Jan 30, 2009


I took this photo a few summers ago, and it remains one of my all-time faves.

For me, it encapsulates the idea that many of the things that bring us the most joy are simple. To a child who loves animals, what could be better than two furry kittens?

Wallpaper versions of this image may be downloaded here:

See more of my cat photos here:

Jan 28, 2009

Pitcher Plants

These are the sort of flowers that devour those who get near. Insects are trapped, drowned, and ingested.

This image looks spectacular at wallpaper size. It was taken in a greenhouse at Kew Gardens, on the outskirts of London, UK, on a coolish February day.

The daffodils were in bloom already and, for a few hours during the afternoon, the sun shone her warmth upon us. I bought lunch at one of the cafeterias on the grounds, carried my tray outside, and sat with my jacket off watching toddlers frolic on the grass.

A few days later, I'd return to Toronto - where the first thing we did on arriving home was place our suitcases inside the front door and grab snowshovels.

Wallpaper versions of this image may be found here:

See other "London in February" photos here:

Jan 26, 2009

Georgia O'Keefe

I call this shot, of a single peony, "Georgia O'Keefe." Her work has profoundly influenced my own artistic vision.

Wallpaper versions of this image may be downloaded here:

See more of my flower photos here:


Jan 25, 2009

Horse Whispers

I'll be publishing a gallery of horse photographs within the next few weeks on my photography website, TripodGirl.com.

I'm currently feeling rather pleased about this shot.

Dark muscle. Sleek beauty. Soulful eyes.


Jan 24, 2009

New York City, Cheap & Quick

A young person in my life will make her first trip to the Big Apple soon. She's traveling there for a music concert, is a student on a budget, and has little more than a day to look around. She asked my advice re: what to see and do. The following (with a few minor changes) is what I wrote on her Facebook wall:

Central Park is worth a visit at any time of year. Times Square at night is a must-see. Both are free.

If it's so cold/rainy that you need to stay indoors for a while, The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) would be my first choice. It's on the Eastern edge of Central Park and is massive. Paintings you've seen in textbooks, an entire Egyptian temple shipped over and reconstructed, and beautiful architecture in its own right. Student admission is $10 (bring your student ID).

See http://www.ny.com/transportation/ellis.html for info about cheap ferry rides out to the Statue of Liberty. Nothing can beat taking your very own pix of her.

Spend 5 minutes looking at this map (maybe print it and bring it with you): http://www.aaccessmaps.com/show/map/manhattan.
It shows:

  • the various neighbourhoods in relation to one another
  • how the streets start in the low numbers at the bottom and get higher (which is why people talk about lower and upper Manhattan)
  • how there's a West side & an East side. The dividing line - depending on where you are - is 8th Ave/Broadway/5th Ave

(This second map is somewhat easier to read. I had to tell my printer to reduce it down to 60% to get it on one page.)

You can get around by foot, subway, and bus. Because there are interesting buildings/restaurants/shops around every corner, New Yorkers walk a lot. They're among the most fit people in America.

To use the transit system, go down into a subway station and buy a MetroCard (transit card). Fare is $2 a ride. If you load $20 on the card, they give you $23. More than one person can use the same card. You swipe the card when boarding a bus as well as in the subway. Bus and subway maps are here: http://www.mta.info/mta/maps.htm

If a few of you split the bill, taking a ride in a yellow cab - even just for 10 blocks - is a quintessential, inexpensive New York experience. My first time there, I was astonished by how many yellow cabs there are.

Also, before you go, check out:

this list of museums & cultural institutions

this list of famous buildings, sites & monuments

Click anything on these lists for more info.

You're gonna have a blast!

Jan 22, 2009

The Cat Came Back

A charming National Film Board (of Canada) short. Seven-and-a-half minutes long. The first time my husband and I watched this - big and beautiful on a movie theatre screen - we giggled. A lot.

Produced in 1988, it and many other films may now be enjoyed free on the NFB's website.

Too bad about the prominent logo in the bottom right of the screen - and that the flash viewer provided is wider than standard blog templates. (I've changed the width from 516 to 408 pixels in the HTML code, but it isn't clear how much distortion has resulted.)

Someone's drawn my attention to the fact that a legal page on the Film Board's website contains a bizarre declaration about who is permitted to link to the site. Ah, government bureaucrats. They don't really get the Internet yet, do they?

Jan 20, 2009


This isn't a flawless film. Some of the acting is weak, and the script can be awkward since it attempts to portray French-speaking people to an English-language audience.

That said, it's beautiful to watch - and not just because of the fabulous glimpses of Paris. Reds and yellows frequently dominate the color palette, and there's a scene involving rain at an outdoor circus that's utterly gorgeous.

Frances McDormand is a treat as the teacher-nun at the girls-only boarding school. Cut from similar cloth as Mary Poppins, she's firm, kind, and engaged - the sort of teacher with which every child should be blessed.

She has clarity about the difference between children and adults - which means she knows adults have leadership obligations that must not be shirked. In one memorable scene she announces:

"All of this is no reason for us to stop acting like proper young ladies. We will not fall to pieces. We will maintain composure."
Madeline, the clever and feisty orphan around whom the film revolves, is a likeable imp. And while the rascal neighbor boy isn't featured in many of the press shots, he's exceptionally fine-looking on screen.

The film includes one of the most tender, well-acted hospital-bed scenes ever (involving the school's benefactress). This is a sweet gem of a film - especially if you're in the mood for somewhat girly family fare.

Jan 19, 2009

Lush Plush

A pink flamingo at the Toronto Zoo.

Their intense color make flamingos irresistable to me. I can't be around them and not snap photos. Shades and layers. Lush textures. Soft body feathers and neck down that looks as plush as a child's stuffed toy.

Wallpaper versions of this image may be downloaded here:

See more of my flamingo photos here:

Jan 18, 2009

Groundhog Day

Some people find this movie repetitive since it's about a television weather announcer who keeps re-living the same day again and again until he redeems himself in the eyes of the universe. But in addition to being a sweet love story, this is about second, third, and fortieth chances to get things right before one's soul is lost forever.

We don't see any gypsy lay a curse on obnoxious, self-absorbed weatherman Phil, but essentially that's what happens. For the third time in three years he's sent to a small town to report on the prognostications of a groundhog. Rather than joining in the spirit of the occasion, he looks down his nose at the community and treats his coworkers with disdain.

As a result, it's Groundhog Day every morning when he wakes up and he's compelled to keep going through the motions until it penetrates his noggin that other people's well-being matters, and that life offers us no end of opportunities to be both useful and creative.

It turns out there's one thing in particular Phil must accomplish before the spell can be broken and, although he's a slow learner, he finally achieves it. The movie includes some great physical humour (I love the shower scenes), and lots of low-level giggles.

Jan 16, 2009


Andie MacDowell: "I thought angels were cleaner."

"I'm not that kind of angel" - so responds John Travolta who plays a slobbish celestial being with a fondness for sex, sugar, and many of life's other pleasures.

I adore this movie. It has a solid story, an entire scene praising homemade pie, and Travolta in one of his most wholesome roles.

Anti-cynicism in a charming package.

Travolta: "You gotta learn to laugh. It's the way to true love."

[full movie info here]


Jan 14, 2009

Little Miss Sunshine

Tons of folks adore this 2006 release, and here's why it works for me: It's a genuinely laugh-out-loud film that's ultimately an uplifting one, too. The script is never lazy or maudlin (and won a well-deserved best-screenplay Oscar). The acting is note-perfect and sometimes heart-wrenching.

The six central characters, who pile into a VW microbus for an 800-mile journey, are all decent and sympathetic -- despite their eccentricities. The opening scenes are painful to watch, but a series of very funny incidents follow.

The film is irreverent and contains tons of profanity, but there are also lovely, tender moments between father and son, grandfather and granddaughter, uncle and niece, and uncle and nephew.

synopsis: Olive is an ordinary-looking 7-year-old girl who dreams of being a beauty queen. She and five relatives undertake a cross-country journey so that she may compete in a pageant already tainted by a diet-pill scandal. (Yes, we're talking 7-year-olds!)

In addition to her parents and her brother, she's accompanied by her grandfather (who lives with them after being kicked out of a retirement home) and her gay uncle who's recently attempted suicide.

The adult themes and aggressive profanity make this film unsuitable for kids. On the other hand, there are no weapons, violence, or gore.

Jan 13, 2009

Winter Solace

On days like today, when the snow is blowing, and the snowbanks are high enough and wide enough to seem permanent, it's photos of Spring bulbs that soothe me.

Wallpaper versions of this image may be downloaded here: http://www.TripodGirl.com/downloads/skyward.php

See more of my Spring-themed photos here: http://www.TripodGirl.com/springtime.php


Jan 12, 2009

Peacock Fan

Peeking through a peacock's tail feathers.

I took this at the Toronto Zoo, in June 2006. Soon after my arrival, a peacock began serenading - fanning out his tail feathers, prancing about, squawking pompously.

His performance made the annual membership fee I'd just purchased seem like a good idea :-)

Wallpaper versions of this image are available at: http://www.TripodGirl.com/downloads/peacock_fan.php

See some of my other bird photos here:


Jan 11, 2009

She Left Me For Jesus

I've seen Hayes Carll - this youngish singer-songwriter from Texas - perform live a couple of times. He's fun, has a great sound, is definitely worth hearing/watching.

Either he has more courage than the average man or Born-Again Christians have a sense of humor - 'cause this video hasn't got him shot yet :-)

Jan 10, 2009

The Economist Hits an Iceberg

The Economist is an intellectually rigorous, well-written weekly. It's like Time magazine but 10 times meatier. Rather than viewing North America as the center of the universe, its focus is global. Its analysis of current events is characterized by historical perspective, political insight, and sober common sense.

Of all the magazines and newspapers out there, The Economist is what I read most religiously - and trust most implicitly.

So I'm feeling a bit distressed. In a recent editorial, titled "A Sea of Troubles," the magazine declared:

"Greenland's ice is on track to melt completely, which will eventually raise the sea level by about 7 metres (23 ft). Even by the end of this century, the level may well have risen by 80 cm, perhaps by much more."
There's a line in The Fellowship of the Ring movie in which Gandalf asks his former mentor "Tell me, friend, when did [you] exchange reason for madness?" Emotionally-speaking, that approximates my reaction to the above.

Let's begin with the second claim – that, by the time the new century gets born 91 years from now, sea levels may have risen by 80 cm (about 2.5 feet) due to the melting of Greenland's ice.

Making predictions about anything nine decades hence is tricky – because the speed of technological innovation keeps increasing. We're likely to experience more change in the first 25 years of this century than in the entire past century.

And let's be clear: the past century was no slouch. In 1940 you needed another human being to help you place a phone call. Telephone company employees moved cables from one slot to another to connect the wires over which conversations took place.

Today, my pocket-sized wireless wonder not only allows me to call vast tracts of the planet without the intervention of a single soul, it connects me to that great communications grid known as the Internet.

Neither the telephone operators, nor the folks who spoke into one part of their telephones while holding the second part to their ear, could have foreseen anything like the Internet. It was beyond their ability to imagine 70 years ago.

Our understanding of environmental issues and our ability to address them will not remain static over the next 90 years. New discoveries await us – discoveries that have the potential to change the environmental landscape as profoundly as telecommunications has already changed.

So let's return to The Economist's first statement: "Greenland's ice is on track to melt completely, which will eventually raise the sea level by about seven metres (23 ft)."

Where do these ideas come from? They can be traced back to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which projected that, if the melting of Greenland's ice were to be "sustained for millennia," the sea level would rise 23 feet.

You can look up millennia here. It's the plural of millennium – 1,000 years.

So when The Economist says Greenland's ice "is on track to melt completely" it means we're going to be in trouble thousands of years from now. But since our own environmental practices have advanced well beyond those of Ancient Rome, how likely is it that humanity won't have learned a thing or two in the interim?

Let's put this another way:
If someone recorded the fluctuations of a particular company's stock over the course of an hour, extrapolated from that data, and then insisted they could accurately predict the stock's value five years from now - would we take them seriously?
I'm not saying we shouldn't care about the environment. But the news magazine I value for its sound judgment now seems to fall short when it reports on this topic. This isn't the first time I've felt I was being served alarmist hooey rather than solid analysis.

And that's a shame. Because now I won't be paying much mind to the 16-page special section on the supposedly dire state of the world's oceans.

visit NOconsensus.org for more on the global warming debate

Jan 9, 2009

Barista Portraits

Last year, the friendly folks at my favorite Starbucks invited me to hang some of my photography on their "art wall" for a month.

When considering which images to display, I thought it would be fun to photograph members of the staff - so that it was their portraits on the wall.

Scheduling issues prevented some people from participating, but in the end eight staff members were able to take part. Six separate photo shoots were arranged and everyone was a fabulous sport.

(Unlike traditional art galleries, Starbucks provides display space only. Promotion, sales, etc. are left to the artist. So if one sells a piece through Starbucks, one keeps the entire fee - rather than splitting it 50/50 with the gallery.)

Romancing the Stone

A young Kathleen Turner plays a romance writer in over her head when she flies to Columbia to rescue her sister from kidnappers.

An equally youthful Michael Douglas demands money from the damsel-in-distress before he'll assist her, and manfully chops the high heels off her shoes with his machete.

Turner: "These were Italian."
Douglas: "Now they're practical."
A fun, respectful treatment of the romance novelist - paired with a mildly serious exploration of the gulf between fictional adventures and dangerous, grimy reality.

A good date movie. One (brief) gory scene, near the end.

[full film info available here]

Jan 8, 2009

Only You

A silly, romantic, feel-good comedy.

Robert Downey Jr., some good shots of Rome - and luscious footage of Venice.

[full movie info available here]

Jan 7, 2009

It's a Big, Beautiful World

This world is wide, deep, tasty and gorgeous - with so much that's so great. The trick is finding the bits that speak to us.

For me, blues and roots music are way up there - especially the songwriters who'd be called poets in another era.

I love East Indian, West Indian, Italian, Asian and Mexican cooking. I consider dark chocolate and red wine to be food groups in their own right. I prefer restaurants that have character to restaurants that charge the Earth.

My taste runs to films that aren't too gory, cruel or lazy. I'm a fan of sci-fi television from Star Trek to Babylon 5 to Firefly. I'm more interested in TV now that I can buy it by the season - since I've never been willing to schedule my life around television programming.

This blog is about what works for me. Random ramblings. Passions. Discoveries.

Thanks for dropping by.