Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pursuit versus Creation

Happy Wednesday! Today's image was taken from below a Cherry Blossom tree branch at sunrise. This is what the blossoms look like as the rising sun adds a pink hue to the white flowers.

To complement this upside-down perspective of a Cherry Blossom, here's a different way of seeing happiness as posed by organization expert Rivka Caroline on Twitter this morning:
So our challenge today is to stop the pursuit and start creating more happiness in our lives. Now, go forth and create!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Opportunity in Every Difficulty

In times of turmoil like this week with Boston and now West, Texas, I've always turned to the crafty wisdom of the great Sir Winston Churchill for inspiration. For most situations, there's always a Churchill quotation that will provide guidance and support.

The Churchill quote that accompanies today's image is one of my favorites. It's Churchill's take on glass half-full or half-empty debate.
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
When challenges and crises arise in our lives and communities, we must band together and collectively look for the opportunities in the difficulties. We need to find more silver linings.

If we all just hold our heads and bemoan life's difficulties and unfairness, we are embracing pessimism and dooming ourselves to keep swimming in circles like these ducks in the Tidal Basin.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A New Marathon

So many people have shared such profound thoughts and reflections following the Boston Marathon tragedy.

I'm not sure what I would like to contribute to this conversation yet, so here's what musician (and awesome human being) Will Dailey shared on his Facebook page on Tuesday. It's poetic and beautiful like his music.
A new marathon began when the sun came up in Boston Tuesday morning.

Marathon: An event or activity that requires prolonged effort.

And so we begin. Running now with our own two weary legs but all of us are side by side. As a city, as a country and as a global community. A people. Fueled by our individual will and the collective sideline encouragement composed of those who love us: our family, friends, community and world.

Violence is the scream of ideas without merit. It fails the moment it is conceived. We in Boston, in the United States, experienced Monday what is too common in other countries. But, as it is in other places, there is more good than bad in the world. The bad can be loud as hell but the good is plentiful with the endurance of a million marathon runners.

One year from now we will be having another race. There will be a classic Red Sox game. We will remember the lost who will become stones in the architecture of our hearts. We will tend the raw wounds. We will honor heroes. We will run and we will finish and we will fall into each other’s arms.

We are in a new marthon [sic]. With a city and people that have the legs for infinite miles.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Good Outnumber You and We Always Will

Today's thought comes courtesy of comedian and actor Patton Oswalt. On his Facebook page, he posted the message below in response to tragic events at the Boston Marathon yesterday. He says everything I would have said today, and more.

I've reread his remarks many times this morning. We all should.
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."

But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Happy Jackie Robinson Day

Today is Jackie Robinson Day. If you haven't seen the film "42" yet, take yourself and your family and friends to see it this evening in his honor.

In honor of this special day, today's thought comes from the legendary baseball player himself:
"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."
While baseball may be just a sport, Robinson's courage and perseverance to become the first black player in Major League Baseball not only opened the doors for people of color in the world of professional sports, but in other public roles and occupations as well.

Robinson and other civil rights trailblazers not only desegregated baseball, they also helped to "desegregate" the minds of many Americans. He taught America how to see people of color differently than they had before -- by their ability and contribution to society and not merely by the color of their skin

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ready to Pop

Californian and conservationist John Muir once said:
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
While I think most of us have accepted the interconnectedness of our lives to each other, we still disregard nature's own interconnectedness.

All life -- even plant and wildlife -- makes up a fragile web of connections. This truth is so obvious when observing the Cherry Blossom trees in bloom.

Cherry Blossom flowers are so fragile flower when blooming. A gust of wind, raindrops or even disrespectful tourists can end a cherry blossoms' life.

Spring is our annual reminder of nature's connection to people and our entire environment. I just hope we pay better attention this time and become better stewards of this precious planet. If we don't maintain our relationships with nature, who knows how those tugs will unravel our world.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Early Light

As I discussed in an earlier blog post, I'm participating in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in June to raise funding and awareness of suicide prevention.

While finding content to include on my fundraising page, I came across a Rascal Flatts song I was unfamiliar with, but very relevant to this cause. I've always loved Rascal Flatts, and I was surprised that I didn't recall ever hearing this one before.

"Why" is written from the perspective of someone who is trying to understand why a loved one completed suicide. It's lyrics are powerful, and will be an essential song on my walk playlist in June.
Performed by Rascal Flatts
You must have been in a
Place so dark
You couldn't feel the light
Reachin' for you through
That stormy cloud
Now here we are
Gathered in our little hometown
This can't be the way
You meant to draw a crowd

Oh why, that's what I keep asking
Was there anything I could've
Said or done
Oh, I had no clue you were
A troubled soul, God only knows
What went wrong and why
You would leave the stage
In the middle of a song

Now in my mind I'll keep you frozen
As a seventeen-year-old
Rounding third to score the
Winning run
You always played with passion
No matter what the game
When you took the stage
You'd shine just like the sun

Oh why, that's what I keep asking
Was there anything I could've
Said or done
Oh, I had no clue you were
A troubled soul, God only knows
What went wrong and why
You would leave the stage
In the middle of a song

Now the oak trees are swaying
In the early autumn breeze
A golden sun is shining on my face
Through tangled thoughts
I hear a mockingbird sing
This old world really ain't that
Bad of a place

Oh why, there's no comprehending
And who am I to try to
Judge or explain
Oh, but I do have one
Burning question
Who told you life wasn't
Worth the fight
They were wrong, they lied
Now you're gone and we cry
'Cause it's not like you to
Walk away
In the middle of a song

Your beautiful song
Your absolutely beautiful song
Here's hoping that our efforts for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will help keep more "beautiful songs" in our world.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Offset by Blue

Thought of the day courtesy of the late, great Zig Ziglar
The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Shifty Focus

If you're one of my Facebook friends,you've probably seen this photo already. Shortly after returning from the Tidal Basin on Saturday morning, I made it my new Facebook cover photo. I couldn't resist.

This image is the perfect combination of color, texture and composition. In low light pre-sunrise conditions, it's challenging to make sure your images are in focus. When your composition seems to be in focus through your camera viewfinder or LCD screen, it may actually be out-of-focus once you bring the photo up on your computer or tablet.

That's the joy of taking digital photos -- you can take as many as you want. Multiple attempts can increase your likelihood that at least one of the photos is as sharp and clear as you intended.

After taking at least six photographs of this same composition, this photograph was the only one in focus. It's always a delight when you discover that you got the shot you wanted.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Best Laid Plans

Anticipating today was peak bloom of the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin, I got up before the sun, jumped in a Zipcar and drove over to the National Mall. When I arrived, I learned the frustrating truth -- the blossoms were not in full bloom. Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men ... you know the story.

So, the sleep-deprived version of myself might have reacted to this news with bitterness and perhaps a few choice words, but the photographer in me responded instead. I was inspired.

Instead of taking big landscape photographs of trees in full bloom, I zoomed in on a smaller subject -- the blossom itself. It's amazing when you get close to your subject how different they can appear.

Today's photograph showcases the full spectrum of a blossom's bloom from bud to flower. This close, the blooms seem to be exploding like fireworks from the tree branches. In a day or two, these "explosions" will result in Cherry Blossom tree branches overwhelmed with flowers.

Sometimes the best photographs occur when the plan needed to change. These game-change situations force you to get creative and develop a new and unexpected plan. Just like with life, we need to be flexible with photography. You never know when (or how) your best photograph excursion may happen.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Under Construction

Today was the first time since November that I've visited in the area around the Washington Monument. I was greeted by a large fence preventing visitors from getting close and views of scaffolding being constructed around the monument.

Since the 5.8 earthquake rattled the region in 2011, the Washington Monument has been closed to the public due to the appearance of large cracks and other structural damage throughout the monument.

For past repairs, the National Parks Service (NPS) added decorative red, white and blue lights to the scaffolding to reduce its appearance as an eyesore on the National Mall.

Since it will take at least five months to build the scaffolding alone, hopefully the NPS is planning to add the lights again once the scaffolding is completed and repair work begins. Adding an artistic element to the construction work may decrease locals' grumbling and reduce tourists' disappointment.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Preventing Suicide One Walk at a Time

Apologies to family and friends who may have already received this request. This is such an important issue for me that I am trying to use every venue available to get the word out and build support for this great cause.

As a friend shared recently, everyone has been touched by suicide at some point in their life. Perhaps a loved one or yourself contemplated it, attempted it, or even worse, successfully completed suicide. In my own life, there’s AJ, Adrian, Barbara, Dillon, Dimitri, Eleanor, Jeb, Kevin, and tragically, my list could go on.

While I raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention through my job, I wanted to do more to help those thinking about suicide. In June, I will be joining hundreds of people walking 18 miles through the night in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I would appreciate any support that you can give for this worthwhile cause.

AFSP is at the forefront of research, education and prevention initiatives designed to reduce loss of life from suicide. Also, they fund a national suicide hotline to help those in crisis. With more than 30,000 lives lost each year in the U.S. and over one million worldwide, the importance of AFSP's mission has never been greater, nor their work more urgent.

Thank you for considering this donation request. I rarely ask folks to support fundraisers, but this cause is different. It’s my hope that the money we raise together will become a lifeline that saves lives of those thinking about taking their life.

You can make a 100% tax deductible donation online here through my fundraising page or if you would prefer to donate by check, print out this form and mail it to the address listed.

If you’re unable to contribute at this time, I understand. All I’ll ask of you is to please keep those in crisis in your thoughts and prayers and save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number in your phone – (800) 273-8255 – to get help for you or another person in need at a moment’s notice. Also, feel free to forward this message to friends or share my fundraising page on your social networks. The more money we raise, the more people we can help.

Even in the darkest of days, we are never alone. That’s why I’m walking in June to demonstrate that everyone matters and there is the hope of brighter days ahead. As one of my favorite musicians Tyrone Wells sings, “There is always something more."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Strange Mountain for a Strange Week

Strange image, right? This is the facade of one of the rides at Universal Studios Orlando, and it's a bit haunting.

Not sure why but I felt like today's photograph was an appropriate image to summarize my week. It was a week where primal screaming would be a fitting response to several situations, but in the end, not really worth doing.

Unlike this frustrated gentleman stuck with his mouth open and water running out, I'm hoping for a more peaceful, dignified week ahead. And I'm crossing fingers, toes, legs, etc. hoping for that outcome.

As Aristotle once said:
"There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing."
Well, since that's not an option I can live with, I'll just keep doing something, saying something and being the best person I can be next week and the weeks thereafter.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sunlit Bench

The simplest of life mottoes is "Do onto others as you would have them do onto you."

If you were going for something a little longer, this thought might just work:
"Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don't strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt."

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sunset at the Winery

Seventeenth century French author François de La Rochefoucauld once said:
"True eloquence consists in saying all that is fit to be said, and leaving out all that is not fit."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

This building is one of the fanciest office buildings in Washington, DC. Why? Its occupants.

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building is next door to the White House, and contains the offices of White House staffers and the Vice President.

A friend on Facebook shared this morning an interesting quotation by Socrates that made me think of this building.
"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
Right now, White House staffers are working around the clock on critical issues impacting Americans, including lifting the sequester. So far, White House staffers and their colleagues on Capitol Hill are are spending most of their time "fighting" opponents rather than "building" consensus.

Hopefully, someone will take inspiration from Socrates and start constructing change rather than investing so much time, energy and resources breaking down walls with little success.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Just Like a Postcard

I feel it coming. Warmer, sunnier days are approaching. Slowly, but coming soon nonetheless.

While we wait in anticipation of the arrival of spring and summer (and to say so long to winter), let's recall places where the sun shines down on waves and sand.

And let's think about this thought for the day which was said by Satsuki Shibuya:
"Remember to breathe as many of our worries today will probably not be so important a year from now." 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bolivar on Horseback

It's strange how life leads you back to forgotten images. Today's photo was taken last May when I was introducing New York City -- and at this moment, Central Park -- to my sister for the first time.

In response to the news of Venezuela President Hugo Chávez's death, The Washington Post reporter Clinton Yates in his "Lunchline" newsletter today pointed readers to an old Christopher Hitchens' column  that recounts the writer's first encounter with Chávez during a 2008 visit to Venezuela.

Apparently, Chávez was obsessed with Simón Bolívar, the man depicted in this statue located near Central Park. Chávez went to great lengths to associate himself with Bolivar's legacy, even drawing the connection that he was the reincarnation of  legendary revolutionary. Strange behavior for a very strange, polarizing man.

For those unfamiliar with South American history, Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) was born in Venezuela in 1783 and became one of the continent’s greatest generals before he died in 1830. Known as El Liberator,  his victories over Spaniards won independence for Bolivia (the country was named in his honor), Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

The sculpture, which stands 15 feet tall on a 16 foot pedestal, depicts Bolívar sitting resolutely on his horse. The bronze coats-of-arms on the pedestal represent all of the South American countries for which he helped win independence. This is one of a trio of bronze equestrian sculptures representing Latin-American leaders located at entrances of Central Park.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Look for Right Answers

Up close, this Kennedy Center copper bust sculpture of President John F. Kennedy looks a bit scary. So let's focus on Kennedy's words instead:
"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Capturing Light

As you admire the projected light of the Kennedy Center's Northern Lights exhibition on the trees surrounding the venue, contemplate today's thought courtesy of poet Maya Angelou:
"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Bright Lights, Bright Shirts

Thought of the day courtesy of the great British statesman and Prime Minister Winston Churchill:
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
Our nation's leaders should take to heart Churchill's wise words. If we did more listening and less talking, we might be able to resolve more issues faster and keep policy moving forward instead of remaining in this stalemate.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Other Shirt Ship Hull

Like I shared in yesterday's post, the ship made of men's dress shirts at the Kennedy Center was presented in two parts. Visitors could actually walk between the two parts of the ship's hull and see the interior.

When I photographed the opposite hull from yesterday's photo, I loved how this spotlight behind the art exhibition was diffused by the shirts in front of it. The material of the shirts seemed to dull the intensity of the spotlight, making it broader and an interesting addition to today's image.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Ship of Shirts

Yes, you read the blog post title correctly. I did say: A Ship of Shirts. At least that's what Finnish artist Kaarina Kaikkonen created at the Kennedy Center as part of the Nordic Cool exhibition.

Entitled Are We Still Afloat?, Kaikkonen constructed the hanging sculpture as ship broken in two using a thousand men's shirts. Taking up most of the walkway in the Hall of States inside the Kennedy Center is an art installation that appears as a large ship constructed with dress shirts donated by the men of Washington, DC.

The artist is known for creating large scale, site-specific environmental installations made from simple recycled materials and domestic items, such as clothing and paper.

Check out the Kennedy Center's video interview with Kaikkonen below to watch how she built such an interesting ship.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stretching Branches

Today's thought of the day comes from one of my favorite singers, Adele. In an interview, she said:
"I'm ballsy. I have guts. I'm not afraid of anyone. I think that makes me feel powerful. The only person I'm afraid of is myself."
After a long day, this is a good mantra to repeat to oneself. Be more ballsy tomorrow. Fear no one. Feel powerful. Ignore the cowardly lion of self-doubt in us all.

Tomorrow, we should stretch ourselves beyond our "boundaries" and comfort zones into the limitless sky like these leafless tree branches in winter.

As we stretch, we may connect with others moving in complementary -- and at times, contrary -- directions. Perhaps this intersection will result in collaboration or conflict. Either way, growth can always be by-product if we allow it.

Whatever the outcome, we must still be fearless, bold, and ballsy. And always reach, reach, reach.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dancing Lights

The Northern Lights exhibition -- created by Danish lighting designer Jesper Kongshaug -- begins projecting on the facade of the Kennedy Center around 5:30 pm, which is still a little before sunset here in DC right now.

For a brief time, the remaining sunlight and artificial Northern Lights share the same space and seem to dance across the walls of the Center.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Northern Lights

As Neil Diamond likes to sing, "Hello again. Hello."

I've been on a blog (and photography) sabbatical for a few months, but I believe it's come to an end now. So if it's alright with you, I'd like to pick up where we left off and start sharing photos, thoughts and stories again here on Via My Viewfinder.

This past weekend, I went to the Kennedy Center to check out their "Nordic Cool" events and exhibits. Each year, the Kennedy Center spends several weeks at the beginning of the year on a different culture.

For 2013, they focused on the Nordic culture and exhibited art, music, dance and other types of artistic performances from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden as well as the territories of Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Áland Islands.

As part of the Nordic Cool festivities, each night the exterior of the Kennedy Center is lit blue and a simulation of the Northern Lights is displayed on its walls. It is a pretty spectacular view from Roosevelt Bridge, which runs alongside the Center, when driving to and from the District. Even up close, as you can see in today's photograph, it is still beautiful.