Upstate NY Stargazing (The Article Series, Anyway): 2016 – 2018

Above: Uranus, the one planet making all of the rounds in your favorite news feeds today, as captured by Voyager 2 in 1986. Credit: NASA/JPL.

For those wondering why the May 1st web content on syracuse.com and newyorkupstate.com looks a little brighter (get it?), I’m passing along here that the article series has been cancelled by Syracuse Media Group. After almost two years, 28 articles (having even gone weekly last summer to coax people out more often with up-to-date positioning and flyover timings), one well-attended solar eclipse, and a short-stack of Uranus potty humor and misspelled complaints about grammar and punctuation (sorry again, Kathleen), readership for the series wasn’t high enough to warrant its continuation.

The series was both enjoyable and instructive for my part – having to put together observing lists, keep record of planetary positions to know when to head outside with a pair of binoculars, make Stellarium do what I wanted it to do, and focus a few paragraphs worth of new content at top (a monthly whatever) and bottom (an easily-observable constellation) each month was a great exercise for keeping myself in the amateur astronomy loop, even when the weather conditions in CNY/UNY did not lend themselves to being outside for more than a few minutes at a time.

Obviously, it didn’t do much to shorten my sentences.

Best of all was the monthly reminder that groups of amateurs all over the state were still hosting public sessions and organizing their own events – and that there are many individuals either hosting their own observing websites or sharing their observing logs and images with their respective member organizations.

My thanks to Glenn Coin for keeping astronomy-related content still appearing in syracuse.com and newyorkupstate.com as significant events happen and to Steve Carlic for making the series happen in the first place. Space stories by “not me” always make their way to both websites as well – I am optimistic that Uranus will always coax comments, even if some readers never make it past the title.

Finally – as was the point of the article series – if you see an astronomy event in your area, go to it. If you’ve a local club, join it – membership dues keep these organizations running. Most importantly, if you see someone waaaaaay off the scientific mark, find a polite way to correct them or, at least, make it clear to those around them that the facts are out there. Google and wikipedia remain wonderful resources when used correctly.

The Methodist Bells – “Esso” – World Famous Moletrax Studios, 19-20 March 2016

Posted in its entirety for your listening pleasure at bandcamp.com and embedded below. For additional context, check out the other, later-later studio session – Sub Rosa Session #32 at Subcat Studios on 21 August 2016, as well as the interview Clem did with the Daily Orange, which goes into some of the details of the history of the session (and the origin of the name, Esso). From the article:

The title of the album, “Esso,” is a reference to the Exxon Mobil Corporation. Besides just liking the way the word sounds, Coleman says that he also likes the way that gas stations have a nostalgic feel to them, especially the way they look in old photographs.

“I like the thought that there’s an old liter of gasoline out there in some rusting tractor that was sold as Esso gasoline but that it still might power up and engine and make it run for a few minutes.” – Clem Coleman

* Recorded at the World Famous Moletrax Studios in Syracuse, NY. For the record (no pun intended), Jeff Moleski made Grove Havener at the Liverpool Limp Lizard sound like Pink Floyd at Pompeii. Twice.

* Find The Methodist Bells on Facebook, Myspace (no kidding!), and Bandcamp. Then, when in Syracuse, go see’em.

* Like it? Go ahead and buy it. All proceeds go to reminding musicians that their efforts matter.

Pearls Of Wisdom

As a random aside, a few things I learned from nearly two full days of recording 12 tracks in, mostly, one take:

1. Tune For Attack – Long, pure tones may be great at the gig when you want them heard beyond the bandstand – and jazzers know that the higher tuning gets your out of the register of the main melodic/harmonic instruments (think piccolo in Stars & Stripes Forever). When the mic is “right there,” tone and sustain can be overkill, esp. when you intend on playing a lot of notes. Get yourself a sharp attack and let the mic pick up the rest, else keep those fills simple.

First day at the office.

2. Limit The Variables By Limiting Your Choices – There is one obvious spot in one song where I wanted a different sound and, in a mad hurry, hit a flat ride where a crash would have been more appropriate – and I didn’t use the flat ride in that particular tune otherwise. You’re welcome to listen intently to see if you can pick it out.

Photographing the reporting of the recording.

3. Got Limited Time? Percussion = Later-Later – Every sound source above and beyond what the song needs is another chance to butcher the smooth consistency of the other drums and cymbals. Shooting for 1st or 2nd take? Keep it simple.

Mole is out of his mind – and knows what he’s doing.

4. Limit Your Range Of Dynamics – I was happy to have this validated by Matt Johnson in his drumeo lesson recently (If good enough for Jeff Buckley…). You get more tone – and more control over what you hear – when you play to the tuning of the drum (and more so the cymbal).

Adam about to get punched by Mole.

5. Play The Song, Stupid – Have a good idea that might make something sound really new and spiffy? If you’ve got two days to track, four other people playing, and haven’t played it before, then try it at the next gig instead. See #2 above.

Clem sez it’s good.

6. Don’t Forget The Songs – Other instruments can be punched in later if wrong notes and the like happen. Drumming? In this kind of a recording environment, not so much. The solution is simple – know how to play the entire song from memory and be ready to do so as if no one else is playing with you. If all else fails, there are far worse things than just laying down a drum track and moving on.

One day there…

7. Washy Cymbals – In retrospect, I would have left the A Customs at home and picked something with a sharper attack and less sustain. My mistake for not having spent more time listening to how they record with close mics and warm drums.

…the next day gone.

“Upstate NY Stargazing” Series At newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com – Summaries And Links For The Last Few Months

The old adage “if you want to really learn something, teach it” has been in full effect these past few months with the writing of the UNY Stargazing series for newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com (which don’t combine the comments and shares. You have to go to both!). Firstly, it is excellent practice for anyone doing astronomy outreach to try to capture all of the events and observing opportunities that a new or casual observer might find interesting – while providing enough extra detail to whet the appetites of those reading with a wikipedia tab open (which remains the go-to for astro consistently accurate astronomy information). Secondly, if helps sharpen the editorial blade – such as by not using the word “old” to qualify “adage” when you’re really trying to keep it to 2500 words.

After 11 months of articles, the UNYStargazing template is fairly matured, Stellarium has moved well into advanced topics stage, and the many astronomy clubs that have allowed their public events to be posted have all resulted in an increasingly smooth and, hopefully, informative read.

Having ignored this blog generally recently, here’s the last four months in rapid succession:

– Upstate NY Stargazing in February: Lunar eclipse, Kopernik star party, ‘Dog Nights of Winter’

* nyup.com/outdoors/2017/02/upstate_ny_stargazing_in_feb…

* syr.com/outdoors/2017/02/upstate_ny_stargazing_in_feb…

Featuring a washed-out lunar eclipse and one of Larry Slosberg’s great lunar images.

– Upstate NY Stargazing In March: Messier Marathon and the Lunar Occultation of Aldebaran

* syr.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2017/02/upstate_ny_stargazing_mar…

* nyup.com/outdoors/2017/02/upstate_ny_stargazing_mar…

Friend and Kopernik Astronomical Society member George Normandin provided the eye candy to start the March article, which included a discussion of Messier Objects (such as M31, M32, and M110) still long enough to get the editor’s attention (but it was about Messier Objects and sometimes you have to say stuff). The Lunar occultation of Aldebaran was pointed out to the ASRAS email list by Brad Timerson and then promoted on the CNYO website.

– Upstate NY stargazing in April: Comet hunting and the Lyrid meteor shower

* nyup.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2017/03/upstate_ny_stargazing_in…

* syr.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2017/03/upstate_ny_stargazing_in…

Brad Loperfido of Revette Studio and the CNYO Facebook Group had an amazing capture of Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, M97, and M108, allowing for a final addition to the Messier Object discussion with the objects that Messier was most interested in finding – comets. The month also included a washed-out Lyrid Meteor Shower peak and a proper shout-out to astronomy.fm.

– Upstate NY stargazing in May: A meteor shower and preparations for the solar eclipse

* nyup.com/outdoors/2017/05/upstate_ny_stargazing_in_may…

* syr.com/outdoors/2017/05/upstate_ny_stargazing_in_may…

The first in the series prepping for the great North American eclipse on August 21st of this year, featuring a NASA/SDO/AIA image (our tax dollars at work) and a continuation of the discussion of circumpolar constellations (which will get a full summary in four more articles).