Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Airport #2

Freedom isn’t lost overnight. It is lost little by little in small pieces, and the excuse is always the same: give up this one more little thing and in return we will keep you safe.

—Karl Rove

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mystic wonders of the internet

Google is a wonderful tool. Today I googled "photography communicates essence" and here is one of the things on that search's front page that Google passed on to me in their might and wisdom:

Sharon Callahan is a writer, photographer, internationally recognized animal communication specialist and leading pioneer in the use of flower essences for the treatment of animals.

Although Sharon's ability to communicate with animals has been with her from childhood, a near-death experience in 1987 enhanced her ability to communicate with animals telepathically, giving her a deep understanding of the role of animals in the spiritual lives of human beings. This experience led to the creation of the Anaflora flower essences for animals, the first flower essences made exclusively for the animal kingdom. Since that time Sharon has pioneered the use of flower essences in the treatment of animals. Her books on the topic are the first in their field. The
(more)

Note that this DOES contain the word "essence" and "photographer" and "communicate". So.

Dear Ms Callahan, I wish you well in your work. This is not meant to convey any disbelief or lack of cosmic harmony on my part, I assure you, but only to exemplify the wonders of advanced search engine algorithms. Peace.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Government think, airport edition

Some of you may have heard the latest grumblings over airport security measures in the U.S. over this past weekend.

One troublemaker took offense at having his genitalia felt up by TSA workers and accused them of sexual assault and threatened to sue them.

When they felt up a 3-year old girl, she began struggling and screaming, "Don't touch me there!" and made an unpleasant scene. Another little malcontent, undoubtedly. Apparently her misguided mother had told the little girl never to let strangers touch her.

90-year old disabled grannies in wheelchairs get the same rude treatment.

People get doses of radiation every time they stand in front of the new body scanner which shows them naked under their clothes. This because of the "Underwear Bomber" in a flight coming in to Detroit last year.

Since the "Shoe Bomber" Reid, everyone who flies in the U.S. has to take off their shoes and have them x-rayed. Or whatever the new see-through technology is called.

Pilots of the passenger airlines have to go through the same security and are complaining that their doses of radiation are piling up because of the frequency of the scans they have to endure.

Now there is talk of exempting Muslim women from searches because... I don't know. Just because. It offends them I guess.

Ann Coulter, the columnist hated by the far left, made an interesting comment yesterday (on Fox News, no less, so you know it is something to be immediately dismissed) that if a Martian were to come to earth and observe our "anti-terrorist" efforts in airports, he would undoubtedly point out that we have one advantage over the terrorists that we are not taking advantage of: they all look alike.

Ah, well. Profiling is sooooooo politically incorrect. I wonder what airport security in the enemy's land (Saudi Arabia) would do if all their terrorists were white? But, holy cow, they are barbarians and we're not, right?

So are the Israelis. If they don't like how you look, they pull you out of line and check you out up close and personal. But if you pass inspection and get on the plane, they hand you a steak knife to go with your in-flight meal. Seems to work. But they are concerned with security rather than hurting the feelings of shifty-eyed nervous-looking people in line.

Profiling is not the American way, though, by gosh. That would be (horrors) ummm... unfair to a few and fair to 99%. Americans would rather make everyone be screwed with. And their children. And their grannies. And the pilots of the planes they are about to ride on.

So, what IS the American way?

Stupidity:

Pilot of aircraft to TSA worker: "I don't like to keep going through that thing so often. I'm getting radiation poisoning. Why do you have to feel me up each time, anyway?"

TSA worker: "We want to make sure you don't have a box cutter hidden on your person. If you did, you might storm the cockpit and take control of the plane."

Pilot: "But I am ALREADY in the cockpit. I'm ALREADY in control of the plane. I can crash it anytime I get the notion. So what are you proving?"

TSA employee to supervisor on radio: "I have another troublemaker here. He's trying to use logic on me. Permission to stip search."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Servants and masters

Soldier's pay (enlisted) (E-4 with 3 years service) - $25,128*

Average American worker's pay (Note: these are the employers of government workers) - $50,462

Average pay of government employees - $74,403 (not really begrudging them that, btw.)

Base pay before extras for congressmen and senators (the public servants of the American workers) - $174,000

*They also get free food and free ammunition.
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A motion: "Congress shall never make a higher salary than the people who are standing on the front lines taking bullets."

What do you say? Are are military families the only ones who are expected to sacrifice for their country?

Motion #2: If congress declares or allows war, their children must withdraw from university and go to the front lines with the poor people's sons and daughters. Better yet, every 4th congressperson, by lot, shall serve on the battlefield in some capacity as well.
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The constitution says congress gets to set their own compensation. The constitution was written on the erroneous assumption they were dealing with honorable men more or less. It used to be that every time congress voted to increase their salaries, there was a big stink from their employers back home. It made them look bad to slap on another 10 grand a year when so many of their employers were making only a fraction of their congressman's OLD salary. So congress, I'm told, got a bright idea and passed a law which increased their salaries AUTOMATICALLY every 3 months, without having to have a public vote. Ok, not every 3 months. Not quite. So, they DO have workable thought processes, even if devious.

Why can't I do that too?

Crap.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Two possible theories of government

1. The purpose of government is to facilitate an environment that allows for maximum personal liberty and personal advancement, while maintaining civil order, regulating commerce, and protecting citizens from outside attack. Equality of opportunity is the goal.

2. The purpose of government is to take care of "its" citizens and work to make their lives better. Generally, it is the role of government to provide things for citizens and make helpful decisions for them so they may enjoy a higher quality of life. Equality in material possessions and benefits is the goal.

There are many, many other kinds of governments in the world as well.
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A Red Sox fan friend of mine told me he saw an interesting piece on Fox News' Bill O'Reilly show last night. John Stossel, ex-employee of ABC, now working for Fox, was talking about an interesting experiment he had just run to illustrate how Affirmative Action works. He said it was hilarious, but ever so true.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Historically speaking


On this day in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down.
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By eerie coincidence (to me, anyway) November 9 is also considered by many to be the beginning of the Holocaust, as 9 Nov. 1938 marked the beginning by Nazi storm troopers of invading Jewish neighborhoods, taking their belongings, and shipping them off to concentration camps.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cities of the world with the cleanest air

Above: City with the cleanest air in the world.

Ever wonder who is getting the job done, environmentally? Here are some stats.

1. The 25 cleanest cities are in 13 countries.

2. Only two that made the top 25 in the world are south of the Equater (and both of those are in New Zealand, an island country which seems to me has some help from ocean winds.)

3. Japan is the only country on the list with clean air cities in Asia. Another island nation.

4. Honolulu is on the list. Another island. Trade winds.

5. None of the top 25 are in Central or South America. Or Africa. Or Australia.

6. All of these places still have jobs, transportation, and need places to put their garbage. So, IT CAN BE DONE!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Documentary films

A documentary film, as opposed to a film which simulates or portrays a work of fiction, is, technically, a film whose object is to document some aspect of reality. There is wide latitude under this definition, and several genres which call themselves documentaries.

1. The "true" documentary.

A "pure" documentary is the act of setting up a camera somewhere and then walking away and coming back later to pick it up. Set it up on a busy street sidewalk, turn it on, forget about it and just stand there and talk to your friend until the film or tape runs out. What you capture is an absolute true and pure "documentary" - that which unfolded in real life and real time in front of a camera. You have "documented" that particular slice of life for a certain period of time.

The closest I can think of to an actual pure documentary today is the film in a bank's surveillance camera, but even that is tainted due to the fact it is not running at real speed and therefore leaves time lapses, however short, to accommodate the size of the camera and it's limited capacity.

Perhaps a "real-time" camera in the halls of a hotel which are sent on a closed circuit to a security room is a better example. Sometimes, those are not even recorded on film or tape though.

2. The next step "down" in the hierarchy of documentary films are the films that consist of honestly edited footage which has been obtained in a documentary manner. These are what most of the documentary films you see today are, the most common.

These are produced by analyzing your subject or event and making a list of scenes you want to go out and capture. This requires that you know your story or event thoroughly, and have determined what elements an honest portrayal of that subject would consist of. Let's say I wanted to "document" San Francisco. Assuming I didn't want to go into great interpretive depth, my list of things to film would include the famous structures and streets and water and normal events that take place in San Francisco. I would go out and set my camera on a tripod and take some footage of the Golden Gate Bridge (if only to have viewers know where the film was taking place); then Market Street, a cable car, Coit Tower, maybe. Alcatraz footage would be obligatory as would Fisherman's Wharf and maybe the Tenderloin District. Maybe the Bay Bridge and sports stadiums. City Hall. Chinatown. Whatever.

Then I would come home and begin the VERY long and laborious process of post production: making my film out of the recorded scenes I had shot. Add interviews in the background and some music. Seagulls. The sounds of a crowd at a baseball game. Whatever. Hopefully the result would edify an out-of-town viewer about what a little bit of San Francisco tastes like.

That's a small, basic project. A huge project might be Ken Burns' documentary of the American Civil War, or the history of Baseball. Those are big-time, big-money projects that require investors. The key here is to tell the story truly, almost dispassionately. No axes to grind, no sponsors to please.

How about if someone wants a video of their wedding? Is that a documentary film? Sure. You set up the camera so you can see the audience, see the bride coming down the aisle, see the newlyweds dancing at the reception. And on-and-on ad-nausium. And that it is, make no mistake about it. But a documentary? Sure. You go home and edit out Uncle Charlie and his big stinky cigar pointed at the camera and Aunt Doris puking in the punch. Bingo. Documentary. (At least by this particular definition.)

3. The propaganda film.

Think Nazi Germany and Josef Goebels portraying the low down animal character of the Jews. Think of Michael Moore filming only the things that support his agenda and purpose, sticking the camera needlessly into the pathetic face of a dying Charlton Heston, or selecting snippets of conversation from the mouth of the CEO of General Motors. Like that. Now you know what a propaganda film is. However, if you take your propaganda to Cannes like Michael Moore does, you get a Golden Palm for an "Important Documentary, " just as if it really WERE a documentary. Whatever. The key to a propaganda film is to only present one side (YOUR side) and to leave out stuff that might diminish the sensationalism of your argument.

4. Reality TV.

This type of work is very common nowadays. It is one more step away from a "true" or "pure" documentary. Basically, in Reality TV, you stage events and scenes, but you don't rehearse. You take a non-professional "actor" and say, "Please ride your bike down this hill and smash into that truck over there" And then you film him as he smashes his bike. Maybe you leave the camera running until the ambulance has left. You collect several of these events and then you put together a film called "Jackass 2003" and sell it to MTV. I guess it is SORT of a documentary. The action is real enough.

I prefer number 2. How about you? I know, I know - Jackass 2003 for this crowd. Ha!

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