Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thematic Photographic 95 - In memory of trees

Faded beauty
London, ON, February 2010

I've chosen trees as this week's Thematic Photographic theme because I can never tire of shooting them, and I hope you can't, either.

I've been staring at trees rather often lately, and I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps they seem more significant to me now. Perhaps it's a reminder that we need to respect our surroundings. Perhaps it's a subtle hint to slow down and reflect.

Whatever the reason, I've had a good time filling my camera's memory card, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with over the next week, too. Are you in?

Your turn: Share a picture of a tree, any tree, on your blog or photo sharing site. Then paste a link here. Repeat as often as your poor fingers can manage. Click here if you'd like to learn more about this Thematic Photographic silliness. Click here for all TP-themed blog entries to-date.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Green with envy

Veined perfection
Delray Beach, FL, December 2009
About this photo: It's "colorful" week through Wednesday here at Written Inc. If you'd like to share a similarly-themed contribution to our latest Thematic Photographic, click over here. All colors of the rainbow are welcome.
Whenever I see scenes like this in nature, I'm reminded that some of the most incredible works of art never originated in an artist's hand. Or maybe our definition of artist needs to change.

Either way, it was a single leaf hanging over a deck chair on an otherwise ordinary afternoon. And there I sat, awestruck. Weird, isn't it?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Passing over

Don't have a whole lot of time because the seder is about to start, so this quick capture from my BlackBerry will have to do.

It's our first Passover without my dad, and as I came home to find a lovingly set table, I instantly thought back to a similar moment years ago when a 13-year-old me was about to start my first seder without my maternal grandfather.

He meant the world to me, and his loss was significant enough that months later, I didn't want to celebrate the holiday, didn't want to sing, didn't want to imagine the evening without his voice and humor.

But we muddled through then, and we'll muddle through now. My mom - Bubby in the placecard above - is here. The kids have been excitedly counting the days to her arrival, and now that she's here, they're knocking themselves out showing her everything they've done and made over the winter. We'll do what we can to surround her with a somewhat changed experience. Life goes on. With difficulty. But it does go on. Somehow.

If you're celebrating, chag sameach to you and your entire mishpacha. Even if you're not, may you always be surrounded by those who matter most.

Your turn: What do you wish for as spring slowly returns us to life?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Colorfully sweet

Powdered rainbow
Boca Raton, FL, December 2009

Because we're feeling colorful this week - click here for some Thematic goodness - I wanted to share this picture with you. There isn't a restaurant in the world without something like this on virtually every table. Despite the ubiquity of the humble sweetener holder, however, it's probably something few of us would ever remember.

I don't know why this is the case. I guess the plain and the routine elements of any scene kind of fade into the background. There's so much out there to see that we probably don't have enough bandwidth to appreciate it all.

But I'm going to try, anyway. Because there aren't any rules when it comes to visually navigating this planet. No one ever said minutae like sugar packets weren't every bit as photo worthy as the more conventional scenes nearby - you know, like the posed head shots of balding white guys that too-often fill the pages of my daily paper.

The world would be a better place if the conventional gave way to the unconventional every once in a while.

Your turn: Look around and tell us what you see that's unconventional and overlooked.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour sucks

Yes, I agree the title of this entry is a little inflammatory. It's a deliberate ploy to raise your antenna and get you thinking. A couple of baseline facts:
  • I'm a big fan of Earth Hour. Same thing applies to Earth Day, and any other event designed to raise awareness, generate discussion and motivate proper behaviors.
  • I have no interest in debating whether global warming is or is not a myth. It's patently obvious that human behavior is wrecking the planet. We need to fix it. Arguing over labels is pointless.
  • I'm on the fence as to whether headline-generating events do more harm than good in the long-term drive to repair our planet.
So in a little while, my family will dutifully turn the lights off, pull out the books and candles, and gather around in the living room to share stories and spend some time together as, you know, a family. I know the mere act of consciously turning it all off is already planting seeds in our kids. It's helping make eco-friendly thinking a normal thing for them. I get that, and will do everything I can as a parent to perpetuate this learning. It's a responsibility I happily take on.

My issue isn't with the event itself, but in the way some folks choose to use their involvement to balance off eco-piggish behavior the other 364 days of the year. They'll turn their lights off tonight and broadcast it, often loudly and obnoxiously, to the world, and then tomorrow morning they'll be hopping into their Hummers to pick up cigarettes and subs from the convenience store four blocks away. Their hypocrisy galls me more than a little, because they'll be the first ones to justify their wasteful ways by saying they can afford it. They bought the Hummer. They fill it with gas. They drive it without guilt.

That it-revolves-around-me attitude persists despite events like Earth Hour. And despite the fact that awareness-raising is helping the adults of tomorrow build the right attitudes early on, there are still too many overweight, middle-aged, Hummer-driving, self-back-patting folks out there, and they, unfortunately, outweigh anything my 9-year-old son can do at this stage of his life.

Years ago, I remember when Earth Day was a global phenomenon. But like all elements of pop culture, its star soon faded and we all went back to ignoring it when it rolled around every year (quick, without looking it up online, when is it scheduled for 2010?) What we need is sustained growth in awareness and action. What we get is a short-term, feel-goodness that may or may not go far enough in kicking all of us into gear.

I suppose none of this is too surprising. Nothing can stay at the top of the charts forever. Less than three months after an earthquake leveled its capital city and killed almost a quarter of a million people, Haiti may as well not be on the world's radar. The news crews have returned home, leaving survivors to rebuild their lives out of the global spotlight. I humbly suggest that Earth Hour, like Earth Day before it, will enjoy a similarly brief period as a media darling before it, too, fades into obscurity.

To which the planet would be perfectly justified in wondering, "What then?"

Your turn: Thoughts?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Red, sorta white and blue

Pancake breakfast
London, ON, February 2010

About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores "colorful". Are you in? Go here if you are. Heck, even if you're not.
I'm lucky enough to be married to a woman who can create something delightfully culinary from nothing with a sense of ease that has to be seen to be believed. To watch her throw together a pancake breakfast is to realize you really don't deserve to have any day start this well. Listening to the kids happily buzz around her as she makes magic for them is something I will never get tired of.

I am blessed beyond belief.

Your turn: Your favorite breakfast is...?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fields of red

As the rush comes
London, ON
March 2010
[Click to embiggen]
About this photo: Thematic Photographic's latest theme is "colorful", and if you're anything like me, I hope you're spending the week looking for color in all sorts of weird and wonderful places. When you find it, head here to share.
I've been exploring the neighborhood around my new office. It's out by the airport, in an industrial park whose "designers" didn't see fit to include sidewalks. Despite my aversion to being run over by the giant trucks that transport chickens on their one-way trip to the processing plant one block over (seriously...icky...I'll never eat another nugget again), I've been heading out to explore the area over lunch.

When I do, I like to take my camera. Rather, my wife's camera (shhh, don't tell her.) Because it's smaller and lighter, and I'd rather not shlep the DSLR to work with me - a little too conspicuous for now. Whatever I'm shooting with, I like to do the find-beauty-wherever-you-can thing as often as possible. It's so much more challenging to squeeze out a memorable scene in a relatively visually desolate place than it is when you're surrounded by inspirational architecture and landscaping.

Or at least that's what I like to tell myself as the now-empty chicken truck speeds by, feathers wafting to the desolate roadway in its wake.

I think I'm going to like it here.

Your turn: Finding beauty where no one else would look. Please discuss.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thematic Photographic 94 - Colorful

The view behind
London, ON, March 2010

Whenever I need a dose of happiness, I look for a bit of color. It doesn't matter where I find it or what shade it is: Anything that catches my eye is often enough to boost my mood.

I suspect I'm not alone, which is why I've chosen "colorful" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme. I think the folks who hang out here at Written Inc. - even the quiet ones in the corner - "get" the color thing, and will want to share a vision or two over the next week.

At least I hope so. Are you game?

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is pretty simple. Just post a pic that supports the theme to your blog, photo sharing site, wherever. Then paste the link to the entry in a comment here so folks can find it. Our Kindergarten teacher taught us to share, so let's keep her happy, okay? For the rules, such as they are, click here. For all TP-themed entries, click here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Six months

Six months ago in the middle of the night, our phone rang and our world forever changed. It doesn't feel like it's been six months. Part of me thinks I'm still not able to feel much of anything because I'm still trying to figure out just how you're supposed to grieve.

I still have moments where I wish I could roll back the clock. I still feel powerless to fix the things that powers greater than I have deemed unfixable. I still question whether the things I choose to do or say are, in fact, the right things. I still find myself being hit by waves of sadness that remind me I'm nowhere near "done" this process. I don't think I ever will be.

Yet in some strange way, life has continued to evolve. I got a new job and threw myself into the opportunities inherent in a challenging new role at a fast-growing, forward-looking company. I started connecting with the real world again, getting out of my self-imposed writer's routine - countless hours spent alone in front of a laptop in a darkened home office - and back into a world of actual people, not ones you instant-message from the back deck.

Yet for all the new normalcy, new achievement and new potential, I still feel more than a little hollow. On the drive into work this morning - another new-to-me adventure - I turned a corner onto a rural road and saw a roadside memorial. As I made a mental note to return on my bike sometime, I connected the moment with my own need to remember. We all need to remember something, after all, and we all hope to similarly be remembered by others. Otherwise, what's the point of this life thing? Why bother if everything ends up back at nothing, as if we had never existed?

As I chewed on that nugget, the office grew larger in the windshield. I couldn't answer my questions any more effectively today than I could on a similarly grey morning in September, but I had an entire day ahead of me to make a difference in the lives of those around me. I parked the car and got started on another day where I hoped to leave a little something behind.

For now, it'll have to do.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rub a dub dub

All clean
New York, NY, November 2009
[Click photo to embiggen]
About this photo: It's Thematic Photographic's "windows on the world" week. Got a window shot of your own? Head over here to share the melted-sand magic.
Hotel rooms aren't typically the kinds of subjects that make for scintillating photography. But I've never been a typical photographer - or a typical anything, come to think of it - so I often find myself cracking open the camera bag as soon as I get settled in one of these transient places (see here, here and here for earlier hotel room photo shoots.)

When I'm traveling alone, the exercise gives me something to do to feel a little more normal despite the distance from home and family. This time out, the reason for the trip was pleasure - a family wedding - and the kids were with us. Lucky for us, this room was a visual treat. So the munchkins became my partners in photographic crime and helped me scan the room: Our daughter thought the bathtub might look neat.

I know I'm biased, but she's got her mother's eye. Lucky girl.

Your turn: Memorable moments in an otherwise forgettable place. Please discuss.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Words to live by

As the sun sets on yet another all-too-short weekend, I wake up from my nap and realize I've spent virtually every moment since Friday either sleeping or wandering through the house trying to get my wife and kids to feel pity for me. I don't tolerate illness very well, and something as simple as a head cold is often enough to turn me into an overgrown, whining and altogether annoying child.

Yet in spite of the near-total waste of the weekend, my little journey through the germ factory has given me ample reason to smile. My wife made more tea and soup than I deserved and let my neediness roll off of her like water on a duck's back. Our kids helped her keep the house on an even keel as they periodically popped in to make sure I was still coherent. Our dog stayed by my side almost non-stop. Somehow, dogs know who needs them most.

Further afield, my mom and in-laws called to see how we were all doing. A friend made me a care package and talked me through her time-honored home remedies. The social media world crackled with connectedness, too, another sign that goodness exists wherever we choose to see it.

I don't have anything earth-shattering to share as I slowly emerge from the fog of the last few days. But I came across this quote in my archives that seems to summarize where my slightly compromised head is:
"It isn't the great big pleasures that count the most; it's making a great deal out the the little ones."
Jean Webster
Your turn: Do you have an inspiring quote you'd like to share?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Broken window

Wrong way
London, ON, July 2009

Allow me to introduce you to the local branch of the TD Canada Trust bank. This is normally where its windowed (shameless Thematic link here) entryway would be. Except on this day last summer, an elderly driver punched the wrong pedal and punched a car-sized hole in the bank. No word on whether she made a withdrawal once she was fully in the lobby.

These things happen often enough that I'm prompted to ask why. How can drivers be so disconnected from the act of driving that they can't tell the difference between the brake pedal - higher, closer, wider, completely different feel - and the gas pedal? Who actually PRESSES the gas pedal when inching into or out of a parking spot, anyway? Ever heard of riding the brake and letting the car kinda creep on its own?

I guess we're surrounded by driver-morons. Just the kind of folks who blame the car instead of their own ineptitude. Some things never change. Better not sit by the window next time you head out to dinner at a restaurant. You just never know...

Your turn: Do you get scared in parking lots?

* Note to manual transmission drivers: I know your cars don't actually creep. But you're typically more involved in the act of driving by virtue of your three-pedal-ness than the average sofa-driving slushbox-pusher.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mirror, mirror on the street

Is my hair OK?
Toronto, ON, March 2009
Quick note: This photo supports our latest Thematic Photographic theme, "Windows on the world." Click here if you'd like to participate.
A mirrored window gives us yet another way to view the world. Unfortunately, that view isn't always what we wish it could be.

A few meters away and a couple of minutes earlier, I took this picture of a homeless man sleeping on a bitterly cold street corner. In the shadows of some of the most well-capitalized businesses on the planet, reality painted a decidedly different and less opulent picture.

As I pulled my coat tighter to ward off a sudden, deep chill, I felt the need to take another picture, something silly and trivial. Perhaps I hoped it would ease the guilt I felt at my good fortune next to this man's complete lack thereof.

It didn't work. Picture or not, he was still in his sleeping bag as I turned the corner and went into a nearby building for my meeting. I guess photography doesn't have the power to heal after all.

Your turn: Do you shoot pictures into mirrors? Do tell!

Return to King & Talbot

No longer the same
London, ON, March 2009
About this photo: It's "Windows on the world" week all week long. If you'd like to share your own windowed photo for Thematic Photographic, please click here.
This building keeps calling me. I first shot its old, nearly-abandoned beauty a couple of years back. When I returned on a cold, late winter late afternoon, it hadn't really changed all that much.

No more. I drove by a few months back and the building, whose second floor had long been forgotten - a common thing in downtown London, apparently...pity - was being rebuilt. A quick glance through the structure confirmed that it wouldn't look any thing like its old self once the cladding came down. I smiled at the prospect of old buildings being lovingly restored, and made a mental note to return with my camera.

Your turn: Why do we preserve old buildings?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sick and tired

We share things in our house. Some things, like hugs and stories of the day that was, are welcome. Others, like pointed barbs and head colds, are not. I find myself in the latter category this evening, so I'm doing my best to drink tea and make it go away.

So if my writing seems a wee incoherent over the next couple of days, at least now you'll know why.

Interesting observation #1: The dog always seems to hang with the person who needs the most TLC. To wit, his head is blocking my netbook's screen as he tried to alternately sniff my nose and lick the keyboard. I fail to understand the appeal for him, but I'm glad he's here. Sweet boy.

Interesting observation #2: If my voice gets any more ratty, I'm going to sound really cool for tomorrow night's radio hit with 640Toronto's John Downs.

I had hoped to ride the bike to work tomorrow. I'm thinking that may be pushing it at this point. Back to my tea and misery...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thematic Photographic 93 - Windows on the world

Alone on a quiet evening
Toronto, ON, December 2009
[Please click here for details on how Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo sharing opportunity, works]

I've been shooting through windows ever since I can remember. Photographically, it's always a bit of a risk because depending on lighting conditions, the results can be anything but predictable. Stray reflections, dirt and optical distortion all stand ready to ruin whatever scene you had hoped to capture.

But from where I sit, a tough situation - in photography as in life - isn't an invitation to walk away. Rather, it's a call to dive in and see what happens. As we explore our new Thematic Photographic theme, "Windows on the world", for the next week, I hope you'll think about the challenges of pointing your lens through panes of glass, and the neat things you see because you decided to break the rules a little.

Your turn: Please share a window-themed photo on your blog or photo sharing site, then post a link to it in a comment here. Repeat as often as you wish: We'll be doing this all week long. For more background on how Thematic Photographic works please click here. To see other TP-themed entries, click here. And most of all, have fun with it.

Reach for the sky

Will I ever be as tall as you?
Toronto, ON, December 2009
About this photo: We're winding down this week's Thematic Photographic theme, "Under construction" (more here) and will be introducing a new theme tonight at 7 p.m. ET. Suggestions welcome, because I'm feeling undecided at the moment.
I probably stare into the sky more often than I should. I probably wouldn't bump into as many things as I do if I kept my eyes level.

But something tells me I'd miss out if I ever changed my focus.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Scrubbing away the years

This diatribe is loosely related to the whole construction thing. Really. Stay with me and all will become apparent...

So I ventured into the basement this evening where my two bikes - the good one and the beater - were waiting patiently in the shadowy space behind the furnace. The good one is a lightweight hybrid, the one I ride when I want to enjoy myself, the one that would probably disappear in a heartbeat if I ever locked it up outside. Which I don't. So it never actually goes anywhere. I ride big, fast loops to wherever my wanderlust takes me, like the two Great Lakes within striking distance of my house. Then I come home and tuck it back away, out of sight.

The beater is quite another story. It's a big, rough-around-the-edges mountain bike. It was once a desirable machine, a Miele, with solid gears powering a solid, purple frame. But the years have taken their toll on this machine, so the casual observer would simply ignore it. Which is a good thing, because this is the machine that I bought, used, expressly to commute to work. I didn't want to cry if it ever got stolen.

As you may know, I've been working from home for a few years, so the beater bike sat unused and unloved all along. Until today. While driving home with the sunroof open, it dawned on me that it was almost time for me to return to my bike-commuting ways. I admit it's easier to simply jump in the car and drive. But I miss powering myself to the other side of the city. I miss the extra zing it adds to the workday.

So when I got home I pulled the beater out of its long-term parking spot, pumped up the tires, got the computer working again (rule #1: I never ride a bike that doesn't have a computer on it) and made sure all its parts still worked. I picked up a new lock and gloves, too, and will soon replace the ratty old paniers with bags that don't look like they're about to spill my clothes and lunch all over the road. Toe clips are on tap for tomorrow, and if the weather holds, Thursday's the day for my first ride.

In so many respects, it's trivial, I know. But what is life if not for the little things that bring little smiles to us and those around us? Maybe I need to rethink things a little. Pretty soon, I'll have the time to do just that, at least twice every workday.

Your turn: How do you get to work?

Related entries:

Tiger Woods, please go away

I wasn't going to give the world's most famous philanderer (sex addiction...sure, whatever) any more virtual ink than he's already had. But two things happened today that raised my blood pressure:
  • The radio station I was listening to on the drive home led its 6 p.m. newscast with Tiger's return to golfing.
  • A national televised newscast did the same thing later in the evening, calling his comeback at the Masters "the biggest media event of the decade."
After I finished gagging, I reached for my netbook. Because I needed to vent, and words are usually my chosen means of venting. So here goes:
  • This is not newscast-leading news. This shouldn't even be worthy of any newscast. Perhaps the sports report on the local newscast, but not mainstream, national, leadoff coverage. Lineup editors please take note: This is a perfect example of someone losing perspective. I know it's been a slow news day, but this just makes you look silly.
  • Why do we reward folks like this? Yes, he's a great golfer. Probably the greatest player of all time. But who decided he's more worthy of our awe than, say, the doctor who fixed my legs when I was a kid? Our concept of what constitutes a hero needs a reboot. While I'm at it, thank you, Dr. Green.
  • Don't we all have better things to do? Sadly, it seems many of us don't. I can't fault the newscasts exclusively. They are, after all, simply trying to meet demand. And as long as viewers/consumers demand celeb-infested coverage masquerading as news, that's what they'll deliver. Welcome to TMZ Nation, everyone. We're apparently getting what we've asked for.
Thanks to some of the best PR minds on the planet, Mr. Woods is well on his way to returning to the pantheon of sporting achievement. Years from now, his sex scandal will be a mere historical blip - though in the age of the Internet, I kinda wonder how he'll explain it all to his kids once they become adept with Google.

Until then, I find myself hoping the gatekeepers of conventional and new media count to ten before they drop their objectivity and bow down at the altar of Tiger. Because after what I've heard and seen today, they seem to be missing the point of journalism - which, to me, represents the real story here.

Your turn: Am I off-base here?

Monday, March 15, 2010

They've got game

London, ON, December 2009
About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is "under construction." Don't know what the heck I'm talking about? Head here.
Scenes like this scare me to no end. I've heard enough horror stories of scaffolding collapses to know disaster can strike anytime, anywhere. Despite the risks, workers like these two set aside their fears every day of the year so we can all have a roof over our head and secure walls to hold it all up.

I wasn't able to thank them this day because I was afraid to get any closer lest I scare them. So this entry will just have to do.

Your turn: What are these two discussing?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Living on the edge

Please. Don't. Fall.
Toronto, ON, December 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores "Under construction" this week. If you've come across anything that's a work-in-progress, please feel free to share it here.
I feared for this man's life as I watched him carefully excavate deep in an unseen corner of this frighteningly deep excavation. Oh, he was clearly a professional, and I don't want this to sound as if I doubted his abilities. But often as you watch skilled workers dance their way through an environment that would make regular folks faint, you find yourself holding your breath anyway. Because it all seems so unreal.

This hole will eventually become the foundation of a suitably tall building. Hundreds of people will work here, and I'm willing to bet precious few of them will ever take the time to think about the workers like this one who risked their lives to create the routine workplaces we take for granted.

Your turn: What's this guy building? Let's imagine, shall we?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Three dog years

Happy new-family birthday to me
Richmond Hill, ON, February 2010

If you're new to Written Inc., please allow me to introduce you to our dog, Frasier. As you can see, he desperately needs a haircut. Yup, I'm a bad dog dad. But look through all the messy, hypoallergenic fur and you can see one clearly happy animal. Which wasn't always the case, as his first experience with a family was less than successful.

Thankfully, he found us, and three years ago today, we brought this then-scraggly rescue dog home and began the painstakingly slow process of helping him learn what it's like to be unconditionally adored.

He's spending his new-family birthday surrounded by family from near and far. Kids of all ages are randomly hugging him and following him around the house. He does not, nor will he ever, lack for love. Happy birthday, our furry friend. How lucky we are that you joined our family.

Your turn: What's he thinking in the scene above?

Related links:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bring her to life

LPD-21, Commissioning Day
New York, NY, November 2009

I admit I'm stretching the "under construction" thing a little with this one. But please hear me out.

I was privileged to be in New York the same weekend the U.S. Navy brought its newest ship, the USS New York (LPD-21) to town for its commissioning ceremony. This is a poignantly significant vessel: Her bow is made of steel taken from the wreckage of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks.

It's hard to put into words what it meant, for me and for everyone there, to be standing in her shadow on this brilliantly sunny morning. Just over eight years after a similarly brilliant morning, it was evident just how much had changed since that awful day, and how great nations find a way to move on and grow. (We'll set aside political discussion of the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns for another day.)

I chatted with a crew member on his way to the ship and thanked him for his and his shipmates' sacrifices. I didn't think he heard it often enough from citizens too focused on their own needs to appreciate the needs of their protectors, and I wanted to make sure he heard it at least once on this day.

I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked here, drinking in the spirit of this ship and her crew. It was a long jog back to the hotel, and the day awaited. So I buttoned up the camera and headed back, confident that the construction of a ship, now complete, would enrich the construction of a nation and her people. That last process, of course, is a never-ending one.

Your turn: Constructing a nation and her people. Please discuss.

One more thing: Please follow this link to participate in this week's Thematic Photographic theme, "Under construction".

No parking...for some

The more time I spend on this planet, the less I understand some folks.

I present Exhibit A, the driver of this black Lincoln LS who parked right in front of the front door of the local mall at precisely 8:27 last night. I'm certain she was aware of the fact that she was parking in a fire route - and partially in front of the wheelchair-access ramp - because as she got out of the car, she glanced around her car, then stared right at the sign, then at me before she averted her eyes from mine and, able-bodied older kids in tow, scurried in to the pharmacy before the big sale on baby powder was over.

As the image of a too-lazy-to-park-properly middle-aged woman wearing sweatpants with a ginormous logo on the behind and covered in entirely too much makeup (owl motif, I believe) burned itself into my protesting brain, I thought about the new normal of selfishness that makes something like this an everyday occurrence. How on earth did we end up like this?

I briefly entertained leaving a note on her windshield, but reconsidered when I realized the futility of a stranger's intervention. I guess some people will never learn.

So instead, I took this horrid pic with my BlackBerry before tucking it away and rejoining my wife in the adjoining grocery store. Later, as we headed back to our (legally parked) wondervan, this car was still there. Guess she needed a lot of baby powder.

Your turn: Impolite people...I hope you'll share an experience from your own orbit.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thematic Photographic 92 - Under Construction

Diving board
Toronto, ON, December 2009
[Please click photo to embiggen]

Welcome to a new week of Thematic Photographic. This photo bridges last week's monochrome theme with our new one, Under construction. I selected the new theme after looking through my archives and realizing I take a heck of a lot of pictures of things being built. I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's because it will only be in this interim state for a blink before it's all done. Perhaps I feel a compelling need to stop the world's rush into the future, if only for a brief moment in time.

Whatever drives me to this somewhat odd obsession with the interim, I thought it would make for a fun week of exploration. Are you game?

Your turn: Please share a similarly themed photo on your blog (or photo sharing site, or any online resource, really) and then paste a link to it in a comment here. For more background on how Thematic Photographic works, please click here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Eye of the storm?
London, ON, June 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic...monochrome...your turn!
The scene: I'm a bit early for after-school pickup. It's a warm spring day, and parents are milling around the front doors waiting for the kids to be sprung. I'm not feeling particularly social on this day - yes, even I have days where I'd rather not play with the Happy Fun Ball - so I grab the camera and head to the other end of the parking lot.

It's brilliantly sunny, which through my lens isn't a good thing because it's washing out the detail on every available surface. The fact that I'm on a run-down sidewalk beside a four-lane arterial road packed with traffic doesn't help matters, as there isn't a whole lot of interesting scenery out here. But I persist because I've got another 10 minutes to kill and I'm not returning to the parking lot empty-handed. I'm stubborn that way.

The end result: Would you believe a telephone pole?

Your turn: The things we see when we have a bit of free time on our hands. Please discuss.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The peak of mediocre perfection

The great pyramids of London
London, ON, May 2009

I had a good time taking this one. I had dropped our munchkins off on a playdate one day last spring, and because I'm often obsessed with efficiency, didn't want to drive the 6 kilometers home only to make the return trip barely two hours later. So I took the camera with me and headed for a nearby park in the hope that I'd be inspired by the suburban sameness around me.

The park was unimaginably devoid of anything worth shooting. Check that: I'm sure there was something interesting. But I just didn't have the patience on that sunny, windy afternoon. So after walking around for a while and feeling nothing, I headed back to the wondervan. As I approached the street, my brain kicked back into gear and I suddenly saw stories in the suburban sameness.

So I stood on the sidewalk and shot across the street toward these rooftops. The sun was moving in and out of a passing bank of clouds, so it took me a bit longer than usual to get the shot. And while I stood there in a trench coat and boots, looking very Mad Max-, post-Apocalyptic-ish, I lost count of how many passing cars and pedestrians slowed down. Doubtless they wondered what the heck I was up to.

I think I was wondering, too. Either way, the thought that I could give a little jolt to complete strangers made me smile. Before long, my watch beeped, so I packed up my traveling photographic freak show and headed off to pick up the little ones.

Your turn: How do strangers react to your pulling out your camera?

About this photo: It's Thematic Photographic's monochrome week. The fun starts here. It really does!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Out of business

What the recession looks like
London, ON, March 2009

It's easy to treat the economic downturn as a kind of abstract, something that exists only in headlines. But walk around your neck of the woods and I'm sure it won't be long before you see the physical impact of it all. Namely, when folks lose jobs and lose confidence, they stop buying stuff. Which forces businesses like this out of business. Which causes more folks to lose jobs. And so on. Fun little cycle, isn't it?

I've driven by this storefront countless times since I first took this. It's still empty. Sadly, most of the adjoining units in this tired old strip mall are just as bare, waiting hopefully for the day when life will return here. I often wonder if that day will ever come.

Your turn: What does the economic downturn look like where you are? If you've got a monochrome picture to share, head here.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Fit to be tied

Nothing but net
London, ON
January 2009

When I was a lot younger than I am now, I despised basketball. I had always been short for my age, and I had the misfortune to attend a high school that, despite excellent academics, was the most basketball-crazy school you could imagine. Every phys-ed class ended up being an excuse for the gym teacher to pick shirts and skins and let us spend the entire period playing pickup b-ball. The only intramural sport that mattered was, you guessed it, basketball.

So after years of being picked last and honing my distaste of this overdone sport, I was glad to graduate and finally put it all behind me. To this day, I have no desire to pick up the orange ball.

That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the sport, however. Because as far as aesthetics go, there's lots to like about this game. I'm drawn to it through my lens precisely because it's so simple. There aren't a whole lot of elements associated with it - ball, net, court, sneakers, etc. - so it's always a challenge to tell the story within such a sparse context. I've tried this before, but once is never enough for me. So on a cold winter's night when my kids were playing b-ball at a local gym, I ventured onto the court and zeroed in on the net.

Funny how I enjoyed the experience much more this time out.

Your turn: A sport you love and/or hate. Please discuss.

One more thing: This photo is monochrome, though I didn't set out to shoot it that way. If you've got some black-and-white goodness that you'd like to share as part of this week's Thematic Photographic, just click here.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Where the trees begin

Life, interrupted
Richmond Hill, ON, February 2010
About this photo: It's monochrome week all week long. If you've got a monochrome photo to share, please click here. If you're new to Thematic Photographic, here's a primer.
Some of us choose to look at trees in winter as lifeless shadows of their former selves. On the surface, they often look forlorn, spindly, empty. But if you look closely, almost close your eyes and feel their presence, you realize there's much more going on.

I tried to appreciate this morose-looking stand of trees as I stood on a windswept hill with my sister. Our kids were screaming up and down the hill on their toboggans, enjoying the bitter cold as only children can. I couldn't shake the sadness of the past few months from my head, but was immensely glad we had all figured out how to carve out these little, precious opportunities to get together and just be. Maybe those trees weren't so grey after all.

The more I looked at the trees, the more I saw in them. I imagined that every fragile-looking branch represented potential life. I knew that life would be ready to show itself once the snow melts and the spring sun returns. The pall of grey that defined the tree line would soon be gone, replaced by a riot of green that few of us ever take the time to appreciate. I looked past the grey to a somewhat brighter, more colorful future. The thought made me smile.

I'll return to this place on our next visit, and if I play my cards right I'll have my camera in hand. But until then, this is the scene, the moment that I'll hold on to as I remind myself that imagining the potential is often as rich an experience as seeing the end result.

Your turn: What do we see when we take the time to see the forest for the trees? (Sorry, I'm feeling existential tonight. Thanks for humoring me.)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Thematic Photographic 91 - Monochrome madness

Some things were meant to be grabbed
London, ON, January 2010

I've chosen "Monochrome madness" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme because I've always been drawn to scenes that aren't kaleidoscopes of color. I tend to view color as a sense, and when it's taken away - well, let's say muted, because monochrome scenes do technically use color, only not as broadly - I think we lean more heavily on our other optical senses, like composition and texture, to understand and appreciate the scene.

This scene's a great example. I wasn't particularly thinking monochrome. In fact, this is a full-color image. But I was shooting at night under the sodium vapor lights of a nearly empty parking lot (London's Angelo's, if we're being specific) so the scene naturally had the color sucked out of it. I was content to stand in the bitterly clear, cold night until I got the shot I wanted.

Your turn: If you've got a monochrome picture or two in your collection, I hope you'll share it on your blog and then leave a link to it in a comment here. We'll be sharing monochrome-themed pics through next Wednesday. If you're new to the TP thing, please click here.


Watery flora
Laval, QC, October 2009

I had been walking alone by the river on this early morning, wondering about the kinds of things one wonders about when life seems more overwhelming than usual. We were staying with my mom, our first visit with her since my father had passed away a few weeks earlier. Everything felt different, largely a result of the fact that we were all still working through the shock. I don't think I was doing a particularly job of it - then as now - so I thought some quiet time with a camera might help.

The waterways that surround the neighborhood had always been good to me. When I was a kid, riding my bike down here, even for a short while, was often enough to help me think through the complexities of life. I'd get back home with a renewed sense of what I needed to do next. And why.

I can't say that happened following this particular walk. I think I returned with more questions than I had when I left the house. But at least I got a few minutes of silence to reflect on a place that had brought my father more than a small amount of peace in the final few years of his life. For now, at least, that would have to be enough.

Your turn: Where do you go to reflect? Does it help?

One more thing: This photo begins the wind-down of this week's Thematic Photographic theme, "The grass is always greener." There's still time to share your own - just follow your mouse here. A new theme goes up tonight (Wed.) at 7:00 Eastern. What will it be? I honestly don't know just yet, but I'm always open to suggestions.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Little boy at play

Leaving his mark
London, ON, May 2009
Please note: This photo supports our latest Thematic Photographic theme, "The grass is always greener." If you're feeling green - which would make Kermit proud - please click here to join in.
can immerse himself in play wherever he is. He grabs whatever's closest, chalk in this case, and fills the few moments that he has with activity. On this morning before school, I hung around the school yard and watched him.

When the bell rang, he ran into line with his classmates and I slowly turned and walked back toward the real world, where the simple art of play isn't as visible as it is here.

Your turn: What can kids teach us?