Sunday, September 23, 2007

Diana+ Camera / About

Diana+ Camera / About

Lomography has released an update to the classic Diana camera, the Diana +.

The Grand History of the Diana Camera
Back in the 1960’s, a small firm in Hong Kong – the Great Wall Plastics Factory – created a dirt-cheap 120 camera called the “Diana.” Crafted entirely of plastic, each camera cost about a dollar. As a mainstream product, the Diana was pretty much a failure – and was discontinued in the 1970’s. But like any superstar cut down in their prime, the Diana’s posthumous appeal skyrocketed. As a cult artistic tool of avant-garde and lo-fi photographers, it was a rousing success! They loved its soft & dreamy images, super-saturated colors, unpredictable blurring, and random contrast. Diana shots are raw & gritty, with a character all their own. They simply cannot be duplicated by any other camera on Earth! In short order, the Diana rose to prominence as one of the most treasured and sought-after cult analog cameras from the late 70’s onward.

Lomography's web page on the new camera, gives the above (and then some) history of the Grandma of "toy cameras," and a lot more. The Diana+ is going for $50 USD or $70 with 20 rolls of Afga 120 film. While that might seem a little a steep (although $1 a roll for 120 film is anything but!), the next closest thing is going to be a Holga, and to get one with all the features Lomography has added to their Diana, well honestly, you'd have to get at least two different Holgas from Holga Mods. Those would run you at least $30 a pop, so the Diana + actually might be a good deal, if you need those features.

"But Dragon," I hear you saying, "Features? Isn't part of the appeal of a toy camera, apart from the Wabi-Sabi of vignetting and lightleaks, the lack of features, the enforced freedom to just roll the dice and shoot? If I wanted features, shouldn't I just pick up a used high-end medium format on ebay, since the pros seem to be dropping them like names at a country club?"

And I hear you, I really do. That forced simplicity IS a lot of the appeal of toy-cameras for me. But another appeal is the how easy it is to mod these cameras yourself. Back in college, I had two Holgas, one pretty much standard, except with some interior flocking and tricked out to do 6x6 frames instead of 6x4.5. The other was hacked with a pin-hole, and bulb setting on the shutter. Even though this was only four years ago, Holgas were cheaper then at about $16 so even a college student could afford to carry a couple around.

The new Diana + offers a tripod mount (I guess this is standard on Holgas now, though it didn't use to be), can be easily converted to a pinhole, and has a bulb setting as well as a shutter lock. So I'd say if you want to take some magically crap-tacular 120 shots, as well as experiment with roll-film pin-hole photography, the Diana + might be a good choice.

Still, I think I prefer the Holgas... $30 seems steep to me for a toy camera, $50 ? I just don't know. I don't think I'd use the extras that much... plus I kinda enjoy tinkering with them myself.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Naked Three Wheeler

(High-res image here)

Modern Vespa member 501 has started a thread for collecting images of the Gilera Fuoco... er, that is to say, the Piaggio MP3 500.
If you've been reading the Dragon for a while, you know that I have been enamored of Piaggio's three wheeler from the get-go, and stark raving buggo for the Fuoco. My test ride of a 250 at AmeriVespa only cemented my obsession. For this scooterist, at least, this is the future.
So many of these pics have been featured here before.
What I consider the most interesting of the lot, though are these pics of a Fuoco, nekkid as an escape-artist toddler at bath-time.

(High-res image here)

Is it just me, or is this baby BEGGING for a Steampunk or Dieselpunk customization?
In the Dieselpunk vein, the Fuoco reminds me of an updated Hienkel, if that marque had lasted or been revived. Which makes me wonder if the Vetter full-body fairing could somehow be adapted to fit.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

$240 worth of pudding

YouTube - $240 worth of pudding

Saw a link to this on Ectoplasmosis, and just had to post it.

Remember cats and kittens, it's "Cook, and then chill."

Now excuse me, while I kiss the sky...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pirate Day Freebie: Skull Font

The Skull-A-Day blog has posted a free skull font, just in time for Talk Like A Pirate Day.

The Dragon of course, tries to maintain the spirit of Pirate Day, all year long. And with friends like this, it's not that hard.

In the spirit of the holiday, though, we here at HTD would like to present our first short blog-skit.

Punkelf: What's a Pirate's favorite letter?

Honkytonk Dragon: Um... "R"?

Punkelf: No, "P".

Honkytonk Dragon: Huhrunh??

Punkelf: Because it looks like an "R", that's missing a leg.

Um, yeah.

Thanks (and blame) for the joke goes to the Dragon's favorite tall-ship sailor, Eamon.

The font link is via bOINGbOING

Trailers for Lammys and P-Series

Maxi-Trailers makes uni-wheeled scooter trailers out of old scoots. They also make a PAV replica. They open from the top and feature locks for security. In what I think is a genius touch, they utilize center stands to keep them upright when not attached to your bike.
Plus, they are right purty!
The prices are on par with what you'd pay for a restored or good condition PAV, i.e. around $1200.

via the ScooterBBS

Harry Potter in the Hood

More scooter news soon, until then H. Piddy raps. Lyrics here (scroll down.)

via Neatorama

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fuoco 500 to Come Stateside!

There are a lot of cool scooter news stories out today, that I just cannot ignore. So I'm putting down the cardboard boxes and strapping tape for a couple of hours, to give you an overview of the coverage, and just a smidgen of my highly biased opinion.

Most exciting to me, is the news that Piaggio will be rebadging the Gilera Fuoco 500, as the Piaggio MP3 500. Also exciting is that it doesn't look like Piaggio will be altering the "naked" look of the Fuoco with MP3 body panels. Check out this spy photo from a recent Piaggio dealer meeting in AZ.

Yeah baby, slap an MP3 badge on that puppy, and call it good!
I know some folks prefer the more civilized styling of the other members of the MP3 clan. And a lot of folks think even the initial MP3s were fugly (especially compared to their Vespa cousins.) Personally, I think the Mp3 is so ugly it's cute, a definite bulldog of a scoot. Well, if that's true then the Fuoco (do I really have to start referring to it as an MP3 500?), is a bull mastif. Plus, that front end, viewed from the right angle, looks like a dragon's head, which should be enough to tell you which one I prefer...

Is this going to start a precedent? Will we start getting select other scoots from Piaggio marques such as Aprilia and Gilera, stateside? Hmmm....

I'm also curious as to how this decision was made at Piaggio. To scooterists on this side of the pond, the Fuoco was a no-brainer for America's sprawling suburbs, 2 hour round trip commutes, thousand mile interstates, and bigger is better attitudes. I'm willing to bet I wasn't the only scooterist to find the highest ranking Piaggio rep at AmeriVespa this year, and plead for this puppy to be imported, dismissing arguements that Gilera's a European marque having no stateside support with an petulant "Well, just slap a Piaggio badge on it!"

The same pipe-dream was also repeated many times on Modern Vespa. Was Piaggio listening, or did their marketing department come to the same concluscion through demographic research, that American scooterists knew intuitively? Here's to hoping they were paying attention to their existing customer base....

The rumor mill is predicting the MSRP of the Fuoco... um, MP3 500 to be in the range $10k USD. Steep for a scooter, to be sure. The 582cc Honda Silverwing is $8k; The Suzuki Burgman 400 is $6k, the 650 is about $8k, and the 650 Exec is near $9k; Yamaha's 395cc Majesty is $6k. But in the contemporary scooter market, Italian hotness has always come at a premium, and there is nothing to compare to this Italian hotness.

Other coverage of this story:
The Scooter Scoop
Modern Vespa (Where user Lucky Bastard started the ball rolling)

Previous drooling rants from the Dragon on the Fuoco:
The Fire Next Time
Gilera Fuoco Vid

per a reliable source on Modern Vespa,
The 250 will be $7199 next year (They are $6999 right now). The 400 will be $8699 and the 500 will be $8899.
And the Vespa S 150 will be $4099
So out-the-door we're still talking about $10k, depending on your locale.

Monday, September 17, 2007

If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain

Then meet me in Divorce Court, this whole thing is insane....

This is What Freedom Looks Like, 2007 edition

Jimny Christmas!
There is just so much wrong with this, I don't even know where to begin.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

“It’s safer from danger when one wears a helmet.”

John at Who Rides a Vespa, has posted this great Kawaski PSA from the Philipines:

Pretty Cool

Meditations of a Bibliophilic Nomad

Warning: Extremely Stream-of-Consciousness Post Ahead!

Still preoccupied with the various tasks associated with moving, and therefore neglecting the blog.
Moving gives life a syntax, a grammar. It allows us to gaze Janus-like at the path behind us and the road ahead.
The Dragon is of course a lazy nomad. I seem to camp out somewhere for a period of years, before moving on, and have yet to find a place I would truly call home. Olympia has been great, but it's time for a new place.
When I reflect back on my time in the Puget Sound, the predominate theme seems to be books. We just finished packing up the majority of our library, and have about two dozen average size boxes. Of course there are still a few shelves worth of titles which for one reason or another we want readily accessible until the last possible moment.
I heard somewhere once that wizards and sages draw power and wisdom just from the presence of a strong library. I think some glassy eyed Wiccan told me that, though it may have come from a fantasy paperback, or even a dream. Regardless, there is a sentiment in that statement which I strongly second.
I feel naked if I can not easily put my hand on certain tomes. Ralph Mayer's Artist's Handbook, and David Gottesgern's similar guide to the materials and techniques of painting, for example. Then there are the books I've been meaning to get around to, and am not yet willing to admit the cause is lost, even in the face of moving. A current example is Letters from the Earth by Samuel Clemens. Twain is on my mind a lot lately, as mid-west boy who's traveled extensively through the west, and looks to be settling down back-east. In fact, he settled a scant few miles from where Jes and I will be renting a quaint little carriage house. While we were visiting for Barbara and Dave's 50th, we were able to hit up the Mark Twain Library's book sale. So that's another 5 or 6 boxes of books which are already waiting for us in CT. Not to mention probably another two-dozen or so boxes which I have stashed in Arkansas and Kansas.
If you couldn't already tell, I waver between feeling guilty and greedy about books, to feeling self-righteous and snobbish about them. Though I am a voracious reader, I have immense volumes of references on subjects which I am tangentially interested in, which I have never cracked, but will fight tooth and nail to keep. Because someday, it will come up.
My good friend Bart, back in Little Rock introduced me to a programmer's corollary to the adage about wizards and sages not long before I moved to Oly. For programming it's not necessary to know every command and algorithm, so much as to know basic syntax and structure, and know where to go to find everything else.
So yeah, when I find a definitive work on a topic or in a field, especially if it is area I think I may to deal with in the future, I pick it up.

Which leads me to this genius question on Metafilter: What single book is the best introduction to your field (or specialization within your field) for laypeople?

There are more jewels in that thread than I can catalog here. It's certainly a heck of a starting point for a reference library. (I don't have a Metafilter account, but if I did, I would add James Elkins's What Painting Is, for those who desire a layman's introduction to the discipline of painting.) Were you to seriously read a chunk of these books, I daresay you'd end up with at least as strong an education as most folks get from a liberal arts bachelors degree.

Anyway, I originally moved to Olympia to go to back to college, but after graduation, I stayed for the books. I've heard it said that college is important for geeky folks (who tend to be perpetually self-educating) because it introduces you to important books you might not have come across otherwise. This was certainly true in my case, with the added Evergreen bonus of seminars in which group discussion of the reading material significantly deepened the understanding provided by lectures and individual reading. But academia is only a small part of why I will always associate Oly with the printed word.

Around Labor Day 2003, the crew at Last Words Books asked me to join as a partner. I'd been working a summer job at the school's digital imaging studio, and spending most of my free time hanging with the bookstore boys, and the fit seemed right. In a fit of irrational enthusiasm I joined up. And books became my life... for a few years at least.

This essay began as an attempt to grasp how that experience has impacted me, but even with such a long lead-in, the task seems Herculean.

The modifier "meta" keeps coming to mind, and not just because Metafilter seeded these ruminations. Running a bookstore develops your meta-knowledge. Your knowledge about knowledge. You may not have all the answers, but you have a pretty good idea of where to begin looking for them. After a while, you become like a walking Whole Earth Catalog.

And it changes how you look at people. Your understanding of people both deepens and becomes more superficial. You become the kind of social monstrosity who inspects a host's bookshelves somewhere between the introductions and the second glass of wine. If like me, you ride the Myers/Briggs border between E and I, you begin to develop relationships with folks whose names you don't know, but you know just what author and title they need to read next. You give yourself extra-points if they a) have never heard of said author/title and b) end up loving it.

Recently, I've been thinking about how I've become a book-snob. It's hard for me to accept, but it's true. During my formative reading years, I cut my teeth on mass-market science fiction, pulp as it were. Or what Jes, in bartender's parlance, calls "Pabst."
Now sometimes you don't want to slowly sip on an 18-year old single malt Sartre or Camus, so much as you just want to slam back a nice unimposing Stephen King PBR. I get it, I really do. Of the two dozen boxes clustered around our wood stove, at least four of them are solely comics and graphic novels, for Buddha's sake.

Jes likes really pulpy fiction. What I think of as Pop-fiction. She'll buy a Stephen King book she hasn't read, and she'll keep one she has. Now, I'm not so much a snob that I won't read Stephen King. I've enjoyed several of his stories, and there are some I haven't read which I'm looking forward to getting around to. But I just can't see myself buying them, and I cringe at the thought of them taking up permanent shelf space, space which could instead be inhabited by Ken MacCleod, or Richard Brautigan.

I guess I think of my personal library as a home for books that are special to me. Stephen King doesn't belong, because well if I get the itch for that I know it will be easy to find, and the itch will generally not be so overwhelming that I need it "right now!" On the other hand, if I get the itch to Etidorpha, it might take me some time or expense to find a copy.

So, without much further ado, a list of what is on the Dragon's bookshelf until/during the move:

Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punishment, The Order of Things
John Berger, Ways of Seeing a classic, for when I might need some "comfort food" reading.
Jon Longhi, Everyone at the Funeral Was Slamdancing, The Rise and Fall of Third Leg (both signed, no less!) Longhi is the shiznet! We Gen-X mofos have waited too long for our own Bukowski, our own Kerouac, our own Pekar. Longhi is it. You know that grandpa hipster in your scene, who's a genius, but focuses all his talents on getting high and scoring babes, well Longhi is that guy if he actually finished his novel. And then wrote another one. I loved Wake Up and Smell the Beer, and can't wait to sink my eye-teeth into these. For any doubters out there, Longhi has gotten R. Crumb to do covers for both of his novels.
Richard Brilliant, Portraiture
Harold Norse, Memoirs of a Bastard Angel
James Morrow, Towing Jehovah I'm most of the way through this, but think it might make a good book for Jes and I to read to each other during the drive.
Terry Prachett, Going Postal Jes is in the middle of this, and it looks like a fun read.
John Kennedy Toole, Confederacy of Dunces Because it's been far too long, and I'm hoping to get Jes acquainted with Ignatius J. Reilly.
Vincent Van Gogh, Dear Theo A collection of Vinnie's letters. Again, comfort reading.
Charles Bouleau, The Painter's Secret Geometry One of the few books I scored at the Twain Library Sale which merited being shuttled cross-country twice. I've started it, but it's dense and meaty, so I plan to take my time digesting it.
Haynes, Vespa P Series Manual 'Nough said.
David Hough, Proficient Motorcycling A two-wheeler's bible. I won't feel comfortable packing it until the Vespas are loaded on the truck.
Berke Breathed, The Night of the Mary Kay Commandos Light bathroom reading.
Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near Heavy bathroom reading.
Various Authors, Various Html, web design, and photoshop manuals For a project I hope to unveil soon...
Kevin Siembieda, The Palladium Role-Playing Game Revised Edition For reasons which will be illuminated in a later blog-post.

There you go, not exactly a Desert Island island, just a what I need to get through the next month list. Granted, I'll probably be adding a graphic novel or two to that list in the next couple of weeks.

If you seek further understanding of both why I had to join the Bookstore, and why I had to leave, I direct you to the BBC comedy series, Black Books, which sadly, is funny 'cause it's true.

In closing I give you the Last Word Books Late-Night Computer Elf Mantra:

"Books! Books! Books!"