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Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Photoshop Tutorial (Part 1 - Starting with the Very Basic)

This is the first of what I’m planning to be a long series of “tutorials” on the most basic things about Photoshop. I’m intending this series to help anyone and everyone out there who wants to learn how to use Photoshop but does not know where to start.

Whenever I’m asked by someone to teach him/her how to use Photoshop, the first thing I ask them is what it is specifically that they want to do in Photoshop.

Well, aside from the obvious of being a graphics editing software/program, Photoshop has tons of capabilities, and I do mean TONS! You can resize images with it, crop images with it, modify/edit images with it, create art with it, the list just goes on and on. And along with that much capability, there are also TONS of things to learn about it.

Learning how to use Photoshop is pretty easy, even on your own, as it is (in my opinion) very user-friendly and, to a great extent, very straight forward. But as I have already mentioned, there are so many things to learn about it that even I, who have been using it for more than 8 years now, still have a lot left to learn (and, again, I do mean A LOT). You will see proofs of this as we go along.

So, ladies and gents, here we go.

Wait, I almost forgot to mention something. The Photoshop screen/interface, or “workspace” as it is properly called, is highly customizable. What this means is that you can “set” the Photoshop workspace in such a way that it will let you work more comfortably and efficiently. Almost everything you see on the Photoshop workspace can be hidden, displayed, and arranged depending on your preferences and/or needs.

Photoshop may have a lot of tools, but there will certainly be a whole bunch of it that you won’t need for any specific type of job. So, it's common practice to a lot of (if not all) Photoshop users to "hide" the things that are not needed so as not to clutter up the screen too much.

Now, why am I telling you this? I’m just thinking that if you’ll be using Photoshop that’s installed on someone else’s computer, don’t panic if what you see on your screen does not match the screen shots in my tutorials. Rest assured, I will try my best to give instructions every step of the way, including how to make things appear and/or disappear.

Another thing, whatever Photoshop version you will be using should not be much of an issue as they are pretty much similar. It’s just that newer versions have more features than older ones. And since I’m going to talk only about the basics, I probably won’t be dealing with them, at least not just yet.

Now, we start.

Upon Starting/Launching/Running Photoshop

For those using Windows-based machines, the big gray area that you will see when you run Photoshop IS NOT the “canvas”. (By the way, depending on your desktop theme, the area I’m talking about may not be gray, it may be some other color. Take a look at the following screenshot and see what space/area I am talking about).
The area/space inside the red outline is the “big gray area” I’m referring to.
So, what is a “canvas”? The canvas, as Photoshop calls it, is the “document” or space where you do all the work. A canvas may either be a blank white or any other colored space, it can also be an image/photo. Actually, when you open an image file in Photoshop, that becomes a canvas, or should I say, that IS a canvas.

So, what does it mean if the big gray space is not a canvas? Well, no matter what tool on the toolbar you click on, clicking and dragging it anywhere on the gray space will do nothing.

I don’t find the need to stress this to Mac users because instead of a big gray space, you’ll see your desktop wallpaper instead. Obviously, that means you’ve got nothing to work with.

What you should do upon launching/running Photoshop is to either open an image file or make yourself a canvas.

Opening an Image File

Opening an image file in Photoshop is very much like opening a file in any other program. Click on ‘File’ and then click on ‘Open’.

In the ‘Open’ window/dialog box that appears, find the file that you want opened, click on it, and click on the ‘Open’ button. Now you have a “canvas” to work with/on.

By the way, Photoshop can open a wide range of image file formats as well as a couple of “non-image” file formats. To see all the file formats that Photoshop recognizes/supports, click on the button at the end of the dropdown menu field labeled “Files of type”. For starters, I would advice you to stick with the JPEG (or .jpg) file format for now, unless you already know something about the other image file formats.

A word of caution for those who are about to take or have taken this route. Read this VERY CAREFULLY and UNTERSTAND IT WELL. For those who opened an image file, BE VERY CAREFUL IN SAVING YOUR WORK! If you’ve just put a mustache on someone’s face or whatever it is that you will be doing or have already done, once you save your work and close that image, YOU WILL NEVER EVER BE ABLE TO RESTORE IT BACK TO ITS ORIGINAL STATE! So what I advise you to do is save your work with a different filename. JUST DON’T OVERWRITE THE ORIGINAL.

Creating a Canvas

To “create” a blank canvas, click on ‘File’ then ‘New’. A window will appear where you can specify your canvas’s dimensions, resolution, color mode, and background color.

For starters, just set the resolution at 72 pixels per inch. If it’s not set at 72 pixels per inch, click on the text field beside ‘Resolution’, delete the existing value, and key in “72”). If you don’t know anything about resolution and want to know what it is and what it is about, I have a little tutorial on it here.

For the height and width, I’ll leave them up to you. Just don’t make it so darn big or ridiculously small. By the way, Photoshop allows you to choose from several units of measurement with which to define your canvas’ dimensions (pixels, inches, centimeters, millimeters, points, picas, and columns). To select a unit of measurement, simply click on the button at the end of the dropdown menu field labeled “Height” (or “Width”) and click on the unit of measurement of your choice. (Note: Changing the unit of measurement of the height will also change the unit of measurement of the width and vice-versa)

If you’re not very good with measurements, you may want to just choose from the preset canvas sizes provided. To do so, simply click on the button at the end of the dropdown menu field labeled “Preset” and click on the canvas size of your choice.

We’ll leave the background color set to “White” for now. If it’s not set to “white”, click on the button at the end of the dropdown menu field labeled “Background Contents” and click on ‘White’.

As for the ‘Color Mode’, just make sure it’s set to ‘RGB’ and ‘8 bit’. If it’s not set to ‘RGB’ and ‘8 bit’, I suppose you already know what to do.

Just ignore anything else that you might see on the “New” window/dialog box.

Now, click on the ‘Ok’ button and Voila! You now have your very own blank canvas.

Saving Your Work

Just like in any other programs, saving your work in Photoshop is very easy. Simply click on ‘File’ and then ‘Save’. That’s it... well, not really. Since Photoshop supports a big bunch of file formats, it provides you with as much formats with which to save your work. Choosing the file format with which to save your work depends on a wide variety of factors which includes number of colors, image quality, presence of additional/custom channels, and presence of “layers”, among others. But talking about this will provide enough material for another article. I’ll probably make a discussion on this next.

Anyway, (again, unless you already know something about the different file formats) to make sure that you’ll be saving your work with everything that you will be doing or have done (consciously or otherwise) intact, it would be best that you just go with whatever format Photoshop recommends you to save your file in.

If you are clueless about this, it would be best for you to just leave the “Format” as it is (the format you see on this screenshot may not be the same as what you might see on your screen, it’s ok, don’t panic).

Depending on what you have in your work (please refer to above mentioned factors), if you choose a format which is not compatible with your work, you may see messages warning you about stuff.


Now that you already know how to “produce” a canvas and save your work, I’ll leave you on your own for now. Just play around with the various tools that you see on screen. DO NOT BE AFRAID. Photoshop won’t bite you.

The Birth Certificate of Freedom and Democracy

I found yet another interesting auction-related news last night and thought of sharing it you. (No personal views/thoughts here, just the article.)

Early copy of Magna Carta on sale in NYC
By RICHARD PYLE, Associated Press Writer
Fri Dec 7, 4:17 AM ET

magna carta
NEW YORK - In the year 1215, a group of English barons handed King John a document written on parchment. Put your royal seal on this, they said. John did, and forever changed the relationship between the monarchy and those it governed.

The document was the Magna Carta, a declaration of human rights that would set some of the guiding principles for democracy as it is known today.

While that original edict was initially ignored and John died the next year, its key ideas were included in other variations over the next few decades, most notably the right of Habeas Corpus, which protects citizens against unlawful imprisonment. More than 800 years later, about 17 copies survive, and one of those, signed by King Edward I in 1297, will go up for sale Dec. 18 at Sotheby's.

The document, which Sotheby's vice chairman David Redden calls "the most important document in the world," is expected to fetch a record $20-30 million.

While earlier versions of the royal edict were written and then ignored, Redden said, "the 1297 Magna Carta became the operative version, the one that was entered into English common law and became the law of the land," ultimately effecting democracies around the world.

Today, its impact is felt by perhaps a third of the world's people, he said. This includes all of North America, India, Pakistan, much of Africa, Australia and other areas that made up the British Commonwealth.

"When it's something as enormously important as this, you try to get a handle on it," he said. "It is absolutely correct to say the Magna Carta is the birth certificate of freedom. It states the bedrock principle that no person is above the law — that is the essence of it."

Only two copies of the Magna Carta exist outside Britain, one in Australia and the
one Sotheby's is auctioning off.

An earlier Magna Carta version was loaned by Britain to the United States for its bicentennial celebration in 1976, but suggestions that it be made a permanent gift were rejected.

The 1279 Magna Carta was forced on Edward I by barons unhappy over taxes imposed to pay for his military campaigns in France, Wales and against Scottish rebel
William Wallace. The levies were approved in the king's absence by his 13-year-old son, Prince Edward.

Written in medieval Latin on sheepskin that after 710 years remains intact and legible, the 1297 Magna Carta was owned for five centuries by a British family that put it up for sale in the early 1980s.

From 1988 until a few months ago, it was exhibited in a custom-designed, gold-plated container at the National Archives in Washington, a few feet from its direct descendants, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

"As the only non-American document in there, many would love to see it go back" on display, said Redden, who will wield the hammer. He said the auction will be open to the public, but being a single lot sale, might not take longer than five minutes.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lost and Found

Things just keep popping up these days. The “Tres Personajes” painting in Manhattan, the fossil of a giant sea scorpion in Germany, the mummified dinosaur in North Dakota, the ancient Roman wooden throne in the site of the ancient city of Herculaneum. Now, a drawing by Michelangelo. Yes, THAT old master.


Vatican finds lost Michelangelo drawing, his last
Thu Dec 6, 12:55 PM ET

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Thursday it had discovered a lost drawing by Renaissance master Michelangelo of a design for the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican newspaper l'Osservatore Romano said the small drawing, done in the spring of 1563 when Michelangelo was 88, was believed to be his last known sketch before he died the next year.

The drawing, a section of the dome, contains some measurements and is thus believed to have been done to give stone cutters guidance after the master deemed work on an earlier batch of stone inadequate.

Michelangelo worked as the architect of the basilica from 1547 until shortly before his death in 1564.

The newspaper said Michelangelo, who destroyed many of his sketches for the basilica, probably drew it on the construction site, giving it directly to workmen with his instructions.

Drawn with blood-colored chalk on paper, it apparently survived because part of the paper had been used again for calculations, perhaps by workmen. It wound up by accident in files concerning the costs of the basilica's construction.

The newspaper said the drawing would be presented to the media on Monday.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella)

Which reminds me… I stumbled upon this article over a year ago about the “discovery” of Da Vinci’s long lost “Battle of Anghiari”… (searching…)

Yup, it’s still on the web. Here it is (from

Long-Lost Da Vinci Masterpiece Found Behind Palazzo Walls
Published: 16:13 EST, June 17, 2005

It could be a scene from the "Da Vinci Code:" A high-tech art sleuth finds a hollow space behind an Italian palazzo’s murals, and believes he may have discovered a Da Vinci masterpiece not seen since 1563.

In a case of life imitating art, Maurizio Seracini, an internationally recognized expert in high-technology art analysis, has done just that – and, in an odd twist, he does indeed appear, as himself, in Dan Brown’s popular bestseller about secrets hidden in Leonardo’s work – the book’s only non-fictional character.

Battle of AnghiariImage: Detail from a copy of Leonardo da Vinci's long-lost "Battle of Anghiari," based on preliminary sketches and copies of the work during the artist's life. Maurizio Seracini, a noted art conservation and authentication expert, believes the fresco is hidden behind an existing fresco by the artist Giorgio Vasari in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. Credit: The Louvre, Paris.

(In the “Da Vinci Code”, Seracini uses his investigational skills to show that Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” has been painted over by other artists and can no longer be considered a true Da Vinci.)

Seracini, 55, an alumnus of the University of California, San Diego and a native Florentine, thinks he may be close to finding the lost fresco “Battle of Anghiari” behind murals by Giorgio Vasari in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. Using radar, x-rays and other devices, he discovered a narrow cavity behind the Vasari fresco “Battle of
Marciano,” and believes that the latter artist, an admirer of the great Leonardo, intentionally created the space to preserve the master’s work.

“Leonardo’s ‘Battle of Anghiari’ was considered the highest work of art of the Renaissance at that time,” Seracini said. “For over 50 years afterwards, documents spoke of the wonderful horses of Leonardo with the highest admiration.”

If he and other researchers can prove that the Vasari murals conceal a greater treasure, “it may be possible,” Seracini believes, “to remove the Vasari fresco and the wall behind, extract Leonardo’s mural, and finally put the Vasari back in place.”

Seracini, who heads Editech -- a Florence-based company he founded in 1977 focused on the “diagnostics of cultural heritage” -- estimates that he’s worked on some 2,000 paintings, including 31 works by Raphael and three others by Da Vinci. Most of his equipment, he says, has been adapted from medical devices. Infrared,
thermographic, ultraviolet and other kinds of scanners allow him to see images
behind a painting’s visible layers.

Now those high-tech tools have peered behind a mural, into a palazzo’s walls, to find another mural, long thought destroyed or lost to the ages.

Art historians have known that “Battle of Anghiari” existed from early sketches, from the copies made by Da Vinci contemporaries, and from the writings of those who saw it – one of whom described it as “miraculous.”

Seracini received his bachelor’s degree from UCSD’s Revelle College in 1973; he majored in applied mathematics and bioengineering, and spoke at his alma mater in April, as a Bioengineering Distinguished Lecturer, on “The Role of Science in Conservation of Cultural Heritage.” In 1975, he received a degree in electronic engineering from the University of Padua in Italy.

He credits his UCSD teachers – who had him experiment with lasers on fragments of blackened marble from Venice and Florence – with the spark that “ignited a long-lasting desire to blend art and science.”

During his time as a student in San Diego, he also traveled to UCLA to study under Carlo Pedretti, a scholar of Renaissance art and a specialist in Da Vinci.

It was his mentor Pedretti, seeking a non-invasive way to search for Leonardo’s masterpiece, who steered Seracini to the murals in the Palazzo Vecchio.

The long-lost fresco Seracini may have found is also known by its Anglicized title “Battle of Angiers.” Begun in 1505, the painting is considered by many art historians to be Leonardo’s most important – and largest – masterpiece. Vasari, commissioned by the Medici family in 1593 to remodel the palazzo’s hall, might have covered the unfinished work with a wall.

Most art historians believe, says Seracini, that even if the incomplete Da Vinci fresco is behind the wall, it may have deteriorated beyond salvation. Like the doctor he studied to be, he takes a physician’s detached approach to the prospect. “We’ll investigate,” he says, “and see.” It’s the code Da Vinci himself might have followed.

Source: University of California, San Diego

So, has Seracini, or anyone for that matter, proven or confirmed the “discovery” yet?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Call It Extreme Collecting

I’ve always been fascinated by auctions, particularly those involving antiques, artworks by renowned artists (of any form/medium), and objects that were previously owned by or linked to famous and historic personalities.

Aside from the huge amounts of money that are involved in such auctions, I find most of the stories behind the auctioned items equally, or sometimes more, intriguing. Take the story of ‘Tres Personajes’ for instance.

In 2003, ‘Tres Personajes’, an abstract painting by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo, was found by a Manhattan resident in the trash during her morning walk. Although she did not know anything about modern art, she took the painting home because, according to her, she “knew it had power”. True enough, last month, the painting was sold for a little over a million dollars (US) at an auction. Following is the full Associated Press article:

Mexican painting found in NYC trash fetches more than US$1 million
Wed Nov 21, 10:54 AM ET

Tres Personajes

NEW YORK - A masterpiece by a Mexican artist that was found in the trash by a woman who knew little about modern art has been sold for more than US$1 million.

The painting "Tres Personajes," by Rufino Tamayo, was discovered in 2003 by Elizabeth Gibson, who spotted it on her morning walk on Manhattan's Upper West Side. She said she took it home because "even though I didn't understand it, I knew it had power."

The brightly coloured abstract work was purchased for $1,049,000 by an unidentified private American collector bidding by phone at Sotheby's Latin American Art sale on Tuesday night.

Gibson spent four years trying to find out about the painting, finally discovering on the "Antiques Roadshow" website that it had been featured on the popular PBS program and described as a missing masterpiece stolen in 1989.

Gibson has received a $15,000 reward for turning in "Tres Personajes" and also will get a percentage of the sale price.

Painted in 1970, "Tres Personajes" was purchased by a Houston collector for $55,000 as a gift for his wife at a Sotheby's auction in 1977. Ten years later, as the couple was moving to a new home, it was stolen from storage.

The husband has since died, and the widow, who wished to remain anonymous, has decided to sell it.

Tamayo was born in 1899 and died in 1991. His early work has similarities to that of famed 20th century mural Diego Rivera. His later work features the vivid colours and expressions of his native state of Oaxaca.

Then, there’s the one about Che Guevara’s hair.

Che Guevara hair sold at auction
BBC News - Last Updated: Friday, 26 October
2007, 04:02 GMT 05:02 UK

Che Guevara's hair

Strands of hair said to have been taken from the corpse of Ernesto Che Guevara by a former CIA operative have sold for $119,000 (£58,000) at auction.

It sold to the only bidder, who runs a bookshop near Houston, for the reserve price, plus a buyer's premium.

The Dallas sale prompted protests from Che's widow and his supporters.

The sale is not a first for Heritage Auction Galleries, which has sold locks from the heads of Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.

Bill Butler, 61, placed his bid by telephone for the 3-inch (8cm) strand of Che Guevara's hair.

In the same lot were photographs of the dead revolutionary's body and fingerprints taken after he was shot in Bolivia in 1967.

Mr Butler says he plans to display the hair at his bookshop.

Political icon

Heritage Auction Galleries had tightened security for the sale, because of fears of
protests from socialists unhappy that profits were being made from the revolutionary's death.

Che is considered an icon by left-wing movements, but critics accuse him of brutally executing his opponents.

An Argentine who became a Cuban guerrilla leader, the 39-year-old was tracked down and killed in the Bolivian jungle by a group of CIA-backed Bolivian soldiers on 9 October 1967.

A former CIA agent, Cuban-born Gustavo Villoldo, who oversaw Che's burial, said he removed the lock of hair and took photos and fingerprints as proof that the mission was completed.

It is these items which have now been auctioned.

Auctioneer Tom Slater said that Mr Villoldo was unhappy with the iconic status Che now has.

"He doesn't like the way Che has become a political icon, so he's anxious to get the whole story out," Mr Slater told the AFP news agency.

"He feels that Che was a murderer and a bandit and it was appropriate to hunt him down."

That’s for the “intriguing stories” part. For the “money” part, well, all I can say is if you were surprised at the US$1,000,000 price tag of “Tres Personajes”, your eyes might just pop out of their sockets when you find out about the “bigger” amounts that exchange hands during major auctions. Remember, we’re only talking about “antiques, artworks by renowned artists (of any form/medium), and objects that were previously owned by or linked to famous and historic personalities”, so, auctions that involve company/stock mergers and real properties are excluded here. Auctions of these things, by the way, involve money that amount to several billions of US dollars.

As of January 2007, the biggest (confirmed) amount paid for an artwork at an auction is US$135,000,000 (that’s 135 million) for the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (by Gustav Klimt). 135 million greenbacks for a painting!

portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

But, then again, if you’ve been following auction-related news, you’ve probably already noticed that paintings are among the highest-valued, if not THE highest-valued/priced auctioned items of all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Resizing Affects Image Quality

Resizing bitmap or pixel-based images, whether it be scaling up (enlarging/blowing-up) or down (reducing/shrinking), will always affect image quality. Though, degradation of image quality is more evident/obvious when images are scaled-up than when they are scaled down.

Personally, I am not all that sensitive to the degradation in image quality when scaling images down. To tell you frankly, I really don’t notice any degradation of image quality when scaling down images. But there are numerous tutorials on the web that “teaches” you “how to scale down image sizes without losing image quality”. Honestly, I haven’t bothered reading any of them as I don’t feel the issue is all that important to me. And, in that case, I am in no position to tell any of you if those tutorials are any good.

However, despite my “disbelief” in the degradation of image quality resulting from scaling down images, I think I can “explain” what contributes to the “loss” in image quality that supposedly occurs when scaling down images based on my experience and my own personal understanding of how pixels and digital images work.

It’s quite simple, actually. When you scale down an image, the number of pixels that makes up that image is also reduced, and that means some pixels are eliminated/discarded from the image. If the number of pixels is reduced, the number of colors is also reduced. Therefore, the degradation in image quality.

As I’ve already mentioned, the degradation in image quality is a whole lot more severe when scaling up images. For that, I can give you a very simple explanation by means of an allegory.

Let’s say you have a piece of paper, any size of paper. Think of how you can enlarge the physical dimensions of that piece of paper. Obviously, you can’t, at least not without tearing the paper into pieces, laying the pieces down, and arranging them with gaps between them. This is quite similar to what happens when you scale up images. But instead of having gaps, the graphics software you use will put in additional pixels.

I cannot tell you how graphics software decide on the color of the additional pixels, but I’m inclined to believe that it’s probably some sort of an “averaging” kind of thing.

Say, for example, you have two differently colored pixels sitting side by side each other. The software you use (whatever it may be) probably “calculates” for the “average” of the two colors and assigns that color to a new pixel which it places between the two original pixels. You would now have three pixels. So, technically, you have “scaled up” the two pixels into three pixels. From a distance or at a certain magnification percentage, the overall appearance of the three pixels will appear quite similar to that of the two pixels. (This is just a personal hunch. By no means am I claiming that this is indeed what happens, so, you can probably just forget about ever reading this paragraph).

Anyway, to put things simply, you cannot expect your computer or whatever software you are using to produce or modify data where and when there is none.

Take this for instance. If you have a little photo of, let’s say a person. The person’s eyes in the photo are composed of only a few pixels, so few that you cannot make out the individual strands of his/her eyelashes. You should not and cannot expect your computer/software to be able to make those lashes appear when you scale up the image! They just can’t do it, period. (Well, probably, at least not in this day and age. Perhaps, just perhaps, someday when someone develops something like “nanopixels”, that might just become a possibility).

I hope this was helpful to some of you. ‘Til next time.

Old News, New News

American baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
What I read today on’s “Did You Know” column was quite interesting. Not that I know anything about baseball, but I never heard or knew anything about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig (two names which are quite familiar even to non-baseball fans) ever visiting and playing in the Philippines. But since the Philippines was under American occupation that time, it’s not at all impossible for that to happen. And it did happen 73 years ago. Following is the article from

Did you know

By Cyril Bonabente
Last updated 10:55pm (Mla time)

American baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played against Filipinos in December 1934 at the then spanking new Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Malate, Manila.

The three-game goodwill series between the Americans and Filipinos was swept by the US major league all-star team.

The afternoon matches sold tickets at P2 each, a considerable amount back then, for the bleachers section.

It just makes me wonder why baseball didn’t gain as much popularity here as basketball has.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Taking a Not-So-Wild Guess at the Fourth Indiana Jones Movie's Plot

Indiana Jones and Son
I missed something in my previous post. All that time I had been reading all about the Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull, I didn't bother reading about F. A. Mitchell-Hedges. It all makes a lot of sense to me now.

Wikipedia's entry on F. A. Mitchell-Hedges mentions about him being thought of as the inspiration for the Indiana Jones movies. Could he be... Could Indy be...

Now, here's my guess on the story of the film, though I won't bet anything on it. Possible spoiler follows… that is if I’m right.

Indy will obviously discover the crystal skull, probably with the help of Shia (who could be the male version of Anna Mitchell-Hedges), after which he will have the same fate as F.A. (being accused of discovering a "fake" artifact) because tests would show that the skull could not have been made earlier than the 19th century. Then, if there will be aliens, he will be “saved” by them from eternal shame, proving (either through peaceful communication or hostile invasion) that the skull is really very old (like 3,500 years or perhaps older). If not, well, he will definitely be “saved” one way or another. Then, after that “shameful” experience, Indy will finally hang his hat and call it quits. That, in my opinion, makes for a graceful exit, rather than quitting due to old age.

Let’s wait and see.

Update (Spoiler): As I was preparing this for posting, looking for an image to go with it, I accidentally stumbled upon some news (or rumor) that aliens will indeed be part of the movie. Read about it yourself by clicking here.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Mitchell-Hedges Skull I tried digging for more information today about the upcoming Indiana Jones film (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) which is due to be released on May 22, 2008. But, instead of finding out more about the film, I ended up learning more about crystal skull(s).

From what I understand about the things I've read (meaning, these are my personal conclusions), it seems that much of the crystal skull(s)'s story was made up by a man named Frederick Albert Mitchell-Hedges. It is probably for this same reason that the most famous crystal skull of all is the "Mitchell-Hedges Skull". And that the made-up story behind that one particular skull had been attached to other crystal skulls as far as their "origin" and "use" are concerned.

For the lack of information on the other crystal skulls, I focused my little research on that one skull, the Mitchell-Hedges Skull.

According to F. A. Mitchell-Hedges, the crystal skull is of pre-Columbian origin, particularly Mayan, and is at least 3,500 years old. According to legend, which I'm inclined to believe he also made up, it was used by Mayan high priests when performing "esoteric rites" that involved killing people. In the first edition of his autobiography "Danger My Ally" published in 1954 he wrote: "It is said that when he [the high priest] willed death with the help of the skull, death invariably followed." (words in parenthesis mine)

As for where and how he discovered the skull, he claimed that it was actually his adopted daughter, Anna Le Guillon Mitchell-Hedges, who discovered the skull in 1926. Anna supported this story in a 1968 affidavit (printed in Richard Garvin's "The Crystal Skull") and further claimed that she found the skull buried under a collapsed altar inside a temple in the Mayan city of Lubaantun in Southern Belize (then British Honduras).

However, all of Mitchell-Hedges' claims (including his story about the skull's discovery) are widely disputed as there are no documented evidence that could support any of them.

What does exist is documentary evidence showing that F. A. Mitchell-Hedges had bought a crystal skull (probably THE skull which father and daughter Mitchell-Hedges had repeatedly claimed to have discovered) in 1944 from a London art dealer by the name of Sydney Burney. (Wow! That's like telling your mother that you didn't steal cookie from the cookie jar when you're presently eating a cookie. But, even in that situation you could tell your mother that the cookie you're eating did not come from the cookie jar.) Burney, by the way, was mentioned to be the owner of the skull since 1933 in the July 1936 issue of Man (a British anthropological journal) which is considered to be the earliest published reference to the skull.

As if that was not enough to shatter the Mitchell-Hedges' story, a research carried out in 1996 by the British Museum on several crystal skulls has shown that "the indented lines marking the teeth (for these skulls had no separate jawbone, unlike the Mitchell-Hedges skull) were carved using jeweler's equipment (rotary tools) developed in the 19th century, making a supposed pre-Columbian origin even more dubious" (Wikepedia article on the Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull)

"An investigation carried out by the Smithsonian Institution in 1992 on a crystal skull provided by an anonymous source who claimed to have purchased it in Mexico City in 1960 and that it was of Aztec origin concluded that it, too, was made in recent ages and that it originated with Boban. According to the Smithsonian, Boban acquired the crystal skulls he sold from sources in Germany; findings that are in keeping with those of the British Museum." (Wikepedia article on the Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull)

Will this "controversy" be included in the movie? I certainly hope so. I'd rather be fooled anew by a new story which takes off from something which I already know something about (even if it's just another fiction) than be told "let's just say that you didn't know anything about this".

By the way, MTV has an article on its website entitled "'Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull': What's The Title Mean?" where Harverd lecturer Marc Zender made a few educated guesses on the possible role of the skull(s) in the upcoming movie. The article also mentions about a rumor that's been going around that aliens will have a part in the movie. To read the whole article, click here.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Coca-Cola Philippines' Christmas 2007 Promo

I thought I wasn't going to be able to post anything today, but a short trip to the neighborhood bakery/variety store a few minutes ago changed all that. There I saw hanging on a wall is an advertisement for a Coca-Cola promo.

So what's Coca-Cola giving away this time? Collectible spoons and forks! A part of me is rebelling against the exclamation point I've put there, but hey, if it's Coca-Cola, it's definitely worth collecting.

Anyway, I found this video ad of the promo on YouTube. Hmmm... the video says that the promo duration is from October 21 to December 21, why have I heard about this only now?

The Oldest Thing I Own

It’s small, it’s blue, and it’s more than 110 years old. It’s a book by Edward P. Roe entitled “The Hornet’s Nest – A Story of Love and War” (published by Dodd, Mead, and Company). On its copyright page it indicates the years of copyright as:

Copyright, 1886,

By E. P. Roe.

Copyright 1887, 1892,

By Dodd, Mead and Company

All rights reserved.

Cover of book by Edward P. Roe entitled “The Hornet’s Nest – A Story of Love and War” (published by Dodd, Mead, and Company)

Book by Edward P. Roe entitled “The Hornet’s Nest – A Story of Love and War” (published by Dodd, Mead, and Company)
It’s quite easy for me to embrace fully the idea that the E. P. Roe who wrote this book was quite popular during his time since almost all the websites that presented something about him said the same thing. One website ( even claims that he is “America’s greatest popular author” (whatever that means). A few of the websites dedicated to Roe also have lists of his works which number to more than 20.

Edward P. Roe
But in all my research about Roe and “The Hornets Nest”, I noticed something really strange. Except for selling a recent reprint copy of the book, none of the websites that tell something of Roe ever mention about “The Hornets Nest”… not even in the lists of his works.

There had been instances in the past when I thought that the E. P. Roe who wrote this book was not the one I’ve been reading so much about. But, a closer examination of the book revealed a line on the title page that says “Author of ‘Barriers Burned Away’” which, by the way, was the book that “made Roe famous”. With that, there’s no doubt at all that the E. P. Roe who wrote this is one and the same.

Maybe there’s someone out there who can shed some light on this.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Bit of Public Service

I’m having some doubts right now if the information that I’m about to share here will be of any use to anyone, now that almost every single person I know knows how to use Photoshop to some extent. But since this is my very first attempt at something like this, and because I still remember the time when I was ignorant about this, I've decided to start with something very basic.

But before I go on, I would like to make it very clear to all of you that I am no expert. I never had any formal training with regards to using any of the software that I use and I was never formally schooled in any IT course. The things that I know are either self taught or are acquired through research. So, to those who know better, please feel free to correct me whenever needed.
With that out of the way, welcome to my Introduction to Image Resolution lesson.

What is Image Resolution?

Basically, resolution pertains to the number of pixels that make up an image. The higher an image’s resolution is, the finer the image will appear on the monitor and in print.

Resolution is usually measured in terms of pixels-per-inch. That means we are talking about the number of pixels that fit in a given length of image (in this case, an inch). I’ll expound on this later as I think there’s something else I need to define before I proceed.

As I am writing this with the layperson in mind, I think I need to explain what a pixel is. The word “pixel”, by the way, is a result of the contraction of the words “picture element” (PICture Element = pixel). Simply put, a pixel is a “dot” of color. Pixels are usually square-shaped, but there are numerous applications which utilize non-square pixels such as those that deal with digital videos as well as some digital cameras. Personally, I have not yet encountered or seen a pixel shape other than a square. To avoid any confusion, beside the fact that I don’t know much about non-square pixels, we will just be talking about square pixels in this one.

Anyway, a digital image is formed in very much the same way as an image is formed in cross-stitching and in mosaic art forms. Actually, a digital image is just that, a mosaic of many different colored pixels. It’s just that in digital imagery you don’t need or have to paint the pixels in one by one (unless you want to), that task is done for you by the computer or, in the case of digital photography, the digital camera.

Let’s go back to the “pixels-per-inch” part. Since we are talking about square pixels, an inch of one-pixel-thick horizontal line should have the same number of pixels in it as an inch of one-pixel-thick vertical line considering that they have the same resolution. So, it doesn’t really matter whether your perceived direction of measurement is vertical or horizontal, so long as it’s not diagonal (like what we do when measuring a television or monitor’s screen size). I probably have already lost some of you there. Cue, visual aids.

The above illustration (not to scale) shows a 9 pixel-per-inch horizontal line (a) and a 9 pixel-per-inch vertical line (b). Go ahead, count the squares that you see. It also clarifies what I meant by a “one-pixel-thick line”.

So, why “pixels-per-inch”? Why not say the image is this much pixels tall and that much pixels wide? Well, if you do the latter, you’re actually stating the dimensions of an image and not the resolution. Always remember that resolution and dimension is not in any way the same. They are not even similar to say the least. Take a look at the following examples:

In group (a) the numbers of pixels are used as a unit of measurement for the images’ sizes (all of them have a 72 pixels-per-inch resolution).

On the other hand, all the images in group (b) are of the same size (1 inch) but have varying resolutions. From this, you can also see proof of what I mentioned earlier. The higher an image’s resolution is, the finer the image appears.

So, how big is a pixel? Well, from the above illustrations, it is probably safe to say that pixel size varies depending on an image’s resolution. If you have an image that has a resolution of 1 pixel-per-inch, your pixels will be 1 inch tall and wide. On the other hand, if you have an image with a resolution of 100 pixels-per-inch, your pixels will be 1/100 inches or 0.01 inch tall and wide.

But then again, computers operate on a default setting (if you can call it that) in displaying digital images which prioritizes pixels over any other forms of measurement. What I meant by that is computers display pixels at a predefined size which is dictated by the size of the monitor and/or the display resolution setting (therefore, the graphics card also has a hand in this).

Allow me to clarify further. If you have two monitors, let’s say one is 15” and the other 18”, and both are operating at the 800 x 600 display resolution setting, the pixels displayed in the 18” monitor will be slightly bigger than the pixels displayed on the 15” one. On the other hand, a monitor will display larger pixels in the 800 x 600 display resolution setting and smaller pixels in the 1024 x 768 display resolution setting.

What does this all mean? Well, if you have an image that’s 1 inch wide and has a resolution of 10 pixels-per-inch, it will very likely appear on your computer’s monitor significantly smaller than an inch wide. On the other hand, if you have an image that’s 1 inch wide and has a resolution of 300 pixels-per-inch, it will appear on your monitor significantly larger than an inch wide (unless, of course, if the software you use to view your image does not have the ability to automatically change viewing sizes).

Just so that you know, most computer graphics cards and monitors operate at a resolution of 72 pixels-per-inch (I’ve seen some operating at 90+ pixels-per-inch). So, unless your image has a resolution of 72 pixels-per-inch, your image will most certainly appear either smaller or larger than its actual dimensions. In addition to that, as what I’ve mentioned regarding pixel sizes varying between different-sized monitors and different display resolution settings, an image with 72 pixels-per-inch displayed at 100% magnification will almost definitely not get displayed in its actual dimensions.


So, what’s the best resolution to use? It all depends on where you intend to use your digital image. If you are going to use your digital images on your website, 72 pixels-per-inch is right on the spot. But if you intend to print your digital image (through any method), I suggest you don’t go below 300 pixels-per-inch.

I use 600 pixels-per-inch for all my book cover designs, but for other things, 300 pixels-per-inch is usually enough for me. I’ve never used anything below 72 pixels-per-inch and I don’t see any point in doing so.

By the way, there’s something very important I need to mention regarding this. Working with high-resolution graphics will eat up a lot of your computer’s resources. So, first make sure that your computer can handle it.

Just to give you an idea, a computer running on Windows XP with a three-year old processor and a 512 MB RAM with tons of free hard disk space may just barely be able to handle a 8” x 10” image at 600 pixels-per-inch without crashing, though a slow down is most definitely expected.

Before I end this, I would just like to say one more thing, if you want to learn some tricks in Photoshop, the web is flooded with tutorials. Just Google something like “Photoshop text effects”, “Photoshop tutorials”, or “Photoshop tips and tricks”. BUT, bear in mind, most of the tutorials on the web, particularly those that involve layer styles and filters, only work in 72-pixels-per-inch. Though, with some Mathematics and tweaking, some of them can be made to work in higher resolutions.

That’s it for now. Class dismissed.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Giving The Secret A Try

The SecretI got to watch “The Secret” a couple of months ago. Honestly, I think it’s full of bull crap. But then again, living in this time and age where you cannot believe in just anything (not even those that you can perceive with any of your senses), it’s probably just normal for me to think of it that way. Another thing, I was never a fan of self-help stuff.

I’ve been thinking though, it probably wouldn’t hurt me if I give it a try, as long as I don’t make my life depend on it. Right?

In the video, there’s this person who said that he used to cut out pictures (from magazines, etc.) of things that he wanted to have and stuck them onto a corkboard or something which hung on a wall in his office. Everyday, he said, he would look at those pictures and wish… no, I think “BELIEVE” was the word he used… so, everyday, he would spend a few minutes looking at those pictures, BELIEVING that he will have them someday. Several years later, when he was unpacking boxes at his newly bought home, his son saw the corkboard with the pictures on it. When his son asked him what it was, he started to cry because he suddenly realized that the house they had just moved into is exactly the one pictured in one of the cut-outs he had stuck on the board! Amazing! (I’m writing this from what I can best remember so far from what I saw on the video, so this may not be accurate. But I think it’s pretty close.)

Then there’s this thing about a cousin of mine who have seen the video also. Jokingly, she and her friend wished… no, BELIEVED that they would get a free trip to Manila. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but they did! They got two free round trip tickets and free accommodations! Can you believe that?!

So, as I was saying, I won’t lose anything if I try it out. It’s not like I’m going to wish for something which my life direly depends on.

So, here goes… I’ll try the route of the person with the corkboard. But instead of a corkboard, I’m going to use blogspot. And instead of cutting out pictures from magazines, I’ll just grab some photos from the web and post them here.

Samsung LN-T4665F LCD TV

Samsung LN-T4665F LCD TV
Canon F-Series Lenses

Canon F-Series Lenses
Canon-XL-H1 HD Camcorder
Canon-XL-H1 HD Camcorder

Canon-6x-zoom-XL for the canon-XL-H1 HD Camcorder
Canon-6x-zoom-XL for the canon-XL-H1 HD Camcorder
Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash
Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash
Wacom Cintiq 21UX

Wacom Cintiq 21UX

Optimus Prime (Leader Class)

Optimus Prime (Leader Class)

Ultimate Bumblebee

Ultimate Bumblebee
Xbox 360 with extras

Xbox 360 with extras

LG Super Blu player, model BH200

LG Super Blu player, model BH200

Ipod Video

Ipod Video
I’ll stop there for now. I’ll probably have a second part on this as I haven’t picked out which audio system components I want among so many other things.

I’ll definitely inform you right away once I get my hands on any of these. By the way, I believe... I believe... I believe...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shell-Ferrari Toy Cars 2007

Here they are once again… the Shell-Ferrari toy cars! I’ve got already four of them (Enzo, Super America, F50, and F430), two more to go. The Spider, I think, will be rather easy to obtain. But the Formula 1 has proven to be very elusive that I’m already beginning to have a bad feeling that I will not be able to get that one until the promo ends on December 31st. I’ve been to three stations already and every time I ask if the toys were available, the first thing they mentioned that’s not available is the Formula 1.

These toys seem to be selling really fast. Last Friday night when I went to a Shell station to gas up, I asked the attendant which of the toys were available. She told me that they had everything but the F1. So, having only filled up with PhP500 worth, I opted for an Enzo (you’re only allowed to buy one toy for every PhP500 purchase).

I went back to the same station the morning of the following day to buy more. But before I even got close to the pump and before I can even say anything, an attendant approached me and told me “We don’t have any of the toys anymore, Sir.” So, what I did was I thanked the attendant and told him very politely and embarrassingly that I’d just go to another station. It was quite funny and I truly and genuinely appreciated his show of concern.

Anyway, the toys look great! Though, by how they look, I think they’re made of plastic. I’ve never opened any of them because I’m intending to keep them until my son is old enough to know the value of antiques. By which time he will not dare open them also and pass them on to his son/daughter when they’re old enough to know the value of antiques. And so on. Just imagine how much they could sell for by that time. Have you heard of the car-shaped Cookie Tin from the 1920s (with original contents, yes, the cookies are still inside) that was sold for US$32,000 just recently? I wonder how much a Fita biscuit tin (from the 80s with the biscuits still inside) would sell for after a hundred years.

The US$32,000 Cookie Tin from the 1920s

The US$32,000 Cookie Tin from the 1920s


Ferrari SuperAmerica

Ferrari F430

Ferrari F430

Enzo Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari

Ferrari F50

Ferrari F50

The Back Side of the Packaging

The Back Side of the Packaging of the Shell-Ferrari Toy Cars

They’re made under the Hot Wheels brand and they’re made in China which gives me another reason for not opening them. They might contain dangerous amounts of lead. Hahaha! The details are quite good and they’re made quite nicely. To add to the “wow” factor, there’s a holographic sticker stuck on the back of the packaging that says “Ferrari Official Product”. The only thing I’m clueless about is the “Two-speed” thing that’s printed on the packaging. If there’s anyone out there who has played with these, please don’t hesitate to tell me about it.

hologram sticker at the backside of the packaging of the Shell-Ferrari toy cars
It saddens me that I wasn’t able to get any of the cars from the Classico Collezione which Shell offered a few years ago. I believe those were die-cast metal. Though I was able to get two of the larger (1:16?) scaled F50s and one Formula 1, all of them still sitting sadly (happy for me) inside their boxes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Fourth Indiana Jones Movie

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
I can’t wait for the fourth Indiana Jones movie to come out! I am keeping my hopes up that it will be better than the earlier three movies. So far they’re saying that it will be. It’s just amazing that nothing much about the movie has come out up to this moment unlike what happened with the Transformers.

It was months before the movie’s release when the Transformers movie script leaked out. There were also tons of production photos and concept art popping up everywhere on the net (which Paramount endlessly tried to censor).

Soon after, people connected to the movie were trying to dismiss the leaked script either as a fake or, as Michael Bay had put it, an outdated version of what he was actually using for the final movie. Well, it was not a fake. Outdated maybe, but only to a miniscule degree.

There is nothing like this, so far, happening with the Indiana Jones movie. The film’s producers even sued Tyler Nelson, a ballet dancer who was cast as a “dancing Russian soldier” in the movie, for spilling the movie’s plot during an interview with an Oakland newspaper (Edmond Sun). This has led to a Superior Court order which found that Nelson have “knowingly” violated an agreement (which he signed) which barred him and everyone else involved in the film from discussing anything about the film to the public.

Although nothing much can be found about the film on the net or elsewhere, the title has officially been released. It’s called “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”.

Although I am not a very religious person, I was hoping that the fourth installment to the Indiana Jones franchise would be about another biblical artifact. I was quite disappointed that it’s not. Of the past three installments, I liked “Temple of Doom” the least. Maybe it’s because I don’t know anything about those glowing stones he was chasing after there. And until now I have not bothered finding out more about them. I hope I will not have the same feelings for the “Crystal Skull”. I still have time to find out about the real Crystal Skull before it comes out. For those of you who want to know more about the artifact, try googling for Mitchell-Hedges Skull.
So, what can we expect of the film? Well, I guess, just as for anything that every tomorrow brings, we can only hope for the best.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Live-Action Film Version of 80s Cartoons has posted something about a G.I. Joe live-action movie coming up. Well,’s source is actually, but since I’ve been a regular visitor of, that’s where I got the news from.

G.I. Joe I’ve also stumbled upon some news somewhere before about a live-action Robotech movie being in the works, as well as one for Astroboy.

Sounds exciting… though, maybe not as exciting for me as when I heard that a live-action Transformers movie was going to be made more than a year ago. That’s when I got hooked on

I’m not a fanboy, though I’m probably near the edge of being one. I still remember watching Transformers in the 80s as a kid and drooling over the toys that were being advertised every time it’s aired (the same goes with Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and G.I. Joe).

I’ve got only two Transformers toys which my parents bought me (which I still have, by the way)… an Insecticon (I already forgot its name) and the Corvette (Stingray, I believe, is what it’s called but I have the Japanese version which is red colored and not blue as it was in the American version of the cartoon). I got them not because of endless nagging but because of passing in the quarterly school exams. For my brother and I, that was the only way to get something we wanted. But getting passing marks in the major exams didn’t give us license to demand for what we wanted. We had to wait for an offer. If no offer came, well, life went on. That’s because we were made to understand early on about money matters. Get the connection?

Hmmm… that reminds me of the time when, as a grade school student, I gathered all the old (Manila Bulletin) Panorama Magazines I could find in our house and cut out all the application forms from the advertisements of insurance companies thinking that I could help my parents get more money if I filled out and mailed those forms. All I could understand from those advertisements that time were the numbers, and they had BIG numbers printed in BIG BOLD fonts. I thought those companies were giving money away! That was the time when I was still clueless about what bouncing checks were. By what they’re called in the local language, I thought they really explode.

Anyway, going back to my original topic… I think I have one up there somewhere…

The excitement I felt for the live-action Transformers movie actually came not from being a Transformers fan, but rather out of my curiosity about how they were going to make it realistic and believable. Like how Optimus Prime would transform in the “real world” without having a gaping hole on his back (as he did in the G1 toy which I was able to play with only once at my brother’s rich friend’s house).

optimus prime
I was a bit disappointed when I found out that the movie was not going to be faithful to the original cartoons as far as the robots and cars were concerned. But all the changes that were done were, I think, understandable and acceptable (at least after I saw the making of the movie).

I almost got influenced by the nay-sayers into bad mouthing Michael Bay when I was following the movie’s progress. But when I finally saw the movie on the big screen, I can’t find anything about it that is worth thrashing (being honest to myself). The opening narration (by Peter Cullen) was particularly powerful for me, not for what was said but for how it sounded. For me it felt like hearing something, or someone, from my past.

There are still a lot of haters out there, but as far as I’m concerned, I like the movie quite a lot. So much so that I asked my sister-in-law, who’s living in the States, to buy me a copy of the two-disc special edition DVD release. And after watching the movie for the second and third time on DVD, I only have praises for it, more so for the technical side of it (behind-the-scenes). I have yet to watch the movie with the commentaries track.

Having all that said, I doubt the upcoming G.I. Joe and Robotech movies will have the same effect on me as the Transformers had. For one thing, although I have watched the G.I. Joe cartoon regularly as a kid, I can’t seem to remember anything about G.I. Joe that’s as memorable as Cullen’s voice in Transformers (except for the plain white Storm Shadow who was my favorite toy for a very long time). Also, IMO, the G.I. Joe movie might just come out like any other war movie(?). Well, maybe if they use the same opening theme and sequence, I’d probably change my mind somewhat. As for Robotech, well, I wasn’t a regular follower of that, I only watched it whenever nothing else was on. I’m sure a lot of people out there are saying that I’ve missed a lot, and I agree. So, as far as these two movies are concerned, I’d probably just take them for what they are now (or will become when and if the movies do come out) and not relate them to their past incarnation.

Cobra Stormshadow
For Astroboy, well, I just hope they’ll stick to his original appearance.

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