Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Nikon or Canon?

Canon Powershot SX10IS 10MP Digital Camera

The photographers among you might recall my fascination with the Nikon D40. I intended to buy it with my little book advance but, alas, that plan fell by the wayside as more practical imperatives became, well, imperative. A few of you have asked me why this camera? Someone swore by a Pentax, a couple others (including my son) think I really need a Canon Rebel. So, why the D40? Because I wanted a DSLR and was taken aback to find this brand in the price range I like to think I can afford, for one; it's a Nikon, for heaven's sake, and that name carries a lot of weight. In addition, most of the reviews I've read are honest to goodness rave reviews.

I've been having second thoughts over the last couple of days, though, so I pulled up the one-star reviews on Amazon. They aren't many, compared to the raves, but they gave me reason to pause and rethink. So, I started researching all over again, and one guy's advice stopped me cold. He asked something along these lines: Do you intend to get really serious about photography? Do you have any experience with digital cameras? Do you have any experience with DSLRs? Then he suggested that if you're a complete newbie you should start with a plain old digital camera with a few manual features, have fun with the auto setting, play around with the manual settings, and then decide if you really want to get in deeper.

I don't think I want to get serious about this thing; I have enough distractions as it is. I just want to take decent shots of scenery, my mother's yard, animals, my family and friends, as well as fiddle around a bit with a few SIMPLE options. When I look at my son's DSLR my head begins to buzz: so many knobs, buttons, features. So much to learn. And the damn thing is heavy!

The Canon Powershot SX10IS 10MP Digital Camera with 20x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom - a mouthful, that - is what I'm looking at now. It's just a few dollars cheaper than the D40 but I'm reading the specs and reviews and I'm convinced - almost - that this is what I really need. The 20x optical zoom - see flamingo photos above - convinced me. The Canon PowerShot A590IS was a contender, and it's less than half the price of the SX, but that 4x zoom can't compare. The SX is pretty enough, too. Some of the others that are recced are so ugly I didn't even check them out. (Stop screaming, men! Aesthetics are important, as you visually hard-wired Y-chromosomers should know!)

What think you?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

My super(market) award

Fiona's post Death by Shopping made me think a bit. I thunked and thunked and then decided I'd better 'fess up and be done with it. I'm a poseur, a hypocrite, another shame-faced contender for the If You Think You're a Naturalist or Environmentalist or Conservationist or Humanist or Whatever Grand and Noble Label You Love to Apply to Yourself You're, Like, Totally Deluded award.

I remember the little shops of yesteryear. My grandfather owned one. These shops fascinated me as a small child - a fascination that turned into aversion as I grew older and joined the throngs stampeding our way to the supermarkets.

Supermarkets are spacious. They have parking. They are clean. They don't smell. The goods are shiny and spotless, tastefully arranged, and the choices border on bewildering. They are impersonal. The little shops and mini-marts, on the other hand, are none of the above. My grandfather's shop smelled of the salt fish, the buckets of pig's tails in brine, the smoked herring that used to be an important part of the local diet. Produce was weighed on a crude scale (like the one pictured above) and wrapped in brown paper. There was a system of 'trust', or credit. No one ever went without because they were short of cash; Grandfather would remove the pencil from behind his ear and write the amount owed on a scrap of paper, which he would then slip on to a wire hook that hung from a nail in plain view. Customers settled their account when they were able, and there were no late-payment fees. No money for bread? You could 'trust' it, and some butter and milk too, from my grandfather.

The lady who served at the counter was chatty, and I could never get away until I had answered a stream of enquiries about the health of every member of my extended family, and assured her that I was doing well at school. Going to the shop was a social event for many, and Miss Olive would not even notice my presence if she was engrossed in a lively conversation with her customers. As a child, back then, I couldn't ever betray signs of impatience. To do so would be 'womanish', and an accusation of womanishness would get back to my mother resulting in dire consequences for me. So I stood in the hot, close space, surrounded by odours and humanity - humanity that knew me and every member of my family for generations back - and suffered in silence.

Do you know what I love most about supermarkets? The air conditioning. Really, I'm an AC whore. I live on a tropical island but I hate to sweat. There are exceptions, of course, such as when I'm exercising. If I'm hiking in the forest with the prospect of the sea of a rock pool ahead of me, I tolerate stuff oozing out of my pores. Outside of these and a couple other special circumstances, I try to live a no-sweat existence. So, I bypass all the hot little shops struggling for survival and sashay into the cool and cavernous, overpriced supermarket, conveniently forgetting that it contains all those tons of plastic - yes, that non-biodegradable stuff that ends up in the landfills, the waterways, and the sea. I shop in splendid isolation, avoiding eye contact with the strangers around, silently bitching about all the high-cholesterol, high sodium, high sugar, high trans fat, high everything processed foods from which I must choose.

See why I'm a contender for that award? The little shops and minimarts are so much better for the environment, for the community, for health, for humanity. They are usually within walking distance, mind you, but I ignore them and join the streams of cars headed for the huge, shiny, electricity-guzzling, plastic-spewing, air-conditioned box on the horizon, our toxic exhaust and stupidity puffing in our wake. And heaven help me if I run out of cash, or the snarky little machine declines my bank card - as it has done on occasion with no provocation whatsoever.

Friday, 20 March 2009

March hunk: Jimmy Jean-Louis

Born in Haiti 40 years ago, he lived in a remote village until, at the age of 12, he moved to Paris. "From a young boy growing up in Haiti, living with no electricity or running water, my journey to Hollywood has been rich with experience. I take little for granted and appreciate the beauty of life, knowing that there is so much more to learn." Jean-Louis is fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Creole. He has strutted the catwalks of London, Paris, Milan, South Africa and New York. As an actor, he's worked alongside some of the top names in the business in productions such as Diary of a Tired Black Man, Tears of the Sun, Derailed, Hollywood Homicide, Monster-in-Law, and Phat Girlz. And there's more, much more.

A week ago I didn't know he existed - then I stumbled across a photo that stopped me in my tracks. What do I like best about him? I think it's those lit-from-within eyes. Some dudes, it seems, just have it all.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Reading right now: Kindred

I featured Octavia Butler here on the blog last June, and Kindred, her classic tale of a modern black woman who is transported back to the days of slavery, has been on my (very long) wish list ever since. Now, thanks to a blog buddy, I finally have a copy. I couldn't put down this book!

Don't understand why some insist on labeling the novel science fiction, though. The writer herself notes that there's no 'science' in it. Is it because of the time travel? I consider it more speculative, or paranormal, but then, I'm no expert on these genres. What I do know, however, is that Kindred is not to be missed. It is a beautifully crafted exploration of profound themes such as love, slavery, choice, and relationships, but most of all, it's a great story that keeps you glued to the page until the very last.