Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Visions of Photographs (dancing in my head)

I wish I was a photographer. Seriously. Nearly every day, I am confronted by at least one sight that I wish to capture. Not to become famous or wealthy from publishing, mind you. But rather, so that I can retain that image in my mind's eye; free of fading from lack of frequent enough retrieval, or attenuation from the passing of time -- so I can share it with others who were not there with me to experience the real thing. Sometimes, the desired image is an awe-inspiring spectacle, a view of nature's gentle beauty or unbridled fury. Other times, the stark contrasts in lighting or incongruous content seem to shout out even to a non artist's soul such as mine, as if to say, “Over here! I am an image worth preserving!”

And then, I generally berate myself inside my own head for not having a way to take the picture as I don't generally pack a camera around with me. Or, on the rare occasions when I DO have a way to take a picture, the resultant pixels never even remotely match the allure or grandeur that I had hoped. Oh wow, another scenery picture not even good enough to be a postcard for my friend's great-aunt's next-door neighbor. (You see what I did there? Who would even send a postcard to one's friend's great-aunt's next-door neighbor? Ridiculous) In a word, “Lame picture.” (okay, two words)

When I do happen to get the composition of a picture to my liking, the image clarity, contrast, or colour saturation still tend to be a letdown. (I would have added 'depth of field', but I make it a point not to speak of things of which I know nothing) Even Picasa's “I'm Feeling Lucky” magic button can't save it, generally speaking. It makes me want to go out to purchase a REAL camera worthy of the content, though I realize that there is more to it than fancy gadgetry. And besides, I'm cheap.

The problem is, much of the time it is not the camera's fault. Several swirling factors play a role in the mad Sudoku that is successful photography: Technology, Training, Timing, and Talent. That I am generally captivated by still images means that I have Timing in my favour (minus the exposure time of course, but that's a tech and training issue). Training is clearly a deficit area as well to date, something I realize all too well when I acknowledge that I don't know my Aperture from my F-stop. But the kicker for me, sadly, is Talent. I lack it.

Have you ever heard of a disposable camera? They were out there as a low cost, better than nothing option for the occasional memory capture. The results almost always fit the bill, if only barely. Well, even with a real camera, I am capable of creating numerous disposable images. In an era when even a point-and-shoot camera is relatively robustly capable, the majority of images I take with them are 'flush-and-forget'. But enough of self-aggrandizement, I like to keep up a pretense of humility.

Hey, I do not have a gifted eye for how images will appear inside the bonds of the frame to which they will be limited. I look at a life-sized image or experience, and fool myself into believing I can re-produce it. Now, I have some friends who get much closer to accomplishing this. My daughter has an artistic eye for imaging things (which is why she is the one with a real camera). But alas, I do not have an accurate concept of what is possible. Or rather, not possible.


Some scenes of images that got away just today remain vivid in my mind:

- The way the quickly moving low clouds glowed red as I left the house, illuminated by the lights of the city while the cover higher up remained midnight black.

- A solid bank of sleight gray clouds in full retreat, like a reverse haboob, only with a thin sliver of sky visible underneath. Smaller clouds appeared much whiter above and below the storm mass and appeared to have been made by the coarse, swooshing strokes of a paintbrush on a dark canvas. In the foreground, the yellow of the rolling hills, now harvested, appeared to be intensified in the early light.

- The tops of a bank of wind turbines poking out the top of a deep fog bank as if to greet the rising sun.

- The small stand of poplars this morning shimmering bright yellow in the indirect sunlight, braced by by two unknown trees bedecked in deep red. The sky backdrop was such a deep and perfect blue that it appeared to be artificial. The colours were so sharp, though I admit that the sound of the rustling leaves were also a draw, one that would not have made it into the image even if I HAD gathered it. Then, the wind whipped up into a near gale all day and there was scarcely a leaf between all off the trees when I left for home. Perhaps next year...

So many scenes in the course of driving to work in a single day, and yet no one there to share them with. I supposed I SHOULD have taken a camera with me and given an attempt to take some pictures along the way. If nothing else... hey, postcards!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Quelled by Unforeseen Brassica oleracea (Accursed Day)

The Day had overstayed ITs welcome. With its myriad of twists, challenges, dynamic monotony, and insults at long last fading from present to past, and having attained my one saving grace in the form of supper with the family, my soul heaved the sigh of one far older than I. Can a person grow so weary from life's grind that the cumulative fatigue becomes a debt so heavy, so complete, that the ledger may never be balanced through rest in this lifetime?

I shuddered at that, then deftly drove Discouragement, terror stricken, back into the dank cell located in the deepest recesses of my mind from whence she had plotted her escape. Slammed the heavy door, locked the deadbolt, stopped up my ears to retreat hastily back into the relative light of logic, and rationalization. (Stupid Discouragement. She's like a present-day Houdini.)

I do this so others don't have to. They need not understand the daunting price. In fact, I hope they never do.

Besides, I am not even the most tired person in the room. My wife almost didn't even make it to the table this night. She nearly dragged herself past us in favour of her bed, or perhaps even the hard floor beside the bed. She's different that way. I looked at her, and heard Guilt subtly project his voice from his cell way back next to Discouragement's. Though his words did not carry distinctly enough through the gray fog, I knew what he would say if I let him out and removed that gag to loose his forked, critical tongue. Something about my supposed sacrifices not being enough to protect her from this fate, that my weakness is the reason she is even more overextended than I am. And yet, this is the lot we'd chosen. Together. No, I am not completely alone. (Not yet, anyway)

I glanced over my shoulder at The Day and its devious designs for me, my dulled eyes showing just a hint of the stubborn gleam of triumph. I, still breathing... IT, now quickly running out of air. IT'd had its chances, and had made full use of the opportunities. And yet here I was, in one piece. “Next time!”, IT seemed to growl. “I nearly had you.”

I relaxed. Partly out of fatigue, and partly out of confidence that IT had given up. The Day was beaten and was slinking toward the exit. I had survived, if only barely. I finally gave this admission permission to fully form in my mind ... It was a mistake.

My wife put down the worship book and pushed herself away from the supper table. “Ok, you all get to help me tonight.” What? “We have 50 pounds of cabbage heads to chop. Let's make sauerkraut!!”

I was a cabbage head! The Day whipped around and slapped me upside my leafy cranium, then leered at my shock. IT laughed with unmitigated glee, both at the look on my face and at IT's own clever playing of the Opposum card. I had finally let my guard down, and with one sentence, I was defeated.

What had suddenly possessed this crippled and frail wife of mine? Was she controlled by IT, or was she doing this of her own accord just to taunt me? In any event, she had revived miraculously, and I was left to ponder one of the great mysteries of the universe. I'll never understand women.

But help we did. We chopped, we sliced, we willed those heads into near infinitesimal oblivion. We experimented to discover the ultimate way to effectively shred the unending legion of cabbage heads that, it turns out, were hiding in every dark and cool recess of the house. Hacking with a cleaver, slicing with a serrated bread knife, they all worked. But not nearly quickly enough.

One of our number, who tried slicing the cabbage in half-inch cubes, was asked if he knew what sauerkraut looked like, and if so, how he expected his behemoth chunks to miraculously form themselves into the German mayo-less coleslaw. He did not know and admitted as much. Though, to be fair, I do not believe he knew what sauerkraut actually looked like. How could he? Sauerkraut was supposed to be something never actually seen, something to make jokes about. Yet on this night, no one was laughing.

Counter space and cutting board time was at a premium, but eventually we packed two 5-gallon buckets with the stuff. I was instructed to rinse out one of those buckets before adding cabbage, as it had most recently hosted home-made laundry detergent (or some such substance). “Great!” I thought wryly to myself. “At least this batch will taste extra clean.” I was instructed not to be ridiculous, which I made an honest, half hearted effort to do. (or was that 'not do'? I can't not dislike double negatives) We'll see.

The rest of the evening was a blur. In truth, it made for good family bonding time so long as we restrained ourselves from cursing randomly or muttering incoherently. I should have taken some pictures as it was something of a spectacle. In any event, it was with some satisfaction that, as my head finally hit the pillow, I noted that my dear wife was already fast asleep. I wonder what unexpected curve-balls The Day will throw at me when next I open my eyes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Forget Not that I am Handy... (Not)

I have a painful admission to make, though one that will come as no surprise to people who know me. I am not very handy. There, I said it! It hurts, but it is true.

When something around the house breaks or is otherwise functioning in a way contrary to how it was meant to function, I instinctively shy away: A heater that sits cold, a fan that doesn't spin, a roof that doesn't dissuade water, or a water pipe that works just like the roof, the results are consistent and predictable. My first inclination is to gather together my belongings, and find somewhere new to move so I don't have to deal with it.

So acutely aware of how unhandy I am that I even have dreams about this sort of thing. I once had a nightmare in which, no sooner had I moved into a new house that I discovered that, unlike what was advertised in the glossy brochure, the blamed place had no electricity! After being a man and dutifully checking each and every switch with a new light bulb and each and every plug with a “My Little Pony” curling iron (not mine!), I had been ready to vacate the premises. But then, in one sickening moment, my wife threw a breaker switch and the whole house sprang to life! I was so bemusedly chastened that I forgot all about that ridiculous curling iron, which ended up burning a hole in the carpet upstairs where I had left it plugged in.

Okay, the dream was actually fictional (especially the My Little Pony bit. It's not plagiarism, though, so leave me alone). However, it encapsulates several real realities for me (as opposed to... fake realities, I guess). First, a technical or handy challenge raises its head to leer mockingly in my general direction. Secondly, I either begin to attempt to address it, or avoid doing so out of trepidation. And finally, the Third step always plays out in one of two ways. 1) My wife leaps in like she invented kryptonite, knocks me to the side before I can hurt myself, and re-builds the entire offending wing of the house with none other than duct tape and scraps of baling twine before I've even figured out the actual problem. OR 2) She beats me to the punch on the obvious, face-palm smacking solution, which once again leaves me wondering just what my own meager brain is actually good for.

That, in a nutshell, tends to sum up my “handy” life. However, thankfully, there are times when fortune smiles upon me and I can serve a functional purpose. This either means that I got lucky, or a job arises that requires more than one person so my wife cannot do it by herself. Such a time occurred recently when we attempted to move our internet service's base of operations to a different part of the house.

Now, I have no illusions as to my abilities, but I can say unreservedly that even I could not mess up as much as the idiot who built most of this house! In one period of complete (and I would say with the assistance of too many regulated substances) insanity, someone once turned this house upside down. He added a second floor, and, in so doing managed to get nearly everything related to electrical and plumbing, insulation and roofing, absolutely dead wrong! Over the past decade and a half, subsequent owners have pecked away at the problems as best they could, pulling out wiring that goes nowhere, covering plumbing that's completely exposed to the elements, and trying to keep entire parts of the house from becoming additional swimming pools. I don't care how romantic it sounds, a second story miniature Venice is simply not cool.

Octopus strand, labeled!
But back to the cable wiring. There are no fewer than two cable 'hubs' in the house. Unfortunately, none of the actual cables to the different rooms are actually labeled, and most are not connected. They're just clumped together in a dizzying, octopus-like array. Some rooms have more than one cable conduit, while other unexpected places (like the bathroom) also got special treatment. The job of finding which of the million cables went to the room we desired to have the modem and router required TWO people! (At last, oh sweet triumph!) I went from room to room with the modem, plugging it into the cable there, while my wife would connect each strand of the octopus to the hot wire until we got a signal. In this manner, I was able to serve a function, and we were able to label the entire house!

Well, I should say, NEARLY the entire house. Of all the strands of both octopi, guess which single room did not have a member? Yup, the only room we actually needed a cable to go to. So, a bittersweet victory for the time being. Still, I will remember fondly the time that I was able to help make technical sense of our hopelessly dysfunctional house.