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Just another statistic Thursday, July 31, 2008

One of the things I love about my neighbourhood is its proximity to just about everything I need on a day-to-day basis: I have two grocery stores—and several restaurants—within four blocks, my bank is about two blocks away, there are various nearby drug stores and convenience stores, theaters, libraries, post offices, etc. And I'm just a mile from the heart of downtown Portland. (My address has a walkscore of 95/100, about double anywhere else I've ever lived.)

So I oft
en go a few days without driving my Jeep. For example, I went from last Sunday evening to Wednesday afternoon without moving my vehicle.

Yesterday, though, I had a scouting trip to a home I will be photographing soon—about 16 miles across town—and pretty close to my weekly Ultimate game. So I grabbed my camera, a change of clothes for Ultimate, and headed out.

I threw my stuff in the back of my Jeep, and went to get in. But I noticed something weird: the cord that pl
ugged my old cell phone into the cigarette lighter was on the driver's seat, with a couple other papers that should have been in the glove compartment. Sure enough, the glove compartment—which I keep locked—was open, with nothing in it. The console between the driver and passenger seats (also locked) was also open.

The controller for my after-market, trunk-mounted CD player was pulled off its location near the floor in front of the gear-shift lever, and the wire attached to it was all pulled out. #$@&! I've been robbed! Sometime between Sunday evening and Wednesday afternoon.

I checked in the back, and the CD player was still there with all the discs in it. At first I thought the control panel for it had been taken, but it was still attached to the wire. I don't know if the thief/thieves were interrupted, or just decided it wasn't worth the trouble to take.

I generally don't keep anything of value in my vehicle, especially in the summer when the top is down.

So what was missing? Weird stuff: the pen from my dashboard. A pair of running shoes from the back—but not my hard hat. A half-pack of gum, but not the parking-meter change. They took a pair of prescription glasses I kept in the console just in case I lose a contact, but not the (inexpensive) pair of sunglasses in the cup holder. They took the owners manual for the vehicle, but left the tire pressure gauge.

They took only two things of real (potential) value: the key that locks my spare tire on the back of the Jeep, and my insurance and registration papers. Those have my full name and address on them, so I guess that's identity theft. And the lock on the glove compartment is broken, so it won't stay closed.

Now, I park on the street every day, so I suppose it was just a matter of time. But I've lived in this neighbourhood for 2 ½ years without incident. This time—atypically—I was parked in a spot I can see from my apartment. Admittedly, the top was down on the Jeep, as it normally is in the summer. But maybe that was a good thing—I don't have any broken windows or slashed roof to deal with.

What has me equally bothered is the police response. I wasn't sure who to call, so I dialed 911. After confirming that the break-in wasn't actually in progress, they forwarded me to the non-emergency number. Fair enough.

So I waited on hold for a couple of minutes, and told the person that answered what had happened. She asked whether I wanted an officer to respond; already running behind for my appointment, I asked how long that would take. She forwarded me to dispatch.

The dispatch person told me that there was no way they could give me an ETA, but they were just heading into shift change. My call would be the first on the next officer's list, but a priority call could come at any time and change that. In any case it would be at least 30 minutes. I asked what the difference would be between an officer coming to the scene and filing the report by telephone, and she said nothing. I asked if they wanted to collect any evidence from the scene—such as the Kool cigarette butts left in my car—and she said they wouldn't run a DNA test on them anyway, so no.

So I elected to file by telephone on my drive across town. That required another call to the non-emergency desk I'd called earlier. After again waiting on hold for a few minutes, I explained to her that I wanted to file by telephone. So she gave me another number that I had to call within an hour. I dialed that number.

Without identifying itself, the computer at that number said it wasn't taking any calls at this time, please call back later. I tried three times and had the same response.

So I called the non-emergency desk again. On hold again. Same person answering. I explained that the number she had given me wasn't taking calls. She told me there wasn't anything she could do; at the moment, she couldn't even take my name and number.

At that point I'd had it. My car had been broken into, the police wouldn't/couldn't do anything about it, and wouldn't even take a report. She me to the chief's office.

I told my story to the guy at that desk. He put me on hold while he talked to someone else. Then he sent me back to the non-emergency desk again.

This time, the woman there took my name and number and said someone would give me a call in the next couple of hours.

Sure enough, about half an hour later a police officer phoned me and took the details of the incident. She was supposed to send me an email with the case number and some other information. I haven't seen it yet.

So now I have to call my insurance company to get another insurance information card. I have to look into getting a new lock mechanism for the glove compartment, and a new key for my spare tire. Who knows what that will cost. Once I get the police report number, I can file for anti-fraud protection for my personal information that was stolen. And I have to feed the CD-player cable back into wherever it came from.

I'm parked in a different part of the neighbourhood now, partly because it's street sweeping day tomorrow and you can't park anywhere in my area then, and partly in the hopes that they won't come back and steal my spare tire. But of course I can't see the car from here—it's 2 ½ blocks away.

I appreciate that the police are busy tracking down murderers and drug dealers and I certainly don't want to take them away from that. And I understand that it's unlikely that they will be able to apprehend the perps in this case. But I am disappointed that they didn't even want to try. Whether it's because they're too busy or it's futile, that's sad.

Portland Ultimate: Rhino vs. Germany Monday, July 28, 2008

The German national ultimate team was in Portland yesterday for a couple of exhibition matches against local teams Thompson High and Rhino. First, Thompson High and Rhino played a short game (with Rhino coming out on top, 8-4). Thompson High then prevailed against Germany, 13-8. I missed both these games.

I did get to see the nightcap, between Rhino and Germany. Rhino came on strong at the beginning, building a 4-1 lead after just a few minutes. The Germans came back, but Rhino held on for a 13-11 victory.

Here are some of my images from the game—Germany in red and Rhino in white. I also posted a few of these (and some cycling pictures) on my SportsShooter page.

You can see a game report and more photos at

NW CanCon Headliners: Ken Tizzard Friday, July 25, 2008

Last Monday I had the chance to interview Ken Tizzard for Northwest CanCon. The former member of The Watchmen and Thornley is now touring North America with a stripped-down solo show and his CD Lost In Awe.

In the interview, Ken talks about the personal nature of his new work, the challenges of touring as an independent artist, and The Watchmen reunion shows coming to Toronto in September.

And, as a bonus for anyone living in Oregon or Washington, we have a copy of the CD to give away ... click here for details.

[I apologize for the background noise in the interview. The restaurant was kind enough to turn down the music for us before we started, but apparently they turned it up while we talked.]

Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge Monday, July 21, 2008

Anissen "Nissy" Cobb of Portland (in red) races in the Category 3 Women's Miss-and-Out event at the Alpenrose Challenge July 20 in Portland. Cobb went on to win the race that drops the last rider every other lap.

I took the opportunity to go out to the Alpenrose Velodrome this afternoon on the third and final day of the Alpenrose Challenge, the largest purse on the American Track Racing Association calendar.

I realized when I got there that it was the first sporting event I'd shot in about two months! I was a bit rusty, for sure.

It's always fun to go out to the velodrome, especially when there is a big event going on. I only had about an hour and a half to spend there, but I wish I could have stayed.

The Alpenrose Velodrome buzzes with activity July 20 as it hosts the annual Alpenrose Challenge. The three-day event drew cyclists from across the United States and Canada who competed for a purse of more than $12,000.

The women's miss-and-out event (right) was fun to watch. About 15 women started the race, and then every second lap, the last rider across the line is taken out of the race. Once there were just three left, it's a sprint to the finish.

I also saw a couple of sprint races—two of which were very close—and the Masters Keirin qualifier.

Travis Smith of Calgary, Alta., (left) thrusts his bike across the finish line just ahead of Portland's Eugene Chacherine in a men's sprint. Smith stayed back until the final straightaway, where he sprinted to the finish line about one inch ahead of Chacherine. (One other sprint race was even closer: the announcer said the difference was "a tread-depth!")

Shelly Olds of Los Gatos, Calif., races for the PROMAN Professional Cycling Team with a smile on her face in the Miss-and-Out July 20 at the Alpenrose Challenge in Portland.

Here is my blog post from the one time I went to the velodrome last year. At the bottom of it is a link to the first time I went.

Sand in the City/Crazy Enough Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hundreds of Portlanders take in sand sculptures in Pioneer Courthouse Square July 19 during the 13th annual Sand in the City competition in downtown Portland. The event is a major fundraiser for Kids on the Block, which produces educational puppet shows for children.

I went down to Pioneer Courthouse Square Saturday afternoon to check out Sand in the City. Every year, they truck in hundreds of tons of sand—and water—for teams who create sculptures up to about six feet tall. Donations from event sponsors and visitors go to Kids on the Block, an organization that creates educational puppet shows for children.

"Pack'n the trunk" was one of about a dozen sand sculptures in the 13th annual Sand in the City event in downtown Portland.

The sculptures were pretty cool, but I think it would have been more interesting to go on Friday when the teams were still creating the sculptures.

After checking out the sculptures, I went over to the Armory where the JAW Festival was in progress. The two-week festival is mostly a workshop for playwrights, but they have a number of free shows that are open to the public. We were just in time to line up for the first public showing of an upcoming one-woman show by Storm Large called "Crazy Enough."

The show, basically an autobiography of the musician/performer, was—not surprisingly—rated NC-17. No nudity, but plenty of frank discussion about drugs, sex, and her crazy mother. It's still a work in progress, so it will probably undergo a couple of changes before it premieres. After Saturday's showing, they asked the audience for feedback. Surrounded by professional playwrights, I kept my mouth shut.

But now that we've all gone home, I'll say I mostly enjoyed the show. One of the feedback questions that they asked after the show was "Were there moments that you 'checked out,' and when?" Well, yes, there were two or three times that I wondered how long until we move on to the next part ... but how am I supposed to remember what parts those were: I had checked out!

Whether by design or not, the play is definitely very "A"-shaped: it starts off pretty quietly, builds to a high point around the middle, and then finishes pretty quietly.

It was at this high point that Storm seemed most comfortable. The musical numbers were longer and there was less talking. At its climax, she had the entire audience singing "My vagina is eight miles wide/Lots of room for everyone to come inside." Then, just the men.

In the feedback session, someone suggested that the play could have ended right there. Emotionally, perhaps it could have, but otherwise it would have been incomplete. The remainder of the play led to her mother's death, and her current life. That was a necessary continuation of the story.

Crazy Enough is at times funny, raw, intimate, and definitely vulnerable. For the most part it is entertaining. And I guess that segues into my biggest criticism of the play: apart from about 90 minutes of entertainment, I wonder what it offers the viewer. Sure, Storm's biography is unusual (I hope), and captivating in the way that a multi-vehicle accident is.

The problem is that several times while I was watching it, I wondered why I should care about her. Admittedly, I'm a guy, and had a pretty traditional upbringing, but I never really connected with the character and consequently the play seemed somewhat self-serving: after watching the play, I'm definitely impressed with how she's pulled her life together and her personal strengths and talents. But was that the point, to win our admiration? Storm, are you still searching for love?

Storm has a reputation as a good businesswoman, and I'm sure she recognizes the dollars in the tabloid market. I really hope, though, that she's going for more than a live depiction of Portland's own Britney Spears.

It could be a good story of redemption, but maybe Storm
feels that she didn't/doesn't need redemption, or hasn't achieved it yet. In that case, do you adjust the biography to make a better play? Or do you keep it real and hope that it's enough?

Or maybe I missed something important and the play is brilliant as-is. What do I know?

Pauline Thursday, July 17, 2008

Just before my trip to Canada, I did a few portraits with my friend Pauline down in the Pearl District. Lots of fun on a beautiful evening. Pauline was great to work with, and in spite of her plea that she would need lots of direction, she had plenty of ideas.

Alberto Garcia, luthier Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My brother-in-law, Alberto Garcia, is a luthier in Mexico. While we were both in Kingston for my brother's wedding, Alberto asked me to make some promotional portraits of him.

Our visits only overlapped by about five days, and most of those were taken up by wedding-related events, so it almost didn't happen. At dinner Monday evening, I suddenly realized that we hadn't done it yet, and I was leaving Tuesday morning.

So right after dinner, we went out into my parents' backyard and made a few shots. First we used the natural light, then I brought out my speedlights. Of course, I only had the two speedlights to work with, and no stands or modifiers or anything, and the mosquitoes were coming out pretty thick as the sun went down ... still, I think they did a the trick.

You can see more of Alberto hard at work in Mexico here and here.

Wedding preparation Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sue and Stuart discuss potential locations for wedding photographs July 10 at Carruthers Point in Kingston, Ont. High water levels in Lake Ontario have dramatically reduced the size of the beaches, leaving many areas inaccessible.

Wedding activities kicked into high gear Thursday when Stuart and Sue arrived from Ottawa with her parents, who had flown in from Moncton, N.B., that morning.

The main task for me that day was to go out to Carruthers Point, where they were to have their wedding photographs taken, to clear out some of the underbrush so that the area would be accessible to people in dresses and tuxedos. Stuart, Sue, my Dad and I all went out there to scout out the place. (We had a limited number of tools available, though, so Stuart, Sue and my Dad cut the brush back while I took photographs.)

[right] Peter Ginn trims a path through the grass on Carruthers Point. [below] Stuart stands on "picture rock." When we were kids, just about every year my dad would pose us on that rock for a portrait. Usually the water level is lower so you can walk out to the rock without getting wet.

[right] CCGS Samuel Risley operates in Lake Ontario off Kingston July 10. Based in Parry Sound, Ont., the ice breaker helps to keep the St. Lawrence Seaway open in the winter. In the summer, its primary duty is tending to navigation aids in the Great Lakes. Read more about her here.

[left] While we were off cutting the grass, we left mum at home washing the dishes.

Back in Kingston Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kingston City Hall was built in 1844 at a cost of 25,000 pounds, when the city was the capital of Canada.

I'm trying to get caught up on some of the photos I have taken but not posted this week. I'm back in Kingston now, where my parents live. As my brother's wedding approaches, things are starting to get pretty crazy around here.

The wedding itself will take place on the campus of Queen's University where he, I, and about three-quarters of the rest of my family went to school between five and 70 years ago. At least one of my other relatives worked there.

Almost every one of my living relatives will be here this weekend for the celebration, and my parents' house will be the center for most of the pre-wedding action. Tonight, my mother's family will be here for dinner with us and Sue (the bride) and her parents—18 in all. They aren't having a rehearsal, but Friday night we are having a rehearsal dinner—22 plus the photographer. Many more, of course, on Saturday night.

Stuart and Sue are both engineers, so of course the whole thing is well organized. The Four-Day Master Plan kicked into action today, and as the Best Man, I have a bunch of things to do, so this will probably be the last post for a while.

Oh, my grandparents just arrived ... gotta go.

Houses on Queen Street in Kingston, Ont.

Architectural photography

My postings have been a bit sporadic recently because I've been really busy with family stuff, mostly related to my brother's wedding which is this Saturday.

But I haven't been totally slacking on the work front. My Aunt Katy built a house in King City (north of Toronto) about three years ago. The architect, Terry Montgomery, wanted some photos of it, and my aunt knew I was coming to town, so she suggested I come for a visit sometime
while I was in this part of the world.

My sister and I drove down there last Friday, met with the architect, and photographed the house. I made a few shots in the afternoon, then some in the evening, and a couple more the next morning when the sun was on the other side of the building.

My aunt, an architect herself, has a great sense of style. The house itself is a big, open A-frame tucked into a quiet woody spot out in the country. It features huge windows and doorways that maximize the outdoorsy feeling of the place. Here are a few of my favourite shots.

Canada Day Thursday, July 03, 2008

Parliament Hill is awash in red and white July 1 as thousands celebrate Canada Day in the nation's capital. Paul Brandt and numerous other Canadian performers gave a free concert on Parliament Hill that also included a visit from the Governor General and the Prime Minister.

You can't be in Ottawa on Canada Day without a visit to Parliament Hill, so my brother Stuart and I headed out that way Tuesday morning. We parked near his office on the Gatineau side of the river and, after stopping for an internet fix (see previous post), walked across the bridge back into Ottawa.

As we walked over the bridge, our timing was just right to watch a pair of CF-18 fighter jets do a fly-by of Parliament Hill, followed by a two-maneuver show by the Snowbirds.

[right] Parliament Hill, as seen from the Alexandra Bridge. [below] The Governor General's flag flies atop the Peace Tower July 1, indicating that Her Excellency, The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean was present.

Stuart and I wandered through the crowds in Majors Hill Park and over to Parliament Hill where about a dozen different bands were performing about two songs each in a spectacle broadcast on the CBC. To keep things moving, they had a rotating stage set up in front of the Parliament Buildings so that each act could set up while the previous one was still playing.

We worked our way through the crowd from east to west, but came across a barricade at the main pathway that leads to the Centre Block. As we moved forward through the crowd, it became apparent that the pathway to the stage was completely cut off to the public, and we wouldn't be able to get to the other side without heading all the way to the east gate, through a streetful of pedestrians, and back in the west side.

Noticing all of the secret service agents inside the barricade, Stuart concluded that the Governor General and/or Prime Minister would be arriving that way. So when another couple left their place at the rail, we filled in, speculating which side of the Centennial Flame they would walk on.

The secret service agents seemed particularly vigilant as Blue Rodeo finished up their set, so we started craning our necks to see the VIPs. Next thing you know, the Governor General is speaking from the stage without ever having passed our spot. Nuts. But we knew she'd have to leave that way. So we waited patiently while she congratulated the country on its 141st birthday in both official languages, and slowly made her way down the 200 feet of well-wishers towards us.

Finally, a crowd of news photographers backed past our location, and she was right there. I took several photos as she shook hands with my brother and others in the area, and then went to the other side of the walkway. That was the end of that.

But then she came back! She picked up right where she left off, shook my hand, inquired about my t-shirt ("Canada is Hockey ... Hockey is Canada, Period.") and what my favourite team is ("Montreal, of course"), and then moved on. Easily the highlight of my day.

[above] The press scrum photographs Governor General Michaelle Jean as she works the line at Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill. [right] The Governor General shakes hands with Stuart Ginn July 1 in Ottawa. [below] Prime Minister Stephen Harper (green circle) presses the flesh July 1 in Ottawa.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not far behind the Governor General. He also worked the line, switching sides just as he approached our area. Harper, however, did not come back to complete our side of the gauntlet. Mild cries of derision emanated from the crowd: "Boo," and "hey, what about us?" and, of course, "I'm gonna vote Liberal!"

[right] Thanks to cropping and the heat of the Centennial Flame, I captured a rather surreal image of the Prime Minister. [below] Thousands of Canadians dressed in red and white mingle on Wellington Street July 1 in Ottawa.

Family time Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Many of you already know, but I'm back in Ontario right now for some family time. I've just ended what I suspect is my longest internet blackout since I was in Ecuador in 2005 ... some four days without checking my email, posting a blog, or keeping up with the rest of the blogosphere.

Anyhow, we talked our way into my brother's office on a holiday (his home computer has given up the ghost), mainly to get connected again. But since he's standing here waiting, I'll go straight to the pictures.

The main event last Saturday was my brother's bachelor party in Ottawa (no pictures from that). We were a little rough on Sunday—he more than I—but we made it down to Kingston for our grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary party. After a bit of miscommunication regarding the location, we found the party just as the skies opened up and everyone was hastily bringing the tables and chairs onto the porch. The remainder of the party was a linear affair with about three dozen relatives I hadn’t seen in one to three years. I didn’t take many photos, but here are the best.