Monday, April 30, 2007

Nimbus motorcycle


I just want to share an image I saw once. If I ever do films, I want to put it in.

I late nineties I lived in a beautiful spot outside Copenhagen, named Lyngby. Good connections, beautiful parks and lakes, and ample shopping, and still a lot of old-Danish feel to it.
If you look here, under pizzerias, you'll see Big Mama's Pizza House listed. This is literally right next door to where I lived, so I came there often. But in honor of exact truth, Lyngby Pizzaria (next item listed) where I also came, is where today's story took place.

One nice summer afternoon I walked down there, and outside was parked a Nimbus Motorcycle. This is an old Danish bike which is a classic. I once sandblasted the frame of one, and guess what: the design is so simple that it's flat iron, not pipes. Wonderful machines.

So I admired it and went in to get my lunch. And inside was the owner, a lean, forty-ish man. He had a simple, old-style, black helmet on the table next to him. No visir, just a simple classic design. And he had his daughter, a beautiful eleven-ish girl with long, platinum-blonde hair. And she had the same kind of helmet next to her!

And of course after their meal these two understatedly gorgeous people got out, put on their respective black helmets and got onto the classic old black motorcycle, her in the sidecar.

That is style.

Nikon Camera Reviews

Nikon Camera Reviews
A review site for the Nikon D200 and Nikon D40 cameras.
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Also, Mike Johnston has some interesting comments on the high-end (price-wise) Leica M8.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Siouxsie and the Banshees


...But by the eighties I had cut way ahead of the pack. I don't think many of my original class mates were into Siouxsie and the Banshees.

I came to think of them now because of my neighbor and friend Christine. I always want to add "the strawberry girl" to her name.

Siouxsie and friends are/were Iggy Pop fans. Here they cover his song The Passenger.
And like Iggy, Siouxsie had big influence on bands that would become much more popular than themselves. Ever the fate of the avant-gardist.

A bit of nice dancing in Hong Kong Garden.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Forgive Your Enemies

[Author unknown]

Sunday's sermon was "Forgive Your Enemies."


Toward the end of the service the minister asked, "How many of you have forgiven you enemies?" People in the congregation began to raise their hands. Eventually all had answered in this manner except one old lady.

"Mrs. Jones," the minister said as he motioned to her, "are you not willing to forgive your enemies?"

"I don't have any," replied Mrs. Jones, smiling sweetly.

"Mrs. Jones, that is very unusual," continued the minister. "How old are you?"

"Ninety-Eight," she replied.

"Ninety-eight! That's incredible! People, I think we can all learn something from Mrs. Jones this morning," he said to the congregation. He then motioned back to Mrs. Jones and said, "Please come down in front and tell us how a person can live ninety-eight years and not have an enemy in the world."

The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation and said, "I outlived all those useless, good-for-nothing idiots!"

Bill Atkinson


Bill Atkinson is an outstanding computer engineer who worked on the original Macintosh, and invented many basic concepts now in use, like the Menu Bar, and he created the world's first paint program, MacPaint.

He is now working as an engineer in color printing fidelity, and also as a fine art photographer. His new (first) book Within The Stone has groundbreaking color intensity and fidelity for four-color printing. He is photographing the inside of polished rocks and getting amazing, abstract results.

I have just watched an interview with him on Luminous Landscape video Journal, and the sheer work and care this man puts into precision and fidelity is just breathtaking. His whole philosophy, which he sticks to rigidly, is to never change anything, he wants to get the photograph looking exactly like reality. And the funny thing is that by photographing just the right things, he somehow gets art anyway.

The story he tells in the interview about printing the book is fascinating. He couldn't find any American printer who was willing to work with him to improve the color printing technology. (Not changing the printing presses, only fine-tuning their use and color profiles, apparently.) But he worked with a Japanese one. They printed his book, and they got their machines optimized. It took six trips to Japan!

The amazing thing is that after this was done, this Japanese printer now has a press which prints far higher quality and richer colors, perfect precision, far above industry standard. And they can print much faster than before, no trial and error, which is essential, for running a press in Japan costs $8,000 an hour, so it saves big money. And still other companies in the printing industry are very reluctant to go this route.

Campaign Against Real Life

Many of you know the famous Dove campaign. Well, here is an excellent parody of it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Suzy Quatro

When I was a kid, my mommy told me I was ahead of the other kids in my class. And I've believed it since, for you should believe what you mama tells you.
But I've just realized that I may be not only behind them, but over thirty years behind! Those guy were into Suzi Quatro back then. I couldn't be having with rock music, it was not until I grew up I started to appreciate it.

Suzi Quatro: Wild One
Suzi Quatro: Wild One, slow version
(I would not have imagined that track would work so well in a slow version. I was actually looking for a harder version than the studio one. I think that song is made for a bone hard version.)

I love her voice, both the one for singing and the very different one for talking both very original and zzzzexy.
She is just so cute.
Funny, she had a bit role on Absolutely Fabulous a few years ago. And even though I hadn't seen any of her for decades and very little before that, something immediately told me, "gee, that's Suzi Quatro."

And they tell me she's back.
"Here I am at 55, standing up and saying, hey, you know what? I can still rock and roll! And I'm gonna shake my ass until there's no more ass to shake."
And she kept her home, health, and money too. Gotta love it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nanny McPhee


When we were talking about Emma Thompson, I decided to rent Nanny McPhee. I had earlier eschewed it, because it seemed too much like a childrens movie, and like nothing new. But seeing Emma made it, and her sincerity about it, I gave it a go. And I was not disappointed, it is a delightful movie. It is full of talent, great cast, and beautiful to look at.

I was astounded: the Browns in the film live in a great, huge old mansion, and next to a whole little village. And get this: this was all built from scratch! The village, the house, the vegetation, none of it was there.

Funny tidbit from the commentary track: Emma was dressed and made up as Nanny McPhee, who has a huge nose and warts, and some firemen come to the set. And Emma tells how she was "flirting outrageously" with the handsome firemen, but then she realized belatedly that she was wearing the make-up and looking like that she would never get any attention. She was past the point where she even noticed that she was wearing that spectacular make-up, and so was the others on the set.

Does Emma Thompson really need to flirt to get attention? (I mean when she does not wear warts.)

I never notice when anybody is flirting. Does nobody ever do it with me, or am I just missing the gene for noticing it?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rob Galbraith


Near the bottom of this article is a link to a slide show of pictures from a volleyball match. They were taken while testing a camera. I have no interest in sports, but these are amazing pictures. I had not imagined anybody getting that many outstanding photos in a year, much less in one match. And Rob Galbraith is a writer too.

Steve Jobs speech

"... you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."

Not a new speech by Steve Jobs, but somebody reminded me of it today.

Virtual faces

An article that hints at how complex it is to create virtual human faces.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Search Field

Goth-faced Pascal blurted out:
I had never noticed that tiny Search field before. Another example of harmful excessive modesty? These things are VITALLY handy!

I admit the Search Field (upper left) is very discreet indeed. Sadly the coding of Blogger pages is too complex for me to mess around with to make it more obvious.

Chris Appelhans and Monster House

I've just watched "Monster House", which is an enjoyable movie made by motion capture (putting dots on actors and recording them, including facial motion. Actually it is called "performance capture", and captures faces as well as bodies.) and computer graphics.

The Monster House DVD has a good documentary about Performance Capture and the making of the movie. (I almost missed it because it was labelled "Inside Monster House" and I thought it was something like layout of the house in the movie. I suggest to DVD designers that they make labels more descriptive, rather than imaginative.) They have two hundred cameras capturing the motion of the actors!

The film looks good. That is, I think the settings do. To be frank, I thought the characters look a little... plasticky. The hair for instance looks like it's made in play-doh. This is nowhere near the pictorial sophistication of Over The Hedge for example. I admit that abstraction is good. But then it should be more... deliberate. This looks like they tried to make naturalistic humans and just didn't get there.

Almost the best part of the DVD is the concept drawings done before the film was made, by artist Chris Appelhans.


I am always surprised to see how few artists and actors have their own home pages. (Photographers and writers seem more up on this.) It is really not tough to make a simple one or get somebody to do it for you. And if you have or are trying to get a career selling your creations, I can't see anything more basic than at least having a web site so people who are looking for you can find you.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hogfather


It is a thankless job to make a film of a much-loved book. You can make the best film ever, and there will still always be many fans who think you got it wrong because it is not like it was in their head.

"Hogfather" is a SkyOne TV adaption of the Terry Pratchett novel by the same name. And I think they did a fantastic job. It looks and plays every bit as well as other fantasy films (like "A Series of Unfortunate Events" for example). It is really a 3-hour feature film. But it was made for a mere 6 million pounds (ten million dollars), a number which wouldn't even fund the snack budget in a Hollywood production.

The casting is really good, the adaption is unusually faithful, the timing is precise, and the designs are beautiful. Just Death's mask alone is an experience. And Michelle Dockery is beautiful as Susan, Death's granddaughter.

Unfortunately it does not seem to be available in the US yet. I hope it will be soon.

Lots of bits on Utoobe of course.

Canon 1D mark III


Canon's new super-camera.
With wireless adapter, you can not only fire the camera from afar wirelessly, you can even see what the camera sees, on your computer!

TTL ads:
It seems to me that Canon has for a long time been one step ahead of Nikon. Nikon, with its much more limited budget then plays catch up.

This to me looks like a clasic protagonist antagonist situation. Nikon is forced to "try harder". In doing so they usually manage to come up with ideas and methods whereby their version of the feature is slightly more elegant, or just more kewl. But, alas, Canon, in being one step ahead, is already on to something new.

I can see infinite ways of how a digital SLR can be developed further. For example, I expect future cameras to automate the HDR process. Also, I predict Canon and Nikon will both come up with a stereo camera in the coming years. The two lenses would not just be for 3D images, but help in calculating the information for a better 2D shot.

Back to me:
In my view, Canon is clearly ahead in the top range. And Nikon is clearly ahead in the low end range. In the mid range, Canon 5D has the best image quality, and Nikon D200 has the best handling.

I think dynamic range is the most important aspect to improve now. Clipped highlights is a big issue.

Is the news photographer dying out?

"The financial imperative to newspapers is clear. Their salvation, in a time of plummeting ad revenues on their broadsheets, lies with their online versions. Online demands video. For this reason, we can comfortably say that in 10 years photojournalists will only be carrying video cameras." - article on digitaljournalist
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The article also picks up on a thing I've said for years: the magazine and newspaper of the future is not on paper. It is on electronic paper, and will be updated wirelessly over the Net. Once we've had those for a few years, paper will seem archaic and wasteful.

Final Identity chimed in:
News photographer ... another job description which the change in "media" and delivery systems has attacked. Used to be, working a camera and quickly producing in a darkroom something a newspaper could use was a very complicated business. Now, I'd hazard, 80% of the visitors to this blog could hack it after five minutes' training. Being good at cropping and image layout and general use of "the eye" (for lack of a better term) will always be a rare commodity; but the market to sell that skill in, is slowly fading away.

Yes... and there is even a very rapidly growing industry now of newspaper and sites buying or just getting pictures taken by non-photographer on digicams and even cell phones.
It expands their reach. But surely the news photographer is dead.
On the other hand, apart from in books I don't recall ever seeing a news photograph I thought was very remarkable anyway.

"Never trust an expert"

"Never trust an expert", article by Stephen Shapiro.
Quote:
"I am not implying that these experts are misleading or malicious. Not at all. The issue lies in our inability to find the correct correlations between cause and effect."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Is Your Child A Goth?

(Thanks to Pascal.) This is either funny or tragic. I don't know if the article is for real, but I would not be surprised.
So many things are too funny, apparently it is a "sign your child is goth" if:
* He or she claims to be one! (Never be afraid of pointing out the obvious.)
* He or she masturbates. (Yes, that should catch quite a few of the elusive buggers.)
* Wants some time without adult supervision. (No kids ever wanted that before the Goth culture corrupted them.)

Actually on consideration I think it's a spoof, though a good one. I doubt even the most radical soul saver would classify "philosophy" as a "dangerous cult".

Update: You know, the surefire way to change your child's mind about being a goth would be to become one yourself. In a town with middle-aged goths walking the streets, the black and white make-up would be off those kids faces faster than you can say "Kenny G rocks".

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Is Your Child a Goth?

Listed below are some warning signs to indicate if your child may have gone astray from the Lord. Gothic (or goth) is a very obscure and often dangerous culture that young teenagers are prone to participating in. The gothic culture leads young, susceptible minds into an imagined world of evil, darkness, and violence. Please seek immediate attention through counselling, prayer, and parental guidance to rid your child of Satan's temptations if five or more of the following are applicable to your child.

-Frequently wears black clothing.
-Wears band and/or rock t-shirts.
-Wears excessive black eye makeup,lipstick or nail polish.
-Wears any odd silver jewelry or symbols.
-Shows an interest in piercings or tattoos.
-Listens to gothic or any other anti-social genres of music. (Marilyn Manson claims to be the anti-Christ, and publicly speaks against the Lord. Please discard any such albums IMMEDIATELY.)

-Associates with other people that dress, act or speak eccentrically.
-Shows a declining interest in wholesome activities, such as: the Bible, prayer, church or sports.

-Shows an increasing interest in death, vampires, magic, the occult, witchcraft or anything else that involves Satan.
-Takes drugs.

-Drinks alcohol.
-Is suicidal and/or depressed.
-Cuts, burns or partakes in any other method of self-mutilation.(This is a Satanic ritual that uses pain to detract from the light of God and His love. Please seek immediate attention for this at your local mental health center.)
-Complains of boredom.
-Sleeps too excessively or too little.
-Is excessively awake during the night.
-Demands an unusual amount of privacy.
-Spends large amounts of time alone.
-Requests time alone and quietness. (This is so that your chid may speak to evil sprits through meditation.)
-Insists on spending time with friends while unaccompanied by an adult.
-Disregards authority figures; teachers, priests, nuns and elders are but a few examples of this.

-Misbehaves at school.
-Misbehaves at home.
-Eats excessively or too little
-Eats goth-related foods. Count Dracula cereal is an example of this.
-Drinks blood or expresses an interest in drinking blood. (Vampires believe this is how to attain Satan. This act is very dangerous and should be stopped immediately.)

-Watches cable television or any other corrupted media sources. (Ask your local church for proper programs that your child may watch.)
-Plays videos games that contains violence or role-playing nature.
-Uses the internet excessively and frequently makes time for the computer.
-Makes Satanic symbols and/or violently shakes head to music.
-Dances to music in a provocative or sexual manner.
-Expresses an interest in sex.

-Masturbates.
-Is homosexual and/or bisexual.
-Pursues dangerous cult religions. Such include: Satanism, Scientology, Philosophy, Paganism, Wicca, Hinduism and Buddhism. -
Wears pins, stickers or anything else that contains these various phrases: "I'm so gothic, I'm dead", "woe is me", "I'm a goth".
-Claims to be a goth.


If five or more of these apply to your child, please intervene immediately. The gothic culture is dangerous and Satan thrives within it. If any of these problems persist, enlist your child into your local mental health center.
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Alex called out:
Soccer spent many a happy decade being a fun sport, then in the 80's it became a gathering place for thugs, the honorable team rivalry being replaced by gang violence.

There is always a fringe of bad apples which spoil the proverbial it for the rest. They are the ones that get noticed, and the popular press and popular opinion takes on the prejudice.

My parents are concerned about the internet, they've seen how even the most innocent of sites like "Friends Reunited UK" have been used for mischief, libel and slander. I know I've found some interesting lost friends, and just one or two abuses of the system have lead to a media barrage showing the frailty of the system.

There's a very powerful anti-prejudice song on Pink Floyds "The Wall", the lyrics if taken out of context of the album, can be mistaken as inciting hate crime, instead of being a blatant parody. "The Wall" is a film full of depression, suicidal tendency, self mutilation and violence. It carries very powerful messages, but any part of it can be taken out of context and misconstrued, and seen simply as glorified violence and licentious behavior.

Here's an interesting point, the main figure in "The Wall" was portrayed by the punk rock star Bob Geldof KBE, formerly of the boom town rats. That is KBE as in Knigh t of the Order of the British Empire for humanitarian works, a punk rock star!

Another famous humanitarian is Bono, an Irish rock star from a band called U2, a band which started by covering punk bands such as The Ramones.

Punks were regarded with more fear an suspicion in the 80's then Goths are now.

Funny old world. Don't judge a book by its cover, or even which shelf it's on.

Mud houses

I find out (from Grand Designs) that not only are maybe a third of the world's buildings build from actual mud, but even many buildings in England are. I could understand it in dry climates, but England? What is keeping the walls together over the decades and centuries? There's no binder in mud... (Apart from straw sometimes, which is also not something I'd have imagined wanting to rely on to keep the roof up.) Anybody wise?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Emma and Stephen


Talking about Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry, here they are in their youth, but with talents fully flowering, in a Cambridge Footlights sketch. This is just awesome. They pretty much make it funny just by caricature of olden days speech. I ripped this for yer pleasuh.

By the way, notice the fine image quality. I've found out that if you overshoot the quality for YouTube in the files you upload, you get very good quality compared to most you see there.

Update: disrelated, a recent interviw with Emma.

Cerebus by Dave Sim


Cerebus by Dave Sim is certainly one of the most remarkable comics ever created. This is obvious even from mere numerical facts:
Cerebus was:
1) 300 issues
2) 6,000 pages
3) 27 years in the making
4) One long story
5) highly seminal
6) drawn and written by one man
7) was always published on time

...Number six is only partly true: for most of the run, Writer/artist Dave Sim was aided by superb background artist Gerhard. His amazing, detailed pen-art background are unsurpassed.

Reading Cerebus is sometimes a frustrating experience though. Not really because of much variance in quality (though obviously there has to be that too), but because of the variance in style. Dave Sim was/is a fabulous humorist and fantast, but in some stretches, especially in the last 100 issues (!!) he tended to veer into long-winded philosophical and religious text narratives, only interspersed with a few drawings. To make it worse, some of those passages had tiny, tiny, tiny text and were near-impossible to read in my opinion (both due to type size and content). And some of them were philosophically, er, on the edge, and have been called misogynist.

Dave Sim says he has no long term friends. It seems that about half way into making Cerebus, reading the bible for research, he got religion big time, and he now has his own highly idiosyncratic mixture of Christianity and Islam, probably mixed with other stuff too, and he prays ritualistically several times a day at set times. He is easy to get at, he will answer his phones and he has answered several of my letters over the years. But in later years it is near-impossible to talk about anything without somehow touching on an issue he has problems with and being called a "feminist", which he does not mean as a compliment. Dave Sim says he is literally the last real male on the planet, the rest are male feminists, living under the thumb of "The Void" as he calls the feminine side of the universe. He is a minority of one, and the only one who really sees the truth. Heady stuff.

But Cerebus is still a unique work, and I'm sure nobody will ever equal it. It is bizarre, beautiful, fascinating, and often fall-over funny. Just one thing would make it worth reading: the caricatures. Sim made the most amazing caricatures of popular heroes as well as real people like Groucho Marx and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The drawings and the speech are unmatched in skill and hilarity.

Note: if you want to try it, I recommend starting with the second volume ("phone books" is the official name for these bricks), called "High Society". Dave Sim really hit his stride in this one, and Gerhard joined him to improve the art no end.

Update:
Steve B. helps out:
1) He wasn't always on time, but he always caught up. He fell several months behind at one point, then shipped issues every three weeks for a year or so, so the cover dates all *look* like he published them all on time.

2) There's no Gerhard art in "High Society." That's all Dave. Gerhard joined with issue #65, which is about halfway through the first volume of "Church & State."

Otherwise, nice summation. Dave's strange version of Islam is more influenced by Judaism than Christianity, I think, though he does accept the Scriptures of all three as the Holy Word of God -- but he has a pretty weird take on just what that all means, starting with the fact that the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Koran are all part of an ongoing dialogue between God and YHWH (which is not God's Ineffable Name but one of God's creations who thinks She's God -- it's a looooong story). He also thinks there were two different Jesuses (Jesus's?), neither of which was truly the Son of God.

But the comic book sure is good.

Cell phones galore

Going about town, if I see a young person without a cell phone glued to their head, I wonder if theirs is broken.
What are they all talking about??

A Bit of Fry and Laurie


"I suppose if I'm honest, I have been using my penis as a sort of car substitute." - Stephen Fry.

I warmly recommend A Bit of Fry and Laurie, British comedy show from the early nineties.
It is funny, actually, how clearly one can spot the development of films and TV show over the times. I thought that this show was from the early eighties, and that puzzled me. It was simply too good, too sharp. Too avant garde.

An example of their brilliance is the continuing sketch series about the head of British intellingence, "Control". I'm sure that if you look at the scripts for it, it is silly and not very funny at all. What gives it its unique humor is the way both Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry plays their roles as if the show was a cheap and poor TV show with very stilted and bad actors. And yet they do it with subtlety. These guys are really good.

Quoth TTL :
"In my case you are preaching to the converted. I am a huge fan, with every episode on DVD.

I have come to the conclusion that this series is the most linguistically sophisticated comedy ever broadcast on TV. In addition to being hilariously funny, the best sketches are quite simply great poetry.

The lovely Emma Thompson gets credit for bringing Fry and Laurie together."

Emma Thompson, lovely? Not half! as the Brits say. (That's an empatic agreement.)

Update: while watching another show, Q.I., in which Stephen Fry hosts, I had the realization that Fry is just frightening intelligent. It's not that he rubs it in anybody's face, but there was just something about the way he speaks that suddenly made it clear to me. He speaks colloqually, but with great clarity and precision, never any muddiness or mistakes. You just get the presence of a big mind.

I do think, though, that in Q.I. at least sometimes he made one too many gay jokes, him being just slightly too much "out". It's not all that funny or interesting, in my taste. As far as I'm concerned he can be into donkeys or watermelons, it's all the same to me.

He starred of course in the excellent film "Wilde". This interview talks about that.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Big Numbers


Big Numbers depicted in pictures.

"Big Numbers" is not the title of this art, it is just a title I gave it, a nostalgic nod to an Alan Moore comic from the early nineties which sadly was aborted. Sad because it promised to be one of the most seminal "comic" books ever made. It was totally ground breaking both visually and story-telling technique wise. Only two of ten issues came out, and it seems no more ever will. I miss it.

Scrat

Scrat from Ice Age I and II may be the funniest animated character ever.
I am just watching Ice Age II, and the first scene here had me laughing so hard I was afraid of stomach cramps.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wallpaper


... and in this case, the literal kind.
I like this picture, from Mike Johnston, quite a lot. It has an unusual composition, and it's very... peaceful.

Philippe Carly NYC pictures


Philippe Carly NYC pictures

Monday, April 16, 2007

God speaks up in the Onion

"I don't care what faith you are, everybody's been making this same mistake since the dawn of time," God said. "The Muslims massacre the Hindus, the Hindus massacre the Muslims. The Buddhists, everybody massacres the Buddhists. The Jews, don't even get me started on the hardline, right-wing, Meir Kahane-loving Israeli nationalists, man. And the Christians? You people believe in a Messiah who says, 'Turn the other cheek,' but you've been killing everybody you can get your hands on since the Crusades."

Growing increasingly wrathful, God continued: "Can't you people see? What are you, morons? There are a ton of different religious traditions out there, and different cultures worship Me in different ways. But the basic message is always the same: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism... every religious belief system under the sun, they all say you're supposed to love your neighbors, folks! It's not that hard a concept to grasp."

From a September 2001 issue of the satirical mag The Onion. I can't believe I never heard of this one.

Pixar's Cars


"Cars" is the first Pixar movie I did not buy immediately. But finally I got tired of waiting for the rental copy, and I bought it.

The delay was due to the trailer not really doing much for me. Also, I felt that cars is a dubious choice for animated characters. Unlike bugs or toys, they don't have arms or faces, so it's a little forced, methinks.

That said, I'd have to say they pulled it off. Actually, looking at real cars after having seen this movie, I half expect them to move and open their eyes.

"Cars" is not the best or funniest Pixar movie. My faves are Monsters Inc, Toy Story 2, and The Incredibles. But "Cars" was still very worthwhile, I enjoyed it. And it is visually gorgeous. The scenery especially is amazing.

If you get the DVD, be sure not to miss the extras. The two shorts included, for one thing, are falling-over funny.

I also appreciate the basic message of the movie: winning is not everything. The western world is still a bit fixated on Being Number One. And contests can be fun and they can be inspiring, but ultimately they are just games, they are not life.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hans Christian Andersen

Free download of tales of Hans Christian Andersen.
Powerful Danish writer, and not just for kids anymore.

Means and language

Final Identity has left a new comment on the post "The Millionaire Next Door":

I'm a genius at living below my means. I think extended time as a graduate student is a real boon to anyone who wants to learn to lower their material expectations.

My problem is earning, in the first place. When I say I can live below my means, my "means" are usually below what I should be getting, for someone as talented and bright as myself.

Oh, and about that self-publishing link. The dude says that he is "oblivious" to his own talent as a writer; that he can do it without effort, in the manner that a great discus-thrower would seem effortless to a beginner.

Well, I got news for him. I'm oblivious to his talent as a writer, too. He ain't got none, as far as I can tell.

Self-publishing may allow you to claim, "I'm a published author," or it may even allow you to make a lot of money off your production. But it doesn't mean that your book is any good, even if a jillion people buy it. (I suppose somewhere around a hundred-thousand-google dollars, on the way to half-a-jillion, you start not to care about whether it's any good, as you work out the complicated real estate logistics that will allow you to buy your second Caribbean island, but that's a different issue.)

When I write, I want it to be good. I know that editors at publishing houses, vaguely, in some manner, have a good sense of what "deserves" to be published. I know as well that their desire to publish good literature is mitigated by their need to publish marketable commodities, so it isn't always just a matter of writing well. But at least when the imprimatur is offered by a larger organization than merely myself, a place that has a lot of employees who have some degree of education and expertise in the field, then I start to think maybe I'm doing something well.

Eh, just call me an elitist. I could "self publish" a book of poems tomorrow. That doesn't mean I'm going to be the next Czeslaw Milosz.

Some comments:
I like how F.I. calls himself "talented and bright". I don't understand how some people are offended by others having a high opinion of themselves. Perhaps it is envy because these people don't manage to have a high opinion of themselves, I don't know. I think everybody should have a high opinion of themself. Not an inflated or unrealistic one, but a sound and robust one.

I agree with F.I. that John Reed is not a great writer, prose wise. But, swiftly choosing a standpoint here: so what? He is clearly helping a lot of people with his books, and he is keeping a lot bigger part of the profits than if he had used a separate publisher and distributor (or so he says, and I see no reason to think he is lying or delusional). Is that really less valuable than somebody who is writing the finest prose or poetry known to man, and who is published by some academic press at 500 copies, 23 of which ever get read?

Maybe traditional publishers have a role. But maybe it's smaller than they think. Just yesterday I was on the phone with the talented Gemma Gariel, and she is working with many publishers trying to get several books published, and she is exasperated by the low cultural level of the people she is working with. And when all comes to all, they are just a middle man, whose importance is being undermined by the Internet. If you need an editor, hire one! Probably you can find a better one than whatever 23-year-old a publisher would stick a beginning author with.

About Denmark


I just read part of the much circulated article: How The Do It Better. (A disection.)

Something struck me, this sentence: "So how come the Danes are the happiest people in the world? Living in the dark, no less".

I always have to correct people on this. Because Denmark is part of Scandinavia together with Norway, Sweden, and Finland, people think it is a very cold and dark country. But if you just look at a map, you'll see that not only is it no more north than England, but like England it is surrounded by water, and even the warm Gulf Stream, which keeps the country mild in the winter. Hard frost is actually pretty rare in Denmark, and the summers can get very warm, too warm for me. (Oddly, it is a bit cooler here in Lancashire, UK, I don't know why.)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Filming digitally

Here are some interesting observations about the advantages of filming movies digitally.

By the way, for anybody interested in movie quality digital cameras, here is a forum about the Red One camera.

Shooting powder

By "shoot the talcum", I don't think what was meant was this.
(Again thanks to Through The Lens, who despite his self-proclaimed abysmal people skills is very helpful.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Roast Rats On A Stick

From Silvia Hartmann.
My answer to this one surprised myself.
------
The title for this exercise and the exercise itself derives from a real life situation, where someone was very depressed in the work they were doing and wanted nothing more than being away from all of that, but their family put this immense pressure on them to stay and complete the entire lengthy course of training.

The main reason cited for this was that should "the worst come to the worst", the person would always have their qualifications to fall back upon.

That sounds reasonable, but I remember crying out, "What does that mean, when the worst comes to the worst? After a nuclear holocaust? And there's someone selling roast rats on a stick? There's this huge crowd of starving survivors gathered around, and they're making offers of trade ˆ "I'll give you my virgin daughter!" ˆ "I'll give you a sackload of jewelry!"

And what are you going to shout?

Wave your certificate in the air and go, "I have an IT qualification!"

HOW exactly is THAT going to help "when the worst comes to the worst"?

The person in question laughed heartily and resigned that very day ˆ and is much happier now in a different career altogether.

The point of this exercise is however, for us to consider just what qualities we have that would stand us in good stead "when the worst comes to the worst", such as in the roast rats on a stick scenario.

These qualities are NOT certificates or university qualifications; the qualities you need to survive and thrive are inside you, and a part of you, and the most important part of you, indeed.

What qualities do YOU have that will be your saving grace "when the worst comes to the worst"?

------
Final Identity exclaimed:
This whole thread bugs me because the proper expression is, "When worse comes to worst." Being grammatically accurate with the comparative-to-superlative progression makes the entire expression make sense. Stating instead, as has happened here, the mindless "worst to worst" progression simply indicates lack of clear thinking. "Worst" can't "come to" something that is ALSO called "worst": it's already there.

Back to Eolake:

It's funny, since my bitching about expressions quoted wrong, I've discovered several wrong expressions that I might use myself without being bothered. I guess it's just being aware of how they're wrong, if they are.

By the way, I try to make it clear which text is quoted, and which is mine. Is anybody ever confused about it?

Jade's pech

One downside of English is that the spelling is not logical. Kids are more logical.

I am visited by Jade, 5 years, today. She drew a picture, and wrote under it: "Jade's pech". I was flummuxed, and asked what it said. It says: "Jade's Picture."
Of course. P-E says pe, and C-H says chu. Pe-chu. "Picture". Logical.

Monsieur Beep added...
Children are very logical indeed when it comes to spelling, and get punished for doing so, in school and at home!!

For example I very often hear 6year-olds using a logical form of a verb, and NOT the irregular form .
For example this child would say "I go-ed home" instead of "I went home".
The same goes for irregular German verbs.

Is it such a major fault for a child to communicate akkording to the rules, and not to irregular hokuspokus?

I know I know education in school wouldn't take so long, and many teachers would be underemployed if the kids wouldn't have to learn all the irregular stuff in a new language.

Indeed. I very much admire the Norwegians for amending their spelling thoroughly decades ago (I think in the mid-20th) to be strictly phonetic.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Millionaire Next Door

[Update: I was prompted to mention my article on money.]

The Millionaire Next Door. I read this book a couple of years ago, very eye opening. Most millionaires don't look like it.

Quote from the article:
"The authors say that one of the most important factors in becoming a millionaire is living beneath your means. Thinking back, I can see that in my own life.
As a former real estate agent, I was used to explaining to people what the largest home they could qualify for was. Most people are barely satisfied with that home."

This ties in nicely with the aforementioned Grand Designs TV series. I have now watched five of the shows. One was a communal project. Two were couple who built quite wonderful homes. Very inspiring.

And two were couples who built wonderful homes which were way, way above their heads financially and otherwise. Those were real cautionary tales.

They started with a mortgage which stretched their means, and then the costs went up and up and up as the house progressed. These people could not talk about anything else but what a nightmare they were living as this went on.

Another quote:
"One of the paradoxes of millionaire status is that those of us who are frugal enough to achieve it are too frugal to enjoy it."

It's funny because it's true.

I am one of those myself, but I still think, when hearing of somebody dying with 20 million in the bank and a 20-year-old car: "what's the point then?" :)

There must be a happy medium.

One of the main things that financial success has gotten me, apart from independence, is freedom from worry about it all the time. But it seems this is a mental thing. Some millionaires worry more than they ever did. And I know people who have traveled with only the shirt on their back, and seemingly not a worry in the world. I'm not there yet.
---
By the way, like useit.com, John Reed's site is living proof that fancy web design is not what makes a site successful. His web design would have been considered basic in 1995! :)

Also, he is a real curmudgeon. But he makes some interesting points, like this on self-publishing. (Self-distribution is the most profitable part? Wha?)

Cocteau Twins


Here's a wonderful band I'd overlooked: Cocteau Twins.
There are videos on U-toobe. One of my fave songs so far is Bluebeard.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Grand Designs

I am renting DVDs with the UK TV show Grand Designs.

I recommend it. (I'm not sure how availability is outside the UK.)
It is well produced, and you see some excellent houses being built by passionate people.
Also the show and the host Kevin McCloud are very warm and positive, there is none of that snide critizism you sometimes see in journalism. It's a big pleasure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Redblocks

This is one of mine, I may have posted it earlier in a smaller size.
I like it because it is a composition, based on a purely utilitarian landscape. There is NO life, no plants, no decorations. But still looked at the right way, sort of pleasing.
And then of course the smiley face.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Slowdown

In the future I'll not write quite as much. I'm quite tired recently, and I need to relax. I do it reluctantly, for this is very enjoyable to me, but I think it's right and necessary for me to cut back.

Fish out of water

"If a great musician plays great music but no one hears . . . Was he really any good?
It's an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?"

Me, I think beauty is real, but it is something too fine to be measure mechanically, which is also why it engenders so much discussion.

The article linked to above is long, but excellent. Here's a comment to it:

The test of Joshua Bell's impact was not fair: the audience for classical music is very small, for one thing.

1: If the commuters had consisted only of people who regularly listens to classical music, how would it have changed the reaction?

2: If the musician had been Kenny G singing, instead?

3: If the show had been in a park on a Sunday?

I think all those scenarios change the picture radically, and would show that people do indeed have time for art.

A busker (street performer) with a blog (why not!) has this to say.

Mrs. Henderson Presents


I recommend Mrs. Henderson Presents.
It is the most sweet and witty film about the Windmill Theatre in 1930s-40s London, which was the only place in the country to show nudes on stage. It was demanded that they should stand still, that way it could be considered Art.

Subtitles, learning English, and global communication

I think global communication could be forwarded tremendously if countries around the world would get English into schools early, and stop dubbing English-language movies, but instead subtitle them. The latter also helps the young ones learning to read. (I used to teach reading, and a milestone was always: "I can manage to read the whole of the subtitles now before they change!." Big smile.)

[The below was clipped from comments on "on Writing".]

Eolake:
"Scandinavians learn it easier than other Europeans because in Scandinavia TV shows and movies are not dubbed, but subtitled."

Pascal:
Same in Lebanon. It really helped me perfect my English.
Or my American, to be precise. :-)
That was before local TV became so decadent, it is now practically unwatchable. During ad breaks, you forget what you were actually watching! ):-P
Subtitles are a mixed annoyance : at first you're bothered by having to focus on reading instead of the images, and later on you really appreciate being able to follow it in original version, and often grasp all the nuances.

The French dub all their foreign movies and TV shows. As a result, many people there almost take pride in not knowing other languages! Or they behave as if such were the case. :-P
Fortunately, today the youngest generation is more eager to learn. Thanks to Europe. :-)))
Marriages between young Europeans of different countries seem to be increasing exponentially. Bravo.

Eolake:
"And I just feel like English is the best option for global communication"

Pascal:
As much as I care for the preservation of cultural diversity, I fully agree here: we Earthlings should set a single global communication standard, and English has everything vouching for it in this particular case. It's hugely widespread, dominant in the computers field, and globally simple, unless you want to get litterary. Which you can, while it's not mandatory.
For comparison, Japanese is also uncomplicated in structure), but it's nightmarish to learn to write, with thousands and thousands of Kanji to memorize. Chinese is even "worse", so to speak, because added to the even more complex writing, it requires much oral skill to master. Undoubtedly poetic and pleasant-sounding, but not very practical for a world standard, especially one using a keyboard. Lazies and dyslexics, search elsewhere!

TTL put forth:
Eolake proclaimed: "I think global communication could be forwarded tremendously if countries around the world would get English into schools early, and stop dubbing English-languish movies, but instead subtitle them."

Well, I am certainly relieved that in my country TV programs have always been subtitled and never dubbed. But not just because of the learning opportunity. I think dubbing is a terrible form of distortion. I want to hear the actor's natural voice no matter what the language. And even if they forgot the subtitles!

For example, if in KieÊlowski's Trois Couleurs: Rouge when Irène Jacob first opens her mouth out would come some union actor's English, I would probably puke. :-)

But I think you are forgetting two things:

1) Countries like French aren't doing it (dubbing instead of subtitling, and not pushing English early on) out of lazyness, but in a deliberate attempt to save the language. And you could say that they have been succesful at this.

2) Natural languages do not exist just as a method of communication here and now. Their other function is to carry information from generation to generation. The languages of, say, northern Europe are thousands of years old (much older than English). There are reasons why in these languages things have the names they have. The very rhythm and use of phonemes and the resulting associations carry information. We do not normally pay attention to this, but its role is huge.

If all of a sudden all languages of the world disapeared, with the exception of English in which everyone would be fluent, the world would be an infinitely dumber place. And I am not saying this to mock English. I love English. It's just that all our languages serve a purpose as a carrier of humankind's collective wisdom.

Eolake concluded: "And I just feel like English is the best option for global communication"

I agree. Provided you don't have to communicate anything of importance. ;-)

Shakespeare did not say anything of importance? :)

It is not necessary for the French to be protectionistic of their language. Most Danes speak English well, but I don't know a single Dane who has trouble speaking Danish for that reason.

Update: thanks to Mary for pointing out that the first paragraph had the expression "
English-languish"... now that is funny! Especially considering the context.

DreamingWolf exclaimed:
It is funny for me (weeell, not THAT funny) to read these opinions on English as a major language for all of us here on Earth. Though I speak English and I like it, the idea of it becoming the main language for the world sounds great on one side, on the other I think it just contributes to self-importance of Brits and Anglo-Americans (to exclude Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Polish and other American minorities). The fact that English is so widespread is due to the British imperial expansivity and expansionism in the past. They conquered a lot of other countries and cultures. OK. But this doesn't mean those of English origin are super-human, and superior to other nations and cultures...

Eolake said:
You have a good point.
I just think that regardless of the dubious means of how the English-language domination was established, global communication is so important that it supersedes any lingering resentment due to past wrongs. It would be shooting yourself in the foot to refuse this grand a communication opportunity just because you were invaded by the English at some point. Heck, I am Danish, and I don't use a moment's thought on Lord Nelson bombarding Copenhagen some time in the nineteenth century.

It also seems to me that the less reason people have for an inflated ego, the more inflated it is. So no harm can come, at least compared to the benefits.

Update April 10:
Wonko scribes:
One of the reasons for the "success" of English as a de facto international language is because of its origins. English has Scandanavia, Germanic, French and Latin and even Ancient Greek roots, together with a generous sprinkling of terms from other languages - Urdu and Hindi in particular (for example words such as; Pyjamas, Khaki and Shampoo). As a result English has a lot of synonyms - words expressing subtle variations of the same concept - which makes it wonderfully good for describing things. It's also a good technical language for the same reason, hence the take up on the internet/computing circles. Unfortunately this is a double-edged sword and lends towards our problems with spelling. For example think of the words: Slough (a town to the West of London), slow, plough, Brough (another town in Yorkshire), brow, and dough. Some are pronounced the same, some are subtly different, and the spelling doesn't always have a lot to do with it. It's because they're all from different roots.

Learn some 'Old English' from the Anglo-Saxon period of English History, it's not that different from what we speak today. Even more intriguingly if you then go to certain parts of North Holland and Scandanavia you can make yourself understood speaking it. Eddie Izzard did so in his television programme "Mongrel Nation". He asked a farmer if he could see a "brune coo" (brown cow), and the guy understood him. In fact, if you're familiar with the North-East accent in England, at lot of the terms and way people speak are almost pure Norse, even today! Am awee gan ham (I'm away going home, or just: I'm going home).

Post Norman Conquest - the Normans themselves being Scandanavians who settled in France and took on French ways, just look at the ships on the Bayeux Tapistry - a lot of French was introduced into "English". Interestingly, a lot of words to do with violence, war and law came from Norman French.

The key has always been that English constantly changes and adapts, incorporating new words all the time. As a result it has been able to grow and change. Melvyn Bragg's excellent series "The History of English" is a fascinating study of my mother tongue.

I would agree that British schoolchildren (can't speak for USA) would greatly benefit from learning foreign languages, earlier. I learned French at secondary school, and although I studied it for seven years, being honest I was never that good at it. I'm constantly surprised at how well many foreigners speak English, far, far better than I could communicate in their language. It shames me a little, but whenever I travel abroad I do at least try to learn a few key phrases - Please, Thank You, etc. - and I usually find that the person I'm speaking to wants to practice their English with me!

One last point: English is already the standard International language of Radio Communication, and is used by shipping, aircraft and Amateur Radio enthusiasts the World over.

Update April 11:
Wonko expanded:

Thanks TTL for posting that link, it made very interesting reading. Just to pick up on one comment to your list, about the use of "gate" for "street". In Leeds (in South Yorkshire) there are streets called Briggate, Eastgate and Westgate. These are all Norse/Viking in origin. I understand that the word "gata" is used in Norwegian and Icelandic for many streets. Even today Briggate is the road to a bridge that crosses the river. You'll find Norse names throughout North-Eastern and Eastern England, dating back to the period known as 'Danelaw' in the late Saxon period. In this time England was split in two along a line roughly from The Wash to the Severn, with predominently Danes ruling in the North and East, and Saxons in the South and West. Any town names ending in "thorpe" or "by" are Norse in origin.

Interestingly on the subject of seemingly unrelated languages, I have a story involving my Grandfather that you may like. he is now living in a Nursing Home having reached the age of 90. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese at Singapore and survived building the Burma Railroad, being torpedoed in the Sea of Japan and the A-bomb at Hiroshima. He spoke with the other male resident of his home who it turned out used to work for the Foreign Office. Furthermore this man left Singapore on the ship my Grandfather arrived on! This man's background was in studying ancient languages, he spoke and read several easily. One of the carers he'd had over the years was Hungarian and didn't speak much English. He discovered that speaking Ancient Greek to her and she replying in Hungarian allowed them to communicate better than in English! He also claimed to have found some links between Greek and Chinese through earlier Indo-European Languages. It just goes to show that we're all much more closely linked than it would otherwise appear!

In Danish a street is "gade". Due to the peculiar Danish soft D (similar the th in "the"), I never spotted the link the "gate" in English.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Einstein, iPods, and RVs

We had a power outage here this evening, for two and a half hours. According to my neighbor it's the first one since he moved in 16 years ago, which is pretty impressive.

So, being offline and in the dark, I took my iPod and went for a walk, listening to a biography of Albert Einstein. Very interesting, though the book is as much about his theories, which do test those frontal lobes something fierce.

I just watched the Robin Williams movie RV. Very funny. The characters all used MP3 players with white ear buds, they were obviously iPods. But in the commentary, the director Barry Sonnenfeld called them "Sony MP3 players". Lo and behold, the movie was on the Sony label. :)

Anyway, we do need those ear buds.

Postcards


Almost ten years ago I put some art on an e-card site, care2.

I still like the art.
You can get it bigger on my home page.

Roses are Red


Holy mama, it's been over ten years since Aqua debuted with Roses Are Red, which broke records (and CDs), and it's been five years since the group broke up, and they are still a big name. That's impressive.
Their second album was not as big a hit, but it had at least one good song: Cartoon Heroes (which had a nice high profile video.) ... Oh, and it also had the more subtle, very melodious We Belong To The Sea.

From the wiki article: "The lawsuit filed by Mattel over the song "Barbie Girl" was thrown out in 2002, with the judge refusing Mattel's claims that the song harmed the doll's reputation. The judge claimed that, as the song is a parody of the doll, it is legally acceptable. He also advised the parties involved "to chill"."
Haha. That's excellent. I've often been surprised, given everything, to find that many judges are extremely level-headed, sensible, wise, and down-to-earth people.

By the way, am I the only one for whom YouTube gives up the ghost after watching a few videos? They just stop loading?
(Or this really bizarre phenomenon: in Safari the sound stopped loading on new videos. (The one I had loaded already still played fine.) In Mozilla, the same. But in Firefox, the sound played, but only over the tiny speaker in my box, not my speakers! What the heck? Like I said, computers are weird.)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thoughts on "piracy"

"The days after the raid, we had doubled our visitor numbers."

Documentary about a police raid on Swedish server The Pirate Bay, which gives links to BitTorrent files on the net (peer to peer fils sharing). The raid was instigated through the highest political level from the US and Hollywood. The video is quite interesting, especially the last half, which has some speculation about the philsophy behind the whole issue.
It's from stealthisfilm.com (is this the worst web design ever?)
One thing a bit absent from the film: an explanation of why they are so enthusiastic about file sharing. What they expect it to bring to humanity.
------
"Piracy"... tricky question.
Some things I think I know:

1: Downloading free copies without permission is not piracy, no matter the careless language of the big studios. It is selling stolen content which is piracy. A different thing entirely.

2: When they say "Hollywood lost 5.1 billion in 2005 to piracy", they are full of feces. There is no way to figure out what is "lost". How can you measure how many people would have bought a legal copy? I am pretty sure they just estimate how much is downloaded and then assume (being fully aware it's bull) that every copy would have been bought otherwise. This way they get this huge number.

3: It will surely become harder to make money on restricted access to film/music in the future. I think "value added" business models will be one solutions. Example: people may buy a DVD if they can get better image/sound quality and some nice extras which they can't get in a free online copy. Example: post free videos of characters you made, and sell toys or art featuring those characters.

4: In any case, forcing people to "behave" is a losing proposition, like in all life's areas. Never has worked, never will.

5: The success of iTunes shows that people are perfectly willing to pay for content if it is made attractive and easy to do so. (And I think iTunes would be even more successful at half the price per track.)

6: Free content is one of the most effective ways of getting attention (traffic). Just make sure you don't give away everything. It's a balance. I do almost no advertising for DOMAI, the business comes from word of mouth and shared images.
-----
David Gallaher ventured...
"Eolake, You are so right on. Presuming a right of ownership of intellectual property is a wrong turn taken by English law, and, in turn, the Founders of the US of A.
Patents are too. Imagine how far we as a world society could go, if we'd stop shooting ourselves in the feet every step of the way!"

Mm, but there has to be a happy, relaxed medium somewhere.
(Thinking about this.) You could be right, I guess.
Admittedly, if I imagine writing a book and then imagines somebody publishes it and sells it without permission and without paying me anything, that makes me flinch...
But!... how often does this really happen? Maybe it's just a paranoid fantasy?

At the very least, this will only happen to products which are already successful and have made money, otherwise why would anybody pirate it?
So I think we can conclude that piracy will never make anybody starve, it will only cut into existing largish profits at worst. (And maybe not even that.)

You see again and again in life that when you expect people to cheat you, they will. And when you trust them and give them freedom, they will behave much better.

I'm not saying it's easy, but maybe worth trying.

ttl opined:
Eolake advised: "6: Free content is one of the most effective ways of getting attention (traffic). Just make sure you don't give away everything. It's a balance."

This is good advice for a paysite such as DOMAI. But there are countless examples of very succesful businesses that give away everything. Google comes to mind. But this strategy has also worked particularly well for many small players.

For example, many people actually make a nice living from keeping a blog. This is the main reason for the current 'problogging' trend. Not all succeed, of course. And certainly most don't even try. But the point here is that it is possible.

Digital Photography Review gives all their content away. They sell nothing (save the obligatory branded T-shirt). And yet they even have hired people working for them.

And from the offline world comes this strange observation: Practically no one who first enters the music business is able to make a living. On the other hand, more or less every musician who tries busking makes a reasonable salary from it. (The best ones, in a good location, earn up to $1000/day.)

My question is this: Could it be that we have spiritually transcended past 'control economy' and are now ready for Gift Economy'?

Perhaps the fact that piracy has gradually become socially more acceptable is our way of telling ourselves that goverment imposed control of ideas and images serve no purpose; and that we have other ways of rewarding those who deserve it.

I suspect, and certainly hope, that you are right, my man. Are you sure about the examples you cite though? The ad-driven sites I know have not been doing so hot. (Admittedly old data.)

Update. Vanity Fair article on file sharing.
They say that Hollywood earnings are dropping. I wonder why. I sincerely doubt it is "piracy" or file sharing doing it. I think it is "The Long Tail" doing it. Young people are splitting up their attention to very, very varied content now, they are not watching TV or cinema screens anymore, sharing the same three shows and five films with their parents, like they did in the olden days. And obviously if The Long Tail grows, the Big Head shrinks. And that's a good thing, except if you're a Big Head.

(Hoky frig, this must be my longest article yet. It also seems like I often, now, write them in a strangely organic way, adding stuff when inspiration or comments hit me. Interesting.)

TTL retorted:
Eolake questioned: "Are you sure about the examples you cite though? The ad-driven sites I know have not been doing so hot. (Admittedly old data.)"

Yes. For example Steve Pavlina says he makes $1000/day from his blog. The info he has disclosed correllates well with his Alexa traffic rank history, so I see no reason to doubt his words.

(I also have data on some other blog type sites but unfortunately it has not been made public.)

Digital Photography Review's success is obvious to anyone having read the site for any length of time. Current traffic rank: 808.

I know an $800/day busker myself.

Thanks, dudeski. It does seem the tide is turning for real.

Here's a challenge to you: what's the big upside(s) to file sharing networks? I have a feeling there is one, but I can't really articulate it.

Saving YouTube videos

I just stumbled over Smosh. Man, there's some bad acting out there!! :)

I was testing Tube Sock, a $15 solution for saving YouTube videos to my Mac. It seems to work fine, so I'll probably cough up, unless I find a good free solution.

DRM update

The recent DRM post is updated.

Making links in comments

Have you wanted to make links in your comments, but don't know how?
Michael Burton kindly tells us:
Click on:

... I have to post this as a graphic, because the tags disappear, being interpreted as HTML (which they are), and I forget how to make them appear.

On control and psychosis

I think there's a basic schism in humanity: the desire to control other people versus the wish to let them be free. Almost all of us have a lot of both.

Somebody (extremely rare) who is all the way to the second one is a saint. Somebody who is all the way to the first one (also very rare) is a psychotic.

You don't get to be a dictator without a strong desire to control people, so this explains to us why all dictators apparently are psychotic.

"Answers"? and Region Free DVD player

Durn it all to heck. Google Answers has been cancelled. It was a great service, you offered five or ten bucks for an answer to a tricky question on the web, and some genius with time on his hands found an answer for you.

I wanted to find out if there is any way to make a MacBook Pro play DVDs region-free. I've been surfing for what feels like hours, and I have found no solutions. (VLC player doesn't do the trick on mine.)

Man, how stupid humans are in international relations. What possible good can come from using the law and millions of dollars to prevent people on other continents from buying and playing your DVDs? Geez Louiz. The only reason I can see to have set up the region system is to protect the European DVD publishers from import of American discs, and vice versa. But how many people will buy a disc from a different continent if they can buy one next door?

"It is widely held, even by the EU, that region coding was solely an attempt to enforce price differentials." Wikipedia.

Ze Futur iz here... almost

Pascal whispered:
"I've just remembered all these works-in-progress about designing stereoscopic TV screens and other "volume-rendering" image and movie viewers.
Clearly, we're getting there, like with HD-TV, digital, flat and wide screens. But dagnabbit dog'n'rabbit, it could hardly be any slower without going backwards!!!
I'd really appreciate it if I had one of these in my living-room BEFORE I go live on Mars."

Yup. Technology is advancing amazingly fast, but it will seem much less so if you read about burgeoning technologies before they come about. I used to read stuff like Scientific American, but after I realized that the things I had read about ten years earlier seemed no closer to becoming real, I gave it up as a bad job. More fun to be surprised by cool technologies you had no idea were coming. :)

Lizzy John art


Lizzy John.

It's all done on the computer, and the compositions and lines and tones and so on are impressive, and the works are also imaginative and expressive.
(Some of the characters are a little bit on the "manga" side for me, but I guess that's young people for ya.)




This is one of my favorites. I like the abstractness of the frame, and the brightness of the red which somehow manages to still look like it could be real. Not to mention that the red lines on the creature is one more abstract element. I love abstract elements which work well in otherwise representational art. I'd like to do more of it myself.

... I've been reading the comments Lizzy herself put under the works. And she often says things like "I know the background doesn't really work", and such. Which is silly, at her level, any of her work is as close to perfect as matters. So I wrote her this advice:

OK, here's a thing: forums like this site [Deviant Art] are wonderful, but there's a downside: one gets constant comments on technical details. And this can lead one to focus too much on those, long after it really doesn't matter.

After a certain point (which you, Lizzy, are long past) nobody from the general public will see the tiny "flaws" that you worry about. And after that point you should focus much more on production and promotion than on technical improvement.

Format wars

Informative article about the current state of the next-gen DVD format war.

Me, I'd go with a hybrid player. But it's a good point that it may all be a moot point... Perhaps the high-def-video-download-from-the-Internet future is already here?

Anyway, I'm shocked that apparently most blue-ray DVD titles don't use the new MPEG-4 encoding. It has four times the resolution for the same bandwidth. After Apple included the encoding in Quicktime, real-time broacasts suddenly became a pleasure to watch instead of a pain.

It seems that a key thing to developing new formats is to do it fast enough, which means dispense with all the infighting. And of course to make the right decisions. For example in the nineties they made a new format for 35mm film which would dispense with the perforation. Many of use were delighted: now we could get a bigger film image with the same size film and camera!
And it was delayed and delayed. When APS film finally appeared in mid-nineties, the damn thing had a smaller image than 35mm! And to finish it off, digital cameras were starting to appear, so, you know...

I'm always puzzled when big companies make a big investment in less quality. Remember "Kodak Disc" cameras? They took pictures on a small disk of film, and the negative was so unbelievably tiny that Kodak had to develop the "T-max" film specifically for the format, and the quality was still abysmal. I mean, we're talking big grain even on 10cm x 15cm prints! (4x6 inches). Who in Kodak thought this was a winning format? Even the handy 110 format disappeared after a while, and that negative, small as it was, was much larger than the "Disc" negative. It seems that the public do care about quality in the end, even though the differences take a while to penetrate.