Jan 062013
 

I don’t know if the American Dream ever came true. I suppose it did, and maybe it still does sometimes for some chosen few, but regardless of whether it did or does, it is an enormously mighty instrument to keep up the central fiction of the ruling class, namely that their rule is due to merits.

The canonical version of the Dream is that, given enough effort and a bit of luck (but decidedly more effort than luck), everybody can make it from dishwasher to millionaire.

That’s not true. Dishwashers likely stay dishwashers and millionaires even more likely stay millionaires, but in order to keep it that way, it is important that everybody believes in the dream.

Didn’t make it? Bad luck, Buddy, you obviously didn’t try hard enough! And by trying hard and harder, people always work against each other, never in their common interest.

The American Dream also makes it possible to blame the victims. It gives an excuse to anybody who refuses to help the needy. This is something we hear so often: “Why should I give money to someone who chooses to be in that situation?”, even although people rarely choose to be miserable and dependent on mercy. The Dream explains it all: they deserve their fate, because they have not worked hard enough.

Hmm … I guess it’s time for the mandatory George Carlin now 🙂

The Song of the Day is “American Dream” from Marcia Ball’s 1997 album “Let Me Play With Your Poodle”. Hear it on YouTube.

Jan 062013
 

I’ve read an article yesterday. It is called “America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead“. It tells the story of how scientists found strong evidence that lead, mostly from leaded gasoline, is a likely cause for high levels of violent crime. It sounds ridiculous, but really, read it for yourself. I think it is plausible, and even if it ultimately turned out as only a freak series of highly unlikely correlations, let’s for the moment just assume it were all true.

The authors explain the perils of lead, how dangerous lead is still out there, how exposure to it as a child increases the chance of having a lower IQ and becoming a criminal. They also try to make a case for government spending to clean up the environment, and they argue that in the long run, over roughly a generation, it would even be an excellent investment.

Again, let’s assume that it is exactly as they say.

How big do you think are the chances that politicians will tackle the problem at all, how big that they are able to fix it?

Exactly. Zero is my answer as well.

Here we have a problem (always assumed it really exists) that

  • is invisible
  • is indirect
  • is hard to measure
  • is expensive to fix
  • takes a long time to fix
  • can only be shown as fixed after a generation

If you ask me, this is pretty much of a worst case. Would an American president tackle a problem that, even if he solved it perfectly, would have no influence on the chances of a re-election? Would any politician care for a problem, when he is likely to be dead before he even has a chance to know whether he succeeded?

Unfortunately that is exactly the kind of problems that we increasingly face in our interconnected world. Most environmental problems are of that kind: Pollution, the question of clean energy, climate change, everything is complicated, everything has multiple causes, whatever you do has more than one effect, and in order to work at all, actions need to be coordinated on a global basis.

You may probably have heard of Adam Curtis and seen one or all of his brilliant documentaries. The one I recently saw was “The Century of the Self“. In the introduction to his four part series he says it “is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy“. It shows how Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, invented Public Relations and created the modern consumer, how focus groups were used to analyze consumers and voters, and how the results were used to sell what people didn’t need, and how this could even turn out to decide elections.

Again, all this is hard to explain, you really need to see it, but it completely explains where we are now. Politics are sold just as a commodity, populism reigns and nobody even tries to solve real problems.

Of course I have no solution either. In fact I am worried and what worries me most, is that I have not the slightest idea how we can ever get back to a responsible way of dealing with problems.

See, I have been thinking lately about what’s wrong in this world and how it would be better, and while I have no influence nor reach at all, even if I came up with neat solutions, even if we’d join up and, in a gigantic community effort (say, like creating a Linux free software operating system) we’d find solutions to the world’s major problems (or maybe only one major problem), I am afraid nobody would listen.

This is bad, real bad, and it worries me a lot.

The Song of the Day is “Pencil Full Of Lead” from Paolo Nutini’s 2009 album “Sunny Side Up”. Hear it on YouTube.

2245 – A Little Bit Later On

 Panasonic Leica DG SUMMILUX 25/1.4 ASPH  Comments Off on 2245 – A Little Bit Later On
Dec 092012
 

Can you remember “2217 – Running On Faith” and “2230 – Endless Cycle“?

I’ve been there again today, this time using the 25/1.4 for both shots. Not much time has passed, it’s only a little bit later on, but everything looks profoundly different now.

The Song of the Day is “A Little Bit Later On” by Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald. Hear it on YouTube.

2217 – Running On Faith

 Panasonic Lumix G 20/1.7 ASPH  Comments Off on 2217 – Running On Faith
Nov 112012
 

This image pleases me mightily, in just the same way and for similar reasons as “2210 – Stardust II” does. Both have been taken with what Mike Johnston likes to call the “World’s Most Perfect Lens“, the Panasonic Lumix G 20/1.7 ASPH.

This was the last image that I have taken with that lens, I’m going to sell it.

Why? Why would anybody sell the World’s Most Perfect Lens?

Well, I’ve seen some images taken with the upcoming Olympus 17/1.8, due in December, and as far as I can tell, it is not a bit worse than the 20/1.7. To be honest, it is not better either, but it is an Olympus with the same kind of build as the 12/2.0.

I want it. I need it. I will get it.

And then? 12, 14, 17 and 20mm? Seriously?

Nope! The two Panasonic pancakes will go, and while I’m at it, the Olympus 40-150 will go as well. This frees two slots in my shoulder bag (the tiny 14/2.5 had already been crammed into a pouch meant for storage cards). One slot will take the 17/1.8, the other one the 60/2.8 macro.

Still, selling the 20/1.7 while the 17/1.8 is not yet available means, I’m running on faith. But then, what else can a poor boy do? 😀

The Song of the Day is “Running On Faith” from Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” album. Hear it on YouTube.

Aug 202007
 

We had rain in Vienna all afternoon. In the morning I was in a hurry and didn’t make a single photo, in the afternoon on my way back home I couldn’t, in the evening I had no time, and so I began around 11pm to set up a game of chess, two flashes of my macro flash kit and the camera on tripod. At first I tried my luck with the Sigma 20/1.8 wide open and very near, but that didn’t work too well, at least I found nothing that excited me. I was already determined to use an archive image for today, when I finally decided to try one more shot with the Sigma 150/2.8 macro. About 20 shots later I had what you see here.

This is no real game any more, but photography has other rules than chess. I did a lot of shuffling around with the chess pieces and the flashes until I had this configuration. Actually I like it, I enjoyed the experience and I expect to get back to chess on another rainy day.

What really took time, was not taking the image, was not processing it in Photoshop, what took me time was finding a decent sound sample from one of the recordings of Claudio Monteverdi’s “Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda“. This is probably the most dramatic music Monteverdi has ever written, and I was lucky to find a sample from William Christie and Les Arts Florissants. I’m always amazed by how good Christie is. Whenever I compare recordings of something baroque and operatic, and whenever Les Arts Florissants are in the game, they usually end up among the three best, and frequently they are my favorites.

The sound sample is only from the beginning, but the drama builds up fast enough to give you at least a hint of what this really is.