The Nightclub at the Edge of the Universe Gets It

zaphodOn Thursday night after my lovely birthday celebration with friends, Greg and I decided to make a stop before we headed home to one of my favourite places. Zaphod Beeblebrox, the nightclub at the edge of the universe, is an institution in Ottawa’s club scene. Not only is it the venue of choice of some of the best live music in the city, let alone the country, it’s just a really fun place to hang out.

I’ve known the club’s owner, Eugene Haslam, since about 1992 when he moved Zaphod’s to its current location downtown in the Byward Market. He’s one of the smartest businesspeople I have ever met. I mean, this is a guy that totally gets it. He packs the place every night of the week. That’s unusual for Ottawa, since we tend to roll up the sidewalks at around 8pm most weeknights. I’ve been thinking about what makes Zaphod’s work. Here’s what I’m feeling about it…

It’s Accessible. Zaphod’s has live music 6 nights a week. And not just any old live music, either. Eugene only books in bands that are edgy, fresh, and fantastic. Any night you can show up and know that you WILL be entertained. But the best part is, the bands go on at around 8pm and finish up at 11pm, at which time the most talented DJ’s in town start spinning tunes for those who want to dance their faces off. The thing about the early shows is, you can still go out, see a great band, and be back home in bed early enough that your 8am meeting won’t be painful. This makes the live music scene accessible to the average working person all the time. As a result, Eugene’s got lineups at the door nearly every night.

It’s Got a Theme. Sure, there are lots of bars that have a theme. Some have an Irish theme. Some have a maritime theme or a Mexican theme. But Zaphod’s has the coolest theme of all, and it’s the way that it’s implemented that makes it work so well. I’ll admit – I’m a huge fan of The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ve read the book about 427 times and I even liked the movie version. Zaphod’s has a great theme. But it’s subtle, and that’s why it works. Sure, the place has a definite futuristic, other-galaxy feel to it. The drinks have catchy names like Slartibartfast and Bambleweenie. But you don’t go there because of the theme. You go because of the great atmosphere and terrific music. This means that even those who are not necessarily Douglas Adams fans will still have a good time. And even if you don’t know how bad Vogon poetry really is, you can still belly up to the bar and get yourself a Pangalactic Gargleblaster and fit right in.

There’s a Human Being Behind It. There would be no Zaphod’s without Eugene. This man is completely and intensely passionate about music. It’s like he invites hundreds of people into his house every night for a show. More nights than not, Eugene is at his club, and he’s just as in to the music as everyone else. When you’re around Eugene, it’s impossible to be in a bad mood. He also loves his city and is very involved in the community, raising money and doing lots of good things. Anyone who is thinking of starting a business needs to know that the single most important thing is to BE YOUR BUSINESS. We are all human beings, and we need to stop hiding behind labels and brands and start being the human face behind everything we do. When people think of Zaphod Beeblebrox they don’t think of it without thinking about the man behind it.

It Knows Its Audience. When we went in to the bar on Thursday night, it was jammed. The band had already finished and it was “Full Flavour Thursday”. Two DJs were spinning tracks, a meld of hip hop and funk. Zaphod’s has probably one of the most diverse clientele I have ever seen in a bar. You get the after-work business crowd, the twenty something college students, and the spiky-haired and heavily pierced all in one place. This diversity works because Eugene knows how to cater to his audience. By melding the theme, the great live music, and the wicked dance party every night, he’s able to create an environment where everyone feels at home. I can’t say it enough – knowing your audience is absolutely key to success.

For anyone who owns a business, or is thinking about starting one, these are 4 essential points you need to put some serious thought into. Maybe you should consider doing this from a nice comfy booth at Zaphod’s with a Pangalactic Gargleblaster in your hand. If you are in Ottawa, and haven’t been to Zaphod’s, you are missing out. If you are coming to Ottawa, give me a call and I’ll take you there myself.


Looking for photos for your blog? Try MorgueFile.

The other day Chris Brogan wrote a post about easy ways to improve your blog. One of his tips was to use photos to break up the text on your posts. A great tip, images can really add a lot of visual interest and help to drive a point home, too.

These days, most people have access to a digital camera and a Flickr account, so adding photos to your page is easy. But what about those times when you need a certain type of photo? For instance, right now here in Ottawa we are buried in about 6 feet of snow (still!), but I’m dreaming of Spring flowers. What if I want to add a nice picture of some daffodils to my post, but my own daffodils are buried in snow? Enter MorgueFile.

MorgueFile is a photo sharing site where amateur and semi-professional (and sometimes professional) photographers share their photos for anyone to use. Most of the time all they want in return is an email saying where you have used their photo. You can search on various topics and there are thousands of great photos to choose from.

Using MorgueFile to find a particular type of photo has more benefits than just prettying up your web pages, I’ve learned. It can also help to drive traffic to your blog.

The other day I posted about a special community I was once part of, and I went to MorgueFile to find the perfect photo. I found exactly what I was looking for in a photo by mindexpansi0n. Not only did I credit the photographer and provide a link to his MorgueFile pages, but I also dropped him a quick email to let him know I’d used his photo in my post. A few hours later, mindexpansi0n wrote me back and let me know that not only did he appreciate the credit, but he’d also subscribed to my blog!

Next time you are looking for that perfect photo, check out MorgueFile and support budding photographers by helping them to get their work out there. And you just may get some new blog visitors too!

Photo by ren from MorgueFile.

Ottawa Snowstorm ’08

I just had to post some photos of the snow we have here in Ottawa. This past weekend’s storm dumped 56cm (22 inches) of snow on us. We have had 404 cm (13.2 feet) of snow this winter so far, making it the 2nd snowiest winter on record. The snowiest winter on record was in the winter of 1970-71, with 445 cm (14.5 feet) of snow. I was born in the winter of 1970, here in Ottawa, so I don’t really remember it much but my parents sure do!

I thought I’d share some photos I took with my phone this morning. It’s a hell of a lot of snow. We have literally run out of places to put it. And we are getting more at the end of the week.

This is our front yard. Our house does not normally look this short.


Looking down our street

It might look like I drove INTO the snowbank, but no, it
was a mini-avalanche. I think the snowbank is trying to eat my car.
Before I cleaned it off, you could only see the front fender.


The green arrow is pointing to my neighbour. You know you are in Canada when you have to shovel your roof.

This is our back yard. The fence on the right side is 6 feet tall. The one at the back is 7 feet tall. This snow has not been touched by us, it’s literally that deep. Somewhere under there is an inground swimming pool. I fear we may never see it again.

Music Video – What Makes a Man

My friend Greg Wyard, singer/songwriter extraordinaire, has a new music video for his song “What Makes a Man”. Check it out. Great song, great video, and it’s local (well, Toronto local), and independent. I just had to share it.

Greg started out in Ottawa playing little local pubs and has a huge following in the city. I’ve known him for about 15 years and have witnessed his evolution from local boy to an award winning singer/songwriter. He’s a real talent, and now is making waves in Toronto with his fantastic voice, terrific songs and incredible guitar playing.