Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - G-d staring down

Rays of the sun
London, ON, May 2007 [Click to enlarge]
About this photo: We're winding down this week's exploration of clouds. Thematic Photographic returns tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. EDT with a new theme. Scroll down for details on that - and feel free to click here if you've got any additional cloudiness to share.
Sometimes when I look at cloudscapes like this, I wonder what I ever did to be so lucky to witness such unmitigated beauty.

Your turn: Look around you. What's beautiful?

Next up: Thematic Photographic returns tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. with a new theme:

If I were a betting person, I'd wager there may be another cloud-themed entry here before then...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Not clouds at all

Reach for the sky
Shanghai, China, May 2007 [Click all images to enlarge]

When I was in China a couple of years back for a conference, I made it a habit every morning to wander to the top floor of my hotel and shoot the early morning skyline. This place was so far removed from my reality that I felt compelled to cut into my sleep to suck in as much as I possibly could.

I felt like a sniper, sitting quietly in my deserted perch while the city came alive below and across from me. I knew the sun had already risen because the sky had brightened considerably. But the sun itself was hidden behind a choking blanket of smog that rose at least 10 degrees above the horizon. So rather than time my arrival to the official sunrise time (I think it was around 4:30 local time), I simply sat myself down just after 5 and waited until the sun found a break in the smoggy clouds.

As scary as this level of pollution was, I was almost ashamed to admit that it made for some stunningly beautiful early morning scenery. For all the sadness I felt as I watched a city live beneath this choking blanket, it remains a time and a place I'll never forget.

Your turn: Pollution as beauty. Please discuss.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Caption This 127

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

London, ON, February 2009

Clouds don't always have to occur naturally. The launch image of this week's Thematic Photographic theme, in fact, includes a couple of contrails that over time could have easily blanketed the sky. So when I began thinking about a cloud-themed photo for Caption This, I knew I wanted to include something caused by those big, bad polluting humans.

I thought immediately of the series I shot on a bitterly cold day just a few months back. The goal that day was to shoot a slightly irreverent headshot for a magazine article on cloud computing. Since my extensive entourage was otherwise occupied, I shot the sequence alone in a near-deserted parking lot on the university campus near my house, using the GorillaPod to set up low-angled perspectives from the snow-covered parking lot.

By the time I was finished with the head shots, my fingers were numb and my nose had started to turn white. But that didn't stop me from shooting the chimneys before I retreated to the warmth of the car and headed home.

Your turn: Please come up with a creative caption for this photo and share it in a comment below. Enter as often as you wish - we'll be taking captions all week before announcing the victor next Sunday. For more background on how Caption This works, click here.

About last week's recycling box photo: I admit I enjoy the whole recycling thing. It forces me to tangibly review everything we're throwing out. It also forces me to think twice about the things we purchase or otherwise consume. Much better than the old toss-and-forget philosophy that dominated earlier generations. The following folks deserve honorable menschens for the following gems:
  • Pesach: "Where have you bin all of my life ..."
  • Dana: "Bin wastin'..."
  • Morah Mommy: "Bin today, gone tomorrow."
  • Mojo: "Blue is the New Green."
  • Robin: "Because it ISN'T easy bein' green!"
Anne's suggestion "What will I be next time?" was particularly resonant. I often wonder the same thing as I stare at the overflowing bin by the curb. The more transparent this process becomes, the more likely we are to incorporate sustainable principles into our everyday lives. In this regard, I hope our kids ask questions like this more routinely than we or our parents ever did. Her blog, Anne's House, is an ever eye-opening window into the world of someone with seemingly limitless energy and creativity.

RIP Billy Mays

They say things tend to happen in clusters, that when one famous person passes on, a number of other famous people will soon follow. And so it has been this week, first with Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett and finally Michael Jackson.

Only it wasn't so final, as infomercial pitchman - and star of the Discovery series "Pitchmen" - Billy Mays passed away suddenly this morning at his Tampa, Florida home. Like the erstwhile Michael Jackson, he was 50.

I'll admit to not liking Mr. Mays's style. His perpetually amped up voice grated on my nerves, and it didn't take me long to resent his near-ubiquitous presence on the air. I don't watch a whole lot of television, but for some reason he kept popping up on the news channels that I often keep on during late night writing sessions. The comforting voices of anchors and reporters have long provided a normalizing backdrop to the emptiness of post-midnight writing jags - a backdrop that seemed to help me write more effectively when I was up all alone.

Until Mr. Mays came on, that is. His voice would instantly invade my brain and prompt a mad scramble for the remote. I understood his need to have a gimmick, a certain degree of shtick that set him apart from other informercial pitchpeople. I get that The Voice was why he was so successful in his chosen career.

Which is why I'm saddened by his all-too-young passing. Like all of us, he was simply doing what he needed to do to provide for his family. As annoying as some found him, he found his niche. And who among us wouldn't have wanted to enjoy similar success?

It's never fair when someone's cut down in the prime of life. It's never fair for a spouse and children to be left behind. Life is at once precious and unfair, and at times like this I find myself wishing it could be a little bit less of the latter.

Somehow, I suspect the much maligned late night infomercial just won't be the same anymore.

Your turn: Appreciating those we may not necessarily appreciate at first blush. Please discuss.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Golden clouds

Day's end
London, ON, March 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores cloudiness this week. TP is a weekly feature that gives us all a chance to explore life through our lenses, then share the results. To get involved, just click here.
The scene: I had just finished an interview at the studio, and was walking out to my car in the parking lot. It was the end of a long day, and as I often do when I've just finished a live hit, I found myself critiquing the experience. As ever, I was being super-critical, zeroing in on the points I felt I could have made more effectively.

As I continued to flail myself with a virtual wet noodle, I noticed this reverent sky and stopped in my tracks. The critique could wait. This was a moment that deserved a photo.

Your turn: Why do moments like this seem to inspire us so?

Friday, June 26, 2009

After the storm

London, ON, May 2009
About this photo: It's cloud week all week long here at Written Inc. If you'd like to share your own cloudy vision, click here for the latest Thematic Photographic.
We've been having some serious weather fun here in the Great White North. Yesterday, two confirmed tornadoes touched down on either side of our burg. Near Aylmer, a woman washing her hair at the time miraculously avoided injury as her house was reduced to matchsticks. Near Leamington, an old barn was similarly destroyed.

No major damage in in London, but it made me wonder about an amazing phenomenon: when late evening storms leave the area, the clouds in their wake are rendered in colors and textures that almost defy description. I can't explain it, but I do enjoy the show. I hope you enjoy this one.

Your turn: Why do we feel small when nature puts on this kind of show for us?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson dead

Ooh, it's turning into a really bad week for celebrities - if the report from gutter-grabbing celeb "news" site TMZ.com is true.
This just in: major conventional news outlets, including AP, Reuters and the Los Angeles Times, are now confirming his passing. One can easily surmise that the debate over conventional/new/yellow media will rage for weeks now. End digression.
Say what you want about MJ - and I'm sure plenty of ink will be spilled in the days and months to come - but it's a sad, sad day when someone who so completely redefined the entertainment landscape is lost so young.


Your turn: Please share a happy in a comment below. The world needs a smile.

Farrah Fawcett dies. A little girl does, too.

Lots of sadness from all corners of the world these days. Folks with a simple desire to have their voices heard continue to die in Iran. Everyday folks on their way home from work were suddenly taken from us in a violent commuter train accident. And from the world of entertainment, we lost two giants as well:
  • Ed McMahon. He died earlier this week after suffering from multiple ailments. His passing marks the end of an era where most of us shared similar pop culture experiences. In today's world,
  • Farrah Fawcett. Her iconic poster in the late 70s virtually defined the ideals of American beauty. She passed away at 62 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
And for all the headlines these garner, there's another loss that I just can't seem to shake: that of a 4-year-old girl found floating face down yesterday in a backyard pool just east of here. She was airlifted to a London hospital and clung to life before passing away early this morning.

There is no way to attach tangible value to a life, to score the experience or otherwise rate the journey of one against the journey of another. We all define success in different terms, and a brief life well lived is often seen through a different lens than a miserable one that stretched on for an apparent eternity.

Yet as saddened as I am at the passing of well known entertainers who contributed in a high profile way to the cultural mosaic of their respective eras, it is the loss of a child that gnaws at me. She never had the chance to do so many of the things these legends were privileged to experience. She fell victim to a summertime activity that takes the lives of hundreds of Canadians every year - because after years of warnings we still don't seem to internalize the fundamentals of water safety.

In that respect:
Water safety = drinking and driving = safe sex = ...

Whoever you are, little one, I hope your loss spurs at least one other person, caregiver, parent, to fill in the gaps in supervision and safety that tragically allowed you to slip away. Then, perhaps, your life won't forever be viewed through a veil of tears.

Your turn: Why life is precious. Please discuss.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thematic Photographic 55 - Cloudy

London, ON, April 2009 [Click to embiggen]

I've chosen "cloudy" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme for a couple of reasons:
  • It's easy. There's always something going on up there. We simply need an excuse to take a moment to look up.
  • It's inspirational. After seeing a sky painted with almost indescribable color and texture, it's difficult to not feel moved in some way. Whenever I need to break free from the mundane minutae of everyday life, a bit of head-in-the-clouds time usually clears my head.
Your turn: For the next week, I'd like you to point your camera into the clouds, then share what you get by posting it to your blog and leaving the link in a comment here. I'm looking forward to seeing the diversity of cloudy visions in your work. Have fun with it!

For more info on how Thematic Photographic works, 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...cloudy!
  • 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.

Vignette - the coolest green

Gelato dream
London, ON, February 2009 [Click all images to embiggen]

About this photo: We're still feeling a bit green. Thematic Photographic turns cloudy at 7:00 EDT tonight, but I thought I'd sneak in another green moment. You can, too, by heading here.
The scene: Angelo's, an eatery/grocery/bakery that's been a fixture in our city for decades. It's a bitterly cold evening, and I've taken the two younger ones out on a neighborhood adventure. It's the weekend, and they've got cabin fever, so we've set off to their favorite place for an experience they couldn't get anywhere else. Oh yes, and we'll bring home some bread.

As they munch their pizza slices - homemade and delicious - I spot the gelato beneath the nearby freezer-display case. I take the camera out of its bag and meander over there. I ask the server if he'd mind. He smiles and tells me to have fun.

As I'm shooting, I'm approached by two women, one of whom says I need to have permission to take pictures. I politely tell her I did and point out the helpful young man who granted me said permission. As she playfully wags her finger at him, I explain why I shoot the things I do - including the usual words like "obsession" and "addiction". She smiles broadly, introduces herself as Caroline, the owner, and we chat about what an amazing place her store is.

Midway through our conversation, Noah wanders over and says he's thirsty in the sad little voice of a deprived eight-year-old. Caroline immediately asks him what he wants - a slushie - and she heads off to make up two for him and his sister. She refuses to charge for them, and continues to banter with the three of us as if she's known us forever. We talk about kids, life in London and the joys of working in a city that offers up moments like this.

I can see other patrons smiling as they watch the exchange, and watch our thankfully well-behaved kids enjoy their surprise treat. If we weren't already fans of Angelo's, this moment would have turned us around. Kindness takes many forms, and we were privileged that night to cross paths with someone who clearly exemplifies it in everything she does.

I see many similar visits in our future.

Your turn: A local business that made/makes a difference. Please discuss.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Garbage strike blues

Recycle me
London, ON, February 2009 [Click to embiggen]

Shout out to Toronto, 200-ish kms to the east, as it settles in to a strike by 30,000 public service workers that has shut down rec centres, daycare, sports fields, pools and, sadly, garbage collection.

London endured a lengthy garbage strike a few years back, and our kids still remember having to drive the garbage in the back of our minivan to a nearby park, where friendly city managers helped us remove it from the vehicle before it began to leak. Good times.

As if this isn't enough, workers at Ontario's booze stores, known as the LCBO, are on the verge of striking as well. It's a double whammy of badness:
  • Canada's largest city festering in hot, humid weather with fetid garbage stinking up the already-choked urban atmosphere.
  • A complete lack of alcoholic escape from the misery.
I'm gonna guess Toronto's about to become a not very happy place to be. Y'all Torontonians have my empathy.

Your turn: This photo supports this week's Thematic Photographic theme, green. I invite you to share your own green vision by clicking here. New theme goes up tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. EDT. What will it be? Cloudy.

(But if I were a betting person, I'd say there may be an extra green entry before then. Just because...)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jon & Kate + 8 + Divorce = Enough

It's been a full day. I've written and submitted a bunch of stuff, set the stage for more writing tomorrow, and reviewed my talking points for a panel discussion on the imminent destruction of Nortel, a once-storied Canadian telecommunications darling, and now a pariah of everything a business can do wrong. (Canadian Press, Reuters.)

And as I quietly wrap up my note-taking and prepare to head to the studio, I see this in my Twitter stream: Jon and Kate Gosselin, the illustrious and thoroughly overexposed couple in that horrid "reality" television show, Jon & Kate Plus 8, are divorcing. (Also covered in that great bastion of journalistic quality, People.)

I won't give this thing any more ink than it deserves. In fact I've probably already given it too much. I just wish this thing would reach its logical conclusion so we could consign these folks to the dustbin of 15-minute-fame history. Maybe now that'll actually happen. Sooner rather than later. Thanks, TLC.

Of course, there's always another spotlight-seeking person/family/whatever waiting in the wings, confident he/she/they won't fall victim to the pressures of sudden fame. Yeah, right.

Back to life. Back to reality.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Caption This 126

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

About this photo: Thematic Photographic is exploring all things green this week - both literal and figurative. And since I firmly believe that blue is the new green, I invite you to throw your photographic hat into the ring by heading here.
Your turn: Got a funny caption or title for this photo? Click the comment link and share as many as you wish. I'll post the winner next Sunday.

About last week's photo of my foggy street: There's something about a foggy night that just makes my brain shift into a different creative gear. Apparently, I wasn't alone, as a number of good folks made Honorable Menschen with these delightful captions:
  • Dana: "Empty Echoes."
  • Barb: "Embraceable Dew"
  • Sara: "Reminiscing in the mist."
Jinny's "This is how horror movies start" made me laugh out loud, and she takes this week's title. Her blog, A Girl in the Real World, paints a picture of a native Texan with a delightfully full life - husband, dogs, cats, and an ability to tell stories with her lens that will make you quietly say wow when you first visit her site.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I'm not wearing pants

Post-air self-portrait
London, ON
June 2009

I don't often take pictures of myself. Nor am I terribly pleased when others turn the lens on me. I realize this is somewhat odd for a photographer to say, but I don't particularly enjoy flipping through pictures and coming across one of my rather oddly formed face.

I guess this may explain why I hide behind the camera as much as I do.

But after I finished an interview earlier this afternoon*, I thought today was as good a day as any to share a little bit of fun I've been having ever since I started doing work in front of the TV camera.

First, some background: As a child, I was addicted to news (I know, big surprise.) And every time I watched a newscast, I wondered what the newscaster was wearing below the desk. I laughingly assumed he - it was always a he in the dark ages - wasn't wearing any pants.

I wondered how cool it would be to sit there, perfectly shirted, tied and coated on top, and defiantly casual under the desk. Shorts, pyjamas, whatever...just imagining it added another dimension to the news. It made these bigger-than-life folks seem a bit more real, a bit more human.

Of course, when I did my first interview, I wore a suit. And did so for pretty much every interview thereafter. But one day I got called in and had to cycle over to the studio, and the thought of riding in a suit just didn't sit right with me. So I threw on a pair of cargo shorts and sandals, and then topped it off with the usual jacket, shirt and tie. I got some great laughs as I walked into the studio, but given how most interviews are shot - head and shoulders, essentially - it made no difference to the audience.

Even better, my childhood memories were reawakened. Indeed, the guy on TV wasn't wearing pants.

As I was out and about with our daughter today, it made no sense to wear a suit on a hot, humid and intermittently rainy day. So I tossed the official-looking top half on just as I got to the studio, and grabbed this shot (G-d bless the wireless camera remote and the GorillaPod) just before I reverted, Superman-like, back to my t-shirted form.

Your turn: Fun fashion stories from your own life. Please discuss.

One more thing: I'm not sure what this has to do with this week's Thematic Photographic theme. Well, there is a sliver of green just behind me, but it's a stretch, I know. Hope you enjoyed the story, regardless. Head here if you'd like to share some green-ness.

* I spoke with CTV News Channel's Jacqueline Milczarek this afternoon about social media's role in the Iranian protests. The video - shoulders-up - is available here. I was also on air yesterday (!) and wrote about it here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

iPhone launches. I talk.

Today was a big day for geeks as Apple's brand spanking new iPhone 3G S went on sale. In doing so, it instantly turned every other phone into the technological equivalent of that black rotary dial monster that cast a menacing shadow down the hallway of your childhood home.

Funny how no matter how often you dropped the thing - complete with its piggy-tailed handset chord - it never broke. And G-d forbid you ever dropped it on your toe. But I digress.

So the iPhone was, for the third straight year, a news story. Folks woke up before dawn and lined up with complete strangers so they could buy a device that'll be overflowing from store shelves around this time next week. They dreamed about taking pictures - and, gasp, videos - with the new-and-improved camera. They did voice exercises to prepare for the new voice control interface ("Call your mother. It's been a week!") They imagined what it would be like to use the new built-in compass to help them find a Starbucks, and they hauled out the Timex Ironman to more precisely calculate just how much faster the new iPhone was compared to the old one.

Good times.

Because I never miss an opportunity to talk geek, I did some chatting with reporters, including CBC Radio's Tracy Johnson, as well as a live interview with Zuraidah Alman from CTV News Channel (formerly Newsnet) - here's the video.

The iPhone's arrival coincided with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion's quarterly earnings announcement. This convergence of news turned the week into a busy one, with the following notable hits:
Your turn: So is there an iPhone in your future? If you've already got one, what say you?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Field of dreams

London, ON, May 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic celebrates green all week long. Do you have any green you'd like to share? If so, come right this way.
Sometimes, the thing you look for is right under your feet. On this breezy afternoon, I could hear the long grass sway in the wind as I tried to absorb a scene most would just as soon dismiss as routine.

Which begs the question: What is routine, anyway, and who defines it?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thematic Photographic 54 - Green

London, ON
March 2009

Welcome to a new week of Thematic Photographic. I've chosen "green" as our latest theme because it's a color that seems to carry additional meaning for many of us.

Although it's de rigeur these days to associate green with eco friendliness, its beyond-color meaning has been around since long before recycling boxes started popping up on garbage day. For some of us, it's a walk we took with our grandparents through the woods when we were kids, holding on to their hands tightly to avoid tripping over unseen roots in the dimly lit path. For others, it's what we painted the nursery before we knew whether it was a boy or a girl.

And sometimes it's both.

Your turn: Please share a green-themed photo by posting it to your blog and sharing the link in a comment. For more background on how Thematic Photographic works, 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...green!
  • 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, June 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Lane change

I-75 - somewhere in Kentucky, December 2008

Life's about the journey. Where's yours taking you?

Your turn: If you haven't yet shared your road-themed photo, please click here. I'll post the kickoff entry for next week's Thematic Photographic theme, green, Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EDT, but for now we're still taking submissions here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Road in motion

Somewhere on the I-75, KY, December 2008

I think we all have occasional days when everything seems to look like this.

Your turn: How do you turn the blur off?

What's wrong with Carmi? Nothing beyond the usual. Just finding new ways to explore this week's Thematic Photographic "road" theme. Head here to share your own. And if you haven't captioned yet, click here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Caption This 125

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
London, ON, October 2007

Even the "other" London gets fog. And when the murk rolls in, I like to take the camera out for some exercise. As you can see, a bit of excess low-altitude humidity can turn even the most average-looking suburban street into a softly mysterious - and oddly quiet - world. I love being outside when it gets like this.

Your turn: Please come up with a creative caption for this photo. It supports this week's Thematic Photographic theme, road (see here for more TP fun.) If you're new to Caption This, click here for more background.

About last week's photo of a strange-looking cloud formation: I'm glad I'm not the only one who stares at the sky. The following honorable menschens suggested these evocative captions:
  • Terri: "Jumbo the Nimbus Cloud."
  • Anne: "When pigs fly."
  • Jean: "Between the lines."
Jean scores twice this week. Her "It's gonna rain elephants" takes the cake - I can only imagine what raining pachyderms would look like. Please drop by her blog and congratulate her.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why Iran needs a time out

If you live in the U.S., Canada or another solidly democratic nation, I hope you'll watch what's going on in Iran this weekend and thank your lucky stars that you live in a place where the voice of the people isn't a pipe dream.

I always have to laugh when I see nations like Iran hold so-called elections under the obvious-to-anyone-else premise that they actually give a damn about democratic process. That President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the election shouldn't come as a surprise. Nor should the fact that Iran's iron-fisted religious leadership is perfectly happy to have this nutbar remain in power.

There's no such thing as democracy in a nation that has never in its history understood the meaning of the word. Why Western powers think they can actually open up meaningful dialog with these buffoons is beyond me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hatred through an 8-year-old's eyes

So last night I'm watching the evening news in the living room. I've been trying to make a semi-habit of it to help expose the kids to something that doesn't have a Disney logo on it. I caught the news bug fairly early from watching - and ruthlessly picking apart - newscasts, so I figured a little repetition of history wouldn't be a bad thing.

Great in theory, but not so easy to manage when the subject matter isn't packaged in sugary sweetness.

To wit, the reporter covering the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shared, in excruciating detail the views of James Von Brunn, the gunman (oops, alleged gunman because of the whole, you know, innocent-until-proven-guilty silliness that idiots like this hide behind. But I digress...) Suddenly, narrated graphics took over the screen, and my 8-year-old was reading, wide-eyed, the contents of the note this moron had left in his car:
  • The Holocaust is a lie.
  • Obama was created by Jews.
  • Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do.
  • Jews captured America's money.
  • Jews control the mass media.
My son asked me, simply, "Why does this man hate us so much?"

I felt like a deer in the headlights, afraid to move lest I make a bad situation worse. I took a deep breath and considered my words carefully. Noah has learned extensively about the Holocaust both in school and at home, so he's keenly aware that the world isn't always fair, and that bad things happen to good people sometimes - often because of their religion, race, gender or orientation and not because of anything they might have done.

He knows none of this is logical. He accepts that there are people out there who would single him out because of who he is. Even before this happened, my son's perception of the world was already nicely and necessarily tarnished.

I used it as an opportunity to explain why we need to be proud of who we are, why we need to speak out against people who hate, why we can never forget where we come from, what happened to us along the way, and why we must empathize with - and advocate for - anyone who's victimized in this way.

He's a sweet, sweet boy, who unfailingly puts others ahead of himself, so his response was no surprise: "He held the door open to help that man. He did a good deed for him. It's sad that the old man didn't appreciate that someone was being nice to him."

I gave him a hug and said no more.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

North meets South

Pick a direction
Crittenden, KY, January 2009

About this photo: Thematic Photographic hits the road this week. Click here for more.
For what it's worth, we headed north just after this picture was taken. Our everyday life - and a Canadian winter - awaited us as memories of a warm beach and good times with family faded in the rear view mirror.

What we wouldn't give to have the freedom to go in any direction we please.

Your turn: With that thought in mind, where would you go if reality didn't rear its ugly head?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thematic Photographic 53 - Road

Kiss my asphalt
London, ON, March 2009

Now that we've paved paradise and put up a parking lot, we're left with little choice but to live with the landscape - or moonscape - that now exists.

I rather detest the vast expanses of pavement that define where most of us live. An urban geography dominated by roads is hot, people-unfriendly and not all that pretty to boot. Still, as much as I'd like to whine about the unnaturalness of it all, it won't change reality. So since we're stuck with roads here, there and everywhere, I thought we'd at least take a week or so to explore 'em with our cameras.

Are you in?

Your turn: Take any picture of any road. Post it on your blog and leave the link in a comment here. That's it! We'll be doing this all week long, so remember to try the veal. If you're new to Thematic Photographic, here's a bit of an overview:
  • 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...road!
  • 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.

Holocaust Museum shooting - unreal reality

I try to avoid scanning the headlines during the day. It breaks my concentration and makes it difficult to get my head back in the writing game. But when my RSS reader spat out news of the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, I couldn't maintain focus on what I had been working on.

I'll apologize in advance if I claim to not understand how gun culture works, how it seems to weave its way into the very fabric of an otherwise great nation, or how the "right to bear arms" argument - which made a whole lot of sense in an age when you hunted and fought real enemies and couldn't just pick up an order at Whole Foods - has been perverted as it has.

Maybe I'm too Canadian. Maybe I'm too much of an artsy wimp who clings idealistically to an unshakable belief in the power of the pen. Whatever, when someone - an 80-something white supremacist, no less - walks into a museum, a Holocaust museum, at that, and opens fire, it becomes plainly obvious that there's a higher-order issue at play here.

I'll spare you my perspectives on the Holocaust. I'm a Jew who was raised with the phrase "Never Again" ringing in my ears. My wife and I are raising our children with similar lessons and messages, because it's never been easy growing up as a minority amid those who would just as soon roll over you for being different. I simply can't understand how a place designed to educate current and future generations, to reach across the misunderstandings that incubate the kind of hatred that spawned the Holocaust, itself becomes a place of wanton violence.

I'm sure I'm not alone in praying for the victims of today's shooting. And I'll keep praying that somehow a nation that got it wrong in the gun department figures out a way to turn the tide.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Dusky streetscape

London, ON, March 2009

About this photo: We're wrapping up our exploration of dusk-themed perspectives and getting ready for our next big Thematic Photographic theme. What will it be? Scroll down for the big news. And if you still want to post something dusky, click here.
Our city has a relatively compact, relatively old - a century, give or take - downtown area that always seems to offer up a worthwhile camera angle or two. What it often lacks is people. Even at the height of the workday, the sidewalks here remain easy to navigate. With relatively few exceptions, you can meander to your heart's content without getting jostled along the way.

As much as I dislike close contact with complete strangers, I can't help but think that these streets seem to vacuum the spirit out of anyone who walks here. Maybe this place needs a transfusion.

Your turn: Obviously, nothing's going on on the sidewalk. So let's look inward and guess what's going on behind these sunset-painted windows.

Coming up tomorrow: Every Wednesday at precisely 7:00 p.m. EDT, I post the new Thematic Photographic theme and entry for the coming week. Every Tuesday, I give y'all a sneak peek at the theme because I want everyone to have a chance to consider their submissions. So without further ado, it will be:

Happy pondering. See ya after we go live tomorrow at 7!

Wired sky

London, ON, April 2009

Ever point your lens skyward only to realize there's a mess of overhead wires in your way? The perfectionist in me used to not even bother. These days, though, I'm inclined to shoot it anyway. Life isn't always perfect, after all, so it makes eminent sense that my photography should follow suit.

Your turn: Discovering imperfection. Please discuss.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Where I muse about Apple, WWDC, iPhones and Steve Jobs

Big week in the world of Apple as the company kicked off its Worldwide Developers Conference - better known as WWDC - in San Francisco. As is traditional now, the company used the keynote speech as an opportunity to introduce a bunch of new products, including the iPhone 3G S (forgive me, but it sounds like the name of a car. End digression.)

As always, I have something to say about it. Wait, make that a couple of somethings. I published the following two columns after the keynote wrapped up:
Your turn: So do you miss Steve Jobs, too?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Caption This 124

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

After the evening storms have swept through the region, we often end up with memorable remnants in the sky. But only if we take the time to look up. For better or for worse, I've got my head in the sky more often than not.

Your turn: I adore when nature paints the sky with something that piques the imagination. What on (or off, for that matter) earth could this be? I'll leave that entirely up to you. Please suggest a creative caption - or name, or whaever you wish - for this photo by clicking the comment link below. Feel free to participate as often as you'd like. Head here for more background on how Caption This works.

About last week's goose pic: I guess I'm not the only one who finds birds in flight to be worthwhile subjects. The following good folks make honorable menschen for their suggestions:
  • Colleen: "Winging it."
  • Robin: "Free bird."
  • Jean: "Miles to fly before I sleep."
David's "Bird Force One" takes it this week. I've been reading his blog, Sugarloaf Mountain, ever since I can remember, and his words have never failed to inspire me. He creates, he builds and he reflects on the kind of world - the natural one - most of us seem to have forgotten. He writes as he lives, and there are lessons for all of us in every word he shares. A must-read.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Sentinels of the day

Keep in touch
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Ever get the impression that someone paints the sky every night for our viewing pleasure?

Me too.

Your turn: Have you shared a "dusk" moment yet? No? Head here. Yes? Head here, too - there's no such thing as dusky overindulgence.

Catching up on scribblings

It's been a busy week of writing for me. As part of my grand plan to build a writing empire that I can manage from my laptop under the maple tree in our front yard, I've begun publishing some regular tech columns and articles on the web.

I'll periodically post links to them here in case you want to see what I do all day. (Well, not all day, since I do my best writing late at night. But you know what I mean.) Happy reading!

Betanews - I write a column called Wide Angle Zoom that publishes every Monday and Thursday. First wrote about it here.
TG Daily - I publish a tech opinion piece each Monday
Processor Magazine - I write editorial pieces focusing on helping IT folks make better use of tech
Your turn: We're still taking Caption This submissions here. If you've ever wanted to assign a cheeky name to a low-flying Canada Goose, now's your chance. New entry goes up tomorrow.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Must you really take that call?

So Ontario's going ahead with the Driving While Distracted law, which essentially bans talking on a handheld phone while driving.

Good. I'd like to ask what took them so long, but that would be cheeky. What matters is they've finally taken concrete steps toward getting drivers to focus on, you know, their driving.

Sadly, there's a massive gulf between the law and reality. Yesterday morning, a 17-year-old boy lost control of his Jeep after he reached for his ringing phone. He died, while his 16-year-old female passenger was injured.

Since news of this senseless tragedy hit the top of the local news run, I've been wondering what it is about a ringing phone that seems so important to us all. Why do we feel compelled to disconnect from everything we're doing at that moment - chatting with a friend, eating dinner and, yes, driving the car - to grab for the phone and speak with whoever's on the other end? Do we think the world will end if we don't answer? Do we feel like we'll miss some golden opportunity?

While driving the kids home from school recently, I noticed the driver of the minivan next to me looking down repeatedly as we pulled away from a red light. I glanced over and, sure enough, she had her flip phone open, and she was looking at the screen as she dialed. As her car accelerated. And as it drifted toward mine.

I honked her and pointed toward her phone. She put it down and kept on going, doubtless angry at the nasty minivan-driving man who had the temerity to remind her to avoid smacking into everyone around her. If this were an isolated incident, I'd let it go. But every day, I see drivers everywhere so engaged in their Motorolas and iPhones that they literally have no connection to what's going on around them.

I just don't know what it'll take to collectively wake us up. We can have all the laws in the world to define in- and out-of-bounds behavior, but they'll never come close to stopping an accepted behavior that's at the root of a frightening percentage of violent car accidents.

So please accept my apologies for not having any answers. I guess I needed an end-of-week opportunity to rant at yet another example of humanity's inability to make proper use of technology, and people's utter selfishness in assuming their right to make and receive phone calls while controlling incalculable momentum trumps everyone else's right to get home safely.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Fire across the water

Painted sky
Komoka, ON, April 2009 [Click to enlarge]

There's a moment during the sunset, when the sun slips below the horizon, that I often find myself thinking metaphysical thoughts about the orbital processes that allow us to observe miracles like this. I try to mentally measure the light as I wonder what it looks like way west of here where someone stands unseen, facing right back at me, watching the sun rise.

Perspective is a remarkable thing. And on this night, I'm glad I stepped onto a friend's terrace to ponder the things I could see. And the things I couldn't.

Your turn: What's going through your mind as the sun goes down?

About this photo: It's dusk week all week long. If you're looking for some Thematic Photographic goodness, click here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Thematic Photographic 52 - Dusk

Red skies at night
London, ON, May 2009

Whenever I need a moment of inspiration, I often look to the sky. It's an ever changing, always fascinating canvas that seems to play nicely with my eyes and my camera. I'm willing to bet it'll play nicely with yours, too, so I'm hoping this week's Thematic Photographic theme gives you the opportunity to head out and take it all in.

With that in mind, the challenge for the coming week is a relatively simple one:
  • Wait until the sun begins to go down
  • Point your camera westward
  • Shoot
  • Repeat
Your turn: Time to get shooting. We'll be doing dusk all week long. If you're just getting started with Thematic Photographic, here's how it 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...dusk!
  • 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, June 02, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Run it up the flagpole

One flag, one country
London, ON, March 2009 [Click to embiggen]

Oops: If you're looking for the latest WW entry (dated June 9), please click here.

This is the flagpole near the munchkins' school, captured somewhat phallically as I waited for the afternoon bell to ring. I found it amusing how many oddball stares I got as I walked right up to the pole and pointed the camera to the sky. I'm used to it by now, of course, but still wonder why it raises eyebrows.

Whatever. If it makes folks happy, then I'm only too willing to oblige.

This pic speaks to me, for some reason. Its defiant jab into an infinite sky seems to be telling the universe that even empty tubes of alloy can be magnificent for a moment if we choose to look at them from a slightly different perspective.

Your turn: This photo caps off our Thematic Photographic "single" week. There's still time to share your own. Just click here and go to town. I'll be posting the new theme tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. EDT. It'll be:


Please start your brains churning now, and don't forget to pop back in after 7 tomorrow to see the launch photo and post a link to yours as well.

Monday, June 01, 2009

One tree hill

Not seeing the forest
London, ON, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

I've had one of those days when the writing that needed to get done simply didn't want to squeeze its way out of my head. News of the Air France crash in the Atlantic Ocean and the GM bankruptcy simply reinforced my Monday-ish belief that the world as I know it is sometimes covered with a tinge of grey that simply doesn't want to lift.

It's hard to focus on word count, audience and flow when you know people's lives near and far are either ending or being upended. Sorry, but this stuff affects me.

Thankfully, a couple of well timed walks with the dog and some up-close-and-personal time spent dancing to the new Pet Shop Boys in the kitchen (shh, don't tell my wife) snapped me out of my writer's pothole and got me back into the groove. In the end, I delivered everything I had to, and I'm pretty happy with the outcomes (see latest Betanews column.) I guess I needed a little perspective first.

If I've learned anything from today, it is that sometimes we need to strip the stuff that needs doing down to its simplest elements and not worry about anything beyond the one thing that needs doing. And sometimes, that simple solution takes a little longer to make itself apparent.

Your turn: Keeping perspective when doing so is challenging. Please discuss.

One more thing: Yadda, yadda, Thematic Photographic. Yadda yadda "single theme". Yadda yadda please go here to share your own vision.