Digital Rebel, Limited Deadprogrammer Edition

Even though I am squarely in the EOS camp, I have to note that Nikon usually does not force the indignity of owning a silvery plastic camera on the buyers of lower end models of their slrs. Dear Canon, please fricking stop using that silvery plastic!

A few weeks ago I got so annoyed looking at my Digital Rebel that I took a permanent black marker and made my own “Limited Edition” :

This might not have been the best idea as the resale value of my $800 camera suddenly took a nosedive, but the “paintjob” turned out to be remarkably durable (it only came off around the shutter button and the top a little), but also gave my camera a mean, grungy look that I like a lot.

I think I will buy some Krylon Fusion paint and do a less half-assed jobs. There are people out there who used similar paint to modify old silvery rangefinders.

In other news, reading through boring link blogs and popular link aggregators slowly pays off:
This is hard to believe, but there are Nikon lens to Canon camera adapters. I think I’ll buy one – I do not own any Nikon lenses, but have a lot of friends that own some pretty expensive ones. By the way, this might start a small flame avalanche, but in my experience most of the people that I know who own Nikon SLRs brag about having many very expensive lenses, but for some reason do not take a lot of pictures. Canon owners tend to have few cheapo lenses, but have pictures coming out their wazoo. (by the way, dictionary.com’s explanation of etymology of wazoo is not very convincing).

UV Filters considered harmful. I was never a fan of putting a glorified piece of window glass in front of my lens, but could not figure out why. Now I know. (I think I snagged this link from Kottke).

Making a lens out of an old magnifying glass and free time. This is some fine ducttapemanship.

Soviet Realism In The Subway

During its renovation Times Square seems to have been steadily acquiring the biggest and ugliest modern mosaics. The architects seem to have forseen the ugliness of the mosaics and strategically used lighting with a lot of glare to mercifully obscure the them from view. Still, even ugly Soviet Realism style “The Return of Spring” by Jack Beal is a little better than water stained cracked tile.

Looking more closely though, some weird details become apparent. First of all, what is the guy with the hammer going to hit? Looks like one of the three guys in front of him. Also it looks like they are prying open a manhole, but it takes only one guy usually and they use a tool like this. The guy with a jackhammer seems intent on injuring the guy next to him too.

But what is going on with this guy’s hand?

Kora Music In The Land Of The Stainless Steel Worm

Jaili Kandjia Cissoko, African Criot (Bard), Kora Player, Soloist Composer in NYC Subway’s Times Square station.

This is an illustration to my earlier article about Cora music. As Mr. Cissoko unfortunately doen’st have any cds of his own, your best bet of experiencing Cora music is either to seek him out in the subway or listening to one of these cds:

Djelika is my favorite, I absolutely love the title song that is based on the melody from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

iPhoto Retro or John Sculley’s Gift To The World of Photography

I collect 20th century technology antiques. They are not expensive and don’t take up much space – perfect for my cubicle museum.

My shelf at work houses a small, but growing collection of monstrous early cellphones. There are a couple of gigantic vacuum tubes (some from an early Univac), a core memory plane, a multiprocessor unit from an Amdahl mainframe, a weird hardwired logic unit from a forgotten computing machine. My latest purchase is rather interesting – the first consumer digital camera.

A $700 piece of equipment in 1994 Apple Quicktake 100 cameras sell for just a few bucks on eBay. I first saw one mentioned in this outstanding livejournal post. This guy’s camera still had some images in it which provided a weird time tunnel into some office party in 1994. I guess the people in the photos were celebrating extravagant Mac purchases.

I bought two cameras on eBay for just a few bucks each, and one came with a cable and a floppy with PC software. Not even hoping that it’d work I plugged in the serial cable, installed the software on my Win 2000 machine, turned on the camera and ran the program. It worked the first time.

Here are the two Apple QuickTake 100’s that I purchased. I bought two so I could take stereo images and view them on my 100 year old stereoscope. In a couple of years I think I’ll be able to buy a couple of iPod photo thingies for a few bucks and do what this guy did.

Times Square at night in full .3 megapixel power (compressed to 500 width).

Times Square at night with lower resolution option turned on

Snow storm in Brooklyn

Considering how difficult lighting conditions were the results are respectable. Usability wise these cameras are lacking. Even though they look like those binoculars from Star Wars movies, they have a very nasty lens cover that is very hard to open without leaving a nice fingerprint on the lens. Taking portrait orientated pictures is rather hard.

So here I am, paying tribute to one of the last Apple products of John Sculley’s era at Apple (note how Apple CEOs are arranged in a timeline at Wikipedia – just like kings). I wonder if Steve Jobs will ever consider making an Apple digital camera. So far the fate of Apple Newton shows that to Jobs anything ever touched by Sculley is taboo.

Phi, Spongebob?! Phi !?!

Probably the easiest way to dramatically improve your snapshots is to learn about the rule of thirds. You know, divide what you see in the viewfinder by two lines into thirds horizontally and vertically and try to get more interesting parts to roughly be either where the lines cross or on the lines themselves. If your picture did not come out like that, you can usually fix it later with a crop.

Rule of thirds is actually a rough approximation of the golden ratio which is very well explained at Wolfram’s website. The pictures will look even better if you will use lines that are conforming to the golden section.

Just a crack of a difference: fat lines are thirds, thin lines – golden mean (I did not use the plugin when I cropped the photo).

I was playing around today with a plugin that renders golden rectangles, spirals and triangles. I checked some of my old photos – many seem to follow golden mean rather than the rule of thirds.

I was also thinking about writing my own Photoshop plugin like that (that one does not look like it’s worth 32 bucks to me), but Adobe has draconian new rules about who gets the SDK. So instead I decided to write this post.

I ordered a book about golden mean and related stuff from Amazon. Helpful Amazonian electrobrain is suggesting the movie Pi. The dang thing is pretty smart.

Meanwhile I got kind of curious as to how appealing the golden rectangle actually is. Let’s see.

Things that are strangely appealing. Spongebob Squarepants. Yep, the golden section cuts straight across his weird little belt. It’s also interesting to note that he is almost always drawn kind of sideways – in front projection the proportion would be off.

The Greek cup (about which I wrote at length before and mentioned in probably the only poem which I ever wrote. Yep, it roughly conforms to the proportion and “to serve you” is right at the division.

Now, let’s see. Ugly things. That picture of one of the ugliest buildings in Brooklyn. It’s waaaaay off. And so is the SUV in front of it. The older house on the left is good though.

Cars are tricky though. The most beautiful car that I know is Tucker Torpedo. It does not fit a golden rectangle either. But it roughly fits two. I tried to fit two rectangles onto the SUV in the picture and to the Scion xB, which is jarringly boxy. No go. Let’s see, but Chrysler PT Cruiser, a car which I actually like, fits two rectangles also.

This is all terribly crude and unscientific, but might hopefully be useful to you.

Absolut Subway

There’s an ugly blotch on the ugly tile floor of the auxiliary vestibule of the Kings Highway Brighton line subway station. It’s been there for a while and I am not sure what it is – some sort of sticky dirt, duct tape or pigeon poop. All I know is that it could make an Absolut Vodka ad.

There’s No Cleopatra And There’s No Needle

Central Park contains an amazing artifact commonly referred to as “Cleopatra’s Needle”. It’s one of the many Egyptian obelisks scattered all around the world, and one of the two that used to stand in front of the Sun temple in Heliopolis. A second obelisk is located in London these days.

In general, Egyptian obelisks were moved around the globe by different governments kind of like a college statues by drunken frat boys. The Romans moved the two Cleopatra’s Needles to Alexandria, and then as gifts from the Egyptians to the Great Britain and the US, the were moved by British and American engineers to their current locations. Overall the moves turned out to be amazing feats of engineering, especially with the British overcomplicated scheme of building a pontoon around the obelisk and towing it with another ship.

You can find it right across from the Met, on the 5th Ave. side approximately between 81st and 82nd.

The pillar does not give an impression of being an element of the Sun god’s temple. The 3500 year old monolith is gloomy, foreboding and downright Lovecraftian. The shadow play at sunset is especially spooky (that’s what I tried to capture in the above picture).

Cleopatra has very little to do with either obelisks. They were built by king Tuthmosis III (well, the king probably had some help from his slaves). Later everybody’s favorite pharaoh, Ramses II, seeing how there was a lot of space left on the obelisks added some of his own “press releases” to it:

The writing looks like a story of an alien abduction (with the flying saucers and wavy tractor beams), but as it turns out these are normal hieroglyphics. “Bird , Bird , Giant Eye … Cat Head , guy doing this” and so forth. I thought that there were thousands of glyphs, but it turns out that they are just an alphabet. So the flying saucers on the picture are “R” sounds, and the “tractor beam” is an “H”.

I was surprised to see the pharaoh being referred to as “Lord of the Two Lands, User-maat-ra”. What was he a user of? Well, as it turns out all pharaohs have ridiculous system of 5 different names. I mean, come on, a Horus name and the Golden Horus Name!? (Horus happens to be the Sun god, the one with the falcon head ) User-maat-ra happens to be the throne name, the one that one that the Greeks transcribed as Ozymandias.

So he’s the king from Percy Shelly’s “Ozymandias” sonnet. Yup, good ol’ Ramses was kind of like Donald Trump – liked to build things and put his names on things. Also, like a rockstar or an NBA superstar he had sex with hundreds of women, siring hundreds of children as Durex Ramses condoms were apparently not available back then. Last but not least he was apparently the “7 cows dream” and “let my people go” pharaoh of the Bible.

The Photoshoot Of An Unknown Celebrity
or
How I’ve Almost Seen Tara Reid’s Boob


I passed this random NYC street scene a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea of who that was, but I snapped a picture anyway.

Update:
old_fat_punk informed me that the celebrity in question is actress Tara Reid at a red carpet photo-op during P. Diddy’s party. Apparently minutes after I snapped that photo she suffered a wardrobe malfunction resulting in a hilarious mammarian escape.

Cap’n Deadprogrammer And The Hunt for the Giant Robot

On the day when Kottke posted his crappy cellphone snap of the giant robot in Times Square I dragged my co-workers to go see it. The robot must have flown away since the morning leaving behind only stupid Naked Cowboy and his admirers. Because I know that the tighty-whity wearing scourge of Times Square sometimes subsists solely on soy nuts and coffee, it was probably a good idea to keep my distance.

Or was Kottke’s photo a hoax? I guess it could be done with a toy robot – the photo is grainy enough. Everybody seems to be just reposting it with or without credits. A giant square probably lousy with camera carrying bloggers – and no other pictures at all? What gives?