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Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Circles and Spirals

Parking Ramp AbastractAs I reported the week before last, I've started taking photos of a rather nicely-designed parking garage at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, just a few minutes from where I work. It's the circular ramps, two at each end of the very large, long building, that attract me.

I was struggling to understand just what it was about these ramps ... just what did I think was there waiting to be extracted? Then I ran across a recent article by Michael Reichmann in his amazing website, in which he wrote,
What you will find more often than not is that the best images ... are ones where the essence of the subject has been extracted from its surroundings. Abstracted both literally and figuratively. This lets their emotional content transcend their literal basis, and sometimes, just occasionaly, it becomes art.

That first try the other week wasn't bad, but I knew it wasn't quite what I was after. And now after reading that article of Michael's I think it was that I hadn't yet gotten to the "essence" of the ramps, hadn't yet extracted them from their surroundings

Monday evening I got physically much closer to the ramps, and the result here is much closer to my goal.

The colors are artificial, but I like them. When I first loaded this image into Photoshop Elements, I tried the "Auto Levels" command just for the heck of it. This shifted the grayish bands of concrete towards blue. It looked terrible, but gave me the idea of going for a more extreme blue. I got the effect you see here by cranking up the saturation first in the blue channel, in the yellow. I think the IKEA-like Swedish color scheme adds to the transformation of the physical entity, the set of parking lot ramps, to the more abstract level of circular and spiraling bands.
BWI Parking No. 2
For comparison, here is another photo in which I left the color more or less as I saw it in real life. I think this one also is strongly abstracted, and close to what I was looking for. But I do like the strong colors in the first image - I think they just work better with the very strong shapes. More playing with the Hue and Saturation sliders in Photoshop ahead!

By the way, looking at these photos, I see that both of them could benefit from cloning out the light fixture in front of the ramp in the background.

My 100th Post!

Unbelievable as it seems to me, and despite what my Blogger profile says, this is my 100th post!

Over the last week or so, I went back and read most of my blog articles, and some of the writing strikes me as quite good. I even crack myself up once in a while... isn't that a sign of feeble-mindedness?

It's been a good experience in other ways, too. When I first started the blog, I didn't think of it primarily as a photoblog, but that's how it's turned out. Even when the topic hasn't been about photography, I'm glad that I used my images to document what was going on in my life. I think it will be especially gratifying, for example, a year or ten years from now to read and view the photos of the "Road Trip" posts about the Excellent Adventure Ben and I had in NYC last August.

On the other hand, there are a number of posts where it seems as if I just pushed something out to get it out. In fact, as I'm writing this very paragraph, I'm getting that feeling again, so maybe I should stop.

If you're reading this, I want to thank you, and I hope you'll come back to vist.

Monday, November 29, 2004


Stuck at 85?...

My Blogger.com ProfileFor some reason, the blog-o-meter on the "dashboard" of my Blogger.com account (that's where this blog is hosted) is stuck at 85 posts. My Blogger profile (see the screen shot) echos this statistic and also seems to think that my last post was over a month ago. I know that sometimes the reported value of "posts written" takes a day or two to update itself properly, but I've been mildly annoyed when week after week and post after post, the value didn't budge from 85.

So I printed out a list of my posts and counted them the old fashioned way, and what do you know... this is post number 99!

I feel as if I should do something special for my 100th post, but to be honest I haven't a clue. Maybe I'll go out for Chinese.

Another Reader Comes Out of the ITAI Closet!...

I got this very nice comment from a now-outed ITAI reader, Debi in response to a typically self-deprecating remark I made in a recent post about having only two or three readers:
Nope...I'm sure there are more...strange that it took an ex-boyfriend from Western Australia to turn this Seattlite on to your blog, but your posts are definitely highlights of my day!
Debi, thanks for your note, all the way from Seattle - it's very encouraging to know that people actually see this stuff! Now I really wonder how your Aussie ex-beau stumbled across my blog?

Debi, like me, apparently also has a Blogger account. I was able to click on her name in the comment she left and it took me to a Blogger screen that says "Profile Not Available." I've had a couple of comments like that, and the problem is that I would like to check out their blogs and leave a comment in return, but I can't do that if public access to the Blogger profile isn't enabled (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Phooey! Lost in Cyberspace

Somehow, while editing and reposting today's article, I lost about three-quarters of yesterday's post. I'll try to rewrite it later this evening. I hate to say it, but I didn't keep a backup of the post - I figured, hey, it's on Google's server farm, where could it go?

Sunday, November 28, 2004


Nous Sommes Désolés...

"Saddam's goal... is to achieve the lifting of U.N. sanctions while retaining and enhancing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. We cannot, we must not and we will not let him succeed."
A quote from George W. Bush, in early 2003, right? Or maybe Cheney or Rumsfeld... or surely one of those power-crazed neocons, maybe Wolfowitz or Perl.


This is a quotation from our former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, and she said it in 1998.

How about this one:
"[Saddam] will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and some day, some way, I am certain he will use that arsenal again, as he has 10 times since 1983."
Would you believe Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security advisor?

So long as Saddam remained "in power and in confrontation with the world," Berger argued, Iraq would remain "a source of potential conflict in the region," and perhaps more important, "a source of inspiration for those who equate violence with power and compromise with surrender."

In the end, Berger explained, containment of Saddam would not be enough. The "immediate military threat" might be held at bay for the moment. "But even a contained Saddam" was "harmful to stability and to positive change in the region." And in fact, containment was probably not "sustainable over the long run." It was "a costly policy, in economic and strategic terms." The pattern of
the previous years--"Iraqi defiance, followed by force mobilization on our part, followed by Iraqi capitulation"--had left "the international community vulnerable to manipulation by Saddam." The longer the standoff continued, Berger warned, "the harder it will be to maintain" international support. Nor was there any question what Saddam would do if and when containment collapsed. "Saddam's history of aggression, and his recent record of deception and defiance, leave no doubt that he would resume his drive for regional domination if he had the chance. Year after year, in conflict after conflict, Saddam has proven that he seeks weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, in order to use them."

For this reason, Berger continued, the Clinton administration had concluded it would be necessary at some point to move beyond containment to regime change.

Now as a lifelong Democrat and Clinton-supporter (I voted for him both times,) I'm pleased and proud that Mrs. Albright and Mr. Berger got it right way back when.

Anyone who listened to or has read Charles Duelfer's recent testimony before the Senate should be impressed with how prescient Albright and Berger were. Mr. Duelfer's report makes clear that the prewar threat posed by Iraq was serious and inevasible. Had the United States not acted against Saddam in roughly the time frame that it did, it is hard to argue that we would not now be faced with a Saddam freed of sanctions and in unfettered pursuit and production of WMDs.

What's all this got to do with that French ("we're sorry...") title for today's post?

Well, there is a subset of Americans that believes that we should apologize to the rest of the world for having chosen President Bush in a democratic election. You can see some of them at Sorry Everybody, a website for posting pictures of yourself holding signs disowning and apolizing for our election results. For example, this guy, sitting with his toddler and infant and claiming to represent all 56.5 million Kerry voters. How silly. And what chutzpah!

Well I'm sorry too. But not for our election. I feel sorry for those millions of people on the other side of the Atlantic whose leaders don't get it... or maybe they get it quite well, but choose to ignore it, as Mrs. Albright and Mr. Berger regrettfully did over the past year.

Skipjack at City Dock, Thanksgiving 2003And to show how sorry I am, I've decided to make a self-portrait-with-expression-of-sympathy of my own, as you can see right here. For those of you who didn't pay attention in Mrs. Anthony's eighth-grade French class, my sign says, "Chirac... too bad!" Yes, I feel very bad for the people of la République that they have to put up with M. Chirac, a politician who seems to be perpetually awash in the tainte of corruption. In fact, maybe that's why he refused to support UN military action against Saddam under any circumstances - perhaps there were too many of his copains who were making beaucoup de fric off of Oil for Food?

Now let's see you join me! How about doing one for the Germans - a photo of yourself holding a sign that says, Es tut ich Leid, dass Sie mit Gerhard Schroeder gesteckt sind! ... that's machine-translated German for "I'm sorry you're stuck with [German Chancellor] Gerhard Schroeder!" You could even draw a cartoon face with a little cartoon tear... good stuff!

No need to send your apologies to the people of countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and of course, Great Britain. Their leaders get it.

Send me your US-friendly "I'm sorry" photo, and I'll publish it here on my blog!

Thursday, November 25, 2004


Thanksgiving Anniversaries

Skipjack at City Dock, Thanksgiving 2003
My camera, a Canon Digital Rebel just turned a year old. Now you have to be a serious nerd to even think about something like that, but there it is. What made me think about it is that I bought the camera the day before Thanksgiving last year. Now that means I bought it on November 26th, and yesterday, this year's day before Thanksgiving, was only the 24th. So how can it be a year old yet?

That takes me to my late great-aunt Ester, my favorite of my Grandma's sisters. Tante Ester became a widow at age 70 and remarried at 75. Her wedding was on Thanksgiving day, November 27th, 1986.

So every year, of course, we would send Tante Ester and "Uncle" Meier an anniversary card, and I'd try to make sure it would get to Brooklyn by the 27th. In 1991, I sent her card out on Friday the 22nd, figuring that was plenty of time to make sure it would be in her hands by the following Wednesday.

So I called her on the 27th to wish her a happy anniversary, and she said, "Nu, you're a week late!" Tante Ester always thought of her anniversary not as "November 27th," but as "Thanksgiving," and that year, it was on the 21st. I had to admit, in a Jewish-calendar sort of way, it made sense, so likewise, my camera had its first "birthday" yesterday.

Thanksgiving morning last year, I took my brand new camera out for a test run early in the morning at City Dock in Annapolis. Today's featured photo, above, was supposed to be just one of the morning's test shots, but it turned out pretty good, and I've even sold a print or two. I was looking to see how well my new camera and it's cheap-looking kit zoom lens would resolve the fine detail in the rope - quite well indeed as it turned out.

Meanwhile, the composition ain't bad and it even succeeds at being somewhat of an iconically Annapolitan image. The triangle formed by the bowsprit, the jib line, and the right edge of the frame suggest a sailboat - how Annapolis is that! The large lens opening used throws the background out-of-focus, so that the viewer's eye is drawn to to foreground detail.

But even though it's out-of-focus, there is recognizable detail in the background for the Annapoliphile to pick up on, conciously or subconciously. Behind the bowsprit, on the far side of City Dock, we perceive one of several yachts lined up along "Ego Alley", City Dock's local nickname. And finally, Annapolis insiders will recognize the cyan-colored edifice just left of top center to be Ego Alley Tropical Grill.

So today is photographically speaking, an anniversary for me - my first full year using a "serious" digital SLR. I'm grateful for the fact that by late summer, I had earned enough from photo sales to pay for the camera as well as a decent Sigma 70-300mm zoom.

And Now For a Real Thanksgiving Sentiment

It's a great holiday, the best one on the American calendar, I think.

As we were all leaving work yesterday, my co-workers and I, all Americans but born in Korea, India, Germany (that's me) and New Jersey, wished each other a happy Thanksgiving, and we all truly meant it.

I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Keep on Bloggin'...

Brickwork Arches

From the Inbox ...

I got a very nice email from my former co-worker, Charlotte P. today. Among other things, Charlotte said,
I’ve been reading up on your diaries. It has become the must-do during my daily lunch break at work.

So that makes three people who are reading the blog ... Charlotte, Dave Beckerman, and Mom.

Nah, just kidding about Mom. She doesn't know from blogs. But Charlotte - today's post is for you! Thanks for the encouragement.

Thinking About Photography

As a born procrastinator, I've learned that thinking too much about something can prevent me from actually doing it. So for me, thinking about photography can be dangerous - it often leads to more thinking and less taking photos.
But in any event, here are a few things I've been thinking about shooting.
Leaves On Stone Wall - Pomona

Falling Behind Fall

Last year between October and mid-November, I must've taken 200 or more photos featuring vibrantly-colored leaves. This year, for the most part, I've missed the boat. We've had a very nice autumn, but by last weekend, I noticed that I just hadn't been on the lookout for those kind of images like I did last year.

But it just wouldn't do to let the season pass without at least a one leafy photo to show for it. Mom to the rescue. Right in the middle of apartment complex where she lives, maybe only 100 yards before I get to her building, is a big old yellow barn with a small stone shed next to it. As I was driving to pick her up last Saturday, the brilliantly-colored ivy clinging to the stone shed caught my eye. So here it is.

Sunday, November 21, 2004


Flirting with Death

Druid Ridge Mausoleum
When I got back into photography about three years ago, I was looking for subject matter. Well, I never was all that great at street photography, or shooting anything that moved much at all for that matter. So I was looking for static subjects, figuring I'd concentrate on composition, shapes, colors, etc.

By the fall of 2002, I was regularly attending a meeting in Annapolis early Saturday mornings, and where I parked happened to be directly adjacent to St. Anne's Cemetery. It didn't hit me right away, but one day a few weeks later, as I walked back to my car, I realized that here were acres of subject matter! St. Anne's dates back to 1790, so there are lots of old and interesting tombstones and mausoleums... and tombstones don't move very fast.

I had been planning to drive a few blocks to City Dock for my Saturday morning photo outing, but decided to canvass the cemetery instead. Two hour later, I finally headed home, oddly excited over cracked headstones and ancient inscriptions.

For a while, my after-the-meeting photo tour of St. Anne's was a regular thing. As winter progressed I even found myself slogging through the snow at times. One of those snowy sessions, the day after Valentine's Day 2003, yielded Cemetary Valentine.
Cemetery Valentine
By Spring 2003, my portfolio was full of photos taken at St. Anne's. I didn't mean for it to seem morbid - I just found a lot in the graveyard that was beautiful and evocative in its own way.

Still, me being me, I'd find ways to get in trouble. Once, I was taking pictures of a very old, cracked grave ledger. The texture of the ledger and the old writing, combined with the decrepit condition, made for an interesting composition. But there was all that gray! It needed a little spot of color. Some few dozen yards distant, I noticed a newly-dug gravesite, fronted with at least three meter's worth of floral arrangements - it must have been from a day earlier. I walked over, and swiveling my head to see if anyone was watching, I plucked a single rose from one of the arrangements, perhaps one-tenth of one percent of what was there... and with all due respect, not to be missed by the just-interred soul.

The purloined rose was just what that old grave ledger needed! Everyone who sees it says what a compelling photo it is. But when I told my wife Sandy the story behind it, she was shocked, shocked! that I would commit post-mortem larceny in such a sanctified surrounding.

Ben's reaction was more pragmatic than ecclesiastic: "Dad, enough with the flower on the grave routine!" and then, "... enough with the grave photos, for that matter!"

He was right - it was time for me to move on. I haven't been back to St. Anne's for more than a year. But yesterday, as I was leaving my Mother's apartment in Pikesville, I realized that I was just one block from Druid Ridge, a beautifully-kept cemetery well-known for the craftsmanship of many of its early 20th-century memorials. Hmmmmm, vibrant fallen autumn leaves against the gray of tombstones and mausoleums... how could I pass that up?

Friday, November 19, 2004


Early to Rise

Ben Oaks Masts
I am not now nor have I ever been a natural early-riser. But since I participated in an inspiring workshop led by Karen Gordon Schulman, I try to bend my nature for the sake of my art.

Karen taught us to be aware and make use of the special qualities of "early" and "late" light. Every morning, we were up well before the sun in order to be at our shooting location before dawn.

Powered by the incredible beauty of summer morning in the mountains of Colorado, and sustained by Karen's coaching and encouragement (plus some OJ and donuts,) we photographed until 9:30 or 10:00 AM. Then we headed back to Steamboat Springs for some lunch and a few hours of classroom time until late afternoon. Following an early dinner, we headed out again to that day's "late light" location for a few more hours of photography.
Severn River Boathouse
It was a lot of work. And now I know why it's called a "workshop." But photographically speaking, Karen's workshop changed my life. On one of the first weekends after my return, I shot City Dock Morning. It's been one of my favorite (and best-selling) images, and I owe the special, glowing nature of this photo to Karen and what I learned from her.

In mid-September, I went exploring in some communities nearby that border the Severn River. On one camera-less trip, I found myself by a little marina at about 7:30 AM, admiring the beautiful reflections in the still water. Forgetting the lessons I learned with Karen, I came back with camera the next morning at 10:00, but the scene just didn't look the same; the reflections were gone and the lighting was just too.. normal! A few days later, on the first day of autumn, I returned once more, this time before 8:00 AM, and took the photos you see in this post.
Severn River Limo
Sure, you can take great photos at high noon... maybe... if you're lucky. But you'll find it well worth the effort to drag yourself out of bed and be "on location" while the sun is still low in the morning sky.

More on Karen Gordon Schulman

If you're thinking of participating in a photo workshop, I very much recommend that you look into one of Karen's. Besides being a successful and fabulously creative photographer, Karen is a wonderful teacher. She is very aware and intuitive in the sense that she's able to comprehend your own emotional connection to photography and help you work with it.

Karen conducts workshops in her hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and also leads several photo tours each year - Ireland, Japan, and Galápagos Islands are some of the destinations. Get the scoop at the website of Focus Adventures, Karen's company.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Infrastructure Abstract

BWI Parking Garage
Since I started my lastest job in mid-October, I travel past BWI airport every day. And I've had my photographer's eye on a new parking garage, a nicely-designed affair with interesting shapes and patterns.

After my experience with photographing bridges, I thought twice about aiming my lens at the airport, but I decided to give it a try anyway.

I brought my camera bag and tripod along with me to work on Wednesday, determined to take some photos after dark on the way home. Here is the best of the evening's shots, not bad, really. However.... I can't express exactly what I had in mind when I first saw this new parking facility, but like Justice Potter Stewart said of hard-core pornography in 1964, I'll know it when I see it. This isn't quite "it" yet.

So I'm still in search of... something - some angle, some cropping, some approach to this parking garage. I know something is there, I'll just have to find it.

And I'm sure I'll be visited by the County Polic or airport security before this is over. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


For No One

Forgotten Faces

She says that long ago she knew someone but now he’s gone
She doesn’t need him

Forgotten faces for sale in a second-hand shop window.

By the way, if you're as hooked on the Beatles as I am, check out musicologist Alan Pollack's analysis of For No One.

Pollack goes into amazing detail. Just look at this one little bullet point:

The bridges feature a textbookishly classical pivot modulation to the key of ii (c# minor). By contrast, the verses rely on the definitely non classical flat-VII chord, instead of V, to establish the home key. Ironically, the errant V chord makes its only appearances in the song as part of the pivot home at bridge's end.

I have no idea what half of this means, but I love it! No kidding, I'm thinking of finding a musical theory course just so I can understand and appreciate more of Pollack's expositions.

If you like this article, go here to find links to all of Professor Pollack's extensive writings on the Beatles.


Rain...I Don't Mind

B&A Footbridge
When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads...

Yeah, that's what I do, too, unless I happen to think about photo-opportunities in the rain.

Last Friday was the first rainy day in a long stretch of boring, beautiful autumn weather. Just kidding - beautiful but not boring. Anyway, Friday morning I woke up, jumped out of bed, and for some reason, before much else went on in my head, it occurred to me to take some photos on the way to work. Autumn leaves on rainy pavement, who knows?

This photo is my favorite of the soggy bunch that morning. It's one of the footbridges on the B&A Trail, a 13-mile "linear park" that stretches from Annapolis to Glen Burnie. I like the way the rain darkens the wooden boards and makes them glisten. All the better to serve as a staging area for some bright fallen fall foliage.

Monday, November 15, 2004


When I'm Sixty-Four

At almost 55, I'm even more of a Beatles fan than I was in my teens. I'm always humming or singing one Beatles song or another, and I even find myself subconsciously inserting lyric fragments into my speech: "You could find better things to do ...", I'll start off saying to my son, lifting a line from I'll Be Back (1964.)

A few weeks ago, while humming When I'm Sixty-Four, I had a flashback to a photo essay by the late Art Kane in the September 20, 1968 of Life magazine. Art created his own photographic impressions of several Beatles songs - I remembered that he had photos for Lady Madonna, Elenor Rigby, and the song that fired up the old brain cell, When I'm Sixty-Four. In fact, through the magic of Google, here is the Elenor Rigby photo.

Thinking about those old Art Kane images (and even finding some of them on the Web) has motivated me to try making some song-title-inspried or lyric-inspired images of my own. So I've been turning this over in my mind as well as looking out for scenes an situations that might fit.

This past weekend, Sandy and I went to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis to have a look at the annual art show there. Quiet Waters is a beautiful place, and we hadn't been there for years. Even though we were going to look at art, not to make any, I grabbed my camera bag just in case.

On the way to the pavilion that housed the exhibit, we passed one end of a long reflecting pool. At the far end, dressed in matching bright red jackets, was a sixty-four-ish couple who seemed to be enjoying each other as much as the beautiful autumn afternoon. It was too good to pass up, so I didn't. I switched to a long zoom so as not to disturb the couple and took several photos over a period of a few minutes. Here's the image that I think works best. Can you hear Paul singing? Are they laughing about their grandchildren - Vera, Chuck and Dave?
When I'm 64

Meanwhile, I'm still on the lookout for more title and lyric images. I'm thinking that St. Anne's, an old cemetary in Annapolis, might be good for an Elenor Rigby photo - maybe too obvious, but I've gotta start somewhere. Any ideas? I'm listening.

Help! I should have known better than to get involved in a project like this. Somebody stop me, please.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


The Great Red-State-Blue-State Hoax

United We Spiral
I don't remember when the networks started reporting election coverage in terms of Red and Blue states, but by 2004, that cliché had become embedded into our collective consciousness.

CNN and Fox love this Red/Blue paradigm, because it makes life easier and more simple-minded for them, but as Ross Perot used to say, "...Folks, it don't work that way!" Or at least, I don't buy it.

Let's do a little thought experiment.

Imagine a "Red" state, in fact, imagine the "battleground state" Ohio, and think about the voting results. There were 2,796,147 votes cast for President Bush and 2,659,664 for Senator Kerry.

Now, one thing the exit polls don't tell us is of the almost 2.8 million who voted for Bush, how many were just barely convinced to vote that way. Likewise, how many of the almost 2.7 million Kerry voters just managed to bring themselves to side with the Senator? Let's assume that there were ten percent in each category.

This would mean that 545,581 voters are just barely on one side or the other of the divide. It would also mean that these half-million plus citizens would be likely to have a great deal in common politically. It would foolish to label them as either "Red" or "Blue."

Is this scenario far-fetched? We don't know if it is or isn't. The exit polls, or at least they way they have been reported, were not set up to be able to detect a spectrum, a continuum of political sensibilities among the voters.

But I have a sense that whether you're talking about individual voters or states, the truth is not binary, but in shades of Purple. Only the people at the extreme ends, the pure Reds and pure Blues, can't understand each other. The rest of us can get along tolerably well.

Monday, November 08, 2004


Is He Dead Yet?!

When dealing with Yassir Arafat, even in death, truth takes a holiday.

The cauldron of rumors and lies surrounding his condition is a metaphor for his life; it's impossible to get a straight answer.

He's dead. He's not dead. His condition is stable. His condition is deteriorating. Take your pick.

Meanwhile, since Palestinian political life has been limited to a collection of asteriodal characters orbiting around the gas giant Arafat, his indisposition has totally discombobulated any sense of governance in the West Bank and Gaza.

In death, even as during his life, Yassir Arafat continues to bring confusion, chaos, and suffering to the very Palestinian people he claimed to represent.

Monday, November 01, 2004


O, Canada!

Train á Vapeur
Sandy and I got up at "Oh-Dark-Thirty" Saturday morning to drive to Dulles Airport for a flight to Ottawa. We wanted to visit with Sandy's family there and especially to spend some time with our youngest nephew, Colin, soon to be two years old.

As I expected, the trip provided some good opportunities for picture-taking (besides our delightful and handsome nephew.) On Sunday, we all took a ride through the nearby scenic Gatineau region to the quaint little village of Wakefield, Quebec.

Wakefield sits at a picturesque bend in the Gatineau River. Its primary industry is tourism, especially during the fall foliage season. It also serves as the northern terminus of steam-powered scenic railroad, the star of which is a 95-year-old steam locomotive, No. 909 (sounds like an early Bealtes song!).

I did come back with several good photographs, including one of the Train á Vapeur and another one I call Pumpkin with Attitude.
Pumpkin With Attitude

Some things about Canada still crack me up. Take language, for example, or more specifically, languages. The commitment to bilingualism results in signs that just strike me as silly, such as

Rue Catherine Street

Parc McDonald Park

or, my favorite,

Avenue Bronson Avenue

Mind you, I'm not being critical of the Canadians here, it's a quirk of my own personality that I find these kind of things funny.

I guess Michael Moore thought it was funny, too. In the only Moore movie I would recommend, the comedy Canadian Bacon, there is a hilarious scene where OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) traffic cop Dan Ackroyd pulls trigger-happy American John Candy over because of the English-only graffiti ("Canada sucks!") on his [stolen] truck. It turns out that the cop's only concern was the sensibilities of the Quebecois, in that there was no corresponding French spayed on the side of the lorry. After collecting the fine of "One thousand dollars Canadian ... or ten American dollars," Ackroyd picks up a spray-paint can, shakes it for a moment, hands it back to Candy, and delivers the best line of the movie:

"... and now if you please -- in French!"

I also find amusing that the commitment to bilingualism falls on its face once you cross the Ontario-Quebec border. Ottawa sits (rationally enough) on the Ottawa River, which marks the boundary between these two provinces. On the other side of the river, is the Quebec city of Hull, founded, ironically, by an American from Massachusetts in 1800. Although a large segment of this region is Anglophone, virtually all public signs, as in the rest of Quebec, are French-only.

By the way, the Canadians have introduced a neologism into their somewhat-politically-charged vocabulary of linguistics: Allophone. An Allophone is a person whose native language is neither French nor English, that is, he is neither Francophone nor Anglophone. The word is formed from the Greek root, allos, meaning "other" (phone we already know about, right? .... or do we really need those Rue Catherine Street signs?)


Responding to Osama

How should we deal with Osama bin Laden's latest message?

Ignore it.

Why bother trying to analyze it to death. Osama speaks a language that we don't, that we will never, understand. Likewise, he has no understanding of us. There is no basis at all for anything that would pass as communication between us.

To quote an essential conclusion of the report of 9-11 Commission,

"Extreme intolerance within one stream of Islam ... is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate. With it there is no common ground -- not even respect for life -- on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated."

The unfortunate modern-day phenomenon of the blurring of lines between news and entertainment has resulted in Osama's videotape being given much, much more play than it deserves.

If we must respond at all, let us do so with the breviloquence of General Anthony McAuliffe.

He and his troops were assigned to hold the critical road junction of Bastogne during the darkest days of the Battle of the Bulge. His lightly-armed paratroopers were surrounded by a much larger German armored force.

When the Germans demanded he surrender, he sent back his now-famous one-word reply:


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