The Las Vegas Strip at Sunset from McCarran Field (Harry Reid International)

Vimeo file:

 

This video is from my latest trip. I put it in the public domain and uploaded the file to Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons. I had to format it in .webm which I don’t like. Hence, the video you see above is hosted at Vimeo in conventional Mp4.

This video was taken from the window of a commercial jet taking off from Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Prominent are the major casinos of the Las Vegas Strip. Among them are, moving from left to right as the plane moves: Mandalay Bay/The Delano; the Excalibur; New York New York; the MGM Grand (in green); the Waldorf Astoria, Aria; the Bellagio (curved facade); the Linq’s High Roller Ferris wheel; the Mirage (with the word LOVE at the top of the building).

Notable toward the end of the video at the middle left is a view of the new Las Vegas Raiders’ stadium which uses dark glass.

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On Colorizing and Different, Not Better

NB: Unknown photographers, various magazines. I do not own the rights to any of these images.

Original monotone:

Here’s a colorized version produced by Photoshop’s colorize filter. (internal link) Corrected the skin color a bit, that’s all.

Comment: I think Kate’s skin looks better in color but Mr. Dog appears to be a black and white job. The original monotone may have been inspired by that.

Original monotone:

Colorized:

Comment: Okay, here’s one reason not to use color. Sleek and stylish and glossy do well with black and white. There’s a vibe or ambiance the photographer is trying to set with the monotone. Color simply sets Kate back into the everyday world.

I’m too rushed in the field to decide whether to shoot in color or black and white. My correcting is in post. Does a studio photographer take the time to decide? Or do they also convert later?

Because some subjects are just doomed to look bad in black and white from the beginning. But how does one know that beforehand?

Here’s Bellucci in color as the original magazine cover shows:

And here’s how it would have looked in monotone without any adjustments:

Yikes! That has a more documentary look than a fashion shot. Is that a lesson here? Emphasize seriousness with black and white? While avoiding the other conclusions that monotone implies . . .

So, sometimes one choice is better than another.

And then there is different. Converting this original to black and white at first seemed listless at best.

The monotone version:

Still, something seems there for me. Without color cues, texture of the chiffon seems dominant. Well, Photoshop does have texture filters. Here’s one experiment.

I’m not saying this is better, rather, that it presents another path to wander down in the creative process. This is by trial and error; I wonder if a real photographer can see these paths before beginning.

And we could put this B&W back into the colorizing filter once again. I adjusted the saturation to pink since that is what I first think of with chiffon. Not blue as in the original. But I’m a guy. That material may actually be silk or taffeta or whatever. Whatever!

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Cynara by Ernest Christopher Dowson (Updated post)

Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae

I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

by Ernest Dowson (1867 – 1900)

Richard Burton’s voice in this reading continues to haunt me. It’s been about nine months since I first wrote on Cynara (internal link). I need to read more Dowson.

Carol Rumens writes in the Guardian  (external link) that this poem’s title is “[F]rom Horace’s Odes, Book 4, 1, translat[ing] as “I am not as I was in the reign of good Cinara.”

Dowson’s short life was marked by tuberculosis and family suicide.

Burton reads rapidly, as if to say the protagonist needs to apologize or explain quickly. Or maybe that is Burton rushing to apologize for his own sybaritic lifestyle. “I have been faithful to you, Liz, in my fashion.” Or, “I have been faithful to my sobriety, in my fashion.”

Is this also an apology to life itself? Regret over getting such a great gift and then doing little with it? An apology to self and others: to promises broken, to faith doubted and lost, friends neglected, time wasted, to books unread. Life squandered.

“Yes, I wanted to do more but there was always something I wanted to watch on TV. I did respect the gift of life. . . in my fashion.”

Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae

Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
When I awoke and found the dawn was grey:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind,
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

NB: The audio takes 10 or 15 seconds to begin. Patience, Grasshopper!

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Recent Volunteer Work Near Shoshone, California







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The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe – The Simpson’s Version

A classic and deservedly so. Ravens are quite common out here in the Mojave Desert, crows more likely haunting cities and farmland. I couldn’t find a Richard Burton reading so I settled for James Earl Jones with the Simpsons. Good enough?

The Raven by
Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

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Greater Roadrunner at the Crowbar Cafe in Shoshone, California

I’ve never been this close to a roadrunner before and I think the footage turned out well. So I uploaded it to Wikimedia Commons and put it under a Public Domain license for anyone to use in anyway they want. All of my contributions to the Wikipedia group of resources have been in the Public Domain.

This Greater Roadrunner appeared outside a restaurant in Shoshone on January 4, 2022. Shoshone is in the southeast corner of the Death Valley region of California. This cafe is located at 112 N State Highway in Shoshone which is in Inyo County. It may have been looking for handouts from the cafe which was closed on that day.

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What Content Authority Means in SEO and Why it is Important

January 2, 2021

What Does Content Authority Mean?

Content authority means a website that Google considers an encyclopedic reference to a particular field or topic. Any practitioner in a highly competitive market should have this Wikipedia like presence if they can afford it.

Mark the word, “If.” A website like this is expensive and costs must be compared beforehand against other choices like ad buys. The goal, of course, is for a post or page to eventually appear on page one of Google search results without buying ads to do so.

Making a website attractive to search engines is what’s called search engine optimization or SEO.

What makes up this encyclopedic reference? Dozens, scores, perhaps hundreds of pages and posts full of content.  Content for non-media companies gets primarily expressed through the written word in posts and pages. For now.

Videos get placed higher in search results than written content on the same subject. This will continue and video production will increase substantially in the next few years.

Still, written content remains and will remain the basis of searchable pages and posts; anything written now can be the script of any video produced later on.

Posts, pages, or video, everything comes back to the written word.

How Does Developing a Content Authority Website go in Practice?

Identifying Topics

Let’s assume a criminal defense attorney who handles DUI/DWI. Clients will of course ask the question, “What happens when I get arrested for being under the influence?” The practitioner knows that question only hints at a broader subject. There’s pre-arrest, arrest, and post-arrest questions. So be it.

Rather than writing completely original pages from scratch for the client’s website, a team looks at his or her competitor’s sites to see how they cover arrest and then they model pages after those. That can be done manually, simply by looking at websites, or a web company might use ahrefs (external link, non-sponsored) is to make a topic list. Identifying existing topics is only a start because Google especially favors original page and post topics, not just the subjects every attorney covers.

Any page modeled must be rewritten to pass Copyscape (external link, non-sponsored) which is a plagiarism detection website. It searches the net for duplicate content and it can also compare an original text to what has been rewritten. Educators use it for identifying plagiarism in school reports and it is the gold standard for alerting on stolen content on the web.

Passing Copyscape means modeled pages are sufficiently different from the original to satisfy Google as new content. Failing Copyscape means content gets ranked as duplicate  and is penalized because of it. Any content creation company gives their writers access to a Copyscape account so they can check their work before submitting it .

Getting Pages Written

Assignments are handed out after the SEO lead determines which keywords the writer should include on the page or post. As well as whatever else the SEO lead decides. SEO is a dark art. There are more than just keywords to consider on the written page. Truly successful SEO techniques developed independently through extensive research and testing are rarely shared outside a company

To be clear, this ‘on page SEO’ is different than what is done in the background or off page with work like link building.

Keywords and techniques are often derived through analyzing ahref.com statistics, a costly and overwhelming website for the uninitiated. ahrefs is like studying telemetry from Mars. “Great. We have all this information about ourselves and the competition. Now, what does it mean?” Editors needn’t be expert with ahrefs but familiarity is essential.

Back to writing. And time.

It’s all about time when considering the cost of a content authority website.

My experience over the last five and a half years with Philippine freelancer writers is that they can turn in a 500 to 750 word page or post in three to ten hours, three being exceptional. Figure five as average.

This assumes a writer has been given at least two or three pages to model along with any other resources an assignment editor thinks will help. The writer must fact check and research anything submitted. New writers should provide links to the web sites they used. That is time consuming for them but it saves the more highly paid editor time to fact check the writer. Writing completely original pages of course takes more time and the writer will need more help.

After submitting their work, some back and forth goes on between the writer and the editor and the person requesting the page. I found  it took twenty minutes on average to revise and edit a writer’s work. Sometimes I sent back work if the writing was badly off but I usually handled most things myself. Writers who can’t supply clean, accurate copy cost more than a job search for someone else.

Some companies promise rewriting by machine by programs called article spinners or word spinners, some powered, supposedly, by artificial intelligence. Right.

I’ve tried at least five of them to get production up with terrible results. A word spinner isn’t meant to fact check or do research; it assumes the original content is accurate and up to date which one can never do. Forgiving that time consuming point, the word spinners I tried were just electronic thesauruses. I spent more time editing their copy than it would have taken me to rewrite from scratch. None of them possessed A/I any more than peanut butter. And despite my repeated requests, none of these companies ever showed me a law office page done primarily by spin writing.

NB: January 3, 2021. I have an update on A/I and spinners at the end of this post.)

Editing and Revising Pages

To state the obvious, it is essential that an editor has a background in the field his or her writers are writing about. Foreign writers without a legal background and focused on a narrow assignment often fail to see the bigger picture. For example, the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, viewing them only by the amount of time served. Less emphatic writing results when just the opposite should occur. A misdemeanor means county jail where home and help are probably close by, a felony means a distant state prison with the possibility of being shipped out of state. And the invocation of larger laws like Three Strikes, loss of voting rights, a ban against possessing firearms once released, and so on. An editor should know these things before editing any law firm’s website.

In my case, I was a freelance legal assistant long ago in the Sacramento, California area for a number of criminal defense and general practice lawyers. As well as a poverty law firm.I assisted with trial prep, wrote points and authorities, legal briefs, interrogs, and conducted an enormous amount of research into finding case and statutory law that was on point for whatever case I had been assigned. Nearly all of this was hardcopy research, although I did get to use one of the first dedicated Lexis/Nexis terminals which was at that poverty law firm.

More recently, I was a content management specialist for Infocus Web Marketing. InFocus deals only with law office websites.

https://www.infocuswebmarketing.com/about/ (external link)

to be continued. . . 

Would you like to know more about writing and editing? I am for hire!

I get the job done without asking or handholding. I won’t bluff my way through if I’m not sure but I take initiative when I am. SEO isn’t my strength — writing and editing is. My old boss is John at inFocus and he will recommend me.

thomasfarley@fastmail.com (e-mail link)

Resources

Some of my writing related to this page (all internal links)

More on Writing for Machines (More on business writing for bots and algorithms)

Do I Need to Repeat Myself? (Business writing must incorporate SEO techniques)

Deeper into SEO (A Berkeley Writing for Social Media course fails)

Who/m are We Writing For? (The end reader today may not be human)

— Non-sponsored video links

SEO Fundamentals. No SEO lead can fully work without ahrefs.

Video and SEO and Rankings.  Interesting but overly optimistic view.

January 3, 2021 update on A/I and spinners

I tried Rytr this morning with poor results despite positive reviews from people I now think are Rytr affiliate members who make money from signups. I asked customer support to show me any website primarily built with Rytr and that I was especially interested in the legal field.

They responded that Rytr shouldn’t be used for “Legal writings” [sic]. Much later they said in broken English, “Rest, we don’t keep a track of where our content is getting used.” In other words, they have no references. Any person or company who is proud of their work or product has references. They don’t.

It remains that I have not seen any website of any kind primarily made with a spin writer. Let’s call these allegedly A/I powered writing programs dead for building web pages and move on. Vaporware.

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Proust and Thinking about Thinking

Proust and Thinking about Thinking

Did anyone ever think more about thinking than Marcel Proust? (internal link)

Or is that the wrong question?

We hold more conversations with ourselves than with anyone else. But do we record them and write them down? Proust detailed his character’s inner monologue to an astounding degree.

He also well described day to day events but we have other authors as good or better at doing that.

From The Sweet Cheat Gone.

“Mademoiselle Albertine has gone!” How much farther does anguish penetrate in psychology than psychology itself! A moment ago, as I lay analysing my feelings, I had supposed that this separation without a final meeting was precisely what I wished, and, as I compared the mediocrity of the pleasures that Albertine afforded me with the richness of the desires which she prevented me from realising, had felt that I was being subtle, had concluded that I did not wish to see her again, that I no longer loved her. But now these words: “Mademoiselle Albertine has gone!” had expressed themselves in my heart in the form of an anguish so keen that I would not be able to endure it for any length of time. And so what I had supposed to mean nothing to me was the only thing in my whole life. How ignorant we are of ourselves.

— translator unknown

From The Guermantes Way:

It has been said that silence is strength; in a quite different sense it is a terrible strength in the hands of those who are loved. It increases the anxiety of the one who waits. Nothing so tempts us to approach another person as what is keeping us apart; and what barrier is so insurmountable as silence? It has been said also that silence is torture, capable of goading to madness the man who is condemned to it in a prison cell. But what an even greater torture than that of having to keep silence it is to have to endure the silence of the person one loves!

Robert said to himself: ‘What can she be doing, to keep so silent as this? Obviously she’s being unfaithful to me with others.’ He also said to himself: ‘What have I done that she should be so silent? Perhaps she hates me, and will go on hating me for ever.’ And he reproached himself.

Thus silence indeed drove him mad with jealousy and remorse. Besides, more cruel than the intangible enclosure, true, but an impenetrable one, this interposed slice of empty atmosphere through which nevertheless the visual rays of the abandoned lover cannot pass. Is there a more terrible form of illumination than that of silence, which shows us not one absent love but a thousand, and shows us each of them in the act of indulging in some new betrayal?

Sometimes, in a sudden slackening of tension, Robert would imagine that this silence was about to cease, that the letter was on its way. He saw it, it had arrived, he started at every sound, his thirst was already quenched, he murmured: ‘The letter! The letter!’ After this glimpse of a phantom oasis of tenderness, he found himself once more toiling across the real desert of a silence without end.

— translator unknown

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Wuthering Heights by Jess Anderson and Hanna Goodall

I never thought of anyone covering Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. Why try? But I just found out that there is a small raft of singers who attempt it.

Kate Bush in the original sings in a key many vocalists can’t reach momentarily let alone throughout an entire song. In that range she was trying to give voice to the central character which is a ghost named Kathy.

Kate once described “that voice” as not her own but Kathy’s. Do you think the song’s tone sounds haunting? Oh, yeah, the ghost. Haunting. You’re getting it now.

I’m sure opera singers can pull off Wuthering Heights but it is amazing to see pop artists try. Two versions, one studio, one essentially street karaoke. Both fantastic.

p.s. Turn on the closed captions!

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More on Writing for Machines

I’ve written many times on SEO (internal link) and how as a writer I feel compromised and sad that today’s most important reader is a machine.

Humans don’t collect their thoughts and organize their tasks the way search engines do. Therefore, we have to alter our own preferences to cater to bots and algorithms. Otherwise, a client will not get on page one when Google returns results. And if they are not on page one then they are invisible.

A two, three, or four hundred page website is commonly built for businesses in extremely competitive markets. Say, an injury attorney in Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego, or Chicago. (A massive web presence responds to massive compettion.)

Given that digital deluge, let me describe the importance of content to the search engines. After all, content is king. Right?

Let’s assume a three hundred page website covering every basic aspect of law in a practitioner’s field, something often done to implement what is called topic authority. Considering this is The Law, most humans would prioritize on keeping any existing page current. Statutory and case law are always changing and a lawyer always wants to be accurate and up-to-date.

Google doesn’t see it that way.

A brand new page with fresh content on a very minor bit of law will drive that site’s statistics upward more than revising an existing, important page. Go figure.

It is a truly weird world when a lawyer goes to trial with the latest cites and yet their website may discuss old cites.

Given the economies of the day, no lawyer has the budget to continually update 300 pages, aside from those inaccurate pages pointed out by real humans.

Instead, that new page on dog bite law for a particular community, say one of 15 in a large metro that the attorney covers, wins out, stat wise, over updating an important page on child custody law. Why?

Because another page on a new topic has been added to that practitioner’s site. Google favors authoritative sources and it considers a website covering every topic niche to be authoritative.

Statistics prove this again and again. It’s not the way any organized business worker works. Yet, here we are, accepting inaccuracy and maintaining digital libraries with out of date books.

You see the results of this whenever you search on a changing topic like fixing a computer glitch. Advice less than six month old is probably worthless or confusing.

That’s because the article came out before the problem was fixed with an update. Or, perhaps a system software redesign leaves you staring at a blank field where the old advice said a critical checkbox should be.

We can time limit Google searches to help out with our own personal searches. But who cleans up the client’s website? Who cleans up the web?

What next?

Resources

Some of my writing related to this page (all internal links)

More on Writing for Machines (More on business writing for bots and algorithms) YOU ARE HERE

What Content Authority Means in SEO and Why it is Important (Discussing fundamentals of a content authority website)

Do I Need to Repeat Myself? (Business writing must incorporate SEO techniques)

Deeper into SEO (A Berkeley Writing for Social Media course fails)

Who/m are We Writing For? (The end reader today may not be human)

Posted in editing writing, non-fiction writing, organizing writing, revising writing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment