Archives For April 2015

energizer lab, 14 1/2I took this photo of Max eight weeks ago in our backyard. Four weeks after taking this I was in Japan for the next four. Those weekly updates are significant in the life of Max as he approaches his natural end.

Labs have an average lifespan of ten to twelve years. Max will turn fifteen on 5 August, a little more than three months from now.

Max is the fifth of six labs we’ve kept over the past 32 years as a couple (my wife has spent 35 starting with Rhett, her first). It was Rhett, a male yellow, who literally helped both our girls to learn to walk. He would stand in the middle of the floor as both girls would slowly, swayingly pull themselves up to stand using Rhett as their prop, then Rhett would carefully walk while the girls used him as a living walker. He was so patient and the perfect family dog. As they grew older he was their loving companion and guard.

Rhett (and Labs in general) became an instant part of my life when I arrived at my future wife’s house for our first date. As soon as Rhett laid eyes on me he knew he had a guy to walk him long distances and do other physical fun activities with. On that first night, while sitting on the sofa and waiting to take her out to dinner and a movie, he went around my wife’s rental and picked up all his toys and deposited them in a pile at my feet.

While my wife and I dated she would bring him over, along with his little vinyl suitcase, to stay in my apartment when she traveled. As a pair of bachelors we’d then go out together in my Honda Civic with him riding shotgun for local fast food late at night. His favorite was green burritos. He turned my walk-in closet into his spare bachelor pad.

When my wife and I married, he was best Lab at our wedding and went with us on our honeymoon. He traveled with us on vacations when it was possible. He loved car rides. He lived to be sixteen. The very last thing he did was to eat some birthday cake. Which goes to show that the last thing to go in a Lab is the stomach.

Over the years, along with Rhett, we’ve had a black female (Katie), a chocolate female (Babe), a black male (Spook, born on Halloween), Max, and Ruby, the youngest Lab at six years.

Max was the most athletic of any Lab that’s ever lived with us. Max, in his prime, would out-walk and out-run anything on two or four feet, including me. He was my walking companion who kept me fit and active. But Max has slowed down over time, as we all do. Tonight, for the first time ever, he stayed on his resting pad in our TV room, gently sleeping. I knew this day was coming from past experience, but it hit me hard non-the-less. Somehow I felt Max might be a little different, walking up until the very end.

Max still goes out constantly into our big back yard where he lies and watches the birds and butterflies. His eyesight is still pretty good. But his desire to explore beyond the big back yard, I believe, is done. He still likes to walk out the front door and look around, and if another dog comes into the vicinity he takes notice. But he’s past the Energizer Bunny stage of his life.

That’s only fair. He’s been the most active, and has walked longer in his life, than any other lab. Rhett, who has the record for longevity at 16 years, stopped walking a good three years before he died. Who knows how long Max may live beyond this point. But still, it’s a sad point, and another reminder of all our fixed days in this world.

Tonight it was just Ruby and I on the walk. Both of us are going to have to get back into shape, because as long as Max wanted to go out for our walks as a group, then we walked at his pace and his distance. I never had the heart to drop Max off back at the house and then turn around on a second walk with just Ruby. I know my animals and it would have broken Max’s heart. But that’s no longer an issue; Max has moved on.

Update 27 April

He actually went out again with us. He picked the absolute shortest route, down and around a cul-de-sac that’s just across the street from my house. Part of what may have contributed to his desire to walk may have been the temperature; the evening was a bit cooler than last evening.

One of the “benefits” of western culture I’ve managed to avoid while on travel, until today, are the blockbuster trailers. Then I watched the Star Wars teaser trailer with a definitely old Harrison Ford and that opened the floodgates, as it were. What followed was a binge-watching session of all the trailers I’ve not seen for the past three weeks, and even a few going back even farther than that.

One of those binge-watched trailers is for the latest Terminator franchise installment, “Terminator: Genisys” (with genesis horribly misspelled). I’m now ashamed to say I’ve seen every terminator movie since the original. All four. Now with a fifth coming out they’re changing up the plot and introducing new faces for old characters. It still has Arnold Schwarzenegger as the original Terminator in something of a bridge role, just like they had Leonard Nimoy bridge between old and new with his original Spock character in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot.

Except this time Old Arnold/Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Series 800 Terminator goes back in time a lot farther such that he raised a very young Sara Connor into something of a modern-day Amazon warrior. When this trailer shows Kyle Reese’s arrival, like it did in the first movie, Sarah shows up to rescue Kyle, rather than the other way around in the first movie. To top it all off we’ve got another T-1000 in this movie reboot (that didn’t show up the first time in this franchise until the second movie), showing up at the same time Kyle shows up. Whatever…

Here’s my issue: Assuming you could time travel and you knew exactly how near historical battles played out, then why would you go farther back in time before those battles to beat your enemy? If Skynet knew precisely how critical near-term historical battles (those where it was fighting the Resistance) that it lost would turn out then it would have made much better sense to analyse those key battles and then send multiple Terminators back to those specific battles, changing the outcomes from a loss for Skynet to a win. Do that enough times and you kill off the Resistance and possibly the rest of the human race. The whole idea of even having to go far back in time to kill the mother of your enemy’s key leader makes absolutely no sense: going back in time and trying (and failing) to murder Sarah Connor, Skynet wasted incredible opportunities to finish the job much more quickly and much closer to home, chronologically speaking.

Terminator shows how poor a story teller James Cameron is compared to Harlan Ellison, whose Outer Limits stories “Soldier” and “Demon With a Glass Hand” underpinned the whole Terminator franchise. Ellison’s stories are elegant and powerful, while Cameron’s Terminator is a very poor retelling of Ellison.

Nope. I won’t be shelling out any hard earned cash to see this one.

labs in japan

April 19, 2015

UntitledWhile out earlier I came across this little gal. Not knowing Japanese I can only guess these are the equivalent of the SPCA. But I did understand Lab enough, what with my two at home and having lived continuously with Labrador Retrievers since I started dating my wife in 1982. It spite of the overcast and drizzle, meeting this sweet character brought a bit of brightness to the day, and is a good way to end my stay here in Japan.

i know what i like

April 19, 2015

UntitledIt could be the pink cherry blossoms. Or the urban colors at a train station. I see things and patterns and I just make a photograph. What makes these two interesting is they were made within ten minutes walking distance of one another.

 Both taken with the E-M10 and 45mm, both tinkered with a bit in Pixelmator on an iPad Air 2.


April 18, 2015

UntitledI rode the train to Tokyo today. Deliberately. Arrived at the Tokyo Station. Walked through the section of the city nearest the station. Slowly and deliberately. Met two men who hailed from Ottawa. We were all on our way to look around the Imperial Gardens. They caught my attention because I understood what they were saying to one another, and one of them had an Olympus Pen, an E-PL-something-or-other, hanging from around his neck. On the way out of the gardens I took a photo of a very nice Japanese couple with their camera. Turned out “A-OK” for them.

I had a nice French lunch at Le Café La Boutique in the heart of downtown Tokyo. I got to sit for a while, resting my knees, while watching people eat inside and out of the cafe. I saw faces and heard voices from around the world. It was a quiet yet magic moment to realize all that had transpired to allow me to be in that particular spot at that particular fortunate moment, crossing paths with all these other strangers. Friendly to be sure, but people I’d never seen before, and for the most part never will again.

I then spent ¥1,600 to see Impressionistic paintings on loan to the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum from the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Worth every yen. It was crowded, but not overcrowded. I believe the Japanese take art quite seriously and support it by paying to view it in places like the gallery. Besides, I haven’t seen this much Impressionistic painting since I was studying art in the 1970s and went to the Atlanta High Museum.

As I was slowly walking through the exibit it dawned on me that there is nothing more antithetical to today’s photography than the Impressionist period. Moving through the gallery and viewing the paintings produced by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, and so many others, reminded me of how timeless art can be produced when you mix genius with paint on canvas (or wood, or whatever else you had at hand). Today we spend way too much time on the trivialities of digital photography (primarily through measurebation). Way, way too much time and energy. Way too little on the art and emotion of the image.

Walked around the huge buildings close to the train station feeling rather small and insignificant. Noticed that Mitsubishi is on a lot of things in this area, including the Bank of Tokyo. I also discovered you can’t loose site of the train station in this area. Go inside a building and there are signs leading you underground back to the train station. It’s big enough on the outside, but it’s like it has roots that spread out to everything under the ground.

Did find another Bic Camera. It was the largest I’ve seen so far, with two sub-basement floors. Finally found a decent camera section. But I still felt cold moving through all the gear. I felt odd in there anyway, what with me having an E-M5 and an E-M10 hanging off my body, one with the 17mm and the other with the 45mm. That, and two spare batteries is what I took with me to Tokyo (and what I carry on my train trips). It was a quick in-and-out. Bic Cameras are too crowded, bright, and noisy for my taste.

All in all, including travel time, I spent about six hours going to and slowly meandering about the little section of Tokyo. Tokyo is way too big to take in in just one day. It would take weeks, if not part of a lifetime, to get to know the city and really see it. And that’s just one city in one country on this planet. My little trip today was like dipping my little toe into the ocean, and calling that swimming.