Thoughts on Vancouver

Vancouver Header

vancouverI’m sitting near Point Grey, outside a coffee shop in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Through my almost two weeks here, I have been taking in all that Vancouver has to offer, and have seen it as a city of contradictions.  Surrounded by both ocean and majestic mountains, beautiful parks and beaches are everywhere, and local produce markets dot the landscape.  It is here that people fuel their active and healthy lifestyles.  In the summer sun they are outside everywhere, walking, biking, and playing Frisbee.

Canadian people are ridiculously nice.  Almost anyone will stop to talk and answer questions*. Everyone thanks the bus driver when they get to the bus stop, and they say “I’m sorry” frequently.  People live a little bit slower than we do in the States, and it is refreshing.

Indians

Vancouver is also highly multicultural.  It isn’t a separated mix with everyone in their own areas like it is in the US.  On every block,you hear German and Korean, Slavic and Chinese, yet they still thank the bus driver and say “I’m sorry” in English.

But, as if to counter-balance all of this, there is much more to the picture.  Much of the downtown has an aroma of urine and marijuana smoke with a hint of BO and urban decay, similar to almost any huge city but more pervasive.  During my time here I have seen 1 dead body (a suicide), 2 people convulsing from overdoses (one with the needle still in his hand), and three people in handcuffs.

This is also one of the gayest cities (not intended as a dysphemism).  The rainbow flags everywhere preach acceptance, but the numerous erotic shops, flyers for transvestite shows and homo-erotic film festivals, shockingly-graphic billboards for gay matchmaking, and open displays of over-affection are nothing but perverse.  Stores in most of downtown all display rainbow stickers for support, but also to avoid retribution.

suicide

I can feel a spiritual darkness: a sense of being unmoored.  Parts of the city are more safe and calm, but the feeling is inescapable.  It is the kind of spiritual environment where someone jumps out of an 8th story window while a block away men drink and dance in an all-male club.

Two days ago in a drugstore, I passed by a Canadian magazine with a cover story about what is happening to Canadian youth.  The article mentioned that half of all teens report high levels of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.  There are many conflicting theories as to why.

boatsI’m looking at the bay, filled with sailboats following the wind and subject to the waves, as giant cargo ships in the distance thunder toward port.  It is an apt metaphor.  As I sit in the breeze, it seems that the biggest lesson Canada has taught me is that great beauty and serenity don’t satisfy the spirit when you are unable to chart a course and guide your life by anything other than a billowing purpose or the tide of popular opinion. A life will just crash against the waves as the soul becomes seasick.

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Right after I wrote this sentence I had a 5 minute conversation with the people sitting around me concerning real estate prices.  Walking away one of the women just said, “Hey, any Canadian will be happy to answer any of your questions.  Just stop us and ask.”  It was as if they could read what I had just written.


My Favorite Picture

Now I am officially no longer a regular part of the Barnes and Noble staff.  I feel really sad in some way.  I have loved the people and the company.

My first store was the old North Arlington store, which houses some weird electronics store now.  We had a party on one of the last days there, and celebrated our manager, Janey, who was one of the best managers I can ever remember having.  We had an amazing crew, and she should get the credit.

We presented her with some gifts that we had all pitched in for.  One of them was a framed picture of the store that I had taken.  It is an HDR image (for High Dynamic Range).

From Art shots

The way a  camera works, it can only capture a much narrower spectrum of light than the human eye can.  That is why when you take a picture of your friends in front of a beautiful sunset they are either completely black shadows, or the sunset appears overly bright and less colorful.  Photographers try to get around this is by using a flash, but that never reproduces the image the way the human eye sees it.  The flash washes color out, or colors the image unnaturally.

An HDR image fixes this.  In order to create one, you have to take multiple shots at different shutter speeds.  I believe this one had somewhere between 8 and 10.  Then you merge them into one image, making the areas that would be too dark just right, and the areas that would be too bright darker.  The image that results is a little surreal at times, but is much more accurate than a single photo ever could produce.

I don’t believe that this is a perfect  HDR shot, or even a really great one, but it is good work for me, and it is an image of something that I have a real emotional tie to.  This image means a lot to me.

Tiny Planet Project – Sam the Lamb

I haven’t talked a lot about the painful events recently involving my family lamb, Sam.  Over the last few months Sam has grown increasingly private.  We used to sit and talk about the events of our respective days, but that somehow changed.  Those who know have asked the same question we’ve all asked in the face of this, “Why?”  Right now, I have no answer for this.

I guess in the end, all I can do right now is remember the fun times I had with Sam the Lamb.

*Yes, I know that someone is bound to be offended by this–and actually, I am not really intending to make light of a serious subject that has affected many people.  This photo shoot started far more innocuously than anyone could imagine, then turned dark.  The statement (if there must be one) is two-fold: First, it is an exploration of two juxtaposed things that are very opposite in extreme ways.  Second, it is also addressing something that should not be ignored in a less grotesque way than could normally be done.  It is walking a line, I agree.  But perhaps it is a line that should be walked.  Is it better to not show this (an idea I entertained) and avoid controversy, or show it and open a dialogue on this issue?  I am still not sure–but I have made my decision.  I hope it is the right one.

Tiny Planet Project

I got this idea recently for a photography project.  I can’t really say how this idea came about, or even where it is going, but I thought it would be fun, and explore and area of the art that I haven’t yet explored.  I truly don’t know what this will develop into, but here is set #1.  Let me know what you think.

Cool Moon Picture

I took this picture of the moon from outside my house on the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival night. Since the Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar, most of their holidays are during full moons. Part of the tradition surrounding the Mid-Autumn Festival is to look up at the moon during that night.

Texas Signs

From time to time I am going to add Texas roadsigns that seem interesting enough to catch my eye.  This grouping of signs is near a corner I see regularly, and gives me great insight as to why there are so many crazy drivers in this state.  Enjoy.

My New Clock

I have a clock in my office on the wall…or more precisely, I had a clock on the wall in my office.  For some reason, the ticking sound of clocks drives me crazy.  When a clock is constantly ticking it feels like someone is tapping repeatedly on my temples.  I can’t think of anything else while in the room. I can’t even sleep while wearing a watch.  The sound will keep me awake.

I finally had it with this most obnoxious clock.  As if to spite me and my admittedly quirky pet-peeve, the clock that was placed in my office ticks at a volume that could be heard in from across the city.  Placing it on the wall also creates some sort of resounding chamber.  My office was experiencing sixty 3.0 earthquakes each minute.  My office plants committed suicide after several weeks of this.

So, in a moment of boredom I disassembled the clock and set about photoshopping the clock face.  This is what I came up with.

I am available if Excedrin would like to reproduce this for some sort of viral ad campaign.

999 Words

UK PictureI Stumbled Upon this today.  As I read the caption, I laughed for quite some time.  In case you can’t read it, the caption says “A trainer wearing a traditional Vega (L) costume performs with a Beluga at the Hakkaijima Sea Paradise aquarium in Yokohama, Japan.” [emphasis mine]

What I found most funny was the “(L)”.  That is aparently in case you couldn’t tell that the trainer was indeed not the one on the right.

-By the way—I seriously crunched the quality of this picture for this entry.  The picture quality is way better in the original.