Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Heavenly limerick

Saturday, 9 September, 2017

There once was a lady so bold,
Who was sure all that glitters is gold.
It all makes me wonder
If it is a blunder
That a stairway to heaven is sold.

Bohemian Limerick

Saturday, 9 September, 2017

There once was a man in a fantasy,‬
‪Or wait, was it actually reality?‬
‪Put a gun to a head,‬
‪And killed a man dead.‬
‪Said, “Nothing really matters to me.”‬

Black-crowned night heron

Wednesday, 9 August, 2017

I really should go through all my old travel photos and specifically look for photos of birds that I never identified. I just found another species of bird that wasn’t in my list of photographed species, lurking in some old photos from my 2011 trip to South America.

This is a black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax).

Black-crowned night heron

Line and Length

Monday, 24 April, 2017

Some years ago a friend recommended to me the band The Duckworth Lewis Method, and their self-titled album. He described it as a “cricket concept album”, which made sense, as it was named after what has become the most common rule governing run targets in rain-affected one-day cricket matches. I bought the album, and I enjoyed it – it’s a folky mix of songs about cricket, with lyrics full of cricket jargon and a very tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.

Anyway, yesterday I was browsing around on iTunes, and I tried entering “Duckworth Lewis Method”, and I discovered they’d released a second album – back in 2013 – called Sticky Wickets. Since I liked the first album so much, I decided to buy it.

I was listening to the album for the first time, and the 8th track began, a song called Line and Length. As I listened to the lyrics, an odd feeling of recognition came over me. The lyrics seemed to be using the definitions of the cricket jargon terms “line” and “length” from Wikipedia.

The line of a delivery is the direction of its trajectory measured in the horizontal axis.
The length of a delivery is how far down the pitch towards the batsman the ball bounces.

Then I realised why the words sounded so familiar. I checked the edit history of the Wikipedia article.

I had created that article, on 5 November 2005. I had written those lines. Here’s the exact edit where I added those lines.

Holy cow. I wrote the lyrics to a song by The Duckworth Lewis Method.

Irregular Webcomic Kickstarter post-mortem

Saturday, 4 March, 2017

In April 2016 I ran my first Kickstarter, for a print collection of Irregular Webcomic! Fantasy comics. This Kickstarter funded successfully, and several hundred backers had their copies of the book delivered in time for Christmas last year! I also had a few extra copies printed, and you can buy them right now from TopatoCo, here.

Here is a post-mortem analysis of the financials of running this Kickstarter campaign, for general edification and posterity. All amounts are in Australian dollars (AUD) unless indicated (converted from US dollars at the exchange rate on the date of transaction, if applicable).

First, the good news! Here’s how much income I made from the Kickstarter! Wowee!

Kickstarter income
Kickstarter pledges $23935.39
Dropped pledges (backer didn’t pay) -$255.00
Refunds -$160.00
Subtotal $23520.39
Kickstarter fee (5% of subtotal) -$1176.02
Kickstarter payment processing fees -$802.22
Total transfer to me from Kickstarter $21542.15

Now some mildly bad news: Here are the expenses I incurred in putting the book together, advertising the Kickstarter, mailing out original artwork as rewards for higher tier backers, and other miscellaneous things.

Read more: analysis of expenses and grand total profit/loss

Explaining Fred Basset

Saturday, 10 December, 2016

My work gets daily newspaper deliveries, and at afternoon tea break some of us like to flip to the puzzles page to try to solve today’s Target (a nine-letter word polygon puzzle). On the facing page is the comics section, which contains a typical selection of daily newspaper comics: Calvin and Hobbes, Hagar the Horrible, Garfield, Snake, Phantom, and… the venerable Fred Basset. Some of these comics are occasionally funny (well, except Phantom, which is a serialised drama) – except Fred Basset. It’s just an endless stream of what look like attempts to make a gag, but which consistently fail to deliver any sort of punchline.

So we started discussing making a blog to explain why each Fred Basset strip is actually hilariously funny, even if you, the average naive reader, don’t realise it. We’ve been discussing this for a while, and given the most recent strip, I finally decided to give it a go. So here goes:

Fred Basset 2016-12-09

This is a typical Fred Basset strip. Seemingly nothing funny, or even slightly amusing on the surface. It in fact looks like a tired retread of a “joke” that Garfield has been perpetrating for decades: animal is lazy. Ha ha.

But no, to reach this conclusion and go no further is to miss the tragic underpinning of true comedy embodied by this simple set of three panels. The titular Fred is old. He’s been doing this routine of getting up out of his comfortable bed every day for … more years than a simple dog can count. His mortality weighs heavily on his weary bones, and in his heart he knows his days are numbered.

Today, he is lucky enough to get up out of this bed once again. But Fred knows there is a good chance that this is the last day he will ever get up. The first panel is the slowly dawning realisation that he is still on this mortal coil – a realisation made thus slow by his fading mental capacities. It takes a full beat panel in the middle for him to come to terms with the fact that his eternal rest will require at least one more day of struggle against the inanities of his life, in a middle class London home with a similarly ageing couple of humans who never do anything to make his life more interesting or amusing.

In the final panel we get the double whammy of the punchline. “But not quite running!” As if Fred, with his arthritic legs and reduced lung capacity, could run anywhere any more. The fading memory of running brings to mind young days as a puppy spent frolicking in sunny fields of a never-ending summer – yet we all know that summer ends, and with it comes autumn, and twilight. Winter is coming, Fred, and you know it.

As his front paw touches that cold, hard, unfeeling linoleum floor, he feels the chill enter his body and penetrate to his osteoporotic bones. Running! Ha!

Yes, Fred, not quite… not quite. And therein lies the true humour. Dark, enfolding its ever-reaching, cold, black tendrils around the amusement centres of your soul. A creeping mist that reminds you of your own impending doom, but then laughs it off as the mere follies of a dog with human thoughts. And so we laugh, for there is little else we can do, and go about our business.

Photo stories: Odori Park drummers

Saturday, 27 June, 2015

I recently went on a business trip to Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan. I was attending the ISO standards meeting for Technical Committee 42, Photography. Sapporo is a lovely city – it has the cleanliness and efficiency of Tokyo, without the overwhelming crush of people. And everywhere people are friendly and willing to help you as a non-Japanese speaker.

In the centre of the city is Odori Park, a long-thin block-wide park which runs east-west for a dozen or so city blocks. I was staying very near the park, and in my spare time it was the obvious place to go to enjoy the ambience of the city. The park was full of people… simply enjoying the cool early summer. There were many people just having picnics, sitting on the grass and chatting, or playing frisbee, skateboarding, enjoying ice cream cones, or playing music.

Sapporo drummers

I spotted this group of three people simply sitting on a bench and playing drums, looking like they were having a fantastic time. They played for several minutes as I wandered around, and I kept being drawn back to them to listen and absorb their evident joie de vivre. I walked off, intending to leave the area, but was suddenly struck and inspired to go back and ask them if I could take a photo.

They were still drumming, and I held up my camera and smiled at them, gesturing what I wanted to do. They smiled back and nodded at me. I stepped in close and took this picture. I showed it to them on the back of the camera, and they laughed appreciatively, never stopping their drumming the whole time. I said, “arigato gozaimasu”, and continued on my way.

Photo stories: In Step

Wednesday, 22 April, 2015

In 2009 I went on a holiday to England and Wales with my wife. We hired a car from Heathrow Airport, and began our trip by driving directly away from London. The plan was to do a loop through Cornwall, up to Wales, then across and down to London via the Cotswolds. We hadn’t booked any accommodation in advance except for after we got to London, and we spent two weeks driving to wherever took our fancy and finding a place to stay for the night.

In step

After several days we ended up in Shrewsbury, just on the English side of the border with Wales. It’s a lovely city, with the famous Shrewsbury Abbey just across the river and outside the walls of the old medieval city. We liked it so much we stayed thee two nights, giving us time to spend an entire day walking around and absorbing the architecture and atmosphere. The weather was intermittently drizzly, and at one point in the early afternoon the rain got quite heavy. We took refuge in a cafe which served gelato, and spent half an hour or so sitting and eating the sweet treat.

While sitting, I watched the people walking past outside. As this couple waked by, sharing an umbrella, I grabbed my camera and took this candid shot. I have no idea who these people are, but this is one of my favourite photos from that trip, as I feel it captures something about the couple, and the way they quietly work together to withstand the British drizzle. Whoever these two are, I hope they are still happy together.

Photo stories: Piazza San Marco

Wednesday, 15 April, 2015

I took this photo in Venice, on my first trip to Italy in 2001.

Piazza San Marco

Venice is an amazing place. Sure, it’s hyped up, but for me it lived up to the hype and then some. It is pedestrian-oriented and there is something amazing and interesting around every corner of the maze-like warren of streets and canals. It buzzes with activity, but even though many of the people you see are tourists, there is a definite local atmosphere if you just head a few steps off the main tourist strips. Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) is of course as far on the tourist strip as it’s possible to get, but this also makes it a colourful and fascinating place. It gleams at night with lights and people and sounds – it’s something to just immerse yourself in.

I took my Canon T70 35mm film camera on this trip, with a small selection of lenses and a cheap aluminium tripod. I am very glad I took the tripod, because I took quite a few shots at night, requiring slow shutter speeds – this being one of them. Being film, I had to estimate the exposure with a bit of help from the camera’s light meter and then hope that the pictures turned out okay when I got home and had them developed.

I set up behind the tables at this cafe, aiming at Basilica San Marco on the right, and the opera singer with small group of musicians on the cafe stage at left. The photo turned out better than I hoped. I like the blur of the moving people in the square, which adds some of that atmosphere of activity which you feel when really there.

I scanned the digital image from a print of the negative. This is one of my most viewed photos online. A while back I was contacted by the Victorian Department of Education (from the Australian state of Victoria), who requested permission to reproduce this photo in an exam paper. Since it was for educational purposes, I granted them permission, and they sent me a copy of the paper. It appeared in a geography paper, with questions about the use of land and buildings in this area.

This is not actually my favourite photo from that trip to Italy. Maybe I’ll tell the story of that one another day.

Photo stories: Fujin noodles

Thursday, 9 April, 2015

Since I started talking about individual photos with my latest photo, I thought for the second one I’d go to the other extreme in one sense, and show the first photo I uploaded to Flickr:

Fujin Noodles

I took this photo in January 2006, just a few hours after landing in Tokyo on my first visit to Japan. This was my first business trip with Canon Information Systems Research Australia, the company I’ve been working for ever since. Being a subsidiary of Canon, we have plenty of contact with the head office in Tokyo, and staff often take business trips over there.

I was travelling with a co-worker (that’s him blurred on the right, holding the spoon) who had been to Tokyo before, so could rely on his experience in getting around, and in finding a place to eat on the night we arrived. Being January, it was very cold – much colder than I am used to even in midwinter at home. There was snow on the ground. We caught a shuttle bus from Narita Airport to Shinagawa, where our hotel was. After checking in, we were hungry and so ventured out to find a place to eat.

My companion spotted a random ramen restaurant not far from the hotel and we managed to squeeze into some seats at the bar counter you can see here. The meal was hot and delicious, freshly made by the cooks behind the counter. I took this photo with a compact IXUS30 camera, which was the first really decent quality digital camera I owned. (I actually bought it for my wife before I started working for Canon.)

I like the perspective lines in this photo, and the balance between blue and red light across the two halves of the image. The slight tilt and the blurring of the motion of some of the people give it a sense of motion and busy-ness which matches my impressions of that meal. That, and memories of the hustle and bustle on this first night in Tokyo make this one of my favourite photos from that short trip.