Friday, August 29, 2014

Photo Friday: Au Revoir, France!

It's been a great three weeks but we're ready to go home. I hadn't found much time to blog over the time (most of the posts over the weeks were set to post before I left Canada) but I'll catch up in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, here is a shot of one of my favourite stops on our trip. This photo of Mont-St-Michel, in the Bretagne region, was the last time I looked at the millennia-old town. We had spent the morning exploring the cathedral and ramparts and had taken the shuttle back to the mainland. I wanted a shot of the town from a distance, so I put my telephoto zoom on.

I took the shot, then turned my back and never looked at the town again. I moved forward.

Today, as my family and I head back home, I think I will never see France again. I loved it but I'm ready to move on, to see other places.

Next year.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Playing With Fire

Photo credit: Sebastian Ritter
I loved matches: I loved the sulfurous smell that stings the nostrils. I love how the spark leads to a flare, and then to a small flame that burns on a tiny sliver of wood, or a compressed pile of paper.

I used to make miniature rockets with matches, using only a small piece of tin foil, a paper clip, and a needle. I would wrap the head of a match with the foil, making sure that about the first half of the match was covered tightly. I would then insert the needle along the shaft of the match, under the foil and up to the head, creating a vent.

The paper clip would then be spread apart gently, such that if you lay it down, the larger loop of the clip made a stable base and the smaller loop would rise up at about a 45-degree angle. The match would rest on this stand with the head at the top part of the paper-clip launch pad.

I would then light a second match and hold it under the head of my rocket match, standing to the side of it.

Blast off!

I loved setting things on fire. I would crumple sheets of paper into tight balls and see how long it would take to burn through. The tighter the ball, the longer the burn.

My mom didn't like me playing with matches, was afraid that I would set fire to myself or to the house. But I promised that I would take care not to burn myself and I never set fire to paper indoors.

Except that one time.

I was alone in the house, playing in my room, in the house at 69 Chesterton Drive. I was in the fourth or fifth grade, or perhaps it was during the summer, when school was out. I remember looking out the family-room window that overlooked Chesterton and Woodmount Crescent, and the grass was green, people were outside without jackets.

I loved to light paper matches, bending the one at an end around to the strip and lighting it while it was still attached to the rest of the pack—failing to close the cover before striking. I would use that match to light all the others in the booklet, delighting at the mini fireball.

It was a wide matchbook; perhaps, twice the width, with twice as many matches as a typical book. When I ignited the pack, the flaring light was spectacular, burned brighter and faster than I could have imagined. The fireball startled me, and I dropped the pack.

I was young, but I wasn't stupid. Not completely. Before I struck the first match, I had taken the precaution of setting myself up over the garbage can in my room. It was tin: blue, with an illustration of Snoopy, standing beside his doghouse, dressed with a scarf and a World-War I pilot cap and goggles, pretending he was about to embark on a mission in his Sopwith Camel. On the other side, Snoopy sat atop his "plane," bullet holes in the side, smoke trailing from behind. He was shaking his fist and uttering, "Curse you, Red Baron!"

When I dropped the pack, it fell straight into the waste basket. I wasn't entirely stupid, but I hadn't thought everything through. There was a lot of crumpled paper in the basket, but it wasn't balled tightly and it caught fire immediately. Soon, I had a raging inferno to accompany Snoopy's plight.

My waste basket was close to my bedroom window, and I could see that the flames were well-above the top of the can, trying to reach out to my curtains. Out of fear of burning my house down, despite my assurances to my mother, I took swift action: I lifted the can and ran to the bathroom, which was next to my room.

It was a stroke of luck that the smoke didn't overpower me, that the flames didn't reach for me, or that the burning paper didn't lift out of the can and spread. I set the can in the bath tub, under the faucet, and turned on the water. In seconds, the room filled with smoke and the tub echoed the hiss of doused flames. Relief flooded me as I realized I hadn't burned the house to the ground and my mess could be cleaned easily.

And that's when the pain set in.

I looked at my hands, the palms and fingertips seemingly melted, and I screamed in agony. The flesh was glistening and I could see the bubbling blisters begin to form. I crossed my arms, tucked my hands into my armpits, and squeezed, hoping to alleviate the burning, or at least hoping the pressure would distract me.

I ran around the house, upstairs and down, jogging laps around the main floor, wondering what to do, crying uncontrollably.

And then Mom came through the front door.

She didn't scold me, she didn't punish me. She could see her young son was in pain, that he had punished himself enough. I showed her my burned hands and she told me she could make them feel better. She said nothing as she applied the ointment and wrapped my hands in gauze. Gave me aspirin for the pain. And held me tightly as I cried some more.

I never played with matches again.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Music Monday: Enemies

I don't have any enemies, do I?

I hope not.

I'm sure I've pissed off a few people in my life (I know I have), but I don't mean to. And I'm sorry.

Maybe one or more of my posts has pissed off a person or two, but I have to try to be true to myself: if I try to live up to other people's standards, I won't be able to make everyone happy anyway; least of all, myself.

Anyway, that has nothing to do with today's music, except for its title, Enemies, by BC singer-songwriter, Hannah Georgas.

This song has a good beat and great vocals, and the video is well-shot. The main character, played by actor John Ennis, gives a convincing performance on a down-on-his-luck guy who enters his dog in a race and bets everything on it.

Though I hate dogs (yes, I guess we're enemies), I like the story. And I love the song.

Happy Monday!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Music Monday: Weapon

I know: I play a lot of Matthew Good.

But when I try to think of the best song by this incredibly talented Canadian artist, I can't pick just one song. I won't promise this will be the last time that I share his music with you.

When Matt Good performed at Bluesfest last summer, I had to go at all cost. I had missed him so many times in the past because I couldn't get my wife to come (she isn't a fan) and none of my friends were available. So I went alone.

Although Matt's solo career is just as strong as it was with his band, I always love to hear the old stuff (yet, I have an equal mix on my smartphone).

At Bluesfest, Matt sang many songs from his years in the Matthew Good Band, and I blissfully sang along. But the high point came at the end of the show, when he sang one of my all-time favourite of his songs, Weapon.

From 2003 (before I even got into the band), it's a powerful song with soft acoustic guitar mixed with ear-splitting guitar and heart-pounding percussion. It starts slow, explodes, and then relaxes. And then it explodes again, and calms right down for a finish that make you want to start up again.

At the concert, the crowd went wild, and I was right there, singing and swaying along.

I was going to share the video for this song, but changed my mind after watching it. I find the commentary that flashes on the screen to be a bit distracting—although, at times, amusing—but worst of all, it's a shorter version of the song, more than two minutes shorter.

And you need to hear all of it. So, I've included a SoundCloud widget. You can simply scroll to the song, click it, and it will start.

I recommend that you plug in your headphones, close your eyes, and enjoy.

Plus, you can also listen to other Matt Good songs at your leisure. (I guess I worked more songs in, didn't I?)

Happy Monday!