Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A tale of three scanners

I've been on a scanning kick lately, converting my thousands of film photos to digital files. It's definitely time to do it: even though I've taken extremely good care of my printed photos, some of them are starting to degrade, especially the really old Kodak Instamatic pics I took in my youth way back in the late 70s.

But getting all of these photos into digital form isn't the easiest task. I've tried it three ways, and all have their plusses and minuses.

My main scanning attempt has been just slapping my printed photos down on my scanner and digitizing them a few at a time. This works pretty well, but it's a slow, laborious process. Scanning at 600 dpi takes several minutes per photo. After that -- since I want the best picture possible -- I spend another 5-15 minutes per photo in Photoshop, removing dust, physical imperfections, etc.

This works, but it's not perfect. Scanning a printed photo is like scanning any piece of paper -- every little imperfection shows up, especially at such high resolution. And of course, it take a hell of a lot of time.

It also costs nothing, so there you go.

But time, as always, is an issue, and I wanted a way to speed things up a bit. A friend of mine recently talked about taking a pile of photos to Target and using the Kodak Rapid Scanner there. This cool device has a sheet feeder that accepts about 20 photos at a time. It scans them pretty darn quickly -- 150 photos took about 45 minutes, maybe less -- and the only cost was minimal: $9.99 to burn all of the photos onto a CD-ROM.

Fast and inexpensive. What could go wrong?

Oh yeah, the scans look like crap. The colors came out faded and distorted and each image is marred by streaks and other electronic noise. Beyond that, the resolution isn't all that great. So this ended up being a terrible, terrible option.

Here's an example of one of the Rapid Scan images:

My third option was, by far, the best, but also the priciest. I have always kept my negatives, so I wondered what it would like to have them scanned directly. I shipped about 200 negs to a company called ScanCafe, which charged (at a sale price) 22 cents per image plus shipping and a few other fees.

The results were astounding. ScanCafe color corrected each scan and the photos look absolutely fantastic. In many cases, they look significantly better than the original, printed photos sitting in my albums.

Here's that same image, as scanned from the negative by ScanCafe.

Granted, this is not the best photo I've ever taken, but it's only one that I scanned through both services, so it's a pretty good comparison.

Again, ScanCafe is not the perfect solution -- it's pricey and it takes a very, very long time. I think it took at least six weeks to get my images back. If I remember correctly, they ship everything overseas for scanning, which isn't ideal. But however they did it, they produced incredible results.

Right now, I'm back to scanning more of my photos by hand, but I'm concentrating on more of the old Kodak Instant images and any pics for which I do not have negatives. I'll definitely try ScanCafe again, as soon as I can scrape up the cash.

What about you? How are you getting your old images into the computer age?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

7 creative updates

1. My poem "Necropsy" appears in the new issue (#115) of the venerable Space and Time Magazine. It doesn't seem to be for sale on their site yet, but here's the cover:

2. Another new poem, "Manscaping," appears in the latest issue (#15) of the sf/fantasy poetry zine, Illumen.

(Both of those poems were sold years ago. Writing is definitely a game of delayed gratification.)

3. I'm posting semi-frequent new sketches and mini-paintings over at the Platt Arts blog. Here's one of my favorites:

4. If you're interested in my journalism (and you should be), I post weekly link compendiums over on the Platt Article Library blog.

(I should probably roll all of these blogs into one, but I think they'll stay the way they are for now. Follow them all!)

5. I'm kinda working on some fiction again. I got a very encouraging rewrite request from a very good editorial team, so I'm thinking about how I can take that story to the next level. It's going to require digging deep into the dark parts of my brain to really make this story sing, so wish me luck.

6. I'm almost done with my next mini-comic. The interiors are all done, so all I need to do now is come up with a title and a cover. And then find a place to print the darn thing (not an easy task in semi-rural Maine). No rush -- I plan to have it ready for the next MECAF in May 2012. I also have probably 75% to 90% of another mini-comic written, and hope to start drawing it soon, again with a six-month completion goal.

7. I'm trying to come up with my creative goals for 2012. So far, I only have one: be creative. I may or may not get more specific than that.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

World Rhino Day

Today is World Rhino Day, and you can read all of my recent Extinction Countdown articles about rhinos here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Website relaunch!

After years and years at Homestead, I have finally moved my site to a new provider (FatCow), which promises to be slightly more with the times in terms of its services and offerings. I still have a lot of work to do to flesh it out, but for now, check out the newly redesigned and rehosted site here:

John R. Platt, Words & Stuff

Monday, July 18, 2011

Art & Book Auction to Support PTSD Awareness

As some of you know, my partner Colleen Crary has founded a non-profit to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Now I'm helping her, by auctioning off some of my artwork and art and books by several other people who have been kind enough to donate their work. Click on the banner to see the auctions. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The world population is expected to hit 7 billion later this year. Quite frankly, that's just scary. That many people means far too few resources for the people of Earth, not to mention the Earth itself.

And so, I'm proposing a cull. It's time to shrink the human mass, and I think it's going to be pretty easy. All we need to do is get rid of the dead weight.

And so, in the interest of Negative Population Growth, I present for you now a list of the people I invite to find themselves another planet. This list isn't complete, but it's a start, so here we go:

  • Everyone who appears on, works on, or made money from 'Jersey Shore'
  • Come to think of it, everyone who lives at the Jersey shore
  • All wildlife poachers, smugglers, bushmeat eaters and rhino horn snorters
  • Rapists, pedophiles, and anyone who ever said “She was asking for it”
  • Linux users (sorry)
  • All failed U.S. presidential candidates
  • All failed 'American Idol' candidates
  • Birthers
  • All Tea Partiers who do not drink tea (iced tea and sweet tea don't count)
  • Anyone who believes that the moon landing was faked, the Earth is hollow, global warming is a fraud, or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is real (look it up)
  • Counterfeiters, online pirates, Somali pirates, and pirate fetishists (I don't know for sure that that last group really exists, but I'm assuming they probably do)
  • All listeners of talk radio
  • (And let's include the talk show hosts while we're at it)
  • Fashionistas
  • Anyone who believes that alien shape-shifting reptile people live among us
  • Any alien shape-shifting reptile people living among us (just to be safe)
  • All kings, queens, dukes, viceroys and people named Earl (except James Earl Jones; he can stay)
  • Parents who teach their kids to be bullies
  • Bosses who teach their employees to be bullies
  • Bullies
  • Slave traders
  • Day traders
  • Critics
  • Haters
  • Litterers (slobs)
  • People who stick their used chewing gum under tables or on movie theater floors
  • Anti-abortion activists (we need less birthing, not more)
  • Randians (I mean, come on, is there a more ridiculous philosophy?)
  • Animal abusers
  • And finally...People who make lists about types of people who need to go

Monday, May 23, 2011

Me at MeCAF

Me and my comics by JohnPlatt
Me and my comics, a photo by JohnPlatt on Flickr.
So here you see my smiling face at the start of Sunday's Maine Comics Arts Festival, table set up, comics and books and art spread out around me, and gallons of caffeine flowing through my veins.

It was my first public event / book signing in a year -- since last MeCAF, in fact. And it was awesome.

Despite the fact that I've been too sick to finish drawing anything in the last few months (thanks, moldy house which will soon be in our rear view mirror), I had a full table of goods to sell: my old books (Die Laughing remains a perennial), four mini-comics, and hundreds of the little sketch cards that you've seen on this blog from time to time.

The other half of my table was taken up by a great new friend, cartoonist Jamie Smith, who recently made the move from Alaska to Maine and is quickly finding the humor of his adopted climate. Jamie's a great gag writer and one funny dude -- he had me laughing all day long.

Attendance at this year's show was fantastic. And they were buying. I sold at least twice as much stuff as last year. Probably fewer comics, to be honest, but more books, and selling the sketch cards (which I gave away last year) was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself.

But the crowds -- even more then spending, they were giving -- wonderful, happy, and joyful to the core. It would be hard to have a bad time in an environment like that.

And of course, putting several dozen cartoonists in the same couple of rooms is a sure-fire way to have a good time. I'm deathly afraid to leave anyone off this list, but here's a shout out to Jen Vaughn, Cara Bean, Matt Smith, Mr. Tim, Robyn Chapman, Dennis Pacheco, Randall Drew, Jesse Durona, Carl Mefferd, Maris Wicks, Colleen Frakes, Jon Chad, Dave Naybor, Mort Todd, Jeff Pert, Mike Lynch, Bob Jinx, and many others.

I also have to thank Rick Lowell and his staff at Casablanca Comics, who put on a helluva show, and the fine folks at Shipyard Brewery, who plied the artists with free beer and pizza on Saturday night.

The only tragedies of the weekend were that I missed chances to chat with too many of the artists because I was always behind my table -- next time, I'm staying a second night -- and that I didn't take enough photos!

Anyway, I'm already looking forward to next year's show. I can hardly wait for the next 364 days to speed by.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This weekend: Maine Comics Arts Festival

It's just a few days now until the third annual Maine Comics Arts Festival, and once again, I'll be there selling copies of my books, comics and sketch cards, including this mini-comic I drew last summer at the Center for Cartoon Studies:

I know, I know, that cover isn't the best example of my artwork. The interiors are much better.
I'll also have 10-year-old copies of Die Laughing, and a bunch of other stuff on hand.

The guest list for this year's show is pretty impressive, including "Big Nate" creator Lincoln Pierce and Any Runton, artist of the wonderful "Owly" graphic novels.

The main event is all-day Sunday in Portland. If you're in the area, stop by and say hi!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

10 new names for 'Global Warming'

One of the biggest reasons so many people don't believe the world is warming is because the terms "global warming" and "climate change" are too weak. If we're going to get more people on board, we need a better name for what's going on. Here are my top ten choices:

  • Catastrophic climate chaos.
  • Weather wackiness.
  • Global oh-crap.
  • Climate we're fucked.
  • Climate change change change change change.
  • Global microwaving.
  • Global baking.
  • The coming cannibalism crisis.
  • Global grand mal seizure.
  • Fuck yeah, climate change!

So, think any of those will do the trick?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's my birthday, and I am blessed many, many wonderful friends around the world. a freelance writing career that means I get to do good every single day. sharing my life with an amazing woman. living surrounded by the beauty of nature. surviving long enough to understand that 42 really is the answer to life, the universe and everything. relatives I love and admire. words that set me free. art. music.
...and by life.

Have a slice of cake today in my honor!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


  • A new place to live (six major floods in four-plus years is six too many)
  • A new client or two (or the promised new jobs from current clients that haven't materialized yet)
  • A hug from an orangutan (any primate will do)
  • A nice shoulder massage (too many hours in front of the keyboard)
  • A Wi-Fi enabled Blu-Ray player (Netflix streaming, baby!)
  • Someone to take some of my comic books off of my hands (more go out with next week's recycling; they're too hard to sell these days)
  • A nice reading lamp (why are they so hard to find?)
  • My dressy coat (it's hiding in a box here somewhere...)
  • Any art by F.G. Cooper (I'm obsessed with this obscure 1930s cartoonist)
  • Time to listen to Robbie Robertson's new album (released today!)
  • Dinner plans for this weekend (you in?)
  • Time to draw my next mini-comic (the deadline for the Maine Comic Arts Festival approaches!)
  • More time to blog (I've got some stuff to get off of my chest!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Other John Platts in History # 2

England's John Edgar Platt (1886 - 1967) was a famed woodblock printmaker. An entire book about his techniques is available online here.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My 10 Least-Favorite Beer Brands

10. Budgieweiser

9. Coors Chocolate

8. Sitting Rock

7. Zima Golden Wheat

6. Tres Equis

5. Corona Average

4. Guiness Clear

3. Sam Adams Summer Sweat Porter

2. Miller Life

1. Thunderbeer

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Places I need to visit

Borneo – I need to see orangutans in their native land...before they're all gone.

Yankton, SD – My dad actually went to college there. But his school went out of business years ago and is now a federal prison. It would be great to see and visit the town, although I'll skip trying to get over the fence onto the old campus.

Australia/New Zealand/Tasmania – More unique creature per inch than most other places on earth, and more politically stable than Madagascar. Win-win.

Acadia National Park – I have lived in Maine more than four years, which means I'm past due to get up there.

Santa Fe – During the annual American Indian Market, of course.

Anyplace my friend, musician Randy Granger, is playing – Randy's music means a lot to me. I want to see him in concert one of these days.

Oz – So what if it doesn't really exist?

Virunga National Park – The only politically unstable area I'd risk going to in order to see an endangered species (in this case, mountain gorillas).

India – I can't narrow down which part of the sub-continent I want to see, but one place on my list is the Gir National Forest, last home to the world's only remaining Asiatic lions. (Are you noticing a trend here?)

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – I've already been there, but I'd like to go back.

Portland and Seattle – If just to check out their comics shops.

San Diego – Gotta visit that zoo.

Where else should I go? I've got cabin fever and need to plan some travel in my mind.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Other John Platts in History # 1

The Hungerford Virtual Museum -- a museum that only exists online but still serves its community of Hungerford, England -- provides the 19th Century history of the area's Platt family, including several generations of brewers named John Platt.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What I'm up to...

A month? A month???? Four weeks since my last blog post here? Bad Platt! Bad!

Oh well, I'll forgive myself. It was a crazy-busy January, made all the more crazy by this really wacky winter we're having. Today pretty much caps it. We have so much snow piled up in front of our front door that there's almost no way to get outside, let alone start shoveling. Oh well, I guess I'll just wait for the snow guys to come in a few hours and let them do most of the work...

So as to the crazy-busy part... work is awesome. Yes, one of my major clients had to cut me loose (tough times), but I did so much writing in January that I didn't even notice it. I turned in at least six major feature articles, including three that will actually be in printed publications -- yes, paper hasn't quite gone out of style yet!

The Extinction Countdown blog had a great month. My story on Tasmanian devils was quoted by dozens of other news outlets. Jeff Corwin named me his "global citizen of the day" for my writing about Borneo's clouded leopards. And several other stories got major linkage on the social networking sites. Not too bad for a topic that is so overwhelmingly depressing.

I also started writing regular news stories for Mother Nature Network, which fits quite nicely into my goal of doing a lot more environmental writing this year. They're a cool outfit to work with, too.

February (all two days of it so far) has involved sending out lots of new pitches to magazines and other publishers. So far this week, I have sent out 11 pitches -- and I have already received one yes and one maybe. I guess I'm doing something right here.

Meanwhile, I'm reading a lot in my free time -- if just so I can get some books out of my "to be read" pile and out of the house if I decide not to keep them. I'm a lot less sentimental about keeping books after three moves in seven years, so I don't feel too bad about letting them go.

(Here's a tip: If you have anything you're not sure you want to part with, take a few photos of it. You'll remember the item, such as a well-loved book, without needing to own it any longer.)

Most of the books I'm parting with are being donated to the local library. A few get listed for sale as used books on Amazon. Sales there aren't great, but they did pay for my new printer a few weeks ago. Every little bit helps, right?

Hmm... you know, that's really about it in terms of what I've been up to. It probably doesn't sound like much, but I've really been heads-down for most of January. February should be a lot more varied and interesting. It has 26 more days to prove me wrong.

Well, I think that's about all of the writing I can do for today. I just might do do some shoveling. Either that or take a nap. Yeah, a nap sounds pretty inviting right about now...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In 2011, I will...

  • Post my resolutions later than most other people (done!)
  • Do good work that I care about (and less that's just about the almighty dollar)
  • Make a difference, in as many ways as possible
  • Write at least 100 articles about endangered species (and if I'm lucky, help contribute to saving a few of them)
  • Draw at least 50 gag cartoons, move my webcomic to a better host, and figure out a way to make a few dollars from my cartooning (or at least the first two)
  • Have an unexpected adventure (but by saying this, am I expecting it?)
  • Turn 42 (eek!)
  • Finally move out of this mold-ridden nightmare townhouse (achoo!)
  • Lose 5 pounds. Or ten. (Or less.)
  • Take 1,000 photographs (which means finding 1,000 new things in the world to photograph)
  • Seek peace, calm, happiness and enjoyment in all things (except those things I'll stay angry about)
  • Probably not write any fiction (except this list?)
  • Try to end the constant pain in my hands (not typing stuff like this would have been a good beginning)
  • Blog more (or not)
  • Take control in all things (because I deserve it)