Thursday, July 17, 2014

Samson at Sunset

I had to have a lens repaired and was testing it out when it came back.

That is my puppy boy, Sam.  He is 95 pounds of sweetness and love.

Except for the UPS driver.  But no one likes him anyway in the neighborhood . . .

BTW, if you need camera or lens repair, I very much recommend Peachtree Camera and Video Repair in Marietta, GA.  Seriously, it is worth shipping your stuff to them - they are miracle workers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

More Photoshop geekery . . .

Click photo to enlarge

I like some of the work seen from photographers who have used Corel Painter to manipulate their photos into lovely digital paintings.

But sometimes I want "just a touch" and frankly am not ready to spend the money on Painter.  So I tried this with this photo:  after retouching - and for skin softening, I use a combination of surface blur and the High Pass filter on the softened skin (h/t to Scott Kelby and a book by him that anyone should get to do retouching, Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques) - I replicated the image for my top layer and applied the Oil Paint filter to it (play with your settings, depending on how "paint-y" you want it, and set it to an overlay blending mode, then played with the opacity until I liked it.  That darkened the tones a bit, which did not look bad but I wanted it a tad lighter, so I did a curves adjustment.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bitmaps and blending modes don't play nicely . . .

Warning:  Photoshop geekery shall ensue . . .

Well, as I promised myself, I worked on an image of a model I had photographed recently and created a fictional "grind house" movie poster.

No, I am not a big fan of schlocky films, unless, of course, they are presented within Mystery Science Theater 3000.  This was more of an exercise in Photoshop because, well, it's fun and relaxing.

Although it became far less relaxing when I finally finished and for the life of me, could not get the red part you see - which was a color fill, masked, with its blending mode set to "Color" - to remain in place when I went to save the PSD as a JPG or even a PNG.  NOTHING worked and in trying to find a fix on the Internet, I noticed I was not the only person having this issue.

Here was the deal:  the underlying image had been a conversion from a bitmap.  I wanted the black-and-white image to have that cheap, halftone effect that you see in many movie posters of this genre.  I did it by using first File>Mode>Grayscale, and then did File>Mode>Bitmap, and selected a halftone pattern.  So far. so good, and I went ahead and created a new PSD, and copy-and-pasted the image onto it.  Did some other stuff and went to save it . . . and what kept happening was this:

Which actually looks cool . . . but is not what I wanted.

As it turns out, the method in which I created the halftone image was the culprit.  Or maybe it was the blending mode.  I on't know, all I know is that they did not like each other and would not play nicely.  So I recreated the black and white image by using Filter>Pixelate>Halftone, and then Filter>Artistic>Poster Edges to bump it up a bit.

And . . . it worked.  I could save it as a JPG without losing my color fill layer and its blending mode.  I kept analyzing the original layer with the black and white image, and it was RGB 8-bit color, so I can think of no reason why it would not work.  But it didn't.  Somehow, it retained something from when it started life as a bitmap and hated the color fill layer.

And why it is so?  Beats me.  Does anybody have an explanation?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

This makes me feel great . . .

As I report in my photo blog, I earned some recognition from a Catholic publication.

Check it out!

Please do this for me . . .

I saw this today.  I seriously hope the good Lord allows me some fun after I am dead.  There are some people with whose heads I want to mess.  Oh, I am not talking about harming them - mild stuff, like waiting until they get up from their desk to go to the bathroom, and come back to read, "BOO FROM STEPH!" typed on their screen.  Or rearrange the paper clips on their desk to spell out something so they'll know it's me.

A friend of mine - the relentless Crescat - once told me that she does not believe in ghosts because they serve no purpose, and so the reported "hauntings" must be demonic.  But our mutual friend, the Orthometer, points out that apparitions are a very Catholic thing and since the saints were once earthly souls - yes, even the Virgin Mary - then their appearances are, in fact, "ghosts."

Besides, who is to say that God does not allow our spirits to return to Earth for a reason?  I have known one friend to recognize a visit from her late mother in the wind chimes on her deck when there is no breeze to stir them, but they ring.  I recall one night suddenly smelling the very distinct perfume that my late mother-in-law wore, and seeing a figure out of the corner of my eye.  And my grandmother!  To her dying day, she swore that her former sister-in-law, who died very poor and for whom my grandmother paid a lovely funeral and a beautiful dress for burial, appeared the day after her burial and thanked my grandmother, then faded.

And my old church, St. Joseph in Santa Ana, CA! I have "met" the old Monsignor, and I know at least three other people who have claimed to see or sense him walking around, usually around the holidays.  The former pastor with whom I used to be friends, Fr. John Moneypenny, always pooh-poohed that, saying that HE had never seen any ghost in his life, but maybe that is because no one in the Church Triumphant likes him enough to make the trip back, eh?

All I can say is, when I'm dead, Father had better watch his paper clips . . .

What could possibly go wrong?

I am uncomfortable with the deal struck between the federal government and the Diocese of San Bernardino for parishioners in the diocese to house immigrants.  I do think the Catholic Church should step up to help the people arriving in the United States.  Our charity transcends borders and nationalities.  But the charity we extend should be on our terms and not those of the federal government.

To begin, Barack Obama has demonstrated utter duplicity when dealing with the Catholic Church.  He has lied to the USCCB regarding conscience exemptions to Obamacare.  Unfortunately, I can easily picture a scenario where the feds promise to collaborate financially with the diocese and once it has accepted a sizeable chunk of immigrants . . . simply say, "Sorry, we're not doing this anymore," and leave the diocese high and dry.  And why not?  By "working together" now, Obama gets wonderful public relations:  "See, the Catholics are with me!"  And if suddenly the "humanitarian crisis" pulls DHS and company elsewhere, the Church runs the risk of looking like the bad guys if they stop housing these illegal immigrants, and the bill is left with them while the feds dine and dash.  Because, as popular opinion will tell you, the Church is extraordinarily wealthy.

Speaking of these people arriving at churches in the Diocese of San Bernardino, are they all Catholic?  This sounds far-fetched until it actually happens, but just as with the argument made by HHS against the Little Sisters of the Poor, if the Diocese of San Bernardino extends its services to non-Catholics, will it lose its HHS exemption?

I have to ask whether Bishop Gerald Barnes has received proper legal advice before agreeing to this.  This is the risk I see:

Who is vetting the immigrants?  According to news reports, it seems "mothers and children" are being placed with parishioners.  Presumably, that would prevent teen members of MS-13 and other gangs from coming in, although young mothers could easily have ties to gangs as well.  What about people with criminal pasts?  Remember, these immigrants are undocumented - there is no assurance with regard to their identity.

Who is vetting the parishioners?  Do not assume that people stepping up to open their homes have the best intentions.  In my old parish in California, there was a change of pastors and the old pastor - coming from a place of "compassion" - never told the new pastor about a sex offender in the parish, resulting in a situation where he was allowed to be around children in violation of his parole for several years before the then-pastor found out and removed him.   The offender was a long-time parishioner and his family had connections to a well-known and big-donor family in the Diocese of Orange.  If the newer pastor did not have that information, he could gladly recommended children be housed with that man.  As agents of the diocese, if such a person does harm, is the diocese liable?

California law heavily, HEAVILY favors tenants.  Recently, the news cycle told us about the nightmare of a family in Upland, CA who hired a live-in nanny, and when she stopped working, found that the law was on her side to remaining with them.  Who foots the legal representation if an immigrant family does the same?  There are a myriad of activist groups in the area who would jump to protest on behalf of the immigrant family and urge them to take that legal route.  If days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months, and a family becomes tired of their "guests," will they have any recourse?

From what I have read, the diocese has said it will "reimburse" the parishioners who take in immigrants.  So, who is paying if an immigrant requires emergency surgery?  And what if an immigrant should slip and fall in a parishioner's home and files a lawsuit?  Will the diocese step up to help with legal fees (and for whom)?  These immigrants are not arriving in the United States completely ignorant of American laws and benefits.  And I wonder ho many of the people volunteering to take them in have checked with their homeowner's insurance to see whether they would be covered if an immigrant did harm or suffered harm on their property.

On the other hand, this does present an opportunity for the Catholic Church to evangelize to these people.  We can use our time, talents, and treasures prudently while minimizing risks, and also teach these immigrants a way of holiness and values that yes, have been traditionally American.  Teach them morality.  Teach them responsibility.  Teach them to reject the materialism of the world that preaches a life should be lived without limitations no matter how self-destructive it is.

Will the California bishops be ready to do that?  Or just be pawns for the federal government?

Proceed with both compassion and precaution.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Instant karma's gonna get you . . .

Two weeks ago in a visit to southern Italy, Pope Francis said that members of organized crime are excommunicated. In response, mobsters in Calabria have struck back in an unusual and insulting way. 
The Italian press and the Catholic news site Zenit are reporting that during a religious procession in the Calabrian town of Oppido Mamertina, the statue of the Virgin Mary was diverted and taken in front of the home of mob boss Peppe Mazzagatti where the statue was made to bow.
Evidently Mazzagatti's mother is not alive because there is no way if she were that he could pull that stunt . . . and live.