Sunday, December 30, 2007

Caption This 51


Please caption this image
London, ON, January 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Here in the Great White North, gullible consumers increasingly buy their electronics at big box stores staffed by undertrained folks who know as much about computers as I know about llama breeding. Future Shop is quite likely the worst of the bunch.

This outlet closed barely seven years after it opened because it was so successful at ripping off the populace that they built a new, much larger one just down the road. The storefront that remained struck me as a stark reminder of the forgettable landscape we seem to have created for ourselves.

Your turn: How would you caption this image? Suggest as many captions as you wish: I encourage this sort of behavior. I'll announce the winner next week - which, incidentally, marks a year since this whole Caption This madness began. Yay!

About last week's image of a simple door lock: Too many great suggestions to count, but in the end I had to pick one. That would be SPWriter's gem: "No more sleepwalking outside in the nude, Louise."
Many honorable mentions to bestow this week:
  • BreadBox: "The barn door after the horse has bolted (it)."
  • Rashbre: "Bolt your door, but not your mind."
  • Kenju: "Lock of Ages."
  • Omykiss: "Latched on."
  • Joan: "I need a little peace."
  • Robin: "Temptation."
  • Sister AE: "Safe." and "A false sense of security."
  • SPWriter: "Slide. Home safe."
  • JC: "One way."
A special thanks to Robin and Steve (SPWriter) for their regular and frequent submissions. Their active participation represents, in my view, the best spirit of Caption This. It's what I had in mind when I started this thing at the beginning of 2007, and I'm so glad to see the caption bug catching on. Thanks to you both - and for everyone who jumps in - for keeping this thing fun.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

100 Things - Part 2

Last year, I wrote a 100-things list about myself (click here to read it.) I enjoyed the experience so much that I've decided to do it again. Here goes...

  1. I work from home.
  2. I used to work in offices. Eventually I realized these places weren't really for me.
  3. Even if I was the only employee who walked around in socks.
  4. I don't much enjoy the politics of corporate life.
  5. Merely thinking about it gives me a rash.
  6. I also didn't tend to play well with others.
  7. I can't fake being nice. This gets me into trouble sometimes. But at least folks always know where I stand.
  8. I talk to the dog during the day. He lies at my feet while I write.
  9. When I need a break, I take him for a walk to remind myself that all needs should be simple.
  10. The more time I spend with him, the better I understand why some people prefer pets.
  11. Unconditional love every time I return home is a good thing.
  12. We rescued him from a neglectful home. He's quickly become a beloved member of our family.
  13. It's been an important lesson in black clouds and silver linings for our kids.
  14. I love watching our kids with him.
  15. Beyond merely playing, it's the way they simply invite him into their lives that sticks with me.
  16. I can see the kindness in their souls when they're around him.
  17. I see glimpses of my wife's soul in them, too. It gives me warm fuzzies to watch.
  18. I can take a decent photograph, but I don't think I've yet captured these warm fuzzies in a frame.
  19. I'll keep trying, though. Someday, I might succeed.
  20. I don't believe that we are defined by what we drive.
  21. I believe we are defined by traits that no car advertisement has ever captured.
  22. I often wonder why the "don't drink and drive" message still hasn't sunk in.
  23. Or the "don't drive like an idiot" one. It's as if we've forgotten - or never learned in the first place - that driving is a privilege, not a right.
  24. I guess this position dates me. So be it.
  25. For some perverse reason, I enjoy reading advertising copy from car dealerships.
  26. They make me laugh. Does anyone believe in their "commitment to customer satisfaction" and "excellence in service"?
  27. As a journalist, I am saddened that some newspapers haven't woken up to the age of the Internet.
  28. I'm further saddened that I live in a city serviced by such an operation. It takes me little more than 5 minutes to rifle through the lightly-written, error-prone wisp of a paper that's dropped in my mailbox every morning.
  29. I feel ripped off. Readers deserve better.
  30. I used to be a columnist for that paper.
  31. I wrote for them because I believed I could make a difference.
  32. I still feel that way. Words can be powerful if we want them to be.
  33. I believe that the state of today's evolving media represents an opportunity for creative thinkers to change how the world views itself.
  34. I hope the editors and publishers of yesterday have the courage to either drive the change or step aside to let the next generation take a crack at it.
  35. I doubt they'll actually have the courage, though.
  36. Still, I'm an idealist: I believe the next generation of media will rise above McPapers, entertainment masquerading as news and declining opportunities for great writing and production talent.
  37. I get on my soapbox too often for my own good.
  38. Building a soapbox, however, isn't my thing.
  39. I can build network infrastructure in my sleep, but home repairs vex me.
  40. I have immense respect for people who work with their hands.
  41. There's something cool about making something from nothing.
  42. I worry we're losing that appreciation in this era of low-low prices and outsourcing.
  43. I get a rash when I walk into Wal-Mart.
  44. I see the ghosts of Chinese laborers in those smiley-faced "rollback" signs.
  45. I've been to China.
  46. The tragedy of a society rushing headlong into capitalism plays itself out in stark relief on the streets of Shanghai.
  47. I came home with a deep appreciation of who I am, what I have, and my ability to drive my own future.
  48. I think we all need to reset our perspectives every once in a while.
  49. I hate idle chitchat.
  50. "Making conversation" is an oxymoron. If you have to "make" it, then silence would be preferable.
  51. I enjoy long periods of silence.
  52. I'm not antisocial by any means: I just like peace and quiet.
  53. Wait, maybe I am antisocial :-)
  54. I get my best ideas for writing when I'm alone.
  55. Even the slightest interruption can throw me off.
  56. Telemarketers who call repeatedly during the day really annoy me.
  57. I wish I could return the favor.
  58. But I can't. So I do the next best thing: monitor all inbound calls with Caller ID.
  59. I am addicted to my BlackBerry.
  60. This does not alarm me. It's a vital tool for the kind of work that I do.
  61. It's also quite the kick to send messages from under a tree beside a distant farmer's field. Or to IM my wife when I'm in another city.
  62. I believe mobile devices are changing - and will continue to change - how we interact with each other.
  63. That can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how we choose to use the newfound capability.
  64. I choose to use it for good.
  65. I carry my camera virtually everywhere I go.
  66. I never want to kick myself for missing a moment.
  67. I often come home empty-handed.
  68. That's OK, though: just having it with me brings me comfort.
  69. I believe my camera bag is the adult equivalent of a child's blanket.
  70. It feels good to have it slung over my shoulder.
  71. I now understand why women carry purses. Men should carry something, too.
  72. I think stereotypes of masculinity are silly. And amusing.
  73. Macho as a concept is immensely laughable.
  74. Men who subscribe to it without a smile on their face are also laughable.
  75. And pathetic.
  76. I think more people should stand beside a large body of water and just wonder.
  77. It might help them put things in perspective a little bit better.
  78. I generally think the best of people around me.
  79. I guess I'm a bit naive, then, because people can be incredibly mean-spirited.
  80. Even when you're related to them.
  81. I've come to accept that the definition of family sometimes has little to do with genetic relationship.
  82. Life's too short to waste on folks who don't matter.
  83. It's tough enough finding the time to spend with people who do.
  84. I wish judging yourself would be a prerequisite for judging others.
  85. People who don't read really bug me.
  86. We have a "No Solicitors" sign on our front door, right at eye level.
  87. Yet we still get solicitors. Lots of them. Imagine that.
  88. I respect those who choose to follow other faiths. I think believing in something, whatever that "something" is, is a good thing for humanity.
  89. I lose respect for those who take it upon themselves to convince the rest of us that "their" faith is somehow the "best" one.
  90. I lose even more respect when these people attempt to do their convincing on my front doorstep. Remember that reading thing in items 84 & 85.
  91. Sometimes I think I'm the only person on the planet who thinks Disney is a sham, a cult, an excuse to hoover dollars from the pockets of unsuspecting members of the middle class.
  92. I believe Mickey Mouse and his minions should be euthanized.
  93. And Barney.
  94. And Dora the Explorer. And...
  95. I wear my clothes a little big.
  96. That's because I hate feeling them on my skin.
  97. It bothers my wife. She says this makes me look like a little boy sometimes.
  98. I'm starting to buy smaller sizes, but it's a struggle.
  99. I wear a large red-hooded sweatshirt when I'm writing at home.
  100. Comfort foods and comfort clothes go together. Growing up in a cold climate does that to ya.
  101. Oops, out of space. For now...
Your turn: Thoughts? I believe there may yet be more "100 Things" lists in me. Stay tuned...

Update - Sep. 22, 2012: Indeed, there was at least one new list in me. #3 is now live...here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Art appreciation 101


She observes
London, ON, December 2007

Sometimes, I like to sit back and watch my kids as they figure out the world around them. It gives me perspective. It also gives me a chance to see whether I'm ruining them with my somewhat unconventional approach to parenting.

So far, they seem to be evolving well - doubtless a result of my wife's influence. To wit, this scene where my daughter learned about the magic of art and the joy of taking a quiet moment to stare and think. As I stood behind her and tried to record the simple scene, I wished for many more opportunities to look over our kids' shoulders in the years to come.

Your turn: Watching them grow. Please discuss.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reach for the sky


Branched
Toronto, ON, November 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Trees take on a whole new drama when they lose their leaves for the winter. No longer able to shade the world below them, they instead frame the skies above for those of us lucky or insightful enough to take a moment to look up.

It's strictly temporary, of course, for in a few short months this scene will once again be replaced by foliage. But for now, they offer up their own lesson in finding the good after a significant loss. Just because something's empty doesn't mean it lacks its own unique sense of worth.

As a very little me stands underneath this very large canvas of impossible beauty, I suspect I've just learned that true worth often comes in starkly built packages. Yet another life's lesson learned.

Your turn: Can there be beauty following a significant loss?

One more thing: Santa's winging his way across the planet tonight. OK, not really. He's a fraud, of course. A modern-day ruse cynically designed to sell more toys before the all-important retail year-end. But that hasn't stopped countless local TV news stations from filling their lineups with breathless stories about NORAD's Santa trackers (for the record, it's here.) Years back, I posted a funny missive about the Physics of Santa Claus that outlined scientifically why the jolly fat red guy is about as real as Pamela Anderson's chest and Jamie Lynn (and Britney's, for that matter) Spears's virginity. Click here for the original post. Enjoy, and have a great holiday if you're celebrating - and a great day off if you're not.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Caption This 50


Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

London, ON, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]


Locks make great photographic subjects. They have shiny, machined surfaces that shoot nicely and they typically don't wiggle like kids do when the camera comes out. I also have locks on the brain considering the fancy high-security one on our front door recently broke and we waited the better part of a week to get it fixed. Never mind how I managed to lock myself into the house. That's a story for another day, folks.

Your turn: How would you caption this image? Click on Comments and give it your best shot. Or shots, as I have a soft spot for multiple submitters.

About last week's image of candles: Huge amount of interest in this one, and a huge conundrum for me because so many visitors submitted so many creative suggestions. I was certainly torn. Ultimately, only one winner could be chosen because I was down to my last tiara. That person is Awareness: "Great minds think alight." If you haven't visited her site yet, click here. I'll wait for you to come back. She's that good.

As always, I feel compelled to honorably mention these folks for their flashes of creative brilliance:
  • Robin: "Light reading."
  • Beverly: "All is calm, all is bright."
  • Bob-kat: "It's going to take ages to heat the beans using these!"
  • Jeremy: "Little Light [of this flickering candle] Illuminates the night like your spirit illuminates my soul..."
  • Dawn: "Let there be light, I can't see a darn thing using these candles!"
  • Sister AE: "Make a wish!"
  • Sara: "Shimmering Candles lighting the way."
  • Dak-ind: "Lighting remberance."
  • Laurie: "Light for the soul."
  • Gautami Tripathy: "Shadows from the past."
  • Sara: "No need to burn the candle from both ends, just enjoy them as they are."
  • Robin: "Flickr, B.C."
  • Killlashandra: "Blessed wishes."
  • Breadbox: "A light in the darkness."
  • Omykiss: "Not another power failure!"
Have fun this week!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sweet!


Handling it
Laval, QC, November 2007 [Click to embiggen]


I'm fascinated by industrial design. We use countless objects to get ourselves through any given day, but we rarely take a moment to look at them and wonder how they came to be as they are. Well-implemented industrial design concepts ensure they perform their intended role as intended, often not drawing attention to themselves in the process.

But I'll pay attention anyway because I'm weird. The syrup holder at the restaurant we went to before getting on the road for the long drive back to London had a neat shape to it. It seemed simple and purposeful, and I thought it would make a fun quick study in shape and surface texture.

It didn't hurt that my shooting the image made fellow diners furrow their brows, wondering why the strange guy with the Ontario accent was playing with his camera and not eating his breakfast.

Your turn: Pick an everyday object near you right now. Please describe it in a comment.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cranked


Give me strength
London, ON, October 2007 [Click to embiggen]


The scene: The construction site of our new elementary school that's scheduled to open next September. It's a big deal for our little community and a big deal for our kids, who ooh and aah over "their" school every time we drive by the construction site.

It's a quiet Sunday and I happen to be in the neighborhood with our two youngest. Because we have a bit of time to kill, I park the car nearby and we wander around the edge of the fenced in area. They've parked the big machines just outside, so we can walk right up to them and gape at their filthy gigantism.

It takes a lot of disparate elements to build a school. But some are more critical than others. As I stare at this large crank-like thing on a big digging machine (can't you tell I'm an expert in these things?) I decide that this is where the story is focused. So much potential, so much future growth, all revolving around a pivotal part of a pivotal machine that routinely flexes its mechanical muscles without so much as a second glance from those who will ultimately benefit.

I guess I just wanted our kids to get that chance to look, wonder and dream about what will be.

Your turn: Pivotal things. Pivotal people. Please discuss.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant - and stupid

My wife and I had an interesting discussion with our 10-year-old daughter last night. We had to explain to her that Jamie Lynn Spears, younger sister of that paragon of virtue Britney and star of the kid-fave show Zoey 101, was pregnant at the tender age of 16. It's a discussion we didn't really didn't want to have, but the big bad world was once again threatening our little one's mythical bubble of childhood. So we figured it made more sense for her to hear it from us than from a schoolyard friend.

As odious as I find the whole genre of celebrity "news" coverage, I had to laugh at a quote attributed to this newly-minted anti-role model: “It was a shock for both of us, so unexpected…”

Here's a news flash for Ms. Spears the Younger: It’s basic biology. If you’re going to go drilling, you have to expect to strike oil at some point. If you don’t want to be “surprised”, then don’t go drilling in the first place.

I think someone needs to get a new PR director. And parents with a clue.

Your turn:
Thoughts?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wordless Wednesday - Antisocial


Teatime? Not today
London, ON, November 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Your turn: Quick, what's your first thought upon seeing this scene? Don't overthink it...just respond in a comment.

One more thing: Robyn Hertz is still missing - and I'm hoping you can help find her. Please click here if you're just joining us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Facebook porn

I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd get quoted on something related to pornography. When a Canadian company allegedly hammered Facebook's servers kajillions of times in a brute force attempt to obtain user data, Facebook sued them. SlickCash.com is the porn site in question. It's owned by Istra Holdings. I have no idea who comes up with these names.

IT World Canada's Nestor Arellano interviewed me for an article, Marketing experts laud Facebook law suit against Canadian porn company, which published earlier today. I was quoted opposite marketing wizard and fellow Montreal native Mitch Joel. Here's what I said:
A Canadian technology analyst said the legal action sends the right message to would be attackers.

"The move is sending the message to users that Facebook is diligent in protecting its community and the company is telling hackers it is prepared to use an iron fist to carry this out," said Carmi Levy, research analyst and senior vice-president of AR Communications in Toronto.

"There are numerous organizations that illegally harvest personal data from various sites. They aggregate the information and resell it to unscrupulous online marketing firms," he said.

[Snip]

Some methods of obtaining data are outright illegal such as the Facebook attack and the credit card data theft perpetrated against U.S. department store TJ Maxx earlier this year, said Levy. "Other activities occur in gray areas," he added.

When people sign on for membership in sites such as Facebook, there are privacy rules that cover the member's information. However, other publicly accessible sites do not have this protection, Levy said.

"Information contained in public message boards such as Google Groups, Yahoo Groups, UseNet or blog sites can be accessed by anyone. It may not be ethical to obtain personal data from these sites, but it is not illegal as well," he said.

[Snip]

Companies that are looking into establishing an online presence in social networking should carefully consider the move because proprietary data and confidential company information not to mention a potential lawsuit is on the line, said Levy.

"Work closely with the site. Find out if they can provide you with the protection your data requires," he said.

"If they can't guarantee protection for your users and your company's data, reconsider the move," Levy advised.
Your turn: I'm commenting on porn. Should momma be proud?

One more thing: I'm a Facebooker, too, so I suppose that porn company would have found me eventually. Click here to find me there.

OK, I lied, it was really two things: More uber-fun media stuff happening this week, including a scheduled BNN interview tomorrow morning. I'll post links as soon as they're up.

The house at 80 Oxford Street

Sad entrance
London, ON, November 2007
[Click to enlarge]


Some porches wear their age with grace (click here and here for earlier examples) while others, such as this one, seem to wither away without so much as a second thought from anyone who passes by.

Well, except for me. I happened to be driving past on this gray, blustery day. The light happened to be red and I happened to have my camera nearby. I happened to have caught this out of the corner of my eye. And of all the run-down snippets of life that I saw that morning, this one prompted me to lift the camera and snag a quick shot through the passenger-side window.

Only as I reviewed it in greater detail later on did I realize this house had more of a story to tell than I originally thought.

Your turn: Please share a piece of the story of this place. Feel free to use your imagination, as there's so much to tell.

One more thing: Robyn Hertz is still missing. There have been a number of sitings of her in Montreal, but she's still not home and her family and friends are extremely worried. Click here for my original blog entry and here for the Facebook page. I have also posted it to Digg. If you live in Montreal or Ottawa, I hope you'll be able to help. If you don't, please pray for her safe return.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Caption This 49


Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

London, ON, November 2007 [Click to embiggen]


The candle's soft light is one of my earliest memories. My mom lit them every Friday night for Shabbat, and I remember watching the dancing yellow glow long after everyone had finished supper and gone off to do their own thing. To me, the light was the thing. I found it comforting, something to look forward to every week as we transitioned into the weekend.

My mother still lights the candles in her home, as does my wife in ours. I still stare at them and think back to the four-year-old me. I wonder what goes through others' minds as they look into a candle's light.

Your turn: I guess now's your chance to share just that. Please leave a suggested caption - or ten - in a comment and I'll post the winner next week.

About last week's photo of a fly: This was a fun one for me. I debated whether I should post it or not. But since I had recently broken the ice with the dead rodent pic, I figured everyone who visits was already used to seeing my twisted side. In the end, I had a hard time choosing because there were so many submissions that made me laugh out loud.

But I had to choose one, and Bubblehead's stood out as particularly unique:
"The original frequent flyer." Please drop by his blog, Hu-Flung-Poo, and congratulate him.

Honorable mentions go to these very creative folks:
  • Gautami Tripathy: "Would you like to land on my soup?"
  • Moi: "What's all this buzz about!"
  • Robin: ""Secret Ingredient" and "No shoes, no shirt, no service"
  • Dara: "What Jeff Goldblum has been up to lately..."
  • D. Sinclair: "Time flies"
  • SPWriter: "Wings and a prayer"
  • Bob-kat: "I may be small but my plan for world domination is right on schedule"
  • Joan: "Don't you wish YOU could be the fly on the wall?"
  • Paige: "Now I lay me down to sleep...Cause a big ol' fly swatter is coming"
  • Blond Girl: "This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands...."
  • Jilly Bean: "Too close for comfort"
  • Awareness: "Straighten up and fly right..."
  • John: "I said I wanted a large FRY with that..."
  • Sara: "Ain't no flies on me"
  • Kerri: "Times Fun when You're Having Flies"
  • Snaggle Tooth: "Waiting to be served"
Hope you enjoy this week's caption. Can't wait to see what you all come up with!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Water, frozen in time


Spray on
London, ON, October 2006 [Click to embiggen]

One of my recurring themes is water in motion (see here and here for past examples.) In so many ways, water is the perfect medium to shoot. Unlike people, it doesn't talk back, it doesn't have bad days and it doesn't hide itself when you lift the camera.

My only risk in shooting this was the shopping mall rent-a-cop who doubtless would have relished taking me to task for pulling out my camera in violation of The Rules of Masonville Place.

These rules stipulate that photographic violators shall be dealt with in a most severe manner by mall authorities. I smiled as I warily eyed the crowd, looking for the telltale white-shirted uniform and imagining the kanipshen fit he'd have if he saw me taking pictures of his employer's precious and top-secret fountain.

I got lucky that day, as the guard never showed (eating donuts, perhaps? Or flirting with the KFC fry lady?) As you can see, I took the shot. And I'll do it again, rent-a-cop and risk of a mall jail term notwithstanding.

Your turn: Taking pictures at risk of getting caught. Please discuss.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Photographic mystery


Ornate
Laval, QC, August 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Children often find comfort in the weird and wonderful things their parents bring into the home. Decor is hugely subjective, of course. Your parents' taste rarely matches your own. And as hideous as you might think some of their long-ago interior design decisions might have been (olive green and gold wallpaper, anyone? Modern art interpretations of belly dancers, perhaps?) you can't help but remember them with fondness because they made your world unique. They made your house a home.

When my parents moved out of the home where I was raised (see here for background), much of that rich texture went with it. I tried to capture the old house in pictures before moving day, but in the end photos aren't the same. Still, some of the icons of the old house made their way down the hill to their new place. When we visit them now, we walk into a lovely unit that, as nice as it is, isn't the place where I grew up. The few items that made it there remind me that home isn't always the walls around you, but how you fill the space.

Your space: What is this? What were my parents thinking when they first brought it home? Have fun with it...they occasionally read my blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Moonscape?


Desolate
London, ON, October 2007


Photography is as much about what isn't in the frame as what is. When I was a child, I'd make a rectangle with my fingers and thumbs, then look around through the hastily created aperture. I was too young for a camera, but I remember feeling gleeful when I realized I could block out things I didn't want to see.

Fast forward to today and, despite the relative sophistication of my adult's tools - a dSLR instead of chubby fingers - I'm doing pretty much the same thing. I remove extraneous details through selective composition, placing scenes in whatever context I wish.

Some days, I'd like to be able to control the real world as completely as I do the two-dimensional one I first began defining with my fingers so many years ago.

Your turn: So what's this scene saying to you? (I'll share full background on the image this time next week. In the meantime, feel free to ruminate.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wordless Wednesday - Push the envelope


99 red balloons...minus 98
London, ON, August 2007 [Click to embiggen]


I've been fascinated by flight for as long as I can remember. The fact that something can leave the planet's surface for a while is, despite our understanding of the physics involved, nothing short of magic. Click here, here, here and here for other flight-related photography.

Your turn: How flight inspires us in all sorts of surprising ways. Please discuss.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Putting on my tech guru hat

Over the past few weeks, I've had some interesting bits of media exposure. I like to drop them onto the blog periodically to ensure I don't forget what I've been up to. Here's a quick sampling:
Wall Street Gets Sour BlackBerry Taste
Verizon Opens Its Network
Verizon's Open Move Hastens Wireless Market Transformation
I'm also scheduled to be included in Outlook 2008, a year-end special that's airing repeatedly on Business News Network through the holiday season. It's scheduled to air a bunch of times over the holiday period, first one set for tomorrow (December 12 at 8:00 p.m. ET.) I'll post a link to it once it's available online. I'll be discussing RIM and the future of the BlackBerry.

Your turn: Why does technology interest us? Or not?

One more thing: 47 years ago tonight, a young man married a young woman in a ceremony that I always thought had been held in black and white. It's been a journey and and then some for them, touched with healthy doses of adversity and happiness. Because of this one event, I exist. Happy anniversary, Mom & Dad. I wish I had the power to give you 47 more.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Reflection on the right side of the tracks

Journey to...?
Lancaster, Ontario
August 2007


The scene: A small town far enough away from the nearest big city that complete strangers spontaneously walk up to you on the main drag and start chatting with you about anything and everything. Just north of the main business district, the road is bisected by the main rail line that carries passenger and freight traffic.

In the few hours that we spent in this picture perfect place, countless trains roared through the intersection, cutting the town in two and stopping residents in their tracks. What struck me was how they responded to the interruption. Motorists didn't honk each other or otherwise fume at the wheel. Pedestrians didn't tune out to iPods or tap their feet impatiently as the trains rumbled past.

Instead, in a scene that just wouldn't happen in my adopted hometown of London, people spoke with each other. Parents played with their stroller-bound kids. Kids counted the passing cars. They accepted the interruption, made the best of it.

They weren't rushed. Their destination wasn't going anywhere. I couldn't help but think that they were subtly teaching outside observers like me an important life lesson.

Your turn: Avoiding the rush. Please discuss.

One more thing: Here's another perspective on our unanticipated afternoon in this very special place. I think I need to spend more time observing life in places where folks still know how to appreciate the simpler things.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Caption This 48


Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

Laval, QC, August 2007 [Click to embiggen]


For the record, no living beings were harmed while photographing this scene. My wife, on the other hand, thought I was a little silly for doing so.

Your turn: Name or caption this image in a comment. I promise you it'll be fun. Entries are free, so submit as many as you wish.

About last week's image of the dandelion: I got lots of great responses to this one. Many honorables this time out:
  • Melanie, Anne and Heidi: "Make a wish"
  • Jan Scholl: Geodesic
  • Robin: "Blow job" (I laughed for a while when I first read this one!)
  • Tabor: "Missed one!"
  • Slim: "Sometimes it's okay to give into temptation..."
  • Awareness: "Wishful thinking......."
  • Dak-ind: "Not on MY lawn!"
  • Pastormac's Ann: "Awaiting the sacred breath of freedom..."
  • Moi: "Here today, gone tomorrow!"
So who's the winner, then? Kudos go to Steve for the inspired "queued tip". As with past winners, it spoke to me the loudest.

Have fun with this week's Jeff Goldblum-inspired image!

One more thing: This will either inspire or sicken you, but this image was captured in a restaurant. The little sucker was buzzing around the window, and I zoomed in on him when he took a break from annoying everyone around him (her? Who knows...)

Either way, I'll keep the name of the restaurant quiet to protect the guilty.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Restaurant tabletop memory

Scene from a diner
Laval, QC
August 2007
[Click to embiggen]


I use my camera to record not just scenes, but feelings. I've often written how I take pictures to remember what I was feeling at a particular moment. I'm not especially focused on remembering monumental milestones in my life - those are easy enough to recall, I suppose. Rather, it's the everyday moments that are usually forgotten by the passage of time.

To wit, we forget this morning's breakfast, and yesterday's. We forget not only what we had, but what it felt like to sit at the table and make the transition from sleeping at home to working in the real world.

I'm not saying that we could or should remember each and every breakfast throughout our lifetime. That would get pretty old pretty quickly. But every once in a while it might be nice to stop for a second and take the time to seal the memory. Maybe a little bit of quiet introspection would do some people on this planet some good.

The texture of this moment was too much to resist. A dimly lit pizzeria in the town where I grew up. A formica tabletop, a frayed menu and a backdrop of fake wood veneer. As I watched our kids eat their pizza and banter among themselves, I slipped away from the table and recorded this quiet, never-changing scene.

Your turn: A small moment that you're going to remember after reading this. Please discuss how you'll remember it.

One more thing: I have a thing for close-in photos in quiet, old eateries....click here, here, here and here for more.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A plethora of latkes


Call my cardiologist
London, ON, December 2007 [Click to clog another artery]


They're not really all that healthy. OK, they're downright deadly, as anything fried in oil is likely to be in this age of health-labelled foods and exploding rates of obesity (ironic? Me? No.)

But they're incredibly tasty with just the right amount of sour cream or apple sauce. And Chanukah (or Hannukah, or however you choose to spell it) just wouldn't be the same without them. It's as if the house needs to have the telltale aroma of fried potatoes for it to really feel like it's a holiday.

So for an eight-day span in December, we'll eat stuff we really shouldn't eat because it's good for our soul, it makes it real for our kids, and it gives us all a chance to appreciate our unique place in a world that rarely gives minorities a chance to put a stamp on their uniqueness. As we try to raise our kids to value who they are and keep our traditions alive for yet another generation, we look to simple holiday traditions like cholesterol-laden potato pancakes to help reinforce the process.

It isn't easy. No one ever said it would be. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Your turn: Touchstones of your season. Please discuss.

One more thing: I wrote a column about the holiday a couple of years back. It's entitled The puzzle of passing down faith, and it was published in our city's daily paper, the London Free Press. Click here for the link to the blog entry. Enjoy the read.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wordless Wednesday - Juiced


Glowing glass of golden nutrition
London, ON, November 2007 [Click to embiggen]


Your turn:
Does this make you thirsty?

One more thing: Juice is a recurring photographic theme for me. Click here, here, here and here for past examples of liquified fruity goodness. Odd, I know. I offer no explanations or excuses. I am what I am.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Caption This 47


Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

London, ON, October 2007 [Click to embiggen]


Some days, it pays to look down. While attending the groundbreaking ceremonies for our children's new school (big, exciting news in our community - more entries on that in the months to come) I found myself taking pictures (huge surprise, I know) of the usual scenes: shovels, speeches, audience, site. It was an exciting, memorable day for everyone who attended.

Yet, for reasons I still don't fully understand, I realized toward the end of the event that I hadn't taken any artsy photos that day. I haven't fulfilled my photographic destiny unless I've pointed the lens at something strange, something that would prompt ridicule from passersby.

So I took a picture of a flower - some would say weed, but I choose not to - that no longer exists, blown into oblivion by the winds of autumn, with a little help from the backhoe that turned the site into a mud flat in the days after this photo was taken.

But this moment will persist for as long as I can remember it, thanks to my little addiction.

Your turn: Please name this photo. Submit as many creative captions as you wish: I get excited when I see multiple submissions from folks. I'll announce the winner next week.

About last week's image of planes at the airport in Toronto: This was a very quiet, personal moment for me. I don't just walk aimlessly through airports. Rather, I traverse them slowly and deliberately, trying to remember how it felt to be there. Travel is a privilege, and the airport is a critical waypoint on any long journey: I want my photos from these places to capture those feelings.

Many of you captured these feelings with great precision in your entries. Anne's closely reflected what I felt at that moment: "They just waltzed around with their tails in the air like they owned the place."

Honorable mentions go to these great folks:
  • Vickiev: "Grounded"
  • John: "Coming and going."
  • Rashbre: "Turn this crazy bird around."
  • Omykiss: "Caption: No parking spaces left."
  • Sara: "Even when we're up in the air - we are still at home."
  • Thumper: "Fly the friendly skies, eh?"
  • Joan, Bubblehead: "Leavin' on a jet plane."
  • JC: "One way ticket to paradise, please."
  • Wordnerd: "Home is in plane view."
  • Awareness: "Precious cargo coming and going."
  • Robin: "You can take the man out of his country, but you can't take the country out of the man."
Have fun with it this week. More to come...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hazy alley in Shanghai

Every window has a story
Shanghai, China
May 2007
[Click to enlarge]


I've got a thing for alleys (see here, here and here), those quiet, dim places where so much seems to happen out of sight of the mainstream.

As I walked past this imposing sight on a smog-choked day, I wondered about the stories that go on behind each of these windows, the lives that play out in the shadows of a city whose size almost defies the imagination. Small and invisible in the midst of overwhelming and large.

I suspect many of these stories would be of no interest to the strangers who walk by and peer down this alley as they rush to wherever it is they're headed. But somewhere in the giant pile of existence, I'm sure there's a needle of a compelling story.

Imagine taking the time to dig in.

Your turn: Pick a window. What story does it tell?

One more thing: Caption This will be posted tomorrow. I'm not feeling particularly captionish today. Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The clock strikes...

Timeless
London, ON, August 2007
[Click to enlarge]

This clock tower in the middle of London's University of Western Ontario campus sits up on a hill, standing guard like some kind of ancient sentinel. I see it often because it's not far from the television studio where I often do interviews.

On this August evening, I had just finished one such interview and was feeling pretty good about the outcome. The last bits of sunlight were fading into memory as I walked back to my car, slowly running the just-completed interview through my head. No one else was around as I looked around and tried to remember visuals that would cement this particular day in my mind.

The clock tower struck me as particularly appropriate to photograph. Not only was it perfectly bathed in the very soft light of late evening. It also reflected the importance of time to some folks, and the fact that my last deadline of the day had been met, and now I could take a few quiet moments to reflect and record.

I took a few pictures from the parking lot, lingering for a bit because I didn't want to forget what it felt like to have had a really successful, fulfilling day. Then it was time to head home and add to my memories of the day by sharing it with the folks who mattered most.

Your turn: How do you use your camera to capture how you feel?

One more thing: Speaking of TV, I was at it again yesterday. I did a live interview with BNN's Kim Parlee about the departure of Motorola CEO Ed Zander. Click here to see it. I'd love to hear what you think.