All entries for Saturday 11 March 2006

March 11, 2006

Mr Blue Sky

Blue skies, Summer 2005

(Click for larger image)

I'm a sucker for sky photos. Digital cameras have been a boon for me because I think I'd feel vaguely guilty about spending film and money just pointing up and clicking speculatively. But now any time there's some interesting light or some nice clouds I grab a few frames and then play with them on the PC later to see if they can be cropped and tweaked into a nice composition.

It's mildly interesting to me to realise that the artistic process, if indeed there is one, for these sorts of images happens entirely on the computer; I make almost no attempt to compose or frame these images at the time I take them, and I rarely have any sense of whether there's a nice image waiting to be pulled out until I get them on to the PC screen.

But I really enjoy experimenting with cropping and tweaking levels to see what can be pulled out; it's the easiest and most forgiving of subjects to play with on the computer, I think, because there's no real subject in the traditional, portraiture sense, and without people or other real-life objects in the scene, it's easy to play with colours and saturation to see what you can get without ending up with something that's obviously "wrong".

Video Literacy

Writing about web page

So the video of the iPod packaging being redesigned in Microsoft style has been all over the web recently, and deservedly so – it's hilarious.

But Michael Feldstein offers an additional insight about it; it's a stellar example of a good answer to the question "When or why does video enhance learning?" You could imagine somebody writing an essay about the differences between Microsoft's branding compared with Apple's, and the core concepts would probably be communicated to the reader satisfactorily. But not in anything like the same way that the video shows it.

Video is a fantastic medium for expressing temporal progression. And interestingly, the narrative is constructive rather than deconstructive in nature. Academic writing tends to encourage students to take things apart but doesn’t show them how to put them back together again. The creator of this video, in contrast, had to dissect the differences between Apple’s and Microsoft’s marketing and then wrap the Microsoft marketing mindset around an existing Apple product.

Birmingham burblings

So in the temporary absence of my family I made what for me is now a relatively unusual excursion and caught the train into Birmingham for a wander around the shops. Not doing this very often has the side effect that ordinary things seem, to me, new and strange:-

  • Every shop that sold mens' clothes had in its window a dummy wearing a suit jacket with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. I dimly recall that there's to be a new movie of Miami Vice this summer; could it really be true that pastel linens with rolled up sleeves are finally back?

  • Armani and Muji now both sell iPod cases; this must just be the best third-party product environment ever in the history of the world.

  • Last summer I ripped a large hole in the back of a favourite pair of trousers in a hilarious helter skelter accident. The rip was clearly too big to be invisibly mended, but I liked the trousers enough to have them repaired anyway, with visible stitching round the hole, and resigned myself to downgrading them to gardening or DIY wear. I see now that I was wrong to do so, since the shops were chock full of trousers which had been deliberately ripped and then sewn back up, and cost more for the privilege. My helter skelter accident, it seems, was in fact a fashion victory.

  • The Mailbox shopping mall doesn't feel like it's doing well, with lots of boarded up windows and a largely deserted main strip. DKNY is the latest big retailer to have quit.

  • Eight year olds now avoid the tedium and indignity of shopping with their parents by keeping their mobiles clamped firmly to their heads at all times.

  • French Connection seem finally to have given up on that awful FCUK campaign, raising the possibility of people who aren't dribbling idiots wearing their clothes once more.

  • Wandering round a big bookshop seeing what catches your eye is still a better, more serendipitous experience than browsing Amazon.

  • To the student with the snowboard, the laptop and the extraordinarily heavy suitcase: I hope you had a good journey home. Maybe next term you might not need to bring all the breezeblocks back with you. :-)

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