Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Love and Death

There are two basics in stories which call for general interest: Love and Death.

 On a lower level they are called Sex and Violence.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Image quality is quantity

I’ve had an insight: Sharpness, or more properly, resolution, how much detail a camera or lens can show, is normally regarded as “image quality”, but it really isn’t, it is QUANTITY. It is *how many details* you can show in one picture.

And quantity is impressive, especially to us males. We love big things. Which is pretty dumb, because that is not really important. Quality is more important. Quality is expression, communication.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

“Fear And Loathing In The Galleries”

Almost twenty years ago I wrote an article entitled “Fear And Loathing In The Galleries”. I proposed that the time was nigh when art would be sold as digital files to be shown on digital frames. 

Well... the digital frames are only starting to become decent. (Lumlan just had an article on them.) And to be honest I’ve yet to hear of any artist who succesfully sells digital art. 

But... the art/photo print was there because it was the *only way* for people to enjoy pictures. Now there are screens everywhere. And more free art than anybody can consume. 
Some of the pictures will survive for the future, of course, like usual only a tiny percentage. 

But maybe the digital age is destroying the visual artist as a profession? 

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I wrote this a comment to this article

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Angel, a story

Illustration by Andrea Sfiligoi
October Dreams
or The Angel
by Eolake Stobblehouse

I had an odd dream: I was in a park in Copenhagen in the fall, photographing close-ups of colorful leaves in large-format. The park was very beautiful, towering trees in glowing colors all around me, the leaves on the ground rustling faintly when I walked and when I moved the tripod around.

I was standing on a small wooden bridge over a stream, photographing a large red leaf which had fallen on the handrail, when I heard flapping wings behind me. I was so engrossed in focusing that I didn't think about it except that it had to be a very large bird from the sound.

Then I felt a sort of... tingling presence from behind, and a voice said to me over my shoulder: "What are you doing?" The voice was sort of female, sort of child-like, but not really like anything I'd heard before. And it was coming from slightly above, which is unusual, since I am very tall. And then out of the corner of my eye, I saw something moving. It seemed to be a wing.

With some weird feeling in my chest, in between fear and excitement, I turned around. She was standing very close to me, and smiling in a way so that I felt calm and good right away. It seemed to be an angel.

She was taller than me, over two metres tall. Her wings were each longer than her body. On the whole, apart from the wings, she looked very human, except everything about her was luminous, sort of like dry pastel colors or stained glass windows. She was not wearing anything, and she had a perfection that in itself proved that she was nothing like human. One of her eyes was blue, the other green.

"Hi," she said, simply, and I felt very happy. "Hi," I said weakly. She shifted her weight to one foot, and seemed to be waiting for something. Finally she lifted an arched eyebrow and said "Hm?"

With astute intelligence, I said "Hm?"

To that she answered: "I asked you what you were doing, remember?"

I laughed, but was not embarrassed, for she had nothing teasing about her. "Oh that. I am... photographing. Making pictures. Of the leaves."

"Hm," she said, smiling, and then she lifted the black cloth over the view plate of the camera, and looked at the upside-down version of the picture I had framed. She studied it for a moment, turning her head on its side, left and right. Then she said, "I see. What for?"

I fumbled a bit and said: "It is art. It is meant to be nice, to be pleasant to look at. It makes one happy to look at. Like you do," I added, feeling pleased with having managed a compliment, no matter how inadequate.

She seemed faintly puzzled. "I am art?" she asked.

Oh dear. "Er, no," I stammered. "I guess not. You are... well, I dunno what you are... an angel? A person, certainly. Persons can be pretty too. Persons can also make other people happy."

"Oh," she said. "So why are you making art? If people are happy anyway?"

This was deeper waters than I had intended swimming in on such a quiet afternoon. "Oh, boy," I said. "Well. First, people are not happy always. And I guess art gives a special kind of happiness. It certainly does for me. It is hard to explain. It sort of gives one the feeling of being part of a higher purpose. Something divine, I guess." I looked at her and tried not to get lost in her glowing beauty. "Am I making sense?"

She laughed, a very pleasant sound. "I don't know. But I think you will, when I have learned more about the world and humans. It doesn't make a lot of sense yet, all in all."

"He he," I answered, "unless you are a whole lot smarter than most of us, it won't make a lot of sense for quite a while yet."

"Ah, it'll come to me," she said. "I have only been here for a couple hundred years."

She turned and walked away. I watched her, looking at her slender back and her spectacular wings. When she reached an open space, she bent a little at the knees, beat her huge wings, and took off, straight up. It was an amazing sight, and I watched with a mixture of awe and melancholy.

the end

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

In two minds

I pointed out to a dear friend that she was contradicting herself (about something important to us both), and she said “don’t look to me for consistency.” I found that very funny.

 Even more funny; even after a lot of learning about how all of us are really in two minds about everything, I *still* find myself puzzled whenever somebody is inconsistent.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Carnival After Dark

Click for big pic.







This scene was so dark I could not see where I was putting my feet! Unbelievable that a phone camera can capture it hand-held. 
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(iPhone X, no after-processing)

Traffic Culture

Images are clickable.




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iPhone X, auto, no processing.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Amanda Palmer on Asking

Amanda Palmer, The Art Of Asking. Totally brilliant talk about Asking And Receiving instead of Demanding And (not) Receiving. Thanks to Douglas S. 


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Look To Windward by Iain M. Banks

I have just finished re-re-reading Look To Windward by Iain M. Banks. If pressed, I might just designate it my favorite book from one of my favorite series, the Culture books.

Banks’ Culture books are modern space opera done right. The old-timey space opera was basically just westerns in space. A classic example are E. E. Doc Smith’s Skylark and Lensman series. They are good fun, but they are pretty much tough-guy space police fighting bigger and bigger baddies in bigger and bigger battles. The culture books are space opera for the thinking man.

Banks, now sadly passed before his time, said in an interview that he would love to live in the Culture, and so would I. He said it was an attempt at the most positive civilization he could imagine which was still recognizably human. It’s pretty much a utopia, except it’s interesting.

I guess my favorite bit is the spaceships. I’m a hopeless dork for big thingies, and I don’t know anybody who did it better than Banks. There are many types, including the General Systems Vehicles. Here you have a spaceship, held together with forcefields, which is a big city in one chunk. Think many kilometers long, several wide, and a couple tall, build in layers. They have big bays for building smaller ships, they have, well, everything a civilization needs, they have millions of inhabitants, humans, AI drones, and aliens of all kinds... they have smaller ships and aircraft and even indivicuals flying around it and over the parks. They are intelligent, run by “Minds”, hyper-AIs which work in hyperspace too... What’s not to love.

Look To Windward goes beyond even that. It has pathos and tension like most culture books. And it has outstanding inventions, one of the greatest is “air spheres”, which are collosal spheres of air which circle around the galaxy, which contain a whole world and civilization of their own, insanely old and wise, many of the citizens are intelligent, inscrutable plant-based “dirigibles” which themselves are individually millions of years old... A scholar from the Culture is trying to study these amazing beings, and he comes across a secret plot from outside, aimed at one of the Culture’s “orbital” worlds (like Ringworld, only not quite that large).

For me at least, this is just an exceptionally satisfying novel on so many levels. I wish I’d met Iain Banks.
I also wish they’d make movies from them, except I’m not optimistic they would get it right, it would be difficult, especially as everything today has to be all action.

Art by Mark J. Brady
(Inspired by the novel but not an illustration)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A lot of words...

Wow, I’ve just realised that on my blogs since 2005 I’ve posted about 10,000 posts!

 At about 150 words per post, that is 1,500,000 words, that is about twenty novels of 75,000 words... Almost two novels per year. Huh. So I’ve could have had a career as a novelist you say? Weeeell maybe, only writing a good coherent novel is way harder than writing a bunch of scatterbrain blog posts on various stuff.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Reasons to go for smaller cameras

This guy tells about why he now has gone to smaller cameras. I particularly like one point I had not heard anybody say before: even for a young person, carrying about many kilos of gear all day can simply be demoralising to the point that you get home with fewer and worse pictures. I feel the same way. I always had a fondness for compact cameras, but these days it's just not fun anymore to use a big camera. Back when the only cameras which had really good quality were big and heavy I had one, but that is years ago.

He also says that the dynamic range (shooting a subject with extreme contrast) is the only reason he held onto full frame for so long, but it's no longer enough.
Oh, he is funny too.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Binoculars reflection movie trope

I can’t find any mention of this movie trope:

In movies and TV, often westerns, the hero looks up and sees a clear glint on a mountain or a roof top: somebody is watching them with binoculars.

I don’t buy it. A glass surface (unlike a mirror which has a silver covering) reflects only 4% of the light.
And more, a binocular front lens is curved. This means that the reflection of the sun is very small and weak, and falls off with the square of the distance. It is nothing like a reflection in a hand mirror. (And if it was, it would have to be extremely carefully aimed to be visible to anybody, because the light beam is only as wide as the mirror.)

Monday, January 08, 2018

Dirk Gently

There are two Dirk Gently books, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul. They are both humorous, intelligent, complex, and highly imaginative. And very original, I’ve not seen anything quite like them.

Douglas Adams of course wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The Dirk Gently books are also humor, but not at all as far out as HHGG. They are more ‘realistic’ as far as that can be said of books which involve time travel, ghosts, and gods.

I really appreciate them, it’s extremely rare to see such a combination of intelligence and imagination and humor. I think only Terry Pratchett is in the same league.

Adams was working on a third one when he died at 49 around the millennium. It was published with other diverse scraps, but was clearly only rough ideas.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Are ebooks failing?

There are many stories in the press about how ebooks are apparently failing. It is BS.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

iClever keyboard testing

I am typing on a new iClever travel keyboard*. It’s very nice indeed, fits in a jacket pocket and is only about 150 grams. 
 And yet it feels quite solid. It is covered in a nice, solid rubber-slash-cloth-like covering (they say it is faux leather) which makes it feel like it won’t break, unlike many other small keyboards. And I really like how it feels in the hand. Much classier than the price would suggest. (I’ve paid almost as much for a set of crappy earbuds which came apart after a few weeks.) 
It is “tilted” on each side, v-shaped, like some of the full-sized Ergonomic keyboards. I’m not sure how much that helps, but it does not seem to hurt. 
The keys are pretty nice despite the necessary short key travel, apparently they have an actual mechanical switch under each, not the common rubber membrane which I don’t care much for. 
It’s wireless of course, and so far Bluetooth works very well with it, connecting right away after I open the keyboard (kept in place with the nice modern way of a simple magnet rather than a fiddly mechanism). 
The one thing to get used to is that (I think this was done to solve the problem of folding the keyboard without the fragile mechanics that often results in) is clearly that there is a big gap in the middle of the design. For me that means that my thumb tends to hit outside the space bar. But there are signs that I’m already getting used to bending the thumb a bit more than I’m used to, so that shouldn’t be a biggie. (Although I think the design could easily have accommodated a longer space bar on both sides.) 
It is very economical, I think all the other keyboards I’ve bought (big or compact) have been more expensive, many significantly so. 
If this keeps working for me, it may be really good. It can fit even in my cargo pants (which I tend to use in the era of pocket phones etc). And I like to write in cafés and such (I’m in one right now, waiting for my panini), but I also like to take walks without bringing a bag. But this keyboard and a phone is a quite good little pocketable modern typewriter.
Or indeed a pocketable studio. I wrote on my phone, took the photo with my phone, and posted it with my phone. Such compact power.




*Oddly I don't see a specific name or number for it, search on Amazon for  iClever Bluetooth Keyboard Ultra Compact Foldable Universal Ergonomic Keyboard.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Electronics addiction?

There is anecdotal evidence that people (like the amish) who make do without electronics are happier.

I’m extremely attracted to gadgets, and I can’t imagine giving them up. But I can also see that gadgets, not the least those with screens, are *extremely stimulating*, and that is clearly the reason they are so addictive. And pretty much it is guaranteed that anything addictive does not do you any favors in the long run.
So I’m conflicted.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Friday, December 08, 2017

What is ‘value’?

Here’s another definition thing I don’t care for: that the word “value” is understood by a lot of people to mean “financial rewards”.

 Value is a very important word which means so many things beyond mere money. It can mean convenience, beauty, help, understanding, communication, anything which is a positive quality in life. If you understand it to only mean “money”, that’s just spiritual poverty.

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Why do I care about the changing meaning of this word, like I do with the word “literally”? Sure, languages change, but these words have something in common: 1, they are very important words and concepts. 2, we don’t have anything to replace them with. And we are much poorer without the concepts of ‘value’ and ‘literal’.