8 December, 2020

Mobile phone photography workshop

Nadine gave an excellent photography workshop to our staff, with a focus on how to take pictures for our reports and posts. I was a little skeptical before the workshop about the scope of a workshop based only on mobile phones. But it was quite informative. She started with some general principles that are common to all photography, like what makes a good composition, how to frame the subject, etc., and then showed us how to use some features of phone cameras. For example, the first thing she got us to do was to enable the phone's grid feature. Even my pretty basic Samsung A10 phone has quite a number of possibilities in its advanced settings - most of which she didn't get into - but one feature that it is lacking is the portrait effect. That gives a shallow depth of field effect so that the subject is in focus, while the background is blurred. My son said that this is "very common now in phones with multiple cameras". But it seems that it does not, in fact, depend on the presence of multiple cameras, because my wife's Google Pixel 3A manages it with just a single camera. An additional thing we learned about that feature is that when it has been enabled for a photo, one can later correct the severity of the effect in the phone's photo editing software.

Somebody mentioned during the workshop that it is harder to take pictures of people with darker skin. Nadine said that's due to our racism; and then explained what she meant. She says that camera technology developed in a mainly white-skinned world, and that the chemicals and then digital tech were all aimed to create the best effects for white skin coloration. I reflected that this is now becoming a real problem, because AI is depending on the same technology for facial recognition, and it is known that it's doing quite a miserable job of identifying non-white faces.

Natural cadence of English and James Dickey's poetry

When I was in university, one of the most interesting courses I did was in the metrics of poetry. We spent a lot of time reading Milton and I also was introduced to James' Dickey's poems. Dickey is not the sort of writer I would normally like; he writes about his time in the army and a lot about hunting. I read two of his novels, Deliverance (on which a popular film, with its amazing film score

Dueling Banjos - Deliverance OST
by evenflow1816 on YouTube
, was based), and To the White Sea, a really savage novel about an American soldier, murdering and butchering his way through Japan at the end of World War II. (He's also the father of a well-known journalist called Christopher Dickey.) Anyway, with the help of that course professor, I came to like was the cadence of his poems, which the professor no doubt chose because it is so obvious that even ignoramuses or novices to metrics can identify, like,

In a stable of boats I lie still,
From all sleeping children hidden.
The leap of a fish from its shadow
Makes the whole lake instantly tremble...

And then, of course, he eventually breaks up the meter, with wonderful effect:

I wash the black mud from my hands.
On a light given off by the grave
I kneel in the quick of the moon
At the heart of a distant forest
and hold in my arms a child
Of water, water, water.

So I went to YouTube last night in order to find some recording of James Dickey reading his own poetry, because I was interested in whether he would read it like I would. My first surprise was how much he sounds like Martin Luther King - I suppose it oughtn't be such a surprise because they are both educated southerners from Georgia. The second surprise, was that he does not make obvious reference to the meter while reading his poems. Which is really nice. The meter is just there; he doesn't need to emphasize it.

In fact, he is using the natural rhythms of the English language. I have forgotten the principles of that metrics course that I took, or how to scan poems very well, but there's a good description, with examples here. It looks like the lines quoted above are based mainly on an anapestic meter (duh-duh-DUH).

Duh! - even Dr. Seuss has that anapestic meter.

That is what the cat said...
Then he fell on his head.

John Bolton and Yanis Varoufakis

While I was looking for James Dickey reading his poetry I actually got side-tracked by an interview with Noam Chomsky, which was interesting as usual. He seems to have become a bit of a wild man of the woods during the pandemic, but despite his appearance, he intones the same shocking truths in the same soft-spoken New England English. Then I started to listen to a debate with John Bolton and Yanis Varoufakis, which was such an unlikely duo that I couldn't imagine how that might turn out. And, at least as far as the first hour, which was when I gave up, they seemed to be describing life on two different planets. I actually gave up at the moment when Bolton said that he doesn't "do very well with taxonomies" - I thought that this epitomizes the man precisely. He sees the world in white and black. One of the few things that Trump said that most of us would agree with, was that Bolton "would have started World War VI".

As for Varoufakis, I think I agree with his ideas, but can't say so with any great confidence, because I'm never sure I have completely understood them.

Links blog

✭ 'It's not weird or foreign': the Ugandan monk bringing Buddhism to Africa – photo essay
Bhante Buddharakkhita, who became a Buddhist while studying in India, is on a mission to use mindfulness meditation to heal trauma
#buddhism #africa

✭ Jewish Settler Tries to Burn Gethsemane Church in Jerusalem (VIDEOS) - Palestine Chronicle

✭ Settler tries to burn Gethsemane Church in Jerusalem | PNN
 reported that the settler, pretending to be a visitor, sneaked into the premises of the church before he was seen pouring some flammable liquid there. The settler then tried to set some of the wooden pews on fire, but was thwarted by local Palestinian citizens who handed him over to a police force which had just arrived at the scene."

✭ The curse of 'white oil': electric vehicles' dirty secret | News | The Guardian
The race is on to find a steady source of lithium, a key component in rechargeable electric car batteries. But while the EU focuses on emissions, the lithium gold rush threatens environmental damage on an industrial scale

✭ 'It's a free-for-all': how hi-tech spyware ends up in the hands of Mexico's cartels | Mexico | The Guardian
 many as 25 private companies – including the Israeli company NSO Group and the Italian firm Hacking Team – have sold surveillance software to Mexican federal and state police forces, but there is little or no regulation of the sector – and no way to control where the spyware ends up, said the officials.

✭ Israel to investigate shooting of Palestinian child | Israel | The Guardian
The EU delegation to the Palestinians denounced in a tweet what it said was a “shocking” killing. “How many more Palestinian children will be subject to the excessive use of lethal force by the Israeli security forces?” it said, adding the “incident must be swiftly and fully investigated”.

✭ Indian Farmers Lead Historic Strike & Protests Against Narendra Modi, Neoliberalism & Inequality | Democracy Now!
, India is trying to stifle foreign comment on this, in a similar way that China would

✭ Team behind Oxford Covid jab start final stage of malaria vaccine trials | World news | The Guardian
“A lot more people will die in Africa this year from malaria than will die from Covid. I don’t mean twice as many, probably 10 times,” Hill said. The vaccine “is going to be available in very large amounts, it works pretty well. And it’s going to be very low priced.”