April 2018

Unless otherwise credited, all photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without my permission.


 

July 5   A chance encounter while riding with a long-time fellow motorcyclist this past glorious Canada Day long weekend put an unexpected smile on out faces.

We jokingly call ourselves the Rusted Nuts MC and laugh about getting “patches” designed for our “motorcycle club” of two.

We stopped in Melbourne, a typical rural Ontario community shrinking and fading away as the years pass. Larry visited a variety store that doubled as an LCBO. It’s that small a village and the cast of characters I saw enter and leave was very revealing.

Larry returned and pointed behind me saying “check out the sign.”

 

RustyNuts.jpg

We had a good laugh and I took a photo of the sign. Next door to that repair shop I found another rustic sign.

 

MelbourneIOOF.jpg

 

 

June 21  Summer Solstice, a glorious day and I am treated to the first cacti flowers of the year. Presently about twenty flowers are blossomed, with the promise of countless dozens to follow. The flowers follow the path of the sun and close up for the night. I will post more photos when the show is fully revealed.

I showed them to a visitor and I explained how they are an endangered native plant in Ontario. He lives on the shore of Lake Erie, an ideal habitat for the prickly pear, so I offered him some to transplant. He jumped on my offer and I am equally excited to see them grow in a new location. Doing our part to propagate the species.

CactiFlower.jpg

CactiFlowrGroup.jpg


 

 

Flower.jpg

Orchid? No, it’s a flower on a catalpa tree. The scent is lovely and the tree is dazzling when in full bloom.  This particular tree has been “dying” for over fifteen years. A few large limbs had to be cut off, it has a pronounced lean and the bark is shredding, but it still puts out new shoots and has a full crop of leaves each year. The leaves are quite large and provide abundant shade. In autumn, after the first really hard frost, all the leaves fall the same day. I mulch them into the lawn with the mower

FlowerGroup.jpg

 

TreeBloom.jpg

Several months ago I posted a photo of the catalpa seed pods that I framed. Here it is again:

SeedPods.jpg

Trees truly are a wonderful gift for mankind.


 

June 11 David Byrne is an artist I’ve always respected. Talking Heads albums still get a lot of airplay in my world and a DVD of the iconic Stop Making Sense concert film still lights my fire. Talking Heads were always relevant, provocative, thoughtful, and edgy with their own distinctive sound. Instantly recognizable, bass-driven rhythm, no flash guitar hero leads.

Byrne’s blog reflects his widely varied interests- art, architecture, culture, music and more. In this present era of bad news, bad leadership and general negativity, he runs a series called “Reasons To Be Cheerful.” What a delightful topic, it’s worth a look.

I had never heard of Choir! Choir! Choir! until this Byrne’s post. “They somehow manage to get hundreds of strangers to sing beautifully together—in tune and full-voiced—with rich harmonies and detailed arrangements.”

Bryne’s performance with them singing David Bowie’s “Heros” is moving. With such little rehearsal. Wow.

Interesting that I learned of them from an American. Byrne’s curiosity has no bounds and he has a world view.


A reader writes in regards to my June 2 post-  “It was interesting to know that Canada has its own species of cactus. Personally, I’m not a gardener but absolutely love the efforts of others!”

Thank you for the note. I like to continue learning about many things, my age regardless. Reminds me of a poster –  Teenagers: Leave Home Now! Conquer the World while you still know everything!

Regarding not being a gardener but loving the efforts of others- you don’t need to be an artist to love art, nor a musician to love music.

I did a search and learned there are four species of cactus native to Canada. We both learned something! I have seen cacti in the interior desert of British Columbia. Until I read the information in the link provided (from the Canadian Encyclopedia) I did not know the following fact about cacti (succulents).  A few species actually grow below ground to reduce water loss and prevent overheating.

Here is a current photo of mine. The new growth is translucent when backlit.

Cacti.jpg                   Cacti,  June 11

June 2  Native plants and trees interest me. They are naturally more resistant to disease and pests- foreign pests excepted. It is very disheartening to watch the devastation of our elm, ash, chestnuts and others, not to mention all the threatened plant and wildlife species.

Three years ago, I was surprised to learn that Ontario has a native cactus: the Eastern Prickly Pear cactus. Unsurprisingly, I learned it is endangered due to habitat loss and invasive foreign plants. A friend had them growing on her land and offered some to me. I jumped on the offer and planted a small plot on the south side of my garage. The soil here is a sandy loam, part of the Norfolk Sand Plain, an ideal habitat for prickly pear.

The plot took off instantly and even had a few small flowers in the first summer. It is very happy in its new home. It only requires weeding in spring and mid-summer.  I wear heavy duty rubber gloves that extend above the wrists. There is no concern about feral cats using the garden for a toilet.

This is how it looks now showing the new growth.

CactusSpring.jpg

 

CactusSpring2.jpg

 

The late June flowers are numerous and lovely. This photo is from last summer.

CactusFlower.jpg

Do our environment a favour and plant native species. I will gladly give some prickly pears to anybody interested. Very easy to transplant as they only require a roughly worked bed of soil.

I have planted native red maple, sugar maple, white oak, white cedar and yew in my yard. I lost a battle with rabbits when I planted a hackberry sapling, but all the others have survived and thrived.


 

The latest foreign pest I have discovered is the dreaded viburnum beetle. Another nasty import from Europe, it particularly enjoys devastating snowball shrubs, of which I have (soon to be had) two large, lovely specimens. Here is what the larvae look like munching on a leaf. They are extremely small, approximately 1/2 a centimetre long.

LeafCaterpliier052.jpgI counted eight on one leaf. They shred the entire leaf leaving only the veins.

 

SnowballDamage.jpg                                  Damaged snowball shrub.

 

SnowballDamage2.jpgShrub in the foreground is totally devastated, background shrub 3/4 gone.


 

May 22   How do you feel about technology when travelling? Specifically GPS vs paper maps? There is a definite benefit to using GPS in an automobile while travelling in an unknown area, particularly in cities. That positive voice directing you when to turn and never nagging or criticizing if you make a wrong turn. I do not have GPS but have been a passenger in a vehicle in which it was used.

A motorcycle forum on which I participate has a current discussion regarding how others mount phones, GPS etc, and using Bluetooth technology to hear directions, music and to communicate with other riders. The extent to which some riders equip their ride is an eye-opener for me.

I posted this reply, “No GPS, no tunes, no data on phone (emergency use only) and paper maps. I don’t mind getting lost, it’s part of my riding adventure. I’ll crawl back in my cave now and let the discussion continue.”

I am no luddite- I use technology, witness this blog- but I think all those distractions might make my motorcycle riding less safe. Music? I can hear it in my mind and still be aware of sounds around me. (I wear ear plugs which, if you’ve ever tried them in a noisy environment, dull the roar of traffic and the hiss of the wind through my helmet and still allow voices to be heard.) Hand signals work quite well if I’m with a fellow rider.

As for GPS, I prefer old school paper maps. My tank bag has a weatherproof map pocket that I can refer to. On long road trips I spend some time each evening looking at the map and charting a course for the next day. If the land is flat, I look for roads that look wiggly- roads that follow river valleys have the best potential for lots of curves. Curves and bends are my goal on a motorcycle. I don’t hesitate to deviate from the course if I find an interesting alternate road along the way.

At the end of the day I highlight the course I rode on the map, along with notations. I also keep a written journal. Long after the adventure ends I look over the maps and re-live the story. Here is a sample map of Wyoming, a great map because it shows the topography of the land. The colour does make my highlighted route a bit difficult to see but it’s a worthy trade-off.

WyomingMap.jpg

Now I’ve got the travel bug again. Just don’t expect me to post to forums, blog, Facebook etc. I want to leave that technology at home and just enjoy the ride, with a camera, a journal, a novel and a map of every province, state or territory I visit. I might even mail you a postcard- remember those?

 


May 17 A reader’s comment: “Regarding your May 14 blog (lift vs. elevator) I know I’ve been in Hungary too long when I start calling it a lift. Even worse, when you think the second floor is the first floor. Explanation: in Hungary, what any sane person would call the ground floor is called the 0 (zero) floor and the second floor is 1, the third is 2, etc.”


Thanks for that, I welcome comments! The floor numbering debate is interesting and I have heard how divisive the debate can become. I wonder how the numbering system enters into how tall a building is, eg is it twenty stories high or twenty-one? That must make for some lively discussions.


 

May 14  Perhaps Buck Martinez read my February rant regarding his and Pat Tabler’s use of two thousand and eighteen substituting for the more practical (to my ear) twenty eighteen. Buck has begun to use twenty for all years since 2009, although still in his grating voice that raises and lowers in volume. Pat (White Bread) Tabler sticks with the archaic term.


More on language. A reader sent me a link to the origin of the phrase hunky dory. Interesting. I would have guessed the origin to be Newfoundland (fishing dory.)


I love this exchange:

In a London hotel, the American guest asks the person at the desk:

“Where is the elevator?”

“Oh, you mean the lift, sir?”

“No, I mean the elevator because we, Americans, invented it!”

“Indeed, sir, indeed, but we, the British, invented the language!”


 

May 10 I know that it is considered bad form to criticize poor grammar and spelling that some people type when posting comments on media stories but, seriously, do they not read what they write before they post? Do they shut off spell check? ( “Ain’t no one gonna tell me how to spell, no how!”)

Check out this sentence: ” There are kilometers of ducts and millions fd crooks and crannies you can’t see in a ship the you can’t see.”

Sigh.


 

May 9 I do dwell on word usage and one word that has the ability to make me shudder is “just.” When used in certain contexts it can be a most demeaning and belittling word. Allow me to explain:

When I had my retail photo and framing business I did corporate and commercial photography. The corporate and business world understand the need to charge an adequate fee commensurate with talent, experience and time. Retail shoppers do not always grasp that concept.

I had produced a poster of historic homes for a client and, when completed, a framed print was displayed in the store. I had taken the photographs over a six-month period. Each location was scouted, the camera lens and viewpoint, the desired light angle and time of season were all considered. I would then revisit the site several times to confirm or change my vision. I had a ten minute, three-day time frame around the summer solstice for one location to get the perfect shot.

“Would you photograph my house? Nothing fancy, just take a snap when you go by, just something simple,” I was asked by a customer who saw the poster in the store.

“Absolutely,” I replied, “I’ll just stick the camera out the window of my car the next time I drive by.”

His non-verbal message was “I’m cheap and don’t want to pay, so I’ll demean the talent and effort required and hope for top-drawer work at a bargain price.”

My non-verbal reply was less polite, but my reply got the message through to him. Retail was tough, and sometimes my out-loud voice overrode my customer-is-always-right-even-when-wrong diplomatic voice.

In the pre-cell phone film era, I received a phone call asking me what was wrong with their camera, and how much money to fix it? No symptoms, no explanations.

My reply: ” I don’t know as I cannot see the camera. Could you hold it closer to the phone?”

Silence. Then: “I guess I had better take the camera into your store.”


 

May 7  John Francis is a very interesting man with some unique ideas on our relationship to the environment. He took a vow of silence that lasted for seventeen years, refused transport in powered vehicles, walked across America and South America, and earned a PhD. His take on listening as opposed to arguing with people is quite pertinent. Images of politicial discussions that turn into shouting matches came to mind while I listened. Well worth twenty minutes of your time to hear his thoughts on this TED talk.

April 29 Have you seen the latest David Blaine performance on Jimmy Fallon? It’s not for the squeamish but is riveting and, as usual, unbelievable. It involves a needle and thread but I won’t spoil it for you. Watch and wonder. Blaine is, without doubt, the best magician I have ever seen.

Congratulations to F. from Toronto who chose the correct “g” from my April 5 post. Enjoy your fifteen minutes seconds of fame. OK, time’s up! Feels good, right?


 

April 27 I read a hilarious science news piece titled Uranus Smells Like Farts. Seriously. It’s refreshing to see humour used in that way. There was a time when a word like ‘fart’ would not be spoken, let alone printed.

I know that I fixate on words and expressions, but I cannot stop myself. Hell, some days I get a word stuck in my head and it repeats endlessly until it no longer has a meaning. Last week it was used. How can one word be, well, used so many ways? It means employed or deployed etc in that sentence.

Pronounced “yoost” it means once was; in a “yoosed” drawl it can mean previously owned. Makes my head spin thinking of the endless ways it can be used. Whew, enough if that, I could use a beer. I feel used. What’s the use? If you want to make your head spin check out the number of examples the Oxford dictionary has for use.

I’ll shut up now. No, I won’t. Here’s another current phrase (idiom?) that I find curious. If I say “thank you” to a young person, the usual reply “you’re welcome” has been replaced with “no problem.” I know there isn’t a feckin’ problem, I was thanking you. If it was a problem I wouldn’t have thanked you.


 

April 24  I have been busy, like many people these days, doing yard work. I enjoy the spring cleanup of branches, cones, deadheaded flowers and weeds. My lot is large with many trees including a large walnut that demands a lot of work in the fall. I know some people resent having to do the work, but I look on it as nature’s tax for the wonderful benefits received. Some would say that the walnut is a “dirty” tree, cut it down but they might change their tune if they considered how much it shades the west side of my house from the hot summer sun.

While raking and loading the wheelbarrow I was serenaded by bird song. It was thrilling to hear that the mockingbirds have returned. They are perhaps my most favourite of all bird songs. I could identify maybe a dozen different bird songs that he was imitating. I can hear him now as I type this.

There seems to be a lot of angry people in cities these days. My recommendation for them is to walk to a park, have a seat in a quiet space and listen to the birds singing the joy of spring. If that doesn’t calm you down and put a smile on your face then nothing will.


 

Rat Rage

I have had many rodent “visits’ in my time, far too many. They’ve eaten the wiring off a tractor, chewed the seat on my motorcycle, the wiring above my photo studio (almost burned it down), my custom motorcycle boots and other leather apparel, stored books- the list goes on.

The wildest rodent story I have happened exactly as I will tell it here.

I live in an old country house on a farm just outside of a small town. About 20 years ago the farm next door was sold to a developer, one of those cretins who would rather ruin good farmland than build on empty town lots. The land was left sitting, the weeds took  over- who needs food? The barn sat empty for many years. Only it wasn’t quite empty- the rats moved in and prospered. Eventually, the cretin had the barn torn down so that it could be replaced with ugly houses. The rats moved on.

They moved over a few fields to my house. We heard noises in the walls at night, scurrying sounds in the attic. I discovered holes chewed through baseboards in my office the perfect image of a typical Disney cartoon mouse (rat) hole. I found rat crap on the kitchen counter. They avoided traps like the plague, a plague I imagined them carrying in their flea- infested mangy pelts.

One hot summer night lying in my second-floor bedroom, I wake up hearing a gnawing noise at the bottom of the stairs. I knew that it was a rat trying to chew through the door to gain access to the second floor, where it could bite our faces and crap on the pillows while we slept. I was angry, very angry.

Now, I must confess that I sleep commando (naked). I have legally registered firearms,  so I grab the .22 rifle (the 12 gauge smoothbore would do too much damage inside the house) and head downstairs to put Mickey in his grave. The f*cker scurries into my office, runs into his Disney-fashioned rat hole and stops. I mean he stops in his tracks with his ugly rat ass and his ugly rat tail dangling out the hole. I assume the prone position for the best shot angle. The bare-arsed sniper. I calmly fired a round into his ass. Bad move. Wounded, he scurried up the inside of the wall, screaming his wounded rat song. I squeezed off several more rounds through the plaster, tracing his path up the wall.

Yeah, I shot the feckin’ rat, and I got him good. Too good.
I heard a voice and look behind me. There’s my wife looking at me lying prone, buck naked on the office floor with a smoking rifle. “What the hell are you doing, David?”

The dead rat stench lingered for months.


 

April 19 A friend tells me that he doesn’t dream. Perhaps he just doesn’t remember his dreams. Is not dreaming even possible? Would that not be like being dead? I don’t attach any meaning to dreams but I couldn’t imagine not dreaming. Mine are frequently extremely vivid. Last night I had a food dream- fried chicken of all things. I could smell the food and it tasted wonderful. I remember admonishing myself for eating the skin but I could not resist. Just like real life.

Maybe it has to something to do with the manner in which a person wakes up? I’m not one to ‘hit the deck running’ when I awake. I savour the dreams I had. Sometimes I wake in sweating terror but, fortunately very infrequently.

My favourite dream is flying and it happens a lot. Occasionally I have a problem with high tension lines that must be avoided but more often it is a very real, liberating experience. I fly outdoors in both daylight and night. The night flying takes some experience. I fly inside large buildings.

I can also go back to sleep and continue a dream, like hitting pause on a remote control. When it first began to occur I thought that perhaps I had not actually woke up, so the last time it happened I got up and then went back to sleep. Same thing, the dream continued. Recently I woke up three times and then continued the dream each time. It was like a long film. Sleeping can be very entertaining.


 

April 14 Motorcycle memories are strong in my life. I remember the sound, the smell and the feel of every bike I’ve owned. Each one is attached to a particular era from the fifty years I’ve been riding.

It’s funny how memory works. Remember the first whatever and the circumstances from that time seem crystal clear to me.

I particularly remember Dick Wilson’s Shakespeare Cycle, an old-time Norton/ Bultaco bike shop near Stratford. Dimly lit, wooden oil-soaked floor along the front counter, parts everywhere, even hanging from the ceiling, beat old counter, an ashtray filled with butts. The smell that motorcycle shops once had, a smell that only comes with age like a fine patina on old furniture.

Dick raced a short-stroke Norton on the dirt track (flat track) circuit. Many fractured ribs, broken wrist, arm and leg testified to his feerless racing.

Drop by the shop with a six-pack and Dick would entertain with really good stories. If you needed to pee after the beer, the “washroom” was in the back corner of the workshop: a funnel attached to a hose that ran out through the wall to drain outdoors. Priceless memories.

I always meant to take my camera and photograph him in the shop. I swore that next time I would do it. Sadly, Dick was killed riding his Norton to the 1993 Paris Vintage Motorcycle Rally by a car driver who ran a stop sign. The next time never came for either of us.

His memory was honoured the following year. I have a laminated copy of this hanging in my garage. My garage is very much like his shop: old, wood walls, cracked floor, smells like motorcycles. Drop by with a six-pack. The washroom is outside, behind the garage.

 

DickWilson001.jpg

 

MotorOnBench002.jpg                                Norton motor on my garage workbench


 

I love to read but I find myself with much less patience when I read a novel. When younger I would struggle through difficult to read novels, but those days are over. Time is too precious to waste.

I’m returning a book to the library today- Satin Island by Tom McCarthy. A masterpiece of run-on sentences saying nothing much of consequence. One sentence ran for half a page- over two hundred words, countless commas, three dashes and numerous colons and semi-colons. I don’t have a clue what it said. Yawn.

Another mystery for me is why the following posts appear in a narrower format than the above? I cannot fix the way it appears but the problem seems to be solved now. Until the next digital gotcha!

April12  It has been a while since I posted an actual rant, so here’s one;

Further on cliches, buzzwords and other word usage nonsense, the latest buzzword that is spreading like a wildfire up a BC mountain is engaged. To denote just how hard our politicos and other fools are working, they are all engaging someone or something with deep-thought. Or so they would have us believe.

I somehow doubt that they are emulating or paying homage to the great Bob Dylan, who wrote this in 1965:

Now the rovin’ gambler he was very bored
Tryin’ to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We’ll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61
(The line “…who nearly fell off the floor” is wonderful! From my all-time favourite Dylan album, Highway 61 Revisited. Copyright Bob Dylan)
Still going strong:
It is what it is. It makes me grind my teeth every time I hear it!
In and of itself. More pseudo-intellectual nonsense. What the hell does it mean?
For the most part. Sigh…
 Re-inventing him/ herself.  An impossible thing to do.

Exact same. Contributed by reader Paul who wrote, “It must originate with double-talking politicians and it drives me nuts. What’s the opposite? Inexact same? Exact different? Inexact different?

Cliche and buzzword contributions are welcome. What annoys your ears? And, no, I’m not speaking about earworms.

 

April 7  I had a discussion with a friend a short while ago; the topic was the National Gallery purchasing art for what some consider outrageous sums. I pointed to a purchase that at that time seemed preposterous. The publicity and public furore raised the awareness of the painting. Gallery attendance increased. Twenty years later the Gallery put the painting on the auction block and made an enormous profit.

Today I read that the exact same scenario is playing out again. A Chagall painting, purchased by the National Gallery for $16,000 in 1956, is going to auction. It is expected to sell for $6- 9 million US, and some say it will go higher. Some of our national institutions are run extremely well.

If you have never visited the National Gallery you really should. It is a stunning building in which to display both the extensive collection and also new art. Take the whole family.

 

April 6  I just finished taking photos of the snow we received last night. This is a year that forgot about spring. I took over twenty photos and spent a half hour editing them. I used the first one I took, sigh… In the film days, I might have taken four photos- two variations of the scene plus a bracketed exposure of each. Film and prints were relatively expensive and time-consuming. I always advised people to avoid the “machine gun” approach to photography. The same applies to digital. I should follow my own advice.

The image is posted in Landscapes along with another winter scene and I also fixed the two images that somehow disappeared.

I am busy working on framing projects and also presently scanning more negatives. I  posted some in Gallery 2. More to come, so stay tuned.

April 5  An interesting post on the CBC website ties in with my earlier rant about cursive writing and literacy. I “borrowed” this image. CBC or Johns Hopkins (they did the study): please don’t sue me.

g-study-johns-hopkins.jpg

I chose the correct one, yay! Apparently, two-thirds of the people in the study got it wrong, so don’t feel bad if your choice is incorrect. Contact me or read the story for the answer. My readers are all extremely clever, so I expect a 100% correct result!

 

Reading some history of  Aylmer (Ontario), I came across a hilarious character named Charles Vance Millar. His will was extremely creative. “Three men who were known to despise each other were granted joint lifetime tenancy in Millar’s vacation home in Jamaica.” Another gem: “Three fervid anti-horse-racing advocates were to receive $25,000 worth of Ontario Jockey Club stock.”   You’ll have to read his Wikipedia entry for the others. A very funny man, his will initiated what became known as The Great Stork Derby.

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