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The Joy of Piracy

One benefit of the online, inter-connected world we live in is that it’s no longer necessary to purchase music or software. Although I have my favorite music and the latest video games and photography software, I haven’t purchased a single intangible item in years. Hardware, yes, software, no.

The Pirate Bay is the source for almost any music or software you are looking for. Get uTorrent and start downloading torrent trackers. While you’re receiving files, you’re also sending pieces of those files to other people, helping provide freedom to everyone.

If it isn’t on BitTorrent, it’s probably on RapidShare. Find your booty.

I have a brand new copy of Adobe Photoshop CS5 on my computer, Sibelius 6 for composing, a Nintendo Wii hooked to a hard drive with 50 games, a Nintendo DS with even more games and my favorite music, and I didn’t pay a dime for any of it. Anyone who pays a dime for any of this stuff is a chump, plain and simple.

The beautiful thing about piracy is that it’s a victimless crime which hurts no one. The people who pirate software would not buy it anyway, and the people who buy it are too principled (read: stupid) to engage in the bliss that is piracy. Even content creators benefit, because piracy breeds not only more piracy, but also more purchases from stupid principled people. It’s a win-win situation.

Now go and pirate something today! George Washington would be proud.

Carbon Taxes

Proposed in the United Nations and the U.S. Congress is a tax on all carbon dioxide emissions. Whenever we light our wood-burning stove to heat our house, carbon atoms in the wood are being oxidized to release heat and carbon dioxide. Whenever we breathe in and out, we convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. A carbon tax is no more than a slave tax—a yoke around the necks of industry which will kill a billion people in the third world. Gasoline and power bills will easily go up 10%, and the cumulative effects will be even worse at the supermarket and the office stores.

The Carbon Tax Center postulates that “a permanent and increasing U.S. carbon tax is essential.” The theory is that burning carbon causes the Earth to become warmer, and that any influence we have on the Earth’s environment must be negative. Therefore, the ultimate solution is human extinction. We all know the Earth would be completely perfect without our presence. Short of that mass suicide, modern feudalism to our elitist overlords for our carbon sins will do (carbon is one of the four major organic molecules along with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen). The mindset is we are a cancer upon the planet, and every time a baby is born mother Earth weeps. Environmentalism is an excuse to take away our sovereignty, our property, and our wombs as gifts to the state, in the name of saving the Earth. This is why popular media promotes euthanasia, abortion rights, and one-child per family policies. Human life is cheap because we don’t belong here anyway. We evolved from monkeys as an evolutionary mistake, because monkeys were never supposed to be this smart.

The science anthropogenic climate change rests on is shaky. Emails leaked from the Climactic Research Unit in the University of East Anglia reveal that the Earth’s temperature has been declining since 2000. Scientists there have to come up with tricks to “hide the decline” in temperature—also known as fudging the numbers or cheating, to support the global warming agenda. Then the U.N. takes the C.R.U.’s reports and cites them as the excuse to enslave humanity. During the Medieval Warming Period, It was far warmer than it is now. The sun goes through warming and cooling cycles and right now we are in a cooling cycle. There is nothing you can do about that. More carbon dioxide does not cause global warming; global warming causes elevated carbon dioxide levels. Besides, the warming of the planet by 1 or 2 degrees F would be better for farmers. The Earth is too cold. Sea levels may rise one or two inches. Not 50 feet. The Great Lakes are not preparing to drain into the Gulf of Mexico, nor will San Francisco be 50 feet underwater by the 50th presidential election.

Our carbon output amounts to about 0.28% of the planet’s. Volcanos go off all the time. Florida is supposed to be on fire half the year. Polar bears are not dying and penguins are swimming better than ever. If you want to talk about damaging the environment, talk about the 200,000 troops we have bombing Afghanistan, killing citizens for no reason other than bloodlust. We fight wars with no enemies against people who have no weapons besides the weapons we give them, and then at home we talk of instituting crippling taxes and killing off the elderly. The only terrorists in this country are the elitsts on Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and several others, who continue to ram fascism down our throats.

The Constitution is dying and our freedoms are disappearing. The police dress in black and engage us as enemy combatants. As the artificial dollar bubble bursts, property taxes, mandatory car insurance, vehicle registrations, garbage pick up, sewage and water services, and power and phone services skyrocket. The people are being trodden over. Motorcycle cops are mere tax collectors, and we never question them, lest we be tased or clubbed.

We are headed for national socialism. With carbon taxes, even more of our money will go to the state and we will have to count on the state to take care of all our problems. It won’t happen. Healthcare is going to get even worse. You better pray you don’t get sick. They want to kill us with fluoride in the water, mercury in the vaccines, and barium in the chemical trails they continually spray on us (with no remorse for mother Earth). Some 2000 nuclear weapons test detonations in the past 70 years have done far worse for the environment than smokestacks or gas-guzzling SUVs.

Wake up and watch the Alex Jones channel. Start eating apricot kernels to avoid cancer. The green movement is death-worship, and we must thwart the death-worshipers before they kill us all. Population control starts with you.

Carbon taxes are the secular version of the Catholic indulgences of the 1400s. Carbon taxes will be used to set up a global government with Pope Benedict’s blessing, and there will be no escape. Buy your shotguns now.

Negative Feedback, Speaking Your Mind

You are always going to get negative feedback. As you get more and more positive feedback, you get more and more negative feedback.

For example: this month I reduced my freelance photography rate from $50 per event to $20 per hour, with a minimum of $20 plus a $10 travel fee. Editing and a CD are free, but I provide no prints. I’ve done almost no freelance photography and I don’t even care about it, but I offer it because people ask about it all the time. The people who say I’m too expensive are actually MORE vocal now. Out of the ten who have asked this month, two have said I charge way too much. I have good equipment, 5 years experience, and a gallery of portraits, so I’m charging very little, but some people still complain. If I charged $5 there would be people saying “it will only take a few minutes!” There will ALWAYS be negative feedback.

Sometimes negative feedback is valid. More often negative feedback is bogus and positive feedback is legitimate. If you are evil this will be flipped: positive feedback (“good job gassing those Jews!”) is bogus and negative feedback (“murderer!”) is legitimate. You should ignore bogus feedback and cut off the source. In your email inbox, bogus feedback makes you want to click “Delete.” Constructive criticism makes you want to click “Archive” because everyone ignores constructive criticism. Accurate negative feedback makes you want to click “Archive” quickly because you are uneasy. If you keep mulling over a comment, it has truth.

A couple years ago I believed you should always speak your mind. Now I know you have to be cautious if you want to be part of normal institutions, i.e. public school, the university, or a bureaucratic place of employment.

For example: here are my observations about the word “nigger”:

* For a long time it was used derisively against blacks and mulattos. Even President Harding was called a nigger.

* Now it is often used by blacks when talking to their black buddies in “the ‘hood.”

* Black rappers say nigger in their song lyrics all the time and their CDs are sold at Wal-Mart.

* If a white man calls a black man a nigger, there are now Draconian penalties—a tenured professor could be fired.

* Calling a white man a honkey, a cracker, or white trash is not very bad.

* If a black man calls anyone a nigger there will likely be no penalty.

* This is racist. Two wrongs never make a right—you cannot mitigate historical oppression by flipping it. When the oppressed become the oppressors they are still unjustified.

* “Nigger” should be universally offensive, but when a white man is called a nigger he brushes it off.

* Professors are afraid of their white students saying the word, even when discussing historical racism. Instead we have to say “the N-word.”

These can be objectively proven. Therefore, they are not beliefs. They are observations. However I would not dare make these statements at my job or school because there could be painful sanctions, even in history class! Most professors would not find them offensive, but white professors would strike me down, lest they themselves be labeled “racist.” It’s a sad system.

I love this website because I can say whatever I want. I own the domain name, I own the DNS name servers, and I control the server and software. I’m renting the server, but my web host has a traditional policy of non-interference. When you post on someone else’s site or you speak on someone else’s property, you are subject to their rules. You can be moderated. I am accountable only to the U.S. government, my local government, and defamation lawsuits, so I don’t have to watch what I say.

Granted, my main source of income is Google AdSense and they could cut me off, but there are always other income streams. I have a lot of freedom.

If you can’t speak your mind at your job, your school, or your social clubs, you can always opt out. Quit, leave, find your own space. How much personal autonomy are you willing to sacrifice? We all must sacrifice some amount of freedom for convenience or safety. For example, if you enjoy eating or injecting cocaine, you have no legal options in the United States. Your two legitimate options are: a.) don’t use cocaine, b.) move to Colombia and grow some Coca leaves. Moving to Colombia is very inconvenient, so most people choose option a.

Speaking your mind always has a price. Ask yourself: is this price worthwhile? Are you willing to pay it? You might get fired. Can you pay your mortgage? There are many reasons to speak your mind, but there are also many reasons to NOT speak your mind. There are shades of gray. Weigh your options. The decision is yours alone.

Becoming a Vegetarian

2009-12-20 Update: Take this article with a grain of salt as I’ve switched back to eating meat once and am now eating fish to help my brain. The Bible says that animals are here for us to eat. However, we must all recognize the cruelty in the factory farming system. Life is a balance of shades of gray. Animals are nowhere near as important as people.

I decided today that I’m becoming a vegetarian, today.

Actually, I decided yesterday, but I’m pegging the day as October 1 because that will be easier to remember when I’m 102. I won’t be able to remember September 30.

I’ve had a suspicion that I shouldn’t be eating meat for a while. Since the start of the year, at least. Occasionally I’d think of my ideal self, and I wouldn’t see him eating animals, but then I’d dismiss that as dumb. How can’t I refuse to eat meat when it’s so packed full of nutrition and cheap to buy?

Quite easily, of course.

I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to eat meat; it’s a last resort. There are so many plants and vegetables and fruits here, and we have these long arms to reach them, so they must be here for a reason. Also, we’re not designed to eat meat. Dogs and cats and vultures can eat animals raw, but we have to cook them and examine them thoroughly. The meat on a hamburger looks nothing like a cow. If it’s under-cooked, you get sick, because our stomach acids, small intestines, and other digestive processes are against us eating animals. Our acids aren’t acidic enough to digest animals, unless they’re thoroughly ground and cooked.

I don’t care for animals particularly. They’re lives aren’t sacred like human lives. But they are treated pretty badly when we harvest them; have you seen how chickens are stacked together and kept in the darkness while they’re raised? Any suffering like that can’t be good, and is not something I want to contribute to.

If I find myself stuck on an arctic island and my only hope to survive is to start eating seals or penguins, I’ll do that, but I’ll kill them in the most efficient and painless way possible. I can’t think of the last time I was starving to death, much less that I could get out of it by eating meat, so I don’t think this is a big concern.

I have a theory that eating animals makes you tired and unfocused. That’s why you get tired after eating a turkey dinner, or pretty much anything we eat for dinner now. Most people eat 21 meals a week with meat in them, which is quite different from two centuries ago when meat was hard to come by and would be reserved for a weekly feast.

A lot of people seem to stop eating meat by having a going-away party, where they eat several stakes, hamburgers, and other garbage because they’ll be “missing out” the rest of their lives. These are usually the people who quit vegetarianism in two weeks. You don’t quit eating animals reluctantly; you do it because you know how much it’s taking away from your strength and your health. Why would you want to take away even more? Does an alcoholic give up beer by becoming very drunk? Do you smoke 100 cigarettes on your last day of smoking? I don’t think those are any worse for you than this.

I’m not even convinced animals taste so good, so much as it is an acquired taste ingrained from childhood. If you’d grown up eating leafy plants and colorful fruits, wouldn’t a two-patty hamburger seem disgusting? I’m pretty sure that animals taste bad, but they make up for it by packing themselves with unhealthful protein and saturated fat. You can still get this as a vegetarian, by eating cookies or salad dressing or ice cream or white bread all the time. All of which are no better than eating meat.

I can’t say I care for tofu; it tastes like a wannabee meat product. Why do vegetarians start eating tofu burgers and imitation crabs and faux sausages? It’s like saying “I’d really prefer to eat animals, but this will have to do. I’m just sticking with vegetarianism because it’s cool and stylish.” Becoming vegetarian just to imitate a typical meat-eaters diet proves nothing.

I ate a big plate of lettuce and some other dark-green leafy vegetables today. I couldn’t tell what they were. Some of them tasted sweet, others tasted green, some tart. But it was an exciting experience, I can tell you that. I almost wanted to grab my camera and start photographing the folds and patterns on the lettuce. I didn’t, because I was enjoying the taste of lettuce too much. I refuse to continue settling for anything less than exciting food.

Dealing with others

If you switch to vegetarianism, you can be pretty sure that a lot of people will support you, some will come up with limiting or fear-based reasons for you to continue eating meat, and a few won’t care at all and will just label you a nut. Even your friends will fall into the third category. But they’re the ones who will often come around to embracing the green-based diet. If not, stop holding yourself back and find some other friends.

The people who response the most negatively are actually the ones who are jealous of you. They want to stop eating animals too, but they don’t because they think they can’t or shouldn’t for dietary or social reasons (all false). They’re entrenched in limiting beliefs, and it hurts to see someone sail passed the limits.

Arguments against vegetarianism

These are a few arguments against vegetarianism, off the top of my head.

People won’t like you.

I haven’t heard this one directly, but a lot of attitudes about vegetarianism imply this. The idea is: people won’t like you because if you’re going out to dinner or at a party special accommodations (food) will have to be made for you, you won’t be able to connect with people by sharing in eating hot dogs and hamburgers, and people may suspect you have a superiority complex for not eating meat like everyone else.

For the thirty friends and strangers about my diet change so far, I’ve gotten just the opposite. The “worst” responses have been a shocked “why?”, and “if you want to do that, it’s your choice.” But most of the responses have been congratulatory, with a lot of people saying they want to do it too. I don’t know if they’re serious or not–if they want to do it, why don’t the just do it? It may be that most people don’t exercise this sort of willpower.

The people who discourage you from change are often your family, because they may not like to see others around them improving. They want you to stay just the same. But when people say they don’t want you to do something, that often means you should do it. Bounding outside of the social norms is extraordinary stuff. That’s why they’re social norms; because ordinary people follow them. Ordinary people eat garbage.

Becoming a vegetarian isn’t anything extraordinary; it’s hardly even worthy of notice. Millions of Hindus live it every day. Don’t let implicit norms sway you.

You won’t get enough protein.

This is actually false, because we get way to much already. I read that we get twice as much protein as we should, mainly because we eat so much protein-rich meat. That much protein is actually bad, because it stresses your bladder and the urinary system (that’s where the excess protein goes).

There is plenty of protein in dark green vegetables, legumes, eggs, and such. With a good vegetarian diet you’ll get just the right proteins instead of twice as many, and the ones in vegetables are better for you anyway.

You can’t make friends as easily.

This must be because you don’t share common food. Where’s the common ground?

I, for one, think that any friendship built on food is no friendship at all. You’ll make much closer friends by actively breaking rapport and defying expectations, than by settling for superficial commonalities.

If you think you’ll lose friends over food, then your problem isn’t vegetarianism. Your problem is that your entire model of humanity is broken. Fix it, please.

People will beat and bully you.

This is a serious concern if you’re in public school (not college), because public schools are like prisons and there’s a mob mentality. You could also expect to be beaten for carrying a camera on you or wearing mismatched socks… depending on how bad the school you’re in is, of course.

Just hide your vegetarianism. Tell people you know won’t beat you, and do it individually rather than as an announcement in the lunch room. Before you know it, you’ll be done with the nightmare that is public schooling.

You’ll stop growing.

My father brought this up, because I’m 5’10” now and he wants me to grow another inch or two. I was 16 just two months ago, so I could have some more growing to do. My Dad grew an inch at 19.

The bones mainly grow from calcium, but I’m going to continue drinking milk and eating cheese (I’m an octo-ovo vegetarian, meaning I’ll eat animal products but not animals themselves). The only other concern is protein, but I was getting too much of that already, eating hamburgers and fish and such.

I’ll probably grow even faster now.

You won’t be able to eat all the meat in the freezer.

It doesn’t matter. Throw it out. I know it’s not right to waste food, but it’s worse to let your circumstances (the food in your freezer) hold you back.

If you put off vegetarianism because you have to eat what’s in your freezer first, it’ll never happen. Even if you eat up the meat and then become a vegetarian, you’re still stuck. You’ve given up your ideals to worldly concerns. Soon, your grandmother will be convincing you to eat the meat in her fridge because it’s “about to spoil.” People will be forcing meatball-spaghetti on you at the dinner table because it will “go in the garbage” otherwise.

Once you start to eat meat because it’s “going in the garbage,” what have you become? A garbage disposal. Do you want your body to be a garbage can?

You can also think of yourself as a vulture, because you’re eating what other people refuse to eat. What no one else wants. Vultures eat rotten guts and putrid entrails.

Don’t be a vulture, be a man.

Meat-eating is a necessary evil.

This goes along with the protein and dietary arguments. It can’t be true, though. It’s a bastardization of the meaning of evil.

Evil is never necessary, and necessities are never evil. They’re polar opposites. How could something “necessary,” meaning required, be evil? At worst it could be neutral, but it’s probably good, or else it wouldn’t be needed.

How could something bad be required? If something is evil, it can’t be necessary, wanted, required, or good.

Eating animals is neither necessary nor evil. The way it’s done now is evil. We’re not shown how poorly our cattle are raised, because so many people would switch to vegetarianism if they knew.

It disappoints me that vegans spend all their time supporting the “rights” of animals, when we’re supporting the murder of unborn children by the millions (abortion). It’s alright to pick your niche, but campaigning for animals is like worrying about personal development while you’re suffering from a hemorrhagic stroke. Despite what the personal development gurus may tell you, please don’t worry about personal development when you’re bleeding profusely. Try to solve the bigger problem first. You can apply this to all areas of your life. Always go for the big enchilada before the small potatoes. Otherwise, you might never have time for the big stuff.

Vegetarians don’t get cancer

It’s true. You expect me to say that it’s because we have healthier diets overall, but it’s not that at all. You can eat meat all day and still never get cancer.

When you are injured, your body sends trophoblast cells to heal the wound. But sometimes it sends too many, and your body doesn’t have any way to deal with these cells. The healing cells can split very quickly… and they do, crowding out all the others to form a cancerous growth.

But nature has a remedy for this: amygdalin (a.k.a. vitamin B17) is found in the seeds of almost all foods, and it allows the body to break down the protective walls around the cancerous cells, gobbling them up before they become a problem. It also appears in dark green leafy vegetables, grass, and everywhere else. Most people get none of it because they only eat processed foods which have it removed, and that’s why they get cancer.

Vegetarians tend not to get cancer because they tend to eat more Earthly foods, BUT, you can easily avoid cancer by eating foods with vitamin B17 every day. That means you should eat apple, apricot, pumpkin, and watermelon seeds. Citrus seeds don’t do much. In Central Florida we get yellow, plum-shaped loquat fruits a month out of the year, which have big seeds with lots of the cancer-fighting vitamin. My Dad had frozen quite a few of these and I’d been eating them daily, but we’ve run out so I’m back with apple seeds now.

Cancer is a vitamin deficiency like scurvy, meaning that you have to change your diet permanently to avoid it. There is no “cure” so much as there is prevention. People will tell you not to eat seeds because they have cyanide in them, but in fact, the form it’s in does no harm. I ate two apples, complete with seeds, yesterday, and seeds the day before, and the day before that, and more, without ever feeling so much as a stomach ache.

And I will never get cancer, which is quite nice. If you don’t eat seeds, everything is in fact a carcinogen, because anything that causes the body to dispatch healing cells could create cancer. If you get stabbed or shot, cancer might form there. If you bump your head, you’re open for brain cancer. If you smoke, the irritation in your lungs causes too many healing cells to be assigned, which fester as lung cancer. If you stay out in the sun, you get sunburns which result in skin cancer. But when you’re getting the cancer-fighting vitamin, none of these are a concern. Not even radiation. Of course, it’s still bad for you because it damages your cells, just as smoking will merit you emphysema.

There is only one form of cancer with one prevention and cure. The Rise and Fall of Laetrile (laetrile is a purified form of B17) may say otherwise, but the fact is their testing was on people who had already been ravaged by cancer treatment. Their immune systems were spent, and cancer was festering inside them. That’s like saying your brakes don’t work because you can’t go from 60 miles per hour to 0 over a span of 5 feet. It just doesn’t work that way.

If you’ve ever took a dog for a walk, you’ve noticed he eats grass. It’s instinctive. The grass has vitamin B17, and your dog won’t get cancer. But dogs do get cancer, when you lock them up in an apartment all the time and feed them dog food. That’s because they’re being deprived of a weapon against cancer. Animals in the zoo get cancer too, while animals in the wild don’t, all because of this.

I wrote more about this in The Cancer Myth. It’s really nice to know the answer to this, because cancer is a big problem getting even bigger, because people are eating fewer and fewer amygdalin-rich foods.

Are animals equal to humans?

Apparently, if I stop eating eggs and dairy products and the occasional honeycomb, I can’t call myself “vegan” because that means you support equal rights for animals.

I do not. I’ve said it before: I’d kill 1000 cats if it would save my sister’s life. But I wouldn’t kill 1000 cats for food, because other food is readily available and I could barely even get through one cat.

People do kill cats for food. My step-mom is from Vietnam, and she recalls the cats and dogs she lost to hungry thieves. There was no food to go around during the war, so unwatched animals became a family’s meal. Every part was used. It was very efficient, due to the lack of food. But when you get attached to a dog, and then he becomes eaten, efficiency is not much consolation.

Torturing animals isn’t right. It’s not as bad as killing them, but suffering, even that inflicted upon animals, brings us down as people. I suppose that’s a good reason to stop eating animal products too, but I’m happy merely with dropping meat, for now.

Animals just aren’t special like humans. When was the last time you saw a dog dedicate his life to personal development? Never. Dogs are smart and all, but they’ll never hold a candle to us, nor will any other animal.

Animals don’t lack rights because of their dumbness. If that was the case, then we could kill any children under five and any decrepit seniors, because they’re “dumb” next to us. The reason animals lack rights is because they don’t have souls. That sounds religious, but I can feel a connection when I’m around people that I just can’t feel around the squirrels at the park. I don’t need a dogmatic religion to tell me this (organized religions are designed to hold you back). I can do it all with the Richard X. Thripp religion, which isn’t really a religion at all because I don’t even have to think about it. It’s just there. You have your own religion too.

You don’t have to be a Christian to know that people are different from monkeys. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to know that eating animals is wrong. Take a five year old to the slaughterhouse, show him the whole process from cattle to plate, and he’ll tell you right away that it’s wrong. Meaning: eating animals goes against our intrinsic moral code, and we’ve only overcome that through social conditioning and by removing ourselves from the killing process. I don’t think mass subversion of our God-given moral values is something to be proud of.

Being different

I’ve never seen a vegetarianism article like this. Most of them tell us how wonderful animals are and why we’re killing the planet by eating animals rather than grains. I don’t believe in either. My motives for vegetarianism are entirely selfish.

Ironically, selfishness is the most selfless path, because by eating better, I’ll be healthier and live longer, which will give me the strength to reach more people with my photography and insights on life. The profit police try to bleed you dry. Don’t let them. Do good for yourself by eating more healthful, colorful, and interesting foods. It’s the only way you can do more good for others.

Vegetarian bias

The truth is, you can eat just as well with meat as you can without it. But people who have chosen vegetarianism have far more healthful diets. Why is this?

The reason is that the people who choose vegetarianism are the same people who are dedicated to personal growth and improvement in general. While most of the world bathes in fear and stagnation, we choose to bath in the nectar of life.

In less flowery terms, most people who are vegetarians are strong, responsible people. Vegans even more so. These people enjoy websites like mine, because they’re committed to growth throughout life. Personal development can do more good for fearful, irresponsible people, but unfortunately, they’re not likely to accept it at all. More vegetarians will read this article than non-vegetarians, because they’re already interested in this sort of thing. So I focus on raising them and other personally developed people even higher, rather than appealing to the lowest common denominator. This usually involves improving myself, and then writing about it. Real, in-depth stuff that takes thousands of words to cover. My website is no place for shallowness. This is the DEEP zone. Maybe some of the fearfuls will tag along.

Vegetarianism does not make you smart. The reason vegetarians are mostly smart is the reason most people who have high IQ scores are intelligent, most people that drive cars aren’t reckless, most people who are photographers are open-minded and creative, and most musicians enjoy music. You can be a “vegetarian” while eating chocolate and ice cream all day, but then you’re worse off than a normal person.

If someone slips meat into my salad in an attempt to poison me, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll just stop eating it and scold the attacker harshly.

Interestingly, at first I wanted to wait till the first of next year to stop eating meat. “2009-01-01 is more dramatic than 2008-10-01,” I thought. But after some high level thinking, I realized I was being stupid. If becoming a vegetarian is something I should do (and it most certainly is), then I should do it as soon as possible. Waiting helps no one, and only reinforces negative beliefs and practices. What was helpful to me, was to ask myself: would I suggest my action (waiting) to the readers of my website? The answer is most certainly no, so the answer for myself is also no. You can do this yourself. The actions you suggest to your friends are the same actions you should follow yourself. Leading by example is the only way to live.

Don’t think of vegetarianism as a panacea. Don’t become dogmatic. Most of all, keep growing throughout life. If you’re on the wrong path, don’t wait months or years to correct yourself. Do it now.

Personal Development for Photographers

Personal development is universal, so it includes photographers. A lot of photographers are stuck in a lot of ways. They take too many photos, entangle their intuition with technicalities, refuse to rise above spectatorship, or abandon their creativity for the comfort of rigid rules. I did all these for some time, so I want to help others rise above these limitations.

Too many photos

Most photographers live with a scarcity mindset. This means they believe they must be taking photos every moment, in case they miss the ‘perfect’ moment. There is only one ‘perfect’ moment (scarcity), so it’s important not to miss it.

I can tell you this because I used to be one of these people, and I meet fellow photographers who are stuck in the same mindset all the time.

Back when I was in photography class, I met a lady who took 1500 pictures of a wedding in a span of two hours. I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid weddings, but I can tell you now that I would be taking 1500 photos, even if the wedding was all day. I might take 1000, but I can assure you they’d mostly be duplicates. I’d be deleting the worst and keeping the best on the spot, and by the end of the day I’d be down to 200 photos. Good photos.

What was even more unfortunate about this girl was that she made no effort to cull her work. “Culling” means picking out the best. I slaved for hours over my portfolio, narrowing down hundreds of photos to my best 30. Some good photos didn’t make it because they just didn’t fit in with the other ones. I spent more time ordering them by color / concept than choosing, because the order is far more important than the content.

It’s alright if you take 1500 photos for a wedding, even if you keep them. But when you do that, know that you’re going to bore the heck out of people by showing them all, and you’re going to put in many hours weeding out the crud.

If you don’t weed out the weeds, you’ve got nothing. All people will see is a bunch of weeds and they’ll walk away before you get to the good stuff.

The abundance mindset

Ironically it’s the abundance mindset that leads you to taking fewer pictures. Your work becomes much more interesting too, because you’ll produce a few great pieces instead of dozens of mediocre ones. Oftentimes you’ll actually take more photos, but they’ll be focused. Instead of doing 50 shots of every plant in the garden, do 200 of a rose from every possible perspective. Learn from it, pick out the best one (I do mean one), and discard (hide) the rest.

For photographers, the abundance mindset says that you’ll have so many great photo opportunities, it’s alright not to pursue them all. It’s even alright to ignore a beautiful sunset just to focus your camera on the light on the trees. If you’re in the scarcity mindset, you’re dead-set on the sunset because you’re afraid you’ll never see one like it again. But really, what you get is the same dull photo that everyone else has already taken, while you could’ve been using the sunset for something better, like portraits of passersby (the lighting is great), refractions off a leaf, the clouds behind you, or the light and shadows around you.

The abundance mindset lets you focus on one thing while ignoring everything else. If the space shuttle is launching right in front of you, take pictures of all the people taking pictures instead of the shuttle itself. Take a photo of the launch site ten seconds after lift-off. No one is doing that.

Believing in abundance lets you go for a walk in a “boring” neighborhood yet bring home a picture like this:

Basketball Hoop

Whatever you think is ‘boring’ isn’t so boring after all. I hear photographers complain all the time that there is nothing interesting around them, but really they aren’t even trying.

If you’re not willing to look harder for subjects (still life or people) in your current environment, go somewhere else. Go to different places, talk to different people, take different pictures. Go on vacation. Become a nomad. It isn’t that hard, and if you believe it is you’re only limiting yourself.

Hands-off photography

Other photographers believe they should be hands-off. “Just take pictures, don’t interfere with people or nature.” Photograph what you see. Really, what these people are doing is trying to absolve themselves from effort. They’re scared of directing people on how to pose, so they’d prefer just to leave it up to their models.

But the fact is, your models don’t know what to do. As the photographer, it’s YOUR job to tell them what to do. The word “photography” implies mere observation, but it’s so much more than that. As a photographer, you create the scene. Even if you don’t have to tear down buildings or dirty your hands with makeup, you do have to direct people and the environment. Even if you don’t touch anything, you’re still directing the scene through composition. You can get far away and use a telephoto lens, or close-up with a wide-angle lens, and you’ll get two very different photos of the same subject under the same light. You can take photos at eye level, or you can lay in the dirt and point your camera up. You can include things, you can exclude things, you can manipulate light, all without entering Photoshop.

Any wedding actually involves three people: a man, a woman, and a photographer. It’s really a marriage of three. You have to tell the couple how to pose, where to stand, what to wear; perhaps even what day to plan their wedding for or where to hold it. If it’s a Florida summer, retreat indoors. People like sunshine, but cloudy days make for better lighting. These are all going to be important if you want to create good memories, because memories are about emotion, not facts or record-keeping.

Embracing flexibility

I used to have this unstoppable urge to stretch the histogram across the gamut from light to dark in every photo. This means I’d edit contrast fairly aggressively, and then whatever was left over I’d leave up to the computer’s “Auto Contrast” tool. Every picture should touch (0,0,0) (pure black) and (255,255,255) (pure white) in at least one pixel.

This worked fairly well for a while. I did cool stuff like Raindrops and Sky’s Camouflage. Even Two of Us Against the World, which most people think of as soft-toned, is stretched across the whole gamut.

Cherry Tomatoes

This became very limiting, though. When I got to pictures like Cherry Tomatoes (above), it couldn’t look good with the tomatoes going to black, but that’s the only decision that would keep in step with my beliefs. I compromised on that one; the darkest tone is about (110,20,0), with 90% of the colors being in the upper fourth of the luminance scale. This way, I could continue criticizing other photographers (in my mind) whenever I’d see anything with dull contrast.

It turns out, dull contrast is often good. Going back to the basketball hoop photo, if I would’ve done what I used to do, the sky would be right up against pure white. But with subdued colors, it’s much more appealing and interesting (the sky doesn’t go past 230/255).

What this means is: be flexible. No rules are hard and fast, and everything can look good in different occasions. Don’t use rules or formulas to determine that; use your eyes and your innate sense of beauty. Which brings us to…

Stop making sense

Psychologists say women like mental pictures, men like real pictures. This (supposibly) is because men are left-brained while women are right-brained. This means that “visual learners” fall into the left-brained category.

For 90% of photographers this is false. Unless you’re in technical or journalistic photography, you’re going to be dealing with the right-brain (emotions) most of the time. This falls under of the umbrella of artistic photography—most people just call this photography, because it’s what the medium has become associated with.

But even if you’re a photo-journalist, a big portion of your time (if you’re good) will be about emphasizing emotion. If there’s no emotion, create it. You can ‘cheat’ without editing the image. Use a different angle, or convince the people in the scene to act differently, consciously or subconsciously.

The purpose of my photographs is to create emotions within my audience. It doesn’t matter if the pictures are true. It doesn’t matter if I tore up weeds or if I used a medicine dropper to add droplets to a leaf. It doesn’t matter if I completely Photoshopped the colors so they look nothing like the actual scene. It doesn’t even matter if the scene is a physical impossibility.

What matters is creating feelings within my viewers, be it affection, love, awe, repulsion, emptiness, bravery, coziness, timelessness, intrigue, courage, freedom, oneness, or inspiration. While I may not identify it as such, each photo has one main emotion behind it, and sometimes a second one, which either complements the first or contrasts with it in an ironic way. This isn’t something you can purposely manufacture; I never even thought about it this way till I wrote this paragraph. It’s just there.

This means that photography falls on the right side of the brain. Emotions are more important than logic.

Pink and Purple Sunset 3

The sunset above doesn’t exist. The sky had the same colors and appearance, but it was much less brilliant. I emphasized the colors in Photoshop. You might be able to do the same thing with a polarizing filter or settings in-camera, but you’d always be creating something better than reality.

Most people, seeing this photo, either revise their model of reality to include the existence of sunsets like this (90%), or ask me if I manipulated the photo (10%). The last group I tell yes, so they can appreciate this sunset while knowing it isn’t ‘real’ (whatever that means).

If you act ashamed that you edit your photos a lot, your viewers will assume it’s a shameful thing. Don’t do that. I removed trees, houses, and streetlights in the sunset above, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I’d always prefer just to take a new photo than to spot-edit an old photo, but this one was worth it.

Most of the time I do editing across the whole photo, like contrast, brightness, and color temperature. I’ll do localized dodging and burning (brightening and darkening), but I try to avoid spot editing, not for ethical concerns, but because I’m lazy. Spot editing is hard, and if I have to spot-edit a photo to take out power lines or trees, I may as well start over with a new photo.

Be insanely interesting

This picture makes no sense:

Night of Darkness

People love this when they see it, and even more so when I give out print copies. They’ll try to interpret all kinds of meanings into a solid black image, and just discussing it raises their personal awareness. Obviously it’s a picture of nothing (I left the lens cap on) but because I’ve gone through the effort (and possibly cost) of printing it, titling it (The Night of Eternal and Unrelenting Darkness), and giving it to someone, it must have meaning.

I’m actually having 100 printed out (I get them through thievery so it’s no big deal), one for each of my students in calculus and biology, and I bet it will be my most popular (at least most talked about) photo. The reason is that it’s insanely interesting. Nobody else does stuff like this (much less handing them out). If I posted to Facebook or deviantART or YouTube, it would probably be removed as pointless ‘spam’, merely because such originality scares the deletionists.

To be insanely interesting, you should create something from nothing. If everyone did this, it wouldn’t be interesting. Most people are very uncomfortable with this. They want to create something from something. This is because most people have a subconscious desire to be directed / told what to do. Personal development is all about flipping that on its head.

Being overly technical

What happens to a lot of students when they get into photography school? They start worrying about things like the golden triangle, film speed, the zone system, apertures, focal length, vignetting, the rule of thirds, sharpness, filters, white balance, color temperature, optical distortion, color calibration, sensor size, chromatic and spherical aberration, file formats, resolution, signal-to-noise ratio, refraction, demosaicing. The beautiful photographs on their walls are replaced by crazy formulas like (1 / f) = (n – 1) * ( (1 / R1) – (1 / R2) + ( ( (n – 1) * d) / (n * R1 * R2 ) ). They went to college because they had a talent for artistic photographs, but that talent totally disappears when they get there. They fail miserably. Grades are irrelevant; you’re failing with A’s if you’ve lost your heart.

Why does this happen? Because people naturally want to replace personal responsibility with assignments and directions. Instead of creating beautiful photographs, you create photographs that are beautiful according to other people, because you want to be told what to do. That’s why you went to school to begin with. No one forced you. Plenty of great photographers have never set foot in a school of photography.

I remember when the colors on my computer monitor started drifting, and my edits wouldn’t turn out right in any prints. They’d be close, but not perfect, and I couldn’t get the thing calibrated by eye because my eyes aren’t good enough. I took a whole month off searching for a cheap colorimeter and a dual-head video card to use with my new LCD monitor (which, incidentally, is no good for photo editing; I keep all editing to my bulky CRT). I did find one eventually, but I would’ve been better off working on new photos too, even if I had to go back over and re-edit them. When you get too caught up in technicalities, you produce no art. Technicality is all about perfection, but if you make perfection the goal, you’ll never get anywhere. You have to balance analysis with creativity.

Overly technical people get caught up in the things that ‘should’ look beautiful but simply don’t. Take a look at this rose:

Simplicity

Doesn’t it look nice, sublimely colorful, etc.? If a pink rose is pretty, an even pinker rose must be prettier, right? In fact, following the technical mindset to the extreme, beauty is proportional to color saturation. So this rose must be ten times more beautiful:

Simplicity overkill

Of course, it’s terribly ugly. A flower doesn’t become more beautiful when you dye its petals—in fact, it loses its beauty post-haste. But you’ll see stuff like the above in photographers’ portfolios. Usually, they’re either really new to photography, or they’ve been doing it for a long time but stagnating in technicalities.

The proper response to analytical photography is not analytical photography with intuition and creativity tacked on. It’s creatively intuitive photograph, tempered by technical analysis. That means that yes, it’s alright to purposely put your subject one-third into the frame (I do it all the time), but just don’t become too extreme regarding technicalities. When you break the rules, don’t even think about it. They’re not rules anyway.

Not being technical enough

You do have to be technical to a certain extent. You can’t leave everything up to chance, or put all your faith in your “eye” without learning a certain amount of technical concepts (exposure, f-stops, zooming, composition, shutter speed, grain, etc.). A great photo is no good badly exposed and printed.

Particularly in film photography, there is a lot of technical grunt work you must deal with by hand. You don’t want to use any old developer or fixer, and you should use a timer, a timing chart, measure the temperature of your chemicals, etc., because if you mess things up, you could end up with nothing, especially if any light gets to your negatives before you develop the latent images. Once you’re done with this process, enlarging the images isn’t so dangerous, but light-sensitive paper is still expensive, so a mistake might cost you 70 cents.

I prefer to just stick with digital photography. You have as much control in film photography, but you don’t have an “undo” button, and I can’t get by without that (yet). It’s like writing in pencil vs. writing in pen. Except digital cameras are a bit better than pencils.

Photographers vs. gear collectors

It’s okay to collect cameras, lenses, gadgets, and relics. But only if you’re going to use them to advance your photography hobby. If you’re not, be sure they’re really cheap, because a bunch of lenses do nothing for you if you can’t find the shutter button.

A lot of self-dubbed photographers don’t take pictures so much as they collect picture-taking gadgets. These people think about becoming real photographers occasionally, but then they get stuck in self-doubt.

These are the types of people who will put off photography for years waiting for the technology to get better. Things are getting cheaper all the time; that doesn’t mean you should stay out of digital photography forever. Buy a camera now and take a big ‘loss’ in a few years. It isn’t really a loss anyway, because nothing that lets you work on your art is a loss.

Also, these people will look back at what they did in the past with a cheap camera, wishing they could retro-actively change it to an expensive camera. You can’t go back and do that, and even if you could, you can’t improve by imitating your past work (tell that to Ketchup 2 and Ketchup 3).

Don’t collect gear. Use gear to take photos. Whatever camera you have now is good enough to do something good with. You just need some creativity, not more stuff.

Keep on snapping.

A Free Nation Has Free Money

The purpose of any good government is to protect the lives and property of the people. Property is money. Money must be solid. It must be free, in that it is independent of the nefarious deeds of plutocrats. It doesn’t matter how much free speech or free love you have. If you have no money, you have no property, and all your “freedoms” are worthless.

The Federal Reserve, masquerading as part of our government, bails out corporations that have gotten themselves far into debt. In theory, this protects the jobs of the people, because the corporation keeps going. How does the Federal Reserve do this? They print lots more money, backed by nothing, and give it to the corporation, making up for billions of accumulated debts. How do corporations like General Motors and Bear Stearns lose so much money? By becoming unprofitable, bureaucratic failures. Companies that should go out of business are propped up by the government. Every time they do this, our currency gets closer to worthless. An invisible tax is placed on the money in your bank, because its value declines progressively.

When you prop up failures, you bring down everyone else. Small businesses that are rightfully profitable get no help, while losers are supported by the public debt. The rich get richer, the poor (us) get poorer, and the middle class disappears as we turn into Soviet Russia.

We continue creating more and more money out of thin air to fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, Yemen, and more, all for the continual war on “terror.” We have troops in 100 countries, spread all over the world. This is all funded by the continual whoring of our dollar. We give China I.O.U.’s in exchange for billions of dollars in goods. What’s going to happen is that we won’t be able to pay them back, and then they’ll use their U.S. money to buy out our country from under us while our currency and bank accounts become completely useless.

This shouldn’t happen. A $20 bill is a piece of paper, just like a $20 bill from 1900. Only then, the bill was worth the equivalent of $1000 of my dollars. What happened? Our money is fake now. It has no link to gold. Private bankers, as part of the private company that controls our money (the Federal Reserve), can print any amount of money on a whim, devaluing our labor. Not just future labor. All the liquid wealth you’ve accumulated in your bank account shrinks at once. All your hard work over many years is taken away at once. And like saps, we all accept it.

What is the root cause of the financial failure of our businesses? A foreign policy which involves us bombing everything that moves, and terrible taxes which kill all good business. An example: owning a restaurant is one of the worst businesses to be in, because every department of the government gets a piece of you. 80% of your money goes toward government inspections and regulation fees. It’s hard to even cover your expenses, no matter how efficient you are.

When you have a feather-bedded, socialist government, the only businesses that can make it have to government-backed. They pay all these terrible fees, but are subsidized by tax dollars. Without government exemptions, the ordinary businessman can’t afford to start his own corporation. Have you seen what the taxes on a sole proprietorship are like these days?

Instead, we’re all relegated to serfdom working for companies like Wal-Mart. I must admit, Wal-Mart is about the most efficient and prudent company around. But they’re still part of our socialist government. The root cause is our fiat currency, our continual warring, and our meddling with the free market. It’s not a “free” market now. It isn’t a free market when you’re taxed at a rate of 90%. Even if you work under the table, you pay huge taxes. Sales tax is one. The rest is in prices that are three times higher than they should be, because every merchant along the way has to cover his tax burden by raising his prices. The United States is the Roman Empire, Part 2.

People are working harder than ever. It’s only because our wasteful government has completely failed us, just as Great Britain had failed our fore-fathers before their noble revolution. 40 years ago, a man could do good honest work and support his wife, several kids, a car, and a mortgage with money to spare. What happens now? Couples have to take out life-time mortgages and both work 50 hours a week in career jobs, leaving their kids to be raised by strangers. Still, they can barely pay the bills. Are they slacking off? Not in the slightest. The currency traders and international bankers get richer and richer while we slave away as pawns of the state.

Students have to work full-time while attending college just to make ends meet. My family can’t even keep a cool house or travel freely, because of the terrible cost of fuel. This isn’t because we as a people are running out of fuel or pillaging the environment. It’s because our money is becoming worthless. There’s plenty of gas to be had at $3.60 per gallon: there are no shortages. Considering gas was 85¢ a gallon in 2002, my money has lost three-fourths it’s value. Your four years of labor from the 90’s is worth one year of labor in 2008. How does that make you feel?

Our technology and collective intellect keeps getting better, but we keep having to work harder and smarter for ever-smaller gains. If innovation had stood still since the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, we’d be working for two cents a day by now. It’s only the unwavering American spirit of growth and progress that has secured what little we have now. War, fear, fake money, and martial law isn’t American. This is supposed to be the home of the brave, remember?

A free nation starts with a currency backed by gold, and a market backed by the success of its marketeers. Not the government. The government cannot fight wars nor grant rights. Only God can. The government can only protect or usurp your rights. By usurping your labor, the U.S. government is usurping your rights and your livelihood. It has to stop. It will stop when our government falls and our money is worse less than toilet paper. Only then will people see the truth, but all will be lost and we’ll have to start anew. I’m already getting ready.

For now, stay below the radar. We’re losing our freedoms by the minute. The police are not on your side. Don’t get stuck with a heavy mortgage, keep your mouth shut if the IRS calls you, and don’t pay taxes that you don’t have to pay. Don’t join the army, and if you’re turning eighteen, stay off their list. Don’t vote for Obama or McCain because they’re both identical. A vote for Mickey Mouse is better. Don’t keep too much worthless money lying around. Go back to bartering if you have to. And most of all, foster a spirit of peaceful, nonviolent resistance to government oppression, just as Gandhi wanted.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Value

Something that is valuable without strings attached has intrinsic value. I find intrinsic value is far more reliable than extrinsic value, because it’s self-reliant, independent, and free of the influence of others. The opposite of intrinsic value is extrinsic value. I like “extrinsic” as a word, but don’t see it used much. What it means is the value is assigned to the item by external forces. The item is worthless on its own. Or perhaps it has a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic value, so it is simply less valuable.

One thing that’s hard to accept about intrinsic vs. extrinsic value is that it’s a sliding scale with different paradigms. Nothing is binary. Something that has intrinsic value in one context and have no value in another. You might think the item has extrinsic value, and from a completely objective perspective it might, but it’s entirely okay to call its value intrinsic for the sake of comparison.

A great example of the two types of value is money. At the extreme end we have currencies made of paper and backed by nothing more than military might. These are called fiat currencies, because they’re valuable by legislative fiat (an order). The United States has fiat currency. My money has no value unless other people agree that it does and will exchange goods or services for it. It cannot be turned in for anything of value (besides coins), more of it can be created at virtually no cost at any time, and if all confidence is lost in it, it doesn’t even make good toilet paper. The money’s value is entirely extrinsic. In fact, it’s declined considerably in my short life. I remember in 2002 when gasoline was 85¢ a gallon, but now it’s over $4. It’s not because of shortages—there’s plenty of higher priced gas available. In terms of fuel, my money is one-fifth as valuable as it was six years ago. Granted, the increased prices are also due to the oil companies joining to form monopolies, but if our money had value that was fully intrinsic, such massive losses would be impossible.

Now, the U.S. dollar has not always been fiat. Before Nixon abandoned the Bretton Woods system in 1971, you could trade in a dollar for 1/35 an ounce of gold. So it had intrinsic value. During the world wars, convertibility was abandoned so more money could be printed, so for a time there was no intrinsic value. But even under Bretton Woods, paper dollars didn’t even have intrinsic value so much as representative intrinsic value. They’re still worth nothing on a deserted island, but as long as we were under the current system of things, their value may as well have been intrinsic, because they could be exchanged for something solid. The value was never fully intrinsic, or else Nixon wouldn’t have been able to pull the plug.

A step up from paper currencies are metal currencies, like the dimes and nickels in your ash trays. Though illegal, in times of panic they can be melted down to build real things, because they’re made of metal, not worthless paper. Gold and silver coins are even better, because people universally value those metals. However, as building materials, they are less valuable. Going back to paper, the bills in my wallet have some intrinsic value I forgot about. If it’s very cold and I need kindling to start a fire, I’ll be happy for my stack of $1’s.

The king of all currencies is gold bullion. It’s never going away, because people universally believe it has value. Its value is unchanging and largely intrinsic. When I see the worth of an ounce of gold is soaring above $1000, I don’t buy the hype that the gold has more value. What’s actually happening is that our dollar is becoming less valuable, but gold is the same as ever. Now, if you can buy more with $1000 of July 2008 money than you could with, say, $500 of July 2001 money, that’s doesn’t mean gold has gained value. It just means everyone is taking losses, by providing goods that are worth more than the money they charge. When the empire (the United States) is dying, everyone takes losses.

Even gold doesn’t have the true, objective type of intrinsic value I talked about at the start. If you’re back on your deserted island, all the gold in the world won’t do nothing to get you out of there. An airplane is something with solid intrinsic value. But you still need fuel, a pilot, and lots of other stuff. Heck, you even have to depend on the laws of physics remaining stable so that it continues working. But most of us would agree that little of its value is extrinsic, so those concerns are small. If all 6.5 billion of us agreed tomorrow that gold is as worthless as water, it would be that way in an instant, though.

Some things have intrinsic value that’s fleeting. The apples at the grocery market are valuable as food, but as soon as they turn rotten, the value is lost. The same can be said for human life: my Grandfather has no intrinsic value, because he’s dead and burned. Nor does my cousin, in spite of being dead and preserved in a coffin. The only value of his body is assigned, because many of us believe in stuffing and preserving corpses for some reason. We believe a corpse has value, but that’s extrinsic to the corpse. A person does have intrinsic value, but only while living. Value shifts from intrinsic to extrinsic upon death. Extrinsic value is not universal, either. My family values my cousin’s corpse much more than my neighbor’s. Extrinsic value can be fleeting. A lottery ticket is valuable extrinsically, but only till the numbers are called. Then it’s worth nothing. If it’s a winner (never happens), the value shoots up all at once, but it’s still extrinsic, just like the coupons in my wallet, because it’s reliant on fulfillment by others. Intrinsic value is not, or in relative cases, it’s reliant on unlikely-to-change entities like society or a humongous government, so it’s always a safer bet.

Where you can use the two types of value in your life, is in analyzing the time and money pits around you. Recognize that if you’re pursuing goals with extrinsic value, your goals belong not to yourself, but to other people. Sometimes, supporting the goals of others is inevitable. Florida Power & Light will cut off my family’s power if we refuse to continue to pay them in extrinsically valuable money. Could we live without power? Probably, but it isn’t practical. I couldn’t even share this writing with you without the power for my computer. Money is something most people value by mandate, despite being extrinsic. It even says on my $1 bill, “this note is legal tender for all debts, public and private,” so I’m required to accept money as a valid form of payment even if I open a business. The business isn’t truly mine if I’m required to give people valuable stuff for in return for crap (fiat money). But I accept that I have no alternative with what power I have now. There’s a massive gulf between this lost freedom and the lost freedom you are probably subjecting yourself to.

One thing that definitely has no intrinsic value is a college degree. A college education has intrinsic value, but only to the person receiving it, and then only if it is applied. A modern college education is utterly worthless. College is a crock. You’re trained to be a docile slave for any master and brainwashed to tell lies as truth to support the state. Lies like global warming, the cancer myth, and politically-correct language. Instead of learning real stuff like history or how to spell, you have to read and write garbage about The Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s worth less than nothing. College saps your mind and spirit. It is a self-accepted prison and you are a self-accepting prisoner. I am currently a prisoner with you, unfortunately.

What a college education does have, is plenty of extrinsic value. Employers, in cahoots with the universities, agree to accept only mind slaves with worthless degrees for jobs. Or perhaps they’ll accept anyone, but pay you much more if you’ve gone through four to six years of obedience school (on top of thirteen years of mandatory training). College is a job where instead of being paid, you pay. Can’t you see the irony there? You learn B.S. subjects like humanities and calculus, wasting upwards of thirty hours a week “studying,” when really you’re just memorizing pointless trivia and useless formulas to reiterate for a test and then forget. A typical collegiate essay is a series of citations, footnotes, references, maybes, “he or she”s, “what if”s, and semicolons. Nothing is from the heart, everything is crap, and no one would read it if they weren’t being paid. There’s no growth and you’re not developing as a person, despite how you may protest. College is at best an expensive social experience, and even that is on shaky ground.

A college education is firmly in the category of extrinsic value. Unlike universal concepts like serving others, inspiration, and passion, and working for yourself, college is ultimately a waste of time. It’s okay to do things with extrinsic value, even if they cost huge amounts of time and money. Repeat after me: “I, Richard X. Thripp, allow myself to pursue projects that have no intrinsic value.” BUT, you cannot live in fear by deluding yourself into believing you’re acting on some higher purpose. There is no higher purpose to my college education. Tasks with only extrinsic value must only be pursued for utilitarian purposes, should you claim to be living courageously.

Buying things that have mere extrinsic value, unless to resell, is something I cannot live with. Diamonds are an example. Unlike gold, they have no intrinsic value because they’re as common as dirt. One company (De Beers) controls all of them, releases very few, and advertises how wonderful and valuable they are. De Beers has managed to make diamonds extrinsically valuable to an insane degree. If you can make yourself (or a product) highly valuable, you can make a lot of money, even if it’s extrinsic.

Intrinsic value is the only path that has a soul, though. In sociological terms, coordinated efficiency (i.e. teamwork) represents intrinsic value, whereas allocated efficiency (i.e. buy the best people) is to extrinsic value. Money has its place: it represents you contribution to the world (either type of value), and it can be exchanged for goods and services of either type (food vs. diamonds). But if you do something for money alone, that means it has only extrinsic value, be it to yourself, the world, or both. With my website, I hope I’m doing something of intrinsic value to others, and I know it has intrinsic value to myself. I take, post, and give away creative photos, write free and hopefully insightful articles, and develop as a person through all of it. If you’re doing something of intrinsic value, you’ll know it because you’re energized, dedicated, and excited about it. If you don’t feel the heat, you might be providing a service that’s intrinsically valuable to others, but not to yourself. If I fixed computers for a living, it would be an important service to others, but it wouldn’t do anything for me. The other thing that can happen, is that you’re doing something you love (intrinsic value for you), but its worthless to others. Perhaps it is painting, playing piano, or taking nature photographs. What you want to do is to find something that’s intrinsically valuable to you and others, or convert what you’re presently doing over. Often, this just involves publishing your art online, or releasing a music album by burning the CDs on your home computer. But when you’re on the path of good for yourself and the world, everything will feel right.

While it takes a lot of soul-searching to reach the goal, I can tell you some of the clues that you’re on the wrong path. If you’re not sharing it with others, it can’t have any value to others. The first step to converting something that’s valuable to you but not to others is to show it to them. If you’ve written an awesome book but can’t find a publisher, just set up a blog and give it away free in installments. Tell a few friends about it. If it’s interesting or useful, lots of people will pick up on it and visit. You’ll know this because you’ll be getting lots of comments and trackbacks, and your bandwidth meter will be maxing out quickly. If this doesn’t happen, it means you suck. It’s okay. Right now I suck. But sucking is the only way to progress.

Once you’ve built you a following and love what you’re writing, you’ve already made it. It doesn’t matter if you’re giving everything away and losing money. If you have a website, and a lot of visitors, it’s impossible not to make money. Then put ads across the site. Register for Amazon Associates too, then start dropping product links everywhere, like this. Soon, you’ll be making money off something that’s intrinsically valuable to everyone, which is great. A lot of people will try to tell you that you can’t do it, you have to pick between money or heart, and that you should keep your day job and just follow your passion on the side. Ignore them and forge ahead.

If you’re working for a corporation with no intrinsic value, it probably puts up a smokescreen of purposeful charity to substitute. Instead of changing the world directly, the company donates a couple percent to charity. This is the “throw money at the problem” mindset, and instead of integrating charitable practices into the business, it’s just tacked on as a “me too” afterthought. Corporations like Wal-Mart, Target, and Publix do this. Then, they’ll come up with some phony mission statement for their employees, like Office Depot’s “delivering winning solutions that inspire worklife.” I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically when I first heard that one. Next, require all the employees to wear shirts with the mission statement and chant it over the intercom.

Ask any candid Office Depot employee if he cares about the mission, and the answer will be an obvious no. Very few people who work there, or have any sort of job, do so for an intrinsically valuable purpose. “For the greater good of all humanity” is an excellent purpose, but most companies that bandy it about don’t believe it. It is of extrinsic value to them. It’s fake, a charade to fool dummies and investors. You’re never living intrinsically if you’re living fakely. It’s better to work for a company with the mission, “to make the most money possible, at all costs.” Or live your life like it. But that’s a petty experience. Most companies are not that bad. They have a decent amount of respect for their customers and employees. But to call themselves charity cases is false and pretentious.

What else is only of extrinsic value? Certification. Education. Expensive clothes (unless radiation proof). Rites of passage. Careers. Tradition. Rules and procedures. Legacies. Religion. Sleeping at night. Clocks. Being an employee. Corpses. Funerals. All these have no value on their own. Only if other people agree, or demand them, do they become valuable, and then only extrinsically. Don’t be too worried about them. They’re red herrings.

What things do have intrinsic value? Love. Doing what you love. Purpose. Learning. Passion. Discipline. Wealth (for leverage). Power (the power to know better). Respect for human life. Serving others. Serving yourself (you have to to serve others). The list goes on, but you can see that aligning yourself with these principles, and paying no attention to the ones of extrinsic value will alienate a lot of would-be friends. Do it anyway.

Being a Free Photographer

break away

I run into a lot of photography purists, but I don’t believe any of it myself. Photography is nothing but a series of manipulations. You’re manipulating the scene by composing it any differently than a non-photographer. You manipulate the appearance of the scene by zooming in or out. You manipulate your viewers’ outlooks by composing to exclude unsightly objects. Motion blur, shallow depth of field, under or over exposing… these are all creative manipulations on your part. You may not have as much creative control as with painting, but you can still be quite expressive. But creativity isn’t “pure.” If we can define any solid definition for “pure” photography, they’re going to be dull, boring snapshots that no one wants to look at. Don’t do pure photography. Anyone can do pure photography; it takes a real master to do impure photography.

The great thing is, when you embrace impure photography, a whole world of creativity opens to you. Pure photographers are constantly wasting time with ethical debates: is it okay to make the world look purplish in Photoshop, or only through the white balance setting in-camera? Can I crop my photos, or is that misrepresenting the scene? Can I add contrast to a scene that obviously needs it, or do I need to stick to my limiting philosophy? Impure photographers have no such shackles. The “code of ethics” is: do whatever is right to make the photo beautiful. No one cares if you change the white balance. Adding contrast is great. Brightening teeth? Spot-editing blemishes? Sure. It makes people look like they should. It isn’t a question of keeping the image true to the camera sensor; the goal is to produce an image true to the vision in your head. Creative photographs come from people, not computers.

Ironically, as an impure photographer, you’re always making the world look like it’s supposed to. Sunsets are supposed to be beautiful, bright, breath-taking, colorful. Raindrops are supposed to be frozen still, black and white, shiny, and contrasty. And darn it, flowers and people are supposed to be bright and animated with nicely blurred, defocused backgrounds. If you’ve ever debated F1.2 as impure for not showing the world like our eyes see it, you’re really steeped in the dogma. Let it go. You’re on to a grand world of free photography.

In truth, the only way to be a photographer is to be a free photographer. As a creative photographer, your task is to create an idealistic reality that is also a realistic ideal. If that means desaturating backgrounds on roses, removing specks of dirt, and burning in corners, then so be it. If it means adding a glow effect, filters, and sunrays to a sunset, it’s all good. Your tool is your camera, but your real power is your mind. It’s like painting, where you get to pick all the colors for the scene, but without all the heavy lifting. You can create so much more because there’s no need to build everything from scratch. You start out with a solid base (the world), and then you take away or alter the elements that need changing, be it by composition, post-processing, or any other method. As a photographer, you unlock your creative mind and become a more free person, because you’re set free from the grunt work of other artistic mediums and can instead work on the big picture. It’s like moving from assembly code to a high-level programming language.

As a free photographer, you will refuse to support film where digital surpasses it in quality and efficiency. There is no purism; hard work does not contribute to the creative value of a piece. It makes no difference if I took 100 shots of the falling droplets on my digital camera, picked the best, then edited out the ugly bits, rather than wasting 100 expensive frames of film and 15 prints in the darkroom getting my exposure and burning right. Even if I do that with the film, it’s not going to be as good, because I’m not good with film. If you’re not good with film, so what? Use digital then. It’s the wave of the future. The finished product is what counts. If it took you three days in the darkroom or thirty minutes in Photoshop, it makes no difference and each medium is as valid as the other, as long as what you do looks good. Your photos have to be inspiring, beautiful, challenging, creative, and fresh, all at once. That’s what counts.

If you’re in any sort of camera clubs or photography classes, your friends won’t like what I’m writing. They’ll spout some spiel about how photography is a time-honored and labor-intensive craft, and it must remain so. It’s not your job to change or influence the world; you’re just a recorder. If you edit your work, you are cheating your viewers. Your taking away from all the good photographers who put the work in (a.k.a. luck) and create one-tenth the beautiful images because of their fear-based orthodoxy. That’s what you’ll be told. Don’t listen to it. It’s not your friends who are talking. Their true thoughts have been stolen by the prevailing spirit of oppression and negativity. It is not your job to change them. Just go into the world pushing forward with your art, and if you are being a free photographer, other people will take note, because you’ll be producing fantastic work. And they’ll start switching over too. We can start a revolution.

A note on “camera clubs”: don’t join one. I’d never join a camera club. If I want to be with my people, I’ll join a photography club–not a camera club. Just like if I want to read, I’ll join a reading club, not a book club. It’s not so bad with book clubs, though. The unfortunate thing that happens with camera clubs, is that people get caught up in the science of photography and forget about the art. And even then, they’re not focusing on the science so much as their own notions: limit-based notions that keep them from pursuing their art form for want of some technical limitation. But there are no technical limitations. Sure, this is all relative. You can’t do much with a cheap disposable camera, and there are just things our cameras can’t capture, like huge ranges of light or certain shades of purple. But the difference between what our cameras can do, and what the camera club participants pretend they can do is quite vast. If you have a Canon PowerShot A590 or anything like it, you can do anything. Practically anything. In fact, by the time you get near the do anything level, you’ll be four cameras up. It won’t even matter. Start creating your best work now, not ten years from now.

I remember when I started getting serious about my creative photography in 2005, and all I had was a Fujifilm FinePix A360. And there were some things that I just could not take pictures of, or they were really hard to take pictures of. I could never get a good shot of lightning, despite numerous attempts, because I had no control over the ISO speed or shutter speed. With the cheap cameras, many things are automatic-only, like the settings on mine were. I wanted a good shot of falling raindrops, and after much perseverance, I got Raindrops. Unlike with my Canon Rebel XTi and fast lens, the only way to do it with the FinePix A360 was in the bright sunlight, so it had to be raining in the sunshine, but that happened because I kept watching. Then I had the necessary light to freeze the rain in motion.

You’ll run into all sorts of limitations like this in your photography. Perhaps you have the Canon Rebel XTi, and you’re finding the kit lens is too slow for indoor low-light portraits (I did). Or you’re filling up the burst buffer too quickly with your rapid shooting on the football field. The limitations can be anything, but the free photographer’s way is to embrace and work with them, at least till you can afford the expensive gear that attacks them directly. Learn how to be still to avoid camera shake with a bad lens, accept grainier photos with a higher light sensitivity setting, or just take three shots for every one so you’ll be bound to get one right. Switch from RAW to JPEG for quicker burst shooting, or buy a faster memory card to compensate (rather than a faster camera, which is much more expensive). Whatever you do, don’t give up saying that good photography is impossible with your current setup. That’s the coward’s way out.

Free photography, as much as it is about embracing all formats, methods, and editing as equal and valid, it is about not making excuses for anyone but yourself. If you miss the moment when the lightning struck the ground, don’t blame your camera, or your lens, or your lack of a college education. If you can’t produce a beautiful image because your source image needs work and that work isn’t permitted by your oppressive photography religion, don’t accept it as fate. Don’t blame anyone or anything else for shortcomings in your work. Have the courage to accept that anything you’ve failed to do or any photo opportunity you’ve missed is your own fault. The reason you can’t create beautiful photographs isn’t because you never see anything interesting. There are plenty of interesting things in your house, in your yard, and around your neighborhood. Or there are dull things which can become interesting when you shoot them in a new light or from a new angle. The “I never see anything / go anywhere interesting” excuse is your own way to excuse yourself from the guilt of not following your artistic passion. But you can stop it, right now. Instead of saying “there’s nothing interesting,” say “I don’t put enough effort in.” Once you rephrase your thoughts and words to put the keys in your hand, you’ll be on your way to putting more effort in, or making whatever change you need for your art form. It’s the first step. No more excuses.

I’ve used the “I never see anything interesting” excuse myself, once or twice. But if all I’ve written hasn’t appealed to you, I have one more piece of advice. Go somewhere interesting. It’s not that hard. Millions of other people do it every day. Go for a walk, visit the park, climb to the top of some high building. If you’re not seeing interesting subjects, it’s your responsibility to change that. It’s all part of being free and empowered, rather than a slave of fate.

Enjoy your life as a free photographer. You’ve just made a huge step above 99% of the other people in your field. I hope to be with you too.

How Not to Be a Photographer

• Make sure everyone is smiling and pretending to be happy before taking the picture. Candid photography? Never heard of it.

• Don’t take photos of people; they don’t want you to take their photos anyway. Just stick to rocks and plants.

• Make your rocks blurry and your flowers over-exposed. Then claim it’s art.

• Pump up the saturation and contrast on that rose, so it’s just (255,0,0) all over. Then everyone will appreciate the beauty.

• Print your photos, then scan the prints at 600 pixels per inch. Now you have 48 megapixels!

• Never switch from auto mode. Only scary people use aperture priority. Manual mode is for the fully insane.

• Or, switch to manual mode, and refuse to use auto-focus. The camera doesn’t know how to focus. It’s just blocking your artistic vision.

• Always talk about your artistic vision, and the wonderful community of photographers your a part of. Maybe people will start believing it.

• Say a 12 megapixel camera is 20% better than a 10 megapixel camera.

• Buy a $2000 DSLR, then stick a cheap lens on it.

• Set your new $2000 camera down to go to the bathroom. Follow the advice in 10 Ways to Get Your Camera Stolen. Why would anyone want a camera?

• Refuse to use anything but a prime lens. Those zoom lenses are too modern and convenient. They’re not sharp enough either. It’s settled. You’re not a real photographer if you use a zoom lens.

• Constantly talk about “real photographers” versus the non-real photographers that are pervading your art form. Make sure some reference to film vs. digital is included.

• Say that film is useless, because digital is magical and does everything.

• Say that digital is useless, because film is the only true photographic medium.

• Assume you should always keep your camera zoomed out, because whenever you zoom in, you must be losing quality.

• Complain about the scary focal lengths on SLR lenses. 18-55mm? What’s that mean? 3.06x zoom? Why didn’t you just say so?

• Assume that 4x optical zoom is the same for all cameras, and that all cameras have equivalent focal lengths by default. You have no concept of wide-angle or telephoto.

• Keep your new DSLR at 18mm all the time, then wonder why everyone’s so fat and distorted.

• Use big words like barrel distortion, pincushioning, vignetting, chromatic aberration, etc. You have no idea what these mean, but they must make you look smart.

• Refuse to buy a camera that doesn’t use AA batteries.

• Use the flash all the time. If you have beautiful ambient lighting and a fast lens, kill it with a blinding strobe.

• Never use the flash. The flash is evil. Fill flash is eviler.

• Say that digital is no good because all print copies wither and turn green in three months. Chemical prints? For digital? That’s crazy talk.

• Ask if you need a lens to use the camera.

• Print your photos, then DELETE the digital source files. You don’t need them anymore, right?

• Assume anything with “digital” in it must be great. You need a “digital” lens, with which you should use digital “zoom,” because it must be the way to go.

• Keep calling your memory cards “disks” over and over. Windows does it; it must be right.

• Refuse to edit your photos. It’s just not true photography.

• Create a 20-page policy booklet before you snap any photos. You have to stay at 50mm all the time, because that’s most photographic. Certain menus on the camera are off-limits, because they’re too un-photographic. Those menus are: white balance, exposure bias, picture styles, color toning, sharpness and contrast, and several others. You can edit on the computer, but only to make the photo look more like the original scene. Contrast adjustments are okay, but cloning is not. Dodging and burning must be reviewed by a committee.

• RAW beats JPEG. If you use JPEG, you’re an idiot. Make sure to polarize all your friends on this, and then shun the ones who have ever used JPEG.

• JPEG does everything RAW does. The picture quality is identical. You only need RAW if you’re doing lots of editing, but if you need to do that, the photo is no good anyway!

• Plan out a sliding scale of quality settings to save space. 10MP RAW is just for special art photos. 10MP JPEG is for normal shooting, while 5MP JPEG is for birthdays and events (because of the volume of photos). Use the 0.3MP JPEG setting for anything you’ll post online. Heaven forbid you should accidentally shoot a special art photo when you’ve planned for something else.

• Keep no backups of anything. Just one copy of your photos in My Pictures. Or, make a backup copy… on the same hard drive.

• Catalog your photos by giving them descriptive file names. How to give file names to photos is bunk.

• Make eight copies of that photo: one for your flowers folder, one for macros, one for colors/red, etc. Nevermind that you’re wasting 70 megabytes.

• Complain that your DSLR’s LCD screen is broken.

• Complain that new digital cameras immediately become obsolete. I didn’t know they stopped making SD cards and batteries.

• Complain constantly. Be negative all the time. Photography is crap. Print articles like 10 Reasons Photography Sucks and Isn’t an Art Form to prove it to everyone.

• When someone shares his photography with you, ask him if it’s Photoshopped. If he says anything like a yes, shun him. If it’s a no, accuse him of lying, then commence the shunning. We photographers are so good like that.

• Print 4×6 photos on an inkjet. You knew it was coming.

Save What You Write

Whenever you write something, save it. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth keeping.

I’d been thinking of this as of late, so I created a page called My Comments. What do I put there? My comments, whenever I comment on a blog outside thripp.com. Why? Because I can’t trust I’ll ever see them again.

Don’t count on other people to preserve your work. This is all about independence. You may think you’ve just responded to some article with the greatest comment ever, but if the blog owner disagrees or just loves censorship, it’s one click of the delete button and your contribution is gone. Don’t you want to have what you write to refer to later? Then you can’t trust other people to hold the keys.

If you think this’ll never happen to you, or that it’s so rare that it doesn’t matter, then read The Profit Police and How They Kill Everyone. Even big and seemingly fair-minded communities will pull this on you, if you’ve violated one of their “policies.” It doesn’t matter if you’re adding a lot to the discussion. Good luck retrieving what you wrote (I was lucky my mini-articles were in Google’s cache).

I can promise that at thripp.com I don’t do this, but the same goes for any blogging community (WordPress.com, LiveJournal, whatever). Or social network, or email service, or anything you don’t control. Even my web host (Netfirms) says they can remove your site if it has “adult or illegal content.” But at least by being on my own domain, I can wrest control back from them, rather than building pagerank for deviantART, and then having to start all over when I feel limited by their services or am banned on a whim. I do backup my SQL database often, just in case.

If you trust the Google empire to your email, at least download Thunderbird and synchronize a copy on your hard drive through IMAP. I know I do. Gmail has lost email before. Who knows what could happen to yours?

This is just one step to claiming ownership of your life. When you give up your power, you give up your freedom, even if it’s in the name of convenience or safety. If you’re stuck renting an apartment, save up for a down payment on a house, even if you have to give up cable TV or air-conditioning or phone service. Don’t let the cycle continue. Be independent, take back your power.

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