Friday, January 30, 2015

Photo Friday: Red, White, and Blue

I don't mean the Stars and Stripes.

It was a perfect sunset. I saw the warm glow as I crossed the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge, heading into Ottawa, and I knew where I wanted to be, knew where I needed to go to capture it.

The snow was a dirty-white, but in some untrodden spots, it was still pure. The sky above was an ice-cold blue, but the sun in yellow, orange, pink, and red, cast a false sense of warmth. The temperature was in the minus twenties, and it was getting colder with the setting light.

I captured the images I wanted and packed up. Took a last look, and turned toward the lot where my car was parked. With any luck, it would still be warm.

The white snow, the pale red horizon, and the blue sky.

And the embassy, absorbing the last of the sun's rays. It's flag was not visible, but I knew it well, had seen it many times over last summer's vacation.

Red, white, and blue.

One last shot before my fingers were frozen solid.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Legend In My Mind

I seek neither fame nor fortune: but if lots of people knew of me, said nice things when my name came up, I'd be happy.

Not having to worry about cash would be nice, too.

When I think about what I wanted to do with my life, when I was a young kid and my future was a blank slate, ready to be outlined and shaped, my career paths tended toward a spotlight.

I wanted to be a writer from the time I was in the fifth grade, when I wrote The Hiccuppy Monster with a couple of friends and our teacher had me read it to kindergarten classrooms; in grade six, when our teacher, Mr. Townsend, focused on creative writing, would always have me read my short stories to my classmates.

It's no wonder that, when I've taken those silly Facebook quizzes that ask, What Career Were You Meant For?, I've learned—twice—that I was meant to be a writer.

I love writing, and as much as I am a shy person, I love reading my writing to whatever audience cares to hear it. When I was in Toastmasters, I enjoyed writing a speech and presenting it to a roomful of people.

I love acting, and hamming it up. And while I'd love to perform in a play, my shyness draws a line at putting myself out there. But that isn't to say I haven't done it: in high school, some friends and I put on a rendition of Monty Python's Restaurant Sketch for an end-of year drama night. It was fun (I played John Cleese's character, Mungo), but I never pursued more acting until much later.

Again, it was in Toastmasters.

Because the main goal in this public-speaking organization is to encourage people to go outside their zone of comfort, I decided to follow a path that took me to performing. I delivered a passage from my novel, Songsaengnim, taking on the role of Roland as he describes the five stages of grief. I spoke in Roland's voice, Scottish accent and all. I got angry. I cried. I went into a rage—literally throwing a chair halfway across the room. I brought fellow Toastmasters to tears.

I loved every minute of it.

On another night, I returned to Monty Python, and performed a one-man show of The Holy Grail. In 15 minutes. I re-wrote the script to fit the allotted time. I played several roles. I had back-and-forth dialog with myself. I even sang some of the songs.

I loved every minute of it.

Someday, I may try my hand at acting. Maybe.

I love to sing. I do it around the house, when I'm cleaning or when I'm in the shower. Sometimes, when I'm cooking. In high school, I wanted to be in a band. I couldn't play guitar or piano, but I could sing. And yet, I never pursued a career in music. I would sometimes sing at parties, belting it out along with the records that played.

I've gone caroling at Christmas. I will sing in public, if asked: the volume at which I project depends on how much liquid courage I have in me.

For more than a year, I've gathered with friends for an evening of Karaoke at a downtown pub on various Saturday nights. I've been told my voice is good. It's as much as I'd pursue on my own, though I've toyed with the possibility of doing more. Not for fame, nor for fortune, but for another word that begins with F.


I'd like to become more serious with my photography. This year—within the next month—I will have a new camera. I would like to sell some of my work, perhaps hanging some of it in restaurants, or pubs, in the hopes that someone would find value in them. Perhaps I'll publish a coffee-table book, with some of my best photos.

I do these things because, more than a writer, or an actor, or a singer, or a photographer, I'm an artsy old fart, perhaps some sort of Renaissance Man. If any of my interests and passions bring me fame or fortune, I will, indeed, find myself fortunate. (Obviously.)

For now, I'm just a legend in my own mind. And I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beer O'Clock Is Not Dead

I'm sitting on a fence.

For years on The Brown Knowser, I used to share my views of various ales and lagers that I would find at the local LCBO, at brew pubs, at breweries, or at special events. I like to share: it's what I do.

Too much, my family and friends remind me.

But one thing that I really like to share is beer, especially when I find a real gem and I feel that you should try it, too. There's something about taking that first sip, having the flavours wash around in my mouth, my tastebuds delighting in the sensation. It's at that moment that I want to take a photo of that beer, as it glows in the glass, with the bottle snuggled alongside it. I want to make as many notes as I can, describing its appearance, how it smells, how it tastes, and how it makes me feel.

Only, I haven't done that it a while. I'm sure many of you have wondered, is Beer O'Clock dead?

In a word, no.

But I've been busy, writing on The Brown Knowser, working on my novel, and then there's my day job and my family.

So, when I enjoy a beer, sometimes I just want to live in the moment, and savour the flavour.

But even then, I'm still keeping track of what I'm consuming. And sharing it. Through Untappd.

I'm not saying that Untappd has replaced Beer O'Clock. But while my beer blog is on hiatus, I can still share what I'm drinking, and what I think. And I also get the benefit of seeing what my friends are drinking and what they think. So that I can try it, too.

And share my opinion.

Of course, because this is a social-media app, there are some geeky bits to it, too. There are badges that you can earn, depending on what style of beer you drink, where you drink it, and what holiday befalls that day.

They mean absolutely nothing, but they're fun, especially when you're not expecting them (I earned a Take-It-Easy badge when I was drinking a sampler in New York City: I had only had sips of each, and was clearly taking it easy).

Beer O'Clock is not dead, but I don't know when I'll post another review. I do have a collection of various Imperial stouts that I've amassed over the years, and I'd like to compare them with each other, possibly, in the next few weeks. I may post a Beer O'Clock review on The Brown Knowser. I just don't know what I'm going to do with my beer reviews yet.

In the meantime, you can connect with me on Untappd, and perhaps we can share a beer or two.

Virturally, at least.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Music Monday: Move Me

They say it's sometimes the smallest things that can have the biggest impact on us.

Take, for example, the Scot in me. I have, at best, a dram of Scottish blood, but I love all things Scottish. My main character in my novel is from North Berwick, just east of Edinburgh. I married a woman who is half-Scots. One of my favourite authors is from Scotland. And, for the past eight years, I have celebrated Robbie Burns Day in Ottawa's foremost Scottish pub, The Highlander.

For the first couple of years, I went to The Highlander with colleagues from work. Then, for five years, it became a tradition with my father and me. And this year, because he was out of town, I brought my wife and kids, and we feasted on haggis, nips, and tatties, and we washed it all down with some single-malt whisky.

My thanks go to the staff, for putting on their usual outstanding show, and to Ken, the owner, who chatted with me about fine Islay malts, and who shared some rare, 25-year-old Laphroaig.

I never feel more Scottish than when I'm at The Highlander.

Do you know what else I love that's Scottish? The awesome music of Midge Ure.

And because he's coming to the Ottawa area for my 50th birthday, I want you to spend this special show with me.

Doing so would greatly move me.

If you can come out on Tuesday, March 3, to the Black Sheep Inn, in Wakefield, I would be honoured. You can buy the tickets by clicking here, and then you could let me know that you're coming by going here.

Or just show up and surprise me. I like those kinds of surprises. I know that it would be no small thing for you to commit to a show on a week night. Small things have big impacts: just think what a big thing like this would do.

For Music Monday, here is one of Midge Ure's songs, You Move Me.

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Photo Friday: In My Bones

There's a humidity in this city that lingers year-round. It's felt in the heat of the summer, when it clings to your body and weighs you down, smothers you like a thick, wool blanket.

In the dead of winter, it penetrates every fibre of your being, gets in your skin, chills you to your bones. Once there, it's hard to shake, hard to warm back to a feeling of normality.

As I age, I find I like the cold less. I hate dressing in layers, hate changing in and out of boots that collect dirty slush and salt. Navigating wet areas of floor with socks intact.

Always seeking warmth.

In the dead of winter, when I feel the chilling bite, I wonder why I do it. Why do I stay in this city that sees temperatures that are colder than Siberia, in a country that sees temperatures colder than Mars—than MARS... a planet further from the sun than our own!

And then I walk the Rideau Canal at night, and I see the beauty of the snow-covered trees, how the steam and smoke from stacks dance in the air. I see skaters enjoying the world's largest skating rink, doing what they couldn't do anywhere else.

And I know.

This city, like the chill, is in my bones. It may make me shiver, but it also warms my heart.

There's no place I'd rather be.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Prickly Situation

For a couple of weeks, I have been receiving physiotherapy for my lower-back pain. With this treatment, I am gradually returning to normal—I think.

I love the TENS unit: the electric current numbs the pain and relaxes the muscles.

The ultrasound further eases the tension, and apart from the smooth device moving over my skin and the cool gel, I feel nothing during the treatment.

There are doughnut-sized suction cups that are filled with damp sponges, connected to a machine that, like the TENS, sends an electric current over my back. I can control the intensity, and I turn it up until it is almost painful, but when it's done, I feel great.

My physiotherapist has provided exercises to move the slipped disk back into place and to strengthen my core muscles. He massages the muscles and gently manipulates my vertebrae, ensuring that everything is where it's supposed to be.

But yesterday, he tried something that, in a nutshell, I just didn't like: acupuncture.

DD11 made me remove my moles and smooth my skin. I drew the line at removing the hair. The red is from a heat pad.

I have friends that swear by this ancient form of pain treatment, and I'm truly happy for them. But here's why it's not for me.

I don't like needles: I can get a shot and I can give blood, but I don't like the prick and I cannot, under any circumstances, watch somebody stick one in me. But I had 12 needles placed into my back, at the same time, and they were left there for more than 15 minutes. I could feel them the entire time, and I did not like the sensation.

I tensed up with the first needle, and by the time the twelfth one was in me, my back was one firm piece of meat, and it never settled down. I felt as though I had flexed my back and it had become stuck: even after my physiotherapist had removed the needles, my back remained tense.

When the TENS unit and other devices are used, my muscles may spasm through the treatment, but I experience no pain and when the device is removed, my back feels good. With the acupuncture needles out, my back was sore. It remained sore through the rest of my visit. It remained sore on the drive home. It remained sore through dinner, Dragon's Den, and The Book of Negroes.

Writing this post, my back hurts.

My next visit to the physiotherapist is tomorrow (Friday). I look forward to the TENS unit, the ultrasound, the suction cups. I happily anticipate the massage and spinal manipulation.

Acupuncture, not so much.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bronson Avenue Bridge

Last week, when I drove along Riverside Drive, I thought I had spotted two large birds perched on the edge of the bridge that spans the Rideau River and divides Carleton University, on the north-west side of the bridge, from the RA Centre and Billings Bridge, on the south-east side.

But as I drew nearer, just before I passed under the bridge, I knew the birds weren't real, that they were some sort of statues.

And in that moment, I knew I had to return and capture them for Where In Ottawa.

I was hopeful that it would take some time for somebody to identify the location of these birds, but it only took nine minutes for John MacNab to figure it out. A bit of serendipity, he admitted, as it was only this morning, as he drove through morning traffic, that he noticed them for the first time.

Way to go, John! You should have a copy of my book by now.

I could not find anything that explains why these birds—are they falcons?—are perched here. Below, on the pillar that supports this span of the bridge, are beautiful concrete slabs with carved birds, but no plaque, no indication of the significance of the art.

If anyone knows, I'd love to hear from you. Leave something in the Comments section of this post.

Where In Ottawa returns Monday, February 2.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Where In Ottawa XLIII

Better late than never, right?

For me, 2015 has not started well. On New Year's Eve, I threw my back out and spent five days lying on the floor. Since then, I've had visits to a physiotherapist and my massage therapist, and my back has been slowly returning to normal.

But as a result of my injury, the last thing I've wanted to do is put my camera bag on my back and go out on a photo shoot of the city.

This weekend, I finally felt well enough to do so. And so, I finally bring you the latest installment of Where In Ottawa.

If you haven't played this challenge before—or even if you have but you've forgotten the rules—here are the conditions of play.

  • The following photograph was taken somewhere in the greater Ottawa region. Your job: locate it.
  • If you think you know the location of the structure in the image, leave your guess in the Comments section of this post. Answers sent to me by Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, or any other method than by writing a guess in the Comments section do not qualify for this challenge. I will not reply to any other form of guess.
  • If you were with me when I took the photo, you may not participate in the challenge.
  • If you have won Where In Ottawa in the past, you may still participate; however, if you guess correctly, no giveaway will be awarded.
  • The first person to correctly identify the location of the structure in the photograph will receive a PDF copy of my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary.
  • You may leave as many guesses as you want.
  • Starting tomorrow, I will leave clues to the location in the upper-right column of this post, adding a new clue each day until the challenge is solved.
  • If the challenge has not been solved by noon, Ottawa time, on Sunday, January 25, the challenge will end and I will reveal the location on Tuesday, January 27.
  • The winner of Where In Ottawa has until the end of Sunday, February 1, to claim his or her giveaway.
That's basically it. So are you ready? Here is this month's photo:

Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!

And good luck.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

Remember when you were a kid and your parents would give you some money of your own to spend? Remember when you were too young to comprehend the amount of cash you were given and had no idea how far it would go until you bought that pack of Hubba Bubba, or those SweeTarts, and when the clerk handed you your change, and you discovered you only spent a meager fraction of the spending money?

Your brain went into overdrive. What to get? Should you load up on jaw breakers, or chips, or should you go over to the hobby shop and buy a kite? Should you save the change and use it the next time your parents took you shopping?

Perhaps I'm 10 times that age, but the excitement of a windfall has remained. Perhaps, because in the 40-plus years since I experienced that sort of euphoria, I haven't found myself with a surplus of cash.

When I discovered the old stock certificate, I could barely remember buying it. It was 18 years old, had been purchased when I worked at a bank, and the company was offering shares at a heavily subsidized price. I don't remember how much it cost me, but knowing me, it probably wasn't much. Back then, I was good at managing everybody's finances but my own, and I wouldn't have had a lot of expendible funds at the time of purchase.

I was probably talked into the investment, probably purchased them under some well-intended peer pressure.

And so I invested, received a thick, embossed piece of paper with my name on it and the number of shares I owned. I folded that paper, added it to other important documents—my birth certificate, marriage certificate, and film negatives that I deemed "important"—and stuck them in my safety deposit box.

I didn't touch that box for more than three years, when I returned from South Korea and bought my first house. Because I didn't live near the bank where I worked, I closed the safety deposit box and brought those important documents home, with the intent of getting another box at a bank that was more convenient.

That never happened, and I put those documents in a secret location, thinking that someday, I should place the documents in a place where they would be safe. Only, instead, I forgot about the documents altogether.

One of the results of throwing out my back over the holidays is that I haven't been able to do any heavy work around the house. This fact is proving to bite me in the ass, in that I have been unable to shovel my driveway, nor have I been able to do any major cleaning around the house. And so, last weekend, in an attempt to play some part in doing some housework, I decided to cull some old paperwork.

In my efforts, I came across an old, worn-out manilla envelope. the edges were tattered, and the contents almost spilled out on their own. Inside, I found my birth certificate, marriage certificate, and various dated papers, including a thick, embossed sheet of paper that looked like it belonged at the end of the 20th century.

I looked at the paper and said to my spouse, "Huh, I wonder if this is worth anything," almost tempted to throw it in the paper shredder. I would take it to the bank, I told her, adding, "if it's worth anything, maybe I could use it towards a new camera."

My D-SLR is long in the tooth, and the sensor is going on it. I seldom use it (as this blog has shown—not many photos with my camera have been shot in a while).

The best-case scenario, I said, was that it would be worth a grand or so. If it was worth two grand, I might put it towards a full-frame camera.

At the bank, I learned it was worth nearly 10 times that amount.

The question now stands: what kind of camera shall I buy?

The story continues...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Time for Another Photo Walk

It may be cold outside, the temperatures so low that jets seem to split the sky as they fly overhead, the sound a clean hiss over a roar. But for the hard-core photographer, it takes more than a deep freeze to force the cameras indoors.

On Sunday, February 8, I am leading some Ottawa-area photogs on a nature walk to the Wallingford-Back Mine, near Mulgrave and Derry, Québec, just north of Buckingham. It's about a one-hour drive from downtown Ottawa, and I'm hoping that we can car pool.

Photo credit: Matt Young
Weather permitting (I'll reschedule the event if the roads are bad), we will meet at 9, drive to the site—we may have to hike about a kilometre from where we park—shoot for a couple of hours, and then celebrate with lunch and beer when we return to Ottawa, hopefully, by lunch.

Sound like fun? Sound like something you'd want to do?

At the time of writing this post, 90 percent of the tickets had been reserved (they're free). I am now opening more spots, but we will need more people willing to transport fellow photographers. I can take five photographers comfortably; six, if you're willing to get close to your neighbour. One other member has offered a ride.

If you're interested, click here to register. If you're on Twitter, follow the #BKPW hashtag or follow me (@RossBrownfoot).

I hope to see you on February 8. Let's hope that the temperature is in our favour.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Imagination Was Twisted, Even As A Kid

I was the greatest toy a young Trekkie could ever receive.

I started watching Star Trek when I was three or four, and for about nine or 10 years on, I rarely missed an episode, on Saturday nights and again, on Sunday mornings, on CBC TV. It didn't matter how many times I saw those episodes, how I knew so many lines, Star Trek was my show.

I collected many Star Trek toys. I had a communicator and a phaser, I had a model of the U.S.S. Enterprise. I designed many other starships—mostly, from paper—to interact with the crew as they sought new life forms and new civilizations. I pretended I was a crew member, and then later, a captain of my own starship.

But the best gift I received was the bridge of the Enterprise, and the action figures that worked with it. There was a captain's chair, helm and navigation console, and a main viewer that had interchangeable screens (I later made my own). A transporter allowed you to make figures disappear from the starship, beaming down to those strange new worlds.

At first, I received the top-three crew members: Captain Kirk, Spock, and Bones McCoy. Later, I would have Ensign Chekov, Lt. Uhura, and a Klingon.

Each figure was equipped with a miniature communicator and phaser; some had tricorders. The weapon and communication device were held in a belt that was difficult to attach, even for small hands. In time, the belts broke, and the crew would simply have to carry their equipment in their hands if they wanted to use them.

I recreated some of the episodes, plus I made up a few new adventures on my own. I expanded the ship with empty tubes from bathroom tissue or paper towels, creating the engineering section (though I never received a figure of Scotty). I used pastel green and blue Styrofoam egg cartons as medical beds in sick bay.

On one made-up mission, a Klingon vessel had sent out a distress call, its engines were malfunctioning and the ship's destruction was imminent. The Enterprise was having troubles of its own, having only one transporter available. As it beamed the first (my only) Klingon aboard, the ship exploded, killing everyone on board.

The Klingon, realizing he was grossly outnumbered, decided to cooperate with the crew of the Enterprise, becoming a member of Starfleet. Chekov was made the senior helmsman, the Klingon, Kang, was made an ensign and took over the job of navigator.

However, during one away mission, Chekov befell an accident, where he lost his arms and legs. In reality, the elastic that held his limbs together somehow snapped, and he literally fell apart. He was beamed aboard the Enterprise and taken to sick bay, but Dr. McCoy was unable to save him (nor was my mother, who tried to reattach the limbs with a different elastic band.

Naturally, suspicion for Chekov's death turned to Kang, who was placed in the brig. (I would only use him as a "different" Klingon for other adventures.)

It wasn't long after the demise of Chekov that Uhura's band failed and she befell the same fate as her crew mate. And, as with Chekov, Uhura's band could not be mended. I had two dead crew members.

Kang was released, and McCoy learned that these deaths were due to a disease that was affecting the crew. He worked to discover the cause of the disease and to work on a way to combat it.

Other crew members fell: Kang, McCoy, and then Kirk. Spock was the last remaining crew member. Starfleet ordered the Enterprise to a starbase, to be taken out of commission while they got to the bottom of the trouble.

I could tell that Spock would soon meet the same fate as his crew members. The limbs would slacken ever so slightly. My parents weren't happy that the action figures were so poorly made, and said I wouldn't get any more. I had six broken (dead) people, who I had placed inside the egg cartons, which had now become caskets. I buried them in the woods that surrounded our home, in Kirk's Ferry, Québec.

When I figured that Spock's days were numbered, I disassembled the engineering section and sick bay, and folded up the bridge (the transporter had its problems, and wouldn't always work). Spock, without his crew, admitted to killing them so that he could be the captain of the Enterprise. But, as he had known in the television series, wanting wasn't always as good as having. Starfleet found Spock guilty and sentenced him to death.

When my family lived in the Gatineaus, our custom-built house was three stories tall. On the top floor was my parents' bedroom and a room with a small television—the one on which I had watched so many episodes of Star Trek.

From this area was a door that led to an outdoor balcony, which overlooked the woods in which Spock's colleagues were buried. Spock would join them, soon enough.

I fashioned a noose out of a long piece of thread. With one end, I tied the thread around the railing; the noose went around Spock's neck. His last words: "Live long, and prosper."

I let go of him, and he tumbled over the ledge.

The cord itself was about four feet long. For Spock, he dropped more than 20 feet before his "rope" went taught. Had he been a human, such a hanging would have taken his head off. But it would seem that Spock had fallen victim to the same disease that had taken five "lives" before.

As he reached the end of his noose, his arms and legs snapped free, falling to the ground three stories below.

Starfleet determined that Spock was under the influence of the disease when he confessed his crime. He was given a full pardon. He was also buried with his crew.

My Spider-Man action figure also broke in the same way. Crappy workmanship.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Number 2 on Number 2

My Darling Daughter Number 2 is quick to criticize when I leave the bathroom.


It's not me, I calmly explain. It's what I left behind that stinks up the place.

Last year, a commercial went viral on YouTube, and when my sweet little tot discovered it, she cried that we had to get some. And, when she saw some at our local Chapters-Indigo store, she actually spent some of her hard-earned allowance to bring some home.

It's called Poo-Pourri. Here's the hilarious ad—don't shit yourself laughing.

It really works. I'm considering a bottle for every toilet in the house.

Because, I'm not the only one who stinks up the place.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Photo Friday: I Love Trees

Who doesn't?

Trees, all trees, are ever-changing. As living entities, that's to be expected.

Trees look different in all sorts of lighting, in all weather. I can look at a tree one day, and the next find something new to marvel over.

When I returned from vacation, late last summer, I moved to a new location in my office. Because of this change, I find myself entering and exiting the building from a side entrance, rather than the main one.

There's a long, straight path that leads from the parking lot to this side door. To one side of this path, at a short distance, a stand of evergreens creates a barrier to the front parking lot of the office property. They are tall trees, towering twice as high as the building. As I walk the path, approaching or leaving the office, I find these trees capture my attention, call to me.

Lately, they've been asking me to capture an image of them.

And I oblige.

That's love.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Poking a Mad Dog

No one deserves to die for expressing his or her views or opinions.

Full stop.

What happened in Paris, yesterday, was horrific, senseless, and cowardly. Seeing the video of that police officer, wounded, hands up in surrender, being mercilessly murdered, demands outrage. The extremists who carried out this bloody act are subhuman.

We should remember that point: those who carried out such a barbaric act against people have failed to meet what it means to be human.

My sympathies go to the victims, their families, and friends. I stand in solidarity with the people in France against violence.

Long... long pause.

Photo credit: Elena Brunet, courtesy of Twitter.

Since news of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, I have seen all sorts of cartoons, signs, tweets, and articles that cry about the assault on the freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and I wince. Those cries don't sit well with me.

In "civilized," democratic countries, where we enjoy many freedoms, where we thankfully experience vast human rights, there is the belief that we can say anything we want, that we have a right to voice our opinion. Our laws uphold that belief, provided that the opinion you voice does not spread hatred or incite violence.

But what about opinions that hurt others?

I'm not talking about voicing an opinion and having someone say, "Hey, that hurt my feelings." We can't please everyone, and we inevitably say something that upsets others. I loathe dogs. I find tattoos unattractive. I know that stating those facts bothers some: all I can say to that is, I'm sorry, but that's how I feel. Go ahead and cover yourself in smelly fur and ink, if it makes you happy.

If I address a dog lover, I'm not going to go on about how my life would be happier if I didn't have to look at another Instagram picture of a mutt. I'm not going to say something, knowing that in doing so, I'm taking a jab at the heart strings of canine fans.

It is a well-known fact that in the Muslim faith, depictions of their prophet is prohibited. In part, this restriction comes about over the fear that the representation may outstrip the importance of the actual figure, Muhammad. It's more a sign of respect for the actual man over how his image is portrayed.

And while the Quran does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, there are many Muslims who believe that depicting the prophet is disrespectful, and doing so can be hurtful.

I get that. I respect that.

Charlie Hebdo is a satirical French newspaper that is known for poking fun at politicians and religion, and in particular has been relentless towards Muslims and Islamic extremists, seemingly placing these two groups in one basket. And the newspaper seems to take delight in depicting images of Muhammad in various forms.

Many, if not all of the images, can be seen as hurtful to Muslims.

I can easily picture a Muslim seeing such depictions and feeling those jabs at their heart strings. I can imagine them feeling disgust, feeling a strong dislike for this French newspaper. But I can envisage most of them taking no action against the editors and cartoonists.

There are some extremists, who would like nothing more than to hurt those who share neither their faith nor their zeal for it. These extremists live on hate and plot to see the realization of that hatred perpetuated in acts of violence.

If these extremists are able to carry out their vile plots, does it not stand to reason that they will strike out against those who not only not share in their faith, but also ridicule it?

If you poke an angry dog enough times, it's going to bite back. A mad dog is dangerous: one that is provoked is moreso.

The people who now stand behind Charlie Hebdo and say they are standing up for freedom of the press and freedom of speech, to me, are somewhat misguided. Yes, stand against violence. Stand up against Islamic extremism. Stand united against "terrorism."

But don't stand up for the freedom to mock. Shy away from the freedom to be provocative for the sole purpose of upsetting others.

Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, is not a right to say anything, to express for the sake of disrespecting others.

Ten media people and two police officers were murdered. Today's acts were disgusting and unforgivable.

If you poke a mad dog, it will bite.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Some say, on days like these, at this time of year, "It's cold outside." They wear looks of awe and surprise, of disbelief at the prospect of bare skin turning numb and blue.

I say, "What do you expect? It's winter, in Ottawa. Button up your coat. Cover your head. Protect your ears and hands."

It's as though the memory of last year, where we had no respite from the Arctic air, was completely forgotten, like it didn't happen at all.

On Sunday, as the rain drizzled down, I wore a t-shirt as I carried the season's Christmas tree outside. The next day, I wore four layers to get from my doorstep to my car, thankful that the seats heat up.

Traditionally, January is the coldest month of the year. This week, our city will re-experience that tradition. It doesn't matter that the sun, that giant fireball, is burning brightly, that the sky is blue. It's a ruse: clear skies bring the coldest days.

See the ice, glistening on the trees, shimmering from that bright sunlight? It's not melting for a reason.

It's cold outside. Are you surprised?

You must be new to Canada.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Music Monday: I Know It's Over

It's over.

My Christmas vacation has come to an end.

And while I managed to get some rest and spend time with family and friends, it wasn't all gravy: I had a migraine, a flu bug, and I threw out my back. Some days, which I had hoped to fill with visiting more friends, drinking some beer, and spending more quality time with family, were wasted.

Also, Where In Ottawa is delayed until next Monday. I need to find time to go out in the city and shoot something.

And now, my vacation is over, and it's back to the grind at work.

To mark the end of my vacation, for Music Monday, I thought I would play a song that I sang over my time off, at a karaoke night. The song is by The Smiths: it's a sad love song. The video is not an official one by the band, but I think it works well with the song.

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Photo Friday: Look Hoo's In The Neighbourhood

When my wife and I first bought our house and moved in, in January of 2000, we said that we would stay in our first home for five years; for 10, if we liked our neighbours. It's a small house, and we believed that as our family grew, we'd need more space.

Fifteen years into being in our house, we have no plans for going anywhere. We love our neighbours, our kids have great friends, and as our community has grown, we have found that there's no where else where we'd rather be.

Living outside the Greenbelt, we have had our fair share of wildlife. Deer, coyotes, and turkeys have all been spotted in South Nepean. And at this time of year, we have seen snowy owls close to home.

For the second time on New Years Eve, a beautiful snowy owl has perched himself atop a street light on the street over from my house: perhaps it's even the same owl, perhaps the same owl that I photographed several years ago in the park across from my street.

So, on New Years Eve, I captured this neighbour as he stared down at me. He (or she) is another reason why I love my neighbourhood.

Happy Friday, and Happy New Year! May 2015 bring you peace and happiness.