Saturday, July 12, 2008

Site: Serious Compacts

As you know, I have written about my desire for high quality compact cameras. To my delight, somebody has made a site devoted to them.

I found there this comparison of depth-of-field of two cameras, one of which has a sensor which is half the size of the other, linearly (and therefore half the focal length in corresponding lenses). This shows clearly how huge an impact format has on depth-of-field.


The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves. -- William Hazlitt

Nekromantix - Horny In a Hearse

The psychobilly band Nekromantix has become pretty big on the US west coast. Fun for me, for I know the founder and cornerstone, Kim, from back in Denmark in the early nineties. Him and his then-girlfriend, super cute Pernille, published a magazine for which I was writing articles.

"We park by the cemetery thats our 'lovers lane'
That might be bizarre to some but not this here Dane"

Their music is quite narrow in style, but of course why mess with a working thing, and I did enjoy their first two albums back then, Hellbound and Curse of the Coffin.

I was visiting Kim and Pernille one day, and one of the early members of the band had just left in a huff, and taken his artwork (a big skull) for their tee-shirt with him, damned if they would be allowed to use this now. And Kim was drawing pupils in the eyes of the skull, figuring this would make it a different drawing so he could continue to use it.

We were discussing how art fares in the smaller size of the CD as opposed to vinyl covers, and to my embarrassment I kept humming Howling At The Moon, I did not want to seem like fanboy.

This was a couple of years before I got my first computer, and Pernille showed me their new Macintosh and how they could make drawings on it. Later she accidentally walked into a classical greek sculpture which was standing on her floor, hurting her shin. I helped her do a "contact assist", and she told me next day that she was surprised that she did not have a huge bruise like she normally would have. I said we needed to protect our beautiful assets.

YouTube monetizing

I'd have thought that by now big Internet companies would have found a solution to losing money big on big "successes". I could understand it in the nineties when the Net was new and everything was experimental. Wikipedia sez:
"As of Q1 2008, YouTube is not profitable, with its revenues being noted as "immaterial" by Google in a regulatory filing. Its bandwidth costs are estimated at approximately $1 million a day. It is estimated that in 2007, YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000."

You'd think that even Google would try to offset a cost like a million bucks per day somehow. Like with the very successful Adwords program. Shouldn't be tough to include a couple of Adwords ads on each page. ... Hmm, of course adwords are for Google's customers, not for Google. I dunno. But it's a strange kind of loss leader, especially since they paid 1.65 Billion dollars for it. It must be important to them somehow.

Moon Unit Zappa

Dharma: "Our [doctor] treated the Zappa kids."
Kitty: "What are zappa kids?"
Dharma: "You know, Dweezil, Moon Unit..."
(Kitty looks blank.)
[From Dharma and Greg season two.]

So of course I had to look up Zappa's kids. Hark at this from Wikipedia:

Moon Unit Zappa (born September 28, 1967) is an American actress and musician. She goes by the name Moon Zappa; "Unit" is her middle name.
Zappa was born in New York City, the eldest child of Adelaide Gail Sloatman, who worked in business, and rock star Frank Zappa. She has three younger siblings, Dweezil, Ahmet, and Diva. Zappa's father was of Sicilian, Greek-Arab and French descent and her mother was of Danish, French, Irish and Portuguese ancestry.

... Man, you can't make stuff like that up!

By the way, how come it's always "actress and musician"? It's never "actress and novelist" or "actress and party organiser" or "actress and designer" or "actress and carpenter".
Update: Alex pointed out I was remiss for not including a picture of Jenna Elfman. I miss her, I hope she finds her way into some good shows or movies soon.

Fred is huge

Fred is one of the most popular comedy acts in the world. He is not on TV.
"So here we are at a moment when for all its cash and talent, the best of Hollywood's online efforts slide off the wall like penne al dente, while a Nebraska kid with a $100 camera can attract a giant, hugely valuable audience by jumping in a baby pool with his clothes on. What does he know that we don't?"

Another example of the hugely leveling effect of digital technology.

It seems "Fred" is making a mint sponsoring the Zipit Wireless Messenger. Good for him. I looked it up, and Amazon is selling this little wireless texting device for... thirty-eight dollars! Holy frig! That's less than I paid last time I took a friend to lunch. And this thing is an MP3 player too, and plays radio from the Internet!
It seems we are teetering on the edge of the age where digital gadgets are as disposable as Bic pens.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Concise writing

In school I was known for saying things with few words. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes I went overboard and didn't use enough words get my point across. I'm just very lazy.

Where I went to school there was no lower limit on the length of essays. But it seems there is in much of the world, and I wonder if it's ruined millions of people's ability to make a point briefly. It should be rewarded to be able to write concisely. An essay is only too short if it does not make its point well.

From this article:

The student toiling away at his weekly English theme is too often tormented by a figure: five hundred words. How, he asks himself, is he to achieve this staggering total? Obviously by never using one word when he can somehow work in ten.

He is therefore seldom content with a plain statement like "Fast driving is dangerous." This has only four words in it. He takes thought, and the sentence becomes:

"In my opinion, fast driving is dangerous."
Better, but he can do better still:

"In my opinion, fast driving would seem to be rather dangerous."

If he is really adept, it may come out:

"In my humble opinion. though I do not claim to be an expert on this complicated subject, test driving, in most circumstances, would seem to be rather dangerous in many respects, or at least so it would seem to me."

Thus four words have been turned into forty, and not an iota of content has been added.

This was told by a Danish teacher. In Danish, the number six is written and pronounced "seks". The six graders had been assigned an essay: "What makes life worth living?" The usual prodigy turned in this essay: "6".

Ubiquitous computing

"I went to my first computer conference at the New York Hilton about 20 years ago. When somebody there predicted the market for microprocessors [these are the major component of all computers] would eventually be in the millions, someone else said, ‘Where are they all going to go? It's not like you need a computer in every doorknob!’ Years later, I went back to the same hotel. I noticed the room keys had been replaced by electronic cards you slide into slots in the doors.
There was a computer in every doorknob."
(Danny Hillis, circa 1999)

Tippi of Africa

Tippi Degré is famous in France, subject of books and documentaries. She grew up with African animals and was and is totally fearless with them.

Tippi and a snake. Tippi and bushmen.
Tippi documentary trailer. Even in her mid-teens, she is clearly still a tiny person.
I don't understand her French, but she seems very together.

TTL added:
Beautiful! Thanks for this post.
Check out these amazing photos of her!
Funny that it's only one letter difference from Pippi. Maybe you need an *ippi -name to be fearless and free.©ˆ :-)
1) Consider Tippi Hedren's role in Hitchcock's films, and that she now runs an animal rescue taking care, among others, the two tigers that used to belong to Maicol Geckson.

I can imagine many adults in the west thinking it's just horrible... not because they consider she is in danger from the animals, but because she is often dirty, and out of control, and out of supervision, untamed! not in school! Doesn't keep her elbows off the table!

I just can't believe she is crawling around on crocodiles, elephants, cheetahs... for somebody like me who is uncomfortable around a poodle, it's inspiring.

I haven't been able to find a DVD, but there is a highly rated book.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The counter-Hasselblad

What kind of digital camera can you get for $100 these days?
Hint: more camera than you could get for $10,000 ten years ago.
See these things are not taken into consideration when they calculate inflation.

Stop press!... you can also get a $100 notebook now.
... No, wait, that's one hundred sterling. Never mind.

Apple iTit

[Got this in the mail.]
Apple announced today that it has developed a breast implant that can store and play music. The iTit will cost $499 or $599 depending on cup size. This has been hailed as a major breakthrough because women are always complaining about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

New Hasselblad

Funny, I thought a Hasselblad camera was expensive when I was young. That's nothing compared to the digital generation Hassies: thirty thousand dollars. Without even one of the also very expensive lenses... [Update: I stand corrected, it's nothing so cheap, it's forty thousand dollars for the new top model...]

Since I'm not a pro and don't so far make very large exhibition prints, I'm not likely to get a Hasselblad any time soon. But I'm still a little interested when they introduce a record-breaking 50-megapixels camera, for the reason that there's always a trickle-down effect. If 16 megapixels was still the highest you could get, it would still be costing twenty grand like seven years ago. Instead you can now get a Pentax 14-megapixel camera for only a thousand dollars (excellent camera too), and very likely a new 16-megapixel Canon full frame camera pretty soon for little more than two grand. That's a tenth of the price.

Women then and now

[Thanks to]
I think women look better these days. It may be the easier living.





1957:(OK, not exactly modern times yet, but what an improvement already. One would almost think WWII did some good.)

"June 17, 1922. Iola Swinnerton and Anna Neibel, winners of a beauty contest at Washington's Tidal Bathing Beach."

Internet censorship?

Jim in Seattle wrote this to me today.
"This article appeared in the local paper today. Our local problem in Seattle is that the "adult gigs" category in Craigslist, a good source of models, has been systematically flagged and deleted every day since January. Theories abound, but consensus is that CL administrators started flushing the ads last winter, but since then there have been religious nuts and feminists flagging ads for female nude models, perhaps to protect the virtue of young naive damsels. Nobody knows, but the censors are winning in this small battleground with Craigslist's tacit approval because they have done nothing to stop it."

Wired article:
"The governmental role that companies play online is taking on greater importance as their services - from online hangouts to virtual repositories of photos and video - become more central to public discourse around the world. It's a fallout of the Internet's market-driven growth, but possible remedies, including government regulation, can be worse than the symptoms."

I haven't met any of this personally, but it fits with the way the world works. The way from barbarism to civilization is partly that of spiritual maturing, but it's also partly simply suppressing the barbaric urges, white-washing them, with the natural consequences mentally and societal. At today's state of mankind, you either have an oppressive mafia or you have an oppressive government or big companies, but there's nowhere you don't have oppression.

Of course, when somebody says:
"I never thought of it as a photo of a smoking kid," Dors said. "It was just of a kid in Romania and how his life is. You can never make a serious documentary if you always have to think about what Flickr will delete."

... One might say "get a serious web host instead of Flickr". It's not censorship if it's not pervasive. Like my experience ten years ago. A web host is perfectly in its right to determine what they want on their servers. The thing that irked me was the underhanded and disruptive way the whole thing was handled. If they had just given me a polite notice instead of simply turning off my site before a three-day weekend, I could have found a new host no problem.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

T-Mobile Owns the Color Magenta

T-Mobile Owns the Color Magenta.

More satiric graphics here.

Vincent Laforet

Vincent Laforet has become famous for his photos with unusually small depth-of-field. Here's a video about it. And here's an article of his regarding the future plight of the professional photographer (hint: it's buyer's market).

Update: the article has a reference to the wedding thing we have touched upon:
"To be frank, it's quite possible to make more money these days as a top wedding photographer than it is as a top advertising photographer... if you're lucky enough to be making more than $10K a wedding, I'd say it's going to be pretty darn close. While few make that much per wedding, it's a realistic goal, as the top wedding photographers in the country make between $20K to $50K per wedding and up."
Fifty grand for the photographer alone! That's when you know you have too much money.

It is funny that we are familiar enough with miniature/model photography and the inherent short depth-of-field that we instinctively feel that photos like this are of miniatures.
It can be done with a large format camera, but also with a tilt lens. Article.

"At the time people thought I was reckless for leaving such a coveted staff job. The NYT job was a union job - with incredible benefits, a staff car, and company gear and it was often described as a "guaranteed job for life." Unless you committed a felony, or broke an important ethical rule, "they can't fire you," I was repeatedly told.
A few weeks ago I was at The Times to judge the Sports Shooter Student Portfolio of the Year and when I came out there was a strange feel around the newsroom. That day was the day that The New York Times was having it's first layoffs in the newspaper's history, that's right until then, there had never been a single layoff at The New York Times. People were being called in the editors' offices and being told they were being let go - this after not enough people had opted to take a series of buyouts. This was fundamental change in what we were taught to believe in - what ever happened to that "job for life." Well that dream, that comfortable "cloud" and the idea of a staff job, is becoming a distant memory these days - no one is immune - not even The NY Times. "

Below is one of my favorite Vince Laforet pictures. It's awesome.

Brooklyn bridges, 1908

Another amazing BW photo, but this one very detailed.
Thanks to Shorpy.

Here is another fantastic one:

The original is even bigger (and more detailed) than Blogger allows.

Memorial/sky photograph

I quite like this photo, taken with a Diana camera by my friend Nicola Quinn from the English South.
(I think prints are available.)

Funny coincidence: last night I had a dream I was photographing the sky.

Direct to DVD/blue-ray/download

I'm pleased that direct-to-DVD is becoming a market. I guess soon it'll be called "direct-to-DVD-and-Blue-ray-and-also-download-rental-and-purchase", and it will be a huge market itself, sitting between the TV-series market and the theatre market, but perhaps one day be bigger than either.

I think it can produce many high-quality things, both by small and big producers, to set at various places in the Long Tail, including the fat end.

One example of a good product is the new four planned DVDs of Futurama of which two are released yet, I've watched the first one, Bender's Big Score, which was top notch, and I've bought the second one, The Beast with a Billion Backs.

The thing is that something like the Blair Witch, which had a super-low production budget, can now also be released for a very low budget, unlike theatre release which is extremely costly. With today's technology, a small group of of talented people can produce a fully professional film (either live action or animated) and release it too, for a budget a tiny fraction of what was necessary a few years ago. And there are even new ways of promotion, like YouTube. It's all very cool.

Camera order cancellation

As I half-expected, that order on an insanely-cheap camera via Amazon UK I placed a few days ago did not get through. I just got a mail from the seller:

"First of all we would like to thank you for ordering from Foto Koester.
However, we are afraid that the order placed must be cancelled.
The huge different in price compared to our competitors is the result of an account manupilation by a third party.
Together with amazon we have already taken the appropriate action in order to avoid such accidents."

That's understandable, I guess. Perhaps somebody hacked it just to get himself a cheap camera.

Web comic

Web comic "Questionable Content". I like it.

I can't recall, and for some reason, Search refuses to reveal, who linked to QC this morning (I have a habit of opening web pages to be read later). It turns out QC is pretty famous and one of the few webcomics earning their maker a living. Good on him.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Associated Press protectionism

Associated Press protectionism.

Trying to force bloggers from quoting articles and linking to them? That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard. That's like a supermarket owner trying to intimidate the customers into not talking to their friends about the store. If AP is not able to benefit from free traffic, then they are doing something horribly wrong.

Clone Wars CGI movie

Clone Wars CGI movie.

It looks nice. But looking at the trailer I'm thinking that after thirty years... I'm pretty much over light sabers and ray guns, donchaknow? I can't get enough of eye candy of big imaginative cities and space ships, but the battle scenes... yawn.

42 days and hand over your flash card

42 days and hand over your flash card. [Thanks to Mike Reichman for the link.]
"... memory cards, cameras and mobile phones, PDA's, laptops - anything containing digital information, as well as letters, notebooks etc. will be able to be removed and kept by police for up to 4 days even though no offence has been committed.
"Police, PCSO's and public are already quite capable of forcibly and wrongly insisting that cameras require a licence or that photos of people in the street require permission or that photographing children is illegal. The addition of a hazy certainty that cards and photos may lawfully be confiscated on demand seems sure to significantly worsen this already toxic mess."

TTL points to this Tim Ferris post about the situation in the US.
"Tomorrow, July 8th, could mark the beginning of official condoning of warrantless surveillance of law-abiding citizens in the US, not to mention foreign nationals. I am not an alarmist and believe in qualified surveillance with process — this is different. I’ve done the homework."

The new puritans

Under an older post, Philip commented:

... one of my least favorite phrases: "everything has changed".

I live in the US, and I've noticed that this is the excuse that the new breed of Puritans uses for all of their ridiculous restrictions. (Maybe it's the same old breed, but they don't call themselves Puritans anymore.)

Sadly, the media tell us when something is offensive, and everyone works themselves into a tizzy over it, even if it wasn't offensive at all. Then we look differently at our friends and neighbors. It makes no sense.

A quick example: I have three children. I'm an actively involved parent, helping out at school fund-raisers, actually attending their award ceremonies, etc. At a recent event, my kid was getting an award, and I was there with my camera taking pictures of his proud moment. A friend of ours has a daughter at the same school. This lady had forgotten her camera, and asked if I might take a few pictures of her daughter getting her awards, and email them to her. Of course I was happy to help out.

After the event, the school principal (a matronly Puritan if ever there was one) approached me and asked me to be careful in future not to take pictures of any kids except my own. I asked something like "Huh?" There were, of course hundreds of kids around. How would you NOT get at least twenty into any picture you might take?

She said that it might make the other parents nervous to see a man that they didn't know with a camera. "Times have changed." was the catchphrase she threw in to justify her request (which wasn't really a request at all, of course).

Oddly, she didn't go to the dozens of mothers who were there and give them the same talk.

American society is infected with some kind of sick paranoia in this area, and I'm not sure I know what the cure is. It's all of their weird behavior towards body-image, extreme fear of nudity, not trusting one another . . . If I was a conspiracy nut, I'd start to think that the government and the media were in cahoots to keep the public divided, brainwashed and confused, but I'm not that nutty.

Think of the children! I think of them growing up in the midst of all this insanity -- their Puritan (or confused) parents teaching them not to trust one another. What does the future hold for them?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A wedding price

The average cost of a wedding in the UK is twenty thousand Pound Sterling (at present rate, $40,000). Twenty thousand pounds for a one day celebration! Are people totally frikkin' insane? Think of the eduction or the leisure time you could buy for that kind of money.

Bert added:

I remember, ages ago, a colleague who invited all of his coworkers (half a dozen or so, including me) out for lunch, and without any apparent reason.

Of course we were curious, and questioned him during lunch as to what occasion we were celebrating. He told us that he had been happily married ten years and had just finished, on that very day, paying off the expenses for his marriage.

He explained that, in the Polish tradition, all wedding expenses are at the charge of the groom. I'm sure the groom's family usually helps out, openly or not, but poor Larry's family just couldn't afford it. And since he had married "above his condition" (is this the correct expression?) and there was no way that his family could lose face to the other side, well, poor Larry got in debt for 10 years...

This is what makes me sick of this marriage business. I would find it pretty normal, even sweet if the goal was to make the day truly special for the newlyweds. But by subtly playing the "yours vs theirs" card, the whole marriage business manages to inflate everything out of control. Of course, one could argue that if the people involved were smart, this wouldn't happen. But pride is such a deeply rooted human emotion...

Indeed. We can blame "the industry" or "society" or this or that person or group. But the fact is that we all are participants.
For example, I can despise a wedding planner for his obscene fees, but if it was me, doing what I liked, and people were willing to pay such fees, would I really say no? I doubt it.

Two men and a spook

Just had a little spook: two men rang my doorbell, one of them I couldn't see under the front awning. The other said very friendly-like if I could let them in because they wanted to surprise my upstairs neighbor. I let them in, and I went to see them as they went up the stairs so they at least knew I'd gotten a look at them.

I noticed then that the one who had spoken was dressed in a slick grey suit and had an expensive watch, around here signifying a specific sort of person. And my neighbor, a very nice and helpful guy, is also the subject of persistent rumors of connections to the grey areas of society.

Well, I could now see the second man, and he was nigh two meters tall and almost as wide, just muscle, and had a shaved head and a broken nose... He attempted to give me a smile and a friendly nod, but these didn't look like expressions he was used to.

I thought "Oh dear, what have I done".

My worries were not eased by heavy footsteps from above and noises like an argument. I was thinking I should go up and knock on his door with some excuse to check on the situation.

But then a couple minutes later I could hear the usual carefree laugh from my neighbor, so I'm guessing it's all right after all.

Update: this particular neighbor is the only one who several times has had somebody come around, with him away or not, and ask me to let them in. So just now I went up to him and asked for a general policy on this. He told me to generally not do so (though it's been OK those times I've done so, fortunately). Which is nice, because now I can say to people that it's his request that I don't do it, so I'm not the one being the a-hole.

Anonymous said...
Sounds like a great neighborhood. I'd get a gun. Or else at least hit the gym. Aren't you nigh on 2 metres yourself?

Yep, I'm pretty big, but not so fit as this guy looked.

This was an exception, it's not a bad neighborhood. More like average, I guess.

The Permanent Record

I recall in eleventh grade a friend of mine, who was intelligent but pretty careful to "have a facade that can be managed" as he put it, told me that if you played hooky for a day, it "went on your permanent record".

And I see that that record is also being played, as it were, in the US, and probably in all countries of the world.

But it's just a Boogyman for older kids, isn't it. If the schools really managed a big file of everything a kid does, I think we would have heard more about it now. (I was a member of an organization which did keep such files, and even for a well-behaved person, they grew fat quickly.)

Ah, I see that it's not just used against kids. Here's a nice article. And an article about the "record" becoming real on the Net.