Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Flick Off..!..?..!

Ever since Yahoo! bought the company behind Flickr in 2005 a revolt has been growing in the Flick community. In a clause in Flickr's FAQ, Yahoo said it will "migrate" all independent account holders to its own network, requiring them to create a Yahoo ID, members must migrate before March 15th. A suprisingly huge number of Flickr members have stated that "If Flickr really forces me to join Yahoo in order to still use my account, I will quit 24 hours before the deadline". A "Flick off" group has been been formed which is basically a Flickr Accounts Mass Suicide Countdown group all stating that they will close their account with the message "Flick off" in the days leading up to the merge. Ok, so Yahoo! is imposing a few new rules, limiting users to 3000 contacts and 75 tags per picture which isn't great, especially for those who have over 3000 contacts and somehow feel that a single photo can merit over 75 descripters (where do they find the time!!?). As a web developer I understand the reasons behind streamling systems like this and merging user ids, it's annoying to begin with but you get over it and it may make life easier in the long term so that everything can 'mash'. But behind the technicalities I do feel that the dissension here in part is a resistance to change and a deep-rooted distrust of mega-corporations possessed with wallet assaulting tentacles. Flickr began as grass-roots and now it is seen to be turning into a corporate giant possessing a team of marketing droids with acute data mining capabilities. I have to say I don't really care - I was a Yahoo! user and signed up with a Yahoo! ID, I love Flickr, I'll be sad if I loose any of my contacts who want to flick off. But, old Flickr schoolies, the only thing that can be permenant in this world is change, try some deep breathing exercisies!

Read Flickr's announcement on the 30th January

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lonely Day


Babel has several great stories to tell. In Morocco a father entrusts his sons with a rifle to shoot the jackals that hunt his sheep. But boys being boys they soon start shooting at the top of a mountain to see how far the bullets travel. An American couple vacationing in the country to overcome a family tragedy end up on the wrong bus at the wrong time. In San Dieago a Mexican nanny must attend her son's wedding with he two young charges in tow. In Japan a deaf mute girl called Chieko desperately tries to gain love and acceptance after her mother's suicide. In true Iñárritu (Amoros Perros and 21 Grams) fashion the stories are woven together to create an entwined epic.

Even without it's biblically flavoured title Babel is obviously a film about words, communication, and disconnection. The viewer is presented with a mirage of languages: Japanese, English, Berber, Spanish, sign language, complete silence. The kids speak in fluent Spanish to their Nanny, Richard has his trusty interpreter at his side, the deaf girl relies on her pad and paper and video phone to communicate. It shows the damage that a lack of communication can have in relationships: husband and wife, father and daughter; between races: American and Hispanic, English and Muslim; between classes: the Moroccan police and the suffering locals. It shows how the press can communicate prejudice and political hyperbole within moments of a 'terrorist' attack, how popping a pill can for just a moment bring you together with your peers, how a single phone call can break your heart. Yet despite the array of different languages, the dialogue is minimal and is replaced by the steady drumbeat of exotic percussion music played throughout acting to draw the different stories together.

Babel is a powerful film that scores very highly in my books. The cast is solid (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal plus outstanding performances by lesser knows Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza); the soundtrack fits perfectly; the concept and imagery is tense, complex, and haunting. It is a film filled with tragedy and it won't leave you smiling, but its subtle plea for understanding at personal and international levels leaves you thinking hard. What use are words if no one can communicate?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Show and Tell

Every now and then I post a mosaic of my favorite pictures that have been uploaded to Flickr by other users. There are, however, a few members who I want to show off because I consistently return to their pages to see what they have recently done. My favorite of the favorites.

Folded by Nicholevan

Other than being totally adorable (look at those fingers and toes!), this photograph absolutely blew my mind. The confidence in the owner of the hand; the trust and complete peacefulness of the baby; the wonderful light. Tender and heartbreaking, almost makes you ache.

Bowie and Emil
by Autumn Fawn

I love all of Autumn Fawn's photographs and always eagerly await the next batch to be posted. I chose to show this one simply because I think it is genius to take your kid to a graveyard dressed in a Halloween outfit! Great photographic potential! As in this photograph, the major subject of Autumn Fawn's photography is her son Bowie. It seems that he has atruly magical childhood and her photographs portray an innocence and beauty that captures the heart and makes you want to get into the photograph and be a child again. Other favorites include Painting Raspberries (I love the light and the look of concentration
on Bowie's face), Peter Pan's Window, and her Body as a Vessel Set.

Small by Pierofix

Italian photographer Pierofix has some interesting stuff up on flickr. A lot of his pictures are about photography and himself as the photographer (he doesn't make a bad subject!), but I like him because he also likes to experiment, mixing his mediums and coming up with something contemporary and creative with an edginess about it. He also does quite a bit of street and social photography, a theme which I love but also one that is under threat.

Letting Go by _rebekka
I have many favorite photographers onFlickr but one I keep returning to is _rebekka. The Flickr community's huge response to _rebekka's photography just shows how good she is. Some of her pictures have had over 15,000 views, been favorited over 400 times, she has tonnes of testimonials, and as soon as she posts something she instantly gets 100 raving comments. The photographs themselves are creative and awe inspiring, she takes a lot of self portraits (if I looked like her I would too!), photos of her kids, and many landscape pictures of her native Iceland; the Icelandic light giving her art a haunting and magical depth. I find her work genuinely inspirational but I can't do her justice, go and have a look for yourself. Other of her photographs I really love include What you don't know can indeed hurt you; this self portrait; and her stunning longexposures set.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Permission to travel please

One thing that being part of the Flickr community has made me want to do is see more of the world. As I browse through the photos I mentally note down the beautiful places I wish to see with my own eyes, or the communities of people I want to try and understand. I have always loved travelling and I have been to some wonderful countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Malaysia, Egypt...), more than most perhaps, but they are just a few grains of sand in the Ecultural melting pot that is Planet earth. I do truely believe that it is a serious disadvantage not to be able to travel the world - experience worlds far removed and alien to our own. We make the cities and the streets that we traverse everyday our world; there is so much more to see, to understand, to shake up our micro perspectives. So many parts of the world are becoming inaccessible to us, places my Grandfather still tells me stories of - how I would love to float on the dead sea, see the wailing wall in Jerusulum, The Al Kadhimain Mosque in Bahgdad, Libya's deserts and Leptis Magna. It's likely that they will just remain stories. It's frustrating as I particularly like travelling in Muslim countries and communities, but now I have to think twice - even Egypt and Turkey come with a great big warning sign slapped across them. God I get so bored of the English. True there are some fantastic places to visit in the UK, places which give you an "experience" but it is just not the culture shock and mind altering thump that I crave. In the UK I go on holiday, the rest of the world I travel.

And of course there is the pollution issue. Sustainable travel is difficult. There are so many places I would give anything to see, anything other than my footprint (or carbon print) on that place.
I'm not quite convinced by Mr Blairs comments today defending long haul holidays. Of course I agree that foremost the big companies need to make travel more energy efficient, however this is not happening fast enough, Tony hasn't convinced me that there is enough being done for me not to feel guilty when I hop on a plane. I always carbon offset, but this isn't going to stop global warming and has had strong criticism from various environmental groups pointing out the difference between fossil carbon and biological carbon: "Telling people to plant trees is like telling them to drink more water to keep down rising sea levels.". However, I am sure that most of the hard core Greenies have travelled to far flung places and yet still preach of the evils of travel, would they if they hadn't fulfilled their ambitions to go somewhere different I wonder? It's a very complicated issue it seems, you can't push a Green agenda that tells people they can't have a good time and learn more, but you can't have a good time if there is no world left to have it in. I simply don't feel that I have seen enough of this planet, I itch to go to South America, India, Nepal, Japan . . . different cultures, different sounds, different tastes. I want to be in the photos that I see...So the idea flickering in and out of my head at the moment is to travel somewhere (boo) but to put back something into the place I travel to (yay!) - wildlife conservation trips for example (Go to Brazil and document the trees, or my favorite - go to South Africa and rehabilitate baby lions!), so become involved, not just another tourist. But is this just salving my conscience rather than solving a problem? I think my next journey will take a bit of planning.


The carbon shop: planting new problems