Saturday, November 15, 2008


I remembered that I heard years ago about software which takes your movie preferences and compares them to many other people's and makes recommendations from it. It's supposedly surprisingly accurate. And I found, which seems to be that. So I'm trying it out.
Apparently I'm a snake.

Edit video file

I have a video file (330MB MPG) which needs 40 seconds cut off the end. And I think it can be smaller without image quality compromise. But it's corrupted somehow, and my QuickTime-based Apple editing apps won't open it (even though it will play in Mplayer). Can somebody help?

Quotes, power

Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience.
-- James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791

When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.
-- Thomas Paine

We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.
-- Stewart L. Udall, commencement address, Dartmouth College, June 13, 1965

Red articles

Two cool articles, one and two, about RED and its founder.
"I had been thinking about this project for a long time," Jannard says. "As a camera fanatic and a product builder, this was something I seemed destined to do." When businesspeople talk destiny, it can sound like bullshit. But at Oakley, Jannard not only ran the company, he personally shot one of its two TV spots and all of its print ads from 1975 to 1995. He owns more than 1,000 cameras, both still and motion picture, several dating back almost a century. "I have a Bolex, Aaton, Arriflex, Eyemo, Filmo, Mitchell, Photosonic, Beaulieu, Keystone—just about every movie camera you can think of."

People like this are interesting, Jannard and Steve Jobs and any number of prominent personalities: who accomplish great things despite, or because, money is a secondary consideration. Or tertiary, or not even considered except as a means to a greater end.

"Even so, traditionalists cling to film's reliability. Film is tangible. Hard drives crash; files get corrupted. "You put film in a can and stick it on a shelf, and it costs $1,000 a year to store," says Stephen Lighthill, who teaches cinematography at the American Film Institute. "With a project that starts as data, you have it on a hard drive, which has to be nursed and upgraded. It's an electronic, mechanical device that can't be left unplugged." Preserving a 4K digital master of a feature film would cost $12,000 a year, according to a report by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences."

Whu? A hard disk can't be unplugged? $12,000 a year? That has to be total BS. You back it up on a couple of different media in a couple of different places, and you're done. If you wish, you make a physical master print on film also. Simple.

There are some interesting points about film. Did you know that each (big, expensive) projection copy of a film has to be taken in to be cleaned/restored after a few dozen screenings? Incredible.
What form digital projectors will take in the future is interesting though. It'll be hard to make them so they won't be outdated very soon.
But I find it interesting to think about how clumsy and expensive it is to distribute the huge film canisters. Today I can download HD movies to my Apple TV... as fast as I can watch them! And that is essentially the same resolution as the "2K" digital projectors they use in some theaters. So even though they may want a bit bigger resolution, they wouldn't even need a special pipeline to get movies delivered fully digitally, only an ordinary commercial Internet connection, and some security measures.
This is cool: Brits are planning use of the economical nature of digital distribution to get more UK-made out to the public. Much as I like Hollywood movies, it's excellent that both digital production and distribution will allow for a much lower entry level and thus much more choice for movie audiences in the future.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Camera comparison

This is a fantastic idea: a Quick-Comparison page for image quality between cameras. Well done to Imaging-Resource.
(The page does not work for me in Safari, but it does in Firefox.)

I find the target setup with the wine bottles to be particularly helpful.

Good grief

Kate bush: Nocturn

Amateur music video based on Kate Bush's song Nocturn.
The album "Aerial"* is not easy to get into, which seems to fit Kate fine. But one of my favorites is Nocturn. It's a very long one, though, and gets better as it goes on, I think.
I'm a big fan of Kate from back in the seventies.
She has said that her own favorite music is the stuff it took her a while to get into. Fair enough, some art is worth some work. But some of my own favorite stuff I did like immediately too. And the thing is, if you don't like something immediately, why would you want to put in all that work just on the off chance that it grows on you? I think an artist does well to meet the audience half way.

* Dictionary: aerial (âr'ē-əl, ā-îr'ē-əl)
Of, in, or caused by the air.
Existing or living in the air.
Reaching high into the air; lofty.
Suggestive of air, as in lightness; airy.
Unsubstantial; imaginary.

Red Epic camera (Updated)

Update again: Mike has a couple of good links.

I find it interesting that there's no "design" at all about the Red products. They are stark and hard and utilitarian, but just from being so well made, they become beautiful after all.


Update: I thought this was the "DSLR-killer" they'd promised. It's not. (They have a lot of clout, sure, but I will still wait to get excited until we actually see this thing.)
Update: Reichman has a nice overview. And so has wikipedia. (It seems from wiki that the Epic/Scarlet is the "DSLR-killer" after all. Very confusing.)
When Leica announced the S2 system, I said "I must admit I didn't see this coming!" Well, you can take this to the second degree with the Red Epic still/video camera announcement. They have a lot of work to do yet before it'll be for sale, but one thing shocks me: it'll have sensors up to 6x18 centimeters! An 18 centimeter long sensor! The biggest (and very expensive) one we have right now is less than 5cms, and I really didn't think that would ever be trumped significantly.

RED seem to want to be original in everything, for example the Epic brochure is not a PDF file, it's one hugely tall JPG. Odd. :-)

I like the look of their lenses. Yum.
They have plans of a radical 3D system:

I am amazed at how this upstart company can make these amazing developments when big Japanese companies with decades of experience are getting mowed down in the market.

What I want to know is, who needs to shoot video at 261 megapixels!? That's over 100 times HD resolution!

One thing I like is that these future RED cameras promise to deliver on something I've long said was the final frontier for digital cameras: high dynamic range. I hope to see the day soon when the constant attention you need to apply to avoid burned out highlights etc (when you can avoid it) is no longer necessary.

Home flicks

David Pogue is right, edited right, home movies can be fun.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

First photos of other planets

[Thanks to Justin.]
They believe they have photographed, for the first time, planets around other stars.

Fake paper announces end of war

[Thanks to Ray.]
Fake paper announces end of war.
This has to be harsh medicine for all the poor souls who got the paper and believed it. But hopefully a reminder of how much we dislike being at war, unless we have stock in Haliburton.
Video here.

Update: this is hysterical: a British blog has the headline "New York Times spoof gives city a taste of a socialist America"!
"Socialist". Heh.

Here's a site for the fake edition. There are also other interesting headlines, like "Court Indicts Bush on High Treason Charge" and "USA Patriot Act Repealed".

USA Patriot Act Repealed
Published: July 4th, 2009
Eight years after being enacted, and three years after being reauthorized, the controversial USA Patriot Act was repealed by Congress by a vote of 99 to 1 in the Senate and 520 to 18 in the House.
No fanfare greeted the repeal in either house. Absent were the 40-minute speeches and foam-core charts predicting Armageddon. The act was repealed with a simple vote cast late in the day by a Congress ashamed of what it had done and what the Act had meant for Americans.

Only one senator voted against the "Patriot" act in 2001. Oh how it would be to live in a sane world.

... Damn, this paper and site does not pull any punches. Look at this ad:

And here's an interesting fake apology by the NYT.

Sadly, when you click on the Arts Section, you get a 404 page! LOL. Too bad, I'd have been curious as to what the Yes Men would consider modern renaissance art.

Ron Paul on liberty

Winter McCloud interviews

The Scott McCloud family is awesome. The youngest, Winter, is actually a journalist at eleven. (Maybe not a paid one, but that's the least of it.)

... I did not intend this to be my Neil Gaiman week, but the first "winterview" I found happened to be with him, and he's always interesting when interviewed.

Here's an article about her older sister Sky (13) and the benefits of alternative education. And here she talks at MIT! (Her bit starts about 56 minutes in.)

Adam Engst on e-books

I have interviewed Adam Engst about e-books and devices.

By the way, the first time I heard the word "blog" was in 2000, when somebody called that. And he was right, it really was a blog, apart from me having to do it all by hand. It was mixed comments, links, and articles, regularly updated at the top of the same page. So I made a blog ten years ago, how ahead of the curve is that? :-)

Canon G10

The new Canon G10 camera is getting very good reviews, especially on features and image quality.
It is still weak though in the areas where compact cameras are usually weak: operating speed (autofocus speed and pics per second), and low-light capability. It does have a good stabilization which helps in low light, but noise increases rapidly if one goes above 200 ISO or so.

I wonder if they would be able, with current technology, to build a camera this size (it does need a jacket pocket after all, it's no super-compact), and yet make it faster and give it a significantly larger sensor? I hope so. I dont' see why not. But on the other hand, if it was easy, I'm sure they would have.

BlankPhotog sez:
I don't see why camera companies couldn't do what you suggest, and more. The question is why they would. Is there a legitimate, profitable market with this type of camera, or is it more speculation on their part still that there might be in the future if they keep developing? Or more cynically, are they holding back on innovation at this price point because they're going to make more of their R&D money back at a higher price point, and just let the tech benefits trickle down to this one after a few years? And would they want to undercut their big moneymakers by giving, say, Digic IV and an APS-C sensor, when they can still get by with less?

All good questions! :-)
I know that if it were me, I'd be worried about the future, since digicams every year are getting better, and even more, cheaper at a fantastic rate. Where does that leave their profits in a few years?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sending art in the mail

[Still thinking about cases from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund...]

I wonder if somebody can enlighten me:
Why do many countries have draconian laws about erotic art being sent in the post?

It seems to me that very often when there's a law suit or a seizure of materials being called "obscene" (or "indecent" in the UK), the whole thing hinges not so much on the fact of the materials existing, but on the fact that they were shipped in the post.

Why the heck would this matter? It's illegal to open other people's mail, so shouldn't it be a private matter what's in the mail? I don't get it.

One example amongst many is that in the UK, it is legal (since a few years) to sell pornography from a store... and it is legal to send pornography from abroad to a UK address... but it is illegal to send porn in the post from one UK address to another! See what I mean? If it's OK to sell it in a store, why would they be upset about it being sent in the mail?

Pascal commented:

Very soon, in Europe, the postal service will be opened to free competition. When this happens, I'm betting the private postage and distribution companies won't be too enthusiastic on opening the mail and violating their customers' privacy, since this would lose them a significant part of the market.
Ergo, I foretell that in the near future, such legislations will become moot. Anyway, it's already pretty much established that you can't make mail orders without a credit card or a checkbook, therefore you HAVE to be a free consenting adult.

All those laws, I find, have one thing in common: they deliberately target sexually-connoted matters, on the sneaky but safe bet that very few citizens will dare confront the judgement of the public eye by stepping forward and saying: "HEY! I demand my free constitutional right to view porn if I damn well please."

Poe folk don't 'spect much?

In an episode of “Frasier”, Frasier is worried about his upcoming recitation of “Annabel Lee” to a local Poe Society. His brother Niles says to him: “Don’t worry. Poe folk don’t ’spect much.” Hilarity ensues. Clearly both Niles and the audience thought he'd made a delicious pun.

I'm not used to being the dull knife in the drawer, but I don't get this one. I thought I had it when I imagined it punning on a phrase like "poor folk don't 'spect much", which sounds like a likely quote from an ancient play, but no luck, it does not seem it has ever been uttered until I thunk it. (It should have, it's a good phrase).

Help me out?

Leaf pattern

I keep coming back to patterns (and "chaos" pictures). It's not so easy as one might think.

Nikon 70-300mm VR lens.
It's new to me. A lovely lens, handles well, is very sharp. A bit big, but not dramatically heavy, and makes a nice package with a camera the size of the D90. And it's not expensive.

Acknowledging e-mails

Why do so many people suck at acknowledging/answering e-mails? It's a huge percentage of people and companies that you never get an answer from.

Just one small example is And they know it, they just now wrote on their new blog:
"Firstly, and surprisingly for some of you I'm sure, we don't only welcome your feedback, we do read it and we often act on it. What's important to remember here is that our editorial team here consists of a handful of people with full-time jobs producing content (as well as forum moderation), and this means that we simply can't answer every email we get, nor can we acknowledge every bit of feedback. But that doesn't mean it hasn't been read (and if necessary, acted upon)."

What I want to know is, if something is important enough that you want to act upon it, isn't it important enough to send a reply to?

A few very busy people can do it, like David Pogue and others. Me too, I have a web site with 80.000 visitors daily, so I get a lot of mail, and yet I manage to reply to virtually everything people might reasonably expect an answer to, and I don't use a lot of time on it. If it's simply a nice comment they have sent, I have a macro which sends back a "thank you". That macro is one keystroke, it takes not even one full second to do that.

So why is it that something like half the people or companies I write to with nice comments or questions, I never hear from? They can't use a single second to tell me that I've been heard?

If somebody comes up to you in the street and asks for the time, you wouldn't dream of completely ignoring the person. Nobody does, I've never seen it. And if it did, the other person would probably be really offended. Is e-mail really that abstract for so many people that to them it's a completely different situation?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hiroshima photos

Hiroshima photos found.
"On September 18, 1945, just over a month after Japan had surrendered, the U.S. Government imposed a strict code of censorship on the newly defeated nation. It read, in part: “nothing shall be printed which might, directly or by inference, disturb public tranquility.” "

Pascal added:

- In our "modern times", people have been prosecuted for "leaking" photos of coffins returning from Iraq. Nothing to do with intelligence/security issues, purely to control strictly the images of that war. This differs from censorship because...?

- I don't know everything about the end of WW2 in the Pacific (does anyone of those who would tell ever really know?), but don't you think three days is really short notice to declare "they didn't want to negociate/surrender, let's re-bomb them"? After three days, the survivors of Hiroshima hadn't even seen outside rescuers yet!
Okay, I'll immediately grant you that ALL SIDES committed a blatant war crime by mass-bombing civilian cities. (Aah, the nostalgic atmosphere of the Blitz, children sent to the countryside like in the Apprentise Witch or Narnia... Thanks, Adolf, for inspiring the stories!) But me, I'll consider that while the first A-bomb, Little Boy, was open to debate, the second, Fat Man, was needless and therefore a pure war crime. Probably intended as a dissuasive display of America's new weapon, "watch out world, we can kick ass real hard now".
I suggest you watch the very first Godzilla movie, knowing it's a metaphor of the atomic trauma as felt by the Japanese. Makes it the antithesis of the cheesy rest of the series.

- Are you fine as well that they "shockenawed" Saddam? When does the targeting, or the random "collateral damaging" of great numbers of civilians, cease being a crime to become legitimate war tactics? (To say nothing of the Iraq war's legitimacy in the first place.) Afghanistan is being lost for the cause, at best it'll be many very hard years more, precisely because the hot-head "liberators" are doing more damage than the Talibans themselves...
Causing Afghan women to be stuck between the hammer and the anvil. ("A rock and a hard place" in US proverbs, but the French version feels more relevant here, with the repeated pounding image.) Just yesterday, another group of schoolgirls was assaulted with vitriol to the face, three of them in very serious condition... in spite of their burqa being in the way of the acid.

- I know quite well and reliably, from living witnesses, that the German people were far from universally enthusiastic in supporting the nazi regime. It was mostly fear, just like in the Soviet Union later. Can any gaijin (stranger to Japan) claim for sure that the Japanese, even heavily indoctrinated like every population at war, were for the most part warm supporters of the military dictatorship that had taken control of Japan in the Forties? Even if they were, does this lift the Geneva convention: "No targeting the civilians"?

- History is ALWAYS written by the victors. Don't go thinking I believe anything my own country's schools taught me about the past without a few million grains of salt. (Hey, that might explain my hypertension issues at age 29! Hmmm...)

Just cogitational nutrition (food for thought), OK? No attack meant. I "judge ideas, not people." -- [The Disappearance Of The Universe]
I don't claim to know it all, not even to be right in anything here above. But I live by the principle that in politics one must doubt everything, and in war one must heavily distrust near-anything.

I live in Lebanon. War-like propaganda is a daily occurrence here for the last 33 years. (And that's just because I can't remember earlier times!!!) I'm far less depressive than the average citizen since I've decided to completely quit watching the national gall-oozing news.

"Oh liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!" -- Manon Roland

Brass bands

Brass bands are all very well in their place - outdoors and several miles away.
-- Sir Thomas Beecham

I couldn't agree more. (Except it might be better to have them indoors, several miles away.)
Some people think rock music is noisy. And I think it's a paradox that many of the same people like brass bands. Those are noisy. Last time I was at an event with a live brass band, I had to leave. Man they were loud.

Update: this is funny: the very minute I posted this, somebody emailed me this.
I'm aware that jazz and brass isn't the same thing, but when I have seen jazz bands (lousy stuff in festivals here and Copenhagen) they usually have a trumpet in them and are noisy, so there seems to be an overlap.

More Gaiman

I've started reading The Graveyard Book (bought it as audio on iTunes), I really like it.

Trying to find this video, I found this one, which is another video guy I find highly irritating. Who listens to this?

Camera market future

Thom's camera market predictions, article.

One of the things one might think about right now is that if one is considering a serious investment in a DSLR system including several lenses, think twice before choosing Pentax or Olympus. They both make really good products, but they may be forced out of the market, and you'll have no upgrade path in the future.
If you only want a camera and kit lens, this is not really a problem, so go wild.

I actually think it's a grave pity, because I really like both Olympus and Pentax. Until the millennium, I had never owned a Canon or Nikon camera, but I had owned a Pentax ME Super, twice, and an Olympus OM2. Both makes make wonderful products with personality and innovation. But it seems the research money to compete in the electronics market, which is what the camera market has become part of, are simply too big to allow any but the very biggest companies to compete easily. If those two brands leave the DSLR market, we may see much less variety. For example, without them we would have no in-body image stabilization. Let's hope it goes differently.

Of course currently the great white hope is the big-sensor compact market, including the Micro Four Thirds platform. The event of speedy on-sensor autofocus and new high-rez screens and electronic viewfinders may give us compact cameras with professional capabilities. And this may make DSLR cameras much less relevant to many photographers. Especially serious enthusiasts, because for them a small-sensor camera might not be good enough, but they still care about bulk and weight. And who knows what amazing cameras we may see in this area in the future.

Update: actually, thinking about it, I think the Micro Four Thirds idea may be flawed. When I want a serious and flexible camera, my Nikon D90 is compact enough. And when I want a much smaller camera, I really don't care if it has exchangeable lenses. If I want something really portable, I'm not likely to bulk it up with extra lenses. So I think a fixed-lens (zoom or not) big-sensor compact is a better idea.

Wellick said:
A minor correction: in-body stabilization is available in Sony cameras (Minolta heritage) as well as in Pentax & Olympus.

Yes, good point. Although I doubt that Sony would have included it if they hadn't enherited it from Konica-Minolta, a company which has already buckled under.

Real estate trends

These are UK data, but it's the same in many countries now.
"Are we in a bubble? Just look at this graph, then answer the question. Here you can clearly see the last two house price crashes and the enormous boom that we have recently experienced. Who knows what the future will actually look like for this graph but we are well off the long run trend line which is worrying in itself."

It seems this is adjusted for inflation, though it seems incredible that house prices should be growing so much above general inflation. I've no clue what that indicates.

Bishop's castle

One-man built.
Update: more pics.
I think one makes arches by first making them in wood, then laying the stones on top of them.
That ceiling is amazing. The videos I saw were very poorly done, that they didn't show that.

He's a bit of a shrinking violet, though.

Teresa Brewer - "Music Music Music"

I quite like Teresa's voice.

This also has to be one of the most catchy tunes ever written. (Despite rhyming "nickel in" with "nickelodeon"...)

This song is almost 60 years old! First published as a B-side on a single in 1949. How time goes. (Oh, and it was Teresa who sang it originally too.)

Internet use 'good for the brain'

Internet use 'good for the brain', article.
"A University of California Los Angeles team found searching the web stimulated centres in the brain that controlled decision-making and complex reasoning."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Iowa State Fair - Hog Calling Contest

Iowa State Fair - Hog Calling Contest

... And this is a winner.

When I heard about hog-calling (in a thirty-year-old Muppet show), I imagined the winner would be judged on actually success in making pigs come to him. But it seems it's judged on entertainment value, at least these days.

And if viewers at home are wondering how to actually do it themselves, thanks the lord for educational TV:

New dentist

A woman was sitting in the waiting room for her first appointment with a new dentist.

Looking around the room, she noticed his DDS diploma, which listed his full name. Suddenly, she remembered a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name who had been in her high school class some 40-odd years ago.

Presently, her new dentist called her in.

Upon seeing him, she quickly discarded any such thought that this dentist was her old classmate. He was a balding, gray-haired man with a deeply lined face who looked way too old to have graduated the same year as she. Besides, his name was a common name. Still, she couldn't resist asking him if he ever attended her school. "By any chance, did you ever attend Lawton Senior High School?" she asked.

"Yes, I did!" he said proudly. "I'm a Wolverine."

"When did you graduate?" the woman asked.

"In 1966," he answered. "Why do you ask?"

"I remember you!" the woman answered. "You were in my class!"

The old man looked at her closely. "Really?" he said. He then asked, "What did you teach?"

Ministry - Worm

Neil Gaiman interview

Neil Gaiman interview.
Neil is amazing. I still kick myself for missing the first several issues of Sandman (since I didn't like the artist) when Neil "exploded onto the scene" (see that's one of those journalistic phrases I'm trying to avoid) in the late eighties. And since then he's had more artistic "home runs" (another one), and more varied ones, than any other writer I can think off right now.

Oooh, he's got a new book out! "The Graveyard Book". And it's already on audiobook, even better!
One of the great things about Neil is that he can be totally politically incorrect (like write a "childrens' book" about a serial killer), and yet he is so relaxed and disarming that he's never attacked about it, that I have heard.

Below is a brief clip I found, Neil saying why he supports the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund (which helps defend comic book artists or dealers attacked on their freedom of speech.

I couldn't agree more, freedom of speech is one of the most essential rights, perhaps even the most essential right. All human progress is carried forward by communication. (And I've just donated $500 to CBLDF.)