There’s been a lot of talk lately about one of the more interesting and surprisingly ancient optical technologies – the pin-hole camera, or camera obscura – by which an accurate projection can be made upon a screen, of any scene toward which the ‘camera’ (dark-box) can be pointed.

Some boasting idiots have gone so far as to say creating new Vermeer masterpieces is now easy, asserting that he basically cheated – to which one only has to ask – okay, then where the heck are all of these ‘easy new masterpieces’ for us to enjoy? Of course we’re into yet another one of those misunderstandings produced by a combination of knowledge and ignorance. Yes, pinhole cameras are amazingly powerful and important, and so simple that it’s irresistible to believe that they have been discovered many times, in many places previous to Brunelleschi’s famous Venetian use – which permanently advanced the science of perspective projection.

The ignorance part is the simplification of a master’s effort, because it isn’t the part of the story that interests the observing idiot – a right we all claim now (and indeed, rambling universalist writers like myself, far more than most). ;o)

I know I do go on about this next point rather a lot, but only because I’ve found myself constantly relearning it throughout my life, and getting into trouble, whenever I forget it – and I’m not the only one.

What we want is important to advertisers, con-men, large corporations and institutions which wish to coopt, deceive and disempower us. What’s good for us at any given moment, is almost always something other than our simple desire. Pessimists say this proves life sucks. But that’s because they’re ignoring the fact that good stuff is there for us, if we don’t spend all of our time complaining that it wasn’t what we wanted it to be!

My top photo – same title as this piece, was an example of learning new art lessons, by trying new things outside of full-control. Specifically – had a lovely trip out to Hamilton yesterday with Catherine and her father Neville, to see their nifty Steam Museum (more on that to come). While travelling, I tried some photography out the window at-speed – in this case, through trees. Now of course, pulling gees in a turn and zooming along, my focus suffered in every shot – but what I found fascinating is that in the shots with obscuring trees, the pockets of revealed city below were fascinating, whereas the unimpeded tableau of the city in the shadow of Hamilton mountain at sunset, felt less actively involving. McLuhan strikes again – make the viewer fill-in the blanks – activate the witness!

Hamilton in shadow

Here’s the very cool industrial city of Hamilton (heart of Canadian Steel and labour) without the tree-screen. I’m going to have to make some hill experiments in Toronto in the same way. I bet the break-up of the city-forms with natural ones adds interest in almost every case.

Tubes of paint

I really don’t have a clue what they make at that factory in the distance, but if it isn’t paint, it ought to be. Just spotting that place made me want to go home and break out the crayons! Double lucky will-thwarting again here – a longer lens (which I would have used, if I’d had it) would have made a useless blurry shot of this – plus, getting closer would have taken away from it’s being one of several objects on a concrete ‘shelf’ – spoiled the gag, as it were – no fun at all!

Blue-filter steam-house

Here’s an example of untoward interference contributing beautifully – I used to play with filters back in analog days, but I haven’t really got into it since I’ve gone digital – in this case, I had no choice – but I quite like the windshield blue-ing! This is the steam museum – but just a teaser for today. Multi-ton flywheels – a pair of Newcomen engines on steroids – whee!


Here’s a real bit of obscura-camera-ing (of no other virtue than nostalgic) – a desolate site of once-great childhood joy, for most folks who were Toronto kids in the 1970s. Yes my friends, the old Westwood theatre – out by Kipling station – is no more. Inevitable, but sad all the same. This is the spot where I fell asleep during Swiss Family Robinson, only to wake up during the Jungle-book (and stay up through the animated Robin-hood as well). Bed-knobs and broomsticks, Herbie, Apple Dumpling, Witch Mountain – and those awesome Goofy-sports shorts in between every feature – you name it, if it was for kids, they screened-it – back to back variety, all day long for one price (and subway accessible).

Probably the only real old-time ‘grindhouse’ theatre experience many of my cohort ever had – but memorably fun stuff all the same. (very sticky soda-pop shoes, mind you – and popcorn grease absolutely EVERYWHERE!)

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