Unless otherwise credited, all photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without my permission.
March 30 Thirty-five years have passed since the making of perhaps the finest concert film ever.
In 1984 the band Talking Heads, lead by David Byrne, created Stop Making Sense. Byrne did all the choreography featuring his many different moves and dances. The energy of the film is astounding, driven by bass grooves that are hypnotic. During the song Burning Down The House, I counted three bass players. That is not a typo- three basses plus driving percussion from several drummers.
Well worth the hour and 20+ minutes of viewing time. I never tire of it even after many views. The best concert film ever? Yes, in my opinion. A great band doing original tunes that are like no others.
Byrne is still very actively promoting music from widely different sources. I subscribe to his blog. He also has a very positive site called Reasons To Be Cheerful. I posted a piece last year on the very moving Choir, Choir, Choir, another good listen with Byrne singing Heroes, the David Bowie tune. Give it a look and listen, it is very moving.
Twenty-one years have passed since Aylmer’s one and only bank robbery.
Three young offenders had the brilliant idea to light a fire on the north end of town and subsequently rob the bank. Getaway vehicle? an ATV. They were captured within minutes in the alley behind the bank.
However, despite the robbery, the big story was the fire set as a distraction. Everwood Industries produced poles and posts from recycled plastic, principally plastic milk jugs. The yard beside the factory had hundreds of plastic bales plus skids of the finished products- all highly flammable- a perfect target if toxic fumes and a thousand people evacuated from their homes was their goal, the only goal they scored.
At that time I owned a main street photo business with a colour photo lab. Hearing about the fire I grabbed my camera bag and raced to the fire. I shot several rolls of film and returned to the lab. Within an hour I had 8×10 prints in the front window while the fire still raged.
When big media showed up- CTV news, Toronto Star reporter and many more- the fire was under control and no longer the inferno it had been many hours earlier. Desperate for images, they showed up at my store wanting to use my photos. After negotiating a deal, I allowed the video team to film my prints and sold Toronto Star exclusive rights to reproduce one image. I don’t remember which one they printed (I think the first photo here) and don’t have a tear sheet from that edition. My byline drew phone calls from relatives who spotted it. It was a very exciting time.
Fire, Aylmer Ontario, 1998
March 21 It’s a bizarre world out there and the Russians vie for the wackiest stunts possible. Premier Vlad Putin, raised by wolves, leads the charge. Wrestling wild critters, shooting a whale with a crossbow, judo chops, and bare-chested romps through the Siberian taiga are just a few of his stunts.
Without Vlad’s ill-gotten wealth, his adoring fan base must work to come up with a sport equally macho, yet affordable. I’m pleased to announce that they have succeeded.
Face slapping contests. The event was won by a huge specimen of Russian manhood, Vasily Pelmen, nicknamed Dumpling. A massive brute who slapped his opponents senseless, themselves incapable of making Dumpling flinch. In fact, his head didn’t even move.
Oddly enough, the event was paired with a dumpling eating contest. And that’s the reward for winning? They have long winters there, folks.
March 19 More archive photos added.
Scanning old negs also uncovered something unsettling. The following photo is of a fan at a Blue Jays game at the Skydome (more on sports fans later).
At the Ballpark 1990
I often wondered about that young lady, what made me take her photo? I looked at it for a while and I was suddenly seeing the enigmatic Girl with Pearl Earring painting by the great Dutch artist, Vermeer.
Don’t misunderstand- I am in no way comparing my photo to a great masters art, only the similarities. The eyes, jawline and the tilt of the head.
I knew that painting well before I took the photograph and have to wonder if a subconscious link was directing my eye that day? Whatever, I’ll take inspiration where I find it and some of my favourite photos were taken on instinctive reaction alone.
Also new in the photo gallery:
Horse Pull contest, Aylmer Fair 1990
Another look at rural life. The contest involves horse teams pulling increasingly heavy sled weights.
I went to the big smoke- Toronto, for a look at more sophisticated city folk attending similar sporting events.
I found them at a Toronto Blue Jays game.
Baseball Fan 1990
Please note that I am a life-long Blue Jays fan, just having fun! Remember the world’s fastest ground crew between innings?
I am collating a few more ballpark images for the gallery.
March 16 A local gem in an industrial city. St Thomas- Elgin Public Art Centre (STEPAC) is a well-run destination for a local art fix.
Executive Director/Curator Laura Woermke and Program Director Sherri Howard, plus hard-working volunteers keep the galleries fresh and current. Workshops and classes for the very young (JK) to adults, inspire the creativity hidden within us all.
The recent exhibition of Ron Milton artwork was perfectly mounted. Paintings, sculpture, plus some superb silverpoint drawings were framed and lit to compliment Milton’s fine talents.
STEPAC have a superb permanent collection of local artists from the 19th and 20th century. The collection includes over 400 works by Clark McDougall, perhaps the best known St Thomas artist and a personal favourite of mine. I am fortunate to own two fine lithographs by McDougall. As I write this I glance up and they inspire me to keep working, the words will come.
Laura Woermke is also an accomplished, talented artist. Well-know for her female portraits, she also paints landscapes in a manner that resonates with me. Here is a canvas that I purchased on the recent Railway City Art Crawl, a very popular event.
Landscape by Laura Woermke.
Thank you, Laura, Sherri, and staff, for making STEPAC a relevant cultural centre of the highest calibre.
Drop in and say hello to Katelyn Tippin, the receptionist/volunteer coordinator. Ask her to show you some of her and Laura’s art too. You can blame me for sending you.
The previously mentioned Railway City Arts Crawl showcased a large number of local artists. Hamilton is similar in many respects. Industrial cities seem to breed artists. Perhaps it is a reaction to industrial ugliness, or maybe there isn’t a vast difference between making art and manufacturing?
“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” Aristotle
March 10 I know that I have a word obsession. How people write and speak is endlessly entertaining. The average comprehension of written words is dismal.
Comments on stories in the news are misspelled, disjointed and sometimes baffling. Turn your damn spellchecker on and read the full story before commenting, please. Use a free program such as Grammarly to help make you seem less illiterate.
Political speakers spew nonsense, saying nothing. A quote from Nova Scotia premier Stephan McNeil: “When we provide a window of dealing with an issue, that’s the window,” he says.
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” – Fran Lebowitz
“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” –Mark Twain
March 9 Cycles of nature. Even with snow on the ground and (lately) frigid nights, the natural world prepares for the gradual change of season.
We’ve had some fine days lately, perfect for long walks with Wilson. Piercing sun almost blindingly bright on snow coated with sparkling diamonds. My glasses turn as dark as a welder’s mask.
The sounds of my boots on the snow changing from a squeak to a crunch as the day warms. Returning to the house I shed gloves and toque, heavy coat unzippered. Wilson’s gait slows to casual stroll, corn stubble needs long exploratory sniffs to unravel hidden notice of previous creature visits.
Male cardinals and jays are sharpening their mate-attracting song skills, crows are back quietly searching for prime nesting high in the spruce trees.
Unbelievable snowdrops survive frozen ground and double-digit minus temperatures at night. The sun hits the sheltered ground for a few hours, enough to melt the soil surface just enough to release the green tips.
The forecast calls for 20-25 mm of rain overnight, guaranteed to melt the snow cover. The start of mud season or as it’s commonly named: spring.
Followed by the best feature of the warming weather, motorcycling!
“Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush.”
— Doug Larson
March 1 Life in small towns is different. I like the slower pace, although life generally has sped up everywhere. Nevertheless, I doubt that a scene like this would appear in large cities.
The Sunset Diner in St Marys an authentic ’50s diner- portions of a motion picture were shot there a few years back. Working men, farmers and family alike enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and large servings of good food. Nobody blinks if you show up in torn coveralls, work boots, and ball cap.
Taken with my cell phone. The Sunset is often a riding destination for the Rusted Nuts MC. Mexican Omelette is my usual choice. On weekends expect a long wait for your food- it’s always busy and not a fast food joint with burgers under heat lamps.
More rants, essays & observations at: