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Dazed Ginza Ninja

photo, xmas eve, churros, boul montparnasse

Starving Parisians waiting for pre–feast snack on Christmas Eve.

Burning in Camera Hell!

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 26. December 2005:– The weather experienced a pause over the past few days. To suit shoppers on Christmas Eve and anyone who survived to be a stroller after harrowing episodes of dinners, breakfasts, opening presents and lunches yesterday, we had mild times and bits of blue sky, but now the pause is over.

As explained on tonight's TV–weather news there appears to be a deep low hanging over Denmark which is also a cold low, and it's going to push some breezes this way, maybe to the tune of 70 kph from the northeast. All the same Tuesday's sky may have some tiny blue patches while thick clouds lurk along the Channel.

If you are up there expect some snow to be falling tomorrow, plus on a slant through the middle of France from Alsace to the Pyrenees, and in the Alps. Still not convinced? Sortez les muffles, for the low tonight has been forecast as zero degrees and tomorrow's high will be no more than 1 degree.

This is not an immediately passing situation. Wednesday may be a little brighter here but the temperature is not expected to be more than -1, with that diagonal swath full of snow flurries. The same thing is expected for Thursday, same diagonal full of snow, same low temperature and the same bits of feeble blue patches.

If this sounds terrifying France will contain one oasis of sunshine and this will be in the southeast, along that fabled coast called the Côte d'Azur, so called because it never has icebergs. All the samephoto, paris plage, xmas day it will be windy down there, perhaps even hauling down the temperature from about 10 to less than half, so sitting in a warm cinema in Paris could be an attraction after all.

Paris Plage on Christmas Day, without sunbathers.

For those who have waterproofed fun by frolicking in snow, ski stations in the Alps and the Pyrenees have abundant amounts of it, along with chalets, ski rentals, hotels, ski lifts, restaurants, ski instructors, bars with hot drinks and mountain rescue teams, also on skis. Of course, all of this is probably colder than in Paris. You have been warned.

Without muchos ados here's Météo Jim with the Pommeville forecast, disclaimer and jolly seasonal greets, after an exciting week in and around Pommeland:–

For Snow, Canada Always

Post–Christmas greetings and pre–New Year's greetings. In Pommeland everybody is singing, "Je rêve díun Noël enneigé," mais ce n'est qu'une rêve. The rain has been falling, eating what remains of the snow and most of America has the rained–out blues. The only snow is in Canada and the tops of the Rockies. Temperatures in the low 40s a–grad are predicted for the rest of the week. New Year's Day is still too far off in the future so all disclaimers will be immediately disclaimed, even with the post Christmas discounts.

*Disclaimer – Bonne Année! to you and the readers of Metropole.

Café Life

Dazed Ginza Ninja

It was just a coincidence that I have been saving money for months and months in order to get a new camera for myself and Metropole for Christmas. I am not a registered christian, so it is not actually a Christmas present. Metropole needs a new camera! I was slowly getting near enough and then EDF demanded I pay for a little electricity and France Télécom is never far behind with its bill. Last month I thought I had it made, but no.

My fairy godmother, who has a different scale of 'modest' sent me a surprise pile of money, possibly to stop me begging for crumbs. I phoned my secretive bank on Wednesday and they said it was here – they usually take 10 days to send a note; holding on to it as long and quietly as possible – and I went off hop–skip–and–jump to Photo Müller and lent him my plastic. Lucky too, because he had exactly one camera and was not getting any more until the new year. Yah yah, you other losers hafta wait!

We, Monsieur Müller and I, were a bit doubtful that the software would work with my antique Mac OS 9 so he phoned Olympus and they said, si si, no worries. As I left he asked mephoto, metro vavin, xmas eve to let him know how it works out because he's never tried this camera and wants to know in case somebody else tries to buy one. But before next year he wants to hear about no troubles. He is going to upgrade his Christmas chicken to capon on the profit from the memory card alone.

Although nobody asked, the Vavin métro station has reopened.

The DVD included in the box called 'Extensive User's Guide' did not work because my old Mac does not have a DVD player. The two included CDs did not work either because they are for Windows and Mac OS 10, exclusively. All I could get off one of them was a 220–page PDF file. Nothing they have online for downloading is for Mac OS 9, and an email to Olympus USA produced 'nope' as a response. All of this is situation normal.

Luckily I have a cheapo USB card reader. I tried it once before when Nigel was here and we stuck his card in it to see the photos he'd taken. We didn't see anything because it fried the Mac's system to cinders. It took some doing to get out of that one, like dragging Matt away from his Yahoo Finance to come over here with a hard drive fixer. Matt hasn't seemed like he's in a good mood lately, ever since he got the new scooter. But, so, I was a bit worried because this camera has the same kind of card that went blooey.

You probably think I can hook up the camera to the computer with a USB cable, and in theory you are right, but without the software there's no way for the two stupid machines to exchange greetings. It also means there's no way to register online; so Monsieur Müller and his paper guarantee cards will have to do the trick. He specializes in Praktika and other obscure east European brands – from countries where the abacus is still king. If you are seeking a piece of a 50–year old Russian camera he probably has it.

This new one is not a beautiful camera. It seems to be made entirely of extremely black plastic, in China no less, with chopsticks. It looks like that Ninja guy in Star Wars with the ventilated Nazi helmet. Beggars can't be choosers they say, but most other cameras these days look like they were made with chopsticks in China – except for the Olympus model that I skipped getting. It is made of sexy magnesium in Tokyo's red–light district, by a blind guy who graduated in designing shoeboxes for flipflops.

This new camera has a '50s type speed dial on top with 'A' on it. When you turn on the 'On' switch and look through a little window and gently push the shooter button a little while this 'A' is selected, it will try to focus, and then take a photo when you push it all the way – a 100th of a millimetre further. I thought I took 8 photos the first afternoon but I only found 2 inside. It was shorting me. There are 10 other choices on the speed dial so all it not lost yet. It has 'P' for parking, another 'A' for absconding, 'S' for speeding and 'M' for mother, then five others in Chinese and one in Greek.

I have tried reading the user guide PDF file. Quite right of you if you think this will not be handy while trying to take photos of pickpockets at the marché or while mean kids are burning Twingos in the suburbs. Other than the guide being unwieldy, it seems to be written back to front – was it written in China? How to turn off the 'beep' is on page 133 while the camera's control buttons are explained on page 190.

But that's nothing! How the hell can I 'format the card' on page 26 before I learn which buttons do what on page 190? I guess I am button challenged. The old camera only had 10 buttons, including the shooter release. Six of them I never used and have no idea why they were on there. I mean,photo, merry go round, hotel de ville other than the 'On' button and the shooter, the only other button I used was to turn off the full picture autofocus. For three years it was constantly out of focus until I learned the trick of the spot.

Paris' mayor wants to to ride any of his merry–go–rounds for free.

On a 35mm reflex camera there used to be 5 variables. They were film speed, shutter speed, f–thingees, the lens and the shutter button. Strictly speaking there were only 4 variables unless you had two lenses. I still read the soothing user manual for my old Nikon–F in bed at night occasionally. Later models had light meters in them, so that was another variable, but a convenient one. Does anyone remember focussing by hand? Does anybody remember how sexy those lenses used to be? Turn a bit, twist, and those big old zits popped right into focus! The next step ahead for mankind was the zoom lenses. They gave new life to boobs. What a kick that was!

Well those were the good old days. Today I tried 'A' on the new camera and it shorted me 6 photos. Now I guess I have to work backwards and go through the entire PDF turning things off one by one until I get down to flat bedrock. But before getting completely back to nature – a Mr. Natural state instead of this Ginza Ninja – I think I'll play with the motor zoom for a while.

The old Olympus has a zoom lever. Push for motorized zoom–in and pull for zoom–wide. Hey! The only thing that resembles it is the 'On' and 'Off' switch. It just sets off the supersonic wave filter and turns on the circus lights window. Zoom, zoom, where's the motor zoom?

There's another turny–type dial on top that is marked with... what do those things mean? Where's that PDF? What the hell is a supersonic wave filter anyway? Cripes! Is this what they do to people who won't get portable phones? Burning in camera hell!

"I am Dead"

At this rate I'll find the zoom by next Christmas. I intended to read that PDF file and turn everything off on Friday so I could start from scratch Saturday morning. Christmas Eve had the most chance of some fair light. Afterwards there was nothing forecast but clouds and freezing gloom. Just like when I got a bike for Christmas and it snowed.

As it turned out, accidently, the second session was wonderful. The camera focussed, exposed, and produced usable images from situations that I thought might be hopeless. In true Ninja camera fashion, or should I say 'mode?' This result caused me to read the PDF again and do a little fine–tuning.

And that was a big mistake! The Nazi aspect of the camera took over during the night while it was sleeping and changed some vital settings, and all the Christmas photos were flops. Not total flops, but the wrong size with many wrong exposures. How did it do that by itself?

My brain is getting used to reading the user manual PDF even if my eyes are falling out. As near as I canphoto, toboggan slide, hotel de ville make out the camera has two modes. One is the 'A' for auto and you set this on the speed dial and away you go, looking through the little window and caressing the shutter button, taking shot after carefree shot.

For kids, free skids at the Hôtel de Ville.

The other mode is a bit more complex. It is possible to choose from several shutter speeds, several f–stops, several exposure levels, several white–balances, several picture sizes, several compression levels, and if this is not enough there are various other arcane settings, filters, boosters, moods, scenes, programs, short–cuts, exceptions, button renamers, lens hoods and a carry strap. I reckon there are 749 variables. Only motor zoom is still lacking but with all this other stuff the cake hardly needs a cherry on top.

After more tuning, plumbing the depths of sub–sub–sub menus, I set out on a little tour today to capture a few signs and odd images that are usually sprinkled around the Café page. After getting a sign, on the following shot the camera refused a polite request to shoot one of these little neighborhood hardware shops. It was turned on but it was off.

After some frustration I happened to glance at its fairy lights window. Colored in orange, like Halloween, it said, "This is your battery speaking. I am dead." What? Used up formatting the thousand options? Lucky it's Monday, getting dark and starting to rain.

Tip of the Week

Do not, on your visit to Paris, arrive with an unfamiliar camera. You may only be coming here once and you deserve to take home fantastic pictures. There may be local variables that make this difficult – rain, cold, strikes, pickpockets – but try to give yourself a fair chance.

After you get the camera of your dreams take a few minutes to read the user manual. Read it in the toilet, on the bus, in the subway, during boring movies or phone calls, even in waiting rooms. Then test the camera, and test it again. Keep testing it until you can consistently capture images the way you want them. Digital film is very cheap.

When you are ready Paris will attempt to be ready for you.

Soldes d'Hiver

This season's Soldes d'Hiver begin on Wednesday, 11. January and continue until Tuesday, 21. February. At the moment Parisians are returning their gifts, hoping for exchanges, money back or miracles but after the dust settles from this we will be allowed to snap up whatever is left, until there's enough room for the arrival of spring's new stuff.

The Latest Café Metropole Club 'Report'

The 'Club Meeting of the Week' last Thursday tangoed off my fingers as the 'Pampero In Your Hair' meeting report. A couple of new members hailing from Buenos Aires brought word of the beginning of summer in South America, tasty and inexpensive steaks, as well as soothing winds from the Pampas on warm nights. Olé!

The coming Thursday meeting of the Café Metropole Club will doubtless be yet another mystery, but the secretary will be there, nosy as usual. The 'Saint of the Week' will be Saint–David. This is a very antique saint du jour, a personage mainlyphoto, skating, montparnasse documented in the old Testament, which was the part that comes before the sequel. David is also known for bumping off Goliath with a single–shot sling–shot.

And more kids having a freebie in Montparnasse.

An honestly true story, regardless of how mythical, about the club is on the 'About the Club' page. If curious help yourself to a look at the photos which are real. The club's original and hand–crafted membership card is there too and you may use it, for absolutely free. No less than Hors d'âge, the club membership is guaranteed to be what it actually is – life–long.

Faits Divers XIII

'Ed,' Ric, the club secretary and radio ric, all wish all readers a very happy and smooth new year's slide into 2006 next weekend. Salut les copains!
signature, regards, ric

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