Thursday, March 15, 2018

On ignorance and stupidity

Every once in a while, I like to share a quote that inspires me. I do so because I hope it'll inspire you, too. Yes, I'm just naive enough to believe that words can still change the world.

I find today's quote particularly resonant given the generally sad state of the planet. In light of the passing of Stephen Hawking, it's rather timely. And Dr. King, as he always did, nailed it.
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
Martin Luther King Jr.
Your turn: Got a quote you'd like to share? Let's start a QOTD collection!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

11 years on...

We brought this little guy, Frasier, home 11 years ago tonight. I've missed him every day since we lost him just over a year ago, and every time a milestone date rolls around, I ask myself if it's appropriate to keep bringing it up.

And almost as soon as I ask the question, I answer it. Indeed, it is appropriate. Because memory isn't merely appropriate; it's actually a fundamental basis of life. Because if we don't take the time to remember the stuff - and the people, and the moments, and , yes, the pets - that mattered, then what exactly was our purpose in being here, anyway?

I'm glad we had him. He was my first dog, and while I'll probably be accused of dog-owner bias on this one, he was a wonderful pup. He had a kind heart, always looking out for us, and he added a layer to our family that we'll always feel even though he's no longer here. And despite the fact that we now have Calli in our lives, I still often find myself looking at her through the Frasier lens, because everything I learned about a good dog's life I learned from Frasier.

Miss you, buddy.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thematic Photographic 416 - Water

Frozen in time and space
Jensen Beach, FL
December 2017
Originally posted to Instagram
I have a bit of a thing for water, especially when it's in an ocean and it rolls onto a sandy beach as a wave. Bonus points if it's especially windy, or around golden hour, or both.

If you're shooting water through a lens, you never quite know what you're going to come up with. And every shot is absolutely unique, never to be repeated. So you stand there with your feet dug solidly into the soft sand, planted just enough apart to fight off the wind as you scan through the viewfinder for the next wave, the next moment that'll present itself, then disappear, in less time than it takes to blink away the spray from your eyes.

If I lived here, I'd be here every day with a fully charged battery and an empty memory card. But I don't, and am only here for a blink before I have to rejoin the fam. So I shoot fast and try to remember as much as I can from this abbreviated experience. Because the sound of the pounding surf, the feel of the spray on my face and even the faintly salty smell of the crashing waves will have to live in my memories until I can return to this hallowed spot.

For this week's Thematic theme, water, my wish is that you can find that similarly special spot from which to shoot, and think about the stuff we don't always have time to think about. But should.

Your turn: Take a picture that evokes, suggests or supports this week's theme, water. Post it to your blog or social media account, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to further spread the photographic joy. If this is your first Thematic experience, head here to learn more about our weekly photo sharing insanity. Otherwise, grab your camera and enjoy.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A sudden burst of at-work photography

Please take oneices
Toronto, ON
February 2018
The scene: I'm attending a work conference, surrounded by hundreds of colleagues from the eastern half of the country. The company has arranged a buffet-style lunch in the lobby outside the auditorium, and we're all lined up, plates in hand, waiting for the teeming, hungry masses ahead of us to load up and move on.

As you might expect when colleagues from near and far reconnect with each other, the noise level is off the charts. The line is moving slowly, which means lots of spontaneous discussions between strangers and friends alike. The line I'm in grinds to a halt near the drink section, and I find myself suddenly inspired to pull my phone from my pocket and line up a shot of the cans.

It doesn't take long for smiles to be cracked as good-natured questions and comments get tossed my way:

"Where's that shot going to turn up?"
"How do I find you on Instagram?|
"Want me to take the picture so you can get into the shot?"
"What are you doing?"

The discussion flows animatedly as I snag three fast frames and then tuck the phone back away. Almost as soon as the moment materialized, it recedes as the line begins to move again and everyone moves in to finish the original task at hand. I pick up the rest of my lunch and melt back into the crowd. I'm pretty sure more than one of my newfound friends thought I was more than a little weird.

I'm perfectly fine with that. Because if a hastily taken photo manages to make others smile, then it's totally worth it.

Your turn: How can photography connect people?

Monday, March 05, 2018

Thematic Photographic 415 - Junk Food

That's so twisted
London, ON
February 2018
I may have been silent here on Written Inc. these last few months, but I was out there almost every day with a camera. And as has long been my habit - or obsession, I'm not entirely sure which - I took many weird photos along the way. Like this pretzel at a London Lightning game at Budweiser Gardens. It was the last one they had, and for reasons I still do not understand I felt compelled to remember how it looked before I brought it back to our seat.

Yes, it had too much salt on it. No, I didn't feel guilty. Some days, you just have to enjoy the moment.

And speaking of moments, this photo kicks off this week's Thematic Photographic theme, Junk Food. What's Thematic? Only the most fun you can have with a camera and an Internet connection this side of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Thematic is our weekly photographic sharing and learning activity. Read on for instructions. Or head here for background.

Oh, and the good guys won the game. Must have been a lucky pretzel.

Your turn: Every Monday, I share a theme (this week's...Junk Food.) Then you take a pic and share it online somewhere (blog, Facebook, Instagram, wherever) and leave a comment here telling people where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy. Repeat as often as you wish throughout the week. Use the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag and don't be shy. The only rule? There are no rules. Just enjoy.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Where we contemplate playing ball

You gonna throw that thing?
London, ON
March 2018
When we last posted, Calli Finnegan was barely a puppy, and she was just figuring out the subtleties of not peeing on the floor or chewing on furniture or waking up in the middle of the night. Thankfully, she's sleeping better, and she's pretty much house-trained. She wasn't the worst dog in our puppy training classes, and she's gotten pretty good with the sit, stay, come-when-I-call, give-paw thing - when she isn't distracted, mind you, which is often. But the furniture chewing and general mayhem-causing nature of a miniature schnauzer puppy are, shall we say, works in progress.

And yet. I find myself saying those words often. And yet. Also, "But still." And for good measure, "She's so damn cute. She's lucky she's so damn cute. And we're even luckier to have her.

The world can be a challenging, frustrating place sometimes. Working in media, some days it seems I spend much of my day witnessing more than the recommended daily allowance of unkindness. But then I come home to a puppy who doesn't know any better, doesn't know any different, just wants to play and slobber on and lie half-on, half-off her favorite people, her family.

Somehow puts things back in balance, doesn't it?

Your turn: What's she thinking?

Please Note: Thematic Photographic will return Monday evening, 7pm Eastern.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Is this thing still on?

Speak here
London, ON
June 2017
I haven't written here in a while. Come to think of it, I haven't written anywhere in a while. Sure, I still write. Largely at work. Mostly stuff that gets emailed to large groups of people. Or spoken on-air. Then forgotten.

That kind of writing is all well and good, but it isn't writing. This blog was always supposed to be that space where I could take a timeout from the work world and write whatever came to mind, whatever I was feeling at that moment. Until, sometime last year for reasons I still can't understand, it wasn't.

Sometimes the voice in your head goes silent, and I'm guessing that's what happened to me. I was still shooting pictures, still sharing them on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, largely). But it wasn't the same. I've always been a writer, yet for much of the past year, after checking all the creative boxes at work, then maybe dashing a pic or two into my Insta feed, I couldn't motivate myself to sit in front of a keyboard and write. Life gets in the way, I suppose.

The stark reality of blog-as-writing-space is that things have changed. Virtual spaces that were hugely active in 2004 when Written Inc. first went live have largely fallen silent as bloggers shifted their attention, energy, and time toward burgeoning social media platforms. As audiences drifted, then stampeded, into Facebookistan and Instagramville, blog posts, and the communities that sprouted up around them, became the digital era equivalent of ghost towns, complete with virtual tumbleweed rolling erratically down the main drag.

If the audience moved to another platform, I figured, I'd follow them there. And let's be honest, it's a heck of a lot easier to throw together a photo post on your smartphone with a snarkily-written graf or two, plus some well-chosen hashtags, than it is to sit down at a real keyboard and compose something thoughtful here. I guess I got caught in the world of low-friction creativity and chasing likes.

Yet here's the thing: I still kinda like the idea of a blog. As retro as it now may seem, it still feels like the only tool that lets me do what I've always loved to do, namely write, share, and just be.

I won't abandon my social channels - everyone is now there, after all - but it's time to reclaim my writer's voice. And the best place to do it is here. I hope you agree.

Your turn: Do you still blog? Why? Why not?

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Watching Falcon Heavy...from the anchor desk

T+3, as Ron Burgundy might see it
London, ON
February 2018
Photo originally posted to Instagram

I lead a somewhat surreal life. Not predictable. Not conventional.Not remotely normal. But all that weirdness sometimes leads to cool moments. Like today's.

Most Tuesdays, I participate in a live segment called Tech With Todd on CTV News Channel. The anchor, Todd van der Heyden, hosts it from Toronto, and I join in from the CTV London studio. Erin Bury and I spend a few minutes touching on some of the more notable tech stories of the week, and it's always great fun.

The segment usually runs at 2:40 p.m. Eastern, but given the realities of live, news-driven TV, can sometimes get bumped into later slots if breaking news comes along. As you can imagine, delays happen fairly regularly, and represent another neat aspect of life in media. Stuff changes, so you roll with it. No biggie.

The Falcon Heavy rocket was originally supposed to launch at 1:30, well before our scheduled 2:40 airtime. Then two things happened: A press conference bumped us to 3:40, and unpredictable upper-level winds in Florida kept pushing back the launch time. Eventually, it became apparent that SpaceX's schedule was about to align perfectly with ours.

And sure enough, the rocket lifted off while we were on the air. So when the big moment came, we shifted gears from what we had planned to talk about, and simply talked about the vehicle's significance as it rose into the sky.

It seemed surreal: Sitting at the anchor desk on live TV, providing play-by-play of the biggest milestone in U.S. space history since the Columbia first lifted off. I was a kid on that day, and I watched that first space shuttle leave the planet on that day, too. Then, as now, it felt like something had changed, like we'd ended one chapter and started in on the next.

Some days you just get lucky, and this day was one of them.

Your turn: Did you see the launch? Starman? Is this as cool as I think it is?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

On the passage of time

"Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to."
Bill Vaughan

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

She completes another journey around the sun

The best half
London, ON
April 2017
Please ignore the doofus on the right and instead focus on the lovely individual next to him. She's celebrating a rather important birthday today, and while it's not my place to share her age here (or anywhere), I'll let it slip that it's more significant than usual. If you'd like to wish her a happy without having to go through me, pop over to her Facebook page.

I've spent most of my life with her, the majority of that time wondering how she puts up with me, why she puts up with me, and how I came to deserve her in the first place. I can't remember what life was like before I met her, nor do I ever wish to. She makes every day memorable simply by being in it. I can sit in a room with her in utter silence for hours on end, yet still feel delightfully connected for every moment.

Whether we realize it or not, time is an incredibly precious, irreplaceable commodity. That she has chosen to spend the time she has with me is something I'll never take for granted, today, tomorrow, and however many other days I get beyond then. Because every day is worthy of celebration when you get to spend it with your best friend.

Happy birthday, sweets.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

After the game ends

Perfect emptiness
London, ON
August 2017
Photo originally shared via Instagram

I'm a big fan of the Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams. Despite my less-than-stellar Little League Baseball experiences - I became a better buttercup-picker in left field than anything else - baseball has remained one of my favorite things to watch or to simply be around.

Why? Maybe it reminds me of a simpler time. Maybe the rules of the game form a nice analog for how a life well-lived should be lived. Maybe we all just need a little time-out from the planet every once in a while, and a storied game played on a storied field could be just the ticket.

Whatever the reason, I found myself drawn to this field in south London. It was after the game was over, after the players had gathered up their equipment and cleared out of the dugouts, after the spectators - largely friends and family - had folded up their chairs and trudged off to the dirt paths on their way to the gravel-covered parking lot, trailing dust all the way.

The silence of the field on one side of me contrasted with the ebbing burble of the departing crowd on the other. A picture seemed in order.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monochrome? Not quite.

London, ON
August 2017
Photo originally shared via Instagram

These towers are everywhere, and as ugly as they may seem to some, they're an essential component of modern, mobile life. You may say you don't want one of these things in your backyard, but you'll probably also curse the sky when you lose your bars on your phone. NIMBY much?

What originally started out as an inadvertent monochrome photo shot quickly on the walk back to the car became, on closer inspection, something more Pleasantville-like than I originally intended. Photography still has the potential to surprise, which is why I keep at it.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A puppy, a carpet, and some insanity, too

The view from the stairs
London, ON
Photo originally shared via Instagram

You have to be borderline-insane to bring a puppy into your family. You lose sleep. Furniture and objects that matter to you are summarily destroyed. You need extra makeup to cover up the inadvertent (or are they deliberate?) bite and scratch marks. You live in fear of her getting into something that could hurt her. Or you.

Yet when you watch and listen to her in the very middle of what once was a much quieter, calmer, predictable home, you realize the little hell-raiser you see here is just what we needed.

I may not be happy when you pee on the floor, Calli Finn, but I can't imagine our family without your feisty self in it.

Remembrance stones

In the end, we're more similar than not
Duvernay, QC
August 2017
Photo originally shared via Instagram

I don't often make it here, because if we're being brutally honest I've never believed a grave or similarly physical monument is the sole marker of an individual, or the only means by which we should remember him or her.

My father and mother-in-law are buried here, literally in adjoining rows. I'd hate to think the only time their memory touches me is every year or so when I take the long-ish drive to visit their respective resting places. Their memory, and the lessons I hopefully learned from them, aren't tied to this or any place. And as the relentless passage of time puts their passing further in the rear-view mirror, I often find myself thinking of them wherever I happen to be.

I'll still come to this place, but it's merely one touchstone, not the only one.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Curved glass under a partly cloudy sky

Look up
Toronto, ON
July 2017
Photo originally posted to Instagram
Some of my most satisfying moments with a camera in my hand tend to happen when I'm seriously pressed for time. When I'm moving between one place and another, and don't have the luxury of time to stop what I'm doing and slowly ponder the scene. Instead, I walk and shoot, often getting only one shot of a particular scene before I move quickly to the next one.

I find it exhilarating. Just as it is when I'm writing on deadline, the pressure of time forces your brain into another gear. Everything non-essential gets tossed, and you're forced to live explicitly in that moment, to the exclusion of all else.

Sometimes you get good stuff, and sometimes you don't. But you remember what shooting-and-running felt like, how satisfying and soul-nurturing that process can be, and you hope it won't be long before you're doing it again. It isn't always about the end result, after all.