Thursday, August 16, 2018

Beer O'Clock: Cracking Open a Conspiracy Theory (or Two)

If you're to believe the rumours, Barrhaven is home to one of the city's smallest breweries.

Or maybe, it's a coverup.

Whatever you choose to believe, home brewer and owner Paul Card, of Conspiracy Theory Brewing Company, has taken his love of the craft and decided to increase production to 240 litres at a time—roughly 900 to 1,000 litres each month.

All of this is done in his garage, a stone's throw away from the Minto Recreation Complex (and around the corner from one of my friends' house), in Half Moon Bay.

Hidden, in plain sight. But now, it's time to get the word out. Because the truth is out there (or, at least in the can).
Brewer/owner Paul Card

I visited Paul as he was about to make a new batch of brew and he let me sample four beers that he had, ready to go. He was kind enough to take some time to explain his work and share his hopes for opening a brew pub in Barrhaven.

His beer varies from a mild blonde (Staged Landing) to a hoppy session IPA (Project MK/Ultra). Neither were available, when I was there, which made me suspicious...  He showed me his Belgium wheat ale (Grassy Knoll), which is suspiciously similar to the Molson-Coors/Miller Coors/Rickard's Belgian Moon/Blue Moon/White, a coriander-citrus ale that I predict will be a hit with mainstream beer drinkers.

Area51 Cream Ale is a smooth, creamy brew and New World Order is a hoppy, palate-cleansing ale. None of Paul's brews pushes the IBUs, and that's okay because there is a lot of flavour to spare.

I walked away with all four of his current offerings and decided that I would focus, for this review, on the can that had a full label (because, that's what they want you to do), the Chemtrails American Pale Ale. (Psst... Paul, your label has an S at the end of the name but your Web site doesn't. What are you hiding??)
Chemtrails APA (5.8% ABV)
Conspiracy Theory Brewing Co.
Ottawa (Barrhaven, Nepean) ON
Appearance: a clear copper-amber with a foamy beige head that settles to a firm cap. From above, it doesn't want you to see what's underneath.

Nose: I let my glass sit for about 5 to 10 minutes after I poured it, to give the ale a chance to settle before the interrogation... I mean, review. When I placed my nose in my glass, the aromas were somewhat closed, not giving much up beyond a glimpse that something was hidden and needed to be brought out in the open. But in the end, it revealed traces of malt and a touch of wet straw.

Palate: (Psst... Paul, your site misspells this word in New World Order.) this ale wants you to believe it's something else, with malt and caramel greeting you with a rush, as though to say, "There's nothing to see here, folks." But the hops linger, in the background, and like a Magic-Eye illusion, become more apparent in the finish.

Overall impression: this is not your average APA but the flavours are solid and Chemtrails goes down well. It's a good ale to sip while you're sitting with friends, sharing stories—conspiracy theories or otherwise.

Beer O'Clock rating: 🍺🍺 This is a good ale but is not quite what comes to my mind when I think APA. Maybe, those chemical and biological chemicals that those planes are spraying are finally getting to me.

Paul's beer is available at his brewery and periodically on tap at Greenfield's Gastro Public House, in the Barrhaven Mall.

Also, if you're in the Half Moon Bay area (south Greenbank Road) this Saturday, August 18, Conspiracy Theory will be at the Half Moon Bay Community Block Party, in Guinness Park (coincidence?), from 10 to 3. Come out and support a great new brewery.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Photographic Surgery

Make 'em look good.

That's what goes through my head, during post-processing, when I look at my photos from a model shoot. Make him or her look their best. Make them want to share that photo. Make that photo appeal to other photographers so that the model gets more gigs.

Model: Denisa Strakova
When I process photos from a model shoot, I make sure that the lighting is adjusted to give the most impact. That can involve lightening the photo or making it a bit darker. It could be blowing out the background or performing a highlight recovery to bring back a washed-out segment of a photo.

For the subject, I'll make sure that there are no harsh shadows that can cause unflattering lines. I'll bring in more colour, if the skin is too pale or tone the colour right down, if I want to present a subdued effect.

With every model, I close in on skin, looking for blemishes or marks that are temporary. I remove pimples, scabs, and bruises. If there is a birthmark or mole that draws the eye to the point of distraction, I take it away. To some degree, I smooth out the skin to soften the model.

These manipulations I do without much thought. The model wants to look his or her best. But when I shoot friends, family, or random people—for example, at a festival or on the street—I tend to leave them as they are.

Unless, of course, they have a big zit on their face. I don't want people looking at an image of themselves and saying, "Oh, God, that's embarrassing."

Imagine my dilemma, when I find myself processing some candid shots at a festival, and seeing something in a photo that made me think that I would have to put my editing skills in question.

She was a lovely woman with an arm in the air. When I captured the image and saw it on the small viewscreen on the back of my camera, I told myself that it was a keeper. Back at home, on my 27-inch monitor, I had to pause.

Often, an image looks good on a small screen but when enlarged on a monitor, it can be out of focus or simply not sharp. This wasn't the case in this photo. The woman was sharp, the exposure was right, there was nothing that I felt I needed to do to enhance the photo. She had not a single blemish on her face that would need retouching.

It was that outstretched arm.

I didn't see it when I saw her, couldn't see it on a small screen. Enlarged, at home, however, I couldn't miss it. A long scar ran from just above her wrist, along her arm, ending almost at the inside bend in her arm. Her dark skin was lightened where the seam flowed.

All sorts of thoughts came at me at once: was it an accident? Was it self-inflicted? How did it happen? How long ago did it happen? Why did it happen? How did she feel about this visible scar? Does she have any emotional scars that remain?

Of course, all of these questions had the same answer: none of my damned business. Still, I couldn't help feeling a tinge of sadness for the woman and the circumstances around the mark.

As I was prepared to add just a touch of fill light to illuminate her surroundings, it occurred to me that if I had all of these questions and began jumping to several explanations, what was to stop anyone who saw this photo from thinking the same things?

The story in the photograph was the woman and what she was doing in that moment. It wasn't the history behind a scar. And I didn't want the past story to become a distraction with the present one. So, I did something that I had never done before with a random person in a series of photos:

I removed the scar. Call it photographic surgery.

I used the same tool—a scratch remover—that I use to remove electrical wires that run overhead and seem to cut into my subject. I then used the makeover tool to blend her skin tones, and finally used a touch of the skin-smoothing tool to make all of her skin look the same.

I typically do this to make my subject look good. This woman already looked great. What I did, in essence, was to add a mask.

In the end, I couldn't tell that there had been a scar, and I knew that when I shared the photo (which I have already done but for obvious reasons am not doing so, here), no one would know.

Was I wrong to do this? I wasn't sure until I told DW, one of my biggest critics—of everything. She agreed with my reasoning. The scar was this woman's story to tell. Not mine.

I had a different story to tell.

Monday, August 13, 2018

My Heart Was Goin' BOOM BOOM BOOM

DW calls me a furnace. My regular body temperature is normal but I radiate a lot of heat. So much so that I often throw off my bed sheets while I'm sleeping, no matter the time of year.

This condition may be related to my heart rate. While my blood pressure is always at a healthy level, my rate is often higher than it should be, particularly when I'm at rest. My resting heart rate is commonly in the high 80s to the low-to-mid 90s, in beats per minute.

And while that rate is high, it wasn't high enough to make me worried. But then, a month or so ago, my resting heart rate jumped. A lot. So much so that I visited my doctor.

I wouldn't say that I'm a particularly stressed person. But some days, I feel tense and I can literally feel my heart pounding against my chest. And it's not due to any vigorous workouts.

Here's my heart rate from a week ago. DW and I were watching Suits, on Netflix, and I suddenly felt my heart racing. And while seeing Sarah Rafferty can get me a bit excited, she doesn't usually cause me to reach for my smartphone to check my pulse. My phone has a sensor that can read my pulse, and it's dead-accurate.

It was 123 beats per minute.

It wasn't the first time that my heart rate has soared while sitting still. And, while I'm used to seeing a resting heart rate in the 90s, I'm now often finding it above 100, with a rate in the 100 and teens not unusual.

Scratch that: it is unusual.

At my doctor's, I was asked about my coffee intake. She said it was high, but I reminded her that I've consumed this much coffee for decades. She asked me how much beer I drink, I admitted that I consume between seven and 10 pints each week. When she said that that number was too high, I reminded her that I told her the same thing on two separate occasions, and at those times, she said that wasn't a ridiculous amount.

Since my last visit to her, I've reduced my brew intake to three or four pints a week.

My doctor ordered a blood test, but I haven't heard about the results. And considering that she once phoned me on a Saturday afternoon to tell me that she had findings about my foot, I'm sure that I would have heard by now if something came up in the blood test.

My doctor also ordered a heart stress test, but because I can't run or do anything strenuous with my feet, the test would have to be done through drugs.

Last Thursday, I took the first of a two-process, chemical-driven stress test. Part one involved being injected with a radioactive chemical, which made its way to my heart. A huge machine, similar to an MRI scanner, read my resting heart rate.

Throughout the scan, I couldn't get the Spider-Man theme song out of my head: "Is he strong? Listen, bud: he's got radioactive blood." My own spidey senses didn't tingle once.

After the scan, the technicians wouldn't tell me what my rate is. I guess they can't.

Today—perhaps even while you're reading this—I undergo part two of the test, which involves being injected with chemicals that will place my heart under stress, much like a vigorous workout. Except, a cardio doctor will be by my side throughout the test, to make sure my heart doesn't explode or I have a real heart attack.

The antidote to the chemicals, ironically, is caffeine.

With any luck, we'll be able to see why my heart races the way it does, why it often knocks against my chest.

But hey, at least it makes me think less about my feet.