Monday, August 22, 2016

Thematic Photographic 381 - Please Be Seated

Take a seat
London, ON
August 2016
I've written previously about studios (here, here and here), and how they can be places of quiet reverence in between the moments when they're being used to produce and/or broadcast television or radio.

When I found this simple scene of a single stool on a white paper floor/background, I knew I had this week's theme, Please Be Seated. A simple stool along the wall of a studio that was so quiet I could practically hear myself think. I walked slowly around the simple scene wondering what it was that made it so compelling. I'm guessing it's the fact that anything can happen when you sit down. And that sense of wide-open possibility seems to be at the core of every scene like this.

Your turn: Take a picture that supports this week's theme (Please Be Seated) and post it to your blog - or find one you've already posted online - and leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Drop by other participants to share the photographic joy. Repeat throughout the week, and don't hesitate to pull your friends in, too. For more info on Thematic Photographic, our weekly theme-based celebration of photographic goodness, please click here.

On not waiting for tomorrow

"One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now."Paulo Coelho

Sunday, August 21, 2016

On remembering The Tragically Hip

"It’s human nature to start taking things for granted again when danger isn’t banging loudly on the door."
David Hackworth
For a while last night, it seemed that most of Canada came to a halt as The Tragically Hip held its final concert in the band's hometown of Kingston, Ontario.

Disclosure: I've never been a huge Hip fan. I've enjoyed their music on the radio, and enjoyed discussing the band's influence whenever the topic would come up among friends. But I didn't run out to buy their music or fill my playlists with them before a major trip. Still, I've always respected them as true musicians, dedicated to their craft, who wrote real songs about real people leading real lives within one of the greatest countries on the planet. In an age of prefab, autotuned, disposable "music", The Hip have always stood out as so much more, so much richer, so much more central to our culture. As such, they've always been something of a musical conscience in this country, and even non-fans have revered them as the unofficial poet-laureates they ultimately became.

After the band announced in May that lead singer Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain, they announced one final cross-country tour. They could have just as easily called it a career and allowed Mr. Downie the time and opportunity to spend all his time with his family. But the decision to tour seemed to light a spark under the country. Almost overnight, The Hip went from longtime musical fave to their dedicated fans to a national phenomenon the likes of which we've never seen north of the border. Scalpers weighed in and tried to ruin the experience for legions of fans, but in the end nothing could cool the wave of warmth that enveloped the country as the band hopscotched from city to city to say one final goodbye.

Social media lit up last night with tributes to the band as the millions of Canadians who couldn't get tickets to the show gathered around TVs to watch the live broadcast. Parks from coast to coast to coast were packed with fans, and any other conversations, at least for the night, were put on hold as The Hip's final concert took over the national stage. No matter what you thought of the band, it was a perfect affirmation of everything that makes this country so special.

Since the news broke of Mr. Downie's illness, I haven't stopped thinking about the fragility of life, and how most of us forget to consider said fragility within the context of the day-to-day. Before May, it's safe to assume that no one much thought about life without their favourite band. It's similarly safe to assume that only the most ardent fans gave much thought to the band on any given day. They were just...there. In the background.

The realization of Mr. Downie's illness, of course, changed everything in an instant. Now there was an end date. And the band's brand awareness soared. The bandwagon - and let's be honest with ourselves and admit that there is a bandwagon - grew by orders of magnitude. We all felt this man, this band, this voice of a generation, slipping away. And we wanted to hold on just a little bit longer.

All understandable. All poignant. All so right on so many levels.

As the final notes sounded last night and the concert faded to black, I couldn't help but wonder about the broader lessons of this one musical act, and its courageous frontman who decided one final tour mattered more than anything else. And all I could come up with was this: Don't wait for the diagnosis to hit before you galvanize yourself into action. By then, for so many of us, it's already too late.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Looking for a hidden sunset

When the sky puts on a show
London, ON
August 2016
Thematic. Hidden. Here.
I've learned over the past few years that life isn't as much about the big moments as it is about the small ones, the otherwise-routine moments that come and go, day after day, that get lost in the ether of history if we don't grab them as they whip past.

So when the living room started to glow a fascinating shade of yellow the other night, our daughter and I grabbed our DSLRs and headed for the back deck.

In the end, her pics are way better than mine - here's her Instagram feed - but it isn't so much the pictures that I'll remember. Rather, it's the moment where we stood on the deck and chatted with each other as we tried to figure out how to shoot through the tree canopy and bring home something that told the story.

I hope the experience imprinted on her as profoundly as it did on me.

Your turn: How do you capture or otherwise remember those everyday moments?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Thematic Photographic 380 - Hidden

Peekaboo!
Deerfield Beach, FL
December 2014
I'm not sure what this guy was thinking as I swung my lens in his direction and squeezed off this shot. I had been eyeing him for a few minutes, and thought it was somewhat sweet that he was lingering below pool level, resplendent in his dark shades. Or maybe it was creepy - I can't remember. Whatever his intentions, something about the half-a-head view from where I sat spoke to me and compelled me to remember the moment in pixels.

As is often the case when I pursue the weird, I'm glad I did.

Your turn: This week's theme is hidden, which leaves a LOT of room for interpretation. If you come across a pic of something hidden - or partially so, or whatever - then please share it in your blog or website (social media posts work, too!) and leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Thematic is all about exploring the theme for the entire week, participating as often as you wish, and hopefully introducing this insanity to someone new. Because photography wants - nay, needs - to be shared. And this is the best way I know to accomplish just that. Are you game? (If this is all new to you, click here and all will be explained.)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Disco is (finally) dead


Faded glory
Delray Beach, FL
July 2016
For more reflective-themed Thematic, head here.
I found this leftover artifact from a bygone area hanging in a family-run pizza joint not far from the beach. In the half-hour or so that we were there, a constant stream of local folks wandered in and out, all bantering with the owners and the staff, all as if they had known them forever. I'm sure they did, and it was comforting to watch.

Everything here seemed to be from another era. From the formica counters and tables with the chipped edges to the wood veneer finishes, faded floor tiles and the water-stained ceiling tiles, it wore the decades very clearly for all to see. Which, on reflection, is what made this place so special.

It wasn't perfectly renovated. It wasn't staffed by newbies whose only concern was how long till quitting time. And it wasn't exactly the same as every other restaurant near and far. It was unique. And a month after I shot this achingly evocative photo, it sticks in my mind as a reminder that the scars of time deserve to be worn with pride, and the places that wear them are so much more worthy of our attention than the places that don't.

Your turn: Tell us about a place that you remember fondly. What makes it worth remembering?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

On the true meaning of family

"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life."
Richard Bach

Friday, August 12, 2016

An old bulb lights the way

I found this rather retro incandescent bulb, one of many, hanging from the ceiling of a delightful burger joint by the sea. On a sultry summer evening in South Florida, all of its floor-to-ceiling doors and windows were flung open, allowing the teeming crowd of teens and families to easily flow in and out in search of seats, eats and the occasional breeze.

Alas, there were no breezes to be had, but that didn't seem to impact the mood of this place. We could have stayed here all night, enjoying the spirit of a place that seemed to be firmly rooted in a time long since replaced by chain restaurants and watered-down experiences. But not here. And yet again I was reminded that a life well lived is filled with moments where you're surrounded by warmth and kindness, where you take the time to somehow capture what those moments felt like.

Some day this old-style incandescent bulb might be replaced by something more efficient. I'm guessing it won't be anywhere near as lovely as this.

Your turn: A place worth remembering. And...go...

Monday, August 08, 2016

Thematic Photographic 379 - Reflective

Ever been to sea, Billy?
Port Stanley, ON
August 2015
I've been staring into reflective surfaces rather frequently of late. Mirrors, pools, and as you can see here, bodies of water. There's something intriguing about light when it gets bounced all over the place. It's like chocolate sprinkles on top of an already-delicious pile of ice cream. The optical version, anyway.

So if you're into it, that's what I'd like us to shoot and share for the next week. Sound like fun?

Your turn: Please post a reflective-themed photo to your blog - or find something you may have already posted - and leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Repeat as often as you wish, and feel free to pull in unsuspecting friends, too. Visit other participants to spread the photographic joy. And click here if you want more background on how Thematic, our weekly photo-sharing extravaganza, works. Have fun!

On creativity and the theory of plenty

"You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."
Maya Angelou
I guess I have to go do something creative, then. I hope you'll join me.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

You say tomato...

Grocery store workers are the unsung heroes of the urban food gathering experience. I came to this conclusion as I stared at this rather large display of Unico-brand diced tomato cans, and realized that somewhere, possibly still in the building, was the person who painstakingly stacked these all up in near-perfect alignment and ensured that the labels were all pointing forward Just So.

It wasn't Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans, but somewhere in the universe I imagined the famous pop artist high-fiving the cashier at the express aisle checkout.

And, no, he didn't ask for plastic bags, either. Even in the afterlife, Warhol brings his own recycled plastic carrying bins. Bless him.

--
* This photo celebrates this week's Thematic theme, trademarks. Feel free to share your own here.

Friday, August 05, 2016

3 bonus years

Three years ago today, I had a stroke*. The good news is I'm still here. There is no bad news. All of this makes today my third birthday, of sorts.

As this singular event fades further into my past, I don't dwell on it as much as I once did. I don't flinch when the Heart and Stroke Foundation's this-is-what-a-stroke-looks-and-sounds-like ads play on TV, or when I hear about someone else having gone through something similar. I don't dream about getting stuck deep in the MRI machine, or what it felt like to be locked inside my head with no ability to speak, or how heavy and useless I felt when I couldn't move my right side. For the record, it feels like a beached whale.

Changes

I'm one of the lucky ones. Thanks to a wife who immediately recognized what was happening, a friend who just happens to be one of the best neurologists anywhere, and friends who kept our family supported and moving forward throughout my hospitalization and recovery, I managed to make it back to the life I had previously. My brain is as crazy as it was before that day, and I long ago returned to raising hell at the keyboard and in the studio.

At the same time, I'd be lying if I said this experience hasn't redefined who I am and how I live. I still live in fear of it happening again, where something as mundane as a bit of fatigue after an especially brutal ride on the bike makes me stop and wonder if I'm falling down the rabbit hole again. It doesn't dominate my life, but it's always there, lurking in the background like the sound of the wind through the trees. But I can live with that, because that I can more or less control. It's the other stuff that bugs me, how it's affected everyone around me. I still see how it's changed how they - especially members of my family - perceive me.

I'm always being asked if I'm ok. Stares often linger a little longer on me, because a headache is no longer just a headache, and fatigue is no longer a routine artifact of a long day. Even if I answer that I'm feeling fine, I can tell when folks don't believe me. My everyday behaviours seem to weigh more in the minds of everyone around me, and that makes me a little sad. Because I never want to bring worry to others. It colors you permanently. You become the guy who had a stroke. Sick. Fragile. Or potentially so.

But I can't change what happened, only what I choose to do about it. So I ride the bike even when I'm not feeling up to it. I eat what my wife tells me to eat and I try to get more sleep. Because despite the fact that it was a freak accident in the middle of a bike ride that started all of this, every study of post-stroke recovery correlates an active, healthy lifestyle with reduced risk of recurrence. So that's what I do.

Time

I've radically changed how I both perceive and use time. In short, I appreciate, to the depths of my soul, how precious it is. So I'm pretty picky about how I spend it, and who I spend it with. I no longer suffer fools lightly: I might simply walk away in the middle of a conversation if I think it's wasting my time. I avoid contact with people who suck the oxygen out of a room, because even returning a call takes time away from something or someone more worthy. It isn't arrogance. It's simply time management, and I'm making the best use of what I've been given.

I loved my family before, of course. But I love them more now. Because I can still close my eyes and literally feel what it felt like to think of them in the past-tense. Seemingly simple things like sitting on the deck with a tall glass of iced tea, the dog at my feet and a good conversation bouncing between me, my wife and kids become anything but simple. These moments, which once upon a time I would have allowed to pass into history with barely a second thought, are now worth so much more.

I can't slow down time any more now than I could earlier in my life. But I can sure do a better job turning those moments over and over in my mind, both as they occur and after they're done. And I can also do a better job making sure there's always another glass of iced tea to be made, and conversation to be had. No guarantees, of course, that I'll actually get all that iced tea, dog-patting and conversation, because the universe doesn't work that way. But as long as I keep getting lucky enough to be gifted with more moments, I promise to work harder than I did before to appreciate them.

Not all bad

All of which is a twisted way of saying that having a stroke at a ridiculously young age because of a similarly ridiculous chain of events wasn't the worst thing that ever happened to me. Do I wish it had never happened? Of course. But you can't rewrite history - with wishes or with anything else. Life is going to happen to us, and it's likely going to have more than it's fair share of nasty stuff along the way. We all get slimed along the way, and we'll all end up with varying degrees of scars. My scars don't hold a candle to those suffered by others. My choice - and it can be yours, too - is to learn from it and try to apply those lessons forward. No complaining: Just make stuff happen.

I've had three years of learning, and along the way I'd like to think I've become something of a better person. I sweat the small stuff better. I enjoy people (the right ones, anyway) more, and I try to make more moments happen with them. And if this entire experience has taught me how to lead a better life and hopefully help those around me lead better lives, as well, then maybe this radical tangential turn wasn't such a bad thing, after all.

Your turn: What's the one thing you'll do, today, to improve the world for yourself and/or for others?

* If you're just joining us, here's what happened:
  1. First, I had a stroke
  2. Then, everyone kind of freaked out
  3. Then, talked about it on the radio
  4. And I talked about it on national TV (video here)
  5. Oh, and I learned more stuff along the way


Thursday, August 04, 2016

On never surrendering

"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender."
Tupac Shakur

Monday, August 01, 2016

Thematic Photographic 378 - Trademark

Pharmaceutical pinch
Deerfield Beach, FL
December 2014
I spend a lot of time in my professional and personal lives worrying about trademarks. If I misuse or otherwise misappropriate a sign or a brand or related artifact, I run a significant risk of receiving a nasty lawyer's letter. I'm guessing this wouldn't play well on a performance review, so I take great pains to educate both myself and my colleagues on what we may and may not do when we're sharing stuff online.

But that doesn't mean we can't have a little photographic fun with trademarks for the next week or so. If you've come across a trademark - a sign, a brand, a whatever - that strikes you as particularly picture-worthy, we want to see it. I'll kick things off with my slightly cheeky moment in front of a Florida Walgreens. Who else is with me?

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is our weekly photo sharing-participation-learning activity. All you need to do is share a photo on your own blog or website that suggests, evokes, supports or otherwise aligns with this week's theme, trademark. When you're done posting (or if you've already got something up there) leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to spread the joy, and feel free to pop back in through the week to see what everyone else is up to. Repetition is highly encouraged, as is a general sense of fun. If you're new to the Thematic thing, click here. Otherwise, have fun with this one...I know I will!

These ships have sailed

Seeking the wind
Port Stanley, ON
August 2015
There's a working harbor just to the east of the main beach in Port Stanley*, a popular beach/tourist town about a 45-minute drive away from London. It's a gritty counterpoint to the kitschy beach vibe, and a reminder that this rather isolated town can't survive on tourist dollars alone.

Years ago, some enterprising souls decided to paint murals on the giant oil tanks that dominate the skyline. Time hasn't done the artwork any favors, but that doesn't mean they should be painted over. If anything, their years of exposure only add to their charm.

Come sail away, indeed.

Your turn: Got any urban artwork near you?

* We've been here before. Here, here, and here. And if you're into the Thematic thing, this photo supports last week's softness theme because, well, the sails are kinda soft. That's my story I'm sticking to it. You're always welcome to share your own here. New theme goes live at 7 Eastern tonight.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sweet 16

Today is Noah's 16th birthday. He's our youngest son, and as such, milestone days for him also mark "lasts" for us as he, his brother and sister continue their headlong rush toward adulthood and independence.

When he was (much, much) younger, I remember telling him how sad I'd be when he'd be too big for me to pick up. That happened rather silently a few years back, and he's at the point now where he could probably just as easily lift me. But rather than feel sad about what no longer is, I'm glad we all picked him up - and held his hand, and hugged him, and spent long, lazy days together just being a family - as often as we did, because all that togetherness and little-kid-ness has clearly paid off in a young man who's thoughtful, kind, perceptive, smart and funny.

He has a spirit that makes you want to spend more time with him. So that's what we do. Every day. He walks me through the intricacies of Pokemon Go so I'll know what I'm talking about when I get back to the studio. He test-listens new music with me in the car because he knows it'll make us both happy. He will give the last of whatever he has so that those around him don't go without. He is best friends with his siblings and hardly a day goes by that I don't come home to the sounds of them all just...being. He hovers protectively over the dog because there's nothing he won't do for his beloved Frasier.

In short, he's the kind of kid any parent would love to have, and given all that he's become in 16 short years, I know so much more awaits him in the near and far future. Love you, kiddo. Happy birthday!

Your turn: Your birthday wish for Noah is...?

Friday, July 29, 2016

By any definition, they're dead

Hanging on for dear life
London, ON
October 2015
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that once upon a time, these leaves were soft* and lovely. In the form you see here, they're decidedly no longer soft, but lovely in a different way.

Maybe this photo is a reminder that nothing lasts forever, and it's up to us to take the time to remember it - in whatever form - while we have it.

That's a little profound for a Friday before a long weekend, isn't it?

* For more Thematic softness, head here.