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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Life never stops giving

"We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away."
- Jim Broadbent as Dean Charles Stanforth in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I'm not a fan of almost any film that is connected to Steven Spielsberg. I didn't catch the Raiders series with Indiana Jones when it was in the theatres. Today a couple of the films were on cable and I watched one. When I heard the quote that is the lede for this post, I shook my head.

Life is always giving. It is also always taking but I want to focus on the giving with this post.

I have lost my mother, my father, both sets of grandparents, all my aunts and all my uncles. Yet, I am not alone. And new faces keep arriving on the scene.

Eloise loves visiting her grandparents and all her grandparents love seeing her.

My two granddaughters with another on the way are, for me, life's way of saying the giving never stops, nor do the smiles stop coming.


Friday, March 29, 2013

The art of kids is inspirational: Grab a crayon

Sunshine after a rainfall: water colour on heavy paper by Fiona, abstract artist.

I like her work. I think she's a fair artist. But, I don't know how long she can continue cranking out work of this high calibre. She is, after all, only 3-years-old. She may outgrow her love of the abstract.

Floating: water colour on heavy paper by Fiona, abstract artist
The California hard edge painter Karl Benjamin was an elementary school teacher before he was a famous artist. Required to teach one period of art each week, he told his class to take crayon to paper and "Fill up the space with pretty colours . . ."

Inspired by the work done by the young kids, within a couple of years he was deep into his own experiments with paint and colour. Despite his art world success, Benjamin continued to teach elementary school for 30 years before becoming an art professor in the '80s.

I think I know how Benjamin felt. The work of young kids really is inspirational. Go on, grab some paint or settle for simple crayons: Crayola makes 'em in an absolutely amazing array of colours.

Flower on fridge: A work featuring mixed technique.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Blackfriars Bridge: Hasn't it earned its retirement?

When I moved to London in the '70s, Blackfriars Bridge had a 5 tonnes rating.

Read about London oldest bridge and decide whether or not you agree: Retire the aging structure. Remove it from its present location. Restore it to its original beauty. And re-purpose it as a pedestrian and cyclist only bridge.

Click the link to read the complete story on London Daily Photo.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Globe & Mail apology over Kaetlyn Osmond photo is unacceptable

Globe and Mail front page. Offended?
As a former staff photographer at a daily paper in Ontario, I am not surprised at the kerfuffle over The Globe and Mail front page photo.

The reaction of some readers was to be expected but what is surprising is the oh-so-wimpy collapse of The Globe. They made no attempt what-so-ever to defend their choice of front page picture.

Sylvia Stead, The Globes' public editor, wrote: "The readers and I both thought the photo could be embarrassing to anyone . . . " That's just creepy.

When 17-year-old figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond initially saw the photo large on The Globe front page she tweeted "I really like that picture : p."

Reading this, some reported that the teen tweeted that she liked the shot but others were confused by the emoticon; The "p" represents her tongue hanging out suggesting sarcasm. (Think "Blaaa!")

A few hours later Osmond clarified her take on the image and its play. She tweeted:

O.K. It is now clear. Kaetlyn Osmond may be only 17 but she is an adult. Sadly, the public editor at The Globe and Mail is not.

As a former newspaper photographer, I learned to watch for images that would inflame certain readers but it was impossible to catch all. And I never ceased to be amazed at what some people found offensive. One of the more common approaches taken by these all-too-common attacks was posted as a comment after The Globe apology.

An offended reader wrote: "I just think the use of the picture was calculated and they thought they wud (sic) sell more papers with a picture like that instead of well written and researched stories. That's what bothers me."

I literally cannot tell you how many times I got letters expressing just that sentiment. The first time I got a letter accusing me of picking a picture to "sell more papers", I thought the writer was just a nut. Over the years, and after many letters, I realized a large segment of the population saw all newspapers in the same sad, warped way.

Once, I shot a picture of two girls lying on a large, round, concrete structure catching some late spring sun. They were still in school, this was clear from their uniforms, and they were trying to get a bit of an early start at a suntan. They had their shirt sleeves up and skirts pulled up just above their knees. Their arms and legs touched the arc of the circular concrete form.

I found a vantage point that allowed me to shoot almost straight down. The composition reminded me of the famous Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.

I loved the picture of the two girls. It ran on one of the section fronts. Clearly the page editor liked it too. It brought praise from many folk who recognized my inspiration in my image.

It also brought me a very long and nasty letter from a local psychologist, angered by the publication of a picture rich with sexual imagery. The inclusion of the school uniforms clinched the matter in the mind of the good doctor.

I made sure that letter never appeared in the paper. That psychologist took a simple, lovely moment, a celebration of the approach of summer, and made the moment dirty. I kept that letter out of the paper; I did not want to sully the pleasure those kids were enjoying from being featured in the paper.

I wonder if Sylvia Stead is embarrassed. I confess I felt her public reaction to an innocent photo could be embarrassing to anyone . . . "

Monday, March 11, 2013

Flu vaccine myths

The flu vaccine does not always impart immunity to the flu. According to a recent New York Times article the vaccine fails to protect about 44 percent of the people given the shot.

But, I knew this. It is one of the arguments put forth by the anti-flu-vaccine folk. On the surface it looks like one mark against the vaccine and one reason not to bother getting it. The NYT article points out the weakness of this argument.

When more people are immunized, fewer get sick and the chances of keeping everyone else healthy improve, a phenomenon called "herd immunity."

If you'd like to read the entire NYT article, here is a link to: Myths about the flu vaccine.

I have a failing heart. I have an ICD implanted in my chest with an additional pacemaker function. I would never fail to get my annual flu shot. Never!

A majority of North Americans fail to get a flu shot. They have a variety of reasons for failing to act but all their excuses have one thing in common: They are myths.

Here are six of the more common myths about the flu debunked.
  1. You can catch the flu from the vaccine: No. This doesn't happen.

  2. Healthy people don't need to be vaccinated: No. Everyone benefits. Think herd immunity.

  3. The flu is just a bad cold: No. Tens of thousands of people die and hundreds of thousands are hospitalized every year suffering from the flu.

  4. You can't spread the flu if you're feeling well: Yes, you can. Up to 30 percent of infected people exhibit no symptoms.

  5. You don't need to get a flu shot every year: Yes, you do. The virus responsible for the flu changes from year to year.

  6. If you have a high fever with the flu that lasts more than a day or two, antibiotics may be necessary: The operative word here is "may". Antibiotics don't work against viral infections but an opportunistic bacterial infection occurring as a complication of the flu, may well mean antibiotics are in order.
Separating fact from fiction is getting harder and harder, thanks in part to the Internet. If you disagree with any or all of the above, here are some links supporting my post. Please get a flu shot; If not for yourself, for the benefit of your friends and family.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

London Free Press suggests new pope learn from Mennonites

As a former Sunday school teacher I read the headline in The London Free Press with interest: Does the choice of a pope really matter to those who follow Christ? What made this opinion piece of increased interest to me was the author: Larry Cornies.

Larry Cornies is a gracious gentleman. An intelligent, well-respected news reporter, editor and university professor. Cornies is also a Mennonite.

As I read Cornies' piece, I felt I was reading a take on Roman Catholicism as viewed from a Mennonite perspective. Near the end of the article, Cornies quotes words found on a Mennonite Central Committee poster without even once openly referring to the Mennonite connection.

"A Modest Proposal for Peace: Let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill each other."

Cornies tells his readers: "Somewhere in the bowels of one of the historic peace churches a few decades ago, two church administrators penned what they called a modest proposal for peace."

Cornies suggests the noble sentiment expressed on the poster would make a good jumping off point for the new Roman Catholic pope. "It would be a noble and bold place for a new pontiff to begin — and to eventually extend that mission to other world faiths as well."

What Cornies is of course suggesting, using opaque words and phrases, is that the new pope should embrace Mennonite thinking, support conscientious objectors and consider alternatives to military service.

Dare I go so far as to say Cornies is recommending the new pope become a peace witness?

How many London Free Press readers know that "Historic Peace Churches" refers to three specific church groups: Mennonites, Quakers and Church of the Brethren, according to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online.

Cornies' writing is brilliant. The inspiration for this piece is only opaque to those who "are unfamiliar with theological terms" or "most people", as the writer points out when he quotes British theologian Stuart Murray.

The writing may be brilliant but it left me uneasy. Shouldn't a professional writer clearly reveal the underlying foundation of his/her position? Cornies does not once directly mention the important role played by the Mennonite Church in his thinking.

Yet, Cornies' wishful thinking may not be all that farfetched.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI commended the Mennonites for their long standing witness to peace on receiving the first Mennonite World Conference delegation ever to go to Rome. Benedict said: "Despite centuries of division . . . we hold many convictions in common. We both emphasize that our work for peace is rooted in Jesus Christ . . . "

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Viral Video Illustrates U.S. Wealth Inequality

I caught this video on Mashable. It caught the interest of that site's editors because the video is showing signs of going viral. As I write this, this video has been viewed on YouTube almost 50,000 times.

The video is actually a little long and a little wordy. I'm surprised it may go viral. But what really surprised me were the comments the video is drawing. If you graph what most of us, like more than 90 percent of us, see as a truly equitable and expected distribution of wealth, you would find that even the majority of wealthy folk fall below the line.

Yet, there are comments saying stuff like:

" . . . Abundance exists. Study wealthy people. . . . They proceeded to become wealthy by working hard, and intelligently . . . There are people who dream big, work smart, work persistently, and make their dreams come true, and there are people who refuse to do these things, or who are ignorant of how wealth is acquired."

I'm in my mid 60s. I can recall when a rich family was marked by their lavish home; They had a garage: A home for their car!

I have a friend, an engineer, who worked in Detroit in the car industry. I can assure you, he did more positive stuff for the car companies than those millionaire execs who guided the companies into bankruptcy. Today he has retired on a pittance and those worse than useless execs are living in comfort, their hard financial landings cushioned by golden parachutes.