Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nikon D5000

Nikon D5000 article.
I'm very interested in the articulated screen, it really frees up viewpoints. But sadly, it is now revealed that in "live view" mode (which you have to use to use the screen for framing) the autofocus is still very slow indeed, which makes it pretty much useless to me.

I'm wondering why it is that Panasonic has managed to make a fast live view autofocus system with the G1 and GH1, and the DSLR makers can't? Some say the lenses have to be made for it, because they have to be adjusted several times every time the camera focuses, unlike with traditional DSLR autofocus (phase), which knows exactly how far to adjust the lens before it starts. So maybe only brand new systems will achieve this successfully. (One could imagine Nikon making a special lens to make this faster, but it does not feel to me likely to happen or be succesful.)

Is it optional?

There's a famous book out about how it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become good at anything in the arts. I think that's fair.
And this is before you start trying to promote yourself and try selling your stuff and yourself.
So doing all that and supporting yourself is a full time job. "Full time" meaning days, evenings, and weekends.

Add to that a boyfriend or girlfriend, and it becomes way more difficult yet.
Add children, and it's basically impossible.

And yet most of thinks that getting a "significant other" and getting children is something we simply are "supposed" to do. It's simply part of what you do in life, isn't it?
Is it? Or is it optional for somebody who has other plans?

Computer art judgement

Computer art judgement, article. Funny.

You can be my Yoko Ono

Without getting into a fruitless debate of any "guilt" of Yoko Ono's for anything (I'm just using her for a colorful label), let's think about the many people most of us probably know who had talents and dreams, and then seemed to give them up for a lover, and/or for a family.

Are they making a sacrifice, or are they just chickening out of something which was too hard?

Breathing through the ears

To my great pleasure I'm re-watching 2.5 Men 1, and am up to the first of the two episodes with the smooooking Jenna Elfman. (Seriously, her ice-cool and yet warm and sassy charm and sense of humor...)
And Jenna's character says to Alan words to the effect of: "So you do good spinal adjustments, and you make good pancakes... if you had a TV on your forehead and could breathe through your ears you'd be perfect."

... I guess I didn't get it the first time...

I'm not sure I can think of anybody but Jenna who could deliver that with perfect innocence and perfect sauciness at the same time.

[For those who don't get it, it's the female equivalent of the joke that the perfect woman is three feet tall and has a flat head.]

Short links

Tip: for long links in comments (or emails) you can shorten them at:
or even better:
The latter has a very useful widget for it.

Update: I use them because long links sometimes don't work well in emails or in web pages with long columns, and it's time-consuming to make html links (I don't use html in email anyway).
But TTL points out some points against them, see comments.

Update: I've finally made myself that macro I've meant to make, to make hyperlinks. (I have to paste this as a picture, otherwise the code messes up.)

Wall-E computer case

Man, that's dedication to your hobby!

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Mind Programming" by Eldon Taylor

"Mind Programming" by Eldon Taylor, a video trailer (for a book). About the effects advertising and mass media have on us.
(Amusingly, while I am writing this post, a Madonna song is playing with the words "more! more! more!", which feature importantly in the linked video.)

Update: Angelo points to Taylor on "self actualization".
Seems obvious to me that there's hardly any more important question in life than "what's my life about?". "What's the most important thing?"

Live the active liefestyle you always wanted with Acai Berry

From my email:
"{SPAM?} live the active liefestyle you always wanted with Acai Berry"

Why did nobody tell me before? I've always wanted to globetrotting, skiing, scubadiving with dolphins, climbing the Himaleyas, partying with the jet set, and racing Lamborghinis through the Andes. And all it ever took was some berries I'm missing?

(Note: for some reason my mail server has labeled this important message as spam, I'm going to complain.)

Toddler buys earthmover in online auction

Toddler buys earthmover in online auction, article. [Thanks to TC.]
Just goes to show, don't name your girl Pipi!
(I'm not sure how this is even possible though, aren't you supposed to write in an amount and so on?)

The Millau Viaduct

The Millau Viaduct. Pretty impressive.
It is part of the new E11 expressway connecting Paris and Barcelona and features the highest bridge piers ever constructed.

Pentax K-7 body naked (updated)

[Update: I have to admit, I have this "Terminator" camera on my desktop right now. Also additional thought: It's a real pity professional cameras are so tied to the lenses a photographer already has. Pentax has a real uphill battle in the pro market against "Canikon".]

A little male fetish erotica.
Image from the IR article.
(Let me just once again throw in a word of praise for I find they have the more readable articles and the best testing methods, and not only that, they are usually out of the barn door with the first comprehensive articles before others have barely noted a camera has arrived.)

... Oooh, interesting: the K-7's in-body anti-shake system can correct not only for horizontal and vertical shake, but also rotational! I think this is a world's first.
(And since it's in-body, it will work with any lens, not just specially designed ones, like is sadly the case for Canon and Nikon cameras.)
Oh, and notice the 50-200mm zoom here. That must be the most compact -200mm zoom lens ever made. Remember, this is 300mm equivalent (for a full frame camera)!

The possibility for a 2009 camera release which has me really interested though is the mini Olympus is working on. It is almost too much to hope for that they will get it really, really right, though, but wow, will it be cool if they do.
I somehow was not really aware that the compact Olympus Pen had been a full SLR system camera. That is very excellent. And of course the really exciting thing about this is that while the half-frame system on film was a significant downside in image quality, the same is not true in digital!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Trailer DVD

I subscribe to Total Film magazine (wish I'd time to read all the friggin mags I get). The latest issue had a DVD on the cover which promised a "special glimpse of what's coming to cinemas" this summer.
Cool. Free DVDs. Lots of cool trailers, or may even some exclusive previews, interviews, whatnot? Excellent.

Wroooooong. What they did was make a special DVD, make a beautiful cover for it, put in with the magazine, and ship it all over the country... with one single 70-second trailer with combined two-second glimpses of coming movies!

What a g*dd*amn f***ing waste of opportunity. No wonder the movie industry is in trouble. [Update: I've been corrected, they are doing better this year. That's nice.]

Laurie Jeffery landscapes

Laurie Jeffery landscapes.
My ole pal Laurie is very busy with his professional photography and film work, and so I have not seen much of his personal work, but it turns out he has some pretty nice stuff.

TV box, where is it?

I don't understand why I don't know of any box I can connect to my TV, which will pick up video files of any format from my Mac via wifi and play them on my TV. (I could assign folders on the Mac it could copy them from.)
My Apple TV can to some extend, but it has to go via the iTunes app, and there are so many formats it just won't play.
It should be so simple, just a cheap little PC box designed to do this, all the technology is there...
(I should note: I want something userfriendly, I don't want to mess around with Linux and specialized hardware and such.)

Update: a friend tells me somebody hacked her Apple TV so it now will play any video file. I'd no idea that could be done. Why the heck would they cripple it like that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The "rap" of an artist

In the comments of this post, Mike J says this, and I hope he forgives me for copying:

By "rap" in this case I mean the spiel that an artist develops ostensibly to explain what it is they're doing. Often, this functions as a sort of meta-communication: they're signifying more than they're saying. The hidden message might be "I'm intelligent," or "you can't understand this," or "I deserve to be taken seriously." Often, too, the "rap" tells a viewer how to feel about the work, either co-opting the viewer's own unruly responses or suggesting a framework for understanding and acceptance for those who won't bother to decide for themselves.

I had a very interesting experience with this early on. Joe Cameron curated a show of works in progress that had, I think, six or eight "openings," week after week. Each week, each of several artists would show how their work was progressing and talk a little bit about it. A fascinating experience and one that was important to me.

Anyway, one of the experiences of that show for me was that one artist, who had strong work, actually made her work seem less strong to me because she had a weak rap for it; another artist actually managed to make relatively weak work stronger because he was able to talk about it vividly and brilliantly. It didn't change my absolute impression of the work--hers was still better than his--but it really did have an effect on my perception. Even though I was perfectly conscious of how my perception was being manipulated. I've never forgotten that.

I think this is highly interesting.
Some people seem to like, nay, to demand, that an artist not only must be able to, but should explain his work, precisely and at length.

I am not sure, there may be cases where this is an enhancement of the work and experience, but I'm very hesitant about it.

For one thing, he might inadvertently belittle his work. For example, I read an interview with David Bowie where the journalist asked about meaning of a song (I think it was Bus Stop), and Bowie said "oh it's just a silly little song" or words to that effect. What if the listener had a great, uplifting experience from a song/painting/book, and the author pulls it down like that?

For another thing, if art can really be explained in words, why have art at all? Can you explain Beethoven's Fifth? (Do you think Beethoven could? If he could, I doubt I'd want him to.)

For a third thing, contrarywise to what might be reasonably expected, I think often the artist does not understand his own work a lot better than any other member of the audience. He may be the artist, but he is also just another audience member.
For instance, my drawing the Swan And The Swine was done very quickly under great time pressure, for a poster for a theater/music show. (The original was not colored.) Yet it was very successful, and many people later asked me: is it a tree or a mushroom cloud? And all I can say is 1: I only thought of it as a tree when I drew it, but 2: it clearly also could be a mushroom cloud, and I clearly could not have drawn it in any other way, so... even as the artist, I must just have the humility to say 'what the bleep do I know'?...

And continuing the third point, it is not hard to find many books or songs written "just for money", but which turned out to be great and significant work. Clearly the art can be much bigger than the artist, and I think it's hubris to assume should know all there is to say and think about it, much less try to nail it down for others.

Which brings me to the fourth point: it seems to be very hard to say anything at all about a work without interpreting it to some degree. And by doing so, you limit or block other interpretations. Which is a crime, again because no single person can see the whole of Art.

New, Pentax K7 (updated 2)

[Update: article. If I did not already have a million Canon and Nikon lenses, the K-7 would be very tempting indeed for me. In a nutshell, it's a professional camera for an amateur price and size.]
"Pentax has it right when they call the K-7 a camera with pro features at a semi-pro price. I'm tempted to warn pure amateurs away from the Pentax K7, as I did with the Nikon D300, so that they don't get lost in its wonderful tangle of fine-tuning options. But the good news is that if you lock the Pentax K7 into Green zone mode it turns off most of the options that can befuddle and just starts using Pentax's years of experience to take well-balanced photographs."

I haven't even read this very well yet (my fusillini pollo is ready), but this looks like a highly interesting camera release. Especially if Pentax really has broken the insane rule camera manufacturers seem to have followed in the digital age: that you only get the best camera by getting the biggest and heaviest camera.

I also warmly applaud Pentax for being one of the very few modern camera makers willing to invest in making prime lenses (non-zooms). True, I love the versatility of zooms, and with today's production methods they can be compromise-free in image quality. But in theory you should still be able to get a sharper, smaller, and cheaper lens if you let go of the need for zoom. I wonder if this theory is really true in practice?

So for instance I might be very interested in the super-compact super-wide Pentax 15mm lens. Sadly, while it's beautiful mechanically, it is very expensive, and the image quality does not seem to live up to the expectations I have for twice the price of some of the very good zoom lenses you get these days. An F:4.0 prime lens at over $600 better be really f***ing sharp, and this seems to be "very good" only stopped down two stops, and not very good at full opening. That's a bit disappointing.

But I hope Pentax and others will make more primes, particular wide ones, because while we now have some very sharp professional zooms, they tend to be very big, very heavy, and very, very expensive.

We know it can be done. For example the Konica Hexar camera in the nineties had a 35mm 2.0 lens (fixed) which was top of the line. It was as good in all respects as the famous 35mm lens from Leica, and it cost less, including the camera! With today's technology and a willing camera maker, we should be able to get a camera which is even better than the Konica Hexar in all respects, size, price, speed, and quality. In short, a street photographer's camera par excellence.

An Irish blonde

An Irish Blonde in a Casino

An attractive blonde from Cork, Ireland arrived at the casino. She seemed a little intoxicated and bet twenty thousand Euros on a single roll of the dice.

She said, "I hope you don't mind, but I feel much luckier when I'm completely nude."

With that, she stripped down her shoes and necklace, rolled the dice while doing a little excited dance and yelled, "Come on, baby, Mama needs new clothes!"

As the dice came to a stop, she jumped up and down and squealed, "YES! YES! I WON, I WON!" She hugged each of the dealers and then picked up her winnings and her clothes and quickly departed.

The dealers stared at each other dumbfounded. Finally, one of them asked, "What did she roll?"

The other answered, "I don't know - I thought you were watching."

MORAL OF THE STORY: Not all Irish are drunks, not all blondes are dumb,
but all men are men.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Update: Kronostar points out this is a fake story. 
(I usually do spot them though.)

More movie mysteries

Movie mystery no 174:
How come in movies when a couple has had sex and gets out of bed, they are always wearing their underwear? Isn't that a highly impractical way of having sex?

No 175:
How come nobody every checks a gun they find for bullets? I was just watching one where I yelled at the screen: "check the gun for bullets!" Lo and behold, it turns out the villain had emptied the gun earlier.

No 176: How come nobody ever makes sure the villain is actually dead? Even if we hadn't seen 99,000 movies where the villain gets up again, it's just common sense.

Moral panics

6 moral panics, article.
If we can't find anybody having any fun we can be outraged about, we better make something up.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Redheads potpourri

Forget the modes

The cartoon below is eerily reminiscent of a conversation I had last Sunday at an anniversary party*. A very nice lady and I were talking about her very nice Canon G9 camera. She pointed out the plethora of "scene modes" that she could select between and which confused her (she also said that sometimes she uses the "Av" setting. I asked if she knew what it meant, and she said no. I said "better not use it then"), and I said to her: "Listen, just use the green setting "auto". That's what I do, and I've been reading about and using digital cameras for years and years. The odds of getting better pictures by getting fancy are much smaller than the odds of just messing things up because no mortal has any chance of understanding what the hell the camera thinks it's doing."

*Had a great time. We were a couple dozen people plus a band crammed into a space the size of my granma's pantry, and for some reason half the people either used a camera (in one instance an old Practica film camera of all things), or were amateur photographers. The food was great too.
I gave the happy couple, who are retirees and thus not flush with money, a nice Canon digicam with image stabilization. He often talks about things he's like to photograph but he's not had his own camera until now.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Top Ten Rules Of Space Opera

The Top Ten Rules Of Space Opera, article.

To my mind, Iain M. Banks is the king of space opera. One of the things he has down is the ridiculously immense object/ship/building thingy. Even his non-SF books has it, for example his main character will be living in a massive old converted church or the like. I a sucker for that shit.

Don't photograph into the sun

Or so they say, one guy disagrees.

This is one well-prepared fella, the shuttle crossed the disc of the sun in less than one second.

(I'm guessing that these long tongues of flame we've seen in pictures coming from the sun are much too small to show in a picture like this.)

Update: Damien helps out: it turns out the sun is exceptionally quiet at the moment.

What If That Guy From Smashing Pumpkins Lost His Car Keys?

What If That Guy From Smashing Pumpkins Lost His Car Keys?, parody.

Admittedly the most I know about SP is a line from one of my favorite movies: LA Story. Steve Martin's character goes out with a much younger woman, and she asks him: "do you like Smashing Pumpkins?" And he says "I love doing that!"