Category Archives: A blogger’s musings

Apologies for the lack of posting. . .

We’ve been a bit unwell and are dealing with a crisis. Hope to be back to more regular posting soon.

And now for something completely different

Before there was Photoshop, there were darkrooms, the kind of places esnl spent much time developing and printing black and white photographs for the newspapers he worked for during his five decades in the newspaper business.

And now, from via Petapixel, is a look at the light-and-chemical processes of film photography replicated for digital images by Photoshop:

Before there was Photoshop | film photography | Photoshop 25th anniversary

We’ll leave the program notes to PetaPixel:

These Are the Darkroom Techniques Photoshop’s Tools Are Based On

As a tribute to Photoshop for its recent 25th birthday, Lynda created this “before there was Photoshop” video that shows the darkroom tools and techniques that were used by film photographers before Photoshop and digital photography arrived on the scene.

Photographer Konrad Eek works on a print by dodging, burning, adding gradients, using masks, feathering, and more. If you’ve never made a print in a darkroom before, this video could be quite illuminating.

Lee Judge: Oh bloody really, Mr. Bilious O’Reilly?

The Fox News host is at the center of yet another controversy, this time for radically distorting his short-lived career at CBS News, with the center of the controversy a David Corn/Daniel Schulman Mother Jones expose of his over-hyped claims of reporting on the similarly short-lived Falklands War.

O’Reilly is really flummoxed, and went so far as to threaten New York Times reporter Emily Steel when she called him for a report on the controversy:

Mr. O’Reilly’s efforts to refute the claims by Mother Jones and some former CBS News colleagues occurred both on the air and off on Monday. During a phone conversation, he told a reporter for The New York Times that there would be repercussions if he felt any of the reporter’s coverage was inappropriate. “I am coming after you with everything I have,” Mr. O’Reilly said. “You can take it as a threat.”

O’Reilly is a serial liar, with some of his most egregious examples cataloged here by Occidental College political scientist Peter Dreier.

From a journalistic standpoint, his most notorious lies centered on his claims to have won a pair of Peabody Awards while presiding as the haircut-in-chief at the syndicated tabloid show Inside Edition. O’Reilly and the show did not, in fact, win Peabodys. The show later won two Pol Awards, but only after O’Reilly left.

But then, like most smart sociopaths, O’Reilly never let facts get in the way of a good story in which he played the lead role. And when he gets exposed, he responds with smear and smarm, all flavored with an uptick in volume and rage.

All of which brings us to the cartoon, from the editorial cartoonist of the Kansas City Star:


O’Reilly is a braggart, a bully, and a bloviator.

Brian Williams is, like O’Reilly, more celebrity than journalist, and both men fell prey to the cult of celebrity, in which millions hang on their words not because of who they are but for what they are, men with that combination of luck and telegenicity so beloved of that coolest of media.

But the danger of celebrity is that Q factor is all too often equated with virtue.

I knew Brian William had jumped the shark almost a decade ago when I saw him doing Friday night standup at a Manhattan comedy show, where he was telling a story about taking prednisone for a back injury. “My nipples got as big as saucers,” he declared, touching the aforementioned bodily parts through his shirt. Having taken prednisone multiple times for our rheumatoid arthritis, we never experienced that peculiar side effect. But even if we had, we’d probably not delight in telling it to a crowd of strangers simply for laughs.

Years ago, a magazine editor handed us back a story with the comment, “You’re more interested in getting it right than in telling a good story.” We took it as a compliment. Both O’Reilly and Williams are more interested in story telling.

John Oliver takes on Big Pharma’s marketeering

A perfect follow to our previous post comes from John Oliver, whose show on HBO is offering the most interesting public interest reporting happening in today’s mainstream media.

By covering important topics in some depth, interspersed by a genuinely funny sarcastic humor, vital information is presented in a memorable way — memorable in part because the presentation evokes a range of emotions, contrasted at intervals in a way that makes a stronger impression that either straight informational [pedantic] journalism or uninterrupted and nihilistic sarcasm.

Oliver is a direct descendant of the Mort Sahl of the 1960s, whose memorable routines consisted of opening up a newspaper, reading from an article, and reacting.

Mort Sahl was print, John Oliver’s multi-media.

As for Saul himself, he cited an earlier predecessor:

“Will Rogers…used to come out with a newspaper and pretend he was a yokel criticizing the intellectuals who ran the government. I come out with a newspaper and pretend I’m an intellectual making fun of the yokels running the government.”

In which case John Oliver’s the alien open up the digital media and making fun of the sociopaths running everything.

Which brings us to the topic at hand. . .

While the proliferation of prescription drug ads on television might leave you suspecting that consumers are the main target of Big Pharma avarice, consider that those same companies spend six times as much hustling physicians.

And they do it through a unique system of seduction, bribery, and outright fraud.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Marketing to Doctors

Program notes:

Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars marketing drugs to doctors.

We have a few issues with that.

We would add that way back when esnl first started reporting a half century back [9 November 1964, to be exact], Big Pharma could only market to doctors, and then only in restricted circulation trade publications like the Journal of the American Medical Association, to which mere mortals couldn’t subscribe.

It wasn’t until 1985, under the aegis of the Reagan administration [that font of so much evil] that average Americans fell prey to Big Pharma’s seductive wiles.

Oliver isn’t the only one to concerned about the physician/industrial complex.

From the August 2009 Bulletin of the World Health Organization:

Direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs has been legal in the USA since 1985, but only really took off in 1997 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) eased up on a rule obliging companies to offer a detailed list of side-effects in their infomercials (long format television commercials). Since then the industry has poured money into this form of promotion, spending just under US$5 billion last year alone. The only other country in the world that allows direct-to-consumer drug ads is New Zealand, a country of just over four million people.

Direct-to-consumer advertising informs patients potentially suffering from disease and raises their awareness of treatment options, according to Ken Johnson, senior vice president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), an industry trade group. But critics of the practice, and there are many, have their doubts. “The truth is direct-to-consumer advertising is used to drive choice rather than inform it,” says Dr Dee Mangin, associate professor at the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Christchurch, New Zealand, pointing out that the ‘driving’ is typically in the direction of expensive brand-name drugs. New Zealand consumers then go to their doctors and the pressure to prescribe begins. Surveys carried out in New Zealand and in the USA show that when a patient asks for a specific drug by name they receive it more often than not. “In an era of shared decision-making, it’s much more likely that general practitioners will just do what the patient asks,” says Mangin. It goes beyond that, of course, because doctors are also being enticed by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe their drugs.

The net result is higher cost for the consumer or tax payer. It is the issue of costs that has put the issue of drug marketing and consumption firmly at the heart of the Obama administration’s current review of the USA’s health-care system. “Some of the more thoughtful people in the USA recognize that part of the reason they have a drug expenditure bill that is completely out of control is this kind of advertising,” says Suzanne Hill, a scientist working on rational drug use and drug access at the World Health Organization (WHO). Not so, says PhRMA’s Johnson in a statement in May this year: “[direct-to-consumer advertising] benefits the entire health-care system in the USA by encouraging patients to seek medical attention that may help them manage their conditions and avoid unneeded hospital stays or surgeries,” he says, arguing that fewer surgical interventions inevitably reduce costs.

Direct-to-consumer advertising is also blamed for encouraging so-called off-label uses of drugs; that is to say uses not approved by the FDA, the USA regulator. An example of this would be gels and fillers that had initially been approved by the FDA as dissolvable sutures that are being promoted as scalpel-free alternatives to cosmetic surgery. For Professor Alexander Capron, University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law, the use of direct-to-consumer advertising in the promotion of off-label uses has been if anything, “a more slippery slope”, than aggressive or misleading promotion.

Samsung: When Big Brother gives you a tubing

The gradual erosion of privacy takes a quantum leap forward with the new generation of Samsung smart TVs.

From the Independent:

Samsung smart TV policy allows company to listen in on users

  • The new privacy policy for Samsung’s smart TVs allows the company and its partners to listen in on everything their users say

The policy has drawn the ire of internet users, who compared it with George Orwell’s dystopian fiction 1984.

While voice recognition software almost always transmits data on what users are saying — so that the job of decoding it can be done by quicker computers elsewhere — the combination of sending the data to third-parties and the comparison with Orwell has meant that the Samsung policy has drawn particular attention.

The policy states: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

It makes clear that the tool can be turned off through settings, though that will stop the voice recognition working entirely and Samsung will still continue to collect data about how people use the TV.

We should be surprised, given that the aim of corporate imperialism is the transformation of consumers into commodities, entities to be mined and stripped of all wealth save what’s needed to keep feeding the machine.

The notion of mere “consumers” actually owning anything is being replaced by a model in which purchase no longer means possession, but merely contingent on ongoing and never-ending payments, with possession itself ending the moment the cash stops flowing to the corporation.

And even if possession remains, the object nominally owned often loses utility, as in the case of Photoshop, which purchasers can no longer own but must rent, losing the right to edit new photos once payments cease [which is the reason we’re keeping our old CS4 edition, paid for a few years ago and with which we can still work on new photos.

And while our Toshiba Blu-Ray player doesn’t record our voice, or so we presume, we can no longer play new discs because the Blu-Ray format has been changed, and this less than two years after we received the player as a gift. We could update the software, but that would mean an online connection, which would, in turn, allow Toshiba to monitor every disc we play.

Compare that to our old vinyl player and VCR players, which worked as long as the media they played.

Each iteration of technology, it seems, renders the “purchaser” less independent, more owned than owner.

It’s not hard to see where this is all heading. . .

Such, anyway, are thoughts on a sunny Monday afternoon.

Younger daughter Samantha, newly engaged

A snapshot during her engagement party in Napa today, where she and beau Kyle were feted by friends and family following their announcement of nuptials to come:

4 January 2015, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 23.1 mm, 1/60 sec, f5.4

4 January 2015, Panasonic DMZ-ZS19, ISO 800, 23.1 mm, 1/60 sec, f5.4

Chart of the day: Cancer, plus added musings

Two stories from today’s London Telegraph caught our eye, mostly because they are of such imminent and eminent personal import.

They deal with something we’ve experienced firsthand, and in two forms: Cancer. Just over two years ago we lost bladder and prostate to the Big C, followed by a course of chemo that is still very much with us in the form of diminished hearing and loss of sensation in feet and, to a lesser extent, hands.

Dad had two types of cancer as well, starting with a tumor in a kidney in his early 60s that led to surgery. He survived that one, but it was the prostate that eventually got him, leading to death in his sleep under hospice care just weeks before his 91st birthday.

Mom was left fortunate, with a glioma diagnosed after she suffered an unaccountable collapse at home. They tried laser surgery, but the tumor was deep in her brain and dense with blood vessels. After a couple of laser zaps, the blood flood was so great they simply sewed her up.

Her last weeks were spent in a strange time slip. As one moment she was a child on a Nebraska farm, looking for her beloved cat, Jimmy Meadowmouse, then shifting abruptly to a child, eager for a trip to St. Louis, then again to her days as a school teacher in Bennington, Kansas.

It was a sad plight for a woman so intellectually vigorous and present-oriented.

Death, when it came for her, was truly a release.

For Dad, the first surgery was a life-saver, enabling him to live a vigorous life [he was still keeping house, going on long fishing trips, and mowing his yard before his last illness]. For Mom, surgery was a savage mutilation, shredding her dignity and leaving her bereft of the dignity that meant so much to her.

And for ourselves, surgery was a mixed blessing, removing the imminent threat of a virulently metastatic bladder cancer, but appreciably diminishing our hearing and sense of balance [a consequence of the neuropathy of the feet, which deprives us of some of the critical feedback need for delicate balance.

With that by way of preface, the first of those London Telegraph stories:

Cancer is the best way to die and we should stop trying to cure it, says doctor

  • Dr Richard Smith said cancer gave sufferers time to say goodbye and pain could be endured through ‘love, morphine, and whisky’

Cancer is the best way to die because it gives people the chance to come to terms with their own mortality, the former editor of the British Medical Journal has claimed.

Dr Richard Smith, an honorary professor at the University of Warwick, said that a protracted death allowed time to say goodbye to loved ones, listen to favourite pieces or music or poetry and leave final messages.

He claimed that any pain of dying could be made bearable through ‘love, morphine, and whisky.’

Writing in a blog for the BMJ, Dr Smith admitted that his view was ‘romantic’, but said charities should stop spending billions trying to find a cure for the disease because it was clearly the best option for an ageing population.

Wow, where to begin?

First, we’re all for that love-morphine-whisky triad, and anything else that helps get the dying through the night. But as for the notion of giving up the search for cures, hell no!

On that point, we’re solidly with the Dylan Thomas school of rage, rage, raging against the dying of the light.

We do have plenty to say about Big Pharma and profiteering from tragedy, but we passionately believe that the quest to relieve human misery represents all that’s best in us, while insatiable greed reflects the very worst.

Which brings us to the second Telegraph headline, and through it, to today’s Chart of the Day:

Most cancers are caused by bad luck not genes or lifestyle, say scientists

  • Scientists at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US found that the majority of cancers are not linked to environment or lifestyle

For years health experts have warned that tumours are driven by a bad diet, lack of exercise, or gene errors passed down from parents.

The government even set up its ‘100,000 Genomes Project’ to try and find the genetic causes of many rare diseases and cancers.

But now a study has shown that most cancers are primarily caused by bad luck rather than poor lifestyle choices or defective DNA.

Researchers found that two thirds of cancers are driven by random mistakes in cell division which are completely outside of our control.

They found that the more cells need to divide to stay healthy, the more likely cancer is to develop.

And now, that chart, which accompanied the article:

BLOG Cancer