I've been playing around with a Nikon D90 and a couple of SB600 flashes, trying to learn how to do lighting - this "studio" shot is just my basement with a piece of black cloth hung over the TV.
It's hatching time. Well, it was last week - and now our kitchen is full of butterflies.
My wife is a kindergarten teacher, and one of her yearly activities is hatching butterflies in the classroom. She orders a few dozen painted lady butterfly larvae (caterpillars) from a science supply place called Boreal Labs, along with food and some small plastic cups.
The caterpillars spend about a week fattening up, then climb up to the lids of the cups and spin a chrysalis. These get pinned or taped to the roof of a large clear plastic box. A week later, pop! Out come the butterflies. They spend a few hours drying off and trying out their wings, flop around for a day or two, and then get released into the wild blue yonder. Great learning experience for kids.
Anyhow, this year we were shipped about twice as many caterpillars as needed. We gave some to my kids' school, and there were still about a dozen left over. My girls asked if we could hatch them in our house, and I wasn't quick enough to think of a reason not to. So there we were, with a dozen chrysalises hanging from under our kitchen cabinets.
Then it occurred to me that is was an excellent photo opportunity, particularly since I had just bought a macro lens for my camera. I set up the tripod and a desk lamp, and captured the series of pictures that became the montage above (naturally, the larvae I was trained on didn't hatch as expected, and the one beside it did. But I think it makes a nice series.)
We also recently put in a granite counter top, which made for nice reflections of the little guys when they dropped down on it. Painted ladies aren't the most colourful of butterflies - particularly resting with their wings shut (which is one of the ways you can tell them apart from moths.) But they are pretty cool up close, particularly those X-patterned eyes.
My sister, who often works late, takes some joy from the clowder of alley cats living near her place. (Yep, "clowder" - alt. "clutter" - look it up.)
So last week, she decided to give back some joy. She had come across some catnip growing wild in another part of town, and decided to see if she could get the party started among these normally skittish night creatures.
The result? "It was bedlam. Licking, fighting, drooling, bodies lolling like an opium den." Check out the blackmail pictures on her Flickr set.
The sweet yet sad part about it is that these cats usually won't let humans go anywhere near them. Catnip loosened the inhibitions just a tad:
Got me thinking, what the hell is catnip, anyhow? It's the common name for Nepeta, a type of mint. Gives off a pheromone that gives cats a temporary euphoria lasting 5-10 minutes. Once they eat it, it becomes a sedative. Don't worry, they won't eat enough to O.D.
Here's something interesting - susceptibility to catnip is hereditary, affecting only two-thirds of cats. Australian cats do not react to it. And according to Wiki, "There is some disagreement about the susceptibility of lions and tigers to catnip." WTF? Who tested that one out?
Though it does sound like an experiment I'd like to watch, from a safe distance. Like YouTube, maybe.
For Doors Open Toronto, I visited Osgoode Hall, home of the Law Society of Upper Canada and several appeals courts. Among the most impressive rooms were the Hogwartsesque Great Library, and the enormous Reading Room beside it. Among towering stacks of reference books of all kinds (and one hell of a stack of paper), there's one single computer ... and you can see where it was pointed.
You figure those books will ever really be used again?
Last week I took a photography workshop that was held at an old auto yard - an amazing place that had been used as a car graveyard for more than 50 years. I'm still sorting through my images, but this seemed like the one for today, the day they announced the end of 82 years of Pontiac history.
I've never owned a Pontiac, though I went to the prom in a Trans Am, put myself through college by working in a GM parts warehouse and thoroughly enjoyed the occasional rented Grand Am. The end of any era makes me sad.
Apparently my unhealthy fascination with signage is rubbing off on my kids - but their commentaries are much funnier than mine. Here's a sampling of their comments on signs in our neighbourhood:
Daughter: "Daddy, look. A frying pan with a smile!"
Daughter, walking past this untitled tattoo parlour on Queen St. (its sign used to proclaim it "Domain of Pain") and peering in at all the designs up on the wall:
"Ooooh, a sticker shop! I'm definitely going there when I get older."
Five-year-old, frowning at the hussy on the left as we drive past this strip joint:
"Why is that woman pulling up her shirt? She should do something else. Like read a book!"
CBC Toronto has gone sticker crazy. You know those giant, peel-off vinyl graphics you see everywhere these days? Well, CBC has bought in.
It seems every flat surface of the Broadcasting Centre, inside and out, is in the process of being tarted up with giant ads sporting CBC personalities and shows. The atrium looks like the hood of a NASCAR vehicle. Even the newsroom is getting plastered - though for all those interior uses, I'm not quite sure who we're supposed to be advertising to. Ourselves?
A few theories:Â Perhaps vinyl is suddenly cheap. Maybe it's good old fashioned end-of-fiscal spending, or new fiscal. Or perhaps we can't afford billboards anymore. Or we're trying to stay one step ahead of Rami Tabello.
With as many as 800 people heading out the door, perhaps temporary promotions are considered wise. Conversely, there's a rumour that if you make it onto a sticker, your job is safe - though that didn't help Steven and Chris.
With the peel-off craze nearing its peak, I can just tell what's coming next: Rex Murphy Fatheads!
At least they aren't scratch 'n sniff.
Check out a sampling of the plasterings here - bigger versions on Flickr, with comments.
So, all morning I've been ranting (quietly - this is me, after all) about CBC's funding mess: it appears there will be no extra money, no bridge financing, no carriage fees, no guaranteed CTF envelope... no help at all to deal with a potential $145 shortfall. And now the CBC's own board seems to indicate that the $60 million in "one-time funding" we've had for seven years now may also be dropped.Â That part really scares me - it's not just a refusal to help, it's a willingness to cut. [update: That money was later promised by the heritage minister.]
Suffice it to say that "$60 million" on my mind. And then this afternoon, I go onto Facebook to post a link, and a "verification" window pops up:
Anyone know where Facebook gets their verification code words? Other than "directly from my brain"?
At times like this, I like to glance over at this photocopy I found during my archival work.
Almost exactly 60 years ago.
If you live in Toronto and take the TTC, you'll no doubt recognize this poster for a singer called Ali Slaight - they were plastered throughtout subways and streetcars for months.
I'm always a little suspicious of artists I've never heard of that take out massive print advertising campaigns - smacks of marketing instead of merit. Also, it's an EP.
But then I came across this Sarah Slean image from Canada Reads site:
It's not just that the poses are so similar - slouched in the corner, one arm up, head at the top of the panelling, left elbow down (what is Slaight's elbow doing, anyhow? Did they photoshop out the table?) .... I think it's the exact same location! Take a look at the panelling and bench on the left wall - the railing, the slats - it's identical.
Yeah, one's in a dress, one's blonde, and one's in black and white... still. If I were a young Canadian female musician, the least I would want from my label or publicist is a promo pic that varies a little from the next young Canadian female musician.
Not much comparison in their music, though... I don't mind the little I've heard of Slean, while Slaight (hmm, even the names are similar...) sounds like drivel. But I could slug Slean for inflicting Mercy Among the Children on us.
I'll bet you that corner is in a Toronto bar or diner - anyone recognize it? If so, I'll go down there with my camera to take a picture for my own album, Copy the Stars.