You only get asked so many times before people stop asking. Years ago a friend who was in a fairly successful band, like with albums and t-shirts asked me to, ‘come play with them sometime.’ It was one of those questions that everyone who messes around with music in the basement secretly hopes somebody might come ask them someday.
I remember being so surprised that the question even came that almost out of instinct I blurted out, ‘umm… thanks, but no, I’m uhh, not that good….’
I started playing guitar in high school and have always had one around. I’ve never been in a band and have never really taken my music beyond the four walls of my house. Well, there are a few exceptions, I used to play guitar around the campfire when I was a camp counsellor in the mid 90′s and every now and again I get together with a few friends and jam out a few sloppy tunes in the basement and from time to time I’ll lay down some backing tracks for films that I work on.
So safe to say my rock and roll fantasies have stayed locked in my brain box and music for me has always been a personal thing. And to be honest I’ve always been happy with that arrangement. In my work as a writer I’ve always focussed on the subject that I know best – me. I write about my own experiences and I try and be as honest as I can. I write about the good and the bad. I write about fear and sadness, joy and pain – I expose myself to the world and I make the choice to let the audience all the way in.
This means I’ve allowed the world to share in my triumphs and as part of the deal, I share the bits that didn’t go to plan. I’ve always believed that the strongest work, the stuff that really resonates both with me and with the people who look at it is rooted in truth. The unflinching honesty is the bridge of connection that transforms something that might be considered self indulgent or lyrical waxing into something that people can relate to. And people seem to dig it.
So what does this have to do with music? Well with so much of my creative life on show, I decided a long while ago that I wanted to keep some things just for me – and my music fits into that box. So I’ve always hesitated playing in public, it was a sort of line in the sand that nobody really knew about. And besides, I’ve always been a pretty shy guy – it’s easy to hide behind a typewriter or a camera and I like it that way.
Yesterday I was at a fun little gig in Queenstown at The World Bar – Pass The Sauce is a side project of several local music heavyweights. Musicians of several different bands – The former sax player from Salmonella Dub, guitar/bass player from Black Planet, drummer from Two Buck Titties and a few other guys. Every second Saturday they get together and play improvised acid jazz on the back patio and create some interesting sonic experiments.
It’s always fun to see them as I know most of them having filmed their main bands for Source TeeVee and the arts scene in Queenstown is pretty small to begin with. About half way through the set, Joel the drummer sees me in the crowd and calls me up to the stage. He’s like, “you play guitar don’t you?”
“Yeah, why?” still oblivious to what’s coming next.
“Come play a few tunes man, it’ll be fun.”
My first instinct is to say, ‘thanks but no thanks.’ Music is my private thing and besides they were really good. In that instant I thought of all the bad things that could happen – I could suck, I could make a fool out of myself, I could lose the respect of my friends and they could ask me to stop playing mid song, laugh at me and make fun of me on the internet.
“Come on man, it’ll be fun!”
I took a deep breath and remembered the years of, ‘I really wish I would of…’ and muttered fuckit under my breath and stood up, took a step and said, ‘yeah sure, let’s do it.’
I walked up onto stage and was handed a guitar. I looked down and it was plugged into two effects units and a rather massive amp. I shook hands with the guys, Joel and I bumped fists and he smiled ear to ear, at least he was confident in what I was going to do.
Joe, the bass player and band leader said to me, ‘just play funky ambient stuff and follow along for the changes.’ Three thoughts ran through my head 1) that’s exactly what Marty McFly said to the band in Back to the Future before ripping into Johnny B. Good. 2) I don’t really play funky or ambient. And 3) I haven’t played with a wha-wha peddle since I borrowed Craig Kitchen’s Cry Baby in 1994. Before I had time to pull a fire alarm, fake a stroke or hide under the nearest chair we were off and playing.
Terror. Sheer fucking terror coursed through my veins. It was like that dream where you are giving a speech in front of the school and you realize that you aren’t wearing pants.
For the first while I did my best to hide in the mix and not really fuck anything up. Eventually, in what seemed like a lifetime, I found my feet. I think it was when Joel looked at me from behind the drum kit and hit it right on the head, “You’re thinking too much. Don’t worry.”
After that things fell into place. Sure it wasn’t the type of music I usually play and here I was playing with actual real musicians, once I stopped thinking and started just playing, I stopped being terrified and started having fun.
In the end we played four or five impromptu songscapes and it was time for me to take a seat with the rest of the crowd and watch the end of the show. I survived.
I won’t lie – it was a big thrill and something I’ll remember for a long long time. Regret is something that can burn through your soul. That first time I was asked to play, and it’s been so long I can’t even remember what band it was, all those years later I still wish I would have said yes. But not this time, opportunity knocked and I did it. I may not have sounded like Hendrix, but who gives a shit – even if it’s a one off thing and the chance never comes up again at least I stood on stage and played.
When they ask – get up and play. Life’s too short to wish you did.
(please listen to this while you read)
It’s just a shitty old belt. I don’t know what store it was bought from. It’s older than me and I don’t know much about it. Yet it’s one of the most important things I own.
My belt, the belt I wear on special occasions and when I need to feel is my brown belt – the belt that came from my grandfather’s closet. My dad’s dad died when I was a baby. I never knew him, I don’t know the sound of his voice or what he was like. I don’t know if he took cream in his coffee or liked to take a walk after dinner. I don’t know whether he listened to the hockey game on the radio or whistled along to his favourite song.
What I do know about him is what he did. He worked hard. He worked as a truck driver his whole life. He worked with his hands and he worked long hours. He worked for little money and in a profession that didn’t bring him fame or recognition. He spent most of his adult life away from his wife and kids and sacrificed accumulated years of happiness and time with them in order to feed a working class family of five.
Somewhere along the line he bought the belt. Maybe it was a Christmas gift, who knows. I could ask my dad, he might know. My grandma would have known, but she’s gone now too.
It’s a brown working man’s belt. A simple brass buckle and five holes. It’s cheap, not even leather but some fake plastic, made to look like brown leather. It’s the sort of thing you buy at Sears or Zellers, a department store that had everything from menswear to washing machines.
When he died it ended up in the back of my grandma’s closet where it stayed for the next nearly thirty years. She threw nothing out, so the fact she kept the belt says more about her than the belt itself – it’s just a belt.
It’s not just a belt. When I slip it through my trousers and latch the buckle I use the third hole along and have since I salvaged it from the back of the closet, the day after my grandma’s funeral. I’m the first one to use the third hole, the original owner used the fourth. An inch skinnier than me.
The waist of a working man. A man with just enough lunch to get by and nothing more. Clad tidy as was the way in the 70′s, shirt tucked in and shoes to match the belt. I can see him in my mind, lunch pail in hand slipping out the front door in the dawn light. Trying not to waken the family as he headed out for another long day in the truck, in the workshop or in the warehouse. The belt was there and now it’s here.
When I put it on I can feel the life lived within it. I can feel a lifetime of hard work and a life cut short by too much work and not enough sleep. The cheap fake leather doesn’t stretch or age. It’s a time capsule, frozen the day it was first worn.
I wear it to remember. I wear it to remember a man I never knew. I wear it to remember the life that I have. The rare privilege to pay the rent with words and not with sweat. I live a life without hardship, I sleep knowing that tomorrow won’t take more than a day off my life. I wear it to remember how incredibly fucking lucky I am.
The man who bought this belt bought the best one he could afford and the best he could afford wasn’t much. He was wire thin from work and I live a life where my work adds to my waistline, not take it away. Reality vs. Reality – two lives separated by a generation and a universe of existence. Two people bound by family and a through-line etched into the simplest or garments – a belt. To him I’m sure it was just a belt and that’s why to me it’s so much more.
My life owes everything to generations of those before me who toiled and went without so I could live a life of relative privilege. This belt, this cheap plastic, scruffy brown belt is the totem to that heritage. When I wear it I honor all those in my family tree who sacrificed almost everything so I could live my life on my terms. It makes me work a bit harder, it makes me appreciate my life a little bit more and it makes me remember that the distance from here to there isn’t that far. And that’s the way I like it.
In the past few days I’ve seen a flurry of Facebook posts, twitter rants and blog posts all lamenting the changes to Instagram. The massively popular photo sharing site was purchased by Facebook earlier this year for a jaw dropping one billion dollars and in the time since the new owners have had little impact, at least from a users perspective. That was until recently. Yesterday Instagram changed its Terms and Conditions to include a statement to allow them permission to on sell images without the consent or compensation of the photographer.
Normally this sort of thing gets my heart racing and I’m first into the breach to throw my angry opinion out against the corporate bad guy. But not this time. Instagram is a free service, it’s always been free and by the looks of their corporate credo they don’t plan on changing that. Facebook purchased it as an investment and a way of generating revenue, that’s how business works. The obvious monetized outcome would be to on sell images – it’s not really that big a leap to get to here, is it? As the saying goes, “If the service is free, you aren’t the customer, you’re the product.”
Unsurprisingly some Instagram users are up in arms that their images might be sold and they won’t see any of that money. To be honest, this argument just doesn’t hold water and here’s why. Once you post any image (unless it’s watermarked or severely downsized) online you have given it away. It doesn’t matter if you post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, your website or somebody else’s. Copyright in the digital age really doesn’t count for anything once your work is on the web. Images can be altered, modified and moved around. Actually seeing where your images end up, is all but impossible. There’s no way to track an image once the title or meta-data have been changed in the massive universe of content that is the internet. Sorry, that’s the harsh reality and I like most photographers have experience with my work (writing, photography and video) appearing in places it shouldn’t and re-appropriated by people who didn’t pay for it.
Photographers, both pro and amateur alike, have to understand that retroactively asking for money for an image that you’ve already shared with the world and waved your basic copyright to is an embarrassing question to ask. Simply by putting something online you’ve made the philosophical choice that you don’t intend to earn money directly from that image. The best photographers and the ones active on social media understand this as a fundamental element of the world of digital art we work in. Instead of shying away from posting images on social photography sites, they have embraced them. But that doesn’t make sense – shouldn’t they be staying away from these sites?
No – the future of commercial art involves a relationship that is both give and take. Some things will be given away, some things will be sold. By creating an effective online presence artists are able to further their sphere of influence, increase the value of the art they choose to sell and connect to new clients. Photography, at its heart, is a disposable art form. Where a painter may take months to complete a piece most (not all) photographers take hundreds if not thousands of images per year. Not all of those images are sellable images. It’s important to be realistic and honest with your own work – you have to decide what is good, what is garbage, what is great and what will pay my electric bill.
If a photographer believes that every image that they take has high commercial value then they fall into one of three categories. 1 – they are a master of the art form and I tip my hat to you. Seeing as you would be the first photographer in history to be batting a thousand, congratulations. 2 – you take so few images that every image has a higher than average value – if you are shooting four-foot wet plate images, hand printing onto vintage paper or carting around a view camera, congrats to you too, this argument or discussion doesn’t apply to you – keep fighting the good fight and keeping the heritage of photography alive. 3 – you have delusions of grandeur and you need to take a big deep drink of the reality kool-aid.
It’s people in that third category that this article is really aimed at. It never cesses to amaze me the arbitrary value that people put onto images that to be blunt and honest are really nothing all that special. Do you honestly think that British Airways is going to shell out a couple hundred grand for that camera phone picture you took of a plane wing from out your window seat? These are the people who feel so disenfranchised by the changes at Instagram and it simply doesn’t add up. The value of a piece of art is determined by a few factors: Image quality, does it fit the needs of the buyer, is it unique, is it repeatable. The first and largest factor is quality – the image quality of an iphone image is simply not good enough to use for any commercial purpose. That’s the reality and should be the end of this whole story. Add to that the nature of Instagram images with their tightly cropped layout and flavour of the moment pseudo-film filters. There is already an industry wide blowback from this style – Instagram is something for the masses, not for those trying to be ahead of the curve. Flip open any magazine you like, try and find any advertisements that are using images that could have come from Instagram, I doubt you’ll see many and the ones that you do won’t have been taken with a camera phone.
So what is Instagram actually going to do with your pictures? That’s a good question, but here is my guess. Selling individual Instagram images, especially to high end clients will never really be a sustainable income for anyone. BUT – selling whole databases of images is a viable business. Take this for example, say Disney wants to create a photo album on their Facebook page called ‘Today at Disneyland’ – they would buy images from Instagram that were taken in Disneyland (they know this because of the geocoding imbedded in the meta-data) and post them in bulk to their site. It’s more data mining than the purchase of photography. If you really want to make sure that Instagram doesn’t sell your images, turn off the geotagging option.
Say by chance Instagram decides to sell that great picture you took of your cat to Coke to be the next billboard in Time Square – what then? Well, the reality is you were never going to get any money for that image anyway. If you were, you would have tried to sell it to a stock agency, direct to an advertiser, to a magazine or a website. If you post it on a photo sharing site you have made the choice that are going to give it away – and that should have been the case last week as well as today.
So what’s my advice to photographers? Your best images, the ones that really do have value, the ones you took with a DSLR that have an unrepeatable moment, exposed properly, in focus, well composed and free of gimmicky filters – for god’s sake don’t put them onto any social networking site! If you plan to make money from these images take them directly to people who will pay you good money for them. That fun pic you took of your buddy doing a star jump in front of the pretty view that you snapped with your iphone – post it on Instagram, share the love, keep the spirit of art and photography alive!
Not all art is commercial, give away some of what you do, show the world what you are good at and let them know that what you’ve got in the vault, really does have value. Value is a product of scarcity – tease the world with your Instagram greatness and sell them your best stuff. That is the difference between an amateur and a pro – and anyone can be a pro, you just have to act like one.
Hello Blogland, it’s been a wee while since I checked in. And for good reason – busy times around the ranch. I’ve got a new project on the go and besides filling my days, it’s also got me really excited. I’ve been the Editor of The Source Magazine for a few years now, after writing for them for ages. It’s not a newsflash to say that the whole publishing world is moving towards the digital realm and my worlds of words, pictures and movies are more intermingled than ever. We wanted to stretch our legs as a publication, explore some fresh creative ideas and expand what we are doing. Video was the logical step and the idea of Source TeeVee was born – if only in my head.
Funny story. So along with Cles Lambridis we decided that we wanted to launch the idea for a video version of The Source this winter. As we were developing it I got talking to a couple of other local uber-talented filmmakers; James Holman and Rupert Critchley and they had this idea… an idea that was pretty much the same as ours. After laughing at the sheer coincidence of it we decided on the spot to join forces – and Source TeeVee was born.
We launched in late June and for the first week of July were all over Queenstown Winter Festival. In those ten days or so we produced 17 episodes – it was a phenomenal amount of work, but I’m immensely proud of what we’ve done and we are just getting started. From here we are going to produce about an episode a week talking a look at what’s happening here in Queenstown – we’ll delve into the local music scene, pull the lid on the sporting scene and introduce you to some locals who are up to some amazing things. As I’ve said a million and one times – watch this space… I’ll shut up now and let you watch some stuff, enjoy and let me know what you think!
Here are a few of my favourite episodes to have a look at:
And here’s a bit about what this whole thing is all about:
I’m in the process of doing a bit of a website refresh in between all the other stuff that’s going on, because I like have soooo much time on my hands (drops to floor in fetal position and starts to cry). Truth is, I wanted to start the whole process with a re-do of my bio. Well I haven’t changed, but some things have changed. What has changed is how I approach business – my business. For a long time I slipped into the trap of trying to portray myself as a monolithic publishing empire (couldn’t you tell?) and the truth is, it’s just me here. So I wanted to start changing some of my business practices to better underline the fact that what I bring to the table is a nimble, Guerrilla force of media (words/images/film) that can adapt on a dime and is still available for coffee at a moments notice. I’ve always tried to speak and write as pragmatically as I can and stripping as much jargon and holier then thou BS from this site is a priority with the re-launch and on that note – being as transparent in the process is uber-important too. So cruise on over to the WHO tab at the top of the page or click HERE and have a look.
One thing you’ll notice as new is something that I tell folks all the time looking for business advice. I’ve survived in this freelance world long enough now that young(er) writers and photogs come to me a fair bit for advice on how this whole game works. I always give them three bits of advice – the words I live by:
1 – Do the best work I can. I work really hard to push myself creatively and produce work that I’m really psyched about. I’m not punching a clock here – I only work on projects that I’m inspired and excited about.
2 – Hand my work in on time. In the grown-up real world handing your homework in on time is a no brainer.
3 – Be a good guy to work with. There are too many dicks in the world, I try to not be one of them. I work bloody hard, but there is always time to have a laugh, return emails as soon as I can and do all the other stuff that makes the lives of everyone I work with pretty fun.
Words to live and succeed by – thanks for tuning in and see ya soon!
Today I was chatting with the folks at Lonely Planet and we’ve decided that after eleven books and over six years of work together the time was right to part company. When I started with LP being a vagabond travel writer was the dream job that I (wander)lusted over. Working for LP was everything I dreamed it would be and more – I got to travel the world and report back from some of the most amazing places. Canada, here in NZ, Hawaii, The Caribbean, Africa, Australia and the list goes on. It was an adventure from one project to the next and they were (and are) a fantastic company to work with. My decision to close the chapter on my LP career is for the same reasons that drew me to the job in the first place. That Indiana Jones like adventure takes a toll, like how Indy told Marion on the boat, “it’s not the years honey, it’s the mileage…”
My work as a writer, photographer and filmmaker has for the last few years pulled me in a post LP direction. I’ve become more and more involved with so many exciting projects that wouldn’t allow me to drop everything and head to someplace exotic for a few months. Add to that the desire to live the life I love so much here in Queenstown with my wife, my friends and the mountains I love – the desire to hop the next steamer and head to the ragged edge of the map full time isn’t what it once was.
It was a great run, and I don’t regret a second of it. Working for LP was an amazing experience and one that I’d recommend any writer to strive for. All good things must come to an end and slipping out of this party while everyone is still having a blast is the best time to go. Ever onwards, if you guys are here you know there are more strings to my bow than just Lonely Planet. There are exciting times ahead and I’m so excited that all of you are here to join in on the adventure!
It’s been a while since I posted an update about my dad. Thankfully – no news was good news. Last week dad had his surgery and it was 100% successful – they removed the cancerous tumour from his large intestine and didn’t find any other cancer while they were in there. That was a huge sigh of relief, but we didn’t let that good news get us too far ahead of ourselves. There was still lab results to come and after a few days of nervous waiting they came back and showed that dad is cancer free.
It’s quite surreal – this whole episode lasted just under two weeks. I had readied myself for a potentially long drawn out period of stress, hard decisions and anguish – then a week and a bit later it was all over. Almost as soon as cancer crashed into my life it escaped out the back door. There’s a good chance that dad will do some Chemotherapy just in case and he still has the uncomfortable effects of major surgery to deal with. The foot long scar on his belly means that he is still fairly uncomfortable and life definitely isn’t back to normal.
But what is normal?
Dad’s normal, my normal, mom’s normal is now watched through the lens of what has happened in the last few weeks. It felt like we went a quick round with a prize fighter and just before he was really going to start working us over the bell rang and fight ended. All and all I feel very lucky. I feel lucky because this experience, this brush with cancer and mortality has taught me many lessons. The first and most confronting is that The Big C affects nearly everyone. I was completely blown away by the sheer number of friends who came to me and said that they know exactly what I’m going through – because they’ve been there. All their comforting thoughts, warm hugs and wise words were a force of strength that helped so very very much during this. So for those of you who reached out, those of you that gave your loved ones an extra hug or even those that just spared a thought for how cancer had affected the life of my dad and our family I thank you.
It’s a humbling thought to think how different the ending of this story would have been twenty years ago. My father is alive because of medical technology and quality health care. I don’t want to think what would have happened if dad’s bowel had of obstructed in a different place or in a different time. If the technology didn’t exist to detect, operate and treat this my father would likely not be here right now – or at the least we’d be looking down the barrel of some very slim odds and scary prognosis. So thank you to the amazing doctors at The Peter Lougheed Hospital and the Tom Baker Cancer Clinic in Calgary, Canada.
The next time there is a chance to raise some money, spread some awareness or do something to help please have a thought of what we’ve just been through. My dad was lucky, really lucky. His good fortune is thanks much to the efforts that have been made of the past few decades and the contributions that people like you and me have made. I want everyone who goes through what we went through to have the same ‘lucky’ results – I don’t believe in luck, neither should you. The success that my dad had is thanks to everyday people who bought a ribbon, a daffodil or a wrist band. Its thanks to people who raise a few bucks to run a 10k or drop a few coins in a box. If this experience has taught me anything it’s that we all really do need each other – in sickness and in health the greater family that surrounds us all really does depend on each other. And for that I will be forever grateful.
Wow – what a few days. Since I first let the world know that dad was sick I’ve been inundated with messages, notes, texts, emails, calls and visits of support. All the hugs, both real and virtual have all felt amazing. Thanks, thanks to all of you who reached out, all those of you who thought good thoughts and gave your loved ones an extra squeeze – it’s been a humbling experience. Even those of you who just thought good thoughts – it all helps in a cosmic sorta way (don’t worry that’s as close to hippydom I’m going to go, no need to start vomiting up tie-dye). Dad is in good spirits, I just talked to him on the phone. He’s watching the hockey game and relaxing in his hospital bed, getting ready for tomorrow. We found out that his operation is on for tomorrow, we’re not sure what time as they are going to slot him in someplace when they have an opening. It’s kinda like when you turn up to the golf course without a tee-time; you get what you get.
So how do I feel? Well to be honest if I could fast-forward to tomorrow and get the surgery done and dusted that would be just perfect. A good friend sent me a thoughtful note yesterday that so rightly pointed out that the waiting and the time when your head is filled with ‘what if…’ is the worst part of all of this. This same wise friend reminded me that there is an ocean of possible outcomes between best and worst case scenario. It’s easy just to focus on the worst possible outcome – it takes discipline, a discipline I’m getting a crash course in, to remind oneself that with all the possible outcomes available, the worst one isn’t a given.
This whole experience that started for me, what 48hrs ago, has been enlightening on so many levels. Feeling the love and support from my friends and family has been the warm campfire that’s kept me filled with love and hope. What has really struck me is just the sheer number of people who have said to me that they know exactly how I feel, because they’ve been there. They’ve been there with their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands and friends. It’s been said so many times before, but The Big C truly does touch us all in one way or another. More than touch, it connects us all. That connection through resilience and survival has been an endless well of strength.
I’ll get a call tomorrow sometime saying that dad is headed into surgery – the whole process will take a couple of hours and after that we’ll know what is going to happen next. Those few hours will be tough, but tough is what we do around here. Oh and I learned something interesting the other night – when you are trying to get your mind off of your dad being ill playing hockey, the game that he taught you, coached you in for a decade and most closely associate with doesn’t really work. Take that as a tip for young players.
Right-o – next time you read this blog there will be news to report. Thanks again for all the support – I’ve really appreciated it and Mom and Dad sure have too. Until then – take care and be well.
It’s a phrase I’ve used a million times. I’ve spun it out more times than I can count over the years. But it wasn’t until today that I fully got it. ‘It hit me like a ton of bricks’ finally made sense just before lunch when my Dad phoned me up and said three simple words, “I Have Cancer.”
As he was saying it over the phone the words slowed down and every syllable crept out like morning fog. Life suddenly moved into slow motion and the physics of time and space jumped out of sync like a skipping record. “There is a growth in my bowel and it’s cancer.” I could hear him saying it, but my heart was pounding so loud it almost drowned him out, the room started to spin and I had to grab the desk with my hand to stop it from tuning. What do you say to that? How do you respond to a bombshell like that one? After I got off the phone I just stared out the window for a long while, there was a bird in the tree, chirping and going about its day, oblivious to me just a few feet away hidden behind the glass. Soph came home from work and we held each other for a long time, that helped, so did talking to my mom for a long time and talking the whole thing through with dad too.
Even though this worst case scenario hit me like a meteor, the journey to the phone call today started a few months ago. When mom and dad were here in Queenstown dad was having troubles with his stomach. Spicy food wasn’t agreeing with him and he was feeling really bloated much of the time. By the time their NZ holiday had finished dad knew that shortly after touching down in Calgary he was going to head to the doctor. His doctor at first thought the issue was a reaction to some of the medication he was on and switched him to something else. That seemed to solve the problem and everything seemed to be settled. Then a few weeks later the chronic indigestion came back and this time it was worse – now dad was vomiting after a big meal and suffering with near constant stomach cramps. An MRI last week showed something in his abdomen, but we were relieved to hear that they didn’t think it was cancer scare – it didn’t look like it was in the right place – speculation was it could be colitis or something like that. The next step was a colonoscopy to have a look and see – that was today.
The results weren’t what we expected and the opposite of what we’d hoped for. Okay, here is the good news – when they did the MRI a few days ago they didn’t see anything else anywhere else. The mass could have caused a complete bowel obstruction and they caught it in time before it did. Phew. Here is what the plan is – on Friday Dad goes into surgery where they are going to remove the mass and look for additional cancer. The doctors are confident that this is all of it (but they won’t know for sure till they get in there). If that hope is correct then that should be the end of the story – cancer gone. If they see anything else around or if the subsequent blood work finds anything then we will have more tough stuff to deal with. Overall everyone is upbeat that the situation is in control. What other choice do we have?
Dad is doing okay, he’s not in any discomfort and is actually relieved to finally know what has been making him uncomfortable for so long. He’s pissed off that he’s going to miss a golf tournament next week and thinks the hospital is boring so has asked my mom to charge up the Kobo for lots of reading! He’s in good spirits, his voice is strong and he’s not letting this get him down. Mom is doing alright too – she’s been here before with her dad and mom and just recently her brother too. They both know that we won’t really know where we stand until the surgery on Friday and after that we’ll reassess – no point worrying about stuff we can’t change.
How am I doing? I’m okay. I feel a million miles from home and hearing about all this from NZ while mom and dad are in Canada was hard, really hard. I’m pretty numb and not really sure how I feel. Every time I head down a different avenue of the situation my emotions turn too. Shock, sadness, fear, hope, anger, humour, appreciation, pride, love and longing have all made an appearance in the last 5hrs. In the next few days I’m sure I’ll go around all of those again a few times, turning like a roulette wheel.
So what now? Well for now I’m staying in NZ. I did think hard about heading back to Canada (and I still might), but for now, following the wishes of my folks I’m going to stay put. I went for a swim this afternoon and that felt good – trying not to drown is always a good distraction. Though at one point I burst out laughing when I realized the opening of ‘The Big C’ all takes place in a pool. I’m going to go play some hockey tonight, that’ll help too. Sitting in the hot tub with Sophie she asked me what I wanted to do – I told her I needed to write. Writing this, getting these feelings out on paper means that I can keep going. It doesn’t mean I’m any less afraid or that the ‘atomic-so-not-fucking-fairness’ of this whole situation stops punching me in the stomach all the time. It gets it out though and now that it’s out there, it’s out from the inside of me. I didn’t write this for sympathy or some self serving thing. This is just life, it’s how it goes sometimes. Writing is a job for me, but at its heart it’s emotional catharsis. If it wasn’t for the opportunity to do this, I’d be even more of a mess than I already am.
I’ll write more soon – until then do me a favour; hug the people you love. For me and for the people I love.
I like making things. Actually I really like making things. What really excites me isn’t necessarily a blank canvas or a fresh sheet of plywood – I’m a big fan of re-purposing materials or objects into something else. I’ve turned an egg timer into a panning time-lapse rig for a GoPro Camera, I made an old retro suitcase into a Pelican Case for my camera gear and in my latest project I turned an old hardcover book into a case and stand for my iPad. When I first posted some pics of the case on Facebook there was a great response and it seemed to really strike a chord with folks. Seeing as it was such a fun project and iPads are everywhere these days I thought I might explain how I did it, in case people want to make one of their own – keep in mind this will work for a Kindle or a Kobo – an electronic book hidden in a book – or for an iPhone (I’ve done that previously). So here we go!
Old Hardcover book (must be hardcover a soft cover won’t work with my described method)
White glue (craft glue)
Exacto style knife or box cutter / razor blade knife
Thin chopping board
Elastic band (decorative one for the outside of the finished book) essential if you want to make it a stand too.
Cloth (hockey) tape (book binding tape is best, but who has that?)
Metal grommets (x2)
How to do it:
Step 1 – find an old book that will fit the iPad. Try used books stores or garage sales. Dimensionally there must be enough room to accommodate the iPad with at least 1cm of page left on all sides. Thickness it must be at least ½ cm thicker than the iPad (just the pages, not including the cover)
Step 2 – Prepare the book – slide a sheet of wax paper between the cover and the first page so there is a barrier between the pages and the cover. This is so when you glue the pages together you won’t accidently glue the cover shut too. Do this for the back page too. Fold the paper over the cover so that it is protected from glue whale you are making the case.
Step 3 – mix the glue mixture – in the cup mix up 60% glue 40% water (roughly) – you won’t need too much and can always make up more as you go. The reason you thin down the glue is so that it penetrates the pages better and the finished book doesn’t have glue residue on it.
Step 4 – glue the book – with the paintbrush glue the outside edge of the pages. Liberally apply the glue with the book closed. When you’ve painted the edge of the pages with a good coat move quickly to the pressing stage.
Step 5 – dry and press – place the book on a hard flat surface and put a heavy weight on top of it so that the glue dries with the pages as compressed as possible. I put a large wooden chopping board on it and put a case of beer on the board.
Step 6 – let dry – it will take about an hour for the pages to dry – leave it for a couple or 3 if you can.
Step 7 – trace your iPad – on the first page of the book trace the iPad for where you want the hole in the book to be. Measure using the ruler so it is even – this step is really important; a screw up here will ruin the project.
Step 8 – Cut the pages out – Using the metal ruler so the lines are straight us the exacto knife to cut the pages out. This step takes ages and is the most time consuming part of the project by far. Try not to get distracted, it’s really easy to cut yourself or cut too far and ruin the book. As you get closer to the end of the book slide the thin chopping board between the pages and the back cover, so you don’t cut all the way through.
Step 9 – check – make sure the hole is deep enough to accommodate the iPad and the front cover isn’t pushing on it. You want the hole to be deep enough that the iPad is secured at the back (with the Velcro dots) and floating behind the cover – this will protect the screen. When you are happy with the depth and the size it’s time to finish it up.
Step 10 – Attach the strap – Drill two holes about 2 inches apart on the back cover – 1 inch from the edge in the middle of the book. This is where you will secure the strap. Put the grommets on the holes and secure them with the hammer (not essential but looks a million times better) and feed the strap into the hole. On the inside sew the strap together and secure to the back cover with hot glue.
Step 11 – finish up – with the tape reinforce the binding on the inside of the book, both front and back cover. Paint the glue mixture on the inside of the pages in the hole and into any spots you missed on the outside. Hot glue the back cover to the end of the pages.
Step 12 – Final Dry – put the book back in the drying press with the weights on it again. Let dry for at least 3hrs – overnight is best. And presto it’s done! Use a Velcro dot or two to hold the iPad in the book if you plan to use it as a stand (you don’t want it to accidently slip out). To use it as a stand the font cover folds back over itself to make an A-Frame. The elastic band hooks around one corner of the cover and holds it in place. You could come up with a more complicated way of doing things, but this felt simpler and cleaner to me. Other ideas would be to cover the inside front cover with a soft material that cleans and protects the screen. You could also put a magnet into the front cover so it turns the iPad on and off when the cover is closed.
Good luck and happy making!