Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Revisiting Creative Resolutions

It's a fool's game, I realize. But I went back to check out my creative resolutions from last year. The results were not at all pretty:
  • "Write and self-publish a book for children with Neil" -- Sadly, I've hardly even seen Neil since they moved back to the valley, never mind collaborated with him on a cool project. I'll have to move this to the unattainable dream category for now.
  • "Draw once a week, no matter how insignificant or small, and collect the results in one place" -- Maybe more like once a month, but barely even that much. I haven't even been keeping up with recording enough of the girls' art lately either.
  • "Play bass at least an hour a week and learn Robin's songs so we can play for people at some point" -- I fell so flat on this one it's not even funny. Barely played bass, and although I loved Robin's songs, never properly learned them. Ugh.
  • "Maybe ease off on the photography a bit, if for no other reason than to free up some time for the pursuits above" -- This wasn't a bad idea, but it didn't happen. I guess I'm just sticking with photography for now.
It wasn't all bad news -- my passion for the violin came out of nowhere and captured my imagination in a way that these other things didn't. Music and photography have always been my thing, really, so perhaps I should just go with the flow in '09. So, for those two pursuits, some quick goals (you'd think I would have learned my lesson from last year, but no):
  • Violin: I bought the second Suzuki book yesterday, so I'm planning to finish the last couple of songs in Book 1, and then hopefully be able to play through Book 2 over the next half-year or so. I started removing tapes from the fingerboard, like removing training wheels -- complete removal is the next step. This year I'd love to learn some fiddle music, in Irish and gypsy styles. I may also spring for a new violin, having found some limitations in this rental of mine.
  • Photography: I don't think I've ever set goals for photography -- it's something I've always just woven into our lives. Gear-wise, I'm pretty set right now, with the only thing to covet being a nice wide angle lens and my first tripod. I'd like to strive for two somewhat opposite goals: more variety in my choice of subjects, and one or two themes that I start to build a sort of collection around. Sort of like some of the Flickr sets, but something new, and with greater depth...something that stretches me and requires some discipline.
And then there's blogging, which should probably be included here. I get regular bouts of blog envy, finding ones with amazing writing, gorgeous layouts, outrageous photos and more authenticity. BUT, I'm mostly just glad that I've kept this one going even if it limps sometimes. Maybe it's not so creative, but at least it's not going away.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What's on the Tube?

Cousin-in-law Shane gave me a great Christmas present this year: a list of a few starting points for digging into the best music from Bob Dylan. I had confessed my ignorance, so he offered the gift of knowledge. Most were links to YouTube videos from stripped-down performances in the early '60s, and I got happily lost following related videos until I had blown an hour on ol' Bob. Tons of cool stuff like Don't Think Twice, It's Alright.

And isn't YouTube just unreal? It keeps blowing my mind. Like last week I was looking for something to do with gypsy music because of a couple of cool scenes in The Red Violin, and ended up finding this video for a gypsy band called Taraf de Haidouks. Most of the footage covers a Romanian wedding, and I must have watched (and listened) a half-dozen times, not entirely sure why I loved it so much. I've also been working through excellent violin lessons from Todd Ehle, all free on YouTube. This stuff makes me disproportionately happy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stoesz Festivities

A couple of years ago my Aunt Lucy and her husband Dave moved to Penticton, and it's become an excellent tradition to get our clans together just after Christmas. It's fun every year, with a warm vibe, great food, and reconnecting with family. Nick was the guest of honour this year as the only one from far away -- that's him performing feats of storytelling. A few of my photos:

And a few shots from Jason, also Flickr'd:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Past

Just like that, Christmas is over. The celebration was pretty low-key for us this year. On Christmas Eve, the Duecks invited us up to Faulder for skating and hanging out. So fun. The rink is in perfect shape, and the fire was roaring -- not quite warm enough to keep the kids out there longer than about 20 minutes, but Myron and I shot around for a while after getting them inside. Perfect warm vibe inside, with the kids doing their thing, and the grown-ups laughing their asses off over wine and nibblies.

We opened our presents and stockings when we got home. Everyone seemed to be satisfied with their haul, but we played it pretty low-key with presents this year. I got a badly-needed new wallet and a gorgeous mounted print from a gallery in Tofino (recorded here primarily because I can never remember what I get for Christmas). Christmas morning was mellow -- peach-porridge bake for breakfast, then just hanging out while the kids played with new stuff until it was time to head to my folks' place in Kelowna. Somewhere in there Jason and Karen popped by on their way to Penticton, which is always a treat. I need to get a photo of J's incredible new coat tomorrow at the Stoesz get together.

Round two of presents started almost as soon as we got there, and we tore through them in no time. Goodies galore, and instead of lots of little stuff, I got one great toy -- a lens I've been too cheap to buy for myself. Tannis used it for this great shot of me playing violin in mom 'n dad's living room -- perfect sound in there, with a big vaulted ceiling and hardwood floors. Ezra accompanied me on the piano.

The feast was amazing, with all the fixin's. We stayed up late talking, and the grandparents rounded up the kids in the morning so Tannis and I could sleep in a bit. Glory be. Then gorging on waffles with pudding, syrup, ice cream and strawberries. Then more lounging around, and I inflicted more of my beginner violin songs on everyone. Oh, and Ella rocked her cute new 'do all along. Uncle Ryan was missed, but as he was in Europe, none of us felt too sorry for him.

So we didn't do the family photo thing this year; either the taking of it or the sending out to everyone. But we hope you had a great Christmas, and thanks for dropping in here -- it's always nice to hear from friends and relatives this time of year. Hope we get to see you this year!


Update: Tannis also added some more photos and reflections from Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Legendary Lorne

It was exactly four years ago when we attended a fateful Christmas party here at Bill's house where we now live. I didn't know anyone there, didn't want to go, and basically self-medicated with beer to just get myself in the door. But of course it was great; people we felt comfortable with, no pretentiousness, good laughs. I made two of my closest friends of the past four years within an hour of arriving at that party: our gracious landlord Bill, and Lorne, who got a great kick out of finding out that we had grown up 20 miles apart in southern Manitoba. I had never had friendships develop that quickly.

A couple of years ago, we had to say goodbye to Bill, Rose and Sam when they moved to Vancouver. This week, we said goodbye to Lorne and Nada and their girls as they moved back to Altona. For someone like me who finds it difficult to make friends, losing them is especially hard. Yeah, we can keep in touch (although Lorne doesn't e-mail, and I don't do the phone) and see each other once a year or so, but Lorne and I had built our friendship around getting together once or twice a week, often with the kids or out to the pub after they were asleep. Hard to replicate that a few provinces away. I tried not to grieve it too much in advance.

It certainly doesn't help to mope, so this week I'm remembering good times and being thankful for the fun we had. The memories blur together because many were repeated dozens of times -- meeting at the beach for the afternoon to combine our chaos, beers at the Perch with Andrew, sitting in one of our kitchens or backyards, analyzing our days while the girls ran wild. The girls don't have cousins close by, and the Hildebrands became family to us. Families change, and although we'll miss them, we wish them the best in the next chapter of their lives.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

On the Rocks

On Friday we had no power for most of the day, which makes you realize how totally dependent we are on electricity. We went for a drive to go talk to the O'Gormans since we couldn't call them. On the way home, we stopped by Rotary Beach and noticed how interesting the ice formations were. Much like the ice formed in a cold snap two years ago, the poles on the piers and docks were iced up, and the icicles were in fine form, but this year there were also thousands (millions?) of amazing discs of ice, floating free and making the best patterns. After dropping off the crew and getting Ezra to sleep, I zoomed back with my camera and tried to capture some of the beauty, some of which ended up in this Flickr set: Ice.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Richard the Great

One reason he's great is because he pestered me to go riding last Sunday and led me on a fantastic singletrack exploration for a couple of hours. It looks like our current half-foot of snow is going to be sticking around for a while in the cold, so that ride may stand as the last of the season. Good times. I love this photo, too -- the motion blur makes it more interesting, in a way.

It was part of another roll of film I developed this week; a bit of a disappointing roll, but I got a few decent ones. Sadly, our scanner doesn't do them justice, but here's a sample:

Saturday, December 13, 2008


"All good things start with butter and sugar."
-- Tannis Hiebert, December, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Critical News Flash

It's winter in Canada! There's breaking news for you. We've had a pretty normal fall, I think, maybe a bit on the mellow side. That first dump of snow disappeared quickly, but we're getting some more today (I should have gone riding this morning when I had the chance). It looks like we've got a prairie-style cold snap coming -- that's colder than we're used to around here. Should be great for freezing the rink at Myron's. I went up last night and added an inch of water, which doesn't sound like much, but the rink is 30'x50' -- just needs another couple more inches and we'll be skating up a storm.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Better Mood from Gratitude

I love this article about practicing thankfulness from the always-excellent PsyBlog -- this rings so true for me. Simply recording things I'm thankful for actually makes me happier, and gives me something to lean on when I'm feeling less thankful.

One of my favourite childrens' book blogs does this every week with their readers, usually combined with a profile of an author or illustrator -- they call them 7 Kicks, and they're up to #92 already. So every week, the co-bloggers each share seven "Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week—whether book-related or not" and their readers do the same in the comments. Nifty.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Offboard Memory

  • Fantastic two-hour ride with Richard on the weekend, discovering an endless loop of singletrack and sharing some laughs. Glad the piles of snow disappeared again.
  • My first noon-hour hockey of the season -- it's drop-in, so you just show up with your gear and pay $5 on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday (Monday and Wednesday we take the kids skating at noon) -- I was terrible, giving the puck away nearly every time I touched it. Amazing exercise, though, and we had two goalies, with three subs on each side...perfect.
  • Tannis took the kids out for the evening tonight, leaving me with three uninterrupted non-work hours. I played violin for almost two of them, with a hockey game on in the background. It's become a really good thing for me. I discovered an interesting violin dealer in Salmon Arm, who would likely be happy to take some of my dollars.
  • I joined Myron and his brother for an excellent evening on Monday. Sunflower seeds, cold beer and chocolate cake around the woodstove. The backyard rink is looking fantastic, and it's always good to catch up with Kev -- we never run out of things to talk about.
  • Watched most of Winged Migration -- unbelievable cinematography of birds.
  • Started A Boy of Good Breeding by Miriam Toews. So far so good, if not as instantly compelling as A Complicated Kindness.
  • Fun Thai lunch with Jim last had been way too long, so it was great to connect again.
  • Listening to Frightened Rabbit and getting inexplicably teary whenever Old Old Fashioned came on.
  • The Weakerthans coming back to Kelowna in April.
  • Oh yeah, and that Ezra is wicked cute...


Tuesday, December 09, 2008


We celebrated Tannis's birthday on Friday. The Beanery cooked our breakfast to start things off, and we had a lazy morning (I had booked the day off). After lunch we were off to Penticton for the Home Learner's Program Christmas party. Ivy and I performed with our violin group, and we listened to the other students playing and singing as well -- it was inspiring. Nice vibe later, and we even made a new friend; a woman who reminded us enough of Ang that we instantly liked her. Tannis snuck out of the party for a quick work appointment, and then we headed back home.

My folks came later and took the kids out for supper, so Tannis and I enjoyed another feast at the Cellar Door Bistro. Nice mellow celebration for a very special woman.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Nine Inch Nails has been on my gotta-see-someday list for a long time, and they're finally off the list after seeing them last night in Kelowna. I had mixed expectations for the show -- low because much of their music is electronic and sampled, and difficult to perform in an authentic way, but also high expectations because of the reputation they have for a great live show and because of how badly I wanted to see them.

Despite thinking that I had lost Cousin Richard in the Greyhound system at one point, and giving up to go to the pub by myself, it turned out to be a really fun night. Andrew and I eventually collected him outside the arena and met Robin inside, who said that the opening band had been terrible. The lights went down almost immediately after we sat down, and the seats were great; bottom row, just off the corner of the stage (thanks again, Vicki).

I hooted and hollered and laughed out loud in the first few songs, because it was just total audiovisual onslaught -- so intense and amazing and frantic. For those first ones, it was a straight-up heavy rock assault with multiple guitars and pounding drums; Reznor muscling around the stage like a caged tiger and singing/shouting in fine form. Lights started out as panicked white strobes and walls of black and white to match the deafening wall of noise. The sound quality was incredible -- loud enough to shake our guts, but never distorted or mixed poorly.

According to this setlist, they played 28 songs. Highlights and notes from my perspective...

Incredible: Discipline, Terrible Lie, Only, Head Like A Hole, Hurt, In This Twilight

Discipline was my favourite tune off the newest album, and they performed it flawlessly. The three oldest songs in this group were unbelievable not only for nostalgia, but just for the sheer power of the performances, especially Head Like a Hole -- the only thing that might have improved it would have been another 50,000 fans chanting along. I had barely dared to hope that they'd play Twilight, my favourite mellow NIN song ever, so it blew my mind as the concert closer.

Great: Head Down, Me I’m Not, The Hand That Feeds, Echoplex, The Beginning of the End, The Good Soldier

Head Down and Echoplex were two other favourites of mine off the new album, and I liked the live versions even better. I wasn't as impressed with the performance of Hand That Feeds, but love the song so much I didn't really care...just happy they played it. This trio from Year Zero were excellent...solid, tight and much heavier than on the recordings.

Not So Good: March of the Pigs, Wish, Survivalism, Piggy, and Closer

I knew in advance that they'd play many of the popular, harsher anthems that most NIN fans seem to adore -- so I was prepared. The performances were excellent...I just don't like the songs (blasphemy to true fans, I know). They played a surprising amount from the mellow, mostly-instrumental Ghosts project. Although it provided a nice break from the full-frontal attack of the heavier stuff, they didn't play any of the Ghosts tracks from 1-10, which contain my favourites. In general, the all-electronic songs where they put away the guitars and actual drums were pretty bad, with the "band" pretending to twiddle knobs on machines while singing over recorded music (or so it appeared to me). Bit weak.

Songs I Wished They Had Played But Didn't: Into the Void, The Wretched, We're in This Together, Every Day is Exactly the Same, The Warning, My Violent Heart, Slipping Away, Where is Everybody?, Down in It, Beside You in Time

This is always a tough list, and hardly fair with bands that have been around a long time. Out of a couple of hundred songs, how could they pick everyone's favourites without putting on an all-day show? That said, I would have LOVED to hear any of these, as well as a dozen others that I listen to all the time. But it didn't make me bitter. With so many great songs, you can't complain about the ones they missed.