Secret Mojo Dumbs It Down for You

August 31, 2006

Putting the squeeze on Katie Couric

Filed under: mediachumps,television — secretmojo @ 2:51 pm

For fun, I decided to morph together the two images of Katie Couric that CBS retouched to make her look skinnier (wait a moment after clicking for animation to begin):

My opinion on this matter is “Save a scalpel: use an airbrush.” And, “Will I ever be able to trust the body fat percentage of news anchors ever again?

However, it’s interesting to point out what changes were made. Let’s forget about the color correction, which is standard. There are some neat tricks here if you look closely.

  1. I had to “squeeze” the original photo horizontally to align the morph. So they squeezed her. Squeezing is an easy technique to take off about 5-10 pounds: resize horizontally at about 98%—if you’re bold, 95%—and no one will notice.
  2. The suit was darkened—everyone knows darker clothes thin you out. Also, it hides some of the photoshopping going on.
  3. Her waist was “taken in” a little. Notice how the negative space under her arms change. Also, the production artist gave her a crisper line in general, without the puffs of the suit.
  4. Most interestingly, check out her neck and her head. It’s very subtle. Notice how her forehead gets bigger while her neck shrinks? My guess is that the skew tool, or something like Squizz was used to squinch up her neck. Also: her chin turns into a pointy “V,” her smile gets wider, and her cheeks get a little highlight to give her some depth.

All of these changes, except the facial mods, can be achieved through the clone and airbrush tools.

Basic stuff, really. So if you adore emaciation the same way t.v. people do, now you know how to get there–without the scalpel or malnutrition.


August 29, 2006

Non-sequitur danger for future historians

Filed under: Knitting,Links — secretmojo @ 7:26 am

What will the archaeologists of 3051 make of this?

Clichés are stolen souls

Filed under: navel gazing,Random Thoughts,writing — secretmojo @ 5:58 am

I like two Bad Things: rhetoric and clichés. Rhetoric because it is large, sweeping, and full of vision—until some pundit uses its power as an elixir to make his shortness taller. And clichés because they are such charmingly pithy phrases that everyone wants to go to bed with them.

Clichés get a bad rap. At birth, they are singularly powerful observations of truth: a blooming awareness in the mind. You can save nine stitches when you spend time on one. Hamlet was being cruel to be kind. And it’s true: the road less traveled is far more interesting. How? Let me count the ways…

But over time and over use, the pith of a once shiny phrase dulls, and we’re left only with the abstract idea, its words a train that delivers thought with no imagery. Overworked and exhausted, this memetic poetry becomes vernacular, hackneyed, “to be avoided.”

Ironically, the better the phrase, the more at risk it is for becoming overused. Sad that the most resonant utterings of mankind get filed under “bad writing” nowadays. It’s not their fault for being superlative! They were well-put at inception; what arrogance makes us believe that we can rewrite “water under the bridge” into something more poetic and sad? For such an “accomplished” playwright, I like to joke, Shakespeare sure did write a hell of a lot of clichés.

To let clichés play with my mind once more, I spent some time over at the Cliché Finder. I know there are better sites out there, but Cliché Finder retains the clunkiness of reader-submitted clichés, and sports a random feature that will throw them at you, ten per fistfull.

It’s instructive to read a cliché out of context, and honor its native essence. Most clichés are born smiling, and rekindling the life back into one is as simple as pressing your imagination into it.

For example. “Throw the baby out with the bath water.” This is terrifying.

“It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye”: is this not as well?

On the other hand (he lifts his left hand for contrast), Cliché Finder hosts some duds (bombs too weak to detonate) as well. Some clichés are entered incorrectly—“Eat your cake and have it, too”?—while some phrases are not clichés at all, but hackneyed jargon, common language, a play on clichés, or famous quotes. “Hunky dory” may be a popular phrase, but it is as much a cliché as “A-OK.” Which is to say, not at all.

So what is a cliché? In its looser sense, cliché could mean anything trite, from horror movie plots to the ubiquitously poached “war.” But I think a proper cliché must a) be a common phrase, and b) still hold wealth inside it. It can delight unsullied, imaginative minds—like those of children—still today: “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”

The creator of The Cliché Finder, Morgan, offers a small treatise on the subject. I’m not sure I’m happy with his definition: “a metaphor characterized by its overuse.” Is “on the other hand” a cliché, then? What makes this phrase any dirtier than “However”, “in contrast,” or “but”? It is a metaphor. It has been overused. But is it really a cliché? I’d like to say “no,” because it has imagery, yet no insight.
It’s a tricky puzzle, defining what a cliché is. But I shall stick with my earlier definition: A cliché is a phrase so charmingly pithy that everyone has gone to bed with it. It can be a quote, but only if people do not use it as such. There can be no attribution, hidden or overt, that remembers the author. “All’s well that ends well” is a cliché. But “making the beast with two backs” is not. A cliché is poetry that has settled amongst the people, powerful beyond its author. Timeless, universal, and offering bon mots, a cliché, when cleansed of its patina of repetition, is free revelation for the masses.

It’s a diamond in the rough. A precious jewel, and—if eaten properly—food. For thought.

August 27, 2006

Deadliest web page on the planet

Filed under: Links — secretmojo @ 2:57 pm

This “Exciting Links” web page sucked hours from my life. Don’t click it.

(But if you are reckless enough to mouse your life away, try “Guess the Google,” and report back in—let’s say—seven hours.)

The Happy Hat is full now.

Filed under: blogging,Blogroll,Knitting — secretmojo @ 12:45 pm

I didn’t want to change my hat layout, especially stripe 7 because of its symbolic value. But I felt I needed to honor Bloglily, who, with one itty bitty post at Best Blog, opened the door for a stampede of knitters that eventually bowled me over so hard that when I came to, I had needles in my hands.

I ‘m also labeling one tassel for Kisknit’s mom, since Kisknit was planning to pass it on to her anyway.


The Fencer Belt: done

Filed under: games,go,Knitting — secretmojo @ 11:51 am

Like Fencer’s writing, this section was executed with poise and grace (though not with the precision—yet). I think I’m getting the hang of it now.


The left-handed needle executes a tricksy riposte and scores a point. Also: White to play and live.

Next up: Firefly’s corn rows.

Blank prose

Filed under: Naked Crunch,writing — secretmojo @ 10:41 am

Bah. Sometimes I suppose a person just can’t write for shit.

Instead, I will dust off one of these old Naked Crunches of mine, trim it up a little, and deliver it without a care.

(warning: disturbing imagery)

Tenderness at the Burgundy Rapture

We’d—meaning Aji and me—let our hairs touch in a game of our own invention, “Laudation,” always carried out secretly at cafés.

In broad daylight was our favorite time to do it. In front of others was even better. Surreptitiously naughty, the back of my arm hair met the electric of hers. With skin apart, feel burned pure.

Exquisite, our table games. Laudation became our secret dialogue. Arms “lackadaisically” positioned upon the table, we projected and received the flow of emotions, mutual admiration, lust and annoyance — all hidden in the prickling of our hairs. We indulged in the varieties of silence, sipping tea and flirting with the language of eye contact, before the window explodes and shards rake through our cheeks.

A wide-open dumbfounded look upon her face: is this really happening? From tenderness to horror in microseconds, we are blasted out of the world. This is our consummation. No marriage, no proposal, plenty of flirt yet no coitus, we lingered too long upon the hope of the future, the backs of our arms never/always touching as we sipped our tea.

But this moment, birthed in anguish by someone who felt wronged, someone who gave herself to God or Jellyfish Ultra, or someone who thought they were saving us from ourselves, serves upon us in sprinkling, tinkling glass burning fresh in burgundy, an end to romance.

Aji’s face splits open in an unnatural twist of flesh.

I regret we never kissed.

Her eye divides in two.

Maybe we’re sideways on the floor. Maybe we’re airborne. Darkness swells about me, confusing my perception. I think, “the politicians will never know the tenderness we delivered today. Instead they will ride our deaths like a horse to power.”

Aji smiles minutely through her facial destruction. She is happy I’m next to her at this moment. I want to smile back, but I have no jaw.

Minutes ago, we teased each other. Which particular body part might our wrinkles grow on first? We expected to die together in old age.

But this day, with all its faults, isn’t so bad.


August 26, 2006

The addiction of progress

Filed under: Knitting — secretmojo @ 4:32 am

Currently: The Fencer Belt

Observation: it is very difficult to type while knitting.

But since the Fencer Belt section of this hat is going so smoothly, I think I’ll set these crack-laced things down and write about something else for a change.

August 25, 2006

See ya at the seam, Section Anna

Filed under: Knitting — secretmojo @ 11:06 am

You may notice, near Las Cruces, a stray strand of Fencer White eager to get in on the action.

Knitting with power tools

Filed under: Humor,Knitting,Power tools — secretmojo @ 5:22 am

[I’m knitting a hat for Made By Hand. And I’m an idiot. Which means you can do it too!]

I think I speak for all the knitting men in the world — because I am all the knitting men in the world — when I ask “where are the power tools?” Where’s the cast-on machine? The skein maker? The gauge measure? Some of these have been made, for sure, but it seems they don’t get much market out there in a woman-dominated craft.

I believe that one of the key differences between women and men is that women can enjoy living within constraints, knowing that being clever and improving technique will remunerate lack. Men, on the other hand, will see possibilities just like women do, but instead of honing skill to create a better product, will build a tool for it. The Chip Clip was invented by a guy, for example. Chicks already knew to use clothespins.

Furthermore, if knitting were a male activity, extensive energy would be dedicated to improving every tangible element of it. Most yarn would contain Kevlar. Computer programs would calculate, via “string theory,” any conceivable pattern. Nanotech (“GrabMaster™”) needles would be all the rage today, advertised like five-bladed razors: a taut, sexy woman touches — ever so lightly — the tip of His needle, gets a tickle, then shines a coy, sensual look at her Chisel-Chin Man, “knitter extraordinaire,” whom, after athletically binding off, she tackles in a fit of primal lust.

To prove that men want (in fact need) more tools for everything, allow me to confess pictorially.

I grabbed a spare pair of chopsticks (free, with food) for research purposes:


As you can see, I’ve cast on about 15 stitches. I’ll use these sticks with straighter yarn to understand the topology of my hat in a more pristine environment.

However, I couldn’t knit very well. First of all, the chopsticks were not sharp enough to dig between stitches. Secondly, the wood kept binding to itself, creating stutter, screwing up my rhythm.



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