Posted in The Publications

The Best Surprise

It is always a distinct feeling of joy someone gets when a happenstance occurs that we previously thought to be impossible.

Today, readers, was a microcosmic nugget of happenstance that was just enough to get Harpie to smile from ear to ear until ebullience became the sound of laughter that echoed through the Ginkgo trees at Duke’s Estate.

The adventure for today began with a simple ride around the circle that fronts the 1907 Conservatory, where I started a sketch to practice depth in watercolor. (Authors Note: Harpie is an expressive art therapist, which hopefully explains the artsy component of her existence.) I couldn’t recall specifically whether or not the Statue of Athena was once flanked by overgrown trees or shrubs. Something in my memory fabricated tall pine-line trees, but as I paused to sketch, no such trees were there anymore. Apparently, recent vandalism replaced the trees with a sturdy black fence that now protects Athena. I tried to think nothing of it and continue my dabble in the arts.

I hit the Orchid Range for some color pop and floral inspo. Status Quo. Day was going great, cardio is done for a solid 2 weeks. Next stop was Great Falls. As usual, I missed the waterfall itself. It was a splendid struggle uphill filled with cramps and internal crying over my tiny legs. But… I made it. So after careening down the hill from the Old Foundation, something pulled me toward my old favorite… the Eagle Gate Fountain.

This sad little corner of Duke’s was once the grand entrance for guests. It featured a bi-level fountain with a basin where water flowed at ground level. For as long as I’ve been going to Dukes (~2013), this fountain was inactive and decrepit- the main features were rusted out pipes from an era bygone and a large collection of rocks. Today, in the still of the silence and absence of many visitors, I thought it was a mirage.

Although not to rival its former glory, the sweet sound of a waterfall cascaded against the faint whooshes of traffic beyond the gates. Was I dehydrating? Was I developing heat exhaustion? It wasn’t even that hot out…

It was real as day. I stood dumbfounded, overjoyed, and felt outwardly ridiculous. A simple gesture like fixing a fountain changed the atmosphere completely from ‘forgotten’ to ‘full of life’, and it was palpable. Maybe someday, the full restore of these incredible testaments to water display will be implemented, but for now- we are so excited to see the baby steps of meshing historic integrity with a natural feel. It’s almost like the Dukes themselves gave us an entire blueprint to follow ūüėČ

I realize that it is also a form of modeling for good behavior; there have been several instances of vandalism beyond the Statue of Athena. The Blue Boy’s well was severely mistreated as well. It is assumed that the perpetrators recognized that no one was caring for the property, so it wouldn’t matter if they graffiti’d up the place. It is not acceptable, quite simply. With the steps toward revitalization and balancing intended aesthetic with new-wave eco-think, it is my professional opinion that possible perpetrators will be dissuaded by this simple mindset. The new norm seems to be that the property is cared for and monitored neatly, which is a vicarious teaching method for visitors to copy themselves.

Congratulations to the Duke Estate proprietors; in one small way, you have illustrated that, for the second time this month, you are capable and willing to restore the memory, preserve the legacy, and integrate a reminder of the past into the visions for the future.

It’s the Dukes way of doing, after all. Let’s hope from here, only more is done to preserve what’s left.

Posted in Operation ORCHID, The Publications

Operation Orchid: Credit & Condolences

We at RRBlog and our incredible allies in Operation ORCHID want to take a moment to express that we aren’t a hostile group. In the past, we have been called names such as muckrakers, the opposition, instigators, aggressors, and even ‘precocious, misappropriated broads’. That last one is Harpie’s favorite. Despite the curious rumors and false accusations, we are always prepared to give credit where it is due, even if we don’t like the view of a person or group receiving credit.

Today actually yielded a pleasant surprise. After a two-mile stretch on bicycles, we decided to take an overdue wander on the northern end of the Duke’s Estate property which is known best as the site where the mansion stood. The ‘arboretum’ is its formal name, although for some reason the foundation never held any official opening to the area. Its as if they didn’t have an overwhelming sense of pride- rather they carried a guilt or shame associated with the demolition and subsequent display of the now-emptied landscape. It was always evident something was missing… until another someone was lost.

The final manager of logistics at Duke’s Estate was known affectionately as Cupie. Her role in the Duke Legacy can’t be understated. Since her arrival to America as an immigrant, Doris and she had a bond. Cupie was originally hired as a head-of-residence and maintained Miss Duke’s affairs. Her entire family was known to have involvement in the caretaking of the estate and its many facets, but Cupie was priceless. For many years, Cupie’s family lived in-residence on the former Duke Mansion before it was destroyed. Her contributions as a professional liaison to Miss Duke are catalogued as part of the Oral Histories Project at Duke University and it appears as though her work was acknowledged by the foundation as well. In honor of her passing, we discovered a beautiful plaque and memorial overlooking Heron Lake in what would be the backyard of Miss Duke’s home.

Duke Farms, Operation Orchid and RRBlog respectfully say thank you, sincerely, for taking a moment to honor and recognize the value of Miss Duke’s hand-selected staff. We feel that the memorial is well-deserved and a step in the right direction to fully represent the Duke way of being. Our condolences are with Cupie’s family. You have more friends and support than you know.

In addition to this profound statement, it appears as though the good will and TLC didn’t stop there. (Author’s note: bikeriding makes the entire estate far more accessible. We heartily recommend- safely- trekking up the Old Foundation hill just for the sake of zooming down the steeper side by the Kiva doors.) Pausing for tea breaks is essential; and we stopped on the south-facing clearing by the foundation that faces Vista Lake. It warmed my heart to be able to see straight across Vista Lake, which was clean of algae (mostly) without the overgrowth permeating the view.

It’s not a perfect situation by far, and nothing excuses the atrocities committed by the DDCF and DFF against the historical integrity of the state of New Jersey and Somerset County, however….

We are thankful that it appears that… in small steps…. the values of family, community, and meaningful, multi-track legacy are creeping back into the protocol fabric of Duke’s Estate.

We are eager to see how everyone is able to identify, develop, and act on new ideas that truly reflect Miss Duke’s methods from home.

Cheers, Darlings.

Posted in The Publications

Retro, Revival, and Rebranding!

As the year 2019 cadences into its autumnal season here in the Eastern Corridor, we are preparing at the Retro Revival for one of the most outstanding decades to come! That’s right, the Roaring Twenties are back! But this time, they’ve got a particularly ferocious ‘roar’ about them. Unlike the years of prohibition and the stock market crash of 1928, the year 2020 is already filling with milestones, great events, friendly bonding, and adventure.

What we can tell you right now is that we have outgrown the RRBlog’s mission, which means we have to expand well-ahead of the new year. We have decided that in order to encapsulate the past but continue to advocate exclusively for the best pieces of yesteryear, while complimenting meaningful discussions and challenging the norms- all in the name of a new version of traditional- we have to also include our¬†rambunctious adventures and our¬†rebellious spirits. This means that the Retro Revival has evolved! We are humbled and excited to introduce our readers- new and old;

Retro, Curious, Rebellious: The Revival

You see, we are inquisitive creatures; we question the world as it has transformed into a highly-modern and sometimes inefficient system. We are retro; we sample and implement facets of the ages before ours into today’s world to lead by example. However, we are also rebellious; in order to advocate well for a better tomorrow, we have to break the new norms like we offered to the DORIS group of 2015-16 in pursuit of the change we want to see.

It gives us a broader platform to introduce topics of discussion that have political heat, debate, and even some dissent as they relate back to the way things were. It also gives us a chance to integrate some advocacy on behalf of historic sites, both in need and already supported. We look forward to the chance to bring you something lively, different, and engaging, but all the same retro and timeless.

 

Cheers, darlings.

Posted in Manny's Music Column, The Publications

Brace for impact , a review of ‚ÄúWorlds Collide‚ÄĚ By The Anderson Council

It was my distinct pleasure to catch The Anderson Council at their record pre-release at Pino’s in Highland Park. This is an album that has been in production for a few years, including a long mixing process for a Vinyl and CD release, both having their unique merits. Having purchased both versions the CD can boast having bonus tracks, one of which featuring Mr. Noone of Herman’s Hermits fame.

The vinyl also has the endearing and beautiful feature of being a splatter paint job vinyl, and being that the recording process was very much analog for this record, what better way to make it carry a timeless sound?In contrast to the band’s previous release, “Assorted Colors” which featured a rich sampling of the bands many lineups and the depth of Peter Horvath’s songwriting over the years. With influences from psychedelic rock, power pop, and an undeniable contemporary edge the band’s new material, both from their previous release and the most record, Worlds Collide has an unmistakable quality of having painstaking effort put into the songwriting with a diverse and endlessly entertaining offering of music with some personal favorites in the track list, but something undoubtedly being to your liking on this release.

There is a wonderfully eclectic mix of tunes on this album reflecting the progression and growth of The Anderson Council, and this album is a harbinger of great things for the band, with tight production and fine tuned dynamics with very strong song writing and arranging making each track worth listening to and retaining the charm that The Anderson Council have featured in their writing.

It is worth noting that the CD release is going to be the best bang for your buck as far as number of tracks received in the purchase, the CD release is also the only way to have a digital copy of the album, meaning that the vinyl does not come with a digital download so this is important to consider in your purchasing options.

I would like to include some recommendations off of the album with a few categories to help you as a listener consider these great songs.

Personal favorites;

Lord Cornelius Plum- a mid tempo retro rocker with great dynamics and wonderfully crafted melodic and harmonic content.

Mrs. Kirkby’s refrigerator- Easily one of my favorites off the album, a quick listen, but also easily one of the more ear wormy tunes on the record, with a strong sense of melody, which is the case for the record as a whole, the version sung by Peter Horvath is my favorite of the two, but the CD bonus track with Peter Noone is also a very entertaining listen.

Amazing- A slower ride than the majority of the album, and one of the longer songs off the album as well, but this is a decadent and well thought out arrangement which features depth in the production and craftsmanship in its lyrics, featuring an explosive¬† chorus¬† with a timeless sense of harmony in the vocals, feeling modern while also hearkening back to some of The Beach Boys’ harmonic work.

Gentlemen- a bouncy and euphoric track about having a drink with your loved ones remembering loved ones that cant be there with you, but the tone of the music and the joyous energy of it makes it such a great listening experience.

When I fall- A powerful song that plays with space and dynamics in a greatly enjoyable way. The production on this track uses spacial effects to great success to craft a luscious listening experience.

How Much How Long- A bombastic track featuring great drum, guitar and bass work,  one of my favorite of the high energy tunes on this record,  with a very effective arrangement and finely crafted harmonic content this is one of my overall favorite tracks from the album.

Wrong Way Out- one of the more daring tunes on the album with great reward in its daring use of staccato rhythms and while it is a departure from what I am familiar with from the band it is highly effective in showing the boldness of The Anderson Council’s creative choices on this release.

Posted in Manny's Music Column, The Publications

Before & after: P Bass bridge and tuner mod project

As announced in May I have undertaken the task of modifying my favourite Ronaldo Custom and Fender P Bass.

I experienced very little difficulty in changing the bridge from a vintage style Wilkinson p bass bridge for Mexican made Fender P basses, the Hipshot Kicksass bridge designated as being a retro fit for that bridge type fit perfectly. I am a fan of the way that the new bridge allows to lower the action which was an issue with the Wilkinson bridge because of the larger saddles, the inserts for the Kickass Hipshot bridge made action adjustment much better.

The Tuners caused some issues, the stock licensed by Schaller tuners did not match the route for the hipshot tuners cited as the fit for the MIM fender P bass, but with some work it was able to be completed and not tuning issues have been had with the new hipshot tuners.

Check out the photos and audio examples from this simple but effective transformation.

 

Posted in Manny's Music Column, The Publications

Out with the somewhat modified, in with the newly and fully modified!

Many years ago I picked up a 1992 Made in Mexico Fender Precision bass.¬† That same night I put a new pick guard and pickup in that same bass (at the time tortoise style pick guard, and a Seymour Duncan QP1 pickup). Even farther along in the bass’ life I also swapped the strap buttons for the fender longing spring loaded system, and soon after a new Ronaldo Custom Neck. The bass would also get a Wilkinson bridge some years ago which changed the character of the sound greatly. Among other important changes that have occurred in the bass is swapping out the stock electronics and the QP1 for a Geezer Butler EMG set and it remained in such a state retaining the following;

Stock licensed by Shaller tuners, maple neck with rosewood board and matching headstock, Geezer butler pickup, Paisley pickguard, Wilkinson vintage style bridge.

 

This is soon changing…As of May 2019 I am going to be doing a both functional and aesthetic change to commemorate my own musical journey progression.¬† After having recently invested in new hardware for the bass most notably in a new Hipshot kickass bridge and Hipshot tuners!

This modification will be well documented and before and after footage will be made.

Posted in The Publications

An Orchid at the Cross Roads

People always tell us to, “lead by example”. It’s a fair way to rise above petty arguments and low-blow fighting tactics. We abandon our sense of ‘getting even’ for a chance at transcending into a greater, generative modality when we model the behaviors we want to see. At least, that’s what the therapist in us bloggers says.

The freedom fighter historians over here have a unique application of it. Since establishing our grassroots ORCHID initiative, it has been a vision of ours to lead the way in illustrating how to integrate multiple facets of the Duke Legacy into projects with creative means. For instance, mental health met horticulture when a proclamation was issued in Franklin Township for the opening of the Sisters Serenity Gardens in Doris Duke’s name just a year ago. Another such example exists at the intersection of anonymous donations and historic preservation as we assisted multiple locations in seeking historic demarcation pro bono. Perhaps the greatest instance of these intersections occurs now, as we find an ORCHID at the Cross Roads.

Just recently, the latest endeavors of ORCHID led us back home, to a literal intersection that is best known for being the cross that draws directions to Belle Mead, Blackwells Mills, Millstone, and Griggstown: it is a lesser-known cornerstone of Hillsborough. Most notably, this darling little nook of Jersey still boasts its original, preserved farmstead, former post office, Dutch residence, railroad remnants (mentioned for its involvement in the Frog War) and schoolhouse. Collectively, this historic district got its name for the very intersection I’m standing on now: The Cross Roads.

So enter the essence of the Dukes: the historic district of Pleasant View never got its designation, where Cross Roads is embodied. Thanks to the magnificent efforts of the DORIS members, it all seems possible now to work on a nomination, but stay tuned for the results of a hard day’s work!

Cheers, darlings~