Thursday, December 20, 2007

A new low

Sorry, haven't been posting much lately. Sick of writing. Haven't had the gumption to take new photos. Most of my time has been spent working on videos, which is not good for providing content for an oft-publishing on-line magazine. The damn things are fucking slow to produce.

As an offshoot of that, I needed to learn a bit about creating 3D graphics in Illustrator, so instead of the usual form of masturbation, I worked on the chuckling logo instead. Kinda fun, but ultimately useless.

But on the positive side, you can look forward to my annual X-mas eve essay on It's a Wonderful Life. Serously, I'll have it on-line X-mas eve morn. Y'all come back now. No, I mean come back then.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why we are doomed, part MXXXVI

Perhaps the headline is overstating it a bit? I don't know. You never can tell with these things. When it comes to identifying all of the little contributing factors to the end of the world as we know it, it's easy to overstate the importance of this one or that. But as a pundit in an on-line magazine, I persist. You can be sure that when the catastrophe is upon us, the deciding factor for its cause will be something that no one considered important at the time.

Yesterday, for example, I was researching point and shoot cameras for a colleague. She wanted one those sleek little jobs, the kind that you can carry around your neck on a lanyard. A camera functional yet fashionable, something akin to those giant medallions the rappers wear, only more for the Disney World, camera-totin tour bus type. Beyond size, the requirements were short recovery time between shots and and image quality. In that order.

Did you know that those tiny cameras now come in 12 mega pixel models? That means that each photograph will have 12 million pixels. A pixel is a small square dot. To get 12 million of them on a 1.25" chip is amazing. Those are small little buggers. It's very fucking impressive. Wowsa.

Of course I knew that was just a marketing gimmick, that stuffing that many pixels on a tiny chip would more likely fuck up the quality, and would definitely fuck up the speed. So I concentrated my research in the seven or eight megapixel range.

What I found was that they no longer make the camera that virtually all the professionals agreed was far and away the best in terms of image quality. And realistically, isn't image quality what it's all about? The newest 12 MP model with a veritable plethora of useless features sells for around $300. The discontinued 6 MP model whose only bell or whistle was incredible image quality now sells for a minimum of $399 on line.

So you can take away two things from that. One is that companies will produce what their marketers can sell, not necessarily the best quality thing they can produce. The second lesson is that a lot of people have their priorities all screwed up. We are easily suckered by superficialities. Educated people will almost always choose quality. The poorly educated are drawn to the bright ans shiny. Then we wonder why our purchase sucks.

In this case we just get crappy photos. And truth be told, even the best fully automatic ultra-slim camera will not produce good pictures in much of anything less than perfect lighting, but the same dynamic is at work all across the cultural spectrum.

That's why George W. Bush is president. That's why the most spectacular failures in our political and corporate society are so lavishly rewarded. That's why the rich eat 1.7 pounds of meat every week while the poor eat 2.2. It's why we shop at WalMart and eat at McDonalds. It tells us everything we need to know about the presidential candidates.

Substance is not much of a factor in our purchasing decisions. But once the sale is made, substance is all we've got.