Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ed Wood and Tim Burton

"You should feel lucky. Eddie's the only fella in town who doesn't pass judgement on others." "That's right, if I did I wouldn't have any friends."

Funniest line I've heard all week. It's from the wonderfully quirky movie Ed Wood.

Johnny Depp is amazing. The range of mannerisms and personalities he can adapt. Awesome.

Here's another funny line. A very pompous announcer in a trailer for one of Ed's movies says: "We are all interested in the future, for that is where we will spend the rest of our lives. And remember, my friends: future events such as these will affect you in the future."

Ed Wood was made by Tim Burton, the man who gave us the best two of the Batman movies. In the second one (with Michelle Pfeiffer as the ssssexy Catwoman), when the Penguin walks in a grave yard, a head stone moves, obviously fake. I heard people making fun of it because of this, and understandably so, but I sensed it was an homage to Ed Wood, who was "not bothered by details". And I was right, in Ed Wood, a fake headstone moves in the making of Plan Nine From Outer Space, and Wood is not bothered, unlike the backers. I must say it's rather crazy and gutsy to sacrifice the believability of such a big movie for an homage that only a very tiny percentage of the audience would get. I'm surprised the studio let him get away with it.

By the way, I find it amazing that, apparently, a B/W movie will attract a much smaller audience than a color one. For me it's no issue. As a matter of fact I had seen ten minutes of Ed Wood before I noticed, "hey, this is a black and white movie".

Talking about Batman II, isn't it odd how Dany Devito as the Penguin just didn't work? He's a good actor, the make-up was cool, I can't put my finger on what was wrong, but it just didn't work.

One might say it is because they had made the Penguin a scary character instead of camp and silly one like he was in the comics. And that's true, but that's no reason it couldn't have worked in its own right. I don't know.

Girl with a Leica

1934, Alexander Rodchenko: 'Girl with a Leica'.

New Yorker Article about the Leica mystique. A bit breathless, but perhaps interesting.

I am not at all sure if the Leica is still really justified. The main reason for its original development was to create a super-compact camera. This succeeded admirably, but since the seventies the world has been awash with even more compact cameras, and many in fine quality.

Another reason was the quietness of the Leica. But according to reports, the new Leica M8 is actually noisier than some DSLR cameras.

Then there is the viewfinder, which in the seventies was much, much bigger and brighter than SLR finders. But times have changed, and SLR finders are very big and bright now. SLR viewfinders don't, sadly, show the world beyond the picture frame. But on the other hand they show just what you get, even with a zoom lens, and the picture is equally big even with a tele lens.

Then there's the excellent rangefinder system with a wide base. All well and good, but not only are SLR finders improved, they also have autofocus now. Admittedly reports are mixed as to whether this is faster than good autofocus for all people and situations.

Then there are the amazing (and very expensive) lenses... This is ironic, because the original Leica was a huge compromise in image quality, compared to large-format cameras which ruled 80 years ago. So now it has become the high-end alternative. And yet most people will not be able to tell the difference between a Leica M8 picture and one from a DSLR at half the price.

It's a weird world.

Waste not, want not

Always get married early in the morning. That way, if it doesn't work out, you haven't wasted a whole day.
-- Mickey Rooney


Ctein (pronounced ka-tein) discusses image quality. What do we mean by "35mm quality"? And how much is enough?

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Boris Karloff in The Mummy. What a face that man had.
Plus of course the inspired work by the make-up artist, Jack Pierce (who also did Frankenstein's creature).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Gotta love Motley Fool. I just found out I can save over £600 ($1200) on my powerbill per year by changing provider. That's not trivial.

OK, this is insane, though: with gas and electric and telephone, you can have different providers with hugely different rates. How can this be? They all use the same resources and the same pipes. Clearly the other companies must be renting use of the pipes from the original company which put up the pipes.

So after they buy the minutes or kilowatts, they can sell it to me, and do it way cheaper, and still make a profit??

In some instance, like international phone bills, the bill can be cut by 95%! What kind of insane profit is the first company making?

Somebody is getting futtbucked here, and and I suspect I know who.

Peace Pilgrim

The interesting Peace Pilgrim and her excellent speech.
Her talk about inner peace and the two inner forces is so wise.

"... Then came a wonderful morning when I woke up and knew that I would never have to descend again into the valley. I knew that for me the struggle was over, that finally I had succeeded in giving my life, or finding inner peace."

Like I expected, there's a book about her. I'm getting it.

I am wondering, since she walked in the US, how did she get from city to city? Isn't there often hundreds of kilometers of empty landscape (often desert) between cities in the US?

Pascal blog

Frequent commentator Pascal, MD from Lebanon, has a blog now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Inside Man"

Quick note: the Spike Lee film Inside Man is excellent. I am usually bored by "thrillers", because I'm hypersensitive to cliches and superficiality. But this one is fresh all the way, and gorgeously filmed too.


It is harder these days to find female models who don't have any tatoos. It's a pity, since the durn things are permanent.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What is a kilo?

The kilogram is drifting.

Anurag said:
Scientists are now taking wise and immediate actions find an alternate to maintain the standard for mass. Even I am abit tensed about it 'cause you see, I am a science student doin' my A levels.

Alex said...
Don't worry, they aren't going to re-write the A level papers before next summer.

The formulae will still work, just the constants will change (and Casio will get another 20GBP from us all).

I remember A Level science and maths were things of wonder. Everything we had learnt at O'Level (or CSE/GCSE whatever they are now) turned out to be "approximate" or "works for 10% of the cases". Can you imagine after spending the whole of 6th form learning calculus , only to be told in University that for most examples you have to estimate, you can't fit a curve to it.

As for a changing standard. I grew up in a time where we still had a coin called a sixpence. It was worth 2.5p. The Kings head was still on the coins, and we were slowly converting from lbs and oz's to Kg, and from pints to litres. Imagine my culture shock when I emigrated from a 60% metric system to US Imperial with their short measure pints of just 16oz's!

For work I used to measure time in pico seconds, and lengths in nm. A few years ago I was living under the standards of knots and nautical miles at work, and trying to coerce lat/long onto an xy plot of a radar return measured in r/theta at a northerly latitude where the convergence of lines of longitude is significant over the 60 mile span of a radar.

Whatever we schooled for, it just set us up to learn faster in the real world.

As the world looks more closely at the details, the more there is to find and wonder at.

The dream is infinitely complex. It's an attention trap.

Irv Thomas

My friend Irv Thomas, author of the book Derelict Days, has been living for great swaths of his life on the road, without any traditional "security" at all, on a spiritual journey. The thought fascinates me and scares me.

That sort of life is called "being a bum" by solid citizens. But think about it, is it disdained because it has no value, or because it, if embraced voluntarily by a sane person, gives a freedom which scares them even more than it scares me?

Irv has a journal. Here is a recent issue and a sort of manifesto.

Final Identity commented...
Fabulous plan. My hope has always been to reduce my material things down to something roughly equivalent to three suitcases worth of clothes, and then live "on the lam" without encumbrances. I'd of course have oodles of money to finance my gallivanting, as well.

Two problems tend to arise for me the few times I've been traveling "heavy". The first is a type of social isolation. Though I get to know a lot of fun people, they tend not to be in close personal friendships in which a shared history or viewpoint begins to build a deep bond. I don't find girlfriends, for example, because I either don't stay in one place long enough (or just because I "ain't got game"?) and I can't join sports clubs or choirs. So I find myself with a lot of shallow connections and few deep ones, which gives me a kind of fake satisfaction masking a real loneliness (not to mention the need for sexual / romantic encounters).

The second problem is one of income. I haven't ever been able to "make it work" without a full-time regular job. I don't LIKE full-time regular jobs -- especially since full time always ends up representing 100% of my time, not just my working time -- but I haven't been able to make a decent living in any other way. Again, I "ain't got game" about coaxing people into letting me have a good arrangement. They're not in business (or romance, for that matter) for the opportunity to help me to have a great life. They're in it for their own trade-offs, and often my life is part of the detriment associated with their benefit.

I haven't solved these conundrums. "Doing without" is the only method for dealing with social isolation (and sexual) and with financial needs that I've ever figured out. I'd rather figure out a better one.

Irv Thomas himself said...
In response to Final Identity, it ultimately boils down to what's really going on in your life and how desperate you are to make a radical turnaround.

Sure, I had to learn to live on a lot less money; but in the end, I got much more for my 'little money' than I ever did with a lot more of it. And as far as companionship and romance are concerned: you have no idea how a truly free soul can strike other people. Yes, many turn their noses up; but many more are intrigued and envious enough to make up for the fools. Even at 80, I'm finding new women in my life!

Update: Irv continues:
The desire to get laid is a honey-in-the-pot trap for staying with the old grind, just like money and fame are. With your nose always buried in the pot, however, you really can't see what lies beyond it. And you tend to discount whatever anyone says lies beyond it. But let me tell you a couple of truths I've learned to live by...

I stumbled a lot, at first. But I gradually came to find out that whatever I actually needed just seemed to come to me. And then I gradually saw that what didn't come to me I really didn't need! Eventually, that combination allowed me to put my free time and energy into DOING what I really wanted to be doing, instead of TRYING TO GET what I didn't have. Do you see the difference? One is living, the other is only struggling or yearning or fighting what's real for you. As I said, I always got what I needed, and that certainly included love 'n getting laid. It is still coming fresh to me at 80, and quite as much as I can handle!

There are just illusions that life challenges us to get over. And one of the major ways that this operates is by the honey-in-the-pot. We get hooked on something that is denied to us. Really, the mechanism is that simple. Learn to look twice, and think about, the phenomenon of consistently being denied whatever you're trying to get. It's a challenge, all right . . . but not the kind you've always thought it was.

Jack of all trades, master of many

Jack of all trades, master of many, article.

Robert KvH ventures:
I believe that the statement one can become world class in almost any skill within one year is meant to be a throwaway teaser. There have always been polymaths among us who are gifted and can master many things. But that is far from the norm.
In the three fields that I know well, from participation, observation, and practice (Sailing, aikido, and embedded systems), I can state that I have never encountered, met, or read about anyone who achieved mastery, let alone world class status in one year. I live in Newport, RI, have worked for the America's cup, and met sailors such as Ken Read. They did not become world champions in one year. In aikido, one year of dedicated practice (say 4-5 times per week) wouldn't get you close to 1st degree black belt, generally considered the entry level into being a serious student. I have asked my instructor, who has been studying for almost 30 years if he has met anyone, or heard of anyone that mastered aikido in one year. He just laughed. You can't master the physical/technical aspects in one year, even if you are already an amazing athlete. The spiritual/mental aspects of aikido will take much longer.
As someone who designs embedded systems for 30 years, I have met many good programmers and software engineers, but none of them became competent embedded engineers in one year.

Finding a home

A different way of finding a home.
As far as I can see, this method will also bypass the real estate agents and their exorbitant fees.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


An interesting "band" is Leatherstrip (or "Leather Strip" or "LeƦther Strip"). Not only does the music really catch my attention, but it turns out it's just one man, and not only that, a Dane like me, with the very Danish name Claus Larsen, sitting in a small Danish town. Very kewl. Not easy to find on iTunes or file sharing, but Amazon has a nice collection with samples.

Nikon rumors

Upcoming Nikon cameras? Just rumors, but very interesting ones.

Update: Thom article about such speculative cameras.


Here is another great track for the hard rock fans.
I'll note that while Skambankt (Norwegian for beaten to shit) is a good band, this is by far their best song, in my opinion.