Monday, August 31, 2009

Big shore, little moments

Grand Bend, ON, July 2008
About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is big. This is as big a picture as I've taken in a while. Got one of your own? I hope you'll share it here.
I was flying home from a trip to San Francisco. Our flight was headed to Toronto, but as we went feet dry and put Lake Huron behind us, we were barely 60 km from my house in London. Thoughts of parachuting from there and hitching a ride home to avoid the puddlejumper leg from Toronto to London filled my jet lagged head.

I thought I recognized the broad sweep of shoreline from my many hours playing with Google Earth (try's more fun than a chocolate sundae) and sure enough, I was looking down on the local beach resort/party town of Grand Bend. This is a place that's been an important summer ritual for our family, a place where my wife and I have spent time together, with our kids, with our extended family, with treasured friends.

As I stare at this picture, of a place that looks so small yet looms so large in the history of my family, I'm reminded that it's time to return here once more, time to write another chapter in our unfolding story.

Your turn: A place that plays a big role in your life. Please discuss.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Caption This 134

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
Toronto, ON, May 2008
About this photo: It's Thematic Photographic's big week, and we're sharing big-themed pictures all week long. Click here to share your own outsized views of the world.
Toronto is a neat place, and it gets even neater the closer you get to the water. As the city continues to figure out what its waterfront neighborhoods should look like, fascinating juxtapositions between everyday life and a working Great Lakes port make for fun photography. Have fun with this one.

Your turn: Got a snappy caption for this photo? Click the comment link and share it. (Instructions here.) That's all there is to it. I'll announce the grand victor next week. And speaking of victors...

About last week's photo of our son skittering across the beach: I think the little man will be pedal to the metal well into adulthood. As the planet looks for new sources of energy, I'd like to suggest him, as he seems to manufacture it just by being himself. He's a true delight, and your captions suggested the very same thing. This week's honorable menschens go to:
  • Robin: "Shady proposition." (Along with wishes for her daughter's fast and full recovery from oral surgery.)
  • SRP: "James and the Giant Beachball."
  • Stephen: "Going coastal."
Pamela wins it with "Noah's arc." Her blog, The Dust Will Wait, is a remarkably rich window into the life of a wife and grandmother who chooses to look more closely at the world than most. It's a vision I'm sure you'll enjoy.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Big boo boos

I was a news junkie almost as soon as I could read. A fresh newspaper in the mailbox out front was an invitation to me, a perfect way to start the day by connecting to the latest goings on in the world.

The older I got, the more critical I became. I wouldn't just read the paper: I'd pick it apart, critiquing the articles, photos and layout. All the while, I'd marvel that an unseen team of journalists and production wizards could produce this monumentally complex literary jigsaw puzzle each and every day. And as soon as they were done with one, they'd start over on the next edition. It was amazing then, and even today, in the age of the Internet, it remains so.

I'd also marvel at how clean the end result always seemed to be. Finding a typo or some other kind of error was a rarity - if I stumbled across more than one over a two- or three-month span, they were having a bad run. They obviously had editors who pored over the content at every phase of production, sweating the little things so readers would never have to contend with anything less than readable, relevant copy.

I wish I could say this is still the case. Sadly, it's a rare day that I don't find some laughable mistake in the paper. It's a pervasive enough occurrence that I often wonder who's doing the editing, and if he/she fully appreciates the personal and professional accountability associated with putting out a sellable product. Some days, it seems there's no one editing at all.

To wit, today's paper. Not only does Canada's lone female astronaut "mavel" at the current state of the International Space Station, but automotive columnist Joe Duarte apparently had his name changed to "Columnist Name". These aren't errors in body copy or mistakes buried in something they grabbed off the wire. They're headlines, and I noticed them from half a room away. That no one's minding the store is painfully obvious, and it saddens me.

I get that newspapers are hurting as the economy transitions online and advertising-based businesses try to adapt on the fly. I appreciate that relentless budget cuts have decimated the newsroom and reduced the multiple layers of editors to perhaps one or two overworked souls who are fearful for their jobs. I can put two and two together and conclude that the error rate will increase as a result.

But as newspaper publishers and editors-in-chief spill endless ink explaining how they've embraced the new economy and are rapidly evolving their product to continue to add value, I can't help but think how inexcusable boners like this are ultimately perceived by readers and advertisers alike. (Short answer: not very well.) It smacks of disrespect to the paper's stakeholders, that its people can't be bothered to finish the job, and don't care enough about their constituents to pull out every last stop to put out a quality piece of work. It suggests laziness in an era when other, better produced vehicles will happily go the extra mile to meet the community's needs.

I'd like to be part of the solution, but I doubt this entry will be read by anyone in an editor's office. Workflow and process in an Internet-enabled newsroom can go a long way toward fixing mistakes like this - mistakes that continue to drive readers away and reinforce to advertisers that the vehicle needs fixing. I remain optimistic that someday soon I'll actually be able to have this conversation with an editor or publisher who wants to do something about it.

Your turn: Everyone makes mistakes. Am I making too big of a deal here or is this justifiably be seen as another chink in conventional media's armor?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Big scoop (x2)

Lick this
Komoka, ON, August 2009

Is there any memory that looms larger in a child's mind than that of an ice cream cone? Maybe I'm odd (wait, I AM odd, but that's a story for another day) but some of my most vivid recollections of childhood revolve in some way around this most inconvenient, not-always-healthy confection.

Messiness aside, if this ostensibly small, perceptively huge snack creates a smile along the way, it can't be a bad thing, right?

Your turn: What's the appeal of ice cream?

[Thematic Photographic goes big this week. The fun begins here.]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thematic Photographic 64 - Big

Bridge to somewhere
Montreal, QC, August 2009 [Click to embiggen]

I chose "big" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme because it isn't always easy to represent something massive in a small picture that someone will be viewing on a 19-inch monitor or 3-inch iPhone screen. Photographers play with scale every time they trip the shutter, so I wanted to play with size for a week to learn a bit more about how scale works. And how it doesn't.

I hope you enjoy shooting big as much as I do, and want to thank you in advance for joining in. I promise it'll be fun.

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is kinda simple. Just post a pic that follows the theme to your blog, then paste a link to the entry into a comment here. Here's more background on how TP 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...big!
  • 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, August 25, 2009

Summer on the breakfast table

Bright petals
London, ON, October 2006 [Click to embiggen]

About this photo: Thematic Photographic's week of summer (go here to jump in) may be drawing to a close, but I reserve the right to toss in another summer-themed pic before we kick off the new theme tomorrow evening. And what will that theme be? Scroll down...
I remember this shot well. My camera was new, and I found myself looking for any excuse to pull it out and give it some exercise. The controls were unfamiliar, and I know I was way out of my league given my complete ability at the time to coax decent results out of its mysterious black form. But that didn't mean I couldn't have some fun trying.

Even though I took it on a sunny afternoon in October, it feels like summer to me.

Your turn: What it feels like to swim in the deep end - literal or figurative, your choice.

Oops, almost forgot: Our new Thematic Photographic theme will launch tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. EDT. It will be:


Start thinking about the big-themed scenes you'd like to share. If you're feeling nostalgic, we're still taking summer-themed submissions
here. And if you're feeling caption-y, click here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Caption This 133

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
Deerfield Beach, FL, January 2007

That's our youngest munchkin, Noah, tearing headlong toward the surf at the only speed he knows. I was trying to get an artsy beach umbrella perspective, and ended up, somewhat accidentally, with his sweet little form in the corner. Even when he's rendered in a tiny scale, he manages to delight anyone who sees him.

(What the hell am I talking about? Head over here for the Thematic Photographic summer extravaganza. Don't delay...fall's coming.)

Your turn: Please come up with a snappy caption for this shot. New to Caption This? Follow this yellow brick link for more info on how this insanity works.

About our last photo of my father-in-law's instrument panel: It's slowly turning into one of my favorite recent pics. There's an order to it that appeals to me. And it reminds me of how much fun I have with my family when we're running errands and doing the everyday things that everyday families do. So without further ado, our latest honorable menschens are:
  • Dana: "Idling away."
  • Melissa: "En-gauge-ing."
  • Robin: "Yes, we're there yet."
SPwriter, aka Steve Parolini, takes it with "Going nowhere fast." He's long been a supporter of Caption This. More importantly, he's an editor who's always been a supporter of anyone who has a literary question. His advice and guidance are legendary. And appreciated. Click here to learn more about him.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer feet

The best laid plans often remain just that, plans. I had every intention of posting a carefully crafted Caption This entry this evening. I had finished some writing - the real, work kind - and was loading up my blog's admin tools when it dawned on me that Google was having a bad night.

So while the page load spinner thing continued to spin in my browser, I decided to try the next best thing: my BlackBerry. It has a nifty camera and a nifty mail-it-in blogging capability. So here I am, thumb typing from the couch, surrounded by the two most important ladies in my life.

Not a bad way to spend a quiet Sunday evening.

Your turn: What does your ideal eve look like?

About this photo: When you're in the middle of a long drive home and you've stopped at a roadside service station in Nowheretown, Ontario, you often do strange things with whatever camera falls closest to hand. And by "you", I actually mean "me", because I'm just odd that way. I can already see that having a camera baked into my smartphone is going to make for some really strange views of the world.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

When you feel reflective...

Aquatic steps
London, ON, June 2009

Ever have a day when you just don't feel much like saying much of anything? I realize this kind of thing goes against the whole social part of social media, that it doesn't exactly position you for bloggy, Twittery or Facebook-y goodness. But sometimes, you just want to sit off to the side and listen to the silence that ensues.

And so it is...

Your turn: The joys of quiet. Please discuss.

One more thing: We're ripping through the summery section of the photo album. Head over here for the Thematic Photographic entry that started it all.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thanks, Bill

Surfin' USA
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2004

I'm in a beachy mood today, hence the inclusion of another view from the edge of the dry part of our planet. Standing in a place where waves from G-d-knows-where just barely touch my toes brings me a certain semblance of peace, and today's been one of those days when peace has been welcome.

Your turn: What brings you peace as the week transitions to the weekend? And where's your summer-themed photo? I know you've got it in you.

About the title: Hurricane Bill continues its (his?) tour off the eastern seaboard of the U.S., whipping up waves and annoying the bejeebers out of folks who live near, work on or transit across the water. This photo reminds me of the power of the sea, and how small we all feel whenever we come face-to-face with it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

When they were young...

Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2006 [Click to embiggen]

They have an energy about them that seems as endless as the waves that wash over their growing feet. On this afternoon, I suspect they could have stayed here until sunset, dancing in the surf and enjoying a place so different from what they were used to. And I suspect I could have stood right there and watched them.

Your turn: Thematic Photographic explores summer for the next week. If you've got a summer-themed photo handy, please click here and follow the easy-to-follow instructions. And if you don't have a photo handy, I hope you'll head outside and grab one.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thematic Photographic 63 - Summer

Wet vision
London, ON, June 2009

We've covered seasons before (autumn and winter) so it was only a matter of time before we returned to the seasonal fold. Summer vexes me because, well, it's so darn bright. The blast furnace of light adds a certain level of challenge every time I head out to shoot, especially when I'm limited by my schedule to a midday outing. If early mornings and late evenings are the golden hours, then lunchtime in summer is anything but golden. Or subtle.

But when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. And it's good for the photographic soul to work in scenarios that aren't otherwise ideal. That's how we learn, after all. Or so I've been told.

Your turn: We'll be sharing summer-themed pics all week long. How does this Thematic Photographic thing work? Read on, McDuff...
  • 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...summer!
  • 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, August 18, 2009

Fenced in

Wooden you like to remember?
London, ON, October 2007

Time is the friend of the few. It takes its toll, slowly and inevitably, until all that's left for anyone who takes the time to look in is a faded shadow of what once was.

The joy in exploring places like this lies in imagining what they might have been like before all this happened. I suspect this was quite the vibrant neighborhood before the kids grew up, moved on and left an older generation to preside over the increasingly quiet neighborhood.

Your turn: Go ahead...tell the story of this place.

About this photo: It's been abandoned week as Thematic Photographic celebrates things that have seen their better days. We're still taking submissions here, and will be launching a new theme tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. EDT. It will be:


Now that some parts of the northern hemisphere are experiencing seasonal conditions, I wanted to pay homage to the season that might be.

Monday, August 17, 2009

School's out

London, ON, February 2008

An old classroom in a school that no longer exists. A place where our kids learned their earliest lessons, now sold, gutted, renovated and unrecognizable as the humble former library building that used to be their home away from home. It exists now only as a memory, and the kids who studied here have since moved to a spanking new building, built just for them, nearby.

As I look at my children's old classroom, I think about places similar to this that housed my own childhood. They, too, are now gone or repurposed. I guess nothing is ever truly permanent, that every place that matters will eventually be abandoned to time, remembered only in images and words, if at all.

Your turn: Why we look back. Please discuss. (And if you haven't shared your "abandoned" vision for this week's Thematic Photographic, please click here.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pondering the things that matter

I'm learning, slowly, that life doesn't always follow a set script, that sometimes it takes a path that's light years away from the one you originally envisioned.

We've been reconnecting with family this week, spending time with parents/grandparents and trying to remind ourselves why moments like this matter as much as they do. And the only answer I can come up with is this: Because it can all disappear in a blink.

Sometimes you have fair warning and sometimes you don't. Either way, there's no guarantee that the folks who ground you will be there tomorrow. So you linger over goodbyes and take pictures - real ones and mental ones - because you just don't know. Indeed, you never know.

Since this life thing is so ephemeral, I decided this week to get back to base principles. I swam with our kids and sat with my wife. I stretched out my walks with the dog and worked beside a quiet river. I convinced my son to ride shotgun with me when I got called in to do a bunch of interviews, and we ended up making indelible memories – for him and for me - along the way. Nothing earth shattering or headline-worthy. Just us, doing neat, unscripted things as life gave us the opportunity to do so.

Work got done late at night. And when my BlackBerry fried itself and my laptop decided to stop talking to the rest of the world, it took a bit of a break, too. Manyana, I's too short to worry about things over which I have no control. And everything got fixed in the end. And the world continued to spin on its axis.

I have no idea what the future holds for anyone. But as my son and I drove home from the last interview (where the very kind producer allowed him to sit in the studio as I spoke live) and he picked up my camera and shot pictures of a brilliant evening sky, I realized there's nothing we can do about life's little cruelties, the realities of mortality and illness that often derail the most carefully laid plans. So we may as well make little moments like this happen as often and as vibrantly as we can.

I'm privileged to have had the chance to experience these moments with a rapidly growing teenager whose looks and overall sense of being are remarkably, almost frighteningly like mine. I'm privileged to have had the chance to swim with my youngest, to wave to him underwater for the umpteenth time that day, just because. I'm privileged to have sat with our daughter on the hallway floor as we tried to convince the dog to drink more water after coming in from a particularly hot and humid walk. It was the kind of week I wish I could have more of, and wish it didn't have to be so finite.

None of these moments will matter much to anyone outside our immediate family. But nothing could mean more to me. I guess I'll have to keep reminding myself to focus on the small stuff as my way of dealing with everything an unpredictable, sometimes mean-spirited world can throw out.

Your turn: Small moments. Big impact. Please discuss.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Linens N not much else

No sale
London, ON, February 2009 [Click to embiggen]

I'm wrestling with some major tech issues this week, including a complete and utter meltdown of my BlackBerry. So if this seems a bit terse, that's why.

I guess "abandoned" is an appropriate theme (see here for more Thematic goodness) when everything in our house seems to be failing and getting tossed around the same time. Despite the frightening number of zeroes on the price tags of the replacement items (so far, we're dealing with the furnace/aircon/water heater, washer/dryer, vacuum and 'Berry, and we're taking bets on what's next) I admit it's a bit cathartic to get rid of the old. If anything, the house hasn't been this devoid of stuff in years. A good thing all around.

Sadly, we won't be shopping at this particular store. I featured it over the winter, and thought a wider perspective might contribute more reflective feelings of abandonment to this week's theme. Enjoy.

Your turn: Ever wonder what happens to the retail community - employees, customers, suppliers etc. - when a large store like this closes. From where I sit, it's almost like the removal of gravity. What say you?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thematic Photographic 62 - Abandoned

Piped in
Mallorytown, ON, July 2009 [Click to enlarge]

I like shooting sad. I'm not a sad person - pensive, maybe, and perhaps somewhat thoughtful when I need to be, but definitely not sad - but I enjoy what sad looks like and how it tends to make us a bit more reflective than we otherwise might be.

Which is my way of explaining why I chose this week's Thematic Photographic theme, abandoned. When I walk around a place like this, I like to close my eyes and imagine what it must have been like when it was new, what the people who were here - and have since vanished - were like and what it felt like to stand in this very spot at a very different point in time.

In fact, time does things to a place, some nice and some not so nice. And when the world moves on, we're left with empty, sometimes scary spaces that make us wonder what was, and what happened to change it all.

Your turn: I hope you'll join Thematic Photographic this week by sharing an abandoned-themed photo, then posting the link in a comment here. For more background on how TP 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...abandoned!
  • 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.

The ultimate skylight

Greenhouse dreams
London, ON, May 2009 [Click to enlarge]

There's a hotel in our burg, called the Lamplighter, that's so brilliantly built that it's a wonder no one else nearby has copied the concept. They built a massive atrium between the wings that houses a pool, water slide and deck area. You can sit in your room and watch folks while the day away, or sit under a gazebo and drink yourself silly while a blizzard rages outside.

Although staying in a hotel 15 minutes from home isn't really in the cards for us - though, on second thought, maybe it should be as an occasional treat. Must mull this one more... - it's become a popular spot for kids' birthday parties. Which means we've spent lots of quality time under the glass roof over the past little bit. And anytime I'm just hanging out, I'm bound to start staring at things. And this thing certainly merits staring, so...

I thought a perspective on a place that's been so good to our kids would be a nice way to close out our lines theme - a cleaning of the palate, if you will, before we segue into the abandoned theme at 7:00 this evening.

Your turn: Your most memorable birthday party was...?

One more thing: I've done a bunch of interviews following the just-released report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that concluded Canada was the third most expensive country on the planet (well, of its 30 member nations, anyway) for cell phone service. In short, it would seem we're being hosed. So yesterday I spoke live with CTV News Channel's Brad Giffen, then walked across the street to the CBC and chatted with Ron Charles for a report that later aired on The National (Story here, Quicktime video here, Real Media video here.)

British racing green

Classic lines
Halton Hills, ON, July 2009 [Click o embiggen]

We begin to wind down this week's Thematic Photographic theme, lines, with a parking lot view of one of the prettiest set of lines to emerge from a Bentley studio in, well, ever.

Still, it's sad to see a car like this with such a ridiculously minimum wage wax and detailing job. I was almost tempted to leave a note on the windshield. Almost.

Your turn: Some people live in houses that cost less than this car. Is this a well deserved perk of success or a self indulgent trophy for the hopelessly insecure? I guess I wouldn't be this torn about six-digit vehicles if I actually drove one. What think you?

Coming soon...another Thematic Photographic theme. Later today (Wednesday), at exactly 7:00 p.m. EDT, I'll unveil the launch entry for next week's TP theme. It will be:


Hope you've got some evocative pictures to share for this one.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Magical mystery lines

What the hell is this?
London, ON, June 2009 [Click to embiggen]

I often taken pictures not because there's a story waiting to be told or a lesson needing to be learned. Sometimes, it's enough to look at something that looks just neat enough that you want to share it. It really can be as simple as that.

Your turn: So what is this thing? I'm hoping you'll have some suggestions: The wilder, the better. And while we're on the topic of lines, don't forget to pop into our launch entry for this week's Thematic Photographic theme (lines, apparently. Who knew?) It's the most fun you can have with your blogging clothes off.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Caption This 132

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
Laval, QC, July 2009 [Click image to embiggen]

About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores lines all week long. This photo apparently has many of them, so I hope you enjoy pondering the possibilities. Do you want in on the TP madness? Of course you do! Click here to start the fun.
I have a fundamental aversion to sitting in one place with nothing to do. I can't stare blankly at a wall, for example. I have to pick it apart and catalog every last detail and blemish. And I won't be satisfied until everything I've identified has a corresponding story behind it.
"Yes, officer, that brownish smudge beside the stove is where I shot the intruder with my blow gun. He disappeared into the night, but not before he wiped his bloodied hand on the paint and grabbed the last of my dog's chew sticks. I think you might want to try the vet first."
So as I sat in my father-in-law's car while he was in the bank, I thought it would be neat to explore his instrument panel with my lens. The car is new, and since his kids are all grown up, everything is as pristine as the recent day when it rolled off the assembly line in Brampton, ON.

And as I mulled over something in a line-ish theme, I realized this one fit the bill oh so nicely.

Your turn: Please click on the comment link below and suggest a snappy, creative caption for this image. You may enter as often as you wish. Winner's announced next Sunday. If you're new to Caption This, click here for more background - and say hi to the old ladies while you're there.

About last week's picture of Zach watching the laundry: Since this photo was taken, the laundry room's undergone still more hastily planned chaos, as our almost-20-year-old HVAC decided to stop HVACing. I don't know about you, but providing basic things like heating, cooling and hot water strikes me as one of those core requirements of parenthood. Sure, we could have used the money to, I don't know, eat. Or maybe drink ourselves into a drunk-enough stupor that none of this would have mattered anymore. But at least now we don't have to stand beside the A/C unit and wonder why it's dripping a torrent of water into the drain while the vents blow warm-ish air. Using half the energy will be a bonus, too.

And through it all, our kids continue to find reasons to ooh and aah over the laundry machines. Our house sure is strange, but we love it that way.

This week's honorable menschens are the following lovely folks:
  • Dana: "Soap opera."
  • Tabor: "Mom, come watch kitty!"
  • Anne: "Do I have to watch this channel?"
Thom takes it with "Mom...Dad...when does the movie start?" Thom hails from Hawaii, and everything he posts on his blog is woven with the friendly, family-focused, laid back vibe that makes this place #1 on everyone's wanna-live-there list. The world needs more good guys...Thom's certainly one of 'em.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Our bookended day

I've spent the entire day away from the laptop, and as the clock
approaches Cinderella's witching hour, I'm not about to crack my
beloved HP out of hibernation. The BlackBerry will have to do for now.

But I couldn't let the day close out without committing to words a
neat bit of serendipity that struck me as worth remembering.

Bookend #1: it's just after sunrise, around 6:20 in our neck of the
woods. We're off on another grand family adventure, and we find
ourselves piloting the wondervan through the nearly deserted streets
of London. As I turn east on Oxford - one of our burg's main east-west
roads - I notice a bright slash of light straight ahead.

Some context: the road is as straight as a ruler - a tie-in to this
week's Thematic Photographic theme, perhaps - so I can see for miles.
It's also hilly, which really helps the see-for-miles thing.

So as I'm driving, I'm wondering what that orange-ish/reddish light
is. New Tim Horton's? Nah, wrong shade. New Shell gas station? Wrong
color. Then the shape evolves a bit, and it dawns on my sleep-addled
brain that I'm staring directly into the rising sun. The lower horizon
is sorta overcast, so the slash of light is actually a tiny break in
the crowds. Coolness!

I call out my discovery. The dog yawns. Noah looks up and chatters as
only a freshly minted 9-year-old boy can. His Nintendo DSi will
wait...he knows a far more magical show is going on through the
windshield, at the end of the road. And this one he gets to share.

Bookend #2: it's just before sunset. I'm sitting on the porch with
Zach, our eldest son. I have my camera with me, and we're patiently
watching the cloud-covered horizon shift the fading slashes of light
toward nighttime blue. We figure the clouds won't clear before Old Sol
slips below the horizon for good, but we figure some patience won't
hurt. We chat about what this scene looked like last night -
brilliant, in his estimate - and how we really ought to camp out here
every night to ensure we get what we're looking for.

I watch him as he peers into the endless sky, and it hits me that for
all his annoying-big-brother shtick, the building blocks of a much
more adultlike being are very much on their way to being fully formed.
Bit by bit, he's learning the lessons he'll need to not only take
better pictures in his own unique style, but to also view his world
more critically and thoroughly as he grows into the man he's destined
to be. Tonight, it's just a sky, two chaIrs and some happy midsummer
dad-son banter. More broadly, I suspect the porch chat is just the
beginning, and I can't help but get the feeling that it's something
he'll be learning about - and from - for a while.

Your turn: Small moments that aren't always so small. Please discuss.

Friday, August 07, 2009

A line need not be straight

Laval, QC, July 2009 [Click to enlarge]

There's no rule that a line must be straight. Indeed, in the world of self expression, I suppose there are no rules at all.

Remind me to remind myself of this the next time I've got to create something from nothing and find myself blocked. Sometimes, the straightest path to success lies in taking the unseen curve.

Your turn: For more Thematic Photographic linear madness, click here. Otherwise, please tell me something about the person who would have penned this lovely piece of rolling art.

One more thing: I was back in studio this morning. This time out, I did a live interview with CBC Newsworld's Jackie Perrin about the emergency meetings held in Ottawa today to discuss the Nortel bankruptcy. I can't find the video online (yet), but dug up a radio hit I did with CBC Radio Otttawa's Amanda Pfeffer a couple of weeks back. Here's the link to the audio stream.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Twitter gets hacked. John Hughes dies. Details at 11.

It was a big, sad, tumultuous day in the world. It started off with news of a massive denial of service (DoS) attack on Twitter and Facebook, as well as some Google-related properties, and ended with news of the death of John Hughes, director of such 80s brat pack films as The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles.

I guess I date myself when I say I grew up on his films, and to a large extent they defined part of my reality during a time when the major parts of my personality were being baked and finalized. It seems like only yesterday that I was watching movies like this with my then-very-new-girlfriend - and now wife - and wondering what the future held in store for us all. I never got a chance to thank him, of course, but I hope that while he was here he appreciated the positive impact he had on legions of complete strangers.

The world is rarely fair to those who pass through it. May the legacy of the cultural touchstones he created and the lives he influenced bring comfort to his family in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Your turn: How is it that seemingly repetitive movies can so embed themselves into the cultural fabric of a particular era?

One more thing: About that Twitter thing...I just got back from doing a live interview with CTV News Channel. I spoke with anchor Marcia MacMillan, and the video is here. Admitting I'm addicted to some aspects of social media on national television isn't an easy thing to do :)

Make that two: Thanks to 'A' News for pulling a clip from the interview and including it in the 11:00 p.m. news package. It's always especially rewarding to share the message with my hometown. And, no, this whole media thing will never get old for me.

OK, three: Thanks to Facebook notes from my friends Dana and Mona, I learned somewhat late that a clip from the interview was included in the CTV National News (yay!) Rob Brown's report can be seen here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Thematic Photographic 61 - Lines

No curves allowed
London, ON, May 2009 [Click to embiggen]

Like so many Thematic Photographic themes, it's entirely up to you whether you want to interpret it literally - as I have here - or somewhat more figuratively. We've got a whole week to explore it, so please don't feel compelled to stick to one or the other. I'm an equal opportunity theme-follower, after all, and I enjoy the company.

Your turn: If you're into lines and you want to share your own linear vision, click on the comment link below and dive right in. Here's how TP 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...lines!
  • 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, August 04, 2009

A baby no more

The end of a good year
London, ON, July 2009 [Click all images to enlarge]

This is the last picture I took of Noah before he turned 9. His eighth year was every bit as good to him as his previous years have been, and he ended it as he started it: With his usual sense of contended happiness that makes him a joy to be around.

As I hovered over him in his darkened room and took another in a seemingly endless series of sleeping-munchkin pictures (see here and here for earlier sleep pics), I realized how quickly time is slipping by. He was, after all, just born, and it seems impossible to realize he's on the threshold of double digits. And as our youngest child, his milestones seem to come with their own little bit of sting because every one is the "last" of something. He's the one who, by virtue of his role as the baby, closes the door on each successive chapter in our family's life.

And what a book he's already writing for us.

Your turn: My wife wrote about his birthday far more eloquently than I ever could (link). If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll visit her and share a wish for Noah's next year.

About these photos: There is indeed a laundry connection, as he's covered by his beloved Pooh blankie, just as he was when we first brought him home from the hospital. As we wind down last week's laundry theme (click here if you'd like to share a pic) we look forward to the next Thematic Photographic theme - which goes live on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EDT. It will be...
Start your thinking caps thinking...

Monday, August 03, 2009

The root of all laundry

His master's foot
London, ON, February 2009 [Click to embiggen]

I'll apologize in advance for the rushed nature of this entry. It's been a busy day in Levyland, with lots of writing and publishing* happening amidst lots of comings and goings and the imminent ritual gutting of our HVAC infrastructure (it's been lovely presiding over a failing A/C unit. Fun stuff!)

Needless to say, it's an exciting time to be one of us, which hasn't left me with much time today to shoot something that aligns with this week's laundry theme (see here for more.)

So you'll have to settle for Frasier lying at Noah's admittedly stinky feet for now. Don't worry, the little man clearly gets his stinkage from me. Why this pic? Because between the two of them, they're responsible for a good chunk of the laundry that winds its way through the washer and dryer.

Your turn: How do kids attract dirt to the degree that they do? Is it some sort of magic? Do tell!

* My latest Betanews column, The Google Voice battle: What is Apple afraid of? published today.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Caption This 131

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

About this photo: The laundry extravaganza continues. You can be a part of it, too, by following this link. Freshly clean goodness awaits.
I wasn't kidding when I said our kids set up shop in the laundry room after we got the new washer and dryer up and running. So fascinated were we all by the reality of actual machines that actually worked, we gathered as a family in front of the two newest robotic additions to the household and stared at them as they did their thing.

Here, Zach takes his turn on the step stool we set up just for this occasion. I know it may seem a little strange to be excited by something like this. But we've always written our own script when it comes to stuff like this, and if it results in a happy shared memory for our kids, then it's anything but strange to us.

Your turn: If I'm not watching television I'm watching...what? And why?

About our last CT photo of a body hanging under balloons in the midday sky: This definitely ranks as one of the weirdest pictures I've taken in a while. It was a hard scene to compose, as I was shooting directly into the sun - usually a no-no for a whole lot of photographic and ocular safety reasons - and ended up using the balloons themselves to shield the shot. Making matters worse: I was in the middle of a crowd of people at the time, so maneuvering around the hot pavement to track the windblown balloons while being jostled by strangers was an adventure in itself. Honorable menschens go to these fine folks:
  • Bernie "Klaatu" Madoff: "Hubert couldn't make the balloon payment on his mortgage."
  • Gallow: "Anybody got a pin?"
Morah Mommy takes it this time out with "Inflated sense of self!" Her blog, Adventures of Motherhood, is a delightful read (she wrote about our son's birthday today...go and say hi if you wish. I'll hang here in the meantime.)

So, yes, she is my lovely and inspiring wife. And not a day goes by that she doesn't finish my sentences, reflect what I'm thinking or simply read my mind. And not a day goes by that I don't stop for a moment and thank G-d she chose me. Please head over her way and share a happy or two with her.

Related link: Keeping it clean

Saturday, August 01, 2009

My little lady

One last goodbye
London, ON, July 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic. Theme. Laundry. Craziness. All week. Here.
Just before the delivery people put our old - and decidedly non-functional - washer and dryer on the truck for the return trip to appliance oblivion, I got it into my head that we should mark the occasion in some small way. I'm still not quite sure why, but I figured it was the least we could do to remember a couple of appliances that had kept our clothes clean and dry for our children's entire lives.

Yup, I get sentimental over major appliances.

So I asked our daughter if she wanted to play along. Against her better judgment, she said yes. She's like that: willing to give something a shot if she thinks it'll make folks around her happy. Empathetic to the core, she's already got a remarkable sense of who she is at the tender age of 11.

I was privileged to hang out with her for a good chunk of the day today. I got called in to do an interview with CTV News Channel*. Since she had a playdate at a friend's house just after the scheduled interview time, she tagged along. She patiently hung out with me in the studio while I got all mic-ed and earpieced up, then bantered with me and the producer for the 20 minutes or so it took till we went live. Then she stayed in the studio and watched me speak, seemingly one-way, into a silent camera to an anchor 200 km away.

It was one of those moments that, as a parent, I wish I could bottle up and preserve in some way. She's such a joy to be around that it saddens me to think she won't always be 11, with a schedule flexible enough to tag along with dad on a grand weekend adventure.

All the more reason for me to cherish the times that she can.

Your turn: Little moments you'll remember forever. Please discuss.

* I spoke with Jacqueline Milczarek about a lawsuit that could potentially force the popular VoIP service, Skype, to go silent. If you can stand to see me yammer on television, the video is here. (And, no, despite what the on-screen graphics may suggest, I haven't magically started spelling my family name with an 'i'. It still "Levy" as far as I can tell.)