A Change of Scale and Timescale

There has been a lot of excite­ment about the fact that some of the high­er end dig­i­tal SLRs (notably the Nikon D90) can now shoot High Def­i­n­i­tion Video. This means that there are new pos­si­bil­i­ties for peo­ple who don’t have huge stu­dios or wal­lets to do cre­ative things. In one case, it was with lens­es and a spe­cial tech­nique called ’tilt-shift­ing’ that makes for an extreme­ly nar­row depth of field from a dis­tance, and video — in this case, time-lapse pho­tog­ra­phy. The result is some­thing that makes one feel like a god, (or per­haps King Kong or Godzil­la), look­ing down with placid seren­i­ty upon the bustling of tiny human­i­ty below. That’s what a series of videos by Aus­tralian Kei­th Loutit has pro­duced seem to be. Have a look at what I mean:

The North Wind Blew South

Loutit’s work has been fea­tured in lots of geeky places like Boingboing.com and Giz­mo­do, but I found out about it from my friend John Biehler, who showed anoth­er of his clips on his site.

I think there is some­thing here that tran­scends just the bizarre and unset­tling. It’s per­haps that we already have such a short time on the plan­et, but still, if we could just slow down and watch, we might see all sorts of things that we’d nev­er seen before. If we could take a drug that would slow us down so that we were, say, oper­at­ing at 1/10 nor­mal speed for just a day, and did­n’t suf­fer any ill effects, I bet that’s a trip that many of us would like to take. Yeah. A long, slow, trip.

I write this, remem­ber­ing that this morn­ing I heard that a crit­ic and tele­vi­sion com­men­ta­tor who I used to watch reg­u­lar­ly, John Leonard, died on Wednes­day. Kurt Von­negut once said: “When I start to read John Leonard, it is as though I, while sim­ply look­ing for the men’s room, blun­dered into a lec­ture by the smartest man who ever lived.” Who am I to dis­agree with Vonnegut?  Leonard was indeed bril­liant. When­ev­er I heard him talk on the show Sun­day Morn­ing, I thought that he made being smart some­thing that was sexy, which per­haps the US is once again redis­cov­er­ing. I hope he was con­scious and knew what hap­pened the day before he died. Per­haps he left with a smile on his face.

Pam’s Photos, March Flowers and Disturbing Radio News

After many hours culling through the over 1,000 pho­tos that she took on her trip to Antarc­ti­ca, Pam has put togeth­er just under 200 of them in a slide show on Flickr. Many are very impres­sive, and she went to some pains to anno­tate them as well. If you want to read the descrip­tions, you can access the indi­vid­ual pho­tos as well. I’m glad that she can share her trip with so many friends and family.

Spring has Sprung Forward
One of the things I do love about the cli­mate here is the fact that our win­ters, while being plen­ty wet, dark and drea­ry, are not very long. Dur­ing our walk last week­end, Pam and I spied many clus­ters of cro­cus­es, and I expect that we’ll be see­ing daf­fodils and tulips either this week or next. This is very dif­fer­ent from the win­ters I remem­ber in Boston, which seemed to stretch on and on. Ground­hog Day, as Gar­ri­son Keil­lor used to say about Min­neso­ta’s Win­ter, was for us, ‘some sort of cru­el joke’.

This week­end is also the start­ing gun that seems to set off a rush toward Spring, with the switch to Day­light Sav­ings time (which the Province sug­gests might be more apt­ly called ‘Day­light-Sav­ing Time’, fol­low­ing the pat­tern of ‘man-eat­ing’ tiger or ‘mind-expand­ing book’). At any rate, I’ll now leave work in full sun, and we’ll be get­ting up before dawn for just a lit­tle while longer.

CBC Radio Two to Change Pro­gram­ming Again?
I’ve learned that in Sep­tem­ber, CBC Radio 2 will once again be chang­ing their pro­gram­ming, and unfor­tu­nate­ly for peo­ple like me, it will no longer include Clas­si­cal music before 9AM, and will no longer have any Clas­si­cal music after 3PM. As they slow­ly whit­tle away at the pro­gram­ming that I would like to lis­ten to, I’m going to be even­tu­al­ly forced to turn to the Inter­net (and, if I take the plunge, XM Satel­lite radio) for music that’s not in my col­lec­tion (and my col­lec­tion is huge!). That’s a shame, since I’ve found that Tom Allen’s won­der­ful ‘Music and Com­pa­ny’ to be the only morn­ing radio show that has con­sis­tent­ly made my day bet­ter. I fear I will be writ­ing him a fan let­ter as they can­cel his pro­gram in September.

It was bad enough when the CBC banned news longer than 3 min­utes from Radio 2. Now they are going to be ban­ning Clas­si­cal pro­gram­ming from much of their sched­ule. Not much left for me to lis­ten to, I guess. I keep telling myself that with the growth of the Inter­net to wire­less devices, it won’t be long before the WiMax (or oth­er) cloud will make stan­dard ana­log radio a quaint mem­o­ry. Still, I fore­see a bumpy road before small con­stituen­cies like the one I’m a mem­ber of are squeezed off the dial, at least until we find our new broad­cast medi­um. Too bad you blew it, CBC.

The State of Their Union and a Strange Sign

I missed the State of the Union Address last week (what a plea­sure to be able to say that!), but I did hear the com­men­tary and cov­er­age that echoed the main sound byte of the speech: “Amer­i­ca is addict­ed to oil, which is often import­ed from unsta­ble parts of the world.” The choice of this par­tic­u­lar phrase fas­ci­nat­ed me for sev­er­al rea­sons. First of all, why would a pres­i­dent who’s always done his best to gloss over his past abus­es of alco­hol and drugs (which I ful­ly expect will some day reveal a past that would have made his pre­de­ces­sor in the Oval Office look like a tee­to­taler) even men­tion the word addic­tion. Does­n’t it remind us of the ele­phant in the room? No, not the Repub­li­can mas­cot, but the fact that Bush’s unscript­ed appear­ances are fre­quent­ly inco­her­ent, and along with the pre­pon­der­ance of burst arter­ies on his face, that were, accord­ing to a friend of mine, clear­ly vis­i­ble on his high-def­i­n­i­tion TV dur­ing this appear­ance, seem
to sug­gest that he has start­ed drink­ing again.

If we leave aside the ques­tion of Bush’s addic­tions, up until this point, the stan­dard GOP talk­ing point was that ‘we need to address Amer­i­ca’s depen­dence on for­eign oil.’ The stan­dard fix to this was ‘more drilling, espe­cial­ly in the Arc­tic Wilder­ness’. If you think that way, it makes sense: More depen­dent on for­eign sources? Come up with your own sources. But if you replace the word ‘depen­dence’ with ‘addic­tion’, it does­n’t work any more. After all, if some­one’s addict­ed to cocaine, you don’t try to help them start an opi­um pop­py gar­den to help them switch to a local source.

What’s more, the oth­er terms that each of these words evokes could­n’t be more dif­fer­ent: ‘Depen­dence’, in Microsoft Word’s built-in The­saurus pro­duces match­es like ‘reliance, trust, con­fi­dence, belief, hope and faith.’ Not bad. On the oth­er hand, ‘Addic­tion’ pro­duces ‘habit, com­pul­sion, need, obses­sion and crav­ing’. Not so good. The terms also point to each oth­er, to be sure, but it does point out the neg­a­tive asso­ci­a­tions for the new word. Note that for the Left wing, ‘Addic­tion’ means sick­ness, some­thing that you need ther­a­py or coun­sel­ing to help over­come. On the Right, it’s a vice, or a lack of moral fiber or failed upbring­ing. It does­n’t mat­ter which way you look at it, being addict­ed to some­thing is far worse than being depen­dent on it.

I final­ly came to the con­clu­sion, that despite the many neg­a­tives asso­ci­at­ed with the term, Bush’s speech­writ­ers decid­ed to go with it in order to appease some of the admin­is­tra­tion’s base, the Chris­t­ian Tal­iban, even at the risk of anger­ing the oil com­pa­nies or Detroit (who are pret­ty much speed­ing toward bank­rupt­cy any­way). In this case, I’m sure that it’s all just talk. Bush would nev­er do some­thing con­crete, like actu­al­ly push automak­ers to adopt bet­ter miles-per-gal­lon stan­dards, or sug­gest that cit­i­zens use Mass Tran­sit as a way of get­ting the petro­le­um mon­key off their back.

No… What?
I saw a very strange sign at the bot­tom of the stairs at work the oth­er day. It seems there are two lan­guage schools on the low­er floors (we’re on the third), who serve a pri­mar­i­ly Asian clien­tele. The kids are from Chi­na, Japan, and per­haps Korea, and I usu­al­ly see them smok­ing in front of the build­ing most of the time. Appar­ent­ly, this sign was meant for them:

Nospitting Vancouver

Text reads: “Spit­ting is a cul­tur­al­ly unac­cept­able habit. If you absolute­ly must spit, please do so in the gut­ters of the road, not on the pedes­tri­an walk­ways, and in par­tic­u­lar not in front of the main doors to the building.”

When I men­tioned this to my friend Matt, he was amused. “Dude, he said, “Every­body in Chi­na spits every­where. In fact, they had to put up signs on The Great Wall to dis­cour­age it.” He gave me a pic­ture he took of this to prove it:

Nospitting China

Text reads: “In order to keep fit no spit­ting please no throw­ing waste”

Matt point­ed out how the sign tried to get peo­ple to stop spit­ting to “keep fit”, as if doing so made them bet­ter peo­ple. That’s very typ­i­cal, he explained.


Orig­i­nal­ly uploaded by sel­va.
Just a lit­tle interlude.

One of the most inter­est­ing pho­tos on Flickr. Also, it’s one of the pho­tos found with an inter­est­ing new algo­rithm that looks for pho­tos with a cer­tain amount of user activ­i­ty around them (i.e. a lot of users look at, rec­om­mend, blog, or com­ment on a pho­to). I think it would make a fun postcard.