August 31, 2009

Lies Of All Shapes And Sizes

Category: Humour — Cranky @

The following have turned out to be completely false:

1. “If you keep making that face it’ll freeze that way.” – Only half of it will freeze that way – trust me on this one.

2. “If you sit that close to the screen you’ll go blind.” – My job is to sit closer to my monitors than I ever got to the TV.

3. “If you keep doing that… uh… other thing, you’ll go blind.” – My prescription hasn’t moved in a decade. Enough said.

4. “If you don’t be quiet, we’ll stop this car and turn around.” – Never happens. Empty bluff.

5. “If you have to shake it more than twice, you’re playing with it.” – Maybe when I was a kid there was some validity to this, but I’m one year from 40. Two shakes doesn’t cut it any more.

6. “The dog went to live on a farm.” – No he didn’t, unless you’re a child reading this, in which case, sure. He totally did.

7. “It’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” – Oh, horseshit. It’s 90% about winning, and 10% about being magnanimous in victory. Losing sucks. That’s why people who lose are called losers, and not winners.

8. “Eat your spinach. It’ll make you strong.” – Working out and eating enough protein will make you strong. Spinach is healthy, for sure, but no matter how much spinach you eat you aren’t going to build muscle. Popeye was a weird animated freak. He’s not to be trusted as a nutritional guru.

9. “Crime doesn’t pay.” – Untrue. It can pay an awful lot until it doesn’t pay any more. If it didn’t pay, nobody would do it.

10. “Every list needs to be of ten things.” – Just because this one has ten doesn’t make it true.


August 19, 2009

Another Day, Another Boneyard

Category: Life — Cranky @

So I decided to continue the photographic trip through the nearby cemetery. The light was different, and I hadn’t seen the north side of St. Joachim’s, so off I went.

At first, it was “more of the same”, with little to differentiate the trips. Then I came across a headstone that was inset into the earth, rather than standing up. Wet, red flowers adorned the plot. As I took several pictures, an older gentlemen came up and said, “I just watered those. You might want to give them a few minutes to dry.” I replied that they looked perfectly fine, and that real flowers were a refreshing change, given the preponderance of fake ones I had found. He explained that his parents were buried there.

His mother had asked for a traditional burial, and she was entombed on the left. His father was cremated, and his urn was buried beside her. He then calmly pointed out the plot where he would be buried. He was in his 70’s, although he looked younger than that, and he expressed some concern that his brother and sister would let care of the plot lapse, since they did not live close to the cemetery.

Finally, he recommended that I visit Holy Cross Cemetery if I wanted to see a well-kept graveyard. With my faulty memory I equated Holy Cross with the school, and ended up at Westlawn Cemetery instead. There was a funeral happening, but I stayed clear and took no pictures of that. I respected the privacy of their grief. It’s a very large cemetery, though, so I continued my walk while avoiding the service.

This time the military section was much less imposing. While it was larger, the stones showed that these veterans mostly died of old age. Clearly the cemetery of choice during the great wars was St. Joachim’s. Regardless, there was still something noble here.

As I wandered through typical (if beautiful) headstones, I came upon a section where everything was different. The stones were nearly all white, and much less imposing and ornate. As I examined the dates, it became clear that this corner of the cemetery was reserved for children. It was the “Garden of Angels”, and the monument read, “Wynken Blynken and Nod one night sailed off in a wooden shoe”. The area was a somber reminder that while nobody gets out alive, some don’t get far at all. Some sections of a cemetery are uplifting and peaceful. This area, however, had a quiet desperation to it. Grief for a child is different.

I’m finding these walks to be very enlightening. Beautiful, even. Life, death, celebration, grief, and remembrance, all interwoven.

The complete set of pictures can be found here.

I particularly like this one.


August 8, 2009

Today I Took A Little Walk

Category: History — Cranky @

Recently I’ve been bitten by the photography bug. It’s not the first time that I’ve been stung, but this time I’m hooked. The key to getting better, naturally, is practice, and today was a beautiful, sunny day. I decided to take a stroll through the southern half of St. Joachim Cemetery and take pictures of the flowers. A site like that would give me a chance to try different focal styles and layouts, and there were sure to be lots of scenes worthy of a snapshot. As it turns out many of the flowers were fake, but they were pretty anyway.

What I experienced was completely unexpected.

Knowing something about history, I should have known that a cemetery as old as this one would show signs of the world wars, but I didn’t even consider it until I found the corner where suddenly, instead of unique grave markers, there were rows of hundreds of identical headstones. Sure enough, they were military headstones, and most of them bore dates between 1900 and 1950. A large monument stood in this section, engraved with, “To the Memory of Those Who Died for King and Country in the Great War 1914 – 1919”.

In my experience wars are things that happen “somewhere else”, but right here, mere footsteps from my home, are the graves of several thousand soldiers who lost their lives. This thought brings home the realization that they really were “world wars”, and we were involved.

As I continued my walk, I saw an elderly lady watering a grave. I asked if she watered all of them, and she told me no, only those of her husband, and her friends. Her name was Ethel Peet, and her husband died 33 years ago. She took the bus from the far south side of the city in order to water that grave today.

She and I talked about the cemetery, and what it represented. Then we talked about the military area, and that’s when the conversation became fascinating. She was Estonian by birth, and she had fled the country twice, escaping the occupation of the country by both the Germans and the Soviets.

It’s amazing to hear about the World Wars from an eyewitness. She had happy stories, sad stories, and tragic stories. She called them “anecdotes, but true because they’re mine!” She had witnessed atrocities, and found laughter in basic humanity under any circumstances. She told me of how she lost close friends in the early 1940’s when the Soviets deported thousands of Estonians to Siberian labour camps, and how the social structure was layered in the so-called “classless society”.

I learned a great deal, and before I knew it, an hour had passed. She apologized for talking my ear off, and I thanked her for doing just that.

Today was a good day.

Here are some of my pictures.