Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Gardener In Moonlight

This is one of the simplest little tunes I’ve ever posted. But I’ve enjoyed playing this seemingly all out-of-proportion to its simplicity. To my ears the simple tune takes on different characters just by making slight changes to the steady rhythm, or the phrase that rises from C to A. And it is easy to add harmony using chords with the melody notes in the treble or just using a straight progression starting or ending on a melody note. And it’s easy, too, on keyboard to create a split and alternate the simple melody between two voices. I enjoyed most, I think, using a very synth sounding voice to start each little phrase and a flute to finish off the phrase.

I made up this little melody on guitar, then moved to keyboard. I noticed then when I went back to guitar it was even more fun, maybe because I was more familiar with the intervals and I can play so much more freely on guitar.

I’m a fan of arranger keyboards, as compared to synthesizers that are more focused on crafting particular sounds. It has always seemed to me—and it continues to seem to me—that what a musician does with sounds is much more important than the particular sounds themselves.

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #1

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #2

But I wonder.

I wonder if a particular melody might be like what a painter calls a “motif,” and although a painter may paint a particular motif in many different ways depending on, say, the light at a particular time of day or the painter’s mood, if the painter is at all realistic there always will be some discernible underlying similarity visible from variation to variation of the images of the same motif. It’s remarkable, for instance, comparing Cézanne’s paintings to photographs of his motifs—it’s almost always reasonably easy to see what Cézanne started from.

So I wonder if any given melody might have some particular sound or sounds which bring out and emphasize the very basic nature of the melody itself.

I’m a sucker for cool advertising and when I see images like this (speaking of “Motif” this image is from the anniversary brochure pdf}—

—when I see images like this I get to thinking that a sound-oriented synthesizer might be a great deal of fun for exploring that question: Does a melody have a particular defining nature that is separate from the mood or intention of the musician playing the melody? And, if so, it would be fun exploring the process of discovering the sounds that seem to “work best” for a given melody, the sounds which seem to emphasize the underlying nature of the melody, if a melody has such a thing as its own underlying nature separate from the musician arranging and playing it.

I like that particular image because there’s a guitar in the background and a computer on the desk, and there’s the synthesizer workstation as a tool that works well with those other tools.

It’s like a mad scientist’s laboratory and it only takes up one corner of a room.


I’ve always been uncomfortable with distance as a literal thing. I like staying in Chicago. I love Lake Michigan.

But I’ve always been interested in distance as a figurative thing. Traveling to the stars with binoculars or telescopes. Traveling into music with capable instruments and tools. Traveling into hearts and minds with reading and writing.

I strongly suspect that just as these “figurative” distances have a metaphoric relationship (or a metonymy relationship) to real distance, in a somehow comparable way there is a third reality that has a corresponding relationship to the figurative.

I strongly suspect there is something that is abstracted away from figurative distance in a similar way that figurative distance is abstracted away from real physical distance.

Mad scientist stuff. But for real. And something like the opposite of making monsters. Rather it’s something like discovering what human is.

Seems to me it’s stuff worth doing.


And, of course, it’s always fun, too, making up lyrics that go with melodies, turning them into songs. Scientists keep notebooks, I’m guessing even mad scientists do. Lyrics maybe are a mad scientist keeping track of his or her experiments in their notebook. These lyrics are what I wrote in my notebook after experimenting with the simple melody above:

Stars above
gardens and
gardeners in

enjoying the
evening because
soon enough
morning will

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Is Love? 8—Mandy Moore’s Guitar Case

In this cool photo of cool Mandy Moore
she’s wearing her guitar like a backpack.

That backpack arrangement for her guitar
is called a “gig-bag” and is popular
with younger musicians. I’ve never seen
Keith Richards or Jeff Beck wear their guitar.

When I was first starting guitar lessons
students had soft cases and hard cases
and the consensus was that hard cases
protected guitars more than soft cases.

Soft cases cost less. The social divide
among young players many years ago
was that working musicians who played gigs
could afford to buy the best protection
for their guitar so they bought a hard case
and students and less successful players
got by with an inexpensive soft case
because they didn’t get money from gigs.

In the way of the world now soft cases
are called “gig-bags” and working musicians
now cultivate an image of hipness
of being an independent artist
not answering to a corporation
by getting photographed with a soft case
a fashion statement now called a “gig-bag.”

At first I thought guitars must feel safer
with a hard case protecting their tuners
those six little knobs that set string tension
at the pointy-end of the guitar’s neck.

Then I thought maybe guitars feel more loved
being strapped up against a player’s back
and maybe getting extra attention
from the player to protect their tuners.

I don’t know. And I’ve tried to think this through
for years. That photograph is five years old.

When it’s not in use a soft case folds up
and is easy to store just on a shelf
but you have to find space for a hard case
even if there’s not a guitar in it.

I don’t know. And I’ve tried to think this through
for years. That photograph is five years old.

I asked my guitar and my guitar said:

If you play me forever and never
put me down the issue just goes away

Love is a mystery. Although guitars
have one answer. And it’s a good one too.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I remember seeing that photograph
when it first made the media rounds.
I really have been thinking about it
for something like five years.
I found the photo now at an old blog post:

Mandy Moore: 'It' Girl Turned Hipster Chick


What Is Love? 7—“Beyond Apollo”

What Is Love? 6—Broadway Diamond

What Is Love? 5—Godzilla

What Is Love? 4—Forbidden Love

What Is Love? 3—Gorilla My Dreams

What Is Love? 2—Ayn Rand

What Is Love? 1—The Mole People

Mandy Moore In Traffic

Leaving Mandy Moore

Gain Joyful Expressions

Unrequited As A Cosmology

The Once And Future Mandy Moore

Monday, May 20, 2013

Second Chances In The Plum Rains

Today’s post is a kind of afterword to two posts from last week.

Cynthia Lennon In The Plum Rains

People As Albums Of Inside-Out Songs

This post is not about the Beatles, but it is one final comment on Cynthia Lennon’s autobiography, “John.

That book has become more interesting to me after I read it than it was while I was reading it.

While I was reading it I was mostly thinking that she wasn’t really sharing any new stories. And that’s true. There wasn’t much new in there that Beatles fans didn’t have access to in other books.

But after I read Cynthia Lennon’s account—and if we can believe the front-matter she wrote the book herself, without a co-writer—I was really touched by many of the things she did say, and I became more and more interested thinking about how she said things and why she picked certain things to say.

And her final words are interesting to me, too.

On the very last page of the book, after having described her whole life, before John, during John and after John, she gives thanks for the good things, like her son Julian and her childhood friends, but then she concludes:

"But the truth is that if I'd known as a teenager what falling for John would lead to, I would have turned round right then and walked away."

I’m a talkative person. In my life I’ve talked to a lot of different types of people—I mean things like education backgrounds, economic backgrounds, social backgrounds. I have heard sentiments like this far more often than I’d ever have expected and from every “type” of person imaginable.


Some aspects of life are so difficult to understand, almost inconceivable, that even if you try, struggle, with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind to understand what is happening to you and around you, by the time you figure it out, if you figure it out at all, it can be too late to even hope for a second chance. Because your whole life will be behind you. And you will have been completely shaped by the life you lived.


For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the kind of person who, if given a second chance, almost always just makes the same mistakes all over again. Or some variation of the same mistakes.

So I admire people who can learn quickly from their errors and make significant corrections and seriously improve. Because I usually can’t.

That being said, at the same time I admire people, too, who work out a course of action in the abstract, and then set out to make their vision real. And keep trying and keep trying and keep trying.

The issue, I think, is that it’s good to be tenacious but it’s bad to be stubborn, and it’s not always clear where to draw the line.


Recently I made up this joke:

Britney Spears walks into a bar. To her right she’s holding hands with Ludwig van Beethoven. To her left she’s holding hands with William Shakespeare. The bartender says, “Wow, Britney, with Beethoven to write music for you and Shakespeare to write lyrics for you, your next album might be the greatest album ever.” And Britney says, “Uh, yeah, and working with both of them they’ll buy me twice as much beer as just one would!”

The time I spent thinking about that is time I’ll never get back. I’ll never get a second chance to use that time more constructively. And even if I did, I know I wouldn’t.


I’m going to conclude this post with my favorite bit of TV drama, melodrama really, about the issue of second chances. It’s a transcript of a scene from the old British TV show “The Prisoner.”

If I can trust my memory and the Blogger search utility—and, really, I don’t much trust either one but the combination is the best I have right now—I have quoted that old TV show twice here at the blog.

A Little More Venus Talk

Music At The Garden’s Edge

I’m going to stop quoting old TV shows (and, in fact, TV shows entirely) but I want to do this one last quote because it will wrap up my interest in “The Prisoner,” and because I’ve wanted to do this particular quote for a long time and now I finally have a post talking about second chances.

This is from an episode called “Schizoid Man” and that episode is one of the most complicated bits of writing in that series which was full of down-right Byzantine complexity. (I’m not going to embed the whole episode here, it’s almost an hour long, but the whole episode is available at YouTube: The Prisoner: Schizoid Man. The scene from today’s post starts at the 45:33 mark.)

The story—in very quick overview—is about Number 2 trying to drive Number 6 insane by first subjecting him to behavior modification and drugs which change some of his habits and then bringing in an agent, “Curtis,” who is an exact physical double for Number 6 and who has practiced mimicking Number 6’s personality, and his mental skills and physical skills in every way.

Also there is a woman from the Village, Number 24, who has become friends with Number 6 because she and Number 6 realized they have a mild kind of low-level telepathic bond. They can’t read each other’s mind, but they can, often and inexplicably, make the same guess or make the same choice or just randomly work in unison without explicitly coordinating their actions. And, more simply, they can just “feel” each other’s presence.

Number 2 confronts Number 6 with “Curtis” and accuses Number 6 of being an imposter. As Number 2 “proves” to Number 6 he isn’t who he thinks he is, Number 2 documents Number 6’s old habits which are now changed (Number 6 has no memory of the behavior mod program that changed his habits) and “Curtis” is able to best Number 6 at all of Number 6’s mental and physical challenges (Number 6 is weakened from the drug treatments) and, finally, Number 2 brings in the telepathic woman. She is able to perform her telepathic link with “Curtis” but not with Number 6 (viewers then realize that the telepathic woman, Number 24, really is an agent working with Number 2).

As the plot unfolds, through complications and his skills, Number 6 is able to recover his memory, defeat “Curtis” and manipulate Village security into killing “Curtis” thinking he was really Number 6.

So, getting to the end, Number 6 has assumed the identity of the agent who had been brought in to assume his identity. As Number 6 impersonates “Curtis” he is driven by Number 2 to the airfield where he will be allowed to fly away in a helicopter. Number 2 goes off for a moment to talk to someone. Number 6 discovers that the telepathic woman, Number 24, is waiting for him there at the airport. She confronts him, alone. Because of their telepathic bond, she realizes, of course, that he isn’t “Curtis,” and Number 6 knows, too, that she sees through him.

Will she turn him in?

Number 24 and Number 6, impersonating “Curtis,” have this wonderful exchange by the helicopter:

NUMBER 24: “I’m ashamed of what I did to No. 6 yesterday.”

NUMBER 6: “Why are you telling me?”

NUMBER 24: “Everyone has to tell someone.”

NUMBER 6: “It was your job.”

NUMBER 24: “It was a betrayal.”

NUMBER 6: “Isn’t everything we do here a betrayal?”

NUMBER 24: “It’s not often one gets a second chance.”

NUMBER 6: “There are no second chances.”

NUMBER 24: “There are, sometimes, for the lucky ones. If I had a second chance, I want you to know that I wouldn’t do it again.”

And as Number 2 returns, Number 24 simply turns and walks away. She’s true to her word, and having been given a second chance, she doesn’t betray Number 6 again.

(Number 2, however, discovers Number 6’s ruse by asking him a question only the real “Curtis” could know and as Number 6 is flying away in the helicopter, Village security apparently contacts the pilot and the helicopter turns around and brings Number 6 back. Number 6 remained a Prisoner in the Village.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Pumpkin Are Free

“Now I Dream Of The Plum Rains”

Friday, May 17, 2013

People As Albums Of Inside-Out Songs

Strangely, the Sergeant Pepper album originated with a song which was never on it, “Strawberry Fields.” That November John came into the studio, and we went into our regular routine. I sat on my high stool with Paul standing beside me, and John stood in front of us with his acoustic guitar and sang the song. It was absolutely lovely. Then we tried with Ringo on drums, and Paul and George on their bass and electric guitars. It started to get heavy—it wasn’t the gentle song that I had first heard.

George Martin
from “All You Need Is Ears”

She yawned. She wasn’t much interested
in anything I was talking about.

“I didn’t like any of them,” she said,
“not the pretty one or the angry one
or the other two. From what their wives say
I didn’t miss much. Skipping all of them.”

“Their music shaped generations,” I said.

She laughed. At least she was interested.

“Did you know,” she asked, “John’s demo version
of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ was him
just on acoustic guitar and singing?”

I told her I thought I’d read that somewhere.

She laughed again. She said, “Just imagine
if Red Bull existed back then and John
had been fueled by the sugar and caffeine
and had gotten all fighting mad angry
and had insisted on using that track,
singing solo to acoustic guitar.
Music today might have a different shape.”

I thought, they liked doing something different.

And I thought, they liked experimenting.

What if they had used all their influence
to change music that way, to make it good
instead of making it about machines?

She laughed and interrupted my thinking.

“I can play you like a guitar,” she said.
“And when you think all of your thoughts project
onto your face something like inside-out.
I can watch them something like a movie.”

I said, “Can you see what I’m thinking now?”

She said, “Are you thinking that in the days
before the Beatles they would burn witches?”

I said, “You should be grateful to the boys.
They changed history. Count your lucky stars.”

She looked at me. I couldn’t figure out
even one single thought she was thinking.

She said, “Just think, back when they burned witches
people would know witches were being killed.
Do you believe witches now don’t get killed?
Wasn’t it better when everyone knew,
when the fires were so bright they blocked the stars?”

I said, “I can’t tell if you are talking
because you have something to say, or if
you just like watching my expressions change.”

“So what?” she asked. And she smiled, shrugged and laughed.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cynthia Lennon In The Plum Rains

I don’t have much today, but I have a little thing that has been causing me a lot of thought.

When something happens unexpectedly and some little, seemingly trivial, piece of information makes itself known all by itself, by accident even, that often gets me thinking more than if I had researched something carefully on my own initiative.

I know random stuff happens and it’s just random. I am not someone who dis-believes in coincidence or chance.

But at the same time I am one of those people who often wonder if there might be much more to some coincidences and random chance events than most of us traditionally allow.

I don’t know. But one of these little kind of random things has popped up and it’s causing me a lot of thought so I’m going to do a post about it. In fact, this may end up using two posts, today and tomorrow. I don’t know.


This goes back to a couple of days ago when I visited the Chicago library and wrote about my visit in my Tuesday post The Song And Sight Exactly.

When I was in the Chicago library I accidently stumbled on Pattie Boyd’s autobiography. The cover art and the sad story of that book have stayed with me for many years. So I made a little moment of the scene by photographing the Pattie Boyd book on the shelf in the library.

At the time I took the photograph, I did pay a little attention to the composition and I had noticed that at the right edge of the frame there was a book by Cynthia Lennon, her 2005 autobiography, “John.

I let that composition stay with the picture just because it seemed like a good sideways kind of reference—I was taking a picture of a book by George’s wife and there at the side of the image was a book by John’s wife.

But then I found myself thinking more about that book, Cynthia Lennon’s book. For reasons I’ll talk about below, I had never read Cynthia Lennon’s autobiography. But after I took that photograph of Pattie Boyd’s autobiography, and then found myself continuing to think about the Cynthia Lennon book, I visited a library near here and took out a copy. I read the book yesterday.


I’m going to post today about Cynthia Lennon’s book, but before I talk about her book I want to say something about this topic, the Beatles.

By 2005 when Cynthia Lennon wrote her autobiography I had already stopped reading about the Beatles. I have already mentioned in an old post that I find it very frustrating reading about the Beatles because almost every new book contains a slightly different narrative and it is impossible to sort out what should be believed, what should be dismissed, and what should be “interpreted” to get at something like a real truth.

That being said, I did read most of what George Martin has written because he often concentrated on the music production aspect of the Beatles. And I’ve written a few posts about the Beatles, as a group and as individuals:

Buying The Beatles Forever

Japanese Train Stations Forever

“Strictly Speaking She Harmonizes”

Marginalia And The Kennedy Assassination — 1 & 2

Nuclear Accidents, Beatles, Mean Snakes

Saturn/Books/Mean Things/Rock And Roll

A Quick Badfinger Note

“Underwear Distance Of Love” (Reprise)

Having written so many posts about the Beatles (and I’ve written one or two others that mention the Beatles just in passing), it might sound bizarre for me to say this, but: I don’t like writing about the Beatles. It’s something like “Star Wars.” It’s a topic I know, I guess, a lot about, but it’s a part of reality that has gone from being fun and exciting to being simply tragic and endlessly sad. I try to avoid such things.

But sometimes I make an exception. For the Beatles, I thought I had said everything I’d ever want to say in “Buying The Beatles Forever.” But this one last thing has sort of pushed itself into my awareness and I’m going to write about it today just for the sake of completeness or just for the sake of being responsive to the strange accidental nature of this little bit of awareness. I don’t know. But I am going to make a conscious effort for today, and possibly tomorrow, to be the last things I write about the Beatles.


Okay. Back to Cynthia Lennon’s autobiography, “John.”

Cynthia Lennon does something very strange at the very start of her book. Something very strange and—I’m guessing—something that to many long-time Beatles fans and followers is wildly odd and unexpected.

She begins her book with normal front-matter: There’s an “acknowledgements” page. Then a “forward” by Julian Lennon. Then an “introduction” by Cynthia herself.

Then when the actual book itself starts, the first anecdote stretching over pages 1-3 is about the death of Mal Evans.

What the hell is that about?

This book by Cynthia Lennon will contain nothing new. It will be just a review of the standard Beatles narrative from Cynthia Lennon’s very limited perspective. But she begins the book with an extended anecdote about what is certainly one of the most mysterious and most perplexing deaths of the various deaths associated with the standard Beatles narrative, the almost nonsensical death of the long-time roadie/friend/producer/musician[?]/writer[?]/confidant of all four of the Beatles, Mal Evans.

What the hell is that about?

I mean: Cynthia Lennon discusses the death of Mal Evans before she gets around to talking about John at all [!] and then she transitions directly from the death of Mal Evans in 1976 to the murder of John Lennon in 1980.

What the hell is that about?

I don't know what that’s about.

For people unfamiliar with Mal Evans, here are the first few paragraphs of his Wikipedia entry:

Malcolm Frederick "Mal" Evans (27 May 1935 – 5 January 1976) was best known as the road manager, assistant, and a friend of The Beatles.

In the early 1960s, Evans was employed as a telephone engineer, and also worked part-time as a bouncer at the Cavern Club. The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, later hired Evans as the group's assistant road manager, in tandem with Neil Aspinall. Peter Brown (one of Epstein's staff) later wrote that Evans was "a kindly, but menacing-looking young man". Evans contributed to recordings, and appeared in some of the films the group made. After The Beatles stopped touring in 1966, Evans carried on assisting them until their break-up in 1970. From 1969, Evans also found work as a record producer (most notably with Badfinger's top 10 hit "No Matter What").

Evans was killed by police on 5 January 1976, at his home in Los Angeles. Officers were called when his girlfriend phoned the police and told them that Evans was confused and had a gun. The police believed that the air rifle Evans was holding was a rifle and shot him dead.

When Mal Evans was killed in Los Angeles, he had been working on his autobiography, to be called, “Living the Beatles’ Legend.” His co-writer was there, as was a young woman, the night he was shot. The book was wildly anticipated by fans of the Beatles because Mal Evans was such an insider, someone who had been there from almost the very beginning. And the rumors were that he was going to be the first insider to write a tell-all book that actually told-all.

After Mal Evans was killed, the manuscript for his book became “lost.”

Surprise, surprise.

Something like ten years later material that was supposedly background notes for the book surfaced at a New York publisher. At that point—a decade after his death—who knows how complete the material was or, really, its provenance?


So Cynthia Lennon decided to start her autobiography with a story about Mal Evans being killed.

Here is part of what she had to say:

Mal had been a faithful friend to the boys and was especially close to John: they got on incredibly well and, with the Beatles’ other loyal roadie, Neil Aspinall, he had been on every tour, organizing, trouble-shooting, protecting and looking after them.

When the Beatles broke up Mal had been lost. He’d gone to live in Los Angeles where he began drinking and taking drugs. It was there, on January 4, 1976, that the police had been called by his girlfriend during a row. She claimed that Mal had pulled a gun on her, and when they burst into the apartment the officers found Mal holding a gun. Apparently he pointed it at them before they shot him. It was only after he died that they found the gun wasn’t loaded. It was a tragic story, and we could only imagine that Mal had been under the influence of drugs. The Mal we knew could no more have shot someone than flown to the moon. Whatever the true story, his death had shocked us all and that night, our talk around Mo’s fireplace was of what a good man he had been and how awful his premature death was. To us, the idea of being shot was almost unimaginable—how could it have happened to such a good friend?

Cynthia Lennon wrote: “Whatever the true story...”



Cynthia Lennon doesn’t add much to the standard Beatles narrative in this book. But she does tell one more story, very briefly and very late in the book, that is interesting as a kind of companion piece to the story she started her book with.

Shortly after John Lennon’s murder, a man who was a friend of both John and Cynthia confided to Cynthia that John had been keeping detailed diaries for many years. The man told Cynthia that he had been told by John Lennon himself to see that the diaries were delivered to John’s son, Julian, in the event of John’s death. When the man tried to deliver the diaries to Julian, John’s wife Yoko had the man arrested on the charge of stealing the diaries. Yoko took possession of the diaries herself. And she kept them.

Surprise, surprise.


That’s all I have for today. Maybe more tomorrow.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I’m Sorry The World Did This To You

Hen Politics, And Passages Between Worlds

“Now I Dream Of The Plum Rains”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thinking About A Far Away Dawn

I don’t think we would learn more if we sent
robot spacecraft to orbit the people
we tried to understand with our science.

I don’t think we would learn more if we went
into space ourselves naked and aroused
instead of the robot spacecraft we send.

The song was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love about Shirley Johnson England, the daughter of the owner of radio station KNAK in Salt Lake City, Utah where she worked as a teenager. She borrowed her father's Ford Thunderbird to study at the library at the University of Utah. While at the library she met up with some friends, went to a hamburger stand, and ended up at the drive-in movies. When her father found out, he took the car away. The next day she was at the radio station complaining about it to the staff while The Beach Boys were visiting and they were inspired to write this song.

Murry Wilson, the father of the Wilson brothers, denounced the whole idea for the song as immoral, and tried to prevent the group from recording it. The song, backed by a single-only mix of a cover version of Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers' "Why Do Fools Fall In Love", became a top-five hit. This eventually led to the musicians dismissing Murry as manager during the recording sessions for "I Get Around".

excerpt from “Fun, Fun, Fun”
at Wikipedia

Scientist At A Hamburger Stand

A Piece Of Paper Above An Asteroid

The Dawn spacecraft launched from Earth and traveled toward Mars to take advantage of the gravity of Mars to pull the craft along and help it accelerate. Then Dawn traveled to the asteroid belt and entered into orbit around the asteroid Vesta. After studying Vesta, Dawn left orbit and is currently pushing out a little farther across the asteroid belt to rendezvous with the asteroid Ceres where Dawn will again go into orbit to study the second asteroid. (The Dawn home page at NASA/JPL provides lots of constantly updated information about the spacecraft. Clicking the image above makes it larger. Updated versions of this and other graphics are at “Where Is Dawn Now?”)


There is a beautiful crown above us
early in the evening sky every night
as if we’re wearing it like kings or queens.

The crown has a name that’s beautiful, too,
Corona Borealis. In English
that translates simply to, The Northern Crown.

It can be hard to see in city lights
but with binoculars now there’s a way
but you have to visit the stars themselves.

There are two bright stars in the southern sky,
to the left Saturn, to the right, Spica.

In the eastern sky there is one bright star,
Vega in the constellation Lyra.

Almost overhead but just to the south
there is another bright star, Arcturus.

If you imagine a line in the sky
tracing straight from Spica to Arcturus
and then continuing east to Vega,
that line passes over The Northern Crown
just about one-third of the way between
the two bright stars Arcturus and Vega.

If you travel that line, travel through space
with binoculars one star to the next,
you visit Corona Borealis,
The Northern Crown, and you get to observe
that the stars really do look like a crown,
a beautiful crown of stars above us
as if we’re wearing them like kings or queens.

It’s not like visiting a library
or a hamburger stand or a drive-in,
but when dawn arrives for a king or queen,
a king or queen wearing the stars themselves,
nobody will take away their car keys.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Updated Monthly Starchart
at Orion Telescopes

Corona Borealis
at Wikipedia


Crown And Tiara

Everything’s Still There

“The Stars From Here: A Puppet Thriller”

Blows Against The (Expensive) Empire
“Have you seen the stars tonight?”


This bit of star-hopping
really does work.

I did it Wednesday night, at
around 10pm Chicago time.
Every night the stars will get
a little higher, but the relationships
between them will stay the same.

But, soon, more bright stars will
be appearing in the sky as
the Summer Triangle rises.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Song And Sight Exactly

Today I was planning to do a post about the Dawn spacecraft out at the asteroids, using its ion thruster to move from the asteroid Vesta to the asteroid Ceres. I’ve posted about the Dawn spacecraft a couple of times, and I wanted to follow-up on something I said in one of those posts.

Scientist At A Hamburger Stand

A Piece Of Paper Above An Asteroid

And I was going to say that the Dawn spacecraft was like a plot from a science fiction movie but it was real, carrying on with the “science fiction movie” language from yesterday’s post.

But my thinking, today, got completely derailed in a completely unexpected way.

So I may return to the Dawn spacecraft tomorrow. I’m not sure. Today I’m just going to recount what happened to me this afternoon.


Late this afternoon I was in Chicago for a while. At some point I realized I was right next door to a Chicago Public Library. So I went in to see if they had an old, obscure book about oil painting I’ve been looking for. They didn’t. And I noticed the Chicago library used a slightly different numeric classification system than our suburban libraries.

(Chicago did still use numeric classifications, though, they haven’t embraced the so-called “bookstore model” many libraries are adopting. If you don’t know what the "bookstore model" refers to you are lucky. I wish I didn’t know and I’m not going to post any links to it here.)

Anyway, although the Chicago library didn’t have the oil painting book I was looking for, I tracked down their fine arts section and looked through the painting books they did have on the shelf.

I noticed that with their classification scheme the shelves right next to the fine arts books contained pop music books. And as that registered with my thinking, I saw a photograph on the spine of one of the music books and that derailed my thinking completely. I gave up, for the moment, and for the day, really, looking at painting books and I pulled out the book with the familiar picture on the spine. I even took a photo of the cover.

This book. Pattie Boyd’s autobiography, “Wonderful Tonight.”

Pattie Boyd, of course, is the real Layla. She was the muse and inspiration behind Eric Clapton writing “Layla” and George Harrison writing “Something” and other great songs. I’ve posted about Pattie Boyd, and her autobiography, a few times.

The Good Old Days—Umm, Yeah...

Equally And As Hopelessly Lost

Thinking About Arranging “Layla”

For some reason it was something like shocking, seeing that book next to the painting books.

I’m so used to our suburban library system of classification that the juxtaposition was completely unexpected for me.

So then I got to thinking, again, about paintings versus photographs because I think that cover photograph of Pattie Boyd from her modeling years is more beautiful than any painting.

And I wondered, again: With photographs creating a kind of “standard” for what is possible in the realm of images, is it even possible for painters to live up to that standard, or even surpass it in one way or another?

A few weeks ago I found a very interesting essay by artist Alexi Worth speculating that Manet may have developed his bright and blunt style of portraiture partially as a response to the enthusiastic embrace by the French public of the then new medium of photography: The Lost Photographs of Edouard Manet

And I’ve done posts about the trend in fine arts called hyperrealism, where artists embrace photorealism as a craft and make selection or some other criteria a part of the process: The Margins Of Water In The Wild and The Abandonment Of Meaning and “Kari Loses An Underwire From Her Bra...”.

I don’t think Manet’s style is the answer, if there is one, to this issue. As eye-catching and beautiful as many of his canvases might be, I don’t think any of them match, or could have matched, the beauty captured by that photograph of Pattie Boyd.

I don’t think modern hyperrealism is the answer, because that simply makes a copy of a photograph.

I don’t think any of the abstraction approaches to images that developed after the post-impressionists are the answer. Abstraction doesn’t even attempt to directly mirror reality in any recognizable way.

I’m starting to think that photography may have capabilities—the “autographic” value maybe that I posted about in This Woman From The Canals Of Mars—that cannot be matched by any painting approach.

There very well may be some option available to painters that I’m not immediately aware of. Painters can be amazingly skillful, passionate and creative. Just because I can’t think of something that certainly doesn’t rule out a painter, some contemporary thoughtful and skillful person like Manet, looking at the issue and developing an approach or style which can duplicate or even surpass the power of photographs.

But I don’t think anybody has done it yet. And I don’t think I’m going to figure out what it is myself.

Of the image-making things I know and am familiar with, the only open question in my mind is: I wonder what Cezanne would have created if Pattie Boyd had posed for him?

I don’t know what I would imagine Cezanne would have come up with. He almost always seemed to work out something only he would have thought of.

I don’t think a Cezanne image would have been powerful or beautiful in the same way as that photograph. But I don’t know. Maybe Cezanne would have found a way to capture Pattie Boyd’s image, her beauty, or his reaction to it, in such a way that the power and beauty of his image would have equaled or exceeded the power and beauty of that photograph.

Maybe the “answer”—if there is one—is the classic French business that I quoted in my post The Tache And The Touche: A painter looking at the motif, reacting to it, and shaping every touch of paint on the canvas to match the painter’s reaction to the corresponding bit of real life in front of the painter.

I don’t know. That seems to take the answer out of the realm of a process or style an artist could adopt, and it would ask the artist, always, to look within, to be able to introspect so deeply and respond to that introspection so honestly, that the power and beauty the artist saw and responded to would not be duplicated, but, sort of, brought to life, again, in a different way. The famous Cezanne phrase of a harmony parallel to nature.

Such an outcome wouldn’t duplicate photography. But it would, in its way, accomplish a similar end. And, in fact, it would accomplish something outside the capabilities of photography, by building on what was happening inside the artist.

I don’t know.

I’m glad we have photography.

And I’m sorry painting isn’t as dynamic a cultural happening as it was in nineteenth century France, because I think I’d really enjoy seeing a great many different artists trying to deal with this in their own way.

In the modern academic world painters seem to establish a consensus and then stick with it regardless of any popular reaction (or lack of one). And modern commercial fine arts seems to be driven by arbitrary, even chaotic, market forces—whatever galleries and auction houses can manage to sell. And modern pop art is hardly even accessible to painting.

I bet in some way or another painters will work out this issue of mechanical images versus hand-crafted images and come up with something better than just painting quickly or abstraction or hyperrealism.

Maybe it will be something like Cezanne’s approach to realism, motif-inspired harmony parallels.

I’d really love to see what they come up with.


Songs capture something
an artist sees in someone
and a camera

captures exactly
whatever an artist sees.
Can any painting

capture both such things
the song and sight exactly
to hold forever?

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Reduction Of The Muse

“The Librarian And The Painter”