Thursday, January 26, 2012

Getting My Sh#t Together

Fallen Leaf Held To Sky/©2012 Tony Novak-Clifford

The past several days here on Maui have been spectacular weather-wise. Warm, nearly still winds, comfortable evenings at my lofty elevation. The still winds, however, mean that noxious gasses from the volcanic eruptions on the Big Island, more than 80 miles away, drift our way... haze our skies and after a few days of no wind, the gasses have really built up to eye-irritating levels. The bright side is that these gasses also lend themselves to producing incredible sunsets.

And speaking of irritated eyes, the last three days have been spent rebuilding, updating and expanding my client contact database. A newly acquired subscription list service has kept me busy pouring over potential art/photo buyer contacts at agencies, resorts & publications all over the US mainland & Canada... checking each one carefully to see if my work might be a match for theirs. If so, they get added to my existing list of contacts. After three days of careful scrutiny, another 500+ potential contacts have been selected & added to my existing contact file.

The list service also provides a convenient method of designing simple email promo designs & an automated delivery scheduler. The bad news is that I have also had to enter my existing list of contacts into the new service manually in order for them to get the automated email blasts. That task has also just been completed, the next e-promo was finished just moments ago and set up to blast out over the interwebs at midnight tonight.

In between all of this activity, I continue to pour thru 1000's of images for the ongoing website & print portfolio update. As there are some minor signs that the economy might actually being showing some slight signs of rejuvenation, I want to be ready and at the top of every art buyer's mind when the 2012 budgets start kicking in sometime next month. With anyluck, both the print portfolio & website will be completed sometime in the next two weeks so that I can hit the bricks in H'lulu mid-February with new work to show and a good excuse to renew existing connections and a few new ones with some much needed face-time. (Yes, those of you reading that are accustomed to my shameless portfolio floggings... I will be bringing the customary boxes of Krispee Creme donuts as usual. Get your favorite flavor requests in soon...)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Few Thoughts On SOPA/PIPA

"Yes, I really am comparing the belief that SOPA threatens free speech with a belief in healthcare death panels; and I am more than willing to insult my friends to make the point. Both fears are irrational, both fears have been ginned up and funded by corporate interests, and both fears lead the electorate away from a sober effort to address a tangible problem. As a result, the general public loses to corporate greed -- again. And just to clarify for the libertarian element out there, I mean greed as distinct from enterprise because there is nothing about capitalism that guarantees the right to derive revenue from illegal activities.
 One could download the text of these bills and discover that there isn’t any evidence for the overwrought, doomsday claims made by the opposition; but like the death panel nuts, my friends aren’t seeking information so much as validation for what they want to believe in the first place. The Internet can be a source for what we need to know but is more often a source for what we want to hear; and in this case, what so many seem to want to hear is that anti-piracy legislation is just a Hollywood/government conspiracy to control us all. Frankly, I think we’ve gone just a bit conspiracy mad in this country, and I blame the egocentrism fostered by the digital age itself. "-New York Filmmaker David Newhoff, writing for online newsletter The Hill , Anti-piracy Battle Reveals Dysfunctional Thinking.

Find the entire article HERE

The nerds are up in arms again. This time, their cause celebre is the two anti-piracy bills scheduled to be debated in the congress, The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). The nerds have taken up keyboards and mounted a shitstorm of hyperbole & disinformation in defense of Google's right (and the purported rights of others) to aggregate, compile, archive, host and otherwise distribute & publish electronically any content whatsoever, licensed or not. The nerds have taken to Facebook, online tech discussion boards and other sites where large groups of people gather online to spout their venom towards the bills. Google has been partially blacked-out today in protest, Wikipedia was supposed to go dark all day in protest (ironically, as of this moment, they are up and running)... other aggregate sites have taken similar protests throughout the day...

Think your joining a cause to defend free speech? Think again... you're really fighting intellectual property creators like myself and supporting companies like Google who would like nothing better than to not only host, publish and distribute the work created by others at no cost to themselves, but to actually use said work in a business model that aims to make them more profitable at the expense of people like you & me.

I mention Google specifically because they have been an important and extremely loud source of funding and disinformation in efforts to thwart these two anti-online piracy acts. Click on the link below to see a chart depicting the links between the strongest anti-SOPA/PIPA advocates... the chart reads like a family tree of hillbilly inbreeding and at the center of it all is GOOGLE... their tentacle reach so far & wide that following the trail of anti-antipiracy players reads like a long-winded game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Curious now? Read on... here's another link to an Oct. 27, 2011 article appearing in Bloomberg Business Week:

No one is saying the neither of these bills need a bit of finessing & work, debate is now scheduled to begin again sometime in February of this year. However, the proliferation of bullshit regarding both of these bills, long in advance of any actual debate in the Congress, is mind-numbing. 

Online piracy is a problem... a huge problem for writers, illustrators, composers, filmmakers, and other creators of intellectual property. Should one be forced to mount a legal case for infringement against any company or entity with huge financial resources, one would be buried under the incredibly expensive weight of mounting such a case in Federal Court. Cease & Desist letters and other forms of Takedown Notices are more often than not ignored by offending websites. When you begin to factor in the effort & costs involved in protecting your work from infringers overseas, things get even more complicated.

Instead of taking reasonable pre-emptive measures to protect the intellectual property of others, making the need for such bills as SOPA/PIPA less necessary in the digital age, GOOGLE & others have chosen, instead, to mount a very effective (and I suppose also very costly) campaign of disinformation, hysteria & hyperbole. Websites like GOOGLE & Facebook, Twitter & others, for example, actually go out of their way to strip embedded metadata information containing attribution, credits & copyright notices to all photo files uploaded to their sites. Many of these sites, in their Terms of Service Agreements, actually take control of the work, allowing them the opportunities to further distribute, publish, license and yes... even profit from your work without any compensation to you. Simply putting an end to these two practices cited above would go a long way in restoring faith & confidence of users that their property remains theirs and publishing work on the web ins not an open invitation to steal. 

Why do companies like GOOGLE take such heavy handed measures to deny users of any attribution to uploaded content? Listen to their cries of "impeding freedom of speech & innovation if SOPA/PIPA become law" their motivations become painfully clear.

With the internet becoming more & more the preferred platform for the publishing of information, imagery, journalism, etc., measures with real teeth to thwart easy online piracy become more essential. Thanks to now defunct online music-sharing sites like Napster, an entire generation brought up with online access have somehow developed the notion that any and all content found online is free, availble and has the potential to be used for profit when in fact, use without permission of content online is really no different than walking into your local convenience store, lifting your product of choice and walking out the door without paying.

As artists, writers and creators of intellectual property, you & I now find it necessary... essential even, to turn to the internet to reach our audiences. Doing so should in no way restrict our ability to not only control, but to profit from our work. So, if you are an artist, writer, filmmaker, whatever... and have yet to really look into the issues & facts surrounding the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation, I urge you to do so now before taking up keyboard and posting more propaganda and disinformation perpetrated by financial giants who seem hell-bent on the use of your creative output to improve their own bottom line... not yours.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Maui Visitors Bureau Campaign

Commissioned by Honolulu's LCA-Anthology Group & running nationally in various print publications. It's getting close to Pele Award time... entry deadline TODAY!

Moving Forward Into The New Year...

Slow but steady progress is being made in revamping the web portfolio, reorganizing & adding to the print portfolio and getting the first email promo of the year put together & sent out, followed by a trip to H'lulu early next month to make the rounds, press the flesh & put in the requisite face time. By early next week, we should be subscribed to a new creative's list service which we hope will expand our sphere of influence far beyond our shores.

The work is tedious & time consuming... pouring over thousands of images old & new, resizing and preparing the files for web publishing. I've been at the web portfolio revamping for nearly a week now and still have a long way to go...

A second set of revised architectural plans have now been approved (by me) for the new studio addition to my upcountry land-fort. The space will be a small compromise space-wise to what I have been renting in town for the past 18 years but will actually give me a more functional footprint and deeper shooting area than I have now. Our trusty draftsman is now completing the structural & elevation drawings in preparation for the architect's stamp and submission to the County Planning Department for approval. Then, I've got to email the plans to Argentina where my builder is currently hiding out. With any luck, construction just might begin in March and be ready for occupancy sometime by late summer. I am counting the days until I can bid an unfond farewell to those scoundrels at Prudential Iwado Property Management, current rental agents for the current studio. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

RIP Dieter 1998-2012

Last week we said our sad goodbyes to an old & trusted friend. The amazingly consistent, efficient JOBO ATL-2 Automated Film Processor, affectionately given the moniker "Dieter" after the Michael Meyers German VJ character on SNL ("... now eet ees time on SPROCKETS ven vee dance..."), has served me well over the years... at least 15 of them. Purchased long ago after a disastrous incident when Maui's only Custom Color film lab offering E-6 Transparency processing managed, in an unmonitored processing run, to shift 250 sheets of 4x5 sheet film approximately 40 points cyan. That incident convinced me, since I already had an in-house black & white lab in my studio, to add color E-6 processing... eliminating, or at least minimizing, such disasters as the one described above.

An amazing example of German engineering, Dieter could process up to 10 rolls of 35mm. film, 10 rolls of 120 format film or up to 10 sheets of 4x5 film in under an hour using minuscule amounts of chemistry. Simply program the processing run with times for the 6 different chemicals used based on what film emulsion I was processing, load the film into tanks (or drums for 4x5 sheets), snap the tank or drum onto Dieter, push a button and walk away to do some other task until you were summoned approx. 55 minutes later to inspect the goods.

Dieter was reliable. Dieter never let me down. Dieter always amazed me producing rolls of film of processed transparency sheets of incredibly accurate & consistent color & vibrancy... far better than I had ever been accustomed to getting back in the days when I used the local lab. It was always a marvel to crack open the tank or drum to remove the first roll or sheet & hold it to the light for first inspection... wow!

As we all know, film based photography has all but fallen to the wayside in recent years with the advancements in digital capture technology. There are some instances where I still shoot film, especially large-format film. Unfortunately, now that Kodak has closed their H'lulu warehouse, the costs involved in shipping chemicals to Maui has become prohibitive and it is now easier, though far more time consuming, to simply FedEx exposed film to Los Angeles for processing.

Dieter made his last process run maybe a year & a half ago. He is still in perfect working order. I have tried to find him another home... even offering to give him away to a couple of film enthusiasts I know. Alas, there were no takers.

Last thursday, I unbolted & removed Dieter's computerized control head and dropped it off at the local electronics recycler. Dieter's body, tubes, lift arm, etc. were loaded into the bed of the pick-up and hauled off to the dump as we begin the process of cleaning up and ridding ourselves of accumulated gear & junk that now fills my current, crowded studio space in preparation to move into the new studio space... construction should begin in March - with any luck we should be moving in by end of summer.

I will miss Dieter. He made life simpler, more productive and more profitable. He was a friend.