2014/11/29

Point and Squirt

I first came across the "it's a point and squirt" as a description of a low cost camera when working for Pulse Electronics (Avionics) Biggleswade. It was initially a summer job between school and university and I'd shown my boss (note 1) some photos I'd taken years previously. The camera I'd used was a cheap plastic thing which I'd got collecting Basooka Joe chewing gum wrappers and sending them off to the Basooka Joe offices in London. Here's the US version of the offer inside the pack:


The camera was plastic and clunky with a very poor lens, as you can see by the photo of my first cat (note 2):



Look how blurred it is around the edges. But anyway it worked, and it was for almost free, I'd just had to chew a lot. And it was, for my boss, a "point and squirt" camera, it looked like a fake which would squirt water into the face of the person you're taking the photo of.

And I was thinking that most photography, even professional photography, is really just point and squirt, not art at all. Here's an ok but not brilliant photo... 



...I showed to a priest I know (note 3), and as we looked at it we both had the same sort of idea. He said:

"Lovely photo, but who made the clouds?"

He meant God, I thought nature, but I agreed with his sentiments. Sometimes it seems as if photographers want to take credit for creating the object they are photographing. Clouds, a sexy model, a landscape. But really. Let's be honest, compared with what is being photographed, it is mostly point and squirt


Note 1: My boss at Pulse Electronics was great. He taught me to reply to the office phone by saying "Chinese Restaurant". When I first heard him do that I laughed out loud. I still use that trick now and then. "If it's important they'll phone back", he said. He also taught me how to hand solder the first surface mount devices (this was 19??) using a fine tipped soldering iron, tweezers, and a binocular microscope. If I told you what I was soldering I'd have to use that cliche which ends "...kill you!" wink.

Note 2: My first cat was a stray. I said to my Mum: "If he stays for three days can we keep him?" "Er, I suppose so," she replied. So, in secret, I fed him for three days and he stayed with us till he died, quite young, a couple of years later.

Note 3: I've only once met face to face a Christian who clearly and completely believed in God. He works with the poor in South America. He's enthusiastic, fizzy with happiness. I went to the funeral of his mother, which he took. He was only a little sad, but smiled a lot because he knew (and told the congregation) that his mother was in heaven. Living in Italy all the Christians I meet are Catholics, but I get the feeling that deep deep down, they do not believe, even when they insist they do. Only this one priest convinced me of his solid faith.

2014/11/16

What's happened to me? What new horror is this?

I had to go out this morning, it was raining. This image popped into my mind's eye:







Ah. Which blue jacket to wear?



Then: What the hell is happening to me?! How could I seriously be considering that I needed to choose which jacket to wear? And why have I got three? (See note 1. )



At 15 in Biggleswade, Beds, UK, I'd not have hesitated, I'd wear no jacket or whatever came to hand. At 20, at Bath University, I was so arrogant and deluded that I thought girls would see my scruffiness as an attractive recklessness. So it did not matter what I was wore. (I was wrong of course)



Now, a little older, in Milano Italy, before going out, I was actually taking time to consider which jacket to put on. Involuntarily.



So what with the proof of the existence of god and the trilemma of the blue jackets I don't seem to be in control of my thoughts.




Note 1. I have three jackets by because I've surrendered control of my wardrobe entirely to my wife.

2014/11/14

To Die Well, The Caterpillar and the Butterfly.

I don't know about you, but one of my biggest personal fears is dying after a long time in a coma or a long time in a demented state. Although I did not like to confront this fear I eventually did by reading To Die Well:





Wanzer and Glenmullen say that it is very important thing to have a document, witnessed by friends, explaining your wishes for the end of your life. Since I live in Italy, I will probably die in Italy, so I searched for help in writing the document in Italian. I found the site http://www.ilbrucoelafarfalla.org/ (The Caterpillar And The Butterfly). 




The website of this charity creates a PDF document declaring how you want to be treated if you are alive, but so ill you are unable to speak for yourself. The PDF created is based on replies to an online questionnaire, then gives you instructions on who should sign the printed document, who should have copies and who should know it exists. I felt better after I'd done that.






As the doctors in the book write, it is not legal in all countries or states to give a gentle dignified death to someone in distress or even mentally dead, even if requested. But if family, friends, carers, and doctors know what the patient wanted, then their actions would be...

Anyway, like, if I'm totally gah gah then don't resuscitate me after a heart attack. The medical resources could go to someone ill, but with more hope for the future.



Anyway, the Caterpillar And Butterfly site, by its name, suggests that there is life after death. The caterpillar does not die but is transformed into a butterfly. But that got me thinking, does a caterpillar have a brain, a memory, and does the butterfly get the same brain/memory as the caterpillar?



The answer, from this site:






is really strange. Most of the caterpillar's brain and body is broken down then rebuilt into butterfly. And oddly enough the parts of the brain which survive the metamorphosis are the parts which control the leg movement in the caterpillar and wing movement in the butterfly. So something (not much) of the original caterpillar remains in the butterfly.



Here's a picture of a caterpillar:








Against Nature

I remember hearing on the radio, when I was about 20, that the argument that "all is nature so everything that happens is natural (including television and the Mona Lisa)" was a very adolescent argument. The speaker was a BBC Radio 4 cultural commentator who looked down with disdain on the 17 year olds who made this sort of claim. I was irritated with him because I agreed, and agree, with the 17 year olds.

Take homosexuality for example. I can understand those who believe in a religion saying it is against the teaching of this, that, or the other god, prophet, saint or holy book. (And they can be very against it. I heard one Christian almost foaming at the mouth and being about very biologically specific about which orifices are supposed to be used for what purposes). Anyway, this I can understand, coming from "believers".

But there are some atheists who also maintain homosexuality is "against nature". Why? Because it does not promote the continuation of the species. But they reveal themselves, these particular atheists, to be theists in disguise. They assign to nature a purpose (the continuation of the species) and a mind which "wants" the continuation of the species. Something as big as nature that has a mind, desires and objectives sounds a lot like a god to me.

So I'm with the 17 year olds. Everything is nature. If we all turned homosexual and the human race died out, would "Nature" "care"?

2014/11/04

"Cognitive Dissonance" & "Be Wrong or Be Alone."

I was at Stratton Grammar School, Biggleswade, in the 3rd or 4th year, I can't remember. It was summer and our English teacher and form master, E. A. Armitage, was late for the first lesson of a hot afternoon. Someone in the class had the bright idea that we should go away (run away?) and relax under some trees on the other side of the playing fields. The trees were 300 meters away from the classroom. Somehow we pursuaded ourselves that it was a good idea. All but one of us went, leaving the classroom nearly empty.



When we got to the trees, we lay down, started chatting away while looking up through the branches at the blue sky. It was only about 10 minutes before someone said:



"Oh-oh, Armi's seen us and he's coming over."



And we could see, just by his stride, that he was as angry as hell. His shouted questions come back to me now. What did you think you lot were doing!!?!! How did you think we'd get away with it!!?!!



We had no reply of course.



I can't remember how we were punished, but we were.



This incident illustrates two ideas in "Wilful Blindness" by Magaret Heffernan.



Cognitive Dissonance: Holding two contradictory ideas in our minds at the same time. Somehow we thought we could abandon the classroom and it would be ok. And we knew it would not be ok, because it was strictly not allowed by the rules. And most of us held those two ideas in our minds at the same time.



But maybe it was also a bit of Be Wrong or Be Alone. We know the group is wrong. But the need to belong to the group is more powerful than wanting to be right. The one student who stayed in the classroom was right, but he was alone.

What would happen if all my friends were true believers in homeopathy as a cure for cancer and I wasn't? If I got cancer, would I follow their advice so I would not be alone? I hope not.



Anyway, here are some of us in front of our classroom, on a different, happier day, 1977 I think: