Thursday, March 25, 2010

Serena Ryder, the CBC, and the Woodstock generation: an observation

At the break between the opening act (Royal Wood) and the main show (Serena Ryder), as my wife and I are lining up for Royal Wood's autograph, a 50'ish gentleman standing behind us remarks to a late 30's woman: "I heard her first on CBC, first on Rich Terfry's show (Radio 2 Drive), then quite often on that new guy's show, Bob-something". My wife turns around and says: "Ma-ko-wits, Bob Ma-ko-wits (Mackowycz, Radio 2 Morning)".

During the show, Serena, in a subdued moment and with an emphasis that could only come from the heart, declares her appreciation for the CBC, and by an implied extension, for being a part of this great country. She confirms this feeling further along on the show by saying, "it's good to be home" after relating an experience she recently had in the USA.

Doug Brown, a respected blogger in Toronto ( remarked on a recent Serena concert in Toronto, that "interestingly, almost 3/4's of her audience look to be twice as old as her, which I found a bit odd, but at the same time perhaps a testament to her strong song-writing". Doug adds, "she has a lot more energy in concert than her radio-friendly songs would lead you to expect".

Well, she gets a lot of air-time on Canadian-performer-friendly CBC; her material appeals to a Canadian sensibility that resonates across different generations.

Both Royal Wood and Serena Ryder are enervating artists. My 7-year-old did fall asleep halfway through the show but my 16-year-old son fell in love with her. My uber-socially-engaged 20-year-old son loved her comments and lyrics. My wife loves her for everything and I'm sure a few in the audience wondered if Royal Wood was married (he is). The audience was made up of middle-aged and older couples, plus a number of university-aged kids (Guelph being a university town).

Thank you Serena and Royal!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

iPhone Diaries #72: "Serena Ryder"

Serena Ryder at the River Run Centre, Guelph. March 24, 2010. Amazing, animated performance by Serena, fresh from her appearance in Vancouver for both the 2010 Winter Olympics and the Paralympics version. Opening act was Royal Wood, by himself worth the price of admission. An excellent and unforgettable night out for the whole family.

Serena is akin to the older daughter who's visiting home from college, who's wild and wise somewhere else but keeps a lid on things when she's with her folks. And the parents know it (after all, they were young once) but are just glad she's home and looks happy. And ocassionally, she'll let slip something like saying under her breath, "fuckin' microphone". On stage, at the River Run Centre, Serena kept it contained!

The reptiles in our lives

Additions to our menagerie which have seen dogs, cats, birds, rats, and hamsters. Spikey, the bearded dragon, is the latest baby. The anals (gecko-type lizards) are newcomers as well.
(photos NOT taken with an iPhone)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

iPhone Diaries #68: "mid-March in the northern latitudes"

Unseasonably warm. March 18, 2010.

The iPhone Diaries - a description

A back-to-basics, less-is-more, photographic project. As photographers, we are inundated (and jaded) by the plethora of digital devices, the latest ones promising (but not delivering the goods) more megapixels and the latest super-ultra-extreme-XLT processor to (potentially) allow everyone to be the best photographer that they could be.

The most popular camera used by Flickr uploaders is the cameraphone (the Canon Rebel Series comes in second). For me, using my cameraphone is an exercise in purging the mind of clutter, as well as in actually shooting on a regular basis, as opposed to "binge" shooting (1600+ clicks on a typical wedding). The limitations imposed by the cameraphone (low resolution, fixed lens, severely reduced dynamic range) forces me to work within these parameters. For example, I have to use my feet to compose the image; I don't have a zoom lens. I am now a slave to how the camera thinks; I can't adjust the exposure to suit my needs. This is the digital Polaroid.

The best camera in the world is the camera that you have with you and that you actually use. The best advise for the "artist" is to practice their craft on a consistent basis. Sketch if you're a painter, sculpt if you're a sculptor, shoot if you're a photographer.

So I leave the 21MP FF Canon with the L lenses at home; I use my iPhone whenever I can.

iPhone Diaries #67: "Three Greeks"

A room of their own. ROM, March 16, 2010.

iPhone Diaries #66: "Looking at an Egyptian"

Boy deciphering. March 16, 2010.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Still Life Series #6: "Yellow-green Peppers"

Yellow-green peppers. More images at:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book Review: "Glass Warriors" by Duncan Anderson

The Bargain Books aisle is my favourite section at any Chapters-Indigo bookstore. For $4.99, I picked up Glass Warriors by Duncan Anderson. Subtitled The Camera at War, it is the "history of over 150 years of global conflict" and a "celebration of the war photographer's art, bravery, and occasional artifice and deception". Certainly, the front cover piqued my interest: Robert Capa's iconic image of Omaha Beach from June 6th, 1944.

So why does this book merit a review? Well, I've always had a slippery mental grasp when it comes to getting a handle on the chronology of events, e.g., wars (invariably, one leads to another) and royal lineage (England, France). I'd hope this book would remedy this somewhat. I am a firm believer that a full appreciation of current events is made possible with a knowledge and understanding of the past ("you won't get there unless you know where you're coming from").

Glass Warriors starts with the first practical use of photography in war: the American Civil War. Then it moves on, shortly thereafter, to the American Indian Wars, the various European wars both internecine, e.g., Balkan, and international, e.g., Franco-Prussian. There are the wars of Empire (British: Boer, Indian, French: Algeria, Indochina), World Wars, wars in the Pacific theatre: Russo-Japanese War, the Boxer Rebellion, Chinese Nationalists vs. Communists, the Korean War, and of course, Vietnam. There are the Irish Troubles, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in the Falkland Islands, post-Cold War proxy wars, and the Wars on Terrorism (post 9/11). There are also the in-between wars: Greek-Turkish, Italo-Ethiopian, Serbo-Croatian, Finno-Russian, Vietnamese-Cambodian, the Spanish Civil War, etc. Places both prominent and less-known are mentioned: Gallipolli, Sedan, My Lai, Passchendaele, Petrograd, Jutland, and others.

The various conflicts are documented in spare, lean prose, each in relation to each other, written from both the viewpoint at the time as well as from a current perspective; although the book is necessarily organized chronologically, the author jumps forward to provide a current perspective. The book may be only 200 pages long but the narrative never fails to impart in vivid detail the folly of war: the atrocities, the suffering, and the stupidity of it all.

Of course, the primary aim of the book is to relate the photographers' experience in both the battlefields as well as in the political arenas, where frequently, the outcomes of wars were determined. Primitive equipment in the early years of photography prevented "realistic" coverage. Self-censorship and government censorship are touched on, particularly with the growing awareness that war images are instrumental in formulating government policies. Difficulties with access to the battlefields and areas of conflict, whether natural or imposed by the combatants are also mentioned.

The last section of the book is an index of the biographies of war photojournalists. Glass Warriors is a book that once started on, is difficult to put down!
- written early March 2010.

Still Life Series #5: "Green Peppers"

More peppers, green this time around. More images to be found at:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"The Cracked Pot"... a story from India

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But, the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. I am ashamed of myself, and Iwant to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts.

'The bearer said to the pot, 'Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path. Everyday as we walk back, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.

Moral: Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots.But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.

(many thanks to ATHER FAROOQ MANIYAR)

Late winter afternoon sun

There is nothing like the light from a late winter afternoon sun...the low sun with a warm golden luminous quality that rakes across, and skims over the landscape, bringing out depth and texture in the land.

Red cars

Red cars observed in and around the parking garage on the way home last night.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Still Life Series #4: "Red Hot Peppers"

I can't get enough of these hot peppers! Just like snowflakes, no two peppers are alike! More images at: