US company where employees were supposed to take as much time off as they felt they needed... as long as they felt they had covered their work... and of course, no one ever took more than a day or two at a time. (I feel strongly that that arrangement is so very wrong... everyone, and I mean everyone, is better for a few days downtime.) I'm lucky and very happy that I now work for a company with a very good vacation policy. But those of you who work multiple part-time jobs, I know it's almost impossible to take a week's vacation... let alone three, or four weeks at a time.

So... how do people here in the USA fit in a real vacation?

I have found out!

On Thursday evening, Friday being a day-off-because-of-4th-July, spur-of-the-moment, we rented a car, drove a few hours to Santa Cruz, found a cheap hotel, went to the beach, walked on the pier/wharf, ate seaside food, returned to hotel, slept, got up early, went to the dog-friendly beach north of the town center, laughed at the dogs, returned to hotel, walked to bike rental place, rented fat-tyre cruiser bikes, rode up and down the coastline for an hour and a half, walked back to hotel, walked dog, bought after-sun lotion for the unique-to-seaside sunburn, walked back to the beach, braved the Boardwalk, ate more seaside food, walked in the sand, watched the Sun Kings give a free concert on the beach, (more about that later, they are a Beatles tribute band); walked back to hotel, slept, woke up, went back to the dog beach for a while, drove up Highway 1, stopped at Pigeon Point Lighthouse, saw whales... and then drove back home to Sacramento in time for July 4th fireworks.

Phew. It does feel like a whole vacation in two days. That's the way to do it... And of course, we were listening to loads of Aftershock bands on the way there and back!

Happy 4th July!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Also 70... today, July 1st 2015, Debby Harry. Happy birthday!

Debbie Harry, vocals, Blondie, TBD Fest, Sacramento 2014
Debbie Harry of Blondie, TBDFest 2014
Debbie Harry, born July 1st, 1945, and like Robin Trower, still touring, still making the world dance. This pic was from last year's TBD Fest... which reminds me, this year's TBD is earlier, in September, 18-20 September. Check out the lineup for this year here.

More pictures of Debbie Harry, and Blondie, in two Toon's Tunes galleries.