Tuesday, December 30, 2008

VHS joins 8-Track, Beta, Cassette Tapes and LP's in the Media Graveyard

We all knew it was coming. If you didn't already think that nobody made VHS equipment anymore, that is. VHS is officially an expired format.

The huge video rental chains have long switched to DVD. Even DVD is now being replaced with Blue-Ray, which is being replaced by downloaded media streamed to your through set-top boxes or directly to your laptop. The last major Hollywood release to be distributed to VHS format was (the excellent Viggo Mortenson flick) "A History of Violence" in 2006. Now the last manufacturer of the format has finally thrown in the towel, and there is officially nobody on earth manufacturing new VHS tapes.

My father had a 16mm camera from around the time I was born. I have seen several dozen hours of old, early-70's sound-free footage of people bobbing around in not-quite synchronized to the correct speed films he took in those days. Much of it me walking around as a toddler, drinking coke and wearing a camouflaged Boonie hat. Seeing a young Marine father in Okinawa, filming himself playing Tennis to send to his young wife, interspersed with various other shots of his buddies horsing around and an SR-71 taking off to go spy on the badguy of the month from on high.

Of course I've seen these all within the past 5 years also, as we had the reels all transferred to VHS, since there were no working projectors to be found any longer.

We always seemed to have the latest and greatest tech growing up. We had the Atari 2600 (dad still has it, along with probably 100+ games), Intellivision, Colecovision, the Atari computers (400, 800 on up through 5200, if memory serves). We've pretty much stopped with PS2 at this point, as far as gaming consoles go, but we always had proper computers as well. Whether the TRS80, Compaq sewing machine "portable", computers with punchcards, reel-to-reel, cassette storage, etc. I remember how awesome 5.25" floppies were. A buddy had an Apple II running a BBS system on it with only 2 floppy drives. And you could still DOWNLOAD stuff!!

Oh how times change.

When VHS came out, it was the dawn of a new era. Before that, all there really was to do with your TV was watch whatever programming you had. Cable channels were the hot ticket with channels like HBO showing movies, though there were no such thing as theme channels yet, like an all sports channel. HBO replayed a lot of the same movies over and over. They did this for several reasons, but one being that you could only watch it when it was being aired. If you got home late, the power went out, you had to get up and go to the restroom, had a sneezing fit, whatever: you couldn't rewind and playback. You could only watch it again the next time it aired.

When VHS came out, we could now record anything off the tv set, just like we'd been doing with audio cassette tapes off the radio for a while. It was an amazing change of technology, despite how limiting it seems in today's era of instant track-selection DVD.

I don't recall whether Laser disk came out before or after, as it never really gained popularity. If you're not familiar with them, picture a DVD 12" in diameter, just like an old LP Record (if you even remember those), and 3 times as thick as a DVD. They were hyper-sensitive to dust and scratches, expensive, and never gained popularity with studios or consumers, so there was little selection. The quality was quite good for the time, though the relatively cheap VHS format was far more popular. Betamax was Sony's version of VHS, but they lost the popularity war, despite being a better picture quality than VHS. Think HD-DVD vs. Blue-Ray, except Sony now has won that format battle with their Blue-Ray.

Being one of the few people in our small town to have a VHS player (as well as the other electronic toys), all the local kids loved hanging out at my house watching movies and playing video games. We thought turning over the score on Activision's Laser Blast made us amazing, gawd-like creatures, and we must have watched "Porky's" a hundred times. That may still hold the record for the movie I've seen the most times. I don't know if I necessarily learned anyting from it, though as a 12-year-old boy, I'm sure it was somehow enlightening.

We had a lot of great times there and were fascinated by this ability to go back and rewatch things we might have missed. Playing back fight scenes frame by frame, slowing down the punches to see which ones were obviously misses, when it looked so real at speed. Deconstructing special effects by attempting to pause on certain frames where they switched to the dummy head from the actor before it blew up. Of course we only had a handful of films at the time, so I really can't see how we got so much enjoyment out of Porky's, Footloose, Flashdance and Stayin' Alive. I don't even recall watching the last 2 more than once, but I could just be trying hard to forget.

We were fortunate enough that one of my friends had a dad in the Hollywood business. We had a copy of Empire Strikes Back on VHS. I don't know if it was still out in theaters, or it was just that it wasn't supposed to be out on VHS anywhere at the time, but I remember he and I being concerned that George Lucas would have us all killed if he discovered our watching it. It was not a final production copy, and it even had the frame counter countdown thingie across the bottom of the screen. Some of the scenes did not have all of the final sound tracks on them, so it was definitely not a theatrical experience, even on our largish set and stereo speakers. Being able to replay scenes over and over, seeing every explosion and detail made up for the ticker thingie, which we learned to tune out, anyway. I am not naming names here, because that friend is someone whose name you'd recognize now, having "gone to Hollywood" himself, and I'm pretty sure Lucas would still have him killed.

Though I was never as much of a music fan as I was into movies, I had long resisted going to both CD for music and DVD for my video collection. I think the first time I ever bought a CD player was because it came with the new car I bought. I never had much of a music collection, and most of my old cassette tapes were worn to the point of being useless by the time I bought my first of only a few CD's. My DVD collection started slowly, then grew to be fairly large before a series of life changes occurred, and I had to start that collection anew.

I haven't bothered to restock the DVD collection much, with yet another change underway to newer technology. Even NetFlix's outstanding service has gotten old with new streaming services they offer. I've been fortunate enough to see several dramatic changes in formats and methods of media use over the years. Everything keeps getting smaller and smaller. Which is fine by me, being a lazy person who despises moving boxes of stuff I rarely use or watch, but can't bear to toss, as
I invariably want it at some point. I have begun condensing old media collections to newer formats, and hopefully won't be losing any this time. I've done this both because I dislike moving boxes of heavy crap every time I need to move, dusting piles of things I rarely use, and paying rent/mortgage to store said boxes and shelves worth of stuff. I'll write up some details on that in a bit.

I'm not sure how far it will go in my lifetime, but it doesn't look like the technology will ever stop developing. While it irritates me to know that all the VHS tapes I still have are going to be worthless if my VHS player dies, it makes me feel like that 12-year-old kid pressing play on that VHS player for the first time all over again.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

YouTube doing HD Now

This is old news from last week, but YouTube has been slowly adding HD-quality videos to it's regular service. Anyone who has been on YouTube in the past couple of weeks has seen that they went to a wide-aspect 16:9 ratio.

Now the service will show videos made in HD at their best trying to keep up with SmugMug's great video services.

Many people feel most web video is "good enough", but the difference in HD video is pretty great. I took this side-by-side comparison of the 2008 Where the hell is Matt video and captured this screen shot, showing the difference in quality between the two versions.

And if you aren't familiar with Where the Hell is Matt, get familiar with it. It's good stuff.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Behind the Scenes of latest Laforet video

Vincent Laforet posted the behind the scenes footage of the short video he released the other day.

Go to his blog to check out the SmugMug-hosted video.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Canon DMkII Video goodness from Vincent LaForet

Vincent Laforet has added some new footage to his blog from the Canon 5D Mk II camera. He's doing the transition to video quite nicely, I would say. He definitely has that "eye" I long to develop. Thanks to SmugMug for hosting the video again!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thoughts on Retirement

A friend just retired in January after working forever at the local newspaper.  He's not that old, but it's interesting the timing of it.  Newspapers in general are falling apart financially (the list of failing magazines grows daily).  Old business models are not holding up in this economy and age.  We've got such easy and free access to information nowadays, fewer people want newspapers cluttering up their life when they can just get any info they want on their phones in a second.  The local paper is scaling back a lot, I believe.  I don't know anything about his retirement numbers or sources of income, but I wonder where the money he is planning to live on the rest of his life is coming from.  If he had vast sums in investments...did they just shrink?  Will he be forced to find new sources of income?  Will he have been prepared for this type of thing to happen so soon after he retired?  Does he have a pension that relies on the paper to continue to be able to stay in business to support him?  I should ask him, but since it's absolutely none of my business, I likely won't :-)

As "scaled-back" or Spartan as I've both voluntarily and involuntarily made my life the past few years, I have been thinking even more these days about how patently absurd the typical American lifestyle seems.  I don't mean that like a commie kind of way, though it'll probably sound pretty hippy-ish.  I've always discarded as much "stuff" as I take with me every time I move, but with the financial system floundering about like it is, it really has made me start to wonder what really is important? 

Why do we struggle so hard to make enough money to afford a bunch of toys we don't have time to play with because we're so busy working to make enough money to afford the toys?  What good are the toys, anyway?  Most of the stuff we seem to accumulate end up being things we play with for a short time, then spend the rest of our lives dusting and moving around from place to place.  Maybe it'll be "worth something" someday, maybe we'll want to play with again, or maybe we just hang onto it because we know how hard we had to work to make enough money to buy it in the first place, even if it is an obsolete item that couldn't be currently sold on ebay for 1% of it's original price.  What about our houses?  The bigger and "better" home we get insures that we'll get to enjoy it less, as we have to be out working more to be able to pay for it (see yesterday's blog).

Incidentally, I'm glad I pare things down like I do, as I realized recently that I've never had the same address for more than 4 years at a time in my whole life.

Of course people like to cite Wallyworld as the biggest killer of this American dream as far as the financial system goes.  They were able to undercut any and all competitors in pricing, effectively killing off most smaller businesses, and rendering megastore competitors such as K-Mart practically impotent.  They got the American shopper so accustomed to low low prices, that Americans became less concerned with where a product was made, or it's quality, and were now primarily concerned with price.  To keep prices lower, most of their products are made in China or elsewhere, where the cheapest possible labor can be had, sacrificing quality for that low price.  American companies who have similar products of greater quality had fewer and fewer customers who could go buy these cheaper products, started going belly-up too, or shipping their jobs overseas.

So now we have fewer and fewer Americans able to make a decent living because their well-paying jobs got shipped overseas to make cheaper products for Americans to buy at cheaper prices.  But they're basically in the same boat, as they had to take lower-paying jobs since the better paying jobs were now gone to make the parts cheaper, because that's all the buyers would buy.  So basically the American consumer put itself out of work and made some big corporations and a lot of people in China really friggin' wealthy.  You can't raise wages and expect to only pay cheaper prices for everything at the same time!  (Incidentally, AIG was one of the first companies to do a massive outsourcing of it's helpdesk people to India in the early 90's.)

But Wallyworld was all a bit of a tangent.

I have been watching and following the blogs of people who live either Nomadic lifestyles or those who are trying to live "greener" or just live more simply.  People living in RV's, old converted busses, vans, off of motorcycles, or in tiny houses on property somewhere.  I follow far too many of them, but a lot are quite interesting. 

All of them have the commonality of "needing" less than the average American.  They are almost all without any sort of debt in their lives, and don't use credit.  The average teenager would likely go batshit crazy at the lack of stimulus, as most don't even own a tv.  All of them are computer savvy enough to at least have a blog or email, if not some sort of source(s) of internet income.  The traveling people have those that don't require them to be at a specific location, if they don't just do odd jobs wherever they are just to pay for food.  Most of them are using at least solar and oftentimes wind power generation to provide their electrical needs, so after initially buying equipment, internet/phone and perhaps vehicle fuel, they have no utility costs.  Several who have vehicles have those that run on veggie oil that they get free from restaurants.  Many of the Nomads wake up pretty much wherever they want to be on any given day.  They often have a great view each morning.

All of them live on a lot less than they typical American family.  All of them redefine "need" and "want" as they apply in our current language.  I would be willing to bet that most if not all of them are hardly at all affected by the current economic implosion.  Many times they have some craft of some sort that they do, and travel to various arts and crafts shows around the country selling what they make.  Most don't seem to make enough money off of these items to retire off of, though it pays what little bills they have, and they meet all kinds of interesting people, all while not necessarily having to be in the system.  I'm not suggesting they cheat on their taxes or anything, as I don't know.  But it seems a much less complicated existence than we have as our standard lifestyle here of consuming anything and everything our senses can find.

I posted a video of a guy I saw on one of the blogs yesterday.  He builds super-tiny houses in the neighborhood of 100sq' (there are quite a few places that do that and I follow several of their blogs).  He is the one who pointed out that the bigger the house, the less time you get to spend in it.  I guess the point of it all is, what really actually matters, and how much of what we do is just noise?  How much of our mortgages is to pay to store our shiny shit that does nothing but gather dust?  I wouldn't want to try to calculate the square footage on that.  Why do we spend so much time working instead of enjoying the world?  I'm not talking about hedonism.  I just mean being outside, seeing the wonders of this amazing world.  It's not some excuse to be lazy and do nothing, it's just doing what's important to that person.

It seems crazy to me that for the majority of almost 40 years, I've just stayed in one little corner of the world.  I've traveled a small amount, but still so much of even this country I've never seen, let alone the rest of the world.  Why do we just sit here in one place our whole lives?  Are we afraid to get out and see things?  Safety, security, comfort?  What difference does any of that make if we never go anywhere or do anything until we just die, anyway?  And yes, I'm well aware that I may just be having another mid-life crisis and I'll be over it soon :-)

Everyone has different wants, I know.  But I wonder how many people do what they do because that's what you're "supposed to" do?  You hear of people talk of being "tied down" in relationships, having kids and being "stuck" with raising them or getting themselves stuck on the hamster wheel of money/career/work, all to buy the shiny shit they want and working even more to keep the shiny shit...oh and there's more shiny shit over there, too!  Is it just that the grass is always greener?  Do we really want to see the world?  Do we just use those things as excuses for not going out and doing it?  Of course to many people, being married, having kids and raising a family is the most important thing to them.  Some people have monetary goals instead.  I'm not suggesting you can't have a happy and fulfilling life living in the same town all your life.  I'm talking about the people who long for things other than what they actually do.  We're all different.

Sure, the case can be made for those who work their whole life and sacrifice those productive years to someday be able to retire and then enjoy all their free time and see the world.  But now we're back to the financial collapse.  How many of those people worked their whole life with the reward of retirement looming or finally coming, only to find out they can't retire, or they did retire, but now have to go back to work?  How many grossly underestimated the costs of retirement, hadn't accounted for the "Greater Depression" we're in now and their stock failures?  How many have been eating the shit we eat here their whole life and find their retirement funds being eaten away by medical costs faster than they can spend it on being retired and enjoying all those promised rewards?  (I'll go on another tangent about our food and health situation soon.)

I have already seen the tightening of the belt by much of America.  Though I stay in circles of people who pay attention to what's going on in the world, there are Brazillians of Americans who don't really watch the news or pay attention to what's going on in the financial markets or any of that nonsense, who have not even heard of the economic crisis.  Most are blissfully unaware of the turmoil on Wallstreet unless they caught part of an Obama speech.  But there are huge segments of the population who didn't even do that.  Not everyone watches the news, and that's pretty much the only place you hear about it.  As long as their job is still there, the only thing they know is that gas prices went back down, so they'll be taking the for sale signs off their SUV's and going back to "normal".  That is many Americans' gauge of the financial world, and really all they know.

Whether it's just the natural order of things to change over time, or it's all just going to hell in a handbasket, we have yet to see.  Companies used to provide pensions, then it was employer-matching 401k's, then it changed to employee only contributions to 401k's, and now those are going bankrupt.  What will be next?  All I know is that few people seem to have ever benefited from any of these promised retirement plans, no matter how much they've contributed to them over their working lives.   The first few people in that generation seem to get the benefits just fine, before it collapses and the next iteration is made commonplace.  Not even to mention the social security debacle and all that is becoming.  I don't expect I'll ever see any of that.

So I've been re-thinking a lot of what I always thought we were "supposed to" do. What constitutes a "life"?  What is retirement?  What is the point, purpose or otherwise?  What the hell is a handbasket?

Well this got long.  Though it may sound similar to the popular manifesto, fear not, I won't turn into the next unabomber.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Motorcycles are Greener?

I have been seeing so many new motorcycles in the green news lately. Most are simply prototypes and concepts, of course. But mating a motorcycle with greener tech makes so much sense. Of course if you are of the mind that motorcycles are just instruments of death for the owners, you aren't likely to agree with that assessment. But understand that this is coming from someone who has lived without a car in the United States for at least 8 years of adult life (in Southern California, not New York City!), and is involved in the motorcycle community in play and work.

Motorcycles and scooters use far fewer resources to own and operate over automobiles. Making them even "greener" only makes it more of a well-used transportation vessel. As with everything in life, it has it's drawbacks, with exposure being at the top, both to elements and things that can impact with the body. But those risks can be considerably mitigated with a bit of diligence, gear, and training.

I am going to try to keep track of those I see, perhaps in a central location. Here is one I just saw today on AutoBlog Green after having thought about this for a few days.

LPG Powered Yamaha XT500 Motorcycle

Peter King's Small Houses in Vermont

Peter King builds Tiny Houses in Vermont. I found this video through the Tiny House Blog. He found it on the Stuck in Vermont blog.

Having grown increasingly irritated with all the consumerism mess here in the U.S., I've been more and more fascinated by simpler living. While I'm not even remotely considering or ready to ever give up my connectivity via phone and internet, the concept of spending most of life going to a job you hate so you can pay for a house you barely use and toys you don't have time to play with because you're busy working to "afford" them is becoming more and more absurd the more thought I give it.

I'm likely just having another mid-life crisis, but the patent absurdity of the life most of us lead and strive for is beginning to wear on me the further I get from my young age. Even though I've been quite a few amazing places, there is still so much to see and do. I couldn't likely deal with the Grizzly Adams thing. Beards itch. But what a bunch of futility we are taught to strive towards.

Or it's just a funny video of a trippy dude who likes it simple.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama

This is a letter written by a friend of mine.  I was going to write something almost verbatim, so since I am lazy and it would be redundant, I shall just post it here and give him credit.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations, sir, on a well-run campaign and a smashing victory. You energized millions of people to register and vote for you. And your campaign, by and large, focused on a positive vision for America. For that I commend you.

I didn’t vote for you. I feel that while your words are beautifully written and delivered, your record is scarce and scant. And what little record you’ve established seems to me to lean far to the left; too many government “solutions”, too much bureaucracy, too much regulation. And in a time of a contracting economy, I fear your economic policies will in fact exacerbate the economic downturn, not alleviate it.

But that is of little consequence now. You have won an historic victory. You are the nation’s first African-American president and obviously a man of high intellect who came from humble beginnings and I applaud you for reaching the pinnacle. You have proven that indeed America is still a beacon of hope for
all its citizens.

Your appeal reached far beyond traditional liberals and leftists to include disgruntled Republicans, independents and all ethnic groups. If there is anything I would ask you to think about every day when you awaken in the White House, it is this: that you represent
ALL the people, not just a small clique pushing an agenda, that it took millions of people from all walks of life to lift you to this great victory. You can certainly learn from the errors of your predecessors. I hope you will act on the words you spoke during the campaign and lead from the middle, not out on the edge. Don’t allow your own party to pull you too far in one direction … go above their heads to the America people if need be. You’re a convincing, articulate fellow and have obvious leadership qualities. Use those powers of persuasion and don’t be afraid to spend some of your political capital to lead the nation while rising above partisanship.

I wish you well, sir. You have a daunting task ahead of you. I don’t envy you … but I do respect you. And come next January, you will be my president. You have great reason to be proud. You have overcome stunning odds to soon become the most powerful man on the face of the Earth. In some way, I suspect all of us are proud of you as well. I wish your grandmother could have lived a few more days to see this moment. I know how proud she would have been of you.

You have a unique opportunity to become one of America’s most historic figures. I ask you to use your power wisely, judiciously and fairly. Keep a sense of humor and perspective and your family and friends close to you. You'll need them when times are tough. And undoubtedly, you will face many challenges in the years ahead.

You have my best wishes for wisdom and patience and prayers for success.


Original Post can be found here on ADVRider.com

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Motorcycle Bloggers Intl is Going Dark

Read about it here on the Sojourn Chronicles.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Good Morning America on Iditarod Training

This should be the link to the story for Karin Hendrickson's story on ABC's Good Morning America.  Aired October 18, 2008, about her rookie Iditarod training.

ABC News

Friday, October 17, 2008

Triumph the Insult Comedy dog at Final Debate


This is not my picture. I am testing PixelPipe, and testing how small a file can be.
Posted via Pixelpipe.

Pixel Pipe? Upload photos to a brazillion places at once

Monday, October 13, 2008

REVERIE now back online on SmugMug

Vincent LaForet's short film "Reverie" is back on SmugMug now in Hi-Def.

Link to his blog here.

Blue on Black Kennel Update - Iditarod Training

This is an update from my friends in Alaska who run a small Kennel and are training for the Iditarod dog sled race this year. We all went to junior high school together, that's where I know them. Check out their website!

Digg This Story.

Varan Hoyt & Karin Hendrickson
18024 Birchtree Street Chugiak, Alaska 99567
907-688-3306 www.blueonblackdogs.com

October 13, 2008

This is the year that we run Iditarod for the first time! Karin is officially signed up – see her profile on the Iditarod website at www.iditarod.com. The challenge of this race is so big and looks nearly impossible from here, but we just keep taking each step as it comes. Right now, that means running the dogs and getting them in shape to run a 1,000 mile race.

Training with four-wheelers began in early September, and the team looks really great. The team currently consists of 20 dogs and we’ve been hooking them all up at once. That is a whole lot of power, but the dogs have been very cooperative and are working well together. Last year we had mostly yearlings who had a lot to learn. This year we have experienced, motivated, educated sled dogs that are ready to run! Our two yearling girls are fitting right in and are already trying their skills as leaders.

There are many challenges in addition to making sure the dogs are trained and ready, like collecting all the gear and equipment for a race of this magnitude, finding the hours needed to train and care for the dogs on top of working full time, and of course working on sponsorship and funding.

Maybe the coverage on Good Morning America will help bring us sponsors! Look for us on Saturday, October 18 (GMA Weekend Edition). Who knows what kind of coverage they will decide to include, but we sure had fun sharing our dogs with them!

Please pass this newsletter on to anyone who might be interested. We’d love to hear from you, and we can always find time to share our wonderful dogs and this amazing sport.

Dog Sponsors
Gwen Rodman – Sponsoring Luna, our entry fee, and MANY other things!
The Domonoske Family – Dan, Sara, Colin, Heather – Sponsoring Alis
Joan Presecan, Sandra Baldonado, Marilyn Dale – Sponsoring Angel
Linda Frost – Sponsoring Chase
Bea & Darryl Churchill – Sponsoring Gringo
Marta Escanuelas – Sponsoring Maggot
Danny & Missy Poore – Sponsoring Scooby (plus lots of promotion help!)
Richard & Sandra Hendrickson – Sponsoring Shotgun
Auntie Carol – Sponsoring Voodoo

We still have several wonderful dogs looking for a sponsor. Check them out on the ‘Dog’ page of our website!

$100 (or more) Sponsors
Bob Sept, DVM
Bob & Nancy Strickland
Bruce & Diana Moroney
Chuck Owen
Cindy McCartney & Bob Borba
Dale Barwick
Doug & Sue Brandt
Harry & Barbara Senn
Haulin Hsu & Bob Wingard
Kim Arriaga
Mammut headlamps
Martha Ethridge
Mary Bennett
Mary Johnson
Mt Baldy Visitor Center Crew
Rayma Zack
The Wingates - Richard, Sheryl, & Evan
The Wood Family - Holly, John, Helen Catherine, & John Wesley
The Mt Baldy Community

Monday, October 6, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mirrored Rubik's Cube

This makes my brain hurt. It looks much harder to disassemble and put back together when I get frustrated trying to figure it out.

If he had that much trouble figuring out the piece of tape to get the box open, perhaps he should try something easier, as well.

James Nachtwey's Story Announced - Help Here

XDRTB Website

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Moment A Heron Swallowed A Rabbit (pic)

Wow...when, you've gotta eat, you've gotta eat...

read more | digg story

Getting political now...

Holy Downhill Mountainbiking!

Look at the grade of those cliffs where these guys are doing jumps and passing each other.

read more | digg story

Zach & Miri Trailers in up to HD

Zach & Miri Make a Porno now has the latest trailers up over on Apple.

Watch it here.