Loathe to sloth

I have to be the only person I know for whom the mammal sloth and the deadly sin sloth are seemingly unrelated.

As I traveled Costa Rica recently, my eagle-eyed brother spotted an amorphous blotch in the tree tops at the side of the highway, so we stopped.

After a few clouds parted, the blotch slowly unwound and took the form of a sloth…a very active sloth, in fact…wait, two very active sloths.

The following photos were taken between Volcan Arenal and La Fortuna.

Man, who woke me up? I took lots of photos of a bundle of mossy fur, only to suddenly have her unfurl and make a move up the tree.



Mom, why is it suddenly so bright? We were astounded when we realized it wasn’t just one sloth but a family.


Hey you, with the camera, bugger off! Look at that face…for an animal that usually looks dead, this one is pretty animated. Wondering if baby has something to do with it.



Who you yelling at, mom? I can only imagine how large the baby’s claws are and what they would do to mom if she didn’t have that thick shag.



Snack time.


The great thing about photographing sloths is once you have a good angle, you have all day to click away. They move, but not very quickly, and given their roost about 50 feet off the ground, they don’t really have to.

Now I’m her-o

It may sound incredibly self-centred, but I am the hero of my personal journey through life, and by that, I don’t mean a literal Hercules or Aeneas so much as the protagonist. Everything in my life is interpreted through my eyes in how it impacts me.

Sure, if I try, I can step outside of my ego and try to consider life and specific events through others’ eyes, but even here, if I am to be completely honest, I am still tempering those reflections through my own life experiences and biases.

And now to the controversial aspect of this vignette.

When creating characters for a story—a novel, screenplay, poem, excuse for lateness—each character in that story is the hero of the story, if only in their own eyes. The events you record as a writer are witnessed by the characters in your story from their own perspectives and their responses and reactions to events and other characters will be based on their individual experiences and biases.

Sure, the story you are trying to tell may only have a main protagonist, perhaps a secondary protagonist and an antagonist. Everyone else is just there for colour or to help your main characters rationalize their worlds and world views. But you have to be honest to those other characters if we, as readers, listeners and viewers, are to believe them.

When I read screenplays, I often get quite attached to the main characters, whether positively or negatively. More often, unfortunately, I end up watching minor characters for whom I have no opinion if for no other reason than I cannot believe they exist.

They are placeholders to keep me from watching 95 minutes of nothing other than antagonist and protagonist in earnest conflict. To call them two-dimensional would be a slight to some finely crafted animated characters I’ve watched in well written cartoons.

Even if a character has one line or is silent, I want to know in my gut, if not my head, that the character has a reason to exist, not for the sake of your plot, but for the sake of his or her universe.

I’m not asking for 37 stories for 37 characters. I’m asking for one story for 37 characters that matter.

A lot of people tell me that this over-complicates things—you may be thinking this right now. I obviously disagree, believing that a Who is a Who, no matter how small.

That character’s reality doesn’t have to be on the page, but it better be in your head, because the reader will know if it’s not. The character won’t pop, if it isn’t.

If it helps, think of this as another way of telling a story that’s been told a thousand times before. Rather than tell the story from the perspective of the protagonist everyone knows, tell it from the perspective of the character few people ever remember. The 100 bajillion Christmas stories are perfect examples of this.

The Little Drummer Boy was the story of the birth of Christ and yet it wasn’t.

What if you retold the story from Pretty Woman but from the perspective of the hotel manager?

Make every character in your story believe he or she is the hero of his or her universe, and they will live on beyond their few lines of dialogue.

In their eyes – Toronto Zoo

I don’t know if we have souls. But if we do, I have trouble believing only humans have souls.

There is depth and understanding in the eyes of other creatures, whether I put it there or a higher power did.

I spent some time at the local zoo last year and these are some photos that felt particularly powerful to me. Feel free to provide your own insights on what they are thinking, feeling.

She lay there next to her sleeping mother, curious about the animals beyond the cage and ignoring the odd one through the plexiglas.



This was the most troublesome photo of the day for me. I found his stare disturbing.



I’m not sure if it’s the eyes or the curve of the mouth, but there is a bored sadness about him for all his inherent beauty and serenity.



Something is going to happen…he just hasn’t figured out what, yet.



This was definitely a Taxi Driver moment. Total De Niro.



Wish I could have gotten a better angle on her, but she wasn’t going to just give it to me.



Really? That’s what she chose to wear to the zoo, today?Image

A medical writer for too long

I’m sitting at the Ricoh Coliseum waiting for a Toronto Marlies hockey game to start. As people move to their seats, they’ll stand at the railing to watch the warm up. As people join them and start to converse, they slow others trying to get to their seats.
Where others might see an annoying crowd, my mind strays to atherosclerosis, arterial plaque build up. If the lights suddenly go down at the Ricoh, the arena’s had a stroke.
I have seriously been in medical writing too long!

(Teddy Bear Toss game at the Ricoh back in November. Hooray charitable people)