Updates for the new semester

February 6, 2008 at 1:34 am | Posted in flickr, geeky, life, travel | Leave a comment
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The “I’ll blog this” moment has been coming up quite a bit lately; if only it were remotely matched in frequency by the “I’ll sit down and write” moments. Too bad those are usually displaced by “I’ll sleep and do my homework in the morning” moments, followed by “shit I woke up later than I expected, and the sun is setting” moments.

Enough of that. The latest news, at least for the moment:

Finals ended. Backcountry skiing/winter hiking in White Mountains for a week. Outdoors, no computers, cold, fresh, sublime. Many blog-worthy thoughts. No amount of actual writing accomplished. Which leads me to…

Flickr photos have been updated, for the first time in years. Mostly mountains, a lot of rocks and snow, and a few fleeting glimpses of a beautiful European summer.

Obsession with webcomics continues. Besides my daily dose of computer-science-in-joke-riddled sentimentality (xkcd), I’ve been reading a new favorite (Questionable Content). Fewer stick figures, less philosophising. More jokes about sex.

Roommate blog back up, now under a new name. Mostly obscure in-jokes, with a smattering of strange insights and some ridiculous poetry. Most of it written by our freshman selves.

That’s it for the moment. Check out my del.icio.us links on the sidebar for more distractions.

Of Pictures and Muffins

January 19, 2007 at 10:33 pm | Posted in artsy, flickr | 2 Comments

Surreal Vancouver

High Dynamic Range photography, or HDR, is a technique of digitally combining several different exposures of the same scene to increase the color contrast of a photo, sometimes to very realistic, or indeed, surrealistic effect. Here are some choice examples taken by photographer Trey Ratcliff on his blog at Stuck in Customs. (His flickr page is also worth checking out.) He seems to have devoted his time to traveling to the world’s metropolitan areas and photographing these intense and expressionistic urban landscapes.

The photos are striking, somewhat of an exercise in time compression, as if an indeterminate stretch of time has been compressed into one saturated frame — interestingly, this is almost precisely what the technique does. These pictures are technically flawless, completely free of the the frequent blurs or post-processing artifacts in amateurish HDR photography. The cityscapes take on a sort of engraved luminescence, with deep, rich dark troughs of alleyways and the geometric forms of buildings glowing from within like polished crystal. The above isn’t such a good example, but see this one of downtown Seoul, as well as the aptly named Veins of Bangkok.

I find it hard to look at these pictures without a sense of burden, a post-modern gloom, if you will. There’s a commentary to be had somewhere in them. To me, they perfectly convey the machined polish and ultra-saturation that pervades the experience of living in any of the cities pictured. HDR contrast ratios are intended to more fully mimic the breadth of hues that human eyes experience in normal sight, but the result is distinctly unreal. Some of the scenes look pretty much like they were computer-rendered. This reminds me of the (admittedly unrelated) “Uncanny Valley” in robotics, where a lurking sense of disquietude accompanies the sight of a machine closely resembling humans.

When you feel this way about life, there’s only one place to turn: films about muffins.

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