Sick

I’m currently full of phlegm, in my head and lungs. My back aches from constant coughing, and in the last 24 hours I have suffered the added indignity of explosive diarrhea.

I’m beginning to suspect that my body is trying to tell me something.

Should I write children’s books for kids with low literacy? It’s tempting, but is there a market besides schools? Maybe if I developed an online diagnostic tool (fuck that sounds like a lot of work) that put children on a scale and then said “Read books C,D, and E, then complete the workbooks for grammar and spelling.” That sounds like a money maker but I’d need a collaborator or two. It’s very tempting. I’m not into reinventing the wheel though, pictures are needed but I can’t draw, which means I need an artist to collaborate with. Comics are the way to go I think. I could do photos of models into a comic, but I don’t want it to look cheap.

The eternal quests of the capitalist, make it cheaply, but don’t make it look cheap.

Fuck my back aches.

The opposite of entropy

I last posted a day before my 31st birthday.

I turned 31, and some things have happened since then.

I last posted a day before my 31st birthday.

I turned 31, and some things have happened since then.

My relationship with Daniel has gone from strength to strength.

I’ve planted a little garden.

Time has slipped past me.

I’ve been responsible, and irresponsible.

I have read a lot (and not so much) for my book club.

I’ve stopped writing.

The last one worries me. I could give you any number of reasons why I haven’t written anything. I’m tired, I’m busy, I’m uninspired, I’m not enjoying it. All of those things are true to a degree, and also untrue to a degree.

I write because there is something inside me that needs release, an idea clawing for freedom. I have had ideas and they are building like a storm. Ideas that go beyond simple blog posts.

I think Doctor Who said it best when he said “But that’s not what you meant, is it?”.

Indeed it is not.

Plugins that work for me

I have recently been working on a magazine styled website for http://www.teachers-alliance.org

My choice of software was of course Wordpress with the Arras theme (perfect for that magazine look) and a gaggle of plugins. It was difficult for me to find just the right plugin, one that looked great and did what it needed to do. Eventually I finished with these 14 plugins. If you’re looking to set up a similar website maybe this list will help you to get started.

I have recently been working on a magazine styled website for http://www.teachers-alliance.org

My choice of software was of course WordPress with the Arras theme (perfect for that magazine look) and a gaggle of plugins. It was difficult for me to find just the right plugin, one that looked great and did what it needed to do. Eventually I finished with these 14 plugins. If you’re looking to set up a similar website maybe this list will help you to get started.

Autolink URI http://www.semiologic.com/software/autolink-uri/

Automagically turns written links into clickable links. Like the one just above. Invaluable for the lazy webmaster.

Avatars http://www.sterling-adventures.co.uk/blog/2008/03/01/avatars-plugin/

Well integrated and appealing for authors and visitors alike, after all, we all like to see who we’re talking to – right?

Drop Caps http://instantsolve.net/blog/plugins/

Nothing says “magazine” like an article, page or post that begins with a big giant letter. People notice the little touches.

flickrRSS http://eightface.com/wordpress/flickrrss/

If you have photos in flickr this widget is probably one of the best for sharing your images on your site. You can choose random, user, user set, or a group. It’s nice to use if you want to encourage a reader to look “beneath the fold”.

Newsletter http://www.satollo.net/plugins/newsletter

It does what it says on the tin. You can send a newsletter to subscribers about your site. There is a paid version that has an automatic scheduler for roughly $20. This is the only paid plugin I have, and I think it’s worth it if you are looking for a way of keeping subscribers informed about what your latest articles are and so forth. Having waded through the dreck of other newsletter plugins I can honestly tell you that this one is a little gem.

SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam http://www.642weather.com/weather/scripts-wordpress-captcha.php

CAPTCHA based anti-spam plugin. Easy and almost totally painless.

Sidebar Login http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/sidebar-login/

The fact that WordPress doesn’t automaticly do what this plugin does befuddles me some-what. The fact that this plugin exists pleases me greatly. It’s a widget that lets you logon, and then once logged on has a link to your logoff, profile, and dashboard. If you have avatars installed it will even show that. Magnifique!

Simple:Press Forum http://simplepressforum.com/

If you want a fully fledged and integrated forum on your WordPress blog then there is only realy one choice, and that is Simple:Press.

SlideShare http://yoast.com/wordpress/slideshare/

If you want to embed a slide show from http://www.slideshare.net this plugin makes it a two-second job. WordPress freaks out slightly if you drop a huge wad of <embed> object tags into an article. This plugin solves that problem.

Socialize This http://www.fullondesign.co.uk/socialize-this

A series of little buttons allowing people to share your article on sites such as facebook, twitter, and reddit etcetera. I popped mine at the end of the article.

Social Links Sidebar http://www.commareus.com/

It took me a long, long time to find this plugin. All I wanted was an icon based plugin that allowed people to be taken to my facebook fan page or my twitter account so that they could follow me. This is the only plugin that could do that and wasn’t so hideously ugly that I wanted to gouge my eyes out. Even though it says “sidebar” you can place it in the footer with the Arras theme. Genius!

Status Updater http://www.francesco-castaldo.com/plugins-and-widgets/fb-status-updater/

Another plugin that eluded me for far too long! This plugin pushes updates to facebook, twitter, myspace etcetera announcing that a new article has been posted. It’s a good way of dragging eyeballs back to your site.

W3 Total Cache http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/stats/

The only cache that didn’t break my site. Also reduced the entire load time of my page from 15 seconds down to 9 seconds. Impressive!

WP-DBManager http://lesterchan.net/portfolio/programming/php/

It optimizes your database automatically at regular intervals. Another god send for a lazy webmaster such as myself.

I hope this little article helps someone, I know it would have helped me if I had found something like it before I had to test any number of god forsaken plugins myself. If it does help you, please leave a little note telling me so, I’d like to see what you’ve created!

Fighting the good fight

I’ve been fighting the good fight with the Teachers’ Alliance. I’ve made them a very pretty website and an ultra nice forum. Hopefully between us all we can create some positive change in education. I’m entirely happy with my role of web master; although I may need to add the title of editor to my résumé. The interface for adding articles isn’t hard, but it is detailed, and details always escape new users. Fingers crossed for a better world though!

The Camera and the Crown

Having read the Wikipedia entry on Zygmunt Bauman and one of his papers, “Alone Again: Ethics After Certainty”. I’ve been thinking about the camera. Bauman looks at the camera twice, firstly as the creator of still images, and then as the creator of moving images.

He points to the still image as a cultural anchor, framing our world in a permanence of the past and a token of certainty, the moving image by contrast frames modernity as transient and insubstantial. In all fairness, Bauman is quite old and clearly not a child of the internet. If the previous two incarnations of the camera create a sense of permanence and then impermanence, what does the current crop of youtube clips indicate?
I would suggest that they point to a community of production and consumption, where permanence and impermanence is not the central issue, but the relationships between the images and their authenticity is the most pressing concern. Relationships that are authentic now guide the zeitgeist.

This is not however my main concern, another idea that Bauman traces is the idea that modern society tries to take out the uncertainty of life, but such an endeavor is simply not possible with all people in every society. From this arises the specter of “the other” or as Bauman calls him, “the stranger”. The fear of the unknown and uncontrollable now has a face; it’s the pedophile, or the Jew, or the Muslim, or the black, the gay, the refugee. Some of these groups are shadows (such as the pedophile), some are real (such as the Jews), but what they have in common is that none are threats unto themselves. All the hand waving about the risks of anyone of the previous groups has nothing to do with actual risk, and everything to do with fear of the unknown and the uncontrollable.

After the great depression, the stranger was the Jew; and we all know how that turned out, don’t we?
So as a photographer, where do I see the lens now? Society has come to see the camera as a symbol of authority; the news cameraman and the CCTV are both symbols of power. When I publicly wield a camera I do so to take pictures. Culturally however, I have assumed a tool of authority for my own ends. People are shocked, SHOCKED, to discover that people can take their photo in public and there’s nothing they can do about it. After all, the image is mine. I used to tell people that cameras really can’t steal your soul, but I sort of missed the point.

People aren’t actually concerned with their souls being stolen when their picture is taken in public. They’re worried that they will become unwilling participants in a cycle of production and consumption. They fear an asymmetrical relationship between the viewer and the subject; and this state of mind is only possible because of a disintegration of the concept of society, and the attendant loss of the public-self. I am “The Stranger”, and suddenly everyone believes that they are islands unto themselves, and the camera becomes the conquistador.

The camera is not a crown, but in a society where individuals distance themselves from moral duty as being “a private concern”, the camera with its power to document and critique the subject beyond the influence of their own network of relationships, it becomes an instrument of power. I personally welcome the scrutiny, as a person who is publicly moral, and the rest be damned.