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Links With Your Coffee - Sunday

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  • If Only Arizona Were the Real Problem.

  • Richard Dawkins' Watchmaker Still has the Power to Open Our Eyes
    If this book consisted only of bright ideas and beautiful language, however, we wouldn't be reading it now. It endures in print because it must be one of the best books ever to address, patiently and persuasively, the questions that has baffled bishops and disconcerted dissenters alike: how did nature achieve its astonishing complexity and variety?

    Dawkins dismisses the "what use is half an eye?" question with such grace and assuredness that I cannot understand why it is still being asked, in various forms. He addresses all those issues of improbability (how did self-replicating molecules emerge, how did life begin, why did it begin on Earth and apparently only on Earth?) not by answering the questions but by patiently explaining what improbability really means, given a starting point of energy and organic chemistry, on a timescale of billions of years and with 100 trillion planets to choose from.

    The point of every chapter – every page in fact – is to convince the reader that what we see now, buzzing, flapping or scuttling around us everywhere, is the consequence of the operation of natural selection upon random mutations over an immense period of time. To understand this is not to explain how life started, or why the first fish crawled on to dry land, or why birds learned to swim under water, or why humans have enough intelligence to ask questions about an unknowable prehistory. To understand this is to realise that, whatever the puzzle set by the appearance of design in living things, it is most easily explicable in terms of Darwin's huge, all-embracing idea, and the enormous time available since the first organisms began to drift on the warm pre-Cambrian tides.


  • How to Win Friends and Crush Your Enemies Into Dust(tip to Patrick)

  • Honey Sweet Plum Trees

    And here is a link to a portion of the book I'm currently reading that gives some history on this problem.


  • Homeopath Dana Ullman is an idiot (in my humble opinion)

  • Bill Maher = Extremist Muslims

  • Why I Hate 3D (And You Should Too)

  • Do Libertarians Have a Sense of Humor



 

Comments

Love Ebert, but I disagree with his two main points. I like 3D, and I hated Avatar.

Who's to say 3D cannot get serious when it's past its gimmick stage? I wonder what people said about color, or even about the TV, when they came out. It does open another dimension to cinematography. Filmmakers can do whatever they want with it.

He's right that 3D cannot replace a good story, of course, but they're not necessarily mutually exclusive. I wouldn't put Avatar as an example (did I say I hated it already?), but he did. I don't know what he meant by that, perhaps the "exception that proves the rule"? I never understood that phrase.

And Hollywood has always been 95% commercial crap. Same as everything else. I don't know how 3D can make it worse.

I don't know what he meant by that, perhaps the "exception that proves the rule"? I never understood that phrase.

Here is a quick explanation of this often misused and misunderstood phrase.

Who's to say 3D cannot get serious when it's past its gimmick stage?

Do let me know when that happens. But I'm not holding my breath.

Personally, I see 3-D as just another tool in the creative toolbox. Just as I see 35mm, Red Cameras, DSLRs, IMAX, 16mm, Super 8mm and all the other formats as tools. Though, some of the formats are way beyond any budget I've ever been able to attain. Choosing a format is a similar process to choosing which lens to use on a shot. Which conveys the message and emotion properly?

It's the same with audio. Few films really need and/or fully utilize surround sound yet most claim they do so they can have the cool Dolby logo on their DVDs and posters. In a film world where certain types of films are in almost direct competition with videogames they must be more immersive and that is where the 3-D realm is helpful. So far, serious dramas are not in jeopardy of being overtaken by the videogame crowd, but who knows in the next decade what technology will allow.

The MaxiVision48 format he so lavishly praises will never happen for many reasons (It's existed over a decade and has yet to be implemented).

I agree that Avatar was a steaming pile of poo (but I also thought Titanic was so I guess I don't have my finger on the pulse of mainstream moviegoers). BUt take a film like The Wrestler (shot on 16mm) and would it have been as good in HD or 35mm? In many ways yes, but aesthetically it would have lacked the gritty, raw and slightly claustrophobic feel. Same as Rachel Getting Married which was shot on a low-end video format. On the flip side, a big spectacle film like the upcoming Tron could be greatly enhanced by a well done 3-D image.

My main point is that a good artist will use the best medium to convey their message. And the best business people will exploit the newest fad to make a few extra dollars. It's the moviegoer's responsibility to discern between the two which is rarely very hard.

Oh god don't get me started on Titanic...

I agree with you. Good that you mention DSLR's. I have been doing photography for a while (started with a Canon 20D and then I got a Canon 5D original), and hung out at some forums including DPReview for years. I think photographers in general must be one of the most entitled, arrogant, and most of all self-overrated bunch of folks. Most think they're doing great art when even the greatest (let's be honest) won't be as great as the greats of other forms of art like music or even filmmaking. I got much more useful and accurate information from engineers who were hobby photographers than from "pro" photographers themselves, who usually are the ones engineers fight against even when discussing optics and electronics.

Anyway, I rant and digress.

These same photographers were the ones so horrified when the 5D Mark II came out with HD video capability! What have they done! We are PHOTOGRAPHERS! Blah blah.

I personally don't see myself using the video on a DSLR but it could be useful sometimes for a few nice short clips or whatever. The fact that I don't like it doesn't make me complain about this awesome camera having the option. If I was offered a cheaper non-video 5D Mark II would I buy it? Maybe, if the price was right.

But see now, many people are taking this horrible, evil, photo camera and doing fine videos, movies and even TV shows with it (I think one of the next House eps will be filmed completely with 5Ds). This 3D business smells a lot like that. Use it if you want to use it. I don't see it overtaking by force everything that's Hollywood.

But anyway. Speaking of cinema technologies that could improve movies, I've never seen a 48 frames-per-second cinema movie, but I wonder if the difference might be the same as watching a 24fps movie and a 60fps video, which can easily be compared at home, even on HD. In any case, the technology I'd most root for, for "upgrading" cinema, would be the most brute-force of all: IMAX. Make it bigger, make it sharper. That's what cinema has always been about, as opposed to home theater, methinks.

Actually, my biggest problem with the new gen of DSLRs is that photographers are now thinking they're filmmakers and vice versa. Now that I own a 1D many photographers I've collaborated with see me as competition even though I've got little interest in still photography.

As for your final comment about IMAX - check out the new crop of Red Cameras hopefully being released this year. NOt quite IMAX size yet but getting close.

I don't know exactly how it works in motion pictures, but in digital photography there's a certain size where a bigger sensor doesn't yield much advantage. For instance, with medium format photo cameras, you have a bigger sensor which will gather more light, but the lenses' f-ratios are more limited than on 35mm.

So, you can achieve pretty much the same picture quality (all other things being equivalent or equal) with a 50mm f/1.4 lens on a 35mm DSLR as you could with about a 90mm f/2.8 on medium format. I don't think there are many medium format lenses faster than f/2.8 because of size and cost constraints.

I think this will still hold true until we've reached a true megapixel limit.

So my point is that maybe for digital, IMAX-sized sensors are not needed to achieve the same quality, provided that lenses can be made for the smaller format that are faster enough to compensate for the lesser light-gathering of the smaller sensor. It would also yield the same depth-of-field effects that one can get with IMAX.

3-D does nothing for me. I don't even notice it most of the time. Someone has told me that they read that there is a small percentage of people who's brain/eyes don't process the 3-D correctly. Maybe I'm one of them. I think that because I'm a gaming addict that my brain is already accustom to translating 2-D into 3-D and as such never really need the help of a 3-D technology. Either way the 3-D sucks in Avatar. There's no dynamic use of the technology. Nothing projects out into the audience. Everything just goes deeper into the screen or feels like it's just barley coming off the screen. I remember seeing Captain E-0 in 3-D in Disneyland in my youth. Shit flew at you off the screen. With today's 3-D everything seems trapped in the screen.

3-D is a gimmick and nothing else.

you fuddy duddy

Ticket prices made me sour.

And to beat a dead horse...

How does anyone think that consumers are going to invest in another tech after everyone went into the red to buy HD DVD, TV's? Let alone a tech that can give you the same punch as smoking a bowl before watching it.

I have one word for you - holograms.

And yet, people pay premium prices for anything Apple without question? My point is not that Apple products are crappy, but that consumers will be consumers. I don't think 3D is going to be the death of 2D and nobody is even advocating that.

The HD-DVD example is a bit off. First of all, the HD-DVD thing was a competition between equivalent formats, pretty much the same as VHS vs. Betamax. And don't get me started as to why HD-DVD was vastly superior than Bluray, for the consumer at least. If that's the analogy, then the people who are clinging to lesser quality media like DVD or (ugh) streaming are analogous to the people who "cling" to traditional, 35 mm 24 fps 2D, and the Bluray (high definition) people are like the ones who want improvement in quality, like IMAX (which is probably the best analogy) or 48 fps movies. I think 3D is something else altogether.

And HDTV is a pretty great leap forward... finally you can get near-cinema quality at home. It's a godsend for me. (Properly mastered) HD movies are anything but a gimmick.

"HD DVD, TV"

I meant people who have bought HD TV's too.

Consumers with tech envy will still buy 'next gen' stuff, no argument there. But the bulk of people won't upgrade their equipment for 3-D.

I was in Best Buy yesterday and they tell me that you will have to even have the right type of HDMI technology in your receiver to pass through a 3-D signal. Average consumers are not going to replace that much gear to have a 3-D system.

I had the chance to look at non-glasses 3-D in Japan a few months ago... it's like looking at one of 3-D art posters... you'll have to 'train your eye' to keep the effect going.

Unless 3-D is integrated in a fluid way with average consumer replacement/upgrades at the same cost as HD devices, it will fail.

Maher also had a pretty good discussion about the Arizona law and immigration in general on Friday's ep. I'll see if I can find video of it.

Please do.

Guess I'm gonna have to upload it myself.

I wonder if anyone has studied what might be causing the plant viruses. I mean, plums and papayas have been with us for centuries, but it's only recently that they have been affected by viruses. It's nice, I guess, that genetic engineering has saved these crops, but are we going to have to keep genetically engineering all our crops because of more and more plant viruses? Could it be some other human activity that is causing this sudden emergence of plant viruses? I mean, maybe an ounce of prevention is worth several pounds of genetic engineering.

Good questions. At the moment nobody has the answers. Since I waited tables through college, I'm familiar with grape fungus stories (wine conversations). There were problems in Europe and the solution was to import grapes from South America, which were, by the way, descendants of the European grapes. The South American grapes were healthy and resistant to the fungus.

To some degree it could just be aging of the plants. It could be that we need to rotate fields of plum trees by growing a new stock (from seeds or cuttings) while an existing grove bears fruit. When the new field bears fruit, chop down the old for wood products. It's just a guess, and duh, I'm no scientist, but I do know that even perennials give out after a number of years, so why wouldn't food bearing plants have issues after a hundred years or so?

This is what I get for responding to your question before reading the article - not that your points and even mine aren't valid, just that my response was skewed.

If a disease is passed via insects, life is tougher than just planting new strains (although that is part of the deal, as described in the article with the GM Honeysweet). If global warning is an issue - as with the (rocky) mountain pine beetle - then there aren't too many options, other than quarantining flora and planting further north.

For farmers, the best bet is planting native plants and those suitable for your climate; this keeps the kid-glove treatment of crops to a minimum. The other planting aspect is to avoid mono-culture farming. Make sure you allow in good local insects (the favorite is the ladybug, but even that bug has its problems) to keep pests under control.

Other than that, hybridization through old means and Bt are pretty much how problems will be solved.

The plum virus was first identified in Europe in the early 1900s

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