Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Little Girl Giant

I'll never see her. Nor any other characters from "The Saga of The Giants".

They do not touch these shores, and I can guess that they never will.

The company producing the shows that Little Girl Giant and her associates appear in has been all over Europe, to Korea, China, Vietnam, Chile and Africa. They spent six months in Africa and three months in China, but they have never been to North America. It is likely that they are not interested in us. There is no telling what might happen here. We may be a too-volatile country for their strangeness to tempt.

Their first four productions were "The giant falls from the sky", "The giant falls from the sky, last voyage", "Return to Africa", "The giraffe hunters", and "The hidden rhinoceros". The latest in this loose series, the one in which Little Girl Giant appears as a traveler, is "The Sultan's Elephant".

Director Jean-Luc Courcoult said of his work, "I am very keen on the element of surprise. I distract the public's attention. I hypnotise them so that nobody, even when it is in the open, understands how an enormous machine could appear so suddenly. I believe that this almost childish desire to please people by surprising them is a deciding factor in my work. I have seen adults crying as the giant leaves. They have obviously lived other things, sometimes difficult, and yet this makes them cry."

The company behind this is is Royal de Luxe, located in Nantes, France, and is little known.

The 3quarksdaily blog has a stellar essay on the London production of "The Sultan's Elephant", which commemorated Jules Verne's hundredth birthday in 2005. From there: "The venue is simply the streets and open spaces of the city -- by the lake, by the harbor and in the city center. Admission is not only free, but accidental, since the show may begin anywhere, even in two places at once, and will overtake its audience bit by bit, for they shall not have known where to assemble and wait for it. Once it begins, it will keep moving, and people will follow it or even try to run a little ahead of it en route to the next corner it seems bound for, where others shall have started to hear things and look up. No member of that audience, not even the most avid, will see the show in its entirety -- like the London event, it will be structured to make that impossible. Courcoult has said only that a special story for Icelanders will be enacted, by Little Girl Giant and other familiar figures, that, on the morning of May 10, 'something unexpected will happen in Rekjavik.'"

Julian Crouch, an artist, told of his experience when the Little Girl Giant was first lifted from the time-traveling space ship found stuck nose down into the pavement of central London. "When they lifted her out of the rocket, the crowd just gasped. I tried to stifle my own gasp, but by the time she blinked and shook out her hair, I was absolutely and completely lost. She was beautiful. But really beautiful. In a deep way. And there was a little voice in my head that said, 'you could never, ever have made this.'"

Later, standing in line with his son, waiting, waiting to see if his boy would get his own short ride on the giant's arm, he was seized by fear that it would not happen, and wept, relieved, finally, when his son did get a turn.

There isn't much a person can say without having been there. I've seen videos on YouTube and elsewhere, and though they're mesmerizing they can't ever come close to spending four days in a dream world alive with giants. It must be like finding that your town has been overtaken silently by Burning Man and thousands of followers between the time you fell asleep and the time you again wakened the next morning.

The Little Girl Giant is 20 feet high, and the elephant who provides her morning shower bath stands 40 feet high and weighs 46 tons. They are attended and operated by a small army of technicians in red livery, seeming refugees from the 18th century.

Little Girl Giant's hair is made from the tails of 50 horses. Her breathing continues day and night, powered by an internal motor. Her eyes blink. She can lick sweets. She squats and pees in the street while her operators discreetly turn their heads. She naps frequently.

Although there have been books written on Royal de Luxe and their productions, and DVDs available, they don't seem to have made it to this country. We're stuck for now with a bunch of miserable-quality videos on the web. But they are still haunting me.


YouTube Videos
A better quality video: Little girl giant plays in the park
The Sultan's Elephant (Has PDF downloads you might like, telling the story.)
Royal de Luxe theatre company
The Little Girl Giant
3quarksdaily Royal de Luxe: the saga of the giants, by Elatia Harris
Images: Royal de Luxe Central
Images: I, for one, welcome the Giant French Rocket Girl and her Elephant of Royal Luxury!
Images: au coin de la rue (Flash, in French)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Leg Godt Plays Well With Holes

Found Photography is a good blog. It's what a blog really should be.

One person, one topic, in his own words.

Adrian Hanft, III is the person, photography is the topic, and the words are his. He likes old and odd cameras, and odd photos. "I can think of nothing more boring than a photo that looks exactly like I planned. For me the beauty is in the chaos, not the organization. You point your film in the direction of something interesting and hope for the best."

I guess that's why he took to pinhole photography. And why he decided to use Lego to make a camera. And ended up making three of them.

A quick search didn't turn up any others. Maybe a longer search would. All the hits I could find were either links to his site or ended up referring to him in the end.

So this may be a really small photographic niche, but it's fun.


Found Photography
Adrian3, the personal blog of Adrian Hanft
Be A Design Group, a now closed design blog
Medium Format Pinhole Lego 1
Lego Panoramic Camera
Updated 35mm Lego Camera Design
George Bristol’s Lego variation

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Opera: Sweeter With Wine

I'm using Kubuntu 8.04 on two computers, and the equivalent version of Linux Mint on another. I like Kubuntu better, sort of, (maybe naively) because it seems to give me more options.

I'm a newb. Deal with it.

I see more menus in Kubuntu and better ways to get to the controls that I want to get to. I'm sure that Ubuntu or Linux Mint has the same facilities available, somewhere, but for my taste, at this stage, Kubuntu is easier to deal with.

I'd say that Linux Mint seems a lot more like Windows. I used Windows 2000 Professional for several years, then finally upgraded to Windows XP Professional. I bought two copies, one to upgrade from my Win 2000 installation, and the other to upgrade from a factory-installed XP Home version.

The process wasn't nice. I was totally surprised that it was not possible to upgrade from Win 2000 to Win XP. Stupid. Unforgivable. But I had no choice.

I don't remember all the details of the other upgrade, but I think it was an upgrade. Nevertheless, each computer was set up a little differently, also unforgivable.

I got by.

Fear of Windows Vista prompted me to re-examine Linux. For about a year and a half in the middle 1990s I had struggled with Linux before giving up in exhaustion. Problems that should have taken minutes took weeks to resolve. The last straw was upgrading a Gnome desktop. Each dependency had another one, and after searching for a couple of weeks for one package, I just wiped it all off and went to Windows 95, or was it 98? Was there a Windows 98? Windows default whatever.

Doesn't matter.

Anyway, things are different today. I've been about 98 per cent Linux since the July fourth weekend and haven't had any real problems. I get frequent system upgrades. All I have to do is click once, enter my administrative password, and the system updates itself.

One computer is dual-boot between Win XP and Linux Mint. My scanner and color printer are connected there. I'm about ready to try them under Linux Mint. Goes well, then goodbye Windows.

Back to the story...

I've been using OpenOffice since it was StarOffice -- long time. I used Scribus on Windows as well. Firefox was well known to me since long before my second try with Linux. As is Emacs, which I picked up over 10 years ago (and every week or two I learn a new trick -- at this rate I'll be an Emacs expert in about 75 years).

One piece of software that is profoundly important to me is my web browser. I use Opera, first, last and forever. It suits me.

Make type bigger? Hit the 0 key. Smaller? Hit the 9 key. Remove styling? Shift+G. Save a page? Use the ".mht" format and have one file, with the original URL embedded in it. Want to save in the HTML plus directory-full-of-supporting-files? OK too, and it also captures the original URL. This is damn handy later when you need to get back to that place. No need to save the URL separately.

Then there's Speed Dial, which I didn't use for about the first year. Open a new tab and you get nine little squares. You can format each one to link to a frequently-used web site. No looking up URLs, no scanning through a list of bookmarks. Just click and go. (Firefox now has a plugin for this.)

Aye, laddie, and the bookmarks too. So easy.

Access them one at a time or choose the "Manage Bookmarks" option. If so, then highlight several using Ctrl+click and open a bunch at once. One thing I hate about Firefox is having to return to a list of bookmarks over and over to open each one separately. (Sure Firefox lets me open all at once, but usually I want only two or three or four from one sub-list, not all.)

Yeah, so I'm happy as a frog in a bag of flies then? Not quite.

Kubuntu suits me better overall, and Linux Mint is great, though not quite so great, for me, but Kubuntu really sucks at one thing. It doesn't run Opera well. Hardly at all.

I open Opera, enter a URL and wait. Then I wait some more. Two or three or four or five or six minutes later I'm still waiting. Then I close Opera and try Firefox. Boom. There. Done.

Opera works on some sites pretty well, almost all the time. Other sites don't work well. Slashdot loads about one quarter of the way and then hangs, at about 30 seconds. After three minutes it's at the same stage.

Linux Today is the same. Usually the sites with the most going on behind the scenes, all the JavaScript and pop-ups, and links to doubleclick this and google-analytics that and so on seem to pull Opera right to the ground and hold it there. Plain and simple sites work most of the time.

Except sometimes.

Sometimes Opera works like a charm. There have been days when I thought that maybe the last batch system upgrade from Canonical has done it, or the latest version of Opera. Once I thought it was the "--nomail" addition to the "opera %u --nomail" start up command. Seemed to work like magic.

Nope. All temporary. I would have a good day now and then, and next time around Opera would dog out again.

Temporarily clearing all iptable settings didn't do it. Uninstalling Opera and redoing it? No. Installing the static version of Opera? Still no. Disabling JavaScript and Java and image animation and so on? No.

Search the web for clues? Hey, talk about asking the clueless for clues. Miscellaneous problems all over, all of which seem to be specific to one setup on one person's desktop was all I found. No systemic problem susceptible to a cure. I was yet another random individual with random individual problems. But these were the same problems on two different computers.

But what the heck. Opera on Linux Mint is stellar. Equal to Opera on Windows. In other words, perfect. Makes me crazy with delight. But on Kubuntu Opera does not work well enough to use.

One last try. I had Wine installed so I could use "Picture Window", my photo editor. I downloaded Opera for Win XP and installed it under Wine.


Works like a charm.

Speed dial doesn't work, and every now and then switching between tabs slows down, but I can fire up half a dozen tabs at once, each accessing a different web site, and it's much faster than Firefox. I'm pretty happy now. I have my Opera back.

Over the years I've gotten used to Opera not working tremendously well with Flash-based sites, and I've tended to use Firefox for transactions like credit card orders. Firefox also seems to handle the odd site that confuses Opera. I think this is because Firefox more gracefully handles sites stupidly designed only for Microsoft Internet Explorer. That's OK.

I use Opera for about 99 per cent of my browsing, and Firefox for the rest: buying things, checking web mail, accessing squirrelly sites. No tool is perfect, but Opera is so much easier for me to use that I want to stay with it, and simply use another tool when I have to.

Real Soon Now I expect that I'll figure out why Kubuntu has a problem with Opera, and be able to run it natively. Until then, I'm OK.

Really. Life is good again.


Opera Watch, an Opera browser blog by Daniel Goldman

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Drawing From Talent

I don't know where to take this. Maybe at times it's good just to throw a link at the wall and let things be. I stumbled on Drawger somehow. I have no idea how, but it was worth it.

I guess Drawger is sort of a communal blog for illustrators. Not sure yet how to navigate it. Maybe slowly, bumping into things by trial and error. That seems to work for the best things in life.

What? "What: Drawger is a central spot on the web where illustrators are writing about whatever it is they're writing about at the time, and showing stuff as well."

Two artists I like a lot (the first two I found) are Michael Sloan and Zina Saunders. I wish I had talent. I can only scribble. Takes work to write, takes work to read.

Illustration is different. Takes work to create, but is read without effort.

Oh, well. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

So, like five minutes later I find "The Little Girl Giant". This is a good day.


Michael Sloan: "Professor Nimbus"
Michael Sloan: "The Zen of Professor Nimbus"
Zina Saunders

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Qwester Bester Tester

I go to court on Friday, October 3. I don't want this. No telling how long all this will drag on yet.

Qwest Communications has ignored me for six months, charged me for service I did not have, failed to send me equipment they promised (five times, total), and then for some reason, possibly illegally, sent me equipment I did not order, and then charged me for it.

I've tried to act in good faith, paying the charges and repeatedly warning the company that I would take it to court if I had to.

The result: nothing. Total silence. Blank wall.


That went on until I actually filed in small claims court. Suddenly they made an offer. I didn't add up the numbers but they are about right, except for the time I've wasted, which is about two solid weeks so far, with several hours on the phone, many hours writing letters, and a whole buncha time researching how to file a claim, doing xeroxing, sitting in at court to see how it goes, and so on.

About right, except for paragraph five on page two. In which I would sign away all rights ever to speak about this whole mess to anyone.

Moot point.

I've already disseminated the information so I would have been in violation of the agreement as soon as I signed it, and then they could sue me so deep I'd never see daylight again.

Better to go to court and waste another day, and then come to some kind of agreement and have them appeal, and then when they lose again find out that they may not pay anyway, and then start all over again. But the bottom line, as they say, is that I'm wasting more of their money and time than of my own, so at least I get a bit of revenge out of all this.

How pathetic is that?

Pretty pathetic, but amusing, and I'm learning something about the court system from the front row.