DIYDAY2 Saturday Chainsaw–get there!

DIYDAY2 Marc Lecompte interview 042

Hey, so there’s a lot going on this Saturday, Nov 1! I got the first item for your to-do list right here:

1. DIYDAY2 at Chainsaw. Marc Lecompte is back with his zine-making, music-loving band of merry makers. Lots of cool unique merch that you will find nowhere else. And Marc kindly made a table available for me, so I’m going to be there with some prints of my photos for sale. There’s an interactive/participatory vibe this year where a zine is going to be assembled during the course of the noon to 5pm event with submissions from all who want to jump in. You know where this is: Uptown Waterloo at King and Dupont Streets. Get down there and see something totally different or even buy some stuff from these hard working makers. Hey if you see me there, identify yourself as a reader of my blog by saying “I read your blog”.

Jon Johnson’s awesome poster is here if you want to spread the word in hardcopy.

I chatted with Marc about the show on Wednesday this week. Above, he’s showing me a zine by local dude Steve Horvath. Click through for the scoop.

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Larry Towell provokes at WLU

Larry Towell talk at WLU 050

I want to provoke you” said kickass world-renowned photographer Larry Towell, speaking to Professor Sara Matthews’ Global Studies class at Wilfrid Laurier University this morning. Alternately called artist, photographer, musician, activist through his career, he now prefers the term photojournalist.

My friend Suzanne Luke, who curates the Robert Langen Art Gallery at the university, mentioned that Larry was coming to speak and that I was welcome to join to hear his talk. Holy macaroni, am I ever glad I did.

Many people might be more familiar with Larry’s still photo work, but today he showed us this wickedly layered video blending video, stills, music, and the sounds of machine gun fire. All this from the various conflict photography that Larry has done over a career spanning decades and multiple continents. It was so powerful to see the shooters juxtaposed with the victims over mashed-up audio from both sides combined with songs Larry composed and with friends performed. In a similar media blend that photog Louie Palu described earlier this month, Larry started shooting video and recording audio in addition to shooting stills. He talked about his pursuit as not just conflict photography, but more optimistically as conflict resolution photography. He talked about the secret wars that journalists can’t access. He talked Blackwater and the lucrative business side of war. He talked about the conscious decision to go his own way to Afghanistan to be free from restrictions imposed on journalists embedded with military. He showed a video he shot on a blown up bus in Israel where soldiers were trying to remove him from a bus and he was standing his ground. You have to be smart and understand your surroundings to know what is safe to do, he said in response to an audience question. He had authorization to be there from the Israeli government and the site was quite public, so he was pretty sure the soldiers weren’t going to take him out behind the bus and shoot him. It isn’t always so predictable in other parts of the world: “I wouldn’t go to Syria right now.” He told a story of a time he had arranged to embed with the Taliban, but the fixer that had set it up had to flee the country under threats after a misunderstanding. Larry talked about his efforts to deglamorize violence from the popular Hollywood version. He recalled a quote observing we had as a civilization achieved all these scientific and technical advancements and not advanced at all in terms of our humanity at all.

Ok, this is a total braindump, but there was a metric tonne of wisdom packed into that hour today. I could barely absorb it all. It reaffirmed my deep belief that photography, applied in whatever domain, can positively influence people. Check out Larry’s show Nightwalk documenting a night raid on a suspected bomb maker’s house in Kunar province, Afghanistan. The show runs through to December 6. Deets here.

Got to shake the hand of the man, through an introduction by Suzanne. A real pleasure. Thanks Larry for information and inspiration. Just outstanding. And thanks to Suzanne and Prof. Matthews for putting this together.

A few more pics…

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1shot #199-Thursday is Brother Night


At Howard and 4th back in May, these are the streets of San Francisco.


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VOTE tomorrow! Let’s stay on track


Hey citizens! Tomorrow, Monday October 27 is our municipal election. Please get out and participate. The people we put in the drivers’ seats tomorrow will either set us up for an awesome future or completely derail the Region. I’m putting my X’s down for candidates that have constructive plans for building WR, but the important thing is you get out to the polls and have your say. Think your vote doesn’t count? Remember when Frank Etherington won in 2010 by one vote? Every vote counts.

Info for voting in Waterloo.

Info for voting in Kitchener.

Info for voting in Cambridge.

The Record has a tonne of info on candidates.

However imperfectly, this is how democracy works. Rock the vote!


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Most important WR art show of 2014 on now

Tri-City Stopgap pop-up art show 173

The TL;DR: Dear Reader, I need you to do something for me.
I don’t ask for much. I don’t show you ads. I bring the scoop as hard and fast as I can.

I need you to share the shit out of the Tri-City Stopgap Pop-up Art Exhibition.

What: 64 artists showing work in a former candy factory
When: Oct 25 to Nov 1, 4:30 to 8:30pm
Reception/Totally Awesome Party: Nov 1, 7pm
Where: 151 Weber St S. Waterloo (map link:
Really where: go all the way down the left side of the building all the way to the back
Park: some parking in the lot at 151, tons on Roger St (take the stairs up to 151)
It’s on the #4 GRT bus route, jump out at stop 2466 (at Roger and Weber)
Who: Tri-City Stopgap artist collective (Mike Ambedian, Nadine Badran, Sheila McMath
Cost: free-no-pay
Questions: or 519-572-9751

The ever-arts-lovin’ Martin DeGroot wrote up this show in The Record.

For all the tens of thousands of dollars spent on cultural studies, consultations, administration, and WTF in WR, this show by artists for artists was put together with an extremely modest grant (I’m guessing <$1000) from Waterloo Region Arts Fund and free use of the space by property owner Robert Baxtor. Almost all of that money is going to insurance. There was no fee for artists to participate. There is no percentage for the house if artists sell work. There was no jury or theme. Inclusive. Politicians, candidates, municipal govt staff, and citizens of WR take note: this is *exactly* how we build out our cultural ecosystem in a cost-effective, progressive, and kickass way. GSD! If you want to support this kind of cool stuff, show up and bring four friends. And spread the word about this show.

I got over to the venue Thursday night with Brohemus and our pal Melissa Doherty. They were both delivering their ginormous paintings to the show with the truck Dave borrowed from work and I tagged along with a camera and a big bag of curiosity.

In speaking with organizers Mike Ambedian and Nadine Badran, I asked them what success will look like the day after the show closes. They both said the show was already successful considering 64 artists signed up with only 2 weeks notice. They jokingly worried that they might have been sitting alone in a giant warehouse. Hanging out and shooting for a couple of hours, the strong network of artists who all know each other through no more than one degree of separation was obvious and delightful. My last two questions to Mike and Nadine were: what do you need and how can I help? Answers:

They need people to come see the show, and especially the Nov 1 closing party when there will be performance art, drinks, and a large crowd.

They need people to spread the word about the show. So please push it on fb/tw/email/posters.

Ok, now on to the well-beyond-reasonable number of photos from the show setup…

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Visited the future at Christie

Christie Digital tour with George T 072

My good friend George Tsintzouras took me on a tour to the future yesterday. Seeing the tech on my 2-hour extended tour of Christie blew my frickin’ hair back.

Case in point above: this is my arm with vascular system projected in real-time. An infrared emitter/camera pair senses my veins and arteries, including the presence of blood, and then that data is rendered in visible light and projected on my arm. This aids in finding blood clots and identifying veins in the elderly and obese in a non-invasive manner. Whaaat?!

Regular readers know that there is not much in the world that distracts me from taking photos, but this fieldtrip had so much cool tech and I had so many questions, that photography took a back seat. Seriously, only *ten* photos!

The TL;DR: holy macaroni and thanks to George and Christie.

Update 2014-10-27: thanks to Audrey Heutzenroeder of the Christie Comms dept for the kind words about this post and correcting me on the official company name. It’s simply “Christie”, y’all. Don’t be thrown off by the hostname or history. –DW

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Reverse engineering a TORCAM CNC lathe controller

TORCAM CNC controller reverse engineering 018

About a month ago, I connected with Arden’s high school tech teacher to see if we could get the CNC lathe and mill going in SJAM’s shop. It had been inherited from another school and as far as we knew had never run at its current location. The backstory is in my original post on this from September.

The TL;DR: this box was not designed to connect to a standard PC parallel port. Pin 13 on a standard port is an input to the PC, however I discovered that this box is expecting the 74HC240 and HC244 buffers to get their 5V Vcc via Pin 13.  Hmmm. Further investigation revealed that the controller box was feeding front panel button presses back through the on-board buffer chips, but some of those were terminating in the Pin 18-25 range at the PC.  Bzzzzt! Those are all grounds. So, discussing with the ever-lovin’, always-makin’ James Bastow, we conclude that this whole rig probably shipped with its own special computer, with a special I/O card on the ISA bus that provided all the I/O and power for the controller box. Looking at the pinout I had reversed, it seemed I could reasonably make a custom adapter cable to get at least minimal functionality out of this rig via a standard PC. That’s in progress.

A little help: I may have mistreated the parallel port on my old DOS laptop in the course of this work, so I’m looking for anyone who can contribute another with no hopes of having it returned. A Win98 laptop with parallel port would be much appreciated. Thanks!

After a very otherwise busy month, I’ve got an update. I cracked the case open and took a large number of photographs of the guts, including both sides of the PCBs. That’s my first step in reverse engineering this controller.

Next I…

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1shot #198-some days all you see is the fence…


but that day I saw past the flickering poplars and the roiling sand in the surf, all the way to where the blue meets the blue. This beautiful lake, imprinted on me at birth, is as much a part of me as my DNA.


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Weird Canada building culture–KWAG Drawathon

WeirdCanada Drawathon at KWAG 014-

Weird Canada, along with some help from KWAG, Equitable Life, and Wellington Brewery put together exactly the type of event that I’ve been soapboxing as an awesome and most effective way to extend the cultural ecosystem. This second annual Drawathon on Saturday ran from noon until midnight, spanned age demographics from young to old(er), and actively encouraged participation in creation (rhyme!).

Here’s my niece Alex who I serendipitously discovered at this event mid-afternoon. She heard about this through a teacher at KCI, which as we know has a really strong arts program. Anam Latif wrote this up in The Record. I found out about it because organizer Marie LeBlanc Flanagan reached out after stopping by my makebright booth at Communitech during the MaRS Studio Y visit a couple weeks back.

There seems to be substantial agreement that a rich cultural fabric is good for life in general, and is the most critical limiting factor on the growth of our Region with respect to talent attraction. How to actually work on said fabric has led to a lot of head-scratching, expensive studies, administrative overhead, and nervous sideways looks when we try to figure who will fund this development. It’s simple: let’s do 200 events that look like this. Not only drawathons, and Open Jams + artist-of-the-week, and heavy metal breakfasts, and DIYDAYs, but more more more! BluesFest, JazzFest, Kultrun, Oktoberfest are all great, but they are short-duration, big, and expensive. An excellent complement to these big anchors are small, low-overhead, inexpensive, unique, funky, risky, experimental gigs. It’s so simple.

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Hub Haps #007-Alexis Ohanian in the Communitech house


reddit founder, Y Combinator partner, and now podcaster, Alexis Ohanian dropped in for Techtoberfest at Communitech yesterday along with his film crew, all the way from Brooklyn. This is the third Techtoberfest he has hit here, so he must be seeing something he likes. Check out his new thing: NYRD Radio.

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