Great street art

Many thanks to my friend Sandy, who passed this along.

This is an example of the work of two enterprising artists in Brazil.

Anderson Augusto and Leonardo Delafuente are turning some common street fixtures in São Paulo into fascinating works of art.

You can see 20 more entertaining examples of storm drains here. It's great inspiration for a sketcher like me.

The artists form the 6emeia project, which is explained here, with more links to murals and other creative works.


Heading west

I would like to take a moment to thank all my friends and colleagues who took the time to wish me good luck and to say goodbye at OMNI Television Ontario. I really appreciated all the warm comments and the great reception. I will miss you all and everything we shared over the years will stay with me forever.

After 25 great years at the OMNI Lake Shore Boulevard location, I'm moving to Vancouver, where I'm taking on a new role with Citytv and OMNI on the West Coast.

I'm still with the same company, just working in another city. I hope to stay in touch with you all.

Many thanks and best wishes to everyone.

Outdoor patio

Summertime, and the living is easy.

A drink under an umbrella, some conversation and all the life of the city within walking distance.

This was the scene at a restaurant patio in the Yaletown area of Vancouver, a few weeks ago. My wife and I were waiting for an important phone call and I decided to spend the time doing a little sketching. These were some of the people at the nearby tables.

The shade of a large patio umbrella is always a welcome thing.

I hope you're enjoying your summer !

When free content impoverishes us

Further to the previous post, we can examine why the spread of free information and free creative material on the Internet and elsewhere has created a big paradox: art and data is so plentiful and so easy to access now that more people than ever before can find it. However, at the same time, the prevalence of free material has made it seem less valuable than it ever was before.

For example, a committed artist who has worked on a creative project for years, let's say, striving to bring it to the highest quality he or she can muster, becomes harder to discover in the world of "cheap" works and amateurs. The level playing field of free content mixes the great with the commonplace, the original with the fake, and everything is flattened in an ever-expanding universe of creative material.

So, for a work of artistic quality to be valued, it either needs to be drawn out from the field or it needs to be scarce. The scarcer, the better. If demand can be created for its uniqueness, then its value rises.

This may be one way that even journalism could find a way out of its present crisis.

Andrew Potter, a columnist at Maclean's magazine, recently wrote an interesting piece that explores this paradox. It's called "When 'free' becomes really expensive," and you can read it here.

Journalism at the crossroads

Much has been written and said lately about the financial difficulty of news organizations and the role of journalism.

The digital era has brought two things which are great for the consumer and terrible for the news field as a business: first, the Internet has reduced printing and distribution costs down to almost zero. This means that newspapers, individuals, companies, non-profit organizations, government and anyone, really, can easily distribute their content to anyone who's interested in finding it. This is great for consumers because they can access whatever they want, whenever they want, almost always for free. As part of this process, consumers have also become creators of information, collectors of information and sharers of information through blogs, forums and through popular applications like Facebook and Twitter. Access to experts, opinion and basic facts is not exclusive anymore. Who needs to buy a newspaper to read classified advertising when one can find products and services anytime on the world wide web?

Second, this ubiquity of on-line information and the proliferation of hundreds of specialty television channels through cable and satellite distribution, has diminished the importance of news organizations. People today have thousands of choices for content and thousands of choices for how they spend their "media time." For the news business this has become a problem. In the early 1980s, when channels were few, many news programs on television, especially local news, could capture as much as a twenty percent (20%) share of the available audience. This meant something to advertisers, who knew they could reach a significant portion of the population by advertising on these programs. Now, with hundreds of channels and the Internet, local news shows do well when they reach a two percent (2%) share of the viewing audience. This means less revenue from advertising and big financial challenges for news organizations.

Experts in the business of media, like Robert G. Picard, point the way forward. The challenge for news organizations is to find new economic value. They must discover ways to offer unique and different information such that people will see this service as valuable in a media universe of sameness and plenty. In a recent presentation by Picard to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, he pointed this out:

" Journalism must innovate and create new means of gathering, processing and distributing information so it provides content and services that readers, listeners, and viewers cannot receive elsewhere. And these must provide sufficient value so audiences and users are willing to pay a reasonable price.

"If value is to be created, journalists cannot continue to report merely in the traditional ways or merely re-report news that has appeared elsewhere. They must add something novel that creates value."

This presents a real challenge.

Back to the moon with a blast

Here's a story that has been quietly developing and will come to the forefront later this summer and fall.

Forty years after man first walked on the moon, NASA has a mission underway to study the feasibility of establishing human outposts on the moon. The space agency launched a rocket last month that has two missions: the first is to precisely map the moon's surface; the second is to look for evidence of water in a spectacular experiment that has a few people worried. Scientists will slam an empty Atlas V Centaur rocket into the moon's surface at an impact speed of about 9,000 kilometres per hour. This kinetic impact is expected to create a crater as big as 8 kilometres wide and send a plume of dust high into space, such that it will be easily visible from earth.

NASA will be looking for evidence of ice or water in the gigantic dust cloud. If ice or water droplets are found in the debris or on the surface, scientists say living on the moon may be possible. Water molecules (H2O) could be separated into their component elements: hydrogen could be used for propellant and oxygen for breathing.

The big collision on the surface of the moon is scheduled for October near the moon's south pole. You can anticipate lots of news stories in August and September.

If you'd like to know more, see NASA's page here. It also has a video presentation that illustrates the experiments.

Photo is courtesy of Thomas Pate, who snapped this shot of the full moon in Tampa, Florida, on December 13, 2008. (

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It's nice to have a day off in the middle of the work week.

The rhythm of the day is different, and being at home, one feels the tension lifting from the shoulders. There's time to linger over coffee and the daily news, to look outside or to see the furniture in a new light. Nothing fancy, just a subtle re-awakening of awareness in the home environment. It's strange how commitments, deadlines, clocks and schedules create a different world in our minds. Pressure builds up without us noticing.

It would be nice, I think, to work one day less each week and split the work down the middle. This wouldn't work for everyone, but it appeals to me. More balance for someone who's often pulled in different directions.