Friday, November 28, 2008

Why Did Beethoven Cross The Road?

QUESTION: Why did Beethoven cross the road?

ANSWER: He thought he saw a piano over there, but it turned out to be just a 7-octave chicken.

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

And since this post is already more or less about Beethoven anyway, I’ve got one last one of those Britney/Beethoven things. Kind of wraps up the motif . . .

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

Britney Spears And Beethoven: Diminuendo

If I were Beethoven, and Britney Spears
came to say goodbye, I think I’d just play.
I just would sit at the keyboard and play
until Britney’s heard enough, disappears.

What could Beethoven do? Tell her his fears?
Stop playing, party with her? Walk away?
Life’s a party for Britney, that’s her way.
Leave? Or talk and pretend that Britney hears?

If I were Beethoven and knew Britney,
I couldn’t just go, pretend to be cold,
but, too, I couldn’t pretend to believe

any words her practiced voice sang to me.
I’d play something. Music we both could hold.
Sounds, thoughts, I wrote for her. Thoughts never leave.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

“I Am The Villain Of The Story”

CLARK: What are you?

EVIL LEX: I was just about to ask you the same question. I dropped half the lab on you and Miss Sullivan. And here you stand.

CLARK: I was lucky.

EVIL LEX: Don’t be modest, Clark. We both know you’re much more than that. It all makes sense now. That first day on the bridge when we met. How you were able to save me when my car went into the river. All the other miraculous times you appeared in just the right place at just the right moment. Almost as if you possessed powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men. You’ve lied to me for years, Clark. But now I know your secret.

CLARK: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

EVIL LEX: Don’t! I saw you after the explosion. You lifted half a ton of concrete like it was nothing. I should have figured it out a long time ago. All the pieces were there. I was just blinded by friendship. A factor that’s been removed from the equation.

CLARK: Whatever you are, whatever you’re planning, I’m going to stop you.

EVIL LEX: No, you aren’t. You’re going to join me.

CLARK: What?

EVIL LEX: Think about, Clark. My intellect. Your powers. Together we could rule this planet. We’ll walk as gods among men.

CLARK: You’re not a god. I’m not even sure you’re human.

EVIL LEX: Are you?

CLARK: Is the real Lex still alive?

EVIL LEX: Oh, you don’t get it, do you? I am the real Lex!

CLARK: Is he still alive?

EVIL LEX: Sort of. I mean, I couldn’t really be sure what would happen to me if I killed him, so I tucked him away where I could keep an eye on him. Maybe torture him a little when I’m feeling blue.

CLARK super-speeds across the five or six feet between him and EVIL LEX. CLARK is instantly on top of EVIL LEX, his fingers wrapped tightly around his throat.

CLARK: Where is he? Where is he?

Suddenly CLARK gasps for breath. CLARK collapses to the floor at the feet of EVIL LEX.

EVIL LEX: What’s the matter, Clark? You look a little sick. Just like back in the lab when you were with the other me. When he opened the safe door and exposed you to meteor rock.

We see that EVIL LEX has a small, lead ring case in his hand. The case is open. We see a ring inside. The ring has a piece of green meteor rock mounted on it. The meteor rock is glowing bright green, sapping all of CLARK’S strength. EVIL LEX removes the ring from the box and puts it on a finger of his left hand.

EVIL LEX: Every man has a weakness, Clark, no matter how superhuman he may be. I’ve embraced my destiny. Now embrace yours. We could forge a new future together.

CLARK: I’ll never join you.

EVIL LEX: Yes, you will. Or everyone you love will suffer.

EVIL LEX punches CLARK. CLARK tumbles backward out of the barn’s second floor window and falls to the ground below. CLARK’S parents, MARTHA and JONATHAN, run from the house to the barn. They kneel next to CLARK.

MARTHA: Oh my God, Clark! You’re bleeding!

EVIL LEX walks out of the barn. He is still wearing the Kryptonite ring. And now he is carrying a pistol, also in his left hand.

EVIL LEX: I’m guessing that doesn’t happen very often.

JONATHAN: Lex! What did you do?

JONATHAN charges toward Evil Lex. Evil Lex points the pistol at JONATHAN. JONATHAN stops.

EVIL LEX: I’ve got to hand it to you guys. I mean, keeping something like this a secret must have required an impressive ability to obscure the truth. Maybe the Kents and the Luthors have something in common after all.

JONATHAN sees the ring glowing on Evil Lex’s hand. Evil Lex notices that JONATHAN has seen the ring.

EVIL LEX: Yeah! I know about the green meteor rock. And Clark’s unique gifts.

MARTHA: What do you want?

EVIL LEX: The world, Mrs. Kent. And your son’s going to help me bring it to its knees. Now talk some sense into him before something unfortunate happens.

EVIL LEX fires the pistol, shooting Jonathan in the leg. Jonathan collapses.

EVIL LEX: Like that. You were right about me all along, Mr. Kent. I am the villain of the story.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lost In The Analog

There is a book called
Ansel Adams In Color
containing photos

by Ansel Adams,
mostly from transparencies
and all in color.

Most people don’t know
Adams experimented
with color for years.

He liked the control
and range black and white gave him.
Color was tricky.

New technology.
Adams experimented
with color for years.

He felt black and white
was more expressive for him
of his mind’s vision.

I like black and white.
But I enjoy color more.
Technology now

makes color more fun.
If Adams were alive now
would he still prefer

black and white work, or
would Adams embrace deep bits,
digital color?

If Adams were here,
if he were working right now
and if Adams knew

the people I know —
the woman I’ve called Trixie
he’d stick with color

and fast computers.
Only deep bits of color
can express some things.

Deep bits of color,
high tech digital magic,

maybe could express
the visions in someone’s mind
looking at Trixie.

Of course, not even
all the computers on Earth
could manipulate

deep bits of color
deep enough for expressing
visions that I see,

visions that move me,
visions from within my mind
looking at Trixie.

But Ansel Adams
if he were alive today
with fast computers,

cutting edge printers,
might be able to do it.
Maybe. Possibly.

Digital color.
I’m lost in the analog,
looking at Trixie.

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

Ansel Adams In Color

Where’s Polonius? — And ‘Trixie’

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Doris Day Day

I’m making today Doris Day Day here on the blog.

This is Doris Day.

She’s a cool singer. A cool actress. She’s one of those rare show business people that I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about.

I’m feeling awful about Doris Day because she got edited out of yesterday’s cartoon.

Pete Townshend also got edited out of yesterday’s cartoon, but I don’t feel too bad about that because I featured Pete back in a story I told during Marianne Faithfull week. I spelled his name wrong, but he nonetheless had a featured cameo.

Yeah, so, anyway, last weekend, Sunday afternoon, I fired Doris Day and replaced her with Lindsay Lohan.

I’m guessing I incurred a heck of a lot of bad Karma over that so I’m trying to make things right by giving Doris Day a whole post to herself.

When I did the pencil layout for yesterday’s cartoon, in fact even when I started to ink the lettering, I had been planning on using a different caption. The caption in the original rough was: “An Al-Qaida spokesman shocked the world by announcing they would end all global fighting if the West would create a YouTube video of Pete Townshend kissing Doris Day.

I really liked that caption.

It’s absurd. It’s bizarre. And it’s a very obscure reference to a real bit of pop culture trivia. On Pete Townshend’s 2006 album (well, Who album) “Endless Wire” he includes a song where he dies and goes to heaven and meets various dead celebrities. He included Doris Day among the dead celebrities. He wasn’t being cruel, he’s just a British guy who isn’t completely up on American life and he didn’t know Doris Day was still alive.

So, I liked the original caption because it combines absurdity with obscurity and achieves, I think, a cool kind of truly pointless silliness. However, after giving it a lot of thought I decided it was simply too absurd, too obscure, too pointless.

I once made a reference to Townshend when I was talking to someone who is now in her early twenties and she had no idea who I was talking about. Poor Pete.

I don’t mind being obscure, but I generally prefer people at least to have an idea of what I’m talking about.

So I fired Doris Day and Pete Townshend and replaced them with two people who seem to be in the papers every day, Al Gore and Lindsay Lohan. I think the new caption is still absurd. It’s not really obscure but I think it’s still silly. And silly is always enough for me.


So today is Doris Day Day.

Doris Day is an interesting person.

She became famous as a singer during the big band era. That was a very interesting time. A person could make the case—I won’t try to make it here—that the rise of radio as a mass-medium combined with big band music marked the very start of celebrity driven pop culture in the particular form that we know it today. Vaudeville of course had been around for generations. But as popular as Vaudeville entertainers may have been, they were regarded by the general populace as fringe people, low-lifes. On the other hand, the front men of the big bands, the band leaders, were regarded generally as more-or-less respectable and became very influential. Someday I will have a lot more to say about the big band era and band leaders (if nothing...discontinuous... happens to me, like getting taken away by aliens or some such thing).

Doris Day is also the only person I know who is tangentially connected to both the Kennedy Assassination and the Manson helter skelter killings. It is a weird, acausal connection, but that is perfect Goblin Universe stuff.

The very first network broadcast of news from that day in Dallas occurred over the ABC radio network. At the time the news broke, the network had been playing Doris Day’s cover of “Hooray for Hollywood.” Doris Day singing about Hollywood got interrupted so the ABC newsmen could tell the world about Kennedy getting shot.

The house where the Manson helter-skelter murders took place was actually owned by Terry Melcher, Doris Day’s son. Manson—so the accepted story goes—was furious with Melcher because Melcher, a music business executive, had declined to record Manson’s music. Manson sent his followers to Melcher’s house to to kill Doris Day’s son but apparently didn’t know that Melcher had rented the house to Roman Polanski. And that’s how Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, and her friends came to be murdered. They were home in the house belonging to Doris Day’s son.

That’s almost certainly not the truth, the whole truth and nothing-but-the-truth about the helter skelter murders. However, like the Kennedy Assassination, I strongly suspect we will never know what really happened. Unless somehow people learn to tap into the Akashic records. And I haven’t completely given up on that.


So Doris Day is an interesting person who’s had an interesting life.

But when I think of Doris Day I think mainly of her 1966 comedy film, “The Glass Bottom Boat.”

The movie, made by former cartoonist [!] Frank Tashlin, is one of my favorite films of all times. It is exactly the kind of thing that I love. It brings up serious issues—the space program, national security, cold war spying, love & romance—but all the serious elements are reduced to farce and silliness and absurdity. (Dom DeLuise as a would-be vicious spy who is hopelessly hapless and nice attempting to torture Doris Day?!)

Beyond just being kind of silly, the film features Doris Day being kind of sexy. She has scenes in a mermaid outfit [!] and although she never appears in a bikini, Rod Taylor sends her a bikini after he accidently strips off her mermaid outfit [!] while fishing. Doris Day holds up the bikini and for that second, at least, viewers get to picture Doris Day in a bikini.

Those were the days. Can anybody in today’s world even imagine that a woman could strike a sexy pose just by holding a bikini?

Those were the days. And Doris Day was pretty damn cool.

So, I’m making today Doris Day Day here on the blog. And I’ll end this post with Doris Day singing the theme from “The Glass Bottom Boat:”

All aboard, all aboard
On the glass bottom boat
It's the greatest show that was ever afloat
Take a ride on the tide with the guide and see
The way out wonders of the deep blue sea

The deep blue sea, the deep blue sea
There's a lot to see, in the deep blue sea
The sailfish sail and the blowfish blow
Cockles & mussels, alive-alive-o

The hermit crab, he lives alone
You can't even get him on the telephone
The halibut's eyes turn up and in
He don't know where he's going,
But he knows where he's been

The deep blue sea, the deep blue sea
There's a lot to see in the deep blue sea
The glass bottom boat, you will agree
Can show you the magic of the deep blue sea

Spiney crabs and white fish too
Will all be there, what a hullabaloo
With so many fish upon the sea
There's hardly room for a fat sardine

The deep blue sea, the deap blue sea
There's a lot goin' on in the deep blue sea
Oh life on the glass bottom boat is great
(I'm the captain) You could be a mate

Now the turtle is slow, but not so dumb
He has his own condominium
A bluebird oyster was caught with "foyle"
He "swoyre" he didn't even know the "goyle"

The deep blue sea, the deep blue sea
There's a lot to see in the deep blue sea
The glass bottom boat, you will agree
Can show you the magic of the deep blue sea

All aboard, all aboard
On the glass bottom boat
It's the greatest show that was ever afloat
Take a ride on the tide with the guide and see
The way out wonders of the deep blue sea

Friday, November 21, 2008

Paris Hilton And The Kennedy Assassination — 2

So the strange rumors now are that Paris Hilton
is actually older than people suspect.
Seriously older. And the strange rumors now
are that Paris Hilton has played a larger role
in shaping the modern world than anyone knows.
Seriously larger. I don’t normally post
on silly internet fads and speculations —
I’ve said nothing about Diet Coke and Mentos
but since this is the twenty-first of November
I’m going to say something about this one part
of the strange new Paris Hilton mythologies,
the part about Paris Hilton in Camelot.


Proponents trying to win over hearts and minds
to the strange new Paris Hilton metaphysics
often start with an incident I’ll be quick with.
I’ll be quick with this because if you dwell on it
you can almost start to see a kind of logic
to a premise that’s best kept inconceivable.
When you talk about the Bay of Pigs Invasion
it’s not a profound suspension of disbelief
to see Paris Hilton as the guiding light there.
In our minds we can almost hear Paris saying,
“Send some Navy boats over that way. Tell the men —
Oh, never mind. You know, Cuba’s so yesterday
now that all the casinos have closed. Tell the men
just to come home and let the Cubans settle things.”

Paris Hilton is as good an explanation
as anything for that whole sequence of events.
But just because you can connect the dots and see
a cartoon drawing of Paris Hilton winking
that doesn’t mean she really was back there winking
at Kennedy and telling the man what to do.
It’s always good to remember there are other
possible explanations. Paris explains things,
but there are other explanations possible.


Paris Hilton believers, strange new scientists,
have a refreshing kind of honesty to them.
They don’t even attempt to cherry-pick data.
They may start with a strong case, the Bay of Pigs, but
they don’t shirk from discussing the Missile Crisis
even though it lacks the Bay of Pigs’ black slapstick.
And that’s really all that needs to be said right here.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved without
the kinds of scenes you’d expect to see if Paris
had been winking, telling Kennedy what to do.
No nuclear missiles launched accidentally.
No bombers dropped their nuclear bombs by mistake.
Heck, no armloads of un-ordered pizzas were sent
late at night to Premier Khrushchev at the Kremlin.
Paris Hilton believers, strange new scientists,
are erudite and overwhelm you with details.
They see Paris at work in every little thing.
But the broad strokes of the Missile Crisis events
are not painted in bold, bright, Paris Hilton pink.


Efficacy comes up, too, that day in Texas.
The Kennedy assassination succeeded.
If Paris Hilton had been there as a player
would any of the bullets have hit Kennedy?
I’ve seen the photographs, the stills and movie frames
enlarged, computer processed, computer enhanced.
What’s there, in the splotchy grain, light pulled from shadow?
I don’t believe, not for one hot Dallas second,
that Paris was the shooter on the Grassy Knoll.
I don’t believe Paris was there, made up, in drag,
running everything as the Walkie-Talkie Man,
sending signals by way of the Umbrella Man.
I’ve seen the diagrams. I’ve seen the measurements.
I’ve seen everything interpreted by experts.
They see Paris at work in every little thing.
But I just remind myself that Kennedy died.
If Paris Hilton had tried to kill Kennedy
I think Oswald would have fallen out a window,
Grassy Knoll Man would have shot himself in the foot,
and the secret agents throughout Dealey Plaza
would have started hitting each other with cream pies
while Kennedy waved and then drove away unharmed.


In fact the main reason this thinking caught my eye
even though it never did win my heart and mind
is the notion that Paris Hilton is sitting
in the captain’s chair, commanding forty-five years
of intensive research into Kennedy’s death.
Paris explains things. Forty-five years of work gone
and still nobody knows who murdered Kennedy.
Forty-five years later. Endless theorizing.
Endless articles, books, legal machinations.
Forty-five years later and still nobody knows
who ordered the killing, who carried out the act.
Totally void results are what you would expect,
what you’d predict, if Paris were the Captain Kirk
of the assassination research enterprise,
if Paris were doling out the research dollars,
if Paris were deciding who would research what,
if Paris were defining which results would count.
Forty-five years of toil. Totally void results.
Not to mention the endless, mindless blind alleys:
“Look, you can see the limo driver turn around
and shoot Kennedy in the head with a handgun!”

Not to mention the reasonable things unsaid:
“Historically, political deaths often
come at the hands of a person’s own power bloc,
a person’s own former friends feeling badly used.”

Forty-five years of toil. Totally void results.
I don’t believe it but I wouldn’t be surprised
if Paris worked out plans with her pet Chihuahua.


Maybe Paris Hilton is the muse and mover
of the contemporary world around us all.
Maybe Paris Hilton is the natural E
that has everyone in the modern world humming.
Maybe Paris Hilton is the subtext beneath
all our textbooks and teachings, everything we learn.
Maybe. Proponents of this, well, cosmology
haven’t won me over, not my heart or my mind.
Their so-called Pink Camelot theories caught my eye,
but pink is a bright color. Paris explains things,
but there are other explanations possible.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Marginalia And The Kennedy Assassination — 1 & 2

I have two small items that I think about every year around this time.

The two items are unrelated to each other and they are both kind of trivial and silly. But since I’ve never seen anybody else discuss these two little things in connection with the Kennedy Assassination—not in fringe conspiracy magazines, not in books, not on the internet (and that’s saying something!)—I thought I’d lump them together today and put them out there.

Maybe somebody will find them interesting, even if they are both kind of silly.

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

“At the Houses of Parliament
Everybody’s talking about the President
We all chipped in for a bag of cement”

Those three lines are one verse from a song written by a very famous musician. The meaning of the lines seems reasonably plain: “Houses of Parliament” means it’s talking about Britain. They don’t have a president there, so it’s probably talking about the president of the US. And “bag of cement” is a fairly well known euphemism for killing someone.

And only one modern president of the US was murdered.

So, these three lines seem to be saying that powerful people in Britain funded the Kennedy Assassination.

As plain as these three lines may be, it is almost inconceivable that the lines are meant to be taken plainly. Yet how else can they be heard?

These lines come from a song called “Junior’s Farm,” written by Paul McCartney during his Wings years. Now Paul generally wrote silly love songs, silly nonsense songs, and some serious music. “Junior’s Farm” certainly seems to be one of his silly nonsense songs. Here are the above lyrics, in context:

You should have seem me
With the poker man
I had a honey and I bet a grand
Just in the nick of time
I looked at his hand

I was talking to an Eskimo
Said he was hoping for a fall of snow
When up popped a sea lion ready to go

Let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go
Down to Junior's Farm
Where I want to lay low
Low life, high life, oh, let's go
Take me down to Junior's Farm

At the Houses of Parliament
Everybody's talking about the President
We all chipped in for a bag of cement

Ollie Hardy should have had more sense
He bought a gee-gee
And he jumped the fence
All for the sake of a couple of pence

Let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go
Down to Junior's Farm
Where I want to lay low
Low life, high life, oh, let's go
Take me down to Junior's Farm

I took my bag into a grocery store
The prices higher than the time before
Old man asked me "Why is it more?"

I said "You should have seem me
With the poker man
I had a honey and I bet a grand
Just in the nick of time
I looked at his hand

Let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go
Down to Junior's Farm
Where I want to lay low
Low life, high life, oh, let's go
Take me down to Junior's Farm

Take me back
Take me back
I want to go there...

It’s one of Paul’s silly nonsense songs. But why would anybody include a verse about one of the most troubling political events of the modern era in the middle of a song about nonsense?

And, pointedly, why would Paul McCartney include a verse about one of the most troubling political events of the modern era in a nonsense song since Paul lived through the whole Manson era, when the nuts were saying the Beatles were slipping secret political messages into their songs, and Paul lived through the whole British Invasion thing, which tin-foil fringe Anglophobes have always built conspiracy theories around, saying it was really a British black-ops attack on American culture in general.

This verse always makes me shake my head. It is certainly not nonsense itself, yet it certainly is in the middle of a nonsense song. I can’t imagine why Paul McCartney wrote it.

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

“...The bright sun began warming the car’s occupants as they approached the Texas School Book Depository. Atop the building was a large Hertz Rent-A-Car sign containing a digital time and temperature display. In front of the Depository, the limousine slowed to a crawl to make a 120-degree turn onto Elm Street, although turns of more than 90 degrees were prohibited by the Secret Service. The turn was so tight that Greer almost ran the limousine up onto the north curb near the Depository’s front door, according to Depository superintendent Roy Truly. The car continued a slow glide down the incline of Elm into Dealey Plaza...”

That’s a quote from “Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy.” My point is that Elm Street is probably the most infamous street name in US history. It’s the street on which Kennedy was shot. I think almost everyone remembers Elm Street from watching documentaries about that day in Dallas or from reading about that day.

I’ve always been intrigued that filmmaker Wes Craven wrote and directed one of the most popular horror films ever made and that film has the title, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Now, the accepted back-story of the “Elm Street” title is that it is simply a personal reference from Wes Craven to a street on the east coast near where he, as a very young man, once made a student film.

However I am not sure I believe that.

Wes Craven is a politically-oriented guy. Wes Craven asked Bill Clinton if Clinton would allow him to film his final days in the White House and Clinton granted Craven access to the White House. Wes Craven gave numerous interviews when his film “The People Under the Stairs” was released in which he said he hoped people would understand that he intended the film as an allegory for the Reagan years in the White House.

It is inconceivable to me that anybody who is sensitive to politics could use “Elm Street” without that usage being a conscious reference to the Elm Street in Dallas. But no matter how carefully I look at the plot of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” I can’t decipher any political allegory there, at least not one that seems to be a reference to the Kennedy Assassination.

The title of the film “A Nightmare on Elm Street” makes me shake my head. Wes Craven is an intelligent, careful craftsman and a decent guy. I don’t believe he could have used “Elm Street” as a free-floating allusion simply to his own past or simply as a knee-jerk reference to a generically sad event. However, although I’m usually pretty good at ferreting out hidden meanings, I don’t see any in the film. But I haven’t given up looking.

I do have one kind of addendum to this item. One time I was talking to a Young Person about this. I described the issue, the street name in Dallas, the movie title. They thought about it for a second then said, “Well, you know, sometimes things in real life work backward in a silly way. Maybe the secret service guy who arranged the route of the President’s motorcade in Dallas arranged for the motorcade to go on that street because the guy was a big fan of the movie.”

I had to look carefully at the Young Person’s face. Not only were they serious and not joking, but they were kind of proud of themselves for offering a suggestion that apparently I hadn’t thought of.

Well, I liked this Young Person a lot, so I just smiled and nodded (and, as they say, sighed inwardly) and pointed out that the Kennedy Assassination happened in 1963 and the movie “A Nightmare on Elm Street” came out in 1984 so the secret service guy who planned the President’s route probably wasn’t a big fan of the movie.

The Young Person frowned, not sure whether to believe me. They said, “Are you sure? I thought that movie came out a long time ago...”

Yeah. Well, that’s one of the reasons conspiracy theories are fun to talk about. They are Rorschach tests, and very revealing, in every way imaginable.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Light Bulbs And The Kennedy Assassination — 1 & 2

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

Question: How many Kennedy Assassination researchers does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Just one. Or possibly a well-coordinated team of anywhere from three to twenty-eight highly-trained Kennedy Assassination researchers working with the support of military intelligence groups and the cooperation of local, state and federal government agencies. Or maybe just the one, acting alone.

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

Question: How many Kennedy Assassination researchers does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Twenty. One to write a book about the first light bulb burning out. Three to write books refuting the first book about the light bulb burning out and offering alternative theories. Two to write books revisiting and rehabilitating the original book about the first light bulb burning out. Four to develop computer simulations of the first light bulb burning out. Nine to create a comprehensive database of every news story that was published in the world press on the day the first light bulb burned out. And one to change the light bulb.

1 + 3 + 2 + 4 + 9 + 1 = 20 It takes twenty Kennedy Assassination researchers to change a light bulb.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Alchemical Suspicions Of Beauty Without Terror

Tom Stallard, of the University of Leicester, said: “It’s not just a ring of aurora like those we’ve seen at Jupiter or Earth. This one covers an enormous area across the pole. “Our current ideas on what forms Saturn’s aurora predict that this region should be empty, so finding such a bright one here is a fantastic surprise.” The image shown on the left is a composite displaying the aurora, illustrated in blue, the planet’s hot interior, rendered in red, and clouds, which appear as black silhouettes. [Saturn’s polar light show mystifies scientists]

I’ve read scientists have observed
inexplicable aurora
over the north pole of Saturn.
Strange lights in someone else’s sky.

We have aurora here on Earth.
They’re just particles from the Sun
glowing, trapped by magnetism
at the fringe of the atmosphere.

Theories account for certain types
of auroral displays. Sometimes
theories need revising. Sometimes
big theories need revising, too.

Saturn according to theory
lacks mass for fusion reactions.
The planet can’t burn hydrogen,
can’t ignite, can’t become a star.

But I wonder if the strange lights
glowing above Saturn’s north pole
might foreshadow other strange things,
might foreshadow strange lights for us.

Saturn is in Leo. Some say
the Sphinx was once a huge lion
later generations re-carved
to the image of a pharaoh.

Many thousands of years ago
when Saturn was in Leo then
did ancient people see strange lights
in their sky? Did Saturn ignite?

Saturn is dim in our sky now
but if you look very closely
the planet is still beautiful,
still ringed and still mysterious.

Saturn according to theory
doesn’t periodically blaze,
ignite into a second Sun
then dim again to a planet.

But there are many ancient myths,
tales of battles among the ‘gods’
and Saturn, though dim in our sky,
was a god to ancient people.

If Saturn somehow did ignite
our evenings would become as bright
as heavy overcast sunlight.
‘Lucifer’ means ‘Bringer of Light.’

Only a couple of letters,
one phonetic transformation,
differentiate the two words,
the word ‘Saturn,’ the word ‘Satan.’

Saturn according to theory
is the sixth planet from the Sun
and just a planet, not too strange.
And even strange auroral lights

are just particles from the Sun
trapped by Saturn’s magnetic field
high up in Saturn’s atmosphere.
There are aurora on Earth, too.

But I will reveal a secret:
In casual conversations,
in emails that don’t get posted,
professional astronomers

are just as intrigued by the thought
of a low-mass star igniting
among the outer gas giants
as are fans of science fiction.

And, of course, alchemists suspect
we’ve never stopped walking among
shadows of ancient myths still here,
still lit by strange lights in the sky.

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

Through Trees And Clouds, Beauty Without Terror

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Defying Nature In The Parking Lot

A storm of cars blows into the parking lot.
One car like lightning arcs to ground down through me.
Afterward when the cars blow past I’m black ash,
a shape on the pavement, run through, burned out, fried,
never having gotten inside. I need maps,
forecasts, parking lot meteorology.

I need a geosynchronous satellite
dedicated to sending telemetry
for driving a supercomputer model
that generates predictions of when it’s safe
for me to make it through certain parking lots.

It’s tempting just to stay out of parking lots.

But sometimes sunlight refracting through the cars
creates pretty rainbows. And, you know, sometimes
I need to buy new pencils from the craft store
or check out an old book from the library.

Parking lot weather can be terrifying
but I’m hoping the tools of modern science
can get me through these expeditions alive.

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

Parking Lots

Parking Lots At Night #1: The Morning Fashion Shoot

Parking Lots At Night #2: Dinner With Shelby

Parking Lots At Night #3: The Parking Lot At Night

Parking Lots At Night #4: The Next Day


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Boys And Girls And David Hockney

I don’t want to move away (for now) from the topic of paintings based on pop media frames without mentioning David Hockney’s extraordinary book, “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters.” This is a large format, beautifully illustrated history of photorealism in the fine art world, from before the invention of oil painting into the present. There are also many interesting discussions of the epistemology of images in general. (Apparently four hundred years ago some high Vatican officials enjoyed very detailed paintings of naked young men for the same reasons some high Vatican officials today probably get their porn on Blu-ray.)

It’s a great book. I read through the book, cover to cover, once or twice every year. It’s as interesting the third or fourth time through as it was the first.


The most recent Hockney book I’ve read was a retrospective of his drawings.

My favorite works in the book are his colorful pencil and crayon [crayons!] drawings of Celia Birtwell.

When I first read through the book, I just looked at the pictures. Then I went back and read the text. Apparently, I’m guessing, if Hockney were to pick his own favorite images from the book he might not pick images of Celia . . .

“It was incredible to meet in California a young, very sexy, attractive boy who was also curious and intelligent. In California you can meet curious and intelligent people, but generally they’re not the sexy boy of your fantasy as well. To me this was incredible; it was more real. The fantasy part disappeared because it was the real person you could talk to.” — David Hockney

Many have argued that Hockney, in love, captures the intimacy of his relationship with Schlesinger in his drawings. However, as with Hockney’s paintings of him, the drawings should not be confused or conflated with Schlesinger since, in a very real sense, they are not about him. As Peter, Albergo la Flora, Rome (1967) and Peter (1968) make explicit, what the drawings register is Hockney’s active looking at, and possession of, the younger man who is reconstructed in his image. Vision, within this context, achieves the status of an act. Not for Hockney was the benign reciprocity of lovers’ glances.

Ulrich Luckhardt and Paul Melia
writing in David Hockney: A Drawing Retrospective

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Comics And Movies: Thoughts From Art Spiegelman

In today’s post I’m going to follow-up a little on what I talked about yesterday, specifically how I’m trying to figure out some esthetic theory for thinking about art and entertainment images based on frames from the pop media.

I don’t even have a start, however, so I’m just going to be mentioning some of the kinds of things I’m trying to keep in mind as I attempt to get my thinking in order. After I jot down two or three things I use to get perspective in my thinking, I’m going to put up a quote from Art Spiegelman that provides something like a general framework for how I approach thinking of still images versus moving images (or still images versus extracts from moving images).

(One Art Spiegelman note: There are a couple of conceptual points about “Maus” that I find troubling. I wrote a novel—as yet, of course, damn it, unpublished—that touches on dealing with the Holocaust. Although Spiegelman made some choices that I wouldn’t have made, I have a lot of respect for him as an artist. I wouldn’t have crafted “Maus” the way he did, but there is sincerity in his work that is profoundly moving. It is what art and entertainment should be. By comparison, I would single out, say, Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” as being something else entirely.)


When I first posted about paintings based on media frames, I called the post, “The Abandonment Of Meaning.” One of the things I meant by that title was that when an artist or entertainer recycles an image that was composed by a cinematographer or cameraman, takes the image out of context and creates a new context, a great deal of the meaning of the image is lost and very little new meaning is created. The artist or entertainer selects exactly what frame to reproduce, what part of the frame to reproduce, what manner of interpretation to use for the reproduction. These are very real choices that create artistic input. But they are almost trivial compared to the original process of the first composition.

I once posted Will Barnet describing how much thought went into his painting ‘Soft Boiled Eggs.’

Much of my thinking about the issue of images based on media frames is built around the notion that an artist or entertainer should be the source of meaning, rather than simply [simply?] a commentator. An artist or entertainer should be creating pop culture rather than simply looking around and and singling out what other people do to create pop culture.

This may seem counter-intuitive. It is second nature—even for me when I think about these things—to tend to see movies and television as “primary” sources of culture and entertainment, while just about everything else seems derivative in one way or another. Even when novels or comics come first and serve as the source of a movie or TV production people seem to remember the movie or TV production as much more lasting—for better or for worse—than the source material.

I believe this is an illusion. It is a seductive and persuasive illusion, but I believe it is just an illusion nonetheless.

It is still imagery—carefully crafted by real artists and entertainers—that generates “lasting” art and entertainment. Pop culture pretends this isn’t so. Many artists and entertainers accept the pop culture illusion and devote themselves to creating derivative productions. But a reasonable esthetic theory on this topic should provide a framework for thinking about these things which puts everything in its proper place.

I don’t have such a theory, but this is a general statement on how I’m starting to think of the issue.


Here is Art Spiegelman commenting on comics versus the movies:

Unlike many artists, Spiegelman doesn’t see his stories in his head as though they’re movies which he’s capturing on paper. In fact, he says he’s never seen it this way.

“I like movies, but I don’t think they have much to do with comics except that the language is similar, like wide-angle-shot or overhead-shot or close-up. But I don’t see these things as moving pictures, but accretions of pictures. They’re still pictures that never had any other life in my mind. I can see how you can look at a comic and see how it’s like a storyboard for a film. But the more it’s a storyboard for a film, the less it’s a successful comic. Comics are a very specific organization of still images. They suggest time and motion, but they exist as still images. A character on the left of the frame in one panel can, in the next panel, be in the middle and in the third panel be over on the right creating the illusion of a person moving from left to right. But I never saw that as a person walking or tried to figure out how to divide the panels like the frames of a film. I see a kind of patterning, as if you kept the so-called ‘camera’ still with the figure moving across the background. You’d create a pattern that would attract your eye to a certain part of the page and hold it there.

“When I think about comics I always think of full pages and divide them into panels later. And try to find the individual moment that accumulates the full page.”

“There’s so many other factors operating, such as what size and shape panel to use, which is a problem no filmmaker ever deals with because they always have the same ratio of rectangle to work in. And no filmmaker has to think of one frame from five minutes ago still being present in the eye because a film is based on retention from a fraction of a second to a fraction of a second. Comics are based on seeing all those things at once because peripherally you’re always going to see what happens next and what happened before. It’s interesting that Rudolphe Topffer was doing comics that used cross-cutting a good seventy years before the invention of cinema. A lot of cinematic language is actually comics language.

“I find myself influenced by literature and painting. They all play their part. It’s what makes comics an exciting medium, to synthesize and be able to use little bits and parts from other disciplines. So I’m not discounting the influence of film, I just think it’s overrated.”

Art Spiegelman
quoted in “How To Draw Art For Comic Books

Monday, November 10, 2008

“Kari Loses An Underwire From Her Bra...”

“Movies, and particularly frame-enlargements, have been in my work what engravings and such were for artists in the distant past, what printed illustrations were for painters like Manet and Van Gogh, what photographs were for Degas and C├ęzanne and later for Sickert and Bacon. No more and no less.”

R. B. Kitaj
quoted inPop Art

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this kind of thing:

I’m not talking about politics and I’m not talking about conspiracy theories.

I talking about art and entertainment images based on frames from the pop media. That is an Audrey Flack oil painting based on a frame from one of the famous film sequences of Kennedy from that day in Dallas. (This isn’t from the Zapruder film. This is from earlier, at the airport, when Kennedy just arrived in Dallas.)

I’ve posted paintings based on media frames before. I’m very intrigued by this stuff.

I’ve posted Karen Kilimnik’s painting based on an old horror film.

Kilimnik does a lot of these things. It was seeing one of her paintings from a frame of the old TV show “The Avengers” that first got me thinking about this. I had never seen such work before, but I gather it has been going on for quite some time in the fine arts world.

And I’ve posted McDermott & McGough’s odd double painting based on a couple of old melodrama films.

Lots of “real” artists do this kind of work.

I don’t really know what to think about paintings like this. I haven’t read or figured out any kind of esthetic theory for images copied from media frames. But, subjectively, every time I’ve seen one of these things from Karen Kilimnik it’s made me smile. And similar stuff by other artists always catches my eye. Even though I can’t put my finger on why I like this stuff, I suspect there is something special going on, something worth thinking about further.

The quote from Kitaj is interesting but not particularly thoughtful. He just passes off the process of using media frames as the contemporary version of artists responding to the culture around them. But everything an artist creates is a response to the culture around him—in one way or another. That doesn’t address why frame-based paintings are so intriguing.

So, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought.

And over the weekend I decided to give it a try.

Instead of doing a normal cartoon, I decided to try my hand at creating a more comprehensive image based on a frame from an obscure bit of video. I was going to do a painting, but I simply can’t handle a brush. I did color, but I stayed with stick-based color.

If I were a cool, contemporary artist doing the whole fine arts thing—if I were spending the quiet hours sipping vodka-and-tonics with Karen Kilimnik—I would be doing images like this. If I were a real artist I’d be doing this better than I did over the weekend, but this was still fun to play at. I’m sure I won’t be stealing sales away from the real artists, but I might be trying something like this again and trying to get better. Just for the fun of it.

This even has a long, Karen Kilimnik-type title: “Kari loses an underwire from her bra in the DVD edit of ‘Killer Brace Position’”

Here is my first ever attempt at the fine arts:

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Few Moments With Owen And Dodger

DODGER: I’m so sorry for everything. I didn’t mean to hurt you. You have to believe me.

OWEN: It’s okay.

DODGER: I wish I could make it up to you.

OWEN: I know.

DODGER: If I’d known Rich was involved with that girl I wouldn’t have played this stupid joke.

OWEN: What did you say?

DODGER: If I had known Rich was screwing that girl I wouldn’t have talked the others into this.

OWEN: You’re right. You’re absolutely right.

DODGER: I don’t understand.

OWEN: You wouldn’t play some game if you knew Rich was cheating on you.

DODGER: That’s what I just said.

OWEN: You would get back at him.

DODGER: Owen, I’m confused. I don’t—

OWEN: No, you’re not. That’s what you want me to believe. Just like you wanted me to believe that you were off campus when the first IM went out.

DODGER: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

OWEN: Yes, you do. In the chapel you said you ended it with Rich. I don’t think that’s what happened. I think you were still in love with him. I think you knew that girl. And you knew she was still sleeping with Rich. You murdered her. Then you planted the gun. And told me where to find it. I was your guy. From the moment we met. You planned it. The whole thing. You knew I’d shoot him.

DODGER: Owen, that’s crazy.

OWEN: Really? I thought it was the object of the game.

DODGER: Honestly, Owen, even if that were true, who would believe you?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Through Trees And Clouds, Beauty Without Terror

Right this second as I think up these words
and write them down clouds are getting thicker.

When I woke up and walked to the back yard
there were patches of black between the clouds.
Stars glittered in the sky between the clouds.
Aldebaran in Taurus to the west.
Betelgeuse in Orion to the south.
Regulus in Leo to the southeast.
And in the east through the sparse top branches
of the tall tree right across the alley
the planet Saturn, also in Leo.

Saturn’s dimmer than I’ve ever seen it.
Saturn now seems about the same brightness
as Regulus. And you wouldn’t look twice
at either star through clouds or through clear sky
if you didn’t know the star to the left
was Saturn, the most beautiful planet.

Last night just after sundown, in the west
Venus was the brightest star in the sky.
To the left of Venus was Jupiter,
largest planet in the solar system,
second brightest star in the evening sky.

In the morning sky, now, all the bright stars
are south or west. Nothing catches your eye
to the east. Unless you know what is there.
Regulus in Leo to the southeast
and to the left of Regulus, Saturn.

As I write this dawn is breaking behind
the clouds and the sky between them is blue.
The stars are gone. But before, in the dark,
I took my telescope into the yard.
Through the top branches across the alley
Saturn’s still the most beautiful planet.
The planet’s rings are almost edge-on now.
Almost no light’s reflecting off the rings.
But Saturn, the second largest planet,
still glows a gem-like golden ochre glow.
It’s not deep, rich like topaz, but more like
bright sunlight shining on a lion’s fur.

Saturn in Leo, a lion-like gem . . .

It’s a mixed metaphor kind of beauty
but maybe all real beauty is like that.

Through trees. Through clouds. Dim. Just anonymous.
But when you single out Saturn and look—
carry a telescope outside and look—
Saturn’s still the most beautiful planet.

And sometimes beautiful things—singled out,
looked at carefully—aren’t beautiful.
If you single them out and look closely
beautiful things can be terrifying.

But Saturn is a pure kind of beauty.
Even if it takes a mixed metaphor
kind of attempt to describe the beauty.

Nothing at all there is terrifying.

If you know where to look it’s worth looking.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Browsing Election Day

I spent part of yesterday afternoon
browsing a nearby suburb’s library.
The library was a place for voting
in that suburb next to my own suburb.

I’d voted early at our city hall.
People I’ve talked to said turnout was low
both at my suburb and the one next door.

When I was browsing the library shelves
some guy tried to vote at a voting booth
and managed to knock down the voting booth.
The noise echoed throughout the library
as the voting booth banged against the floor
and banged again collapsing on itself.
The middle-age guy, the would be voter,
stood by the collapsed booth, pen in his hand.
He looked at everyone looking at him.
He blushed, hapless, suddenly embarrassed.
He stammered, apologizing. Workers
hurried to get the voting booth back up.

I sighed and said to a guy next to me,
“He can’t even vote without knocking down
the voting booth and this guy’s vote will help
put the next president into office.”

The guy next to me was excited and
told me nobody’s vote counted because
he had heard there was so much voter fraud
all around the country that the Army
tomorrow was declaring martial law.
He said he’d learned that browsing on the ’net.

I sighed, again, didn’t say anything
and walked away from the voter fraud guy.

That’s election day in America.

I went home and ate two pints of ice cream
even though I’m cutting back on sugar.
I woke up in the middle of the night
with a stomach ache but I think I’ll live.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Dead Butterfly Flapping

The neighborhood video store
near my house is closing up shop.
The last few days they’ve been selling
their entire stock, ten bucks per film.
Though I sometimes rented from them
I couldn’t bring myself to spend
ten dollars to own anything,
not a comedy, no thriller,
not even a monster movie.

The whole motion picture business
has metamorphosized but not
into a butterfly, instead
they’ve emerged from the chrysalis
of high-tech filmmaking combined
with modern business practices
as a junk shop—with junk shop wings,
junk shop abdomen, junk shop legs . . .

Hollywood has crafted itself
into an ugly butterfly.
I don’t want to buy their junk and
when I see them in my garden
I shoo them away from the flowers.

Motor cars, handle bars,
Bicycles for two.
Broken hearted jubilee.

Parachutes, army boots,
Sleeping bags for two.
Sentimental jamboree.

“Buy! Buy!”
Says the sign in the shop window.
“Why? Why?”
Says the junk in the yard.

Candlesticks, building bricks,
Something old and new.
Memories for you and me.

“Buy! Buy!”
Says the sign in the shop window.
“Why? Why?”
Says the junk in the yard.