"Large" Animal Collection

June 17, 2006

The Staten Island Zoo website is a wee bit defensive about the zoo's animal collection.

"How big is our invertebrate collection? There are 10 zoos with larger collections, 2 zoos with same size collections, and 139 zoos with smaller collections. Thus, only 7% of zoos have larger invertebrate collections than us. Our invertebrate collection is larger than the following big zoos combined: Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, Kansas City, Albuquerque, and Philadelphia. Because they all have none!"

The Cameramen

June 16, 2006

This week's New Yorker features a nice piece on Gregg Toland, the innovative and influential cinematographer who revolutionized the look of cinema (article is not online yet) shooting film monuments like Citizen Kane and Intermezzo. Visually his films are shockingly fresh. In the article Steve Soderbergh says of The Long Voyage Home "It looks like it was shot tomorrow."

Back when I was working at Paramount I became friends with Piotr Sobocinski the cinematographer behind Kieslowski's Red and the Decalogue. Our friendship came out of a mutual fascination with Toland. Piotr would have me dig up old production stills to try to figure out Toland's lighting setups. Usually they were startling in their simplicity, many big lights bunched together. This was similar to the technique Piotr often used. "Only one big light, like the sun, I do the same" he would say in his heavily accented English obviously pleased. My boss had helped bring Piotr over from Poland where he was making a fraction of his Hollywood salary, but Hollywood did not suit him. His missed his family in Poland and he hated the Hollywood system which didn't allow for artistic experimentation and flow. He would brood and when he was feeling particularly down he would watch Toland's films to cheer himself up. Through my job I helped him screen obscure copies films not available on video. He always wondered aloud what Toland would have done if he had lived a full life (Toland died unexpectedly at 44 in his sleep), because "great cinematographers do best work after 60". The deep irony of course is that Piotr would die at 43, and like Toland leave behind a wife and children and leaving us to wonder what might have been.

5 Cabdrivers I've Met Recently

June 16, 2006

Gerardo Santiago Felix
(translated from Spanish) "I love her, man do I love her. Do you know every day I buy her roses and leave them at her door. She doesn't love me though. I am too old, more than twice her age. Maybe I am ugly. But every day I leave her roses and one day she will know my true love. I don't care how it takes. Do you know the constellation Orion. One day she told me this is what she looks for in the sky, so every night I pray to Orion. She has a boyfriend now, but I can wait, she's had other boyfriends. I don't interfere, and one day she will come to me. Wait a minute, that's her calling..."

Mohammed Islam
"People never talk to me, they think I am a terrorist because I look like Bin Laden so I am surprised when you talk to me. I hate Bin Laden. He says he is a prophet but look what he has done. Everyone in the world hates Muslims now. Maybe Bin Laden is an Israeli spy or maybe he is just a Saudi. Saudis hate Americans. In Pakistan many people love Americans. I love this country. I moved here 22 years ago, and my whole family lives here now, even my grandparents."

Bazyli Ochabski
"I love miniature trains. Not toy trains, but miniatures, you can ride them. On weekends I take the seats out of the cab and load it with my steam engine. All built by hand. I am a member of so many clubs and everybody wants to see my train so I drive to New Jersey or Maryland or Florida with my train to show it to club members. There is a really good club in Somerset Hills, New Jersey. We have miles of tracks. You should come. It would change your life."

S. Aungubolkul aka Mr. Bacon
"I hate this country because this country is weak. In my country we wouldn't have problem with these terrorists. Iraq is a joke. Every day America gets weaker and weaker. In my country I was Thai military and in Thai military we didn't play games. My nickname was Mr. Bacon because I would make them eat pork. [laughs] I made big mistake though, I fell in love with girl who wants to come to America. Now look at me. I am nothing."

Hitler Singh
"My mother wanted me to have famous name... all of us had famous names. My brothers are Chaplin, Churchhill, and Napoleon. Really. Some people get so angry you know but Hitler is my name so I am proud of it. The truth is my mother didn't know much about history."

Thoughts on the Chinatown Bus

June 12, 2006

Immigrants given enough time away from the place they have forsaken will often return to find themselves a stranger in a strange place. This happens because either they have changed and return to find the place unchanged, or they will cling to the traditions of their youth and return to a place that has moved on. Either way they will end up feeling adrift-people without a home. I noticed our bus driver's pinky nails were both very long and etched with characters. While you still might find the long pinky nail amongst Chinese men, the tradition of character etching is pretty much dead. The driver said he had been in New York for almost 35 years. He returned to his village in Fujian province in 2004. "They destroy everything." he said, "I will never go back there."

Why are all the Jamacians on this bus wearing small cowboy hats?

Is it strange that every white person on this bus has a tattoo?

It is the common view in the west that Muslim women who are strict in their dress, the women who wear black flowing robes, and a hijab with only a tiny slit for the eyes) feel trapped by their clothing... is it possible wearing the hajib feels makes one feel the way I did when I wore a ninja costume... stealthy? A person with secrets. There is a woman on this bus with only the tiniest opening for her eyes, she is covered head to toe and yet I swear I can feel her smiling underneath there.

This is the primary Qur'anic verse used explain the Islamic custom women's modest dress btw, "And say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their headcoverings (khimars) to cover their bosoms, and not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent, and not to strike their feet (on the ground) so as to make known what they hide of their adornments." There is also another verse about drawing their jalābib (long coat) close when they go out...

I love the strangeness of the world, but is baby octopus ever good breakfast food?

One of my favorite things to do on a bus is to look down into the windows of the cars as they pass. People relax in their cars. Their walls are down. You know that opening scene of "Wings of Desire"? I imagine it like that.

Is it impolite to change seats if the person next to you is quietly breaking wind?

Aaron Ruell

June 9, 2006

I've noticed the photography of Aaron Ruell before but I never never noted the photgrapher's name. Today I discovered his website.

Testing Testing 1 2 3

June 7, 2006

Update: I forgot to include the link that was the point of this post, a cool little Mac program called ASCII Projektor which turns your quicktime movies into ASCII. Info page here. (Direct Download)

ASCII days

June 7, 2006

There are different levels of geekdom. Back in the early 80's you were a geek if you spent all your free time logging onto BBSes, the precursor to the internet, you were geekier still if you ran a BBS, and an uber geek if you actually coded a BBS. Hardware geeks were in another class altogether. But the difference between geek society and the rest of the word is that the closer to code and machine you got, the cooler you were. So if you were someone like me, a low caste geek who simply hung out on BBSes you had the worst of both worlds because you were just normal enough for regular society to reject you but not nearly smart or obsessive enough to be a high llama geek.

Ironically these days, lots of people claim high school nerdiness. Partially this is because anyone with half a soul felt like an outcast in high school, partially it's because of nostalgia, but mainly it's because memories lie. Even the most popular people claim to have been outcasts. You want to know about geekiness circa 1981? Let me paint you a picture. You had an Apple ][ or a Vic Commodor and you would wait by the mailbox for the mailman to deliver a fresh copy of Byte or Nibble magazine. Once the magazine arrived, you would flip through it at high speed praying for some code. If you were like me you were always looking for an easy way to get that code into the machine as reading back and forth from the page would surely introduce mistakes. My brilliant idea, record the numbers and dictate to myself. I have tapes and tapes full of code. Here is one small fragment, a data table of numbers. Enjoy.

Snow Miser

June 5, 2006

My hatred of the heat is a well known and everybody hates heat plus humidity so why even mention it. By now I should have adapted. I was born in a hot place (although admittedly on the the coldest of days), I grew up in a miserably hot and humid place (although I constantly dreamt of snow), and I now reside in a place where heat and humidity are the norm from May to September and where apartments are often poorly cooled ovens.

My friends and family say hot months make me gloomy, that I act as if nature itself has betrayed me. I admit it, can't help it, and I can't fathom how life goes on in the truly sweltering places like Dehli or Baton Rouge. I visited Dehli once in August and each day in that broiling liquid soup they call air took years off my life. I would sleep covered with wet cloth under a fan and even so the only effect was that instead of being hot and sweaty I was now hot and wet, with sticky air being dragging round and around the room. Even the mosquitoes were too hot too fly, they would cling limply to the walls eventually sliding down to the ground.

Once when working on a movie scout I found myself backstage at Disneyworld. Why build an amusement park in a muggy swamp? Did Walt secretly hate kids? On the scout I would escape to an heavily air conditioned room used by the characters in what they called "breathing breaks". Inside those character suits, they are literally drenched in sweat. "Bad enough on a normal day, but when the temperature outside hits 103°F, it's murder. You could suffocate in there!" I practically screamed, "I would drop dead. Dead, dead dead." I announced this to a room to populated with several dwarves carrying their heads, a pig, Minnnie Mouse, Goofy, and a morose Tweedle-Dee . The room had gone silent. Minny helped Goofy push his head back to reveal a dripping red faced man, "We lost a Pluto last year in the dance routine; he fell backward and people thought it was part of the act.... but of course it wasn't..." he whispered. All the characters looked at each other. I thought I heard someone crying underneath the pig suit. I realized he an the others weren't getting all choked up so much because of Pluto, they were getting choked up because they were flirting death every day and they knew it.

Here in New York there is a small escape from the misery of summer: ice cream freezers. If you overheat while dragging yourself around the city, step into your nearest grocery store and find the ice cream freezer (the TV dinner section will do in a pinch). Open the door and bask in the cold. The cooling mist will envelope you and bring you down to near normal temperature. Even if you spend a very long time standing there with your eyes closed, most people will just ignore you. If a clerk asks you what you are doing, answer "thinking." This answer always throws them off, because it is irrefutably true and nobody want to interrupt a good thought... Anyway this is a long way of saying, if you see me this summer standing in front of freezer for a very long time, there's no need to worry, I'm just becoming human again.

Bulat Makaev and other discoveries

June 3, 2006

A random walk around the web led me this page of Chechen videos. The videos, if you can get a connection (I had quite a bit of trouble), are amazing. The site is rich and deep with pictures of everything from the crowds at a visiting circus to the contestants of the recent Miss Chechnya contest (the BBC noted "there was no swimsuit round"). The site features a a diary/blog noting things such as the opening of a movie theater in Achxoi-Martan ( "orphans will be admitted free") and a newspaper specifically for Chechen bailiffs. Look around, there is so much information to keep you occupied (Apparently clowns (zhukhargs) are no longer used in Chechen wedding ceremonies), so stop reading this and click over.


June 3, 2006

This funny little comic book titled "REAL HEAT" published by Chick arrived through my mail slot today (I was actually standing in the stairwell and watched a man in a hat quickly push it through and scurry off)... and it was something I haven't seen since I was growing up in Texas--a fire and brimstone anti-Catholic comic about burning in Hell. Reminds me of the good old days of Brookhollow Elementary School.

Coach Savoy: You son are going to hell."

Me: "What?"

Coach Savoy: "I can help you open up your heart and let me show you the way. Unless you and your people stop worshiping Mary and accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior you are doomed son. Doomed to eternal damnation. You will not pass go, you will not get out of jail free, you will rot forever in hell."

Me: "Um. I'm nine years old."

The other reason I hated Coach Savoy was that he had a thing against foursquare. We always had to play in secret. My favorite part was at the beginning when the person in control would lay down the rules, "No bobbles, no babys, no slams, no moonshots..."


June 3, 2006

I'll have a print or two in this installment of Jen Bekman's Hey Hot Shots show next week. The reception will be on the evening of Wednesday, June 7th from 6-8. Stop by please. Say hello.

On Saturday July 8th from 9-10AM I'll be at the great WFMU hosting the Listener Hour. If you miss the live show it will be archived on the net.

And on September 15th a one man show of my photography will be open at the Nelson Hancock Gallery in Dumbo. It will run for a little over a month.

Mark your calendars!

Motion Sensing and iSight Hacks on the Mac

June 1, 2006

If you own a late model Powerbook, or a Macbook, your machine has a motion sensor inside to shut off the hard drive in case of a tumble. Two hacks taking advantage of of the sensor in inventive ways have recently made the rounds of the Macosphere. Light Saber, turns your mac into a light saber, and SmackMac which ties into the excellent Mac virtual desktop utility Desktop Manager to allow you to smack your way through desktops. Both hacks are based on the work of Amit Singh a writer/programmer, who was the first person to publicize methods of using the sudden motion sensor creatively. These hacks led me on a search for other hacks which use the mac motion sensor. As of yet there are only a couple but I assume more are in the pipeline... (onscreen dice anyone?, how about a 'jiggle your dock icons with a bump' hack?)

Amit Singh's original proof of concepts:
Rotate D triggers screen orientation rotation.
HID Device turns the movement of the screen into an input device. Singh put up a nice page describing how to use HID Device to control games.
Tracker simply prints out the movement data.
Visualizer shows the orientation of your mac in 3D.
Stable Window is a cool little hack that puts up a window that tries to compensate for the rotation.

Erling Ellison's Smackbook Hack is described here (look in the comments for complied versions) (and as a sidenote, Ellison's blog is only 2 entries long and already looks promising... I haven't seen a good Mac Hack blog in a long time).
Smack Exposé and Bump Tunes both riff off SmackBook and are self explanatory.

Smack Exposé and Bump Tunes both riff off SmackBook and are self explanatory.

Dash Level is a dashboard widget that turns your mac into a level.

iAlertU is perhaps the most useful use of the motion sensor, it basically gives you a car alarm for your portable... if someone tries to move it, it goes off. Multialarm and Theft Sensor basically do the same thing.

MacSaber (your mac as a light saber in case you haven't downloaded it yet) can be found here. When my wife saw me giggling and playing with this, she stopped dead in her tracks, sputtered "Oh my god, you are such a nerd" and quickly left the room.

To turn your motion sensor off follow this hack.

All the googling for mac motion sensing led me to isight based motion sensing (ie motion sensor triggered video) which led me to iSight hacks.

Evocam has been around for a while and is still my favorite motion sensor video app. It's relatively cheap. I've yet to find a free alternative. With it you can produce motion sensor triggered video like this.

Motiondetect allows you to add motion detection effects to iMovie.

Miracle sight uses motion triggers to turn your mac into a magic mirror.

And speaking of magic mirrors, there are a number of iSight connected quartz composer hacks. The video basically goes through a filter and is output into quartz composition file. You can read these qtz files in Safari or use them as screensavers (just put them in Library/Screensaver) If you have a newer mac, you've seen this kind of effect in Photobooth (if you have an isight camera connected to your mac, click here to see a demo). The best of these can be found here:

Tatsuo Unemi's Crazy Mirror
Matthew Turk's Gravity Lens
& Sam Kass' Hack Page

Apple puts out a cool quick and dirty capture utility called Whacked TV. MulleSight is a similar small capture app and duhsoft creates a simple photo capture widget for the Dashboard.

EvoBarCode turns your iSight into a bar code reader and intergalactic allows you to capture images from the command line.

Finally if you are tired of video chatting in iChat you can check out Adobe's Flash based conferencing product Breeze (iChat is leagues better). I found it worked quite well with iSight.

And last but certainly not least is iGlasses which tweaks iSight's video output. This is most useful if you use iSight in dark rooms as it allows you to brighten up the image, change the contrast, etc.

That's quite a few... did I miss anything great?

ER tips

May 30, 2006

Many thanks to everyone who emailed. Sorry to have scared some of you. Jenn is still feeling lousy, but improving... Emergency Rooms are never fun, especially in New York, but all in all things went as well as can be expected. I'm always in awe of the doctors and nurses who work these jobs, I have no idea how they manage to sustain the energy and focus needed to deal with moment to moment stress of patients in crisis and worried family.

In case you ever find yourself having to rush someone to the hospital, here are a couple of things I learned today. Perhaps one will stick in the back of your mind somewhere in your time of need.

1. Grab some food (bananas are perfect) and a bottle of water. Often feeding patients is prohibited because of the meds being given, but often food is ok, and there is usually no nearby place to get food. Also you need to eat too.

2. If you have time put an extra pair of clothes the bag.

3. Bring something to read. Even in the most dramatic situations there will be hours of downtime with nothing to do.

4.Try to write down as much hard data as possible... Times of fevers/chills/temperatures. This way you can be precise when rapid-fire questions are being asked.

5. If the place isn't crazy busy, it's never hurts to ask for an extra blanket/pillow/water etc.

6. Be nice. Remember people's names. You wouldn't believe how many people I saw today being incredibly rude to the staff. The worst offenders were family/friends. A little niceness goes a long way. Remember there is always someone else in there with a more critical emergency.

7. If you are discharged but the doctors tell you to "come back if things turn for the worse again", get your doctor's name/number. This way you can won't find yourself trying to track down the numbers/names if the patient worsens. Also if you have to be admitted a second time it's a good idea to have the new doc talk with the old one.

8. It's probably not cool to ask the cops escorting in a very sick prisoner, "What was he in for?"

9. If your wife declares she is feeling much better it is best not to joke that if she were on TV medical drama this would be the point that she would flatline and someone could come in with palettes yelling "defib!"

10. Wash your hands when you leave.

When you know things

May 30, 2006

When your wife is in the emergency room, very sick, and very much in pain, and when the nurse can’t find a vein to draw blood and has to make repeated jabs with a long needle including one in between the knuckles, this is when, you as a husband, start to worry in earnest.

But then, between the grimaces, you see a smile flicker across your wife’s face, and when the nurse runs out to find another needle your wife turns and smiles and says, "I just had the thought, ‘maybe she can’t find the vein because I’ve been kissed by a vampire. My transmogrification has begun.’" This is when you know everything will be ok.


May 28, 2006

I've been enjoying a bit of Hemingway tonight... A few first paragraphs...

Trout Fishing in Europe, November 17, 1923
"Bill Jones went to visit a French financier who lives near Deauville and has a private trout stream. The financier was very fat. He stream was very thin."

A.D. in Africa: A Tanganyika Letter, April 1934
"To write this sort of thing you need a typewriter. To describe, to narrate, to make funny cracks you need a typewriter. To fake along, to stall, to make light reading, to write a good piece, you need luck, two or more drinks and a typewriter. Gentlemen, there is no typewriter."

On the Blue Water: A Gulf Stream Letter, April 1936
"Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter. You will meet them doing various things with resolve, but their interest rarely holds because after the other thing ordinary life is as flat as the taste of wine when the taste buds have been burned off your tongue. Wine, when your tongue has been burned clean with lye, feels like puddle water in your mouth, while mustard feels like axle-grease, and you can smell crisp, fried bacon, but when you taste it, there is only a feeling of crinkly lard."

Late Afternoon, Garze

May 27, 2006

Do you ever miss the light of a particular place? It was misty and humid today in New York City and I was missing the clear light of Garze where late every afternoon you get these great long shadows as the sun sets below the horizon.


May 25, 2006

Ummm. Why have military planes been circling in formation over Brooklyn all day long?

Delicious New York

May 25, 2006

Blog reader Kendra emailed today, "I'm coming to New York for a Memorial day weekend. Where should I eat? I'm looking for something a little bit offbeat. Asian maybe? Something we can't find here in Tulsa and not super expensive."

Well Kendra, the question is broad (so many options!), but here are a few suggestions that immediately popped into my head.

(in no particular order)

1. The Kuma Inn - 113 Ludlow Street, 2nd Floor. (212) 353-8866
Every time I eat at the Kuma Inn my dinner guests get a little wild eyed with glee. Everything at this Asian Tapas bar is absurdly yummy. The grilled items are especially drool-worthy. Cash only. Reservations recommended.

2. The Yemen Cafe - 176 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn
My own neighborhood is a bit of a restaurant wasteland with many places for passable eats, but few that really knock the ball out of the park. Enter the Yemen Cafe... the kabobs, the lentil soup, and the Yemeni salads are all just about perfect. I always bring out of town guests here and they always leave happy. Cash is king.

3. Pat Pong - Pat Pong, 93 East 7th (212) 505-6454
Thai-Hungarian? Sounds good-awful, but how wrong you are. Turns out kielbasa is just the thing certain Thai dishes need. Order the yum-nuea beef salad, of the scores of yum-nuea's I've had at Thai joints around the city this is one of the few contenders. another review here

4. The Good Fork - 391 Van Brunt Avenue, Brooklyn.
This one might be a bit difficult to find for an out of towner as it's in Red Hook which is subway inconvenient. I ate there my first time last week, but the place instantly went to the top of my list. The best description I've heard of the menu is "Korean inspired diner food." Don't know if that sounds appealing but everything on the menu is knock-you-out delicious. Make sure to order the dumplings. Menus available online.

5. Momofuku - 163 1st Ave (btw 10th & 11th)
I haven't eaten there yet, but Jenn has been raving about Momofuku, a newish Korean noodle bar.

6. Nha Trang- 87 Baxter St.
Vietnamese restaurants in New York have nothing on their counterparts in Houston or San Francisco, but I imagine they are better than anything you can find in Tulsa (do they even have Vietnamese restaurants in Tulsa?)... It's hard to go wrong at Nha Trang where I've rarely had anything less than super-tasty meals. And whatever you order make sure to wash it down with their home made limeade. So good.

Is 6 enough? I could go on, but go through this list first. If you need more suggestions just shout for more... (and fellow New Yorkers are welcome to add their own favs).

Eating Apples

May 24, 2006

Here is the thing nobody tells you about being a parent... well at least no one told me: One morning you will be up at the grim hour of 5:43AM and through a miasma of sleep you will see your smiling son pick up an apple with both hands and begin to eat it.

It is the detail of the hands that, in an instant, triggers a concentrated rush of memory. In a wink you are not some groggy 39 year old guy standing in his boxers in the middle of his kitchen watching his son eat an apple, you are a kid excited to be holding that sticky apple, turning it round and round with both hands as you nibble away the bitter skin to extract the sweetness inside. You are inside this moment and it conjures up an entire era you had long forgotten. The smell of your mother's kitchen. The brown carpets of the 70's. How you used to start eating apples standing up, but would eventually plop down cross-legged concentrating on the task at hand. Suddenly stingingly awake and awash in an extreme almost overwhelming empathy you feel very much alive. It is 5:46AM.

These leaps in time happen with discombobulating regularity and are always triggered by the tiniest things: our son waving his fingers against the fading light at bedtime just before he slips into a dream and the hand falls to the pillow, two kids on the playground crouched down over a fallen pigeon's egg, the collection of pine cones, or the way his mother holds his head comforting him when the world is not going his way. Each little flashback not only connects you to your kid reminding you to be a little more patient and a little less harried, it connects you to yourself, and that is the most surprising thing of all.

One Three Journal Project

May 23, 2006

Journal #1 is out the door and headed to Kilkenny, Ireland.
Journal #2 will be out the door tomorrow and will make it's first stop in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Journal #3 will be ready by weeks end. I think it will start it's journey in Portland, Oregon.

All 3 should will be wandering for about a year if everyone plays their part. Can't wait to see what happens.

Notes on Blogger vs Movable Type vs Wordpress

May 23, 2006

Warning geeky post. Most regular readers are excused.

For over a year now I've been meaning to switch the engine behind this blog from Blogger to Moveable Type. While Blogger is dead simple, it's development ground to a halt after the Google acquisition. Features now standard on other blogging systems like the ability to add a "previous" link to the bottom of a page, categories, and the ability to sort archives in ascending order are all MIA. Moveable Type pioneered many of these features and I am comfortable with the system as this is what I use to run my photoblog, but importing from Blogger is tricky especially if you want to preserve comments due to Blogger limitations.

I've been pretty happy with Moveable Type and it has steadily been improved over the years but I've noticed a falloff in 3rd party plug-ins and hacks recently... MT's sometimes hairy installation and confusing upgrade process are the system's main barriers to entry especially for non-techie users....but after everything is installed MT is fast and flexible. All this is a long way of saying I just haven't gotten around to switching because of the hassle involved.

Recently a friend recommended Wordpress, she had upgraded recently and had found it a smooth & easy process. I had tried Wordpress a few years ago and found it buggy, but recently I've been seeing lots of nice Wordpress based blogs so I decided to give it a spin. True to it's publicity I had Wordpress up and running in about 5 minutes. A few minutes later it was importing this blog and surprise surprise everything was imported correctly (the only issue was that it reverted a few customized settings in the original Blogger blog to their defaults after the import).

While the new version of the blog isn't up yet, I've been going back and forth between the systems all week. I'm biased by my familiarity with Blogger and MT, but here are some notes on the three systems for those of you thinking of switching, upgrading, or starting a new blog. All my notes are for people installing the blogs on their own webservers.

-Both MT and Wordpress store all your entries in a database on your own server. Blogger saves your entries on a google server but outputs the actual pages to your sever. MT has the option to generate static pages or the dynamically create pages. Wordpress can only generate pages dynamically. The advantage of the Blogger method is that even if your webserver dies completely, you can always republish the content elsewhere, the odds of Blogger/Google losing all your posts are small. If you server dies with Wordpress or MT and you aren't backed up offline you've lost everything. The disadvantage of the Blogger method is that if Google has a hiccup, you can't post to your blog.

-MT has the easiest and simplest export option (It has a one click option to output all your entries to a nicely formatted text file which can be easily imported later). Exporting with Blogger or Wordpress via a custom template is not difficult if you know what you are doing, but there are no easy presets for novices. There are a couple of WP plugins to create text files but all of them have issues. These are two of the best I've found: Script #1, Script #2

-Wordpress has the best import features hands down. It allows you to import blog entries from a number of systems and seems to do so flawlessly. Even comments are correctly handled. MT's allows you to import from a text file, but that file must be in the MT's format. Obviously it imports it's own export files perfectly, but I have yet to find a perfect solution for getting Wordpress or Blogger to output files that can be easily read by MT. The main issue is comments which always seem to get screwed up. Blogger doesn't have an import function-it simply doesn't exist. I once helped a friend write a little PHP script to email each of his WP entries to Blogger via Blogger's 'Mail-to-Blogger' function. It was a bit of a kludge but it worked, it would be easy enough to do this to get a MT database into Blogger as well. Comments would be lost.

-If you want to customize the mechanics of the blog, you have an extremely limited set of tags in Blogger and it's impossible to get under the hood and add a missing function like yearly archives [blogger's tags]. There is no plugin mechanism. Given Blogger's lack of development (there have been no major functional upgrades in almost 2 years) you're pretty much stuck. Moveable Type and Wordpress both have richer tag sets [MT Tags, WP tags]. Both are also highly customizable via plugins. In MT perl is the preferred plugin language, in Wordpress it's php. Both allow you to use php in page templates. The big difference at least to the user is that MT plugs are accessed through easy to read tags. Wordpress modifications are php code and are accessed by bits of php code which can be difficult to read. Another drawback of php as used in Wordpress with dynamically generated pages is that a small typo can make the entire blog simply disappear until the error is fixed. Even the admin interface can vanish. Because MT can generate static files, your blog will still exist if you make an error, you just can't post new content. Another Wordpress issue: on some servers you will need to fiddle with htaccess files to creating google friendly permalinks.

-You can style pages in all 3 systems using CSS. Blogger basically only has a single template which it uses for everything. MT and WP both allow you to style archive pages and individual pages as much as you wish.

- All three systems now have good standards compliant templates to choose from. On the web countless scores alternate templates are available... good, bad, and horrible. Design-wise I like the Blogger default templates best although all of them are overused. Moveable Type and Wordpress default templates are more functional with the crucial additions of both search and categories.

-The biggest difference between systems to the reader of your blog will probably be speed. Perhaps because both Blogger and MT generate static pages, those pages load much faster than the same pages generated by Wordpress. But it's not just the pages that are slower, it's also the admin interface and the speed with which the blog updates (If you set MT to dynamically generate pages it is still much faster than Wordpress on the same server with the same content). In my case Wordpress pages often took several seconds to load while MT/Blogger pages were almost instant. There are sites devoted to Wordpress speed tweaks that do improve things. The biggest improvements came when I installed a caching plugin.

-Perhaps I am just being dense, but I found the Wordpress archive schema difficult to wrap my head around and spent way too long massaging urls so that they appeared the way I wanted (I want urls for the new blog to match those of the old so that people's links don't break). I've had no problems in MT making the archives conform to my wishes. Blogger's archives aren't super-customizable but a simple admin interface provides several easy archiving options.

-Two Wordpress selling points of note 1) it is open source so if you're a gearhead you can tinker endlessly and 2) it supports Widgets-small modules you can add to your sidebar and move around with ease.

-Both Blogger and MT play well with google. For reasons I don't fully understand wordpress pages are googled less well, especially interior and archive pages. To test this I set up 3 blogs using default templates on the same server containing sentences with unique nonsense words and linked to them externally. Two weeks later I googled. Items on all 3 index pages were googled (MT first, Blogger second, WP third). Searching for words in archive pages, the WP results where missing completely.

-Wordpress is much better at dealing with comment spam in the default configuration. MT can be brought up to speed with plugins (the Askimet plugin ported from wordpress is particularly effective. Blogger's spam controls are invisible to the user and uncustomizable, but I have to admit they generally work fairly well blocking most SPAM before it arrives. All systems allow for moderated comments.

So what are my conclusions:

I recommend Blogger to most people who lack coding or designing experience. It's easy, it works, and it's hard to break.

I recommend Wordpress to those of you who like to tinker, especially if you are into php. My issues: difficult to read code, confusing archiving, and lack of text export are all offset by Wordpress' almost infinite customizability and it's active community. I was tempted by the huge number of user plugins and easy to use widgets but ultimately I was looking for a balance between control and simplicity.

My choice was the one I started with, Moveable Type. Movable Type is perfect for people who don't care to fiddle around under the hood as long things work reliably. Installation is the only real issue. Otherwise I like the clean code, the speed, the power, and the easy archiving. I have found plugins to work around most of MT's limitations. And I came up with a solution on how to get my Blogger posts & comments imported-- first I import from Blogger to Wordpress which grabs the comments correctly and then I export to MT via a plugin. Now if I could just stop comparing the systems and actually do the work of putting up the new blog.

In Between Days

May 21, 2006

This afternoon Jenn and I were able to sneak out and catch a screening of In Between Days at BAM by director So Yong Kim. From the reviews I had expected a film delving deep into Korean-American culture but I think the reviewers didn't really get it... it wasn't a film about immigrants— it was a film about teenagers... The cultural notes helped define the characters but were ultimately peripheral. Like most good films about teenagers it is about teenagers who are in love, who can't say what they feel, and who keep hurting each other. It’s a quiet story told mainly in close-up picking up small and telling glances where the spaces between words are more important than the words themselves. The film is directed with a sure hand and the director managed to coax utterly realistic and emotionally hard-hitting performances from a cast of untrained but talented actors.

My wife missed the lack of establishing shots or wide shots and said the movie sometimes felt claustrophobic. She was also sometimes confused as to where she was in the story, this is a criticism she often has of female directors who she notes always seem to go for the gut with lots of close-ups. I was only slightly bothered by this although it’s a fair criticism. Most people have been conditioned to read films in a certain way... They need breathing room. This film would often track directly from one moment to another hours or days later without any of the standard transitions... I read this as poetic mindscreen... This is the way we remember things: Someone breaks up with you. That person calls. You are eating together. In your memory the moments run together without any in-between bits. Onscreen the result has an emotional intensity to it. The only breaks in the movie were sequences I read as dream sequences.... Voiced-over letters to an absent father read or whispered by the main character Aimie over grainy shots of empty landscapes. I thought this was lovely. Worked for me.

The film was shot on digital often with little light and it looked amazing-beautifully bleak. HD opens up realms almost impossible to shoot on film and especially with such a small crew. The sound design was also flawless with ambient noise calibrated to precisely play against the character’s emotions. The director spoke afterward and noted the crew size was often limited by the number of people who could fit in a single car—6. The crew was sleeping in the apartment being used as a set. The girl's room in the movie was the room she was sleeping in. Morning shots were morning shots and so on. Sort of a dogma film without the dogma. As someone who worked on movies where the crews generally numbered in the 100’s with endless layers of bureaucracy, personal filmmaking this with this level of finish and style is inspiring.

I don’t believe In Between Days has distribution yet, but by all rights it should. Look for it at festivals and later on DVD.


May 20, 2006

Snippets of recent IMs and recent conversations:

MH: here's a general question for you, an early adopter:
what do i not have that i should look into aside from a cost effective sound and video server for the whole house

RG: ?

MH: Think about it.

RG: Umm. Photo printer?

MH: mmm - i can print photo's on my printer, but don't know if it is good enough. I think the answer is: (dramtic pause) survival kits, a fail-safe exit route, rally points, ingot stashes, and property in wyoming or panama to retreat to when the apocalypse hits

RG: your problem would be getting out... in LA there aren't so many options and if the shit was really going down it would be hard to get out

MH: already have that covered, my friend

and so on
RG: You know how I wasn't supposed to be cutting the baby's hair... well I've been cutting it... just little trims here and there and you haven't noticed...

Jenn: You've been cutting his hair behind my back!

RG: Just around the edges where's it's in danger of mulleting out.

Jenn:So why are you telling me this?

RG: Well... I slipped with the clippers... he moved his head, and well, now it pretty much looks like he's prepared for a lobotomy. But you know, it will grow back fast...and he has lots of hats. He looks great in hats.


and so on
RG: My problem is that I don't have a graduated sense of the world. I either love something or I hate it, it's binary. Cheese-Makes me want to die. Cats-Grr. Hate is too poor a word. White brick buildings make me want to throw myself in the East River.

TR: Aren't you being a little dramatic. Are you saying you have a strong opinion on everything. How about... graph paper.

RG: I LOVE graph paper!

TR:The Manhattan bridge.

RG: Bleah. Hate it. Functional and uninspired.

TR: So there's nothing that you say, "well that was just ok."

RG: You're not understanding... it's not like an opinion with me it just is. White or black.

TR: That's incredibly obnoxious.

RG: I know. I hate this about myself.

and so on

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