Friday, February 19, 2016


Centuries, ago, explorers and cartographers came up with methods and ideas of how to map the world all from the ground, and their resultant world maps, hand-drawn, are pretty close to how the world actually looks. Obviously the continents are way out of proportion and extremely different - but the main thing is that they are actually still recognizable as North America, Africa, etc.

Errors remained right up until the first half of the 20th century, at which point vertical aerial photography, which was developed and refined along with flight itself - helped largely fix the worse errors altogether. Satellite imagery was probably the perfection of any remaining, slight inaccuracies. Interestingly for me, in terms of fixing the Canadian map, most of this was carried out at an air station called Rockcliffe, in service of the Canadian Military. The base was largely used for testing from the 1920s through to the 1950s, mostly of aerial photography techniques, and in developing a program that went on to map the entirety of the country though aerial 'mosaics,' as in vertical aerial photos stitched together to create a land map. Rockcliffe is east of Ottawa; the city served as the subject of the first trials of this new kind of straight-down photography starting in the 1920s.

Today, Rockcliffe is just a single runway field owned by the Aviation Museum, and home to the Rockcliffe Flying Club. I go there once every two weeks or so, in pursuit of my pilot's license, in pursuit of doing my own aerial photography of the same kind, of the same city that is perhaps the most-photographed city of all time in the country thanks to its proximity to the former air station, its seat of government, and its home to government departments such as the Geomatics Division, Remote Sensing, and National Air Photo Library - where all of these vertical (and oblique) images are stored altogether, in one central location.

In learning all of this, it occurred to me that I was born with the right interests in the right city at the right time with perfect access to fuelling every aspect of this passion from buying images taken nearly every year since 1928 to learning to do it myself.

Meanwhile, virtually all of my former Photography classmates had to migrate to Toronto or elsewhere to earn significantly from their lens-based interests.

I wanted to exemplify my own cartographic development in one example. I started by mentioning cartographers' ideas of how the continents looked from space. Ever since I was a kid with an age in the single digits, I imagined how things looked like from above. In third grade, riding the school bus with my best friend, I developed an idea in my head of how his neighbouring streets and neighbourhood in Fisher Glen were laid out from above because the bus drove down nearly all of them every afternoon after school. It ended up resembling something like the outline of an old-style mailbox:
Admittedly, I could never find these drawings again after so many years, so I just redrew what I "knew" it to look like from memory.

Like the original cartographers, I was wrong but not so hopelessly off that it didn't look recognizable. It's way out of proportion, obviously. The round bend up top isn't round in real life but straight with several abrupt corners not quite 90 degrees that make it loop around. The square at the bottom is a much larger, long rectangle and there are no 90 degree bends except in a couple of places. The map, like other people such as my mother who told me so, visually proved me wrong.

Also redrawn from memory. How the map portrayed the streets. Much closer to accurate.

The really neat thing about this that I find just terrific is that, unlike the original cartographers but like the technological advances, I actually got up and flew over, seeing the layout of the neighbourhood with my own eyes, actually seeing it from above instead of merely imagining it as I had done since I was eight or so. Maybe the map painted it for me properly, but a map is just another drawing, albeit printed from a computer and coloured.
The streets are at the bottom, middle left of the image. Screenshot from yesterday.
Obviously developers will lay out generally streamlined street patterns. Captured July 3rd, 2015.

It kind of goes to show the progression of a focus in time, how as a child I was fixated on the aerial perspective and today I'm actually getting up there to record it proper. And the map, at least in terms of the MapArt books I used to stare at for hours, wasn't perfect. It made those streets too rounded in their corners; my imagination-based rendition was the extreme of that. The map just made them less exaggerated while retaining them. My only real mistakes were making a right angle at the bottom right of the rectangle when it should have been a gentle curve, and connecting the end of that street north of the little one that forms the top of the tiny square block I drew. The rest are proportion-based errors.

I'm getting slowly better at my capturing techniques. I took some aerial photos yesterday after my flight to Ottawa airport. I found out my 24-105mm lens will zoom out on its own when pointed downwards out the window, in the rushing air. I also had lens contact errors for the first time. Next time I'm using my 50mm - a prime lens that isn't too telephoto and not too wide-angle for my purposes. We were only 1500 feet. At 105mm, at the max resolution of the image, you could see someone's individual legs in one photo, standing beneath an overhang.

I will post the video sooner or later. Circuits around runway 22 at Ottawa International.

Red Cloud

Friday, February 12, 2016

Back to the Hundredth Meridian!

I find it mildly interesting that I've mentioned the Tragically Hip song a couple of times in passing and once as a literal post about finding the meridian line, but I've never done a proper musical review and analysis of the actual song (and music video of course).

As I may have pointed out before, little is explained of this song other than that it references a longitudinal meridian line that runs through the middle of Manitoba. Lyrically, I don't get too much from the song other than the image the lyrics paint for me: A corduroy road, tall weeds, ravens carrying skulls, rusty ferris wheels in the distance, etc. The image is in black and white and looks old-fashioned. I blame the music video for influencing me to see it that way. There may be a couple of deep lyrics with bigger meanings: "Generations always dumber than its parents/came crashing through the window," or "left along to get gigantic, hard huge and haunted." Singularly left that way thanks to isolation, or a reference to humanity itself? Aside from the final verse and that, the rest of the song seems singularly focused on where the great plains begin.

Lyrics like this, and the music, give me the impression that this is probably the most Canadian-sounding band I've ever heard, because of their references to Canadian landscapes, mentality and what Canadiana would probably sound like music- and focus-wise. "I remember, I remember buffalo." Singer Gordon Downie's voice, when you listen to it, sounds like it should really be a level, calm-sounding, even timid voice. I get the impression that he sung calmly but forcefully at the same time; when I heard this as a kid, I thought he looked and sounded like an old man yelling during the chorus.

It's not a super complicated piece of music. I've always liked the backing guitar's quick changes from D major to C major, heard in the introduction and in the lead-up to the final verse after the bridge. Most of the song stays rooted in D major, with nicely overdubbed lead parts that give it a good rock edge. The chorus has an ascending progression pattern that starts in D and goes up to F, G, and B flat majors. Often during the verses you may hear a pattern that goes D-F-C instead of simply D-C, and there are other variations that play smoothly in the background. The song was recorded in London in 1992 for their third album Fully Completely, and it sounds clean and well-mixed.

I've heard this song since I was very young, and almost always around my maternal relatives. As a result I always tend to think of them, particularly as they were when I was young, when I listen to it. It was released in 1993, the year I was two.

Of course I have to touch on the music video, which has a mixture of scenes that look a certain way to me that says "early 90s Canadian video." It was filmed in Melbourne, Australia, near or around the one-hundred and forty-fifth meridian, east. Not exactly on point, but it was during a tour. It's something I've always noticed with bands: They come from one place, travel halfway across the world to record their music elsewhere, and then zig-zag further elsewhere to film the music video. I guess it's just happenstance.

In black and white, the band stand about in a barren environment playing their instruments as Downie strolls along, singing lyrics with a smile on his face when he's supposed to be yelling a line, or looking uncertain or playfully bemused during other words. He wears a hat advertising Gros Morne National Park, located in Newfoundland & Labrador. The shaky zoomed-out shots of the drummer, the guitar lying straight-on as it's played in its scenes, the spinning drum stick, the legs shuffling along near the beginning, most of the panning, close-up, or revolving shots of Downie, all give the video that silly early-90s faux dramatic sense. Downie's preference for bouncing up and down in each panning shot make him look silly, and I kind of wonder why he and the rest of the band are there to stand or bounce or stroll about singing about a meridian line. It all kind of looks unnecessary. And I haven't even mentioned all of the suspended objects that show up throughout each scene. You can spot an old car, a very fake-looking horse, an English telephone booth, a roast chicken sign, a man, and even a ladder. I'm surprised they didn't hoist up a toilet. And it wouldn't be unexpected, after all of the overhead shots of the dead tree, to immediately see that one has also been hoisted up to hang in the background. I haven't counted the camera itself; there are a few quick shots of the band from above, several heads and shoulders standing on the ground unmoving as the camera swings in the wind. I guess it was somewhat a study of looking down at and up at things, as there are many skyward shots mixed with vertical, straight-down scenes.

It really looks a lot like a combination of random ideas, one of which included renting a crane. But I guess coming up with a visual for a song merely about a meridian line and a scene isn't necessarily easy, so the result is a guy bouncing about and strolling along leisurely, excitedly singing about the one hundredth meridian. With random objects hoisted up in the background. He also carries a Polaroid camera, snapping photos of the hanging inanimate man and of the cameraman himself, revealing the latter photo to the camera in the final scene.

Song (Music+Lyrics): B+
Music video: C+

It's a good song that makes a mere fact of geographic knowledge the ongoing subject, and successfully (not forgetting the dramatic verse about burial and exhuming). The music video seems like it was produced because that's what you did with a hit single regardless of the likelihood of a good translation from lyrical idea to visual, but at least it's kind of funny in its silliness, intended or not, and in keeping one guessing at what the band and director decided to suspend in mid-air for each scene.

Red Cloud

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Stranger Than Fiction

Never have I written about an ongoing affair or event happening in the world on here, not properly or directly. I think today I'll start, and with that Ghomeshi trial.

More over, I'm focusing on the way the system appears to work.

I always find conflicting perspectives to be way warped in one tangent than in consideration of most things at once. For example, in gender equality, it should exemplify that both genders are exactly the same, equal, no different, no disparity. It should mean that no, a man shouldn't grab some woman's ass, but it should also mean that no, a woman shouldn't therefore be allowed to do the same while men are punished for it. That just warps it in one favouring direction. Both should be allowed or disallowed to go topless, not one over the other.

The underlying focus I've observed here is whether we should immediately believe a victim of sexual assault no matter what when he/she reports it.

Let's quickly look at the victim here: They were raped. That's a potentially traumatizing thing. Someone has forced themselves upon them, invaded their personal space, and used their body as an object, as something that is uniquely theirs and only belongs to them. Your body is part of who you are, a huge part of your self-image. Its yours to love and protect and yours to give to someone you feel absolutely comfortable with, if you want, on your terms. When someone forcibly violates that and leaves you powerless, it's like you lost a part of yourself because you couldn't protect it. It really doesn't help when there are parts of the world where if a woman is raped, the justice system requires they had five witnesses and evidence that is nearly impossible to produce, and in the end the system punishes the victim.

If this were a better world, the idea that believing a victim no matter what is a wholly possible and unquestionable thing would work. No one ever usually comes forward to report their trauma to authorities of any kind because as soon as they do they're judged and prodded and maybe treated with a horrible, discouraging attitude. Law enforcement works by finding evidence and facts and credibility, and sorting through the fiction to produce an exact breakdown of what definitely happened, to conclude the investigation and mete out the consequences to the guilty party(s). That's not easy when the evidence is your body and what sexually happened to it. Contrast that with a store owner describing someone's face and what they stole to a police officer. So the attitudes of officers and officials needs to be encouraging and tactful, but no less smart.

In my opinion, a victim of rape or assault should be able to swiftly report to authorities as soon as they're stable enough to open up to someone, particularly an officer trained on counselling. And they should be believed no matter what. What makes this questionable, and this is such a sad part of our species, is the ability and willingness of some people to exploit for attention. People who feast on rumours and want a moment in the spotlight, people who want attention whether their issue is real or imagined. Those people do a lot more damage than they might expect, because they discredit any genuine, authentic cases of actual injustice. In terms of this trial, which has been described as 'unusual' and 'strange,' it looks half like the broadcaster committed acts that were considered non-consensual and therefore illegal, and half like a small group of women got together to ruin the man's reputation, sharing messages and battle cries of "decimating" him.

In saying that, I am not deciding either. I wouldn't be surprised if he did what he did. But if those women responded by apparently teetering back and forth and going back for more or doing other sexual things with him, how can that not send mixed messages? They went to the media first, not the police. They gave their tales, and then their tales became inconsistent. They seem to be giving the real reason why it's perhaps not a good idea to immediately believe a victim of assault or rape - if you have an issue and someone has a similar issue, responding by calling the world's attention on the news and having meet-ups and Facebook messages with each other makes it seem like you're a covert unit looking for attention or sympathy regardless of the existence of any issue, by playing with an idea that's not very stable in public opinion - in which case you're destabilizing it.

Rape victims and harassment victims need all the support they can get in their trauma. I doubt you would forget the specific details of what happened if it really happened. They should be believed, and the authorities should be supportive yet smart and proficient in their investigation. Victims should be able to approach authorities without apprehension and fear of being humiliated and judged, because the nature of the crime is so sensitive. It happens in an isolated place, in private, not in public, so no, there are usually no witnesses, which make it hard to investigate and hard not to be insensitive, but having tact and time and support will help. Attention-seekers just undo everything.

Red Cloud

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

This May Make People Think...Or Make Them Angry

Since last November, I've been writing some short essays on my opinions of cultural and social norms and reactions. I've never put them anywhere, just wrote them for myself and a friend of mine whom I talk about these things with often. I don't put them up anywhere largely because I'm not ready to be fully judged on what I think on things, as well as the surface-based look at things - I rarely did any research, instead writing open-ended, allowing readers to see that my mind is open to input.

There is one subject that keeps popping up, however, that I did write about, but still sits in my head, simmering. It makes me kind of frustrated. The subject in question was veganism.

On the whole of it, I personally don't care a bit about what people eat. It doesn't hurt anyone, or at least it shouldn't. Just like someone's religion should be harmless when that person practices it on their own, and their interpretation is tolerant and observes a non-violent, non-radical system. What annoys me are the people, like those religious fanatics, who overwhelmingly care about what other people eat and if they don't share the same ethical ideas, they're free to consider themselves saintly and superior while the non-conformists are viewed as disgusting animals. No one likes something forced down their throat, whether its religion or someone else's ethics and potential disgust.

But that's just one narrow aspect of it.

I've thought a lot about where vegans and vegetarians come from, why they feel it's wrong to eat meat or any food that could be considered once a living thing. No doubt they've done their research and developed their ideas and ethics from how they've judged the knowledge they've acquired. In places, I absolutely agree with their reasoning.

I think it's definitely a noble cause to treat animals better. While I doubt the majority of the livestock industry - which is regulated by agencies controlled by the government - consists of cruel sadists who, like the worst serial killers, torture and beat and literally take animals apart alive - these people certainly exist, and animals are surely beaten and unnecessarily tortured for no reason whatsoever. Those people could be called inhuman, and they definitely should pay the consequences. The same goes for hunting for sport - killing an animal merely so you can have your picture taken with the corpse, its head fixed to your wall. It's pointless and only serves to heighten one's false feeling of superiority, the grand knowledge that you're at the top of the food chain. I don't think killing an animal makes you superior. I think it makes you stupid for doing something unnecessary and potentially screwing up the natural order. Do it in absolute self-defence; do it if you need the animal - not just the meat - to help you survive. And in that case, do it in real moderation.

In terms of the 'natural order,' I'm just referring to a natural balance. Species come and go throughout the millennia, whether they're eaten extinct as they weren't evolved enough to withstand or hide from predators, or the environment was harsh, or other means exterminated them. Species go extinct - it's a natural part of life on earth - but it shouldn't be because of an involvement that was superficial or too big or advanced, off-balanced. I'm unsure if any species other than humanity has eaten another species of animal to extinction. And if there are species of animal throughout earthly history that have over-hunted another species, I bet it took a lot longer than we ever did in over-fishing our oceans and hunting game for sport to near-extinction.

The only valid point I can see with veganism and vegetarianism is to protest against the unethical treatment of animals. Which is noble, but in my opinion kind of backwards and way more difficult than simply dealing with those who treat animals inhumanely. Responding to sadists by boycotting their products won't change their methods because the North American diet is so inclusive of meat - extremely so in the U.S. - that they won't ever suffer significant business loss, and if they did, would that really change their attitude? Maybe they're not making as much money, or even any, but they're still probably going to take it out on their poor livestock. I think we probably need more people like Temple Grandin.

Putting animal ethics aside, I don't understand that attitude. If animals were universally treated right - something that likely only exists in a perfect world - people would still ethically believe it's wrong or controversial to eat living things, and that's where my understanding fades. Cows produce milk, and not a fixed amount. They need to be milked. But it's wrong to you to drink that milk. Why? Where will it go, then, into the ground? It can't stay in the udder forever. Every living things dies at some point or another. A lot of animals are carnivores. They hunt, or eat other dead animals. Why don't we scold them too, then? And if you don't eat living things, you'd better stay away from plants then. Of course, like all the carnivore animals, there are herbivores grazing on pastures all over the world. The nerve of them! If you're not going to eat a chicken or cow, it's going to die sooner or later anyway, to be left to other animals, or otherwise to the earth, eventually becoming a future fossil fuel. I doubt a ranch hand would prefer a pen consisting of the odd corpse under the cloud of flies and wolves, or the need to move it elsewhere to be scavenged or left to rot. For ethics that go to that extreme, there's a different sense of false superiority: The kind that feels they're better than the meat-eaters out there because they're not prone to such animalistic disgraces, eating animals like animals do. With an attitude like that, you might as well be denying that like all the other sentient, living species on earth, you are an animal just like the rest of them. Perhaps we are evolved enough to be able to make a choice in what we eat unlike other animals who hunt and eat on instinct - but that doesn't give us the eminence to decide we're apart and separate. Like or not, we are part of the animal kingdom, and in all stages of our evolutionary development, meat has been an integral part of our diet. We're advanced, yes - but we should use our big brain to be humane and careful and respectful, to punish those who are cruel to animals but not so self-righteous we're offended at everything we do or eat. We need to respect the natural balance of things, use moderation, and not be involved in any pointless, superficial destruction or upset.

Red Cloud

Monday, February 8, 2016


Tonight, I tried an old song on for size. This song is ancient for me. It was on an album released in 2009.

I say that with real intentional irony considering around 98% of the songs I review on here are decades old, yet new to me as I come to listen to them. In terms of this song, MKII, it was written and composed by Madness. I haven't written any reviews on Madness stuff in over a couple of years - probably longer.

My focus on the one British ska band has become increasingly diluted since 2012. I almost never really listen to them much anymore. I got my own car and began listening to boom 99.7 all the time, and the rest is history. I welcome this change, as when I did a search to see if I wrote any previous review of this song, I didn't find anything but constant mentions of Madness over and over. It sounds over-the-top altogether like that. Obsessive.

I want to review MKII now because I heard it on a whim and, as I normally do these days, I got intrigued by the musical processes at work, which I never dived into nearly as much five-six years ago. And it is a pretty good song.
I'll quickly go about the lyrics and tone first: It sounds warm and sad at the same time. There's a loneliness to it and you get the impression the lyrics reflect the past rather than modern day. Synesthetically, the song is largely golden yellow in the piano-driven intro/outro and the guitar-driven middle. The melody works very nicely and the lyrics tell a simple, carefree story.

Now the music. It's one of the few Madness compositions to follow that common, popular 1-5-7-4 progression in the piano melody (in A minor), though what makes this variation of it refreshing and Madness-like is Mike Barson's preference for minor chords all throughout except in the third G chord. A minor, E minor, G major, and D minor. i-v-VII-iv. All of Barson's chords are played broken and likely inverted, and on his second round of the chords, he adds a D and a B during his broken A minor, and a C and A on his broken G major. His left hand continues ahead with the root notes while these extra notes are added, making a nice harmony. This varies when Suggs begins his lines, but not too much. The drums are very minimal, only coming in big bursts during the heavy guitar body of the song; they're used sparingly to save them for that spotlight.

The rock aspect of the song differs from the easygoing introduction and verse. The key switches to B flat major, with a procession of I-V-II (B flat, F, and C major). This is just a semitone up from the A minor of the rest of the song. I've read that that kind of progression change is common in Madness songs. It should have been easy to play on sax considering it is a B-flat instrument. This goes on, with the bass complimenting Sugg's voice (E-F-E-D-C-B flat), for about four rounds, before returning back to the A minor key in a symphony of drums, guitar, organ, piano, low bass, and sax. Now it's shortened to a i-v-VII progression, with the piano keeping to the first and third chords only. What I particularly noticed at the end of this climax is how low, cold, and distant that ending D minor sounds. Mark Bedford must have tuned his bass down so that his E string was rather a low D string. The chord/note is obviously supposed to be the angry, betrayed fadeout. It has definitely been viewed as a very sad chord from what I've read. I've seen it as rather cold and distant instead of sad. Not there, out of it, couldn't care less. All instruments except the sax end on this note.

The final resolution of the song is a repetition of the line "he starts the Jaguar and drives away" which has a finality to it, and a repetition of the piano line with a nicely added guitar accompaniment. As the piano plays one last time, ambient noise is filtered in, as if you're hearing the quiet scenery left in the wake of the departing car.

As for the band itself, Madness released another album in 2012, three years after The Liberty of Norton Folgate on which 'MKII' was recorded, and since then they've been touring. Mark Bedford, the bassist, took a leave of absence during that time, only returning to play with the band at the 2012 Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics (for the first time ever I got to see the band live on my own TV that day). Their last album, Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da ('Yes' in numerous European languages) took an apparent back-to-basics approach, and after listening to it, I decided I only really liked one song ('Small World'). Post-release, backing singer Chas Smash (Carl Smyth) left to pursue a solo career, releasing his debut last year or the year before, and lead singer Suggs wrote an autobiography and began hosting a music-integrated live show centred on his life. I look on their website now and then, checking on the question-answer page hosted by guitarist Chris Foreman sometimes, and I may write to ask his opinion of any new demos I upload to SoundCloud (he's always impressed at my progress on the guitar or piano, etc.) That's about it.

I'd recommend a listen to 'MKII' as a good old-fashioned-sounding song of apparent sadness, but I wouldn't go crazy listening to the band for a decade like I did...unless you're willing to not talk singularly about them all the I did...

Red Cloud

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Yesterday, I flew to a different airport for the first time.

The airport in question was the Gatineau executive airport. The runway is a bit wider and definitely longer than Rockcliffe's. They have landing approach sequence lights, which I noted because I wish it had been a bit later and they'd therefore been flashing.

It marks somewhat of a milestone for me because it's the first time I've landed at an airport other than the one of origin and after months of flying over Quebec, I finally landed on it, multiple times. The same day, after a long period of studying, I also took a critical exam I needed to pass in order to fully move ahead with the whole flight training. I passed in one try, with a 98%. Studying really helps. I can continue forward and get my student pilot permit.

Next week is even better. I will be flying over to and landing at Ottawa International Airport (YOW) and doing the same touch-and-go circuit flying I did at Gatineau yesterday. The whole purpose is to finesse and practice approach and landing (landing being a place where most pilots make serious or fatal mistakes). Once this is down, I can fly solo. That'll really be something.

I put a lot of excitement into going to YOW because it's a big international airport with a control tower and runways that take on huge jumbo jets and 747s. Imagine landing on a runway used by airlines and international flights for commuter travel. Rockcliffe isn't more than a civilian airport for people who own aircraft to use - nothing much bigger than single-engined privately-owned aircraft use its runway. Gatineau can accommodate small passenger jets. Ottawa - that's the big league. Runway 14/32 is over several kilometres long. I do that on Monday, weather-permitting. I'll definitely film it like I did for Gatineau, as well as try to get a picture or two afterwards.

Also long overdue, this is the steep turns video from November last year.

The sped-up portions of video show clearly how imperfect my flying is as the plane rises and falls over and over across the terrain.

Red Cloud