Saturday, March 07, 2009

I Could Never Be Your Woman

I Could Never Be Your Woman, romantic comedy, I liked it.

I must say though, I'm not sure how I feel about seeing Michelle Pfeiffer in a romcom with a much younger man. On the one hand, I've been in love with Michelle for almost thirty years. On the other hand, I've been in love with Michelle for almost thirty years.

(All jokes aside, she still looks great.)

The film is funny, and has some excellent actors, Michelle of course, and Fred Willard, and Sarah Alexander, and a young actress I'm sure we'll see more of, Saoirse Ronan. She is an excellent actor, and an excellent singer, and has the most amazing eyes.
Update: I'm watching the interviews now, and I am shocked to hear a strong Irish accent come from this girl, who spoke perfect American in the film even when upset! Amazing skills. Amy Heckerling (the director, Clueless and Ridgemont High) tells that when Saoirse auditioned, she demonstrated half a dozen different accents perfectly. And she was twelve. 
I also see on her wiki now that she's been nominated for a billion awards, it seems I've just missed her movies until now. Well, did I call it or what. 

Lightning in slo mo

Dibutil Ftalat said:

Thanks for making me read WIKI on Lightning! It is really interesting. :)

Tim Leary

An odd Timothy Leary site.

There seems to be a universal conspiracy to get me to tune in (I dropped out long ago.)

... Actually he died over a decade ago, so I'm not sure what the point of the site is, since it can't be a web cam.

Christ, how do some people manage such ridiculously melodramatic lives?
President Nixon labeled Tim "the most dangerous man in America." Jaysus! I've never used drugs in my life, but it gives one pause to think why is the establishment so intensely afraid of a guy who is a proponent of pot and LSD, both drugs far less harmful than either tobacco or alcohol. Some claim the latter helps one go beyond the Ego, so perhaps it's really the ego's fear we see.

Funny pics

(If you want to see better stuff than funny-photos posts, mail me some interesting links occasionally.)

By the way, is it only for me that Blogger is flaking out all the time this week? One "trick" it does frequently is saying it couldn't post, and when I use the 'back' key, the text from the post is gone. I can salvage it by going to "edit posts", but it's still irritating.

Those Things Money Can Buy (updated)

Those Things Money Can Buy, picture essay.

Motor Yacht A Price Tag: At least $300,000,000 This 390-foot custom designed yacht is notorious for its radical design. The vessel, a creation of Created French designer Philippe Starck, is owned by Andrey Melnichenko, a 36-year-old Russian billionaire industrialist.

Three hundred million?! Holy shit. Even if I had the money, I can't imagine dropping even a tenth of that on a single object. (I like the look of the boat though.)
Also, while I object to what somebody once said that you can't make a million honestly, in this case: billionaire in his thirties? In Russia? Hmmm. Also as this article points out, a hugely expensive lifestyle is a bad sign. I think that's because if people are hugely successful in an honest way, they are so because they love the work, and they won't have much interest to spare for silly luxury.

An anon commented:
Is it submersible? That's where the billionaires are jousting for. . . uh, street cred . . .
- but for style, the WWII destroyer motif of Ellison's 'little old' ex-yacht Katana is very cool.

OK, gotta admit the submarine would be excellent to have.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Musical statistics

Musical statistics.

Quotation marks

Here's a blog featuring wrongly used quotation marks.

It is a common error to use quotation marks for emphasis. They are not for emphasis, they show a quote, or irony. For emphasis you use underlining, bold, or italics. Or upper CASE, though that's a bit blunt. In text-only environments you can use *asterisks*. "Don't" use quotation marks.

You "must" look both ways before crossing the street.

The man hollered: "look out, there's a car!"

Wow, what an "alert" pedestrian, call an ambulance.

Danish food

Isn't it funny how attached we are to thing (and beliefs) that we grew up with? I've lived in England for some years, and it's close enough to Denmark that the food is not markedly different, but there are still thing I can't quite get. So I found an online store specializing in getting select Danish food stuffs to Danish ex-patriots, and got meself some Danish cheese, Danish Herring, etc. Gawd, that was good.

I'm sure it has nothing to do with inherent qualities in the stuff. For example people from down under may love Vegemite, and that is gruesome. :-)


Pascal wrote:

I'm socially conditioned like everybody else (well, more along the lines of Lebanese standards, these things vary between countries), but I realize how arbitrary some of it is.
For instance, the French shower once a day, no matter what. A complete utopia with the water shortage we knew during the war... but also to COUNTRYSIDE French people. Let's be honest, people: unless you get yourself dirty or sweaty, it's merely the accustomed luxury of urban people with indoor plumbing, automatically heated water... and no worries about abundant consumption of water. I found out how the French justify the thing being "totally not a hassle": a friend's mother stated that it took 5 minutes between entering the bathroom and exiting it. That includes, according to her, undressing, drying, and dressing again! And she seriously meant it.
Sheesh. From entering the bathroom to exiting, I take that much time to brush my teeth! Even without the asides, a 5' shower to me is nothing more than getting yourself wet under a water jet, a mockery of washing yourself. My quickest showers/baths last 25-30 minutes, "plus tax", which that French city lady found, and I quote, "preposterous".
Well, in wartime Lebanon, if you bothered to heat the water and bathe, you bothered getting well cleaned. :-P
In a sedentary lifestyle and a temperate weather, you can only get bath-warranting dirty in 24 hours if you "do in your undies".

Also, medically, too much cleaning is bad for your skin. You weaken a natural barrier and undermine its protective role.
I realize that, as a doctor, I got the habit of washing hands a lot. But I try to tone it down a bit outside work. Studies have shown that excess of "hygiene" and cleanliness weakens the immune system, which normally receives daily training from exposition to common bacteria. And germophobic people with the compulsive disorder of constantly washing their hands end up damaging their skin something awful.
I wash without fault before and after seeing patients, and for surgery. For the rest, every time, I stop and ask myself, "are they unreasonably dirty?" So at home I wash before eating, after *if* I got food on my hands, and if I know I got something on them that I consider dirty. Which is relative. For example, having earth on your hands is only a problem when you re-enter the house. Soil causes no infections except for a deep AND damaging wound risking Tetanus. Having a pet animal, which is never "sterile-clean", has been proven to boost resistance to infectious diseases as well as dramatically decrease the incidence of asthma in growing children. If you're not allergic, fear not at all.

Moderation in everything. In cleanliness AND in carelessness. These, my friends, are the current international medical standards.

I keep fighting with some Lebanese mothers who insist on giving Baby the daily bath even with a high fever. As if a quick soaping of the tushie wasn't enough and safe. WHEN SICK, YOU'RE ALREADY INFECTED, SO KEEP WARM!!!

Lebanese women are cleaning freaks. It's educated.
But, as Freud would've said, "Dull women have immaculate houses."

The ideal clean body? Think of a desert island, with many opportunities for makeshift natural soap and available water. Soap and water, and sense, give the ideal balance for any healthy body.
The rest is mere personal choice or habit. Do you know how much damage is made to the planet for producing your cosmetics and shampoos? Sometimes a LOT. And clean water is a luxury which the West wastes inconsiderately, in the name of acustomed abundance. Some things will have to change.

We use half a cubic metre of potable water to wash our car all shiny, while Africans barely have enough murky liquid to drink.
Social conditioning. Sometimes really shameful.

Modern Robin Hood

Apparently there's been a real Robin Hood.

I don't approve of what he does, even though he seems to be a hero to many, supposedly those who don't like rich people. Gotta love the prison escape, though.

Funny, I must say: how come when a person steals from the rich and give it to the poor, it's a crime, but people love him... but when a government steals from the rich and gives to the poor, it is legal, but nobody likes them?

UK police again and again....

Motorist stopped by police for laughing, article.
This is getting absurd.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dog art

Dog art. I have to admit, even I am tempted to put this in quotes.

And a bit of fun for kiddies.

... And now a word from our political sponsor:

Bach for two fiddles

Update: to clarify, I posted this for the music, I have no opinion on the paintings, they just came with the video for some reason. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sigma DP2 samples

[Thanks to NeutralDay.] Hopefully Sigma has improved the handling and speed of the new DP2, relative to clunky DP1. Because the images samples are just lovely. It is "only" a 5MP camera, but it may be the best quality per pixel I've seen, due to the unique sensor.

This is also promising.
"I’m so potentially happy." Haha, exactly, me too.

SeriousCompacts have several interesting recent articles in the area.

More on UK police

The UK police are getting more and more absurd in their behavior towards photographers. See this.

Prime lenses

Something missing today is good and compact prime (non-zoom) lenses, especially wide ones. Pentax is doing good work though. This is a newly announced compact super-wide.


Very briefly, the sun was shining at the same time as it was snowing, so I had to move fast.

[Canon 5D, 85mm F:1.2]

No iPhones at Bill Gates' house

No iPhones, iPods at Bill Gates's house, article.
What's funny is that the ban may be giving the i-products more promotion than if they just used them like everybody else.
Also funny is a video (there when I visited today) on the page about the Nikon D80. It seems they have not heard about the D90, released several months ago.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Peanuts Watchmen

It seems Alan Moore's comic Watchmen is becoming even more famous now, with the hated (by Alan Moore) movie coming out. I'll be interested to see how good it is. Alan has a point when he says that the comic was written specifically to make something exploring and exploiting things which no other medium can do.
The art of the comic, while amazingly skilled, was never my top favorite, Gibbons is so... static. Sort of the anti-Kirby. But the story was (while also pretty static) amazing and complex and unique.
I must say, from still photos it looks like they've tried hard to be true to the comic. And I see they even kept the newsstand and the pirate comic! I would have been sure that would have been one the things that'd had to be jettisoned in the name of space.

D3x article

Mike Reichman has a new article about the flagship Nikon model, the new D3x. All reviews say it's possibly the very best DSLR camera currently, but it's also very big, and very, very expensive. Mike has some interesting thoughts on all that and more. I agree with his musing, for example the idea that the age of the really big and heavy super-camera is on its last legs.

Panasonic G1 review

Panasonic G1 review, video. I'm impressed with the focusing.
Announced today, a new Sony super-zoom camera with some unique features.

The Greatest Computer Keyboard of All Time?

The Greatest Computer Keyboard of All Time?, article.
...if you're a real typist with plenty of desktop space, I can't recommend it highly enough. It isn't just that I type more accurately, more smoothly, and (therefore) faster; it's that I feel better. I'm more comfortable, less frustrated, less tense; and I approach a day of typing at the computer with eagerness instead of a vague, nagging dread.

Unicomp "IBM Model M" type keyboard, very clicky. (Their site is confusing, but I think this model is a good bet.) It's a "buckling spring" type, which means it does not just use a rubber membrane for resistance, but a quite specific type of spring under the keys which "gives in" right as it registers. Read the linked article for details.
[Note: their more quiet varieties do not have the Buckling Springs advantage, they are just normal rubber dome keyboards.]

Update much later: It is big and not all that pretty, but it really gives me certainty when typing, I can feel for the keys without typing accidentally, and there is no chance of accidental double-hitting a key. Result is that I can type about as fast as I can think (I think about sixty words a minute, not all that impressive if I were a pro secretary, but not bad, it's still maybe six characters a second). It is very loud though. Which might be annoying to co-workers or co-habitants, but I'm a lone wolf, and the loud, fast clicking sort of makes me feel productive, I guess!       :-)
[Cool surprise: the extension to this story tells me I'm in good company here.]

I can't believe how cheap this is, less than half of the one I use (TactilePro). And since it may be even better, and may be going out of production, I've ordered two.
(I also can't believe a world where $69 is too expensive for a really good keyboard. That's awful, seriously. People will spend that amount on killing their brain cells on a single saturday night without thinking twice (or even once), but spend it on a keyboard?)

The guy who makes these in the US says he could buy Asia-made keyboards wholesale for three dollars a piece!  Isn't it a bizarre world? I mean, that includes shipping and profits for shippers and dealers and everything!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Can people unlearn their naked shame?

Can people unlearn their naked shame?, BBC News article.

The article shows that the "shame" can easily be unlearned for many people. Kewl.

One oddity I have to comment on, though.
"... some anthropologists believe our ancestors' unique ability to sweat, along with their upright stance, meant we could cool quicker without fur - prompting the onset of human nudity.
They reckon that evolutionary step towards nudity had huge implications for the human race. With a souped-up cooling system, our ancestors could afford to develop ever-bigger brains - leading to culture, tools, fire, and language."

What a load. Even if there was evidence that superior cooling was needed to make bigger brains (and that bigger brains means bigger intelligence), all that would be needed was for the head to be hairless. Instead the head is the one place we do have lots of hair. Jeez.

Bruce said:
The "hair" theory does sound silly. But the critical part of the article is that the shame of nakedness is entirely a learned response, like a green light means "go" and a red light means "stop" or any other learned and taught response to a stimuli. Pavlov anyone?
Social conventions control the shame of nakedness. Most women would be mortified to walk through the local shopping mall in the swimsuit that they feel perfectly comfortable in at the beach.
Once we stayed at an English beach resort hotel. The swimsuits were like those on any beach anywhere. Yet every woman wore a full length robe while walking from her room to the beach. Why? To conceal something they were going to show anyway? In my opinion, a mere irrational social convention.

Facebook phishing

This seems like a phishing attempt, no?
(Warning: don't install the "Adobe Player" which gets downloaded, it's probably a fake which is dangerous to your computer.)

Art is art

Bronislaus points to this article which supports my stance that art does not have to be good to be called art.
"If you make art, you’re an artist. If you produce bad art (I’m not sure how I’d classify it) then perhaps you are not a very good artist, but you are nonetheless an artist. In my view, that is. As for the whole good art/bad art thing, I’m always mindful of the words of E. B. White, who commented “There is no good art, or bad art. There is just Art, and damn little of it.”"

Leda And The Swan (updated)

[Note: there is still sometimes confusion about commenting here. No, you don't need to be logged in to comment! Just select one of the other options.]

Here's a nice birthday card which I got from a family member.

The statue is made by my uncle, and depicts Leda and the Swan.

I'm amused to note that it does not show the most important thing which happened between Leda and the swan...

Though if it had, I might have had to burn it, since bestiality porn is illegal to posses in the UK since January.
OK, it has to be photo-realistic, but still, that's an insane law. I don't crave ownership of bestiality porn, but putting people in jail for having it boggles the mind.
Update: the Backlash umbrella group opposes this law (it's about more than just bestiality) as being harmful to freedom of expression.
"The law has been criticised for criminalising images where no crime took place in their creation. In the House of Lords debates, Lord Wallace of Tankerness stated "Having engaged in it consensually would not be a crime, but to have a photograph of it in one's possession would be a crime. That does not seem to me to make sense.""

I think the whole issue hinges on this important question:

Should something be made illegal only because it's disgusting to most people?

I believe not.

For example: suppose somebody makes a snuff-film porno using computer graphics and/or good actors, so that it looks totally convincing, but nobody was hurt. Should that film and the possession of it be illegal? (Which it is now in the UK.) Suppose it is so gross that 90% of everybody gets sick when they watch it. Should it be illegal? Why?

If the theory is that it might inspire violence, should this not be proven? And proven rather solidly rather than by anecdotal evidence?

About tipping

Tipping is a scam, article.
"My favourite trick though is where you get the bill and at the bottom it says ‘service not included’.
Oh dear, that’s a bit of an oversight isn’t it; not including the cost of one of your raw materials. Or was it understood that I would go to the kitchen, request my own food and fetch it when it was ready - I can do that if that is what is required. And why is it service that is not included, why not food, or the furniture?"

Personally I don't anymore have as hard an attitude as the article, but I admit I think tipping is weird. For example I always leave the change with the pizza dude, but when I get groceries delivered there's no cash involved and the guy (who is usually much more pleasant and helpful than the pizza man) does not get a tip. How's that fair?

Also if a tip is a tip, it's voluntary. If it isn't, it should be included in the price. If it is, then waiters do not have the right to get pissy if they don't get a tip.

By the way, here's a tip (the other kind) for service workers, from Stuart Wilde: if you want to earn good tips, be extraordinarily helpful and pleasant. Really go way beyond duty with providing service, help, and friendliness. You'll be tipped more than you ever heard of.

Mike on comments

Mike comments on comments.

I link to Mike's blog often. It's because it's not only persistently the best photo blog I know, but also overall one of the most entertaining and enlightening blogs I ever found. The guy can think, and he can write, and he is knowledgeable and likeable.
If you know any other blogs of that caliber, I'd love to see them.

Gnags: Burhøns

Danish band Gnags in 2006, singing one of their hits from the seventies. This band was founded by the singer in 1966... Fucking hell, I hope I have that kind of energy when I'm in my mid-fifties! (In fact I'd have loved to have this kind of energy when I was a teenager.)

"Burhøns" means battery hens, hens kept in tiny cages. It's typical of the Socially Responsible pop/rock music from the Danish music scene in the seventies. It's rescued a bit by one line hinting that it's really about humans living like battery hens.

... I was led to another seventies pleasure, this time a vintage performance, Sultans Of Swing.

Not a truck

I have this photo of my own on my desktop today, and I just had a realization about (which I knew, but only intuitively):
It's not a picture of the truck front. (Somebody might say "what's so interesting about that truck front?")
It's a picture of the space which has the truck in it, only with the truck much in the foreground.
I have long liked pictures with stuff taking up most of the space in the foreground but not being the main subject (like trees or bushes).

(It's from this collection.)

Night thoughts

I've noticed that of my many thoughtful email correspondents, the ones who don't have to get up to a day job every morning tend to be up late at night like myself.

We are always told by well-meaning people that we should sleep only at night. But I wonder where the proof is of that. After all, nature has many, many nocturnal creatures, so it's not a demand from nature.

In fact it's at night that I hear the most birds singing, all night long.

Of course it helps that everything is more quiet. Including mental noise from outside. Which surely helps thought processes, and which might be why thoughtful people like to be up at night.

Wim Wenders 29 DVD Box Set Collection

I just ordered over eBay the Wim Wenders 29 DVD Box Set Collection from Hong Kong (no region codes and languages include English). I think it's every film he's made, plus documentaries. What a fantastic deal: 50 pounds sterling ($80) including shipping. 29 DVDs! That's gonna take me a while to get through... (I'm not even through all the Marx Brothers movies I bought a couple months ago.)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Chumscrubber

The Chumscrubber, despite the cryptic title an outstanding movie, recommended. Think American Beauty meets Donny Darko and you get an idea.

Congress Passes Americans With No Abilities Act

Congress Passes Americans With No Abilities Act, article.
This is being passed around now again, with a different prez name. Excellent spoof, makes a good point.
"Roughly 50 percent of Americans—through no fault of their own--do not possess the talent necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society [...] Sadly, for these millions of nonabled Americans, the American dream of working hard and moving up through the ranks is simply not a reality."

It's impressive and laudable that The Onion keeps links and articles from over ten years ago still working. Most big sites don't bother.

Amazon lets authors mute Kindle books read-aloud feature

Amazon lets authors mute Kindle books read-aloud feature, article. (Follow-up to earlier posts.)
This is a compromise with a paranoid mind set, but at least it's a compromise which does not cripple the technology.

Panda life and more

Aren't they brilliant? Hit every beat perfectly. I wonder if the humor is intentional, I doubt it.

Video games

I'm glad we didn't have video games when I grew up. TV is bad enough, but these motherfuckers are worse, they are systematically draining our youth of the single resource you really have in your life: time. 99% of kids are playing them most every day, and your mind turn completely off any useful pursuit when you do that, you're a thumb-wrestling vegetable.
Talked to my nephew today, he's about to turn fifteen, and what's his great plan for the future: make video games. That's the interest he has in life. Wow.

Godsakes, people, do something. Build model ships. Write a blog. Write a book. Study mathematics. See the world. Build a house. Learn to paint. Do something, anything other than working on increasing the number of virtual aliens you can kill in virtual corridors.

Eric said:
I consider gaming an emerging art form. It's a medium that can be used to tell stories no other can manage. Games can capture your imagination and take you places you'd never think to go. It has yet to be fully utilized but when it is no experience will be able to duplicate it.

I think back to my childhood when I spent most of my spare time with a controller in my hand. My brain wasn't dead. Far from it. It kept expanding beyond what 4-color palette could show me. I'd spend hours making up my own stories that took place within a game's universe. Whenever I saw a cool design I felt compelled to reproduce it with my crayons. Whenever I noticed a flaw in a game I'd think about what they could have done to make it better. Games really expanded my horizons.

Any hobby can be a waste of time and any art form can produce crap. If you build a lot of model ships I'm sure you can get so good at it you can completely zone out while your hands do all the work, and photographs can present blurry walls as well as beautiful women. Video games are hardly in the same league as other art forms. The technology is still in its infancy in a lot of regards. It can be used to produce nothing but mind-dulling distractions and in fact that may happen. As it stands numerous games have been produced that are well-written and/or visually stunning. Psychonauts is an excellent example of the first- it's a game where you take control of a psychic that gets free entry into a camp for people like him because of his gifts. Later he finds himself within the subconscious minds of those around him and he has to help them face their worst fears. All of the characters, even the minor ones, are fleshed out with their own unique quirks. An example of a graphically stunning game would be Braid- it looks like an honest to god painting.

I can't forget to mention the truly inspired music that's come from gaming, either. So many of my favorite songs came from the games I play. A fine example would be the forest theme from a game called Star Ocean: The Second Story. (You can download a remix of it here. It's moved me every time I've heard it.

I'm not as interested in gaming since I reached my 20s but I'm excited to see where it will go.