22 February 2010

$2 Portrait Project: Daniel and Samantha

$2 portrait project: Daniel and Samantha

Anyone who has visited San Francisco for any length of time is acutely aware of the large number of people who live on the streets. It becomes depressingly easy to walk along and look straight ahead without giving any acknowledgment to the panhandler asking for change. My lovely wife, braver than I, has taken to looking right at them and at least offering a smile.

I'm not comfortable with this kind of filter-less engagement with the reality of life here in the city, but I feel like I should be. Recently, I came across Thomas Hawk's $2 Photo project, and I'm going to try it out to get over this block. The gig is simple - when someone asks for change, give them $2 in return for a portrait and a chance to find out the story behind the face.

Walking on the weekend near the Ferry Building, we came across Daniel Harlan & Samantha. Daniel hails from Muskogee, Oklahoma, and his constant companion is Samantha, his pug-nosed Himalayan cat. He told us that Samantha is one-of-a-kind, the only Himalayan cat in the city. I recognised the pair as they'd recently been in the local papers; Samantha was at one stage lost, leading to Daniel to offer a reward for her return. Samantha was found shortly thereafter, and the whole episode seemed to weigh heavily on his mind. Daniel kept a battered copy of the article with him to show visitors. He repeated that Samantha's finder was reluctant to return her; however he was mostly just glad to be reunited with his companion and the two genuinely seemed delighted to be back in each others company.

I got my photo, wished him a good morning and we got back on our way.

21 February 2010

SF: moma soma coma

Explorations in and around SF MOMA and Townsend St., San Francisco.

SFMOMA 0210: curved aperture

SFMOMA 0210: Sculpture garden 00

Townsend St: Kennedy

20 February 2010

What English sounds like with just sounds and no meaning

A work colleague and I were discussing the other day the how English might 'sound' to someone who didn't understand the words. I'm used to frequently seeing impressions of other languages from native English speakers, but rarer to see is English speakers coming up with their own 'impressions' of English.

One of the first occurrences we came across was John Cleese, who developed a type of nonsense English and has used it to great comic effect. Have a listen to this interview on NPR, around the 8:50 mark, where he talks about this nonsense language he developed. He's also used it relatively recently:

The interesting thing about this clip is the confusion it brings about - it sounds and feels like understandable language, but is in fact complete nonsense. I've passed this on to a few people I know and some have reported that it makes them feel uncomfortable as it sounds like it should make sense but doesn't.

In the NPR interview linked above, John Cleese states Stanley Unwin and his Unwinese as his inspiration for his nonsense language. I hadn't known about Stanley Unwin before, and it turns out he's absolute master of gibberish - and very, very funny to boot:

It's also possible to speak grammatically correct English without making an any sense either. The late great Ronnie Barker delighted in messing around with pronunciation and spelling, to great comic effect:

Ronnie Barker and the News at Ton.

And now for the final variation: grammatically correct, valid English that unintentionally doesn't make any sense. For example, see this classic spoof of the Turbo-Encabulator:

I think it's interesting that this low signal-to-noise-ratio style of speaking is instantly recognisable to anyone who has encountered people who speak a lot of needless business jargon. Observe this unintentionally hilarious clip from Microsoft COO, Kevin Turner, weighing in at 4 minutes 20 seconds:

If you take that same clip, and reduce it down to just business buzzwords, its 1 minute 49 seconds long - that's 42% buzzwords(!!):

I'll just leave this here:

17 February 2010

Scheimpflug is my co-pilot

hill stop

Long taxi is looooong

Testing out a new tilt lens configuration in Potrero Hill last weekend.