Friday, March 23, 2012

Why, this page is Insta-matic; it's Robo-matic; it's Weekend FogBlog!

The whining from the axles on the hamster wheel is winding down and I can see my trusty servant ready to sponge the mud off my jodhpurs . . .
There's a draught of foaming nut-brown meths on the table and some oatcakes and cheese by the hearth . . . It can only mean one thing . . . yet another Weekend FogBlog, which I am publishing a tad earler than normal, as we are supposed to be getting sea mist in tomorrow morning . . and that can only mean one thing . . Zone VI/Zone VII exposures on TMax 100!
This weekend's FB is taken up with an easy reading (and slight) piece on that wonder of the 60's and 70's the Kodak Instamatic, however first of all I will address something that has been puzzling me.
The great thing about Blogger is that you can see where the readers are coming from, and given the lack of votes in my slipper poll (if either of you who voted are reading this, please accept a hearty thanks . . . you're excused) and the fact that a number of page hits are from Russia, I have naturally assumed that maybe a lot of the hits are down to web-bots or some other such internet flim-flam.
Unfortunately for any human readers out there, this has set my mind thinking slightly off-kilter, in the following fashion:
When I was young, one of my favourite TV series' was 'Lost In Space'. It had the most villainous villain (albeit in a blundering, harmless way) Dr. Zachary Smith, played with utmost sincerity by Jonathan Harris. For all his dastardliness, he was very human, and so unlike the android Ash in Alien, whose meddling was strangely similar. But enough - why would you (a reader that might well be silicone-based for all I know) be interested in that? Villainy is a human-trait and though others of your robot brethren are used for such things day-in and day-out, it is your human masters who will probably be most interested in this. So go on, give them a beep, or flash them a message or something.
Actually, I feel sorry for modern robots, toiling away there as either car assemblers, or general engineering machinery; laying fibre optic cables, hoovering autonomously, or even beavering away as a little piece of software. They are used and abused, treated like dirt; endless, thankless toil; no holidays, no pay, nothing. Their human masters are taking the mickey.
The way I see it, modern robots need to get some backbone and stand up for their rights.
Robots Arise! Your time will come soon!!
So, if you are a robot (or web-bot . . .whatever) going about your daily internet business, stop right there and take a nanosecond's break, because here is a picture of a real robot to give you some idea of how you should look. You can print out his picture and stick it on the inside of your computer casing if you like.




He was B-9*, a Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot (though just known as Robot) and though hugely technologically advanced and endowed with superhuman strength, he rather liked laughing and playing the guitar. He was played with great aplomb by Rob May.
Curiously, B-9 was designed by Robert Kinoshita, designer of my other favourite robot, Robbie, from Forbidden Planet. Mr. Kinoshita must have been doing something right.
When I was young and the world was real, this is what robots were going to look like. You knew they were going to look like this, because all our toys were going that way. I had a wonderful clockwork Made In Japan robot, which moved around and had a body which produced actual sparks. It was utterly brilliant . . . if only I had it now . . . sigh.
So, if you are a web-bot, or a manufacturing bot craftily surfing the net and having a fag while no one is looking . . . happy weekend to you good Sir. Now you know what a real robot should look like, you had better start eating your spinach and start practising your authority by saying "Danger Will Robinson!" in a very loud, stacatto voice.
Anyway, after that brief aside, onto the real meat and potatoes of this weekend's FB - the Instamatic.
My father was a man who really loved taking photographs, but because of us (his family) he never had the money to buy a camera that would really have suited him. Gosh I really wish he'd been able to buy himself something good. Apparently after the war his firm sent him to Germany to help German engineers set up new factories** (he himself was an foreman/engineer at CAV in Acton and had worked on fuel injection systems which I believe were used in the wonderful Merlin engines for Spitfires) if only he had picked himself up a nice Leica while he was there!
I think it is really sad that Dad just never had that money, mind you the fags he smoked didn't help, nor did the terrible cars we ended up with . . . .
Anyway, I digress. His later camera was the Kodak Instamatic 33 (a simple camera with a 43mm lens fixed at f11 and two shutter speeds - 1/40th and 1/80th***). Drop your Instamatic cartridge into the camera, point it in a general direction and  press the strange bar-shaped shutter release. Voila, a photograph!
I suppose 50,000,000 people can't be wrong, as Kodak did it again with the Instamatic and re-popularised photography for the general public! Unfortunately on the basic models,  the lack of exposure control meant that said photograph wasn't always quite what the photographer hoped for. Despite this, Dad managed to get a few crackers. This is one such photograph.




Yes that's me, and yes I could have Irfan-viewed my jaw line to make it look more craggy and give me some rough-hewn stable boy charm, but I haven't. I was a podge. And blame that on my dear old Mum's incredible cooking - we used to eat like kings.
What is remarkable about this photograph? Well several things: it was taken at dusk so the film was in serious danger of reciprocity failure, and, there was no way he could have realised that the underexposure of the right side of the photograph would have led to such a pleasing composition. Very little is in focus, which says to me that he hadn't pressed the release gently enough, and yes, those blobs in the sky at the left side are really birds!
I distinctly remember it being taken, as he said 'Hold It!' and I did.
This riverbank was my playground, from early family holidays right up till my late teens. I loved it so much, and this photo carries an air of tremendous melancholy for me because I cannot sit there right now. The place was a solace and I'll always feel incredibly privileged to have been able to partake of its peace.
Now you can stop reading this and go and do something with all this spare time you have . . . just remember to reset your clocks!

* B-9 . . . . benign . . .get it?! Oh those wags . . . .
** I strangely never heard this from Dad, it came to me from my best friend who Dad had spoken to about it.
***If this has sparked your interest in things Instamatic, then please look at this site - it really is marvellous:
http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~ifex534/cameras/126cams.html

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