Today’s Priorhouse Interview is with Brian from Equinoxio blog. As always, I invite readers to skim the post or come back later to read (if you have a chance). There are some fun things covered here today so let’s get going.
Let me start by sharing a link to one of my favorite 2022 posts – HERE because it had me whispering, “I had a house in Africa” for days….
PRIORHOUSE: Okay, now let’s start with a little background.
BRIAN: I was born in Pakistan of French parents, a few years after the Partition, which is what the Independence of India and Pakistan is called.
- My family is French but lived in India for two centuries, since the mid 17th century.
- I was raised in Asia, Vietnam and Cambodia, briefly, then spent most of my childhood in Africa, West, former French Guinea, and East, Kenya and Ethiopia.
- I went to College in France, Graduate school in the US of A. University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa (Roll Tide!) where I got an MBA and learnt ‘ter speak Sudern’…
- Got married (my wife is Colombian) we lived ten years in France until my “Gipsy” roots started raising their voice and we moved to Mexico, to an Ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather. I later started my own market research agency, and here we still are 30+ years later.
PRIORHOUSE: Can you tell us about your blog name, Equinoxio?
BRIAN: When I started with WordPress, the name Equinoxio came to mind. Why Equinoxio21? Because several Equinoxios were already taken. The nerve some people have. 😉“Equinoxio” comes from my childhood in Africa. We had a house right by the open sea. When the sea rose during the high tides of the Equinox, the waves would come crashing on the terrace. Loads of fun for my little sister and I. Many years later, I wrote a short fiction story based on that.
PRIOURHOUSE: If anyone wants to check out his short story, here is the starting few lines to give you a sense for the details”
“The Sea covered most of the black rocks in front of the house by the Sea. Far, far away, the grey waves merged with the leaden sky. The Land was bracing, waiting for the final assault. The trees moaned… Read the rest of this short story here.
PRIORHOUSE: What is your first name?
BRIAN: Brian or Brieuc? The latter is a Breton name, which is extremely difficult to pronounce for non-French speakers. Brian is a Welsh name. The Welsh are cousins of ours, so I decided that I would use Brian, which is a translation of my name, and it’s fine with me. Easier for everybody.
PRIORHOUSE: Where are some of the places you have lived?
BRIAN: I mentioned some of it in the opening. Here is some more info:
- I’m a French expat brat. Lived in many places. Africa fashioned many of my ways of thinking. When you’re a “Mzungu”, (a white man in Swahili), you are a minority. So, you learn to adapt to any new cultural context. Very useful.
- While living in Europe I worked for a British market research company, doing many international projects covering Europe and other countries. As a result, I traveled in most Western European countries for business and occasionally for leisure.
- Latin America? I know Mexico of course, Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, Belize, Chile.
- Asia? I went “back” recently: Singapore, which impressed me a great deal. It is possible for an underdeveloped country to become a developed country. Singapore and many Asian countries are good examples. Then we went to Malaysia, the island of Penang, Thailand, Bangkok, and Angkor temples in Cambodia. (I want to go back to Angkor; it is one the World’s 7 Wonders!)
PRIORHOUSE: You sure have traveled the world. Do you have a favorite getaway?
BRIAN: My Favourite getaway? Paris. I sort of need to go back every year. To hear French spoken everywhere. To face both the typical French sense of humour, very dry, and sometimes bad attitude. A bit like New Yorkers. No offense…
- Places I’ve been to in the US? ‘Bama of course, “Nawrleens”, New York, (Love that city, I try to go back from time to time), San Francisco of course. I don’t know the North or the Midwest…
- Going to Grad school in Alabama was quite an experience. First three weeks I couldn’t understand a “thang” – And I thought I spoke English! Then I got used to it. Class formats were very different from the French undergrad I went to. A good complement. I had incredible teachers and classmates.
- Football? Crimson Tide obviously. Auburn and Notre-Dame? Eternal enemies… 😉
PRIORHOUSE: Yes, I remember that you are a Crimson Tide fan! And that always reminds me of Bret Favre sending back some flapjacks so he can “stay hungry” for the Crimson Tide:
PRIORHOUSE: Any destinations on your Bucket List?
BRIAN: Bucket list? Not much really. I’ve seen so many countries already, and I’m getting old. 😉 ‘Back hurts a bit with long travel. Not a major handicap, but still a pain in the… So, I’d rather concentrate. Here are some places:
- Paris, always. I’d like to spend a few weeks in England. I know London fairly well but haven’t really gone outside. We are going to London this summer, a week, hopping from Paris and back.
- Italy. Absolutely love Italy. I mumble enough Italian to get by, I’d like to go back to Florence, spend a few weeks in Tuscany. Go back to Rome. One of my cousins rents a house in Venice every summer. I could copy him, but not in the summer. I’m getting a bit allergic to hordes of tourists. I’m such a snob right? 😉
- I have thought of Japan and Korea, which I’m sure are incredible jumps in time and space, but the flights are long, and the language barrier could be a concern.
- I would definitely go back to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. I
- I would like to “explore” Indonesia a bit, and of course go back to Cambodia, spending more time at the temples of Angkor. In a different way. Normally the Tuk-tuks (mototaxis) drive you at breakneck speed from one temple to the other in two or three days. I would like to spend one day in one temple. Maybe sit for an hour, look at just one Buddha, then walk a bit. Sit. Meditate, sort of… Take my time anyway. Spend definitely more time there.
PRIORHOUSE: Well Brian, you know I enjoy the Street Art from your global travels. I made this little collage to give readers a sample of what your blog offers.
PRIORHOUSE: So many of us follow the same blogs and I am sure some readers today have enjoyed your posts for years.
BRIAN: Yes, we all tend to follow the same blogs here and there… I like so many blogs.
Regarding the Street Art on my blog:
- Taking photos of street art is relatively new thing for me on my blog. I have been sharing street for a few years now, but I did not really pay attention to it until I enjoyed a post from a blogger friend, Paul Bell @NotesfromCamelidCountry.
- Paul Bell’s work caught my eye. I suddenly understood the difference between tags and graffiti. Now I see street art everywhere.
- My tool? My I-phone. I used to do a lot of photography with a fancy 35mm Asahi-Pentax camera. With additional lenses and zoom, it came up to 6-10 pounds of equipment. Got tired of it and stopped taking pictures for more than ten years. Now? I carry my I-phone in my back pocket. I see something, I shoot. I don’t even bother to frame much. (Photoshop is my faithful ally)
- One or two suggestions for capturing street art:
- In some countries I Google “Street Art City X”. The results give you an idea where to look for some interesting art.
- Always go to the end of the street, and look around. You never know whether there isn’t a great piece of street art hiding. And turn around often. Sometimes you just passed a fab mural hidden behind a wall. Here in Mexico there is street art everywhere.
- Sometimes all you have to do is a sort of “safari”. Get somebody to drive to a well-known street art zone. Hop down from the car. Shoot. Hop back in and drive.
PRIORHOUSE: We both enjoy taking people shots too.
BRIAN: People Photos, or Street Portraits, I used to be self-conscious about “shooting” people. Privacy, and all that. Then, I noticed people photos on some of the blogs that I follow. I asked them,“How do you do it?” and they told me, “I just go up and ask to take a photo.” That inspired me. Now in some cases, I do ask to take people photos. In other cases, I do not. If I decide not to ask, I might pretend I’m texting with the camera on, sound off, and take a candid picture. I know there might some privacy issues. In Europe, I could possibly get sued. Or beat up! But the spontaneity of those “hidden camera” shots is priceless. So, I try to do a bit of both. (I know you like people photos too. And hydrants. Do you ask the hydrants for permission?) LOL.
PRIORHOUSE: I am laughing with the fire hydrants because yes, I had a season of taking those photos. I have stopped my quest for hydrants (or plugs) but I actually have many images waiting in a folder. So I still have posts coming. And NO, I do not wonder about privacy for the hydrants! ha.🔥 I also do not worry about privacy too much with the street shots I take. I sometimes ask the people, but if it is a candid shot, then I do not ask.
And just FYI – according to Legal Beagle (here), folks can take “people shots” legally.
“If you stand in a public place, you can usually take a photo of anything you can see. The exception is when the person being photographed is in some particular part of the public space where he has a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
BRIAN: At times, I do wonder about privacy, but we must remember that many of the greatest people photos were taken without permission. For example, the photos from Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus.
PRIORHOUSE: Great Point. And let me share a few of of those classic mid-century street shots from those pioneers.
Henri Cartier-Bresson Street Shots:
Diane Arbus Street Shots:
BRIAN: #backtothestreet is a good example of photographers asking people for a street photo. In their case, the “subjects” are generally slightly “original”, which makes things easier. It was similar to a shot of a weird dressed up gentleman I took in New York last November. He was delighted.
PRIORHOUSE: Can you tell us a little bit about the way you approach blogging?
BRIAN: I worked in advertising for many years and one of the rules is: Keep it Short. Think of the whole story you need to tell in a 30 seconds ad. Or even less now.
- I believe posts should be short and succinct. I generally structure any given post of mine around 15 images. Can be less, can more. Why 15? LOL. It’s what I see in my finder, 3 rows of 5 pix. All in one screen.
- The selection of images structures my post. Then I import the images to WP. Select the first image, write, import the second image, write, etc. I normally write directly on each post… Except if it’s fiction, which I write in Word. I don’t write in the captions. Text is too small for readers’ comfort.
- Now, with around 15 images, and short text, I try to engage the reader and maintain interest, by shifts, changes in size, topic, colour vs B&W. Obviously, as in Advertising, you need greater impact on the first image/text and on the last one. The rest is your story.
- We both follow Pacific Paratrooper Blog here
– he does a good job showing how things were/are with his succinct posts.
- As an aside, on my “featured image”, the one that leads to the actual post on the main menu of my blog, I often use eyes or faces, which are known to produce more impact on the reader. I also try to change subject from one post to the other.
BRIAN’S Other Blogging Tips:
Try not to use the captions under the images. The writing is too small and on WordPress the captions are in italics and difficult to read. Write your caption in a block just below the image. Avoid italics as much as you can, research has shown readers tend to skip italics.
Watch the extra spaces with *** and …. – Bloggers should try to eliminate the empty spaces or the reader may not scroll down to the end.
PRIORHOUSE: You sometimes share your memoir snippets on your blog. Any plans for a book? 📚📖
BRIAN: As for creating a book, I doubt it. I am not Churchill, so I don’t think my “Mémoires” are of any literary or historic interest. However, rather than a book, I might create a separate blog devoted exclusively to the Family story.
PRIORHOUSE: TV shows or Books?
BRIAN: TV? That’s a hard one. Netflix when it came out was an interesting proposition. New fiction. New approaches. But ultimately there is so much violence in Netflix fiction. Villains are the new heroes. Heroes are villains. If I want so see so much violence, then I can turn the news on, which I have stopped watching a long time ago. I sometimes watch an old Star Trek episode, or the Avengers. But one tires of only watching old stuff. I stick to books.
Books? ‘Always loved books. I have about 3,000 books in my “library”. (Remember Cluedo? Colonel Mustard killed the victim in the library with a chandelier.) Lockdown was paradoxically a good thing: I now buy loads of books on Amazon. 99% in English, shipped to Mexico in less than a week! I tend to read mysteries, I like Robert B. Parker with his great sense of humour, Ed Mc Bain, Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block’s Burglar series. Mysteries are very revealing on the local culture. East coast, West coast, the English.
I also read non-fiction trying to find guys who might have found ways to fix the sorry state of the world. Hehe. And I buy loads of books in France every year form the book-boxes along the Seine. Old editions. I have now rediscovered Pierre Benoît, an old French author whom I read in my early teens. I’ll probably scrutinize my shelves a bit more.
“Out of Africa” of course is one of my favourite books.
For those that don’t know, here is a little snippet about Out of Africa:
“Out of Africa is a memoir by the Danish author Karen Blixen. The book, first published in 1937, recounts events of the seventeen years when Blixen made her home in Kenya, then called British East Africa. The book is a lyrical meditation on Blixen’s life on her coffee plantation, as well as a tribute to some of the people who touched her life there.”
PRIORHOUSE: What makes you unique?
BRIAN: Unique? Er. We’re all unique in each of our own ways, aren’t we? As many other bloggers who have traveled much, I think it’s my international experience that defines me. With the languages I picked along the way. Plus the fact that I have practically no accent in any language. I speak “posh” British English. Ah can do Sudern, Yes Ma’am, praise the Lord.
And culturally, I can slip into the local culture easily, I understand Americans well. I know what grits are… LOL. That allows me to get into other cultures rather easily. It’s fun. For instance, I noticed in Asia that people hand objects holding them with two hands. To hand out something to anyone with only one hand is “rude”. So I use two hands…And the people on the receiving side notice. And acknowledge. Fun.
Pets: I’m more a cat person than a dog person. Last cat we had we “inherited” when my father passed away. She had no name. We called her Miaow DseDong. Chairwoman Miaow. Fit her to a T.
Interests: Too many I guess. Art, books, history, blogging and the wonderful people we meet.
Music: Clapton is the #1 one guitar player in history, not Jimi Hendrix… LOL. (That will bring me many enemies.)
Quote: I guess there are many quotes, but a quote that has been most critical in my life is one that I read, by chance, in the library of Bidgood Hall, the Business school at the U of Alabama:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference…”
Imagine finding Frost poetry in a Business Library. That poem has been a guiding force in my life.
PRIORHOUSE: That was special to discover Frost poetry in a business school. And as we wind down, is there anything that you would change?
BRIAN: Too old for much change I think. But I now almost never argue a point, even when I disagree strongly. People just don’t listen to rationality. Ideology – which is the only “discipline” totally devoid of ideas – is taking over the world again. And I do regret that my generation has let the world slip away into something close to horror now. If I could change that I would. But I have no idea how.
PRIORHOUSE: How do you refresh or relax?
BRIAN: Lots of things. Reading to begin with. Photography. Working on the family history. Walk when I travel. Typically, in Paris, I can walk 5-7 miles a day. Art and museums of course. Family, we have two lovely grandkids we can share things with. Teach them stuff. I bind books. Learnt from my father. I have a press. Which I also use to restore broken or damaged books. I’m teaching my grandson the basics of binding. Friends were a bit “secluded” for two years. We just did a big get-together, the first in two years. And travel of course.
PRIORHOUSE: And the things that you just mentioned are what readers can find on your blog!
Here are the links to connect more with Brian:
PRIORHOUSE: Thank you so much, Brian. For taking the time to share some of your life with us. I enjoyed getting to know you more.
BRIAN: Thank you, Yvette, for this interview and for your wonderful blog. It is very varied. Ye be good naw ye hear?
PRIORHOUSE: You always bring a smile with your southern verbiage.
Oh, and here is another example of what you will find on Equinoxio blog – fun signs like this old ad: “The ONLY guaranteed cure for female weakness” – hahaha
With all the art from equinoxio – had to link up with the PPAC @alwayswrite Here or at Toons Sarah
Questions for Readers
Any thoughts or comments about this interview?
Any destinations are on your bucket list?
Brian says that Eric Clapton is the number one guitar player in history. I say Eddie Van Halen was. Who do you say?