Monday, December 21, 2009
Now, if you watch Fox news or otherwise believe everything that you hear, please, before you send me the standard response-- check your facts. The majority of Americans want this (72% http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/06/19/opinion/polls/main5098517.shtml). The majority of Americans have always wanted this. So if you're an American who believes in majority rule (democracy), you might keep that in mind. If you're plenty rich and can afford your own health care--insured or not-- you are in the minority, a tiny minority. If you pay for your own insurance now, and think that this will take care of you if you get sick, think again, and do some research. If you get sick, you will likely have to fight tooth and nail to get your insurer to pay the bills they have promised to pay. In the very least, they will delay payment as long as possible, hoping that you will either give up or die waiting, and that your descendants won't have what it takes to fight it out in court.
If there's nobody in your immediate circle of friends or family whom this has happened to, I'm surprised. It happens so often that it happened to the mother of our current president. She died of cancer in the middle of a fight with her insurance providers. Look around a little-- these cases are all over the Internet. Insurers refusing to pay medical bills is not the exception, it's the norm. In the case of big medical bills, you are more likely to have your insurance canceled because you misspelled your mother's maiden name, or forgot to report that you broke your pinkie finger when you were nine years old than you are to have your bills paid in a timely manner, or in a proportion that you were led to be believe would be of significant value. Next time your premiums come due, however, try paying them late, or pay just %70 of what's due, and see what happens.
A general barometer for the state of health care in any given country is infant mortality. If you think America is doing well with our health care, think again. "Infant mortality in the U.S. is worse than in 29 other countries, including practically all of Europe, Canada and Australia, says a report just out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If there's any good news, it's that the situation in the U.S. hasn't gotten even worse. Based on 2005 data, the U.S. ranked 30th in the world in infant mortality, compared with 29th in 2004 and 23rd in 1990. Back in the good old days of 1960, the nation ranked 12th.
Almost 7 infants die for every 1,000 born in America, a 36 percent rise since 1984. That's far worse than the lowest rates--between 2.1 and 2.8 babies per 1,000, reported by Singapore, Sweden, Hong Kong and Japan." ( http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2009/11/us_falls_further_behind_europe.html )
So, if you're pregnant and there's any serious risks to the survival of your baby, you're better off as a citizen of Hong Kong than America. A lot better off, about three times better chances for survival of your baby. Are you a pro-life Republican ? Please factor that in to your concerns.
So, why has this been such a struggle to improve our health care in this country? Bill Clinton couldn't do it. He gave up. Decided to put his efforts elsewhere. He looked at the opposition from the insurance lobby, and the AMA-- and figured he didn't have a chance. It's an issue that is popular with the majority, but most politicians wouldn't touch it because the big money is against them. Big money cares about their own interests, not yours, not about the majority of Americans, it's not about ideology or about what's more American, more right, more just or more anything other than more money for themselves. And politicians are notorious for taking the easy stance on anything that makes them look good, because popularity is their currency, it's their power, and they can accomplish nothing without it.
Back when I was a reporter for a tiny, podunk newspaper up in Bellingham, Washington I had an unusual experience. Unusual for me, that is, but probably very common otherwise across America. More common I should think, when you work for a larger, respected newspaper.
I got sent out to cover a discussion on Dairy products-- out to some tiny town north of Bellingham. I didn't want to go. It sounded boring. Turned out to be quite interesting-- to me, although still challenging to write an engaging article about. I doubt there was more than thirty people in the room, mostly Dairy farmers and their families. Good eats. Lots of butter and bread and milk and cheese. The State Rep attending arrived early wearing a suit, looked around, then got back in his car and re-appeared a few minutes later wearing blue jeans and no tie. The gist of the story was about how the US dairy industry was being threatened by price fixing from foreign dairy markets who are government subsidized. There was some other stuff about foreign countries trying to trademark generic names like "cheddar" or "Parmesan". Not one of my best stories, but it was interesting to me. I was earning about 7 cents per word for every story I wrote. If I got lucky with a headline story: 10 cents per word.
The unusual part came afterward. I wrote the story, did a lot of research including contacting foreign markets to try to get comments to include in the story, got some interest but nothing I could use by deadline. I may have turned the story in to my editor, can't remember for certain, but in any case the story wasn't yet published. At that point I got a phone call from some corporate group I had never heard of. The call came in on my private, unpublished cell phone number.
I returned the call. It was a lobbying group centered in Washington DC, one of the bigger ones. They represented the dairy industry, among other interests (I looked them up). They wanted (if it wasn't too much trouble) a copy of the story I had just written. I told them I'd be happy to send them a link to read it online, just as soon as it was published. They didn't mind at all seeing the unpublished version, which I really didn't understand. How could that be of use ? Hung up the phone, a bit stunned.
If you don't know about lobbying groups, here's an article http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/mediapolitics/4264.html A lobbying group charges big money to exert influence on the laws that get passed, often they author some of the actual language of a bill. One of the top lobbyists in Washington "Jack Abramoff, now resides in Cumberland, Maryland, a guest of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. His prosecution on charges of giving illegal gifts and meals to lawmakers." Ok, so he got caught. What do you think the rest of them do ? Well, the "best" of them anyway. . . and by the way-- it's perfectly legal to take a reporter to lunch. Buy him a car. Buy him a house. Buy thousands of dollars of ads in the newspaper he works for. Buy Fox news. If a lobbying group in DC had offered me a decent salary at that time, I'd have been there in a heartbeat. I'd rather support US dairy interests anyway-- no conflict.
That's how a tiny minority interest with a whole lot of money convinces the Republican party reps that public health care is akin to Armageddon. It's easy. Republicans and Democrats are pretty steeped in an "us-versus-them" mentality anyway. If the Democratic pres says "Blue" you say "Red", it even works on some Democrats. Follow the money y'all, it's that simple. If you wonder why we may finally pass this health care reform bill after all this time-- it's because the #1 most influential lobbying group in DC is AARP, and the baby boomers, which still constitutes the majority of Americans, are all getting old. Older now than they were when Bill Clinton was i office. One of the biggest concerns for the elderly is affordable medical care, and most if us (them?) can still drag ourselves to the voting booth, or write a check to AARP, which owns the #1 and #2 top circulating magazines in the country. #3, Readers Digest (not exactly for the under 30 crowd) Has only one third the circulation of #2. Percentages drop precipitously below that. Arguably AARP is the most influential publication in America.
I'm too sick to keep writing. I must be getting old. Sometimes the majority of American's do get what they want, but one way or another, they buy it.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Last time I photographed each pendant individually, this time I ganged them together in groups. I probably should have stuck to the original plan, because this time numbering the images for easy identification became an issue. No sooner had I uploaded what I had, but Sheryl decided to direct people to the older, sold out gallery so that people could see the chains. Well, good idea-- but confusing. Pretty much every step has gone about like that this time around, but I'm not complaining, because the artwork is finally selling again and in a form that I know people will enjoy. We sold six in the first hour or two, and would have sold more if we'd had more duplicates in the inventory. Also we're now getting special requests for certain images and likely we'll be able to do that too.
It took me a while to get used to the idea of selling my photos at one and three-eigths inch size, but they actually came out very sharp and viewable at close range. The medium itself is lending more towards a certain type of editing, and I am enjoying the process. Sheryl's art and my photography are selling at roughly the same rate, and that's kind of good too. We even have a few designs where we collaborated--- something I thought would never happen. We're excited about the possibilities and have been brainstorming other ways to be much more actively involved in the printing process and on through the final presentation. This is much different than the ways in which we relied upon outside corporations to print and do order fulfillment and virtually all customer service for the past few years. We've learned. We're still learning, of course, but we much prefer being in closer contact every step of the way.
Monday, November 30, 2009
And we opened a new Etsy shop here: CLICK which so far only features the pendants. They're pretty cool, I like them. I see why others like them. The process turns a photo into a little jewel. Because you wear it it becomes highly personal.
The process of making them was difficult and took a lot of time. That makes these "limited edition" and it is pretty likely that they will each be one of a kind, never produced again-- but we shall have to see about that. Sheryl got excited and wanted to make a bunch more. Will she actually do it ? Don't know yet, but I kind of doubt it.
Friday, November 27, 2009
This is not a new image either, just a reminder to me that it is one of the few framed images I ever sold on Cafepress, back before they turned to the dark side and succumbed to unreasonable greed ( they reduced our income by two-thirds with a stroke of the pen ). Having that shop for as long as we did-- I supposed we learned that cheaper, novelty type items will sell much more readily than a framed print. On more than one occasion I sold a single greeting card or a sticker, and noted that it had shipped overseas, which gave me a laugh and about a dollar profit. Cafepress mostly sells T-shirts, and T-shirts are usually adorned with slogans, sayings, jokes, or political messages. We quit them because they began stealing more and more profits from the artists and designers, but really we weren't doing all that well over there because we didn't participate enough in doing slogans and jokes-- I'm guessing-- we do know that the fine art and photos don't seem to sell well in that venue. I have a lot of appreciation for product design, and clever wordplay. It's just a different skill than fine art or photography.
Again I've had this image for years but never did anything with it until just now. Bit of a visual joke, makes people laugh. I titled it "Friends." So, in a way it's a crossover image: I'd expect to sell it on a greeting card before it sells as a framed print, and yet it's not just a throw away snapshot either. The light is good and I was pretty meticulous with my editing. I think I cropped in this tight because of the subject matter, otherwise I would have tended to frame a bit wider. Selling is on my mind a lot lately. Christmas is coming and it's a good time to be busy advertising and producing.
But something else is nagging at me and I haven't quite put my finger on it. Sheryl and I know that we need to make some changes but it still seems that change happens so slowly and by incremental steps. We went to Flagstaff recently on business, bit couldn't help noticing how much it reminded us of some of the nicer parts of the Bay Area. It felt like home. Maybe that's what started it, and there is more change in the air than we yet realize.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Invert Moon by Paul Hood
Summit entertainment is hard at work protecting their intellectual property rights while restricting yours.
How funny, "Summit Entertainment" who owns the rights to the movie "Twilight", and the recently released "New Moon" among other holdings, just blocked my right to publish a photograph of the moon, which I shot at twilight. I described my image as such. The notification came through "Zazzle". As far as I know, no corporation owns the time between daylight and night. Nor have they yet laid claim to the moon itself, or the fact that we call it "the moon". They don't own the word, "twilight" either. I probably wouldn't depict an image of a new moon at twilight, or any other time though, because it would just be a solid, blank canvas-- so I guess Summit Entertainment is pretty safe there. My piece was titled "Lavender Moon", similar to the one pictured above. It's a nearly full moon. I wouldn't call it a threat or an infringement of any kind, and I would challenge Summit to make a real case if they think otherwise. Sending a threatening email to my print shop after they searched the word "twilight" is irresponsible and it does harm to my business. Sorry but I blame Zazzle too, for caving in without even checking on what they're doing. They started deleting my images before I even had a chance to answer the email that they sent me, and when we asked them what the supposed violation was. . . they didn't even know. They "guessed" that it was the words "moon" and "twilight" associated with an image for sale. That's pretty weak.
Sheryl and I are already writing articles on the subject. It's an interesting enough situation to warrant a press release. Sheryl might write one of those too. And we definitely mention the names "Summit Entertainment", "Twilight", "New Moon" and any and all other associated words and terms in the interests of being thorough. Might have to mention those words several times. And as we all know, that tends to get picked up by search engines. you know, repeating words like Summit Entertainment, New Moon, Twilight or, what the heck, Astro Boy, The Hurt Locker, words like that. I see that these films are currently in theaters:
It absolutely costs me money if I can't accurately describe the content of my artwork. I think it's still America. I can still take photos of the new moon at twilight and I can still talk about it, write about it, publish my art and call it any damn thing I like. I have not produced a movie titled "New Moon" or "Twilight", haven't tried to represent my work as being in any way related to Summit Entertainment, their films "New Moon" nor "Twilight". Why would I ? I have not seen either one. I might indeed enjoy these films, but can't very well afford to attend if the holding company is so paranoid as to harass me out of making a few bucks on my own creative, original material.
Let's see, a huge entertainment corporation with really deep pockets illegally infringes my first amendment rights by blocking me from publishing a photograph of the moon with the descriptive term, "twilight" in it. This could be the best Christmas ever.
My friend Dawn informs me that "The big movie that opened over the weekend, "New Moon" is the sequel to a best-selling teenage novel, "Twilight." They're probably thinking that you are trying to capitalize on the movie's popularity, but you go get 'em! You can't copyright a word or a naturally occurring phenomena. I hope it IS your best Christmas ever. Ka-ching!"
I'm considering a new piece, titled "New Moon at Twilight from the Summit", and it will probably look like a big black hole where something should be, but isn't.
Oh, and Summit also made these fine films (many of which I have enjoyed very much )
A Bronx Tale
The Baader Meinhof Complex
Bridge To Terabithia
City of Ember
DOA: Dead or Alive
Dot the I
Fly Me To The Moon (Maximum 3D Experience)
The Great Buck Howard
Honeymoon in Vegas
House of the Spirits
I Know Who Killed Me
In The Valley Of Elah
Inside Deep Throat
Last Exit to Brooklyn
Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Love in the Time of Cholera
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Name of the Rose
Never Back Down
P.S. I Love You
Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Resident Evil: Extinction
The Shawshank Redemption
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Slap Her She's French
Smilla's Sense of Snow
Step Up 2: The Streets
The Hottie & The Nottie
Oh, since I have linked to their website, I think that I really must reproduce their terms of service here, in it's entirety, because apparently you are making a legal agreement with them just by clicking on their URL. And lest there is any misunderstanding about who has a right to reproduce what-- they contacted me first regarding copyright and fair use. I think that they are sorely mistaken, and I am making an editorial statement about their policies and (mis)understanding of the law, but I feel it only fair and prudent to let my readers judge for themselves based upon facts, as opposed to mere opinion, legal though it may be for me to express myself as a US citizen.
Ready? Here it is:
"Revised April 25, 2008
Summit Entertainment, LLC
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Flight by Paul Hood
This is one of the images I've been working on lately. There's another variation on the same theme if you click on it, it's in the same gallery. And I put another swallow on Zazzle here.
The image above came out looking very like a watercolor. It's not a composite, it is a single photo with adjusted tones and colors.
Friday, November 13, 2009
It's mostly economics. I got curious the other day about 35mm film. Did a strange thing and finished out a roll on a disposable camera that was way out of date. Expired film gives a particular look to the color, if it remains usable at all. I thought it would be fun. It was fun.
While I was at the Walgreens, I priced a few things. The film itself, if you buy a 4 pack, runs about $9.00 for 96 frames, or $2.25 per 24 exposure roll. Maybe a person could do better with rolls of 36, but this was a casual accounting, not an exhaustive search. I think I have old fuzzy memories of $1.99 per roll film going back about a decade. This is pretty standard print film, generic house brand, probably 400ISO. I didn't see a whole lot of choices there, no slide film, no black and white.
Then there's the developing: looked like about $8.00 including a set of 24 prints. Another $3.00 for a CD. When I got back to the Walgreens with my expired disposable camera, I discovered that for only $5.56 including tax, I could get the thing developed and scanned to a CD with no prints. This was for 1 hour service which they pulled off in well under an hour. Not bad, really, but now you have to figure that each frame is costing about 10 cents for the film, plus a whopping 23 cents to develop the negatives, scan them, and burn it onto a CD, and you still don't have any prints. So, about 33 cents per frame. Yikes. When I think of burning a dollar every three frames--- that hurts.
Now, bear in mind I used to shoot a fair amount of film, and somewhere I have moldy old cardboard boxes full of prints and negatives to prove it. If I think of those boxes full of quarters--- and being the good Scotsman that I am I did the math back in the old days too-- big wet Scottish tears go rolling down my cheeks.
Conversely, there's a 650 dollar digital SLR that you can buy at the Walmart across the street. I think it comes with a fair lens. At that price, and let's say that you get a memory card thrown in, how many frames do you shoot before the camera "pays for itself" in film costs ? Let's see, plus tax it's about $700, so times that by three (33 cents per frame for film; or three frames for a dollar ) 2100 frames. As an arbitrary figure, we'll assume that you're a very casual shooter: in a year that averages 5.75 frames per day, or about 40 per week. If you're a wedding photographer you will quite likely use up your 2100 frames in one or two day-long shoots. Sheryl and I did 1000 frames in just a few hours at the last wedding we shot. It was casual, a lot of down time-- nothing hectic. So that's the point really. Not "which is better, film or digital?" but which is more practical.
A few more things worth noting:
A good photographer can get some great shots with a digital camera costing much less than a low end DSLR. Oh and by the way there are DSLRs today which can be had today for less than $650. The reason I priced film against a DSLR has to do with reliability. Most of these cameras are reliable into the range of a hundred and fifty thousand shutter cycles. Cheaper cameras might not be. Yes, you can get great shots with film too, but that isn't the point that I'm making here. Don' forget, film cameras aren't free either, so you have to add that into the cost of film.
I was surprised to discover that my CD from Walgreens had been scanned at disappointingly low resolution: 1800 X 1215, in other words just under 2.2 megapixels. If I ever do want to make prints, I'll be limited to a 4 x 6 inch at 300 dpi. That's really not right. 35mm film will support much higher res scanning than that. Maybe Walgreens assumes that I'm only going to look at these images on a computer monitor ? If that's the case then it does make sense-- as that is about the maximum size that a standard 72ppi monitor will show you, or for that matter a true 1080p HDTV. But man, why assume that ? Maybe I got the CD so that I only print what I want. Crazy. As far as prints go, Walgreens wants 29 cents each for those from a digital source, CD or otherwise. Hmmm. They offer a good price on an 8 X 10 at $3.00, but now I wouldn't trust them to give me a good quality print. If I talk to them about 300DPI as a standard, are they even going to know what I'm saying ?
Personally, I am convinced that my 12 megapixel camera beats 35mm film. I have read very convincing articles that my DSLR, which is the same size, weight and form factor as a 35mm film SLR is equal to Medium Format film in most respects, and far superior in others ( like ISO and dynamic range ). I don't want to argue about that, because honestly, I'd really like to play with a medium format film camera. I really would. Film still looks different than digital; the colors are different, the tones and shadows are different, the way that the highlights blow out-- different. A lot is made about that-- but I can't remember the last time I lost a shot because I blew highlights, unless I wanted to.
Digital noise looks different than film grain, mainly in the perception that one can see "behind the grain" in film. But mostly in my world, I'm dealing with completely imperceptible "noise", so it just isn't an issue. Also, it's very hard to find medium format film these days, let alone processing. I have little doubt that it will be pricier than 35mm if I do find it. Knowing me, I'll probably go looking now, but it will all be mail order-- so is it worth it ? Probably not. Did you know that polaroid film is already gone ? Discontinued, off the market. It's a shame, because that stuff was a real trip.
I'm protesting though, not because I champion digital, but because I mourn the loss of film. We have prints around the house of family members, long dead now. . . turn of the century black and white photos which will knock your socks off. The clarity is amazing, the smooth continuous tones, it's all there. These are prints from large format cameras: 4 x 5 inch and 8 X 10 inch negatives. It's the right stuff. We never should have let 35mm take over like it did amongst the general public. Easy, yes, relatively small and compact cameras-- absolutely. But damn, did we ever lose something in the process of embracing convenience. I'm somehow annoyed and excited at the same time, that digital is catching up to film, slowly but surely. 35mm is not entirely dead, but dying. Medium format is on the ropes. Large format ? Stands to stick around amongst the specialist die- hards for quite a while yet: but traveling with a large format camera is similar to schlepping around my laser printer in a backpack. I'll probably avoid it if I can.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Something I re-edited from Bellingham.
New treatment on my sunflowers still life. Shot in Santa Cruz.
Getting a bit more abstract/experimental with the shot above. Called "hound".
I've been wanting to re-work this image for a long time. Pretty happy with it now.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
And it's warm again ! Had to have been 75 degrees today. That's just the kind of strange weather we get here. The photo above, I got before the snow all melted away.
We dropped by the local college today and checked out some of the facilities. The Internet connection they have definitely beats our satellite connection. It's got to be at least 3 times faster, feels like ten times faster. The good news there is that I discover that my various websites indeed load plenty fast and run smoothly if you've got good bandwidth. Not too many students there looking at books, most are huddled away the back corners where the computers are strategically placed-- you can see the librarian coming from a mile off. Hmmm. Doing school related research ? I think not.
We also picked up the college art and lit magazine, though I have barely glanced at it yet. There's a play or two there we'd like to see in a couple of days. Seems you have to be "in the loop" at the college in order to get word of these things.
Looked at the Smithsonian magazine today. Interesting article on Vincent Van Gogh's night paintings. The most famous of course being "Starry Night." Learned something interesting: that Vincent thought this painting to be a failure.
Hardly. It's just that the poor guy and his brother, Theo, had a very difficult time selling any of his work during his lifetime. Well, he was a visionary. I'm not making any direct comparisons between my work and the work of the great masters, I simply take my inspiration wherever I can find it.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I've been wanting to get a shot of this field for a long time. All the juniper trees have been cleared long ago, torn out by the roots and left lying there. It's a shame, and a practice which I think is no longer utilized out here, but the view remains. So we were driving by around sunset with the strange cloud formation above it and I stopped to set up the camera. Oh yeah, and there was a line of smoke across the whole horizon, so the lighting conditions were strange and HDR photography tends to heighten that effect.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
This one is in New Mexico as is the one below. I took a previous shot of this on a different day from a different angle. I really like it. It's available for sale but we're coming to the conclusion that showcasing these photos at 600 pixels or 650 pixels across just does not cut it. Since I've been a victim of photo theft, I'm leery of showing larger works online. I hate doing watermarks.
I am not be above using the invisible kind which track the file all over the Internet, wherever it may wander. I'm also not finding Imagekind to be a successful venue for selling my work. We hear that the print quality is great.
This here symbol, it's a sun symbol, was one of few things we saw in Albuquerque with any visual appeal. It's our fault though, because we did not even see the downtown. ALBQ is big, real big, sprawls all over the place. We really prefer Santa Fe, or Taos, or Madrid, and some other smaller towns whose names I do not remember. At least if we were in Taos there are high quality and very competitive print shops there. Many options.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
We're keeping an eye out for the Autumn colors which we might otherwise miss out in the desert among the Juniper trees and sage-grass. So, in town you need to be willing to stop and take the shot when you see it. Barely got this one as the sun was dropping rapidly. I probably should have gone back in to town this afternoon, as there are some huge old oak trees going through their cycle.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Yes indeed, this is actually Kit Carson's old house-- part of it anyway. Obviously I found the cloud formation and the different appearance of the two doors pretty intriguing.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
No sooner did I create the mean trees, but that i wanted to do a re-take with more muted color.
In real life, the hay bales scene was "nice" but the light wasn't all that great and the colors were a bit pale. It took a lot to turn it into an interesting photo. I've been avoiding showing my photos large online because theft of images is so prevalent. It's too bad. They all look better when you can really see them. You can click on these photos to se them a bit larger, but sorry, not really big enough to see the details well enough.
I thought that this cloud formation looked like a huge hand. Later on I spotted a strange face in the clouds. This was shot up at Greer, a tiny resort town above Springerville, AZ.
Another shot out the window landscape photo, this one on the way to Springerville, Arizona. Really beautiful country up there.
This one is called "Face Over Taos" and I thought I had already posted it, but maybe not.
Did I mention that I lost my hat at the "Pie-O-Neer" in Pie Town, New Mexico ? Nice place, great pie, really friendly and genuine people. I want to go back. Maybe that's why I left my hat.
Git this one a little while ago near where we currently live. I only recently put it through my post processing and I do like the results.
A puff ball from way back which Sheryl wanted me to take out of the moth balls for one of her projects.