Monday, September 21, 2009

How useful are social networking websites for finding answers ?

Today, I'm going to start a test to determine if social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook can actually be a useful tools for finding answers to your many questions (and I know you have lots). Many of us Twitter and Facebook users typically send out statements on what we're doing or how we're feeling and like when we get a comment back. However, I don't think many people post questions. I definitely sprinkle questions here into my blog and occasionally get some answers, but generally speaking I don't think we're getting the most out of our investment into web 2.0. Many people still go with the web 1.0 route when looking for answers, such as highest rated products, cheapest prices, best local restaurants, music reviews and concerts listings. The latest tools in web 2.0 offer an array of clever ways of creating ever widening social networks, so why not leverage those networks a little more ? I'd go out on a limb and say that more people like to answer questions and provide their suggestions and recommendations than simply post of comment about their thoughts. Perhaps this way, people can participate in web 2.0 networks without feeling they are bragging or telling the world useless bits of personal information ! I'll prefix my Twitter and Facebook questions with QOTD - question of the day, and see what I get back.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It was a Beautiful Day for U2

Wednesday, I saw U2 for my third time at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. I saw them at Exhibition Stadium in the early 1990's and in 2005 at the Air Canada Centre. The photo below was a similar view from where I was in 2005. It's not my photo because although I brought my camera, I forgot to put film in it!

I didn't get tickets initially this year for U2 because either I couldn't get General Admission tickets or I couldn't get any. I wasn't interested in being far again. Floors was all I was interested when a friend of ours emailed to say he had a couple of General Admission tickets...we didn't hesitate (and that was before we knew they were compliments of R.I.M. - does that mean I should finally upgrade my basic cell phone to a Blackberry? at least hubby is on his second so I don't feel too guilty).

Speaking of R.I.M. it looks like they were the solo advertiser last night with much of the Rogers advertising taken down and "Blackberry.lovesU2" signs everywhere.

Snow Patrol took to the stage first. I thought they were amazing. I had seen them a year or two ago at Kool Haus. It was great to see them in a bigger venue with the big screen and extra lighting. Unfortunately with a U2 crowd, not everyone knows them so some people around us were talking...but I still think most people really ended up appreciating their music and their banter, well at least the people on the floor as you can see from this photo.

So now, it's been 3 huge concerts this year that I have seen from up close. The Killers at the Air Canada Centre in January, Coldplay at the Rogers Centre in July and U2 at the Rogers Centre this week. Who would have thought I would have these experiences at the beginning of the year (or even last week for that matter).

This one definitely had the spectacle of the "Biggest Band in the World". In the past I have felt that Coldplay's concerts were more about the music rather than the entertainment. I didn't think anything could top this summer's Coldplay concert. I found Wednesday (and perhaps it was because I was closer than in the past) that U2 was about the entertainment...but also about the music. The musicians were all showcased quite well with spotlights often on them.

I was initially disappointed that the bridges to the circular runway were closer to the back. This is the view from the back of the stage that my husband took (and interestingly I got annoyed at him for because I wanted to get down to the field). I even said "it's not like we would use this photo for anything anyway"...crunch, crunch...that's me eating my words...

The two bridges are covered here, but you can see that they go towards the back of the stage. I had seen a video online of Bono standing on one of the bridges singing, so I thought I wouldn't be able to see him from the front. What a pleasant surprise when I realized that the bridges moved. A few times one of them moved right in front of us so that The Edge or Bono were walking right toward us.

The runway definitely makes the venue seem smaller. They used it a lot more than I thought they would. They would take turns going on the bridges or on the runway so we did feel like we were closer than we really were (to the stage). Even Larry came out on it once playing a bongo.

One of my pet peeves with concerts sometimes is that the lighting is so low and there is smoke from the smoke machines so it's difficult to focus the camera to take a good shot. Last night, we got great shots early, so we didn't feel like we had to keep taking photos.

We could just enjoy the show. I would still get caught up in the moment when they came closer so I did video most of the times they came close, but when they were on stage, I could relax and enjoy the show.

The first time that Bono was on the bridge, I was recording the song...but sometimes, there was this black vertical line in the way. I was a bit annoyed at my "obstructed" view...

I didn't realize what the obstruction was until after I stopped recording as he walked off the bridge onto the runway. He walked towards us to a microphone that had appeared just to the right of us where he finished the song.

I was like a kid in a candy store. Having arrived at the concert at 6:30, I never imagined having such a view, especially since people had started lining up the night before.

This was the second time that the Rogers Centre had the roof open for a concert (the first time for Bruce Sprinsteen). It was so beautiful to see the CN Tower lit up. I panned to it at the end of this video:

Before the concert, I wanted two songs by Snow Patrol recorded on video. Since they were staying on the stage and the crowd were not going nuts, those videos were easy to capture. U2 was not so simple however. For some of my favourite songs, they were behind the stage, or to the side or the crowd was jumping up and down that visibility was minimal. I recorded the songs when they were on the runway or a few quieter ones. For one song (Beautiful Day), I actually recorded the big screen, just to have it because I couldn't see the band at the time.

That is one disadvantage to having floor tickets. Sometimes, you can't see....but you can't beat the atmosphere!

It was truly a Beautiful Day!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Champion: a music formula that works (for me)

The band: Champion; the sound: DJ Champion, aka Maxime Morin. The guitarists: the G Strings. Singers: Betty Bonifassi originally, now Pierre-Philippe (Pilou) Côté. Formula: Base of electronic beats; generous handfuls of hard rocking guitars x 5; interesting singers with straight up blue inspired lyrics. I've only been clubbing in Montreal a few times, but from what I recall from a great night at Fou Founes Electriques, Champion personify all that is cool in the Montreal music scene.

The first time I heard and saw Champion was on TV as
they closed the Juno awards back in 2007, and right away I was hooked.

Their 2004 debut album,
Chill ‘Em All, won a 2005 Felix Award for Album of the Year in the electronictechno category. Chill ‘Em All went Gold and The Remix Album was nominated for a JUNO for Dance Recording of the Year in '07. They also released a DVD called Champion at ses G Strings that perfectly shows the energy of their lives shows, especially playing in hometown Montreal at Metropolis.

They released the second album Resistance yesterday. I had a quick listen at home last night, but it wasn't until I got a chance to listen to the album properly today with headphones that I can now say I like it. It don't think it's as strong as
Chill 'em all and the upbeat tracks are definitely closer to the rock curve. I'm not big on lyrics, and some may find the lyrics somewhat repetitive, but they work well for me as sing-a-long words for the driving, thumping electro-rock sounds. There are a few interesting tracks that explore more electronica and trance themes, with Champion's signature instrumental layering and building of electronic intros and groundwork with guitar riff crescendos and intricate rhythm patterns.I saw Champion at Lee's Palace a couple of years ago and it still remains one of my favourite concerts of all time. Unfortunately I attended solo and there's no photos or video. On a trip out to BC days after the show, my skills of persuasion failed when I couldn't sell my friends on the idea of going to see their Vancouver show. I think one of my Quebec work colleagues has seen Champion perform live (as they do a lot more shows in Quebec) but I don't know anyone else that has seen their fantastic shows in the past. But quiet a few of my friends have loved the music on the first listen ! I've waited a couple of years to see them again, and was over the moon when I found out they were going to play a free concert at Yonge Dundas Square to open the Toronto International Film Festival.

I'm proud to say my 12 year old son is a big music fan (across rock, alternative and electronic music) and in combo of learning to play guitar, he's a fan of Champion just like his old man. So I took him to the concert on Thursday. We got there nice an early as I wanted to make sure we got a good spot so he could see and I could take photographs. We chatted with a few photographers and music fans, including Stranger #22 - Sherlon. With the exception of not playing one of my faves (The Plow), Champion delivered an awesome show. What makes Champion's compositions and performances unique is that while he's live mixing the electronic side of the equation he directing the guitarists with the intros and transitions with hand signals (as you can see in some of the photos on flickr). On the DVD he talks a lot about this technique and I'm still a little amazed at how he pulls this off and creates such a well "produced" sound. I'm not certain how many fans were present, but I'm sure there were plenty of new fans afterward. The free tent in the square was pretty packed and everyone quickly fell into step with Champion's mix of driving dance beats with hard rocking guitars. New male lead singer, Pilou added strong vocals and the special appearance of Canadian Opera diva Measha Brueggergosman topped off the evening perfectly.

A little clip of the YDS crowd showing how you just can't stop moving to the Champion sound ! ( I love the guy in suit and tie holding up his BB on the left at the beginning of the clip)

Playing their hit No Heaven as their encore (poor sound, but you get the idea)

So, for me, Max has created a fantastic formula for an alternative to the often sterile sounds of pure electronic music and the dime-a-dozen unimaginative rock bands who struggle to find that killer riff and a recognizable lead vocal sound. I think his mix of his laptop creation of electronic dance beats and intricate orchestrated guitar melodies, riffs and movements is pure genius.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rush and Massey Hall

A good friend of mine enthusiastically recommended the movie I Love You Man a little while ago and I got around to watching it last night - really funny. In the movie, the two lead guys hit it off when they discover they are both huge hands of Rush. Great to see one of Canada's classic rock bands feature so prominently in a Hollywood movie ! I'm a fan too and have seen them play a couple of times. So today, I take my burrito lunch over to the free TIFF (film festival) tent set up at Yonge Dundas Square and there's a few short movies playing, including an interview with Geddy Lee from Rush talking about Massey Hall. Now I come to think of it, I'd just seen a beautiful shot of Massey Hall (one block South of the square) just yesterday on BlogTO.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


The Toronto International Film Festival starts today. In the festival's early years, I attended quite a view events and made time to see some more obscure movies, however I don't have any set plans this year. But, I do plan on enjoying some of the free events and also trying to take some photos, incl. candid shots of celebs and fans outside some of the gala events. There are a quite a few free events this year, especially at Yonge Dundas Square where I just enjoyed a light lunch while watching Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man under the tent. Plus a treat I'm really looking forward to tonight is the opening night concert by DJ Champion. The new single is out and the album due next Tuesday. If you're reading this today and within striking distance and like some hard groovin' electro beats and guitar riffs, check it out, you won't be disappointed. On the movie front, I'm going to use the festival as an excuse to watch some quality movies at home. I have a few queued up, incl. The Wrestler and Water.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Photo Blog #15: Finger by courier; Photograhpy is not a crime spinoff

I went out at lunch yesterday to practice my panning skills, trying to determine the best shutter speed to capture movement, not too fast because you don't want to stop the background (and wheels etc) and not too slow that you can't freeze the subject. I was getting some reasonable results with 1/125sec. To be honest it was kind of hard to even find fast moving objects around Yonge and Dundas as the traffic is pretty grid locked most of the time.

This was the last one I shot and as it happened, I think there's a story here. If you're not from Southern Ontario, then you've probably missed the news about a prominent politician who is being charged in the death of the bike courier earlier this week (
Bryant quits post, declares innocence, cyclists ride in support of dead bike courier). This incident has sparked the debate again about cyclist safety on our city streets. I sometimes ride my bike around the city and I've had a few close calls with cars and experienced the tension of sharing busy city streets with mammoth SUV's, trucks and just plain, poor drivers. However, I must admit that I'm not always a model bike citizen and on occasion I'm guilty of disobeying some laws of the road. Another combustible element to the argument is the bike courier - urban hero or antihero ? So back to the photo, could my friendly subject be reacting to the possible negative slants towards couriers or is it simply capturing the stereotypical anti-establishment attitude of this urban figure ?

The other story that this photo perhaps captures is the growing negative attitudes towards photographers taking photos in and of the public. I've been personally tackling this one as I straddle the line between trying to capture
unstaged urban street scenes versus approaching strangers for permission to take their picture as part of my 100 Stranger project. There is quite a lot of new commentary and a few organizations raising awareness on public photography, how it is legal - not a crime, how it is a creative art form to embrace, and in some parts of the world, how photographers are sometimes being suspected of being terrorists (something I haven't personally experienced).

So I'm going to keep taking pictures of people, because they are beautiful, interesting, funny, colourful and in many cases there's a story behind their photograph.