Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"A word to the wise ain't necessary. It's the stupid ones who need the advice."
--Bill Cosby

That's funny, but not really true. Stupid people can't take advice, they are convinced they know everything. Wise people can, and even the wisest need it sometimes.


"Let us be thankful for the fools; but for them the rest of us could not succeed."
--Mark Twain

That's funny, but not really true. I think all of us would be profoundly more successful if everybody were smarter. I think the bulk of the resources and work in the work are wasted by stupidity.


"...there are some things that can beat smartness and foresight. Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him."
--Mark Twain

That's funny, but not really true. The odds are (if the fight was serious) that the master swordsman would take down the novice in three seconds.

Marketing Prank Proves the Power of Social Media

Marketing Prank Proves the Power of Social Media, article.

Frostbush (updated)

New photos from today.
Never let it be said that Stobblehouse won't brave the winter of Ole Blighty for the sake of art. :-)

Get the full gallery here.




Nikon D90 with Nikkor 85mm F:1.8

You wouldn't guess that all of these are of a small hedge next to a boring playground where nobody ever comes. You had to go very close to see all these details and colors. And the short depth-of-field and a slight contrast enhancement turns it into fairyland.

Get the full gallery here.

----
Alex who knows this area well, said:
I would have thought, even if old corporation green, the steel structures in the playground would have caught the frost well too.

Not as much as you'd think. The cobwebs did though, here are some in the corporation-green fence around it.


BTW, it was very hard to keep the focus squatting on my toes for the hedge pictures (it was low), and with that super-shallow DoF.
It was also a very dull day, so I was grateful for the D90's high ISO. Even with ISO 1000 and F:1.8, I only got about 1/250 sec, which I needed with the longish lens and precarious poses.
Of course internal image stabilization would have helped a lot (since that lens doesn't have any), but Nikon has not seen fit to provide this. Dang their bollocks, I hope they change their mind soon.


Update: here is the place, photographed later. See what I mean?

Pratchett and Bond

"My advice is this. For Christ's sake, don't write a book that is suitable for a kid of 12 years old, because the kids who read who are 12 years old are reading books for adults. I read all of the James Bond books when I was about 11, which was approximately the right time to read James Bond books."
Terry Pratchett interview

I agree. I read them in my young teens I guess, and the Tarzan books about the same time. I remember the promotion for those said that they fulfilled the two premises for being great boys' books: they were written for adults, and in America. Of course Bond was written in England, but in Denmark in the sixties that probably felt closer to America than to Denmark.

By the way, last year I heard Stephen Fry give his warmest recommendation of the Ian Fleming books, so I thought I'd re-read a couple and bought them as audiobooks. But they don't really seem to hold my attention these days. Admittedly very little indeed does.

Madonna: Frozen




Another one from Ray of Light I really like: Shanti

More on Leibovitz

Mike has an interesting follow-up on that Annie Leibovitz photo. It's like I guessed: it's pretty much assistants doing the work.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Not Another Teen Movie

There has been many parody movies in the past decade, and Not Another Teen Movie is one of my favorites. It's so far out. This scene is a parody of the scene in American Pie where the guy gets caught "wearing one sock". They made the character a girl instead, which I think is genius, and stretched everything to the breaking point.

Simple tools

Do not wait; the time will never be "just right'. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as
you go along.
--Napoleon Hill

One could argue against this for many situations, sure. And I was about to, but then I remembered when I started Domai. I started it with only the knowledge of web design I could get from two or three magazine articles. And just had fun with it.
And then traffic started coming, which really encouraged me. (I clearly remembered the day I was told I had 5,000 visitors a day.) (Over ten years ago.)
And later when I made it a commercial site (it was never meant to be), I also did it with primitive tools. But early sales then encouraged me to go on, and to make it better.
If I had tried get everything up to a top pro standard before launch, I would never have had the energy to keep going.

Hasselblad 500C

In the seventies, this was the Great Dream for the teenaged Eolake, to own one of these, and now I finally do.
Unbelievably, in the meantime, I've never even held one!
This is forty years old, amazingly, but it still feels like the high quality kit it is.


Of course Hasselblad was, and is, like Leica, very expensive because it's hand-built in Europe by European workers for European salaries.

It'll be interesting to see what happens to prices if and when the planet ever gets to the point where there are no more Third World countries where we can get our shit built for bottom prices. If that whole world is a First World country, what then? People don't often think about how Wall-Mart keeps those amazing prices.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Shakira

I don't normally understand "world music" *, but I guess her hips spoke to me.

I like her obvious delight at performing, she does not seem jaded like many big pop stars are.



*I put it in quotes, because like "ethnic" it's a typically anglo-centric term. Isn't all music from the world?

Hyper-linked fiction (updated) (several times)

SF author James C. Harwood commented on my SF post:
"I've been experimenting with layered story ebooks and the use of internal hyperlinks, trying to break new ground. For example, a reader can click on the name of a character and be taken to the Glossarium support blog website to get more information about that character."

To which I said:
Yes. I've long (since the nineties) been interested in hyper-linked fiction as a new creative medium. You could create a whole little universe which people could explore. If it was good, I think people could get quite hooked. I think the curiosity factor could be stronger that it is with strictly linear fiction.

To expand here: one could do it in a myriad of ways, of course. Character profiles. One could have overlapping stories for many characters. One could link to... well, recipes from a cafe in the story, for god's sake. The possibilities are endless.

One might make certain parts of the site subscription-based and get an income.
(Putting artistic integrity issues aside for the moment, imagine J. K. Rowling making such a site for Harry Potter, maybe getting some help from selected writers. That could be a gold mine.) (Not that she needs the money.)

Has anybody had thoughts about such a thing? Or heard of anybody actually doing it, (besides Harwood)?

Update: when it gets big and complex enough, some may ask: what's the difference between this and, well, a web site? Or even the web? The answer is wholeness. The whole thing has to be created with the Whole in mind, so it's collectedly one piece of art.
And the reader will delight in finding all kinds of connections... this character once met that character, though they were not aware of it... both of these characters are trainspotters... this character and that character are both interested in the same girl...

I think it might be a good idea to have the links under each page, rather than within the text. Otherwise the reader ends up with unfinished pages all the time.

----
Update: Nancy from the yahoo Tim Powers group gives me our first example: 253. (He's very funny.)

Update: Dragonlady says:
> Reading this made me think, I'd say that video games, role-playing-games in
> particular, are in part just that. You can interact with the story and
> there are side quests etc.

Well, you *could* certainly do that with hyperlinked fiction. The reader could choose what the character should do, etc. But that's not what I was thinking about, more like traditional fiction at its heart, but just not arranged linearly. It's all fixed by the author, but the reader decides the sequence of reading, and even what bits to read or not.

And I guess it would be most natural for it to be looser than most novels, so the reader does not have to find and read *all* of it for it to make sense. The individual bits and sections should be satisfying on their own, but should support each other.

Actually this will be an important difference from pre-web storytelling. When you start a traditional story, you know you're stuck with all of it, or miss the point. With a hyperlink story, you can read as few or as many pages as you want, and if it's a well done one, it should give you something. So there's less "investment" in starting to read.

One page is about Lizzie's morning. She gets a phone call from Pam. There's a link to a page containing how Pam's morning went, and how the phone call affected her. Pam leaves home and meets Bob on the stairs. There's a link to how Bob's day goes. There should be some meaningful relation of some kind between the characters, of course.
There can also be links to non-storytelling parts. And there can be bigger stories interwoven with the small bits, like a murder mystery or whatever.

I think this ties in with a development I've noticed in modern fiction, not the least in quality TV shows like _The Sopranos_ and _Weeds_. Until recent times, if a character in a story lied to another character, you could bet your bottom dollar that later it would be found out and there would be consequences. But these days it's as likely that nothing happens at all as a consequence. Life/story just goes on and other things happen. And so it's less predictable.

I think it's a busting loose from the old rigidity of storytelling principles.

Hypertext fiction just feels like it may be the right way for me to write. I always had the greatest struggle fitting my creative writing into traditional story format (three acts, problem-solution, etc), it totally kills the creativity for me. But I'm very good at writing "organically", people always think I'm writing about real events even when they are pretty fantastic.

Update: Stephen found this interesting resource.

Sculpting dead birds

[Thanks to TTL] I thought I was a bit obsessive, but I'm clearly an amateur. Here's Adam Savage telling the story (video) about how he sculpted a Dodo skeleton, and a Maltese Falcon.

Joe said...
Goes to show that if you have a strong Obsession for some thing and are willing to put forth the effort you can obtain it.

You can buy, steal or make it.

TTL said...
It does, doesn't it. There are no limits.

The funnest moment was when he wrapped the bronze Maltese Falcon in the 1941 Chinese San Francisco Newspaper he had obtained from eBay, held a short pause, and said: "I know."

I immediately had to go check out The Replica Forum which he mentions in the talk. Wow! I had no idea. With a mouseclick you can buy an accurate replica of the outfit Deckard wore on Blade Runner or pretty much any movie related prop or thing that springs in to your mind. Amazing. Crazy, but amazing.

MythBusters rule!

Back to me:
A thought that sometimes strike me is that watching hollywood making-of documentaries, it's clear that if you have the money, you can get anything built if you can imagine. Small or big.
Like, even the huge interior of the hotel in the shining... it was a set! Built for the purpose.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Science Fiction going away?

"Despite an avidly reading public, some types of fiction have become less popular and less profitable. As a result, many imprints that once published Science Fiction have disappeared from view."
- Great Authors Online

I've been suspecting this for a while. Even myself... I still consider myself a science fiction fan at heart, but apart from a couple of vaguely disappointing recent Ian M. Banks books, how many SF books have I really read in the past decade? Hardly any. And I'm not sure why.

Even outstanding authors who used to write SF, like William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Neal Stephenson, don't do it anymore, they write contemporary fiction, science fact, or historical fiction.

It's not the least puzzling part that fantasy is more popular than ever. (With a certain scarred teenage boy dominating half the market, but still.) I tend to prefer SF. While I do like some of the more off-beat fantasy, I never really took to the princesses-and-dragons stuff which seems to dominate the genre.

Why is this? Is is a change in the public consciousness? Why and how and what?

World numbers

These are some pretty overwhelming numbers. How do you think with that?

Lauren Ambrose

Lauren Ambrose, the latest in the long line of actresses I pine after.
(Six Feet Under, Can't Hardly Wait (which I really like).)

A beautiful redhead. And unlike Lindsay Lohan, she is not ashamed of it.
Okay, I don't know that ms Lohan is ashamed of it, but I have a hard time forgiving her for bleaching her gorgeous red hair. What a crime, such a rare color.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dynamic range

It's amazing how you can continue to learn. I've been reading about digital cameras for nigh a decade now, and I've been saying that higher dynamic range (the camera's capability for handling high contrast) is near the top of my wish list for the future.

But I had no idea that ISO setting has a significant influence on dynamic range. See the graph below from DxOmark. It shows that the Nikon D90 (which has excellent DR, by the way) has at 1.5 stops difference in DR between ISO 800 and ISO 200! That could be very important with high-contrast subjects (so you don't lose detail in shadows or highlights).

I've been thinking that since the newest "Canikon" models like the D90 hardly have any noise at ISO 800, there'd be no reason to ever set it lower (unless you need wide aperture or slow shutter speed). But in good light and contrasty subjects there will be.

Reichman

I like this photo by Michael Reichman. It was taken with the small system camera Panasonic G1*.


This week Mike has several interesting articles on Lum-Land. For example reviews of the high-end camera Sony A900, which has about the highest image quality one can get from a DSLR, but at lower price and weight than many competing cameras.

*This is the G1 with an adapter for Leica (or Voigtlander) lenses. Isn't that pretty.

Children on drugs

This is a trailer from a film about the growing problem about the wholesale drugging of children.
Where is the "think of the children" brigade when it's actually needed?

Xmas conflict?

Greg quotes:
“Christmas is not my holiday. For a practicing Jew, the twenty- fifth of December is no more significant than the twenty-fifth of any other month. But I enjoy the Christmas season a great deal. I appreciate the spirit of generosity and the reflection on reli- gious themes that the holiday engenders, and I love the mood, the music, and even the decorations. Many Jews and other non- Christians may feel a bit “out of it” during the Christmas season, but I have absolutely no problem with such a feeling… Moreover, I enjoy observing Christians celebrate their Christianity. For a Jew rooted in Judaism, Christians rooted in their identity are a bless-ing, not a problem… What this Jew does dread is an America that ceases to celebrate Christmas.” - Dennis Prager

Quite so. Is this supposed conflict even real? If somebody of a different faith than me celebrates a happy, giving holiday, and smiling wishes me a happy (insert holiday), then I find that pleasing. I find it hard to imagine a mind-set which would find it offensive. If anybody finds mentions of Christmas offensive, it must be a very tiny minority, and it's an artificial conflict.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Canon 5DII review

Video review of Canon 5DII at Cameralabs.

Conflict resolution

The whole world is waking up to non-hostility...

Oneness and art

I had a breakthrough yesterday regarding the connection between Oneness and art. I posted it on my art philosophy site, here.

Free e-books

[Thanks to TC.] Free ebooks (classics, out of copyright), nicely formatted, at Planet Ebook. There doesn't seem to be a catch, must be an enthusiast site.

Imaging-Resource ten years ago

I didn't know Imaging-Resource was over ten years old!
It's impressive that they have kept their old articles through what must be several redesigns since then. Check out this page, mentioning an upcoming Minolta camera, $6000 for 2.7 megapixels... (And if it was like all other cameras of those days, crappy megapixels too.)
Nowadays if you can find a 3-megapixel camera, it'll be one the dealer throws at you as you leave the store because you just came in to complain that your new $200 camera "only" had ten megapixels.

... I also didn't know they have a tutorials section. (IR: you should promote new pages in sections like this in the News pages, so people hear about them.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas message

I grew up in Denmark, which has protestant Christianity as a state religion. In the US it's a big deal to talk for or against the separation of State and Church, and I do think separation is good idea, but Denmark is an illustration that the mentality of the population is much more important than any laws you create, because Danes are very, very laid-back about religion, as they are about most things. You never find anybody in Denmark becoming violent against others because of difference of religion and such.

This laid-back-ness means that there was never any serious push by anybody for me to become a Christian or for that matter not to become one. My family wasn't. So I didn't. So I tend to regard Christmas as a new years celebration. Solstice. Or "jul" in Scandinavian. "Yule" in English. "Yule or Yule-tide is a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the historical Germanic peoples as a pagan religious festival, though it was later absorbed into, and equated with, the Christian festival of Christmas. The festival was originally celebrated from late December to early January on a date determined by the lunar Germanic calendar."

I marvel at the human capacity of mixing up traditions and using them together without any cognitive disconnect. Nobody seems to have any problem "celebrating the birth of Christ" by dressing up a fat man in a red suit and saying he arrived by flying reindeer.

But it's just silly to argue about beliefs. If somebody wants to believe we are all lice in the hair of god, I say more power to them.

Solstice is simply an obvious point to celebrate. For months, the days have been becoming shorter and shorter, and food has become more and more scarce. And now, it's turning. From now days are becoming longer, the light will return, and in a few months we can grow food again. It's a natural point to divide between years. And of course it gives us a pleasant holiday to look forward to at the darkest time of the year, when we need it the most.

I'm told that Time does not exist, and if it does, it's holographic, not linear. I would like that to become clearer to me, but at least if we see time as linear, then I say the future must be more important than the past, like the living are more important than the dead. We should put our attention where it does the most good.

I really appreciate having you all around, and I appreciate your comments of all kinds. And I wish you a lovely holiday time and a wonderful new year.

Letterpress poster

I've tended to do quick, simple art, and I do like that as an audience too. But I also have an affinity for painstaking art, and I hope to gain the patience one day to do some myself.

And interesting example is this typographic poster.
(Typically and sadly he does not put up a full picture of the poster in a reasonable size. Probably afraid of hurting his sales. I don't think he should be. I think it would help.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The "Dangerous Pictures Law"

Despite protests from right groups and Amnesty International, a law will be activated on January 26 in the UK, outlawing "extreme pornography". Article.
"Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said: 'We are targeting this material not on account of offences which may or may not have been committed in the production of the material, but because the material itself, which depicts extreme violence and often appears to be non-consensual, is to be deplored'."

In other words, it's illegal because it's offensive.

Details are here.
How about this: it's illegal to have pictures of necrophilia because... get this: because a corpse can't give consent! How about a carrot? It can't either.

Quality and educated buyers

Jes commented (under the burger post):
I stock lunchmeat at Wal Mart for a living, and it's the cheapest brand that always sells the fastest by far. I've never tried it myself, but a coworker's told me it has the taste of shoe leather.

Many years ago I bought a bicycle which cost three times what people would normally think of paying for one. Many people didn't get it. But I found that each person, if they had a bit of a mind, would have some area they had knowledge about. For instance I asked one guy what that area would be for him, and he said "motorcycles". So I asked him, "would you use a cheap wrench on your motorcycle?" He said: "no way, they break fast... ah yes, I see what you mean."

Perhaps the problem with selling quality is that you can only sell it to the educated buyer, and each person can only be educated in a very limited number of areas.

---
Bruce comments:
My wife likes to say: "We aren't rich enough to afford cheap things." Buy quality that lasts.

That's another aspect: short-sightedness. Most people buy poor quality not only because they can't differentiate, but also for the same reason they build up credit-card debts instead of savings: they can't see past this month.

RED interviews

RED cameras (for cinema) have some interviews on their site. (I found the Steven Soderbergh and the Tony Richmond ones quite informative.) They are very impressive testimonials, and even more so when you consider that they are only about the RED One camera and RED continues to evolve the cameras at breathtaking speed, for example the next-gen sensor promises at least two stops more dynamic range, which is astounding.
And all that for prices which are not high-end for cinema equipment, on the contrary. Amazing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Burgers and quality

I had lunch today with friends, we got some fantastic burgers at Frankie And Bennies.

I am sad and disappointed that pretty much the only two places I've found in town with really good burgers are just outside of comfortable walking distance. (Working from home, a car would be a silly expense for me.) There are dozens of pubs and take-out places which sell burgers, but all of them deliver mediocre burgers at best. The last one I tried sold me a chicken burger with nothing on it except the chicken patty and the bun! I mean, come on!

I love Burger King's burger, so it's clear that even minimum wage workers can make a good burger if they just have the right recipe. So why can't most pubs/restaurants get it right?

I wonder if it's a case of the general public being too undiscerning? There's just no perception of, and thus no demand for decent food?

A friend I have in town had two cafes. One was an upscale one with good food, but still what I considered reasonable prices. It went out of business. The other one was a push-them-through place with the cheapest prices one could deliver at. This one was always a huge success. (It closed only because the market was closed.) So maybe it's people in this town (North-west England).

Little Boxes and "Weeds" (updated)

Update: via the commentaries I just found out that 1) the creator and senior producer of the show is not only a woman, but young and black as well. Kewl, good for her. 2) they have a cannabis consultant, "Craig X", who does commentary on an episode he's in. Here's an actual quote: "I'm sure I'm the only guy who comes in here and 1: admit he's high, 2: that he's got the munchies... (eating donut) ... and 3:... what was I saying?"

And it's really subversive. There's sexual stuff on this show (at least in the second season) that I think they would have shied away from on The Sopranos. Shocking, I love it.

----

Little Boxes, theme song for TV show Weeds.
The song must be one of the most quiet but sardonic attacks on the bourgeoisie I've seen.
And the show is really good, and especially in season two it's very funny.



I like that they have a different version of the song each time.
Also, it's not clear on YouTube, but the people in each scene in the video are identical. Same person filmed several times and put into the shot.
(YouTube's claim to "HD" is dubious at best, it's rather less than DVD quality.)

Ticky-tacky: from wiki:
Ticky tacky or ticky-tacky is a colloquial term for "shoddy [poor quality] material, as for the construction of standardized housing".
It is famously used in this context by Malvina Reynolds in the song Little Boxes - which is used as the opening song to the Showtime series Weeds...

I think the implication that all the lawyers and doctors are shoddy clones of each other like their houses is funny, but harsh. And from one viewpoint it's very untrue and unfair. But from another viewpoint it has a some truth to it, which makes it interesting.

Mary-Louise Parker is perfect for Weeds, she has a down-to-earth quality while still being really cute. She seems vulnerable and strong at the same time.

Fleggaard

[Thanks to Benny.] Famous blogger Mike Arrington has made a Danish commercial famous.

It has lots of topless ladies, which I'm all for, except there's the usual amount of silicone. Why, oh why?

There's also the usual amount of complaints that the commercial is sexist. "Objectifies women" and all that crap. They really need to get out of those tight shoes as the Danish say. I wouldn't think it sexist if it contained young hunks. And when things do, they are indeed not called sexist by anybody. I suspect that the complaint is simply an attempt to cut down competition.

By the way, Arrington thinks $900 is not all that cheap for a washing machine. That would be true in the USA, but he doesn't know European prices, and especially not Danish ones. Americans don't know how insanely cheap they get everything.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Natalie on Letterman

I've been a fan of Natalie's since Leon (The Professional). She's hot talent, gorgeous, and apparently speaks like five languages.
She was good in the overlooked Garden State, which was made by Scrubs star Zach Braff.



Talking about gorgeous, here's Johnny Depp.

And Bruce Willis too, very funny here.

What does Mamma say?

Funny baby video.
A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.
-- Granville Hicks

Good one.


There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I feel that. I think that's why I have problems liking young men, especially teenage boys in groups. They are all about aggressive stupidity. It's often like they're proud of being stupid and aggressive.


Nothing is as certain as that the vices of leisure are gotten rid of by being busy.
-- Seneca, Moral Letters to Lucilius, 64 A.D.

Well, duh. That's like saying the problems of dryness is gotten rid of by applying water.

Quicker 'n a Wink

I found this delightful old short-film on a DVD, and ripped it to YouTube.

It's a cinema short film from the thirties about stroboscopes and high-speed photography/films.

I love the corny old slang used. "Each flash of that light lasts one thirty thousands of a second. Which is faster than a goose in high wind." (!)

This film was lampooned in MAD Magazine once.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowy

This is the view out of Ray's window today. Talk about a white ex-mas.


Ray likes to play around with pictures and text:

Camera predictions

Ctein makes some interesting (and apparently pretty certain) predictions about camera technology in the next dozen years.

Alex Grey

Talking about wild art, holy frig.



Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gogh's letters

Because he is famous for some "wild" art and for his mental breakdowns late in life, many are not aware of the precise and powerful mind that Vincent van Gogh had, but his letters are ample testimony to that.

He was not just an intuitive artist, he applied a lot of knowledge and thought to art, both his own and others'. For example this was the first letter I happened to look up on that site.
"Speaking of Van der Weele, I remember saying to him about the picture which he got a medal for in Amsterdam - and this contrary to the opinion of others - that I greatly appreciated his having succeeded so well in preserving the unity of STYLE despite all the different things that appeared in it, and that it really and truly was a picture, i.e. something quite different from a realistic study from nature."

I suspect Vincent was amongst the pioneers of those appreciating the importance of seeing art as being something else than skillful copying of the world.

Nikon deal

Mike points out a good deal on a Nikon D60.

Offensensitivity

This is from the long defunct Bloom County strip, which was often really good.

It's a fascinating characteristic about us humans, how we are all the time bloody offended by things which really don't touch us at all.

Big Words app

My old pal Tim of MyMac.com has invented a new iPhone app, Big Words, which simply displays very big what you write.

Friday, December 19, 2008

K. Dick

Philip K. Dick discusses reality.
"Do not believe — and I am dead serious when I say this — do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe."
.

Yes men and Dice men

Trailer for new Jim Carrey film Yes Man. I am not sure exactly how great it's gonna be, but it reminds me of the classic novel The Dice Man. Did you read it? Very unusual. I wonder how the heck I got hold of that at 16. Not because it was too subversive for that (though some might think so), but because I was not growing up in a bohemian environment exactly, though my mom had bohemianism as an ideal. Any non-mainstream culture I wanted, I had to rustle up for myself.

Dirk Gently fishes

If you have read Douglas Adams' wonderful book Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, you may remember the protagonist Richard MacDuff's theory that the forms and movements of nature could be translated into music by a computer. Well, lo and behold, somebody has done it.

The Worst Photograph Ever Made?

Mike Johnston is entertaining when he goes on a tear. (He has a good target here, I must admit.)

In another post today, he coins the excellent term "safely edgy" about what galleries usually put on their walls. That is so precise.

Teens and sex and taboos

I've been challenged on my position that kids should be educated about sex. Because it seems kids these days already know about sex, and earlier than ever, and surely that can't be a good thing... According to this report, many even have it in public. And that is "shocking" according to their expert.

These are complex issues. Apart from not trusting a group called "MomLogic" to make an unbiased and scientific survey, my feelings are thusly:

1) An unexamined taboo is damaging.

2) Education is always good. If it appears to be damaging, it is faulty or unbalanced or incomplete.

3) To know about something is not the same as being educated about it. You can learn to drive a car in five minutes, but it takes months to become educated about it.

4) We must be alert for emotional arguments. That something is shocking is not a valuable datum. Why is it shocking? Is there real damage? What should be done about it, and what will be the consequences of those actions?

5) Supressing the biological imperative has consequences.

6) Telling people, adult or not, that they are not allowed to do something will make it more interesting.

7) Education comes from the whole world, not just "parents or school". It comes from books, friends, TV, Internet, school, parents, etc etc. When it comes down to it, a person, even a child, is the only person who can educate him/herself. And they will.

---
Karen Rayne, Ph.D. said...
Thanks for your post, Eolake. I certainly agree with you about teenagers needing appropriate sex ed. Here's something I've written in the past:
I have been asked what I believe is important in sex education in the family. So here it is:
I believe that…
…parents have to talk to their kids about sex.
I believe that…
…everyone has sex, and should therefore know about sex.
I believe that…
…sex is not all bad, even for teenagers.
I go into each of those points in some depth here.

Recent Robin Williams

Sarah Palin, the love child of Ronald Reagan and Posh Spice?



I wonder if John Cleese is in a wheelchair for real?

Alastair Heseltine

Alastair Heseltine art and craft.

Coffee and dough

Coffee and dough.
"We went into his kitchen, where he proudly displayed his brand new, Swiss-made, fully automatic espresso machine, for which he’d slapped down a cool $945 at an online store...
It must be nice to be able to afford a high-end, fully automatic espresso maker, I mused aloud. Dave’s response snapped me to attention.
“Actually, I can’t afford not to own one,” he said.
I thought he was joking, and asked what he meant.
“Think of it this way,” said Dave. “Do you and your wife drink at least one double latte each a day?”
That level of consumption is barely above survival threshold, I admitted.
“OK, consider this: One double latte costs three dollars at a coffee shop, so your outside coffee-drinking habit comes to six dollars a day for you and your wife. That’s $2,190 per year in after-tax dollars,” Dave extrapolated."

That's just one example. Of many people don't have a late every day, and are aware of the cumulative cost. But many do, and aren't.
One of my sisters live with her man and two kids in a large house with large rooms, in a pretty exposed landscape. Being a thin-blooded creature like many women, she likes to keep the house nice and toasty, . So I asked her what their heating bill is. She said she didn't know. I asked her husband. "No idea" was the answer.

They are both hard-working people with upper-middle class jobs, and paying the outrageous Danish taxes (50-68 percent). How can they not know about their heating bill!? Maybe it's a place where they could save lots of money and have more time for leisure and the kids? But this kind of thing is far from unusual.

Maybe it's just too scary to think about. This at least is what is suggested by sites such as the excellent Motley Fool. It's like a snake in the living room. If you walk real quiet and don't think about it, maybe it won't wake up.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pogue’s Photography Tips and Tricks

Pogue’s Photography Tips and Tricks. (Mostly for pocket cameras.)

500mm lens

A 500mm lens at 700 grams? Kewl.
Beware that 500mm is a very powerful telelens (especially on a non-full-frame camera), and is hard to hand-hold and focus, even with autofocus and image stabilization. But I'm charmed by the tiny size of this thing.

Also see Michael's photo below. I think it's neat to see the background being out of focus even on such a big subject as this. That's only possible with a very long lens.

Mechanical wave

"Californian Artist Reuben Margolin together with Technorama Staff have created one of the biggest and most complex kinetic artwork in the world. Measuring 25 square meters the "magic carpet" contains more than 50'000 pieces and shows three characteristics of waves: Wavelength, Amplitude and Frequency."

Option-drag to copy

Here's a little trick I use aaaaaall the time, but which I'm sure many people won't know. I learned it many years ago from David Pogue. (I don't know there is an equivalent move in Windows.)

On the Mac, if you want to copy an element (text, image, folder, file...), hold down the option key (the one unhelpfully labeled "alt") and drag the item to where you want to copy it to. Viola. (That's Danish for "voila".) (Not really.)

Jobs not working

Steve Jobs and Apple pulls out of MacWorld expos.

I think it's a pity. Not only will I miss Steve's charismatic keynote speeches, but I think Apple will miss out on a ton of publicity by not doing those shows anymore.
Sure, they probably don't need the publicity, they seem to be able to get all the press they want at any time... but it's a matter of tone. Of saying to the Mac/Apple user community: "hey, we are fans ourselves, here we are, along with you". Pulling out may isolate them. Like any big company they are already hard to reach... tried to send an email to Apple (or MS or...) recently? Could you? Did you get an answer?
Any presence they do have is good.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Three condoms, please

Three condoms, please.

Compact cameras

David Pogue reviews current compact cameras under $300.
"Quite a bit has changed in the camera landscape since this survey began in 2001 — and even since last year. All of these cameras now have optical image stabilizers. That is, their sensors actually jiggle, about 4,000 times a second, to counteract the little jitters of your hand — an effective way to reduce blurry shots when you’re zoomed in or in low light.
All now offer face recognition, too. It sounds like a bell, or maybe a whistle, but is, in fact, fantastically useful."

"It sounds like a bell, or maybe a whistle"... Haha. I love this guy's writing.

Batman, human?


Amazon UK link
Amazon US link


OK, so I've seen The Dark Knight now. Much better than Batman Begins, to my taste, and another very visual movie that makes me pleased to have blu-ray despite irritations that the machines don't remember how far they played a disc last time*.

As often happens, I only become moved to blog a subject if I come upon a more or less philosophical idea about it. This one is: we hear often (and many times in the extras for this film) that Batman is the coolest superhero because he has no super-powers...

But is this really true? Sure, ostensibly he hasn't. It's stated that he's just a human, albeit highly trained and disciplined. But let's face it: is there a single human being on the planet who can do what Batman can? Build and use super-gadgets beyond any others on Earth? Swing between high-rises on a thin line? Beat up big gangs of thugs with guns, night after night, year after year?

I think not. Ergo, he is super-human. And if he wasn't, he wouldn't be a super-hero. But it shows that the argument is fallacious. He is cool not because he is not super-powered, but because he is.

Another issue entirely is: Batman is only Batman by being really violent. Is this truly a hero? Do we really want to admire a highly violent person? But I guess that's a bottomless philosophical issue.


*Actually I've established now that this seems to be established by the disc not the player, since the Bat Bonus disc is being remembered, unlike all other discs I've played. Odd, why do they want to do that?

Update: The Dark Knight is, like Hell Boy II: All My Sins Remembered, a movie which takes pride in doing as much as possible in-camera rather than in the computer, and is better for it. Particularly its car chases and crashes are very impressive.
Also impressive is the "Bat Pod" (has a built-in iPod?), the motorcycle-like thingy that Bats has. I must admit I thought it was faked, it does not look like it would be able to turn at speed with those wide tyres. But they actually built it, and though it took a world-class driver to handle it and it's very different than a motorcycle to drive, it actually works. Neat.

Living authentically and fully

Even the fear of death is nothing compared to the fear of not having lived authentically and fully.
-- Frances Moore Lappe, O Magazine, May 2004

Various people keep saying this in various forms. But it's BS isn't it? Go to somebody with cold sweat on his brow because he's dying of cancer, and ask him: "but what you're really afraid of is not having lived authentically and fully, isn't it?"

Everybody lives "lived authentically and fully". Everybody does their best. Only in judging the lives of others do we see somebody not living "living authentically and fully".

TTL posted:

INSTANTS

If I could live again my life,
In the next -- I'll try,
-- to make more mistakes,
I won't try to be so perfect,
I'll be more relaxed,
I'll be more full -- than I am now,
In fact, I'll take fewer things seriously,
I'll be less hygienic,
I'll take more risks,
I'll take more trips,
I'll watch more sunsets,
I'll climb more mountains,
I'll swim more rivers,
I'll go to more places -- I've never been,
I'll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I'll have more real problems -- and less imaginary ones,
I was one of those people who live prudent and prolific lives --
each minute of his life,
Offcourse that I had moments of joy -- but,
if I could go back I'll try to have only good moments,

If you don't know -- thats what life is made of,
Don't lose the now!

I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umberella and without a parachute,

If I could live again -- I will travel light,
If I could live again -- I'll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I'll ride more carts,
I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live -- but now I am 85,
-- and I know that I am dying ...

Jorge Louis Borges

Borges (1899-1986) died two years later at the age of 87.


eolake said...
The way Borges says it, it's a lot more appealing.

Me, on the surface I've lived a boring life. But my adventures have been, and are, inward, and I don't regret that at all. (Well, OK, occasionally a tiny bit, but I wouldn't trade.)

Update: Joe "Mr. Dick is my father" Dick points to this:


I have to admit it makes the point. I also want to watch a woman urinate in an opera house before I die.

Better start drinking!

[Thanks to Grant.]




(Dang, this picture cracks me up every time.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Watching the Detectives Crash and Burn

Elvis Costello and Ministry. Not your ordinary juxtaposition, but I dare!
Good pop and good avant-garde.
Warning, the second one (Twitch Version 2) is really noisy. (Twice while I was listening to it a lot back in the day, my sister called on the phone, and both times she said "what's that noise in the background?!") But I think it's genius. (The sound quality could be better in the youtube version, but you should get the idea.)





("It ain't nothing but a show! Entertainment!")

Placebo - Running up that hill

This is not one of my favorite Kate Bush songs, but this is an interesting cover (and video) which shows some very emotive aspects of it. Very nice.

I don't know Placebo, but it from the youtube numbers it looks like they are big, and clearly they have respect and understanding for this woman's work.



Here is Kate's version. (Thanks TC.)
Undoubtedly it is a very good song. Only I think the repetitiveness of it rubs me a little bit the wrong way.

Bushie girl

Three of my many favorite Kate Bush songs.

Them Heavy People:


Wuthering Heights:


The Dreaming:


And an interview from 1980, oh was she young (22):


It's another example of somebody's voice being very different when they sing. When she speaks, Kate sounds like just another young woman, when she sings her voice has an unbelievable richness and range.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The 15 Most Expensive Paintings in the World

The 15 Most Expensive Paintings in the World.
I wonder what ole poverty-stricken Vince would have thought about his having four paintings on that list, 120 years after his death. I suspect he would have chuckled and then shook his head, and then gone back to his easel.



Especially since just one of those sales could have supported him and his whole family for three generations.

Jesus outta here

After flipping his hydrofoil, Jesus quickly leaves the scene before his Father finds out!

Plastic surgery out of control


Plastic surgery out of control. Warning: some of these pictures are really gross. OK, maybe not as bad as a severe traffic accident, but bad enough.
And what fascinates me is that typically these are people who consider it improvements and still go out in public! There seems to be a genuine type of addiction in play here.

Sinead o'Connor

Sinead o'Connor, Elton John's Sacrifice (from the docu Two Rooms):



And Mandinka, live:



(I think the album version is much superior, though.)
---
And of course there's the wonderful Kate Bush doing Rocket Man.

Reindeer singing

This is popular on the Net at the moment, and for good reason; it's a good version of White Christmas, it's funny, and the drawings/animation are great. In fact I think they are a wonderful example of how a master of his craft can communicate very strongly with very few lines indeed and a lack of "craft" which would be disastrous in the hands of a less skilled person. (Look at how the stars are drawn for instance.) It's like driving a car: if you're highly trained and experienced, you can drive it with at speed with one finger on the wheel, but if you're not, you better have both hands firmly on it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Marcel Duchamp

"The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act."
- Marcel Duchamp

That's a brilliant observation.

I found this picture of Duchamp and a chess set he designed. Isn't it funny how geniuses often look unbearably smug?


Duchamp was a genius of the rare caliber who only needs to do something once to achieve something excellent and unique. I am sure he used at most a week's preparation before he made his seminal Nude Descending a Staircase no 2, which to my taste is at least as good as anything Picasso ever made.


It is interesting that "Nude..." was seemingly very controversial partly due to the title. Clearly nobody would have thought of a nude if it had been called "Figure..."

It is not the prettiest painting ever made, but it is more visually pleasant than most abstracts of the time, and it's a good study of lines, movement, and space. Much ahead of its time.

Knittiti

Knitted graffiti. Knittiti?

Puppets in CGI

An early sequence in the Hellboy II movie (blogged below) has a story-telling flashback to "magical times" done entirely in CGI... but with puppets. This was done for budget reasons, but it works really well, and I think they may have invented a new medium of sorts.

Think about it, when doing puppets in CGI you get all of the charm of puppetry, but without the limitations that gravity and physical space impose on real puppets. And then you have all of the freedom of CGI, but at less cost because puppets don't have the complexity of muscles and semi-translucent skin, etc etc.

It would be a clear step down from full CGI movies if it was not for the interesting fact that puppetry has a centuries-old tradition, everybody has seen puppet shows/TV-shows/films from childhood and we are trained to react emotionally to them. So I think that this could really work if somebody put their mind to it.

It would be like a Tim Burton puppet movie, only much more alive and without all the f***ing singing puppets. :-)
(But seriously: a puppet musical?? Twice??)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blue Blue Blue

Blue Blue Blue. This is a short-short story which has been on my home page for a while, but I don't think I've posted it here before.

It's a sequel to December Morning, which has been professionally published twice, in the magazine Tomorrow SF in 1993 and in the anthology Flights of Mind in 2004.

Digital art

Digital art. These are rather more interesting than most such that I've seen.


My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult - Mystery Babylon

Hellboy II: Armageddon


I am watching Hellboy II: A Return To Love on Blu-ray... Let's get the bitching over first:
I've complained about this before, not the least in connection with Buffy, but it's rampant in stories on this planet... please, writers, get this straight: being willing to sacrifice thousands or millions of lives to save the one you "love" is not a sign of "love", it's a sign of perspective being limited to the point of clinical insanity.
In Hellboy II: The War Goes On, this happens twice within five minutes! It is so not romantic.

Apart from that, Hellboy II: As Above, So Below is an enjoyable movie. The story/script won't win a place in the annals of literature, but it's serviceable*, and the visuals are where it's at. Just the lengthy visit to The Troll Market makes it all worthwhile.
Hellboy II: Caught In The Vortex is the kind of film which justifies suffering the clunkiness of current Blu-ray players: the spectacular detail is almost too much for DVD really, and unlike cinema, you can rewind and take in more details of your favorite visuals.

Hellboy II: Love And War has more weird and wonderful creatures than a Star Wars film. The imagination to make them up and the work and time invested to put them down on disc is impressive. And most of them they built physically, so unlike a film like Van Helsing, it all looks very real.
This visual feast is all the more impressive when you find out it was made on half the budget of other big fantasy/superhero movies (85M as opposed to 170M or more).

Hellboy II: The Golden Army gets two thumbs up from the visual maven.

Buy it from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

*Don't get the impression that the story is sub-par. Actually many of the characters are quite faceted, and it's often quite funny too.


Se below... again and again, what impresses me most about Hollywood is the amazingly talented visual designers working there. This book appears for all of half a second in the film...


Also, the "Wink" creature is absolutely incredible. He's nigh eight feet tall, and he's real, not CGI. His animatronic face is so alive that you can't believe that the face is not CGI. There's footage of some of the actors when they see him for the first time, and they all go "oh my god!"
Not to mention the guy in the suit, Brian something, good lord. The suit weighs 130 pounds, and he has to walk around in it for hours, acting and fighting. And of course the heat and moisture from his body can't escape.

If you gotta dahh

Apropos deaf... "If you gotta die, (pronounced 'if you goddaddaehh'), then I'm the one to put the smile on your face", video.

I'm stunned by the practice of preserving dead bodies. That is morbid. Do people really have such a hard time letting go that they need this empty, useless cadaver around to remind them of their past family member?

In my family we have agreed that we use time and money on the living, we don't keep dead bodies lying around, they get burned. We don't even keep graves or gravestones. When I'm gone, I don't want twenty thousand bucks used on keeping my empty vessel around, I want that money going to the clothing and education of the young ones in the family. (Won't somebody please think of the children!?)

Update:
I'd made a bit fun of the funeral director's grammar, and I received this comment:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American_Vernacular_English

Basically, in this country, there are many African American people who have been affected by both the way Americans have treated them (very poorly) as well as their ancestory. Things like poverty; no role models; poor role models in that many *fathers* of children never stayed, once they found out they were to be fathers.

Lack of education. Being raised in single-parent families...by their mothers; aunts and uncles; or grandparents, mainly. Living in *projects* which, basically, are low-income or government-funded housing where it is ROUGH! I can't think of a movie right now where the atmosphere is depicted but...I have been to one and...I hope to never have to go ever again. It is sad and depressing and not an environment that anyone would want to raise their kids.

*Gang-bangers* live there; drug dealers and drug addicts; prostitutues...among the general population, all looking for a way to survive and make ends meet.

And that is this generation.

The last generation or two dealt with this: http://www.remembersegregation.org/

Sadly, education was not something that was easily available to African Americans, just a few short decades ago. There are, unbelievably, still many illiterate Americans, in our country. I am afraid that...that is what his language tells us.

Many don't have the time nor the money to get the education that they should have had, when they were children. And...now...they are struggling to make a living as best as they can. They have worked hard all their lives and...they will have to keep doing so, until their last breath. We are all just doing the best that we can do and...honestly...that funeral director would be considered pretty sucessful in his family, I'm sure. He has his own business...I believe. At least...he has a job and he has the willingness to work.

This generation and possibly the last of the African American community had the attitude of "why should I bother trying to find work when I can make more dealing drugs?" They knew that they would not get what they wanted (cars; phones; boom boxes; girls...things, in general) if they went about it the usual way (they had no higher education. No one could afford to send them to school) so...they decided to deal drugs. And...basically, no one raised them but themselves. Their mothers worked; their fathers weren't around; their grandparents also needed to work because no one made enough to save for retirement.

Two very different times but...the underlying thread of both, I believe, was...the failure of their fathers to either be there for them or to provide moral support for them and some even had money but didn't see the importance of helping their kids get an education. Kids do a LOT of STUPID things...trying to gain the love of someone. Very sad but true...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bettie Page

Famed Pin-up model Bettie Page has passed at 85.
The first I knew of her was this exuberant cover to the CD "Sexplosion" by My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult (recommended). Bettie was a positive role model. She was the incarnation of happy and innocent, even when she was posing in SM gear. Bless her.


I very much liked the movie about her.

The quarters game

A young boy enters a barber shop and the barber whispers to his customer, 'This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you.'

The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other, then calls the boy over and asks, 'Which do you want, son?'

The boy takes the quarters and leaves the dollar. !

'What did I tell you?' said the barber.. 'That kid never learns!'

Later, when the customer leaves, he sees the same young boy coming out of the ice cream store & says ; 'Hey, kiddo! May I ask you a question? Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?'

The boy licked his cone and replied,

'Because the day I take the dollar, the game's over.'