Monday, October 30, 2006

"Lumix LX-2 Camera"

I think the official name is actually "Panasonic Lumix DMC LX2", but the real name of the company that manufacturers it is Matsushita; I have no idea what that "DMC" stands for; and I think it's better to write LX-2 than LX2, so I'm calling just calling it the "Lumix LX-2".

I have only been using mine for about a week now and I have yet to completely familiarize myself with it, but I'll still comment on some of my impressions so far, both good and bad.  (20 pictures taken with the camera can be seen on this page:


 - The unique wide aspect ratio finder and CCD are the primary reason I bought the camera, and I'm finding it quite interesting to take pictures in that wide format.

 - So far, I've found the auto-white balance to work well, something I've been not always been happy with when using several other digital cameras.

 - The camera looks really cool - especially when it's sitting on a desk and it looks rather like an old classic 35mm film camera.  (This comment for the silver one - I'm not sure how the black one would seem.)

 - The lens seems very smooth and precision-built as it powers in and out of the camera.

 - Other things are good too, but the other things I can think of off hand are good on all digital cameras I've used, so there's no point in noting them for this specific model.


 - The big beautiful display seems to be a power hog!  The camera uses the same battery (not only the same specs, but actually the same part from the same factory I suspect - only the sticker is different) as my Ricoh R4 and Ricoh GR, but they both keep going much longer than the Lumix, particularly when they're in the mode that leaves the monitor off except when lightly pressing the shutter button to activate the screen just before taking a picture.

 - That big beautiful display stupidly stays on for the entire time that files are being transferred from the camera to the computer.  This is a really stupid design decision (that someone should lose their job over!) and something I haven't seen on any other digital camera so far.  Not only does it waste power, but it increases the chance that the battery will run out of power in the middle of a file transfer - something that could damage the flash memory card.

 - Part of the camera's claim-to-fame is its "Leica" lens (manufactured by Matsushita to Leica specs is how that works I think), but it's not as good a lens as is on my Ricoh GR - not surprising since the Ricoh GR has a fixed focal length lens and the Lumix LX-2 has a variable focal length ("zoom") lens.

 - Light-touch switches.  The dial that is used to select modes and playback is so light touch that it's easy to overshoot your target and you have to carefully feel for the overly-light touch of the stops.  Worse - such a light touch suggests the contacts inside the switch are not likely to be durable.

 - Weird USB connector.  This is something nearly every digital camera manufacturer is guilty of, but others' guilt makes not for innocence!  Of the digital cameras I've used - Olympus (three different connectors on three different models); Pentax (two different connectors for three different models); Casio (weird size for the one machine); only Ricoh (same standard size small USB connector for four different models) seems to be behaving logically here.

 - Bulky.  The same bulging lens barrel that makes the camera look retro cool also makes it more difficult to get into a pocket (don't even try to put it into pants pockets!).

Beyond that... I need to use the camera more before making further comments.  Have a look at the twenty pictures on this page to get an idea of what sort of pictures the camera records:

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Saturday, October 28, 2006

"Thought Typhoons"

I self-published a book at the end of 2000 called "The LL-Letters" (same name as the newsgroup I moderated/wrote for ten years (in a period of hibernation at the moment), and I recently sent a copy of it to a beyond-the-horizon, over-the-ocean friend.  His letter follows, followed by my answer....

   "I am about 30% into your book and find it interesting but then I know you. A stranger would find little interest.  I'm reminded of Francis Hall as I read, except his era was more intriguing for today's readers.  
   Perhaps another story starting at the beginning of your arrival in Japan and on to slowly getting familiar with the language, romances, jobs and impossible situations would be a good thing.  This could be light comedy with the misunderstandings and blunders of fitting into Japan.  Readers like chuckles more than moans.  Thing is, a story needs a beginning, which you have, and an ending when all loose ends are tied neatly.  THAT is difficult when sticking to facts, as is comedy, but a satisfactory ending can be concocted.  Just thoughts."

Your letter triggered such a storm of activity in my mind that I'm not sure where to begin or whether I have any real chance of actually getting the typhoon that blew through my thoughts - into words.  That's the core problem in communication I think - people do not (contrary to what they seem to think) actually think in words.  They think, and then the thoughts are translated into words for the sake of easy communication.  In this sense, words are actually a cause of stupidity in some (many? most?) people, since they forget the original thought and focus instead on the degraded and mutated version of it that remains in words.

That book... there are a mountain of things I would change with it if I could jump in a time machine and go back to when I was going through the process of having 2,000 copies printed (most of which are still with me - taking up space in my apartment), but the random nature of the letters I might not change, even though that would probably lead to the same result of the book not selling.

Selling....  Personally, I view Stephen King and that director - what's-his-name... wow... I really can't remember!.. the "E.T." and "Jaws" guy... Spielberg! Stephen Spielberg! - as sell-outs for profit.  I'd rather go to my grave having written something that I believe is worthwhile that didn't sell than to have had a wildly - financially - successful sell-out book that contributed to the general stupidity of humankind!  If you compare a movie like "Stray Dog" to "Jaws", most people would probably say that "Stray Dog" was boring and "Jaws" was exciting.  In my book, "Stray Dog" is a thousand-fold better than "Jaws".

The original idea....  The original idea for my starting the LL-Letters project, was to act as a sort of bridge between Japan and English-speaking western countries, since I knew something of both, I thought I could act as moderator in an exchange of letters going both ways.  Two things changed that; 1) Very few Japanese people contributed to the letters, and 2) The interest of people in countries all over picked up, making it more International than I had first envisioned it would be.  A third factor, is that individual foreigners living here in Japan, like me, generally are a little mixed up - as they well might be, having dived head-first into a foreign culture - so they more often attack each other than help.  So, for me, the ordinariness of the exchanges was an affirmation of a common thread through people's lives anywhere in the world.  I think that's something people should think more of - and stop letting fanaticism - of one kind or another - destroy civilization!

Well... there was much more to the wordless typhoon, but I need to do some work on my photos, so I'll stop here.

Incidentally, I bought a new camera - a Lumix LX-2, that is delighting and enraging me... the most interesting thing about the camera is its uniquely wide aspect ratio.  I'm hoping to get some of the first pictures from this camera on-line during the weekend - if not this weekend, then maybe next.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Bludgeon Words"

There's this thing advertisers, PR companies, and mediocre mid-management types do, and somehow (amazingly) get away with.  They need to divert people's attention away from thinking and towards a path (in thought or action) that reasonable people would never take if they were paying attention.  How to simultaneously turn them into (temporary?) zombies and get them to think something they wouldn't ordinarily pollute their minds with?  Use a bludgeon word.  Some examples:

While at the PR agency, one of our semiconductor industry clients sent us a promotional video of the head guy at the company talking about the semiconductor industry and his company's role in it.  Every other (sometimes *every*) sentence contained the word "solution", said with an accent that heavily emphasized the "LU" - "soLUtion" - so there was this "Blabbidy blabbidy blah, soLUtion, blabbidy blah soLUtion blabbidy blah-blah soLUtion blabbidy blabbidy" mantra that went on and on and on, and to this day - some six years down the road, whenever I hear or read "solution", I am thrust back into the nightmare of that incessant "Blabbidy-blabbidy-blah, soLUtion; soLUtion; soLUtion, Blabbidy blah" video that I was unfortunate enough to have been exposed to.  I would like to delete that memory from my mind, but it was bludgeoned in and will be very difficult (impossible?) to eradicate.

At the printing company, there was a certain worthless (worse than worthless actually, "destructive" would be a better describer) mid-management bozo who regularly held three-hour meetings with content that could typically have been covered in ten minutes.  Being a spineless bugger, he couldn't deal with non-special-papers me, so he latched onto this consultant "Bob" who used to work at a famous advertising agency.  Day-after-day, week-after-week, we had to listen to Mr. Spineless Mid-management Bozo drone on-and-on: "Nantoka-pondoka, Bob-san desu ne, nantoka-bontoka, Bob-san, Bob-san desu ne..." Bob-san has this great idea; Bob-san worked at Big Advertising, Inc. before; Bob-san will be in Tokyo in two months, etc.  Bob was convenient since he was from the US, had lived in Japan, and was - at the time - living in Italy.  He blew through town once every six months or so with slick talk, collected a pile of cash, and flew back to Europe to spend the Tokyo cash on nice restaurants in Rome.  To this day, I still have that bloody "Bob-san desu ne... Bob-san - Bob-Bob-Bob desu" ringing in my ears.

And then there are advertisers, PR companies and politicians (one for all and all for one?).  Hopefully there is no need to point out specific examples here.  It's all about getting your very own bludgeon word in front of people (primarily through the media) to hammer people into senselessness with.  If it weren't for advertising, then we'd probably be more sensitive to it, but we've been hit so many times with bludgeon words, that we're numb, punch-drunk... and don't have the will and/or courage to challenge those who would destroy the language as a medium of true communication.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, October 09, 2006

"Mt. Takao Moonrise Over Tokyo"

Mt. Takao is the most convenient mountain to go to for a large percentage of the people living in Tokyo, being within an hour of Shinjuku and with a cable car that is just a five minute walk from Takaozan-guchi Station (on the Keio Line).  It's not of astoundingly high elevation, but when you walk up the valley towards the cable car station, the cool mountain breeze that greets you is - I hesitate to use the word, but - fantastic!  Or at least it feels that way to me when coming from the center of the city after breathing the city air for many months straight without a break.

Yesterday (October 8th), I visited Mt. Takao and was rewarded with the best nighttime view of Tokyo I've seen from a distance.  One picture is here:

The view from Mt. Takao isn't always as clear as it is in the photo - there were strong winds both on Saturday and Sunday (October 7th & 8th), which blew away the noxious breath of the fire-breathing machinery (the internal combustion engine - the curse of humankind!), producing a rare view... but it shouldn't be rare!  Cars are something I love when I'm behind the wheel (and hate when I'm not!), but they need new propulsion systems.  Here's to returning to living in transparent air!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"Midnight Chuo Line - Outside the Sealed Box"

The 22-year-old Chuo Line trains are not long for this world I fear... and when they are replaced with newer types, it is certain that they will not have windows that open at the bottom as on the current Chuo Line trains. And so the days of being able to open the window and hang your head out in the wind a little - out there in the real world, will be gone. They are practically gone already actually - I was getting some very strange looks when I leaned out the window to take pictues:

I just don't understand people - they suffer in a sealed box, painfully waiting for the transit purgatory to end and their freedom to come when the doors open and they can escape the box. With an open window, the trip at speed is fun! The wind rushes in; the clacking/screeching/grinding of steel on steel is heard; the sounds of the night come in from place to place.... I'm of the opinion that it's better to live in the world than to shut it out with sealed windows and refrigeration. Why are people afraid of the wind?

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon