Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vignette - scene from a doctor's office

About the vignette thing: As I sat in the waiting room of the clinic with my wife this morning, it occurred to me that I need to do a better job remembering little moments like this. Sure, I take pictures whenever I can, but sometimes, you just can't whip the SLR out and start shooting. The secretaries here, I'm sure, wouldn't be pleased. Nor would the patients marking time in the uncomfortable chairs.

As invasive as a lens can be, thumb-typing on a BlackBerry is the exact opposite. No one notices. You can be madly painting a scene with words, and people think you're texting your mother-in-law. Either way, I think it's time I started remembering moments like this with words. I'll call them vignettes, and I hope you enjoy them. Here goes...
Doctor's office, Saturday morning

A 14-month-old girl in pink puffy shoes and a light green onesie with pink flowers on it wanders over to an elderly lady in a wheelchair and reaches out to the armrest with her pudgy little hand. The woman, who up until now had been sitting in an almost-catatonic state, cracks a little smile at the sight of this tottering interloper touching her arm.

The wheelchair-bound woman's adult daughter reacts instinctively turning toward the wheelchair to ensure the munchkin doesn't do more harm than good. The baby's mom quickly scoops her up and carries her back to the other side of the room. The old woman's smile fades as she returns to her original, shadowed state. You get the sense that she would have liked to play with her new friend a little longer.

Your turn: Is this something you'd like to see more of? Let me know...and thanks for your input!

One more thing: Thanks to those of you who sent kind wishes to my wife. From that same vantage point in the waiting room, I posted an update to my Twitter and Facebook accounts that, within minutes, started registering responses from near and far. We were touched by your kindness, and continue to marvel at how a mere sliver of technology can make the world seem just a little bit smaller. She's got the flu now, and is taking more drugs than an East Vancouver alley resident. But at least we know we're surrounded by folks who care. That's a pretty remarkable thing, no?

Wintry scene from a parking lot

Parked amid the snow
London, ON, January 2009

It's been a crazy week, and even though it's supposedly the weekend, the fun continues. My wife's been home sick all week*, and work has been simply insane. I can't complain, though: when you're your own boss, you thank your lucky stars when the phone continues to ring. I'll catch up on my sleep sometime in the future.

When things get busy, I often like to meander through my archives in search of words and images that bring me peace. I took this one from, of all places, the underground food court of the hated mall known as Masonville Place. It has an angled, reflective ceiling - oh so 70s/80s - that makes shooting from the inside out an interesting experience. That I got to freak out the quartet of blue-haired ladies eating a midmorning salad on their semi-clean food court table was an added bonus.

Your turn: The irony of calling a suburban mall that has no sense of place a "place" isn't lost on me. Why do I malign these crossroads of humanity so? Am I being unfair?

About this photo: The blizzard howling outside made me glad I was inside, even if I was surrounded my mindless retail zombies from suburbia. This image supports our latest Thematic Photographic theme, winter. Please click here to join in.

*Thank you all for your words of encouragement through comments here, Twitter, Facebook and IM - they're much appreciated. Doc says it's the flu, so we're hoping the weekend will give her a chance to finally turn the corner and get better.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Media meltdown

It's been a challenging week to be in media. The Rocky Mountain News published its last edition today, ending 150 years of chronicling life in Denver, Colorado. The San Francisco Chronicle, ever the leader in understanding the impact of new media on traditional ones, is teetering on the brink. Closer to home, CTV Globemedia announced it was shuttering two southwestern Ontario stations in Windsor (CKNX) and Wingham (CHWI), victims of the recession and, what they characterized as a "broken" media model that needs to be fixed.

This latter case hits close to home, as the stations are operated under the 'A' banner, as is the London affiliate. I spend a lot of time at the London studio, as I do most of my BNN and CTV interviews out of this facility and, more locally, am a regular guest on the 'A' Morning show. I've worked with so many people in media, and I can honestly say that the folks here are like a family, endlessly kind and generous.

I was scheduled to do an interview with BNN yesterday afternoon, the day the news of the closings hit. Everyone knew more layoffs in London were coming, but they focused on their roles and did what they needed to do to get the job done. I wanted to do something to lift the spirit of this quiet, sombre place, but in the end all I could do was offer my empathy and briefly chat about possibilities before we all headed back to our respective jobs. I still feel a pit in the bottom of my stomach, and I hope none of my local television friends are affected by this latest wave in a seemingly endless stream of them.

Further afield, Canwest is holding on by its fingernails. Today's deadline to refinance a chunk of its massive debt came and went - and when the day was done, creditors gave the company until March 11th to repay a chunk of its massive debt (link). For now, Canwest is spinning off assets as fast as it possibly can and scrambling for additional investment. This is ugly, and I've been approached by a range of media to help make sense of it all. Here's a taste of some of what I've been up to media-wise:
Looking ahead, I'm scheduled to be on CTV's Canada AM this Monday (March 2) at 7:40 a.m. Eastern. I'll be discussing the implications of the current crisis in Canadian media, and the future of the entire industry in light of the economic downturn and the growth of the Internet as a mainstream medium. If you're in Canada, I hope you'll get a chance to watch.

This just in: If you've arrived via CNN.COM, welcome! Hope you'll hang around for a bit and drop us a line in a comment. Are you as concerned about the future of conventional media south of the border as we are north of it?

Painted by winter

London, ON, January 2009
About this photo: All week long, Thematic Photographic explores winter-themed images. If you've got something you'd like to share, head over here to get the ball rolling.
When auto manufacturers want to whet the public's appetite for an upcoming model, they sometimes leak early drawings online. They're often quite abstract, sometimes as simple as a bare-bones pencil sketch. This practice builds excitement (no Pontiac jokes, please) and gives everyone a sense of what's coming.

In this economy, one surmises they should be releasing zillions of these so-called teasers. But I digress.

After I had dropped the little folks off at school on a particularly wintry morning last month, I noticed this vehicle - an Acura RDX - and immediately thought back to those abstract, sketch-like drawings I'd seen online so many times before. It's nice to know Mother Nature can improve on the car designer's art.

Your turn: How nature paints a scene. Please discuss.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Moron Files - Idiot behind the wheel

I've been driving for a long time. In all that time, I've never been in an accident. Also haven't gotten any tickets. I am, shall we say, mellow behind the wheel. I don't speed. Much. I don't skip from lane to lane. I'm not under the belief that mashing the gas pedal gets you there any faster. I take the whole stewardship behind the wheel thing pretty seriously. Yeah, I'm a Boy Scout. So sue me.

When I was 14, I was a passenger in a car involved in a major accident on a Montreal highway. The driver (no, I won't out this person here) was busy lighting a cigarette and fiddling with the radio and didn't notice the overpass or the black ice underneath it. The outcome: slammed brakes on ice, lost control at 110 km/h, two concrete walls, no more car. Miraculously, we walked away from what was left of the vehicle. The cop couldn't believe we only suffered cuts and bruises. From that moment forward, I suppose my attitude toward driving and endless respect for the laws of physics were both cast in stone. I also became much more picky about who I'd drive with.

So you can imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon when I was on my way to pick the munchkins up from school. Turning left onto the main road that cuts through our subdivision, I noticed a flash of white coming at me from the right and immediately felt just like I did when I was 14 - I'm cooked. A white first-generation Acura TSX (sorry, I'm retentive) was thundering toward the side of my van, its driver clearly impervious to the fact that she had a red light and was about to pancake my van. And me, presumably.

I slammed the brakes and grabbed the wheel left as violently as I could, and could feel the pressure wave of the speeding car as it blasted past me. I may have sworn in the process. Okay, I did swear. I admit I felt a pretty intense wave of anger as I confirmed that I was still in one piece and took off after her to at least let her know I was a little displeased with her behavior. My bad, I guess.

I caught up with her at the next red and she looked over at me like nothing had happened. I watched her turn into a shopping mall and, while it might have been fun to box her in and read her the riot act, road rage isn't in my DNA. I continued on to school, then called my wife when I got there just to hear a friendly voice. My hands were still shaking.

Road rage may not be my thing, but blog rage certainly is. The doof's Ontario license # is ARAE 171. And if I see her again, I'd be happy to share my story of how, through her complete lack of caring about those around her, she almost changed my and my family's life forever. I hope the tube of lipstick that she was rushing to get at the Shoppers Drug Mart was worth it.

Your turn: Have you had a close call at the hands of an idiot? What's the solution to morons behind the wheel?

One more thing: I know this has nothing to do with winter. But if you feel so inclined, head over here for something a little happier.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thematic Photographic 38 - Winter

Chilly. Cubed.
Bowling Green, OH, December 2008 [Click to enlarge]

For many of us, it's been a fairly brutal season. In the Great White North, we've had more snow, ice and cold than most folks can tolerate. Drill a hole through the planet and it's a completely different story: the southern hemisphere's been baking, often tragically. Welcome to the age of global warming. Except if you're Sarah Palin.

Heat was the last thing on my mind, however, as we tucked in for the night on our grand family vacation adventure. We had stopped in this delightful university burg - and hometown of figure skating legend Scott Hamilton - a few hours earlier when the weather became too dangerous, and hoped that the morning would bring a little meteorological relief. Um, not so much. We woke up to a world coated in ice - this is the rear wing of our van - and it got worse from there.

It was rather difficult to imagine our friends in Australia sweating out triple-digit heat at at very moment. We would have gladly averaged out both extremes for our collective benefit. But since this was - and presumably is and always be - impossible, we'll simply have to share wintry-themed pictures for the next week. You game?

Your turn: Please post a winter-themed photo to your blog, Facebook page, Flickr account, or anywhere else online, then share the link in a comment below. Here's how Thematic Photographic works:
  • Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...winter.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Busted light

Lights out
Williamsburg, KY, January 2009 [Click to enlarge]

The abandoned gas station in this small town by the highway is still embedded in my imagination almost two months after I wandered through its crumbling concreteness with my camera. It'll never appear on a tourist map and I'm certain no one else who comes through this town deliberately sets out to capture the essence of a long-forgotten relic of life on the road.

Which is, I guess, why it appeals to me. I didn't expect to find this scene, which made it a pleasant surprise in the middle of a long drive. I sort of stumbled into it, and thanks to my wife's patience got a few minutes to explore it and try to tell its story.

Your turn: Your photographic life at the edge of the bell curve. Please discuss.

Oops almost forgot: This photo supports "busted", the theme from last week's Thematic Photographic. It's not too late to share your own link. Please click here if you wish to do just that. I'll be posting the launch entry for next week's Thematic Photographic at precisely 7:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday (hey, that's tomorrow!) To give your brain a chance to churn it, here's the upcoming theme...


Can't wait to see what y'all come up with. In the meantime, if you're hankering for something else to do, head over here to share your witty contribution to the latest Caption This.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Only in a Jeep

Not-so-special delivery
I-75, somewhere in Kentucky, December 2008

We came across this incredibly sobering sight as we headed to Florida. With just a few days to Christmas, the gifts hanging out the window of this utterly destroyed (or, if you will, busted) Jeep Liberty served as a stark reminder of the preciousness of my own cargo.

Everything has a story. I pray it ended well for the occupants of this vehicle.

Your turn: Is it just me, or do four-wheel-drive SUVs end up disproportionately in highway ditches? Why might that be?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Caption This 109

Please caption this image
Please click here for instructions
Dry Ridge, KY, December 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Please note: This photo supports our latest Thematic Photographic theme, busted. Please click here to add your $0.02 to this never-ending photographic adventure.
We're midway through our drive to Florida. We've stopped in this town for lunch and, for the first time since leaving home, the van isn't shellacked with ice. We doff our coats and pack them away, where they'll remain, untouched and forgotten, for the next couple of weeks.

Before we finish topping off the tank and getting back on the road, I spot this abandoned house across the street. As I've done so often since I met her, I give my wife The Look, the one that practically begs her permission to take a tiny little detour so that I can remember a moment along the way. All I need is a couple of minutes to walk across the parking lot and shoot across the street. Nothing fancy. She nods approval, but I know the clock is ticking.

As I walk back to the car, I smile at the irony of time. As rushed as I was, time seemed to be something this house had ample amounts of.

Your turn: Please caption this image. You can be funny, poignant, or any other emotion you wish. You may enter as many times as you can handle, as I encourage that sort of thing. Click the Comment link below and dive right in. I'll announce the winner next Sunday, along with our next Caption This entry. For more background on the whole Caption This thing, click here.

About last week's photo of our son leaping into the surf: This is one of my favorite moments from our time away. It captures the unfettered joy of being in a special place, surrounded by special people whose only wish is to ensure he's happy and safe. It's the perfect place to be when you're eight, or any age for that matter. This week's honorable menschens captured the spirit of Noah with grace:
  • Morah Mommy: "What crab?!"
  • Pamela: "Break dancing."
  • Dana: "Wavelength exuberance.."
  • Robin: "Jump start."
  • PastorMac's Ann: "Catch me if you can!"
Stephen Parolini, aka SPWriter, takes it with not one, but two keepers, "Seas: The moment" and "Son on a beach." Steve writes and shoots with an achingly honest view of the world around him. He's also, quite possibly, one of the most generous-of-spirit people I've had the privilege of meeting since I started my blog. I've got a short list of online friends I'd like to meet someday soon and, like Dana (last week's winner), Robin and Judy, he's on it. You owe it to yourself to get to know him and his work.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Broken media

Look before we disappear
Toronto, ON, January 2009
About this photo: All week long, Thematic Photographic shares "busted" photos. Got one in mind that you'd like to toss into the fray? Head over here to get started.
Deep in the shadows of a downtown sidewalk, I found myself standing beside these cheerfully colorful newspaper boxes and thinking about the plight of paper-based media in an increasingly online world. I didn't mean to get existential in the middle of an otherwise busy work day far from home, but some issues have a habit of invading my space when I least expect them to.

My wife and I are debating the merits of keeping our newspaper subscription. She insists on sticking with the paper version, as nothing else fits the kitchen table and morning routine. I'm willing to give on that point, as reading the paper on my laptop in between a glass of juice, a mug of tea and three squirming children just doesn't seem to work.

But as I fill the recycling box every week before washing the smeared ink off of my hands, I wonder about the logistics required to get said papers to my door before dawn every day. I wonder about what I should be doing to reduce my consumption of trees. I wonder if it's worth giving up a little convenience to be a little greener.

Oh yes, and the online subscription is five bucks a month, about two-thirds off the regular subscription price. I'm cheap, too.

Your turn: Do you subscribe to a newspaper? Why/why not? And, yes, my wife will read your comment :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Busted mall screen

Someone please call tech support
London, ON, January 2009 [Click all images to enlarge]

About these photos: We're having fun with "busted" stuff this week. Please click here to visit the Thematic Photographic entry that started it all.
On a massively snowy morning a few weeks ago, I found myself running some errands at the local mall - the one I vocally whine about whenever I get a chance, but still quietly patronize because, well, I'm a hypocrite and I need to buy stuff. While I waited for the folks at the photo store to finish my pictures, I wandered the mall listening to strange music on my BlackBerry and IMing clients who thought I was sitting in my office. On the Internet, apparently, people may not think you're a dog, but they have no idea you're dodging mall-walkers beside the popcorn store.

But I digress.

As I moseyed past the food court - ever the fascinating sea of displaced and bemused humanity - I looked up at the ubiquitous screens and noticed something funny. Now, let us clarify: I don't terribly appreciate these screens. Rather, I loathe them. I resent having my every bodily sense assaulted with come-ons to buy things I don't need. It bugs me that every visible surface in our modern society absolutely must have some form of advertising on it. And if you can make it an interactive screen, the marketing mavens assume, so much the better.

Ick. All I want is peace.

But on this morning, the geek in me couldn't help but smile at the honking error message in the middle of the vaunted screen. It was too good to be true. Well, for me, anyway. No one else seemed to notice a thing. So anaesthetized were they to the endless streams of messaging that they simply tuned this one out, mistake and all. Either that or they just didn't care.

That is until the smiling guy in the sober gray trench coat, black beret and heavy winter boots wandered into optimal shooting position, pulled out a DSLR, raised it and started to shoot. Magically, lots of people looked up. Thankfully, Mall Cop was nowhere to be seen. Heads turned to follow the path of my lens. A couple of folks figured it out and nodded toward me. Everyone else blankly stared into space before returning to their waiting breakfast burritos.

Fifteen seconds after the moment began, it was over. The camera went back into its bag and the guy in the trench coat - that would be me, and I have an annoying habit of referring to myself in the third person - disappeared into the growing late-morning crowd.

Your turn: Do you get stares when you pull your camera out? How do you handle 'em?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Busted business

Linens 'n not so many things
London, ON, February 2009 [Click to embiggen]

About this photo: Thematic Photographic is exploring "busted" for the next week. And what's more busted than a busted business plan? Plenty of that going around these days, sadly. If you have any busted scenes in your mind's eye, please click here to get the ball rolling. I'd love to see what you've got!
The economic downturn isn't just a phenomenon of screaming headlines and intangible fear. It's physical, too, with scars left on the landscape in places you never thought would witness any form of retail distress.

This used to be the Linens 'n Things store in our burg. I noticed its floodlit emptiness about a month ago while driving home and did a double-take because the entire mall is barely three years old. New stores don't fail, do they? I snapped myself out of my idealistic reverie and made a mental note to return. It seemed so surreal that a formerly busy crossroads of suburbia could go so silent so suddenly. I don't know why, but in my world, cataloging failure counts as a valid photographic target of opportunity.

So there I was on a winter's night so cold that it would have induced spontaneous swearing had I been the type to actually swear. I asked my ever-understanding and oh-so-lovely wife if she minded a little detour. So while she patiently waited in the car, I shot fast before the cold claimed my fingers. In retrospect, I wonder if I needed to rush. It's not as if this scene is going to change anytime soon.

Your turn: Got any physical evidence of the downturn near you? Do tell.

One more thing: Caption This exploits my kid's image this week. But it's a happy kind of exploitation - one that'll make you smile. You know you want to...

Oops, make that two: I looked up LNT's old domain, and was redirected to the New Linens N Things. Call me a cynic, but if the old LNT didn't work out so well, what makes them think calling it "new" will make any difference in this economy?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thematic Photographic 37 - Busted

Welcome mat missing
Delray Beach, FL
December 2008 [Click to enlarge]

This home sits on a road barely two blocks away from one of the nicest neighborhoods you'd ever hope to visit. Yet ask people who live around here if they've ever seen this old house, you'll usually get shrugged shoulders.

It's easy to see that once upon a time, this was a grand place to live. But countless years of abandonment under the relentless sub-tropical sun have taken their toll. Whoever lived here is long gone, as are the stories of their lives under this imposing, now-sagging roof. As I slowly walk around the perimeter and shoot in with my camera, I carefully watch where I step, as some of the more recent, transient residents seem to have left behind ample evidence of their own passage here.

It's always sad to see something so downtrodden. You almost wish you could close your eyes and imagine what it must have been like in its prime.

Your turn: This photo kicks off this week's Thematic Photographic theme, busted. For the next seven days, we'll be looking at things that are broken, run down, worn out or in otherwise sad condition. Obsolescence has so many stories, and I look forward to seeing what stories your photos will be able to tell over the next week.

If you're new to Thematic Photographic, here's a quick primer:
  • Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...busted.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tower of power

Climb me
Williamsburg, TN, January 2009

Normally I'm not terribly impressed by the gigantic signs for fast food restaurants that mar the landscape of the southern U.S. (and presumably the northern half, too, but frankly I was too busy dodging an ice storm earlier in the trip to notice.) But this time, I found myself parked right next to one, and I found this perspective a little different. I thought about the poor soul whose job it is to climb this thing.

Definitely not for me.

Your turn: Does this make you feel small? Why/why not?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wheels in the sky

Hard right
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008 [Click to enlarge]

I've got very simple needs. I could sit on the beach and watch the birds fly for hours at a stretch. This particular gull was flying so low, so fast that I thought it would cartwheel into the water. Yet somehow, he repeatedly avoided disaster, almost as if he knew he was putting on a show.

It's inspiring to watch such absolute command of one's environment. While it's easy for the cynics among us to dismiss the display as little more than the outcome of genetics and evolution, I decided on this afternoon, at at moment, to put such negativity out of my mind and just enjoy the moment for what it was.

Your turn: Simple pleasures. Please discuss.

Housekeeping stuff: This photo is another in the up-themed series we're exploring as part of the latest Thematic Photographic. Head over here to raise your photographic fun level (sorry, couldn't resist.) We're also captioning...over here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Caption This 108

Please caption this image
Click here for instructions
Deerfield Beach, FL
December 2008

We're sharing "Up" photos all week long (see here for the Thematic Photographic entry that explains it all) so I thought I'd introduce this one of our youngest son playing at the beach.

I often write about our kids because, frankly, they're great subjects of conversation. Bright, kind, gregarious and empathetic, they're the perfect antidote to the kind of idiocy we usually run into in the real world (see yesterday's post for more.) They're not perfect, of course. Then again, neither am I. But there's a genuineness about them that I find refreshing. Definitely keepers, they are.

Your turn: Can you come up with a suitably funny and/or creative caption for this photo? Hope so! Here's how Caption This works.

About last week's photo of a homeless person in Toronto: I wrestled with whether or not I should post it. Then again, I often wrestle with stuff, and more often than not I end up hitting the Publish button. Better to apologize after the fact that ask permission beforehand. Please give a hand to this week's Honorable Menschens:
  • Beverly: "I have a home, I just don't have a house to put it in."
  • Colleen: "Can you spare a Starbuck?"
  • Daryl: "Bag it!"
  • Barb: "Cold Indifference."
  • Hilary: "Baggers can't be choosers."
Dana (Awareness) takes it with her oh so poignant "Numbed." If someone ever forced me to choose five blogs to read and forbade me to read any others, hers would be on the list. She's a poet, writer, photographer, wife, mom, fellow Canadian, fellow critical thinker, and someone I'm privileged enough to call a friend. Please visit her site if you want to be inspired.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Washed up

A wave's end
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008 [Click to enlarge]

About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores "up" this week. Got a uniquely twisted take on something that's "up"? Click over here and share it with the world. Oh, and a new Caption This goes live on Sunday. Click here to submit suggestions for last week's photo.
We're just home from the big city a couple of hours to the east. We spent the past day attending a family bar mitzvah whose details would make great fodder for a Saturday Night Live sketch. Old codgers who haven't quite balanced their meds? Check. Hatfield-and-McCoy-esque family strife? Check. Cringeworthy comments about everyone and anyone from people who really ought to know better? Got those, too.

In the end, it was the kind of event that looked perfect on the surface, but even a mildly astute observer would derive perpetual entertainment from the fun going on just beneath the surface. We're glad we went, as we got to spend time with a few folks who truly do matter. But in the end, it was good to put it all into our rear-view and head west. As we pulled back into the driveway a couple of hours later, I knew that everything that mattered to me was right here.

Your turn: Family events from hell. Please discuss.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Revisiting an old friend

Dash 8, awaiting flight
London, ON, May 2007 [Click to enlarge]

I don't often post the same photo twice. I figure my shooting rate is high enough that even if I live to triple digits and post eight times a day, I'll never get my entire photostream into my blog (that's what my Flickr account is for, anyway.)

But following last night's plane crash in Buffalo, I find myself thinking about my aunt and uncle who, as we speak, are probably on approach to the airport and may get a sad glimpse of the crash site below. I think about the folks who went to the airport to pick up friends and family, and instead found themselves face to face with unspeakable tragedy.

I keep thinking about how we've all been there and how we all relate to the everyday. So I wanted to share this photo I snapped of a Dash-8 that I took almost two years ago as I set off on a trip to China.

I was going halfway around the world, but the first leg was on an old friend of a plane that had carried me all over the province. When my father was sick, it was a Dash-8 that took me home, just as it did my wife when her mom was hospitalized. This same plane took me away countless times for work, but more importantly it brought me home and allowed me to hug my kids on the airport sidewalk.

I'm saddened by the simple fact that so many families didn't get to have that moment on a crowded airport sidewalk. What I wouldn't give to reach into the wheels of history and change its direction just a little.

Your turn: Thoughts?

About this photo: Originally posted June 2007. In theory, I suppose it's an up-themed photo. I'm just not feeling very up right now.

Plane crash in Buffalo. Prayers everywhere else.

You never want to wake up to news of a major plane crash. Anywhere. You never want anything like this to happen close to home. Continental Connection Flight 3407 (operated by Colgan Air) crashed into a house in Clarence Center, about 30 kilometers outside Buffalo, NY last night, killing all 49 souls on board, and one person in the house.

Buffalo Niagara International Airport is a major feeder airport for the Toronto region. Canada being what it is, it's a lot more expensive to fly out of a Canadian airport than an American one. So Canucks who live near the border often use smaller airports just over the border to save more than a trivial amount of money. It's a familiar airport to me - indeed, I have close family scheduled to fly into Buffalo later today. The plane, a Dash-8 Q400, is also familiar to me. I've flown it often, always enjoying the fact that the "-8" is a Canadian success story, designed and built by Bombardier in Toronto.

Ever since US Airways Flight 1549 safely landed in the Hudson last month, its crew - especially the pilot, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger - have rightfully received accolades for seemingly pulling off the impossible. The Buffalo crash reminds us of just how exceptional a safe landing following a catastrophic in-air event can be. Just like the US Airways event, the National Transportation Safety Board will ultimately find out what brought this plane down. Initial speculation centers around rime icing, sudden and severe buildup of ice on the plane's wings and control surfaces, but it could take months to confirm the actual cause and sequence of events.

Whatever the ultimate cause, it doesn't change anything for the families of the victims. Please say a prayer for them.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crack the sky

God's watching
I-75, Somewhere in Kentucky
December 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Tom Cochrane (Wiki, bio) is a Canadian musician who's been on my iPod - or Walkman, or whatever I bolted to my ears way back when - ever since I started expressing a preference in tunes. He's an Officer of the Order of Canada - one of our country's highest honors - largely because he not only defined the direction of Canadian music for an entire generation of singer-songwriters, but because he's always been so focused on giving back, building community, ensuring there's opportunity for others who follow.

One of his tunes, Crack the Sky (Breakaway) - from the utterly brilliant album, Neruda - popped into my head as we sped down the interstate on our way to a warmer, happier place. This always happens to me when the sun's rays poke down through the clouds, seemingly painting the sky in the process. Fractured as this world can be at times, it's just as capable of creating a wow moment when you least expect it.

Your turn: Got a favorite song from your past that shares itself with you from time to time? Why does music tend to revisit us in this manner?

About this photo:
First, it supports this week's, Thematic Photographic theme, Up. Please click here if you'd like to participate. Second, I took this pic at about 110 km/h (no worries, my wife was driving at the time!) Shooting from a speeding car is usually a recipe for photographic disaster. But with a little underexposure on the foreground, I was able to throw the landscape into silhouette and manage a shutter speed high enough to freeze the detail. Sometimes, you just get lucky.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thematic Photographic 36 - Up

Look behind you
Toronto, ON January 2009
[Click to enlarge]

The scene:
It's a bitterly cold morning on the downtown streets of Canada's largest city. I'm on my way from one meeting to another, and have a bit of time to shoot a few pictures as I walk the few blocks outside.

The air is amazingly clear, lit brilliantly by a blinding winter sun. I haven't brought my SLR - too much space in the laptop's bag - but I brought the next best thing: our point-and-shoot. I'm not a slave to the camera, and I hardly believe that "the camera takes great pictures." People take great pictures; the camera is merely the tool.

I get some odd stares from the few pedestrians brave enough to walk the streets this morning. I suppose they've never seen a guy in a suit and trench coat waving a camera above his head before. I think to myself that I should do this more often, then, to soften them up a bit. I smile at the thought before tucking the camera back into my pocket and continuing on my way.

Your turn: I think I need to spend more time exploring glass buildings. They're hellishly fun to play with. What other forms of architecture turn your photographic crank? Let me know, and I'll try to shoot them - and share them here, of course - in the weeks to come.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Impolite visitor

Was it something I said?
Deerfield Beach, FL, January 2009 [Click to enlarge the damage]

Welcome to my BlogHerAds visitors! Thank you for clicking the link at the bottom of the ad strip. I do hope you'll meander through an entry or two and leave a comment. I so appreciate your visit and would like to be able to return the favor. Click here to load the blog from the top.
All week long, we've been looking down and seeing some pretty neat things. I'm sorry we've only had a week to explore this theme, because frankly I could take lowdown pics forever and still never tire of it. Which raises the issue: can we reuse Thematic Photographic themes? Should we? I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

Your turn: Two things, actually. 1) Please weigh in on whether TP themes could/should be reused. 2) If you haven't yet done so, click here to share your own down-themed pic.

Oops, I lied. Make that three things: Please set an alarm for tomorrow - Wednesday - at 7:00 p.m. ET. That's when the new Thematic Photographic entry goes up. So what's the theme? Why, up, of course. Because we need a little up these days. Happy mulling...

Now appearing in...TG Daily

Survival in an urban environment is an interesting thing. Although there's talk of a deer cull in my 'burg, making my living by chasing animals around and harvesting them for meat is somewhat inconvenient, if not illegal. And even if the cops don't mind, I'm not really good with a bow and arrow, anyway. So much for that.

So when I'm not sharing wacky pictures and thoughts on my blog, I string letters into words and words into sentences for folks who, if the planets align, pay me for the result. It's a pretty neat way to run a career, and so far I'm trending nicely.

To wit, I've begun writing a weekly analyst's column for TG Daily. My first piece - The implications of the ObamaBerry: Wireless is safe - published just yesterday. This is going to be fun!

Your turn: I'd love to hear what you think of the article. I'll publish links to future columns as they hit the site.

One more thing: I write the monthly Security column for Certification Magazine. Click here for more tech-journo goodness. I can write for your company, too.

Monday, February 09, 2009

In studio

Hanging around
London, ON, February 2009 [Click all images to enlarge]

We had the reception for my art show earlier tonight, and I have to admit it was as delightfully surreal an experience as I've ever had. People - most of whom I know well, and some of whom I had never met - came to see me and my work. That alone was kind of bizarre, as I more typically hide behind the delightfully large shadows of my camera, my pen and my online presence.

Instead, on this night, I got to chat with folks, in real-time, not about the latest handheld device or my thoughts on Canada's telecommunications industry, but about what I was thinking when I tripped the shutter. I felt more than a little self-conscious - but in a good way - and hoped that somehow my words would live up to the work on display. Or was it the photos living up to my words. Not sure...

When all is said and done, I enjoyed holding court and sharing this energy, this passion I have for telling stories in images and words. I hope it's infectious, and I hope everyone who took the time out of their busy lives to join me and my family left the studio with thoughts of how they could tell their own stories, too. Not a day goes by that I'm not thankful that I have the ability to do this, and a wife who has never stopped encouraging me to take it further.

Your turn: Photography repairs the world. Agree/disagree? Why/why not?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Caption This 107

Please caption this image
Click here for Caption This instructions
Toronto, ON, January 2009 [Click to enlarge]

Quick note: As previously reported, I'm holding an exhibit of my photos at a local studio. It's called Photography For The Rest Of Us, and we're having a reception Monday night (Feb. 9) at ArtVenture (1438 Aldersbrook Road, London, ON) from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. ET. All are welcome...and my wife's bringing the food. If you're in London and have a hankering to see my work live, we'd love to have you!
I admit to being a little aggressive when I get a camera in my hand. To wit, I take pictures of homeless people. Probably not the prettiest pictures I can take. But my goal isn't to be pretty. I tell stories. And some of them are anything but pretty.

This picture of a homeless person is a little different in that it was taken not on a summery street in Montreal or a brutally hot sidewalk in Shanghai, but on a bitterly cold morning in Toronto. I'm not sure why, but bone chilling cold makes a sad scene like this seem so much sadder.

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this photo. You can be as creative or witty as you wish, and you may suggest as many captions as you can come up with. Winner gets added to my new-and-improved blogroll. Everyone else gets my everlasting admiration.

About last week's image of a window: Lots of great creativity around this one. Honorable menschens go to:
  • Mystic Writer: "A lot of rock and a little blues."
  • Mojo: "Room with a blue."
  • Pamela: "With blue of heaven's own tinct. but my design." (Shakespeare)
  • Terri: "I Spy with my little eye..."
  • Moi: "Into the blue..."
  • Stephen: "The great blue ponder."
Colleen takes it this week with the delightfully simple "Blue view." Colleen's site, Loose Leaf Notes, has long been one of my favorite reads. She lives in a place, Floyd, Virginia, that just might be the friendliest place on planet. The way she writes about her community, it's no wonder anyone who visits her site wants to move there, too. Please drop by her blog and send her a happy.

The Moron Files - Baby narc

I've always been a fan of the kicker. In newsroom circles, a kicker is a lighthearted story that makes folks smile and is usually dropped into the end of a newscast. Editors like to include 'em because if the newscast runs long, they can quickly drop the kicker from the lineup and not lose any significant stories. In this era of unending nasty headlines, a little snippet of happiness is always welcome.

Some kickers are heartwarming (baby's arrival reunites fractured family), heroic (baby saves parents from fiery mountaintop helicopter crash), thought-provoking (baby teaches dog to send a text message to the Pope) or just plain fun (baby goes paragliding with grandpa.)

But baby calling 911 and getting dad arrested for running a marijuana grow op in the house? That opens up a new category, moronic. If I see any more of these, I'll be sure to share 'em here under The Moron Files banner.

Your turn: Got a moron-laden tale to share? You can change the names to protect the guilty, if you wish. Or not. Your call.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Game on

Play with me
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008

It's 8:40 in the evening, and we've just arrived at my in-laws' place in Florida. We're all rather hung over in that tired-but-happy-to-be-here fog that you get after a long drive. Like most families, we've evolved certain rituals since we began coming here, and CiCi's is one of them.

For the uninitiated, CiCi's is an all-you-can-eat pizza restaurant. If you've ever wanted to watch gluttony in action, this is the place. The cafeteria-like row of pizzas and fixins is a veritable free-for-all of conspicuous consumption. It's not fine dining by any stretch of the imagination, and one shudders to think what the nutritional labels would say - well, if there were any.

But it makes the munchkins happy, and someone else cleans up. So here we are. And we're not alone. Friends and family from the Great White North have also migrated here, and as in past years, we bump into them and hold impromptu, boisterous reunions amid the randomly arranged chipped formica tables. It's a happy moment rich with memory, and I stop to take it all in.

That is, until I realize our youngest has wandered to the games area in back. I follow his wiggling form as he scoots from machine to machine. He doesn't want to play anything. He's just looking. The dimly lit area looks like it hasn't seen a paintbrush since long before little man was born, but he doesn't seem to mind. Neither do I as I notice the stark lines of the air hockey table and get yet another compositional idea in my head...

Your turn: The first thing you do when you arrive on vacation is...?

One more thing: Thematic Photographic explores "down" this week. Head over here for more.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Do not cross the double line

Old paint
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Quick note: Yup, we're still doing the down thing as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. Do you feel like getting closer to the center of the earth? Click here.
You get really strange stares when you lie down in the middle of the road in a retirement community. Not that doing this outside a retirement community would merit a different response, mind you. I guess it's just a little more amusing in this place because the pace of life seems to be a little slower than elsewhere. A good thing, this.

Your turn: When he was still culturally relevant, John Tesh once wrote a song called "The Endless Road" as part of his Tour de France: The Early Years album. To this day, I listen to this tune and think about how the same road seems to take different people to different destinations. Where's this one headed? Have fun with it...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Working late. Here's why...

I played talking head again today. Research In Motion - the company that makes the BlackBerry - has been in the news a lot lately for a bunch of reasons. Today, the Ontario Securities Commission delivered its final ruling on who would be punished for a stock option backdating no-no, how much they would pay, and whether they'd be allowed to even keep their jobs.

Co-CEOs and company founders Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are among a group of execs ordered to pay $77 million in fines and restitution. Big numbers for you and me, but chump change when you're billionaire founders of one of the world's top wireless companies.

The company also took another run at security vendor Certicom earlier this week, doubling its original offer and one-upping would-be suitor VeriSign. Today, Certicom said it liked the offer (well, wave enough money in front of me and I'd like it too, but I digress...), which leaves VeriSign until Feb. 11th to decide whether it wants to pay more to dance or go home empty-handed in dad's Dodge Aspen wagon.

In my humble view, Certicom's the real story here, as a successful buy sets RIM up quite nicely to control who in smartphoneland gains access to vital encryption technology. After all, you'd rather be a gatekeeper because you get to make the rules and keep everyone else's money.

Here's a quick peek at what I was up to today, and why I'm writing into the evening as a result:
Deadline looms. And I need to tuck in soon, as I'm doing another Tech Talk segment tomorrow morning on London's 'A' Morning with Cheryl Weedmark. So I need to finish this so I can get my wishful-beauty sleep. More soon...

Your turn: Pretty pictures will return imminently. In the meantime, feel free to explore some in the archives here, here, And even here, but only if you're really hungry.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Thematic Photographic 35 - Down

Club Sandals
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008 [Click to embiggen]

For our next Thematic Photographic theme, I wanted to play with perspective a little bit. That's because I've noticed the average picture taken by the average person seems to always be right-side-up, straight-on. Rarely do folks point their lenses up or down, or get themselves closer to the center of the Earth. Which brings me to this picture of my cousin's sandals on a pool deck.

Because I was shooting around folks who knew me, they all simply nodded as they watched me zoom in on the footwear. The septuagenarian with the bluish-tinged hair? I'm sure she thought I was losing it.

Your turn: We'll be exploring "down" all week long. Whether you're a point-your-lens-down person or a get-down-on-the-ground shooter, I hope you'll share the results through the week and leave a link in a comment here. If you know the drill, feel free to dive right in. If you're looking for a couple of sample "down" photos, click here, here and here. And if you're new to the Thematic Photographic thing, just read on:
  • Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...down.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - The bird of Tower 8

I'm so pretty
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008 [Click to enlarge]

We noticed this little munchkin as we sat on the beach and watched the sun rise (see here for more.) She was still there after an hour, sitting quietly on her perch at the base of the lifeguard tower. As you can tell, she let us get pretty close.

Your turn: This photo is the final one in our "simple" series. If you'd like to share a simple photo of your own, please click here. I'll be posting the new Thematic Photographic image tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Next week's theme will be "down". I'm already looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

One more thing: Caption This awaits your input as well. Head over here to embiggen your day.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Michael Phelps throws it all away

I had to laugh at the photo of Olympic swimming phenom Michael Phelps smoking marijuana through a bong. Not that glorifying the drug culture is ever any reason for humor, but it blew me away that one person could be so unbelievably dumb.

(Oops, forgot about Cheech and Chong for a second. Won't happen again. There...let's continue...)

Thanks largely to his prowess in the pool - what, you thought he designed particle accelerators, too? - he's become a can't miss pitchman, a tour-de-force brand that can easily be sold to the highest bidder, even in a down economy.

That this simple fact didn't cross his mind BEFORE he danced with MJ is absolutely beyond me. His "apology" mentioned that he's 23 years old, as if his relative youth should somehow provide a baseline of justification. Thanks, Michael, for painting your entire generation with the same idiot brush.

It's amusing how many folks forget the simple truth that in the age of the Internet, you're only a camera click away from notoriety. When your net worth is based on an eight-figure brand that can evaporate at the first sniff of impropriety, such forgetfulness is almost unbelievable to working shleps like you and me.

In a perverse way, it's almost gratifying to see someone toss it away with so little thought. It gives someone else - possibly someone more worthy - a crack at the brass ring.

Your turn: What say you about America's tarnished golden boy?

Groundhog Day Sucks

Quick note; If you're looking for Caption This - and I'm hoping you are - please click here. I felt the need to rant a little this morning. Hope that's OK...
Sorry, I just can't get into the whole Groundhog Day thing. Sure, it was the basis for a wonderful, and indeed iconic, movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, but that's a discussion for another day. As the new week dawns, small towns in a number of North American communities are looking to their bizarrely named groundhogs to predict how much longer winter's going to be sticking around.

To the whole "six more weeks of winter" silliness, I say humbug. The sad truth is a bunch of drunken folks - typically old white men, go figure - wearing ridiculous clothes scare the dickens out of a poor rodent in a badly staged attempt to keep tourist dollars flowing to otherwise forgettable corners of the world.

If you stick around till the credits finish rolling after the average film, you'll notice the now-standard claim about "how no animals were harmed during filming." Something tells me the same kind of thinking should apply to this ridiculous annual charade.

I guess I'm a softie for the furry set. Punxsutawney Phil, Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam and their ilk would be better served sleeping out the winter, happily snoozing in whatever warm place they managed to find before the snow flew.

Your turn: How would you feel if you were rousted from bed in the middle of the night and held by the scruff of your neck in the middle of a huge crowd of morons? Am I being silly here?

This just in (8:49 a.m.): All three of the aforementioned varmints have apparently seen their shadows. I know this because every media outlet in the region is pumping out breathlessly worded breaking news alerts.

I'm curious about the news judgment, as this morning's paper chose to put news of our mayor's husband's DUI arrest on page 3. Tim Best, who owns the downtown Friday Knight Lights restaurant (I wrote about it here) is married to our mayor, Anne-Marie DeCicco-Best, and stands accused of hitting two cars in two separate incidents on the 401 Saturday night, sending one driver to hospital. The suspect fled both scenes, and was finally caught by police after a foot chase.

And what went on page 1? Discussion of tonight's city council debate about a possible deer cull.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Caption This 106

Please caption this image
Click here for Caption This instructions
London, ON, January 2009 [Click to enlarge]

Windows fascinate me for a whole lot of reasons. Whether you're on the inside looking out or the outside looking in, they give you a chance to see something beyond the usual. When I was a child, I often sat beside them and let my mind wander. Three scenarios remain incredibly vivid memories, for some reason:
  • My bedroom window overlooked the driveway, and I often sat on the floor and waited for my parents to come home.
  • My hospital room window gave me a wide open view of the city, and I often wondered what it would be like to walk the streets on my own. It gave me extra incentive to get back on my feet.
  • The windows in my grandparents' apartment were much darker, overlooking a forbidding-looking laneway without much of a view at all. Yet the light in their humble home always seemed to come from within.
Funny what you remember when you stare at a seemingly innocuous pane of glass.

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this apparently simple window scene. Plain as it looks, it's a wall that has significance to me. A story for another day, perhaps. Need more background on how this Caption This thing works? Click here.

About last week's photo of an old television: This is one of the last photos I took before we headed home from vacation, and it's one of my favorites. I'm glad so many of you thought so, too! This week's honorable menschens are:
  • Hilary: In the 1990's situation comedy character, Dr. Frasier Crane grabs television ratings.
  • Terri: "I want my MTV!"
  • Judy: "From trash thou comest and to trash thou shalt return!"
  • Steve: "Now that's TV worth watching!"
  • Morah Mommy: "There really is only trash on tv!"
  • Snaggle Tooth: "You're not the brightest tube on the block- you're burnt out!"
  • Sara: "All those years of playing video games with joysticks came in handy after all!"
Mel Fraase takes it with the delightfully threatening "Return the remote or the TV gets it!" She is a professional photographer and a darn good writer, too. Her perspectives on being a mom will have you returning for more. Please drop by her blog, Fraase Family, to congratulate her.

One more thing: This photo continues our "simple" theme as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. Click here to dive in.