Tag Archives: Humour

Ass Detection Software

I have a great idea for a new tech startup and am thinking I could finance it with a kickstarter campaign. Maybe $10 would do. I want to develop ass detection software. A specialized algorithm would scan digital photographs and identify all asses. Once the algorithm had learned the generalized task of locating an ass, it would go on to the more specialized task of identifying the “owner” of the ass. I’m proceeding on the assumption that each person has a unique set of identifying markers: shape, roundness, proportions, depth, that sort of thing. I expect my algorithm could map an ass (make an assessment, if you will) in much the same way that NASA programs have mapped the terrain of Jupiter’s moons, converting 2-dimensional images into 3-dimensional topographic representations of hilly regions and crevices.

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Such an algorithm would have obvious applications for social media platforms, allowing users to identify friends from photos of their asses and, of course, allowing advertisers to more precisely target their marketing dollars based on ass identification markers (AIM). Naturally, the details of this procedure cannot be laid bare at this time as they might compromise certain trade secrets.

My project could also have applications for law enforcement since it is the ass that police officers get a good look at as the suspect flees the scene of a crime. Ass lineups at the police station have never been particularly successful. Few eye-witnesses ever say: “Yeah, I’d recognize that ass anywhere.” But an effective algorithm could be a real game-changer.

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One impediment to success is the fact that some people prefer to wear baggy clothes and this tends to obscure the contours of the ass. Athletic wear is this project’s friend; hip hop, on the other hand, poses challenges which may prove insurmountable. As for the burkini, don’t even get me started.

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However, this challenge is not unlike the issue which has plagued facial recognition programs when people wear masks to parades and scarves to protests. In such cases, the solution has been simple: make up some bullshit about how obscuring faces poses a threat to public safety, then get the legislators to ban it. They could do the same thing in this case. Baggy pants upset the public order; burkinis undermine social mores. Therefore we must outlaw ass-coverings in public places. Force everyone to go au naturale. It might get cold in the winter, but why worry about a consequence that’s way in the future. Who needs to think that far ahead? In situations like this, few people ever do.

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Over-exposure

Now, as the weather turns colder, one must take precautions against over-exposure. Photographers, of course, are concerned about over-exposure all year round. Photographers tend to think of over-exposure as the presence of too much light space in an image, but over-exposure can just as easily result from the presence of too much dark space in an image. Watch out for dark space. If handled poorly, it can ruin your photograph.

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My Name Is Bond – James Bond

While the official story holds that Ian Fleming named his most famous character after an American ornithologist, local legend tells a different story. In 1942, Fleming spent a few weeks at Camp X near Oshawa where he was taking specialized training (he was leader of a British commando unit). Fleming was staying at a home on Avenue Road, and, every day, on his way to Camp X, he passed a local church, St. James-Bond United Church. The church’s name sank into his memory and, after the war, when it came time to write about the exploits of agent 007, the name floated to the surface.

The hyphenated church name theory is probably no better than historical fantasy but, since we’re in the fantasy mode, why not ratchet things up a notch? Here’s a fresh speculation: while in Toronto, Ian Fleming almost became a Trappist monk. Instead of writing Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang and Dr. No, he almost ended up writing meditations on the contemplative life and tracts protesting military spending.

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In his memoir, The Seven Story Mountain, Thomas Merton  writes about his younger brother, John Paul. Like Thomas, John Paul had drifted across the Protestant/Catholic divide and had even toyed with the idea of becoming a priest. For whatever reason, the idea never took hold. John Paul was an impulsive young man and suddenly ran off to Canada to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. The U.S. wasn’t in the war yet, and, I suppose, John Paul was itching to see the sort of action he couldn’t get south of the border. Merton writes that “he was in camp, somewhere near Toronto.”

One of the things I like about John Paul is the fact that he was a photographer. Their father had been a painter, and both sons inherited his artsy fartsy sensibility, Thomas, with his poetry, and John Paul, with his camera. I can imagine how, as training trudged from 1941 to 1942, John Paul grew bored of the Air Force. On Saturday nights, maybe he came into town with his camera, hoping to shoot some action—bar fights, girls, whatever caught his fancy.

I can imagine him sitting by the window of a pub on Eglinton Avenue when a proper English gentleman strolled past. The gentleman paused, struck perhaps by the sight of a young man reading a newspaper while a draught sat chilling on his table beside a Rolleiflex. After exchanging pleasantries, Mr. Fleming joined the young John Paul and they began their conversation by wondering how small one might engineer a camera for use by, say, a spy agency.

Series 372, Subseries 58 - Road and street condition photographs

By the typically circuitous path that conversations take, John Paul let slip that he had an older brother, Thomas, who had become a novice monk and had joined the Abbey of Gethsemani in Louisville, Kentucky. Without thinking, Fleming blurted: “What the deuce would a man do such a thing for?” He was so flustered, he dangled his preposition. Being a good Church of England man, himself, it never occured to him that real people might choose celibacy. Nevertheless, he was fascinated to learn about Thomas Merton’s decision and left the pub with the monk’s address.

The two men struck up a correspondence and, after the war, Fleming even visited Merton at Gethsemani—not so far-fetched when you consider that Merton entertained many famous personages including Joan Baez and Thich Naht Hanh. Together, the men drank a toast to John Paul Merton, whose plane had gone down in the English Channel in 1943. For a time, Ian Fleming flirted with the idea of becoming a monk, but finally dispatched the idea with the publication in 1953 of Casino Royale. After reading the novel, Merton allowed their correspondence to peter out.

As an afterward, I note that St. James-Bond United Church no longer exists. As the congregation’s numbers dwindled, it opted in 2005 to amalgamate with the congregation of Fairlawn Heights United Church. Together, they worship as Fairlawn Avenue United Church. In 2006, most of the church was demolished. Now, a retirement residence stands on the site and incorporates features of the previous building.

Woman Passing Construction Site

A photo apropos of nothing.

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I Will Never Be As Good As Araki

I like to think of the Japanese photographer, Araki, as (among other things) the grandfather of the modern selfie. Photographers have been taking self-portraits since the camera was invented, but Araki makes a regular habit of including himself in his images, and was doing so long before digital photography became a thing. Maybe he wanted to underscore his assertion that the photographer’s subject is never anything but him/herself. Many of his self-inclusions are benign. Others have been racier–like the shot he took on his wedding night of his bride fellating him.

At the beginning of the month, I drove through Sleeping Giant Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Superior & hiked the shortest trail I could find, Ravine Lake Trail. Still off-season, the place was empty. Once I got into the ravine, I decided to take a selfie. Did I mention that I was alone? I set up the camera on the tripod, took the remote and leaned against a mossy rock. Good enough, I thought, and went on my way. Not until I got home and started processing my photos did I realize that I’d been standing there with my fly wide open. If I’d been Araki, I would at least have exposed myself (photographic pun intended).

Selfie on the Ravine Lake Trail, Sleeping Giant Prov'l Park.

Selfie on the Ravine Lake Trail, Sleeping Giant Prov’l Park.

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The trail to Ravine Lake.

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Washing The Stemware

Last night at TCC (Toronto Camera Club) I got Best In Show in the pictorial competition for the “Altered Reality” category. I call my image “Washing The Stemware.”

Washing The Stemware

It began as a photo I took a couple years ago of a window washer working on the building across from mine. I used a 70-200 mm lens with a 2x extension tube for an effective 400mm.

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At the time, I didn’t have any use for the image, so, like most everything else I shoot, I let it simmer. Then, last month, as I was drinking a glass of wine and moaning about the growing stack of dirty dishes, I thought to myself: wouldn’t it be great if we could have tiny men to clean all the dishes for us! Cue the light bulb. I cleared off the table, arranged some lights, and created a background by draping a sheet of tin foil over an upended wooden box. I shot a wine glass against the tin foil background with my 100mm macro lens.

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Finally, because it’s almost impossible to drape a sheet of tin foil over anything without producing crinkles, I shot the background alone and out-of-focus to blur away all the crinkles.

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When I composited the images in Photoshop, I made a few touchups:

• flipped the blurred background upside down so that the hotspot would be immediately behind the glass

• gave the window washer a new foot which was missing in the original image

• darkened some of the window washer’s skin tones to make the lighting more consistent with the backlit glass

Now all I need is a small army of these guys and my dish-washing woes will be over.

 

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My Perviest Photo

At Parliament & Mill Street, at the northwest corner of the distillery district, there’s a wedge-shaped building, and right at the pointy corner of the wedge is a lighting store, and on display in that lighting store is (or was) a mushroom-shaped lamp.

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The mushroom-shaped lamp inspired me to take pervy photos. I stood on one side of the wedge, with the lamp in the foreskin, I mean, foreground, and waited for people to pass in front of the far window.

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Dada Is Alive and Well

It’s good to see that Dadaism is thriving at construction sites in downtown Toronto. I call it Canadada:

dada is alive

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Visual Jokes

I suppose there are different forms of visual jokes, but the one that strikes me most often is a kind of ironic juxtaposition. Take, for example, this photo I took of a streetcar passing beneath fireworks. The ad on the side is for a film called The Arsonists. It was a chance thing and my camera just happened to be pointed in the right direction when the two elements (fireworks & ad) passed through the frame.

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But ironic juxtaposition doesn’t always produce humour; sometimes it produces social commentary. I’m not sure where the line is. For example, here’s a photo I took with graves in the foreground and an apartment building in the background. Is it funny? A jab at affordable housing? A comment on the grind of life? I suppose the answer depends on the context in which the photograph appears.

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Ratcheting things up another notch, what about ironic juxtaposition as social criticism? Like this limousine sitting on Bloor Street in front of a big downtown church. Maybe it’s a comment on what the theologian, Douglas John Hall, calls “establishment religion.” I’ll let you be the judge.

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The Malak Karsh Garden

I have a thing for visual jokes, ironies, unfortunate circumstances, so I couldn’t resist this scene looking across the Ottawa River from the Gatineau side. The National Capital Commission has planted a garden to honour Malak Karsh, a photographer and the lesser-known brother of Yousuf Karsh. The commemorative plaque opens: “This flower bed was planted in recognition of …” So did they plant invisible flowers? Plaque to Malak Karsh, Ottawa

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