Archives for posts with tag: McLennan

So there has been a hubbub, a brouhaha, a kafuffle in the news lately about facebook privacy.  It seems that until recently, those between 13 and 17 were forced to keep their facebook profiles private, or visible only to friend and friends of friends.  This was to protect the identities of minors.  But now the people at facebook are allowing teenagers to post pictures on the internet that just anyone can see.  Concerned parents groups and PTA moms all over the world are speaking out.

Here’s the thing.  Internet privacy is not a thing.  It never existed.  The very term is an oxymoron.  I personally have had my facebook account hacked twice, that I know about.  Worse yet, facebook, along with almost all the big networks, sells your personal information to third party organizations.  If that weren’t bad enough, the NSA has a file on you with copies of the emails you send and records of the sites you visit.  Internet privacy?  Puh-lease!  You never had it.  The only crime was that anyone told a teenager that there was such a thing in the first place.

And yet parents and the people informing them are teaching their kids to use facebook privacy settings to stay safe because the parents don’t understand it either.  The only sane way to look at the internet is essentially the same way we look at everything else.  Consider dressing.  When you are at home you can wear whatever you want.  When you go out, anyone can see you because you’re in a public space.  You might run into your boss or your ex or a celebrity but you have no control over who will see you.  The internet is a public space.  All of it.  It’s what the internet is: your files stored on other people’s computers.  When you store your files on your computer it’s just called a computer.

And so as usual the your salvation lies not behind the paper thin security systems of facebook, hotmail, or twitter, but with education: with understanding that every single piece of information you post is stored on someone else’s computer.  The only security afforded to you by the world wide web is security in numbers, the anonymity of the crowd.  It’s hard to target individuals when there are billions of them.  That’s why there are more spammers than hackers.  Don’t put your faith in security settings and don’t teach your kids to either.  Assume that every bit is broadcast to the whole world, and hope Obama never comes looking for you.




In one of his best soap-box rants, David Mitchell very astutely pointed out that living in the moment is stupid.  I’ll illustrate why it’s stupid with his example modified for the Bluejays’ epic winning streak.  A baseball game where your team scores constantly and wins handily is pleasant while it’s happening because you avoid the uncertainty and discomfort of not knowing if your team will win, however that joy is short lived.  Conversely, a game that is neck-and-neck all the way to the finish and ends with a dramatic win will be a source of cheer for years to come.  Thus, living in the moment, or doing what makes you happy now, is a recipe for disaster.

Take a more extreme example: I once broke my arm very badly and the bones had to be set.  To do so required drugging me quite heavily but not putting me under.  I’m told I moaned with pain while my bones were wrenched apart and jammed back together.  And despite all that pain and suffering, I am not traumatized by the experience because I have no memory of it.  If I were living in the moment, my forearm would still be bend like a hockey stick.

You see, our experience right now is not informed by how happy we were during the past, it’s informed by how happy we are now about the past.  Therefore the key to happiness is not living in the moment, but rather strategically choosing activities, be they joyous or miserable, that will positively impact your future perceptions.

Lets talk about the weather.  Yesterday in Toronto, the temperature reached 32 degrees and the humidity made it feel like 40.  Normally I would hate this kind of weather.  You sweat and it doesn’t evaporate because of the humidity, your shirt collar gets sticky, and everyone stinks.  But that’s not what I was thinking about; I was thinking about Madrid.  The last time I felt such overpowering sunshine and warmth was exploring the streets of Madrid, walking through narrow alleyways, shopping at flea markets, and drinking sangria on the terraces.  Did I enjoy the heat in Madrid?  Heck no.  But I enjoy it now because it reminds me of Madrid.  That’s the incredible power of positive association.

Plaza Mayor

Me and Laura sweating like pigs at Plaza Mayor, Madrid

What about inclement weather: rain, sleet, hail, snow?  What about when the wind blows precipitation horizontal?  It may make you think about how cold and wet you are, but it reminds me of mountaineering.  It reminds me of waiting out a lightning and hail storm while climbing in the pyrenees.  Now I didn’t really enjoy the hail storm itself, but it is close enough to the utter bliss of pyrenean climbing that they are stuck together in my head.  Certain crummy weather conditions will forever cheer me up.

Our tent after the lighning and hail storm in Parque National Ordesa y Monte Perdido

Our tent after the lighning and hail storm in Parque National Ordesa y Monte Perdido

Positive association can turn miserable life events into wonderful, transformative memories, and you’ll have the memories a lot longer than you’ll ever have the life events.  And that’s why you should never live in the moment.

It’s been brought to my attention recently that I’m something of a curmudgeon, that I scowl permanently.  I think of myself as a generally positive person who sees the beauty in people and in the world around me, but I’m not very good at expressing that to the people around me.  I’ve gone through the ol’ photo archive to find a few examples of my miserable face.Picture 8Picture 6IMG_4173The first of these three photos was taken while I piloted a motor boat on Lake Lugano in the Italian, southern part of Switzerland.  The second was taken in a bathroom mirror after a rather satisfying rest stop, and the third on my way up to the the highest mountain in the beautiful Sierra Nevadas of Spain.  But you would think that in the first I was just told I have a terminal illness, the second I’m in a Mexican standoff, and the third someone is making me do multiplication tables without the aid of my fingers!  So I have a problem.

At this point I could talk about how happiness is simply a failure to understand the seriousness of the world we live in, how if ignorance is bliss then bliss is nothing more than ignorance, how my forehead wrinkles when my brain is at work and it’s always at work, but I won’t.  Rather I think I’ll just try to show you that I am at least in good company.colin_farrell_7-31-12imageRussell-CroweGordon-Ramsay-hells-kitchen-4011922-495-350Colin Farrel, Russel Crowe and Gordon Ramsay: three handsome and intriguing men who are perpetually grumpy and scowling.  And they’re just the first three that come to mind.  Look back through history.  James Joyce was grumpy, at least while he was writing his good stuff.  When he became happy his work suffered greatly.  Shakespeare was pretty grumpy too.  Could you write Troilus and Cressida in a good mood?  Even our lord Jesus Christ was pretty grumpy, though for reasons largely out of his control.

Now I’m not suggesting that I am like some combination of Colin Farrel, Russel Crowe, Gordon Ramsay, Joyce, Shakespeare, and Jesus.   I might feel that way sometimes but I would never say it.

The simple fact is that not everyone has to be as cheerful as Ellen Degeneres.  Those people are here to remind me of the beauty and intrigue of the world around me, and I’m here to piss on their parade and remind them that at least half of existence is miserable and pointless.  True wisdom is seeing both: like a great David Attenborough documentary that shows the birth of a beautiful baby lamb just before showing the parasitic worm that eats the inside of its eyeball.

My question to you: which side of the scale do you think you fall on?  Do you blow up bubbles or burst them?

On the morning of January first I awoke and strolled into my hallway to to find that someone had spilled their rotten guts into the decorative vase that sits on the table opposite the elevators.  Luckily they had had time to pull the fake flowers out before they chuffed.  Unfortunately, their state of intoxication was affecting their aim and they only got about half the spew in the container.  Some of you may see a vase full of puke as a smelly mess, but I see much more: the evidence of a rager the night before.  I see a bunch of girls stumbling out of the apartment down the hall meaning to head downstairs to get a cab home.  They call the elevator and, as they stand waiting, one girl feels that oh-so-familiar feeling of chuck creeping up from her stomach to her throat.  Then she turns, sees the vase, runs to it, pulls the plastic flowers out, and as the contents of the evening come forth, she tries to get it all through the rather small opening in the vase with some success.  She then gets in the elevator and leaves, the vase never again crossing her mind.

When you consider a vase full of puke in this way, I submit that it’s pretty funny and amusing.  A little storytelling and imagination turns morning messes into inspiration.  I invite you to imagine what might have come of the people who left these clues behind.  Be dark, be funny, just don’t be boring.tumbler on the lawnBeer in a parking lothanger on a sign

I enjoy taking pictures.  I enjoy it so much that I have surrounded myself with a heaping pile of obsolete cameras and camera equipment.  I would never be so naive as to call myself a photographer, that’s for people who are trained and are good at making pretty pictures that people want to look at.  That’s not really my thing.  Now I will explain to you the first part of my method and philosophy for taking pictures of people, or as real photographers call it, portrait photography.

This first part is all about pictures of people’s faces.  When I look at pictures of faces I want to see their face in all the gruesome detail.  In real life you can’t really see someone well until you see them up close.  Why then would you use a telephoto lens to shoot a portrait?

Now for the technical jargon.  A telephoto lens tends to flatten the features of a face because the distance from the ears to the eyes to the nose is smaller relative to the distance between the objective lens and the subject.  This is desirable in portraiture because people usually think they look best from a distance.  All people also tend to think they have a big nose.

I prefer photos that make you feel like you’re right up in your subject’s grill; therefore, rule number one for portrait photography is get yourself a short, fast lens and get in your subject’s face.

Portrait - Ken25439_346856996156_8200893_n02090018Something magical happens when you begin to interact with your subjects up close: you start to see the small mannerisms and uniqueness in their expressions and movements.  Only by getting right up close have I been able to satisfactorily capture the expressions that make every face unique.  There is another benefit to shooting up close: short and fast lenses, the kind that give you very shallow depth of field, are way cheaper than long and fast lenses and nothing draws your attention to a beautiful eyelash or a sparkling iris like a blurred-out background.

My second tip is get our and do something with your subject! Forget your studio.  Sure you can pose people and get the perfect shot but nothing is quite as honest or as beautiful as a photo of a real moment between real people with real memories and stories to go along with it.  Take a picture with a soundtrack!

25439_346856971156_4982597_n25439_346856961156_3866837_nThese are two of my all time favourites because they commemorate a night of utter insanity.  Without getting right in his face it would have been impossible to steal some of the madness of that night for my roll of film.  The result is sparkling character and insanity rendered in two dimensions.

That’s all there is to it.  Get a short fast lens, like a 50mm f1.8 or a 28mm f2.8 and stick it right in someone’s face.  And make sure when you choose to get in their face you’re partaking in some sort of shenanigans or a heartfelt conversation.  You may not find these tips in a photography book but I guarantee what you come out with will be visceral, honest renditions of a person with whom you share something real, and most importantly, your pictures will capture all that can be captured of a person’s spirit.  That is the point of portraiture after all isn’t it?

Click here for part two where I will share my tips for whole body portraits, or capturing people in their environments.

My question to you: what’s your favourite way to capture what’s unique about a person on film?  What makes a portrait special for you?


A couple weeks ago, I did a post called watch shopping with someone else’s money where I talked about all of the requirements my brother Duncan had for his new watch and how handily we had fulfilled those requirements, in particularly sartorial versatility. Well boy was I wrong.  I’ve been doing a little light reading on the subject and I was apparently way off when I said Duncan could wear this silver watch with his tux.  When asked about what watch to wear with a suit, GQ’s The Style Guy said this:

“This is perhaps one of the most ignored distinctions out there: the dress watch versus the sports watch. A dress watch is supposed to be small and discreet, whereas a sports watch is supposed to be visible at 300 meters and glow in the dark. But today most people choose their watches not on discretion or appropriate utility but just the opposite. Why wear a little gold thing easily hidden by one’s shirt cuff when you can wear a diamond-studded watch bigger than an Oreo cookie, calling everyone’s attention to your apparently limitless disposable income? So the question is, fundamentally, are you a gentleman or a playa or some attempted hybrid of the two? I think the sports-watch trend started with extended wear of the Rolex Submariner. Men aiming for a dashing image wore their diver’s watches to the office, sending out the message “I may lease industrial washing machines Monday through Friday, but on weekends I stalk the tiger shark on the Great Barrier Reef.” In their dreams, of course—but isn’t that what most sartorial imagery is about?”

Click here to see the original story.

Anyway, this means that Duncan’s watch is out.  It’s apparently a sports watch meant only for nautical endeavors.  To my surprise, this distinction also leaves out almost all of the Rolexes and Omegas that you see people wearing around.  Only a simple small watch with a leather strap should be worn with a suit.

Dress watches

But the problem is that, although they once were, Rolex dive masters are not what people actually wear for diving, nor are they worn for any other sport, except maybe sailing.  Rolex has the distinction of having been the first watch both to summit Mount Everest and to travel to the bottom of the Marianas  Trench.  Today you would never see divers or climbers in a Rolex.  They’re more likely to wear a Suunto watch that can graph altitude, depth, barometric pressure, heart rate, and GPS coordinates.  If not appropriate for suits or for sports, where do these beautiful stainless steel sports watches fit in?

I think The Style Guy hits it on the head in his last sentence.  These stainless steel sports watches are styled to wear with jeans and featured for globetrotters and adventurers.  Duncan just wanted to look like he has a yacht.  He really doesn’t.  And so it is with all those men wearing dive watches to the office.  They don’t dive on weekends, but if they ever decide to (which they won’t) their watch can handle it (but it won’t).  From reading forums on the subject, it seems that the overwhelming majority of people think it’s okay to wear a stainless steel sports watch with a suit, though this seems to be mainly just because James Bond does it.

James Bond Omega Watch

As for Duncan’s watch, it can be worn in the shower or the pool, which is handy, and with casual outfits.  If he’s wearing a suit, he needs a dress watch with a simple face and a leather band.  As for his tuxedo, a watch should never be worn to black tie events as you only wear black tie after 6:00 pm and then it doesn’t matter what time it is.  Tsk tsk mister Bond.  It’s not often we catch you breaking manly style laws, especially with Tom Ford in your corner.

So there you have it: sports watch with a a tuxedo or even a suit is a big no no if you know what’s what in men’s style, but since most me don’t know what’s what in men’s style it seems like most of them are on board.

What do you think?  Is it okay to wear a sport watch with a suit?

FOLLOW,LIKE, COMMENT.  That’s the magic trifecta that makes the whole blogosphere keep turning.

I hit 1000 views on the blog today!  That’s total, not today only.  After only two and a half weeks I’ve already learned so much about web publishing, networking, SEO, and there’s loads more to learn.  You may not know this but I get to see how many readers I have, what they read, how they found me, and what country they’re from.  Hello to my readers from the UK, australia. austria, italy, indonesia, india, okay there are too many countries to list all of their homelands.  Anyways, thanks for reading, follow on wordpress or by email if you like what I write, and share with your friends if you really like what I write.  And do not forget, I love to read your comments, especially if you don’t like or disagree with what I say.  Like most things in life, it’s more fun with friends.

I came across another example of my favourite Toronto architectural style today.  This one, however, isn’t executed particularly well.  The architect followed the style closely in use of materials but the general vision and the scale is all wrong.  Take a look.Just walking by, you might think that the buildings aren’t attached at all.  It looks rather like an architect obsessed with neo-modernism but who wasn’t able to buy up all the land for the project of his dreams.  But if you snoop around a little, you will discover the elegant solution to the problem of merging these to drastically different buildings, the portal between the 19th century and the 21st.Okay so maybe it’s not so elegant.  The architects elected to leave a foot-wide gap between the two buildings and put a tiny staircase in it.  There may be a practical reason for this tiny hallway but all I know is that it is rubbish design.  It seems like very little thought went into this.

It may not surprise you to know that the addition on this building belongs to the Rotman Business School.  The Capitalist-minded don’t tend to spend great sums of money on world-class architects.  Even still, they did get a few things right I thought.  The architect understood the value of juxtaposing the textures of masonry and glass, of contrasting traditional ornate detail with stark minimalism.I also thought the architect did a pretty good job with the new part, if you consider it on its own.  It is simple, easy to put lots of cubicles into, and pleasingly asymmetrical.  But they failed to achieve symbiosis.  Like a tailor making a pair of trousers, without a pair of legs, the architect copied a very cool architectural style without understanding that the old and the new components are of equal importance.

While I have the greatest admiration for innovators of design, I don’t care for innovators in vocabulary.  Some words mean something.  You can tell me that language evolves and it’s a good thing until you’re blue in the face but I maintain that sometimes the original definition, you know, the one that actually means something, is better and ought to be understood and used.  Here is what I’m talking about.

Oxfords are a type of shoe.  Oxford is not, however, the name given to all black dress shoes that are sort of traditional and may or many not have leather soles and pointy toes.  This is an oxford:

This is not an Oxford:

Can’t spot the difference?  We can always count on wikipedia:

“Oxfords, characterized by shoelace eyelet tabs that are stitched underneath the vamp contrast with Derbys, or blücher design, characterized by shoelace eyelet tabs that are sewn on top of the vamp.”

…and that’s it.  That’s all there is to Oxfords.  So we used to have two perfectly good words for two different things and now we have one word so vacuous that it can describe almost anything, which really means nothing.  This is what happens when the people in charge of branding and PR try to remake the meanings of words.  Rather than teaching a naive generation about shoes, they are taking advantage the uppity connotations that the word “oxford” has to North Americans.  Shoemakers of the world, you do us a disservice.  When you take a word that means something specific and use it to mean something less specific you make the whole English language less specific.  It’s like if I called all mammals cats because I like cats and all mammals are furry.  We’ve already got a word for mammals: mammals.  Please stop.

So all, take a look in your shoe collection.  Are your Oxfords really Oxfords?  Or are your Oxfords derbys?  I know for a fact that my Oxfords are derbys: well done Calvin.

Vanity Fair’s November 2012 issue came to my local magazine rack this week  with a big picture of Daniel Craig’s face on it.  Now I’m a fan of Craig as Bond (Connery, Brosnan, Craig in that order) but I’m an enormous fan of his in everything else, especially in conversation.  Last time he was featured in Vanity Fair, Craig completed the Proust Questionnaire alongside Matt Damon and George Clooney and he was the only one who came off with any wit or humour.

Today I would like to digitally pat Craig on the back for being blunt and honest even when there’s a reported in the room.  so many Celebrities, the ones who do yoga and fight to free tibet, answer questions like they have Deepak Chopra speaking into an earpiece.  Responding to accusations that the Bond franchise was being coarsened by the paid placement of a Heineken in a bar scene Craig replied as follows:

“A movie like this costs $180 million to make–it’s the nature of it, the size of the movie.  And it costs another $200 million to sell it.  So, the $200 million has to come from somewhere.  Now, product placement, which every way you look at it, whether you like it or you think it’s disgusting, or whatever, it’s just what it is.  Heineken gave us a ton of money to be in a shot in a bar.  So, how easy is that?  Just to say, O.K., there’s a Heineken.  It’s there–it’s in the back of the shot.  Without them, the movie couldn’t get sold, so that all got kind of blown up. . . I’ll drink a beer in the shot, I’m happy to, but I’m not going to do an “Ahhhhh!”

Vanity Fair November 2012, p. 142.

There you have it.  Just because there’s a reporter in the room doesn’t mean everything you say has to be hokey, artsey-fartsey, nonsense (George Clooney).  No Heiny, no movie.