On September 21, I and my wife will celebrate three happy years of married life. We’ve actually been together much longer, and yet the honeymoon is not over. In fact, we agreed that our recent road trip vacation to Georgian Bay, Tobermory, Manitoulin Island, Thunder Bay and more was something of a second honeymoon for us.
We snorkelled, diving down on shipwrecks. We swam in crystal clear waters, hiked for miles through forests and across cliffs, even did a little adventure caving. We travelled on glass-bottomed boats and climbed observation towers. We swam in a waterfall, which is where the photo below was taken. And those are just a few of the bullet points. Along the way we stayed in campgrounds, motels and State Parks, staying one step ahead of the heatwave affecting the rest of Ontario all the way. And the wonderful thing about Canada is this: The more you see, the more you want to see.
The trip was around 3,200km, which by our standards is a short hop – our actual honeymoon was 5,800km – but in between 8 hour driving sessions we managed to cram in lots of fun, as well as have time for rest and relaxation. We even managed to visit an Amethyst mine, and picked up some pieces of geological history for the house.
Three years. We’ve done a lot, my love and I. And we plan to do a whole lot more in the next three. Six. Nine… Watch this space.
Happy Anniversary, my love. Here’s to many, many more.
One year ago today, our good friends Juice and Sweets (Brad and Kim) were married in a beautiful biker ceremony on a fantastic, sunny day. Surrounded by those they love, and by those that love them. It was a beautiful day. Here is the video I made for them.
It was a good day.
On the same day, Nikki and I were waiting to hear whether our offer had been accepted on the house in which we now live. Obviously, it was. During their vows, we got the call. I had muted the phone. Three buzzes while I fumbled the phone from my pocket, and the house was ours! High five and a quiet happy dance, while our friends sealed the deal with a kiss.
Five minutes after that, while we were still happy dancing, I got another call. Literally, five minutes. A lot can happen in five minutes.
That call told me that my 15 year old grandson had died in a tragically avoidable accident. He had been electrocuted while climbing on freight trains. Kyle lost his life while his cousin Cameron performed CPR until the ambulance arrived. While his brother Liam ran for help, Cam kept Kyle going until cousin Kayleigh, Kyle’s sister, came running. Together they kept the CPR going and fought on. Never give in. Never surrender. They didn’t.
But sadly, some fights just cannot be won.
Did I mention, this tragedy struck on Cameron’s 16th birthday?
Today is Cameron’s 17th birthday.
One year on. I’m wishing you a Happy Birthday, Cam, even though I know you don’t want to celebrate it. Rather, Cam has arranged to meet friends and family at a local park to release balloons in remembrance of Kyle.
That says a lot about Cameron. I can’t imagine what he (and the rest of the family, particularly Liam and Kayleigh) went through that day, and during this last long year. Or how they and the rest of the family have coped. One fractured day at a time.
I want to wish Juice and Kim a happy first anniversary. I want to wish Cam a happy birthday, whether he wants me to or not. And I want to mourn Kyle. Honestly, I can’t claim to have known him, and I won’t. I left the UK a long, long time ago when he was only a boy. But I do know this. Kyle left a huge hole. The entire family has been rocked by his untimely death. And no parent should ever have to bury a child. That’s not the way it is supposed to be.
A wedding. A new life. A life lost. All in five minutes. Five. Minutes. On that same day, there were thousands of births and deaths and marriages. Millions of happy and unhappy events. That day, and every day since. And every future day, too. The world keeps turning.
What is the point of all this? I’m getting to that. The point is this. It’s neither all good, nor all bad. In the midst of life we are in death, it’s true. Enjoy the good, and smile through the tears. There is much pain in this world, balanced, usually, by much joy.
The trick is to never give up. Never surrender. Love while you can. And live. Live and love as though there is no tomorrow. Because one day, there won’t be. And then, the good memories will help get you through. You will need those memories.
So, make some. Go and hug someone. For no reason. Just do it. Put a smile on another person’s face. It feels good. Really. Give yourself, and someone else, a happy memory. Do it. Right now.
According to the esteemed University of North Dakota (and who am I to argue with such academic giants?) the light and fluffy snow that we like to make snow angels in and make home movies of our dogs plowing through can mass around 7 US pounds per cubic foot. More average, denser snow, can come in at 15 pounds per foot, while drifted snow is denser still, since it is compacted (think snowman) and can come in at 20 pounds per cubic foot or more. I’m going to take 17 pounds per cubic foot as my base for this calculation, since it involves both drifted snow and snow which had been compacted by that most fearsome of the mechanized beasts of Winter, a municipal snow plow. We love them.
From the rear of my car to the road on this particular day was only about 50 feet. My driveway is a ballpark average of 10 feet wide. 500 square feet. The sidewalk, which one must clear by law in case some otherwise intelligent passerby slips and sues you, is 40 feet across the front of the house by 3 feet in width, adding another 120 square feet. The car itself had a foot of snow on the roof and packed under the wheels too, but let’s not quibble over details and just go with what we have: 620 square feet of snow to clear.
At the rear of my car, the snow was a foot deep. Now, we’re talking cubic. Car to road is 50 feet by 10 feet by 1 foot, total 500 cubic feet. Sidewalk, 120 square feet. If we say it was a foot deep at all points that’s another 120 cubic feet of snow. Close enough.
There’s more. At the roadside, the snow was nearer 2.5 feet deep (probably more, I’m rounding down) due to the plow (blessed be those that driveth them).
The snow sloped evenly between the rear of the car and the road due to drifting, and of course the entire road frontage was one solid block where the plow had passed. This is where that algebra you learned in school kicks in (ha! The joke is on you if you thought you would never need it, kids!) and we calculate the slope. Easy enough. See diagram. 🙂
We take the volume of an imaginary rectangle and divide by two, to get the volume of the slope area separately. (50 x 10 x 1.5) / 2, gives us an extra 375 cubic feet.
Now we add. 375 cubic feet of slope, plus 500 cubic feet on the driveway, and 120 cubic feet on the sidewalk. Ignore the car! That gives a total amount of snow on the sidewalk, and between car and road, of 995 cubic feet of wet white stuff. Are you with me so far?
The last calculation is simple. At a conservatively estimated 17 pounds of snow per soggy wet cubic foot, I shoveled 995 cubic feet of snow. A total of 16,915 US pounds. There are 2,000 pounds in a US ton. The math says that I shoveled over eight tons of water yesterday. That seems impossible, right?
Please, check my math. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I checked it a few times because I didn’t believe it myself. I think you’ll find it accurate. No wonder snow clearance is a leading cause of heart attack and sudden death in Canada. That’s a lot of water to move.
I definitely learned something today. I learned that I will park closer to the road next time.
January 29 marks the release of a David Bowie tribute issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Following Bowie’s death on January 10, a great many artists spoke of the influence this controversial musician had made on their lives, their musical choices and their careers. That in itself is inspirational.
But it goes much deeper. Beyond the musical influence, beyond the stardom and the Fame (I had to get at least one Bowie song reference in somewhere), Bowie himself has a well-documented history of drug abuse and was well along the path to self-destruction as far back as the Ziggy Stardust days of the seventies.
There are many stories of wild excesses and behaviour that follow the traditional rock star pattern. But unlike many others that were chewed up and spit out by the intensity of living their lives in the media spotlight, Bowie somehow turned it around and came out the other side, stronger than ever.
A quick Google search for ‘Bowie saved my life’ returns page after page after page of stories of fans attributing their current happiness to this much missed musician and the meaning they perceived from his body of work. But that is fairly common to any number of deceased rock stars.
What is uncommon is that Bowie used what he had learned along his personal journey to help others in his sphere of influence to get clean, mentoring them and helping them get through to the other side, too. Iggy Pop, for one, attributes his continued presence on this earthly plane directly to Bowie. And he’s not alone.
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails (NiN) speaks eloquently in the Rolling Stone tribute issue about his own struggle with drugs and says that without the support and belief in him which Bowie showed, he would not be here today. While touring together, Reznor recalls that despite being at the height of their career as NiN, he was at his personal lowest point. He also recalls something Bowie said to him, quietly and without reproach, during this time. “You know, there is a better way here, and it doesn’t have to end in despair or in death, in the bottom.”
Bowie was at that time clean, happily married, and enjoying life to the full as a father and husband, with a future and a family he could now embrace in peace. Having been that Low (sorry, couldn’t resist) himself, Bowie knew exactly how hard it could be to get clean. With simple grace and without judgement or lecture, he was for Reznor and many others simply an example of what life could offer when you walked away from drugs forever. Reznor focussed on that, and he did indeed come out the other side, with a little help from his friend.
Let’s let Reznor say it his way. This is a quote direct from the Rolling Stone article: “A few years later, Bowie came through L.A. I’d been sober for a fair amount of time. I wanted to thank him in the way that he helped me. And I reluctantly went backstage, feeling weird and ashamed, like, “Hey, I’m the guy that puked on the rug.” And again, I was met with warmth, and grace, and love. And I started to say, “Hey listen, I’ve been clean for …” I don’t even think I finished the sentence; I got a big hug. And he said, “I knew. I knew you’d do that. I knew you’d come out of that.” I have goosebumps right now just thinking about it. It was another very important moment in my life.
The power of faith in people, and belief in their own inner strength, cannot be underestimated. For those people that can no longer believe in themselves, the faith of others is often the only light they can see in their personal darkness. Be the light.
Today, the light which was David Robert Jones, AKA David Bowie, was forever extinguished. At the age of 69 he succumbed to an 18 month battle against cancer, and as his star finally went out, the night has turned black.
I am still processing this. Bowie has been my hero for forty years. I was psyched to buy the new album, Blackstar, which was released on his birthday just 48 hours ago. And then he died. And I, along with the rest of the world, got the real meaning behind this album.
It was his epitaph. He is the Blackstar. Knowing for 18 months that he was dying, he went into the studio to record this parting gift, and say farewell. On his terms, right to the end. Good on ya.
The entire album has only one voice: His. I would not be surprised to discover that he also played all the instruments. This was his final work, his Magnum Opus. Back to relying on only himself to come up with the goods, it is almost as though he went back to that bedroom this all started in, in Brixton, London, recording the Space Oddity demo. This music shows how far he came, yet returns to his roots at the same time. And of course, he nailed it, yet again.
I like to think that he knew his final journey was one he had to take alone, and he built that into the album. You can hear it in the voice as well as in the heartbreaking lyrics. No other voices. He planned, prepared and executed this project, knowing he had months left to live. It was his ‘Going out in style’ project, and one of his best works, the music really is fantastic. An amazing showman right to the end. Can you imagine the strength of character that must take? Respect.
I watched the video for the title track with new eyes. Here’s my take.
Bowie’s career took flight in 1969 with Space Oddity, and Major Tom was catapulted into existence. Ashes to Ashes came much later, and showed the ch-ch-changes Major Tom (and Mr. Bowie) had gone through along the way.
The Blackstar video neatly bookends the career and completes the journey of Major Tom as we see the skeletal astronaut lying dead on a barren planet under a black star. Major Tom found his final resting place, on the other side of the event horizon. He is taken to the ‘Villa of Amen’ (House of God, of course) where a solitary candle burns to mark the passing of this great being, with the diamond encrusted skull and eyes. His journey complete, he can be at rest. The celebrants dance as they mourn. As will we. Not a smile to be seen.
Bowie wears buttons on his eyes during the video. Placing buttons or pennies on the eyes of the dead is an ancient practice.
The middle eight? Soul searing. It’s as if he rolled back the Bowie voice to the 70’s. Simple, melodic, haunting. And it made me cry.
He knew he was dying. And yet he passes the torch to whoever fate and the whims of the music industry will make into the next star.
The song and video both trail into a discordant instrumental mix which seems at first unnecessary, almost filler, until it dawns on you… we are hearing this amazing man’s failing heartbeat, and we are there as he takes his last breath. If you have ever sat by a deathbed, you will know what I mean, And you will hear it in this song. It slides into. Silence. And you will sit there waiting for one more breath that you know deep inside will never come. Just another minute, please…
David is famously quoted as saying “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” Wherever you are now, David, it won’t be boring. For you. For us? This world is a darker place.
As regular readers will know, the edible Nikki and I recently purchased a house, and we moved in in August. This will be our first Christmas in the new domicile, and to mark it Nikki purchased a live tree (a first for both of us), some decorations, and every available string of festive lights in a 25 mile radius. She festooned the house with them. We now have lights on the tree, shining snowmen in the windows, and battery driven candles on the tables.
Outside on the porch we have lights enough to land a plane by. Thanks to David for that. While I’m messing around with a ladder, he’s just reaching up and clipping them to the porch. I just let him get on with it, he was going much faster than I was with that ladder! Oh, the perks of being that young. And freakishly tall.
We even have a spinning mechanical Santa that runs around the hardwood floors singing and scaring the cats. And that’s fine.
As this is a year of firsts, we also thought it a great time to reboot our annual Christmas Card! This tradition will carry on from this point until I eventually croak, hopefully sometime around the next millennium. This year, the theme is simply us having fun in the new house. With my own special twist, of course.
I posted it on Facebook first, and it was the single most liked photo of the year. I’ve had several people ask me how this card was done. I’m going to post a separate blog about that, since it was fun to do and not at all difficult once you know how. As with most things creative, a little imagination is all that is required. Of course, it helps to be immensely skilled and available for hire please call now for details…
Sorry. Back to the point: Merry Christmas, from the Greens!
In the last post I wrote about the beautiful tree we bought, which coincidentally came with a house. This is an update.
The keys were dropped off yesterday. We threw some bits and pieces in the back of the car, and spent the night on the hardwood floor of the empty living room. We woke to birds singing and sunlight streaming through the shuttered window blinds. Nice.
We took a bottle of wine with us to celebrate our first night in the house. We drank the wine from the engraved goblets we were given as a wedding gift by David and Tiff (Nikki’s son and daughter-in-law). The same goblets that we took on our honeymoon road trip. The same ones we use on each anniversary, and the same ones we will use to celebrate every major event in the future.
Nikki loves the kitchen, it’s her favourite room. A new gas stove, a new fridge, and easy-close cabinet doors throughout, lots of them. Un-slammable. Try as hard as you can, they just whisper silently shut. Throw in the Lazy Susan, the double sink and the pantry, and I seriously worry I may never see Nikki in any other room: It’s big enough to put a bed in. Shh. Don’t give her ideas.
I don’t have a favourite room, I kinda like them all. But I am looking forward to taking my first bath in ten years. Showering is efficient and quick, but there is nothing quite as relaxing as soaking in a tub for an hour and coming out pink, wrinkly, and stress free. The bath in this house is deep enough to do that, so I am going to the store today to buy a rubber duck. Maybe the bathroom will grow to be my favourite. Time will tell. I look forward to finding out.
Dear diary, today the edible Nikki and I bought a ten year old Japanese Red Maple. For my UK peeps, that’s a tree. This fine specimen of Mapledom reaches for the sky in every shade of flaming fire red the mind can imagine and outshines even the blazing noon sun of a Canadian Summer. The leaves glow with rebirth, new life, and the promise of summers yet to be, and it is very beautiful.
We paid a good price for our tree. Some may think we paid more than we should. But that’s not fair. They don’t realize that this tree came as part of a package. To buy this particular tree, we had to suck it up and agree to buy the four bedroom house that came with it.
So we did.
Our House (cue Madness riff, long live Suggs) is on a 40′ by 165′ lot that we have big plans for over the next however many years, starting with a raised rear BBQ deck and a vegetable garden. One day, maybe even a pool. There is a full basement, and my first planned purchase is a beer fridge, and that beer fridge will sit right beside the spot on the wall where I will lovingly mount the dartboard I have kept in storage for many years, waiting for just this very day. Nikki wants a push mower. I love her very, very much.
The front of the house has a veranda which looks across the front yard to our Japanese Red Maple. We plan to spend many years sitting on that porch in rockers, watching our tree grow and waving at the ships passing through the Welland Canal at the end of our street, as they ply their way to the four corners of the earth.
It took many years and a lot of blood sweat and tears to get here. We earned this. This has been a long time coming. This is us, hitting the slopes of Mount Retirement. As we slide down that slope we aim to add wheels, to make the slide even more uncontrollably fun.
Once we have a garage (second major purchase), I want a ride on lawn mower (because that’s a big-ass yard!), then a snowmobile, a boat, a Seadoo, a motorbike or two and, if I survive long enough to make it happen, a Batmobile. ‘cos why the hell not? Think big.
Well, that’s the next twenty years planned for. Now we just have to figure out how to make it happen. And that, my dear readers, is all going to be part of the fun. Yay. Retirement, here we come.
A good advert can stop traffic. A really good advert can make traffic too scared to pass. This, I say, is a really good advert.
Designed for my own company, GYST Services, it gets the message across in a highly visual and effective way. It says that small can be powerful, and versatile, and aggressive. It says we got game. And it says we can hold our own against the big boys, and win. Just like GYST, in fact.
Here, it’s Muscle Car vs Cube. Cube wins. Cube always wins.
And it speaks the truth: Never underestimate the stopping power of a well-placed advertisement. Want one? 🙂
My last post showcased a work-in-progress (WIP) for one of the many companies I work with. For each company I routinely have many folders full of collateral to call upon, and for each I always have at least one WIP. Here’s why.
Any creative brief leaves much room for interpretation. It’s my role to interpret what is asked for, choose a path to that ultimate goal, and then create something wonderful. It’s on me to make the client go “Wow!” And that brings with it both a challenge and an opportunity. This is all part of the joy of design.
The challenge is to visualize exactly what the client means when they say something like “I want something dynamic!”. That broad concept and what it means to me, may not be what it means to the person speaking. Dynamic can mean interactive, or giving the impression of motion. I have, in fact, seen this very sentence yelled out lout, accompanied by a palm slamming onto a table. I even once watched as a CEO did a little Superman impression complete with accompanying “Whoosh!” flying sound. I kid you not.
Those are the clients that don’t really know what they want, and do you know what? They don’t need to know. They just want me to pull something amazing out of my hat. And that’s where the opportunity comes in.
In the absence of specific guidelines, you need to come up with your own starting point. Make your own design decisions. Choose the direction and the meaning of what you create. Many of my clients want me to come up with all the ideas. That’s fine. I actually prefer it.
I usually begin by asking for two colours. Then I ask for two or three words which encapsulates the message they want to send. That could be about the company itself (Dynamic! Forward thinking!), or about the product they want to promote (Reliable! Innovative!). That’s when I start throwing pixels.
Starting with the base colours provided, it’s sketch time. What do those two or three words say to me? How can I make that message into something visually pleasing that will attract the target audience of Joe (or Joan) public? Is it a sales message? Informational? Who is this aimed at and what do they want to see? What will pull them in?
Starting with a blank page I can spend a lot of time putting together concepts which are ultimately thrown away, because for whatever reason they don’t quite work. That time is not wasted however, since it helps to polish the process, and zones in on the final choice of concepts. Now, some have likened this process to a sculptor starting with a square block of marble and throwing away the marble chips as he works, revealing the finished statue. That’s far too pretentious to my way of thinking, so forget that, but on a practical level it is true that throwing away all the good concepts created along the way would be wasteful. Though they may not work for this particular project, they may be perfect for the next. That’s where WIP folders come in.
The previous post showed one such WIP concept, a car representing a company. Compare that image with the one in this post. Same idea. Different product, different company, different look and feel. But for this company, this concept works.
Many creative artists and designers have also had the unhappy experience of putting their hearts and souls into a project, only to have it dismissed out of hand by the client when they present it. I feel your pain, I’ve been there. I think all of us have.
What I want to say to those on the receiving end is simply this: If you haven’t already, put your cast-off designs into a WIP folder of your own. When you have time, revisit it. You may find another angle, another inflection, another use. If not, you can play with the design, develop it further. Practice. And play.
Play is the oil that keeps the wheels of imagination turning. There I go being pretentious again. But it’s true. Keep on keeping on. Your WIP folders serve as your source of both inspiration and reassurance: When you look back on them you know your work is good. Use your WIP concepts to reflect on old and new projects, and to get your creative ideas flowing. Often, you will find they serve as a launch pad for new and even better creative ideas.
And that springboard will lift you to new creative heights.
Witty, urbane, stylish. These are just some of the words which have not been used to describe this blog…