Friday, December 28, 2007

Goldfish And Sea Monsters #3 of 3

Seeing a monster isn’t the real trick.
The tricky bit comes after you’ve seen one.
Monsters appear, disappear and they’re done.
But the brain stays numb, heart frozen, soul sick.

I’ve come to suspect the dark is most thick
in the quantum foam below where thoughts run
and monsters breed not away from the sun
in seas, lakes, tanks, but in us. I, relic.

I’ve stood with a woman talking, thinking.
We looked at fish. We walked away from fish.
Some things, other things, stayed with us. Or me.

But those things won’t drown me. I’m not sinking.
I change monsters to type. I get my wish.
I write the unseen as poem and story.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Goldfish And Sea Monsters #2 of 3

Scientists wonder what monsters would eat
and do they have gills or do they breath air
and what’s the brood size of a breeding pair
because just one monster would be a cheat.

If one is real there must be a complete
sustainable population somewhere
deeper, darker, hidden out of the glare
but also real, waiting to meet and greet.

I’ve stood looking at fish with a woman
and somehow I’ve seen monsters emerging
from between the things we saw together.

When we’re not together I’m just a man
seeing things we saw and didn’t, surging
panic sometimes, as the unseen gather.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Goldfish And Sea Monsters #1 of 3

People have seen monsters in the deep seas
for thousands of years. For almost as long
people have seen creatures that don’t belong
in the water under a Loch Ness breeze.

Looking at water, our back to the trees,
we see things we can’t see and know we’re wrong
but we see them, still, and try to stay strong
feeling our brain turning numb, our heart freeze.

I’ve seen goldfish swimming in a big tank
at a library not far from my home.
I’ve stood with a woman I know looking

and the fish sometimes looked back, their eyes blank.
Somewhere in the spaces—the quantum foam—
between the fish I’ve seen monsters lurking.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kate Moss (And Why My Life Is Derailed)

Why My Life Is Derailed

The classic route to transform from an unpublished writer to a published writer is by submitting short stories to pulp magazines. Pulp magazines do not pay well, but they have been around for many, many decades. They’re an acceptable ‘farm league’ to publishers looking at novel manuscripts. They’re read by story editors at movie studios looking to license ‘product.’

There are basically four pulp magazines left, two science fiction magazines and two mystery magazines. The best way to maximize chances of getting published is always to keep four manuscripts at market.

Right now I have two manuscripts at market, one science fiction story and one mystery story.

Yesterday I’d planned to work on a second science fiction story (about a guy who sees something like a sea monster in a large fish tank). However, I got to thinking about this blog. I knew what Friday’s post is going to be but I had no idea what I was going to put up today.

So, instead of working on a short story that could be purchased by one of two magazines and potentially could be sold to a movie studio, I spent most of yesterday afternoon drawing a cartoon of Kate Moss that will never go farther than this blog.


Yesterday was my life in microcosm.

I didn’t waste time. I didn’t zone out in front of the TV watching Family Guy dvds. I didn’t throw away the day pitching pennies with layabout friends.

I got work done. I created something. And I’m even pretty happy with what I created.

But the immediate return-on-investment of a Kate Moss cartoon is pretty darn near zero, and the long term potential return-on-investment of a Kate Moss cartoon is, let’s see, yep, the needle is still reading right about zero.

In terms of me investing my time and energy, in the coming New Year I’ve got to attach a higher priority to this whole return-on-investment thing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Is Love? 3—Gorilla My Dreams

Yet the pygmies appeared relaxed now—at least until Amy came crashing back through the underbrush. Then there were shouts and swiftly drawn bows; Amy was terrified and ran to Peter, jumping up on him and clutching his chest—and making him thoroughly muddy.

The pygmies engaged in a lively discussion among themselves, trying to decide what Amy’s arrival meant. Several questions were asked of Munro. Finally, Elliot set Amy back down on the ground and said to Munro, “What did you tell them?”

“They wanted to know if the gorilla was yours, and I said yes. They wanted to know if the gorilla was female, and I said yes. They wanted to know if you had relations with the gorilla; I said no. They said that was good, that you should not become too attached to the gorilla, because that would cause you pain.”

“Why pain?”

“They said when the gorilla grows up, she will either run away into the forest and break your heart or kill you.”

Michael Crichton

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why Don’t Turkeys Wear Bras?

  1. Straps leave tan lines on their feathers

  1. Turkeys are sluts

  1. They say if Britney Spears doesn’t have to wear panties then they don’t have to wear bras

  1. They always blow their fashion budget on earrings and handbags

  1. Turkeys are terrified of hook-and-eye closures and their wings are too stubby to reach front hooks

  1. They can never remember what first base, second base and third base mean anyway

  1. They don’t have sinks to wash fine hand washables in

  1. Transvestite roosters always steal everything from turkeys’ lingerie drawers

  1. If they don’t wear bras then weasels can’t snap their bra straps

  1. The answer is Victoria’s real Secret and she’ll kill me if I tell

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lost Gloves

Winter officially hasn’t started
but I’ve seen about a dozen lost gloves.

There’s one on the sidewalk outside my house.
There’s another on the curb of the street
that curves past the front of the library.
There’s one by the grocery store. I’ve seen more.

My first thought’s always, “That’s sad. Poor lost glove.
All crumpled up now and all alone now.”

But also I remind myself lost gloves
might be happy to have gotten away
from cold hands that responded to the warmth
the gloves provided by being thoughtless
and careless, losing the gloves that warmed them.

Too bad lost gloves do not write poetry
or keep blogs. I bet lost gloves have stories
and I bet the stories lost gloves could tell
would have weird twists we never expected.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Shirt

Today I’m wearing a new shirt.
It’s not a sweat shirt or tee shirt.
It’s a regular buttoned shirt.
All of my other buttoned shirts
are so old they’re missing buttons
and are way over-sized on me
because I once was much fatter.
I’m nervous about my new shirt.
It fits me reasonably well
and it isn’t missing buttons
but I’ve sort of become used to
wearing the kind of clothing that
many people turn into rags.
I remind myself life is change.
I’m nervous about my new shirt.
In fact, I purchased two new shirts
earlier this week. One is gray
and the other shirt is dark blue.
Today I’m wearing the gray shirt.
I’m thinking if I live through this
then I can go with the color.
I remind myself life is change.
I’m being brave. Embracing it.
I’m nervous about my new shirt
but I’ve tucked it in and I’m dressed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Inconsolable: Top Ten Anagrams

10)     In a cello snob

9)       A no bison cell

8)       Can be ill soon

7)       No balls on ice

6)       I label no cons

5)       Can bill noose

4)       Cable sin loon

3)       Cool snail Ben

2)       I clean no slob

1)       Nice balloons

Monday, December 10, 2007

This Makes Me Think Of “The Swan”

I’ve never been good with music. But I try not to let that stop me from having fun playing around with music.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a link to a video of a robot playing flute, performing “Le Cygne.” [Clockwork Musicians] I liked it a lot. (Both the robot and the composition.) I felt no imperative to buy the sheet music and play “Le Cygne” exactly, but I wanted to be able to play something that sounded similarly evocative and cool.

So I sat down and came up with this.

Having been raised with pop music [normally I’d saying something here like, ‘For better and worse,’ but with pop music it’s just, ‘For bad and worse’] I tend to reduce [“trivialize”] everything to big note, easy play, eight bar formats. That having been said, this really does make me think of “Le Cygne.”

And I enjoy playing it and hearing it.

1) I haven’t transcribed anything for a long time. I may have made some blunt errors here that I’m not experienced enough to even notice.

2) This is sort of a lead sheet version of what I play. I’d never play just the melody or just the harmony. Rather I’d try to grab a combination and break up things with arpeggios and tweaked rhythms.

3) I’d actually play the melody an octave up from what’s notated here.

4) The chords are 1-5-7-3 guitar inversions. Probably they’d need to be restructured for keyboards.

The Good and the Good Enough

Something this simple isn’t a real “piece” of any kind. And something like this isn’t “good” in any of the amazing ways “Le Cygne” is good.

But in some ways for me something like this is good enough.

The way I play this is to first play it through as simply as I can, maybe just the melody. Then I play it through in the most complicated way I can, finding a chord to harmonize every note. Then I look for a rhythm to play through the piece using some combination of melody and harmony. It will be different every time I play it, depending on my mood and how warmed up my fingers are. It’s not art and it’s probably not good music, but it’s fun and satisfying.

It’s good enough.

I think about this in many different contexts, the “good” and the “good enough.” (The shave from my electric razor isn’t “good” but it’s “good enough.”) I often find myself preferring the good enough to the actual good. [What Is Love? 1—The Mole People ]

I’m sure I’ll be writing more on this topic in later posts.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Karen Kilimnik

I’m not a big fan of modern art. I don’t really like pretension or cynicism or the dehumanization that happens when reasonably smart people try to take what they think of as a “realistic” look at the world and see only troubles and sadness and grief, and then try to share their “vision” through art constructs. I admire the phenomenal skills and deep erudition of many modern artists but I simply can’t stand their ‘sense of life.’

Every now and then, however, someone in that milieu [I’m not happy using that word, but it seems to fit] manages to retain a sense of playfulness and fun along with their sensitivity and refinement and skills.

And then things are about as good as they can get. It makes putting up with all the other stuff worthwhile.

Karen Kilimnik seems to be such a person.

The current issue (12/07) of “Art In America” [I mentioned this magazine in, Fast Art, but see also, Art And Magazines] has a cover story about Kilimnik, “An Artist and Her Alter Egos."

Kilimnik does all the kinds of modern art stuff that usually make me roll my eyes. She creates ‘assemblages.’ She creates mixed-media ‘installations.’ She creates video ‘experiences.’

An unfriendly art critic once described one of her installations as appearing like, “... a bedroom sanctuary of an overwrought teenager.”

But Kilimnik does serious pieces and amusing pieces, and even her serious pieces typically have an element of energy and fun to them.

She did an installation ‘about’ schoolyard shootings and along with the graphics she created, the piece featured a boom-box constantly playing the Boomtown Rat’s hit about a school shooting, “I Don’t Like Mondays.” It was a pretty cool song, and it’s very cool seeing someone keeping the song alive in such a dynamic way.

Along with the silly-ass modern forms like assemblages and installations and such, Kilimnik also creates paintings. And even her paintings are rich with juxtapositions of seriousness and humor. She might put seemingly classical images next to her renditions of still images from the “Avengers” TV show. Very cool. She might create ‘self-portraits’ with her ‘self’ in an idiosyncratic scene replaced by some pop icon. Very cool, too.

I would have put up with a whole year of going to pointless, dull, boring and depressing art shows just to see, for instance, Kilimnik’s painting, “Me—I forgot the wire cutters—getting the wire cutters from the car to break into stonehenge.”

Stuff like this gets me excited. It makes my hands shake. Not because I’m nervous. But because I’m happy.

That happens every now and then.

Here’s a pic taken from the current (12/07) issue of “Art In America” of Kilimnik (as Kate Moss!) in her painting, “Me—I forgot the wire cutters—getting the wire cutters from the car to break into stonehenge:”

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snow Worries

Salt trucks rumbling in the darkness.

Narrow escapes walking on ice.

Ominous wind chills. Gloves. Scarves. Hats.

Winter seventeen days away.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

We had our first real snowfall of the season last night. Only two or three inches, but everything outside is white.

I woke up and wrote an acrostic about it.

I don’t know which worries me more: The fact that the snow and slush and cold might make it harder to get together with a friend for tea or soup; or the fact that I woke up and wrote an acrostic.

“O” is for ominous . . .

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My Orange Hat In Theory And Practice

I sometimes wear an orange baseball cap.

I don’t wear it as much as I used to. Around here these last few years many homeless bums have been dressing in screwball clothes. A middle age guy like me who sometimes doesn’t shave wearing an orange baseball cap projects too much of a homeless bum vibe for me to be comfortable with.

But the idea of distinctive headgear goes back to when I was a teenager.

I belonged to a tennis club at a public park, McKinley Park, on Chicago’s near south side. For many of us the tennis club was the center for what passed for our social life. It was the hub of our activities, our meeting place, morning, noon and night. And the location we met at was the old tennis courts along 37th Street. When we weren’t playing, we’d be sitting in the grass talking or standing up, leaning against the park bench by the water fountain talking. (There were newer courts along Western Avenue, but club members preferred the older, more secluded courts.)

The tennis courts and grass and bench were set off from 37th Street by about fifty yards or so. Tennis club members pretty much structured their whole social life around the courts. Students after school would hang out there. Adults after work would hang out there. Friday and Saturday afternoons anyone looking for company in the evening would hang out by the bench or sit in the grass.

It was standard practice for tennis club members to drive along 37th Street when they were going to or from anywhere else during the day. Whatever they were doing they’d drive past the courts, check out who was playing, who was hanging out.

With the courts and park bench a little distance back from the street, the more distinctive a person’s ‘look’ was the easier it was to see them when driving along 37th Street.

Sailor Bob wore a floppy white hat. Maryjo wore her hair long and short white tennis skirts. Wally always wore a gray sweatshirt. JoAnn [tennis club JoAnn, not this Joanne] always wore white tennis shorts and a dark shirt. Everyone had some ‘look’ that was pretty easy to recognize at a distance.

I always wore a brown or red or orange hat.

The idea was when you drove along 37th Street you could look over at the courts and bench and easily see who was out, who was playing and who was just hanging around.

The idea was when you stood around, just hanging out, people could see you from 37th Street and friends would park and come over, play or hang out, too.

Dressing with some kind of distinctive look that could be seen from a distance became a kind of impromptu behavior—today I’d say ‘emergent’ behavior—that nobody in the tennis club ever really talked about but everybody engaged in.

Even after I moved away from the south side, after I stopped playing tennis, dressing with some kind of visible tell-tale has always seemed like a good idea.

My friends can recognize me from a distance, come over and say, ‘Hi.’ People who want nothing to do with me can see me coming and turn away.

It’s a good theory. The monkey wrench in the works nowadays is this business with homeless bums being the people out in public with the most ‘distinctive’ looks.

It’s just not a good trade off to stand out from the masses by blending in with the flotsam and jetsam.

I don’t wear my orange baseball cap much anymore.

Theory is cool but practice rules.

I don’t mind standing out but I don’t want to look like a bum.

Monday, December 03, 2007

How To (Slowly) Sort A List

Have any algorithms been studied as extensively as sorting algorithms?

Indeed, Donald Knuth’s seminal [I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before!] “The Art of Computer Programming” has an entire volume dedicated to sorting and searching.

Most computer programs give you options for sorting info in whatever format they use. Most programming environments provide sorting routines. However, I’ve often found that little, odd, practical details require custom sorting routines. In fact, thinking about it recently, it occurred to me that I may have implemented sort routines more than any other algorithms.

My favorite sort is the Postman’s sort. It’s very simple and very anthropomorphic. And it uses no comparisons! However the actual details of implementing a Postman’s sort usually get more complicated than the algorithm itself, so I almost never use it.

The fastest sort I’ve ever used was some recursive method I found in a Lisp or Logo text book. It was reasonably easy to implement, but although recursive routines are elegant and mentally stimulating, I’ve found that if I don’t work with recursive routines all the time, if I don’t use recursion for everything, then my brain sort of ‘swaps out’ my ability to picture exactly what’s happening when the recursion is going on. Since I like to understand exactly what’s happening in my code, I usually avoid recursion even though it’s beautiful. Also, many modern programming and scripting environments aren’t optimized for things like tail recursion or the giant stacks recursion creates. Blunt, simple iterative routines are easier for me to casually maintain and move from environment to environment.

So, of course, I almost always use simple Bubble sort routines.

Today’s very fast processors make the generally slow routines appear to be quick. The algorithm is simple and it’s easy to implement in almost any environment.

I write a lot of small programs on a Texas Instruments TI-92. (Now it’s called the TI Voyager.) Software on my version includes sort routines that work as standalone procedures but not as generic functions. I’ve coded a simple Bubble sort function that works generically with lists. I don’t like flags, so I actually have two, a routine to sort up — SU(aList) — and a routine to sort
down — SD(aList).

This is the sort up routine. (Sort down, of course, just swaps the greater-than symbol for a less-than symbol in the comparison line.)

Function SU (aList)


Local c, i, j, x

Dim(aList) -> c

For i, 1, c-1
  For j, i+1,c
    If aList[i] > aList[j] Then
      aList[j] -> x
      aList[i] -> aList[j]
      x -> aList[i]

Return aList