Saturday, March 22, 2008

Noise to Signal

I like David's work at Noise to Signal.
He thinks in pictures, not subjects.
Some, and I think actually that Mike Johnston is amongst them, consider what to photograph to be the essential question. But personally I consider that amongst the least important questions. I haven't seen any subject which has not been represented in trivial photographs as well as powerful photographs.

A commotion, neighborhoods, and style

We had a little commotion here last night.
I live in a quiet little block of flats (55 of them, I think), populated by working, middle class people. I like it fine. The downside (and probably the reason I was able to buy the flat so cheap a few years ago) is that it's quite close to some similar flats, but those are council housing, and has more trouble. (Though not a lot.) Apparently yesterday two young black men had brought knives around and tried to get a "friend" to open his door to them. He declined and called the police instead, I think. At least what I do know is that the coppers arrested the two young men, and at least one of them had run into our parking lot, and I was alerted by a lot of shouting. They had the guy on the ground, and I saw one cop picking up two large kitchen knives off the ground.

Gandalf weighed in:
I arranged to get a 'typical' GI (soldier) apartment as my wife to be was arriving next week. But at the last minute the occupants didn't get their transfer paperwork and I had to find another place.
Late my wife and I heard that the place had been broken into the first month we would have been living there by three men who beat the solider, raped his wife, and stole their payday moneys.
I have never gone for a cheap neighborhood again. Sometimes living in the wrong part of town is not worth the money you save.

Good point. There are certainly places I would not want to live.

On the other hand, I don't know... I've lived in all kinds of neighborhoods through my life, and the only break-in I ever had (early Sunday morning, a man taking a crowbar to my bedroom window) happened in the nicest place I've ever lived.

Similarly a friend of mine told me that he'd been living in a supposedly crappy neighborhood for twenty years, and the first time somebody tried to sell him street drugs was two weeks after he moved to an upscale neighborhood.

I've never felt physically threatened living here, and I took care to take a first floor flat (I think in the US it's called second floor: not the ground level, the one above). All the break-ins I've heard about in this neighborhood happened on the ground floor. And there not many of them, I think I only heard of one in the six years I've lived here.

Ooh, by the way, I just read that since I moved here, crime has dropped over 30%. I'm not sure I can take all the responsibility for that, but you never know... :)
(Of course this was being reported in the council newsletter. Newspapers never report good news.)

That being said, I'm not ruling out one day moving to a town with a bit more culture and style. There are only two book stores. And the people around here consider "dressing up" to be taking off the track suit and putting on blue-jeans. Seeing a really stylish and beautiful woman in this town is almost a shock to the system.


I'm watching Frasier season 10, and enjoying it greatly.

Frasier is explaining to his father the difference between "ramekins" and "tapas dishes". And I'm wondering, are there really people who live like this? Use immense amounts of time and money and concern on what seems to me to be absolutely trivial differences in the products they buy and the culture they enjoy. (Or "enjoy", perhaps.) Who has four different kinds of forks and cares deeply if anybody uses the "wrong" kind of fork. Who will spend thousands on little objects d'art because of the prestige more than the aesthetics. For whom all these little cultural minutia are tremendously important.

I suppose they exist, but I've never met any in real life. Do you know anybody like that?

The right to shoot the public

Mike Johnston has a couple of good articles about the right-to-photograph-in-public issue: this one and this one.
I like Mike. He is one of the rare essayists whose stuff is almost always worth reading because he cares, knows what he's talking about, and has a personal angle.

"The bottom line is that taking pictures in public is not a hostile act. There has been no study that I've ever been able to find that reliably links the act of photographing with terrorist activity--I'm not aware of any case where a photographer who has been detained has turned out to be a terrorist, or, the other way around, a case where a terrorist was proven to have been out taking pictures in advance of some heinous act."

Well said, Mike. (It's from the first link above.)
There are also some comments here.

Jon wrote:
I spent one night in jail and had two cameras taken away from me for 10 weeks. The attorney fee was $3000.00 and though it never went to trial, the police can arrest with out impunity and cannot be sued for false arrest.

I was shooting two models in downtown Baton Rouge, non-nude work, but there was a government building right behind the models, and someone said we were taking photos of government items, and because of the Patriot Act which we have in the US, they can arrest you on any reason they want.

No, there are rights and there are rights, but those all belong to the government.

This happened three years ago. I never shoot anywhere near anything governmental to include bridges, grain elevators and other things where it might be considered a potential terrorist target. It is not as bad now as it was three years ago, but I know full well what rights are.
Jon Barry

Update: related news.

There are many good comments to this post.
For example an excerpt by a comment from E Taylor:
Americans are supposed to be risk takers. We decided we would take risks in order to be free. We did not decide to be safe at the expense of our freedom, though that is what we seem to have agreed to today. We could save many tens of thousands of lives just by making the speed limit 25mph everywhere, but we do not because we want the freedom to travel more quickly. However, we give up our freedom to try to save the much smaller number of people who could conceivably die in a terrorist attack.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I never used screensavers very much, none of them really kept me interested for more than a day or two. But for some reason today I suddenly decided to see what's out there.

Right now I'm looking at what ScreensPro has to offer. Not all their savers have the resolution necessary for my 30-inch screen (they tell me current computers don't have the power for so high resolution animation), but some do. So far I like Electric Jellyfish.

And I bought Something Fishy from I like it. See video.

I also like the CafeWall one. (The download is only 16k!)

Update: Comments so far point out that I save the screen and power much more by using sleep instead of a screensaver, which is non-functional with an LCD screen, and is only eye candy. Which is true. I'll only use them when I'm zipping back and forth to the computer all the time.


From comments on an earlier post:

ttl said...
“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.” — Stephen King, On Writing

Eolake said...
(Reminds me I never finished that book.)

Actually I'm not sure I agree. Some people (Heinlein for example) were very successful because they were light-hearted about writing.
And many others never can finish what they write because they take it too seriously.

TTL added:
I'm not sure I agree either. Light/heavy-heartedness may not be the axis that matters.
Here's another quote:
“The mark of a good musician is to play one note and mean it.” — Mike Oldfield (1980)
I come back to authenticity. Maybe what Stephen King really meant was: whatever you fill that empty page with, mean it!

Ah, yes, in that case I agree wholeheartedly.

Just yesterday I was thinking about that the reason a writer writes a lesser book (as in William Gibson's latest) may be because he is not interested in what he is writing at that time.

Arthur C. Clarke is dead, alas

Way back in the eighties, Arthur C. Clarke said that he fully intended to live long enough to see what actually happened in 2001. Well, he managed that, and then some.
Have a nice trip up the space elevator, dude. Watch out for any black monoliths.

Hot-spot detecting tee-shirt

[Thanks to Ian.]
If you're afraid that the world is not always aware of how big a geek you are, you can wear this tee-shirt which actively displays the strength of nearby wi-fi hot-spots.

I think that in a few years, we can buy clothes like this were the tech and battery is so flat and resistant that it can actually be built into the clothes themselves and not have to be removed for washing.
Admittedly, apart from unsubtle decoration, I don't imagine what good uses this will have. But then there are many good uses and technologies which I did not imagine before they arrived. In fact, that's most of them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer article.
"The tawdry nature of his current troubles — to be caught on tape arranging a hotel-room liaison with a high-priced call girl, according to law enforcement officials — shocked even his harshest critics..."

Using a call girl? This "tawdry" beyond everybody's imagination? Wow.

I never fail to be amazed at what the American public will forgive, and what they won't. They will forgive war profiteering and massive fraud, but if they found out you've slept with somebody outside marriage: bang, down you go.

Spitzer said:
"I cannot allow for my private failings to disrupt the people's work," Spitzer said at a news conference in New York City. "Over the course of my public life, I have insisted — I believe correctly — that people take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor."

... I notice, though, that he only did so after being found out...

Blue-ray in a laptop

Blue-ray in a laptop. Cool idea. The machines are heavy, but not expensive.

Simplicity roools

Camcorder Brings Zen to the Shoot.
(Notice there's a video too.)

Nikon D60 video review

Nikon D60 video review at It's a really nice camera, particularly for the price.

It seems that Nikon, like Canon, has markedly improved their budget kit lens (standard zoom gotten cheap with the camera). Not only including image stabilization, but also improving sharpness markedly:

"By far the best new feature of the D60 though is the option to buy it with an affordable stabilised kit lens. The new Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR is a superb budget option, delivering great quality images that are sharp across the frame, along with quick and quiet focusing and optical stabilisation which allows you to handhold shots three times slower than normal. It’s one of the classiest kit lenses around and buyers of the D60 should definitely go for it over slightly cheaper bundles with the older non-VR model."

Of course this lens can be acquired for other Nikon cameras too.


It's funny to me how investors usually insist on "projections" from somebody starting a new business. The fact is, seems to me, that there's no way in hell you can "project" levels of income for the future. You simple can't predict all the factors, or even just most of them. If you could, most businesses would not fail in the first two years. Investors should know this.

Tell me why you're filming here

Another installment in my ongoing coverage of the idiotic oppression of photographers in the UK (and probably other countries).
(Man, the Bobby in this video is really acting like an a-hole.)

By the way, there's misinformation in the video re photographing in train stations. Police informs:
"Taking photographs on stations is permitted providing it is for personal use."

Doggie in the window

I just walked into our communal stairwell, and by the backdoor was this little doggie waiting to be let out.

At least that's what I thought for a split second, but then I realized it was:

(You gotta love digicams and the Internet. You can share the stories of your life with the world in minutes, no matter how trivial they are...)

Muscle lady

No flippin' way that's a human being.
(It is not a montage, though, see the nails and the remnants of breasts.)

(I got a complaint about taking too much about art and philosophy, so I thought I'd better change tacks.)

"Ebay" by Weird Al Yankovic

"Ebay" by Weird Al Yankovic.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Loomis on Beauty

It is surprisingly rare to hear Beauty being discussed in books and articles about art, so it was a great pleasure to find this paragraph in the book I recently acquired.

"I cannot believe that the artist who establishes beauty as his fundamental approach to art can go very far wrong. No one denies that beauty is broad in scope, so broad that no single lifetime could encompass more than a small part of it. The great danger lies in allowing beauty to get bogged down in personal opinions, trends, and isms, in narrowing our individual understanding to the dogmas prated by the few. Beauty must be free, belonging individually to you and me, as far as we are capable of grasping it. Beauty is all around us, waiting to be discovered, and every artist interprets it on paper or canvas in his own particular way."
- Andrew Loomis, The Eye Of The Painter

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Artists and audiences

Here's a thought:
If an artist wants to be commercially successful, he has to learn to take the viewpoint of an audience.

For example, to a painter, a painting may be an experiment in lines and shapes. But to his customers, a painting is decoration for the home.

If he forgets his own viewpoint, he may become rich, but may also become unhappy because he feels he has never fully used his power. If he never remembers the audience's viewpoint, he may become self-satisfied, but poor and unhappy because almost nobody "understands him".

If he can successfully combine the two viewpoints, that's a great start.

MS email woes

Adam Engst sez:
"Be careful what you put in email, my mother always said, because it could end up on the front page of the New York Times. Clearly, Microsoft wasn't listening to my mother ..."

The funny thing is, they've been through exactly the same thing before, less than ten years ago, in the monopoly court case fiasco. It seems they don't learn so fast. Encryption, dudes, if you have to write about sensitive things.

Pixar shorts, Ratatouille, and Blue-ray

I hope pixar will soon release their back catalogue in Blue-ray. I just bought a package deal of Ratatoo... taratuill.... the new one*, bundled with all the Shorts so far, and I watched the latter today. It looks great, and I was on the floor watching the newest one, "Lifted" from 2007, about a very sound sleeper and the aliens trying to abduct him. Priceless stuff. One small, cute detail: the error beep that the alien's huge computer makes is the "hero" sound on Mac OS X. :)

I'm looking forward to The Incredibles and Monsters Inc coming on Blue-ray.

*Update: the design and rendering on Ratatouille is amazing. For example, one of the human characters fall in the river, and for a while afterwards he is wet, and he is really wet. His hair, his skin, his clothes, all of it radiates wetness. It's clear they made a major study of how wet things look, and how to replicate it in CGI.

In fact I think they now can make environments and some animals which are very hard to distinguish from live action. I am wondering how long it takes before this includes human figures. How long until they can insert at 100% CGI-created scene into a movie, and nobody notices?

(Update: in fact, when watching Ratatouille, I sometimes really feel like I'm watching live action, especially the scenery. This is the first time ever this has happened. It's very impressive.)

I also greatly admire Pixar for setting the movie in Paris. After all the survival of the company depends upon American sales, and the movie was planned about three years ago (four?), when American anti-French sentiments were high. Very gutsy move.
... OK, I looked it up, actually the genesis of the film was in 2001, but they still chose to follow through on it.

Update 19/3: Once again I have to comment on how embarrassingly immature the high-def format is, even in 2008. This morning I've spent ten minutes (so far!) trying to start up the Ratatouille disk and find the place where I left off last night. (I can't leave the player off, the danged thing shuts down after a few minutes.) Copyright warnings, Disney trailers and promotions, same for pixar, menu animations, multi-second delays before the machine reacts, buttons that sometimes work and sometimes don't, cryptic labeling, mysterious stalls with black screen, a top menu suddenly appearing without any buttons on it, multi-minute wait times for the disk to load, and then multi-minute waits again after the trailers are laboriously dismissed one at a time... Frankly, this disc/player combination have passed beyond simply Embarrassing and entered solidly into Infuriating territory.

Seriously, what the h*ll? I realize it's pretty new technology, but even ten years ago, DVD players were never this bad or slow, and high-def is basically just DVDs at four times the resolution.

If you wanna wait until 2009 to invest in Blue-ray, I won't be the one to blame you.

Jade drawing

Jade and Judy are visiting today. Here is Jade drawing.
I was struck by her profile.

Again this is the little Canon Ixus 960. It is awesome. This is indoors at 1/30th second, no flash, and it's pin-sharp due to the image stabilization.

I'm quite pleased with this one. And I printed it out big (40cm X 60cm) for her mom.
And by the way, if Jade ever starts a photographic career, I have her very earliest efforts: I lend her my camera today, and this is one of the results.

And here is her very first photo ever, featuring the first painting I'd made in many years, in 2006.

By the way, you'll notice that Image Stabilization works great even with a photographer of such tender age.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Curse of Blondie

I was vaguely aware that one of my favorite bands from the seventies, Blondie was playing again. But I had not figured they would be doing anything really noteworthy.

Fortunately I took a chance and bought a couple of their new CDs, and it turns out that The Curse of Blondie is really good. It contains several tracks which one may consider amongst their best ever. For example Background Melody, Magic, and Rules for Living, just wonderful songs.

I warmly recommend this album, and I think it's awesome that people who have been in the music business for thirty years can rise up and create something this fresh and strong.
By the way, thank you to those people who have told me when a post or review of mine have spurred them to get a film/book/CD, it's good to get feedback.

Living a dream

It's an old idea basically, and we may even have had it mentioned around here before, but it's in interesting idea. It boils down to: if we and the universe are not real, how could we possibly know about it? By the nature of things, since it would be a closed system, it can't be proven or disproven.

Fame and misfortune

Lindsay Lohan's 14-year-old sister wants to be famous. "I want it so bad you don't even know," she says.
She has seen the track of her sister, and yet she wants that. Sometimes I despair of the intelligence of humans.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stroke of insight

Fascinating account of a stroke seen from the inside. It's scary, but uplifting.

Gold rush

There's a gold rush going on. Here's a comment from Hans Lysglimt. (In case you get the impression he's against gold, here's another interesting comment.)

One of the things it took me a while to learn is that there's a difference between investing and speculation. Investing is well-considered and happens over decades. Speculating is not much different than gambling. The main difference is that in gambling, the randomness factor and the rule that the house always wins is much more out in the open. And yet even in gambling you'll see lots and lots of people who think that their god-given luck or their "system" will allow them to beat the house.

Maybe sometimes they do. But do they walk away then? No, because gambling is addictive. And similarly, the ones who win in speculating are the dealers. They take a couple of percent off each trade while the speculators keep chasing the Prize around, trying to Time The Market.

It might be fun, but don't play with money you can't afford to lose, because even the best speculators in the world, who spend all their time studying markets and companies, have lost money, and big.


I'll just repeat the note in the header:

You don't have to log in to comment, use the "other" button.
I request using a name instead of Anonymous, and putting quoted text in quotes.

Many are confused about this, but really, you don't have to register with Google or Blogger just to make comments on blogs.