Shit Photojournalists Like: 1. Shooting Wide Open


The old adage, “f/8 and be there,” is dead. Long live shooting purely on f/1.2, because if you can do it, you might as well do it right.

What’s that you say? A lens isn’t at its sharpest when it’s wide open? Whatever. A picture doesn’t have to be good if it has bokeh. I think my ideal picture would be President Obama playing with puppies and small multicultural children against a field of rainbow bokeh.

The word beautiful doesn’t even cut it.

Vikings may have navigated by polarized light from "sunstone" crystals

Kirk Douglas in The Vikings A Viking legend tells of a glowing 'sunstone' that, when held up to the sky, revealed the position of the Sun even on a cloudy day. It sounds like magic, but scientists measuring the properties of light in the sky say that polarizing crystals — which function in the same way as the mythical sunstone — could have helped ancient sailors to cross the northern Atlantic. A review of their evidence is published today in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

The Vikings, seafarers from Scandinavia who travelled widely and settled in swathes of Northern Europe, the British Isles and the northern Atlantic from around 750 to 1050 AD, were skilled navigators, able to cross thousands of kilometres of open sea between Norway, Iceland and Greenland. Perpetual daylight during the summer sailing season in the far north would have prevented them from using the stars as a guide to their positions, and the magnetic compass had yet to be introduced in Europe — in any case, it would have been of limited use so close to the North Pole.

But Viking legends, including an Icelandic saga centring on the hero Sigurd, hint that these sailors had another navigational aid at their disposal: a sólarsteinn, or sunstone.

The saga describes how, during cloudy, snowy weather, King Olaf consulted Sigurd on the location of the Sun. To check Sigurd's answer, Olaf "grabbed a sunstone, looked at the sky and saw from where the light came, from which he guessed the position of the invisible Sun". In 1967, Thorkild Ramskou, a Danish archaeologist, suggested that this stone could have been a polarizing crystal such as Icelandic spar, a transparent form of calcite, which is common in Scandinavia.

Debunking Nietzsche as nihilist -- Nietzsche's unswerving dedication to revealing the eternal, infinite value of life

In the consciousness of the truth he has perceived, man now sees everywhere only the awfulness or the absurdity of existence and loathing seizes him - Nietzsche

Let me try and contextualize this for everyone who isn't familiar with this quotation or its significance.

This is from chapter 7 of The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche's first major text. In this book, he is still quite solidly under the influence of Schopenhauer's pessimistic philosophy, and further, in this book he makes the claim that art is the medium that will allow us to move past the absurdity of existence (revealed only through the Dionysian experience of the tragic) and allow the Dionysiac man to tolerate his daily life.

Taken out of context this quotation does not reflect at all the point that Nietzsche was making; not only does it not mention art or the tragic (leading us to believe that Nietzsche stopped simply at a declaration of absurdity and nihilism), but it does not clarify what the "truth" is. Without these key pieces, the quotation falls flat, and Nietzsche comes across as an absurdist existentialist, which (especially in The Birth of Tragedy) he is most decidedly not.

First off; what is the tragic, for Nietzsche? Here is a quotation from earlier in the same chapter:

It is admittedly an 'ideal' ground on which, as Schiller rightly saw, the Greek chorus of satyrs, the chorus of the original tragedy, is wont to walk, a ground raised high above the real path along which mortals wander. For this chorus the Greeks built the hovering platform of a fictitious state of nature on to which they placed fictitious creatures of nature. Tragedy grew up on this foundation... Perhaps it will serve as a starting-point for thinking about this if I now assert that the satyr... bears the same relation to the cultured human being as Dionysiac music bears to civilization... [civilization] is absorbed, elevated and extinguished by music, just as lamplight is superseded by the light of day. This [too] is the first effect of Dionysiac tragedy: state and society, indeed all divisions between one human being and another, give way to an overwhelming feeling of unity which leads men back to the heart of nature. -- The Birth of Tragedy, chapter 7

The experience of Dionysiac tragedy destroys Apollonian distinctions and shows us the truth of the world, "the solace that in the ground of things, and despite all changing appearances, life is indestructibly mighty and pleasurable." The tragic captures the indomitable spirit of life - of Dionysus! - that the calculations of normal daily life in civilization have covered over and forgotten. Nietzsche asserts that this is the feeling that overcame the Greeks when they gathered to experience a tragic play.

Whence the absurdity, then? If tragedy uncovers the purity of life inherent in the Dionysian worldview, why then does the Dionysian man, who knows the "truth" of the tragic, "see only what is terrible or absurd in existence"? This shift is found when the Dionysian state subsides and those who now know the "truth" are left to contend with the realities of their daily lives. Another quotation:

...the ecstasy of the Dionysiac state, in which the usual barriers and limits of existence are destroyed, contains, for as long as it lasts, a lethargic element in which all personal experiences from the past are submerged. This gulf of oblivion separates the worlds of everyday life and Dionysiac experience. But as soon as daily reality re-enters consciousness, it is experienced as such with a sense of revulsion; the fruit of those states is an ascetic, will-negating mood. -- *The Birth of Tragedy, chapter 7

Nietzsche goes on to compare the man who has returned to daily life from a Dionysiac state to Hamlet:

both have gazed into the true essence of things, they have acquired knowledge and they find action repulsive, for their actions can do nothing to change the eternal essence of things; they regard it as laughable or shameful that they should be expected to set to rights a world so out of joint. -- The Birth of Tragedy, chapter 7

To be sure, Nietzsche is playing on Hamlet's famous line here that "the time is out of joint." The absurdity that with the Dionysiac man is now faced makes him long for a "world beyond death, beyond even the gods themselves." This is one of the first appearances of Nietzsche's famous mistrust of transcendent realities. He calls the response of the Dionysiac man who knows the "truth" a denial of existence. It is here that we find Nietzsche writing those words that make up the quotation in this post:

Once truth has been seen, the consciousness of it prompts man to see only what is terrible or absurd in existence wherever he looks; now he understands the symbolism of Ophelia's fate, now he grasps the wisdom of the wood-god Silenus: he feels revulsion. -- The Birth of Tragedy, chapter 7

But, I stress, this is not Nietzsche's last word on the subject in The Birth of Tragedy. Indeed, this issue will transform itself many times and will remain until Nietzsche's last written words. It will evolve and change, but here we find it in its original mutation. Here, for Nietzsche (a young, impressionable Nietzsche), it is art that will save the man who knows the "truth" from the absurdity of existence:

Here, at this moment of supreme danger for the will, art approaches as a saving sorceress with the power to heal. Art alone can re-direct those repulsive thoughts about the terrible or absurd nature of existence into representations with which man can live; these representations are the sublime, whereby the terrible is tamed by artistic means, and the comical, whereby disgust as absurdity is discharged by artistic means. The dithyramb's chorus of satyrs is the saving act of Greek art; the attacks of revulsion described above spent themselves in contemplation of the intermediate world of these Dionysiac companions. -- The Birth of Tragedy, chapter 7

As is now plainly clear, Nietzsche did not assert that life was meaningless or absurd. The somewhat pathetic pity-party found in the discussions in this thread has nothing to do with anything Nietzschean, except that his name has been unfortunately attached to a quotation which needs context to be properly and fully understood. Nietzsche did not assert that life is meaningless, or absurd, or worthy of loathing. In fact, perhaps the singular most inspiring kernel of his thought, from beginning to end, is Nietzsche's unswerving dedication to revealing the eternal, infinite value of life, in the face of so many forces that want to take the easy way out and call it worthless. Nietzsche cries out, with almost every sentence: "LIFE IS WORTHWHILE! LIFE IS INVALUABLE!"

What happens when mom unplugs teens for 6 months?

Maushart decided to unplug the family because the kids — ages 14, 15 and 18 when she started The Experiment — didn't just "use media," as she put it. They "inhabited" media. "They don't remember a time before e-mail, or instant messaging, or Google," she wrote.

Maushart wrote that her kids "awoke slowly from the state of cognitus interruptus that had characterized many of their waking hours to become more focused logical thinkers."

Forever – from a working library

Most of the time, and for most people, “forever” is that piece of time that we can see with our own eyes. Forever is the length of a single, human life.

This, I believe, is why a book feels permanent, even though enough libraries have burned over the centuries that we ought to know better. A well-made book, stored upright, in a dry, dark place, will survive a hundred years—that is, a lifetime. More if it is especially well printed, and only carefully handled, but a hundred years is a safe bet. Plenty of time to read it as a child, hold onto it through adolescence and adulthood, and then give it to your first great-grandchild. That’s as much forever as any of us can reasonably conceive.