Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dear Wal-mart, Welcome to the Digital Age

A week or so ago, I finally got my family to sit still in our living room long enough to snap a quick family photo for use on Christmas photo cards we planned to send out this year. After editing the image just a bit to fix some weird shadows, adjust the colors, and try to fake some depth, I called Amy up to inspect the results. She was pleased: "It looks good. It almost looks like a professional photograph." So, I uploaded the image to, selected the photo card layout I wanted, and ordered a bunch of them. Here's the photo:

I got a call a couple of hours later from the local Wal-mart Photo Lab:

"Hello, Mr. Pilato?"

"Yes I am."

"We're sorry, but we can't print your photo cards unless you bring us a release form."

"But ... but ... I took the picture myself with my little Canon S410!"

"We've been looking at the picture for a while, and it really looks professionally done."

There ensued another few minutes of hassling here, some of which revealed that if our fireplace had been black instead of gold, it wouldn't have looked so much like a faux matte background. Finally, the Wal-mart employee gave up some critical ground:

"Mr. Pilato, if you could just make a release form giving yourself permission to print the image, we'll do it. We just have to cover ourselves. I'm sure you understand."

"Wait. You want me to what? You know what — nevermind. I'll do it. Thanks."

I hung up the phone, paused for a moment to verify that I wasn't dreaming all of this, and fired up OpenOffice Writer. The following is the release letter I took with me when I picked up the photo cards the next day:

Even though I find it completely ridiculous that I have to do such…

I, C. MICHAEL PILATO, do hereby grant unlimited printing release to MYSELF for the following:

One (1) photo of my own family (Mike, Amy, Gavin & Amy), taken by myself with my own Canon Powershot S410 Digital ELPH camera (serial number **********) in my own living room, with the camera set to use the 10-second shot timer while sitting on a 6-inch mini-tripod atop one of my TV stands, in front of my fireplace – which is gold even though my wife wants it to be black (because that's what the previous homeowners liked, we suppose) – and Photoshopped on my wife's computer to crop the original image, brighten the photo, adjust the colors a little bit, and fake some depth by slightly blurring everything in the image except the human subjects in the foreground.

This release is fully transferable by the above named FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER, and a copy of this document should be considered adequate proof of release.

Note for printer: While I am not a professional photographer, I am a pretty darned good image editor, and pride myself on making photos taken with a sub-professional, non-SLR camera look as if they were taken by more advanced equipment. However, if further information or verbal confirmation is needed per your company policy, please do not hesitate to call me at ***-***-****.

I guess this bit of sarcasm is on file somewhere at Wal-mart now, protecting them from the threat of a copyright-related lawsuit.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Q4H: What did the seven thunders say?

Today's reading has me in the book of Revelation. This book is an interesting read, as the whole thing is a massive vision given to a man named John who was living in exile on the tiny Greek island of Patmos. Is the vision full of allegory and metaphor, or is it to be interpreted literally? Well, that's an entirely different — and much larger — "question for Heaven".

Today, however, I have a more specific question. (Though, I won't be surprised if this turns out to be just the first of many such questions I have about this book's content.) In chapter 10, John is witnessing a strange event. A mighty angel is straddling earth and sea and toting a little scroll. Read with me from Revelation 10:2-4:

2 He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3 and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. 4 And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down."

By now, my question is probably obvious: What was it that the seven thunders said, and why was John instructed not to reveal this?

I'd love to hear some scholarly opinions about this. Googling around turned up all kinds of not-so-defensible opinions, but maybe somebody else has a saner suggestion?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Faithless footnotes

Mood: A little confused, with a hint of irritation.

The Bible I primarily read is The Student Bible, an NIV version "with notes by Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford." Today's reading has me in the minor prophet Micah's little book. As I started reading chapter 4, the text sounded a little familiar to me. Sure enough, I ran into one of the mini-sidebars in the text added for explanation presumably by Misters Yancey and Stafford. The note reads:

4:3 Parallel with Isaiah

Micah 4:1-3, which describes the wonderful future in store for the world, has an almost exact parallel in Isaiah 2:2-4. Isaiah must have quoted Micah, or vice versa, or perhaps both quoted a third unknown prophet. Both prophets spoke in Jerusalem at about the same time.

My questions of the note-writers are: "How can you possibly have crawled the entire Bible, adding scholarly notes at a rate of approximately one note per every two chapters, and come to the conclusion that the only way Isaiah and Micah could have both managed to reveal the word of the Lord near-identically is if they were sharing source material? Did it never occur to you that God might say the exact same thing to more than one person?"