Jan 20, 2012

Funny UK Confrontation With Photographer

Oh my god did this video make me laugh!

It seems like a Monty Python sketch, but it's real. A photographer in England on a public walkway is harassed by security guards for  a factory, who can't cite what law prevents him from taking pictures.

The photographer stands up for himself perfectly, refusing to be intimidated, and the exchange is absolutely priceless. The security guards are beside themselves with frustration that they cannot bully him.

I discovered this on one of my favorite blogs, Photography Is Not A Crime, by Carlos Miller, a man who devotes a lot of effort to defend photography. The video was taken as part of an article the videographer was writing about Golden Wonder security; the link to the article is HERE.

UPDATE: The New York Times has an article about the harassment photographers endure in New York City by security guards, civil servants and police officers who do not have an understanding of the law and equate photography with a security risk. LINK

...and, just for kicks, below is Monty Python's classic sketch Argument Clinic. If you've never seen it, you're in for a treat.

Jan 18, 2012

Why Sharing Is Good and SOPA Is Bad

Clay Shirky, an Internet culture scholar who teaches at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications program, explains clearly why sharing is good and SOPA and PIPA are bad (he's an excellent speaker). He explains how it will it affect YOU, whether you know it or not. This is a long video but well worth it. You will know what this issue is all about, and why so many people are in an uproar about SOPA and PIPA. I encourage you to watch it. Our artistic freedoms are at stake.

Dan Gilmore of The Guardian counters the argument that those pushing SOPA and PIPA don't understand how the internet works. He thinks they know exactly how it works, which is why they're trying so hard to break it.

Because they [big media content corporations] don't dare make an honest argument. If they were saying what they believe, it would go roughly this way:
"The internet threatens our longstanding control of information and communications, and that is simply unacceptable. Therefore, it is essential to curb the utility of the internet for everyone else."

LINK to article

UPDATE: The Internet has won! Both SOPA and PIPA are being shelved to give everyone more time to figure out the best way to reduce piracy. 

Now, if you watched the above video, and would like to know more about SOPA and PIPA, and their practical effects on our lives, watch the below video, which offers more detailed, yet clearly explained, examples of what this legislation does. 

Jan 14, 2012

This Blog Will Go Dark January 18th

To protest SOPA and PIPA, the incredibly short sighted and destructive legislation that would destroy the way the Internet works, Magnum Arts will go black on January 18th. There have been lots written about this legislation, but Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing, the blog I read every single day, explains why this protest is so important, and his words are much better than mine. 

Read the reason why Boing Boing will go black on the 18th HERE and why Magnum Arts is going black as well, in solidarity.

Nothing less than our freedom of speech is at risk. This is as simple as it gets.

The 1976 Renault 5

The following two posts are from my other blog, The Magnum Chronicles, which I am deleting as I never update it anymore. Hopefully, you'll find these two posts amusing.

When I was a kid in summer camp my folks mailed me a care package, which consisted of a lot of candy and brownies (making me the most popular kid in the cabin) and also, because I was a car freak even then, a car brochure for a 1976 Renault 5 (which would later be repackaged as the "LeCar").

 I've always hung onto this brochure for some reason; it is an interesting example of a company trying to put the best face on a pretty crappy product.

In the late 70s the VW Beetle was seemingly everywhere, and this car was very popular in France. Seeking to capitalize on the success of small, fuel efficient imports, Renault brought this glorified go-kart to the U.S., forgetting about how spectacularly they had bombed with the Dauphine, pictured below, and would not do much better in the future, either with the Renault Fuego or their alliance with American Motors.

The Renault 5, launched in early 1972, was an extremely under powered, cheaply made car, and although later editions were improved with better construction and turbo engines, this is a car you don't see around very much simply because they had the lifespan of a croissant in a cafe. 

Since there wasn't much to work with, the Renault marketing department had to do the best with what they had. Care to see what I mean? Then let's take a look! (Click on the pictures for larger views)

This is the cover of the brochure. Here we see the main characters, who are enjoying a day with their Renault 5s, washing their cars in a brook in upstate New York. 

The woman in the foreground on the right looks remarkably well dressed to be washing a car; maybe she's just doing the drying so she won't have to get wet.

One couple leaves their brownstone in Manhattan for a day in the country. Note the matching bowling bags in the trunk and the picnic basket the woman is carrying.

Meanwhile, in the Upper East Side, their friends head out with no bags whatsoever; maybe they'll be mooching from the picnic basket. Some friends; they didn't even bring a bottle of wine!

Below are pictures of the Renault 5 in downtown Manhattan traffic. Note how vague the brochure is in describing its handling abilities. Vague declarations of quality is a trend you'll find throughout this brochure. If you can't describe specific engineering advancements, use non-specific praise instead!

"What a pleasure! No hassle moving in and out of heavy traffic...no effort on congested streets or in tight parking places. No worries...oversize polyurethane bumpers absorb shock up to 5 mph without damage. Rack and pinion steering and a turning radius of only 32 feet make this the perfect car for the city." 

Note also how there is something blocking part of the lens in the top middle picture, a clear indication this brochure was produced on the cheap.

"A ride in a Renault 5 is so smooth it's almost unbelievable.." Now that's a vague statement if I ever read one. So would the ride be smoother than, say, a Rolls Royce? How does one define smooth, anyway? Is it incredibly smooth when compared to the ride in a Sherman tank, or the Fred Flintstone-mobile? A covered wagon?

Here we are in Ancramdale, New York. The butcher also pumps the gas, apparently. I hope he washes his hands before cutting the slabs of beef for the rural folks. The ladies are examining a T-shirt that reads "I've Seen Ancramdale, NY". Attached to one of the pillars is a sign advertising a store called Blue Barn Antiques, which our travelers will be visiting shortly. 

Ancramdale is a small town located in Columbia County, in New York's Hudson Valley, about an hour's drive south from Albany. It looks like a quiet place; note the wandering dog looking very bored.

This picture above was taken in 1976; below is a picture I found of what the general store looks like recently, taken from VRBO, or Vacation Rentals By Owner (below left). Apparently it's available for rent to live in and is now called The Farmer's Wife

At the turn of the century, it sold provisions and had a post office in it, and was called Barton & Hoysradt's Store & Post Office. Here's a poor quality picture of it. Below is the passage that accompanies this page (below left).

"When you fill up the tank in the Renault 5 you know it's going to take you a long, long way. The EPA rating of 40 mpg on the open road and 28 mpg in the city (depending on the driver and road conditions) is sure-fire proof of the ideal combination ...a responsive engine in a small car. You have a choice of either regular or low-lead gas because the Renault 5 engine is so clean and effecient it doesn't need a catalytic converter ...a claim few can make!"

This photo is meant to show how nifty the convertible roof is. 

Opens with a touch of a button? Nay, foolish car buyer, you must slide the fabric roof back yourself, and when closed, you must hope that a hard rain won't give you a shower on your way home. Don't forget the cream rinse!

"The perky stying of the Renault 5 makes it adaptable for any occasion. It can, for instance, be a glamorous, sporty car with an open roof." the brochure reads. Sure, when I look at this car, glamour is the first word that comes to mind. 

"Or you can take it on a cross country trip. A perfectly-balanced suspension system and the unibody construction take it through rough terrain with ease. Factory applied rustproofing and undercoating protect it along the way."

Perfectly-balanced suspension...as opposed to an imperfectly balanced suspension? Or a slightly balanced suspension? 

And since every car manufactured in 1976 underwent rustproofing, boasting about it indicates how much the writers struggled to come up with something to brag about with this car. Note that the only armrest is on the driver's side door; a passenger armrest isn't even an option. 

I love the features mentioned on this page, features so common in most cars their brochures don't even bother to mention them, as it's just expected. Not so with the Renault 5!

"A full view of the road is guaranteed through a huge winsdshield kept clear by two- speed, wide-arc wipers and adjustable washers. And take a look at that interior...the cluster of instruments clearly marked is at your fingertips for safety and convenience...a day-night rear view mirror is standard. There's luxurious padding throughout, even on the steering wheel...the environment is controlled by fresh air grilles, a heater and defroster...and the spacious headroom and legroom are unique in a car this size." 

There's only one air grille on the dashboard, which I'm sure makes this car very uncomfortable in either hot or cold weather (no mention of air conditioning, you'll notice). Well I'm glad the rear view mirror is standard. It'll come in handy while I watch cars and semi-trucks come up from behind and blow my doors off in their wake. With a puny 1.3 liter engine, you sure won't be using it to watch cars recede behind you. Padded steering wheel...it doesn't look very padded to me; in fact it looks rather flimsy. And you mean to tell me I get a heater and defroster thrown in at no extra charge?! Where do I sign????

Our two couples are on the move again, along with the professional photographer who's traveling with them, shooting the pictures for this brochure. In fact, the woman standing up through the sunroof seems to be holding one of his (or her) cameras as a prop. 

Of all the pictures in this brochure, I like this one the most. I have no idea where exactly this ferry crossing is located, but it looks like a really beautiful place to take a drive on a Sunday afternoon.

"...you get quiet, smooth action from the fully synchronized manual transmission...four forward gears and reverse. With front wheel drive you negotiate curves in style...streightaway passing is easy with a top speed of 87 mph...and the sturdy, durable 1.3 liter engine with 5 main bearings means you can drive as hard as you like."

And best of all, the reverse and fourth gear is standard on all Renault 5s! A top speed of only 87 mph? This car has 58 horsepower. No, I didn't forget to put a 1 in front of that number. Fifty-eight horsepower. The engine is so small there's room for a full-sized spare in the engine compartment!

The only cars you'd be passing are Yugos and Buicks driven by little old ladies. A performance car this isn't. With a puny 1.3 liter engine you'd need a lot of time to get your French bread in this one. Capable of going from 0-60 mph in under an hour!

Finally, time to eat!

I knew it! The guy driving the green Renault has his hands on the picnic basket. What a moocher! 

As you can see, upstate New York and Vermont are spectacularly beautiful places in the summer and fall; too bad the winters are grindingly, treacherously long and make Siberia look like Miami Beach.

"You can really pack it in when you own a Renault 5...with this car, everything goes! Renault can do it all...it carries a wagon-sized load. It makes a long trip comfortable...It gives the best of mileage and saves you money on gas. And it's a smooth ride all the way home." 

They forgot to mention that if you put too much into this car, it will slow down if you put on the fan or wipers. Before taking on riders, make sure they understand they're the car's auxilliary propulsion system.

I couldn't find any pictures of Blue Barn Antiques; I doubt if it's still in business.

It Grows On You

It grows on you, claims the caption for this series of pictures. Grows on you like a fungus? An incurable skin disease? This phrase implies a purchase you initially regret but eventually come to accept. Now that's car marketing! It grows on you! Give it a chance! It's not that bad!

Note, incidentally, that our two couples are not driving in these pictures. Obviously stunt drivers were required to keep the cars from tumbling over in a stiff breeze at high speed.


"Okay, roadside assistance... roadside assistance... what page is that on...c'mon, I know there's a section on it here somewhere..."

This is a very peculiar passage to put into a car brochure: "A smart thing to do...the Renault 5 manual covers in detail all you need to know about your car's operation and maintenance...a must for every owner." 

Is this car so lacking in features that they have to devote space to the owner's manual? How sad is that? Check out the features they focus on below. This is not a car you buy if you want frills, that's for sure.

"Instruments at your fingertips for safety and convenience" reads the caption on the left. 

Every car made has the instruments at your fingertips for safety and convenience. Is this supposed to be a breakthrough in automotive engineering? 

Pardon me while I gasp with astonishment; I'm so used to having to reach under my seat to activate a car's instruments.

This caption reads, "Sun visor vanity mirror is standard equipment on all Renault 5s". A tiny $.50 mirror glued to the sun visor is a feature they trumpet. 

"Front parcel shelf is roomy, convenient and functional"

In the Renault 5, you don't even get a glove compartment. You get a parcel shelf. A flimsy parcel shelf. A thin piece of molded plastic. And in the base model, reclining seats are optional. You sure don't get a lot thrown in with this car. 

Note the full-sized spare tire in the engine compartment. 

Don't drive this car in high winds, and if it rolls over...well, your next of kin will appreciate the money you saved. 

Well, our four main characters are heading back to Manhattan after a day in the country, and this concludes our examination of the 1976 Renault 5, a flimsy, cheaply built car that looks like a VW with hemmhoroids and performs almost as well. 

I can't recall seeing one of these on the roads these days, and it doesn't appear as if they have much of a following. Rightly consigned to the automotive dustbin of history.

From Renault's website, the Renault 5 is described as follows: "More sexier and powerful than its competitors, it asserted itself as 'the' small car of the 1970s and 80s. Its high tech and high style were confirmed by high sales of over five million units." The Renault CEO in 1968, Pierre, Dryfus, planned a car that was "more stylish and faster on the open road", and further claims that "it's technological advances related mainly to engine power", which ultimately led to the Renault 5.

Faster on the open road? The Renault 4 and the 2CV must have had the powerplant of a Lawn Boy if this car was more powerful. Putting typical corporate spin on the cheap construction, the website states, "Plastic was proud to be plastic and no longer sought to imitate leather". In 1977, at the height of the global oil crisis, the Renault 5 was the number one selling car in the French market.

Renaults are known for their race cars, both Formula One and in cross country, rally car races as well. Despite all this, they've never caught on in the U.S.

In these ads, Renault tried to build up excitement about the car by implying it was zippy and sports-bred.

I love this ad with the surfer dude whose board is sticking out of the sunroof. As if a true board head would be caught dead arriving at the beach in one of these, his board protruding from the roof like some kind of malignant horn.

A Wife's Duty

From the May 13, 1955 issue of Housekeeping Monthly magazine, we're proud to present this complete guide for wives called The Good Wife's Guide. Ladies, practice the following to ensure total wedded bliss in your household!

If my wife greeted me like this, I'd be seriously creeped out, thinking I stepped into The Twilight Zone.

Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.Gather up school books, toys, paper, and then run a dust cloth over the tables.

Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children's hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

Be happy to see him.

Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and has very real need to be at home and relax.

Your goal: try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

Don't greet him with complaints and problems. Don't complain if he's late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

A good wife always knows her place.

So: Does that clear it up sufficiently?
(ducks as volley of shoes are thrown)

Jan 13, 2012

Cartoons From Photographs

While working on my graphic novel about the found slides story, I needed a way to render the slides I found that made them look like cartoons, because I did not want to use the original photos; I wanted to give them an appearance consistent with the artwork but make them different enough to show that these were the photos I found (see the Found Slides, A Life Remembered section HERE)

I spent an insane amount of time drawing them on the computer using shading and brush effects, but wanted a quicker way, which is when I discovered some sites that will do this easily for free. Here are three such websites, along with examples from each (links at bottom of post).

But first, here is an example of my attempt to draw the pictures digitally, a very time consuming process.

Below is one of the found slides, on the left, and my rendered version on the right (click each picture for a larger view):

Drawing them this way took a lot of time, and didn't yield the exact results I was looking for.

Here is another picture, and some variations on what you can do on these cool websites.

This is a self portrait of Deb and I at Disney World.

Here is the same picture using the cartoon effects on Befunky:

This is one of the cartoon effects. Each effects has a sliding bar that allows you to control the intensity of each effect, to make it more abstract, or more detailed.

Here's another cartoon effect. The free version gives you some basic effects; if you want more effects, you can pay to unlock the premium effects.

The Underpainting effect on Befunky renders a nice cartoony-like look, but I needed it in black and white...


Here's the other Underpainting effect

Here's the cartoon version using Cartoon Photo, which does not have as many options as Befunky

...and here is the version from Cartoonize

Cartoonize also has some funky effects, such as creating a reflection in water effect.

I like Befunky the best, because it has the most options for customizing your photos, but try them all out for some fun effects on your pictures!




Jan 12, 2012

Obama Administration Defends Recording of Police

In an encouraging development, the Obama administration has come out in support of a citizen suing the Baltimore police department for violating his first, fourth and fourteenth amendments. In the federal lawsuit, Christopher Sharp complains that Baltimore police confiscated his cell phone as he was recording them beating his friend before arresting her. When his cell phone was returned, all of the images and video files on it had been deleted. The Baltimore police have been particularly hostile to citizens' attempts to record their conduct, it turns out.

The city of Baltimore tried to head off the lawsuit by acknowledging citizens have a right to record the police and providing clarified rules to its officers, but the Justice Department deemed this insufficient. Cities that have violated the law and the rights of their citizens by harassing and arresting them when they dared to record public officials are starting to attract the attention of the Federal government.

To see why this is so important, consider the video below, in which a sheriff's deputy punched a special needs woman without provocation. An Iraq war vet videotaped the encounter, and refused demands by the deputy to hand over the camera, fearing the evidence would be destroyed. 

Remember, the rights you have you have because they are defended. If you do not stand up for them, you will lose them.

LINK to Ars Technica story

LINK to a John Stossel segment about the authorities' battle against citizens who record them

LINK to Magnum Arts' position on creative freedom and the reason behind posts like these

Support the ACLU. They fight for the rights of citizens to express themselves, whether that expression is popular or not.