Thursday, November 08, 2018

The mind parasite

How do you trap the most powerful being in the world?

In the classic story Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow, writer Alan Moore has Superman attacked by an alien parasite which attaches to him and puts him a coma, trapped by a dream.
In the dream, Superman is back in his home world Krypton, living a happy life in a world which has not exploded ever (unlike reality, which is why he is exiled here on Earth).

But very gradually, irregularities start kreeping in, and the dream becomes less and less happy. This eventually leads to Superman being able to wake up, freeing himself.

I was thinking: why does the plant not simply make the dream perfect, so he would want to stay there?
Simple: it’s not the plant making the dream after all, it’s Superman’s mind. And he wants to wake up. So he makes the dream unpleasant enough that he *wants* to wake up.

I thought that this explains a lot.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Screenless Leica

Leica M10D. The best damn seventies camera money can buy.

(I’m a little confused though, I’m sure this camera came out like two years ago? At least some M Leica without a screen.)

I can see the appeal of the simplicity. But then you have the downside of the rangefinder, no autofocus, no zooms or long lenses...







Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A tale of new band names

Deadpool II is funny. Near the beginning there’s a scene where DP (no, not that) is slaughtering a whole steam room full of Asian gangsters. And what music do they pair it with? Metallica? Slayer? Neopunk Deathfok? Drama Mortis? Figurative Blood? Anal Insertion? No... Enya!

===
... Most of those band names I made up. It’s a hobby.

Damn, now I have to start a band named Anal Insertion.
Or at least write a book named “Anal Insertion European Tour ‘37”. Subtitle: “All I got was this dumb tee-shirt, the band stole all my coke”.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

How we choose

Choosing: 

Gain divided by distance or time, compared to gain divided by distance or time. 


If a gain is far away (happening to others, perhaps even strangers), or will take long before you see it, it may not be selected over a smaller gain which is closer, happening now, to you. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Judenhass

Judenhass by Dave Sim. “Jew hatred”. A very brief visual history of the holocaust and beyond. Not only Germany was implicated, by far. A deeply shocking comic, be warned.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Kevin on the new Canon system

Excellent evaluation (video) of Canon’s new mirrorless system, as it is now in the beginning.

At the moment, I guess Sony and Fuji are ahead. But in 3-5 years I think both Canon and Nikon will have very strong systems. And I really hope that Panasonic and especially Olympus can keep up with sensor, for they have wonderful lenses and even cameras. And I love compact cameras, as I’ve said about 55 times.

I’ll say it again though: I think that for most purposes, full frame is overkill. Too big and heavy gear, too narrow depth of field, and bigger sensor than we need even now, and particularly in the future. I think the rush to full frame is ten years too late, it’s just a fad based on perfectionism and fetishism. 
 


Monday, September 17, 2018

Micro Four Thirds vs Full Frame

Comparison of big prints.

There may be a difference hand-held in super-low light, who knows?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Hard to do...

“Well, how come you only want tomorrow

With it's promise of something hard to do”


- David Bowie, Teenage Wildlife


Isn’t that the truth? The human mind is so effin perverse. 

For one example, I could not go back to film photography even if it was still better quality. It’s just way too much work. And at the same time, digital is almost *too easy*! 

Why do we value anything simply because it’s hard to do? It’s insane, it should be the result which matters. Communication or beauty should be what matters, not the barriers to achieve them. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

September Dawn


... Back in the excellent Photoclub (Naestved, Denmark) I attended as a teen, some were deeply into Ansel Adams’ “Zone System” of exposure. I was a complex system of making sure that your photo had tones all the way from black to white, but still had detail all over. As a major voice in the club said about it: “it can almost make you stop photographing altogether.” (Of course it was much harder to control contrast with film.) 

And indeed I have found it important to remember that as Adams said, the Zone System is a teaching tool, not an artistic tool. Once one has learned to control tones, then one is free to make other choices. For example I have found that sometimes blocks of pure black without detail is much more expressive than the Technically Correct way.
(Granted, I didn’t have much choice in this case, but sometimes I’ve had.)


... Aha, I found some of those pictures where I went Dark:





(Canon 5D2, 24mm F:1.4, set at 8.0 and ISO 640. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

New über-camera from Denmark

New Danish high-end camera with ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MEGAPIXELS! Phase One IQ4.
This is *twelve* times as much as what I consider enough for 99% of photography. (And for 90%, six is enough.)

In other words, pretty damn specialised equipment. I can’t even imagine who really needs this. I also wonder, how is companies like Phase One and Hasselblad going to distinguish themselves in the future, now that you can already get *superb* professional cameras for two thousand dollars, and theirs cost something like twenty times that. It’s like building cars that can go eight hundred miles an hour. Prestige products. But I guess that some will always have the money, and the desire to have the very best, no matter if that Best is practically useful.

I admit I still feel a strong attraction to superb tools. But this has now entered a sphere so stratespheric that I can’t even imagine anything I could do with it, better than with, say, the new Nikon Z7, or Sony A7RIII.




Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The tale of the Cosmic Chicken

The cosmic chicken sat. It ruminated. It considered. It decided.

Invitations went out.

“Come see the show. Greatest show ever. The act of creation. Come now, come early, see it all.”

The all came. They all saw.

The chicken concentrated. It thought. It pressed. It clucked. It conceived.

The egg descended slowly. It glowed. It was glorious.

The egg split in two. A gold and a silver. They both cracked open.

Two small chicks, a black and a white, stumbled out onto the plains, parting. Each veered, wobbled, varied their course towards the horizon. They pecked for seeds. They walked on, searching, searching.

Monday, August 27, 2018

New Nikons, mirrorless

So the eagerly and long awaited Nikon mirrorless cameras have arrived.
I must say, so far I’m impressed. I’d expected them to be good of course, but I’d not expected them to be such a leap up in both functionality and image quality. And I’m especially impressed with the price, I’d have thought twice the price to be reasonable, but don’t tell Nikon.
See article and video here.
And an early review on image quality and lenses.
For many years, digital cameras did not have dynamic range (contrast coverage) equal to film. But recently they have surpassed it, and this has fifteen stops of it, which is awesome.
It also has eye-following (of the subject) autofocus, which was the killer app of the recent Sony cameras.
And of course in-camera stabilization, a huge advantage of some mirrorless camera over DSLRs.

I think the naming though, Z6 and Z7, is not of the same high standard! They are obviously at total effect of Sony here, naming the cameras practically the same as the Sonys which have been eating into their marketshare. Also, why still the taste-free names? Why not. Uhm, “Nikon Killroy 1” or “Nikon Calypso Dancemaster” or “Nikon Taserface K”, just to go wide.

As old readers know well, being mainly a street photographer, I’m a big fan of compact cameras, and for years I’ve thought that full-frame cameras are just too big and heavy. Well this is still so, even though the body in the new Nikon Z system is much smaller. But: for special projects demanding extreme image quality, I could actually imagine myself using this system.

As I’d predicted here, they have indeed made a brand new mount (for the first time ever! Due to Nikon’s same-mount promise), and an adapter for legacy lenses. But I thought it could really not be any different, they could not take advantage of mirrorless design without getting a shorter lens-to-sensor distance, or faster lenses without the bigger mouth. They have great flexibility for the future with this new mount.

I hope they will go beyond the current fetish for big and heavy “ultimate” lenses, and also make some compact ones. Leica M lenses have always been amazing, and are also very small, so surely it can be done now with computer design.

Look at this dynamic range!
Copyright Ross Harvey, see article

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Is sex important?

Many people, to my surprise actually, seem to have the misunderstanding that because I ran a nudie site, I am more into sex than most people. In fact I’m virtually asexual in practice.

 I consider sexuality a powerful force, sure. But hell, so is sugar! It does not mean it is important, only that it is strongly addictive.

 For me, beauty, spirit, philosophy, art, are *much* more important than sex.

 There.

Art, simplicity or complexity?

I’ve been back and forth in the past about whether art, in the widest sense, should be about simplicity or complexity. I more and more realise that it really has to be both. If too simple, it has no power. You can’t make a picture with four pixels. But if too complex, it does not communicate. The receiver can’t take in millions of elements at once.

 It seems to me the most powerful formula is a simple core for quick communication, and added, more subtle complexity for deeper power, to be revealed with time and attention.


Running Yellow Man, Stobblehouse


Thursday, August 09, 2018

Iain M. Banks on FS and hell

“I think a lot of people are frightened of technology and frightened of change, and the way to deal with something you're frightened of is to make fun of it. That's why science fiction fans are dismissed as geeks and nerds.”

 - Iain M. Banks

 Do read this interview, it’s very interesting if you’re interested in SF and culture and literature.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Survival or life?

What is more important, survival or living?

 What is more important, achieving joy or avoiding pain?

 These are only easy questions in the abstract.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Anger and Terry Pratchett

In the foreword to A Slip Of The Keyboard by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman talks about how Terry, who usually seemed jolly and mellow, was nothing of the kind, he had tonnes and tonnes of anger.
And Terry loved his anger, and claimed that it was the driving force behind his creative output, such as their wonderful collaborative book, the very funny Good Omens.

I hate to disagree with a genius like Terry Pratchett, but I must. While it is fantastic to be able to turn around your anger and seemingly having it contribute to powerful creative output, I think it’s a bad metaphysical mistake to *venerate* it and to think it’s a positive force. It is not. Everything is better without anger (or fear, which is below anger). Anger is rigid. You can work well *despite* anger, not because of it.

Admittedly, Anger is not something one gets rid of in a hearbeat. It takes long work. But a good start is recognizing it for what it is.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling

I really like the SF novel Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling. It beautifully and interestingly dramatises a theme I have not read in any other book: the conflict and contrast between wisdom and (over-)carefulness of old age and the beautiful raw life-force of youth (“holy fire”). 
How often do you seen an entirely fresh theme in a book?!

And it is powerfully described in the same character, a very old woman, Mia, who in the late 21st century gets a radical new medical treatment which rejuvenates her to an apparent age of twenty. 

And the dense culture of the late twenty-first he describes is delightful.




Monday, June 25, 2018

Courtney Hadwin, a talent is born

Must see. 
I can’t breathe for laughter and delight. 
I’m not even going to watch the last half of the video, I don’t want anything to ruin that fantastic performance... Her movements alone.
Update: I’ve watched it several times; it cheers me up every time. 


 

Sunday, June 03, 2018

A wonderful keyboard, Havit

O my flippin' gawd, I've never been this excited and frustrated at the same time. (Maybe except for a high school dance...)
 I just got a new keyboard, a Havit HV KB390L. It's compact, flat, light enough to take in a bag, and yet has mechanical switches. This combination is rare, perhaps unique at this time.

The key swithces are special flat ones, and as it turns out they are just the right key throw for me, three millimetres. And it is FANTASTIC.
 I don't normally say things like that, but seriously, from the first minute, my speed and ease of typing has never been greater. A marked upgrade from any of the 20+å keyboards I've owned (and mostly still own.)

 But: it turns out it does not have a Mac/iOS driver! Hence the frustration part. And worse, my iPad, which normally works fine with a USB keyboard, tells me this one uses too much power. Urgh! I can use it with my Mac, and I will for sure, but I really wanted to use it with my iPad, where I do 95% of my typing.

Update:
It still doesn’t have a Mac/iOS layout, but I made it work with my iPad!!
I remembered an old trick of putting an unpowered USB hub in between. That tricks the device, the peripheral no longer uses too much power... (!)

I love writing on this keyboard.
Now I just need something to say. :-)

Havit HV KB390L keyboard,
iPad Pro 12.9-inch, floor stand

Friday, May 18, 2018

“CaNikon” mirrorless coming up

Update: See the video on this page for a viewpoint on why mirrorless is so important.

So, it appears that next year, Nikon and Canon will finally get their act together and make a professional mirrorless system each.

I think they definitely will need to make a new lens mount and lenses, because keeping that huge old distance from lens to film is ridiculous. (The mirror necessitated that.) With a good adapter, people can use their old lenses for a while.

But, and this is important: I also think that for many of us, Full Frame is a dying system. It’s just too large and heavy, and unnecessarily so.
Already now, sensors are so good that the half-sized (linear) Micro Four Thirds sytem has plenty good enough image quality for professional use, and the cameras and lenses are the perfect size. (Small ones for casual use and hand-sized ones for professional.) And only half the weight of full frame gear.
And sensors are still getting better every year. In ten years, FF will be a dinosaur. Zat iz mi belif.

With the fastest lenses, you can get good background blur with M4/3 too, although of course not as extreme as with FF. But interestingly, with digital tools as in iPhone X, this can even be done in a phone. OK it’s not perfected yet, but I expect it will become so. And when it works well, it works surprisingly well!

===
“Canon has noticed the explosion of interest and progress in mirrorless cameras, and it’s trying to join the party before it’s too late. Nikkei reports that SLR sales dropped over 10% in Japan in 2017 while mirrorless sales rose nearly 30%.”
- Petapixel

Canon and Nikon has a huge amount of catching up to do now. They have simply been way too afraid of canibalizing their ancient (D)SLR lines. Fear keeps most companies from realising that if they don’t eat their babies, other animals will. That Apple is not afraid of this has helped make them the most profitable company in the world.

Not that I don’t think CaNikon won’t win back their share. The world is not often “fair” that way, it’s rarely the innovators who take the big harvest.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Tree/landscape

Tree/landscape, first new drawing in years.


(Clickable.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Cafe visit


The Swan And The Swine

The Swan And The Swine, one of my most successful drawings, I made it for a poster for a concert in the Glyptotek museum in Copenhagen.

(Clickable)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Night Vision 1-4

(Click For Big Pic)





===
iPhone X, auto, hand-held.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Carrying camera systems

The Camera Store has nice review videos. Here is one about various ways of carrying your camera systems.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

A.I. Explosion

The “artificial intelligences” we have so far, like Amazon’s Alexa, are not very impressive at all. If you ask them anything beyond what they are strictly programmed to answer, they are stumped. In other words they can’t think at all.

But I wouldn’t bet too much that they can’t get to do so. And something just struck me: it is unlikely that we will see a long, slow growth in intelligence of A.I.’s. I think that when it happens, it’s gonna go really flippin’ fast. One year they will still seem dull as bricks, and the next year they will be smarter than us, and the next they will have taken over the world, for better or worse.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Leica story, small to large

Article and video in Luminous Landscape’s nice series about the Leica camera/company.

I find it ironic that about a century years ago when Leica was founded, it was about a good camera with what was then a *tiny* negative, 35mm. Today with digital sensors, 35mm (24x36mm) is a *big* format! Unusually big; today you get better image quality than 35mm film with some cameras which have a tiny fraction of that sensor area. In other words, the basics of Leica today has nothing in common in the basics with the Leica originally.
Sure, you can say it has high quality in common, but high quality in mechanics is simply inherent in German engineering.

This is not really important, I just find it funny, because many would say that if any company has stuck to being about what it was always about, it’s Leica, but simply because of outter changes that is not true. Leica used to be a tiny-format alternative to the mainstream large-film cameras, and now it is a *large-format* alternative to the mainstream small-sensor cameras...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Leica cine-lenses

For those who like lenses and quality gear, lookit this article/video on Leica’s new-ish line of cinema lenses.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sony A7III

This is a fun talk about a new advanced Sony camera, if you like professional cameras.
It’s remarkable what you can get now for two grand. I think the mirrorless cameras are pulling way ahead of Canon and Nikon’s old DSLR systems now.

Notice especially the eye-following autofocus system (at about ten minutes into the video), that is amazing. Update: it’s a different kind of eye-tracking: it follows one of the subject’s eyes continually, so you don’t have to wait for the focus each time. There’s videos of it working, it’s impressive.

And the night-shooting abitlites are outstanding. (Partly a side-effect of the large sensor.)

I’ll admit though that for my use, street photography, this kind of camera (full frame) is too big and heavy, especially the lenses. I think only a pro, and a young and strong one, will want to use such gear for any length of time.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Would I upgrade an old film camera to digital?

My Hasselblad 500C with tele-lens.
It’s still a beutiful thing, to my mind classier than modern models.

An old friend, whom I used to photograph with when we were just teens, asked me if I’d considered a digital upgrade for my classic Hasselblad camera. It’s an interesting question considering how I revered the camera back in the day. This was my answer:

 Not really. A digital back was made for Hasselblad, but it didn’t cover the entire frame, far from it. And it was maybe a decade ago or moer, it was probably six MP or less, my iPhone now has more resolution(!). Also I don’t really care much for heavy cameras, I’m a walk-around photographer, so I like small/light gear.

 Additionally like camera reviewer/photographer/writer Steve Hynes told me even several years ago, the digital quality “sneaks up on you,” he told me that he had looked at old medium-format pictures on film of his, and the quality was really not that great compared even to smaller modern digital cameras.
 And that fits with what I’ve seen. The lenses were great for the day, but times have really changed. Modern lenses for digital are way sharper than old film lenses, all the lens makers have new digital lenses.

 It’ my opinion, and not mine alone, that modern cameras with pretty small sensors, like Olympus M4/3 cameras, make better image quality now than old 35mm cameras did, even the good ones. And that modern full-frame (35mm) cameras do better quality than old medium-format cameras like Hasselblad. And I even think that’s a quite conservative statement! (I'd have put my life on line saying something like that not too long ago, but I think time has proven this now.)

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Is effectiveness important?

Is effectiveness important?
Well, okay, the short answer is “yes”... Without the effectiveness of industrialisation, we would not have the 4-century long economic boom and gains in health and peace which we are enjoying.

But I’m suspecting it can be taken too far. I’ve been a total addict to effectiveness, for example always wanting the smallest possible camera with sufficient image quality. But sometimes I find that the super-ease of image-making in the digital era almost makes it *less* fun to make pictures than it was when you had to stand in the darkroom for hours to make a couple of good prints. Or at least more satisfying. Why are we only satisfied with an achievement if it was hard to do?
I really don’t know.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Circle/glass/BW/Abstract new photo

Circle/glass/BW/Abstract/Space


PHishing

Wow, talk about an obvious phishing scam. There were no graphics, the link was not to Paypal, and the return address was to a random site!
(They still probably get a few takers.)

From: SERVICE PAYPAL
Subject: {Spam?} Warning Notification
Date: 24 February 2018 at 11:13:37 GMT
To:  

Dear PayPal Costumer,

It has come to our attention that your PayPal account information needs to be updated as part of our continuing commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance of fraud on our website. If you could please take 5-10 minutes out of your online experience and update your personal records you will not run into any future problems with the online service.

However, failure to update your records will result in account suspension. Please update your records before February 25, 2018.

Once you have updated your account records, your PayPal account activity will not be interrupted and will continue as normal.

Please click here (or copy/past on your browser) to update your account : http://j.gs/19081461/update[...]


Copyright 1999-2018 PayPal. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Love and Death

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

 On a lower level they are called Sex and Violence.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Image quality is quantity

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

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

“Fear And Loathing In The Galleries”

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

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

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

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

===
I wrote this a comment to this article

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Angel, a story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With astute intelligence, I said "Hm?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the end

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

In two minds

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

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

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Carnival After Dark

Click for big pic.







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

Traffic Culture

Images are clickable.




===
iPhone X, auto, no processing.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Amanda Palmer on Asking

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


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Look To Windward by Iain M. Banks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A lot of words...

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

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Reasons to go for smaller cameras

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

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

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Binoculars reflection movie trope

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

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

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

Monday, January 08, 2018

Dirk Gently

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Are ebooks failing?

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