Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Complication Blues

Readers of a tender nature should look away now, or scroll through all the writing to look at the pictures, because, as is my right as a middle-aged man, I am about to go off on one.
Other readers of the same age, should kick off their shoes and celebrate with me, because © The Seventies Stoneage Revolution starts here.
I've had enough of modernity (just about) and would prefer a return to the days of switches, knobs and LEDs that let you know exactly what is happening as it happens . . think Nikon F2 metering and you'll know exactly what I mean . . . it seems strange to say it, but THE SEVENTIES looks like a golden age from the mess of modern times . . .

But anyway, where was I?
Oh yeah . . The Complication Blues - makes a great title for a song doesn't it, and as far as I am aware, there hasn't actually been a song called that before, except in my head . . 
Y'see back in ye olde guitar-picker days, I did actually write a song called that . . we're talking about 1978 - guitar was my old (and still lovely) Epiphone FT150 . . a Japanese Epiphone made under licence to Gibson by the Ibanez factory in Japan sometime in around the mid-70's (though having just read that, can you see the roots of over-complication?).
£120 was what it cost me in 1977 - I had saved like crazy from my milk round, and buying it was one of the most exciting things I had ever done! 
You see things were relatively uncomplicated back then (well apart from leaving the cosy familiarity of school, then O'Level results from Hell, change of school etc etc, but in general terms . . ) 
You wanted something back then and you had a few options.

Ask your parents (mine had very little money having spent it on a top-notch (sic) private education for me).

Get it on tick (well, I was under 18 so that was a no go)


Save for it.

I still give thanks for my Dad's encouragement to me, stomping off to Northolt Post Office with about 30 tons of thre'penny bits and old pennies dragging my cordouroys groundward to pay them into my PO Savings account.

Saving is a very under-rated thing isn't it?

It's all too easy nowadays.
You see something.
You want it.
You buy it.
That's it.
Anticipation gone.
I am as guilty as anyone (as you can no doubt tell from the amount of cameras that have been bought in recent years) and I'm not sure if I like it.
Anyway, that's a tale for another day, because looking back at those times (when the most complicated thing a teenager could dream of owning was probably one of those new-fangled computer kit thingies they were starting to use in America [I knew no-one that owned one] or one of those models of a Nuclear Sub that always used to get advertised in Marvel Comics) the most complicated thing I owned was a Polaroid camera, and even then I hardly used it, so second down the list of most complicated things I owned, was an electric guitar (Vox Clubman II) - again a product of saving, costing the grand sum of £20 in 1974, and it was shite apart from the pickups . . and then I suppose third down the list was my Mum and Dad's giant Stereogram upon which I did the majority of my record listening . . . 

Get on with it man - what are you trying to say???

OK - I recently bought a phone.

Big deal you say, well yes, considering the last phone we bought was about 8 years ago and a Nokia soap bar (which still works - does the job and that's that).
It's an Android device, a Motorola and a very nice little unit, but get this - it took me about 6 hours to set it up and I still hadn't made a call with it! Why? because everything is totally and completely and unecessarily COMPLICATED!
Everything has an option, opt in, opt out, accept cookies, share data, turn this on, turn this off, monitor this and that . . even buying a simple Sim card you would think would be easy, but no. 
No way Daddio! 
The phone takes a Micro-Sim - easy enough you might think, except that it states in the literature DO NOT USE A NANO CARD WITH ADAPTERS. 
OK - well, me being me, I think they wouldn't just say that, and I read around and it seemed like a number of people have caused damage using adapters, so I had to get a Micro-Sim . . .except, yep you guessed it, most are Nano-Sims
Now the lad in the shop I went to was very nice and accommodating but I could see him getting quite agitated when I said that a Nano was no good and I had to use a Micro. He'd not heard anything about that and had sold tons of them. 
Well I said to him, it clearly states it in the literature with the phone! 
But he'd still not heard of it . . anyway, eventually, I got a 3-in-1 Sim which is a normal sized one pre-stamped in three sizes . . and eventually I got that fitted. 
Then I tried to use the phone. 
OK - nothing doing, turns out I had to register online and then use the code on the voucher he had given me (which he didn't tell me) . . so, I switched on The Sheephouse Maschine and got to their site, registered, entered voucher code, and got a text saying I was topped up. 
So that was something. 
Then I had a look at their roaming rates. 
OK, so I was now on the wrong plan - their roaming plan covers a number of countries but not the one I was going to
Brilliant. Fecking brilliant. 
So, I switched off roaming on the phone and decided feck 'em I'll do it Wi-Fi and messaging that way . . hmmmm Google Hangouts looks good, and I knew a few people using Skype. 
OK, so I got those done . . more registration, more passwords, more levels of security, more stuff to remember . .
And I still hadn't made a call, because I had been led up an ever-narrowing path of complication to register other stuff which took time and which always threw further spanners into an already complicated works.
Is it just me?
Does everyone find technology a snap?
Or, is it, rather as I am beginning to suspect, that the world in totally uneccessarily complicated and ever-greater levels of complication await us?
You remember the kids at school that were into this sort of stuff?
Well they are in charge of our world now.
Now I don't know about you, but I was always a book and a cup of Ovaltine sort of person . . electronics had no interest for me, neither had much in the way of science apart from Biology. 
Maths? . . no, er, definitely not. 
At school, the kids that loved complication and science and maths were tempered by the nutters like me who added a banana skin to their flights of fancy, but in their positions of power now - who is there to trip them? Who brings them down to earth?
I saw this at Virgin Retail back in the 1980's early '90's - the fun was gone, records were 'units' and all that counted was The Sale. Seemingly overnight, accountants had turned an organic, wonderful organisation into a money-hungry machine where staff were mere chattels, and it's happening today, but even worse. The NY Times revelatory piece on Amazon Management is shocking in its exposé of these Digital Plantation Owners. You can read it here.
But anyway, that's one of those asides - back to the phone!
I'm not a total neanderthal despite what you may think - I can be super-complicated, but my complication comes from the complications of an arty-based brain - I'll think a lot on different levels about things and let my spirit run free on all sorts of fancies, but I suppose that is too flighty and too damn OLDEN for the data-driven, hard-bitten world we live in.
And where does that get me?
Oh yeah . . . 6 hours in and no calls.
Oh yes I could use Google Translate to speak "My Brain Hurts" or "My Hovercraft Is Full Of Eels" in the language of my choice. I could download maps from all over the world. I could do pretty much anything I could imagine using a phone for all at the drop of an option!
But was it the right option? Was there something else lying hidden in a sub-menu that I hadn't done, or could be doing to further enahnce my experience? There's no doubt about it - Option Anxiety strides the earth beating everyone down with a cudgel if they don't pick the right thing.

So how the feck did we get in this state?

Why is everything like 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' by Yes when in reality it should be 'Iron Fist' by Motörhead?

All I wanted at the end of the day was something simple.
Something with a basic Yes/No thing that was easy to use . . 
Maybe a bit of a screen for this and that and a microphone for actually talking to people and a speaker for listening to people . . . and that's about it, the simpler the better.
But oh no, what I got at the end of the day was a portable Enigma Machine and a guy in a shop, the same age as my son, telling me that Nano Sims are fine with adapters and that I can use my new plan abroad but only in countries my new provider deals with, and all phone usage outwith those countries was covered by the more expensive roaming charges, but he couldn't tell me what they were . . . do you see what I mean. Nothing is simple.
Anyway, I suppose that's enough moaning man - evolve or die
Oh . . . OK.
All the same, something with a nice clicky switch on it, or a knob, or something you could hit . .
Yeah, something you can hit - that would be good . . .


(P)Sheephouse Postscript

Well, we've been, and got back and me and Ali had a marvellous time.
The phone sort of worked with no dramas apart from having to log-in to the hotel WiFi every 24 hours  . . . and we sort of got reception in most bits of the City some of the time . . . but it wasn't as easy as inserting coins into a phonebox and calling Whitehall 210, oh no . . .
So, anway, ramble nearly done - in keeping with Un-Complication, here's some snaps.

All were made with the unecessarily complicated Canon EOS 50D, but with all the complication switched off.

EI was 200.
Camera was set (a la Bruce's recommendation) to Aperture Priority.
Lens was the marvellous 40mm EF and strangely for me, largely used in autofocus mode except where it was telling me I wasn't focusing on the right thing . . . och don't be daft machine . . . .
There's no post-processing whatsoever -  these are the JPGs straight from the lion's den.
Obviously I shot highest quality RAW and JPG too so I can tinker if I wish.
Yeah there's a bit of camera shake, but this wasn't a photographic expedition and I was snapping on the hoof, and I didn't want to pee on our chips as it were . . we were having a wonderful time.
The EOS was a dream to use - battery lasted for ages.
Of course I could have done all this with real film, but tbh the thought of being strip-searched and all my lovely negatives being exposed to light by some over-zealous airport security guard was a bit beyond the pale . . .
So didgy it is and you know what - I am very happy with the results - now all I have to do is make them REAL, by printing them!

TTFN - and remember, when the chips are down, you've dropped yer kerry-oot!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Freak Out! . . . It's The Technicolor Sheephouse

Morning Folks.
Y'know, for some years I have had a hankering to explore the world of colour photography (by the way, in some weirdly synchronised thinking, this is rather similar to me old chum Bruce's post about colour . . .  again, no collusion, just entirely independent thinking!) 
Anyway, I've got the books, got the cameras, shot the practice films (6! all undeveloped) bought a C41 kit, and yet, I am still not there. 
Now there is a very long and daft excuse for this . . . 
So if you've got a mo, sit down and have a read . . . 

Many years back, when me and Ali found ourselves in the position of two wee Church Mice with a large mortgage on an unloved Victorian divided house, a small child to deal with and not a huge amount of money to spare every month, we both felt it would help us if I fitted a new kitchen with a budget one from B&Q - it had to be better than the old kitchen from the previous owner which had been a badly hatched plan of home-made non-joiner joinery and pine cladding - it was, to say the least, VERY brown and not a bit greasy. So, suitably bouyed-up to sort ourselves out (we both love cooking - it had to be done) we purchased a bunch of budget units from B&Q and, because they were being promoted as 'just the thing' at the time, a plastic sink. 
Oh you might think a:
® Corian! 
Nope - no such luck . . 
In typical Sheephouse fashion it's a:
® It'll Do Till We Get Something Better!
Well I do it a disservice actually - it has put up with years of HC110 and Rodinal being dumped into it without too much staining (Bar Keepers Friend helps!). 
But now I find myself with the thought of all those super-corrosive and super-staining colour chemicals being put into it . . . could we accept a permanently stained sink? 
Yeah, that's what I thought, so, until I can work my way round this and discretion being the better part of valour, the film stays in the fridge . . .

Anyway, to cut a long story short, you'll remember that I have officially sold out? 
I can't get rid of the people with placards from my front garden and the hate-mail has been particularly upsetting, but anyway, what do I care? 
I'm a digital warrior now, all that useless silver-based stuff . . pah! 
That's for Grandads innit! 
Nah, I'm cresting a new horizon to a land where all is golden and bright and everyone wears white suits, just like The Eloy in The Time Machine! 
Oh yes, none of that nassssty, wet stuff for me now, nope, it's didgey all the way.
Well, not really, but for colour and at the moment, it is 'convenient' and 'handy' as well as sparing the sink . . got to remember that sink.

So, here goes - a very basic initial exploration into The Wonderful Wurld Of Color, courtesy of a certain Mr. H.Sheephouse Esq, B.A (A.R.S.E.).

But why so few? you ask.

Well, because I've spent the WHOLE of August refurbing a very nice but very enormous (10 feet tall! 4 and a half feet off the ground!!) Victorian Bay sash window (and it is still ongoing) . . I must be the only person in my City using 'hairy' Lime Putty at the moment and LimeWash too - I have immersed myself deep into the wonderful world of Lime mortars - it's not been easy, but man is it nicer than cement. 
I've also come away with the knowledge that Victorian craftsmen were real artisans - so much so that I am in awe of them.
That, as they say, is my excuse and I am sticking to it . . . 

Anyway, on with the 'modern' shite:

Dull Morning 1

Dull Morning 2

Dull Morning 3

Dull Morning 4

As you can see from the above, my fondness for Ernst Haas and Elliot Porter and Stephen Shore has come through, though please excuse the 'loose' framing - not enough attention paid to the viewfinder in the haste of desparately trying to take something to shove in t'Blog . . .
You know, I love the muted tones of old colour films - it stomps all over HDR and all that hyper-colourised stuff that people think is an accurate take on the world . . maybe it is in places with more sunshine, however here in Scotland muted is IT. I think the Canon's 'capture' has made a decent enough job of rendering what I saw at 7.15 AM on a semi-dreich August morning.
Of course, I could probably have replicated all this with proper real tootin' film, and I will attempt to do so at some point, but in the interests of the Sink (think Sink before you start having a go) 'unreal 1's and 0's' is how it is.
Now all I need to do is make them into physical prints (thanks Bruce in advance).
There was no footering around with this lot, all I did was switch everything off except the meter and focus confirmation.
EI is 200.
White Balance (goodness I can't believe I am writing that) is Auto.
The camera is fully manual including focus (because the camera doesn't believe me when I want to focus on something weird).
And that's it.

I am now going to try and do some more intensive 'work' with the EOS.
Yes all the menus and all that crap are very annoying, but at it's heart I actually think I now have a very decent modern-ish camera.
To be honest, I have no idea what I have been afraid of, apart from the constant nagging that what I have taken a photo of, doesn't actually exist in physical terms . .
That, I think at the end of the day, is the hardest step to accept.

TTFN and remember to oil your galoshes . . just remember the stuff goes on the outside though . . not the inside.