August 30, 2006

Biking To The Viking (And Back)

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Top row (left to right): this is how we ride; me and "Pinks", the Rest Stop #2 clown. Middle row (left to right): Kerry in the country; Saturday afternoon welcoming committee; me and the Gimli Viking. Bottom row (left to right): nature calls on Sunday morning; the open road.

This past weekend's MS Society "Biking to the Viking" fundraising event was an eye-opener for me in terms of what I thought I could accomplish on a bicycle. Not that the ride was any back-breaking endeavour, but my previous high for kilometers in a single ride topped out at about 60, on either of my commutes home from work. But the bike tour, which covers 170 kilometers of unrolling Manitoba countryside over two days, had Kerry and I just a little concerned in advance about uncontrollable variables like wind, rain and gluteal endurance. I'm proud to say it went without a hitch (some rain, defying even that morning's forecast, did occur for the first 20 minutes or so of the ride and from then on it was calm, sunny and comfortable).

On the first day, traveling to our destination of Gimli, everything was new; stuff to look at, muscles to test out, a pace to set. Rest stops spaced intermittently along the route kept us well-fed with snacks (even if the promise of so many cookies failed to pan out). By the midway point of the day we were defying the pace we anticipated pedaling at, much faster than on the streets of the city. Bikers were jovial. Highway traffic remained unthreatening.

The return trip on Sunday looked to be the harder part – and it was, but not by much. Any soreness from Saturday was virtually nonexistent, but returned slowly over the course of the day – particularly in the you-know-what, and particularly for me, the you-know-wheres. Even the slight west wind put me down a notch, and after nearly seven hours of total ride time over the weekend, any semblance of conversation withered away and I spent time with my tired brain. I resorted to quietly singing to myself the only two songs I know by heart, With Or Without You and Rocky Raccoon, as Kerry rode a few meters ahead. And by mid-afternoon Sunday, after an exhausting final leg, it was over.

A good time, and a good feeling of accomplishment.

August 28, 2006

79: A Happy Accident

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This summertime snapshot of Kerry's nephew in Gimli was a happy accident on two fronts. Firstly, the photo itself was taken for reasons other than its outstanding 'blue-ness'; Duncan here had just finished his bubblegum-flavoured ice-cream cone and requested that I take a picture of his tongue, and of course I obliged. But in all honesty, I gave no thought to the fact he was wearing a blue shirt, that the ship tied to the dock behind him was awash in a new blue coat of paint, not even that he had blue eyes. My only goal was to get him out of the direct sunlight because the shadows were too harsh. But hey, accidents happen; and here I am the proud owner of one cool photo.

Secondly, the current theme running at PhotoFortnight was – appropriately enough – blue. So this photo also doubles as my no-thought-behind-it-whatsoever submission for the site's voters. The photo beat out this image below, an extreme closeup of the blossoming-like-mad morning glory vine in our backyard.

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August 22, 2006

78: Hookup

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Here's a relatively quick sketch gussied up for Illustration Friday's theme of match. I originally pictured this concept with a not-so-subtle plug and socket in place of where the switch and bulb are respectively located, but decided against it when it was noted that it may come off as somewhat raunchy. Instead, I attempted to show a simpler and symbolic representation of two people clicking for the first time, and as an experiment wrapped the whole thing up in this stylized fashion.

August 21, 2006

77: Happy Trails

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Top row (left to right): Peanut butter on my nose; Bear Lake lily pads; granite rock patterns. Middle row (left to right): a Bear Lake trail ritual – leaving some coins on the CN main line; a busy bumblebee; a lone crooked birch tree. Bottom row: Kerry reading at Bear Lake.

In honour of Photo Friday's word-o-the-week – friend – I present this montage of images taken last Friday when I took the day off to join my best friend on a hike in the Whiteshell. Kerry and I tested out the Bear Lake hiking trail, the first time I have been on this relatively short path since I was a little kid. The six-kilometer return trip to the trail's namesake lake crosses the CN main rail line before crossing an overgrown meadow and loosely following a series of parallel granite outcrops.

We met a grand total of three people along the way, curious for a perfect August afternoon. And largely because of that, the day came with a truly great feeling – not one of merely tacking on an extra day to a weekend, but instead the sense that every other single person in the world was toiling away at work someplace. The ride home only validated this sentiment, as we drove west to the city against an endless stream of cars heading in the opposite direction – full of people racing to the park, looking to get the most of their two-day weekends.

Friday marked eight years since Kerry and I have been together.

August 20, 2006

"PS: I Changed My Mind. Kiss My Eye."

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I got in touch with my inner juvenile and saw Snakes On A Plane. It takes a certain mindset to enjoy fare like this – and fortunately I was able to dig deep and find that mindset. But "kiss my eye" is not a cheesy internet-junkie-injected line from this awesome and shlocktastic movie. Rather, it was a censor's choice in handling a line of dialogue from Young Guns, when it aired here on local television some 15 years ago.

Obviously since those days, with the advent and spread of choice in how TV gets relayed into the home, those who want to see movies in all their uncensored glory can do so easily. Heck – aww, to heck with it: hell – restrictions on what gets onto basic prime-time programming have slackened also. But watching Snakes On A Plane on a Sunday afternoon in a near-empty theater; and more to the point, the scene – you know, the one with the quote – it made me recall, quite fondly, the days when the networks had to get creative with how they dealt with TV broadcasts of expletive-laden movies. And also how their attempts unwittingly became fodder for jokes around the high school cafeteria table the next day. To wit – and I'm aging myself here – a scene in Darkman in which the title hero viciously breaks a carnie's fingers when he was too slow in handing over a prize plush pink elephant, and hands it to his shocked fiancĂ©e:

The movie quote: Take the f**kin' elephant!

CTV's late-night cover-up: Take the fuzzy elephant!

Or this nugget sequence I caught as a teenager while watching the curse-ridden Do The Right Thing; a scene in which Radio Raheem berates a Korean grocer for not understanding his request for batteries (in this case I'll spare what the original lines are, on account of sheer obviousness):

Radio Raheem: D, mickeyfickey, D. Learn to speak English first, all right?

Grocer: How many, you say?

Raheem: Twenty, mickeyfickey, twenty.

Grocer: Mickeyfickey you.

Nowadays, so much can filter through censors like a kid with a phony doctor's note can slip into class late. All most networks require is a warning after each commercial break, and they can let loose a torrent of krunk and blood on par with any cable outfit. And frankly, that kinda ruins the fun of it.

August 14, 2006

76: Aw, They're Just Playin'

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I up and tackled a concept I attempted about a month ago – an idea I had for Illustration Friday's theme of 'sacrifice' (as in sacrificing the body, a hockey terminology). Back in July I had much more on the brain and the concept defeated me pretty soundly. So I scrapped the sketch and decided to give things a rest.

But, glutton for punishment that I am, I didn't let the idea go entirely and decided to reattempt the illustration for I-F's current them of play. In Canada – and select northern outposts of the United States – play comes often in the guise of bloody carnage otherwise known as hockey. Myself, I'm also a fan, but I mostly keep to a more sedate version carried out in gyms and parking lots – avoiding the fate of the fellow pictured here (let's call him Lew, for the sake of giving him a name).

This illustration was done up as a pencil sketch on Saturday in a new hardcover sketchbook I bought last week, then inked the following day – with special attention given to working on thicks and thins. These portions of the process combined took about three hours. Once a colour and background scheme was thought of, the time spent in Photoshop realizing it took roughly another hour or so, all told.

A closer look at some of the detail can be seen here. Let me know what you think.

August 08, 2006

75: Cadence Times Nine

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My family doesn't get together very often - partly out of dynamics, but more due to plain and simple geography. However, a recent spell of family visits that just wrapped up was so unique my brother dubbed it FamilyFest – two weeks of familial bliss and general busyness, highlighted by my niece Cadence's first ever visit to Winnipeg.

Cadence is almost two now, and she's as precocious as a tot of this age can get. She enjoys running around the house in circles (counter-clockwise only), loves blueberries, chicken fingers and getting spooked. She repels incoming raspberries (the belly-fart variety, not the yum-yum fruit kind). She calls jewelry "pretty" and loves the book One Duck Stuck. She gives high-fives and clinks glasses – or in her case, sippy-cups – when you say "cheers". She did not make friends with my brother's cat, Roscoe.

And she makes for wonderful pictures.

August 07, 2006

Private Moment

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Another pulled from the vault; this week's theme offered by Photo Friday is the word private – and I immediately thought of this image I took in the summer of 2004. And not so much based solely on the date and place of this picture, but rather the feeling it emits through composition and mood. Kerry and I had joined much of her family for a trip on the Prairie Dog Central, a vintage train that runs just north of the city. It was a hot day, and there was plenty of room to spread out among the cars – leading to this image that gives the illusion of a private train ride.

You can click here for a bigger look at the image.

Speaking of photos, be sure and make your next click to PhotoFortnight, to vote on the submissions for their latest theme of work. And be kind to my entry while you're at it.