Sunday, May 31, 2009

General Motors goes bankrupt. An era ends.

The inconceivable is about to become reality as GM is expected to declare bankruptcy on Monday. It's one of those days when you can't help but think that the world has shifted just a bit.

One of the first cars I ever drove - my mom's - was a Pontiac. It was a miserable piece of machinery whose parts meandered down the road in close formation and guzzled gas in between extended periods sitting outside the mechanic's shop. I was privileged to have the occasional moment behind the wheel because, frankly, when you're a teenager, driving yourself beats waiting for a bus. But in retrospect, this single vehicle epitomized everything about the North American automotive industry and the roots that eventually took hold and resulted in the implosion we're witnessing today.

I've seen a lot of anti-Detroit sentiment in recent months. Critics say the Big 3 - or whatever's left of them - deserve everything they're getting today, that they had it coming. Factually, they're not wrong. GM, Ford and Chrysler have spent decades pawning off indifferently designed and manufactured products on buyers they viewed with thinly disguised arrogance. They've wrongly assumed that consumers would routinely come back for more - a fatal error given how quickly foreign competitors capitalized on the domestic vendors' mistakes.

Yet as the pillars of a century-old industry are dismantled in a high-stakes, last-ditch attempt to save it, those who cheer the demise of the domestics would do well to appreciate how much pain the process will ultimately cause. Tens of thousands of jobs are being lost. When ripple effects are factored in - dealerships, suppliers, companies that rely on the core ecosystem, etc. - the number swells by an order of magnitude, if not more.

We may vent our frustration at the clueless suits who literally drove these businesses into the ground, but we owe the legions of victims of their hubris - the regular folks who simply wanted to work, raise families and be part of their communities - something more than a snide comment and a shrug. As we've all learned, after all, individual fortunes can turn on a dime, and those who torment the loudest may yet find themselves on the wrong side of the economic wave.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Caption This 123

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
London, ON, April 2009 [Click to embiggen]
About this photo: As part of the latest Thematic Photographic theme, we're sharing single-themed photos all week long. It's quite an easy one this time out: if the pic includes only one thing in it, we want to see it. Head on over here to jump in. I promise it won't hurt.
London's home to more Canada Geese than I can count. They're stunning to watch in flight, though I must admit they have quite the nasty streak if you encounter them on the ground. High speed cyclists would also do well to proceed carefully in areas where they're known to gather. Don't ask how I know this.

Still, watching them skim low over the water is one of the simple joys I can never tire of.

Your turn: Please caption this photo. Just click on the comment link below and give it your best shot. Multiple submissions are always welcome, as are collaborations. Be as funny and creative as you wish: I'll announce the winner next Sunday. For more background on Caption This - including instructions - please click here.

About last week's photo of a cotton ball display in the grocery store: I love funny signs, especially those that are created unintentionally. I guess when you're working at the grocery store and are under pressure to keep the shelves stocked, the customers satisfied and the inventory from walking itself out the door, agonizing over word choices on in-store signage probably isn't your top priority.

This week's honorable menschens include the following good folks:
  • Jinksy: "On the ball, I see!"
  • Dan Brown: "We're breast obsessed"
  • Mojo: "Shouldn't your shopping cart feel good all under too?"
Dana wins the prize with "A gal can never have enough balls in her life." I've written about Dana previously - she's a repeat CT winner - so I won't belabor the point beyond this: You must read her. Go. Now. Great blogging shall ensue.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Archie's singular stupidity

Archie Andrews, perpetually time-challenged comic book anti-hero, made headlines this week when he announced - on his blog, no less - that he would be proposing to uber-bitchy Veronica Lodge instead of sweet and kind Betty Cooper.

It's all part of the runup to the 600th edition of the long-running comic series. And if I had to rate the effort on a social media success scale, I'd have to say it's an off the charts success. After all, here's a serial that's been behind the times for decades and was long ago written off as irrelevant by pretty much anyone who even remembers it.

My first thought when I saw the headlines this week was surprise. Surprise that Archie was even still published in the Internet Age. I assumed, apparently wrongly, that its prime audience had long ago moved on to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

I guess I was mistaken, for in one brilliant move, Archie has become headline news once more. I know most folks won't admit to secretly scoping out the supermarket checkout aisle as they count the days until #600 hits the stands, but it's an easy guess the publishers just added an extra zero or two to the bottom line.

(Quick note: the issue goes on sale this August. Until then, follow the inane discussion on Archie's/Jughead's blog.)

Marketing aside, Archie's choice makes me gag. If it takes 67 years for an indecisive, two-dimensional character to decide he'd prefer to spend his life with a vacuous shrew whose father has severe anger management issues, then there isn't a whole lot anyone can say to change his mind.

Yet when the alternative is Betty, kind, empathetic, so-much-hotter-for-her-plainness Betty, you've got to think that at the age of 67, Archie may be suffering from some as-yet undiagnosed disease that has compromised his judgment.

Your turn: You've got one line of advice to share with the eternally love-blind Archie Andrews. What do you say to him?

One more thing: It's Thematically Photographic's single-themed week. Click here to share your singular vision. Red hair notwithstanding.

Make that two. I came across these two exceptionally well-written perspectives on the Archie thing. Happy reading:
Betty, Veronica blinded by love (Canwest)
Gulp! After 7 decades, Archie picks Veronica (Toronto Star)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Single span

Load bearing
London, ON, April 2009 [Click to embiggen]
About this photo: It's "single" week, and if you're feeling Thematically Photographic, click here to share your own single-themed photo. I, for one, can't wait to see what you've got.
This near-magical old bridge, known as Blackfriar's, spans the Thames River in one fell swoop. Granted, I don't live in that London, so our Thames is decidedly smaller than theirs. But an amazingly old, still-functioning piece of engineering history that crosses the river in a single, elegant span is impressive even on our more humble, Canadian scale.

I've explored this structure previously, and I'll be sharing more views of it soon. I guess some things bring us so much comfort that we can't help returning to them time and again.

Your turn: Why does the familiar feel so comfortable?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Premiering in Betanews

If you've followed my side life as a tech analyst, you may recall I've been quoted in Betanews a number of times over the past couple of years. I've long enjoyed working with this organization because it's got deep techie roots, doesn't pander to its audience, and gives me a chance to explore topics more thoroughly than most other outlets. It's intelligent tech media, period.

My ultimate goal is to be a regular contributor to as many tech media as is humanly possible, so I'm pleased to report I'm one step closer today. Starting today, I'm publishing a new twice-weekly column in Betanews. It's entitled Wide Angle Zoom, and I'll be exploring the big picture issues that matter the most in the tech industry. Here's the first piece:

Five Vista perception problems Windows 7 must overcome

Hope you enjoy the read(s)!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thematic Photographic 51 - Single

The One
London, ON
May 2009
[Click to enlarge]

I've chosen "single" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme because I've always believed simplicity trumps complexity.

When I was teenaged wannabe-writer looking for guidance, the most treasured advice I received along the way was from an editorial writing professor who hammered home the need to focus on one thing. He'd often repeat the term, "The One" with a flash in his eye and a wave of his hand - his point being that if you focused on one thing only and rigidly-brutally kept things wrapped around that one core thesis, you'd end up with a much more powerful, emotionally effective message.

He sadly passed on just over five years ago (see blog post) but his lesson lives on in me and so many other working journalists. Whenever I write, or shoot, or speak, I start with the one thing I want folks to remember, then build a storyline around that. If it doesn't directly connect, support or feed off of that central core, it gets tossed.

Brutal, I know. But necessary.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Fido not welcome

Too graphic?
Port Stanley, ON
September 2008
About this photo: We've been touching on sign-themed photos all week long. As this latest Thematic Photographic theme winds down, you've still got time to share your own by heading here. What's next week's theme? Scroll down...
Two thoughts come to mind when I see a sign like this:
  • People are really dumb.
  • They're also inconsiderate, and they ruin it for all of us.
Which saddens me. Because if people would simply pick up after themselves and their pets, signs like this wouldn't be needed in the first place. And if they weren't so thick-skulled, we wouldn't need painted-on strings of flying poo to illustrate the point in excruciating detail.

Needless to say, my kids thought this was laughably absurd.

Your turn: If dogs could read. Please discuss.

What's up tomorrow? A new Thematic Photographic theme, of course! I'll post the first entry of the week at exactly 7:00 p.m. Wednesday. To give y'all a chance to mull over the topic, here it is:


I know it seems a little bizarre, but it's actually quite simple. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as there's only ONE in the frame. Time to get churning on a topic that's bound to spawn some wondrously creative contributions.

Monday, May 25, 2009

North Korea's nuclear world tour

I have no intentions of going geopolitical on you. But I can't let this moment in history pass into the past without a brief mention.

As many of you likely know, North Korea conducted an underground nuclear explosion yesterday (Happy Memorial Day, die!) This follows hard on the rogue nation's fizzled launch of a long-range missile early last month.

I just wanted to thank Kim Jong-il, the nutbar leader of this sad, sad nation for reintroducing an element of life - the threat of nuclear annihilation - we all thought had been retired with the end of the Cold War. I grew up amid a tense, long-term nuclear standoff across the Iron Curtain, East-vs-West sabre rattling and fears the Soviet Union might actually succeed in paving Europe a lovely shade of pinko red.

I remember learning at the age of seven how fast an ICBM could make it to my hometown after launch, and what it would do to me when it got there. At the age of eight, I was writing compositions that explained how MIRVs worked and why nuclear weapons made no sense.

And now a nation that can't afford to feed its citizens instead chooses to allocate scant resources to a technology and a capability that can only bring more misery inside and outside its borders. I get that this little punk of a country wants so-called respect from world powers. I get that lighting off a nuke perversely strengthens its negotiating position. I get that my now-eight-year-old son may find himself writing about a topic I thought we had retired for good.

I also get that citizens without a chance have now been shoved even deeper into a hole that was never of their making. This is all so wrong on more levels than I can count.

Bite me, Kim Jong-il. suck. And don't count on getting a Chanukah card from me this year, either. You're off the list.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Caption This 122

Please caption this image
[Click here for more background on how Caption This works]
London, ON, April 2009

About this photo: It's a week of signs here at Written Inc. If you want in on the Thematic Photographic goodness, click here.
Grocery stores have always been happy places to take my camera (see here, here and here for earlier examples.) I'm not sure if it's the subject matter as much as it is the subversiveness of it all. The risk of getting caught adds a certain edge to the process: Compose in your mind, prep settings, compose and shoot before a store employee sees you. It all happens so quickly that you don't have much opportunity to second guess yourself.

And if you do get caught, make sure you have a funny excuse. Talking your way out of being ejected from the store only adds to the experience.

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this image. Click on the comment link and go to town - multiple entries welcome. I'll post the winner next Sunday. If you're new to Caption This, please click here for more background. Oh, and while you're at it, what should I shoot the next time I'm at the grocery store? More importantly, will any of you bail me out if I get caught?

About last week's photo of a sweet old lady walking her dog: I wish every moment could be as genteel as this one. I wasn't the only one. Honorable menschens go to the following good folks:
  • Dana: "Made for each other."
  • Sara: "Kindred spirits."
  • Jean: "Where do you want to go today?"
Terri takes it with "Walking Miss Daisy." It just fits, and it wouldn't surprise me if the dog's name actually was Miss Daisy. Terri's one of the few people on the planet who's stuck a needle in my arm. She's a nurse who used to work the floor at the blood donation clinic here in London, but has since moved up the ladder - very good for her career, but the donors all miss her. She doesn't have a blog, but someone near and hear to her does - guaranteed to make you smile.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Neon - not the Chrysler

We never close
London, ON
September 2008

About this photo: We're exploring signs all week as part of the latest Thematic Photographic theme. If you aren't sure what I'm talking about (and no worries, most days I have no clue) head over here.
There's something uniquely American about neon lighting. Although it's most directly associated with a long-gone era defined by drive-ins, tail fins and clean-cut teenagers who didn't swear, there's something timeless about it, and designers and architects continue to use it extensively.

Which works for me, because few signs make me want to stand on a dark sidewalk and stare at them. These, however, do. They cast off such warm, welcoming light that it's hard to avoid letting your imagination wander. Neon doesn't just sit there; it tells a story and invites you to hang around long enough to appreciate it. Kudos to anyone who finds a tasteful way to integrate it into a facade.

I doubt a conventional plastic-covered fluorescent panel could ever elicit the same kind of emotional response.

Your turn: Have you had a memorable neon moment? Go on, don't be shy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Impolite pool

Missing the golden rule
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008

Long before individual strands of hair on my head began going grey, in that dusty period of my life before I had kids - or, gasp, met my wife - I was a lifeguard. It was a pretty cherished part-time and summer job through my teens, as it kept me away from the grease fryer at the local fast food joint and gave me an excuse to learn the basic skills of life that have helped me ever since.

It's also where I met my wife, so it's always with a sense of gratitude that I walk onto a pool deck, smell the chlorine and return, if only for a moment, to a slice of my life where some very important roots were being laid down.

Of course, I'm a picky SOB. So while I'm perusing the facility, I inevitably critique the place. I assess the condition of the deck, the safety equipment and the water quality. I hover over my kids as they swim, never quite willing to leave it to the now-much-younger generation of guards who occupy the chair. I read the rules, too. And nothing is ever quite good enough.

To wit, whoever wrote the rules for this particular pool either had a terrible childhood or was surrounded by a cadre of nattering lawyers intent on dotting every last i. Or both. Either way, negatively-themed lists like these on public-facing signs always prompt a stab of sadness in me. I wish we had the gumption to set aside the ridiculous legalities more often so we could simply revel in the simple pleasures of life. I wish I had the gumption to paint over this sign and start from scratch with something a little more human.

But given this was the pool near my in-laws' place, I thought that might not be such a bright idea.

Your turn: Please share one rule for the pool. Or for life. Or both.

For more background on this week's Thematic Photographic theme, signs, please click here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thematic Photographic 50 - Signs

Missed nut
Williamsburg, KY, January 2009

I've always found it ironic that signs are literally everywhere you look, but they seem to pass through our lives almost invisibly. Maybe we're so saturated with commercialism that we've trained ourselves to experience them subconsciously. Either way, a few months back I started looking more closely at these briefly literary mirrors of society. And I was intrigued with the way even a seemingly plain sign like this can hold stories for anyone who stops long enough to give it some thought.

So for the next week, Thematic Photographic explores signs. They can be mundane, unique, commercial or handmade - if they somehow deliver messages to in a sorta public manner, they're in. Are you?

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

Lost child. Lost innocence.

I first wrote about Tori Stafford here, soon after she disappeared after being let out of her Woodstock, Ontario elementary school. Since then, no one knew who abducted the eight-year-old or what her fate would be. All that's changed today.

The news isn't good. A man, Michael Thomas C.S. Rafferty, and Terri-Lynne McClintic, his teenaged girlfriend, have been arrested in connection with her disappearance. Charges include abduction and murder. Reports - currently unconfirmed - are circulating that her body has been found. It's the worst possible outcome for a family and community that held out hope that this little girl would be returned home safely.

I guess the world doesn't work that way.

Over the next few days, weeks and months, we'll doubtless learn more than we ever wanted to know about how a girl on her way home from school ended up in the clutches of a monster. And we'll wonder once again how these monsters are created, and why bad things happen to innocent folks whose only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I'll be hugging my kids a little more tightly tonight as I say a prayer for a lost innocent and her family. I hope you'll do the same.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Waiting

Not my train
Brantford, ON, March 2009

About this photo: We're wrapping up this week's Thematic Photographic theme, human, with this image. If you'd like to share your own human-themed scene, you've still got time (frankly, you can always share a pic on any TP entry. Far be it for me to spoil the fun, right?) Scroll down for details on next week's exciting theme.
In my mind, the defining characteristic of train travel is the blurry countryside that continuously paints the huge windows on either side of the car. While planes force passengers to see a faraway world through porthole-like holes in an otherwise closed-up cabin, trains invite the outside in, and treat passengers to a front-row view of the best and the worst of the communities through which they pass.

I always see something new whenever I travel this way. And it never gets old.

Your turn: What's he thinking?

Coming up tomorrow: Tune back in at 7:00 p.m. EDT Wednesday (tomorrow!) when we post the first Thematic Photographic entry of the week.) Our new theme will be:


Please give it some thought and come on back starting tomorrow eve to share your vision.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hubble's long, lonely goodbye

As some of you may know, I'm a bit of a spacehead. Make that a major spacehead. If it flies, I'm fascinated by it. If it flies above the atmosphere, so much the better.

So I've been watching NASA's latest mission, STS-125, with great interest. As I write this, spacewalking astronauts from the Space Shuttle Atlantis are conducting a final inventory of tools in the cargo bay before they head back inside the cabin for good (footage available on NASA-TV here.) This particular spacewalk is significant in that it is the last one of the last servicing mission. This is the last time humans will touch the Hubble Space Telescope before the shuttle cuts it loose for its final few years of service.

Yes, it's just a machine, and yes, I'm probably making too much of a big deal of this. But this one spacecraft has almost singlehandedly rewritten everything we know about astronomy in its 19 years aloft. And NASA's decision to greenlight a final servicing mission and the astronauts' own devotion to the cause reinforce just how important Hubble's science capabilities have become to the rest of us on the ground.

Anytime we spend huge sums of money on space, we inevitably hear the whining from folks who say money spent in outer space would be better spent feeding the poor at home. My simple response: The society that fails to shoot for the stars is forever doomed to remain on the ground.

Your turn: How does all of this matter? To us? To you?

(We are indeed still talking about humanity. Click here for more Thematic Photographic, or here for this week's Caption This.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Caption This 121

Walk with me
London, ON
April 2009

[Click to enlarge]

About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is "human". Please click here for more background.
I don't know where she came from. But as I walked to the nearby grocery store to pick up some fixins for the pantry, I almost bumped into her as she slowly matched her progress to her dog's. I smiled at both of them - dog owner thing, I guess - and watched them continue past me.

As I continued on my way, I couldn't stop thinking about this quiet, dignified lady in the beige hooded jacket and pink hat. At first glance - usually all she'd get from most passers-by - it seemed like a sad scene. But on further reflection, it really wasn't.

If dogs are indeed humankind's best friend, then I quite obviously had just witnessed a very simple-yet-powerful relationship in action. She took care of the dog despite her own challenges, and the dog reciprocated in kind by being her friend. We should all be so lucky to have such connectedness.

Your turn: The golden years. Please discuss.

About last week's photo of real estate brochure boxes: I took this photo because they were almost personified in their placement, bunched together against the cold, grey day. You were similarly moved by the moment, as evidenced by this week's Honorable Menschens:
  • Linda: "A roof over our heads."
  • Robin: "Free, to a good home."
  • Terri: "Downsizing."
  • Hilary: "Once again, Big Bird wins Monopoly with excess housing on Sesame Street's Boardwalk."
  • Dana: "Gated community."
Martin takes it with "Shrunken housing market" which, in a great bit of timing, seems to sum up how so many of us are feeling these days. He hails from Manchester, England, and his photojournalist's soul is obvious in every picture he takes. His blog, Moments in time, is an absolute delight.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Welcoming the day

At peace
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008

I admit feeling somewhat small whenever I stand beside a major body of water. That feeling is intensified when I'm privileged enough to be there at the beginning or end of the day. A visit to the east coast at sunrise is almost mythical, as you get to be among the first to welcome the new day. As you face the brightening sky, there's a twinge in your subconscious that subtly reminds you of all the sleeping folks behind you who are missing out on the moment.

I hope they get a chance to be here some morning soon, as despite the massive distances involved, it's clearly a very human-scaled way to start the day.

Your turn: My mind raced as I tried to imagine this gentleman's story. What's your take on how he came to be here?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Small town gathering place

Where's Old Man King?
Dry Ridge, KY, December 2008

This bench is reserved for Tom King, otherwise known as Old Man King. We were just passing through this small Kentucky town, so we didn't have the chance to hang around outside the convenience store that overlooks the gas bar and, across the parking lot, this old house. Otherwise, we might have met this obviously locally famous gentleman.

So I took this picture instead, confident that his absence from the frame took nothing away from his influence over this place - or over us as we continued our journey.

Your turn: This is another contribution toward Thematic Photographic's human-themed week. I warned you it would be different! Got anything different of your own to share? If so, please head here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

He thinks he's human

London, ON, April 2009

About this photo: As part of Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo-theme nuttiness, we're supporting the human theme (click here for more.) I realize this entry seems to be about a dog. I'll venture it's about humanity, and how something as small as a dog can bring out the best in his biped companions.
I've come to the conclusion that our dog, Frasier, will never win best in show at any National Kennel Club-sanctioned competition. If there's a provincial competition, he won't win there, either. Come to think of it, if they held a competition for all the dogs on our block, he'd lose that, too. Assuming he'd qualify. Which is highly doubtful.

Yet for all his imperfections - his bark can wake someone sleeping three blocks away, he eats garbage, he scratches at the front door, he jumps up at the dinner table, he steals comforters and he smells like dog - I can't imagine our family without him. He has a goodness about him that's endlessly endearing. The world can suck sometimes thanks to people who seem to revel in meanness, yet this unpredictable little being manages to balance it all off with a demeanor that begins and ends with happy.

And on this day, he was happy. The kids were off from school and had invited some friends over. We went to the park for some runaround time, and while we were there he calmly sat beside me and watched them play. Didn't freak out at the other kids. Didn't bark. Didn't bolt. He just sat there like the perfect dog he so often is not. Even the neighborhood moms seemed to like him.

As I write this, he's barking at the patio door - probably saw a bird fly by - and has already barfed up the chicken scraps he found at the bottom of a Hefty bag. As annoying as he can be, I can't help but think that the good little heart in there makes our decision to bring him home the smartest one we've made in a while.

Your turn: What makes a dog good?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thematic Photographic 49 - Human

Someone to watch over me
Toronto, ON, March 2009 [Click to enlarge]

The scene: A bitterly cold late-winter's morning, a stone's throw from the very center of the country's largest, most influential and, yes, most profitable businesses. The wind whips around the downtown skyscrapers, making a miserable day even more so. It's bad enough when you're well dressed, well fed and you know you've got a home to return to.

As I approach this unfortunate soul, I see commuters avert their eyes from the shapeless form. He struggles with the wind, trying to keep it from blowing his makeshift home away. Just when I think he's all alone, a caring soul stops and leans in to chat. She smiles warmly, looks him directly in the eyes, and speaks to him as a human being, not someone to be ignored and forgotten.

I quietly hope that a stranger's warmth is enough to at least temporarily offset the intense cold - from Mother Nature as well as his fellow humans - that seems to define his life.

Your turn: This photo kicks off our new Thematic Photographic theme, human. What kind of pictures can you share over the next seven days? Well, as long as they have something to do with people, pretty much anything. They can be happy, sad, thought provoking, silly or anything in between. I hope this week's theme encourages you to explore the people side of your photography. If you're new to TP, here's the lowdown:
  • Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...human!
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - One person's weed...

Little, yellow, not-so-different
London, ON, May 20
About this photo: We're winding down our exploration of all things yellow (you can still submit yours by clicking here.) It's been such an eye-opening journey that I think I'll toss more colors into the hopper for future Thematic Photographic themes. You game? Either way, a new theme's coming Wednesday. Scroll down to see what it'll be.
Our province finally opened its eyes and enacted a sweeping anti-pesticide bylaw that took effect this spring. For the most part, landowners are now banned from using a range of chemicals to keep their lawns looking silky smooth.

What does that mean? Well, aside from my no longer having to worry that my goat-like dog will grow a third ear from eating the neighbor's grass before I catch sight of the little "just sprayed" sign, it means the elusive perfect lawn has just become that much more elusive. Welcome to dandelion city, folks.

Which begs the question: who decides what is and is not a weed? As I drove past this stretch of grass one fine morning, I was struck by how arresting the endless stretch of yellow looked. Why, then, was this hardy little flower seen as a pest? Frankly, I'd rather deal with yellow weeds - a known entity, if you will - than the mysterious long-term effects of cosmetic herbicides and pesticides on me and my family.

What's nuttier than letting supposed weeds overrun the landscape is risking our future health for the sake of an unnaturally uniform stretch of green turf. Something told me the planet got along fine before all this crap was invented, and it'll do just fine now, too.

Your turn: Lawn chemicals...yea or nay?

Almost forgot: Drop in tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. EDT when we'll unveil the first Thematic Photographic entry of the new week. And what, pray tell, will the new theme be?


Please chew on this one for a bit...see ya back here tomorrow...

Don't anger the Apple fanboys

I think I've gotten some Macheads angry with my latest column for TG Daily, Apple, go cheap or go home: Time to dump the elitist strategy.

It's always a kick to stoke the fires. I'm perpetually amazed at how so many commenters fail to really read a piece before they blow their wad. For all the sophistication of today's web-based interactive media, the online landscape remains dominated by Cro-Magnon. Either way, great fun.

Disclosure: We're a mixed-geek-race family, with Windows boxes - XP, Vista and, gasp, 98 - sharing space with two Macs.

Your turn: Mac? PC? Does any of this matter, anyway?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vignette - a sign for my son

Caution, history ahead
London, April 2009 [Click to enlarge]
Photo by Zach Levy
About this photo: It's a yellow week, all week long. To get the lowdown on the latest Thematic Photographic theme, please click here. We're taking yellow-themed submissions right through till Wednesday night.
The scene: Blackfriars Bridge. This wrought iron treasure sits on the eastern edge of the city's downtown area, carrying traffic as it has throughout its 134-year history. After picking my son up from a friend's house, we found ourselves with a bit of free time before we had to head home, so I suggested a slight detour and walkabout. Just because.

As soon as we got out of the car, I handed him the camera and told him to grab whatever he wanted. Carte blanche with his dad's camera: score! As we slowly approached the span, he methodically took it all in with his eyes, deciding what he did and did not want to capture. He noted how the perspectives continued to change as we approached, continued to make this bridge we had crossed so many times before look different than it ever had.

I deliberately walked steps behind him, resisting the urge to impose my own photographic will on him. This was his turn, and I was curious to see how he'd decide to proceed.

As it turned out, he did just fine. Left to his own devices, he told the story of this old structure in ways that wouldn't have occurred to me. Sure, he asked me questions along the way if he wasn't sure how something worked, and I did my best to answer them, quickly and thoroughly before reverting to my proud papa mode.

In the end, putting the camera into his hands and turning him loose opened my eyes as much as it opened his. And as he develops his own world view - with a camera, with whatever - I'll be perfectly happy to stand back and watch, ready to answer any questions he has along the way, but still content to resist the urge to grab the reins.

Your turn: Beginning to let go. Please discuss.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Caption This 120

Please help me caption this photo
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
London, ON, February 2009
About this photo: If it's got yellow in it, we want to see it. Thematic Photographic's all over this incredible shade this week. Head here to be (bee?) part of the action.
You never know what you'll find when you peer over the fence of the city-owned equipment depot. Most people don't know it's there, and even if they did, they'd likely never take the time to look inside. What's interesting, after all, about a dirty, dusty wasteland filled with garbage trucks, piles of materials and other forgettable equipment? Never mind that this is what keeps the city more or less running - most folks simply can't be bothered to take a second look. Or even a first, for that matter.

But the really tall snowbank beside the chain link fence was too inviting. So while I waited for the end-of-day bell to ring at the munchkins' school, I climbed up, leaned precariously against a tree that swayed ominously in the wind, and shot away. Other parents stared, doubtless concluding I had finally lost it. I smiled at the thought of being judged for diverging from the herd. I'd rather follow my own decidedly different route, anyway.

Your turn: Now that I've taken it, I need your help naming it. Can you come up with a caption that best describes this photo? You can be as funny, flip or out-there as you wish. You can suggest as many as your brain can come up with - just click on the comment link below and go to town. We'll be taking suggestions all week, and will announce the winner next Sunday. For more background on our weekly Caption This funfest, click here.

About last week's disco-themed photo: Nostalgia's a powerful thing, and I'm glad you were able to take this journey back with me. Honorable menschens go to the following kind, creative folks:
  • Terri: "Time warp."
  • Hilary: "Over thirty years later and still Stayin' Alive."
  • Dana: "One rhythm wonder" and "Studio 54 wannabe."
  • Moments in time: "The YMCA is next door" (Ironic, given the real YMCA is just a few blocks away.)
Daryl's "Where's the ball?" takes it this week. Daryl's perspectives on New York City, in words and images, are not to be missed. She has a way of dissecting the everyday in ways that inspire me to look at my own neighborhood in different ways. Click here to visit her - you'll be a fan in no time.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A shapely Italian

Hot blooded, at rest
Laval, QC, August 2008

With Chrysler's merger with Fiat all but a done deal, this yellow Ferrari Testarossa that lives in the parking garage of my parents' building somehow springs to mind. Fiat also owns Ferrari, so it's not much of a stretch to envision future Sebring drivers - assuming there are any left - mimicking Goggles Paisano as they pull on open-knuckled leather driving gloves to shuttle the kids to karate practice.

Maybe not. But the geneology is neat. As is the geometry of the body of this car. Truth be told, this particular vehicle hasn't aged well. The owner deserves a spanking for letting it deteriorate. Light lenses are cracked, pieces of moulding are askew and stretches of paint would barely pass muster on a Yugo let alone a car that sold for the equivalent of an average house mortgage.

Yet despite its relatively sad condition, it's still easy to find angles that play to this car's strengths (see earlier blog entries here and here.) Say what you want about stratospheric purchase costs, laughable practicality and criminally pathetic reliability, but there's no denying these cars were penned by artists who understood to the base of their souls how to translate design into timeless emotion.

Your turn: We're still playing with yellow as part of this week's Thematic Photographic theme. Head here to get started.

Friday, May 08, 2009

On a journey

Together we ride
London, ON, March 2009 [Click photo to embiggen, and click here for more yellow-themed nuttiness]

It's been an eventful day in the world of Carmi. My treasure of a wife, with the illustrious Mojo's able guidance, hijacked my blog and outed me. (If you haven't seen it, click here. I'll wait.)

So now you know: Today marks another orbit around the sun for me; a birthday, if you will. And in our family, my wife always makes sure birthdays are a very big deal.

The little folks - a term I won't be able to use for much longer, as they're getting less little by the day - decorated the living room and helped Debbie get supper ready. I contributed to the festivities by forgetting to take the meat loaf out of the oven. If you've ever wondered what 90 superfluous minutes of cooking can do to meat loaf, I'd be happy to explain in excruciating, husband-guilty detail.

The cake - lemon - was probably delish on its own. But I particularly enjoyed it because everything that mattered to me was right there. The kids were making all sorts of chaotic noise, the dog was hovering under Noah for the inevitable droppings, my wife wouldn't let me anywhere near the oven again and the skies threatened with thunder and lightning. And I wouldn't have it any other way. This journey of mine that started a bunch of orbits ago is far from perfect or orderly. It's insane at times, but never forgettable. And I can't think of being on this adventure with anyone but the brood that surrounds me.

All this from my parents' decision oh so long ago to have another munchkin. Pretty neat, that, and something for which I am ever thankful to them.

Your turn: Something memorable from your own journey. Please discuss.

Happy Birthday Carmi!

Hi Everybody!

It's me Debbie, otherwise known as Morahmommy . I have hijacked Carmi's computer and along with the help from a friend (Thanks, Mojo! :D) I wanted to surprise a Mr. Someone who is having a birthday today.

This is the 25th birthday I am celebrating with Carmi. We met when I was 16 and he was 17. You do the math!! There, you can't say I said your age Carmi!

I just wanted to say that he's a pretty special guy. He's more than smart, he's gorgeous and he makes me laugh on a daily basis. Life is an adventure and I am thrilled to be sharing it with him.

Carmi on this birthday and the coming year, I wish a life filled with good health, happiness, love and everything you desire.

Now it's your turn: To make this hijack complete send him your own birthday wishes.

I love you Carmi, have a very happy birthday!


Happy Birthday from
Raleigh, NC. And points east (and west, and south and probably north too) May 8 2009

Quick note: This image has nothing to do with this week's Thematic
journey through yellow-themed pictures. But if you've got one you'd like to share, it's not too late (come to think of it, it's
never too late to share a vision or two. Just click here to get involved.)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fish out of water

So close, yet so far
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008
About this photo: Thematic Photographic goes yellow for the next week. If you've got anything with a yellowish tinge in your photo archives - or have been hankering to shoot something in a banana shade - head over here to share it with la gang.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed with the world, I think back to the moment I took this picture. Sure, it's a plastic fish. But I relate to it all the same, as it's excruciatingly out of reach of its natural environment - and just as incapable of getting back on its own. Tough spot no matter who - or what - you are.

Your turn: We've all been there, haven't we?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Thematic Photographic 48 - Yellow

Simply the best (buy)
London, ON, March 2009

About this photo: We're kicking off Thematic Photographic's yellow week with a bit of stark color. Read on for more...
The scene: I'm out running errands with our daughter. Although I usually park in the furthest reaches of the parking lot to avoid inconsiderate folks who enjoy whacking adjacent vehicles with their doors, I've lucked into this most primo of primo spots right beside the front doors of the store. Dahlia celebrates this bizarre event as I stare at the front of the big box store from a decidedly odd perspective: up-close and through the windshield.

It's a very windy day. As we get out of the car, she looks up and realizes the store's sign is blowing in the wind. It's not a temporary vinyl sign, either: it's a full-sized, permanent Best Buy sign. It's not the most comforting thing to see the rather large panels flap ominously within their frame, but my daughter nevertheless suggests I snap the scene so we remember what it was like to stand there on a windy afternoon. Bless her artist's heart.

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

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Burned

Musically reflective
London, ON, March 2007

Quick note: This photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic journey through musically-themed pictures. If you've got one you'd like to share, it's not too late (come to think of it, it's never too late to share a vision or two. Just click here to get involved.)
I risk dating myself whenever I discuss my early experiences with vinyl records. The neat thing about an album was how you could sorta tell how the music played out by simply looking at the disc. You could see the tracks, identify the quiet and intense passages, almost feel the music with your eyes. And when you put the album oh so carefully on the turntable, the tactile connection between you and your music was sealed.

With apologies to the wizards who figured out how to digitize music, CDs just aren't the same. I wonder if our kids will have similarly soft recollections of their early years downloading, archiving and burning music to a digital medium. Doubtful.

Your turn: Got an early memory of recorded music? Do tell!

One more thing: Every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EDT, we post the first Thematic Photographic entry for the coming week. Traditionally, we pre-announce the upcoming theme on Tuesday to give everyone a bit of time to think about what they'd like to shoot and share. With that in mind, the next TP theme will be...
I haven't touched on colors yet, so I thought we'd launch with a bit of brightness.

Monday, May 04, 2009

In tune

Just a twist
London, ON, April 2009

The instruments used to create works of sonic art are, in many respects, works of art themselves. Yes? No?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Caption This 119

Please caption this image
[Click here for more background on how Caption This works]
Montreal, QC, August 2008

Montreal's Crescent Street is home to an ever evolving patchwork of restaurants and bars. It's ground zero for the city's party scene, and has long been considered the place to see and be seen. So when my wife and I went out on a date last summer - yes, we still go on dates. Cool, huh? - we pointed our feet here and wandered around until we found something promising.

It ended up being across the street from Sir Winston Churchill's Pub, better known as Winnie's. When the late Nick Auf Der Maur - an influential and much-loved columnist and civic politician - was alive, this was where he connected with the city. I took a few quick pictures of the streetscape, and this one in particular struck me as somewhat out-of-date. Nostalgia notwithstanding, who the heck uses this term anymore? I thought it would fit nicely with this week's musical Thematic Photographic theme.

Your turn: I need your help coming up with a caption for this photo. I know you won't let me down, so please click the comments link and go nuts.

About last week's egg photo: Lots of wonderful suggestions for this one, so let's dive right in. Our honorable menschens are:
  • David: "Now we can see clearly that the Egg came first."
  • Colonel Sanders: "Desperate to eggscape - the embryo hatched a plan."
  • Barb: "Future generation."
  • Jean: " Such perfection is not destined to last."
Carli takes it with "First!" I guess we finally have an answer to the age-old question, thanks to her. Carli's a New Yorker with a wonderful perspective on life with a cat who thinks he's human, an industry that's reinventing itself and a city that always generates more questions than answers. She's a delightful read.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Did the Queen watch porn?

I read everything, folks. My voracious need to fill my journalist's curiosity involves a daily diet of RSS feeds, e-mail alerts and even tweets. I can't always control what comes down the pipe. To wit, this piece that landed on my BlackBerry first thing this morning. Before breakfast.
Couple arrested for sex on Queen's lawn (UPI, other coverage: The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Current
I felt like throwing up a little in my mouth after reading it, and ended up skipping breakfast altogether. Now that I've had a few hours to let this admittedly bizarro news story sink in, I find myself wondering what Lizzie saw from her Windsor Castle window, and what she may have been thinking at the time. Come to think of it, maybe I don't want to know.

Reports of Japanese tourists filming the event make me wonder how long it'll be before this shows up on YouTube. Who's taking bets?

Your turn: The weirdest news story I've ever heard was...?

One more thing: Feeling musical? Click here.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Tickle the ivories

Black and white
London, ON, April 2009

About this photo: Thematic Photographic shares musical-themed images all week long. Got one? Even if you don't, click over here to see what everyone's fussin' about.
There's something almost poetic about a musical instrument at rest. As it sits there, it isn't doing anything special. Until someone brings it to life, it's as static as anything else in the room.

But to those who appreciate its potential, it's often enough to close our eyes and take a moment to hear the notes yet be played. It isn't always about what you're hearing now, anyway, is it?

Your turn: What are you hearing at this very moment?