Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gogh's letters

Because he is famous for some "wild" art and for his mental breakdowns late in life, many are not aware of the precise and powerful mind that Vincent van Gogh had, but his letters are ample testimony to that.

He was not just an intuitive artist, he applied a lot of knowledge and thought to art, both his own and others'. For example this was the first letter I happened to look up on that site.
"Speaking of Van der Weele, I remember saying to him about the picture which he got a medal for in Amsterdam - and this contrary to the opinion of others - that I greatly appreciated his having succeeded so well in preserving the unity of STYLE despite all the different things that appeared in it, and that it really and truly was a picture, i.e. something quite different from a realistic study from nature."

I suspect Vincent was amongst the pioneers of those appreciating the importance of seeing art as being something else than skillful copying of the world.

Nikon deal

Mike points out a good deal on a Nikon D60.


This is from the long defunct Bloom County strip, which was often really good.

It's a fascinating characteristic about us humans, how we are all the time bloody offended by things which really don't touch us at all.

Big Words app

My old pal Tim of has invented a new iPhone app, Big Words, which simply displays very big what you write.

Friday, December 19, 2008

K. Dick

Philip K. Dick discusses reality.
"Do not believe — and I am dead serious when I say this — do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe."

Yes men and Dice men

Trailer for new Jim Carrey film Yes Man. I am not sure exactly how great it's gonna be, but it reminds me of the classic novel The Dice Man. Did you read it? Very unusual. I wonder how the heck I got hold of that at 16. Not because it was too subversive for that (though some might think so), but because I was not growing up in a bohemian environment exactly, though my mom had bohemianism as an ideal. Any non-mainstream culture I wanted, I had to rustle up for myself.

Dirk Gently fishes

If you have read Douglas Adams' wonderful book Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, you may remember the protagonist Richard MacDuff's theory that the forms and movements of nature could be translated into music by a computer. Well, lo and behold, somebody has done it.

The Worst Photograph Ever Made?

Mike Johnston is entertaining when he goes on a tear. (He has a good target here, I must admit.)

In another post today, he coins the excellent term "safely edgy" about what galleries usually put on their walls. That is so precise.

Teens and sex and taboos

I've been challenged on my position that kids should be educated about sex. Because it seems kids these days already know about sex, and earlier than ever, and surely that can't be a good thing... According to this report, many even have it in public. And that is "shocking" according to their expert.

These are complex issues. Apart from not trusting a group called "MomLogic" to make an unbiased and scientific survey, my feelings are thusly:

1) An unexamined taboo is damaging.

2) Education is always good. If it appears to be damaging, it is faulty or unbalanced or incomplete.

3) To know about something is not the same as being educated about it. You can learn to drive a car in five minutes, but it takes months to become educated about it.

4) We must be alert for emotional arguments. That something is shocking is not a valuable datum. Why is it shocking? Is there real damage? What should be done about it, and what will be the consequences of those actions?

5) Supressing the biological imperative has consequences.

6) Telling people, adult or not, that they are not allowed to do something will make it more interesting.

7) Education comes from the whole world, not just "parents or school". It comes from books, friends, TV, Internet, school, parents, etc etc. When it comes down to it, a person, even a child, is the only person who can educate him/herself. And they will.

Karen Rayne, Ph.D. said...
Thanks for your post, Eolake. I certainly agree with you about teenagers needing appropriate sex ed. Here's something I've written in the past:
I have been asked what I believe is important in sex education in the family. So here it is:
I believe that…
…parents have to talk to their kids about sex.
I believe that…
…everyone has sex, and should therefore know about sex.
I believe that…
…sex is not all bad, even for teenagers.
I go into each of those points in some depth here.

Recent Robin Williams

Sarah Palin, the love child of Ronald Reagan and Posh Spice?

I wonder if John Cleese is in a wheelchair for real?

Alastair Heseltine

Alastair Heseltine art and craft.

Coffee and dough

Coffee and dough.
"We went into his kitchen, where he proudly displayed his brand new, Swiss-made, fully automatic espresso machine, for which he’d slapped down a cool $945 at an online store...
It must be nice to be able to afford a high-end, fully automatic espresso maker, I mused aloud. Dave’s response snapped me to attention.
“Actually, I can’t afford not to own one,” he said.
I thought he was joking, and asked what he meant.
“Think of it this way,” said Dave. “Do you and your wife drink at least one double latte each a day?”
That level of consumption is barely above survival threshold, I admitted.
“OK, consider this: One double latte costs three dollars at a coffee shop, so your outside coffee-drinking habit comes to six dollars a day for you and your wife. That’s $2,190 per year in after-tax dollars,” Dave extrapolated."

That's just one example. Of many people don't have a late every day, and are aware of the cumulative cost. But many do, and aren't.
One of my sisters live with her man and two kids in a large house with large rooms, in a pretty exposed landscape. Being a thin-blooded creature like many women, she likes to keep the house nice and toasty, . So I asked her what their heating bill is. She said she didn't know. I asked her husband. "No idea" was the answer.

They are both hard-working people with upper-middle class jobs, and paying the outrageous Danish taxes (50-68 percent). How can they not know about their heating bill!? Maybe it's a place where they could save lots of money and have more time for leisure and the kids? But this kind of thing is far from unusual.

Maybe it's just too scary to think about. This at least is what is suggested by sites such as the excellent Motley Fool. It's like a snake in the living room. If you walk real quiet and don't think about it, maybe it won't wake up.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pogue’s Photography Tips and Tricks

Pogue’s Photography Tips and Tricks. (Mostly for pocket cameras.)

500mm lens

A 500mm lens at 700 grams? Kewl.
Beware that 500mm is a very powerful telelens (especially on a non-full-frame camera), and is hard to hand-hold and focus, even with autofocus and image stabilization. But I'm charmed by the tiny size of this thing.

Also see Michael's photo below. I think it's neat to see the background being out of focus even on such a big subject as this. That's only possible with a very long lens.

Mechanical wave

"Californian Artist Reuben Margolin together with Technorama Staff have created one of the biggest and most complex kinetic artwork in the world. Measuring 25 square meters the "magic carpet" contains more than 50'000 pieces and shows three characteristics of waves: Wavelength, Amplitude and Frequency."

Option-drag to copy

Here's a little trick I use aaaaaall the time, but which I'm sure many people won't know. I learned it many years ago from David Pogue. (I don't know there is an equivalent move in Windows.)

On the Mac, if you want to copy an element (text, image, folder, file...), hold down the option key (the one unhelpfully labeled "alt") and drag the item to where you want to copy it to. Viola. (That's Danish for "voila".) (Not really.)

Jobs not working

Steve Jobs and Apple pulls out of MacWorld expos.

I think it's a pity. Not only will I miss Steve's charismatic keynote speeches, but I think Apple will miss out on a ton of publicity by not doing those shows anymore.
Sure, they probably don't need the publicity, they seem to be able to get all the press they want at any time... but it's a matter of tone. Of saying to the Mac/Apple user community: "hey, we are fans ourselves, here we are, along with you". Pulling out may isolate them. Like any big company they are already hard to reach... tried to send an email to Apple (or MS or...) recently? Could you? Did you get an answer?
Any presence they do have is good.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Three condoms, please

Three condoms, please.

Compact cameras

David Pogue reviews current compact cameras under $300.
"Quite a bit has changed in the camera landscape since this survey began in 2001 — and even since last year. All of these cameras now have optical image stabilizers. That is, their sensors actually jiggle, about 4,000 times a second, to counteract the little jitters of your hand — an effective way to reduce blurry shots when you’re zoomed in or in low light.
All now offer face recognition, too. It sounds like a bell, or maybe a whistle, but is, in fact, fantastically useful."

"It sounds like a bell, or maybe a whistle"... Haha. I love this guy's writing.

Batman, human?

Amazon UK link
Amazon US link

OK, so I've seen The Dark Knight now. Much better than Batman Begins, to my taste, and another very visual movie that makes me pleased to have blu-ray despite irritations that the machines don't remember how far they played a disc last time*.

As often happens, I only become moved to blog a subject if I come upon a more or less philosophical idea about it. This one is: we hear often (and many times in the extras for this film) that Batman is the coolest superhero because he has no super-powers...

But is this really true? Sure, ostensibly he hasn't. It's stated that he's just a human, albeit highly trained and disciplined. But let's face it: is there a single human being on the planet who can do what Batman can? Build and use super-gadgets beyond any others on Earth? Swing between high-rises on a thin line? Beat up big gangs of thugs with guns, night after night, year after year?

I think not. Ergo, he is super-human. And if he wasn't, he wouldn't be a super-hero. But it shows that the argument is fallacious. He is cool not because he is not super-powered, but because he is.

Another issue entirely is: Batman is only Batman by being really violent. Is this truly a hero? Do we really want to admire a highly violent person? But I guess that's a bottomless philosophical issue.

*Actually I've established now that this seems to be established by the disc not the player, since the Bat Bonus disc is being remembered, unlike all other discs I've played. Odd, why do they want to do that?

Update: The Dark Knight is, like Hell Boy II: All My Sins Remembered, a movie which takes pride in doing as much as possible in-camera rather than in the computer, and is better for it. Particularly its car chases and crashes are very impressive.
Also impressive is the "Bat Pod" (has a built-in iPod?), the motorcycle-like thingy that Bats has. I must admit I thought it was faked, it does not look like it would be able to turn at speed with those wide tyres. But they actually built it, and though it took a world-class driver to handle it and it's very different than a motorcycle to drive, it actually works. Neat.

Living authentically and fully

Even the fear of death is nothing compared to the fear of not having lived authentically and fully.
-- Frances Moore Lappe, O Magazine, May 2004

Various people keep saying this in various forms. But it's BS isn't it? Go to somebody with cold sweat on his brow because he's dying of cancer, and ask him: "but what you're really afraid of is not having lived authentically and fully, isn't it?"

Everybody lives "lived authentically and fully". Everybody does their best. Only in judging the lives of others do we see somebody not living "living authentically and fully".

TTL posted:


If I could live again my life,
In the next -- I'll try,
-- to make more mistakes,
I won't try to be so perfect,
I'll be more relaxed,
I'll be more full -- than I am now,
In fact, I'll take fewer things seriously,
I'll be less hygienic,
I'll take more risks,
I'll take more trips,
I'll watch more sunsets,
I'll climb more mountains,
I'll swim more rivers,
I'll go to more places -- I've never been,
I'll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I'll have more real problems -- and less imaginary ones,
I was one of those people who live prudent and prolific lives --
each minute of his life,
Offcourse that I had moments of joy -- but,
if I could go back I'll try to have only good moments,

If you don't know -- thats what life is made of,
Don't lose the now!

I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umberella and without a parachute,

If I could live again -- I will travel light,
If I could live again -- I'll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I'll ride more carts,
I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live -- but now I am 85,
-- and I know that I am dying ...

Jorge Louis Borges

Borges (1899-1986) died two years later at the age of 87.

eolake said...
The way Borges says it, it's a lot more appealing.

Me, on the surface I've lived a boring life. But my adventures have been, and are, inward, and I don't regret that at all. (Well, OK, occasionally a tiny bit, but I wouldn't trade.)

Update: Joe "Mr. Dick is my father" Dick points to this:

I have to admit it makes the point. I also want to watch a woman urinate in an opera house before I die.

Better start drinking!

[Thanks to Grant.]

(Dang, this picture cracks me up every time.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Watching the Detectives Crash and Burn

Elvis Costello and Ministry. Not your ordinary juxtaposition, but I dare!
Good pop and good avant-garde.
Warning, the second one (Twitch Version 2) is really noisy. (Twice while I was listening to it a lot back in the day, my sister called on the phone, and both times she said "what's that noise in the background?!") But I think it's genius. (The sound quality could be better in the youtube version, but you should get the idea.)

("It ain't nothing but a show! Entertainment!")

Placebo - Running up that hill

This is not one of my favorite Kate Bush songs, but this is an interesting cover (and video) which shows some very emotive aspects of it. Very nice.

I don't know Placebo, but it from the youtube numbers it looks like they are big, and clearly they have respect and understanding for this woman's work.

Here is Kate's version. (Thanks TC.)
Undoubtedly it is a very good song. Only I think the repetitiveness of it rubs me a little bit the wrong way.

Bushie girl

Three of my many favorite Kate Bush songs.

Them Heavy People:

Wuthering Heights:

The Dreaming:

And an interview from 1980, oh was she young (22):

It's another example of somebody's voice being very different when they sing. When she speaks, Kate sounds like just another young woman, when she sings her voice has an unbelievable richness and range.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The 15 Most Expensive Paintings in the World

The 15 Most Expensive Paintings in the World.
I wonder what ole poverty-stricken Vince would have thought about his having four paintings on that list, 120 years after his death. I suspect he would have chuckled and then shook his head, and then gone back to his easel.

Especially since just one of those sales could have supported him and his whole family for three generations.

Jesus outta here

After flipping his hydrofoil, Jesus quickly leaves the scene before his Father finds out!

Plastic surgery out of control

Plastic surgery out of control. Warning: some of these pictures are really gross. OK, maybe not as bad as a severe traffic accident, but bad enough.
And what fascinates me is that typically these are people who consider it improvements and still go out in public! There seems to be a genuine type of addiction in play here.

Sinead o'Connor

Sinead o'Connor, Elton John's Sacrifice (from the docu Two Rooms):

And Mandinka, live:

(I think the album version is much superior, though.)
And of course there's the wonderful Kate Bush doing Rocket Man.

Reindeer singing

This is popular on the Net at the moment, and for good reason; it's a good version of White Christmas, it's funny, and the drawings/animation are great. In fact I think they are a wonderful example of how a master of his craft can communicate very strongly with very few lines indeed and a lack of "craft" which would be disastrous in the hands of a less skilled person. (Look at how the stars are drawn for instance.) It's like driving a car: if you're highly trained and experienced, you can drive it with at speed with one finger on the wheel, but if you're not, you better have both hands firmly on it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Marcel Duchamp

"The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act."
- Marcel Duchamp

That's a brilliant observation.

I found this picture of Duchamp and a chess set he designed. Isn't it funny how geniuses often look unbearably smug?

Duchamp was a genius of the rare caliber who only needs to do something once to achieve something excellent and unique. I am sure he used at most a week's preparation before he made his seminal Nude Descending a Staircase no 2, which to my taste is at least as good as anything Picasso ever made.

It is interesting that "Nude..." was seemingly very controversial partly due to the title. Clearly nobody would have thought of a nude if it had been called "Figure..."

It is not the prettiest painting ever made, but it is more visually pleasant than most abstracts of the time, and it's a good study of lines, movement, and space. Much ahead of its time.


Knitted graffiti. Knittiti?

Puppets in CGI

An early sequence in the Hellboy II movie (blogged below) has a story-telling flashback to "magical times" done entirely in CGI... but with puppets. This was done for budget reasons, but it works really well, and I think they may have invented a new medium of sorts.

Think about it, when doing puppets in CGI you get all of the charm of puppetry, but without the limitations that gravity and physical space impose on real puppets. And then you have all of the freedom of CGI, but at less cost because puppets don't have the complexity of muscles and semi-translucent skin, etc etc.

It would be a clear step down from full CGI movies if it was not for the interesting fact that puppetry has a centuries-old tradition, everybody has seen puppet shows/TV-shows/films from childhood and we are trained to react emotionally to them. So I think that this could really work if somebody put their mind to it.

It would be like a Tim Burton puppet movie, only much more alive and without all the f***ing singing puppets. :-)
(But seriously: a puppet musical?? Twice??)