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Archive for the ‘Southern ways’ Category

The Peachoid

Li’l Gaffney, SC, my home town, has unexpectedly found itself in the thick of the Republican primaries. Opponents of Mitt Romney are focusing on the closure of a photo scrapbook factory in 1992. It closed with 150 jobs lost after being acquired by Bain Capital, the private equity firm headed by Romney. But according to the New York Times, most people in Gaffney hardly remember the plant and are rather embarrassed by all the attention it has drawn.

Here’s a link to the Times article, and here’s their slideshow of Gaffney. I haven’t lived in Gaffney for many years and since my parents are no longer alive, I only get back occasionally for Vassy family reunions and Gaffney High School reunions. But I certainly know Henry Jolly and Cody Sossamon, who are in the slideshow, and I keep up with some old Gaffney pals via Facebook.

The photo is of the Peachoid, the world’s largest water tower in the shape of a peach, and a landmark to anyone traveling along I-85 in South Carolina. I took it on a GHS class reunion trip.

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Another geek alert:

Last time I wrote about digitizing LPs. Here’s my newest techno toy: the Zoom H2 digital recorder. I used this on a recent trip to Virginia for the Wayne Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition.

My sister Jean, a musician and educator who lives near Wayne in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia had invited me and I decided to test the H2 as a field recorder. I was really impressed. I used it for a story I later did for WHQR. You can find the story, and some of my original files, here.

With an 8G card, the H2 can record about 12 hours of stereo in WAV format, which is far less lossy than mp3. Of course, for the web and for many purposes mp3s are just fine; I use a Mac program called Amadeus to convert WAV to mp3. More on Amadeus later.

The H2 actually uses 4 mikes in pairs to record sound. You can direct the sound recording to the front stereo (facing you as you look at the controls), rear stereo (facing away), 2-channel front and rear, and 4-channel surround.

I quickly realized that for audio production I got best results from the 4-channel. In this mode the H2 actually makes simultaneous recordings from the front 2-channel and rear 2-channel. You can choose whichever one you like, or both. The front version takes in a 90-degree stereo field, good for a small group of musicians, for example. The rear setting’s field is 120 degrees, better for a larger group.

For my music recordings, even though I recorded in 4-channel mode, I only used the rear track since I was recording a fairly large group and didn’t need anything from my direction. What really fascinated me, though, was the way it worked for my interview with Erynn Marshall of the Blue Ridge Music Center.

I held the mike about halfway between the 2 of us, so the front channel got my voice and the rear channel got hers. All around us was the ambient noise of people cleaning up after a concert by Doc Watson.

You can see what this looks like in this Amadeus wave file. Originally these were two separate files; I copied and pasted one into the other, after clicking “Add New Stereo Track.” So now there are 2 stereo tracks here. My voice is in the 2 upper channels, hers in the lower 2. You can easily see who speaks when.

What’s remarkable is that the makers of the H2 thought to flip the stereo image between front and back, so the surrounding ambience is correct even though they point 180 degrees opposite each other.

We’re still not at a satisfactory stereo image, though. So I click on the upper track (my voice) and click “Merge With Next Track”. Voila! one single track with nice stereo ambience, and both of our voices in the middle.

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I realized that after an enjoyable weekend at the Spoleto Festival, I would normally post something on this blog. Instead I worked on material for the WHQR website and for use on air. So here’s a link to that material.

I mentioned in the piece we ran on air that one of the pleasures of a city like Charleston and a Festival like Spoleto is just walking around, absorbing the sights and sounds, and finding interesting places to eat. Here is a highly personal list of places that I enjoyed on this trip. Some of these were familiar to me, others not:

Gaulart & Maliclet, 98 Broad Street — One place I always try to visit in Charleston. I’ve always wondered why we have both fancy and plain-but-good Italian restaurants in this country, and we we have some very fancy French restaurants (many over-rated), but we don’t have many simple places serving bistro-type French food. This is one. At one time they had a sister restaurant in Cary, NC, but now this is the only one. Great for a lunch stop as well as a late-night restorative.

Hominy Grill, 207 Rutledge Avenue — My son Brooks’ favorite breakfast spot when he lived just around the corner. Traditional Southern breakfasts made with flair in a very attractive old building. It must serve the Medical University crowd primarily; unlike the others here, it’s not downtown, and it’s closed on weekends. Get there by 8 am for best results.

Fleet Landing, 186 Concord Street — A great location in a restored Navy building. Spectacular views of the Cooper River, especially from their outside tables, really good seafood, and easy-on-the-wallet happy hour specials at the bar.

Dixie Supply Bakery and Cafe, 62 State Street — Another good breakfast place. Not at all fancy (the tables you see here are in the parking lot of a Li’l Cricket convenience store next door), but very cheery and great food. It’s been written up in a lot of places, so it can be crowded, with few tables.

Toast, 155 Meeting Street — Another good place for breakfast (do you notice kind of a theme here?), though it’s more. It probably greatly benefits from its location on Meeting Street near the Market. Good food, but my sister and I found the service a bit spotty. They were very crowded, as would be expected in Charleston, on Meeting Street, during Spoleto. Best overheard conversation: at lunch on Sunday, the sidewalk was jam-packed with people waiting for a table. I heard a passerby say to his companion, “Man, they must have REALLY good toast.”

East Bay Meeting House, 160 East Bay Street — I didn’t know anything about this place except that it had a vacant table right next to an open window and I really needed to stop for lunch. Very nice ambience and bar, and I had a really fine panini. Unfortunately right after I got there they closed up the windows (to be fair, it was getting hot), but still a nice treat.

Noisy Oyster, East Bay and North Market — Ya know, sometimes you just gotta visit a tacky Tiki bar that plays a lot of Jimmy Buffet and has gallons of fried seafood and cheap happy hour drinks. You could do a lot worse than this one, which to this weary and thirsty traveler was touristy but not tourist-trappy. On a hot day with a lot of walking behind you, this begins to look like an oasis.

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I’m at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. Today I’ll be attending the pretty-much all-day Sacred Harp singing at Piccolo Spoleto. SCETV Radio interviewed me for their opening show of “Spoleto Today” for the 2011 season. Here’s the podcast.

I’m in the second half of the show, which is about 52 minutes long. If you happen to get this on Saturday May 28 2011, the singing is from 10am to noon and 2-4pm at Gage Hall, 4 Archdale Street in Charleston.

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Update 8/12/10: John Kiesewetter’s blog in the Cincinnati Enquirer also has a story about my move.

From today’s Star-News Online, Wilmington, NC:

“Wilmington’s public radio station finally has a new station manager after going nearly 19 months without one.

Cleve Callison, a native of Gaffney, S.C., will join WHQR on Sept. 7.”

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Grayson-Highlands State Park, near Mouth of Wilson, VA. My li’l sister Jean is Secretary of the Festival Committee. “Always the 3rd Saturday in June, rain or shine.”

Wayne is a celebrated  old-time musician and guitar builder who famously kept Eric Clapton waiting 10 years for his to be built.

Update 7/12/10: Voice of America recently did a feature story about Wayne. Thanks, Jean!

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This is what happens when you scan a half-tone, alas

An old high school friend of mine died last week after a battle with lung cancer. We had drifted apart after our college years and I hadn’t seen him in a long time, but prior to that Bill Wheeler was the unquestioned center of a group of friends that meant a great deal to me.

We started out a couple of years apart, but I skipped my 10th grade and he took 5 years to graduate from Duke, so we ended up as classmates after all.

Bill . . .

  • taught me about classical music (Pictures at an Exhibition, Appalachian Spring, Petroushka)
  • along with Norman Littlejohn, built a kick-butt set of “Sweet Sixteen” speakers (16 cones per unit)
  • taught me how to drive a Pontiac Bonneville using only your knees to steer (kids, do not try this at home)
  • inspired me to go to Duke
  • chided me (correctly) for being sarcastic to my sisters
  • showed me how to change gears on a stick shift without using the clutch (this is actually a very useful skill)
  • originated our Bastille Day parties, featuring cherry bombs inside scale model fortresses made of juice cans (they blowed up real good; Mrs. Wheeler was a saint)
  • talked their high school-teacher boarder into a midnight swim with us in their pond; totally innocuous, but she nearly had a heart attack when she realized we were high school students
  • probably thought up the phrase “crotch your can” (to hide beer if the cops were to stop us)
  • showed me it was OK to use your brains
  • could actually talk to girls

The first of the Sabachis to go. We’ll really miss you, Bill.

Update: there will be a memorial service for Bill Wheeler Saturday June 12th, 2010, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 2233 Woodbourne Ave, Louisville, KY 40205.

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