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.