Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blockbuster busted

The other shoe in the traumatic redrawing of the entertainment landscape has just dropped: the remaining Blockbuster stores in Canada are now slated to close.

That's right, folks: the video store as we know it is finally dead. No one ever said progress came without cost.

Your turn: In a world without video stores, where do you find stuff to watch?

For more shopping-related Thematic, click here.

This just in: If you're in Canada, I'll be chatting about this live tomorrow (Thursday) morning on CTV's Canada AM. Tune in just before 7:15 a.m. and I'll be on with Seamus O'Regan.

But wait, there's more: Here's a link to the Canada AM interview.

Saucy collection

Just for the taste of it
London, ON, August 2011

There's a delightful market near our house. It's called "Remark", and it's one of those local, folks-know-your-name kind places that makes you glad that nationally-owned chains haven't completely taken over. I'd heard about it for years but, for reasons I can't explain or understand, never got around to going.

Until this weekend. Thanks to my wife and kids who know how much I enjoy everyday adventures like this, we decided it was time for me to become Remark-savvy. And what a revelation it was, chock full of neat little finds that make grocery shopping more like fun and less like a chore. We bumped into folks we knew, and delighted in finding little flourishes of decor that made it feel much warmer than the typical store.

The lighting also caught my eye, so it didn't take long for me to start wondering how it would all look on a two-dimensional, 4x6-inch plane. From the looks of this spice display, it all looks rather delish. I'll be back.

Your turn: Got a locally-owned/managed store near you that makes a difference? Do tell.

One more thing: To share your own shopping-themed experience, follow your mouse this way.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Popeye the Sailor Man

You come across the craziest things when you go grocery shopping. Like this fellow. What should we name him?

For more Thematic shopping silliness, go here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thematic Photographic 160 - Shopping

Conspicuous consumption
Laval, QC, July 2011

Thematic goes shopping this week, and we're hoping you'll find a bit of time to do the same. As you can imagine, shopping can be interpreted six ways from Sunday, and you've got a whole week to play with your camera and come up with your own take on it.

As you can see, I've been to the grocery store. This time, anyway. Where will I go tomorrow? Not sure yet. Drop back in to see how this develops.

Your turn: Are you feeling like a shopaholic? Either way, post a shopping-themed pic to your blog or website - or simply find something you've already posted - and leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Repeat as often as you wish through the week, and feel free to invite your friends along for the ride. Thematic isn't a competition: It's a fun, non-competitive way to spread our photographic wings a bit. Are you in?

If you're new to the Thematic thing, click here for more info on how it all works.

Get yourself some cheap sunglasses

Grand Bend, ON
August 2011
About this photo: We're winding down our "vibrancy" theme with one last pic. It's not too late to share your own: Just click here. Our next theme will be "Shopping" and will launch tonight at 7:00 Eastern.
They're cheap, cheesy and oh so kitschy. Everything on sale on the sidewalk of the main drag through this lakeside tourist town seems to scream immediate, almost-disposable gratification.

Purists may hold their noses up, of course. But when you're headed to the beach and need a towel, a few toys and some eye protection you don't want to worry about, you're almost thankful for the few dozen opportunistic vendors who've set up shop here.

Summer selling season is an all-too-brief blink of time for these people, and they either sell what they've got when the warm sun shines or risk spending a very cold winter by a very cold lake. I quietly hope their sales are as hot as the pavement below before I turn for the lake and head back to my family.

Your turn: Who wears these? Why?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fire in the sky

Blink and it's gone
London, ON, August 2011
[Click photo to embiggen]

Vibrancy can happen anywhere, but we only pick up on it if we're looking for it in the first place. It's all too easy to get caught up in the back-and-forth of the everyday. It's all too easy to miss the fun because we simply weren't paying attention.

On this night, it was halftime at our daughter's soccer game, and I found myself looking for things to shoot before the light faded for good. The sky was particularly entertaining, and I'm glad I paid attention this time.

Your turn: How do you avoid missing moments that matter?

On immoral force

"Force always attracts men of low morality."
Albert Einstein

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A face in the flag

Can you see it?
Grand Bend, ON, August 2011
About this photo: It's Thematic's vibrant week, and it can be yours, too. Just follow your mouse here.
I'm always taking pictures of flags (like this one and this one.) I don't believe in the I-already-have-it-at-home-so-I-won't-bother philosophy of photography. Rather, I believe in returning to things we've shot before, because you never know when a factor or two will shift a little and completely change the tone of what you ultimately capture.

Which brings me to this flag. It stands at the entrance to the public beach at Grand Bend, a sentinel to the thousands of people who converge on this playground on the average sunny summer day. Almost no one pays attention to it because, let's face it, they've seen it all before. But I had my long-ish lens on the camera, and as I walked back from refilling the extort-, er, parking meter, I decided I didn't want to leave this delightfully raucous little tourist town without some photographic evidence.

As I often do when I'm walking alone, I'll deliberately carry my camera over my shoulder. That makes it easy to shoot at will whenever the urge strikes. The shoot-and-run principle dictates fast decisions, quick compositions and not a whole lot of forethought. You go with your gut, grabbing whatever strikes you as meaningful in the moment. It's a glorious way to fill what would otherwise be a few mindless moments, a wonderful way to remember what it felt like to walk from here to there, to remember the feel, the spirit of this place.

So, back to the flag. As I got closer to the beach, the familiar fabric that was blowing in the wind almost seemed to ask for a shot. I stopped mid-sidewalk, composed and shot off at least ten frames (G-d bless you, digital.) Nine of them were lousy thanks to wind-whipped shapes that completely ruined the majesty that is the maple leaf (you don't have to be Canadian to love this flag, after all. It rocks in its own right. I know I'm biased, but still...) The tenth and very last frame was, well, look for yourself.*

Sometimes, magic happens through a lens. Sometimes, you're just lucky enough to have decided to be there at that moment when it happens.

Your turn: So how do you explain this? Pure coincidence or some kind of sign? Or am I just seeing things?

* For the record, this pic isn't PhotoShopped. I'm not that good. Besides, it would violate my whole no-heroic-editing philosophy.

On vision

"Imagination gives you the picture. Vision gives you the impulse to make the picture your own."
Robert Collier

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene: You suck

Forgive me for the harsh headline. Bad weather puts me in a mood.

Of course, it's weather. It's been happening for billions of years, long before we built cities beside - or in some cases, below - the sea, long before we decided we were masters of the environment. Yeah, right.

So I can't really blame Mother Nature for doing her thing. I can, however, toss a few barbs at every American television network anchor and reporter currently covering the hurricane beat. There's a fine line between informing the public (good) and scaring the bejeebers out of them for no good reason (as you likely guessed, bad) and I'm going to conclude that most of these journos long ago crossed that line.

Their hyperbolic, sensationalistic choice of words and tone doesn't help viewers understand what they need to do to protect themselves and their homes. Sure, it may grab viewers' attention, but like a Fox "News" show, you come away feeling like you've actually lost brain cells in the process.

I just watched a reporter stand in a wind tunnel to illustrate the effects of hurricane-force winds on the human body. I didn't learn a whole lot that I didn't know, but I'm going to spend a while trying to banish those images of his flapping cheeks from my mind. Repeating the Google Earth projection of lower Manhattan flooding with 500 BILLION TONS OF WATER three times was probably a bit much, too. I'm pretty sure there's at least one viewer out there who thought it was real and is now reaching for his panic attack meds.

There are plenty of examples of great reporting on this potentially serious weather event. Unfortunately, they're being drowned out by the morons whose attention-grabbing pursuit of ratings seems to matter more to them than the basic journalistic goal of serving the community's greater good.

Your turn: How is Hurricane Irene touching you?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Painted ladies and a bottle of wine

The definition of red
Grand Bend, ON, August 2011
About this photo: It's Thematic's vibrant week, and you're invited to post your own. Go here to start.
Ever notice how towns near large bodies of water seem to be painted with a different palette than those further inland? I found this delightfully painted building just a couple of blocks in from Lake Huron, on the main drag of an equally delightfully busy tourist burg. This place is raucous kitsch in all its glory, and I wouldn't change a thing.

Your turn: Who lives here?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Steve Jobs quits Apple. The world slows down a little

So by now you've likely heard the news that Steve Jobs is stepping down as CEO of Apple. What's next? Good question. I'll do my best to answer it - and many others - in the days to come.

What was initially a quiet evening spent shepherding our son to choir practice quickly turned into a bit of a free-for-all (don't worry, though, as I dig this stuff.) I've spoken with CTV News Channel's Brad Giffen, the Toronto Star and the Deutsche-Presse agency. Coming up is a chat with CFRB Newstalk Radio 1010 in Toronto, and CTV's Canada AM. Busy night around these parts - never mind the tornado warnings and the blustery storms that are blanketing the region.

More soon. In the meantime, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on Mr. Jobs's resignation.

Mine? I'm a little sad. I wish cancer didn't have to touch as many lives as it does.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jack dies. The earth moves.

Canada was rocked yesterday with news that Jack Layton, leader of the federal New Democratic Party, lost his battle with cancer. He was 61.

As leader of the perennial #3 party for the past eight years, he never became prime minister, never lorded over Parliament Hill, never tasted the ultimate pinnacle of power. His party, a somewhat left-leaning organization whose union-, family- and community-friendly policies often stood in stark contrast to the more fiscally strident focus of the Conservatives, has traditionally been just a little too far away from centrist to grab the attention of Canada's mainstream.

But here's the thing: Mr. Layton managed the impossible in a political career that spanned a generation and took him from Toronto city council to one of the most influential positions in federal politics. His everyman appeal and ability to relate the political process to the people it served helped him grow his party's fortunes during his leadership. The NDP served as an increasingly influential balancing factor in federal politics, a counter to the policies of opposing parties who often seemed to forget who they were serving.

Jack, as he was comfortably known, never seemed to forget. And it all paid off this last May when, in a stunningly historic victory, the party paved Quebec orange and became the official opposition for the first time ever.

I don't write this to be maudlin. I write it for perspective. Because as headlines screamed news of today's earthquake that touched most of the U.S. and Canadian east coast region, it occurred to me that some of us may have lost it.

Here's the bigger picture: On Sunday, a tornado destroyed the center of town in Goderich, Ontario. An employee at the Sifto salt mine, Normand Laberge, died as he tried to escape the lakeside boom crane he had been operating. Earlier this year, a magnitude 9.0 quake - over 1,000 times stronger than today's - and tsunami left 20,000 people dead or missing in Japan. Last year's Haiti quake (at 7.0, over 10 times as intense) left upwards of 85,000 people dead, a million homeless, and an already-decimated economy in an unimaginably worse shambles.

Somehow, watching office workers mug for the cameras that descended on the scene as they evacuated their buildings seems a little ridiculous given the real losses, large and small, faced by others. In the end, it was a harmless diversion. Let's define it as such, and let's move on. False drama doesn't become us. There's enough real drama - and real loss - to go around.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thematic Photographic 159 - Vibrant

Filet O Fish
Saint-Leonard d'Aston, QC, July 2011

If you're a pessimist, the world can be an ugly place. If you're an optimist, it's gorgeous. It all depends on your perspective, then, and it's up to you - indeed, all of us - to look for the beauty. Otherwise, there's no telling what kind of incredible things we might miss along the way.

For the next week, Thematic asks you to share your most vibrant pictures. What's vibrant? It can be color, as you see here. Or it can be a person, a scene, a moment that moves your soul. As always, it's totally up to you to interpret the theme. I suspect this is going to be a fun one!

Your turn: Post a vibrant-themed picture to your blog/web site - or find one you've already posted online - and leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to spread the joy. Repeat as often as you wish throughout the week, and don't be afraid to pull in friends, families, and anyone else looking for some photographic fun. For more background on how Thematic Photographic works, please click here.

Not a snow globe

The purple vase of happiness
Quebec City, QC, July 2011

I thought I'd drop in another glass-themed pic before we move on to our new Thematic theme at 7:00 p.m. Just because.

Your turn: Where did I find this? How did they make the water purple?


Here's looking at you, kid
Quebec City, QC, July 2011

Glass isn't just something we look through. Sometimes we use it to look at ourselves, as well. I'm guessing whoever mounted this decidedly modern piece of mirrored glass to this heritage building was more interested in preventing accidents and boosting security than in preserving the property in its absolute historic condition. I doubt mirrors were part of the landscape when warring armies fought in this place some 400 years ago.

But this entire stretch had been so lovingly preserved that it was easy to overlook the occasional concession to modern life. That a walled city - the only one in North America - can be such a vibrant home for homeowners and business owners alike is pretty cool in my book.

Your turn: If only this corner could talk. What would it say?

One more thing: It's not too late to share your own glassy vision. Just click here to dive in. New Thematic theme, vibrant, launches tonight at 7:00 Eastern.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

To market, we must go

Looking toward an invisible sun
London, ON, May 2011
About this photo: If it's made of glass, we hope you'll share a similarly-themed picture of your very own. It's called Thematic, and you can get involved by clicking here.
I live in the other London, the one without the accent, the European cachet, or the riots. We're a sleepy, mid-sized Canadian city that's often only too happy to live in the shadows of its more famous namesake.

We don't have traffic jams, per se, unless you define such a thing as a dozen cars arriving at a red light at approximately the same time. We don't have any expressways within the city limits. Nothing is more than a 20-minute drive away. I can realistically bike across the city and be back home in time for breakfast. Okay, a late breakfast, but still.

It makes for a quieter lifestyle, but it has its costs, too, like a sluggish economy and limited business/career opportunities for some. Unlike the "real" London, or Toronto, a mere two-hour drive east, our economy doesn't grow as much as it staggers from one milestone to the next. We tend to rely on fading sectors - manufacturing and call centers, for example - and as a result now enjoy one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. When Dr. Oetker, a German pizza maker, announced plans to open a plant here a few weeks ago, the out-of-scale cheerleading from a civic administration desperate for good news, any good news, was more than a little bizarre. And sad.

London, Ontario, world frozen pizza capital. We're so proud.

A number of notable initiatives and groups are doing great work to turn it around and reignite this place as a center of non-all-dressed-with-mushrooms-on-top innovation and business excellence, but it's a long road and we're just getting started.

This is a picture of London's Covent Garden Market, one of the jewels in the crown of an earlier effort to anchor the city's future. Part of a number of big-buck projects designed to spark interest in redeveloping our crumbling downtown, it's become a go-to place for the slowly growing number of area residents and the corporate employees who still work nearby. It's also a great example of the kind of long-lead investment that spurs growth for decades to come.

I no longer work in the neighborhood, so whenever I find myself downtown, I try to make it down here to soak in the sense of community and wonder about what will grow next out of this much admired seed. This place remains under a consistent cover of clouds, but as long as enough of us continue to look to the sky in the hope of a better future, the London that everyone forgets will continue to be the kind of place we want - and can afford - to call home.

Your turn: What will it take to jumpstart growth where you are?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Polar bear in heat

He walks alone
Quebec City, QC, July 2011

Meet Eddy, the Quebec Aquarium's polar bear. He used to have a friend, Tiguak, but she sadly passed away in April. We visited him on a hot - about 30 C, plus humidity - sunny July day, and the paint scheme on the outdoor part of his enclosure notwithstanding, I couldn't help but wonder what he thought of the heat.

He would alternate between wandering inside, popping into his pool for a dip and, most poignantly, pacing back and forth on the ragged edge of the deck. It's hard to tell what he was thinking, of course, but staff members told us he's been doing this ever since he lost his partner.

I know that the raison d'etre of this incredible facility is conservation and education. But the sight of this magnificent, lonely animal pacing behind plate glass on a hot summer day made me more than a little sad. We sent him virtual hugs from our vantage point and hoped it was enough to cheer him up.

Probably not.

Your turn: Animals in captivity. Supporters say we need aquariums and zoos and the like to teach us all about animals, biology, conservation and the planet. Opponents say it's just plain cruel. Where do you stand? Why?

On fixing what ails us

"If everyone howled at every injustice, every act of barbarism, every act of unkindness, then we would be taking the first step toward a real humanity."
Nelson DeMille
Perhaps I'm overly influenced by the unnecessarily screaming headlines, but I'm sensing there's been a lot of unkindness floating around the planet over the past while, and I'm not entirely sure why. All I know is that this needs to change. Do you agree?

Friday, August 19, 2011

My $0.02 on HP, webOS and myopia

By now the geek world has had a day to absorb the news that HP is killing its mobile/tablet webOS platform, getting out of the hardware business and buying a British software firm, Autonomy, for $11.7 billion. The irony: The company pulled the trigger on the anniversary of its founding in a California garage.

What does it all mean? Well, if you ever had a PalmPilot, this marks the end of the line for Palm, which HP bought last year. And if you covet HP laptops - hello, The Office! - your next machine may very well be made by someone else. Beyond the personal/nostalgic realm, the implications extend right into the corner office.

Yahoo! Canada published my article, The HP verdict: investors win, innovators lose, today. Hope you enjoy it.

A glass more than half full

Drink. Be Merry.
Quebec City, QC, July 2011
About this photo: We're exploring all things glass this week as part of our latest Thematic theme. You're invited to share your own glassy vision, too. Just click here.
When the room is filled with the happy sounds of friends and family, it's easy to just sit back and drink it all in for a bit. Which is exactly what I did on this night. There was a spirit to this meal that I won't soon forget, a feeling that as long as you had the right people around the table, the result would be something you wouldn't soon forget - and hoped would never end.

I wish my camera could have recorded the warmth of this moment. I'll have to keep working on that, I guess.

Your turn: Do you remember one particular meal particularly well? What made it so unique?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

On mistakes. And learning from them.

"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing that you will make one."
Elbert Hubbard
This quote reminds me of the La-Z-Boy recliner and the bicycle. It may be safer to sit in the big, cushy chair instead of riding a bike precariously through traffic. Or maybe the sedentary avoidance of sudden risk is the deadliest of all paths.

I'm going to presume the whole point of this life thing is to get out, risk a fall, and see what happens next. On that note, the outside world beckons.

Your turn: How do you learn from your mistakes?

Behold the glass cathedral

Let the sun shine in
Mahwah, NJ, July 2011

I think the world would be a better place if more buildings looked like this. Don't you?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On owning our fate

"Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will."
Jawaharal Nehru

Your turn: I've heard all too often that life isn't fair. But is it, really?

Salt and pepper

Shaken, not stirred
Laval, QC, July 2011
[Click here for more glass-themed Thematic goodness]

They're about as plain as plain can be; so plain, in fact that they almost fade into the background whenever we encounter them at mealtime. The lowly salt and pepper shaker don't typically merit anything more than a passing glance. And looking at this shot, I'm still left wondering why, on this night, in this place, I decided to go beyond the passing glance.

Maybe I enjoyed watching the other restaurant-goers try to hide their curiosity as I set up for the shot. Maybe deep down inside, I enjoy the little jolt I get from throwing strangers little curves and giving them a reason to break out of their own sense of conventionality. Sometimes, people just need an excuse to think different.

Your turn: How do you think different?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Waiting at the hospital

Good news or bad?
London, ON, June 2011
About this photo: It's Thematic's "made of glass" week, and we're hoping you've got something glassy brewing either in your imagination or in your archives. Either way, head this way to share what you've got.
This is a shot of the overhead bridge in front of London's largest hospital complex. I felt like a bit of a voyeur when I took this, as I used my long lens to reach across the parking lot and capture this seemingly quiet moment between the couple toward the left.

They'll never know this photo was taken. Similarly, I'll never know who they are or why they were there. All I know is they lingered in that spot for what seemed like an exaggerated amount of time, watching the comings and goings of this world so different from the world outside.

Whatever brought them to this spot, I quietly hoped it wasn't ominous.

Your turn: Do you have a moment from a hospital you'd like to share?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Thematic Photographic 158 - Made of glass

Coke of a different color
Toronto, ON, May 2011

On the surface, this week's Thematic theme is somewhat straightforward: If it's made of glass, we want to see it. The twist lies in the fact that glass is generally transparent or translucent, and sometimes plays games with exposure and composition. Despite the challenges - or likely because of them - glass has become one of my favorite subjects to shoot, and I hope you enjoy the experience for the coming week, too.

Your turn: Take a picture of something glassy or find one you've already posted online. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the joy. Repeat. And don't be afraid to spread the word. Thematic Photographic is our non-competitive weekly exploration of all things photographic. For more background, please click here.

After the devastation

London, ON, August 2011
About this photo: We're winding down our Thematic theme, rough, today and getting ready for the new one that's set to launch at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Quick hint, if it's made of glass, you'll want to get it ready for our upcoming theme. In the meantime, it's not too late to do the rough thing. Just go here.
At first glance, the tree in the middle of a beautifully landscaped and equipped park doesn't seem to stand out from any other. To the hundreds of parents and kids skittering every which way to find the right soccer field at the right time, it's just another tree, a taken-for-granted source of shade for some, a near-invisible part of the background for others.

But after I sat underneath it during a rare quiet moment in between games, I noticed something was just a little bit off: I could see light coming through the leaves. I'm guessing whatever little bugs who ate multiples of their body weight in leaf bits were by now long gone, no doubt devouring some other defenseless canopy somewhere else in this city that laughably calls itself the Forest City.

The week I took this shot, the city announced plans to update its tree-filled logo. I'm guessing they'll steer clear of scenes like this one. Reality, after all, has no place in civic marketing.

Your turn: May the week that lies ahead for us all be nowhere near as rough as this tree has apparently had it. How will you avoid the rough edges of life in the days ahead?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Goodnight moon

Saying hello to our neighbor
London, ON, August 2011
[Please click photo to embiggen]
About this photo: We're exploring the various facets of "rough" as part of this week's Thematic. If none of this makes any sense to you - or even if it does - head this way to share your own.
For a place with no atmosphere, brutal temperature ranges, not a lot of gravity and a huge commute to the nearest Tim Hortons, the moon sure gets more than its fair share of publicity. Over the past month alone, it's garnered headlines for a new theory of its creation (namely, that it once crashed headlong into a second moon), the impending launch of two identical probes, and the possible sighting of the crashed Lunar Orbiter 2 on the dark side of the moon. Oh, and Buzz Aldrin (#2 man on the moon) is in court battling his soon-to-be-ex-wife and stepdaughter.

Other worlds never lose their ability to intrigue us, I guess.

As I often do when I'm bored, I'll point my camera in whatever direction interests me and see what comes up. I probably need longer glass to bring home viable moon shots, but that doesn't stop me from occasionally trying, anyway. On this remarkably clear summer night as we finished up at the local Dairy Queen, I'm kinda glad I took the chance, as billions of years of direct exposure to space has given this place a roughness that not even the wildest sci-fi-fed imagination could conjure up.

If only this world could talk.

Your turn: What would it say?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Talk radio silenced: Remembering Ted Tevan

Ask any writer, journalist or media type who his/her influences were and you'll likely need to clear off a few hours to hear the entire list. If you're in the business of creating stuff - words, pictures, sounds, whatever - and sharing them with an audience, those whose work inspired you early on tend to stick with you long after they're gone.

And so it is with Ted Tevan, the legendary Montreal sports talk radio host who passed away yesterday at the age of 78. As a kid, I often found myself beside a radio in the house, listening to his Sports Rap show. He'd come on after an Expos baseball game or a Canadiens hockey match and inevitably get into it with his listeners. He was argumentative, combative and endlessly entertaining.

His was one of the first shows I ever called, and it was the first one I ever got kicked off of. If you irritated him - not that difficult to do, apparently - he'd blow you away with the sound of a machine gun and a call of, "You're gone!" On his watch, Chenoys, Mort the Sport, Nicholas the Great, McGarrity and 790 became an integral part of our vocabulary. His show was more than a little dangerous, and when it faded to silence well past bedtime, you knew you'd be talking about it with your friends the next day, then counting the hours until he hit the air again.

As edgy as his on-air delivery often was, deep down you knew how much he loved being behind the mic, and his shows always pulsed with the kind of energy that's sadly lacking from much of what sails over the focus-grouped, demographic-sliced airwaves today. From the outpouring of responses on Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere, it's clear I'm not the only one who felt this way. It's also clear his influence is as strong as it always was.

In my own admittedly unconventional career in media, I often find myself talking live on-air with radio hosts at stations across the country. As I sit on the phone or, even better, in the studio, waiting for the interviews to begin, I often think of those long-ago calls to his show, how my pulse would race more than a little bit as he began speaking to me, as I wondered if my voice would even work as I took my first breath, as we got deeper into whatever the topic of the day was, and as the conversation either settled into a friendly groove or derailed into a catastrophic, machine-gun mess. I'd be fooling myself if I didn't acknowledge how the imprints of a childhood experience helped shape who I ultimately became.

I do hope he knew just how profoundly so many late-night listeners appreciated who he was. He was an original who was infinitely comfortable with his own voice, and unafraid to let the chips fall where they may. The business to which he contributed so much needs so many more like him today. The world does, too.

Your turn: A media figure who influenced you. Please discuss.

Desperately rough

Textured by time
Laval, QC, July 2011

As we continue to look at the rougher side of life - please head here to see what this rough stuff is all about - I'm starting to appreciate something: That things are slowly deteriorating all around us, and they often do so in absolute anonymity. The process of erosion is so far below the radar that we typically fail to pay attention until something drastic happens.

Ironically, I took this picture in Laval. It's just north of Montreal, and part of a region that's been getting national headlines in recent weeks for a spate of high profile infrastructure road collapses and other concrete failures. In fact, I grew up a few kilometers away from the Boulevard de la Concorde overpass, whose 2006 collapse killed five people. In case you're counting, the Boulevard du Souvenir overpass - even closer to my old house - failed in 2000, killing one.

For what it's worth, I don't believe these events are random. They're largely the result of a provincial culture that has generationally neglected infrastructure and sliced maintenance and inspection budgets below critical levels. What we're seeing now - the Ville-Marie Tunnel collapse, the Mercier Bridge, the Champlain Bridge, you name it - is the true cost of such short-sightedness. You can't escape physics and time, apparently.

Your turn: My yellow-tinged photo is deliberately abstract. Care to guess what it is?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The IBM PC turns 30

Thirty years ago today, IBM introduced the Personal Computer (also known as by its model name, the 5150.) Whatever machine you're using Right Now to read this, I hope you'll pause for a moment and consider the fundamental role IBM's baby played in shaping today's technological landscape - and the companies that built it and continue to drive its evolution.

Some now-classic IBM miscues resulted in the company exiting the hardware business entirely with the 2004 sale of its PC division to Lenovo, a Chinese vendor. IBM's decisions also helped fuel Microsoft's meteoric rise into the software giant of its generation - and sealed IBM's inability to fully profit from the market it created.

Be that as it may, it's as close to fundamental history as it gets in the typically nostalgia-free tech biz, and I'd be remiss if I let today slip by without so much as a mention.

Your turn: Your first PC was a...?


Thursday, August 11, 2011

On British riots and kindness

"Wherever there is a human being there is an opportunity for kindness."
Dear British looters: I hope you're listening. Come to think of it, I hope the government is listening, too. Either way, the country needs more kindness. So does the rest of the world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Zoom zoom stop

Fun with a rental car
Woodstock, ON, July 2011
About this photo: It's rough week at Written Inc. - in more ways than one. You can get in on the photographically rough action by clicking here. It won't hurt a bit.
I'm slowly, almost fitfully learning to appreciate that life isn't about big things, destinations or accolades. It's about finding, similarly slowly, that there's joy in the little things, in squeezing everything possible out of however many everyday moments we've been given, in looking inward instead of outward for validation, in living instead of just surviving.

Thoughts like this filled my mind as I pulled off the highway on the last stop of a very long drive home. I'd been alone in the car all day, with lots of time to think about what matters, what doesn't, and how I need to spend more time focused on the former rather than the latter. It had been a good day, one that'll stick in my mind for a while yet.

So when the highway rest stop loomed in the windshield, I lingered a bit in the parking lot as the light slowly faded, hoping to seal the memory of the day a little more concretely. I wondered how often I get to just have a few quiet moments to take artsy pictures of rental cars in strange places, how often I get to put the planet on hold so I can take it all in for a bit. Not nearly often enough, came the quiet answer.

I thought of the line from the classic teen flick, Ferris Bueller's Day Off: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Somehow, it fit.

Your turn: Do you stop and look around once in a while? Do tell...

On tough times

"Tough times never last; tough people do."
Robert Schuller

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Goodbye Game Boy. Handheld gaming gets set to die.

I lead an interesting life these days. As a business/tech writer for Yahoo! Canada, I cover a broad range of topics, some of which will inevitably get under my children's skin.

Allow me to present the article that published earlier today, The era of handheld devices like the Nintendo 3DS is ending, as exhibit A. Largely based on this piece, I fear I will forever be known by my kids as the dad who killed handheld gaming. I believe I have a little over four months until holiday shopping season to make it up to them.

Your turn: Did/do you ever play games on the go? Are you old-school or have you made the jump to smartphones and tablets?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Thematic Photographic 157 - Rough

Touch my bark
Rigaud, QC, July 2011

We're going to try something a little different with this week's Thematic theme, rough. As we move through the week, I'd like you to think both literally, as I have with the tree-filled photo above, as well as figuratively.

What does rough look like to you? I look forward to finding out over the next week. I hope you do, too!

Your turn: Please share a rough-themed photo on your blog - or find one that's already been posted online. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it, and drop by other participants to spread the photographic joy. Repeat as often as you wish, and don't be afraid to pull your mother-in-law into the fray.

Thematic Photographic is our weekly, non-competitive photo-sharing and learning activity, and we really do hope you join in the fun. For more background on how it all works, click here.

Savoring sweetness

Start with dessert
Rigaud, QC, July 2011

I've always eaten dessert first, and this day was no exception. But not before I quietly wandered over to the sweet table and snapped off a few pictures to remember the moment before the hordes descended on it and turned this scene into a mere memory.

Your turn: How do you capture transient loveliness before it's gone for good?

One more thing: This photo wraps up our exploration of all things red. It's been quite the trip, no? Our next theme, rough, launches tonight at 7:00 Eastern. Hope you can join in!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Putting red in focus

Get in and drive
Quebec City, QC, July 2011

So now you know I'm rather fond of cars with hatchbacks. Red ones. I dug up an old pic I took of a red Civic (hatch. Surprised?) I owned oh so long ago and was mortified when I realized just how lousy I was with a camera way back when. Seriously lousy focus, depth-of-field, composition and exposure. I guess we all had to start somewhere, right?

Not that things have improved all that much since then, as this light-challenged view of a Ford Focus will easily illustrate. But I'll keep taking the camera out even when the surrounding situation suggests, strongly, that I'd be better off buying a postcard, instead. Perfection, after all, is unattainable. The pursuit of it, however, is the very essence of who we need to be.

Your turn: How do you stretch your own envelope?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

On losing the past

"I demolish my bridges behind me...then there is no choice but to move forward."

Firdtjof Nansen

Fair winds and following seas

Quebec City, QC, July 2011

You never quite know what you're going to find when you take a walk in a strange city. Of course, that's the entire appeal. Every turn of a corner seems to offer up not just a new sight, but a new story as well, a tiny snippet of lives lived that you wouldn't have been able to witness had you stayed in your La-Z-Boy this morning.

So on this day when I took a quick zing through Quebec City, I wanted to drink it in as quickly as I could before I was scheduled to rejoin my family. I rather enjoy these shoot-on-the-run experiences, because you almost have to force yourself to hoover the moment with your eyes, ears and any other sense possible. You have precious little time to remember every last detail of this remarkable place, then figure out how to share it with everyone else when you get back.

I guess that makes me a Type A. So be it.

So when I got to the bluffs overlooking the waterfront, I couldn't help but wonder what was going on on that delightfully red ship far below. I watched sailors wander across the deck for a couple of minutes before I grabbed a couple of quick frames and moved on. Only when I got home did it occur to me to try to figure out what was going on in the little world I had voyeuristically observed from so far away. Here's the deal:

This is the CCGS Pierre Radisson, a Canadian Coast Guard ship. She's an icebreaker, and as luck would have it, she was docked in her Quebec City home port in advance of a trip north, part of her annual summertime patrols of Canada's Arctic waters. It's her first sailing since a major refit.

None of this is earth-shattering, of course. Ships set sail all the time. The world continues to move along its path whether or not we bother to take the time to observe the process. But on this brilliantly lit summer afternoon, I was lucky enough to have had the time to observe that process. And for a brief moment, I got to put myself, virtually, among explorers who would soon go places most of us have only dreamed of.

Some days, life is just this good.

Your turn: What are the two guys at the stern thinking?

More shippy stuff:

Friday, August 05, 2011

Open and shut case

Hold on to this
Quebec City, QC, July 2011

It was a beautiful night. We were walking through the middle of Canada's most historic city with our good friends, drinking in the atmosphere of this remarkable place.

We happened across a display of Ford vehicles. Our eldest son gravitated toward the Mustang and was soon recording it from every angle with his BlackBerry. Since I have kids, mountain bikes and groceries to shlep, I meandered over to the Focus. You already know I have a thing for red hatchbacks, and they had parked and lit it in such a way that I couldn't avoid a walkaround.

This is my favorite shot of the bunch. Partly because it speaks to the kind of simplicity that brings comfort. And partly because the longer you look at the complex-shaded, compound surface, the more you realize it isn't really as simple as it first seems.

Subtle. Yet not. And all because I was out for a walk with some of my favorite folks. Cool how life works, eh?

Your turn: Things that are complex and simple, all at the same time. Please discuss.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

On moments

"We do not remember days; we remember moments."

Cesare Pavese

I brake for cats

Wheel stop
Mahwah, NJ, July 2011
About this photo: It's Thematic's red week, and you're invited to share your own red vision. Click here to get started.
I'm a huge fan of the industry trend toward painting brake calipers red - or some other noticeable color - and then making sure they're visible through the partially open wheel design. This reminds us that there's a bunch of engineering going on behind the scenes to ensure we get where we need to safely and comfortably.

This trend also runs somewhat counter to the trend toward shielding these very same bits from public view. Open the hood of the typical car, for example, and the engine is hidden behind shrouds of plastic. Dipsticks are being ditched in favor of electronic readouts. Automatic transmissions have almost replaced manuals (don't get me started on that one.)

The technologist in me realizes the irony here. I'm all about using technology to make life easier, simpler, more comfortable, and safer. And to a large extent I've based my entire career on it. But sometimes, I think about the visceral connections we once had that are now being lost, and I wonder whether we've lost something along the way.

Your turn: Is technology shielding us a little too much?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

On leaving a legacy

"More than anything else, people will always remember you for how you made them feel."
Shadonna Richards

Your turn: So how do you make those around you feel...better?

The old red door

Come on in
Quebec City, QC
July 2011
About this photo: It's Thematic's red week, and you're all invited. Really! Follow your mouse here for more.
Walking through the old walled city, it's easy to wonder what life must have been like hundreds of years ago. Much of this place is either largely untouched, left as it was to remind us why we must treasure all we have today, or lovingly restored by creative homeowners and businesspeople looking for a unique way to spend at least part of their lives.

Either way, every step I take in this place seems to offer up some other unforgettable scene, some other snippet just begging to be remembered. I keep falling behind my family as a result - my usual thing - but figure a little photographic dawdling is worth it if I get to witness streetscapes like this. My wife might beg to differ, so I hurriedly take the shot before I catch up to her and the kids.

And as I do, I remind myself to return to this place - and others like it - more often. Because one shouldn't have to wait too long to be inspired by the past, and by those who dedicate themselves to preserve it.

Your turn: What's behind this red door?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

On the meaning of dance

"When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It's to enjoy each step along the way."

Wayne Dyer

Monday, August 01, 2011

Thematic Photographic 156 - Red

You've got a fast car
Mahwah, NJ, July 2011

I once drove a red car. It wasn't a sports car by any stretch of the imagination. It was a Honda. Small, practical and reasonable. But its color somehow made it seem a little faster than it was, a little more memorable, a little hotter than its plebian hatchback origins would have suggested. Owning it helped me understand why some folks believe the only acceptable color for a Ferrari is red.

Of course, that was before I was married. Before you needed four doors to more easily get the munchkins and car seats into the back seat, before responsibility joined fun on the priority list of life. I haven't had a red car since, but that doesn't mean the color doesn't jump out at me on occasion.

Like here. And, hopefully, for the next week as we explore this life-affirming color together.

Your turn: Please post a red-themed pic on your blog, or find one already online. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Drop by other participants to share the photographic joy. There's no limit on how often you can participate - we encourage that kind of thing - and no limit on how many friends you drag in, too. Just enjoy the process and see what kind of redness pops up through your lens. Looking forward to seeing what y'all come up with! For more background on how Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo-sharing extravaganza, works, please click here.

Small leaf. Big meaning.

Sweat the small stuff
London, ON, July 2011

I'd like to end off our week-long exploration of "big" with a picture of something that's actually small. It's a leaf, something most of us would simply walk past without giving much of a second thought. But in the overall scheme of things, I believe it matters. It ensures we breathe, that our air is clean, that we have shade, that we have something to sit under when the world offers us no shelter otherwise.

I took this just before we bundled the kids into the car and set off on the long journey east to visit family. It reminded me that the little things matter as much as anything else, and it sometimes helps to stop and take them in.

Your turn: What other small things matter to you?

One more thing: Our new Thematic theme, red, kicks off tonight at 7:00 Eastern. We hope you'll pop back in then.