The Royal Wedding

I’ve been watching the social media site Facebook for the last few days and noted a number of people saying that they are not interested in the Wedding of Harry Windsor and Meghan Markle. They’ve taken time out of their day to do this, thus suggesting that they are, indeed, interested.

So they should be. It is a real event for the two young people and staged in such an open fashion as to enable all to see what is happening. There is enough drama of the good old-fashioned kind to satisfy all, and no-one need feel sad at the end of it.

Indeed, just the opposite. A cheerful union of two people from different countries, with the reasonable prospect of them having enough to eat, a place to live, a chance to do their jobs, and perhaps even have children. I cannot think of a better antidote for the sadness, the tragedy, and the politics of the world – and I would wish the same happiness for any of my Facebook friends who have seen it.

 

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The Experiments – Part Four – Final

The heading image placed on this last experimental page is a conventional representation of a one of the flags of the Confederate States of America in the 1860’s. Recently it has become the centrepiece in a storm of controversy in the United States and has been used in a number of deplorable political and criminal acts, as well as for theatrical presentations.

It was also an extremely small part of an image on a weblog column dealing with die-cast toy cars – fuzzy and pixellated though it was, I suspect it triggered a mechanism in Facebook that blanked the image. I determined to see how that mechanism operated. The previous three posts on this column ( go back and read them ) detail the experimental means I employed to see if the thing could be set off again.

If we don’t see an image up there on Facebook today – or if it’s a generalized image of my studio card – we’ll know the trigger mechanism is the entire, coloured, detailed pattern. Every other combination has been ignored. If you do see the flag pattern, then the whole episode was just a flash in the social media pan.

The flag pattern won’t be shown again – not for political or moral reasons – but because it is just not relevant to life and thought here in Australia. And that may be a hard thing for anyone in North America to accept…that this is another part of the world with people who lead other lives. The distresses that the North Americans encounter or engender within their own borders are theirs to deal with amongst themselves. To put it succinctly – it’s none of my business.

Readers can be as proud or as ashamed – as busy or as idle – as high or as low as they wish. No need to howl at me with either rage or approval – my opinion on North American matters is not relevant. The only thing you might care to do is to share some thoughts:

If you can’t see an 1860’s flag on the top of a Facebook post…what other things are you not permitted to see? What price constitutional amendments or bills of rights ? Who decides the let and hindrance of your life?

 

The Experiments – Part Three

The second week saw the reposting of the initial experiments in graphics repeated but with the Photoshop inversion turned off – the colours of the experimental panel are the red, white, and blue of the original flag image.

This may, or may not be the actual colours of the Confederate flag – I’ve never seen an original relic. Logic tells me that cloth dyes of that time would have a lot less purity and the intervening years – plus Yankee shot and shell will have dimmed the things. Even a few years’ flying for a modern flag will show considerable wear on it, and maritime flags worst of all.

Note that there are many modern flags – including Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Russia, France, Norway, the Netherlands, and the United States of America to list a few –  that use red, white, and blue in their flags. The reason I mention this is that if the censor is electronic and dependent upon pure colour recognition, last week would have gotten a pass-through. This week would start the circuits.

A.SIze, aspect ratio, colour all correct. No response.

B.

There’s the cross again but in pure white. Is this St. Patrick’s cross? Like on the Union Jack? I think it might be. No response.

C.An addition of the blue bars to the cross. No response. Is it too close to the Norwegian flag to get an alarm buzzer? Or is there a real person looking at the experiment – possibly with finger poised?

The last part – the entire flag placed prominently on Facebook with a post underneath disclaiming any political or racial bias – will prove the pudding.

The reaction of Facebook could be several things:

a. No reaction. It was all a gas bubble. I can go back to playing Candy Crush and looking for pictures of cats.

b. Enormous reaction. Immediate removal of all Facebook accounts. Howls of rage from civic groups and all the consequent social furore that can be sustained. I should be sad to lose the facility that Facebook provides, but then I have the example of several friends who deliberately avoid it – they live full intellectual lives nonetheless.

c. A polite wigging from the administrators done by automatic posting a scolding communication. Inviting an equally polite rebuttal, of course. Written by hand…

d. Virtuous unfriending or blocking by Facebook friends who have not read and will not read the actual articles. The one-line judges and the keyboard warriors are the most likely for this. I shall be sad to lose them, but the world is full of consolation.

The Experiments – Part Two

Remember I said I tried out a number of graphic components to see the point at which the Facebook robot censor or real person triggered? I secured an image of the Confederate flag and cleaned it up. Then I deconstructed it and changed the colour in Photoshop. Each day I popped one image on the screen:

A.

Reverse of red. No reaction. But a nice colour for a GM car of the 1950’s. This has the proportions of the flag.

B. 

Addition of the PS-inversed blue field of the flag. Rather similar to St. Andrew’s cross on the Scottish flag, though they have a better blue and a clear white. That central colour is the inverse of a deep blue. No reaction

C.

Well, there you go – the PS inverse of the Stars And Bars straight out. If the circuit was going to be triggered by the size, shape and pattern, this should do it. But no reaction.

Note that at no point did I use the comments section of Facebook to mention politics, flags, Confederates, or censorship. I just threw out the images to see what would occur. And I tried to keep myself from coming to premature conclusions about what was happening. Some of my Facebook friends knew what the pattern looked like but at this stage of the  experiment they also drew no final conclusions.

After one week, I switched the colours…

The Experiments – Part One

My friends on Facebook have seen a little graphic experimentation conducted on that social media site over the last couple of weeks. It’s time to explain what they saw and why it was there.

It started here on WordPress a few weeks ago when I posted a column about a collection of toys at a model car club. They were tiny replicas of the Dodge that featured in the ” Dukes Of Hazard ” television show. It’s the orange one with the Confederate flag on the top and ” General Lee ” on the side. The column was headed by this image:

Pretty small and awfully fuzzy – I forgot to focus – but sharp enough to trigger some sort of response in the Facebook machinery*. When the column was automatically shared to Facebook the image was replaced with a generic picture of my studio card.

I was pretty sure it was the blobs of pixels representing that flag, as it is so controversial in America. But I was amazed that such a small and innocent picture could get banned. And it raised the question of whether someone sits in an office somewhere tut-tutting and blue penciling everything that comes by  – or if there is a computer program that searches pixel by pixel.

And further – if there is a magic eye censor peering all the time, what exactly is it peering at? Colour? Shape? Pattern? Position? Is it looking at all the faces on Facebook and censoring out the ones it doesn’t like? I determined to experiment by posting a patch of colour or a pattern each day on their main site to see when and if it would be removed. And I didn’t just use the colours of the flag – I used colours that had been chromatically reversed in the Photoshop palette as well.

Note for the virtuous: I do not condone the use of the Confederate flag for nastiness in North America at all – I think it is abhorrent. Outside of that continent it is irrelevant – and I note that nearly everywhere has some graphic design that might be historic but is liable to be used for politics and social behaviour. We’ve got one that’s been seized upon down here:

That’s a Wikipedia image of the Eureka flag first flown in Ballarat during a 19th century gold-digger’s rebellion. It was a small flag and a small rebellion, but recently it has been used for a lot of union politics and pressure groups. It’s not a myth – you can actually go see the real thing in the museum there.

*  Note: If this panel of this WordPress posting is blank on Facebook, we’ll know the graphic censorship extends into the body of the essays as well as the header.

Bright Sunday Morning

With a new lens and a car show to go to, I had a good reason to get up on Sunday morning. It was a local affair, wanting no more than a 10-minute drive and a $ 5 bill to get in the gate. The exhibitors were there because they love showing off their cars and the spectators were there because they love looking at them…and that means that there was a good vibe all round. Most car shows have this, but the Curtin FM show has more than most.

It would have been a tough thing to schedule as there was a competing Show And Shine at the big drag-race complex fifteen miles away. Some car owners might have been hard pressed to select which one to show at…and the spectators would have had to make a one-or-the-other decision. The Curtin show has good food vans, however, so I chose it.

The big bugbear of Western Australian shows is the sun – it shines on a professional basis here and in partnership with a big blue sky it can dominate any outdoor picture. This time I wanted to try shooting with a bare rig – one camera, one lens, no fill flash – to see if it was a viable option for other interstate shows. By and large I think it succeeded and the post-processing power of Lightroom CC saved most of the shadow detail. Cloudier skies could only improve it as autumn and  winter advance.

The freedom of carrying a small retro camera while dressed in unobtrusive old-guy clothes is wonderful. No-one bothers you – if you are a street shooter who can look down into the LCD screen instead of up, I don’t even think that they even see you. it is the best thing to a cloak of invisibility. I don’t even think you have to cover the camera over with tape or fake nameplates to disguise it – no-one cares a hoot.

If you also have a cup of coffee in your left hand no-one will actually see you triggering the shutter. Fujifilm cameras can be set to shut off all shutter sounds and in bright sunshine you don’t need the AF-assist light. Just point and shoot.

Note that the camera coped with the white cars – this has been improved internally from what it was several years ago – or perhaps the post-processing program is better. In any case this will be the camera and lens of choice for future away-day shooting.

Sneer Away, Vermont.

The people of Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, and upstate New York need a laugh occasionally. They are accustomed to the beauty of rich colours in their forests every September and October. We’ve all seen the wonderful calendar photos of the covered bridges and the old churches amongst the red, oranges, and yellows…

The heading image is Fall in Perth, Western Australia. Autumn if you want to be pedantic. Those are dirty yellow trees in the Hay Street mall overarching a wet pavement. That’s it. That’s as picturesque and romantic as it gets. You can take long, soulful walks between JB HiFi and Vodafone if you want to but be aware that no songwriters have ever made ballads about it. And the Perth City rangers will move you on if you slacken your pace. You might as well get back on the train and go home.

Autumn in Australia is wet and cold, followed by a wet and cold winter. If you get nostalgic for sunshine and heat you can either go to Singapore or wait for January when the Weather Bureau will have a little surprise for you…

Perth in winter is bracing. So is Skegness and root canal treatment. But at least if you are languishing in the dental chair under rubber dam you are not standing at a bus stop getting splashed by the 507 from Booragoon as it speeds past unheeding. Winter in Perth combines discomfort with banality – cold with pointlessness. It is the least you could do, but you re compelled to re-do it every year.

The only way to escape it is to go North. North to Geraldton and Broome and Exmouth and Darwin. You’ll find good weather and a lack of culture. Your body will rejoice and your mind will shrivel. The choice is yours.

Note: Perth does have covered bridges. They’re covered in bird shit and motor cars.