Saturday, April 19, 2008

More on Denmark

If you aren't sick of Denmark yet, here is Tim Ferriss on Denmark.

If you read the comments under the article, it gets surreal. It's like people are talking about several radically different countries.

This guy sez Copenhagen has changed.

Friday, April 18, 2008

D3 review


Nikon D3 review on PDreview.
(I still can't believe Amazon bought that site.)

You don't often read reviews with lines like:
"Image quality (especially at higher ISOs) is stunning, the camera a joy to use and the speed and responsiveness breathtaking. [...] possibly the most compelling, capable and well-rounded professional digital SLR ever made."

Zero tolerance of porn

From Free Speech Coalition's latest newsletter:

"Family Values Groups Call for More Obscenity Prosecutions
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Social conservatives were pleased with last week's indictment of John Stagliano on obscenity charges, but pushed for prosecution of "mainstream" pornography.
"Early indications lead us to believe this material is once again the 'worst of the worst,'" said Daniel Weiss, the senior analyst for media and sexuality at Focus on the Family. "The Justice Department does nothing to stop the mainstreaming of pornography by only prosecuting material at the extreme edge of society."
Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, concurred with Weiss and called on the government to initiate far more obscenity prosecutions. Peters asserted that, despite the proliferation of pornography in American society and the "mainstreaming" of adult content, Americans are not accepting of pornography.
"Just because there's a lot of pornography around doesn't mean the American people accept it," Peters said."

I love that. I also think that just because you can buy ice cream everywhere, does not mean that the public accepts ice cream.

Amateur pictures

Professional photographers are under pressure these days. While digital photography and delivery has made their job easier in many ways, it has also made it easier for the whole world, including rank amateurs, to compete with them. Prices for licencing pictures are plunging.

Nina Hagen


Nina Hagen is one of my old faves from my wild youth (hah, I was never wild, nor young). Her LP Unbehagen is a classic, which includes such underground hits as Fall In Love Mit Mir.

Nina has apparently been rather... ethereal since then, but she has made at least one song lately which I like, Immer Lauter.

Auction record?

Nude painting may set record for price fetched for a painting by a living artist.

It's something we artists really hate: we rarely become rich until after we're dead.

Mike B added:
You're taking a very negative view of this. You need a more upbeat perspective, like this:
"Great wealth is as close as the nearest tall bridge!"
See how much more positive that is?

Indeed.
Mark Twain wrote a neat story about a group of young artists who faked their own deaths for business.

Buffy and design


One of the things I like about the Buffy TV show is the amazing design it had. Not just the various demons, but even stuff like drawings and books, which on most shows would be pedestrian at best.

The drawings in the "old books" would be really talented, even though they were shown just for a second or two. I wish I knew a resource for getting good quality scans of those drawings.

It would be cool to make an art book as, well, art. The whole book would be the Object D'art. Everything handmade. Self-designed, handmade cover. Original drawings and text on watercolor paper inside. Would be too frigging expensive, of course, only a well known artist could get a high enough price for an object like that to make it pay off financially. Of course it could be reproduced, but it would still be very expensive.

---
I just have to include a little bitter rant: the one thing I don't like about Buffy is the main character. Buffy is the whiniest superhero ever. And she is so stupid.

Every time there's a major tactical decision to be made, you can count on her to make the wrong one. If she is warned that the world's most dangerous assassin guild is after her, she will abandon her friends and wander the streets alone after dark.

If she accidentally captures a bunch of vampires in a locked basement, including the most dangerous one she's met, she will go home until they find their way out by themselves instead of using the advantage to take them out.

If another slayer turns up, she will do her damndest to get rid of her, even though she could desperately use the help.

If she takes out an enemy, she doesn't make sure that he is taken out permanently before she leaves the scene. (Of course this flaw she has in common with every "hero" of film and television ever.)

Not to mention of course that the "love" of her life is... a vampire.

The bad part is that this stupidity is never pointed out by any other characters, so I can't tell if the Buffy character is meant to be that dumb, of if the writers are just not great tactical minds themselves...?

She is highly fortunate that her enemies are even dumber than herself. Generation after generation of vampires and demons, one tougher than the next, try to figure out how to kill her. It never occurs to any of them just to get a high-powered rifle with a scope sight and lie in wait by her school or house.

Interestingly, for years I thought that it was Sarah Michelle Gellar who I didn't like. But I have realized now that she is actually awfully good. So good that she made Buffy so real that I confused the two. And like the article linked below points out, you tended to overlook her because she was surrounded by a host of wonderful characters and actors.

---
There are some good observations on the show here (the article has a couple of spoilers about later seasons, though).

It is a really good show. And I bought the complete seven seasons brand new on Amazon for seventy pounds. That's 143 episodes! And that's 40-minute episodes, not 20-minute ones. That's a friggin' good deal. Usually you just get one or two seasons of any show for that price.

Update:
Yeah, Buffy drinks her juice like I do: two parts orange, one part grapefruit. (OK, actually in my middle age I add 60-80% water, but the principle stands.)

Another thing about the show: it's not just a funny and gripping show, it's a good horror show. Not the least season two has several things which are just genuinly horrific. For instance the happenings surrounding Angel, and the Kindestot (child's death) creature. This is definitely not a show for kids.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pretty women moving - Destination Unknown

Incredible as it sounds, I believe that pretty women is a severely under-used resource in moving pictures (unlike in fashion).
For example I have a very long, and growing, list of beautiful actresses who have barely been used in anything worthwhile. Latest addition is Julie Hagerty, who played Elaine in the hilarious Zucker Brothers film Airplane from 1980. That such a talent and beauty should be so overlooked since then is a crime.

Alex weighs in:
I have thought about writing a TV show with some plot, but mostly about good looking people. I don't mean all the 90210 and Babewatch, I mean Baywatch types. But I can't think how to have people spend all their time getting in and out of showers, or doing exercises without it turning into an exercise video or stepmaster infomercial.

Quite so. All the nude web videos I've seen so far have been remarkably boring. But it can't be that hard, it's mostly a matter of overcoming the puritanism that blocks it. I'd surely watch a decent sitcom which takes place mainly in an apartment shared by three or four lovely young women who have no body shame and little clothes, sometimes none at all. Of course the writing and acting has to be good too, which makes it tricky since many actors and writers are afraid for their careers and of running afoul of aforementioned puritanism.

My hope is HBO. It could be done on cable. The L Word has buck-nude scenes. (Sadly always in connection with sex, which is not what I want.)

-----
This video knows where it's at:

Driftwood art, and Flash galleries

Matt Torrens driftwood art.

It seems to be the rage now to have these spooky gradual popup pictures as on that page. I think it's Flash. I'm not sure I like them, what do you think? I think it takes control away from the visitor. I'm not sure what the advantage is, apart from if the site owner does not want the visitor to save the images.

Though I think they are used well on Laurie's site RadiantNude, where they include navigation features.

Danish Quantity


Emma Mærsk is a container ship owned by the A. P. Moller-Maersk Group. When she was launched, Emma Mærsk was the largest container ship ever built, and as of 2007 the longest ship in use. (Wiki article.)

I knew that Danes competes well in quality, but I did not know they occasionally did so in quantity as well.

It has the world's biggest diesel engine.

Bert added:
One thing worth mentioning about that diesel engine is that it also is the world's most efficient internal combustion engine, actually converting around 50% of the total energy in the fuel into mechanical force.
Add to this that it runs at the propeller speed (~100 RPM (IIRC)), no inefficient gears or other transmission mechanisms are used.
All in all, roughly five to ten times better than your average automobile.

Not bad!
What a challenge for auto makers.

(That's a big dinghy. Looks like just walking across the bridge will take ten minutes.)

Leningrad Cowboys & Red Army Choir



Also don't miss: Delilah.

And here I was afraid that the clash of cultures would mess up something.

Scarlet


The Scarlet video camera is announced.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ethnologie française

A french academic/scientific journal called Ethnologie française wants to use my drawing The Swan and the Swine as an illustration for a special issue about relationships between humans and animals. Rather cool.


Update: looking for the original of that drawing, I looked at some posters which had not been unrolled for about five moves and almost 20 years. One of them was a The Cure poster. I'm so ashamed! :-)

Sigma DP1


One of the first reviews of the compact Sigma DP1.
Summary: It's too slow and too specialized to be a good all-round camera, but it has by far the best image quality of any pocket camera yet.

It's also reviewed by M Reichman.

MonoTracer

The Monotracer, a motorcycle with a cabin. Much less drag, and it must be safer than a motorcycle, at least for the driver. Economical in fuel, but not in purchase. I think it's over 50 miles/gallon, and around $80k. Dot-com site.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

OpenMac


It seems the ill-fated Mac clones are back, though not, I guess, with Apple sanction.

So now you can run Windoze on a Mac, and you can run Mac OS X on a PC. It's a brave new cross-platform world.

I am guessing many will be interested in this machine because it's more expandable than a Mac Mini, and even cheaper. Psystar is not shy about it.

I wonder how Apple will respond to this, since it apparently uses the real Mac OS X, and Apple has said: "We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac". (Apparently it's called an "Apple Mac" now, it used to be only douches who used that term instead of "Macintosh".) Related article.

Michael Burton inserts:
The company claiming to make this Mac clone seems a little fishy.

Card drawing


I'm experimenting with drawings done on postcard-sized bits of watercolor paper.

Sanex ad

I wonder if they could show an ad like this in the US?


(If you wonder about the shorts, the photo was taken last summer.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chunky

I like this poem a lot.

Laurie (the female one) writes:

One of my little 3rd grade guys (I work with Special Ed. kids) wrote the following poem two days ago and gave to me, very excited. I loved it so much
because of the simple imagery. It just "sticks" in my mind deliciousy, and I'd like to pass it on to all chocolate lovers, and appreciaters of literary talent.

CHUNKY

Chunky legs
Chunky heads
Chunky
Chocolate
Chunky
Chunky
Everywhere

Pentax K20D


There doesn't seem to be any professional reviews online yet, but I read a review of the new Pentax K20D in the big British mag Amateur Photographer, and surprisingly, it seems there's a possibility that this camera has the best high-ISO performance (lowest noise) of any current DSLR cameras with APS-sized sensors.

And this is despite the camera also having the highest pixel count of any of them, 14.6MP. It really doesn't matter if you have 12 or 14 megapixels, but makes it more remarkable that they've constrolled the noise so well.

I will wait until more sample images come available online, but from the small samples AP published and from what the reviewer said, this camera makes decent pictures even at 6400 ISO, something I had not expected from a camera with less than a full frame sensor, at least not this year. But I need to see more samples to be sure.

Kissin' Kousins

I'm rewatching the brilliant Arrested Development, and there's this ongoing subplot with the teen son who is infatuated with his lovely freckled cousin, but of can't do anything about it because she is his cousin.

Does anybody know: is inbreeding problems a great risk between first cousins, or is this just one more guilt myth?

I was hoping that Pascal, an MD, would weigh in, and he does not disappoint:

Consanguinity [blood relationship] increases the chance that harmful genes meet, and that recessive traits get expressed. Most genetic diseases are based on recessive genes. If there are any genetic diseases in your family (and usually there's always a few imperfect genes in each of us), like for instance mucoviscidosis or Huntigton's disease, you're taking a significant risk of having children born with it. But genetics are a lottery. It's unpredictable hit-and-miss.

Think of races. Genuine races do not exist in humans, simply because isolated populations that developed a "type" of appearance over the milleniae were never consanguinous, they were always large enough to maintain a genetic diversity (albeit less diversity than the original population from which they stemmed). If you look at Africans, and look beyond the dark skin, large lips and nose, and curly hair, you'll have to admit they have a MASSIVE diversity of facial features. A recent anthropology study measuring specific body, skull and face details in an objective manner found that Africa has by far the greatest diversity in physical traits, when compared to other human populations in Earth. (This tends to support the "out of Africa" theory about the origins of our species, to me there's very little doubt.) Other ethnies/populations diverged once they emigrated from the "mother land" at the dawn of Humankind and lived isolated for thousands of years, divergences probably due both to chance (like slanted eyes in Asians) and some environmental factors (like melanin levels), but as I've once explained on this very blog a good while ago, the significant majority of these differences are LITERALLY skin-deep.

Now back to true races. These are an artificial concept made real by animal breeders. In dogs, cats, cattle, horses, etc... they constantly selected over many generations some traits they wanted, essentially through in-breeding between "blood related" individuals. What you can expect of long-going consanguinity ensues: many genes and traits become exclusive in one lineage.
The positive result is the "qualities" looked for in a race: giving a lot of milk, mellow character towards humans, physical strength and resistance, "pretty" fur, a constant bigger or smaller size than the original species... (Amazing but true, there is VERY little difference between a chihuahua, an afghan greyhound, a saint-bernard and a great dane. One single gene, with its variants, has been proven to determine the size of all dogs.)
The negative result is that, in spite of constant vigilance from the breeders, "the races degenerate". You've all heard about some very sad and specific problems encountered when you buy a puppy with a pedigree, like German Shepherds with hip malformation that cannot walk when they grow up. Breeders are now working hard at "cleaning the races" of a problem that was caused by making races in the first place. (In fact, the term "varieties" would be far more adequate.)

Basically, that's the kind of chance one takes with a consanguinous marriage, at a smaller scale because, as I said, if you weren't involved in the Lebensborn experiment performed by the nazis, and aren't from a very-very-very isolated family community of caricatural rednecks, then there's no "pure lineage", only a statistic similarity in your genomes. In classic incest, brother-sister or parent-child, the genes that both prospective parents have in common amount to 50%. That's a big chance to be taking. (Although, to be fair, Pharaohs did this for generations, and the results were not always catastrophic. But they got lucky, and probably "purged the race" of the most unwanted and embarrassing traits like unsightly deformities, mental retardation, physically incapacitating birth illnesses... Common practice in ancient times.)
Now, between first cousins, how much is the common genes rate? Child-parent: one-half. Parent-sibling aunt/uncle: one-half. Aunt/uncle-child: one-half. So, between first cousins, the identity rate of genes is one-half at the cubic power. That's 1/8, compared to the 1/2 of incest. Only 12.5%.
Still significant. Yet much less reckless, close to reasonable.

My medical opinion, and I believe it meets the current scientific consensus, is that marrying your first cousin (or just having kids!) is unadvised, but not a guaranteed catastrophe by far. Only do it after some very careful thinking.

Also, there is the moral issue, which without making prude lectures I'll sum as follows:
- You wouldn't marry your sibling.
- You wouldn't marry a sibling with whom you've been separated at birth, because that's still incest.
- You wouldn't marry an adoptive sibling whom you've grown up with, becase literally you're like brother and sister, and it would very much FEEL like incest.
So, if you and your cousin grew up quite close, you need to ponder your concept of family. Nature very wisely gave us some caution instincts: it's not a fluke if we generally fall in love with complete strangers.
Or a childhood friend, I reckon that can work too. But adult physical and marital intimacy needs to be safely distant from educational intimacy. A childhood friend IS NOT like a brother or sister, no matter how close you were.
As a proof, how many of you got along with your siblings as harmoniously as you did with your best friend? :-)

BTW, there's another element to ponder when considering Romans: due to the way they made and stored wine, the aristocrats often suffered from chronic lead poisoning, which can cause sadistic dementia. That's what you get from closing your jars of acidic wine with lead seals, and then drinking lots of it.

Danish delight


Denmark may be one of the most liberal-minded countries on the planet, but the trees don't grow into the sky, as we Danes like to say (meaning there are limits to anything). The Danish lobbying groups Danish Women's Association and Porn Free Environment are upset about ads made by underwear producer JBS. (Article in Danish.)

Apparently they think the ads are pure porn, damaging to children, and degrading to women.

And apparently there's a Danish law saying that you can't advertise with scantily clad women unless they fit in the context.

I say, get over yourselves. If a women's underwear company were to put hot men in women's underwear in ads, nobody would give a flying fork, except to find it good fun.

One wonders if the women who find nudes to be "degrading to women" are not simply deeply insecure, and trying to cut down the competition. You'll notice they never talk about if nudes are degrading to men.

Wildcard character

I seem to remember that back in the childhood of the Wide Wide World of Web (as Joy calls it), when AltaVista was the search engine one used, there was an option for putting in a "wildcard character" in a search term. I think it was an asterisk, but it may have been an obelisk. The character would mean any other character, or several, to the search engine, so it widened your search. So if you were not sure if it was spelled "asterisk" or "asterix", you could type in "asteri*", and it would find either.
I can't find out how to do this in G00gle, anybody know how?

Gabe and Max's Internet Thingy

I haven't laughed so much since the Starwars Kid.



"... And also, more!" LOL.

I love the 1993-era laptop they are using.

Getting going