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Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on September 23, 2013 in Personal with Comments closed |

Welcome, traveler. Thank you for visiting. Now take a few minutes to browse, to enjoy and show that you were here with a comment!

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Copyright: Who Owns That Building Right There?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on July 2, 2015 in Photography |

Copyright is, at the best of times, a complicated subject fraught with problems for the layperson and pitfalls for both copyright owners and those who wish to use an image, an extract, an item for a specific purpose. In theory everyone knows that a photograph, taking just one example, is copyrighted, even if they do not necessarily know who to or for how long. The copyright of a photograph, unless specifically sold or licensed to a third-party, belongs to the photographer.

It is much the same with a book or a magazine article. You can read on the reverse title page who owns the copyright and, with a quick search through your favorite Internet service find out not only how long the copyright is good for – fifty, seventy-five, one hundred years after death – but whether the person holding the copyright is still alive and, perhaps, even where they happen to live. If not, the reverse title page also happens to mention who the publisher of a work is, and they can help too should anyone wish to ask questions about using an item copyrighted to another person or entity.

St Paul's Cathedral, London

Photo Source: ZitzitouneCreative Commons

Those are simple examples, ones where there is really no excuse for a person not to ask permission, not to be able to find out who holds the rights for a work. The law, however, does not make anything simple, especially when it comes to second level copyright. This is what I call the reproduction of a copyrighted image within another copyrighted image. Zitzitoune’s work ‘Lonelyness’ is a perfect example of this, although what exactly I mean by second level copyright might be harder to fathom since there are no brand names here, no textual infringements, no other images hung on the walls and – to take us a small step further – no clear facial details which could infringe privacy laws.

If the European Union, in whatever form, accepts a certain new piece of legislation covering copyright, the above image, when used in a commercial context, would infringe copyright. Even if the photographer uses it on their own commercial web site.

And still we’re not sure what it is that could be infringing copyright? If we were in Paris, at night, directly underneath the Eiffel Tower and snapped a shot of its lights, then uploaded the results to our Facebook page, we would be infringing copyright. The lights on the Eiffel Tower are considered a work of art, have a specific form, and may not be reproduced on a commercial site without appropriate permission and, I do not doubt, the payment of a fee. What this change in law could mean for photographers is that every single architectural work falls under copyright laws, and permission must be sought for all commercial reproduction.

Let that sink in for a few moments while you look at London’s skyline as seen from the Tate Modern.

Now, does anyone know who designed and built all the smaller buildings around St. Paul’s Cathedral or, perhaps, the current address for Sir Christopher Wren? Just in case anyone decides that my production of this Creative Commons image here breaches commercial laws since, as anyone can see, I sell my works commercially in the menu on the right of your screen…

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Cruz: This Explains Everything

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on July 1, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

Just in case anyone didn’t catch it, this is what Ted Cruz said to Sean Hannity following the Supreme Court decisions on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and marriage equality:

Ted Cruz: Today is some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.

Which begs the question: was he paying attention while the decision was made, when the announcement went public, or was he doing something else?

Screenshot Source: Huffington Post Politics / Twitter

And a little personal comment which I would like to throw in, to meet with his marriage equality sentiments and the darkest days of American history: was it one-man-one-woman pornography, or did you slip into the dark realm of lesbian pleasures, gang bangs and bukakke?

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Creation: The Ultimate Proof?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 30, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

I had the dubious pleasure, a few days ago, of overhearing a conversation about the ultimate proof that there is a God or, if you will, a god. It was delivered by a middle-aged woman to a man, who clearly had no interest whatsoever, but played along just for the ride. In essence it began with the premise that evolution takes a being and makes it perfect by adapting the evolving entity into its environment. Clearly evolution cannot be a fact of life – although many things do adapt to their environment – because evolution has not managed to create a human being who uses the entire capacity of its brain. If evolution really was a thing, the human would use their entire brain capacity. And it is clear, as a subsection to the argument, that evolution cannot exist simply because scientists have only found one set of bones from a theoretical ancestor of man (Lucy), but none of them are capable of dating these remains precisely. With creation it is clear exactly when man was created, because the Bible tells us when, where and how.

I do not doubt for one moment that anyone reading the argument as it stands will be able to rip it to pieces without a second thought. The only problem, though, is that no matter how much proof a sane, logical-thinking person may bring out, it will never be enough to convince. Those who have read the Bible and believe it simply cannot bring themselves to believe anything else, whether out of limited brain capacity, fear or for any other reason.

The Bible, Corrected And Accepted

Photo Source: ShellyCreative Commons

The Bible can be used for many arguments, and for both sides of an argument. I recently read someone refuting the LGBT argument that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. He refuted it succinctly and correctly by quoting from the Bible. What surprised me was the manner in which he was answered. Someone wrote back to him that he was quoting from the Old Testament. It came across to me that this person believed in God’s Word, the Bible and all that goes with it, but only those bits which fit, and then only the New Testament. Surely, I thought, the Bible is a complete entity; you cannot just pick out those bits which appeal, or which fit in with your own point of view and discard the rest.

Here I am clearly wrong, because that is precisely what people do. They pick out, they sort through, they discard, they ignore. It’s rather like someone saying that they know a certain piece of legislation is the law – think Texas AG Ken Paxton here – but it doesn’t apply to them, only to everyone else.

It’s not just that. This woman, convinced of her creationist views, believed the story of Adam and Eve wholeheartedly, but discarded other sections of the Bible. She was quite happy to wear clothes made of mixed materials, to go out without covering herself from head to foot and, in all probability, commit any number of sins – according to the definition of either the Good Book or those who write the wide-ranging interpretations according to their own whims.

For many who try to combat this creation theory with arguments which can be easily understood, the paintings from the Middle Ages – a time of great repression from the religious side – can be used quite effectively. Or, at least, they believe so. Why, I have heard people ask, if God created Adam and Eve, does Eve have a belly button?

Easy enough to refute: the painters took live models and simply painted what they saw. No proof whatsoever.

There is another question, though, which might work better. Adam, according to the story, was created first. It was not initially planned that he be replicated, that there be an Eve, let alone any offspring. Eve came as a second thought when this god who created him discovered that he was lonely. Since he was all alone, without the prospect of children and with everything he needed to remain alive – although he was, back then, before Eve offered him a piece of fruit everyone claims to be an apple, immortal – and since man is a direct descendant of Adam, created in God’s Own Image, why do men have nipples?

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Texas: Fighting A Losing Battle

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 29, 2015 in News & Opinion |

There is a saying that the battle may be lost (or won) but the war is not over, and it is exactly this fact of life which many people in the United States should take to heart. The Supreme Court may have the final word on same-sex marriage as far as the law goes, but there are always loopholes someone will seek out, always people who will not accept.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appears to be one of these people. He seems to think that he can get around the Supreme Court ruling by citing religious freedom, by telling his clerks that they can refuse a marriage license if they feel that issuing one impedes their Right to religious freedom. That is, if a clerk feels that their religious freedom is of greater importance than the civil rights of another person.

The two things are clearly miles apart. What the Supreme Court has ruled is that two people of the same gender may get married. What they have not ruled is that this marriage can take place in a church building or as part of a religious ceremony. Their ruling impedes on no religious freedoms whatsoever, and does not change Church law. It allows consensual civil unions under civil law for same-gender couples.

Supreme Court Ruling

Photo Source: Russell MondyCreative Commons

Another loud voice is that of Rand Paul who seems to be demanding that government should get out of the marriage business. He doesn’t want his Right to guns or his Right to form a (marriage) contract decided in Washington DC. He seems to feel that the Supreme Court decision is just the beginning of the end for marriage and that, given enough time, someone in government will manage to get other forms of marital contract approved – perhaps he’s hinting at incestuous marriages, the idea has been floated so often.

Just to be clear, an incestuous marriage could well be a contract between a man and a woman, who happen to be closely related. Isn’t the fact that a man and a woman, under the old form of law, could marry much more likely to bring marriage of a man and a woman who are closely related with it than the civil union of same-sex couples?

What Paul seems to have forgotten here is that removing the government involvement – which would mean that the license need not be issued by a clerk, but by a pastor, a deacon, a member of some religious order – brings one or two other problems with it. For the established religions, couples would find themselves severely restricted in who they could take as a partner. Do they have the same religion – as in: both Roman Catholic, both Latter Day Saints and so on – or even the same branch of the same religion? Are both virgins, and can they prove it? Has one or the other been married before and is now divorced?

With the smaller religions, and there are literally hundreds registered in the United States, we could well see polygamy coming back in to fashion. How about the old (in the Bible) tradition of a man marrying his brother’s wife should the brother die?

Each religion has its own rules about marriage, and it is only the civil involvement – the fact that people do not have to be married in a church building, through a religious ceremony – which keeps marriage active at all. How many marriages would simply not exist if only the Church were allowed to approve this binding contract?

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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The Darkest Days Of Humanity

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 27, 2015 in News & Opinion |

It is hard to believe that some count the last hours as being the darkest ever. I do not mean in a natural light sense – sunlight, daylight saving time and all that – but in the sense of a set back for the human race, a turnaround in the wrong direction, a return to the days of cave dwelling and moral darkness. The United States of America, thanks to a clear and very public ruling by the Supreme Court, now officially has same-sex civil unions or, as some people wish to call it, marriage for homosexuals. This, apparently, is what will bring the End Times, the Wrath of God – or whatever – down upon our heads, and not rape, torture, terrorism, adultery, incest, blasphemy, idolatry – the alternate list is almost endless.

In what could be called the darkest week for (some) Americans, the Supreme Court has ruled on medical insurance, equality and many other subjects – directly or through clear relationships and follow-up legislation which will have to come – and damned the prospects of those who would limit the freedoms of ordinary Americans; who would split the country into rich and poor; who would allow money to decide who can live and who must die. For everyone else, for those who see the benefits and civil advancement caused by these decisions – which should have been seen and accepted as civil rights decades ago – it has been a week of blessings, of light, and of relief.

Slowly but surely, the United States is catching up with the Old World, the outdated world, with those who were meant to be left behind so many years ago. Slowly the USA is nearly parity with Europe in medical, democratic and civil rights, and pure quality of life.

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The Beauty Of Bureaucracy

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 20, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

A politician in Germany recently lamented the fact that his country is now being seen as the strike center of Europe, far worse than Italy and France where strikes are a set and permanent part of the negotiation process. The latest strike to hit us is that of postal workers, who are claiming a right to higher pay by using their legitimate right to strike.

A strike, however, is not just a strike, there are small facets which only gradually come to light, which tend to be hidden from view by those – on one side or the other – who do not want their position to be made any worse than it already is. One of these is that not every postal worker is on strike, whether as a matter of freewill or not, since many are civil servants, back from the days when the postal service was government-owned, and are legally bound not to strike. Then there are those who are employed by the post office, but do not work for the post office; they work in smaller companies as a cheap version of the big picture.

Deutsche Post

Photo Source: J. TriepkeCreative Commons

And then there are those who are sent out to the sorting and distribution centers to find certain packages and ensure that they are delivered, such as those from Amazon. The German post is contractually bound to provide a delivery service, and clearly the possibility of a strike, a prevention by union action, is not within that contract.

Other companies, and most certainly private people, are not quite so lucky. They have to trust that their post will hit the right center, where people are working, or that there will be a worker who is prepared – or must – handle their delivery from one of the other companies. That is the way it is for me at the moment: I receive an order for a book and am bound to send it out, but cannot guarantee that it will get to its destination within a reasonable period of time.

This time factor is a great worry for some companies who are bound by time limits. A medical educational firm, which specializes in organizing exchange programs around the world, has applied for an injunction against both the post office and the union to ensure that their application forms are delivered, otherwise many students will not gain their places in the program and lose a great deal of educational experience as a result. As I understand it, the courts have granted the injunction, the post office must deliver these packages and letters.

The injunction is a written order, a verbal one is not legally binding in Germany, and, as such, has to be delivered to the post office. The court has, therefore, put the injunction in an envelope and stuck it in the post….

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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My Internet Superpower Should Be…

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 18, 2015 in Photography |

The first thing I thought when I saw this photograph on Flickr’s Explored today was: I wish I had taken this. I wish I was the person standing behind the camera who was able to capture this single image, this moment in time forever. For me, as a very inexperienced photographer, it has everything that I want to be able to find, to hold on film.

St Ann's Square

Photo Source: Tim BrockleyCreative Commons

I guess I’m just going to have to get out there more often and try, hope, experiment, take chances. It’s not just luck which brings such photographs, but also speed, thought and care. And patience, all you digital photographers out there – although this is a digital image from, according to Flickr, a Nikon D5300 – patience and the willingness to wait, to watch, and to wait some more.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Trade: Stating The Obvious

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 13, 2015 in News & Opinion |

Before I even start: I am not a political person, much of what happens in politics, regardless of which country you choose in the democratic world, will happen no matter which political party happens to be in power. If it make sense for the country, or their ideal of a country, they will try to push it through.

This caught my eye and, I do not doubt, will probably catch the eye of anyone else who can see how easy it is to re-write, to adapt. You can look behind the words too, and see another meaning, one which the Chinese could quite easily use to their own benefit.

Trade Rules

Screenshot Source: Twitter / Mark Knoller

Are the Americans not writing these trade deals, these rules to benefit their own workers too? Are these trade rules not designed to help businesses work on a global scale with one another, but without any detriment to the countries involved?

It would be exactly the same if someone had tweeted:

Xi Jinping warns that if China doesn’t write the trade rules, “countries like the United States of America will write those rules” to benefit their workers.

In the end it comes down to exactly the same thing.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Man In The Shadows

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 10, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

Not many people get to celebrate it, and certainly not many people have their birthday mentioned in the news media around the world. Prince Philip, Prince Consort, the Duke of Edinburgh (and so on) is ninety-four years old.

The only reason that I mention this, since I have nothing to do with the British royal family and this is not, for me, a particularly special birthday, is because of the wonderful description in the local newspaper which, I suppose, could describe so many marriages in modern times.

Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh

Photo Source: Michael Gwyther-JonesCreative Commons

The dpa (German press association) sent out a general news item for all the local newspapers to print, should they so wish or if it happened to be a slow news day. As it happens, my local newspaper took up the story and, along with a photograph of the Prince wearing a grey top hat, printed the text exactly as received.

What I love about it is that the fact of their marriage – sixty-eight years – is brought out as the second part of a sentence. The first, if you believe all the stories about their marriage, the ups and downs, the problems between them – hearsay, of course – and the many branches of their family, seems to sum up what many people believe the Prince to be: merely a consort, someone in the background, a man in the shadows. Of course, if you also read the many stories about what he has said in public, about the many times he has really put his foot in it, you’d be hard pressed to believe that he really is just a man in the background.

The dpa opened their sentence describing the Prince as a man who has been in ‘contact with his wife’ for seventy-five years. They could have termed it better but, then again, perhaps they hit the nail on the head too.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Bargaining Powers

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 9, 2015 in Photography |

Sometimes you can have all the luck in the world, sometimes it is a clear case of bargaining against the odds to get what you want for the best possible price. In my case, over the last few weeks, it has been a bit of both, and my photograph today shows the results: two new – to me – cameras at a price even I can afford. Both of them, I hasten to add, are in perfect working order, and both came from the flea market on Schlachte in Bremen.

For the Yashica there was no need to use any of our famed bargaining powers. I made an offer considerably less than the price the woman behind the table wanted which, as it was beginning to rain and the selling day was drawing to an end, was accepted without a word. I had already done my comparisons through the Internet – which I tend to do so that the seller cannot see whether I have any background information or not – and with roughly twenty-five Euro just for the winder on eBay, I think I came out of the deal reasonably well, paying eight Euro for the whole thing.

Yashica FR with Winder and Daci

Photo Source: Viktoria Michaelis

The Daci was something else, and I must admit that I did not end up buying it at all. I communicated my offer a few weeks ago to the Syrian man standing next to a spread out bed sheet by the river Weser. I thought ten Euro would be quite a good price, and that was also the offer price on eBay for another Daci. The offer price, as the man so rightly pointed out, is only the starting price – which I knew because there were plenty of other Dacis on sale at between fifty and seventy Euro. It was also fairly early in the day, that time, and we wanted to get on and see a few other things, not just the market. I must add, one of us is not so keen on photography and cameras as the other; I hardly need mention which one!

Two weeks went by and the man was by the river again, the camera was still there, and he still wanted fifty Euro for it. No bargaining possible – although I did try to make my Love put more enthusiasm in the verbal side of the bargaining – he claimed to have paid twenty-five for it, and wouldn’t go below thirty-five or even forty.

Saturday. The sun was blazing down in Bremen as we wandered along the Schlachte, looking at the reduced flea market, cut down in size by the laying of new water pipes along half its length. There were four of us this time and, although I was tempted, I made a point of hurrying by the Daci, sitting there all forlorn with its case and no one to buy it and give it a good home. I’m sure the seller, if he even remembered me, didn’t see my furtive glances.

The idea is, perhaps, not a new one, but it is the first time I’ve used it. I bought the camera through a fairly simple form of trickery, something people may well say I shouldn’t be proud of, but I am nonetheless. And they would be too, if they had done it. One of our group was an eleven year old girl who, shy and unsure of whether she would be able to pull it off, went and made an offer to the seller. He turned her ten Euro bid down. I had expected this. I also expected her next bid to be turned down too: she should claim that she only had fifteen Euro, her entire pocket-money for the weekend.

So, I now own a Daci too…

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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