Christianity, World History

Meet William Wilberforce

Who is William Wilberforce? Moviegoers can now discover the man who led the fight to abolish slavery in the British Empire. Wilberforce inspired Abraham Lincoln and the anti-slavery movement, making him instrumental in ending slavery in the entire English-speaking world. See his story on the big screen in Amazing Grace, or get the rest of the story through Eric Metaxas’ new book Amazing Grace – William Wilberforce & the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery.

Why Amazing Grace? If you’ve ever sung the hymn Amazing Grace, you’ve sung the words of the man who was Wilberforce’s mentor, John Newton.  In the words of Wilberforce’s biographer, Eric Metaxas, in an interview with National Review Online’s Katharine Jean Lopez:

…Newton’s greatest achievement — greater than writing that world-famous hymn — may have been when he advised the newly converted Wilberforce not to leave politics, but to stay there so that God could use him there. It’s to his endless credit that Newton advised Wilberforce that way at such a crucial moment. One might say that it changed the world — and I do.

Watch it. Read it. Do it.

Books, movies, TV

Tracking Down the 'Missing' "Beauty and the Beast" Extras

I ordered the DVD set Beauty and the Beast, Season 1, for my wife for Valentine’s Day – she loved it! And I also love this show (CBS 1987-90). In fact, it was the last network TV show I made a point to watch week after week.

If you’re strictly looking for a first-class presentation of the shows, the DVD set earns every one of the five stars it’s getting from its patient fans at However, to jam six CDs into a standard-size case, a few features we’ve come to expect from recent TV series collections had to go: no DVD extras (not even chapters within an episode!), no cast bios (what has Jay Acovone been up to since the last time he yelled “Radcliffe!”?), and even the episode guide has been relegated to the inside of the DVD jacket (it works, sorta, because the case uses see-through plastic).

So, for everyone who needs more, much more about Beauty and the Beast and the people who made it come to life, some of the best online resources presented for your clicking pleasure:

Beauty and the Beast Central Department

If you’re a newbie to this cult classic, consider’s Beauty and the Beast website. It offers a series summary, cast roundups, episode guides and ratings, and a forum. IMDB’s Beauty and the Beast page offers a cast listing, favorite quotes from the show, trivia, goofs and user comments to fill in gaps in’s coverage. Get a Brit-flavored take on this history of the show at Television Heaven’s Beauty and the Beast page. The Wikipedia entry provides a great series synopsis, extended discussions of the main and major supporting characters, and even one author’s suggested origin for Vincent and other larger-than life characters from other cult-classic TV shows!

Music and the Spoken Word Department

We grabbed the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack Of Love and Hope, featuring music and poetry from the show as read by Ron Perlman (the Beast) when it was first released. It’s available again from Rykodisc – so get your own copy!

B and the B Book Department

Longtime fans might recall a series of novels based on the series. These include Beauty and the Beast and Beauty and the Beast: Song of Orpheus by Barbara?Hambly, Beyond Words, Beyond Silence by Nan Dibble, and Masques by Ru Emerson. All sadly out of print, but available (mostly) via (follow the links), or from other used booksellers.

Prefer comics? Beauty and the Beast: Portraits of Love was a comic book based on the series, written and illustrated by Wendi Pini. It’s available used from many book and comic sellers (follow the link to search Google).

Fan Fiction and Much, Much More

Not only is there a web page for just about everything, there’s probably a webring for just about everything. Check out the Beauty and the Beast Tunnel webring to discover fan fiction, fan art, tributes to actors from the series, and much more.

Books, holidays, movies, TV

Grab Your Remote, Cuddle Up with Your Sweetheart…

…and enjoy some of the most romantic films and TV shows of all time.

Hollywood Classics Department

The Shop Around the Corner. Forget Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail! Discover the original and learn how love can hide in plain sight.

Casablanca. Love for a woman, love for a man, love of country, love of freedom. Find out why everybody comes to Rick’s – and never leaves the same.

Triple-Threat Department

Beauty and the Beast. Whether you prefer the Cocteau, TV, or Disney versions, this classic story reminds every man to prize the beauty in his life and every woman to search for the prince hidden inside the beast.

Cary Grant Department

An Affair to Remember. Take an ocean voyage, plan a trip to the top of the Empire State Building, and along the way discover the connections between human and divine love.

Notorious. She’s a woman with a past looking for love and trust. He’s a man sworn to defend his country – and she’s the perfect weapon.

North by Northwest. It’s a cross-country romance at express-train speed! A Cold War spy thriller! A search for meaning! It – is – North by Northwest.

TV Department

Remington Steele. Invent the perfect detective, and you might be surprised what happens when your invention becomes reality.

Best of Britain Department

Jane Austen series. Love is a serious decision, a fun-filled romp, or sometimes as overblown as a Gothic thriller. Jane Austen knew it, and fortunately so does the BBC.

Lord Peter Wimsey – Harriet Vane series. The titled sleuth faces a double-barreled dilemma when he falls in love with a mystery writer on trial for murder: even if he saves her from the gallows, can they overcome their pasts to create a future together?

Happy Valentine’s Day!


It Isn't the Camera, It's the Method

There’s quite a vigorous film vs digital discussion going on over the Times of London‘s report about Kodak and the future of its film business, as I blogged in my entry “Please Don’t Take My Kodachrome Away…”

Film advocates are busy suggesting that digital photographers aren’t really photographers at all. One commentator put it this way (ellipses mine):

“Digital is all about results, irrespective of how you get there: profligate image taking, preview and delete, then save the lucky shot for Photoshop…When I went digital (briefly) I’d shoot 200 images over a three day vacation and later delete three-quarters of them. When the digital thrill died and I went back to film, I found I was a terrible photographer. And now, slowly, with film, I’m learning all over again what it means to take a photograph.”

The problem here (as is evident from the complete comment in the original Times of London story) is that this photographer abandoned his careful “make every picture count” method when he switched from film to digital and replaced it with a “more pictures are better pictures” approach. However, you can waste three-quarters of your pictures if you shoot with film as well as you can with digital (ask anyone who has ever suffered through looking through unedited packets of pictures fresh from the lab!).

The problem isn’t with digital photography, but in how it’s being performed. Here’s a digest of my approach (based on over 35 years of photographic experience, including about 6 years with digital, and several years of teaching photography):

1. The instant-feedback features in digital cameras (LCD playback, histogram feature in better models, and exposure display in advanced modes) help photographers who know how to use them to get better pictures.

2. I teach my students to evaluate white balance, exposure, mode, cropping, zoom, and histogram and to reshoot immediately with different settings, when necessary, to get better results. In other words, I teach my students to be as careful with digital as with film.

3. I teach my students to review their photos on a computer and pay particular attention to the exposure metadata stored with each photo. This information includes lens zoom setting, f-stop, shutter speed, ISO setting, EV adjustment, white balance, and so forth. By viewing the image and the metadata at the same time, a photographer can learn what makes one shot better than another. What’s even better is that it is no longer to use the camera vendor’s own software to view this information.

Microsoft Windows XP users can download the Microsoft RAW Image Viewer and Thumbnailer to view this information from selected RAW as well as JPEG and TIFF files from virtually any digital camera. Windows Vista and MacOS X users already have the ability to view metadata.

Reviewing metadata helps photographers at all levels shoot better photos. Although I’ve known for years that I ought to write down exposure data, I’ve always been too busy shooting to pull out a notepad and do it. On those rare occasions I did it, I watched picture after picture go by. No wonder I love having metadata at my fingertips!

You can be creative, careful, and methodical or boring, careless, and unsystematic with either film or digital. They’re both valid means of expression, and you can learn to do both well – or badly.


Darwin's Day, or Lincoln's? Why I Vote for the Man from Illinois

By an amazing twist of fate, both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on February 12, 1809. Some celebrate this day as “Darwin Day” (and some churches got in on the act a day early by hosting “Evolution Sunday” services). I prefer to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday, instead.

Whatever the merits of Darwin’s theory of evolution as a scientific theory, its application (some would say misapplication) to human relations as “Social Darwinism” have been highly toxic, leading to eugenics, abortion and sterilization (as a means of removing “harmful genes” from humanity), and even the Holocaust.

Lincoln’s battle against a nation “half slave and half free” (June 16, 1858 “House Divided” campaign speech), on the other hand, was an early blow in the long battle to recognize all peoples of any color as truly human. Even before becoming president and signing the Emancipation Proclamation, he defended the Declaration of Independence’s statement “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” vigorously (July 10, 1858 speech at Chicago).

Who has inspired more good actions and a better humanity? Darwin or Lincoln? In my mind, it isn’t even close.

(H/T to PowerLine)


"Please Don't Take My Kodachrome Away…"

Is the end near for the traditional yellow boxes of Kodak film? According to a story at the Times of London Online, the answer may be ‘Yes.’ While film still has its friends (read the comments on the Times story), film as a business is dropping like a rock thrown off the Empire State Building.

The evidence is everywhere. Every time I go to a store that sells film, the SKUs available are fewer and fewer. Color slide film, still my favorite, is almost impossible to find except at camera stores. Digital cameras are pushing film cameras off store shelves.

But who am I to complain? I’m part of the problem. Like so many photographers, I’m finding the cost of a single roll of film exceeds $10 when processing is included. Do I have a masterpiece or two in those 24 or 36 exposures, or a roll of duds? With film, I don’t know until it’s too late. With digital, I can adjust exposure, white balance or other settings, and fire away, knowing I have the shots I want and need. Consequently, I’m using my digital camera more and my film cameras less – much less. I have my eye on a Canon Digital Rebel XTi, so my existing Canon EOS lenses won’t be orphaned.

If you like film – real film – check your friendly camera store. They’ll appreciate the business, and you’ll appreciate the choices you’ll find there.

Christianity, Holocaust, Judaism, Photography, World History

Meet the "Leicajuden"

The story of how Ernst Leitz II, son of the founder of the world-famous manufacturer of the Leica camera, smuggled Jewish employees to new lives in America, rivals the story of Schindler’s List in its compassion and ironies. Leitz, whose father had been groomed to become a Protestant pastor, learned compassion from his father’s humanitarianism and practical Christianity, and found a new venue for that compassion when Hitler rose to power in the 1930s. The manufacturer of the camera used to capture images that glorified the “Master Race” subverted that propaganda by smuggling Jewish employees to new lives in America’s optical industry.

Read the whole story, including why it’s taken so long for the world to learn of this ‘righteous Gentile,’ in Mark Honigsbaum’s interview with Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith, whose painstaking amateur detective work pieced together the story, in “New life through a lens” at the Financial Times website. Frank Dabba Smith’s 2002 article “Ernst Leitz of Wetzlar and Altruism During the Holocaust,” (MS Word format) provides additional documentation for the amazing story of what I refer to as the “Leicajuden.”

Learn more about what historians have called the “Leica Freedom Train” from photographic historian George Gilbert’s article at and his 2004 presentation for the Photographic Historical Society of Canada.

(H/T to