Monday, August 31, 2015

Music Monday: All You Sons And Daughters

It's fitting, I think, that I end my Music Monday series where I began, with Matthew Good.

In November, nearly two years ago, I was searching for an idea for a blog post, and not coming up with much. I had a touch of writer's block, as can happen often when I try to write almost every day. While I was wracking my brain, I was listening to Matt Good's album, Lights of Endangered Species, when his song, "Non Populus" started. I love the gentle start to the song and the gradual build. Songs such as this, and "Weapon" are why Matt is one of my favourite artists.

His latest album, Chaotic Neutral, comes out on September 25, and I can't wait. I consider myself to be chaotic-neutral, always chose that alignment when I played Dungeons and Dragons, in high school. I like to stir things up and I don't tend to weigh heavily one way or another when I encounter something new.

Matt has released one song on Chaotic Neutral, complete with a video. The song, "All You Sons And Daughters," is classic Good: haunting lyrics and strong instrumentation. Check it out:

As I said, this is my final Music Monday. Next week, I'll be bringing you the latest Where In Ottawa challenge, and by the following Monday, I'm hoping that I won't have a writer's block and will be able to come up with something new.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Photo Friday: Water Park

I'm sure on a hot summer day, nobody cares that it's a small strip: when the water is flowing, it's a cool welcome.

As the construction of Lansdowne Park comes to an end, I see the beauty of the grounds. There are lots of open spaces, lots of places to play, and lots to do.

There's the stadium, where the north side remains as it always has. Same with Aberdeen Pavilion, also affectionately known as the Cattle Castle. New buildings offer shopping, pubs (with local, craft beer), and a movie cinema. There's Whole Foods and a well-stocked LCBO.

I wish I lived in this part of the Glebe.

Instead, I'll visit it, day and night, and I'll bring my camera.

For this week's Photo Friday, I chose the water park, at night, after the water has been shut off and the people have gone home. At this hour, it's not just the back half, with the angled column, that is the art.

It's all beautiful.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Land of Knockoffs

The other week, when South Korea made the news in a way that didn't involve hostilities with North Korea or with another K-pop band, I read the story and shrugged my shoulders, and thought, yup, that's South Korea for you.

The land where copyright infringement is par for the course.

The latest infraction of trademark had a Canadian connection. A Korean coffee company introduced a Tim Horton's knock off, called Tim Morton's.

Not so subtle.

When I lived in Korea, in the late 1990s, I saw backpacks with a label that read Jonsport, similar to the famous California backpack company, Jansport.

In the Seoul district of Itaewan, encountered the following sign for a nightclub.

Club Viagra was on a bit of a hill, and a long flight of concrete steps lead up to the entrance.

You have to get up to get in. 

In my city, Chônju, a gift shop stole its name from a popular search engine. 

So, no, the Tim Morton's coffee doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me is that they haven't opened a Tim Morton's coffee shop in Korea.

Or maybe, they have?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pigeon Bridge

Colonnade Drive didn't exist, nor did the industrial park. It was all overgrown fields and forest, with a railway line that separated Viewmount Drive and Borden Side Road from the massive oil storage tanks that have now all but rusted away. There was a creek that ran from Merivale High School, east, that travelled under Prince of Wales Drive and emptied into the Rideau River.

Most of it has vanished from the Borden Farm landscape. The woods are gone, filled in with a housing community. Borden Side Road, which used to be a straight, narrow cut-through, where Viewmount ended at Chesterton Drive, was a quick thoroughway to Fisher Avenue. That road is also gone, replaced by a meandering extension of Viewmount Drive.

My friends and I would go into those woods, either by walking to the end of Chesterton Drive, or my cutting through the long, narrow field behind Century Public School. There were a couple of trodden paths, and then we would follow the creek to where it narrowed, to where a few stepping stones where strategically placed, where we could hop across and work our way up to the railway tracks.

The trains didn't come often, and along this corridor, we had a clear view of any oncoming locomotives. When the trains did come, we would lay pennies along the rails, on the gap between to steely lengths, so that when the iron wheels rolled over the coins, the outer edges would be flattened but the center would remain legible, yet sunken.

We would wander east, along the tracks, toward Prince of Wales, the cars speeding underneath us. Two railway lines would join, just before the overpass, where the passenger line and freight line would meet and become one, before heading over the Rideau River. The passenger line, coming in from the southwest (today, that line passes near my home, in Barrhaven), would bend at the junction, was not clearly visible from where the overpass stood.

We called the bridge that spanned the Rideau River Pigeon Bridge. I don't know who came up with the name or whether it was even recognized by that name outside of my friends' circle. But when we would decide to wander out to Pigeon Bridge, we all knew where we were going.

The bridge was wooden, with no superstructure, no railings. At about one-third intervals, small platforms extended off the edge of the ties, no doubt to offer refuge to anyone caught on the bridge when a train was crossing at the same time. The river was some 20 metres below—too far to jump.

When we stood on the western end of Pigeon Bridge, we would look west, from where we came. We could see a signal light, and we could always tell if a train would be approaching from the east. We would venture onto the bridge only if the signal was red, safe in the knowledge that no train would surprise us from that direction. We had a solid view of the CN freight corridor, to the west, would see the bright light of a locomotive from several kilometres away.

The only blind spot was the passenger-rail line, that came from Barrhaven. We would only see a train as it rounded the bend, joined the single line, before crossing the Prince of Wales overpass and approaching Pigeon Bridge.

Passenger trains weren't that common. We rarely saw them. And when any train approached, we were always safely close to the end of the bridge. We would see an approaching train and would scurry under the bridge, to feel the rumbling of the ground and the near-deafening rattle of the train rolling over the ties, no more than six feet above our heads.

It was a bright, hot, summer afternoon. We had lingered in the woods along the tracks, only deciding at the last minute to head to Pigeon Bridge. As we walked the line, we moved aside to let a freight train through, pressing coins. The only coin I had was a nickel, and I kept that flattened souvenir well into adulthood, to remember that day.

I saw the sun-dried skeletal remains of some small animal: perhaps a rabbit or a skunk, possibly even some unsuspecting cat that misjudged the speed of the train. I considered keeping the skull as a souvenir, but my friends talked me out of it. What if it's diseased? What if it's full of maggots or bugs, crawling in its deep recesses.

Walking over the Prince of Wales overpass, one of my friends kicked a stone between the ties as a Mini drove underneath. The stone hit the windscreen and we could hear the small car slam on its brakes, come to a screeching halt. Our gut reaction was to run, but it was slow-moving on the ties, as we stayed face-down, not to risk tripping and falling. My friend's sense of responsibility made him stop and face his consequences when the driver called to him.

We all joined our friend at the car, the driver scolding us for being on the tracks in the first place, and for causing a rock to fall. There was a scratch on the windscreen, but the driver sensed that there was no serious damage, and he let us go with further chiding.

We didn't heed his warning, of not walking along the tracks, and as soon as he drove away, we ascended the overpass and continued our journey to Pigeon Bridge.

We had never wandered out any further than the first escape platform. I had a fear of heights, was always afraid that a gust of wind would sweep me into the river below. The furthest I ventured out onto the bridge was about halfway between the end of the bridge and the first platform.

That's where we were, on Pigeon Bridge, when we heard the train horn.

It was the passenger train, coming from Barrhaven. It had just started rounding the bend when it blew its horn. The engineer, being attentive to his duties, had seen us as soon as we came into sight and he sent his warning.

There were too many of us to fit on the platform. One of my friends, at another visit, questioned whether it could hold the weight of more than one grown man. But we were closer to the start of the bridge than to the platform, anyway, and we ultimately made the decision to turn back the way we had come, towards the train.

The memory of this day came back the first time I saw the film, Stand By Me. The fear, as the boys ran across the bridge, eyes down, feat moving as quickly as possible but with focus. If you fell, you were dead.

But unlike the film, my friends and I were running toward the oncoming train. Even in bright daylight, the headlamp of the locomotive was blinding. The engineer was issuing long blasts of his horn, as though the deafening tone could move us faster, or could warn us any more of the imminent danger. With every footstep, we were more and more committed to our task, of saving our lives.

It's really difficult to judge the distance from the front of a train. It is such a large object, that when you think that it's upon you, it keeps coming. With every footstep, my friends and I tried to gauge whether we should jump off the bridge or keep going. We could feel the ties beneath our feet vibrating, the steel against steel shrieking. I could see where the bridge touched ground, the trail that lead below the hiding spot, below the bridge, a few metres beyond.

We didn't wait to reach the trail. As soon as we saw ground, we dove off the tracks, rolling into bushes. We fought our way further away from the tracks, and we could hear the engineer yelling at us as he passed, calling us idiots, crazy kids.

We could have been killed, but we weren't. It was the last time we ever went onto Pigeon Bridge. We would never again risk our lives, would settle for the vibration of the rails above us, from underneath the hiding place, under the bridge.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Music Monday: Riptide

I'm on vacation.

And I have to be honest: before I wrote this blog post, my folks came to my house, and my father and I drained two-thirds of a bottle of a 16-year-old Lagavulin. Thanks to Ian Rankin, who personally told me to try this stuff.

So, yes, I'm writing this blog post under the influence. But that's okay: I'm on vacation.

On Saturday, as I was cleaning the house, I did what I tend to do when I'm working around the house: I streamed music from Google Play: when I stream music from this fabulous music service, I chose a theme.

The theme was, simply, On Vacation.

The first song to play on that playlist was by Vance Joy, entitled, "Riptide."

I had heard this song before, but never paid attention to it. Until then, when I started my chores and started moving to the music.

Further disclosure: I've been making a lot of typos, and have had to back up and start typing again. But I'm on vacation, and I'm taking it easy. And I've consumed a lot of single malt right up until I sat down and started banging out this post.

The song is catchy and I've played it a lot of times over the weekend. It's now on my smartphone and I expect to hear it, while I drive around town for the first few days of my vacation, before I head out to the Bruce Peninsula to join my family and relax on the shores of Lake Huron.

So, yay for me on a somewhat drunken start to my well-deserved vacation, and enjoy this Vance Joy tume.

Happy Monday!

How'd I do? Can you tell I was a little drunk through this post?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Photo Friday: Ancestry

I never knew my grandfather, my dad's dad.

He died when my dad, the thirteenth of fifteen children from Montreal, was only two. I think that because his dad left him at such an early age, my dad had built a lot of resentment towards him. My dad rarely spoke of him, and when he did, he was full of vitriol, brimming with anger.

"He was a chirper," my dad would say, referring to our British ancestry. "The best thing he did was drop dead."

Those were my dad's actual words.

My dad and I had a bit of a falling out, during the last years of his life, but even in my lowest feelings for him, I never hated him, never wished him dead. It would crush me if I ever drove my own kids to feeling that way towards me.

I didn't even know my grandfather's name until I was in my mid-30s, when my wife was carrying our first child. We were at my Uncle Don and Aunt Flora's house, at a gathering to remember the passing of yet another relative. It was the first time that I even saw a photograph of my grandfather. He was with his wife, my grandmother, on their honeymoon, in Niagara Falls. The faded photo showed the two, well-dressed, possibly on the Maid of the Mist or another sightseeing boat, the Rainbow Bridge overhead, in the background.

The year was 1920, or so the inscription on the back said.

"His name was Sydney," my uncle told me as we looked at the photo.

"That's a name that Lori and I are considering for the baby," I said, surprised at the news.

"It's also my middle name," said Uncle Don.

The name became one of the top-two choices for our unborn daughter. The name lost out, after holding my first-born for the first time, staring at her tiny face. "She doesn't look like a Sydney," I told myself.

This week, I found myself sitting in my aunt and uncle's dining-room table for the first time in more than a decade. The years had gone quickly and, even though we live less than a 10-minute drive from each other, we seemed to have lost contact. But my aunt had called me, told me that she had received some old photographs, including some from my mom and dad's wedding, and would I be interested in having them?

Many of my aunts and uncles, I haven't seen in decades; others, I saw at a Brown family reunion before my dad died, before my kids were born or even expected. I enjoyed seeing photos of them from when I was a small boy. I saw cousins that I didn't know I had or didn't remember.

It makes me sad to realize that I know so little of my extended family, not just on the Brown side but on my mother's side as well. I am in touch with a couple of cousins, through Facebook, but it's not enough. I want to feel like I belong, that I'm a part of the family, that I'm not a black sheep like my dad was.

I was given the photo of my grandparents on their honeymoon, and I was allowed to borrow another photo, one I hadn't seen before.

It's of Sydney, my grandfather, during World War I. He's in uniform, standing next to a seated soldier. It was a new aspect that I had learned about my ancestor, one that should not have surprised me. As a young man, living in England at that time, of course he would have fought in The Great War.

I want to learn more. I plan to investigate.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another 100

My cycling has sucked this summer.

Since the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, I have been on my road bike a grand total of...


On that beautiful Sunday afternoon, when my exhausted body returned home, I removed my bicycle from the back of my van and, with tired arms, I hung the bike, upside-down, by its well-travelled wheels, from the hooks in the ceiling of my garage, where it has remained ever since.

Because I had fractured my wrist a few days before the 200-kilometre, two-day ride from Perth to Kingston, and back, and the ride was more painful than the beating my butt took, I wanted to rest it for the few weeks that the doctor had recommended.

And then, I got used to not riding my bike. And even though my wrist started feeling better and I kept telling myself that I needed to get back on my bike, day after day I continued to sit on my ass.

I need to ride again.

And I will, and have, starting last weekend, although my first ride as slow, over a short distance, on my hybrid Schwinn. The training must resume, because I have signed up for another long ride.

On October 3, I will ride from Ottawa to Vankleek Hill with a bunch of other cycling enthusiasts—and beer lovers. To Beaus' Oktoberfest. And I need your help.  

This ride is to raise money for The United Way. Please sponsor me by going to the following site. The more I raise, the harder I'll work to train.

It's a win-win situation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It's the Vitriol That I Can't Stand

It's not just that they were found guilty of election fraud, or found in contempt of Parliament.

It's not the loathing for the media, which is evident in the gagging of scientists and the fear and intimidation that is beaten into the civil servants.

It's not the childish and petty attack ads that use distorted sound bites, quotes, and distorting of facts to scare the uneducated into believing every word they say.

It's the overall negativity, the fear mongering, and total absence of a sense of vision, a lack of hope for a bright future.

They are the Evil Galactic Empire of Canada.

A climate of contempt for the average Canadian has been cultivated by the Harper Government.

Please get out and vote. 

I leave you with some wise words for a prime minister in the depths of a scandal:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Kindness of Strangers

It was one of those random acts of kindness.

And we might have missed it, entirely. We weren't in our neighbourhood, weren't in our end of town. Where we were, we rarely frequented. And we had never made a purchase at this particular location.

In fact, it's been ages since I purchased an actual paper book. With the exception of purchasing the last two publications from my friend, Peggy Blair, I haven't purchased a book in 2015. I know: it's sad. I used to be such a book worm, would burn through 15 to 20 novels a year, sometimes more. Reading would be the last thing I would do in the evening before turning out the light. I used to make a reading list at the end of one year, filled with books that would carry my through the following year.

Not now. I may have read two or three books this year. I started one novel, months ago, The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, and enjoyed it. But I would read a chapter, or two, put it down for a few weeks, read another few chapters, put it down for a month or so, forget what was happening, and back up a few chapters.

I'm taking this book on vacation, in a couple of weeks, will spend most of my leisure time either reading or writing, working on my novel, rather than this blog. I'm going to start The Girl on the Train from the beginning, and I plan to finish it before my vacation is over.

Sorry, Peggy: your books will have to wait until later. But I vow to read them by the end of the year.

The rest of my family have also picked books to read as we relax at the cottage on the shores of Lake Huron, on the Bruce Peninsula. This weekend, as we were shopping around town, as I am loathe to do on weekends, we found ourselves in the South Keys area, in the Chapters-Indigo store. I do like to go into Chapters, go to all of their computer terminals, type Songsaengnim in the search field, and bring my book up onto the screen. I walk away, knowing that for the next few minutes, my book is advertised to whomever uses the terminal next.

Our 14-year-old daughter had not yet chosen a book to take with her on our vacation, so we had her search the recommended-reading stacks at the front of the store. There were lots of great books from which to choose, and I had to control myself from picking up titles for myself. I have a vast collection that have gathered dust on my shelves, that I had on previous book lists but hadn't got to.

And there are, of course, Peggy's books. I've read her first: I have her second and third to dig into. No new books for me until these are read.

DD14 stopped at one book: Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. "This one," she said. I took the book and headed to the cash registers.

As I held the book, I felt a gap in the pages. Something had been placed halfway through the novel. I opened the book and there, tucked inside, was a pink envelope with handwriting on the front and back.

I didn't know if this was part of the book, so I looked at the stack on the table. No other copies of the book seemed to have it. It seemed that this had been randomly placed in the stacks of recommended reading. No other titles on the table seemed to contain a bonus gift.

At the cash register, I showed the envelope, explained how we found it, and asked if it was a store promotion. It wasn't. I wanted to make sure that it wasn't going to be construed as something we were stealing from the store. It wasn't.

We kept it.

The print looked as though it came from a young hand. The print at the bottom of the front of the envelope read, "Hello Stranger! For if you are having a bad day!" The back of the envelope read, "this letter is to be opened only when one is having a bad day."

I wasn't having a bad day, but for having to endure a long day of shopping, I felt I deserved to see what was inside.

The card had nothing on the front, save a beautiful, pink flower. Opening the card, the interior held no pre-printed message, but on the recto and verso sides, more hand-written messages awaited.

"Dearest Stranger," it began,
  • you are special
  • you are needed
  • you are loved
  • you are Beautiful!
  • you are worth it
  • Be happy
The message continued on the opposite page: "Have A Great life!"

I wasn't in a bad mood. My day, for the most part, had been pretty good. In reading this card, I was placed in a much better mood. My faith in the overall goodness of people had been validated. The kindness of this stranger had far-reaching effects—I think we should all look at the message within and carry it further.

Pay it forward, as the saying goes.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Music Monday: The Shade

My family and I are counting the days: only one week until vacation.

We are going to be hanging around the house for the first couple of days, trying to get it in order, so that when we return from our trip, the house will be a welcoming place for us. My wife and kids will be going camping for a few days (my days of camping are over), and we will meet up at a cottage on the Bruce Peninsula.

My trip will be also involving some stops along the way, both before our cottage escape and after, as I take in some Ontario craft breweries. One of them, a brand-new brew house, is in the delightful town of Elora.

I wish that we were in Elora this past weekend, instead: there was a music festival that featured two of my favourite Canadian bands, Sam Roberts Band and Metric.

Metric is releasing a new album, this fall, entitled Pagans in Vegas. I'll be ordering it as soon as it's released, as I've never heard a song from them that I didn't like. And, fortunately, they've already released one song from the album, "The Shade," which is available as a free download from Google Play and iTunes.

Here's the video. Have a listen. (And as a heads up, there's no point in watching the video. I shows nothing. I think it's a placeholder for a future video, as it only shows the image of the song title, and let's face it: if you can't see Emily Haines, there's no point in watching anything else. Luckily, the song is great, so you can play it while you do something else.)

I'm sorry that I missed them in concert, in Elora (they put on a great show), but I hope that I can catch them the next time that they play in Ottawa.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Photo Friday: Putting It In Print

It would be an understatement to say that, since I've been photographing with digital cameras, I have taken thousands of photos. Tens of thousands of photos.

I look around my house and I look at the number of those photos that I have actually printed, and I come up with two. Two photos: one, printed to a 4 x 6 print, of the whole family, when the girls were very young—maybe two and four. We shot it early in the morning, as the kids joined us to snuggle in bed. It was a happy morning, and the photo was shot with a point-and-shoot camera.

It was a basic camera taking a basic, happy family moment.

The other photo, a 5 x 7, shows the four of us, two summers ago, standing at the Rideau locks by the Chateau Laurier, our canoe held over our heads, as we finished our 200-km journey from Kingston to Ottawa. It was a triumphant moment, captured on my Nikon D80, my first and former D-SLR.

My mom took the shot when she came to get us.

Two photographs out of tens of thousands.

When I shot 35mm film, I constantly made prints of my photographs, had them mounted on plaques or hung in frames. In my old apartment, one long wall was lined with dozens of shots that I proudly displayed.

That art seems to have disappeared in the digital age.

But no more.

This week, I received a canvas print of one of my photographs that I shot on my recent trip to New York City. It's one of my favourite shots of that trip. I shared it when I returned home but was too tired to put out a proper blog post. It was a lazy post with one of my best photos.

It's now printed on a 24 x 36 canvas, and it looks like a painting. It's a work of art, if I may be so bold.

And now I want to print more.

Next up, this shot, taken on my last Brown Knowser Photo Walk. Again, I'm thinking 24 x 36. Thoughts?

The NYC subway shot looks so good, I'm thinking of making more and selling it. What do you think? I mean, every time I see the prints in Ikea, I think, I can take as good a photo, can't I? My NYC subway shot is as good as anything I've seen in that store.

Would you be willing to put one of my photos on your walls?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Double Standard

When the head of Canada's military said that men are "biologically wired in a certain way," as a way of explaining the reports of sexual assault and harassment within the ranks, it was a bone-headed statement. In hearing those words, I interpreted Gen. Tom Lawson's message to mean that while a soldier is trained to exercise control in a combat scenario, the soldier has no discipline when it comes to keeping his (or her) hands to himself (or herself).

That's sad.

But he wasn't wrong. We are, as humans, basically hard-coded for sex. As a guy, if I notice an attractive woman, my eyes will go to her, may even linger longer than a cursive glance (without leering).

We are hard-coded to look. Looking without acting further is proof that we have evolved.

Yet, with this wiring, we also think about sex. We might see someone and think something about sex, but again, as our society has evolved, we keep our thoughts to ourselves.

The other week, I saw something, had a thought, and then felt ashamed of myself for thinking that thought. Because in that thought, I wasn't the person I thought I was.

In the middle of a Thursday afternoon, I expect to go to certain places and not be surprised at what I see. When I'm in a public space, or even a space that isn't supposed to be accessed by the public but has no safeguards in place to keep people out, I expect my eyes to see something that anyone could see anywhere. It's out in the open, after all.

There is a chain-link fence at the end of the bridge. You run into it as you leave the pedestrian and cycling pathway and take the well-trodden path up a gentle hill. The fence is compromised, and it takes no effort to pass through. In the summer months, branches and leaves spread over the fence and along some of the steel beams of the Prince of Wales Bridge, creating a screen—shelter from the path. 

As I approached the breached fence, my camera upon my tripod, my tripod over my shoulder, I sensed that people were in that sheltered area, but I wasn't concerned. Ottawa is a safe city, it was broad daylight, so I could see everything, and there were plenty of people on the pathway, other people, further down the bridge. I wasn't worried about an ambush. 

I also wasn't prepared for what I saw.

A young man, in his 20s, blonde hair, tanned, muscular. In a Speedo. Stretched out across the tracks. Another young man, perhaps older, holding a reflector. And a third man, of about the same age as the assistant, camera in hand.

Both the photographer and his assistant were fully dressed.

A model shoot. Nothing out of the ordinary, and the light on the bridge made for a great backdrop. As a photographer, I appreciated what was going on. I actually thought that this would be a great place for a future Ottawa Photography Meetup shoot. I would have to suggest this spot to our club organizers.

The model saw me first, as he was facing toward me as I reached the tracks. The photographer turned, following the model's gaze, saw me with my photo equipment, and I could see the puzzlement in his eyes. He wasn't expecting another photographer.

"Hi," he said, his words seemingly seeking an explanation for my presence.

"Hey," I said. "Are you guys going to be here for a while?"

"Yes." The answer was curt, to the point.

"I just want to shoot the bridge," I said. The model was lying in the line where I wanted to take my shot, but I was willing to adapt. "I can shoot past you."

I set up my tripod and composed my shot. I wanted to frame the plant growth with the tracks, getting as low to the ground as I could, but I found it hard to do without getting the model in my frame. So I got higher, and shot. The model was so close to the outside edge of my frame that to move even a millimetre to the right would capture his legs.

Here's the shot I took, with the arrow showing where the model was lounging.

I didn't feel comfortable, shooting toward where these three were working, so after a couple of shots, I scooped up my camera gear and headed past them, further out and over the river. I kept to the left of the tracks, thinking that I would stay out of their background.

I continued to shoot various angles of the bridge, but the further out I walked, the stronger the wind became, and I had to hold onto the tripod to keep it from blowing over. After about five minutes, I called it quits. I pulled up the legs on the tripod, slung the camera strap over my shoulder, and turned back.

It was then that I discovered that the model was nude.

We are biologically wired in a certain way. My first thought was of revulsion. Why couldn't it be a female model? I would ask if I could photograph her, I thought.

As quickly as that thought came to me, I was ashamed for thinking that. I have participated in a male-model shoot. The model in my shoot, though never completely naked, had stripped down to boxer briefs. It was a good shoot. But just because I'm not interested in photographing a nude male model, it was wrong for me to discount those who want to capture the male form.

As I walked past the shoot, my eyes remained trained on my feet. There was a good reason for this: walking on the tracks, I had to watch the ties, watch where I stepped, to ensure that I didn't trip, didn't hurt myself or, worse, my camera. I averted my eyes, as I walked past, merely uttering, "Have a good shoot," not waiting for an answer.

I left without looking back.

Normally, when I see a photographer at work, I'm curious to see the results of his or her efforts. Not in this case. And there's the double-standard. But I can't help it: I'm wired a certain way. I'm hard-coded.

But in this case, I can live with it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why Migraines Suck

Every so often, I suffer a migraine that keeps me in bed all day. Yesterday was one of those days. With yesterday's migraine, I was incapacitated. It was what I call a level-4 migraine.

Because I was unable to function yesterday, the last thing I wanted to do was to write a blog post. My brain was fried, anyway, and so, today I do what I do every once and a while: publish a repeat post.

If you know anything about me, I are no doubt aware that I suffer from migraines. These brain tempests first hit me when I was in my late teens. The very first time I experienced a migraine, I thought I was having the worst hangover of my life, only I hadn't touched a drop of alcohol in days. The pressure in my head was so severe that I was afraid I was having a stroke.

The frequency of my migraines was so low that I often wouldn't recognize when one was starting, would assume I was experiencing just a simple headache, and so it would be too late to stop them by the time I recognized what was happening to me. In a year, I could count on one hand the number of times that a migraine struck.

In my early to mid twenties, I experienced no migraines. Not one. The closest I got to feeling the effects of a migraine occurred when I was hung over, but believe me: I would gladly take a day of being hung over to an hour with a major migraine.

My migraines returned in the last half of my twenties, and came back with a vengeance. The first time that Lori saw me with a migraine, she was close to dialling 9-1-1. She thought I was dying, and wept as I pounded my head against the wall in a vain attempt to render myself unconscious, so that I wouldn't feel the pain in my exploding head.

I'm not sure what brought about the return of my migraines or what made them so intense. With these migraines, I was out of action for at least three or four hours, but most commonly, a day. And they were more frequent: it was rare for a month to transpire without an attack.

Equally a mystery was how the migraines disappeared for the two years that I lived in South Korea. Once again, the migraines vanished without a word. But Korea was a mysterious place, in that my seasonal allergies also disappeared. No sneezing or runny nose in the spring or fall.

Back in Canada, the migraines returned, as though they had been waiting for me and were anxious to make up for lost time. They were more frequent and varied in intensity. If I could catch the onset of a migraine, when it was in its infancy, I could take a couple of Advil tablets and nip it in the but. If I was late to medicating or if the migraine snuck up on me, especially when I was sleeping, there was no medicine in the world that could stop it.

In the past few years, I've also developed what my doctor has labelled as "optical migraines," where there is no pain but my vision fails me, where I see things as though I was wearing blinders, or had tunnel vision, where light would obscure everything. If an optical migraine strikes when I'm sitting in front of a computer screen, everything washes out. I can't see words on a page.

Technically, I'm blind.

I've begun rating the intensity of my migraines on a scale from 1 to 5, as follows:

  • Level 1: Optical—as I said, painless, but renders me blind.
  • Level 2: Mild—this is a steady throb with slightly blurred vision. I can function with a level-2 migraine, but I am not good company. I'm highly irritable. Advil will keep it at bay, but won't eliminate it unless I catch it before it kicks in.
  • Level 3: Minor—if I don't catch this migraine with meds before it settles in, I am sensitive to light, sound, and touch. I can't stop yawning. All I want to do is lie under my bed sheets and sleep it off. A level-3 migraine will last three or four hours. I experience one of these migraines once a week; luckily, I catch most of them before they become unmanageable.
  • Level 4: Major—this level of migraine often strikes a couple of times a month and often before I wake up. While taking medication during the early onset of a level-4 migraine will subdue the pain, it doesn't always eliminate the migraine. Often, a medicated level-4 attack is beaten down to a level-2 migraine. Symptoms are the same as with a level-3 migraine, but the pain is more intense. Coping with the pain exhausts me, and all I want to do is sleep. This type of migraine puts me out of action for a day, sometimes two.
  • Level 5: Full-blown—these migraines strike like a light switch. They come on rapidly and often take me by surprise if I'm awake. No medication can help. I am swept with nausea and often vomit from the pain. Even the slightest amount of light, sound, and touch is excruciating. It hurts to breathe because the sound of my breath and the movement of my rising and falling chest reverberates across my body. I will hold my breath to stop the pain. The sound of my heart and the blood coursing through me is deafening. After hours in sheer agony, I fall unconscious.
One of the great things about a level-5 migraine is that when I'm out cold, I'm out cold. I don't wake up until the migraine is over. And when I do wake up, I feel like a million bucks. I feel reborn, as light as a feather.

Mercifully, a level-5 migraine doesn't come often, maybe once a year. I can't remember the last time one hit, and that's a good thing. With any luck, I'll never have one again, but I know that's wishful thinking.

A migraine is a terrible thing. I wouldn't wish one on my worst enemy. Not a level-5 migraine, anyway.

How about you? Do you suffer from migraines? Tell me about your worst experience.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Music Monday: Band on the Run

When I was a teen, in high school, I was known for my love of wide ranges of music. I knew bands, I new their music. When I had a job, working for a paint and wallpaper store in a suburban shopping mall, I would spend most of my pay on the latest albums at Sam the Record Man. I'd make mixed tapes for myself and my friends, and there would always be music playing at my house.

I was a music junkie.

A friend of mine, Neil Talbot, would call me up sometimes, and when he heard my voice, he would start his own version of the game, Name That Tune. He would drop the needle onto some vinyl, a tune would play for a second or two, and he would then lift the needle and ask me what it was that he had played.

I had a success record of more than ninety percent.

Today, I still know my music, although I'm not as familiar with today's pop hits, even though my youngest daughter insists on playing Jump FM or Hot 89.9. At the office, in our washrooms, CHEZ 106 is piped through speakers—possibly, in an attempt to drown out the sound in the stalls.

It doesn't work.

I don't like commercial radio, because it seems that more time is spent listening to mind-numbing ads or goofball DJs than in listening to any music. But when CHEZ 106 does eventually get around to playing music, it's mostly the music from when I was younger. And I love it.

Lately, I've returned to playing the game that Neil ran with me on the phone, only this time, it's a bit different.

From the moment I enter the washroom, I have to identify the song that's playing as soon as I can. By the time I reach a urinal or stall, I have to be joining in the lyrics or at least mouthing the words, when the washroom is full.

It usually takes a second or two to identify the song, and I often join in the singing shortly thereafter.

One of the songs that is on a steady rotation, one that seems to play often when I enter the washroom (even though I don't always go at the same time), is the classic song from Paul McCartney and Wings, "Band on the Run." Sometimes, I'll sing along, even if there are others in the washroom.

Here's the song, with a YouTuber's rendition of a video. Enjoy.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Photo Friday: Bridge

It's called the Prince of Wales Bridge, but not many people know that. When one hears Prince of Wales in Ottawa, one often thinks of the road that starts at the north end of Dow's Lake, meanders between the Arboretum and the Central Experimental Farm, and runs south, along the west side of the Rideau River, towards North Gower.

But no, this abandoned, 135-year-old railway bridge spans the Ottawa River and crosses Lemieux Island, where the occasional pedestrian ignores the prohibition signs to stroll to Québec, or to come in the opposite direction, into Ontario.

It's rusted beams show graffiti artwork or the initials of those lovers who profess their enduring love.

In the summer, weeds cling to it as they reach for light over one another, adding to the sense of abandonment. In this state of deterioration, it's a beautiful site.

My thanks to friend and fellow photographer, James Peltzer, for reminding me of this picturesque spot. James was also the winner of this month's Where In Ottawa, when he correctly identified Mud Lake, between the Britannia Yacht Club and the water-filtration facilities, along the Ottawa River. Mud Lake has a nature trail and is one of Ottawa's bird sanctuaries.

Congratulations, James!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

This Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

I have to admit it: I'm scared shitless.

Not of the terrorists. Never have been. We haven't had a bona fide terrorist attack on Canadian soil and I'm not worried about walking down any streets. (Most streets, that is.)

But there is a group of people that is threatening to destroy my country, and its leader makes the Emperor of the Evil Galactic Empire look like a pussy.

On Sunday, Canadians learned that parliament has been dissolved and that the longest election campaign in modern Canadian history is underway. It must also be mentioned that it will be the most expensive campaign in our country's history, costing Canadian taxpayers tens of millions of dollars more than it would have, had the party that has boasted to be fiscally responsible called the election half as early.

As we head into this election campaign, let us remember a few points about the current government.
  • In the last budget, we were told that the books were balanced and that we would have more than a billion dollars in surplus. Thanks, of course, to dipping into the country's contingency fund. Only, after economic analysts have examined the budget in detail, we are actually in another deficit of more than a billion-and-a-half dollars. There is a $2.9B discrepancy.
  • The current government has claimed that it supports our war veterans, and yet it has cut support centres across the country.
  • Under the current government, our average annual growth of GDP has increased by only 1.6 percent, the smallest increase of the past nine leading parties.
  • Tough crime laws have been drafted, despite decreases in Canadian crime rates.
  • Canada's Economic Action Plan, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, which saw no real job creation.
  • The senate scandal, of which we've only scratched the surface.
  • The millions of dollars needlessly spent on repackaging the armed forces.
  • The cuts to our national broadcaster.
  • The stonewalling of the media.
  • The silencing of our scientists.
  • The so-called "Fair Election Act," which prohibits citizens living abroad from voting, prohibits Elections Canada from calling on citizens to vote, and restricts eligible voters from casting ballots without specific identification (gone is the vouching rule).
A recent study has been published, in which it shows that the Harper Regime has proven to be the worst government, economically, since World War II. You can read it here

The attack ads of the current government and its supporters have been childish and have attacked on personal levels, without providing a clear platform or vision.

Harper himself says some of the most ludicrous things:

What does this even mean? How are terrorists getting money from "honest, hardworking Canadians"? If you're hardworking and honest, you're not about to hand over your money to terrorists. I thought the honest and hardworking Canadians paid taxes to the government. Who uses it to fund needlessly long election campaigns.

I'm tired of the fearmongering. I'm tired of the waste of money. I'm tired of the lies and bullshit.

And I'm scared.

What scares the shit out of me is the fear that people will not get out and vote. The apathy toward elections is what got this regime into power.

Canada used to be respected the world over. We used to be peacekeepers, used to have a seat in the United Nations Security Council. We used to care about the environment.

All of that has gone over the past 10 years.

I want my Canada back.

Please: get out and vote. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


When you started reading The Brown Knowser, how did you find it?

Did you randomly surf the Internet for something to read or did you perform a Google search for a topic, and stumble upon my blog in the list of results? Did you start following me on Twitter or LinkedIn, and click my link to the daily post, or did you click the link in my bio?

Are you a Facebook friend who sees my blog in your feed?

I follow quite a few blogs. Some, I read because they're written by friends and have a feed or notification, such as Ottawa Rewind, Life in the hutch, and the beautiful musings of Miriam Lamey. Others, I've stumbled upon, such as The Bloggess, Sediment, and one of the oldest blogs that I follow (although, less so these days), The Sassy Curmudgeon.

How did I find these blogs? I searched the Blogs of Note section of Blogger and I clicked a link at the top of my own blog.

Which link? This one:

Clicking the Next Blog link is like spinning the Wheel of Fortune. Or like a box of chocolates. Or like engaging the Infinite Improbability Drive.

As I wrote this post, I clicked Next Blog and was taken to a blog called irrationale, then travelled to Footballtv, and then on to Everything Beautiful.

Sure, the majority of these random, next blogs, aren't to my interest, don't align with my beliefs, or are even in English, but every once and a while, I land on a blog where I will spend a few minutes, will read a post or two, or may even return to from time to time.

So, how about you? Will you go to the next blog? (If you do, don't forget to come back here!)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Where In Ottawa: L

L is for Love.

And Leisure.

And Life.

L, in Roman numerals, is 50, which is the number of Where In Ottawa challenges that started more than four years ago. It's something that I love to do, as I explore this city and find more of the life around Ottawa.

Today, being a day of leisure for those who work in Ottawa, here's the latest challenge.

The rules have almost always been the same:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Clues will also be accompanied by a new photo with a new view of the location. While the clues will accumulate in the right-hand column, the photos won't. Only one photo will appear each day and will replace the previous photo.
  • If the challenge has not been solved by 17:00 EST on Friday, July 7, the challenge will end and I will reveal the location on Monday, July 10.
  • There is no prize for winning the challenge. You only come away with a feeling of pride, having proved that you know this city.
  • The winner will be announced at the first available opportunity.
Ready? Here's the 50th photo.

Think you know Ottawa? Prove it! And good luck.