Events

Would you like to give life to someone?

My wife’s cousin (her name is Estera, or Esther in English), has suffered from the effects of Hepatitis C, and is in Stage III-IV of the disease, which means her liver is pretty much shot to pieces. Doctors say she’s got to get a liver transplant this month or next month, or it’ll be too late to do an operation. You can see her and her two daughters in this photo. Estera is the third from the left, on the couch, next to her husband, Adrian.

Estera has already placed herself on a liver transplant list long ago, and has waited patiently, but time is running out. Her blood type is also rare (O1), and that makes it doubly hard to find a donor.

As you may know, the liver regenerates itself, so whatever bit you give will grow back. The bit the doctors transplant into her will, in time, and if everything goes according to plan, grow into a full-size liver. You’ll end up with an incision above your liver and the priceless knowledge that you helped a mother see her daughters grow up.

If you or someone you know is interested in doing this, please get in touch with Adrian, Estera’s husband, at adydrobota@yahoo.com. Since Estera lives in Romania, we’re looking for someone who lives in Romania or at least in Europe, so it’ll be easier for them to travel to her, but we’re not going to turn away any willing donor.

If you’re Romanian, make sure to read this post on my wife’s blog as well.

Thank you.

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Reviews

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

I was elated after I watched “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”. How can I put it so it’s best expressed? This movie encourages you to achieve your dreams. It tells you that life is an adventure, and that you must go out there and live it to the fullest, chasing after your dreams, unafraid, believing in the impossible, before it is too late. The tale itself is a metaphor that says all of that and more.

The Baron himself is an allegory for one’s soul. When you believe you can achieve what you set out to do, your soul rejoices. It becomes young and full of vigor. That was the Baron at his best, and that’s when he looked like this:

The happy Baron Munchausen

When he or others stopped believing in him, he withered out and started looking like he was just about ready to kick the bucket. That’s what your soul looks like when you don’t believe in yourself. It suffocates and dies a slow death with each day you postpone doing what you really want to do. If you have a hard time seeing this, just try to imagine you’re Baron Munchausen. Think of those times when you lost hope in yourself, and I think you’ll agree you looked pretty grim, too.

The sad Baron Munchausen

You see, the key is to persist, even when things look miserable and there’s no hope. Oftentimes, better circumstances are just around the corner. Or perhaps what you’re going through is a blessing in disguise, only you won’t know this until after the fact. Never listen to the naysayers, and never let anyone get you down. The foil (bad guy) in the movie was Horatio Jackson, a nasty, no-good, scheming fiend who inflicts pain and suffering on everyone around him. Don’t be that guy. Be the good guy. Be the Baron.

Don't let bad people discourage you

What’s important is that you never give up on what you really want to achieve. If it’s something worthwhile, sooner or later the right door will open and you’ll walk through it, victorious. That’s when those around you will look at what you’ve done in awe, and they’ll get it.

The victorious Baron Munchausen

Another wonderful lesson from the movie is that it’s never too late to recapture your dreams. This is shown very well by the Baron’s troupe, who’ve gotten old and have completely forgotten about their special abilities. Their talents have turned into their defects. Yet the Baron inspires them to reach deep down and rekindle the flames that once burned bright in their hearts, and they come to life. Their old talents return.

Victory at any age

These are just a few of the lessons from the movie. It makes so many more statements, many of them political. There’s a very healthy amount of disdain in the movie for so-called political diplomacy and totalitarian governments of any kind, and I share the filmmaker’s feelings there as well. The larger statement made there is, I think, that people do better when they believe in themselves and connect their talents to achieve something for the greater good, without the government getting involved and mucking things up. I can get behind that.

In the end, the best lesson of all is that you and I and everyone should be the Baron. Go out there. Chase your dreams. Do your best to achieve great things. Don’t let norms and rules and nasty people get in the way. Keep your goal in front of your eyes and ignore everything else, but make sure to listen to the still small voice that is your conscience — portrayed in the movie by Sally, the little girl.

If you’ve already watched the movie, but didn’t see it my way, give it another try. Watch it again through the lens of imagination, and see what you see.

You can find out more about this movie at IMDB, rent it from Netflix, or buy it from Amazon.

Images used courtesy of the filmmakers.

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Thoughts

An announcement about my photos

I’ve been mulling over this decision for some time. As I thought about it, I wanted to balance my desire to let people enjoy my photos with my very real need to retain the ability to sell my photographs, because I do want that to become a larger source of income for me than it has been thus far.

I think I may have reached a happy medium, and I hope I won’t regret what I’ve already begun to do. As of last week, I’ve been publishing my images at a much larger resolution — 1920 pixels on the longest side vs. 800 pixels previously. This means that you, the reader who sees this, will be able to download them and use as desktop backgrounds, without seeing a decrease in the photo quality as it fills up your screen. As a matter of fact, you’ll be able to use my images on monitors up to 24″ or more in size (1920×1200) or on HDTVs of any size, without seeing a decrease in quality. I am also resizing all of them to an aspect ratio of 16:10, so they’ll fit natively on widescreen displays.

Now, what am I not doing? I am not posting them at their native 240 dpi, as my Canon 5D gives them to me. I am posting them at 72 dpi, which is the native dpi spec of computer screens everywhere. I am doing this because I want to discourage the making of large prints from my photos, since I’d like to make money from those prints. This also makes it a little harder for people to blow them up to larger sizes for serious commercial work, which is where I also hope to make money.

I am also not removing my copyright notice from the photos. You’ll see it as a small watermark in the lower left corner that says “(c) raoulpop.com”. I want to keep that there to let people know that while I may be giving my photos away, I am not relinquishing my copyright, nor am I moving to a Creative Commons type of license, which I believe is inadequate for photographs. I also realize that the photos will get edited in various photo editing programs, and any meta-data will unwittingly get wiped from them. The watermark is the only sensible way to tell people down the line that I made a certain photo. I do wish Lightroom would let me format the watermark in some way, but for now, that’s what it gives me, and I’m not going to run all my published photos through Photoshop just to put a watermark on them.

Am I opening myself up for theft? Yes. There’ll be unscrupulous people (I hesitate to call them people) who will likely steal my photos and try to profit from them. For them, I should point out that I do register my images with the US Copyright Office, and I wouldn’t mind getting a six-figure payout.

For you decent folks out there, I’ll be happy to know that you get a little joy from looking at my photos at a resolution where you can actually enjoy them. Go ahead and download them and use them as desktop backgrounds, put them on your HDTV, email them to your friends, use them on your website, whatever. As long as it’s personal, non-commercial use, and you give me credit, it’s okay with me.

If you’re a company or some kind of organization that wants to use my photos in some way, please get in touch with me first to clear that use with me and to pay for the license. I’ll do my best to accommodate your needs.

Okay, so where do you partake of this fantastic offering? There are wo places where you can get it:

  1. My photo catalog.
  2. My Flickr stream. I’ve opened up access to the All Sizes button. Download away.

Remember to play nice. Here’s how to use my photos. Please obey the rules listed there when using my photos for free, and if you’ll end up licensing some, then you’ll make me very happy. Thanks.

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Places

Waves at Hollywood Beach

This is a video I recorded a couple of years ago at Hollywood Beach, Florida. It was early morning, the sun had just come up, and Ligia had gone into the ocean for a swim. I stayed on the beach and recorded this. It starts out wide, then gets progressively closer to the water until it ends up in macro mode. A couple of days ago, I re-edited it, and I really like the way it plays now.

You can watch it below or here, and you can download it as well. Just press play, stay with it, and relax.

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Reviews

Why music doesn't sound great any more

Growing up, I listened to music on vinyl records. I had a huge stack of mostly classical music at home, and it was a real treat to put on a record, sit the needle on it, and hear music come out of the speakers. It was never tiring. It was always enjoyable, and I could listen to music while doing homework or reading.

As I got older and moved to CDs, and more recently, MP3s, I kept wondering why I couldn’t do the same. I kept getting headaches from listening to music for prolonged periods of time. Even while driving, too much music was stressful. I found that when I turned off the radio, it was as if I’d break down a wall of sound that would constantly barrage my ears. I put it down to changes in my personality and tastes in music, though I’d read some articles in the past that suggested music recording practices were changing.

It turns out those early grumblers were right. The Rolling Stones have a great article called “The Death of High Fidelity“, and it explains very well what’s going on. Now that I’m aware of these practices, I call them the bastardization of music as we know it, and I don’t think I’m mincing words.

It’s no wonder most music just plain stinks when we listen to it. And it’s also no wonder that certain recordings resonate with us if they’re done correctly. Norah Jones is one famous example. Another, more recent one, is Yael Naim. You may not know her name, but you’ve probably heard her song, “New Soul”, in the MacBook Air commercial.

While I’m on the subject, I’d like to ask music producers to stop putting police sirens and telephone rings in songs. They hide these sounds behind the normal tracks, but they make them stand out just enough to be noticed. Seriously, it’s very disturbing to drive on a road minding your own business and hear a muted police siren, then freak out because you don’t know where the sound is coming from. I understand the reasoning behind it: jog the listener’s short attention span, get them to listen to the music, subconsciously trigger an emotional response, etc. The way I see it, it’s disingenuous, it’s manipulative, and it cheapens the song. Stop doing it, please.

Here’s hoping things get back to normal. Or if they don’t, that at the very least, recordings using preferable sound mastering methods are labeled accordingly, as some people suggest.

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Reviews

Awakenings (1990)

Awakenings (1990)

We watched Awakenings (1990) tonight, and I was left with a newly found appreciation for life. This movie drives home the following point very well: you don’t know what you have till you’ve lost it.

Imagine watching your life, as you know it, become unavailable to you, which is what happens to people who suffer from neurological diseases. Imagine sitting there, trying to fight it, but knowing there really isn’t anything that can be done, while you slowly lose your coordination, balance, speech, senses, and become a catatonic mass, a vegetable, a ghost of what you once were. Through it all (and this point is debatable) you are aware of what happens around you, of what others are trying to communicate to you, but you cannot respond in any way. As one character in the movie puts it, it is “unthinkable”.

As I sat there, taking it all in, a photo of Ligia and I stood by the screen, and my eyes kept jumping to it. What we have is so precious. Much more precious than anything else out there. We not only have life, but we have love. We have so much. So much more than many others. And even if I didn’t have her, I’d still have my life and my health. These are both amazingly precious, and I always fail to realize it until either of them is in danger. Only then do I begin to see all of the things I take for granted.

I can’t put this into words properly. Every once in a while, I get a glimpse of my life from an outside perspective, and then it hits me: I’m a fortunate person. I should stop worrying about the little things. I should be happy. All the time. I have so much. The other things: gadgets, technology, computers, income — these are all insignificant without love, life and health.

Let’s face it, computers may have made our lives a little better, but they’ve also made them more miserable, busier, and more complicated. Gadgets are cool, but we don’t really need them. Technology is nice, but without human interaction and common sense, it only makes things worse. Income is nothing more than an enabler, something that lets you have a place to live and buy food and other things. When you start seeing it as something else, you’ve got problems.

What really matters is life — experiencing it to the fullest, gaining the realization of the gift that it is and being thankful for being alive. It’s so easy to get caught in the busy-ness of life that we lose our self-consciousness, that child-like sense of wonder at the things around us. I know I do that, and I shouldn’t. Every time I get caught up in pointless things, I waste precious time, which adds up. Life is so short… too short.

There was a scene in the movie which was telling for me. It was at the end. Dr. Sayer was typing an article, and the nurse, Eleanor, got ready to head home for the night, but lingered, hoping he might ask her out. He continued working, so she left, quietly. As soon as she closed the door to his office, he fidgeted nervously, knowing what he should have done. Then he jumped up, opened the window, called out to her, and ran out to invite her for coffee. But this wasn’t what struck me. After all, this was what we, as an audience, expected him to do. No, what I found interesting was the way he saved his work. He simply stopped typing, got up and left…

Think about that for a moment.

More information

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Events

Merry Christmas!

I know Christmas isn’t celebrated by everyone, but if you’re one of those who does celebrate it, Merry Christmas! Even though the origins of the date are pagan, the meaning we have chosen to ascribe to it over time is certainly worth celebrating. For those among us who are Christians, it means our Savior’s birth. For others, it means that time of year when we think of others, and give them presents. For others still, it’s a joyous holiday time spent with family, winding down the year and looking forward to the next. However you choose to celebrate it, I hope you’ll enjoy these next several photos I’ve prepared.

As Christmas nears, I love the change that comes over the home. The decorations make it a special time of the year.

Christmas time

Keep the light burning brightly

Let’s not forget to pick out just the right Christmas tree.

Got that tree?

And fill it full of wonderful ornaments.

Play that golden harp

A wreath of holly

How about the last minute gifts that we forgot to get? What to pick, I wonder?

The last minute gift

As Christmas Eve draws near, some of us like to sing Christmas carols.

Let’s sing in the town square

On Christmas Eve itself, we have a wonderful Christmas meal. In my family, the food we make this time of year is always special and plentiful.

Seeker of light

By the way, this is how the sunset looked on Christmas Eve this year.

Christmas sunset

Those of us who choose to ascribe a religious meaning to Christmas remember the story of the star in the East, and of the angels’ appearing.

Visitation

A star in the East

That ocean of angels that filled the sky on our Savior’s birth night must have been a glorious sight. This is a poor approximation, but it will have to do.

Apparition

According to popular legend, the little town up North where toys get made is pretty quiet on Christmas morning. Perhaps it looks something like this?

The little town where toys get made

Merry Christmas!

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Thoughts

Roses

The pure color of these rose petals reminds me of fresh spring rain, washing away the cold mud of winter from plants too hesitant to fully bloom. There’s the expectant hope of better, warmer days, and the creamy, bright, white background practically radiates optimism. Yes, I manipulated the colors, but that’s makes this photo more interesting to me.

Valentine for my sweetie

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Thoughts

Resolute

I really like this photo of mine. It’s so grainy you might think I took it with a cheap digicam, but I didn’t. I used my Exakta EXA Ia SLR, and I think I had 100 ISO film inside. Yet it is this excessive grain that I like here. It lends a wonderful atmosphere to the photo, and when you superimpose that silhouetted tree against the moody, slightly glowing sky, you get something wonderful. I identify with this photo more than I’d like to admit. In truth, I find a lot of myself in it.

Resolute

This other photo doesn’t look good in a smaller size like this, so I encourage you to click through and view it in full size. There’s something wonderful about shedding light on darkness. It’s that moment of truth when you expose what’s been hidden… Here light barely touches the tops of the trees, but I know it’s going to come pouring down soon, filling the entire view. It’s hope, distilled.

Await the dawn

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