More Surprises From Blogger/Google
It's been a little while since I logged in to Blogger. Surprising to see the
migration to the Google login. I wonder how significant the changes under the
hood are. The surface only looks a little different. I've been using the Atomz
search engine since the early days of this blog. I wonder if it makes sense
to switch to the Google engine.
February is Award Shows Month
I've never seen the British Film Academy Awards before. I enjoyed seeing the
Police do Roxanne at the beginning of the Grammys, but it hardly seemed a
historic moment. I didn't watch the Golden Globes or the Independent Spirit
awards. I'm sure I'm missing some shows, and you probably get my drift —
there are an incredible number of award shows in February.
from CNN's iffy promotion of their MLK papers programs, you'd hardly know that
February is also Black History Month.
The Oscars show last night was nice. On The View this morning, the
hens had a lot to say about the clothing, and nothing to say about Al Gore
or global warming. There was no political edge in the air during last night's
show. Gore was more entertaining than inspiring. Ellen De Generes' humor was
light, and safe. She has a much better shot at hosting again than David Letterman
or Jon Stewart.
photographers be plagiarists?
Slate has an interesting take on the question, which delves into the nature
of reference and parody in art. The piece illuminates the slippery nature of
the issue of plagiarism, placing it largely within the domain of the legal
That's an apt placement, when you consider the semiotic concept of intertextuality:
Theorists of intertextuality problematize the status of 'authorship' treating
the writer of a text [or the artist who makes an image] as the orchestrator
of what Roland Barthes refers to as the 'already-written' rather than its
A text [or image] is... a multidimensional
space in which a variety of writings [or images], none
of them original, blend and clash. The text [or image] is
a tissue of quotations...
the writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never
original. – Chandler, Semiotics: the Basics, pg 196
The frontiers of a book [or work of art] are never clear-cut... it is caught
up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences:
it is a node within a network... – Foucault, The Archaeology
Photographers and visual artists often speak of 'reading' an image, and even
apply the term 'visual language' in analyzing works. This highlights how relevant
intertextuality is to the issue, which in turn raises problems with the idea
of authorship, and of plagiarism in art.
Students of art often hear that everything's already been done. Their
task is simply to find their own truth and to express it with integrity. 'Originality,'
personal vision, and style are framed in terms of the bodies of work the artist
produces, more than the individual piece.
America the Brilliant
Sad to say, these clips are shot on the streets of my country. Hopefully, the
film crew encountered people who actually knew what they were talking about,
and edited those segments out. Unfortunately, it seems all too easy to find
many who don't have much of a clue...
Subject: You just received a E-Greeting
Yeah, right! I've never received a legit e-greeting that didn't show the name
of the sender. That's the second clue that suggests this message is a phishing
expedition or an attempt to plant malware on my machine — the
first is the crappy formatting and questionable language of the subject line. The
message text opens as follows:
A Greeting Card is waiting for you at our virtual post office! You can pick
up your postcard at the following web address...
The message continues with a link that appears believable, but the link becomes
questionable when I hover my cursor over it. The tool-tip shows a completely
different address, one which reveals a potentially malicious intent:
That IP address isn't likely to be one that belongs to all-yours.net,
and the .exe probably means bad news for Windows users.
I imagine hundreds of people a day being suckered into clicking that link.
It's anyone's guess how many of those machines are now relaying phishing messages
just like the one that suckered their owners. Chances are, the first recipients
contacted by the newly-commandeered machine are the people in that user's Outlook
that I should discover this photo on Valentine's Day. You almost miss the winged
beast, with her head in such proximity to that gargantuan club.
visiting photoblogs from all over the world, and the work of Kwerfeldein
Photography [Martin Gommel] in Germany is exceptional. While people figure
into his work, he really shines with landscapes, and there are lots of them
on his dynamic and polished photoblog.
A chicken/egg conundrum
Did all gerunds (a verb derived from a noun by adding 'ing' to the end, e.g.
ski -> skiing) arise after the noun they are based upon, or could it go the
other way around?
The verb that's got me thinking about this is petting. Did
we start calling those lovable creatures pets, because we pet them — in which
case the verb came first — or did we call them pets, and decide that 'petting'
sounded better than 'stroking'?
Today, I was reading some security tips on the Facebook blog, when I noticed
that they've created a gerund from the noun 'friend.' Soon friending may be
in common usage.
Once again, I'm happy to have switched over to Firefox, though I was briefly
annoyed. I walked back to my computer with a cup of tea in my hand, only to
see a dialog box telling me that Firefox had crashed. $%^#&!, I thought,
and filed a crash report. I'd had several tabs open at the time, and I wasn't
completely sure I'd remember a couple of those URLs. Oh, well, I thought... Then It got interesting.
When I re-launched Firefox, I got a dialog asking
if I'd like to restore the previous session. I couldn't believe my eyes. I
clicked 'yes,' and FF re-opened, tabs and all. Yeah, buddy! It's like command-z
I've already written two segments of this post so far today, and I'm realizing
that much of this post might be sub-titled 'Why I Can't Stand CNN (or Any
of the Network News).' A few years back, they seemed like a real alternative
to the rest. At the time, I didn't realize how complicit they were in selling
the first Iraq war to the American public. Now, they're just watered-down drivel
like most. Their music themes rival the sound tracks of Top Gun and 24. The
graphics are completely over the top. Are they really the most trusted name
in news? And even if they are, how much trust are they afforded? They certainly
don't deserve much.
Save the Cheerleader...
Yeah, I'm hooked on the slowly uncoiling suspense of Heroes on NBC. It amazes
me, the way the show is developing. As an added touch, it was fun to see
George 'Sulu' Takei playing the part of Hiro's father, speaking the entire
role in Japanese. Nice touch. The question is, did you catch the nod to his
famous role? As he and Hiro's sister depart, the camera follows her around
the back of the car...
Denise pointed out at the end of the last episode, that several episodes ago, Nathan Petrelli told
his brother to forget about the cheerleader. Apparently,
he has no idea that said cheerleader is his own daughter. Her adoptive daddy
seems to think he's M.I.B., and Mr. Mind Meld's work seems a bit more disruptive
than Tommy Lee Jones' neuralyzer. Another question: did mom's own hot little
hands start the fire she thought killed her daughter?
Grammy & Art
Somebody from Entertainment Weekly was on CNN this morning, handicapping the
Grammy Awards on Sunday. One of the American Idol winners is nominated for a
New Artist award, and the prognosticator said that the thing that made her stand
out from all the other Idol winners was sales. She also said that the Dixie Chicks
might not win one of the awards they were nominated for, because they're hated
for their politics in Nashville.
All the award shows have always had an aspect of marketing and promotion about
them, but there was a time where artistic merit held a lot more sway, and they
seemed much more divorced from politics. After all, the Grammy is called the
Golden Gramophone, an allusion to the technical achievements of Edison and
others at the beginning of recording, and it's given out by the Recording Academy,
which I think was originally called the National Association of Recording
Arts and Sciences.
The GRAMMYs are the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement,
technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without
regard to album sales or chart position.
– Official Grammy web site
I remember when Miles Davis won for Bitches'
The first time I listened to it, I couldn't make sense out of what I was hearing,
but I knew it was something extraordinary. There are no such innovators in
the lineup of nominees this year. Instead, we have The Police getting back
together — likely their only
appearance together before they head off in separate directions once more.
I hope they fare better than Simon & Garfunkel on the 2003 Grammy show.
Their performance of The Sound of Silence came off well, but when
it came time for Dustin Hoffman — star of The Graduate, the
film that put all three of them on the map — to introduce them, he couldn't
get their names right.
As much as I love music, and perhaps because it's been such a big thing in
my life, I haven't paid much attention to the Grammy Awards for some time.
It always shocked me that the live performances are often loose, and for years
the Grammy award show has been the one that has suffered the most glaring audio
problems. I might TIVO the show, just to see the Police, but the rest? Ehhhh...
is, I don't expect much from Sting and the boys, either.
I don't plan to use Safari much any more. When it first hit the scene, it was
a breath of fresh air — it was much faster than IE, and had even
better CSS support. As time has gone by, it's become a bit more unstable
than its first releases, and Firefox has emerged as the new standard in W3C
compliance. That and the web developer tools in Firefox are all nice touches,
but the thing that broke it for me was Simpleviewer.
I've visited a lot of photographers' web sites over the last year or so, and
a significant number of them present their images through older versions
of Simpleviewer, which had a nasty code flaw: Under Safari, their sniffer script
thinks that Flash is not installed, and redirects to a 'Get Flash' page. There's
no way to get past the script to the content, so Safari users are locked out
of those sites. I know people that have reinstalled Flash repeatedly, not
understanding that Get Flash is a spurious error message.
When I hit one of those sites last night, I knew I had Flash 8 installed,
switched over to Firefox, and had no problem viewing the site. What's more,
I upgraded to FF2, which addressed the main quibble I had with earlier versions
of Firefox: The default skin has been upgraded, and it no longer has that clunky,
I'm also very interested in some of the developer tools, which look as though
my site-building process might be getting a little easier.
Barely Cold, Instant Pretext
...for crap. Spammers' command of the English language always impresses me.
I wonder what the strange text strings at the bottom of these messages are
for, and why they used my e-mail address, but some bizarre alias name in the
To field. The only thing I can guess is that it helps them subvert some form
of anti-spam measure.
As I started writing this, the autopsy wasn't even done yet. An army of cameras
and reporters was camped in the parking lot of the coroner's office. Then,
there was the press conference, where we heard it will be another three to
five weeks before there is an official determination. It doesn't sound like
a suicide by overdose, and she wasn't shot, stabbed, or beaten to death.
The search for the cause from here on out will primarily involve microscopic
pathogens or neurological causes.
The lawyers for Anna Nicole and her deceased
husband are still at work on her $x-billion inheritance case, and two other
legal teams are working on the tug-of-war over who gets to raise Anna's baby.
Sheesh! What a mess!
Strange that just ten days ago, CNN did a story about Tyra Banks' reaction
to the rags that have been running pieces about her weight, suggesting that
she's too fat. A bubbly talking head said 'good for her!' The resounding tone
of the piece was that Tyra does not have a weight problem... They segued into
a piece on Anna Nicole Smith, and her battles with weight.
This was what the home page of the Trimspa web site looked like today:
The text at the bottom of the page reads as follows. There is a link to a
separate page that has a small number of wishes from Trimspa customers.
Whippany, NJ, February 8, 2007 – Today, Anna Nicole Smith’s
grief stricken and tumultuous personal life came to an end. Anna came to
our Company as a customer, but she departs it as a friend. While life for
Anna Nicole was not easy these past few months, she held dear her husband,
Howard K. Stern, her daughter, Dannielynn Hope, her most cherished friends,
beloved dogs, and finally, her work with TRIMSPA.
Anna knew both the joy of giving life, and the heartache of losing a child.
We pray that she is granted the peace that eluded her more recent days on earth,
and that she find comfort in the presence of her son, Daniel.
-- Alex Goen, CEO and Founder, TRIMSPA
And Legal Fights
As of January 20, James Brown's body still wasn't buried, and it was moved
to some undisclosed (and hopefully climate-controlled) location. His family
is fighting over his estate, and there's discussion of turning his Beech
Island, SC home into a kind of Graceland that includes a mausoleum. When
last seen, his body was still in the gold-plated bronze coffin used for his
December 30 funeral in Augusta, GA.
To make matters more interesting, the woman whom Brown had married in 2001
is not his legal wife. In 2003, James found out that she had never annulled
her marriage to another man. That was never handled, and she wasn't included
in James' will. She's suing for half his estate [surprise!], but lawyers are
saying that even if the court determined that she is his spouse, reversing
an earlier ruling, she's entitled to no more than one third...
James may be resting in peace, but it seems no one in his closest circles
are. Good thing he doesn't need that body any more. James had a will, but it
seems there were a lot of loose ends. In an interview shortly before he died,
Helmut Newton said he didn't want to waste time thinking [or talking] about
his death. He said that either way, it would come too soon or too late. He
and James Brown may have had that in common — James had shows scheduled
through the holiday season and early this year — but I have the impression
that there wasn't much confusion over where or how to bury Helmut.
Florida, the Most Trusted Name, and
CNN must be loving the Sunshine State this week. We start the week with the strange,
sordid, slightly kinky tale of the astronaut gone bonkers, and finish with
the mysterious death of the 21st Century Marilyn Monroe. I was tempted to keep
a count of the number of times the talking heads mentioned Nowak's wearing
diapers during her 600 mile drive. Clearly, that was the media's obsession
on day one. On day two, they started to bring in the psychological experts
to speculate at more than arms' length on Lisa Nowak's mental state — had the
pressure of being an astronaut driven her crazy?
The thing that amazes
and somewhat disgusts me about the 24-hour news cycle, is that CNN et al break
stories before they have any substantial information to convey. They manage
to find numerous ways of saying 'we don't have any information for you' while
still filling a 2-minute segment, and repeat those uninformed segments for
hours. Worse, they tend to move on to the next hot story about the time that
they get any substantial information on a particular story.
The other thing that bothers me about CNN is sloppiness. In a post-Super
Bowl story, CNN reported about the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
taking issue with a stupid Snickers candy bar ad that ran during the broadcast.
Aside from insipid questions from the talking head, which seemed to assert
that the ad was just meant to be funny, the graphics person couldn't get the
acronym right: the screen read 'GLADD' instead of 'GLAAD' throughout the segment.
they covered the story of Lisa Nowak, announcers had a habit of dropping the
word 'attempted' when referring to the charges brought against her. I guess
it sounds sexier to say she's facing murder charges, even if it doesn't
tell the whole story. They could afford the milliseconds it takes to say that
extra word, and I really think they massaged the language to hype the drama.
The other annoying thing about the coverage, is that CNN seems to simply parrot
the claims of the prosecution. A hunting knife is a potentially deadly weapon,
but a BB-gun? At least Toobin had the sense to say that the charge of attempted
murder seemed to be a failed negotiation on the part of the prosecution to
keep Nowak locked up.
CNN's point of view on the whole story seems to rely heavily upon (and tacitly
reinforce) two tropes: 'The Right Stuff' and 'One Bad Apple.' No one at CNN
will enquire into whether the Astronaut as Super Hero might be mythology, proposing
instead that this sad public debacle was simply the product of a breakdown
in NASA's near-perfect mental health screening...
A BBC News story suggests
instead that astronauts
are in fact human, and that NASA's real specialty is in keeping bad behavior
out of the spotlight. Much of that story is a condensation of an entry called
to Earth' on the blog of Dr. Pat Santy. Her most intriguing
Why bother to go to the trouble of choosing "the right stuff" in
the first place when the superstar culture of the astronauts only encourages
the worst sort of narcissism and sociopathy? Even if an astronaut didn't
have an iota of such psychopathology before they their selection as an astronaut,
they are at extremely high risk in the toxic NASA culture of developing it.
If you read The Right Stuff, or even saw the movie, you'd know that
Tom Wolfe exposes some of this myth-making, and reveals some of the bad behavior.
It's interesting that the phrase 'The Right Stuff' does not elicit any of
those negative connotations.
Santy's suggestion has the ring of truth, but I don't think she'll be my go-to
person for a psychological take on current events. She distills some Bush haters
down to the following:
The psychology of some of the Bush Haters is pretty cut and dried. They
hate Bush because he stands between them and the implementation of their
collectivist "utopian" vision.
I have no time to waste on them, except to note that their intentions are
deliberately and decidedly malevolent toward this country. They want it to
fail at anything and everything it does and they openly cheer for the barbarians
at the gate.
Through her entire assessment, it seems she's unwilling to say explicitly
that she's a Bush supporter. As for the rest of the Bush haters, she seems
to corral them into a broad category of people who are using displacement to
cope with threats (like terrorism) that they can't do anything about. But,
hey, it's a blog — no one expects her to be rigorous.
An Unscientific Survey
On February 2, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
issued what it called 'a comprehensive and rigorous picture of the global present
state of knowledge of climate change [i.e. global warming].' This
is some pretty heavy stuff, worthy of substantial coverage by the media.
happened to have ABC's AM news show on, and wondered why their weather guy
was giving his report from Paris. He blathered on about the gardens and the
Peace monument behind him, and in the space of about 15 minutes, he gave two
standard weather reports, never mentioning that he was in Paris to cover this
Next up on ABC was a minutes-long segment on a fake 'bridezilla' segment that
is posted on YouTube. It's a successful publicity stunt by several aspiring
actresses and a filmmaker. For some reason, the filmmaker didn't appear on
air, though he at least got a mention. I flipped over to BBC news, when I saw
that Laura Bush was going to be the next guest — she was there to promote
people wearing red to raise awareness of heart disease. I don't know when ABC
finally covered the IPCC story. I have the impression that it was a very light
piece, considering the hard news guy they'd sent to cover it.
On BBC, I saw at least three different segments in 15 minutes, including an
in-studio interview with an IPCC spokesman, and a field report from Beijing
on China's reliance on old-style dirty coal for home heating.
I'd call that anecdotal evidence of a very different set of priorities driving
what each of these news organizations deems as news-worthy.
finally shipped. Bill Gates was on CNN and even on The Daily Show. He's clearly
no Steve Jobs, who is said to exude a 'reality distortion field.' When Gates
talks, he barely seems excited. His smiles seem rehearsed.
And now, this OS
release. Bill almost winced when the interviewer suggested that Vista looks
a lot like OS X and asked whether they were going after a particular look...
Gates went on to say that there were places where Vista was ahead, saying something
about it being easier to burn a DVD, browse photos, integrate with the living
room TV, and institute parental controls. These seem like mild enhancements,
not innovations. Interestingly, he said absolutely nothing about enhanced security.
I think it's particularly telling, that the segment began with an accounting
of how many $billions were spent and how many millions of lines of code were
written. Less than a week later, a report ran about how Vista's voice recognition
could be exploited to breach its security. While plausible, I doubt that anyone
will ever capitalize on this particular hole. I just wonder how long it will
be before we hear the first reports of worms and viruses successfully targeting
Vista. Apple's ad about the warning dialogs in Vista is pretty funny.
Recent news reports suggest that few people are running out to buy Vista and
install it on their existing machines. OS upgrades can be painful on any platform,
and I think a collective memory of negative experiences upgrading Windows
before means that there isn't likely to be a big wave of upgrading. Instead,
it seems people held off on buying new machines until they could get them with
Vista pre-installed. In the last week or so, there's been something like a
200% jump in PC sales. The question: is that a spike, a surge, or an escalation?
In other words, how long will Vista be a boost to PC sales?
There is an infrastructure question about Vista's release that may also be
salient: what is Vista's potential as an application development platform?
Microsoft released the ASX streaming format a few years ago, never bothering
to create a Mac-compatible client for it. More recently, they dropped development
and support for Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer on Mac.
come across the occasional web site that has features that don't work with
Mac at all, or only support IE or Netscape. Do you suppose
there might be some developer hooks in Vista that will eventually emerge as
web-based services available only to Windows users? Time will tell.
Subject: Re: another one gone
Date: December 26, 2006 2:53:21 PM EST
R.I.P. James Brown 12-26-tuesday....
Rings of reaction spread from the center of the pond of loss...A true, rare original is gone. Who knew that Seminole Indian blood understood the atmospheric speaker pressure of the fender bass pickup? Or that jailbird car thief gypsies understand how fuck humping
can fit into a 45 rpm disc mix? This is the surprise of the diminutive but nuclear African Picasso we came to know as JB.
He made the squarest white missionary swivel. Have you ever gone into a studio and TRIED to make the new, the remarkable, the special, the HISTORIC? Just try it, and cry with embarassment. Now, JB was visiting from another plantation...- he captured the sound of
energetic excitement - pure and simple - the throbbing pulse of the act of creation attached to a full moon smile. Pond life does it, the Queen and the pope have variations on it, and JB made it possible for all of us to GET DOWN in public, let loose, feel the
thrill...... to have fun with a capital k on the end.
All of us are copying him, this refreshing son of a brothel queen. He liberated
me. There aren't many artists who can remove all at once and bring us stripped
down, down to the cave again, to the swamp where we all came from, to the
fundamental joy of IT. The next great Picasso of R&B will be.......?
Were you dreaming
of a white Christmas? In Denver, I'm guessing the snow's a little stale, but
still pretty. The gray light around here suggests that it may be a wet Christmas
It's odd to see pictures on CNN of people in China celebrating Christmas
with inflatable US flag-themed bats and hammers. Seems they have Christmas
and New Year's all jumbled together. In Australia, it's little fake trees on
the beach. Somebody should have gone and found a Caribbean Christmas tree —
stories-tall relatives of the Yucca which are said to bloom only rarely, trimmed
with colorful glass bottles.
Christmas signals the beginning of the last week of the year. In that week,
we remember those who've passed away in the year we're leaving behind. This
morning, a friend wrote ‘Well its a Brown Christmas... I'm thinking up an obit
for Mr. Dynamite, he meant alot to
me as he did to twenty, no forty, no 300 million others. I read his autobio
To me he is a Picasso, a world heavyweight.’
That's the first I'd heard that
James Brown had died. Yes, he was a heavyweight, ‘the hardest-working man in
show business,’ and the source of so many memories. Without James, Eddie Murphy
wouldn't have had source material for one of the funniest bits he ever did
on Saturday Night Live [Hot Tub!], or a number of bits that he did on stand-up
gigs around the world. And, Funk music would not have had an anchor.
There's no official cause of death yet, but James had been hospitalized with
pneumonia. It's fitting that his life would end with his lungs giving out.
He had bookings through the holiday season this year — his lungs may have failed
him, but his heart and drive never gave out.
In the 80's a bunch of friends were making up lists, and the question put
to a bunch of us was to name the five or so people who had the biggest impact
on popular music. James was at the top of my list. Many of the people in that
group strongly disagreed. It was one of those times where it was clear that
music might be universal, but music forms are distinctly cultural. Still, I'd
bet that several of those people would, by now, acknowledge that James was
an important part of popular music, and popular culture.
I don't remember any questions about James Brown on Jeopardy, but somewhat
strangely, I found out that two other musical heroes (hear-oh's) of mine died
this year through questions on that show.
One was Wilson Pickett, who I actually
got to meet in a recording studio and sing backing vocals for. One of the funniest
things he talked about that day, was being on the set of Blues Brothers with
James Brown and John Landis. The point Wilson was making, was that nobody tells
James Brown how to perform. The song ‘Funky Broadway’ often comes to mind when
I go into Manhattan. I can't even imagine how many thousands, if not millions,
of times bands have covered ‘Midnight Hour.’
Then, there's Billy Preston, who was known to many as ‘the fifth Beatle.’
On his album I Wrote a Simple Song, he thanks John Lennon for his
support. I played the song Outta Space until the vinyl turned gray.
I always thought he deserved more fame and success than he seemed to achieve.
A lot of musicians don't seem to know ‘Will it Go 'Round in Circles,’ but it's
one of Billy's best, and I think it'll go 'round for many more years to come.
A strange synchronicity
happened yesterday. It was the 50th anniversary of the end of the Montgomery
bus boycott, a watershed moment for the Civil Rights movement. It was also
day 3 on the job for the new Defense Secretary, and the first day of his
first surprise visit to Iraq. And it's a few short weeks since the infamous
Michael Richards blow-up.
CNN ran a lot of material about the Montgomery boycott, looping it with trailers
for a special on Racism in America and all the other news of the day. At some
point I saw some footage of Secretary Casey stepping off the C-130 cargo plane
and onto the tarmac in Iraq. There was a wide shot of the plane showing the
hatch that Casey would step through, along with a section of the fuselage.
That shot piqued my sense of irony. Painted in huge letters on the side of the plane, as clear as day, were the
words Spirit of Strom Thurmond.
... for Photoshop geeks, at least. I read the new Sybex book Skin by
Lee Varis from cover to cover in record time last week. It covers a wide
range of subjects related to photographing people — including lighting, getting
skin color and tone right, why digital cameras tend to redden skin tone, retouching,
soft proofing, and printing. It is great to see all of the info together in
a well-written, concise tome, which is based on practical experience.
Some will take issue with some of Varis' advice, especially the assertion
that there's no advantage to working in 16-bit. His suggestion that Adobe RGB
is sufficient and that ProPhoto RGB is overkill might be a little easier to
swallow, though I know there are a number of people teaching students that
ProPhoto is the future.
Thumbing through the book in the store, the thing that hooked me was a technique
for making blotchy skin look more even. I didn't
realize how thorough the treatment of lighting was, until I got the book home.
Nearly half the book came off as a kind of bonus, since I bought it purely
on the basis of its coverage of retouching.
This is an intermediate to advanced book. It will be a lot easier to grok
with, if you have experience with layers, blending modes, and masks in photoshop.
As far as the lighting stuff goes, it's a good idea to have some prior exposure
to studio lighting and using a light meter. But maybe this is a self-regulating
matter — I don't think the average beginner is going to be interested in the
subject — it's the kind of thing that you get interested in, after you've wrestled
with this stuff for a while.
Today is World AIDS day. According to the UNAIDS
Annual Report, around 40
million people are living with HIV throughout the world, and about
4.3 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2006 alone.
I just heard that Ed Bradley died of Leukemia today. He was
only 65. He did some great work on 60 Minutes.
The end of October
brings two fun events: the Halloween parade and the Marathon. I shot both. Click
the pics to see a gallery for each.
But Wait, There's More...
Waking up yesterday was a little bit like waking on Christmas morning when
I was a kid. The radio crackled with the news that the Dems had taken the House,
as expected. Like a basketball circling the rim, it seemed they were poised to
take the Senate, too, but we'd have to wait and see if the ball would drop in.
Then, came the surprise afternoon visitor: Rummy had finally stepped down.
My first thought was that Bush could not have had him step down any time in
the last six weeks, because it would have looked like the White House had been
swayed by pressure. We may come to miss the old buzzard's surrealist poetry,
but I doubt much else.
Equally exciting is the prospect that Pataki is finally leaving the Governorship
of New York. I have a good feeling about Elliott Spitzer. I think he comes
from the right background, though I wonder about his ability to alter the momentum
of some of the massive projects Pataki & Co have already put in place.
The elephant in the room has been dealt with. Now, let's hope that the new
‘guys’ (were any women elected in all this?) don't turn out to be jackasses.
Pelosi and company seem to be striking an appropriate tone so far.
I'm listened to George Allen concede Virginia as I typed this. He started
by thanking God for his wife Susan, and made reference to the Bible in his
speech. While he acknowledged that the outcome of a recount would probably
not produce different results, he couched his decision not to ask for a recount
in terms of doing the right thing: living a purpose-driven life, avoiding
further rancor, and dragging the process out until December.
Allen spoke metaphorically
of a deep-rooted tree that grows back after it's been damaged:
Sometimes winds, political or otherwise, can blow the leaves off branches
or even break limbs. but a deep-rooted tree will stand, stay standing; it'll
re grow in the next season. In this season, the people of Virginia — who
I always call the owners of the government — they have spoken. And I respect
The Bible teaches us that there's a time and place for everything and today
I've called and congratulated Jim Webb and his team for their victory. They
have the prevailing winds...
Political winds = blowhards? Broken limbs sounds like broken arms or legs.
There's a piece of this that even seems to connect back to Bush's Katrina disaster,
and Allen's own hot air moment.
The speculation is that Allen was mostly alluding to his own run to regain
a Senate seat in the future, but there's a chance he was also talking about
the conservative movement, which seems to have taken it pretty hard on the
chin in this election. Considering how vigorously conservative pundits are
already denying that voters signaled their displeasure with social conservatism,
perhaps they protest too loudly.
Impressive — I heard that the voter turnout on Tuesday may well be the highest
since 1984. Independents turned out in record numbers.
CNN's coverage of Jim Webb's speech this afternoon picked up on Webb after
he'd started speaking and cut away before he was done. That's very different
from the way Allen's event was covered.
Britney... OK, I don't think she had to wait until after the mid-term elections
to file for divorce, unless her publicist was worried that the story would
get lost in the run-up to election day. A few months ago, she was indirectly
involved in a political skirmish set in an art gallery. An artist had contrived
a pro-life statement by sculpting a life-sized Britney on all fours delivering
a child on a bearskin rug. To top-off the context, a pro-life group had been
invited to leaflet gallery visitors for the opening. If she was aligned with
the artist, maybe yesterday was a bad day for her, too.
that prime (or fixed focal-length) lenses would be sharper than zoom lenses.
The zoom action varies the relationship between lens elements throughout
its range of focal lengths, meaning that their configuration is likely to be
less than optimal most of the time.
I've been thinking about getting a prime lens that would be great for certain
kinds of portraits, and I'd been leaning toward an 85mm, but I started to read
bad things about the bokeh on the 85mm. So, I went for the only lens that Cartier-Bresson
used — a 50mm. It's the lens that came with my first 35mm SLR back in
high school, too, so it's a lens that holds a certain nostalgia. Of course,
with my dx sensor, it's effectively a 75mm, but I digress.
Reviews offered some useful guidance for my purchase decision: The ƒ1.4 lens
has more distortion than the ƒ1.8, and the 1.8 is nearly 1/3 the price. For
about 150 bucks, I walked out of the store with the 50mm lens, a UV filter,
and a collapsible rubber hood. It's one of the cheapest camera-related purchases
I can make and it stands to help me make some substantially better images (it's
easy to spend more than that on a bag, which has no direct effect on the quality
of your images).
The 50mm is that cheap, because it's made in China, and the lens barrel is
plastic. I'm told the glass is the same as it's been since the introduction
of the lens, and it's reassuring to see a metal bayonet plate on the back
of the lens.
The lens is at least 1/2 pound lighter than my 28-105. That means less camera
shake in hand-held shots, and a little less pull on the shoulder, but it's
all about the glass, and the proof of the pudding is in
the two sets of photos. These are un-resized direct samples from two raw captures
— no sharpening and no adjustments were applied. I just pulled these
rectangles from areas of the two images.
The eyes look so different in the two shots, that I thought maybe I didn't
have the same point of focus, so I looked at the couch and the hair. The difference
there is just as striking. It's less obvious in these samples, but it seems
that the color rendition is also nicer with the 50.
There's no doubt that zoom lenses are extremely effective for some shooting
situations, especially those were walking back and forth to compose is not
an option. But a prime lens affords a more detailed
image in any setting that is practical. I'm using the word detail, rather than
sharpness to emphasize that we're talking about a quality of the image that
cannot be added after the fact by digital ‘sharpening.’ Sharpening works by
making edges more apparent, which gives the impression of sharpness. It does
not add detail, and it can't make something that's out of focus appear to be
Last night , I took my light, fast (2-1/2 stops faster) lens and a flash with
me to the Halloween parade. It was definitely fun. The surprising thing was how
much that 75mm (effective) focal length behaved like a telephoto. I often had
to back up, but the light weight and mostly one-handed operation of my camera
made up for it. It has me thinking that maybe I want a wide-angle prime lens,
Why is this song
running through my head? Van Halen's Jump has been playing on the
radio in my head for the last couple of days. I've never liked that song.
And Now, Ming
A while ago, I wrote about ‘Taz’ (below) joining us. About 6 weeks after she
got here, we got her sister Ming. It took a while for Ming to come out of her
shell, but she's definitely coming into her own. It's amazing and entertaining
to watch them play, fight, and groom each other. Happily, neither of them seems
to mind a camera.
October 27, 2006 2:03:08 PM EDT
I got an e-mail from The Container Store, featuring stocking-stuffer specials.
I thought stocking stuffers were the last thing people bought during the holidaze.
Today, I replied to an e-vite and got an ad featuring holiday specials.
And I thought it was a drag when Christmas marketing started before the Macy's
parade on Thanksgiving. Now, we're getting e-mail before Halloween.
Speaking of Halloween, I've seen two articles this season bemoaning how all
the women's halloween costumes in places like Target, K-Mart and Wal-Mart (ostensibly
family-friendly places where a mom can take her two young girls to get some
simple mouse ears) are selling nothing but sexy/naughty costumes for women.
10/16/06 New York Times, Allison Glock asks ‘where did all the ghosts, hobos
and vampires go?’
In Barnes & Noble on Union Square yesterday, I overheard three guys discussing
halloween costumes. ‘You could be a vampire,’ one of them said... another elaborated
‘you could be a goth vampire... with fangs’ ... yada yada. And
I thought vampires were the inspiration of the goth fetish. Goth vampire sounds
redundant, and besides how could you tell the goth vampire from the regular
Back to Allison's question -- I guess (at least in the minds of the big box
stores) the vampires are all goth guys.
I got itchy trigger finger about a week ago.
I had TiVo'd a show on Comedy Central because it ran an amazing commercial,
and I had wanted to grab a couple of frames before I deleted it. Oops... gone,
and I haven't seen it since.
I had thought it was just off the wall, until Denise chimed in with this spot-on
observation: The white girl uses her brains to overcome the sexually predatory,
bionically enhanced (and probably much less intelligent) black girl.
The ad is for Amp'd, which ran another racially stereotypical ad that raised
eyebrows earlier this year:
...a [white] guy standing on a bus is playing with some device, when he
commands two guys in the back to start fighting; they comply. He then tells
some guy with a boombox to crank up some old funk tune; up comes the beat.
Then he turns to a black woman and commands, "You, shake your junk".
She gets up, grabs the pole that's conveniently right there, and turns the
bus into a stripper's workout room, shaking her prodigious junk for all it's
worth (and I'll argue that only until pornified rap videos became commonplace
did a whole lot of people know this colloquial meaning of "junk").
It's hard to isolate the more troubling part of this brief scene: is it
that a white man can command a black woman to "shake your junk" as
though neither of them had ever left the strip club (or worse, the plantation),
or that she does it without complaint? At least she keeps her clothes on.
Then again, this is a 30-second ad for a mass-market product....
Ads can't debunk any of
the stereotypes they employs, because that would take up too much the marketing
bandwidth. An acquaintance of mine used to talk about ‘vampire video—’ advertising
that captured the viewer's attention but didn't drive home product recognition.
So, ads have to rely on stereotypes and archetypes that are intrinsically accepted
at face value — ideas that have a certain truthiness (thanks, Stephen).
And while a commercial can't waste message debunking stereotypes, they
often blithely reinforce marginal ones.
When we look at commercials as a collection
of symbols, the black woman tends to read as all black women,
while a white guy will typically be read as all guys. [Notice that
the quote I pulled from Mr. Reynolds' article even glosses over the race of
the guys, but the woman is explicitly called out as being black.]
Advertisers have the sole agenda of selling product. If they're willing to
program kids to pester their parents for things [see The Corporation],
they're not likely to have much conscience about reinforcing racism. Making
it seem funny or edgy just makes it go down easier... And besides, if Too
Live Crew can do it, so can Amp'd, right?
Which brings me to this:
Why Don't Blacks Support Republicans?
Because when their campaigns are desperate they always go back to the
well of racism. The Republican party is running in Tennessee on a
platform of the big black buck coming for the white women.
That's something of a turn-off to black voters.
– Olliver Wills
This one is quite crafty, as Josh Marshall points out:
But then you see that one 'man on the street interview' isn't quite like the
rest. It's almost like those old Sesame Street segments, one of these things
is not like the other.
It's the one spot with the platinum blonde with no visible clothes on, vamping "I
met Harold at the Playboy Party."
What policy issue is she talking about? It's not connected to anything. It's
just, 'I'm a loose white woman. I hooked up with Harold at the Playboy mansion.
And I can't wait for him to do me again.'
An insidious aspect of this kind of advertising, is that
it leaves a lot of margin for deniability, much as in the recent case of Dick
Cheney's insistence that he simply meant dunking ‘detainees’ (we can't call
them prisoners, after all) in water – and not the technique known as ‘waterboarding’ (aka
simulated drowning) – when he said some interrogation methods are a ‘no-brainer.’ He
left it to his mouthpieces to handle the rest of the dissembling.