Friday, July 08, 2011
Why not? We've given them our jobs, why not give them space, too?
Actually, manned spaceflight never did make much sense. It's not only dangerous, but it's also orders of magnitude more expensive than hurling robot equipment into space on unmanned rockets which don't have to be engineered to human safety standards. The space program has brought us real technological marvels that make the modern world what it is -- chief among them communications and GPS satellites. But with the exception of Hubble, the shuttle program never accomplished much that was scientifically significant that could not have been accomplished by other means. (And we would eventually have launched a Hubble equivalent with unmanned craft anyhow.) Too many brave astronauts paid with their lives for this last great exercise in Cold War space competition, that lingered on past the end of the Cold War with little real sense of purpose.
Still, for anyone who grew up reading science fiction and dreaming of space flight, liftoff was a poignant moment this morning -- the last time this ungainly craft will ever soar into space.
Great turnout for the Signs of Protest exhibit opening last night at the Center for Photography in Madison, 303 South Patterson (the building just south of the one with the Dr. Evermore birds in front of it). If you missed the opening, or just like to experience art in a more meditative, less crowded setting you can see the exhibit Saturdays from 10:00-3:00 through August 27. Why not swing by on your way home from the Farmers' Market?
Monday, July 04, 2011
The 235th birthday of the U.S. is a good time to reflect on the great step forward in political liberty that was taken on this day in 1776. It's especially appropriate at a time when so many of the ideals of American liberty that made this country great seem to be sinking into an icy abyss, surrounded by a country torn by anger, fear and political cynicism, fueled by corporate interests that threaten to make a mockery of American democracy.
The American revolution was a watershed event, but AlterNet notes that it wasn't the simple caricature often used by right wingers who invoke the Founding Fathers to oppose measures that would advance equality, progress and justice. As one of the Founders said, reverence for the past shouldn't substitute for common sense means of dealing with the problems of the present.
In Federalist 44, James Madison wondered if it was “not the glory of the people of America, that... they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons or their own experience?”Photo: An Ektachrome slide I took in 1980 of the second Pail and Shovel Party Statue of Liberty on Lake Mendota. It replaced the first Lady Liberty in Madison, which was torched by arsonists the year before.
This gets to the heart of the matter: the Founders were grappling with 18th century problems, and would be bewildered by the debates we're having today. When people say that the Founders, were they to be reanimated today, would be shocked by this or that policy, keep in mind that what would really stun them is indoor plumbing, horseless carriages and flying machines, not to mention all these women and free black people daring to cast votes in our elections.
While conservatives are happy to delude themselves with the belief that the Founders' politics were indistinguishable from Ronald Reagan's, perhaps the rest of us can let them rest in peace. They fought their era's battles and they won. Meanwhile, we've got 21st century problems to deal with.
This is definitely one of the best ways NOT to get good fireworks photographs: 1) Set up several miles away from the Warner Park "Rhythm and Booms" extravaganza along the UW lakeshore path because you want to avoid the crowds and traffic. 2) Definitely use an iPhone. 3) Swat mosquitoes with one hand, shoot with the other. 4) Look at screen and see that the fireworks look like tiny points of light on the horizon. 5) Max out the pixel-chopping electronic zoom. 6) Note that the fireworks no longer look like points of light. They look like slightly larger puffs of light. 7) Drastically crop the already blurry and degraded image, full of artifacts, to actually make the fireworks more or less visible. 8) "Sharpen" to taste.
There you have it. You'll have captured a visual reminder of a memory, not the memory itself. Certainly nothing approaching its actual beauty. Which is about what you should expect, shooting handheld in the dark with an iPhone because a DSLR and tripod just seemed like extra baggage for the occasion, not to mention hard to handle in the dark.
On the other hand, if you want something more, it's probably a good time to leave the iPhone in your pocket, use a DSLR with tripod, and experiment with long exposures.