beach, blogs, photography


In Kreuzberg, Germany, you may run across the Fahrradkollectiv Admiralstraße—the Admiral Street Bicycle Collective. They seem to have run across me. “Wernerchen” liked a photo of mine enough to ask if he could put it in rotation as a title image on the Rad-Spannerei blog. I thought that was nice. He tells me: “I change the header of my blog periodically. The pics are shown in a random way – one out of ten. There are about 150 visitors per day, so your picture will be shown approximately 15 times per day.” Very precise, indeed. The blog is all in German, so it’s a good place to figure out just how bad your German has become since college.

blogs, competition, consumption, journalism, photography

Boing Boing Finally Catches Up with Me

On February 16, I wrote about the tilt-shift effect and included examples of tilt-shift photography that I created using Photoshop.

Two days ago, on the 27th, Boing Boing, the blog that leaves everyone breathless, published a post saying that you could, after all, fake the tilt-shift effect, and included a link to instructions on how to do this. Well, my goodness, who would have thought of that?

Good hustle, guys!

And now, there’s a Flickr group devoted to fake tilt-shifting as a result. Two weeks ago, you could find a small handful of Photoshopped tilt-shift pictures, at most. Now everybody’s doing it.

Admittedly, I’m no expert on this and I didn’t bother to detail the process I used to create those photos. The instructions to which Boing Boing links are pretty good—though not perfect. They don’t account for spatial relationships for individual objects when defining depth of field (although some of the Flickr discussions do), but I won’t get into that here. If you decide to make your own Photoshop tilt-shift pictures, then we’ll talk. Until then, let’s fool around with pictures of, say, that lone protester at the Great Avenue of Everlasting Peace at Tiananmen Square.

I guess this is what happens—or doesn’t happen—when your (my) blog is not known to the outside world. I forgot that the whole point of putting anything on the internets is simply a pretense for engaging in rabid self-promotion. People who had no interest in this when I mentioned it are suddenly riding the wave because everyone else is doing it. Glad you could join the herd…I guess there’s room for one more. As a bonus, in Boing Boing’s follow-up post, a program manager for Microsoft Earth managed to promote his blog and highlight his talented and probably unappreciated, underpaid Microsoft colleagues. Excellent!

But with all of these people doing this technique now, won’t it get a little old? Or is this eccentric little effect—used most often (until a few days ago) by artistic photographers, but now mass-produced by anyone with the software and time—not subject to diminishing returns? Makes me wish I’d read Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by now so I could insert a pithy quote here.

Maybe every new fake tilt-shift will be like a little, bejeweled Fabergé egg. Mine will certainly be so precious. Or maybe this trend will follow the pattern described by corporate “cool hunters” like Look-Look’s Sharon Lee and Dee Dee Gordon (whose ideas were built upon by Malcolm Gladwell and are being capitalized upon by Auren Hoffman, et al.), which is to say :

[Q:]Let’s talk about what makes a Look-Look kid. How do you pick a kid to be part of your organization? What are you looking for? What makes a Look-Look kid?Gordon: A Look-Look kid is someone who is a forward-thinking individual, who looks outside their own backyard for information, who is someone who is a leader, who isn’t afraid to speak their mind, isn’t afraid to like investigate new things. . . . It’s someone who has a lot to say, someone who sees things that most other kids wouldn’t.

[Q:] What is the theory beyond that? Why don’t you want an average kid to know what average kids are doing?

Lee: We look for kids who are ahead of the pack, because they’ll influence what all the other kids do. We look for the 20 percent, the trendsetters, who are going to influence the other 80 percent.

[Q:] How does that work? How does a trend spread?

. . . Actually, it’s a triangle. At the top of the triangle, there’s the innovator, which is like two to three percent of the population. Underneath them is the trendsetter, which we would say is about 17 percent. They pick up on ideas that the innovators are doing, and they claim them as their own. Underneath them is an early adopter–it’s questionable exactly what their percentage is–but they are the layer above mainstream, which is about 80 percent. And they take what the trendsetter is doing, and they make it palatable for mass consumption. They take it, they tweak it, they make it more acceptable, and that’s when the mass consumer picks up on it and runs with it and then it actually kills it. [Emphasis added]

[Q:] You said it eventually killed it. How quickly are these things given birth to and then killed? How condensed is this period of time from when a trend starts to when a trend is killed?

Lee: It used to take a year-and-a-half to two years for something to move. And now it can take a couple of months. . . .

Frontline, “Merchants of Cool,” 2001

When the mass consumer picks up on it and runs with it and then it actually kills it. Think about that for a minute. Let that idea seep into your brain through your trucker’s hat.

So, then, what’s the life expectancy for fake tilt-shift being a fun, new concept? A couple of months? Maybe—in 2001. Dear Readers, it is now 2006 and something called “blogs” exist and most blogs eschew original content in favor of pointing to one of the 500 or so actually interesting things on the internets, and one of the the top three or four blogs on the entire planet is seriously called “Boing Boing,” and the rate of the novelty value of any new meme is undergoing rapid inflation, which is to say their half lives are getting shorter and shorter. The life expectancy for fake tilt-shift (as a novel trend) might be a couple of weeks; within days of its Boing Boing birth it grew from a cute little concept into something bloated and unwieldy, collapsing under its own weight and consigned to a fenced enclosure in the backyard. Its novelty finally expired a few short minutes ago. Rest in peace, fake tilt-shift photomanipulation technique. It was a good run. I’ll always remember you.


You asked for it (some of you). And it was good.


Some of you asked for it. Most of you didn’t. But in any case, here it is:

I’m officially unveiling my brand new blog. Take a look at it when you’ve got a chance. If you look right away, maybe you’ll see this very message, which I’ve conveniently posted here so that you don’t have to keep reading on your old-fashioned e-mail apparatus (for those of you who received this in an e-mail).

Apparently, if something on the internets is in some kind of introductory mode, people like to write the word “welcome” in every possible language on the Web page. (It would be too mean to actually link to one, since they’re all so well-intentioned.) Well, I don’t know every possible language, and though there’s nothing wrong with being so welcoming to my Cambodian readers, I just am not doing it. Newscanarias does, and should, do it in three languages, because Spanish, German, and English are dominant on the Canary Islands. But I’ll get to them sometime in future, in reference to the tsunami that will probably hit the East Coast.

Nor do I plan to write a blog entry about nothing, e.g., “Oh, nothing much happened today.” Why do people do that? What might happen instead is that I’ll be too bored or busy to post, in which case you won’t even know about it.

But there will be so many other excellent things to read about or see at (until I get my own domain name). Topics like pandas and suicide and public transportation (those will be separate entries, kind of), and Will Smith and China (again, likely separate), and books and art and photography and conspiracy. Plus, you’ll see when I finally give in and sell out after I’ve clicked the button to turn on Google AdSense.

Let me know what you think, or if you have any ideas. Those are what Tad Friend asks for to inspire his Letters from California for the New Yorker, ideas from people who actually live in California. (I’ll get around to posting on him, too.)

Until then, content (i.e., prepare) yourself for a lot of digression. Because the next time I drink a pint of IPA, it will demand some notes on 19th century imperial trade between Britain and India, leading to a greater thesis on marine commerce that, if I have any sense, will touch on Sindhis, Norwegians, Candian hydroelectricity, and one of my former geology professors. Or I’ll just spell out an account of me rubbing my hands in anticipation of a potential feud with the owner of my old favorite, Magnolia Pub and Brewery.

See? How can you resist?


Better Shorter

Last week I was asked by a reporter who works at the San Francisco Chronicle about what kind of writing I’d like to do. I tend to run long, citing the timed essay I’d completed earlier (in about 50 minutes I wrote a three-and-a-half page editorial on U.S.-Chinese relations that’s actually quite different from the one below). That suggested I was better suited for long-form rather than short-form writing. Which, in a simplified world, means magazines are a better venue for me, in her estimation. She added that since there is unlimited space on the internets, she used to think that the Web would favor longer writing. But when she asked an editor at SFGate, he said this is not the case at all. Shorter is better.

This is something I knew, but not something I always follow, as that posting below demonstrates.

Good luck, Readers!