Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Album of the Decade

You can't listen to The Drift. It doesn't let you. The voice; there's something wrong with the voice. Is Walker singing in tune? What happened to his tone? Is that warble supposed to be there? I think he's dying. He's old and a recluse and unhealthy. He wears a baseball cap everywhere and gets no light. I am sure he's dying of something. It must be cancer, the wasting disease. The one we can't stop.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Music of the Decade: Runner-Ups

The blogosphere has come alive with posts championing various albums as the best of the decade. Which is funny, because I thought we had one more year to go! Nonetheless, after I found myself responding in comment form to some of them, I thought it best to present my own winners here, even though I recognise how useless such an enterprise is. After all, I barely listen to contemporary music. But then again, that might be an advantage, as I'm largely immune to the usual hype and trends. The good stuff filters through. Sometimes this even corresponds with what has been hyped.

My list will contain many choices you will expect and maybe some you don't. I base it entirely on my own subjective position as an electro-acoustic composer with a great love for post-punk music and adventurous forms of all stripes.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Security Software For Windows

In this follow-up on 21 Steps To A Safer Computer I will specify the software packages I use to protect my Windows XP system (also compatible with Vista and Windows 7 I imagine). The first fact I'd like to convey is that it is not necessary to pay for anti-malware / anti-virus software. Lack of money is no excuse for bad security!

Over the years I have used various products. The general trend is for excellent new free packages to develop to the point that their firms start charging for them. Then they grow into enormous bloat-ware that require constant maintenance and payments.
Thursday, December 10, 2009

21 Steps To A Safer Computer

In the first article on computer security I provided a gentle introduction. In this post I'm going to make some specific recommendations, knowing well that most will ignore what I am writing. Perhaps the only way to ensure such advice is heeded is to have disaster befall you! I certainly hope it doesn't come to that, but I am quite familiar with human nature.

Before I begin I will itemise some consequences of falling prey to malware. Any or all of these can (and will) happen to you:
  • Your web browsing behaviour can be tracked in order to present unwanted advertisement.
  • Your browser can be redirected to porn and other sales sites.
  • Your passwords can be stolen and used for fraudulent purposes.
  • Email messages can be sent as if from yourself but with malicious content.
  • Your identity on internet forums can be stolen and used to post racist, defamatory or otherwise unappealing messages.
  • Your computer can be hijacked, without you knowing, and used as a bot to send out spam.
  • Your computer can be used to orchestrate denial of service (DOS) attacks, opening you up to legal liabilities.
  • An application can be rendered inoperative.
  • Your entire computer can be wiped.
Thursday, December 10, 2009

new track: Wavefront Makara

I have a new (short) track online, entitled "Wavefront Makara (hue blue linear)". This is a response to the post at Music Of Sound in which film sound designer Tim Prebble asked people to interpret a particular image of ocean waves. Go there and check out the photograph. I urge you to listen to the other submissions, because they are very good!

I interpreted the image in two ways. First, objectively, in terms of what the actual pixels sound like, using a programme that interprets pixel data using additive synthesis. Second, subjectively, in terms of what the location the image represents might sound like. For this I used location recordings of a beach and waves I gathered here in Ireland. This collision of extreme digital sounds and more palatable phonography I left pretty well undoctored.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What To Do About Computer Security (Part 1)

Well, it had to happen eventually. After years of living free and easy, our home network was recently hit with some sort of malware that caused quite a bit of havoc and has taken me five days to repair. I don't know how it started but I do know that one of the vectors used was our USB sticks. This experience has sent me back to the drawing board to re-engineer a more secure system.

Computer security is a confusing business these days. There are so many types of programmes trying to destroy our systems that even keeping track of all the categories of threats and deterrents has become complicated. In these two articles I'll run through some of the common terminology and make some recommendations.

This most recent attack wiped out the data on one computer and compromised my passwords, forcing me to update all my site passwords. Yes, that's right, I have had to change dozens, even hundreds of passwords at financial, social networking, subscription, product registration and other sites. Define "tedious" -- this comes pretty close!

Don't want this to happen to you? Please read on.
Sunday, November 29, 2009

Insane Deal on Reaktor and Other Synths

This is not a typical post for me, but I need to share an incredible deal on sound synthesis software. For this weekend only (until November 30) you can buy each of the Native Instruments synths for €99 ($99 for 'Mericans). As a registered owner I got this offer in my email but didn't notice it until today.

Absynth, Massive and FM8 are all highly regarded soft synths, but the real deal is on Reaktor 5, a complete modular synthesis package that comes with hundreds of different instruments and gives you access to thousands more. At this price it's 75% off retail!
Monday, November 23, 2009

Mamuska Night Set List (20 November 2009)

Patrick Fitzgerald
Limerick hasn't seen a Mamuska Night for about a year. People miss the regular appearance of this no-holds-barred performance evening. In the past I've taken different approaches to the sound environment, depending on the night. Sometimes I've produced original music in an electro vein and other times have filled more of a conventional DJ role.

It is a tricky act since essentially I am filling in between performances that might have their own music, none of which I know beforehand. I don't want to detract from the performances or even try to compete with them. Having worked closely with Davide Terlingo, the creator of Mamuska, I understand the ethos. Too much "party music" spoils the special mood and takes it into a different orbit. The idea is not to blast dance tunes but to create a social environment in which people can mix and mingle. Curator Angie Smalis was totally in agreement with that; she gave me scope to do as I liked.
Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Launch at Daghdha Space

candle, book, wine, plant, shelf
As a supplement to Gravity And Grace: Six Evenings of Dance, there is a "celebration and christening" of the two Daghdha books: Book of Recommendations and Choreography as an Aesthetics of Change. Join us this evening (Saturday 21 November) at 6.30pm in Daghdha Space, John’s Square, Limerick.

The former book is a concise manifesto, written by Michael Klien, Steve Valk and Jeffrey Gormly to describe the underlying ideas of the Framemakers Series of symposia and other events in the Daghdha constellation. The latter is an anthology, edited by Gormly, of 31 essays by a wide variety of thinkers and practitioners. Choreography is a core concept, but only as a jumping off point for discussions of ecology, communications, film, social networks, activism and much more. It's an excellent volume -- and not only because I have a paper included!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gravity And Grace: Six Evenings of Dance

Lucy Suggate & Angie Smalis dance Nothing Fields
If you're interested in contemporary choreography, dance music, strange happenings or just having a wicked time you'll want to check out Gravity And Grace this week. These six evenings are presented by Daghdha Dance Company in their lovely restored church in John's Square, Limerick. The first night was tonight but you haven't missed anything yet, as Michael Klien's "Standing In Ink" repeats tomorrow. Check out the full schedule on their website or read on for highlights of what I am helping out with.
Thursday, November 12, 2009

Choosing An Audio Recorder For Ultimate Sound Quality

This series of articles is for people who wish to record sounds from their environment: nature recordists, phonographers and field recordists. In the first installment I summarised the core characteristics of 21 portable digital audio recorders, dividing the units into three categories based on their form factor: Pocket, Hand and Shoulder. In the second article I added a dozen features to the comparison table, so I could recommend which models were worthy of purchase. I assumed for that evaluation that you'd want a recorder small enough to take with you at all times, so you never miss a sound in the field.

For that reason, the last article assumed the use of the relatively mediocre built-in microphones provided by compact recorders. They are certainly convenient, but for optimum audio quality one can do much better by using external low-noise microphones. That is the approach I will take in this article.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Which Portable Digital Audio Recorder?

In this article I'll continue from my Summary of Portable Digital Audio Recorders. Specifically I'll consider those that work well for gathering environmental and nature sounds. Last time I collated information and provided a general overview of the field. Today I'll be making specific recommendations.

How to begin to compare 21 different recorders? Let's start with the assumption that you want to have an audio recorder on hand always. If you don't have one with you, you'll miss that intriguing sound when it happens. Thus the device needs to be small enough to fit in a pocket and add little to your daily load. That eliminates from consideration the Shoulder units, which work best with external microphones and a backpack full of gear. A more extensive setup has its place, but I recommend that first-time buyers get something easier to use. A hand-held recorder will get you started in field recording and will still be useful once you have a full rig.

N.B. This is only one way to start narrowing down the list of recorders. In my next article I'll consider a different perspective.
Sunday, November 08, 2009

Summary of Portable Digital Audio Recorders

As a sound artist and composer I make field recordings an integral part of my artistic practice. I capture sounds in their native habitat and bring them back to the studio to use them as components in new sound pieces. Once upon a time it was difficult to find a decent digital field recorder for an affordable price. Now everyone and their uncle seems to be releasing portable flash recorders. The problem now is trying to decide which of the plethora of devices is most suitable.

In this article I will summarise several years of reading and careful specification comparison, not to mention actual practice in the field. A pattern has emerged in the available products, which I will illustrate by comparing twenty different recorder models. I hope this will help you to make an informed purchase decision, which I will assist with further in part two of this series.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Concert In Stockholm

If you happen to be near Stockholm tomorrow night (October 28) you can hear "The Garden of Adumbrations" (an anecdotal soundscape for 8.1 speaker system) as part of .microsound10years. This concert celebrates the anniversary of the .microsound internet list. The venue is Fylkingen, Münchenbryggeriet, Stockholm. This centre for new music and intermedia art is celebrating their 75th anniversary, so it's two parties in one!
Monday, October 26, 2009

The Beatles Remasters: Choosing Favourites

In my last article I outlined the mastering history of The Beatles catalogue, culminating in the latest 2009 releases. Now I will recommend which of the versions (mono or stereo) you should buy to get the best impression of the music.

I should emphasise that George Martin and The Beatles preferred the mono versions up to and including Sgt. Pepper. They were explicit about this fact. The stereo mixes were made almost as an afterthought and sometimes contain different edits, takes and timings (due to tapes being played at slightly different speeds). I will not dwell on these differences here, as they have been long documented. (Though in a few cases they might jump out at me and require consideration.)

Now, on to a summary of the available versions of each album.
Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Beatles Remasters: Changing History

It cannot go unnoticed that the entire back catalogue of The Beatles has been remastered and re-issued for the first time in 22 years. Yes, I realise this happened on September 9th and I'm not exactly first with the news. But I have now digested all the different stereo and mono versions and have a thing or two to say about them. I am sure that all of these facts can be found elsewhere, but I hope by collecting them together I can make some new observations.

The Beatles released music on vinyl between 1963 and 1970. Supplementary delivery of the albums was on cassette tape, eight-track and reel-to-reel, following the vinyl masters. However, album and single releases were markedly different in the UK and the USA. Canada had further distinctly different albums as did Mexico, and likely other countries as well.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The End of Democracy in Europe?

best poster design
The French and the Dutch shot down the Constitutional Amendment. Ireland said "NO!" to the Lisbon Treaty. So now, after spending millions of our own euros to convince us we were wrong, the government is asking us again. Because they are not happy with the people voicing their will. They will not be happy until it is their will that holds sway.

Again we must say "NO!" in the Constitutional Referendum, to preserve democracy, to preserve the Irish constitution and to preserve a valid plurality of expression in the EU.
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Travel the Limerick-Toronto Subway!

Limerick-Toronto Subway

Welcome to the longest subway line in the world! The Limerick-Toronto subway spans thousands of kilometers, but is yours to travel through the medium of sound this Friday at 3pm. The location is the SpiritStore arts cafe, Patrick Street, Limerick. Admission is free, but subway tokens will be accepted.
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Soundings 0924 Concert

Soundings 0924 Poster

For the second time this month, Soundings brings you ravishing sounds from beyond the norm. Each event is an eclectic mix of live performance, multi-channel playback and interactive media, in a lovely environment perfectly suited to careful listening.

Join us at St. Munchin's Church, a venue half-gothic and half-romantic, for our featured guests from the UK, Diana Simpson and Manuella Blackburn. They will be performing both individually and in their collective guise The Splice Girls, famous in Manchester are beyond.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Ancient Bird Trap" at Tweak Festival

"Interim Camp" by Field 3Tweak is Limerick's own festival of interactive art and live electronic music. It is designed to explore the role of technology in our culture through contemporary social, economic, psychological, aesthetic and functional issues. It's happening all this week, 21-26 September.

As part of Tweak, my piece "Ancient Bird Trap" will be playing at The Listening Post, an audio exhibit of Irish artists, curated by Dr. Kerry Hagan of the University of Limerick. Drop by the Church Gallery on Clare Street to hear this work and visit the gallery space to see generative video art, robots and other cool interactive thingumabobs.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pentax 645 Digital On The Horizon

photographyThe on-again off-again project that is the Pentax digital version of their popular and inexpensive 645 medium format film camera, is on again. First announced over five years ago, this camera was displayed in advanced prototype form in 2006, prompting fairly detailed coverage in the press. More recently cancelled, the 645D, as it is tentatively known, was revived again last March, according to this press release (in Japanese). What do we know about this camera?
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Comparing Medium Format Lenses

photographyPhotography geeks love lens tests. They provide a quantifiable measure of one lenses worth versus that of another. They can be used to justify purchases, even if the desired lens has only a fractional improvement over one already owned. Some say that it's not the equipment, it's the photographer that makes a great image. Others say that you can't take good photos without good tools. Of course there is a measure of truth in both viewpoints.

In this article I'll examine how important lens quality is, in light of medium format. And then I'll look at some particular cases. The results may surprise you.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Medium Format Priorities And The Mamiya RZ 67

photographyThis article will fill in a few gaps left by my last entry, plus present an alternative medium format camera system for your consideration. The main point I wish to stress is that there are so many different MF cameras that there is surely one for you. I have come to my conclusions by researching, at length, from the resources available on the internet. (You can do the same, but some of the sources I used are now archived.)

I chose a 645 format camera as a compromise between the resolution available from larger formats and portability. I wanted a camera I could take anywhere I take my DSLR, without it garnering too much unwanted attention. I wanted a camera I could hand-hold when the need arose. This eliminated a lot of options, believe me! But still I wanted to leapfrog 35mm and go straight to something larger. Plus I did not want to give up an SLR for the added stealth of a rangefinder.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Which Medium Film Format?

photographyIn this article I'll expand a bit on medium format cameras, based on the process I went through figuring out what was best for me. I trust this will be the right approach for others considering the plunge. Sometimes the experts can be so confusing! (Though by all means read them as well. There is a world of information out there at the end of a search.)

First things first: What is medium format? It seems to be defined by exclusion: medium format is larger than 35mm and smaller than large format. Today the only practical readily available film for medium format is 120, so I'll limit my discussion to cameras that support 120 film, even if there are a multitude of other historical options.
Monday, September 14, 2009

Thinking Outside The Frame: Sensor Sizes Explained

photographyI am at the point where I think I can best expand my photographic knowledge by rediscovering film photography. Digital makes some things easy and others difficult. I think it's important to switch those constraints around. This first post in an ongoing series will explain my rationale.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Ouroboros at SpiritStore Friday


I will be presenting the phenomenon known as Ouroboros this Friday at 7pm at the SpiritStore, Patrick Street, Limerick. This is the first performance since its debut, and since every event is different who knows what will happen? You are invited to bring an FM radio and will be given a frequency to tune it to on the night.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Soundings 0910 concert Thursday!

Soundings 0910 Poster

Full details are on the Soundings website, but I wanted to put an announcement here, in order to invite everyone in the Limerick area to the first event of our fourth season. After a long gap over the spring and summer we are back with a new venue. But it will be the same eclectic blend of live performance, interactive media and playback pieces, all highlighting the best in today's electroacoustic music scene.
Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Perfect Camera Bag?

The perfect camera bag does not exist. Everyone has different equipment, different needs and different tolerances for how much they like to drag around. There are even popular web writers who sneer at the very idea of a bag. "A camera should always be in your hands, ready to use!" they declare, as if you never need to travel from one photographic destination to another.

I will take it as a given that a photographer does need a camera bag. In this article I will present one that is (nearly) perfect for my needs. I trust this information will help others in the predicament of having to evaluate the hundreds of models on the market. (If it helps you, please donate!)
Monday, August 31, 2009

Premiere -- The Garden Of Adumbrations

the garden of adumbrations
I've been studying electroacoustic composition for the past year. This Wednesday 2 September at 7pm, my fellow students and I will be premiering our Masters pieces. If you are interested in sampling today's newest and brightest composers, drop by the Performing Arts Centre (PAC), Lower Ground Floor, Foundation Building, University of Limerick.

Prior to the concert, at 6pm in the CSIS Building, there will be a reception kicking off DAWN, a week-long display of student work from both the CCMCM and the Interactive Design Centre. There will be lots of demos and displays on hand; whether you're a tech geek or an artist you'll find something cool here!
Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tourism As Time Travel

tourist project: the falls   #8989People gather at places where people gather. If it is a definitive place remarked upon in guidebooks and tourist literature, then they will gather to take photographs. This is the second in my series documenting the behaviour of tourists, of which I am sometimes one. I find the relationship of the bodies to each other and to the subject of their attention to be fascinating.
Friday, August 07, 2009

Not Reading Philip K. Dick

A whacked out edition of a pulp sci-fi book by loser and insane person Philip K. Dick -- if you believe what you read on Bookslut.Dear Bookslut, my newest and bestest friend:

I can see why you do not allow comments on your site. You'd be deluged with intelligent posts refuting the drivel of writers such as Lorette C. Luzajic.

In "Speed Reading: The 44 Novels of Philip K. Dick" she does a hatchet job on a significant American writer, presenting him as the worst sort of madman lunatic fringe weirdo. I never met him, but having read some of the biographical information (readily available for anyone hoping to write about him) I drew a very different picture. Certainly I would not be so hung up on exactly where and when he was sane/insane, as though a complex and deeply experienced life can be measured by such dichotomies.
Friday, August 07, 2009

Rant For The Abolition Of Feature-itis In Digital Cameras

fire escape alleyEvery photography firm is trying to make a camera with four thousand features plus video plus GPS plus home shopping network built in. I'm tired of it and want things to go back to basics. Though not the old basics, a new "basics" that includes all the development digital photography has seen in the last decade. (Baby, meet bathwater.)

This article is spurred on by the fact that everyone is so happy with the Pentax K-7. And yes, it's a very nice camera, likely the best Pentax has made. But it's the wrong camera, and here's why. Pentax, treat this like an open letter sent like a bolt into your heart. A bolt tipped with acid, but with a cherry on top.
Sunday, July 05, 2009

Simulating The Air Disaster

A year ago in Source magazine I discovered some incredible photos by Richard Mosse of aircraft in pieces, on fire and otherwise not as we'd wish to see them. It turns out that many of these are not vehicles but rather full-size mock-ups, used to practice emergency procedures such as dousing fires and rapid escapes. These scenes immediately bring to mind the virtual accidents of which Virilio wrote, in his articles on military space, speed and politics.

"One exposes the accident in order not to be exposed to the accident" said Virilio in the interview Cyberwar, God And Television. Accident preparation enables us to view the accident as just another item on the agenda; the accident becomes an occurrence in the world that we are trained to deal with. It is no longer unexpected and intrusive, no longer an accident at all, in fact. The simulated air crash transforms the actual air crash into a normative event.
Friday, July 03, 2009

Your Next Photo Holiday: My Lens Choice

photographyIn my last article I covered nine different possible lens combinations for your holiday kit, ranging from single primes to a super-zoom to multiple lens setups. Each has its own advantages and limitations. Today I'll discuss one final configuration, my current choice when travelling with two camera bodies and two photographers. First I'll make some general points, then I'll reveal my lens line-up and finally I'll present a handy table summarising all the possibilities.
Monday, June 29, 2009

Your Next Photo Holiday: Which Lenses To Take?

photographyIn my previous article I provided a discussion of what to take on your holiday. I covered nine different categories, from the camera body to memory storage to backup solutions. That leaves the tenth category: the lenses. In this article I'll discuss approaches to choosing holiday lenses in the general case, while highlighting particular Pentax solutions.

Choosing lenses for travelling is a simple matter. And also an wickedly difficult problem with no perfectly optimised solution.
Sunday, June 28, 2009

Your Next Photo Holiday: What To Take

photographyIt's summertime here in the northern hemisphere. Children are out of school, birds are singing, the sun it is shining and all right-thinking people are planning that break from the quotidian we call... a holiday. Photographers especially look forward to new locations, people and happenings against which to test their prowess. So, what to pack for your trip?

In this, the first of two articles, I'll help you by providing a handy checklist based on the following picture, which shows my travel kit, more or less. (Click to get larger versions of all the included images, via Flickr.) Read on for tons of handy tips.

travel gear: kit
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Limerick Animal Welfare Open Day

over 60 kittens need homes

This Sunday 21 June 2009 is the open house day for Limerick Animal Welfare. Come on out to visit and meet the animals, learn tips for taking care of pets and enjoy some complementary refreshments. Walk your favourite dog or kick back and view some agility demonstrations. There are cats, bunnies, pigs, goats and ponies as well! Drop by from noon to 4pm.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Capturing Sound For Video

This post is inspired by the Pentax K-7, the first Pentax camera to shoot proper motion video, in HD no less. A lot of still photographers have little experience with video; while I am not a video expert I do know something about sound. So I hope this will be a useful introduction.

This article will outline seven approaches to capturing sound for video, in order of increasing complexity, cost and quality. I will mention some specific products along the way. These are illustrative; other products may do just as well. But these have been recommended by many.
Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ten Interface Design Principles

photographyI will now qualify my previous UI ramblings by stating the principles that are operating to inform my analysis. These design principles are generally applicable to different application domains. But for the purposes of specificity I will give examples from the current domain. That is, a comparison of the Pentax K-7 to previous camera models like the K20D.

First I present my ten design principles. Then I will follow up in detail.

1. Maximise positive affordance
2. Group related controls
3. Prevent undesirable actions
4. Make functionality clear
5. Avoid arbitrary changes
6. Make things as simple as possible
7. Provide positive feedback
8. Consistency is not always desirable
9. Provide user customisation
10. Avoid modes
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Evaluating The K-7: The Interface

photographyIn this article I continue my evaluation of the new K-7, again with the proviso that this is based on documents, pictures and video -- not actual hands-on usage. This article won't provide any solutions to the problem of DSLR design -- that will come later in the series. Instead I'll continue my critique from my previous article, looking at the physical interface. All the images here come from the official press kit (with one enhancement).
Monday, May 25, 2009

Everyday Design

The classic book on design and usability is Donald Norman's The Design Of Everyday Things, published by The MIT Press in 1998 (and by Basic Books in the UK). Not only is this book full of definitive advice and wisdom, it's written in an easy-going style. Why are door handles so badly designed? How has the classic telephone been rendered unusable over the years? Why can't I use my stove? Which switch should control which light? These are just some of the questions Norman tackles with humour and -- dare I say it? -- common sense.
Sunday, May 24, 2009

Evaluating The New Pentax K-7

photographyPentax has announced a new camera to great excitement. Features of the K-7 were leaked slowly from several sources, leading to a frenzy of interest on websites like Pentax Forums. You can read over 4000 posts in just a single thread -- and that's just one thread of many! Instead, I recommend you save many hours by reading this article. I won't go into excruciating detail but will cover all the new features of the camera from my own (rather more reserved) perspective.
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hilarious Spam I Have Known

In my capacity as webmaster I get all too much spam. But I've actually learned to enjoy the stuff, at least for the several milliseconds it takes before it hits the bit bucket. In fact, I've even begun collecting spam messages, as part of an as-yet unrevealed devious plot. Who knows, it may even be valuable to future cultural researchers as an indicator of this society's hangups and obsessions. Though probably not.

Here, for your perusal, is a small cross-section, annotated for whatever small amusement it may provide. This is from some time ago, in fact. So please enjoy the antique spam.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vivitar K02 On Test

photographyIt's been a while since I increased the number of Vivitar 28mm lens variants in my house by two. I now own six of the best specimens listed in the Vivitar Bestiary. A little thing called a Masters Degree has prevented me from even trying out the "Vivitar 28MM 1:2.8 MC CLOSE FOCUS WIDE ANGLE Ø49MM" until now. Though this K02 variant (made by Komine) does not have the f/2 aperture of some, and does not have the A setting of others, it is heralded as one of the best of its kind. I thought I would take it out to the garden for some basic shots in the sun. Nothing too formal, just see how it might do. The results are very positive!
Friday, May 01, 2009

Vivitar K11 On Test

This post is part of the continuing saga of the Vivitar 28mm lenses made for the Pentax K-mount. Thanks to David Whiteley in Quebec I just received the Kiron 28mm f/2, which is a very well regarded lens. Though not branded Vivitar, it is in fact very similar to one of the Vivitar 28mm variants, denoted K11 at the Vivitar Bestiary I maintain. I'm going to treat them as identical for testing purposes. Read on for my first impressions.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Terminal Document IV

I write a manifesto and I want nothing
yet I say certain things
and in principle I am against manifestos
as I am also against principles
-- Tristan Tzara, 1918
I wrote the following on 13 March 1987. No, really.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

J.G. Ballard Is Dead

J.G. Ballard is dead. There is no-one left now, no-one we can trust for news of the world. Burroughs, Dick, Baudrillard, they're all gone. And who is here to take their place? Not me. Somewhere along the road I took a detour. I'm part of the twittering blogging classes now. Fuck. Those photos I took of my friend Chris in drained swimming pools. .. where are they?

And where is the dossier I prepared for Ballard? It contained a cassette tape of strange music and overheard conversation, along with some mimeographed sheets of paper, collage art, scattered writings, scattered thoughts. But I froze when the moment came and defaulted to asking him to sign a book. It must have been The Atrocity Exhibition, the most incredible "novel" ever written. So I put the folder back in my briefcase and left the room.
Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dear Pentax

photographyLately there have been a rash of "wish list" postings on the various Pentax forums. I'm not sure why this is... maybe because we're so spoiled that we want more, more, more! Or maybe everyone likes to engage in a little gear fetishism every now and then.

Requests include the usual calls for a full-frame body (won't happen), improved auto-focus (would be nice, but don't real photographers focus manually?), or specific lenses (particularly those Pentax once made for film bodies). I thought I'd chime in, since my wish is of a different order entirely. Some might consider it trivial, but I think that if Pentax follows my lead here they will enjoy a bump in sales.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009

So You Want To Learn Python?

First, let me congratulate you on wanting to give Python a try! I have used many languages but always return to Python as it is the easiest to read, the fastest to programme, works on any platform and is bug-free. It's very much like an easier Java, in the same way that Java is an easier C++. There are many tutorials and books available to ease you into the language. Read on and I'll recommend my favourites.
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stop the Rumors! All Your Pentax Questions Answered.

photographySpeculating on the future of our favourite photographic company is a popular activity on the various forums that litter the internet. "Will Pentax fail this year?" "Why have they not released a new camera... it's been months!" "Where is the full-frame model?"

Read on and I'll put the rumours to rest.
Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Prisoner Episode Order

One of the great debates among aficionados of the supremely wonderful television series The Prisoner concerns the ordering of the programmes. The original UK broadcast sequencing differs from the US sequence and both these are different again from that used in production. So what is the correct order? Two years ago I wrote about the show in an article that promised I would soon address this issue. Thanks to a big poke in the arm from my friend Ed I am finally getting around to it.
Monday, February 16, 2009

Your First DSLR: The Pentax K-m

photographyThis winter Pentax added a third camera to their line-up of digital SLRs. Rather confusingly it's called the K2000 in North America and the K-m everywhere else. This model joins the mid-range K200D and the top-of-the-line K20D. I find naming systems like this, where you have to count the number of zeroes, to be idiotic, but apparently camera manufacturers enjoy making us work to read their product names. Whatever happened to the rest of the alphabet?

Anyway. I will call this camera the K-m and make a few comments from my perspective, as owner of a K20D and the K100D Super. First I will summarise its advantages, then look at where compromises were made, and finally I'll refer to the Digital Photography Review analysis of the Pentax K-m, since this popular site influences a lot of readers. As a counterpoint I'll give you six other reviews to digest.
Thursday, January 22, 2009

Two Photographs, Two Letters

In the first photograph the quiet man stands, smartly dressed, relaxed, his black-suited back to us, indifferent. He looks out across a bare industrial landscape of sloping concrete surfaces. The plane of his body appears to bisect this geometric concourse, imposing a symmetry that we can't help but feel exists only from this one vantage point.

Skinny light standards dot the horizon. Their long shadows echo, indeed incorporate, the shadow of the man himself. His form is subordinate to theirs.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Features For The New Year

It's my habit to inform you of the little tweaks I make to this blog. I thought I'd clean house for the New Year in order to improve your reading experience. Take a quick look around... see anything different? Didn't think so. ;-)

But there are actually seven little tweaks. Read on for details.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"The Same Mistakes" -- A Music Blog

For some time I've been wanting to post about my favourite music blogs. But now I don't have to -- I've just received an email about a brand new site that might well act as a one-stop shop for anyone interested in obscure post-punk music. "The Same Mistakes" promises new wave and minimal synth, but with the range of experience the authors possess I think we're in for lots more than that.
Thursday, January 08, 2009

Seventy Films

It's the time of year for Top Ten lists. While I'd like to contribute to this questionable activity, the truth is that I don't hear enough contemporary music or watch enough contemporary films or read enough current books to provide any meaningful summary.

Instead, I have decided to share my favourite films, spurred on by the inane list Stanley Fish volunteered for the New York Times. Restricting himself to "American" films, he chose only one from the eighties, one from the nineties and none from the last fifteen years. Perhaps more incredible is the complete absence of cinematic marvels from that great period of film-making in the USA, the seventies.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Godfrey Reggio's "Evidence"

Watch this first; it's about seven minutes long. Commentary after the break.