May 27th, 2012


The Official Start of Summer

The Weather Is All Back And Forth

It is warm, about to turn HOT. When we left the house today at 3:30pm, it was around 77°F -- as I handwrite this in Holland, it's around 81°F. Sunday it is supposed to be in the 90s and very humid, also hot on Monday -- but Tuesday through Thursday has highs forecast in the 60s. And did I see on the weather map that near the Indiana border it'll be 98°F?

It's been so warm for so long this year, that it's hard to remember that May is NOT summer. And I'm not talking about the technical start of summer nearly a month from now. But until you get to Memorial Day weekend, it's really not summer in America.

The air is filled with cottonwood fluff. Not quite the same as the pulsing flowers of Avatar, but close. The parking lot at the Holland 7 was sealed recently, so there's still some puddles from earlier, which now have become fluffy with fluff. The pictures don't quite show off the 3D nature of the effect:

Cottonwood fluff on puddle. (Click on photo for larger.)

A closer view. (Click on photo for larger.)

We were in Holland on a mission. It's been ten years since we saw Men in Black II. There's been a lot of talk about how bad MIB 2 was, but we didn't think so -- the post office scene alone was worth it -- and we quite enjoyed it. Sure, it follows the emotional and quality letdown that follows Dr. Phil's Rule of Sequels, but so what? So far, the one comment I'd heard about MIB 3 was "better than 2".

Men in Black 3 3D [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre 5, 4:30pm, $18.50

Well, we thoroughly enjoyed MIB 3, which we saw in 3D, but not IMAX 3D, and overall the 3D was nicely done. Certainly didn't detract from the movie. As for the movie itself, it is useful to note that Mrs. Dr. Phil and I are old enough that we watched all the Apollo 11 coverage from July 1969 live. And in stirring Black & White. But in November 1968, I'd moved to White Plains NY, 27 miles north of New York City, so I watched the Mets become the Amazing Mets and pull off their miracle. Mrs. Dr. Phil was a loyal Cubs fan living in Chicago during the swoon. So perhaps this movie will always be a little more special to us than to the young whippersnappers of the Summer Blockbuster Ideal Demographic.

It's been some time since we've had a Will Smith "I own the 4th of July" summer blockbuster, so this year we get one on the official Memorial Day kickoff to summer. Considering that Spiderman is coming and how strong some of the spring movies were, it's still a pretty big weekend. Because with good popcorn and a suitable summer mindset, MIB 3 doesn't disappoint.

Our villain is pretty villainous. Reminds me of Mickey Rourke's villain in Iron Man 2, but, you know, alien. Good lord, how meta is it to be comparing sequels to sequels? Of course my big question in the opening shot is this -- I understand why high heeled boots have zippers, but why does the zipper go all the way down the stiletto heel to the floor? (grin) And it's no spoiler secret to know that we have a time travel adventure to deal with or that Josh Brolin has managed to channel an excellent young Tommy Lee Jones. Meanwhile Emma Thompson is flawless -- no one can deliver lines like she can (snicker) -- and the Andy Warhol bit is great fun.

But this isn't just about "the usual" time travel issues of what to reveal about the future to anyone in the past. Or even the small nods to recognizing Will Smith's special problems in dealing with 1969. No, where this movie becomes a joy for us is Griffin -- a (mostly) joyous alien who has a rather special relationship with time. Or his appreciation for the significance of temporal and cultural events. Even when the setups are obvious -- think Cracker Jacks -- he's still a fun romp of a character.

Unlike Battleship, which intends to use real world technology to battle the invincible aliens, there's no point in trying to worry about the Physics in a MIB movie. This is a special effects fest, delivered in a big tub of summer popcorn, emphasis on the corn.

What the time travel plot does -- besides inventing yet another novel AND ridiculous method of jumping in time -- is to put a fresh spin on what would be just the same old retread of the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones J & K schtick. And the puzzles and clues aren't too devious to figure out with or ahead of the characters. Although I have to say that the final two reveals, one in 1969 and one in 2012, are unexpected.

I'd really hoped for a Dr. Phil Special at the end of all the credits, but alas, producer Steven Spielberg is too cheap for that. (grin) Still, MIB 3 follows Dr. Phil's Rule of Sequels in that it doesn't have the innocence of the first, but knowing how this series goes, the third installment really delivered for us. Mrs. Dr. Phil opined that this was her favorite. And I think that'll suffice to leave this review there.

BTW, methinks that the Wikipedia entry is in error, referring right now to liquid nitrogen, when it makes perfectly more good sense that it should be liquid oxygen. I'm sure it'll shortly be changed. (double-entry-grin)

Highly Recommended

Trailers: Finding Nemo in 3D. Sure it's a Disney re-release, but it's been years since this one has been on the big screen and frankly the colors and the 3D animation are really great looking. And in November we get a new James Bond film with Daniel Craig. Still fence sitting on the new The Amazing Spiderman movie.

Added: 5-27-2012: First trailer I've seen of the new Total Recall. No Ah-nold. No Mars. No decision yet.

Dr. Phil

Something Fishy Here

The Long And Short Of It

Amongst the digital SLRs based on the 35mm camera, there is a divide between full-frame cameras, with sensors the same 24×36mm size as used in 35mm film, and smaller sensors. In Nikon's case, that's FX and DX (16×24mm). The smaller DX cameras don't use all the lens image from FX lenses, so for easy comparison, the effective 35mm focal length for DX camera has a 1.5× multiplier.

That's great for telephoto lenses -- the same 200mm lens in FX acts like a 300mm lens on a DX camera. Not so great for wide angles. A 35mm short wide angle is a DX normal. My 20mm superwide angle is barely wide on a DX. And worse, Nikon doesn't even make many DX wide angles, and many are expensive zooms.

So here's the problem -- one of my bucket lens list items is a full-frame fisheye lens. It's a specialty thing which you don't want to overuse. Yet it really opens up tight spaces and emphasizes items in the central zone of the picture. But I own both an FX camera -- the Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n -- and the DX D1 series. So I would need both the 16mm f2.8D and the 10.5mm f2.8G. They look almost the same and cost about the same at $700 each. That's a lot of money for a specialty low use lens.

Here's where knowledge and research comes in. When I first got into photography in the late 60s and early 70s, there were a ton of trash lenses made by other than the big names like Nikon, Pentax and Canon. Many weren't worth buying from a quality point of view, but they could add capabilities to the camera bag.

Enter The Oddball

So while Mrs. Dr. Phil was away I discovered this on eBay.

It's a Sigma 12mm f8 Fish-eye with a Nikon T-mount adapter, circa 1968. Now, 12mm is too short to be an FX full-frame fisheye (16mm) and too long for a circular fisheye (8mm) -- so what the hell good was a rounded edge 165° fisheye-like lens? I dunno, but it becomes a 150° full-frame fisheye DX lens.

(Click on photo for larger.)

In some ways, it's not a great lens. The focus at the edges is poor. It's an f8 lens and offers only three discrete apertures (f8 f11 f16). And it has no focusing ring, though at 12mm f8 the depth of field is huge.

On the other hand, it's all metal, the coating is sufficient to keep the lens flare down, despite the sun being in the frame, and the damned thing is cheap.

Front yard in mid-May. (Click on photo for larger.)

For comparison, this is from a Nikon 12-24mm f4 DX wide angle zoom at 12mm -- 18mm equivalent and 99° angular coverage, not 150°. Remember, that extra angular coverage is compressed in the edges and corners. (Click on photo for larger.)

Amazingly, the wide angle SB-80DX electronic flash reasonably covers the whole thing, since the edges are compressed right where the light falls off.

You can read more about its strange history here.

Dr. Phil