Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's a cat's life...

Kitty and Jett (no, I didn't name them) absolutely love being outdoors. They have their own trapdoor for coming and going, though every now and then one of their 'friends' makes use of it as well. Kitty grew up two houses away, so its her 'hood and she supervises things. But Jett really seems to revel in the sunshine, as I often find him lying on his back with his stomach exposed to the rays (no photo of that yet).

Kitty (top) and Jett, enjoying the sun.

Jett loves this spot for posing and snoozing...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

drums 'n bikes

I recently played a hand drumming gig with my friends Jack and Bridget. And what I realized, as we gathered together to cycle to the event, was that all the conveyances used to move the drums were built by me!

Background: after building my first cargo trailer, Jack saw it and said that's what he needed as well, so we did a swap, with him building me a nice drum , and me building a copy of my trailer. Then later on I built Kyoto, my cargo trike to haul my various drums and other large things. And last Fall I built a larger version of my cargo trailer for Bridget, so that she could haul her drums around.

So the above-mentioned gig was a minorly momentous moment with three of my four projects in the same space doing the same job. So I had to get a photo taken...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bike fun

One of my biggest passions is self-propulsion, and just about anything that is pedal-powered.

And while some may consider my cargo trike to be a creative manifestation of this, there's a local guy that always takes this sort of thing to the extreme, and his name is Mike Watson. Mike dreams up some often odd yet fun cycling machines, like the BMX trike mentioned a few posts back, and a few years ago I bought his Rainbow Chopper. Mike has so many creations that he recently had a bit of a sell-off, just to make room in his backyard for more! Many of them can be seen at the HPVOoO site, like Goldmember, the shopping cart trike, swing bike (#1), and the "Two Tall" tandem.

Last Saturday morning Mike was in the neighbourhood to show of his latest thing, which for a change was rather subtle, but still fun. It's a regular bike with an extra-tall stem, so the handlebar is way up there for comfy cruising.

Note the golf ball on the end of the kickstand

Cockpit close-up

Mike on bike

Demonstrating the alternate "aero" position
(I suggested a chin rest...)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Festival season

Ottawa's outdoor festival season starts in May with the Tulip Festival, though it is often at risk of rainy and / or cool weather (not to mention unpredictable tulip growth). But June is when things really get going. This past weekend saw the Franco-Ontario Fest. outside of City Hall, the Fringe Fest. in around around Arts Court, and the Italian Fest. on Preston St.

Next up will be the Jazz Festival, immediately followed by BluesFest (the 2nd-largest Blues festival in North America!). I will be appearing at the Jazz Fest with the "Impressions in Jazz Orchestra", a project put together by Ottawa bassist Adrian Cho. Adrian began this ensemble last summer, and I joined as drummer back in December to prepare for some February concerts. Now it has become an official repertory group, and this time we are playing some jazz with both latin and classical flavours in the mix, as well as straight-ahead Swing. We even have some NACO (National Arts Centre Orchestra) musicians in the group, so it's a great ensemble that I get to power along with my drums, and the sound can be tremendous!

The February performance at Dominion-Chalmers Church
(Photo by Brett Delmage)

Way-too-early 8:00am rehearsal for same
(Photo by percussionist Alvaro)

Steve's Music is the official instrument supplier for this festival, so a drumkit can be made available for me, but I'd rather use my own, so as usual my cargo trike will be pressed into service to move it to the National Arts Centre and back.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


This past weekend the family gathered here in Ottawa for our mom's 85th birthday. And it was the first time all five siblings were together in ten years! Sister Christine (the oldest) flew in from Calgary, Eric and wife Max from Toronto, and Jon and his two teenaged daughters Marianne and Rebecca came up from Montreal. We all gathered at youngest brother Mike's place (a 20 min. bike ride for me), where he lives with his wife Jane and their youngest son Mark (home from university). Mom and step-dad Gerry (they've been together for 26 years now) came up from Kingston, and we spoiled them with a room at the ritzy Chateau Laurier Hotel.

The weather was rather crappy, being only 14 C and rainy, instead of the seasonal 23C, but the weather cleared enough for us to go for a walk down to the Ottawa River and play in the nearby park. Marianne (18) and Rebecca (14) actually love to make the trip to see family, especially here in Ottawa, since Mike and I like to play and be silly with them. Some teens can get rather uptight when the adults start getting goofy, but not these two! They join right in... (though perhaps things might be different if their friends were around).

Mom, surrounded by her offspring (L to R: Christie, Jon, Mom, Me, Mike, Eric)

The highlight was dinner of course, with dessert being a pie instead of cake. The pie featured a candle centrepiece that said "crone". This was because Mom has reclaimed that word from its typically derogatory meaning ("she's an old crone"), to reinstate it to its proper use as meaning "wise elder (woman)". I think "old crone" came into use by patriarchal men to denigrate a wise woman's powers, especially if she was calling them to task on their decisions or behaviour!

And don't worry, we had more than one pie. ;o)

After dinner was done, we gathered in the living room to do what we love best - sing! Jon played guitar, I occasionally played light percussion, and we all harmonized as we saw fit, or just listened. There are some songs Jon sings quite beautifully that Mom and the rest of us really like, so by the time those came along in the late evening we were quite sated.

The next day I had to play my weekly Sunday Brunch gig with my jazz quartet, which conveniently occurs at a restaurant right beside the Chateau Laurier! So everyone gathered there to eat and watch us do our musical thing. When the food was done I of course had to remain, and the rest headed off to visit the new and impressive (so I'm told) War Mueseum. From there they gradually made their ways back home. We all had a fabulous time, and while we're all getting older we still know how to have fun together. It's been a year of significant numbers in our family - our Dad (who lives with Nonnie, his wife of 30 years in Toronto) turned 90 back in March, Mom turned 85 in early June, and Eric turns 60 in November!

Everybody, incl. Jane's sis and family, plus Tiga the Cat.

A funny coincidence: as mentioned above, the last time all five siblings were together was ten years ago, and that was for Mike and Jane's wedding here in Ottawa. And my band The Jivewires played at the wedding. This time, the four musicians in the brunch jazz quartet were all members of the Jives for that gig! So, an interesting synchronicity of events...

Monday, June 12, 2006

hop hop hop

Ok, after that little introductory post it's time for a MegaPost!

If you've been to my website, you'll know that one of the groups I'm involved with is the Grasshoppa Dance Exchange (both as musician and webmaster). We're a loose affiliation of dancers and musicians that bring movement and sound to city streets in an improv fashion called "Hops". Well, last week we were part of the Canada Dance Festival, performing a work called "Diffusion", which was commissioned by the Festival. This meant a Hop each day of the week, and while music wasn't needed for all of them, I did take part on three of the days.

(Photo by Mike Gifford)

For Monday's Hop I assumed the role of "official videographer", using my Canon digicam in movie mode to take short video clips. I had fun doing that, because there were Hops happening at six different intersections, all conveniently located in my neighbourhood. And one of those intersections was right at the end of my driveway! So I did not have very far to go to take part. ;o)

Of course, taking movie clips meant they had to be processed, which meant that I got to explore Apple's iMovie program. As with the other iLife programs, this was pretty easy to figure out and at least get some instant results (I love it when technology helps, not hinders, the creative process). I was able to do basic things like fade the clips in and out and add titles. I'm pretty happy with the results, and you can see them on the Hoppa video page.

Tuesday's Hop had dancing at various intersections along Bank St., Ottawa's main drag. Fellow musician Jason and I realized we couldn't just pick one spot and stay there, so we decided to each start at one end and move towards each other. He was to begin downtown at Sparks St. and then walk up. I had to start at Catherine St. by the highway, and was going to walk as well, but didn't want to walk all the way to that starting point carrying my drum rig. But if I took my bike I'd have to leave it there, then walk or bus back to get it when done. But as I looked out my window I had an idea...

My friend rgb had bought Mike Watson's bmx trike. Mike is our local crazy bike builder - this mainly means the bikes are crazy, though perhaps Mike must be to some degree in order to envision the things! This machine is basically a bmx bike with two front wheels instead of one, and it's loads of fun for stunt riding (mainly up on two wheels. A photo of me doing so in a parade can be seen here). After finding out the hard way that the trike's brakes were a bit out of shape, I took the thing home (rgb and I only live two blocks apart) to put some better pads on it and adjust things properly. So the trike was sitting under my window, and when looking at it I realized I could attach my parade drum to the front end, like so:

And it worked out brilliantly! I was even able to add my leather stick / accessory bag. I cycled to the start, played with that group while never leaving the seat, then pedaled off to the next one, eventually meeting up with Jason in the middle, then continuing on. And once done I simply cycled back home! Of course I got a few looks while doing all of this, but I've become rather inured over the years of doing silly things on bikes to not care. hehe

(photo by rgb)

Friday's Hop was a Parade in the Elmvale area involving the basic themes of loud and quiet. When we were soft there was no sound, and we each draped ourselves in dark clothes or blankets while moving slowly. Then someone would yell and we'd toss this stuff off and get rowdy and loud. This went back and forth for about ten blocks, ending with us collapsing in a grassy field off a walking path. And that was the end of the Diffuson project.

OK, there's other stuff going on, but that can wait for another (shorter?) post.