Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Return from Paradise

Again not a long blog - too much to catch up on this week and tomorrow night I am heading off to my Collingwood Shangri-La!  I thought I could at least share with you some photos of my trip.  I stayed at Melia Las Americas, which is located within the Veradero Golf Course.  Spent a lot of time at the beach, reading and sipping a Pina Colada.
From the Resort's Web site

This is one view from my hotel room. The "Xanadú" Mansion you see on the right is the Club House of the Varadero Golf Club. It was originally constructed in 1930 for French American millionaire Irenee Dupont de Nemours (of the Dupont Chemical Company) who built it as his retirement home. 

Pretty nice to wake up and see the ocean. 

Not that I spent much time in my room, but couldn't ask for a better view.

This is the Dupont Mansion as seen from the beach.
The Beach at Veradero can't be beat.
The water was amazingly blue.
I had a hard time trying to figure out what to do with my days.

A friend of mine preferred poolside.

The catamaran excursion to Cayo Blanco was great fun.

Cayo Blanco white sand paradise

Too soon my vacation was over. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

In a Fog

I am heading off to Cuba for a week of fun in the sun. So no time for a long blog as I have lots to do to get ready for my Monday flight. Spring has definitely sprung this week and last week's freezing temps have retreated throughout the week with promise of a truly spring like 13 degrees Celsius (55 F) today! I wish I had time for a long walk but sadly today no chance and tomorrow forecasts rain.

The warming breezes coming up south over Lake Ontario gave us some interesting fog this week. I snapped the following pics one night as I got home and the fog rolled in over the Lake.

In the space of 20 minutes I saw the fog roll in from the Lake and blanket Liberty Village entirely.
This suggests a post apocalyptic scene.   A bit eerie for sure!
The truth is that Liberty Village is in a construction boom and with the construction cranes rising out of the fog this is never more evident.

As you can see I  am enjoying my new camera and having fun with it as I learn how to use it properly. 

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

My New Camera - Canon SX220 HS

I bought a new camera today and I am very excited about it. It has some neat technology built in to help with low light and night shots and also has a 14x optical zoom which with the 12 megapixels allows reasonable quality zoom photos from a distance.  I feel like a spy now from my 19th floor balcony!

When the special "hand held night shot assist" is used the camera takes several shots in a burst and somehow arrives at one decent photo - so you can do a longer exposure without a tripod!

Can you spot the areas I have zoomed into below from the pictures above?

It also has a photo burst mode which allows it to shoot like a machine gun -- the idea being that if the figure is in motion you will get good shots of the action. I wish I had this camera at the hockey game last week - I kept missing the players as they had zoomed right out of sight by the time I pushed the camera trigger.

Bella wasn't moving when I took the photos below but I put together a collage of the resulting pictures so you can see the effect.

There is also an indoor low light assist mode which should help my next set of pictures from Hugh's Room be of much superior quality than the last ones.  With all these camera features and full HD movie capture features as well, this is a real treat for me!

It is going to take time to learn all the new features, but since my last camera was a Canon it should not be too difficult as the controls are very similar. 
After posting the blog I realized that I had not included a picture of my new camera - and in fact it might be interesting to show my old and new Canon cameras side by side. So I got my BlackBerry out and snapped a few different views of both cameras.

April is Poetry Month and the Toronto Poetry Slam

I have a great excuse to blog about poetry a lot during the next month. My regular visitors know that I have shared a fair bit of poetry over the years, but I fear my regular visitors are getting a bit tired of me pulling a Pablo Neruda out of the grab bag as often as I do.  So for something completely different I decided to focus on spoken word poetry and bring to everyone's attention the Toronto Poetry Slam. 

Spoken Word or Slam Poetry
From Wiki:
Spoken word is used as a musical or entertainment term, referring to works or performances that consist solely or mostly of one person speaking as if naturally. Musically, this is distinct from rapping, as rapping incorporates rhythm and sometimes melody, whereas spoken word is more akin to narration or speaking as the person would in conversation...

Allan Ginsberg

Probably the earliest well  known spoken word poet in North America is Allan Ginsberg, who was a Beat Generation poet who vigorously opposed militarism, materialism and sexual repression, well known for his poem "Howl", which was originally written as a performance piece. When it was first performed it was considered obscene because of its references to illicit drugs and sexuality and a well publicized trial ensued.   The poem is interesting with its many beat generation 1950s cultural/historical references.

The opening lines give you a sense of the poem and you can go to the text of the poem here if you want to have a read - it is extremely long.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at
dawn looking for an angry fix,
angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient
heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the
machinery of night,
I have a blog in the making (actually started 2 years ago!) about Jack Kerouac, who is the best known Beat Generation poet and writer, perhaps I will mange to finish and post that this year.  :(

The Toronto Poetry Slam

The Toronto Poetry Slam  is a monthly spoken word competition, where the judges vote on each poem presented.   The winners of the monthly competitions are entered in the semi final competitions held in March and the annual grand slam winner is decided at the end of April.  The TPS is held at the Drake Hotel Underground, except for the Grand Slam which because of the audience size is held at Hugh's Room.  I just might toddle off to hear some of Toronto's best at this April event.

From the Toronto Poetry Slam website:
TPS is presented by Toronto Poetry Project, a collective of ten poets who also produce BAM! Toronto Youth Slam and niche slams such as the Geek Slam, Story Slam and the Haiku Deathmatch. We believe in democratization of art, truth and the old proverb, "The points are not the point, the poetry is the point.".

Blue Jay's Season Opener - Spring is Here!
TORONTO - APRIL 6:  A fan of the Toronto Blue ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
As a segue to the next poem, last night was the season opener of the Toronto Blue Jay' Baseball team.  I wonder if any of our sports teams are going to give Toronto fans reason to celebrate this year.  The TBJ team has been just as disappointing as our hockey, bball and soccer teams have been of late, I am afraid.  Not sure if we are expecting any better from the Blue Jays this year - but it was great to see the expectant optimism as fans strolled toward the stadium baseball gloves in hand.  I work across the street from the Roger's Center - our domed stadium.  Last night as I walked home, I felt like a fish swimming up stream as everyone was heading to watch the game.

This spoken word poem by Mark Larsen, a New York poet, provides some food for thought.  Where would you want your ashes cast after you die?  Who will be the one to do this for you?

7th Inning Stretch
By Mark Larsen

You're not gone yet, but when you are, I will sprinkle
your ashes over softball fields in Central Park.
Do you remember telling me that's what you wanted?
We sat on a bench, father and son
keeping score on a Saturday afternoon.
Someone hit a shot so far over the left fielder's head
that it rolled to a stop at your feet.
You picked it up and threw it back into the game.
I realized then you did not throw a ball that well.
I could probably throw a ball farther, and harder, than you.
An inning later you turned to me and said,
"When I die I want them to sprinkle my ashes over these fields."
The 'them' you referred to will be me.
I've never had to sprinkle ashes before.
I wonder how you do it.
Perhaps it's a bit like adding salt to soup,
or barbecue sauce to ribs - no recipes.
I'll bend down,
pick up some infield dirt, taste it,
and know I have just enough of you in the ground.

Mark Larsen can be contacted at
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