Thursday, April 30, 2009

Orchard Rambling

I got out for another photo-ride on the weekend, combining two of the things I like most. It's not really a true bike ride, but I can cover a lot of territory with a bike, and it's still easy to stop and take photos when I feel like it. The orchard blossoms are starting up now, so that may be my subject of choice for a while. A few highlights:




Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Round Two

I've updated my playoff predictions -- feel free to join in if these things interest you. I did OK in the first round predictions, calling six of eight series correctly. Anaheim beating San Jose upsets the apple cart in the West, and I like Vancouver's chances at this point.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Weakerthans/Constantines, Kelowna, BC, April 27/09

It's been interesting to witness the progression of the Weakerthans through the lens of their Kelowna shows over the years. I saw them the first time at the Laurel with Cassandra in 2001-02 with a hundred or fewer young 'uns. No proper stage, odd empty room, and a hungrier, younger band...I think tickets were $10. I assume that missed them in 2004, but caught them again with the Constantines exactly four years ago with Ryan in a dingy Kelowna club. In contrast with the first show, that one was packed and I thought that the openers upstaged the headliners...The Weakerthans were fine, but the show was too short and they seemed really tired. $18, if I remember right. This show was really different -- much bigger venue in the Kelowna Community Theater, older crowd and $25 plus fees.

The Constantines are a great band, skilled and focused and totally committed. The Hard Feelings video gives you a pretty good sense of what they're all about, and they played it very well live. Other standouts were Shine a Light, Young Offenders, I Will Not Sing a Hateful Song, and Nighttime/Anytime (It's All Right). Despite those positives, I couldn't help being disappointed, because they didn't play any of my three favourite songs, all mellowish ones: On to You, Soon Enough and Our Age (especially this last one, such a great song).

Tannis and I enjoyed a couple of beers while we people-watched between sets, and the Weakerthans came on at about 10pm, opening with a perfect version of one of my favourites, Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call (mp3). Pretty much everything off that album was great; stuff like Our Retired Explorer, Reconstruction Site, Plea from a Cat Named Virtute (mp3) and The Reasons. The trumpet was fantastic on a few of those too; warm and bright. Pamphleteer was strong and Samson really nailed One Great City!, singing it solo. Night Windows (mp3) was amazing, as expected, perhaps only topped by Left and Leaving near the end.

There's something about seeing the Weakerthans that transcends the usual rock show experience. Despite my blathering, it's not really about the venue or the performances or the sound -- it's the effect of the songs as they wash over you and work their way into your brain. For us, there's a spiderweb of references to our past in Winnipeg, to growing up and leaving things behind. Lines like this really jump out when the Red River is a dozen kilometers wide:
Wait for the year to drown.
Spring forward, fall back down.
I'm trying not to wonder where you are.
All this time lingers, undefined.
Someone choose who's left and who's leaving.
We left. Nearly every one of my closest friends from the '90s left too -- Myron, Angelo, Trev, Chris, Steve, Greg and others. Yet the place is a still a big part of who we all are, and we all have loved ones there. There's something about the Weakerthans that reflects that sense of nostalgia and longing for me. Somehow it's more about what they represent, which is why I go see them over and over. And of course they capture some of their own contradictory feelings about staying in (and leaving) Winnipeg best in One Great City!:
And up above us all
Leaning into sky
Our golden business boy
Will watch the North End die
And sing, 'I love this town'
Then let his arcing wrecking ball proclaim
Of course they don't hate Winnipeg at all -- they could live anywhere and have chosen to stay. Earlier in their career, they apparently would only play this song in Winnipeg, because the depth would likely be lost on outsiders. I suspect most people still don't get it beyond the shallowest of interpretations, but maybe it doesn't really matter. Many of their lyrics have that sort of contradictory hopefulness and hopelessness built in. From the first wonderful song I ever heard from them, None of the Above:
All night restaurant, North Kildonan.
Lukewarm coffee tastes like soap.
I trace your outline in spilled sugar,
killing time and killing hope.
This brand new strip mall chews on farmland
as we fish for someone to blame.
But we communicate in questions,
and all our answers sound the same.
Anyway, philosophizing aside, this was fun. And no, I didn't take the photo at the top of the post -- didn't even bring a camera -- I asked chromewaves on Flickr if I could borrow it, and he kindly agreed...check out his excellent music blog if you get a chance.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friesen Clan (and Kid Pics)

Tannis's folks are out for a week, and her bro Mark is up from Vancouver for the weekend. My tolerance for a busy social scene is quite low, but it's very nice having them here -- I've learned that I just need to get some time alone every day, and preferably some exercise. They love spending time with the kids and we all get caught up on what's going on. Fun to share meals and laughs.

Apparently I'm back into the repetitive portraits of the kids. Yes, we all know what they look like already, but for some reason this is fun for me. Anyway Ezra's fixated on balloons, hanging out, exploring, goofing around and hurting himself frequently. Ella has been her usual happy self most of the time, but has seemed a bit edgy the last couple of weeks. Enigma Ivy had a breakthrough on the fiddle this week, beaming with pride after her first Fiddlekidz session.




Friday, April 24, 2009

It's a Boy!

Yes, I already have too many instruments and not enough time to play them, but I welcomed a new viola to the family this week. Silly title, but it's hard not to think of the violin as feminine and the viola as masculine -- it's that bigger, deeper sound, more like a male tenor voice than the female soprano of the violin.

After borrowing Liz's viola (and loving it), I kept my eye on eBay for a while, and there wasn't much middle-ground stuff -- either high-end prices (risky, and more than I'd spend) or low-end crap -- but when this one popped up a couple of weeks ago, I watched it very carefully. It's an Eastman entry-level outfit that goes new for about $500 plus shipping and taxes...I was glad to get it (in perfect condition) for half of that. Not much of a risk at that price, and not difficult to re-sell if necessary. Similar to my violin, it's handmade in China, but not quite as nice.

Somewhere in there I got it in my head that I should also peek at some kick-ass violas from Fiddleheads, made by the same workshop that my violin was from. Rhiannon had a great sale on, and she is very convincing, so I was pretty much ready to trade in my beloved Sun (along with a big wad of cash) for a new viola. But since I'm a beginner violinist who only borrowed a viola for a few weeks, I figured I should probably take a more conservative path and put in a bid on the eBay one. When I won the auction, I was just a bit disappointed, because I knew that it would probably mean putting off the all-or-nothing purchase of the amazing viola. On the other hand, I was glad to be keeping my violin -- I've grown quite attached to it in these few months.

It turns out that this is a decent viola. Not fancy by any means, but pretty enough and it's got enough of that viola sound I fell in love with. I was a bit spoiled by Liz's, but this one should be ok for now. Maybe I'll post another video when we get better acquainted.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I really can hardly believe that our planet has a spacecraft floating out near Saturn, sending us photos of what it looks like close up. From there, Earth would be just another tiny dot in the universe.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Easter Ezra

My parents put on another amazing easter egg hunt this year for the kids. Even Ezra got into the mix, happily searching and eating the treasures. Bill and Sam came up for most of the weekend too, so we had a couple of good hangout sessions -- I love the photo below of Bill and Ezra -- good buddies, those two. A couple of other recent kid pics that I haven't put up here yet: Ivy reading some Harry Potter to Ella, and the sisters enjoying their hideout (both below). And a few random pics for those rare types who like non-kid photos:





Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saturday Meandering

I made it out on my bike for a few hours on Saturday, toodling around Cartwright Mountain, mostly. Aside from several minor injuries involving aggressive prickly-pear cactus attacks, I just enjoyed riding and taking some photos:It was a great Saturday, really. I played violin for an hour when I woke up, had breakfast here with my folks when they dropped in on their way through to Seattle, and raked most of the afternoon...the yard looks so much better. Even got a nice pub session with Andrew later on.




Thursday, April 16, 2009

Help, Please

I'm designing this book of my best ice photos on Blurb and it's been pretty fun. I've come to a difficult spot, though. I know that I want a simple, stark background for the photos, and every colour I've tried looks awful. So it's going to be white (upper photo) or black (lower photo) -- please help me choose, in an e-mail or comment here.

Black tends to make a better background for photos, making the whites and colours in the pictures really jump out...but in this case I also like the stark beauty of plain white, as it evokes winter snow and seems less pretentious somehow. Yes, the whole project is pretentious, but still. I like them both. Over to you, loyal readers -- what say you?

Update: Thanks for all the was fast and nearly unanimous, both here and on Facebook. One thing I played with this morning was a mix of both, like black for the cover and white everywhere else (which worked), and also the possibility of hybrid pages. Not that I expect anyone to change their "vote" or cast another, but I thought it looked pretty decent:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NHL Playoffs '09

This has become a minor tradition, after fun rounds in 2008 and 2007 where friends and family posted their picks in the comments too. No pressure of course, but feel free if you're into this stuff. I haven't watched much hockey this year, other than listening to games while I'm doing something else or catching highlights online. But my interest peaks every year at this time; enough for me to make some foolhardy predictions.

Eastern Conference

1. vs 8.
I didn't even have to change the graphics this year, although the roles are reversed this time around. Nicole's crew is gearing up for another family grudge match. Last year I picked the Habs (and was right) -- this year I can't see Boston faltering. Bruins in 5.

2. vs 7.
Washington's apparently hot, and although I bet against them last year (and was right), I'm thinking they've got a good shot of beating the Rangers without too much trouble. Capitals in 5.

3. vs 6.
I know almost nothing about either team, but I like the occasional upset and this might be the one. Hurricanes in 7.

4. vs 5.
I like how Pittsburgh pulled it together late in the season, and I've got a soft spot for Malkin after watching him years ago in the World Juniors. Don't know much about the Flyers this year, but I haven't traditionally liked them much. Penguins in 6.

Western Conference

1. vs 8.
I think Anaheim might have gone deep this year again, but it took them forever to get rolling, and then drew San Jose in the first round. Little chance of an upset here, if any. Sharks in 5.

2. vs 7.
Cool to see the Blue Jackets in the playoffs for the first time, and I'd love to see an upset here...but even though the defending champs have struggled a little with goaltending, this should be a cakewalk. Wings in 4.

3. vs 6.
Two teams with incredible records since Feb.1, when they were both out of the playoff picture. The Blues have a good story and a hot goalie, but I think Vancouver overpowers them with good defense and timely goals. Canucks in 6.

4. vs 5.
Most Vancouver fans hate Calgary, and I feel no real warmth towards them either, aside from being in awe of Iginla. It seems like most people have written them off after their unimpressive stumble into the playoffs, and I'd rather see Chicago take this one...but I think Calgary is better than they've shown. Calgary in 7.

Even knowing that half of these are likely to be wrong, my pie-in-the-sky predictions for the rest of the playoffs would probably look this:

Round 2:
  • Sharks vs Flames -- Sharks in 4
  • Detroit vs Vancouver -- Vancouver in 7 (a huge upset, on goaltending alone if need be)
  • Boston vs Carolina -- Boston in 6
  • Pittsburgh vs Washington -- Pittsburgh in 7 (wouldn't that be a great series?)
Round 3:
  • Sharks vs Vancouver -- Sharks in 5
  • Boston vs Pittsburgh -- Pittsburgh in 7
Final: Sharks vs Pittsburgh -- Sharks in 6


Update After First Round
: So, my potential cup winners, the Sharks, upset again in the first round. And Calgary lost, which was my preference, but I blew the prediction. Other than that, I did pretty good, calling six out of the eight series. I wasn't even too far off the games required to win those. It took the Capital two more games, and Boston one more than I thought. I thought the Blues might take a couple of games against Vancouver, but of course I was very pleased with that sweep.

So, on to Round Two...which I have to revise considering blown calls in the first round.

1) BOS vs. 6) CAR
In the bits I saw, the Bruins looked dominant. Was it just because the Habs were so bad? Carolina has to be tired after going seven games with the Devils. Boston in 6 (unchanged).

2) DET vs. 8) ANA
As a Canucks fan, seeing the Ducks upset the Sharks was a thing of beauty, not only because it removed San Jose (who Vancouver can never beat) from the picture, but because it meant Vancouver didn't either have to play Detroit in the second round. Assuming the Canucks can beat Chicago, I'd rather have them play the Ducks, so I'm hoping for another upset here. But I don't think it's going to happen. Detroit in 5.

2) WAS vs. 4) PIT
What a great matchup. Washington showed real guts coming back from 3-1 deficit, but the Penguins sound like the real deal and got some good experience in the playoffs last year. Pittsburgh in 7 (unchanged).

3) VAN vs. 4) CHI
This might have been the best possible draw for Vancouver, other than an injury-depleted Flames team that couldn't beat Chicago. That said, I think the Hawks are going to give the Canucks more trouble than the Blues did -- they're fast and young and gritty -- they'll win one in Vancouver (probably the first one) and at least one at home, but the Canucks will prevail with home ice advantage. Vancouver in 6 or 7.

For the conference finals, I had predicted Pittsburgh over Boston in seven games. Although I still think that will be the matchup, my hunch now is that a better-rested Boston would win that series (and probably the final too). But I'll keep my original prediction: Pittsburgh in 7.

In the West, it looks like I've revised it to have the Canucks meeting the Red Wings, and I honestly believe that's a tossup. If Vancouver has any injuries to key players, Detroit wins...if they stay healthy, Vancouver in 7. Hey, I can dream.

So that would leave Pittsburgh and Vancouver in the final, which would be fantastic. Vancouver Canucks, Stanley Cup Champions in 2009, for the first time ever. That has a real nice ring to it...but even as I typed it, it seemed like pure, hilarious folly. So many things could go wrong for them between now and then...but same for the other teams too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pop Cult Moments

I haven't been consuming much in the way of media lately, but a few bits worth mentioning:
  • An incredible "documentary" from the mid-90s called Baraka -- no plot or narrative, but absolutely captivating.
  • In the other direction film-wise, one of the first feature films I got from our library (which recently purchased an odd hodge-podge of them) was The Breakfast Club, which made me want to see everything Anthony Michael Hall ever appeared in. Loved it again...aged surprisingly well.

  • I've been picking away at a book called Ice: Beauty, Danger, History -- interesting stuff, related to my fascination with ice this winter and my current attempts to pull together my best ice photos into a sort of coffee-table book using Blurb.
  • Music-wise, I listen all day and find as much new stuff as I can. Standouts this week have been We Were Promised Jetpacks (the post-punk drive and melody of Tiny Little Voices has me entranced), ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead (not just because their band name is cool), and everything from Bell Orchestre -- their new album sounds amazing, but stuff like Throw it On a Fire from their last album is still in heavy rotation. Instrumental/classical/indie/soundtrack music.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Repeat Repeat

I know I just did a post of familial cuteness, but I had a few more photos that I didn't want to lose in the recent flood of thorns, weeds, and water reflections. In the narcissism category, a few photos of me appeared for a change -- an earnest self-portrait and three nice ones of me and Ezra from Jason when they came over to hang out one morning on the weekend. And of course I took some pics of the kids too...




Sunday, April 12, 2009


Overheard today:

Tannis: Time for lunch, Ivy
Ivy: Why?

Now it wouldn't seem that this very short "conversation" would be worth posting, but it is truly a representative sample of Ivy's current mode. It's not just questioning authority, it's questioning everything. Including, say, the idea that it's time for lunch. Any idea originating somewhere other than her own brain is immediately rejected with a why, no, or maybe later. Wasn't this supposed to happen five or six years from now?

Monday, April 06, 2009


Lost in the photos of dessicated weeds, water reflections, thorns and shadows, I still occasionally take pictures of people. Even people in my family. I'm thinking I'll ramp it up with these photos as the weather keeps getting better and we're hanging out in pretty places again. A few notes on the displayed photos, mostly below:
  • Ezra's whacked these days, getting alternately obsessed by balloons, snacks, bubles, shoes, going outside, and juice. He loudly demands these things hundreds of times a day, often reverting simply to screaming PLEASE repeatedly until one of us goes insane. I was glad to get a picture of him looking just a little bit deranged with a balloon also visible.
  • Ivy would read Harry Potter for 12 hours a day if we let her. Actually more likely 16 hours a day...but we don't.
  • Considering that Ella is likely the most photogenic and cooperative person in the family, it's weird that I have no recent photos of her...but I hadn't linked this one from our visit to Angelo and Esther's a couple of weeks ago.
  • It's so unfair that Tannis hardly ever shows up in these pages -- she's gorgeous, and that visual fact should be shared. We got to have a dreamy date on Sunday, thanks to my folks (yet again).
  • Ivy busted out the violin for Grandma H. on the weekend. We played through our duets too.
  • And no, there are no recent photos of me. I should have gotten Jason to fire off a few shots when we met for coffee last week -- he seems to be my official portraitist.