Environmental “Justice”

•April 20, 2008 • Leave a Comment

MSNBC Headline

From an AP piece on MSNBC.com
Apparently the appropriate punishment for cutting down some trees (excuse me, allegedly cutting down some trees) and thus offending Mother Earth is death at the hands of a crocodile. Myanmar is a piss poor country under a fairly brutal military dictatorship cutting wood most likely for home/subsistence use (mangrove has limited commercial value). Sleep well, you yuppies with the carbons from your hybrid cars safely offset and tanks full of biodiesel that priced the food out of the illegal logger’s mouth, a rapist of the Earth has gotten “Jungle Justice”.

Why Snickers? Why?

•January 24, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been a loyal consumer of all things Snickers for quite a long time; frozen Snickers from the icebox, Snickers bites, Snickers ice cream bars. But now I feel deeply and truly betrayed. Why you ask? Because of “Snickers Charged”. As I write this, I’m trying desperately to remove the remnants of said “Snickers” from my mouth, and hopefully memory. The “Snickers Charged” (hereafter “SC”) is Snickers’ entry into the lucrative (but very two years ago… Ed.) “cram caffeine into items that have no logical reason to have caffeine in them” market. One bar = 60 mg of caffeine, about the same as a cup of coffee, less that the average energy drink.
Snickers Charged
I normally wholeheartedly endorse and support this market mind you. I’ve bought caffeinated soap. But this is… wrong. First, there’s no reason for it. If you’re eating a Snickers and need a caffeine boost, drink a soda. “But I can’t have a candy bar and a soda, that’s riduculously bad for you.” Have you looked at the ingredient list on a regular Snickers? Throwing a Mountain Dew on top of that is like taping a hand grenade to a nuclear bomb; sure in theory it does more damage now, but not so you’d notice. I can’t imagine being such a hardcore, hard charging, XXXtreme sports, B.A.S.E. jumping, mad man that I NEED to ingest my caramel, nougat, and caffeine simultaneously. And if I were, I’d want more that the tepid boost of 60 mg of caffeine. ‘Go big or stay home’ as the kids say. Let’s see “Snickers: Epinephrine Cardiac Needle Edition”. Although that might be a challenge to the packaging designers.

Second is the taste. Snickers are a deceptively simple confection. With a handful of ingredients, it hits most of the pleasant high notes that the average person requires. Sweet, savory, hint of salt, a bit of texture and crunch, but not obtrusively so, and yielding to a pleasant mouth coating paste with a couple of good chews. What can I say, I loves me some candy. Well friends, caffeine is bitter, and shoving a lot of it into something is difficult if you care about, or have expectations about, the final test. The formerly fine folks at Mars have failed here. The SC has a subtle bitterness, that grows more pronounced over the course of eating it. Which is why I’m trying to get the taste out of my mouth. This, I think, is the precise opposite of the desired end result to the consumption of a candy bar.

So all in all, 0 for 2. Good hustle, you’ll get ’em next time tiger.

The formula sucks…

•January 18, 2008 • Leave a Comment

107/365, originally uploaded by ♥ Kristel.

Saw this in Flickr’s Explore. Really? This is one of the 500 most interesting photos posted on Flickr during the last 24 hours week? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing the picture or the photographer, outside of the fact that there are probably hundreds of “chicks taking pictures of themselves” and “people doing the picture a day” photos posted daily. I’m just not seeing what makes this rise from the flotsam and jetsam to be one of the most interesting photos.

Why do I care (sour grapes… Ed)? No, really, why do I care? Well, every environment builds it’s own currency, it’s own value system. In Flickr currency is views, comments, faves and pictures in Explore. Views are easy (show some boobs), but not really worth much if you’re not a pro or selling something. Faves are worth something mainly because they drive up your “interestingness” score and make a picture more likely to end up in Explore. Pictures in Explore have much more worth to the amateur. A picture in Explore will instantly get several hundred views and a ton of Faves. But the best part is the algorithim used to determine interestingness weights faves, comments, and views from people with pictures in Explore more heavily than ones from ordinary users. Wrap your mind around that. Get a picture in Explore and your viewpoint now counts for more. The pages on how to game the interestingness system begin with commenting, faving, and adding the photographers of Explore images as contacts, all in the hope that the mutual masturbation of driving their interestingness score higher will at some point pay off with enough of the chosen ones returning the favor to get you into the club. And why not? Who wouldn’t want the value of their opinion increased?

 The problem is, the process seems sort of hit and miss. Again, I’m not ragging on the about photo but what about this one, this one, or this one (selected from the first page of results of a search for “self portrait” on 1/18/08@17:20 EST) ? Is it so head and shoulders better than those photos, as to merit increasing the value of the photographers opinion? If it is, I’m not sure why. And if it’s not, then you’re randomly assigning the weight of people’s opinions, which basically means the whole thing is a glorified crap shot. 

Buffet Clarinet

•January 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Buffet Clarinet

A little bit of Strobist action for you.

Thoughts on Pros vs. GWCs

•December 26, 2007 • Leave a Comment

One of the constants on any Flickr group that features large numbers of “pros” in it’s membership is the constant rants about/against GWC (Guys/Gals With Cameras) ruining the business with their low rates. As a proud GWC my counter-punch is usually, ‘if you can’t tell the work of a GWC from that of a “pro” then is there a skill or level of workmanship there that deserves more money, genuinely deserves to be it’s on trade?’ At which point people usually start spewing their credentials and where they’ve been published rather than answering the question. This isn’t unique to photographers; I think by and large as a society we’ve become massively over reliant on credentials rather than actual knowledge or output. A lot of businesses are starting to realize this, and favoring experienced workers over the ones with the most degrees/education. But this is especially problematic in the arts. Regardless of credentials, ultimately you produce work, and the quality of that work (subjective as such quality judgements are) should be the arbiter of your skill/worth as an artist. Yet that’s not what happens. When art meets commerce everyone’s looking for CYA, which credentials provide. I once knew a girl who was getting a Masters in theater arts (or whatever they call it); went away to London, yadayadayada… When she came back I said “Show me some acting…” This of course, was a joke. Nonetheless I expected, well somethingthat the average person wouldn’t have access to about performing. Yet I was informed that the theater curriculum wasn’t really designed to make you a better actor. They taught set and stage design, some of the financial aspects of operating a theatre company, etc. It was a glorified carpentry course mixed with some first year business school classes. Acting ability you had to have or obtain, pretty much on your own dime. So why the massive student loan debt? So you could have the credential, which got you into a company, which eventually got you the experience/ability. Or finds you a waitress at 35, understudying the Blanche DuBois role in a community theater production of Streetcar. Essentially it’s the old European guild system, creating barriers for entry into a profession (and increasing the cost to the consumer for the end product) on the pretense of protecting it.

 Now read this: Have Microstocks Hurt Stock Photography? Microstock is pretty much the eye of the storm when it comes to the “Pros vs. Joes” of photography in the digital age. It’s widely touted as the ultimate proof of the damage that GWCs are doing to pros. Yet noted stock photog Russell Kord says, basically, that it hasn’t hurt his business and that real pros shouldn’t have much to worry about. “Photography created by crowdsourcers has been predictable and adequate at best. There is a low price market for it, and some money to be made by those doing the agglomeration. But it hasn’t put me out of business. Chiefly because the quality just isn’t there.”So in other words, in the ultimate pass/fail test, the quality of the images produced, pros should have a unique edge, and be able to produce recognizably superior product. This is just one data point, but I think ultimately it’ll turn out to be true across the board. As one of the post’s commenter’s notes one of the big consumers of microstock is small business. That’s not income lost to traditional stock photogs, that’s new business altogether. Smaller businesses have traditionally been priced out of the stock photography market in the first place. I know that my first chance at published work came because a graphic designer I know couldn’t afford stock photos for a project, and I could generate the images he needed on a budget of gas money.

But will it ever be settled? Not likely. The wheel always turns; new techniques and technology have a steep learning curve and a high price, early adopters come by their knowledge at a significant cost. Not many people are welling to bear that cost, keeping the early user pool fairly limited, and costs high. That was the case with photography during it’s early years. As more and more people either want to enter the profession or possess the skill, or at least the work that the skill produces, the pressure to lower the barriers to entry go up, solutions get created, the barriers drop, and the craft has an influx of new users, destroying the previous pricing model. Undoubtedly “pro” photographers were appalled by George Eastman’s goal to allow  “anybody, man, woman or child, who has sufficient intelligence to point a box straight and press a button” to take photographs, even more so when his roll film and Brownie camera started allowing the average person to document their lives without have to pay/consult a pro. Yet it was good for the industry, as thousand upon thousands of future pro photographers started with a cheap Brownie. By the 60’s and 70’s the wheel had turned again, as state of the art became 35mm SLRs, with the cost of equipment and processing once again separating the professionals from the amateur (that gap has always been a bit more nebulous). But this days, when PC’s have pretty much replaced the darkroom and the processing costs, the playing field is level again, at least for now. This pattern is why it’s ridiculously short sighted to rail against GWCs. Because all signs point to sooner or later some paradigm shift in the nature of photography pushing the advantage back to the pros, at least for a little while.

300 miles per money shot?

•December 21, 2007 • Leave a Comment

I’m all for saving the planet and all that, but is 300 miles per gallon enough reason to drive a giant sperm?

Orange still life

•December 20, 2007 • 1 Comment

Orange still life

Something I whipped up for one of my Flickr groups.