Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sepia Saturday 191: The devil made me do it!

  • I thought this trio looked a bit menacing. Probably because the image is so dark. When I looked closely at the man's beard, lo and behold - I saw a small face in it! (The white marks on the original photo are mine). Is it a little animal or a devil? After spotting the  face when you look at the whole image again, you can see (with your eyes half shut) that the fingers resting on his shoulders look like animal paws. Maybe?

    By now you're thinking I've ceased taking my medication again but actually I think the reason I saw the image stems back to my days growing up in Canada. In 1954, the Canadian one dollar bill was issued. Here's the picture of the Queen on the bill:

    And here's a close-up of her image:

    As you can see (or not) there seems to be a devil's image in the Queen's curls. A huge controversy ensued over the bill; nut cases came out of the woodwork with bizarre conspiracy theories and the mint had to reissue the bill with the curls altered and the so-called image obliterated. 

    Googling the matter, I found mention of a memoir of the Royal photographer who took this picture during that time period. It turns out he was gay and involved with the Queen's male hairdresser. Maybe there was some sort of covert statement being made after all? Here's the reference if anyone is interested.

    Devils Face in Queens hair

    Almost every day, there's some article in "News of the Weird" about a holy image in a fallen ice cream cone or on a stained wall or a baby's diaper. The most bizarre ghostly and holy image I can remember hearing about was the Virgin Mary's image on toast. The holy toast was a decade old when it was auctioned on ebay in 2004 for $28,000. Personally I think the image looks more like Marlene Dietrich than I imagined the Virgin Mary might look.

    Virgin Mary on Toast

    I had some dreary pictures in my own collection of trios in formal settings, like the prompt this week, but I chose instead to use this favorite photo of my mother, my sister and I at the beach. The only devil in this image would be me - at the very annoying age of about 4.

    Check out what others see in photo number 191 at
    Sepia Saturday

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sepia Saturday 190: Floating Hats

This picnic scene is lovely. The ladies are so artfully grouped with the young girl's back facing us. Her hand against her face is perfect. The only thing that bothers me is the floating hat effect created by the deep shadows under the hat brims. Is it just me or do those lovely hats look almost as if they've been photoshopped onto the ladies heads?

Just for fun I thought I'd google for other floating hats. I found more than I expected.

Here's a Japanese artist's exhibition in Tokyo's Spiral garden. Nendo's installation of Hatmaker Akio Hirato's white creations.

And a suggestion for Hallowe'en decorating from

A Borsalino hat exhibit...

and here's a clever ad for Panama hats, floating down the canal.

and a market in Bangkok where the hats float with a boat under them.
Bangkok floating market

So much for floating hats.

This week, unlike most other weeks, I actually have an appropriate photo to offer from my own albums. My grandparents and their friends seemed to be enjoying themselves at this repast, even though it looks like my grandfather is about to set that tree ablaze with his portable stove. " Smokey the Bear" had yet to happen along to warn revelers about the dangers of fire in the forest.

"H.F." written on Grandpa's sleeve was my grandmother's handiwork - Hector Fortier was her husband. As she began forgetting more and more, she jotted notes on her photos.  I don't dare try to erase the pencil on the actual photo but I guess I could try the erasure feature on Photoshop and clean up the digital version. The writing on her photos is one of those things, however awful at first, that I've become used to; they're part of her legacy. The shaky pencilled initials and the senseless squiggle tell a story in themselves and so for Sepia Saturday, I'm leaving them alone.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Sepia Saturday 189: A Smoking Contraption

The Sepia Saturday photo this week is entitled:  "What An Amazing Contraption". 

I have no contraption photos in my family photos even though my French Canadian grandfather had a reputation as a tinkerer. Living on the farm, he was by necessity a self-made engineer. There were contraptions around his barn, mysterious heaps of wheels and pulleys but I never learned much about them. He had a small motor he used to move around from job to job; I saw it employed twice: for the butter churn and the dumbwaiter, both of which he had rigged up to work with the motor.

There was a rift in the family between Grandpa and his brother regarding invention. They both laid claim to having invented the paperless cigarette; they ended up estranged over it.  I asked my mother every time the subject came up, of what use would a paperless cigarette be? How would it be an improvement on the conventional cigarette and why did the brothers think it was so significant? I never got an answer to these questions so l' affaire du cigarette sans papier remains forever a mystery. 

While thinking l'affaire over,  I remembered that one now can go to Google patent search and look this kind of thing up. I found a French patent dated 31st of October 1876, Patent #40,799 granted to Schaeffer and Fritz for an "imported" invention of paperless cigarettes! It's unlikely that French patents in those days extended to Canada. It's equally unlikely that my grandfather and his brother on farms in Manitoba would have been aware of this patent. But - this proves that they weren't alone in thinking that the invention might be valuable.

Variations and product development/invention on the cigarette ( the tobacco companies can certainly afford to invest in R & D) over the years has culminated in the currently popular ecigarette for which the earliest patent issued is dated 1963. Okay, it's not really a contraption as in a Rube Goldberg kind of thing, but it does qualify, I think quite satisfactorily, as a device. The product was never commercialized - after all most of us were merrily puffing away at real tobacco in 1963 still more or less unaware of how really dangerous smoking was. A clever Chinese pharmacist came up with the first really workable ecigarette and it was introduced to the Chinese market in 2004 as an aid for quitting smoking.

There are many of them on the the's how they work....

I wonder what my grandfather would think about these devices? I'm sure as was his wont, he'd immediately take one apart, lay out all the pieces and start thinking about improving it.

He continued to fiddle with mechanical things on into his nineties. His creative energy was expended on carving little wooden people and animals for a few years; then he began taking everything apart to figure out how it worked. Fine - until he started to slip into senility;  he'd take things apart that ought not be disassembled. As soon as the door would slam behind my grandmother, off to do her shopping, he'd get out his tools and take apart a kitchen appliance; it started small, with her hand mixer or the toaster oven. Like all addicts, soon small things lost their appeal and one memorable afternoon he took the television set apart. Grandma missed her soap opera the "Plouffe Family"; the _____ hit the fan. The piece de resistance was yet to come. One day Grandma stayed out shopping too long and Grandpa took the car apart. It was in so many pieces, my mother and aunt had to declare it DOA. The "incident a la voiture", a rather grand finale if I do say so myself, was both the peak and the nadir of his avocation as a tinkerer.

Speaking of smoking, here's one of my favorite songs. You can play this to accompany yourself as you esmoke on your ecigarette while surfing through cyberspace searching out how this or that contraption works. I also believe this song is excellent for improvement of your French accent.

Pink Martini Je Ne Veux Pas Travaillez

More inventive Sepia Saturday reading can be found here:
Sepia Saturday

Grandpa and carvings

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

I love my Daddy

At my age, I have to scramble to come up with a list of much I've accomplished over the past two years. Years pass like an eye blink; it seems like only a few weeks ago that this little guy was born. He's my darling second cousin twice removed, by marriage. He just turned two. 

I have things in my refrigerator older than he is. While the stuff in my fridge has barely managed to grow mold or ferment, he has learned to speak in sentences and actually knows many Spanish words. He swims, plays with his garbage trucks, knows the difference between recyclables and regular garbage; understands side-loading and top-loading trucks. Thanks to his parent's consistence guidance, please and thank-you are part of his vocabulary. 

He's made friends in his neighborhood and he seems to know a thing or two about dinosaurs too. His first full sentence was "I love my Daddy" which has secured his father's devotion, not that it was ever in doubt, for eternity. 

Acoustic Neuroma Memoirs

I'm getting ready to attend a symposium in L.A for the Acoustic Neuroma Association. One of the attendees just self-published a book on her experiences with one of these tumors  like mine. Doing a search I was surprised to find a three more such memoirs - I've listed them below with the short Amazon descriptions - not that they'd be of great interest for anybody but a fellow tumor-owner, but for my own record.  For a rare tumor, seems like more than you'd expect. 

1. Diagnosis: Brain  Tumor: My Acoustic Neuroma Story by C Micheal Miller:

Since I wasn’t allowed to move my head or upper body at all, I was watching my toes wiggle a little dance in my sneakers while I sang, in my head, the song that the Typewriter Guy used to sing on Sesame Street. Nooooney, Noooney, Nooney, Noo... T. Toes. I chuckled a little. I was in the middle of getting a cranial MRI scan and was watching my toes do their little dance in my sneakers in the angled mirror that I think was supposed to make me feel less claustrophobic. I just thought it was handy for keeping an eye on my toes while they wiggled and danced to the song I sang in my head. I’m guessing that’s not what the company who designed the MRI machine really had in mind, but I wasn’t worried about it. A sudden movement in the smoked glass window beyond my feet caught my eye. The silhouette in the control room was pointing and gesturing at something. There were quickly other shadows that came over to gather around and see what had attracted the first silhouette’s attention. My song faded off into nothing and my toes stopped dancing as the profile of a man wearing a tie came into view and started pointing and gesturing as well. This can’t be good, I thought. Pointing and gesturing during medical tests like an MRI is generally bad, even if it’s just pointing done by silhouettes and shadows. Little did I know what the future held in store for me.

2. An Acoustic What? One Patient's Acoustic Neuroma Journey by Yvonne Tommis

Just how did an uncontroversial and mild mannered piano teacher become the first UK patient to cross the Atlantic to be treated by Dr Gil Lederman using Fractionated Stereotactic Radiosurgery? The journey began in 1995 when I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour; an acoustic neuroma. At the time I was advised to have it removed surgically; a long and complicated procedure with serious side effects. So I searched for a less intrusive treatment. It was a very lonely and difficult journey as friends and family wanted me to follow medical advice and have surgery. It took two years to find the treatment, during which time I was denied information, given misleading information and given false information. This book tells the medical and personal story. I hope it will help those who are facing difficult medical decisions, and their friends and family.

3. A Whole New acoustic  neuroma journey by Marla Bronstein

When I was first diagnosed with an Acoustic Neuroma, I went straight to the internet. I found out what it was, treatment options, and read personal stories of resulting complications from long, frightening surgery. I wanted a map to help guide me through the months ahead of surgery that might show me a light at the end of the tunnel with a happy ending. I don't think anyone will read this and come away with “the answer” to all of the questions that arise when deciding how to treat an acoustic neuroma. I hope my story will help people find their own path in dealing with any life-threatening/changing situation.

About the Author

Marla makes her home in the Pacific Northwest. She lives in Bellingham, Washington with her husband Ken. Her favorite children are Zoe and Caleb. She is still trying to figure out what she wants to do when she grows up.

4. Hell in the Head: My War with a Brain Tumor and Other Evil Things 
 by David Douglas Shannon

He got sucker-punched, blindsided with something that only happens to other people. Actor David Shannon had a brain tumor. It was called an Acoustic Neuroma. In late 2007, he had surgery to have it removed. All should have gone well. It didn't. Gradually over the next two years, Shannon made one disturbing discovery after another that left his acting career and his former life in ruin. Hell in the Head is his story. With a knack for story-telling, Shannon takes us along on his medical misadventure with irreverent wit. As he weaves his way through his newly found post-surgery world, he shares heart-rending losses and his dashed hopes for recovery as well as stories of achievement and inspiration. From learning the bitter truth to running a half marathon to meeting Crooked smile and others facing the same ordeal, Shannon tells the good and the ugly with the same wry humor that will have you laughing and crying at the same time. In the end, after a three-year-ride on a roller coaster of emotional chaos, he presents an advocacy for improved care and counseling for Acoustic Neuroma patients. Hell in the Head is a story of wit and inspiration for all readers and a must read for Acoustic Neuroma patients and "posties."