Saturday, March 24, 2007

"300" review

Tom Charity has written another good review, this one of 300.
Like I said, the film looks amazing, and I love that. But I should have suspected something like Tom says here: that the film is more or less a boring violence-fest. And has a pretty fascistic war-hawk world view.
The film is based on the comic book "300" by Frank Miller. I think that Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns is the best superhero comic ever written. But what he has written since that (20 years ago) has left me lukewarm. It seems to lack the complexity and subtlety that Dark Knight had. Too bad, since he has had more freedom than almost anybody in the comics field. It is not the only evidence that too much freedom can be an enemy to the artist.

Anonymous commented...
"concerning artistic freedom:
"It is not the only evidence that too much freedom can be an enemy to the artist"
I've heard simular from other artists I admire (Brian Eno being one) - It may be something I akin to what I refer to as the "temperture factor" > too much towards any extreme can be harmful. That is too little freedom can be just as much an enemy to the artist. However, I can't help but wonder if artists could handle freedom better if they recognized such as a limitation in and of itself. Perhaps in doing so then the outcome would be something easier for audiences to relate to...."

I'm sure you're right.

And "too much freedom" is only a problem for psychological reasons. Ultimately there is no such thing, of course.

"Red" digital cinema camera

George Lucas has been on the forefront of using digital video. The last two Star Wars films were shot digitally. And it saves a lot in film cost, and gains in flexibility. Still, the cameras were bulky, and they needed cables to big hard disks to handle the data output. Unwieldy. Also the details in the highlights were a problem. Film has a softer, more rounded look. Notice the difference in the look of "West Wing", shot on film, and "Friends", shot on video.

But things move fast in the digital world, as I never stop pointing out or marveling at. (I am not sure whether to pity or envy the kids growing up now, for whom this is not a marvel.) And several mature digital solutions are coming out now for digital cinema. Not just "HD video", we are talking pictures at least as big and sharp as what you see in the cinema. And apparently they have the dynamic range (contrast) problems solved in the past couple of years.

One interesting product is the "Red" digital cinema camera.
Site | video | video | video | video
(The videos all seem to be pretty old (but still informative). The camera should be about ready to ship now, it seems.)

Several things are remarkable about it:
1) The price: $17.500 for the camera. Amazingly cheap for a cinema camera, digital or otherwise.
2) The design, very flexible.
3) The high-end sensor.
4) It's a small, "rogue" company.

Apparently they were not satisfied with the sensors they could buy, so they had to get one made specially! This is astounding. Not even Nikon makes their own sensors. I can't figure out how they fund this, and how they move it along this fast.

When they speak of "4K", they mean a resolution of 4,096 pixels on the horisontal... that's about as much as my Canon 5D still camera! That's totally shocking for a video camera. With a really good lens (and cinema lenses are top flight), the level of detail this can pick up is amazing. You should see the prints I made yesterday from pictures taken with my 100mm fixed-focal-length lens.

Probably I will never use such a camera myself. But I have an affinity for high-end or extraordinary products. And I like this company and how they push for a really wonderful and even affordable camera for the future of cinema. The savings in the camera and even more in not having to buy film and processing are immense, and will mean a continued revolution in independent film making. It's probably now possible to make a Hollywood-quality film for, I don't know, one-fifth of the price of just five years ago. (OK, that's a guesstimate, but the change is huge.)

Tree, shadows, Vault, Curls

Early in the morning today it was a beautiful light outside, so I went outside to snap a few. The same lens, Canon 100mm F:2.0, which made those soft background with the birches, can also deliver what must be the sharpest pictures I have ever made. Not in and off itself of any artistic importance, but it feels good to do. A hobby thing, like hi-fi. Of course if nice pictures can manifest too, hurrah.

You should see the 35cm x 50cm (13" x 19") print of the tree picture. Technically (tones and sharpness) it's way beyond anything I ever did back in the 35mm/darkroom days. And that's due to digital technology, not what I have learned still, I think, because I was about as good as anybody I knew. (Here is an unedited file.)

Not to mention that making a print in a darkroom, especially such a large one, is time consuming, hard work, and very messy. (And that's even just for B/W. Color was way harder.)

Update: below is an alternative version of the tree picture, edited by Blerim Racaj, who I blogged recently. It's darker, warm-toned, and cropped to remove the sky. All things I could easily have gone with. (The print I made of the picture is actually warm-toned and a little darker (prints are often darker).) I tried cropping it, but decided that the bit of sky added dimension to it. What do you think?

I just compared to the print, and the tones are *exactly* like this! Funny. And I have to admit it looks better.
Re the cropping, I'm in a period where I don't tend to as much for the abstract as I used to. You never know, I may go back.

Friday, March 23, 2007

ACIM videos

More on the Power Of Source blog.

Free online video documentary about A Course In Miracles.

Update: sadly the video has been removed. But you can still probably find it via Search on YouTube.

Cafe Philos

I was alerted to Cafe Philos blog because they have a review of my commercial site, but it turns out that's not the only good thing about it. It's thoughtful and positive.

Nikon D40x review

Nikon D40x review
It is the same camera as the D40, only with slightly higher resolution and speed.
And it is true what the review says, it is amazingly light and compact with the kit lens. So this is countering my own bitching earlier.

The digital camera development is astounding. In 2000, the Canon D30 was introduced. It was a revolution in high quality for a low price... and yet it was four times the price of this camera, was near twice as big, and had one third the resolution! Holy cow.

Alex said...
I haven't touched my SLR since September. I had a fews days out this week and put 9 print films and 3 slide films through it. Total cost of film and processing at about $12 each is almost $150. 10 days like that and I can by a Nixon D80 and lens! Add that to the list...

You said it. That's something easy to forget in the equation.

Imagine what professional photographers can use in film! A pro can easily shoot twenty films in a day or more.

Also for Hollywood and small film makers, it's a revolution. Film cost in cinema is astronomical. And digital cinema cameras are just now maturing. (For instance, pointed out by ttl.)

Bob Carlos Clarke is dead, alas

I never cease to be amazed at just how f**ked up some people manage to become.

Terry said...
You not crazy if you commit suicide. Many people no longer want to live. Sad, but true.
My grandfather use to tell them that once you find everything uninteresting it's time to die, and no, he wasn't mental, just a tired old man.

Gen said...
Suicide can be the only logical way out of immense problems. Thus it is seen as a relief by the suffering person, not as a crime or whatever.

Oh, I agree. I did not intend to imply otherwise. I was talking about his life, not his death. And also the way he did it: throwing himself in front of a train. It's highly messy, traumatizes others needlessly. And what if you survive!

Open letter to John Travolta

Dear Mr. Travolta,

I remember one fine afternoon in 1977 in Denmark, I met one of my schoolmates in town, and she was bearing a newly purchased poster, rolled up. I asked what it was, and she said with a big, happy, and yet mischievous smile: "it's Travolta." I asked: "what's a travolta?"

Well, we all learned quickly. Here is my suggestion: how about another movie with some dancing in it. I am not suggesting a musical. Too expensive, and they're usually not that interesting. (OK, I did like Grease. But I'm not about to see Chicago, and Moulin Rouge was weird at best.) But how about a small movie?

It should be possible to secure funding for a small movie (especially now, with cinema quality digital video). Just for instance you, Uma Thurman, a small town, a love story, some humor (please), and a bit of dancing. I'd see it.

A little bit of the right dancing has so much power. Examples: The short dancing contest scene in Pulp Fiction (Ooh, did you see the tribute on Gilmore Girls? Wonderful). Or the brief moments of dancing on stairs and mezzanine in The Breakfast Club. Or the relatively few dances in Footloose. Or even the brief dance in Michael.

You said it yourself in an interview: "People go nuts when I dance."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wild Hogs

I'm looking forward to Wild Hogs.
William Macy and John T. in a comedy, can't be bad.

Only in March 2007

I try to keep this site generally separate from my commercial site (you know, the one with all the girls). But since many readers here are also fans of that site, and it has a ten-year anniversary this month, I have decided to set up a special offer for my readers. If you go here and ignore the posted prices but go on to Sign Up, you will find a pricing option of $9.95 per month with no bigger upfront fee. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


We stay in the same vein with an essay contest winner.
(It seems is like goodnewsnetwork, but it has a bigger output. You may recall I've been saying that I'd keep more informed when a news outlet appeared which was not relentlessly depressing. I'll give this one a shot.)

Pulp Friction

"I would not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum."
-- Frances Willard

I like that quote. One of the best decisions I've made in this life is to minimize conflict. For a while there I was worried that I was what that Danish call "conflict shy", a subtler word for coward. But I don't think so. I just think I felt instinctively that conflict, while occasionally (rarely) and temporarily necessary, is almost never constructive or productive. Creation and communication are productive. Conflict just locks up energy which could be used constructively.
Update: Rather apropos, I'm just reading about one of my favorite composers, Sinead O'connor. While we can't truly adjudicate what goes on in somebody else's lives, it is a fact that she now sadly has retired from music (before she was forty), and that she must have been much worn down by the intensive attacks she suffered because she was so busy fighting the English, the American, and the Catholic Church. While those, like any group on Earth, have their flaws, they are not the "real enemy" (an expression she used about the church). There is no "real enemy", that's the big trick of the universe. "We have met the enemy and he is us", to quote a famous opossum. So all we have to do is stop being it. Easier said than done, but worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I am rewatching Friends on DVD. That show just rocks. When I'm stressed or tired, nothing picks me up faster or better. It's seminal, it's warm, it's hilarious.
I really hope something comes up to replace it.

ttl said...
"I agree. I used to look down on Friends as unoriginal, canned, "fast-entertainment".
But I gotta agree that it is uplifting, warm and does have therapeutic uses. In this case watching a show such as this from DVD makes more sense than following it when it's on.
For pure comedy value I much prefer, for example, Coupling and Office (the original British versions, not the American remakes which I think are pathetic). But neither of those are as warm or 'therapeutic' as Friends. Office may be downright depressive at times. But it is also artistic.
But then, I also find Columbo to be warm and uplifting!"

eolake said...
It is indeed easy to see Friends as "fast-entertainment", because it is accessible and hugely popular.
But the more I re-watch them, the more impressed with how it is *also* really subtle in so many ways.
Just one small example I noticed just an hour ago: when Rachel was pregnant and giving birth, Jennifer Aniston did not shy away from looking sweaty and distressed, and un-glamorous. And after she had given birth, they even gave her a little belly for a while, and didn't refer to it. Which is subtle for the show, and courageous for an actress mainly known for her glamour power. (It took me a while to realize that she is also an excellent actress.)

Light times five

Just after sunrise.
I like light. In this picture there are five kinds!
1: the ambient light from the sky.
2: the sunlight hitting the tree at the top.
3: the reflected light in the window showing the sunlit building opposite.
4: the light hitting in big soft spots, reflected from the building opposite.
5: the still-lit street lamp.

A price is a price?

I grew up in one of the world's most stable economies, Denmark, so it is nearly hard-wired into my head that a price is a price. What is on the sticker is what you pay. And it will probably be pretty much the same next year too.

But I'm learning, through running my own business, that this is not always so. And in the era of Digital Life, this is even less so. Everything is virtual.

Just to illustrate this, recently I "sussed out" that web hosting has gotten a lot cheaper in recent years. I figured this out by cunning reasoning and by somebody telling me this was so. :)

So I renegotiated with a couple of digital services for my commercial site, and the result was that I got both bills cut by 70%! It's a savings of over $2,000 per month!

Just thought I'd mention this by way of inspiration.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Good News Network

For years I have been calling for a news outlet which put focus on good news. The world is a mixed bag, and it is tiresome and counter-productive that most media has an overwhelming focus on bad and alarming news.

For instance, how often do you read in the paper when crime is down?
But Good News Network tells us:
"New York subway crime has plummeted more than 37 percent this year. That's on top of the decrease in 2005 of about 5.5 percent. Robberies are down 21 percent this year. Grand larcenies have declined 46 percent and assaults have fallen 55 percent, NYPD data show."

Night snow

Just as I thought spring was here: a midnight snow fall.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

"Pattern Recognition"

I have not have the patience to read much fiction for a while, but I just finished re-reading William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition". I've read it three times now, the last two times as audio book. There is some indefinable characteristic about that book I just really love. It is so modern and yet so timeless. It is sort of sad, and yet very positive and sort of optimistic. Go get it.

I also like the main character, Cayse Pollard. She is beautiful, but understated, competent but not ego-driven, tough and yet caring.

Nobody writes like Gibson. Every sentence is a little work of poetry, and yet somehow they all line up and tell a story.

One reason I love SF more than what academics normally consider fine literature, is that not only does it not fear technology, but also it usually has highly capable characters. Whereas "fine literature" usually has characters who accomplishes nothing except to polish their neuroses.

Actually Pattern Recogntion is not even SF, but it feels like it.

... Another reason I love Gibson: He has apparently approximately the same priorities as I have myself. There is very little romance or sex in his stories. But a lot of art and creation. Several of his books have at their core a trek to find an important artist. Visuals and designs and aesthetics in general are very important too. I really like that.

I get the feeling that Gibson appreciates things. Things don't have to be loud or big or unusual to be wonderful, to him.


Many years ago in Denmark I saw a wonderful cartoon (I think it was by the classic Rune T. Kidde). One guy was saying: "I anti-war, anti-polution, anti-whaling, anti-bureaucracy, anti-commercialism, anti-globalism!"
And the other guy says: "Wow, that's really... um, positive."

And like the saying goes, it's funny because it's true. Are you positive because you're fighting negative things? Well... it's a lot better than fighting positive things! But... does it really help all that much?
Mother Teresa said that she refused to go to an anti-war rally. "Show me a peace rally, and I'll go."
By fighting things you give them your energy, and you strengthen them.
Instead, give your energy to the things you want rather than those you don't.

Featured comment by TTL:
"All true.
What puzzles me, though, is how come so few people get this? This is not rocket science but rather quite elementary psychology.
The U.S. goverment is infamous for their "War Against this" and "War Against that" programs. The late and great Harry Browne once listed them all and showed how not a single one of those programs had diminished the thing they had 'againsted' for with those unfathomable sums of taxpayers' money.
A perfect example is "War Against Drugs". There is a more or less direct correlation between money spent in this program and the growth of illegal drug use in the country."

About "nothing"

[This is another Research Note. This is not really the forum for them, but I post them here for the record.]
I had a realization in my bed (again... I seem to use my bed time more for cogitating than sleeping) which felt profound.

I realized a couple of years ago that the basic nature of Evil is Nothing. Nothing pressing on Something. The goal and results of Evil is Destruction, resulting in Nothing. And evil folks have "nothing" souls.

Then I considered the whole history of time to be a method to go from Nothing to Something. Or to God, if you will.

And "evil" was created purposefully as a Projection of the Nothing, so that people would See it and realize something was wrong, to coax them into action.
This worked great. We're seeing the near-end of it now, with the final step being realizing that Evil is an illusion. This is rapidly approaching the mainstream.

My realization is that the step after that is realizing that Nothing itself is also an illusion!
It does not exist. "Nothing" does not exist, never has, and can't exist.

If Source is an eternal and infinite Something, then "separation" from it could only be accomplished by being "nothing". Which was the original Erroneous Thought that we are attempting to correct.
The reason it is and has been so much work is of course that Nothing can't think! So from the viewpoint of the illusory "nothing" (us), the journey has been long and excruciating.
Ah, well. Better than boredom. (Which, thinking about it, would be the feeling of Nothing intruding on Something.) And of course in the viewpoint of the infinite Something, which is the only real thing, it barely existed at all.