Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fate's bitches

I've just become a specialized collector. I collect TV shows about young women who become fate's bitches and are forced by supernatural forces to help the universe, all told in a drama format but with solid doses of humor.

So far I have:
Tru Calling - Amazon US - UK
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Amazon US - UK
Wonderfalls - Amazon US - UK
Dead Like Me - Amazon US - UK

I find it amazing that so many shows can fit in such an apparently slim niche, and still be very, very different, and really good.

Anybody know any others? (This is partly retorical, to milk the "collector" joke, but you never know.)

Anon said:
Dead Like Me only ran two seasons. A movie based on the series is due out this summer, and if it does well at the box office, they may continue the series.

A DLM movie? Kool!

Laurie said...
only I wouldn't call Millie in Dead Like Me a *bitch*. In my mind she was egoless and struggling living in an ego-driven world. That is, until she became a grim reaper. But I would never call her a bitch, she was just different.

I meant "fate's bitch" in the meaning that they were not in control of things. Fate is their master. It does not mean that she was or acted like a "bitch" in the sense of bad behavior.

The Raging Grannies Greet the F.C.C.

The Raging Grannies Greet the F.C.C. for net neutrality. Everybody should have the same access to bandwidth, they say.

Also from Markoff: prototype of cheap 3D-body interface for controlling avatars in a computer game or space.


Shutterfinger, photographic blog.
"From all accounts, Harmon Gloss FB is a wonderful paper, but why should it cost almost twice as much per sheet as one that's actually coated with silver?"

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world

I looked up films with Milton Berle, and I found It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world. (Me, I would have gone with just a single or a double "mad".) What a nice surprise, this is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Great stuff.


One of the photographers I deal with is in Thailand at the moment, but he can't use local models, because it's illegal for a foreigner to be a professional photographer in Tailand!

Here's the king as pictured on a bank note. It is said he carries his camera everywhere.

31 other professions are apparently also barred for foreigners in Tailand, including hairdresser and designer.

I'm guessing it's meant as protection of trade. I haven't had much luck finding confirmation of these data though.

Johnston's Theory of What-to-Buy

Johnston's Theory of What-to-Buy, a theory about how to select your camera.

The great sex threat

When people defend porn, they always back up to: "we want porn to be allowed, but don't worry, we'll make sure children don't see it, then nobody will get hurt". I think though that the idea that children somehow are intrinsically damaged by seeing nudity or sex is one of the great untested assumptions of the age. It's just never been justified by reason or evidence. I admit I have the same feeling, I once dutifully removed a black-and-white erotic comic book from a childrens library. But it's just a feeling, how do we know? How do we know it's not just an irrational idea which is being strengthened by endless repetition? Where's the evidence?
None of the school pals of mine who found their father's stash turned into monsters or wrecks. Also, finding porn on the Internet is so easy now that it's must be the exception rather than the rule to find a kid who's grown up in the past 10 years who hasn't seen some. And yet I've yet to hear anybody say that the new generations are more psychologically damaged than the past ones.

Pascal, medical doctor, wrote the comments in blue below (and much more), under the alcohol post.
It can always happen that a child see by accident his parents having sex. If he knows what it means, and his parents are matter-of-fact about it, I'm ready to bet there won't be any meaningful trauma. I've got a modern book on sexuality aimed at little kids (for when the little one starts asking, which should be soon), and it explains "everything", with images leaving little room for doubt in spite of their cute style. In our (relatively) taboo-free 3rd millenium, it's the sensible AND healthy thing to do.
Now, don't nobody claim that I advised for a "practical demonstration" to complete a child's education! I won't go that far. The book also explains the very important concept of intimacy, see? Si.

Parent Alex opinionated...
"I think, in our society, the less known about parental sex the better."
Well, I grew up in the, let's say "conservative", lebanese society of the Seventies. But my sensible parents satiated all my intellectual and practical curiosity about the matters of sex when I was 5. And I feel it helped give me an immensely healthier and more relaxed attitude toward sex than my more typical schoolmates, and even University comrades in Med School!
As I said, the principle of intimacy means that parents aren't meant to give their children a live demonstration to make the course more complete. But "knowing" what goes on, on an intellectual level, does not hurt a correctly raised child, on the contrary. I might add, if a child happens to hear odd sounds coming from the bedroom of the parents, (s)he will then know to simply leave them to their intimacy. At least in my case.
None of us would exist if Mom and Dad hadn't "loved each other very very much". So no "eyew!", please. It's normal, it's God's design and Nature's working, it's part of the Universe, grow up and just deal with it.

"I was going to say misuse of alcohol can mess up your life and possible kill several other people, as if that was somehow different from sex."
Now THAT sums up the issue perfectly. :-)
What WOULD harm a child, is his parents sleeping around, or the drinking equivalent, getting drunk. Normal is normal, abuse destroys respect.

French television doesn't even put an age advisory any more if a film on national/public TV has non-sexual nudity in it. This includes a couple getting out of bed together, and clearly having slept naked together. Even includes the occasional tasteful sex scene with a reasonable level of non-explicitness, but undoubtedly naked actors.
What IS causing concerned debate in France today, is the fact that minors are getting very easy access to hardcore porn. And the concern is not even about the explicit sex! Nope, it's about the gravely deformed image of sex that most porn conveys, potentially messing up the conceptions that young teens may get regarding sex. Such as, "when she says no she means yes", "women are all secretly nymphomaniac she-dogs in heat", "swapping, slapping, dirty talking, group sex, non-consensual or ambiguous, are quite normal"... You get the general idea. Another major concern is that porn made today still slacks off regarding systematic condom use, and youngsters getting used to THAT is very bad. Aids is getting a second wind these days...

As one good friend of mine (very experienced) said to me: "Young people, teenagers, they WILL have sex; unless adults lock them up they'll take their own decisions, and our responsible job is to keep them safe by educating them the best we can. If you take a stict forbidding attitude, they may even disregard what you say just to spite you." We all know he's right. Even when risking death in the most conservatine muslim countries, many people just risk it all because the need to "just live" is too powerful to relinquish.

More on Sony A350

Quick note on the Sony A350: because if the very interesting tilting-screen live-view system, I was dismayed about some reports that the camera is noisy at high ISO settings. But now this is contradicted. Odd, I will have to read more.

It seems I'm not the only one who believes that looking at a viewfinder screen is not downside but an upside because it is closer to the finished product and makes it easier to compose with the whole picture in mind. (I've argued this a couple of times before.)

Russian Ark

So I'm finally actually watching Russian Ark.
Though I am actually more interested in the documentary about the making of it.
A whole 90-minute feature movie, filmed in one take, on steadicam, with 800 actors and more extras. It should have been impossible.

At the same time, I'm ambivalent about my awe. Is it really that great to overcome a great technical challenge, if that challenge is artificial?

The director, Alexander Sokurov, claims in interview that the technical accomplishment means nothing in and of itself, that it's only justified by what it makes possible artistically. But as far as I can see, there is nothing in this movie which demanded one single 90-minute take.

If they even had made it in three takes, say, it would have made the task so much easier, and it could easily have been stitched together seamlessly with CGI. And beyond that, I don't see how the tone of the film would have been compromised in any way if it had been produced in a traditional way, with many cuts. I know that as a viewer I don't notice cuts unless they are done in unusual ways.

It does bring up the point though: if a movie with 800 actors can be made in a single take, is it really necessary that so many directors use 30 or 50 takes of every small scene?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pogue videos

I'm just catching up on David Pogue's videos. The third-newest, about Casio's high-speed camera, is especially interesting and funny.
(Note: if you subscribe to his videos via podcasts on iTunes, the picture is much better and bigger.)


Nude painting offends, I'm not sure why we keep being surprised.

Nikon D3x coming

Since the Nikon D3 came out, speculation has been rampant about a possible higher-resolution version. This seems now to be certain.
And I think that Nikon, like Canon, are working hard on developing new lenses which has sharpness to resolve those awesome resolution numbers. The 14-24mm professional lens they released a few months ago is clearly the first of the breed, with unprecedented resolution power for a super-wide lens.

Spring has sprung

.. At least it has around here, Northern England. Today it's too warm for wearing a jacket outdoors, or having the heat on indoors. And the trees are all green and flowery.

By the way, aside from being sweet and funny, this picture is one of those that demand a professional autofocus system! I think the zone of sharpness there is half an inch, and the kitten is not waiting around for the camera to catch up!
Amazingly the big pro cameras can actually keep up with such movement, usually. Pretty amazing. With a good camera you can get three or four sharp pictures out of five, with the camera firing at five pictures per second.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Scottish fall

A picture I took in 2000, when I lived in Edinburg.
Pleasant picture, but I can't get over the improvements in digicams since then.
1: This was a huge step up from my first digicam, Nikon Coolpix 700.
2: The camera, Coolpix 900, was rightly regarded as one of the best digicams available at that time. And yet:
3: This is the full camera resolution, 2MP.
4: And not even for that size is it very sharp or good. It's just fuzzy.

The quality improvements sneak up on you like writer Steve Hynes said to me. He said he'd looked at old slides of his in medium format, and really they were not as hot as he'd thought.

I saw a line in an interview in the brand-new issue of Professional Photographer. A guy, a pro, said that he thought that digital had "diminished picture quality" or words to that effect. I don't know what universe that guy lives in, but it's not one I'm familiar with. The pictures from my breast pocket sized Canon 960 are at least as good as most work I've seen from huge, expensive medium format film cameras. Shocking.

The Verve

The video which proved that you don't have to look good to become a rock star.

Thanks to Christopher, who lists many more one hit wonders.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reply to a legal bully

The reply of a smaller company to Monster Cable's claims of patent infringement.

Airless tires

Very cool, the Michelin Tweel.
I've been wondering for a while why we've been stuck for so long with such vulnerable wheels. Probably because those flexible spokes (and hub) requires some pretty dang advanced materials if they are to be durable and keep their strength. I wonder what they're made of.
I also wonder why they think it will take 10-15 years before they are available for high-speed vehicles like personal cars. That seems to be unusually pessimistic. I'd have thought that prediction is no better than you'd get either "perhaps impossible" or "within five years".
Update: thinking about it, I think it's a little disingenuous that they start the demo/video with a high-speed car, when the product is not likely to be viable for such cars for many years yet.
This guy says he has the solution, with spokes that stretch too.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Not caching

If I accidentally leave a video page on or youtube and immediately come back, the video file is not cached: it has to be loaded all over again. How wasteful and stupid is that? And this is true of all my browsers.
It's especially stupid on, since links on that site will not open in new windows/tabs if I command-click them, the open in the same window, which means that the loaded video file is lost.
You'd think the video server sites would be interested in minimizing their bandwidth load?

Publishing a calendar

I heard that publishes calendars of very good quality, so I thought maybe I could use them for that Domai calendar people keep asking me about. But it turns out, like one might expect, that unless it's very artistic (as in veiled) nudity, then it comes under "pornography", and can't be sold on their site. A chat supporter told me it would have to be on a page only accessible by myself, which sounds like I can't sell it by them. (I'm not sure what such a page would be good for.)

I looked at a competitor,, and their FAQ sez:
Can I send you content that has nudity?
- If you want the formal answer to your question, please go to the Policies and Legal section of Blurb's Web site and review the End User License Agreement, section 4.
Blurb doesn't review, monitor, or edit content as it comes through, but our printer partners have the right to flag content and/or refuse to print anything that they deem to be pornographic or offensive. There are no hard and fast guidelines regarding this, but the closer it is to the "fine art" side of things, the safer it will generally be.

That's it in a nutshell, I'm afraid. There simply ain't no hard and fast guidelines in these areas. Anything is OK, until somebody makes a stink.

Basically I'd like to publish a Domai calendar, but I don't want to have to deal with printing, distribution and taking orders. If anybody has an idea, I'm all ears.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

I recommend the fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

It's very long, and some might find the style dry, but I found it fascinating and delightful. And apparently I'm not alone, it seems it won the Hugo award. (Which confuses me a little, I thought the Hugo was only for SF, not fantasy.) And also the World Fantasy Award. That does not happen often.

If you like fantasy which is not a Tolkien clone, go for it.
I "read" it as an audio book. (Is that called "reading"?) The reader is perfect. It must have been a Homeric task to read all that, it's something like 30 hours. Just remembering all those different voices... (he does them in a solid way, not overdone.)

It was recommended by Neil Gaiman. He had been talking about the book and the author Susanna Clarke for years before the book came out. It was a very long gestation for the it. But it apparently became a "publishing phenomenon" when it finally was released. It was also unusual in that the publisher is not a "fantasy publisher". (What's up with all those divisions anyway?)

Whatever else one thinks of it, one thing is clear: it is a very seminal* novel. Those do not come out often.

*Of, relating to, or having the power to originate; creative. - Highly influential in an original way; constituting or providing a basis for further development. (Online dictionary.)

Poor site designs

Michael Barnes has a little rant about bad design habits on photography sites. I couldn't see any permalink (hmm?), but it's currently at the top of
(Sad that mere artistic nudes have prompted enough people to label his blog "offensive" that google's bot has put up a warning page. Cafe Philos has a comment about it.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Alcoholic beverages

From the pages of the Zero Tolerance post comes:
These people are SO right! I don't like beer at all, and it's available everywhere. It should be banned by the Government because I find it tastes bitter and revolting. They should also ban eggplants, brocoli, cauliflower, liver, Schweppes, and political TV campaign clips.

(Note: the ban part is tongue-in-cheek, inspired by the original post. Disregard.)

I replied:
Thank you! Somebody else who doesn't like beer! I thought I was alone.

Joe said:
I'm not that crazy about it either. I generally do not drink alcohol of any kind, only because I don't like the taste and not for any religious reasons.
There may be a lot more of us than we thought.

Let's investigate.
I'm the same, I simple don't care for the taste of any alcoholic beverages (unless they have so much sugar in them that my sugar-junkie nature takes over). This goes for wine, beer, hard likker, the lot.

Any other readers who feel the same way?

Minnesotans For Global Warming

Minnesotans For Global Warming web site.
BBC documentary.

True Films

A site with short reviews of documentaries. Looks interesting.
Gizmo: A compilation of strange contraptions and bodily extreme feats from the 1920's through 1950's. Free on Google video. One think I think is funny is to see a man put his own body through the hoop of a tennis racket, or balancing on five chairs 40 stories up, and doing it in a vest and tie!

I'm astounded that over 50 years ago somebody invented an automatic lawn mower and an automatic jack to lift cars when they have flats, and they are not in broad use yet!