Exploring 500px

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500px.com is a photo sharing site for photographers (and aspiring photographers), offering a place to showcase and even sell their best work. The site is a Canadian startup that has been online for over 3 years. It has over a million and a half members now and accounts are free. It also has one of the easiest to read Term of Service pages I’ve seen. (Legalese on the left, plain English on the right)

If you are prepared to lose some time pleasantly, check it out. I did a search for Toronto, of course, to start my exploration.

Free apps are available for all popular operating systems, devices, etc.

Temporary nouns

I think there was a time when names were called proper nouns… you know, the kind of name that starts with a capital letter. When we were downtown yesterday, it occurred to me that “temporary nouns” might be a useful term for buidings and facilities that sell naming rights.

The notion popped up as we walked past the Sony Centre (formerly Hummingbird Centre and O’Keefe Centre before that). We had just left the SkyDome (named Rogers Centre at the moment), after having lunch at the former BCE Place, now called Brookfield Place. Hotels play the name change game with great frequency, too, as various chains swap real estate.

In like a lion

For many years, I thought that there was a predictive element in the phrase In like a lion, out like a lamb. I mistakenly inserted the notion that “if” March opened with particularly nasty winter weather, “then” it would end with benign conditions. But no. There’s nothing Farmers’ Almanacky here… just a saying that reflects March’s position in the calendar as a turning point for seasons.

I wonder why I never thought there was an “if” in April showers bring May flowers.

Art ain’t easy

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I won’t name the play because people Google for names, to find comments that have been made. Yesterday’s presentation on a small local stage was well acted, capably executed and even entertaining in spots, but it left me flat. I wasn’t the only one, from other reactions I heard. Too bad. What went wrong?

The author of the play did a good job of building characters, using dramatic devices and writing dialogue. All the parts were there, but they were not assembled into a whole. The audience was offered a lot of detail, but what was it for? There didn’t to be any substantial theme or meaning to reward us for listening to what sounded to me like a lot of whining.

When one of the characters, having drunk too much at a party, threw up in a sink, she said she was sick of listening to one of the other characters. So was I.

Live theatre is never a waste of time, in my opinion, and there was much to admire in the efforts of those who worked hard to put on a good show. I think the play itself was the problem, and I don’t know how the players could have made it good. Better luck next time.

The endless grafitti struggle

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This story about my local city councillor’s back fence illustrates the problem. Is graffiti public art, free expression or vandalism?

The fence features some child art that looks like typical “fridge art” that parents like to display. It’s in an alley, so not many people have to look at it, even if it is an eyesore and and old, undecorated fence might have been more picturesque. Toronto graffiti cops say it has to go, or fines and clean-up costs may be imposed. Appeal is possible, but wouldn’t that just be more time and money wasted on trivia?

Personally, I find most graffiti to be a pain in the eye and when a kid tagged my fence, I quickly removed the marking, just as I remove dog poop left on my lawn. I have come to terms with graffiti by thinking of it as urban acne… an unsightly, mostly teenage blight, but just part of life. If a very bad outbreak occurs, sure, do what you can to clean it up. But I think that an institutionalized treatment plan costing a million tax dollars a year is overkill.

To me, child art on public walls and hoardings is comparable to scabs on skinned knees. I wouldn’t call it “beautification” and it would be nice if kids used rain-soluable poster paint or chalk, so nature could heal the wounds. Tagger kids remind me of dogs lifting their legs on trees and fire hydrants. Marking their territory, proclaiming their existence. If I recall, the teenage years include episodes of insanity, social awkwardness and arrogant stupidity. Just part of life.

On occasion, graffiti express messages of social protest. Sometimes I am amused by Trash Harper stencils on waste bins, sometimes Eat The Rich clichés strike me as lame. Still, we let paying interest groups splatter unasked-for messages all over our streetcars and sky lines. Should only the well-heeled be allowed to express themselves in the public space?

Maybe social pressure and individual initiative are ways to deal with graffiti. Rules, regulations, fines and expensive bureaucracies don’t work, anyway. A quick look around shows that.

Inspired misunderstanding

A radio quote this morning reminded me of humourous translation situations I have experienced myself. First, the radio anecdote:

A man was taking a shower and heard his wife shout out, “Shut the door!” The nimble minded response? “Je t’adore, aussi!”


20130217-125924.jpgNow, about my bungled attempt to buy a package of those chest-kicking French cigarettes from a kiosk in a Paris railway station. Hoping to keep my struggle with French to a minimum, my plan was to just say the name of the brand and add the word “please”.

When I made my request, the kiosk girl looked at me as if I were some kind of pathetic sicko. I blushed when I realized that my mispronunciation of “Gitanes, s’il vous plait” sounded to her like “I love you, please.”

Last one, I promise.

Our ad agency had couriered some time-sensitive artwork to Montreal and then received a frantic message from the publication, asking where our material was. We contacted the courier company and were assured that our package had been delivered…and it had been signed for upon receipt.

Who signed for it? “Someone named Sue Laporte”, said the courier. We checked. There was no one named Sue who worked at the destination. Then the penny dropped.

“Sous la porte.” Under the door! Sure enough, our package was found on the floor, inside a seldom-used back door.