Man Booker prize

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to judge the world’s most prestigious English-language book award? If so, Fiammetta Rocco’s article Man Booker prize in this week’s Economist is for you.

Apparently “More than 100,000 books are published in Britain each year, virtually the same number as in America, which has five times the population”.

Liberals at heart

Given its origin, it’s ironic that the term “liberal” should have become a dirty word in the US. It’s derived from the Latin word liber meaning to be “free”, so you’d think that a nation that was willing to make great sacrifices in the name of freedom must be full of liberals wouldn’t you? Not so apparently, which makes me wonder what all that talk about encouraging democracy and freedom is all about.

The Online Etymology Dictionary has an entry for “liberal” and it’s quite interesting:

liberal (adj.)

c.1375, from O.Fr. liberal “befitting free men, noble, generous,” from L. liberalis “noble, generous,” lit. “pertaining to a free man,” from liber “free,” from PIE base *leudheros (cf. Gk. eleutheros “free”), probably originally “belonging to the people” (though the precise semantic development is obscure), from *leudho- “people” (cf. O.C.S. ljudu, Lith. liaudis, O.E. leod, Ger. Leute “nation, people”). Earliest reference in Eng. is to the liberal arts (L. artes liberales; see art (n.)), the seven attainments directed to intellectual enlargement, not immediate practical purpose, and thus deemed worthy of a free man (the word in this sense was opposed to servile or mechanical). Sense of “free in bestowing” is from 1387. With a meaning “free from restraint in speech or action” (1490) liberal was used 16c.-17c. as a term of reproach. It revived in a positive sense in the Enlightenment, with a meaning “free from prejudice, tolerant,” which emerged 1776-88. Purely in ref. to political opinion, “tending in favor of freedom and democracy” it dates from c.1801, from Fr. lib

Strange vegetable

Horticultural is a weblog devoted to gardening on a London allotment (these days there are weblogs about everything under the sun, or not under the sun as is often the case in London), and a week ago it featured a post about a strangely shaped cucumber (see Strange fruit).

A box of Chinese cauliflower

The Chinese cauliflower

While on holiday in France last month I came across a strangely shaped vegetable. It was labelled Chinese cauliflower, and was so weird that I photographed it (see right). I passed up the chance to try it at the time, but now I can’t help wondering what it tastes like. Could its taste be as unusual as its shape? I wonder.

PS – I didn’t know cucumber was a fruit. What exactly is the difference between fruit and veg?

Auction house motto

Call Centre Confidential is a popular, often humourous weblog devoted to the the trials and tribulations of life in a UK call centre.

Today’s post contains a management slogan that will appeal to any auction house employee or art dealer:

Any idiot can paint a picture, it takes a genius to sell it.

An October evening in Provence

I’ve been experimenting with a new digital camera while on holiday, and I must admit I’m very impressed with its potential. Who’d have thought images such as the one below could be produced so well digitally?

Le Moulin, Correns, France

Le Moulin, Correns, France

In fact, digital photography comes into its own at night time. The camera captures light in a way that film just doesn’t seem to record and that even the human eye has a hard time perceiving. Consequently, it becomes important to take a series of photographs at different exposures (aka bracketing) to ensure that you capture the scene as you envision it; but the beauty of digital photography is that you can take as many shots as you like without incurring any extra cost.

Of course, the ability to view the results of your work immediately is probably the single biggest benefit of digital photography. It takes a long time to learn from your mistakes with conventional film because of the time-consuming need to process and print each roll. Digital cameras provide feedback straight away, and that shortens the learning curve considerably.

In addition, the personal computer is an infinitely flexible digital darkroom. It allows you to manipulate your images in a myriad of new ways, some of which are in questionable taste I must admit.

Nevertheless, I’ve been coming to this part of France for many years now, and yet I’ve produced my best photographs of the place during this visit. It’s not a coincidence. Digital photography has allowed me to see with a fresh pair of eyes. Long may it continue.