Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday in Greece?

visit Greece

The BBC were likely mistaken in an advertising decision evident on their website earlier last week. A news clip concerning the rioting in Greece was preceded by an upbeat video promoting vacationing in that Mediterranean country. Naturally the advert included no shots of the type this Flickr photographer is documenting.
Monday, December 22, 2008

Explaining The Sub-Prime Loan Crisis

[This article is some months late. But in the interest of catching up and cleaning the closet, here it is.]

In the first article Economics For Children I explained how loans work. I ended with the stark fact that household debt in the USA totals $14 trillion, an amount that equals $185,000 for each household of four people. Yet family after family going bankrupt attracted little interest until big business began to be affected. Now apparently we are in the middle of a crisis.

This can be explained by starting with an important observation. Poor people make money by working, but rich people make money by gambling.
Monday, December 22, 2008

where have I been?

Sorry to have abandoned my faithful readers. I've been somewhat busy this autumn...

a) studying for a Masters degree

exam time
Thursday, October 30, 2008

escalation746 Live This Saturday

Just a quick note that I will be playing under the guise of escalation746 this Saturday evening at Baker's Place, as part of the ongoing micronite series.
Thursday, October 23, 2008

Csound Revisited

From my silence here you might imagine I've been doing no programming at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true that my commercial and open source projects are pretty well at a standstill, I have been working with a variety of languages for music composition and processing, so you can soon expect some sort of follow-up to the articles I wrote on music control languages, Chuck, etc.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Presence Of Baudrillard / The Absence Of Baudrillard

(I set out to create a sound art piece for a conference on Jean Baudrillard. This blog entry collates some of the thoughts I encountered on the way.)

Baudrillard's writings address a predominantly visual world. He wrote of objects in mirrors, took photographs of absence, and sharply probed a hyper-saturated mediascape that was dominantly ocular. In an interview for CTHEORY in 1995 he was asked to comment on sound as distinct from image. His response was to conflate the two into the "audio-visual", admitting that "the sphere of sound, the acoustic sphere, audio, is really more alien to me than the visual."
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Baudrillard Sound Art In Mainz

This Saturday at 5:30pm, if you happen to be in Mainz Germany, drop by the Antiquariat am Ballplatz to hear me debut a new sound art piece. I have the honour of kick-starting Die Gegenwart Von Jean Baudrillard, a two day conference organised by Caroline Heinrich. Among the six papers is one by Alan Shapiro, friend and author of the fantastic Star Trek book I blogged about back in 2006.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cloudy Today, Followed By Showers

What's this then? A word cloud showing some of the popular words I've used in recent articles. (Click it for a larger view.) Want your own?
Sunday, October 05, 2008

Economics For Children

Say I give you a dollar a week as your allowance. You are free to spend this right away on something you like. But say you want something that costs $2. Now you must save your dollar from this week and wait until you get another dollar next week. Then you will have $2 and can buy the more expensive item. If you want something that costs $50 you'll have to carefully save for most of a year.

This is how it works for children, but for adults things can be different. Because adults do not want to wait. They want to buy things before they have the money.
Sunday, October 05, 2008

On Test: SMC Pentax-A 28mm f/2.8

After testing four Vivitar 28mm lenses in the search for the Perfect Normal some might ask what is so special about Vivitar that other manufacturers couldn't also manage? In particular, Pentax themselves are known for lens quality throughout almost their entire range. In order to provide a baseline I thought it best to throw into the test group the SMC Pentax-A 28mm f/2.8. This lens was released in 1984 and so is a more recent design than the others I have looked at. However, it is similar enough to earlier Pentax offerings.

How does Pentax compare with third-party Vivitar? Read on to find out.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On Test: Vivitar 28mm 1:2.8 Close Focus Wide Angle [K03]

This lens is very similar to the Vivitar 28mm 1:2.0 Close Focus Wide Angle [K01] I tested the last time. In fact the differences can be enumerated quickly: there are no magnification markings on the barrel, the widest aperture is f/2.8 and there is an aperture click between f/11 and f/16. Perhaps the biggest difference is that this lens is much more commonly available, and inexpensive.

So it's cheap, but is it good? Let's see how it tests out in our continuing search for the Perfect Normal.
Saturday, September 27, 2008

On Test: Vivitar 28mm 1:2.0 Close Focus Wide Angle [K01]

Of the ten documented K-mount Vivitar 28mm lenses (yes, the full list will be posted here eventually!) there are only two which open up all the way to f/2. That's a stop faster than f/2.8, which can certainly make a difference in low light situations. But only if the performance is up to snuff. I've done a series of test shots to see if the K01 cuts the mustard. Read on for the third in the continuing series Looking For The Perfect Normal.
Sunday, September 21, 2008

On Test: Vivitar 28mm 1:2.8 Auto Wide-Angle [T01]

This is the second lens test in the continuing series Looking For The Perfect Normal. On the tripod today is the Vivitar 28mm 1:2.8 Auto Wide-Angle (designated T01 in my numbering scheme). This is distinctive in having the interchangeable TX mount, devised by Soligor and Vivitar in 1976 as a successor to their T-4 mount system. My copy came with the TX-to-K-mount adapter that is required to use such lenses on Pentax bodies. Read Using A Manual Lens On A Pentax Digital SLR for usage instructions.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On Test: Vivitar Series 1 Auto Wide Angle 28mm f/1.9 [M01]

In the first article in this series, Looking For The Perfect Normal, I outlined the goals of the search and described the five lenses I'll be examining. Here's the first of these, the Vivitar Series 1 Auto Wide Angle 28mm f/1.9 (designated M01 in my numbering scheme). This is the only lens in the test to bear the famed "Series 1" label. This lens is from the seventies and has the M42 screw mount, so you'll want to read Using A Manual Lens On A Pentax Digital SLR.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Using A Manual Lens On A Pentax Digital SLR

photographyThis is part of my series on Vivitar 28mm lenses. Before I get into the reviews proper, I thought I'd tell you how to set up your Pentax DSLR for older lenses. One of the great things about these cameras is the ability to fit any glass from the beginning of Pentax history to date. But prior to the age of auto-everything, taking photos involved a few steps you might not be familiar with. The article will cover how to fit an M42 lens, the camera settings you need to make, and how to actually take a photo.
Monday, September 01, 2008

New escalation 501 Tracks Released!

As escalation 501 I am working on some radical "remixes" of material from Canadian post-punk duo Quietus 2. I found a tape of theirs in a box with several other miscellaneous titles (including some field recordings I might use someday). I think perhaps I was given this to play on air, back when I was a DJ in London, Ontario. Somehow the cassette has gone missing again, but not before I was able to sample extracts from the odd synth tunes and tape noises.
Sunday, August 31, 2008

Looking For The Perfect Normal

While there are many amazing lenses for the Pentax system, the epitome in the "normal" range is the Pentax smc FA31 Limited. However it retails for around 900 euros. I think it's safe to say that's beyond the budget of many photographers. Is there some lost glass from the past that can replace the FA31, at lower cost? In my search for this elusive prize I've been focusing my attention on Vivitar manual lenses. This, the first article in a series that has developed out of discussions on the Pentax Forum, will set the stage. Future articles will show test shots from various candidate lenses.
Friday, August 29, 2008

The Music And Research of Simon Crab

Simon Crab has a blog, Stalker, that deals with political and noise issues. I had previously come across this site while reading about acoustic radar, but there's also lots here on his particular musical affections, sonic pollution, sound weaponry and old USSR synthesizers... all stuff I'm totally in love with, then.

The author is also a "well known" musician, if you happen to be the sort of listener who plowed through crates of obscure industrial noise albums in the backs of record shops throughout the eighties. I was, and so I happen to own several of his recordings.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Missing 15 Minutes: A Life In Radio

I was thinking recently of the process through which I came to have such a diverging set of intense fascinations. You know what it's like: you have a coffee in one hand, your eyes on the horizon and start thinking through the past. I realised (and not for the first time) the importance for me of ten years I spent producing a weekly radio programme, and how this led to a broadening and deepening of my interests. So here, a little personal history. (It's a blog after all; I'm allowed.)
Monday, August 18, 2008

Me On Flickr

Skateboarding 15688: Spin

You haven't heard too much from me here -- I've been too busy taking pictures, developing pictures and writing about photography in various forums. As well I've been posting as much as possible to my Flickr account. Since all this activity is likely to be curtailed significantly as the summer comes to an end, I thought I'd provide some pointers here... a bit of a summary.
Saturday, July 26, 2008

Buying A Polarizing Filter

photographyOne of the benefits of digital photography is that one doesn't need to have a whole kit of lens filters in order to achieve different looks. Most processing can be done in "development" on the computer. But one filter that is still critical for outdoor photography is the polarizing filter. In this article I'll tell you why you need one, link to some further resources, and enter the dark and confusing world of available types, brands and models.
Monday, July 21, 2008

90 More Minutes Of Dalek I Love You

As the keeper of "The Annotated Dalek I Love You Discography" I am proud to announce an update, likely the last significant one the document will have. This follows the overdue digital release of their third lost album Naive. Ninety minutes of new Dalek i material -- could it be true?
Saturday, July 05, 2008

Dead Boiler

Dead Boiler: Onnet

The dead boiler has worked for forty years. Now disconnected, it lies rusting in the old wooden shed, a hiding place for neighbourhood cats. Click on the images to see larger versions in the corresponding Flickr series. Taken with the Vivitar Series 1 105mm, an incredible manual focus lens.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"That's Stone'enge, innit?"

Tourism Series #11506

I loved Stonehenge. Not because of the rocks themselves, but because it was such a hyper-real tourism experience, the sort of place where you get...

A young tourist taking pictures of an illustration of Stonehenge.

An older tourist taking 20 photos in rapid succession of the same view of a pile rocks. Someone should tell him they are not moving. In fact they haven't moved for thousands of years. That's the whole point, dude!

Young tourists observing "That's Stone'enge, innit?"
Saturday, June 21, 2008

Photo Processing Example

photographyIn my last article I gave beginner's tips for taking Your Photos From Washed Out To Punchy. Now I'll step you through a real-life example, using a photo I shot just last week. I'll give you eight versions of the file, starting with how it came out of the camera and ending up with the finished product.

My example is the following view of Sywre Head and Bat's Head, on the coast of Dorset near Lulworth Cove. It's an amazing part of the world, a small stretch of what is now known as the Jurassic Coast, Britain's only natural World Heritage Site. There is a great description of the walk available.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Your Photos -- From Washed Out To Punchy

photography"I take a picture and it looks all washed out. It's just not as dynamic and interesting as the pictures I see others take. What am I doing wrong?"

Ever find yourself saying this? If you are just getting started in photography, chances are the answer is "yes". In this article I'll cover the basics of avoiding and fixing those washed out pictures and giving them some visual punch. Please remember that this is just an introduction and that there is a lot more one could say.

Throughout I will link to articles from the fantastic Luminous Landscape. If you were to read and understand 90% of the articles on that site, practicing as you go, I believe you'd be a good photographer. Of course being a great photographer requires something more than can easily be distilled in words. (Not to mention years of practice.)
Thursday, June 19, 2008

We Were Right To Vote No -- Democracy Dead In EU

I am amazed and delighted in the Irish public. First, because 53.4 per cent of you voted "No" to an EU treaty that would create a super-state set to squash workers' rights and the democratic principles on which our country (and the EU itself) was founded. And second because a remarkable 53.1 per cent of you decided to get out and vote either way. Does any other western democracy have this sort of voter turnout?

So no matter if you voted "Yes" or "No" I think Ireland has shown the world we care.

But now for the bad news.
Thursday, June 12, 2008

Vote No Or It's The Last Vote You Get

I believe in democracy, real democracy, the kind where people are informed and consulted and play a key role in policy-making. The current Irish referendum is a good example of that.

The Lisbon Treaty would remove the need for there ever to be another Irish referendum on EU matters. New constitutional changes will be made without going through the current process to modify the laws.

Not only that but the current process within the EU that requires a unanimous vote of all member states would be replaced by a majority vote. And furthermore, smaller countries are having their voting power reduced significantly in favour of the larger countries (eg: Germany, France).
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ireland Votes On Lisbon Treaty

Emotional Blackmail At Its Finest?

We in Ireland will be at the forefront of Europe for one day tomorrow as we vote on the Lisbon Treaty. No other country in the EU has had or will have a public referendum on the issue. On 12 June Ireland will be a bellwether for all of Europe.

So what's it all about? Why are posters lining our streets threatening us with doom and gloom? Here I will naively attempt to explicate matters.
Monday, June 09, 2008

Photographing Strawberries

I've been working furiously lately on several projects included a major website. As a break I decided to take an hour and see if I could do some creative studio photography around a commonplace subject. Limiting myself to an hour including setup and tear-down meant I had to think quickly and be creative, without too much obsessing over details. I recommend this sort of exercise to get the creative juices flowing. And, speaking of juices, my subject was the strawberry.
Monday, June 02, 2008

British Journal Of Photography Loves Pentax

photographyThere's lots of good news for Pentax lovers in the British Journal Of Photography #7687 (28.05.08). For those unfamiliar with this publication, the BJP is a publication geared to professionals, with excellent coverage of art photography and photojournalism together with news on legal and commercial issues. It also features precise and technical equipment reviews. Each and every weekly issue contains some of the most exciting images you are likely to see. Get it!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Smashing Magazine Presents My Free Textures

SeedsSmashing Magazine, a popular blog which covers all things graphical and webby, has just published a huge swath of free textures. Of the 2000 they received, they chose to display one of mine -- woo hoo!. In the nature section you can find "Seeds". Or link directly to a zip that includes a high resolution version you are free to use in your own work.

It may not be obvious, but that file has three other royalty-free textures as well -- bonanza! Read on for more info and some critique.
Monday, May 26, 2008

Ricoh Lenses On Pentax Cameras -- The Ricoh Pin Fix

photographyOut on the interweb thingie there are horror stories of people who got an old manual focus lens stuck on their Pentax cameras. Actually, there are not too many stories, but it only takes one or two for the fear to set in. Pentax are known for having the most compatible lens mount in SLR history. So the thought of a lens that not only doesn't fit but in fact might damage your camera is scary. Here I'll show you how to recognise such lenses and actually fix them. Banish your fears and read on!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Short Music Rights Primer

I'm involved in a local compilation of electronic music, by way of being selected as a contributor. Along the way certain questions have come up about music law, so I thought I'd explain the facts as I know them, with the usual proviso that I am not a lawyer and have never played one on TV, etc., etc. This article will be from the perspective of you, a composer and musician, releasing your first song on a brand new CD compilation.

There are several distinct issues: copyright, performing rights, mechanical rights, cover versions and sampling. I'll explain these as simply as possible -- full details by following the links.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

250 Photography Themes

photographyStuck for photo inspiration? In a rut? Why not pick a specific theme to focus your attention? Sometimes limitations are good. Read on for over 250 photo themes to get your gears turning again. Pick one at random and go out and shoot with that theme in mind.
Monday, May 12, 2008

The Past Six Months... And The Next

It's hard to believe that it's been over six months since I've updated my category pages. In that time I've written thirty articles that were not properly indexed. Even when I think I'm not paying enough attention to this blog I end up writing more than an article a week. Here's where I catch up on the latest changes.
Monday, May 12, 2008

Using Email In The Twenty-First Century

I often end up explaining to my web development clients about how best they should use email. To those without a great deal of experience it can be a confusing area. In this article I will explain about the types of email applications and which is best to use.
Friday, May 09, 2008

You've Bought A Camera... Now Buy These

photographySixth in a series that gently explains digital photography and makes helpful recommendations.

It would be nice if buying a Pentax camera gave you everything you need to start shooting. But no, the camera kit is only the beginning. In this article I present a checklist of accessories you might need -- or absolutely must have. This article will be oriented towards the K100D Super I've discussed previously. But most of the points apply to most cameras.
Friday, May 09, 2008

Any Web Stores For European Photographers?

photographyMaybe you can help me. I am looking for a website (or software that can integrate with a website) suitable for a European photography storefront. This should allow integration with my own domain name and complete self-branding, as well as all the usual features one might expect (eg: organisation into albums and collections, access control, integrated shopping cart). As far as merchandise goes, I am happy with a simple high-quality print service, though everyone seems to do key chains and mugs these days. The goal is simple: I want my clients to be able to see my work and order prints easily off a website.
Friday, May 02, 2008

Fake Post-Punk Record Sleeves

record coverI've been having fun cooking up record sleeves for various post-punk bands, using photos I've taken recently. For fun, guess which artists these covers represent. The songs are all real, though I tried to pick ones that do not have existing record covers, likely because they were never released as singles. Mousing over the image will reveal the answer.
Monday, April 28, 2008

Pentax Lenses: None Better

photographyFifth in a series that gently explains digital photography and makes helpful recommendations.

Buying a camera not only commits you to a body, but to an entire system of lenses and accessories. Pentax is often criticized as not having the same scope in their lens catalogue as Canon and Nikon. But in this article I'm going to show that the Pentax range is in fact distinctly superior to the competition. I should clarify here the type of photographer I'm addressing: not the sports fanatic with £10,000 to spend, not the fashion photographer whose camera never leaves a tripod, but rather the rest of us: street photographers, low light lovers, those who like intimate portraits, family photos, macro work and landscape photography, even birders and wildlife fans. For semi-pro shooters Pentax offers some singular pieces of glass in a system that provides significant advantages over the competition.

Read on for the details. To see some amazing photos, browse the Pentax Photo Gallery.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Oldest Recorded Sound + Antarctic Ocean In Real Time

Here are two audio goodies for you. The first is the oldest known recorded sound, found by audio historian David Giovannoni. It was made using a phonautograph, invented in Paris by Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville. This device worked by scraping patterns onto paper covered in oil lamp soot. Giovannoni discovered the resulting etchings in the French patent office, had them scanned, and then reconstituted the documents at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Monday, March 31, 2008

A Closer Look At Pentax Cameras

photographyFourth in a series that gently explains digital photography and makes helpful recommendations.

In the article Which Digital SLR? I explained the three main benefits of the Pentax camera bodies over others in their price range: weather-sealing, body-based image stabilisation and lens compatibility. In this instalment I'll give you an idea of what you can expect to pay to get started in digital SLRs, and compare the available models. I'm not going to go into excruciating detail here; it's easy enough to Google for reviews and spec sheets if you really want to get technical. The prices I quote will be the best I can find this week... by the time you read this they will likely be lower.
Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nine Inch Nails, Jane Siberry, And The New Economic Model Of Music Sales

Jane SiberryNine Inch Nails are reaping the benefits of the new economic model of music sales: give away as much music as possible and charge fans an arm and a leg for exclusivity. Ghosts is a two CD set of 36 tracks that can be ordered online for $10. Also available is a $75 deluxe edition and an "Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package". All 2500 copies of this last artefact sold out at $300, which netted the artist a quick three-quarters of a million dollars (if my math is any good).
Thursday, March 27, 2008

Which Digital SLR?

photographyThird in a series that gently explains digital photography and makes helpful recommendations.

In the last article in this series I explained why you should use a digital SLR if you are serious about photography. I am sure my convincing argument spurred you to check out what's available. And no doubt the first names you encountered were Canon and Nikon. Between them these two manufacturers have a huge share of the world market. Snapping at their heels are Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, Fuji and others. Read any other article of this sort on the net and nine times out of ten it'll recommend Canon or Nikon, simply because they are so pervasive. But life is not a popularity contest.

Less well known is a company that will nonetheless ring a bell for anyone who enjoyed photography back in film days. They were once the world's leading firm, and are still number three in their homeland of Japan. I speak, of course, of Pentax. Pentax offer the best value in digital SLRs for amateurs and semi-professionals, and here I'm going to tell you why you should consider them.
Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why Use An SLR?

photographySecond in a series that gently explains digital photography and makes helpful recommendations.

In the last article I established at length that there is no good reason, other than making large prints, to get a digital camera with more than 6 megapixels. In fact I recommended this same figure for both point'n'shoot compact cameras and their larger more "pro" cousins, digital SLRs. So why consider an SLR at all? That's what I'll elaborate on in this article.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

To Say Nothing Of Megapixels

photographyThe first article in a series that gently explains digital photography and makes helpful recommendations.

It's about time I started writing about photography. I'll begin with a fundamental assertion: a camera is a tool for capturing light. Remember that and you can fend off those aggressive high-street sales clerks whose only interest is making the largest commission off whatever they need to push today. Photography equals light. End of story.

Well, ok, there is a bit more to it than that. But only a bit.
Thursday, March 06, 2008

Save Lives NOW!

Do you think the world goes on without you?

Do you think your voice does not matter?

You are wrong! You can make a difference!

"Israel and Gaza are on the brink of war. A ground assault has left many dead, and the rain of rockets only spreads. Israel is now considering a full-scale invasion of Gaza, which has never worked before. The only answer is a ceasefire deal, already suggested by Hamas and supported by 64% of Israelis and some senior cabinet ministers. With international help, this could make civilians on both sides safer."
Sunday, February 24, 2008

What Should I Write? You Tell Me!

Want me to write more articles on the topics you are interested in? Starting today I'm implementing a "ransom" system: You donate funds towards the article you want to see written. When the funds reach a designated cut-off point I provide the goods. Basically, buy me a coffee and I'll write something in my usual fact-filled, research-driven and jargon-free style. Read on for the details!
Sunday, February 24, 2008

Re-Evaluating Krautrock

The Cosmic Jokers album cover
Julian Cope's Krautrocksampler is a brilliant book that did much to promote the trancy, indulgent, cross-genre musical hybrids that emerged from Germany late in the sixties, flowered and diversified through the seventies, then did much to pave the way for punk and post-punk idioms. Published in 1995 and receiving a second issuing the following year, this book is drenched in drugs, hyperbolic prose and nostalgia.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bristol in Two Days: Part Two

Bristol has lots to offer in several loose categories: street life, industrial heritage, music, and water.

In terms of street life you can do no better than to start at St. Nicholas Market. Depending on the day this is either a thriving array of stalls, a slow food fair, a farmer's market, or a rather abandoned section of the city. I recommend you go on a Friday or Saturday for maximum effect. The weekend we were in town banners announced a Sunday market, but little was open. What we found on other days were amazing food vendors, over-priced CDs, a lovely store of fossils, and other miscellanea. We were tempted to drag bag a large block of petrified cuttlefish from Morocco, but common sense prevailed.
Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ten Films Based On P.K. Dick

A while back I promised some news of P.K. Dick adaptations. Certainly fewer writers have had such a rich posthumous career in Hollywood. There is something about his mind-bending existential conundrums that makes for compelling cinema, and producers do manage to find an action arc through his down-to-earth narratives and philosophical musings. Read to the end of the post for news of the next film in this tradition.
Thursday, January 31, 2008

Best Software: Photo Management

Eighteen months ago I looked at the Best Software For Graphics. Now I have a Pentax digital SLR, it's time to update that list with a special article focusing on photo management and workflow. The original article still stands for image editing and creation tasks. All of the packages I'll mention (except one) are free of charge, so there's nothing to stop you from trying them out.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Photo Printing Services for Ireland

After doing a survey of Irish photo printing services for my own use I thought I'd share what I found with you. I can't comment based on usability or service, but I will link to the vendors' price sheets. To get some idea of price, I costed two jobs including delivery. The first is forty 6x4" prints, the second a single A3 poster (which is about 24x16" for those fixated on Imperial units). Of course the more you order at once the better the per unit cost, if only because you will optimise postage.
Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ouroboros: Premiere 24 January 2008


Ouroboros is the snake which forever eats its own tail. It is most often seen as the principle of eternity and indeed of the universe itself. But it also represents a feedback loop, and hence the mind of the subject viewing it.

Next Thursday evening, 24 January 2008 at 7.30pm, I will present the première of the sonic performance Ouroboros at the Belltable, 69 O’Connell Street, Limerick. This is part of Excursions 2008 Performance Art Festival.