ARC

A little bit of everything


Month: November, 2005

Stark Lines

Stark Lines
This is from last week and it was a late evening shot so it came out nicely blue. But I was curious to see how it would look in black and white so I played a little with the channel mixer in PS and I kinda liked the result. So here it is. All I did was increase the red and green and keep the blue low so the sky in the backgrnd is blown and the branches stand out starkly against the white backgrnd. Let me know what you think of the result.

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Pitted

Pitted
After a gap of two days here I’m again! Since the weather here continues to be downright shitty I tried a few macro studies the other day. Here is one I liked.

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Floating Autumn

Floating Autumn
Another photo where I tried the lens baby effect PS action. I thought that, in the original image, the background was distracting and there was an irritating light source (which you can still see) right next to the leaf. With the background rendered out of focus the reason for taking this shot becomes clearer in my opinion. (A portion of the image on the left and on the bottom has been cropped out to remove some distracting elements.)

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Curved Union

Curved Union
There is a lot that is wrong with this photo, starting with the focus. But then I like the delicate flame like twirl of the defocussed leaf in the background and the two elements in the picture seemingly touching at one point. Also, this is proof that Minolta’s body integral anti-shake works. There is no way I could have got this passably decent photo, shot in low light at 1/8 shutter speed, hand-held with a 100mm macro lens, if not for the anti-shake!

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Cheesy Fly

Cheesy Fly
Something from the archives. This is a part of a calendar which hangs in the corridor of my lab. A photo in a photo of sorts. I like the effect of the solitary fly and the shapes of the cheese pieces.

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A New Era?

The people of Bihar have finally woken up and given Laloo Prasad Yadav the drubbing he deserves. I often used to wonder how they tolerated him and for such a long time. Granted, he was the master of caste politics and, until now, had managed to successfully potray himself as the protector of the backward castes and minorities. But on any scale of development he had dragged Bihar into the pits. From a resonably governed state it became the worst governed state in India. No rule of the law, private armies, caste wars, rampant kidnapping, breakdown of infrastructure, everything pointed to a government that did not care for the people and was only concerned with staying in power.

I’m no suppporter of the BJP and I wish they were not part of the coalition as this might again lead to the communal clashes that were common before Laloo Yadav came to power and (to his credit) put an end to such violence. But Nitish Kumar seems a much better alternative than Laloo and it is nice to see that at last someone else has been given the chance to govern Bihar. I hope he does not waste this golden opportunity. He won the elections mainly on the lack of development agenda. If he can deliver on that and improve the law and order situation at the same time he will mark the beginning of a new era for the people of Bihar.

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Dewdrops

Dewdrops
I was not very happy with the original photo so tried to do something a bit different with it today. I used an action which stimulates the effect given by a lensbaby. First time I’m trying this so the result is not perfect. You tell me if this looks interesting or not.

On another note regulars here might have noticed some changes with the layout. Yes, I basically reported the blog. It now runs on Pixelpost as I was unhappy with the lack of new functionality in Folderblog, the previous software on which this blog ran. Pixelpost is very nice, perhaps a bit slow, but importantly with the kind of functionality I had always wanted and failed to find in Folderblog. Most of the work is done. Took me the whole day actually! Pretty tedious work to manually reupload each photo and set the appropriate dates but good that it is done now. There is still some minor stuff to be tweaked and added which I’ll finish over the next few days.

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Hip: A History (Book Review)

Some strands of anti-globalisation, especially cultural globalisation, like to think of American popular culture as a rampaging juggernaut greedily gobbling up local cultures in its quest for worldwide hegemony. This reading makes out American pop culture to be monolithic. And especially in these times of militant protests against the ‘McDonaldisation’ of the world – think of the anti-WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 or French farmer Jose Bove’s vandalism of American food outlets – a greater understanding of the monster called American culture is needed.

John Leland’s book ‘Hip: The History’ is a must read for supporters and opponents of American pop culture. The book traces the evolution of American culture right from the arrival of the first white settlers and African slaves in the early 17th century to the late 20th century. Leland’s central argument is that it was the fertile and dynamic socio-political set-up of the new world that enabled the culture of the African slaves to interact with the culture of the white slave owners to produce a unique culture, neither fully African or European. This is the beginning of American popular culture. Leland even gives a name to this cultural mongrel: Hip.

The author calls the minstrel shows and the blues music of the 19th century the ‘two roots of hip,’ and says that all other forms of pop culture were improvisations of these. The ‘Blackface Minstrel Shows’ were a parody of black culture in crude, stereotypical ways. These shows were enacted by whites dressed as blacks and were a way of letting whites participate in a world they at once abhorred and found fascinating. It also set the stage for a recurring theme in the history of American culture, that of blacks inventing a form of expression outside the mainstream, which would be appropriated by whites and then gained popular appeal as something that was ‘cool’ or ‘hip’. The Blues began as a form of expression by Black-Americans in response to the hardships they faced. At this stage it was scorned as the ‘devils music.’ When whites got interested in the blues, it began its upward movement towards mainstream respectability. Think of Elvis Presley shaking his pelvis to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ in front of thousands of screaming fans or Eminem, one of the most popular rappers. The phrase, ‘the white man who stole the blues’ sums it up.

But can the vastly diverse forms of American pop culture be reduced to being described by a single three-letter word called hip? The author defines hip as something that is invented by a small group of people as a form of counter culture that, as more and more people adopt it, gets diluted as it radiates outwards. By the time it has achieved mass appeal, the original group has invented a new form of expression. This is broadly the story of pop culture in America. I don’t think that the term hip captures all the contours of American pop culture.

In the nineteenth century writers like Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville and Henry David Thoreau sought to break with conformism. Their writing celebrated the individual spirit and rejected materialism. Thoreau in fact rejected society and lived in the woods for two years, which forms the content of his book ‘Walden Pond’. The inheritors of this intellectual legacy in the twentieth century were the ‘beats’. They also rejected white collar and suburban family life, the two strands of American consumer culture. Jack Kerouac, one of the more famous beatniks, laid out the philosophy in his book ‘On The Road.’

The basic premise of the book is that the core of American pop culture is a result of the intermixing of black and white cultures and each would be incomplete without the other. But in some passages of the book it seems as if the author glosses over black contributions and emphasizes the role of the white. At times the author sounds a little condescending towards Afro-Americans. And what would the writing style of a book whose subject is hip be? You guessed it, hip. The language is hyperbolic at places. Maybe it’s just an American style of writing. But some of the idioms and phrases would be unfamiliar to Indians.

On the whole this book is highly entertaining, especially to readers who have spent countless hours listening to the blues or jazz or any other form of American pop culture. And for people unfamiliar with these, the book offers a glimpse into the forces that shaped American pop culture and gave Americans a sense of identity.

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Endless

Endless
Seems to echo the state of my mind these days.

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Flames

Flames
I love colors such as these. They have a dream-like quality, soft, ethereal and smooth! For the curious ones, this is a shot of the inside of the heating unit, which heats my house, where the gas is burnt as seen through a tiny port-hole.

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