Ballunar Festival

Ballunar Festival
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Ballunar Festival

I always seem to miss the annual Ballunar Liftoff Festival held each year down at the Johnson Space Center but this year I heard about it in time to get down there for a look see. I was really only interested in the balloon glow which is where they use the burners to illuminate all the hot air balloons they have gathered for the festival. And this only happens the first night of the festival.

I wanted to set up the tripod and use the Sigma 12-24mm wide angle lens and shoot a few shots. Cynthia and I arrived just as this was underway and I did manage to get a few shots. The “glow” only lasted about 30 minutes and then it was over. We didn’t hang around after that, opting instead to head back to Houston.

Ballunar Festival
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Ballunar Festival

Westchase Park

Out here on the west side of Houston, most of the developers seem to lack any sense of style or creativity. One ugly uninspired office park after another lines Beltway 8 from I-45 South to I-45 North with a smattering of cheesy chain restaurants and extended stay motels sprinkled in for extra yawn appeal. It is fairly bleak and only inspires you to press a little harder on the accelerator to move on through. The one and only reason to intentionally go near the beltway (other than using it to flee the west side) was the Cinemark Tinseltown movie theater but even that became a place to avoid and was eventually closed down.

Recently I noticed that the Tinseltown had been demolished and construction had started up for a new building. Swamplot reported that they had received a demolition permit in January of 2008 so it wasn’t a total surprise. I didn’t pay much attention as it was going up but over the last few weeks I did see that it was nearing completion. From what I can tell, it’s called the Westchase Park and it looks like it is nearly ready for its first tenant.

Westchase Park

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Westchase Park

There’s a water feature in the front of the building that sports a metallic sculpture which sort of reminds me of the contraption from the movie “Contact.” It’s by far the most interesting piece of architecture I have seen out here on the west beltway.

The building itself is glass and chrome and glints in the daylight. I was kind of hoping the sculpture was a corporate logo of some kind and that this was going to be to world headquarters of some up and coming conglomerate or something. Alas, it is simply a business park and will soon be selling office space to those looking to setup shop in the Westchase District.

On the plus side, it looks pretty cool at night.

Westchase Park

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Westchase Park

Strange Fruit – Swoon

After having seen Strange Fruit perform “Spheres” on Saturday night at Discovery Green I was compelled to make it back out for their Sunday afternoon performance of “Swoon.”

I was reluctant, Fall in Houston seems rather meaningless. It was hot and humid but I felt the sunshine and the unique photographic opportunity was worth braving the elements for, so I headed out for the 3:00 pm show.

Again, the actors shimmied up their bendy poles, but rather than orbs they donned period costuming and performed a love story (of sorts)…all in pantomime set to music. I was struck by how much the whole thing looked like a René Magritte painting come to life.

Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Swoon @ Disovery Green

The blue sky, the George R. Brown and the aerial acrobatics all combined for a very thrilling and enjoyable show. I like how it appeared that the actors were literally falling from the sky at some points during the performance.

Additional images in the gallery

Strange Fruit – Spheres

Strange Fruit performed this weekend at Discovery Green. It’s hard to describe, so let me borrow from their web site…

Strange Fruit is a Melbourne-based performing arts company that produces and performs a remarkable style of work that fuses theatre, dance and circus, using a unique elevated medium. Perched atop 4 metre high flexible poles of original design, the troupe delivers a sublime performance, bending and swaying in the air, captivating and engaging the audience in absolute fascination.

On Friday and Saturday night they did a show called “Spheres” in which the performers shimmied up to the top of tall, flexible poles and then encased themselves inside of giant white fabric spheres which then began to sway back and forth like so many dandelions bending in a light breeze.

Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

As dreamy, ethereal music played the performers emerged from the spheres in the form of four characters and proceeded to put on a pantomime that was, well…hard to describe.

Again, from the web site:

Creation, exultation, liberation, life, the universe and everything. The Spheres take a whimsical look at physics, the miracle of birth and humanity’s existential relationship to our planet. Giant, illuminated orbs of luminous beauty contain characters that gradually emerge to stand and rise above their spheres of existence. This piece is beautiful, reverent and sublime.

Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

The whole show lasted about 30 minutes and it was really quite beautiful and pleasant to watch. Also, quite a challenge to photograph.

Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

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Strange Fruit - Spheres @ Disovery Green

These pics don’t really capture the movement so well. In my next post I cover their daytime performance of “Swoon” and it gives a better sense of how extraordinary this was.

Additional photos in the gallery.

Fab 40

The Fab 40 pay tribute to the original Fab 4 with a free, live performance of “Abbey Road” on Saturday, September 12 at Discovery Green.

40+ (probably closer to 50) local musicians – handpicked by Beatles enthusiasts David Blassingame and Steve Candelari – performed the Beatles’ album “Abbey Road” from beginning to end.

It was an ambitious project. Nearly felled by illness, loss of critical instruments and the weather, it went very well despite all this.

Fab 40

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Fab 40

Fab 40

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Fab 40

Fab 40

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Fab 40

Fab 40

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Fab 40

Fab 40

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Fab 40

You can see a slideshow of all the photos I took that night by clicking here.

Roy Head

Roy Head is one of my all time favorite performers. He’s a local legend due to his 1965 hit single “Treat Her Right”

Check out the moves on the young Roy Head in this video from 1965

He’s about to turn 70 next month but you’d never know it from the energy level of his live performances.

All shots below with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 on the Sony Alpha 700

Roy Head

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Roy Head

Roy Head

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Roy Head

Roy Head

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Roy Head

Soul Fest – 2009 – The El Orbits

The current line up of The El Orbits is Thomas Escalante on vocals, Jim Henkel on guitar, Allen Hill on the bass and Eric C. Hughes on the drums. On Saturday night they opened for Roy Head, Barbara Lynn and Archie Bell. They also served quadruple duty as the backing band for each of the acts throughout the entire evening.

For this show I used three different Sigma lenses on the Sony Alpha 700, each of which is represented below.

Sigma 20mm f/1.8 – Click for larger image
The El Orbits

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The El Orbits

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 – Click for larger image
The El Orbits

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The El Orbits

Sigma 10mm f/2.8 Fisheye – Click for larger image
The El Orbits

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The El Orbits

My Screen Is Sideways

sidewaysscreen

This month marks 4 years since I posted the above Q&A for my Helpline Blog at The Houston Chonicle. Since that time, “My screen is sideways” has generated over 700 comments from all over the world from people who have encountered this problem.

I really thought the problem was too esoteric and almost didn’t publish it.

In reading the comments it would appear that the primary cause of this problem is cat ownership.

I wonder what other computer problems may be cat related?

Chango Man

Chango Man

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Chango Man

Having a Friday off allowed me to stay up late on a school night and finally catch Chango Man at the Houston Continental Club on Thursday after Beetle.

I’d heard good things about Chango Man, mostly from the members of Chango Man but still, I wanted to check them out. Described as America Cumbia music it is a fantastic blend of Latin sounds that really sounds great. As front man El Fausto (Tino) Jackson likes to say: [paraphrasing] “There’s no reason Latin music can’t rock” and rock it does. It was a great show and definitely worth the time to go see.

Tino is great front man. I’ve seen him play with Beetle and Disco Expressions but when he is out front and taking charge is when he seems to be at his finest.

Chango Man

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Chango Man

Chango Man

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Chango Man

Chango Man

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Chango Man

Additional photos in the Chango Man Gallery