Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tilt Shift Video

Tilt shift photography takes advantage of the mind's interpretation of depth of field as an indication of size and distance in images. Distant objects in a very narrow depth of field appear to be a close-up of tiny objects. The effect works well enough with still images, but with video it's amazing.

The Case of Troy Anthony Davis

We must confront the unalterable fact that the system of capital punishment is fallible, given that it is administered by fallible human beings. I respectfully urge the Board of Pardons and Paroles to demonstrate your strong commitment to fairness and justice and commute the death sentence of Troy Anthony Davis.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

My friend Gary has been working to call attention to the case of Troy Davis, who came within 90 minutes of being executed on the 23rd of September 2008. A jury convicted Davis of shooting and killing police officer Mark Allen McPhail with a .38 caliber gun.

The case against him rested almost entirely on informant and eyewitness testimony with no physical evidence. No weapon was found to connect to the crime. Now, all but three eyewitnesses have recanted or changed their testimony. Some of those who have recanted claim that they were coerced and intimidated to give the testimony they did. Sylvester "Red" Coles admitted to having a .38 caliber handgun in his possession just a half hour before the shooting of a police officer, but he claims to have lost the gun. Coles is one of the three eyewitnesses not to recant.

The US Supreme Court declined to hear the case and Davis again faced execution on October 27, 2008. On the 24th the execution was temporarily stayed by the federal appeals court in Atlanta.

I've been hearing and reading about this case for a few months, and I wasn't sure what to think about it. I've decided that's all I need to take my stance. Amnesty International provides enough information on this page to give me important doubts.

Visit this page for more information and to see a short trailer for the documentary (still in the production).

Troy's sister Martina also maintains a web page with updates and information.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Those who can...

It seems to me, if you're going to give advice on how to draw Barack Obama you should show that you can draw a picture that actually looks like him.

Taylor Jones is a good caricaturist but he's missing on these images. He doesn't bother with the shape of Obama's face, which is an important feature: long, triangular. The chin needs to extend further below the mouth. The eyes and brows are turn down too quickly from the bridge of the nose and the eyebrows are too close. A slightly larger distance between them is important. Accentuate the width of the smile, not the height. And in a smile turn town the upper lip.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus, and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid, and I find myself much happier.
Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Reverend Joseph E. Lowery's Benediction

G-d of our weary years

G-d of our silent tears

Thou who has brought us thus far along the way

Thou who has by thy might led us into the light

Keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our G-d, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand, true to thee, O G-d, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you're able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor — or the least of these — and from favoritism toward the rich — the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now Lord in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountaintop help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes our workplaces our churches our temples our mosques or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back — when brown can stick around — when yellow will be mellow — when the red man can get ahead, man — and when white will embrace what is right.

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.


[REV. LOWERY] Say amen


[REV. LOWERY] and amen.


The Reverend Rick Warren's Invocation

Almighty G-d, our father,

Everything we see and everything we can't see exists because of you alone. It all comes from you, it all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. History is your story.

The Scripture tells us "Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our god; the Lord is one." And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now today we rejoice not only in America's peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time. We celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African-American president of the United States.

We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in Heaven.

Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us oh G-d to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the Earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.

Help us to share to serve and to seek the common good of all.

May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.

We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesús, Jesus, who taught us to pray, Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Foreboding Mourning

The most distasteful messages in Bush's farewell were those endorsing a black and white view of the world and and absolute view of change.

Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored Al-Qaeda and stoned women in the streets, to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school.

No country is ever completely any of those things. Al-Qaeda still has real estate in Afghanistan. Women are still treated unequally. Even if extremism is publicly criticized and discouraged there are subversive private lives and barely-secret movements that are still a part of every country. Even the United States.

Bush makes similar simple claims about Iraq then adds

There's legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than 7 years without another terrorist attack on our soil.

There can be great debate about the results. Are they even results? He scampers from black and white thinking over to a feeble post hoc ergo propter hoc argument.

Then away from arguments of evidence to arguments of principle:

I have always acted with the best interests of the country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what i thought was right.

This is not enough. My complaint has never been that he didn't follow his conscience. The problem is that his conscience is flawed. His sense of right is perverted. If he thought it was right to fabricate evidence and to allow torture then his assurance of good intentions is meaningless. His intentions are different from mine.

Here then is the capsule of his hamartia:

Good and evil are present in this world. And between the two there can be no compromise. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right.

Bush does not understand that good and evil do not always exist in opposition to each other. That the structures of good and evil comprise many decisions principles and intentions that are neither good nor evil. He is unable to grasp the ridiculous irony of using the following statement in his own defense.

Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time everywhere.

Intentions are meaningless when you don't have the interest to get a logical grasp of the structure of your own morality.


I had no interest in listening to Bush's farewell plea Thursday night. We know the song well enough to sing along. He admits his administration wasn't perfect but he assures us that he loves us.

That's how he says goodby. By saying You can't blame me.

Here are a few goodbyes for him. Not all negative.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Where Credit Is Due

How cool is Prop 8 Maps? No really. Is it cool or is it kinda sick?

I have several friends that are theologically and socially conservative. And of course I'm very curious to see if they donated to support this unequal rights amendment. Half of me wants to do a quick search to see if they're listed. Half of me figures I should be forthright and just ask them. But here's the beauty of this map: If I get into a conversation about this with my friend Bible Bob, I have to confront the disagreement. And I've talked about that before. If I just slink around the map and find names, I know I can be trusted with that information. I'm good at judging silently.

But if you're not silent, I'll respect your desire for attention:

Look, she's willing to give up $200,000.00 for this intolerant cause. I'm guessing she's proud of her conviction.

If she didn't want recognition for this cause she could have gone the sniper route and given all the credit to Focus On Some Families in Colorado Springs like these sweethearts:

Now here's a true believer. She's willing to donate all that money plus squash a lucrative client base. It must be her version of tithe.

Rod Dreher calls this creepy and asks

Would you want some gay-bashing group to post to the Internet a map to the homes of contributors to a pro-gay marriage initiative?

Yes. I would. You'd see my name on there. My real one. Lots of us who oppose 8 have made public statements. What's creepy is supporting a cause you're not proud to support.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Numbers That Don't Really Count

...but that do tell us a lot. From Harper's special Bush Index

Number of press conferences at which Bush has referred to a question as a “trick”: 14

Number of times he has declared an event or outcome not to be “acceptable”: 149

Rank of Bush among U.S. presidents with the highest disapproval rating: 1

Average percentage of Americans who approved of the job Bush was doing during his second term: 37

Percentage of Russians today who approve of the direction their country took under Stalin: 37

I Just Noticed...


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Want It To Capture Our Lack of Inspiration

Even if you hate the team, the Yankees organization can design a nice patch.

That's some mighty fine stitchin' boys.

The Mets on the other hand...

It has been compared to the Dominos logo. Mmmmm. Blaaaand.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What Long Nails You Have

In an interview posted on his blog photographer Joshua Hoffine explains

If I were more concerned about money, I would probably be photographing bunnies and kitty cats.

He's sort of the antidote to some much more disturbing pictures I've seen that exploit children.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Let's Get It On

This is old. But some post-coital reflection might be in order.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I Doubt Some Foul Play

At a friend's command I went and saw Doubt Friday evening. As an indication of how much I trust and value this friend's opinions I should point out how seldom I visit the movie theatre. I went more than usual in 2008: I went twice.

Doubt was good. Well written. Nicely structured. Gorgeously acted. I love Philip Seymour Hoffman. Meryl Streep is always perfect. And the moral questions are rich.

You should watch it.

Of course I'd like to discuss it now. But in order to preserve the direction of my friend's interest (and to avert any spoilers) I'll invite comments as a continuation. Therein I'll share further impressions and discuss the flick without reservation. But first I'll ask my thoughtful friend a simple question (in good faith):

Why was it such an important movie?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

We are not amused

It doesn't matter how cool you are; Blagojevich doesn't get to make up the VIP list. So you really can't feel at all bad for Roland Burris. He decided to accept the appointment from a scumbag. Today he's running into a bunch of bouncers that aren't letting him into the club.

And to top it all off he introduces himself at his shameless press conference saying "My name is Roland Burris, the Junior Senator from the state of Illinois." Balls.

Something makes me think that even if he didn't buy the seat, he would have been happy to make an offer.

Friday, January 2, 2009

When's the Franken/Jackson Debate?

Victoria Jackson was never funny on Saturday Night Live, but she's hilarious now.

Making the case that Barack Obama might be the antichrist she writes:

[A]ll I remember from my Bible college training is that in the end times, a political leader would arise who would:

  1. "arise", appear gradually on the scene
  2. come from "the north"
  3. encourage and create a one world government
  4. do signs and wonders
  5. amass a huge following
  6. persecute Christians who wouldn't bow down to him
  7. something about "666" or "the mark of the beast"...if you don't have it, you can't get food
  8. appear to solve world problems for a time
  9. be against Christ

Her website is full of glorious bits.

She misuses the "freedom of speech" argument, thinking it means that no one should be critical of her for what she says. Then she argues that if something is not a curse word it shouldn't be offensive. Especially if it's simply a term in eschatology.

She protests:

It's funny that the word "Antichrist" was used in reference to President Bush many times, and no one seemed to mind.

Well that's because Bush is the antichrist.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.