Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Real and perceived enemies

18th century French satirist and philosopher says, "As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities." People are often used as the means to a political end. Just feed them absurdities and they will commit atrocities that you want them to, while the real enemies are left alone. All Malaysians should ask themselves who the real enemies are. Malaysia has seen its crime rate escalating exponentially, yet the biggest demonstrations in the country are race-based ones. Racial and religious hatred are fanned by zealots, while reprisals are simultaneously silenced by threats and actions. The demonstrators genuinely believe that their way of life is threatened both economically and religiously. How utterly misled they are! If the entire Chinese population disappear from Malaysia, would that change the real threats eroding the economic wellbeing of the demonstrators? Would that make their religious practice more free and meaningful? I do not think so.

The real enemies are the robbers, burglars, kidnappers, and corrupt officials. They seem almost unrestrained. They have no regards for human lives. They certainly do not discriminate on race or religion when carrying out their activities. Until people are educated on who the real enemies are, Malaysia will continue to be a haven for crime. Ultimately, the price is not just economic security or religious freedom, but ruin and anarchy for the entire country. In the worst case scenerio, Zimbawe took just 30 years to be totally ruined. Perhaps that should be made into a case study and taught to everyone in Malaysia.

For photographers: a book worth reading

My favourite section in the bookstore or the library is the photography section. Sometimes in browsing through the pages I would come across a fresh perspective, or a new idea to try out on my camera. That's what fuels my passion in photography. I recently read "A New Manual On Photography" by John Hedgecoe. In this book, the author covers more about light and colour control, than on picture composition, aperture or focal point. He DID cover those other points too (which photography book wouldn't?), but I felt this book gave a very useful expose on a fundamental aspect of photography which is often under-addressed. He shows how one can create a lovely shot in bright light or in dull light, in high key or in low key, in harsh light or in soft light.

Composition alone does not make a great picture. I've learned that it also requires colour control in the same way an artist would carefully choose what colour goes with the other on a canvas. I've also learned to appreciate how the angle and intensity of light hitting on a subject can make a difference. It never struck me until now that tonality, or differrent shades of the same colour, is the key to giving a two-dimensional image a three-dimensional impact. That, in my opinion, is the pursuit of artists and photographers alike.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Countries evolving into economic entities

No, I did not spawn this idea inside my head. I might have read about it somewhere during my college days. This line appeared in a movie I watched recently ("Transporter 3"?). The current economic crisis reveals that in many of the richest and most advanced countries their priority is to save failing corporations. If giants like GM and Chrysler, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Citigroup and JPMorgan, are allowed to fold, the fear is that many jobs will be lost, including the ruling party's. Think about it: these giants are simply economic entities. Their singular reason for existence is to make more and more profits. Why can a small failing business be allowed to go under, but not a really big, giant one?

In the old days, prior to the emergence of corporate greed (I call this the era of corporate greed), a government's role was to provide welfare and security for its people. Laws were legislated to protect the ignorant and defenseless public from exploitation by businesses in their quest for profit. It seems that economic entities are now the real power behind the government, from the US to Zimbabwe; from the Middle East to the Far East. Behind a facade of working for the people, people are actually used as pawns to feed either corporate profit or to line the pockets of those directly in power.

I hope the likes of Obama and Kevin Rudd will be able to restrain the powers of the economic moguls. If the current economic crisis passes without fundamental changes to the way giant corporations are allowed to escape government scrutiny, or if governments continue to place a business mogul's needs above the common citizen's needs, then history is bound to repeat itself. Then, take your money and hide under the pillow, because no one can be trusted.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Real reason for the global economic crisis

I sound like I am more knowledgeable than Paul Krugman, the 2008 Noble Prize laureate for economics. Actually, I just want to reproduce here the article written by Ross Gittins today in the Business Day section of The Age newspaper. I strongly believe that what he says is true:

"(Header of article) It's not inflation that's done us in after all; it's the long build-up in debt"

"For a decade the world's central bankers have been on the wrong tram, worrying about inflation when they should have been worrying about excessive borrowing."

" ... Turns out the inflation they should have been worried about was in the prices of assets such as houses and shares, not goods and services."

"Bubbles in asset markets require the ready availability of credit. And it's been the long build-up in debt on the balance sheets of household businesses (via the private equity craze) and financial institutions (hedge funds, investment banks and even commercial banks) that's at the heart of the global financial crisis and the recession that it's feeding."

"This is the point that is yet to sink in: recessions come not from excessive braking to control inflation, but from excessive borrowing and the bursting of asset bubbles."

Ross Gittins suggests that perhaps governments should set ceilings on the proportion of share and property values that can be borrowed against; i.e. control gearing ratio. Makes sense to me. Credit borrowing has simply got out of hand, leading to the banking crisis which the US recently fought to overcome by the injection of US$700bil into the system. (Note that it was just the "banking crisis" that has been dealt with; countries all over the world are still struggling with a looming "economic crisis".) As long as people borrow to spend, there will always be an asset bubble. The idea is to not let this asset bubble grow out of control again.

The prevailing wisdom is that governments should spend itself out of the economic crisis, even to the point of budget deficit. I believe this should be done by using available savings or domestic financing, so as not to feed the asset bubble again. The only real solution to the economic crisis is to allow house prices and share prices to fall to realistic levels, AND to have the POLITICAL WILL POWER to keep the asset bubble under control at all times.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My experience with digital IR photography

When I first got my Sony F717 camera in 2002, I experimented with infrared photography simply because this camera is particularly well suited for IR (infrared) work. The F717's nightshot feature is designed to capture IR images in the dark. Used in broad daylight, visible light is screened out by using a Hoya R72 IR filter. On top of that, an ND8 filter reduces the amount of exposure. IR light is then captured by the IR-sensitive CCD sensor of the digital camera. Post processing turns a bland IR image into a more interesting coloured image. The above picture is my first attempt on coloured IR.

How to produce coloured IR: With a Hoya R72 IR filter, the image is heavily tinted in red/magenta (although not visible in the Jpeg image). The idea is to correct this by swapping red and blue channels. Using the Photoshop channel mixer, select the RED setting and set Red to 0% and Blue to 100%. Likewise, in the BLUE setting, set Blue to 0% and Red to 100%. Next, select Auto Color. If desired, you can adjust the saturation in the Hue/Saturation setting, or experiment with the Levels and Curves settings. Below are an IR image before and after post processing using Irfanview (which can also do the job).

For details on Digital IR Photography, see:
For quick tutorial, see: