Things, stuff, and other items of interest

December 25, 2010

Bah Humbug II - The Sequel

It's that time of the year again, and I've been looking forward to today with my usual level of seasonal cynicism. I was particularly impressed this year with the local grocery store that had Christmas decorations up before Rememberance Day. That's setting something of a new low. An Ottawa radio station that shall not be linked to or even named, apparently hate their listeners so much that they felt they needed to play non-stop Christmas tunes twenty-four hours a day for the entire month of December. That's some serious holiday hate right there.

Thankfully the shopping is over and gifts have been exchanged with no hideous mishaps. As per usual, I've made out like a bandit and have sworn to be more diligent for next year. This is as close to a yearly resolution as I get, and I've never once successfully pulled it off. Procrastination is a harsh mistress.

The post-Christmas ballet of family members in transit has already begun, and will continue over the next few days. I sit in a slightly inebriated state contemplating the profound thoughts that tend to bubble up this time of year. I've got a great family, and my friends are without equals. A magnificent bunch that remind me how fortunate I am on a frequent basis. To quote an incredibly sappy film that I've never actually watched:
 No man is a failure that has friends.
- Clarence (Played by Henry Travers) from "It's a Wonderful Life"
Directed by: Frank Capra, released in 1946.

That's about as much sentimentality as I can stomach, so lets get on with the goods shall we? Keeping with the Christmas tradition, I've been collecting a variety of weird and odd ball Christmas links for the last month. These are some of the best I've found:

Lets start off with the lads from "Rare Exports" as they were such a hit last year:

Can't forget to include the Christmas geekery:

Found on Reddit, would love to link to the source if anyone knows it.

Here's a new one from directors: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert:

Happy Holidays from DANIELS on Vimeo.

One that caught my eye from CakeFilm this year:

A great clip from Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat 5th Grade in Quinhagak, Alaska that doesn't quite fit with the 'oddball' theme, but it's definitely worth including. I'm not normally one for religious stuff, but I thought this clip was just excellent:

And we'll finish off with another not-so-weird clip, from a talented fella rocking the Kalimba:

Ugh... that's about as much happy holiday crap as I can handle. Merry Christmas folks, I hope you all have a good one. Next year this may turn into a Festivus post.

November 11, 2010

We remember.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

- Written May 3rd, 1915 by:
Born: Nov. 30 1872, Died: Jan. 28 1918.

Today's not a day for my stories or rants, so I'll keep this brief. 

Thank you to those who didn't make it back from places you probably never wanted to be. 
Thank you to those who did make it back, and had to find a way to live with the memories. 
Thank you to those who stayed at home, worrying, wondering, and waiting long hours. 
Thank you to those who serve today, like so many who have served before you. 

To those in the Canadian Foces, past and present: You make me fiercely proud. Honour, duty, valour, these are just words. It's your actions that speak volumes, that give those words meaning and give the rest of us hope. 

We must remember. If we do not, the sacrifice of those [...] Canadian lives will be meaningless. They died for us, for their homes and families and friends, for a collection of traditions they cherished and a future they believed in; they died for Canada. The meaning of their sacrifice rests with our collective national consciousness; our future is their monument.
- Heather Robertson,
A Terrible Beauty, The Art of Canada at War, Toronto, Lorimer, 1977
We remember:

  • The Boer War - 1899 to 1902 - 7,368 Canadians served. 277 of them died.  252 were wounded.
  • World War I - 1914 to 1918 - 619,636 Canadians served. 66,655 of them died. 172,950 were wounded.
  • World War II - 1939 to 1945 - 1,100,000 Canadians served. 42,042 of them died. 55,000 were wounded.
  • The Korean War - 1951 to 1953 - 26,791 Canadians served. 516 of them died. 1,042 were wounded.
  • The Gulf War - 1990 to 1991 - More than 4,000 Canadians served. None died. 
  • The Afghanistan War - 2001 to present day - 152 Canadian lives lost. 1,442 have been wounded as of December of 2009.
  • Peace Keeping missions:
    • Egypt
    • Congo
    • Indonesia
    • Cyprus
    • Israel
    • Syria
    • Lebanon
    • Namibia
    • Western Sahara
    • Cambodia
    • Somalia
    • Croatia
    • Haiti
    • Republic of Macedonia
    • Bosnia
    • Central African Republic
    • East Timor
    • Kosovo
    • Sierra Leone
    • Ethiopia
    • Eritrea
    • Sudan
    • Darfur
And other locales around the world.

I would encourage everyone to take a look at the work of Photo Journalist Pete Fisher. Mr. Fisher has made a magnificent website with which he documents his pictures of the repatriations of Canadian Forces members, and their journey along the Highway of Heroes. Mr Fisher has recently started a petition to have the Royal Canadian Mint commemorate these veterans and the highway in form of a coin. Please add your name to the petition, if you feel it's a worthy cause. You'll find my name on there at position #391.


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori

- Written in October of 1917,
Born: Mar. 18 1893, Died: Nov. 4 1918

October 31, 2010

The Zombies are coming... actually, they've already been and gone.

Ever since I grew old enough that the act of walking around asking complete strangers to give me free candy seemed sort of weird, Halloween has for the most part lost it's appeal for me. Now this doesn't prevent me from enjoying the work others put into it though. Case in point: the photos in this entry were taken last weekend during the Ottawa Zombie Walk

I wasn't really too sure what to expect. If I'm going to be completely honest, this happened over a week ago, and I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it. I would guess the numbers around a thousand people maybe? I've never been very good at estimating the number of people, zombies in a crowd, mob.

The zombie theme really seems to be catching on these days. A local editor / group (?) edited an old zombie flick into a 'choose your own adventure' style series of clips on YouTube.

Since this is turning into something of a link-fest post, you owe it to yourself to check out this online comic website: "His Face All Red" by Emily Carroll. I found it earlier tonight on reddit, and thought it was pretty impressive. 

In the mean while, Happy Halloween folks, and keep an eye out for the zombies.

Check out all of my zombie pics here on flickr. To date, they are far and away my most popular shots on flickr.

October 12, 2010

Fire Hydrants, the nature of art, and my staggering ignorance

Not too long ago, I sent out a couple of tweets accompanied by a couple of pics. Not long there after, I did it again. All of the photos were of some new sculptures that the City of Ottawa had commissioned from a couple of local artists: Marcus Kucey Jones and Ryan Lotecki. The photos & tweets are linked below. Click on the pics to see the original tweets and larger images.

If you'd like a chance to see all of the sculptures, I'd encourage you to go for a stroll from one end of Wellington St. west to the other. It's not a terribly long walk, just barely shy of two kilometers, and while enjoying your stroll you'll be able to check out all eighteen of these recent artistic additions. Or, if you prefer a bit of a short cut, local photographer Justin Van Leeuwen has diligently catalogued all eighteen in a photo on his flickr account, which you can find here.

I'll admit,  that I was at something of a loss for words when I saw my first of these eye catching artistic installations near the coffee shop on Wellington that I refuse to name. A fire hydrant, with a baby seat perched on top of it, all carved from one solid piece of italian marble. Trust me when I say that the picture above doesn't do it justice.

Now friends, I'll freely and willingly admit that I am not the most sophisticated urbanite in the vast municipality of Ottawa. I'm not as refined and cultured as many of the illustrious residents of the National Capital Region. Hard though it may be to believe, I am not wholly uneducated when it comes to artistic endeavours. I have over the years toyed with the creative process. I've played instruments, I've painted, sculpted, drawn and more recently begun toying with photography. While perhaps I am overly generous in my own admittedly bias opinion, I prefer to think of myself as marginally elevated from the knuckle dragging Cro-magnon man who could kill a woolly mammoth just by headbutting it with his enormous cranial plate. The arrival of these eighteen 'pieces d'arts' threw me into something of a quandry.

I've spent the last few weeks considering these sculptures, then pondering my reaction to them. I've spoken with friends both very much in favour of them, and those who feel they are not the most prudent choice when it comes to expenditures from the public purse. What really struck me after speaking with friends and passers-by on the street, is that while most people who had seen them had an opinion, not many knew much about them. So I did some research and this is what I found:

These eighteen pieces were commissioned recently (not sure precisely when) by the city of Ottawa as a result of the following policy:
"One percent of funds for new municipal spaces is put aside for public art in order to beautify the space and make art accessible to everyone."
This same policy goes on to state:
"A jury of art-specialists choose the art based on its appropriateness for the space and on the response from community consultation."
There was apparently a chance for the public to examine the proposals, and give voice to their opinion:
"The public is invited to meet the artists, view the proposals and record their comments during the public meetings. The jury of art specialists will take the public’s comments into consideration when it meets again to choose the winning design."
Unfortunately I was unable to find out who the illustrious art specialists are who comprise the jury, nor was I able to ascertain the date of the original gathering where the public had the chance to either offer their support, or voice their dissent to artistic proposals.

From what I've been able to find online, the budget allocated to this particular commission was some where between $225,000.00 & $250,000.00.  Which works out to approximately $12,500.00 to 13,888.00 per sculpture. It would seem that italian marble isn't cheap. Who knew?

In this article from June 2008, the artists are credited with describing their choice of the fire hydrant motif as:
 "[...] the fire hydrant as a sculptural form because of its interesting shape and for the uncelebrated, but very necessary, role it plays in the urban landscape."
- from: 'Wellington to sport that hydrant look' 
Where as on the City of Ottawa site, the artists are quoted directly:
Marcus Kucey Jones and Ryan Lotecki chose the fire hydrant as sculptural form “as it is rooted in its familiarity in the urban landscape. It is an object found in every community connecting people in an uncelebrated yet vital manner.”
The site goes on to describe the overall motif rather generously:
"The hydrants will present the viewer with a sense of humour, playfulness, and historically reference the area."
Huh. Playful, humourous, historical, uncelebrated yet vital. These are [EXPLETIVE DELETED] fire hydrants people. Fire hydrants! It's a piece of municipal emergency equipment. Men and women in large loud trucks come barreling down streets and attach hoses to them in order to try to save burning buildings. Vital? Ok, I'll give you that one. Uncelebrated? Not unlike the valiant street gutter I suppose. Oh woe is me, filled with grief for the heroic man hole cover. What tragedy has yonder light post known? Seems a touch overly dramatic don't you think? Historical... that's a reach and you know it. Playful and humourous? Now you're just making shit up.

The one overwhelming theme that seems to have come up with nearly everyone I talked to about these sculptures were that they queued visual triggers that reminded the individual of portions of the human anatomy that are not normally discussed openly in mixed company. I'm not quite sure if that reveals more about the sculpture, or the person looking at it. I'll skip this one and move on for now.

Look, don't get me wrong, I'm not against the concept of public art. On the contrary, for the most part I'm inclined to support it. There are many pieces around town that I'm quite fond of. I've even grown fond of Louise Bourgeois's "Maman", another controversial piece at the time of installation if memory serves. I'll happily admit that the quality of work and craftsmanship that have gone into these pieces are extremely impressive. It's the over all fire hydrant motif that I'm left shaking my head at.

We just paid a tidy sum to line a city street, one which is already decked out with functioning fire hydrants (which cost a approximately one tenth of the price of their marble neighbours if the internet is to be trusted), with more fire hydrants. They're like large metamorphic rock shrines of doggy toilets. You want to know why the lowly fire hydrant is uncelebrated? Primarily because one does not normally celebrate banality. When was the last time you celebrated getting your tires rotated? How about paying your hydro bill? Doing your taxes? Taking out the garbage?

A friend & former coworker of mine came to the defense of the sculptures immediately after my first tweet that started all of this off. "The point of art,' she said 'is to provoke conversation." If that's the legend by which we measure then these have been an complete success. If you were aiming for humourous, playful and historic? I personally think you missed the mark. I'll leave you with a definition of art taken from the television show "Northern Exposure" as delivered by the character "Chris Stevens" played by one Mr. John Corbett:

"You're confusing product with process. Most people, when they criticise, whether they like it or they hate it, they're talking about product. Now that's not art, that's the result of art.
Art to the degree of whatever we can get a handle on, and I'm not sure we really can, is a process.
Begins in here [points to his heart], here [points to his head], with these [wiggles his fingers] and these [points to his eyes].
Now Picasso said: 'The pure plastic act is only secondary. What really counts is the drama of the pure plastic act. That exact moment when the universe comes out of the self, and meets it's own destruction.'"
- Chris Stevens, as played by John Corbett
in Northern Exposure - 5x18 "Fish Story"
Written by: Jeff Melvoin, Directed by: Bill D'Elia.

August 17, 2010

Fortissimo, the Canadian Forces, and a little perspective.

 This past weekend, I had opportunity to bear witness to a spectacle of military precision, and remarkable talent. It's had something of a lasting impact, and it's given me a bit of perspective that I think I had misplaced. Over the span of three days, I hung out on Parliament Hill in the evenings watching as the Canadian Ceremonial Guard, Army, Navy, and Air Force, along with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the United States Marine Corp put on a show of music, marching precision, and entertainment the likes of which I've never seen before. It was called Fortissimo, and it was magnificent.

I went three nights in a row, mainly in the interest of trying to snap some decent pics but also because quite honestly, it was really impressive. As I watch the performance for the second and third time, it started to dawn on me just how much time must have gone into practicing these maneuvers. The effort and the work that went into each different segment of the hour and a half long show must have been staggering. Then it occurred to me the surrealistic nature of the juxtaposition between the marching bands, and the war that's going on in Afghanistan. What an odd combination of skill sets in this spectrum of military services. I think I may have sorted part of it out. Thanks in a large part to a fella I met down on the Hill during the performance.

Corporal Pete Gray had the unenviable task of dealing with the members of the public who felt they should have been sitting in the portion of the lawn that was reserved for family and friends of Canadian Forces members, Veterans, foreign state dignitaries, and so forth. He was doing this all while wearing his dress uniform in what was an extremely warm and humid evening. I was standing a few feet away from Corporal Gray and bore witness to his infinite patience and tact as he deftly out maneuvered some of the appallingly bad attempts by people to weasel their way over the rope. He never cracked, he wasn't rude or abrupt, and he gave each person the attention they so obviously felt they were owed. During a brief interlude in the onslaught he was enduring, I intruded on his momentary peace and made a point of mentioning that his patience was admirable. To his credit, he didn't respond with a vitriolic complaint that I'm certain I would have let fly had I been in his place. Just the opposite, he seemed delighted that there was an abundance of interest. Over the next few minutes before the show got started, we discussed different aspects of the performance, the composition of the different factions of the Canadian Forces present, and he let loose morsels of insight into the maneuvers and those performing them that I wouldn't have understood or realized had he not explained them. He did all of this while continuing to fend off members of the public that either presumptuously ducked under the rope, or willfully ignored the very clearly marked off areas for public seating.

In short, Corporal Gray turned a fantastic show into a once in a life time spectacle for me just by allowing me to join him in his enthusiasm and appreciation. As I've reflected on the events of the weekend over the last couple of days I've made something of a realization in terms of that odd juxtaposition I mentioned earlier. I had somewhat typically misunderstood the point of the entire affair. I had arrogantly assumed that this spectacle was for our (the viewing publics') benefit, that it was to serve as some sort of glorified pep rally, stir up national pride and so forth. Maybe it was, but that was it's secondary or tertiary benefit at best. No, I think it's primary role had nothing to do with us. I think it had everything to do with the men and women marching. It was a pep rally of sorts, but not for us, for them. And deservedly so.

I know I get moody and whiny after a few days working on a project that I don't think is going to spec. Imagine working on one for eight years, with mixed results, and watching one hundred and fifty-one of your coworkers die in the process. Imagine doing that while the future of the project that you care deeply for and are very much invested in, is debated and mis-managed by people who don't fully understand it and are more interested in protecting their own job security than they are in the out come of said project. Imagine that your project has the potential to help hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. To improve their way of life so significantly that you are willing to risk your own to accomplish this goal. It is very literally a matter of life and death, and you are required to perform under an umbrella of uncertainty and stress for eight long years. All the while, maintaining little to no hope of that situation changing because the nature of your project depends on its' popularity with a cynical public that has grown tired of it while never really grasping it's true significance. I don't know about you, but I don't think I could handle it.

So it's with the clarity of hindsight that I'd like to pass along my thanks to the men and women of the Canadian Forces that paid me the honour of letting me join their celebration. I enjoyed every minute of it. We probably don't say it enough, but we appreciate the work you're doing, and we are fiercely proud of you. Thank you, truly and sincerely.

Here's some pics of the show for those of you who may have missed it:













To see all of the pics, check out the set on flickr.

July 29, 2010

Breaking biker taboos -OR- Why I wave at scooters
It used to be, that if you used the term 'Biker' to describe someone, everyone knew precisely what you meant. Male, independent, tough, a casual regard or disregard for society and it's norms, and most importantly: free. Utterly and completely one hundred percent free. The only worries that burdened his brow were gas stops and speed limits, and the speed limits didn't really bother him that much.

Or at least, that's the romantic notion of a biker anyhow. I'm not entirely convinced it was all that accurate. I've been riding motorcycles for a few years now, and I have to admit, I've never been able to wear the label 'Biker' all that well. It doesn't suit me, and it never will. I'm not so delusional as to think that will ever change.  This is neither good nor bad, it simply is. Oh, I meet some, maybe even most of the qualifications. 
  • Male? - Check.
  • Independent? - More or less. I like to think so anyhow. Though in the interest of historical accuracy I can not in good conscience claim that this has always been the case. I have some very patient parents. 
  • Tough? Well, I suppose that probably depends on your definition of tough. 
    • Scars, burns and broken bones I've had plenty. 
    • Once or twice, I've been kicked out of a bar or two. Usually peacefully.
    • I've had to work as security for private parties and corporate retailers.
    • I've worked as a butcher and hauled dead animal carcasses all across Northumberland county. On one occasion I was completely covered from head to toe in moose blood. It didn't bug me. Oh I wasn't happy about it, but I didn't freak out either.
    • I'm familiar with what emergency room doctors refer to as "Boxers' Fracture" and can confirm it hurts as much on the right hand as it does the left.
Contrary wise:
    • I can't talk about my deceased dog in public for fear of a complete emotional break down.
    • "Worlds' Greatest Dog"
    • I'll freely admit to tearing up every time I watch Band of Brothers.
    • The Princess Bride remains one of my favourite movies. (One of Mister Roussimoff's finest films.)
    • Every time I hear "In Flanders Fields" by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, I get more than a little choked up.
    • I nearly lost my lunch all over a doctor probably ten years my junior while he tended to my in-grown toe nail.

Thought I had an iron stomach for the gross stuff. Eye witnessing toe surgery is probably the single most disgusting thing I have ever seen.Tue May 04 20:23:46 via web
    So do I qualify as tough? I don't know about that,... but I'm no sissy (usually).
    • A casual regard / disregard for society and it's norms? - I have a yo-yo collection, need I say more?
    • Free? - That's a tough one. 
      • Free thinker? - Sure.
      • Free spirit? - If applied as it's used in contemporary dialect, probably not. 
      • Politically free? - As much as any other Canadian.
      • Legally free? - Yup. No convictions to date. w00t! 
    Three out of four ain't bad. I'm as free as anyone who decides to participate in society, pay bills, seek & maintain gainful employment, and eat regularly.
    So there you are. I may or may not meet most of the classically romantic requirements to wear to badge of 'Biker', and still it doesn't fit. Who am I kidding? I could be a fully patched MC member, riding a chopped hog down route sixty-six while the ends of my handle-bar mustache waved in the air behind me having long ago given up wearing a brain bucket, and I STILL wouldn't claim the title of 'Biker'. It just doesn't fit. Like a fat man in a speedo, like a plus sized gal in spandex, like the proverbial round peg in the proverbial square hole... it doesn't work.

    But then, I'm not alone there. Look around you next time your driving down the road and someone on a motorcycle passes you. Full face helmet on a cruiser? Reflective jacket? Reflective adhesive tape on the helmet / bike / jacket? Reflective vest? High beams or light bar? Full leathers in the middle of july? None of that's very 'Biker'. It is however very, very smart. What about the scooter riders? You just know that the real bikers look at these guys and start grinding their teeth. A more emasculating motorized vehicle I'm not sure I can fathom and yet in Europe and asiatic countries they are highly regarded as versatile, economical, practical vehicles. A buddy of mine has a very crude & obscene joke about scooters, that I will not repeat here because this ain't that kind of a blog. It is genuinely funny if you don't mind an occasional round of gutter jumping. North Americans would be well served if we started to hold the much maligned scooter in higher regard.

    Motorcycle riders have a custom. You've probably seen us do it. When we pass another rider who's going in the opposite direction, we give them a little wave. "Hey brother, nice bike. Ride safe." All of that in a simple gesture, offered and accepted among equals. It's something of an unspoken rule that this wave is proffered up only to other motorcycle riders. I have to confess that I regularly break this biker taboo. I freely admit to the fact that I give the motorcycle wave to scooter riders. Hell, I once gave the wave to a cyclist. My reasoning is pretty simple. So long as they're on two wheels, pounding the same pavement in the same traffic, and facing the same dangers that I am.... all the more power to them. They're as worthy of the wave as anyone else. Who am I to judge a fellow rider by the size of his or her bike / scooter? In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I draw the line at the imbeciles riding the 25cc electric bikes on the road in the gutter. If you can't master the absurdly simple concepts of defensive riding, don't ride. No wave for you, you pathetic excuse for a rider.

    Riding a motorcycle has become a hobby. A pass time. What was once a life style for the famous and infamous one percenters has become an after work outing or a weekend get away. Times change, it's inevitable. Traditions eventually fade. It's sad, but it's also true. There are still a few hold outs, some never-say-die bikers who will ride into eternity laughing in deaths' face and partying until the end of time. To them, I can only wish them well and urge them to ride hard & ride safe. For the rest of the riders, I'll give you a wave on the road when I see you. Scooter, motorcycle or trike, I don't care. As for those of you in four wheeled vehicles, keep a look out for us and for crying out loud check your blind spots.

    July 20, 2010

    The G20 Summit, Cops vs. Hippies, and Civil Liberties

    Blogs are kind of annoying at times. This writing on a schedule thing isn't really agreeing with me. You may have noticed the lack of frequency of the posting as of late. I probably should have given you guys a heads up on that. It's summer, the bike's on the road and the sun's been shining a lot lately which makes for some long over due riding weather. Conversely, this also results in some rather piss-poor blog-updating weather. Isn't the first time, won't be the last,... or maybe it will.

    I don't mind admitting that I've been struggling with a couple of topics lately. I usually try to keep things reasonably topical on here, the only problem with that is lately all the topical stuff that I'm reading about tends to induce bone-chilling depression. The last few weeks have seen the mostly Canadian media go positively ape-shit over (A.) the G20 summit, and then (B.) all of the Cops versus Hippies fall out that all too predictably followed.

    I don't mind saying that I struggled on this one. I've sort of ran the entire spectrum on it. I started out siding with the protesters, then I kind of came around to siding with the cops, and now I'm somewhere in the middle. Conclusions I've drawn from the whole event:
    1. Mr. Harper REALLY REALLY REALLY hates Toronto.
    2. The protesters are either the bravest most selfless individuals in that city, or the dumbest. I suspect the numbers would break down something along the lines of:
      • 10% - Died in the wool true believers. Either painfully naive, or oblivious to the fact that their protests are wholly useless in terms of helping them advance any of their causes. No matter how deserving, silly, honourable, fictional, just, or deluded that cause may be.
      • 10% - Reporters & bloggers that are either fearless and extremely dedicated, or very stupid. Either way, they're all there to get a story. For the record, I tend to believe the former rather than the latter. Though there were examples of both categories present.
      • 5% - Black Block. To call these guys anarchists is a disservice to anarchists. With full knowledge of just how old a curmudgeon this will make me sound like, I'll say it anyways: They're a bunch gutless punks.
      • 75% - Moronic protest tourists, who like so many rubber-neckers on the highway have to slow down an see what the all the fuss is about. Loathsome creatures, that I'd like to think I'm better than but can almost guarantee that I'm not.
    3. Cops are human. Not all cops are bad, and sadly, not all cops are good. I don't doubt for a second that some cops crossed a line. I don't even doubt that some of them leaped across it willingly. I don't believe that applies to all of them, but the over-zealous cops with violent tendencies are no easier to identify than the Black Block asshats are while marching in the middle of a bunch of hippies. Unfortunately, I find difficult to maintain any sort of faith in any of the three (I think) investigations that have resulted from the weekend. Call me a cynic.
    4. This guy kicks ass:

    So far the Canadian public seems far more outraged at the price tag that's accompanying this little shindig than they are at the tactics used by the police officers present. While trying not to belittle the concerns regarding the latter, it's not difficult to see why Canadians are having a hard time swallowing the billion dollar price tag. From the fake lake fiasco and the burning cop cars to the rather spectacular lack of progress resulting from the actual summit, this thing was a cluster-[DUCK] of massive proportions. At the end of the day, the only ones who walked away feeling like they got anything done was Mr. Sarkozy and the members of the press who had the foresight to hop on Twitter and offer an invitation to their followers for a front line view of the goings-on. 
    The complaints we’ve received so far raise serious concerns about this regulation and the way it was communicated, and I think there is a very strong public interest in finding out exactly what happened and how that affected the rest of the events of the G20 weekend.
    - Ontario Ombudsman André Marin
    One last item for the record; that bit about the last minute regulation being passed under the Public Works Protection Act in regards to a five meter perimeter around the security barrier? That was a really scummy move Mr. Blair, very scummy indeed. If the media is to be believed, and reports are in fact accurate, then it's more than a little frightening just how easily some of those in power were all too happy to intentionally mislead in order to assume extra powers. Temporary or not. If I've misunderstood the facts on this, I would be genuinely grateful to have someone point it out to me.
    Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my lords, that where laws end, tyranny begins.
    - William Pitt the Elder, from a House of Lords speech in 1770.
    Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    - Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887
    The weeks following the big event have seen even more protests, in cities all across Canada. It's quite something. People are rallying together to show their support for a second wave of protests that took place, and are still taking place in Toronto that were meant to register the displeasure of the original protesters with the conduct of the police on that weekend in late June. To be honest, I find this kind of silly. If the protesters at the actual event were ineffective, then what does that make these people? It seems like it's a exercise in mutual ego stroking. That may be a little harsh, I'm not entirely unsympathetic. I understand the rationale that if we don't protect our civil liberties then we don't deserve them, particularly when viewed through some of the draconian security measures of recent days. It just seems like one of those times when you should pick your battles. Maybe, just maybe,... marching en masse down Queen Street in the provincial capital isn't all that effective a manner of supporting your particular cause. I'm not entirely clear on how it helps to free Tibet, or stop off-shore oil drilling, or provide clean drinking water and adequate health care to those who need it.

    I'd be curious to find out what percentage of the protesters, and cops for that matter, voted in the last few federal elections. Do they take the time to research the causes they march in favour of or are they just along for the ride? I'd suggest we conduct some sort of census or survey, but that's a whole other problem for another day.

    I mentioned earlier that I struggled with this topic, and I guess it shows that I still am. I'm not satisfied with where things sit, and I doubt I ever will be. I don't mind sharing with you that I was, and remain rather conflicted with whether or not I should even bother writing this post. When it comes right down to it, I wasn't there. I'm getting all my information second hand if I'm lucky. I suspect it'd be difficult for those involved to cut through the bullshit on this, let alone for those of us playing arm-chair quarterback  from the side lines. Ultimately, I guess I side with both sides. I admire and appreciate the protesters for their passion and idealism, though I question their foresight and common sense. I admire and appreciate the police for the dedication to their duty and for enforcing the rule of law when it was unpopular, though I question their methods and leadership decisions

    At the end of the day, this is just another blog among thousands written by just another wind bag who wasn't there and didn't see it first hand. Hindsight is always 20/20 after all. The best suggestion I heard to date along those lines was that if they had kept the entire affair in Huntsville, they could have saved half a billion bucks. Send all the cops home, and go around to all the stores in town and buy out the towns' entire inventory of bug spray. The mosquitoes would take care of the rest.

    June 29, 2010

    Other peoples talent

    Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
    Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
    - January 1849 - Les Guêpes
    Hope you guys like the new look. I started fiddling with the new changes that Blogger implemented to the template editor a week or two ago, and ended up with this. I still haven't decided if I like it or not, but people seem to be responding to it well so it'll be here for a little while anyhow. At least until the next time I get an itch to overhaul the title pic again.

    No stories or overly researched geek posts today. Instead a few links to some photos I took back in April of this year around town. Some of you may have already seen them, as I posted them up on Flickr a while ago and even went so far as to post a link on twitter to them. I was pleasantly surprised when Mr. Gower from Ottawa Start then retweeted my message which caused something of a tsunami in my little digital duck pond. I'm always a kind of surprised when someone comments on the site or in this case a photo without me explicitly telling them to check it out, then hovering over them and poking them in the forehead until they do.

    I've found graffiti fascinating since I was a kid. I remember long car / truck / camper rides across Canada looking at the Canadian Shield and the various love notes scrawled across it and other similar rock faces.

    • "Tony loves Becky" followed by:
    • "Tony loves Susan" followed by:
    • "Tony loves Amy" followed by:
    • "For a good time call Tony!"  

    In hindsight, I suppose there's a fine line between vandalism and graffiti, but then like so many things it comes down to being a matter of perspective. Or in Tony's case, a crate of spray paint and a box of condoms (hopefully), and possibly a few shots of penicillin.

    Thankfully, the City of Ottawa has set aside a few walls about town that have designated legal graffiti walls. Basically a few spots where the masters of the spray can are able to go and practice their art without fear of it being white washed or covered over the next day.

    Without further delay,... I offer you a collection of shots from Ottawa's graffiti walls:













    June 23, 2010

    Barber shops, grievous head wounds, and a word from David Mitchell

      I like to think that I'm a pretty easy going guy. A fair description of my life long outlook in regards to what passes for my 'style' could be described as: "uncomplicated". If one were inclined to be snooty or snotty for that matter, one may go so far as to describe it as lethargic, or even simple. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I've never been one to be confined by the passing fancies of fashion or the current concerns of haute couture. This however should not be confused with apathy or laziness on my part. On the contrary, while my appearance may radiate a profound break with what passes as conventional standards or "good taste", rest assured that my somewhat disheveled and unkempt appearance is a carefully crafted facade designed with both purpose and utility in mind.

    If by now, you're thinking to yourself: "BULLSHIT!", you're probably about half right. Fashion is and always has been something of a mystic art to me. I've never pretended to understand it, and quite honestly, I've never been inclined to try. When it comes to design, I nearly always favour function over form. This holds true as much for my computer as it does my dinner jacket. Oh don't judge me too harshly, I'm not a complete ignoramous. For what it's worth, I'm fully aware of differences between a half windsor knot, and a full windsor knot, and I can tie either on demand. I've been imprisoned in a tuxedo more often than I care to recall (more than twice, less than twenty). I currently own a variety of tie pins (just don't ask me to find them) and have on occasion have even been seen in cuff links. I own, and have used shoe polish. Furthermore,  I'm singularly aware that dress shoes rival a broken collar bone on the agony per square centimeter scale, and last but certainly not least... I have no idea how to tie a bow tie, but I am enlightened enough to know that there is no situation, no celebration nor tragedy yet experienced in all of recorded history, or likely to be experienced in the millennia to come that would require me to wear one.

    Oh, I could rant until I was blue in the face about the previously stalwart standards of masculinity that our society now seems to regard as fluid. Were I not burdened with an over abundance of machismo I would weep for the day that the term "Metrosexual" entered out collective vernacular. There is an entire sub-culture of post adolescent men that consider it completely acceptable to adorn their respective visages with the rendered animal suet that was once reserved for the fairer sex. All of this as a result of and directly related to an overly attentive attitude towards fashion and personal grooming. [Please note my choice of words, I chose "grooming" not "hygiene".] I could, with little to no prodding, rail against the marketing firms, the cosmetic corporate behemoths, and the army of prancing sissies that make up the economic forces that perpetuate this open-handed, limp-wristed slap to the face of the standards of masculinity that (most of) your grandfathers proudly upheld. I don't think I'm alone in holding this attitude, and while neither Mr. Mitchell or "Bulldog Natural Grooming" gave me permission to use this following youtube clip, neither did they tell me not to... nor did they turn off embedding.

    Yes indeed, I could rant on and on, but I won't (any more). This post isn't about that. It's not about shifting societal norms, or fashion deviants, or even my own freakishly apprehensive terror of all things frilly. No good reader, this post is something of an homage to a bastion of tradition. A place of calm for the weary wanderer. The last line of defense against the army of prancing sissy-boys. This post is about your neighbourhood barber shop, why you should always tip the man holding the scissors, and about the worst hair cut I've ever received.

    Gentlemen, (and I say "Gentlemen" not to exclude the Ladies, but rather out of a near 100% certain belief that they have long ago stopped reading) it is your solemn duty to go to visit your local barber and bestow upon him the only gift you have to offer him: your patronage. Even now, like so many blue whales, polar bears, and three toed pygmy tree-sloths; they are an endangered species that we risk losing if we don't take action immediately. As far as I can tell, we've perpetrated this mascu-ronmental catastrophe upon ourselves as a result of three separate but equally critical mistakes.
    1. We have been lulled in a sense of uni-sex hair salon complacency by the likes of the industry equivalent of big box store family friendly hair cutting emporiums.
    2. The resurgence of the dreaded mullet - the hair cut equivalent of a zombie apocalypse.
    3. The overly cautious approach of safety councils and alleged "Doctors" in regards to the straight blade razor.
    The sad truth is fellas, that the glory days of barber shop dominance are behind us. Realistically, it's unlikely that we'll ever return to the abundance of spittoons and ash trays that used to adorn our homes-away-from-home. Oh sure, I hear you whining about gum cancer and second hand smoke but who doesn't look back with fondness on the acrid smell of death that accompanied every new hair cut? Ok, that may have been a bad example, but it doesn't detract from the epicenter of simple respectful masculinity that now seems to be headed for that long walk off of a short plank.

    It's not just your duty gents, it's your privilege and honour to require the service of the noble barber. Lest we not forget our proud balding brothers, and offer up a moment of silence for their follicularly challenged noggins. I don't mind telling you that I myself once walked among the chrome domes, shining brightly into that barberless abyss. What follows is not for the feint of heart. A brief tale of drunken shenanigans, brutal mutilation, and my brief experience as a hairless pariah.

    Some years ago, I and a few of my friends had gathered for a night of revelry and celebration. If memory serves, I believe the cause of our jubilant jocularity was that it was Thursday and a local beer garden had recently instituted a very popular policy of two dollar shots. Together with two of my most trusted amigos, as well as our respective lady friends, we set off in search of libations.

    Rounds were purchased, time and time again, only to be followed by more rounds, and then a few dozen more after that. Suffice it to say that we were well stewed, and while our brain cells died slow, agonizing deaths by the thousands, our conversation took a turn that I can honestly say I had not expected. It was then, during a moment that would be very much regretted a mere twelve hours later, that I mentioned something hindsight has since revealed I probably should have kept to myself: that I had always thought it'd be neat to shave my head.

    And so the plan was set in motion. Clearly, I was convinced that this was something worth doing. More than that, this was something I believed was a critical mistake that I had over looked for my entire life up until this point. Wasting all that time on grooming and hygiene, when it would be so much easier to offer up a more comprehensive solution. I'd get to the root of the matter if you'll forgive the pun. What I failed to notice in my drunken stupor was the giddy sense of pure joy radiating from my sadistic friend like some sort of Machiavellian hair removal specialist. I suppose what followed would have been completely predictable to even the most dull witted simpleton had any of us actually been sober, sadly this was not the case.

    We got back to the apartment in question, and my friend began his preparations like some sort of demented alchemist who has spent too much time trying to turn lead into gold. The plan was for me to bend over the toilet, in a position most commonly referred to as "Praying to the Porcelain Goddess", and my pal would bust out his mad skills on my noggin with a set of clippers. It was here that we ran into the first hiccup in this endeavour. There were no clippers to be found. In fact, we couldn't scrounge up anything even remotely resembling a functional set of scissors. I would later learn that the only cutting implement available in this shit-hole of an abode was the very-used, very-dull "Bic Ladies Leg Razor" that my pals' girlfriend had forgotten to throw out some months prior.

    I learned this about two minutes after the head shaving process had begun. Roughly about the time that the trickle of blood started to dribble down my face into the toilet bowl in which I was staring. I expressed my concern. My friend assured me that it was but a scratch. I expressed my concern more boisterously and questioned the skill of he who wielded the the razor. He again assured me that it was but a scratch and that the accident occurred due to the structural abnormalities of my misshapen cranium. I then suggested that his head may soon be misshapen as well if he were not more cautious while completing his task. It was then that I became utterly confused as he passed me a pristinely clean perfectly white towel, and suggested I use it.
    Me: "But, if I clean my face with this I'll stain it. Don't you have some crappy rag you don't care about lying around?"
    The Butcher: "It's not for cleaning your face, it's for biting on."
    It was then that I noticed he had pulled from his cabinet a bottle of "Brut for Men" and was applying liberal doses to both his hands. He looked me in the eye with an intensity I had not previously believed existed on the face of this earth a fraction of a second before he slapped both of his giant cologne wielding palms downward on to the top of my freshly shorn, blood smeared noggin. I'm pretty sure that the scream that escaped through clenched teeth and downy softness woke at least a few the neighbouring floors' residents. I could try to describe the pain, but I simply don't have the words. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I went home about six beers later, with a shaved head, free of infection as all the open wounds that now adorned it had be cauterized thanks to the alcohol scrub my cranium had received from my sadistic cackling friend. I woke up the next morning very, very, very hung over. I chuckled to myself as I regained control of my faculties through a veil of dehydration at the weird dream I had. It was then that I noticed my pillow was stuck to the side of my face.

    Hopefully, this tale gives you some small amount of insight as to why I hold the simple Barber in such high regard. His skillful mastery of the craft which he practices less and less with each passing day is something we need to hold dear to our hearts gentlemen. Tip him generously, show him your appreciation for a job well done. If you take nothing else away from this rambling mental excretion take this: Don't frequent bars that sell two dollar shots, don't trust anyone who has a bottle of "Brut for Men" in their bathroom cabinet, and for the love of God go find yourself a decent barber.