Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finding an alone moment

Bridge over troubled waters
London, ON, December 2009 [Click photo to enlarge]
About this photo: Our latest Thematic Photographic theme is 2009, The Year That Was. To join in, simply share your favorite photos from the past year. Click here to get started.
As the year I'd like to forget draws to a close, I've been trying to carve out little snippets of time for myself wherever I can find them. I don't necessarily want to shut anyone else out - indeed, keeping connected to the people who matter most has been a lifeline for me these last few months - but it feels good for my soul to simply take in the silence for a bit.

Photography gives me lots of opportunities to have reflective moments like this one. On my way to shul one morning, I stopped on the university campus and took in this scene from the bridge that crosses the Thames River. Nothing earth shattering in any of it, but it felt good to stand alone in a quiet place, and it feels good to remember this particular moment through a picture.

Your turn: Where do you go to be alone?

One more thing: I'm not one to celebrate the New Year to any great extent. Frankly, I wish we attached similar importance to the other 364 days of the year. But my curmudgeonly nature aside, please know I'm thinking of you all, and wishing you only goodness and peace, health and happiness as 2010 gets underway. You've enriched my year by sharing your experiences here, and I look forward to more sharing and learning in 2010. All the best, and thanks.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thematic Photographic 82 - 2009, The Year That Was

Talking about my generation
London, ON
September 2009 [top]
July 2009 [bottom]
[Please click all photos to enlarge]

On Mojo's wise suggestion, our Thematic Photographic theme for the the next week is 2009, the year that was. In many respects it's been a year many of us would like to forget. But the mere fact that we have the opportunity to reflect at all is, in itself, sufficient cause for celebration. We're here, and that's all that matters.

So I hope you use this theme as an opportunity to look back and to be thankful for whatever blessings the year brought you. And in my case, nothing tops my wife and kids. So to kick off my own contributions to this week's theme, I present the four people who somehow managed to help me focus on the good, and who somehow managed to keep me whole.

About this theme: You'll notice a couple of new additions to the way we run Thematic:
  • First, the theme name is a phrase and not a word. For most of its existence, themes have been one word only. I think loosening the limits and allowing a few descriptive words in the title may make things easier on everyone and give y'all more to work with.
  • Second, I'm putting more than one picture in. No sense limiting myself on the photographic end, either, right? Feel free to do the same.
Your turn: Please post as many 2009-themed pictures to your blog, then paste a link in a comment here so other folks can find you. And if you've got a thought or two on the changes, I'd love to hear 'em. Enjoy...

Twinkle toes

Laval, QC, July 2009

I thought I'd say goodbye to this week's theme with a bit of a self portrait - and a quick story. When I was a kid, I spent a couple of years in a cast due to wonky hips that, thankfully, are now fully functional. It was a two-leg, a-framed contraption that forever branded me as "the kid in the cast" and taught me to always think first about what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes.

Which is ironic given I didn't wear shoes between the age of 4 and 6. Instead, my toes stuck out of little holes at the bottom of the cast. And I wiggled them. Often. Because that was pretty much the only exercise they got. And it looked pretty funny, too. And if you caught an adult at just the right time, it made them laugh. Other kids in the ward, too.

So occasionally I train my lens on my long-since-freed toes. Because I still like to wiggle them. And I still like to see others smile when I do.

Your turn: Making complete strangers happy. Please discuss.

One more thing: Please pop back in tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST. Our next Thematic theme, 2009 - the year that was, launches then, and I suspect you won't want to miss out. Well, at least I hope you won't!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Keeping the night at bay

Oasis of light
Toronto, ON, November 2009
About this photo: We're slowly bringing Thematic Photographic's feet week to a close. Click this link to see where this ridiculousness all began. Thanks to Mojo's kindness, we have a new theme for next week: 2009, the year that was. Feel free to start thinking about which of your pics from the last year are most memorable, and which ones you'd like to share. Launch post goes up tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. EST.
I seem to be bringing home more moody photos these days (see here, here and here.) I guess that's understandable given the kind of year we've had, but it still jars me a little when I see more shades of grey than I'm used to. Although I never thought the artistically brooding thing really fit me, I realize I may need to rethink that a bit, albeit temporarily.

Regardless, this somewhat dark chapter has some side benefits. It's allowed me to explore the technical challenges of shooting darker scenes. It's also forced me to not rely on color as a crutch. Which, hopefully, may help me get better at this photography thing after all. Time will tell. For now, however, I offer this sombre view, taken as I reflectively walked back to Toronto's Union Station and headed home to my family.

Your turn: Do your photos reflect your mood? How?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Found on a Dunkin Donuts floor

The things we see when we look down
New York, NY, November 2009

We'd come to this Dunkin Donuts, tucked into a New York street corner, to fill the kids' tummies with unhealthy fare - I know, annals of parenting... - in the midst of a blink-and-you-miss-it weekend in the big city. The server helping my wife didn't take kindly to my guerilla-dad photographic style, and used her broken English and hand signals to get me to put the camera away. This was the last picture I took before it dawned on me that I had crossed a line. It happens on occasion. This won't be the last time, either.

As I reviewed the pictures later on, this one stood out because it was typically bizarre. I had spent more than enough time that day capturing the usual tourist- kitschy New York scenes - the Empire State Building, Times Square, Broadway and others - so it felt right to have something completely atypical as well. I'm willing to bet no one ever walked into this nondescript store and took pictures of the floor.

Makes me wonder what other ridiculously routine scenes await me. Anyone care to guess?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shoes that dangle in the sky

Really hi-tops
London, ON, July 2009

I will never understand the university/college-town tradition of tossing a pair of shoes over the top of a power line. I realize it's probably tied to some sort of fraternity or sorority ritual, but it still strikes me as wasteful and disrespectful. After all, if it's OK to hang a pair of shoes from here, why not that old coat I'd been meaning to toss? Or whatever other garbage I found lying around the house and wanted to see dangling above the neighborhood for the next six months?

Re-reading that last paragraph, I realize I'm rapidly becoming an old curmudgeon. G-d help me. There, I'm good.

So in celebration of feet week - please see here if this makes no sense to you - I wanted to share this apparent misunderstanding of Nike's "Just Do It" slogan. The "It" in this case should not involve ruining an apparently perfectly good pair of shoes. Oops, there goes that curmudgeonly voice again. I'll go back to muttering, alone, on my porch.

Your turn: Who owned these shoes? How did they come to be here?

Attention K Mart shoppers

Blue light special, aisle 5
New York, NY
November 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores "feet" through next Wednesday. As you can see, feet can take many different share yours, just click here.
I learned long ago to look left when everyone else is looking right. I may not get the same story as everyone else, or even the story that folks might expect, but I'm pretty much guaranteed that whatever I bring home is original.

A lot of people don't get that, but I also learned long ago to stop worrying about what those lots of people think. I don't much care about popularity. Guess that explains why I never actually was that popular. But that's a story for another day.

So, about this picture: In a crowded restaurant filled with well wishers gathered from all corners of the continent for a wedding, I turned away from the hordes and explored the corners of the room. And I had help: In an ultra chic restaurant carved out of a heritage building that wears its rough-brick history as a fish market proudly on its sleeve, our daughter found a spot that she didn't want us to forget. She took my hand and led me here. She talked about the shade of blue, how it almost seemed to paint the old brick.

With Dahlia's help, I found the story that'll help us both remember this place. I'm sure it won't matter a whole lot to most other folks. But it'll matter to us both, which is pretty much the only thing that matters to me.

Your turn: I'm blessed to be surrounded by a wife and kids who regularly, innately and easily share their vision with me. Do you have partners who guide you in your own artistic endeavors? Do tell!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

He can sleep anywhere

Peace amid the party
New York, NY, November 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic celebrates feet this week. To get in on the stinky action, just click here.
Noah has no throttle. When he's on, he goes full bore and doesn't stop until he's absolutely out of gas. Here, he emptied his tank - happily, as ever - in the middle of his cousin's wedding. So after some very kind and understanding staff members fetched a few huge pillows, we set him up in a tucked-away corner and let him snooze amid the still-raging party. I still don't know how he managed this, but I am mighty impressed.

As he slept, I stared at his too-large-for-his-age feet - festooned in shoes carefully chosen by mama - and wondered how tall he'd someday grow. However high he eventually reaches, he's the kind of kid who will always find a way to give his mom the hugs she so richly deserves.

Your turn: The strangest place you've ever fallen asleep is...?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Standpipe at my feet

When I look down...
New York, NY, November 2009
About this photo: It's "feet" week all week long here at Written Inc. If you're hankering for some Thematic Photographic nuttiness, head this way and don't look back. Or down.
Over all the years that I went to school and worked in Montreal's downtown core, I never looked down long enough to notice whether my town had standpipes sprouting out of the sidewalks. But when I went to New York, they seemed to be everywhere. I particularly liked this red one.

So I thought it made sense to stand beside a standpipe, if only to reinforce my sense of wonder at things my feeble brain fails to understand. Perhaps it's just as well that I just appreciate something for its simple aesthetic without necessarily researching it until the cows come home.

Your turn: Things we fail to notice. Please discuss.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

You've Got Mail

I was driving the gang to school the other morning. Although it takes barely 15 minutes door-to-door, it's an important stretch of together-time that I don't often get because I work from home. So on a day when our respective schedules meant I needed the car during the day, I found myself at the wheel. And as my wife and I often do when we drive, we talk. About the everyday yin and yang of life that you might otherwise miss if you didn't have in-between moments like these.

As we ran through the highlights of the day ahead, my wife told me she had cleaned up the voicemail on our home phone. I take the blame, because I'm a shameless message saver. Send me an e-mail and I'm more apt to archive and not delete it. Because you never know when you'll need it. Same thing with voicemail: I want to make sure Debbie hears the message before it gets deleted into oblivion.

That's how we ended up with 22 old messages clogging our inbox, the Whining Betty voice from the phone company not-so-politely advising us that our mailbox was almost full. Thanks, Betty, for the heads-up.

Debbie deleted them all. Except one: From my dad. He had left it a few days before he died. It wasn't anything earth shattering, just the usual checking-in-we'll-talk-later kind of message. "I just couldn't," she said, her voice haltingly trailing off into silence.

I felt the now-familiar wave of sadness that precedes unprovoked tears. I wanted to stop the car and just hug her. But we were in the middle of traffic, and the clock beckoned. It was her loss, too, and it's just as important for her to hold on to the digitized remnants of a life well lived as it is for me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thematic Photographic 81 - Feet

New York, NY, November 2009

Zach and I had walked 24 blocks up 5th Avenue to see this place, Apple's flagship retail store. Since he inherited my admiration of all things related to this fruit-themed tech company, it seemed natural for us to make the trek and drink in the experience of this place.

Of course, 24 blocks is a tough sled for anyone. Worse when you consider the need to walk another 24 blocks back to where we started. So both of us were pretty tuckered out by the time we got there. But not too tuckered out to enjoy the sight of hordes of fans descending the glass staircase under the ginormous glass cube. Say what you want about Apple, but this is a company that understands how to make memorable experiences whether you're using its products or visiting one of its stores.

Your turn: Thematic Photographic's theme this week is "feet". No, I'm not sure why this is so. I guess I was feeling cheeky. Participation is simple: Post a similarly themed pic on your blog, then pop back here and paste the link into a comment. Repeat as often as you wish. For more info on how TP works, click here.

Let there be light

Turned 90 degrees
New York, NY, November 2009
About this photo: We're wrapping up our week-long exploration of the abstract theme, and we hope you've had fun along the way (click here if I'm making no sense.) At exactly 7:00 o.m. EST (hey, that's TONIGHT!) we launch our new TP theme. This week, it's feet. Yes, feet. Don't ask...just throw caution to the wind and enjoy the journey.
It's the kind of scene that countless people come across every day, yet few, if any, ever take the time to appreciate. From where I sit, life's too short to miss out on the fun stuff. So the next time you're in the Carlton Hotel on Madison Avenue, don't be afraid to tilt your head in a few unique directions and see if the ordinary now looks somewhat less so.

In fact, feel free to do the same no matter what hotel - or building, or open space, or whatever... - you happen to be visiting. You may surprise yourself in the process.

Your turn: Look up right now. What do you see?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A different point of view

Who says it's out of focus?
Toronto, ON, December 2009

About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores abstract-themed photos all week long. If you've got one you'd like to share - and who doesn't? - just click here to kickstart the insanity. New theme goes live tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. EST. What will it be? What would you like it to be?
Remember when you were a kid and you had the ability to stare at the same thing for an inordinate length of time without getting bored? At some point, you'd squint your eyes just so and the scene would go all buggy, kind of like a bad Beatles video where you just knew the producer had been dipping into the mind altering substances.

Well, I'm not much of a Beatles fan (sorry), and I've never been one to dip into the mind altering stuff, either. But I do enjoy altering the view from time to time. Just because my camera has a focus ring doesn't mean I have to make it tack sharp every time out. Sometimes, a creative twist or two can help me tell a very different story.

Your turn: What do you think this is? What does it remind you of?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Abstracted cruelty

Arbeit Macht Frei/Work Sets You Free
London, ON, April 2009

About this photo: This is a detail taken from the Holocaust Memorial Center at the London Jewish Community Center. It was installed earlier this year to reaffirm how community and education stand against the kind of hatred that allowed the Holocaust to happen in the first place. To participate in our latest Thematic Photographic theme, abstract, please click here.
There is no such thing as a happy ending when discussing anything remotely connected with the Holocaust, but the recovery of the sign over the entrance to the Auschwitz death camp at least closes the book on a particularly ugly chapter and reinforces efforts to ensure the world is never allowed to forget what happened here.

The Holocaust was the ultimate example of humanity's ability to abstract the reality of others, to dehumanize entire groups so thoroughly that it wasn't much of a stretch for entire populations to join in the process of extermination. That such thinking continues to this day should alarm us to no end. I guess that makes the threat anything but abstract.

Your turn: Overcoming hatred and bigotry. Please discuss.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Caption This - On Hold

Hi all. This being Sunday, I'd normally be posting a Caption This entry and asking for your help in coming up with something zingy and fun. I'm going to put the fun on hold for a bit because I'm just not feeling particularly zingy and/or fun right about now. And when I get this way, I prefer to have less rigidity and structure around me. Call it yet another quirk of Carmi.

So I'm not going to cancel CT completely, but I do want to set it aside for a bit so I can get back to the kind of freer-form blogging that I used to do but got away from as I evolved two weekly traditions - Caption This and Thematic Photographic - here.

I'll keep TP up and running for now, but given the fact that nothing's inviolable, I may yet have news on that front before long as well.

I guess I'm getting reflective as we prepare to say goodbye to 2009. It's been a difficult year from where I sit, and I'd be remiss if I didn't shake things up a bit before the transition to 2010. I'm slowly learning to let go of things before I necessarily figure out what I'm going to grab on to next - it's what reminds me of life's unpredictable beauty. If anything, I believe this kind of admittedly minor change will help me continue to focus on the things that matter most to me: My wife, our kids, our life and our future.

Thank you for your understanding, and I do hope you continue to share this bloggy journey with me. I'll still be writing and shooting and sharing, albeit in a slightly less formalized form.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Abstract light

Out of the darkness
Toronto, ON, March 2009
About this photo: We're exploring abstract themes this week. Please click here for the launch entry for this Thematic Photographic theme.
The platforms at Toronto's Union Station (wiki) aren't the highlight of anyone's trip. They're as close to dark, damp, exhaust-choked warehouses as you'll get. The front of the building is, of course, something of an architectural wonder. But back here where the tracks run? Um, not so much.

Still, I'm something of a heretic in that I believe this space has a beauty all its own. As your train arrives in Toronto, you go from enjoying the aerial spectacle of the skyline to near-darkness as you slowly roll into the covered shed over the platform. Then as you disembark onto the narrow, crumbling concrete walkway beside the tracks, you hang back, away from the sheepwalking crowds plodding their way toward the escalators.

As your eyes adjust to the murky light, you begin to notice little details, the hanging light fixtures, the shadows, the flourishes of corrugated metal. There's a gritty, industrial elegance to this place. You feel a quick pang of regret that more people don't stop and smell the rust-tinged, figurative roses more often.

Somewhat sadly, this space will soon cease to exist. The government's just announced a grand plan to totally rebuild the platforms and turn them into brightly lit, dramatic examples of what Europeans have done so well for so long. The end result will doubtless be impressive in its own right. But the grittiness and thoughtfulness will be gone.

Your turn: The beauty of darkness. Please discuss.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Memories of an abstract childhood

Let there be light
Montreal, QC, October 2009
About this photo: It's Thematic Photographic's abstract week all week long. Please follow this link if you'd like to share an abstract-themed photo or experience.
We were in my mother-in-law's hospital room, and as usual I found my eyes absorbing the subtle details of this place. While the kids bantered with their grandparents and filled the room with the kind of happiness every patient would appreciate 24/7, my mind wandered back to my own experiences as a patient in this same hospital. I always remembered the light, for some reason, and how it changed the tone of my room and the entire paediatrics unit from the moment I woke up until tuck-in.

My eyes always seemed to snap open before sunrise, just as the sky was beginning to brighten. While waiting for my parents to get in, I would often lie in bed and watch the shadows from the venetian blinds slowly brighten and begin their dance across the wall. I always found it neat that what started out as a muted, yellowy light soon brightened into a whiter, hotter tone that completely changed the feel of my drably painted room.

Standing here as an adult, it occurred to me that the scene hadn't changed much in all those years. I raised my camera and snapped away, capturing more of a memory than an image. Sometimes, that's all you can do when you're somewhere you wish you didn't have to be.

Your turn: I don't quite know what story this photo is telling. Maybe it doesn't even need to have a story. I do know that it's one of my favorite photos in recent memory. What's yours?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A moment of parental reason

Had an interesting moment today that I'd like to share. I was scheduled to do two television interviews at the 'A' News studios here in London. The first hit was with CTV Montreal's Todd van der Heyden on the noon-hour news program (topic: Canada's new cell phone landscape, video here), while the second was with Business News Network's Michael Hainsworth, a year-ender interview that used my recently published Betanews column as a jumping off point.

Both interviews went well. They were fun and conversational, and as my wife told me afterward, they're good for my soul because they give me a chance to do something I do well, and something that I love. Wise, she is.

The way-too-kind folks at the station - quite honestly, the nicest people you'll ever meet - managed to juggle the schedule and get me on my way earlier than planned. So as I left the station parking lot, I looked at the clock and realized that our youngest son's class was supposed to be skating in Victoria Park in the middle of London's downtown. I probably should have turned for home and gotten back to the business of writing. I probably should have let logic lead. But I didn't. I set the GPS for the park and didn't look back.

Little man was elated when he realized his dad was walking toward him. He was lying in a snowbank beside the rink, covered in snow, smiling from ear to ear. I hugged his wiggling form before he headed back out to the ice with his classmates and teacher, and I settled in to shep naches (Yiddish, loosely translated as deriving great pleasure from) and watch them frolic. I took pictures. I smiled, probably for the first time in days.

It was a moment I'm glad I took. Because I just don't know how many more like them I'll be privileged enough to have before he decides his dad visiting him in the park on a special afternoon merits a snowy hug.

The writing will get done. Tonight. I'll lose a little sleep in the process. But I'll remember the snippet of time with my son far longer than I'll remember anything I'll end up writing before I tuck in. Treasures take many forms. We just need to stop long enough to recognize when they present themselves to us.

Your turn: Ever follow your heart instead of your head? How did it turn out?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thematic Photographic 80 - Abstract

Unreal windows
Toronto, ON, December 2009

I tend to view my camera as a bit of a crutch or safe haven, something to lean on or hide behind when things get a little too chaotic around me.

And so I find myself looking at abstract photos I've been taking over the last few months, wondering why I'm capturing so many more abstract scenes than I ever have. I haven't deliberately set out to reshape the world through optics. I guess it's my soul telling me it's okay to run wild every once in a while. Whatever. If seeking out the unreal helps me achieve peace in the midst of a world that seemingly offers none, then it serves its purpose.

With that in mind, I'd like to spend the next week exploring abstract-themed images, and I hope you'll join me. Here's some background.

Your turn: Simply share an abstract - it could be anything...go nuts - on your blog, then paste a link to it in a comment here. Photographic goodness will ensue. Enjoy...and thank you.

A life well lived

Remember when I wrote that nothing good can happen when your phone rings at 2:23 a.m.? Well, I believe the same thing can also apply during the day when your mother tries to reach you at the home office twice in rapid succession. As it was, I was sitting in on a series of phone conferences when she called and I couldn't break away, but seeing her name and number come up twice was enough to raise my antenna.

And sure enough, she had sad news - because she clearly hasn't had enough of it in recent months. My Auntie Freda had passed away. Her husband, the late Uncle Benny, was my maternal grandfather's brother. She was the last of her generation, a truly good soul who was a constant, trusted presence in my young life and, later, the life of my wife and kids.

Logic tells me I should focus on celebrating her life, that I should be thankful we had her for as long as we did: 94 years. But emotion takes over and reminds me that we lost another sweet and gentle member of our family today. I wish I could find a way to hold onto the happy, because each day it seems to get just a little more difficult.


Obituary - originally published in the Dec. 21, 2009 Montreal Gazette
Freda (Perlman) Kaplansky
KAPLANSKY, Freda (nee Perlman) Peacefully in her ninety-fifth year, on Tuesday, December 15, 2009, at Extendicare Starwood Nursing Home in Ottawa. Wife of the late Benny Kaplansky. Loving and very devoted mother and mother-in-law of Marvin and Lynn, Ada and the late Stanley Tarnofsky. Cherished Bubbie of Dan and Rena, Jodie, and Lisa and Steven. Proud great-grandmother of Carlee and Skylar. Sister of the late Becky Glustein and the late Solly Perlman. The family would like to thank the staff of Starwood Nursing Home for their compassionate care over the past year. A private graveside service took place on Sunday, December 20th. Arrangements entrusted to Paperman & Sons.

Elin Nordegren to divorce Tiger Woods. World stops spinning.

AFP is reporting the wife of Philanderer of the Decade, Tiger Woods, is leaving him. She'll be taking the kids, the two dogs, the busted up Caddy and a rather large chunk of Tiger's stash, too.

Does this mean this story is about to end? Gawd, I hope so.

This does, of course, beg the question of what rubbish will soon be manufactured by the ever desperate entertainment "journalism" industry to replace this non-story (well, non-story for anyone BUT these two and their kids.) Mary Hart needs something to do, after all. Please, for the love of G-d, let's not leave Mary Hart hanging!

A new gig

Every once in a while, I take on a new writing challenge because that's what writers are supposed to do. I have it on reasonable authority that sticking with the same old for too long can make the brain stale.

So as part of my effort to shake up my docket a little and open up doors for future growth, I've joined the team of bloggers over at I'll be submitting an occasional entry to the IT Business Blogs, writing about techie business issues that matter to regular, everyday folks who just want to keep the lights on and the doors open.

The blog can be found here: and my first entry, Why you need to dive into social media now, is here.

Happy reading! And feel free to drop a comment or a suggestion whenever the urge strikes. This is as much everyone's forum as it is mine.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Somewhere over the rainbow

Something Kermit might sing about
London, ON, September 2009
About this photo: We're exploring "elsewhere" all week long. If you have a similarly-themed moment that you'd like to share, please click here. New Thematic theme goes live tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. EST. Feel free to suggest a theme, because my theme factory is down for maintenance.
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon in September, and I remember it because it was one of those days where we all got to enjoy a quiet day in the house. Face it: with three kids and a dog, how often does that happen?

I was lying in bed, reading, when I looked up at the ceiling and noticed this rather stunning reflection. I called my wife over, and we just stared at it as the colors became brighter and more saturated. I was, of course, compelled by the Laws of Photography to reach for the camera.

It was one of those once-in-a-blue-moon things, where the sun was in just the right spot at just the right moment. Perhaps next September 20th at 10:48 a.m., I should make sure I'm in that exact spot just in case our family rainbow decides to make an appearance. Because you need to capture these little moments when they happen. Because you never know what curves life may throw at you next.

Your turn: When something rare and special happens. Please discuss.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Elsewhere by rail

Down the tracks
London, ON, November 2009

I'm feeling somewhat mournful today. I could blame the fact that it's Monday, but I've never subscribed to the whole "I don't like Mondays" thing because there's no point in predisposing yourself to feeling down for an entire day. Perhaps it's the weather, as my wife said on the way home that it seemed to be dark all day long. It wasn't your usual misty, damp overcast, either. It almost seemed to be dusk at high noon. Odd.

I guess I'm just feeling like there are too many things flying past my head, and only one head to keep track of it all - nothing a good night's sleep and a new dawn won't fix.

I saw this picture and immediately thought of the moment I took it. Standing on the platform, I idly entertained thoughts of jumping on board and seeing where it would take me. Definitely an elsewhere-themed scene (click here to weigh in.)

Your turn: If you could get on to this train right now, where would you take it? Why?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Caption This 141

Please suggest a caption for this photo
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]
New York, NY, November 2009

Thematic Photographic is exploring "elsewhere" this week. While I originally suggested the theme as a way of sharing photos taken far from home, it also seems appropriate that it applies to people who, for reasons often beyond their control, end up far from the things that matter most. Either way, it's clear to me this tragic soul may as well have been in another world the morning that I surreptitiously took this. Please click here to share your own elsewhere-themed vision.

Somewhat oddly, I didn't want to take this photo. As I've done at various times in the past, I found myself wrestling with the basic morals of right-vs-wrong as I walked down the street and noticed this man. I didn't want to violate his peace and quiet - or, obviously, his privacy. But at the same time I felt his was a story I wanted to tell, albeit quietly. So I stayed respectfully up the street and used the zoom. As I write this, I'm back home, watching the freezing rain fall from a steel-grey sky just outside my kitchen window. I hope he's not being forced to endure this, and I hope he has a warm kitchen - or any place - to retreat to when things turn nasty.

Your turn: Please caption this photo. Just click the comment link and go for it. Click here for Caption This background.

About last week's photo of a fuzzy Honda: I still hope to meet the driver of this car someday. Despite the aerodynamic disadvantages of this kind of adornment, I think the world needs more of it. Pearl takes it with "Poetic license!" Pearl lives in Toronto, and over the past few months has been an invaluable source of guidance and support for me and my family. She's about as "good soul" as it gets. Please drop by her blog to congratulate her. I'm willing to bet you'll stick around and come back for more.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lost to the ages

In a former life
Laval, QC, August 2009

From where I sit, the concept of elsewhere - see here for this week's Thematic - doesn't just refer to places. It may also apply to times, eras, generations. As I walked alongside the river near my parents' house last summer, I came across these abandoned bridge footings, slowly succumbing to the elements. I don't ever remember there being another bridge down here, so whatever it was must have predated me. For whatever reason, that struck me as very neat.

My mind wandered through the possibilities of what must have stood in this quiet place decades ago, who used it - this area was, for as long as I could remember, absolutely undeveloped and completely covered by woods - and why only part of it remained standing. As I stood there alone in the leafy clearing, I wasn't just transported to another place. I imagined another time far removed from my own, and surmised if whoever built this ever thought about its impact on the future.

Probably not, but it was fun to imagine all the same.

Your turn: Going back in time. Please discuss.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Not-so-happy anniversary

Today would have been my parents' 49th wedding anniversary. We called my mom earlier today, and it seemed beyond abnormal to not be wishing her a happy anniversary, to not wait for my dad to fetch the phone, to not count the years and let both of them know we're glad they decided to get married. Because that one decision made our entire present and future possible.

And as much as I wanted to let her know I'd like to still celebrate today - because the legacy of us that they left behind continues to flourish in his absence - I couldn't. I didn't want to remind her (of course she knew, but still.) Didn't want to make her sad. Didn't want to make the obvious even more so. Today is just like yesterday in that I still have my immediate family around me, while she does not. That'll be true tomorrow as well, and while I don't have any answers for making it easier, I often find myself remaining silent for fear of touching off a painful moment.

I guess I'm still learning, still picking my way through this strange and very odd journey, and I'm not entirely sure I'm doing any of this in a remotely correct manner. I just didn't want today to slip into history without some sort of tangible moment to remember it. Because while the man may no longer be with us, I'm not yet ready to let go of the milestones he and my mom marked along their journey together.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Out of the shadows

It's no secret that I read the obituaries. After we moved to London, I'd read the obits from Montreal as a means of remaining connected with my hometown. Since we've been in our adopted home for a few years now, I've begun reading the listings here, as well.

You learn things when you read them. Sometimes heartwarming, sometimes jarring. I was jarred one morning last week:
"[Name of deceased] spent more than a decade struggling with increasingly severe depression but the worsening of his illness coupled with lack of proper medical care led him to take his own life."
It's not often that families choose to be so overt when cause of death is suicide. For as long as I can remember, members of my own family have barely been able to utter the word in conversation. Otherwise well meaning people often shunt - sometimes subtly, sometimes less so - those who suffer from diseases of the mind to the margins. They won't say it, of course, but their quiet message is that it is a weakness more than a true affliction. Even seeking help is often looked down upon - indeed, I remember the tone used in otherwise friendly discussions at get-togethers to describe those who had "gone to see their shrink." I shuddered then, and I shudder now.

So when I saw this announcement, I couldn't get this poor soul's family out of my mind. By choosing to lift the veil of secrecy, they showed such courage in the face of such unimaginable loss. At that moment, I wanted to reach through my screen and let them know just how much I felt for them, and how much I appreciated their decision.

Mental illness lives in the neglected shadows where few of us would choose to look. It forces sufferers to endure its ravages in silence. It condemns the families of its ultimate victims to live not only with the loss of a loved one, but the stigma of the fact that it was by one's own hand.

I can't help but wonder if things would be different if that stigma didn't exist, and if we spoke about it in the same terms as, say, cancer or heart disease. Either way, please consider this entry my effort to start raising the volume.

Your turn: Please share a perspective on mental illness, if you've got one.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Thematic Photographic 79 - Elsewhere

On the way to grandma's house
Cobourg, ON, October 2009

I've chosen "elsewhere" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme because I've been on the move more than usual in recent months. Whether it's for family or work reasons, I've had ample time at the wheel or in a train to reflect on why we leave home for any amount of time, and what we take from the experience.

I don't much relish being away from the things and the folks who matter most to me. But if I've got to be elsewhere, bringing something home helps me remember what it felt like to be away, and what it felt like to reconnect. Sometimes, a little bit of elsewhere is just what we need to readjust our sense of perspective.

Your turn: Over the next week, please share as many elsewhere-themed photos as you wish. It needn't be fancy: if you were away from home, we want to see it. Post 'em to your blog, then paste the link in a comment here. For more background on how Thematic Photographic works, please click here.

One more thing: I wasn't driving when I took this. Not that the geriatric driver of the geriatric - and very overstuffed - Chrysler in front of us would have known the difference. But still.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Same apple. Different light.

Fruity pebbles
New York, NY

November 2009
About these photos: Thematic Photographic wraps up its week-long exploration of all things different with something...a little different. We'll post a new theme at 7 p.m. EST tomorrow (still mulling, suggestions welcome) but for now, it's game on here if you'd like to take part.
I have a thing for Apple. There, I said it. Yes, their stuff is typically more expensive than average and you sometimes risk being branded as a bit of an elitist for using it. But I'm more interested in things that work than in how I look doing it.

That said, I think the illuminated logo on the lid of their laptops is a neat design touch from a company that understands the difference small things like this can make. And when you light the same subject differently in two consecutive photos, you can have some fun with it, too.

Your turn: One subject, two vastly different scenes. Got an example?

Publish Day - Why I hate predictions

Like most people, I wear a bunch of hats. Husband, dad, geek, writer, photo dude, among others. The writing thing is how I convince myself that I add value to the world, and as part of that effort I occasionally trade some carefully assembled words for things of value to me and my family, like bunches of bananas, rechargeable batteries and surplus kite string. Or money, if the publisher is so inclined.

Today's publishing is a rant I wrote for Betanews - Not the first, not the last, technology predictions for 2010 - about why I hate making year-ahead predictions. You'll notice this didn't stop me from violating my own rule. But I did so with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Either way, I hope you'll read the piece and enjoy it*.

Your turn: Please share one prediction for 2010.

* Better yet, click here for the Wide Angle Zoom home page. I publish Mondays and Thursdays.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Witness over Times Square

New York, NY, November 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic continues to explore "different". We hope you'll explore it, too - just follow your mouse here and dive right in. There's captioning here, too.
You have to wonder what would be going through his mind if, well, he actually had a mind. I couldn't resist this somewhat different way of looking at a very familiar place. I know the light was lousy. But I wasn't about to stand in the same spot and wait for the sun to show itself between the tightly packed towers. This'll have to do.

Your turn: Let's put some words in this fellow's mouth, shall we?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Caption This 140

Please caption this photo
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
London, ON, March 2009

About this photo: We're looking at the world just a little bit differently this week. If you don't know what the heck I'm talking about, please click here.
Whenever I see something that makes me smile, I feel the need to share it. All part of that Tikkun Olam/repairing the world thing. I didn't get to meet the owner of this car, but I sure hope whoever he/she is (though I'm betting it's a she) knows that it's a welcome addition to the suburban landscape.

Your turn: I need a witty, snappy, happy caption for this photo. Drop your suggestions into a comment - repeat as often as you wish over the next week. Click here for more info on how Caption This works. I'll announce the victor next Sunday. Speaking of victors...

About last week's photo of a unique guy on the library steps: Thanks to you all for your great suggestions for this very evocative photo. Honorable menschens go to:
  • Hilary: For confirming this person's real identity, Jason Mitchiner. Coolness!
  • AussiePomm: "Body builder"
  • Mel Fraase: "Wrestling with knowledge."
  • Pamela: "Don't judge a book by its cover."
Pamela takes the double with "Speedo reader". She lives in Washington State, and her writing and photography never fail to make you wonder why you're not looking at the world just a little more thoughtfully. Her blog, The Dust Will Wait, is a definite must-read.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Different world

This used to be my pasture
London, ON, July 2003

About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores "different" this week. If you'd like to share something from your own archives - or are hankering to grab your camera and head out - please click here.
Not far from our house, there's a street corner that not too long ago was about as rural as they come. It was your classic crossroads with thin ribbons of pavement stretching out into endless farmland one way, the distant city the other.

These days, the city is no longer so distant. In fact, it's caught up to this once-quiet place, turning it into one of the hottest intersections of development in town. They call it a power corner (I so despise that term) due to the density of big box retailers that have flocked here. Where these sweet bovines once grazed, a Tim Horton's coffee shop now stands, one of many burgeoning businesses that look like pretty much any other suburban development.

I think I preferred it when the cows and silos dominated the landscape. I guess I'm somewhat old school that way.

Your turn: Is different necessarily better? Worse? None of the above? (Yes, I'm getting metaphysical tonight. Sorry...)

Friday, December 04, 2009

At the end of the day

Musings from my BlackBerry...

Our youngest son is still young enough - 9 - that bedtime remains an important part of his day. He's also still young enough that giving us spontaneous kisses and hugs is a normal thing for him. Same thing with holding our hand when we're out.

I hope it never ends, but I know it will because they only grow in one direction. So we treat every day that he continues his cuddly ways as a gift.

Last night was an especially happy tuck-in for him. The dog followed him into his room and stood beside the very tall captain's bed, waiting for Noah to drape his arm over the side for a sniff and a dog kiss. Since Frasier's too small to make it up on his own, I picked him up and deposited him on top of his human big brother.

They both looked so content that I kissed and hugged them both - yup, I kiss and hug my dog...add another check mark to the weird column - and let them enjoy the moment. It took a while for Frasier to make his way out, and by the time he did, Noah was fast asleep.

There was nothing monumental or especially memorable about this tuck-in. But I wanted to hold on to it all the same, because I know all too well we've got a finite, and dwindling, supply.

Your turn: Cherishing the everyday. Please discuss.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Different point of view

Ready for my closeup
Toronto, ON, March 2009

About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is different. Please click here if you'd like to share your own slightly-off-the-beaten-path photo.
Different can often mean looking at the same thing through a different lens, or from a different perspective, or even through a different mood. As an example, I often like to look at well-known, iconic pieces of the landscape - the things that all tourists will shoot as soon as they get into town - in ways that wouldn't normally come to mind. The goal? Jar folks, gently, out of their comfort zone and show them that you really can have fun taking a slightly divergent path.

As an example, I present the photo above. It isn't anything special: fairly time-scarred reinforced concrete construction with a vertical sliver of glass windows thrown in for good measure. It could be be anyplace in any city.

But it isn't just any place. It's a rather unconventional peek at the CN Tower, which to most Canadians literally defines the skyline of our largest city, Toronto. This isn't a particularly great photo, but I keep coming back to it because I find myself wondering, "Is this really it?"

Indeed it is. Sometimes, seeing the picture isn't the goal. Using the picture to take an unplanned journey of the imagination, however, is.

Your turn: What are you going to look at differently next? Do tell!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Thematic Photographic 78 - Different

Close shave
New York, NY
November 2009
Welcome to our new Thematic Photographic theme, different. Please read on for more...
We've been here before. The front steps of the New York Public Library, which a few days ago on Written Inc. served up a dose of minimally-lycra-dressed, greasepainted uniqueness, now offer up something from the overdressed side of the house.

I'm not going to guess why a woman in a very realistic looking space suit was sharpening pencils on this lovely afternoon. I wanted to ask her, but learned long ago to keep to myself when walking through large cities far from home. Better to capture the scene with a long zoom and call it a day.

Your turn: Please post a picture of something different on your blog, then paste a link to it in a comment here. What's different? Anything that strikes you as out of the ordinary. Anything that gives you pause. Anything that makes you go, "Huh?" And if you've got a moment, I hope you'll be able to tell me how this particular person came to be at this particular place on this particular day, because I sure haven't been able to figure it out on my own.

Dahlia's Empire

Don't let go
New York, NY
November 2009
About this photo: As we wind down Thematic Photographic's week-long exploration of buildings, I thought this moment with my daughter would segue us rather nicely into our next theme, different. Be sure to pop back here tonight - 7:00 p.m. EST - for the new theme's first entry.
Our daughter and I have evolved a neat tradition: Whenever we see distant objects - ships, hot air balloons buildings, whatever - she pinches her fingers around them and I take a goofy-looking perspective shot. Anyone who remembers the old Headcrusher skit from Kids In The Hall will relate to this. That, and it makes my munchkin happy, which is all that matters.

So when we found ourselves near the Empire State Building earlier this month, we couldn't pass up an opportunity for her to illustrate her mad building-holding skills. Tough kid. My kid. Lucky me.

Your turn: The silly little traditions we all have and why they matter so. Please discuss.

Tiger Woods cheats. World stops.

On the way back from dropping the kids off at school this morning, I found myself listening to two sexagenarian radio guys practically drooling over their microphones as they examined, in excruciating detail, every last aspect of Tiger Woods. They'd get more excited as they covered each phase of this so-called story: The accident, the allegations, the affair, the impending acknowledgment, etc.

I felt myself almost throwing up in my mouth a little at the sickening tone of the show, and came darn near pulling the car over in disgust. Instead I flipped on some tunes and continued my journey home.

Now that Mr. Woods has confirmed that he's cheated on his wife, the wires are burning with the so-called news. I still feel like throwing up in my mouth at the feeding frenzy of coverage and the ease with which so-called professional media folks slip into little more than sleaze-covered gossip.

At the end of the day, the guy cheated on his wife, and now it's up to him and his family to move on from this very human tragedy. It would sure be nice if the rest of us didn't spend so much time pushing for more details of the Tigergate Affair. It would sure be nice if we, as a society, learned to put sports in its proper place. The guy plays golf. Yes, he plays it better than anyone of his generation, and the focus that he brings to his game holds lessons that transcend the golf course.

But still, he plays a game for a living. He isn't G-d. And the world doesn't have to stop spinning simply because he screwed up in real life. Perhaps we might want to stop mounting folks like him on pedestals.

Or perhaps we'll simply never learn. The future - for him, for us and for other sports/entertainment demigods - probably holds more inexplicable, self-inflicted implosions, and more tempests masquerading as breaking news. And an increasingly ravenous global audience will continue to get off on this stuff. Makes me more than a little sad that this is the way it's become.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Mythical building

Gothically reverent
New York, N
Y, November 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic celebrates building week. If a structure has moved you in any way, please click here to share the experience.
We had come here to celebrate our cousin's wedding. As always seems to happen in life, though, the journey was so much richer than we originally thought it would be. The building saw to that.

This place, the Angel Orensanz Center, was built in 1849 as a synagogue. And although it now functions as the home of the foundation of the Spanish artist's foundation, it is often rented out for events like parties and weddings.

Sex and the City trivia watchers would probably be tickled to know that Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick were married here, but what really gets at you as you walk slowly through this living example of your history is the way past generations seem to echo around every turn. Look up and there's a carved-in-ornate-stone list of members from before your grandfather's time. Look to the side and there's an artistic flourish that wouldn't be out of place in a museum.

Indeed, this is a museum. One that's stunningly different - gothic style synagogues are understandably rare - and incredibly familiar all at the same time. I couldn't stop comparing it to every other synagogue I had ever visited, my mind racing to process the rich memories this place had uncovered. I thought about the community that built it, and wondered what it must have been like back then to walk into the sanctuary.

Today, I do much the same thing in a much newer building a world removed from this place. But is that feeling of reconnecting any different despite the passage of time? Something to ponder as I continue to attend shul before the sun rises.

More than a few times that night, I thought my father would have enjoyed this place, and quietly hoped he had at least had a chance to look it up online before he passed away. He appreciated the significance of places like this. Now, so do I.

Your turn: Buildings that connect us - and to us. Please discuss.