The Tree

About ten days ago I was standing by the kitchen window drinking my morning tea and it just caught my eye. The unmistakable tint of dead needles in one of the huge trees just downhill from the house. It was a surprise because earlier in the summer the trees by the house were healthy. This one must have died very quickly and very silently over the summer. The was no lightning strike no catastrophic event. It just died of old age I guess.  I walked down and checked it out and it was dead. A tree dying in the forest is not a remarkable event, however this was a huge tree and if it should come down it could take out our power, telephone, the sun deck and a significant portion of the house. There was no need to panic. A dead tree could stand for a couple of years before mother nature and gravity brings it down but eventually it would come down.

I contacted a local tree service run by Don Johnson. He came in, confirmed my fears and arranged to come back with a crew in few days and take it down. As mother nature would have it,  a tremendous storm blew through the province and Don was delayed as he dealt with clients with more urgent needs. A few days later he showed up with a crew, three trucks , Cherry picker, flat bed trailer, a huge chain saw, tools and a chipper. They formulated a plan: Stage 1 – Decide where to fall the tree and clean out the landing area; Stage 2 – Bring the tree down; Stage 3 – Remove the branches; Stage 4 – Cut up the log and remove; Stage 5 – Clean up

Here is  photographic record of what ended up as a  2-3 hour job………..

Preparing the landing site

Bark removal & the first cuts :


Working it with Wedges


And down she comes, on target  right between the trees…….

On the ground and the clean up

Counting the rings

Portrait of a Logger – Don Johnson

The Job’s done – The final paragraph: The tree  came in at around 80-90 feet and was probably around 200 years old. That means it germinated around the time Queen Victoria was born (1819) and was a mature tree by the year of Canadian Confederation. A tree of that maturity and magnitude deserves to have a name and Ol’ Vic would seem appropriate.




Slowly but surely live music is returning to the post-pandemic world. Elizabeth Shepherd and Michael Occhipinti are returning to the area to perform concerts in support of their new release Weight of Hope. Elizabeth and Michael tour out of Toronto and Montreal (I think) and  have visited the Kootenays many time of the years. They are both Juno Nominees and, as always their performances will produce music above and beyond the normal.

The concert will be limited to 30 seats @ $ 20.00each. To reserve your seat please send interac etransfer to John Siega All attendees must provide proof of double vaccination and follow Covid 19 guidelines as per venue requirements. The concert will be at Cranbrook Art Gallery at the 1401 Gallery site on 5th street North . Any questions please contact Louie Cupello (250) 417-9690.


Read any Good Books lately? (#20) – The Day of the Triffids

There is nothing like a pandemic to whet ones appetite for a good post-apocalyptic novel. These days it seems that there is whole genre of science fiction that ruminates on what-if-end of world scenarios. There are plenty to pick from but a good place to start is to go back to the classics and that would include  THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS by John Wyndham. Written in 1951 it is probably his best known work and is a classic of the genre. His other famous novels  include the Midwich Cuckoos (1957) otherwise known as The Village of the Dammed. Readers today may find the writing style a little to old fashion but for me they are still page turners.

The Amazon synopsis of  The Day of the Triffids goes something like this……….

“Bill Masen wakes up one morning in his hospital bed. His eyes are completely bandaged after an eye operation so he is unable to see. He immediately notices how still and quiet everything is. Having taken off his bandages, he discovers that both inside the hospital and out, the majority of the population (who watched a display of startlingly bright comets in the night sky the previous evening) have all gone blind, and realizes that there is a terrifying new enemy for humankind to contend with. This is his thrilling, chilling and enthralling story…. When Bill Masen leaves hospital and goes into the center of London, he finds that looting is rife as people are grabbing anything from the shelves of shops that they think they might find useful – mainly food.

While surveying the scene he comes across an attractive young woman who also wasn’t blinded, Josella. Together they return in her car to her parents’ home, only to discover everyone at the house has been murdered by the Triffids. The Triffids are walking plants which carry a vicious and lethal sting. Bill used to have one in his back garden, but far from being completely harmless they have now developed and are threatening to take over the world. They are also strongly linked to the mysterious comet shower.

Bill has an advantage over other survivors in that his job had involved him researching the Triffids. In fact, it was a Triffid sting that was one of the reasons he had been in hospital on the night of the comets, and this incident saved him from blindness. Together, Josella and Bill, whose bond to each other is growing, join a group of people, many of whom are blind but some of whom can see, with plans to head into the country…and their true struggle begins.” and so on. The Triffids appear to be the result of some genetic tampering and the accidental mass dispersal of the seeds into the atmosphere. Prior to the the “night of the comets” the Triffids were controlled and harvested in various commercial enterprises. After “the night of the comets” it became obvious that the only advantage that man had over the Triffids was the  ability to see.The novel explores human survival after the mass blinding of the human race.

It is a believable premise and for me resonates with our current pandemic predicament. The elements of denial and the hankering to get things back to normal are similar. There is a failure to fully realize that the notion of normal has drastically changed. In both instances there is a watershed moment of “before and after” and nothing can ever be exactly the same again.  In the novel the change is way more dramatic and permanent than in our coming post-pandemic world. Some things we hold near and dear will return but in some ways it is like the world in 1919. Things had changed too much to ever really go back to the way things were. The world in 1919 was a vastly different place to that of 1914. Similarly the world of 2023 will be vastly different to the world of 2019. Millions of deaths on a global scale will do that sort of thing.


Postscript: “Day of the Triffids” was turned into and unsuccessful B grade movie that is best forgotten. There was a sequel novel set 25 years after John Wyndham’s original novel. It is called The Night of the Triffids and was  written by Simon Clark in 2001. It is a reasonable attempt at a sequel but is not as believable as the original.


Karma’s a bitch!!



Otherwise known as KARMA – The spiritual principle of cause and effect wherein intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect): Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and happier rebirths, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and bad rebirths. This concept has also been adopted in Western popular culture, in which the events which happen after a person’s actions may be considered natural consequences…… wikipedia

Mak Parhar was an outspoken COVID denier and conspiracy theorist from Vancouver, British Columbia. He passed away on Thursday, November 4, 2021. He had shown COVID-19 symptoms for the past couple of days prior to his death, but it is not clear whether he had tested positive for the virus.

He first came to public attention when he was operating a yoga studio in North Delta in contravention of Public Health orders. It was shut down after he claimed that the COVID-19 virus  could not survive heat. Considering his public denial of the existence of the Covid virus it was an odd position for him to take.  In July 2021 he  was accused of repeatedly breaking COVID-19 quarantine rules and appeared in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. He was charged with three counts of breaking the Quarantine Act. At the time of his death his trial was still ongoing. Parhar allegedly refused to self-isolate after returning from a Flat Earth conference in the United States in November 2020. At the time, he spent four days in jail. In March 2020 after he encouraged people to attend the studio and falsely claimed the heat would kill the coronavirus the City of Delta revoked his business license. That did not deter Mr Parhar from continuing to deny the existence of the Covid virus.

Last month while in his car, Parhar posted a video describing that he was suffering from a number of symptoms. They included a “rheumy sore throat” and hot and cold feelings. In the midst of that diatribe, he was also coughing and spitting phlegm out his driver’s side window. But Parhar adamantly denied that he had “COVID”. That’s because according to him, “COVID doesn’t exist”. In a subsequent video, Parhar revealed that he took Invermectim, a quack remedy for Covid,  which is used to treat parasite infections. Once again, considering his Covid denial, it was an odd position take

In his final video posted on his Facebook page, Parhar expressed hope that he could cross the border in the future to attend a convention of Flat Earth believers in the United States. One can make the most outrageous claims but, in Mak Parhar case,  there are consequences. If the cause of his death is attributed to Covid then he will join  a growing list of deniers and anti-vaxers who have also died from the virus.

On a different scale President Donald Trump’s performance in fighting the coronavirus pandemic was the worst in the industrialized world. His bad handling of the pandemic probably contributed to election defeat in 2020 (karma). Other leaders were very bad  but nobody else in rich countries matched Trump’s combination of maliciousness and addle-brained incompetence. But at least one other president did worse: Tanzania’s John Magufuli, who refused to admit COVID-19 was a problem, suppressed discussion of the pandemic, and ultimately died of the disease himself, along with many of his top political allies.  It’s a stark lesson in the deadly cost of denying the pandemic and a perfect example of bad Karma coming back to bite the perpetrator.

You can deny the reality of the covid virus and you can refuse to be vaccinated but there are consequences. Without being vaccinated it is a certainty that you will catch the virus, possibly end up in an intensive care ward and you may die. Do you really want to take that risk?

As I said Karma’s a bitch.


Paul Reed Smith Custom SE Semi-Acoustic Guitar

Fan…….. I hate that word. It always brings to my mind screaming teeny-boppers at a pop concert. I am not a fan of anything and if I should end up so labelled then you have my permission to take me outside and shoot me. As I said I am not a fan of anything but for some things I am an aficionado. In particular I think of myself as a Jazz Guitar Aficionado. I have been listening to Jazz Guitar my entire adult life. Probably the first jazz guitar recording I came across was the 1929 recording of Knocking a Jug featuring Edie Lang with the Louis Armstrong Orchestra.

In many ways, musically and culturally, it was a landmark recording. It must have been one of the first inter-racial bands on record.  Edie Lang was white and Louis Armstrong was black. Edie Lang pretty well killed off the use of the banjo in jazz. After Edie Lang came along banjo players started switching to guitar. Edie went onto to make a whole series of classic recordings with the jazz violinist Joe Venuti. Following a routine tonsillectomy in 1933 he died at the age of 30. In 1977, Lang’s recording of  Singing the Blues with Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The other great guitarist of that era is the French gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, who along with the violinist Stephane Grapelli took American Jazz and invented a whole new style of playing, one with a particularly French flavor. It became a whole new genre of jazz called Manouche or Gypsy Jazz .

I suppose to modern ears those recordings sound quaint but it must be remembered that at the time of the recordings around 90 years ago the technology of the day was pretty primitive and musicians spent as much time fighting the technology as they spent on learning their craft. For guitarists things did not really get better until the invention of electricity, specifically  the electric guitar. Charlie Christian wasn’t the first electric guitarist but he was the one who virtually invented the electric guitar vocabulary and has pretty well influenced every electric guitar player who came after him. With the electricity came the volume that allowed guitarists to step up to the plate and join the front line of the band. They now had the ability to play complex harmony, unison lines and solos and actually be heard. That  changed the texture and style of the music.

Charlie Christian opened the flood gates and in the post war period and even up to the present day there are so many electric jazz and rock guitarists that he influenced that to just name them would fill a book. He died of tuberculosis on March 2, 1942, at the age of 25.

What does that have to do with the Paul Reed Smith Custom SE Semi-Acoustic Guitar in the photo below? Even with the invention of the solid body electric guitar jazz players seemed to favor the carved top orchestral guitar with its big body and characteristic f-holes. Rightly or wrongly in my mind the sound of Jazz Guitar became associated with the carved top orchestral guitar.

It was only much after I heard the Canadian jazz guitarists Ed Bickett  and Oliver Gannon play exquisite jazz on a Fender solid body guitars  that I realized that it was possible to get an authentic jazz sound on something hardly more than a piece of two by four with a fret board and a pickup. So maybe I didn’t have to spend a fortune  on a “jazz guitar”. Semi-hollow body guitars like the Paul Reed Smith are a compromise between the classic arch top and the Fender style solid body guitar

I first saw and heard a YouTube review of this particular  Paul Reed Smith model about 12 years ago. I will admit the instrument just looked so pretty that I couldn’t resist it. The price was modest so I purchased one. However, I never really got to grips with using it in performance. At the time I was looking for a cool jazz sound and in pursuit of that ideal I installed some high priced European flat wound strings. They were thicker than the set on the instrument and I had to file the slots in the nut to accommodate them. The result was I ruined the nut. To repair the damage I would have had to travel out of town to find an artisan to do the job. As a result the guitar has just been sitting on my wall unplayed and, despite its good looks, unloved. Earlier this year I did find a replacement nut on Amazon. I would have liked to install one of those fancy zero fret nuts but I wasn’t sure of the sizing. Any way, the Amazon nut was almost a perfect fit and it got the instrument almost back to normal. It did the job. After replacing the nut I tried to set up the guitar  and, although  I did have some success with that it was not perfect. Well, about two weeks ago I learnt that there was a guy in town, Darin Massicotte, who could do a professional set up. So last week I got him to install and set up  D’Adddario Chrome Medium Flat Wound strings on the guitar. For the princely sum of only $60 he did a fabulous job. There is still a little “pinging” on the top E string around the 10-12th fret but we are going to let the instrument settle for a few weeks then re-adjust. I am impressed with the final outcome. The strings are super smooth, absolutely unbelievably smooth,  and the sound is nice, rich  and mellow and with a little reverb and chorus it is the sound I have been seeking. It’s a pleasure to just sit down and practice dumb scales and arpeggios. So that’s what I have started working on again but it is like learning a new instrument. Compared to acoustic guitars, electric guitars are different and the music, particularly jazz, requires a different approach to master the  sound and the phrasing. So with time I have high hopes of maybe getting to eventually play some faux jazz. Maybe even have a shot at Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue. I may never get to play “real” jazz but I think I will have fun trying.

I am so taken with the flat wound strings that I am going to install a light set on my Irish Bouzouki. That instrument needs some fret work etc and with some help from Darin  it would be nice to get the instrument back into shape. If the Chrome strings works on the Irish Bouzouki I will probably do the same for my Cittern and get Darin to sort out the balance on the pickup. The Chrome strings are expensive and I suspect they will not last long. So for the Bouzouki and Cittern I am looking at around $30-40 to install new strings (two sets for each double course instrument). If I get 6 months out of them I will be happy.


Post Script: Darin Massicotte – Guitar Tech

“Originally from Edmonton, now a Cranbrook native of 22 years. I moved here with my wife to be in the mountains and ride mountain bikes and ski. I have a always had an interest in guitars. I had a love for punk rock music and after a friend taught me the basics I started playing guitar. Years later I discovered my ability for repairing and setting up stringed instruments, particularly guitars. I have a mechanical background kin repairing bicycles and in precision wood work.

Due to a fairly recent injury I found myself having a difficult time being employable. With that I discovered that my hobby of instrument repair was a desirable skill in the community and people began bringing me their guitars for repair. Word of mouth is big in small communities and word travels fast and I’ve become busy with my “hobby” and have made many new friends over the time. Whether setting up a brand new guitar or re-fretting an old friend, it’s all enjoyable and I learn from each instrument.

I try to get repairs done in a timely manner, limiting the amount of time that you’re without your instrument. Appointments are the best way to do this and I usually only require a day or two with your guitar unless unusual parts are needed or extensive glueing is required.

Next time you need some work done feel free to give me a call.”

Darin Massicotte’s   workshop is called Kootenay String Works and he is located in Cranbrook, B.C.

Telephone number: 250-489-8887