Friday, August 29, 2008

Charles Moore Goes To Saturn!

I don’t post about programming as much as I’d like to. This may change a bit in the future. I have a couple of new programming tools I may want to chat about.

However, I have come across a new interview with Charles Moore that I want to link to. It’s from ComputerWorld back in June, but I think it’s the most recent thing on the net from Moore. A lot of it is old news, but there’s some new stuff. Here’s my favorite excerpt, and the link:

Do you know of many programs written using Forth, and if so, what's your favourite?

Forth has been used in thousands of applications. I know of very few. The Forth Interest Group held conferences in which applications were described. It was amazing the variety. My current favorite is that Forth is orbiting Saturn on the Cassini spacecraft.

It’s got to be pretty damn cool to know that you invented the language that’s managing the bits for a spacecraft orbiting Saturn!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Never Once Harmed By Anyone

Of all the stories I’ve posted over this more than two years of blogging, one of my personal favorites is “Kings And Queens Of The Ancient Seas.” [Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3]

Of all the stories I’ve posted, I think that story of a man stepping away from the contemporary world and joining the cruising world is the one story I would be most happy to make come true.

If I could, I’d go today.

I was first introduced to the cruising world through the books of Lin and Larry Pardey. Their generation had been introduced to the cruising world through the books of Susan and Eric Hiscock.

Lin and Larry Pardey eventually met Susan and Eric Hiscock, did some sailing with them and became friends. Eric Hiscock died a few years before Susan, and Susan continued cruising after his death. When Susan passed away, Lin Pardey wrote an article about the famous couple for “Sail” magazine (10/95).

I always have been struck by how Eric as a senior citizen in failing health had summed up his life to Lin and Larry Pardey. He said, “We have lived such a fortunate life in that during all of our years of voyaging and exploring in unbelievable places, we met all kinds of people—rich and poor—and were never once harmed by anyone.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Avril, Yes; Beyonce, Christina, No

Malaysia relents - bans all bans on Avril Lavigne

Kuala Lumpur (dpa) - Malaysian authorities have reversed their decision to cancel a concert by Canadian pop-rock star Avril Lavigne, days after they ruled that her show was unsuitable for local youths, a senior official said Monday.

"After discussions with organizers, we have agreed to allow the show to go on," a spokesman for the Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry said.

Its minister Shafie Apdal had sparked criticisms of being "closed- minded" on Wednesday when he said Lavigne's show would be cancelled because it was unsuitable for Malaysian culture and could not be held on August 29, two days ahead of independence day and nearing the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

However, the ministry official said the decision has seen been reversed, but declined to give a specific reason.

"The minister is showing our country to be a closed-minded, childish country that objects to anything different from our own culture," said Leow, a Lavigne fan who had purchased tickets for her concert weeks earlier.

"It's a relief that they've come to their senses now," he said.

Lavigne, 23, will be performing in this Muslim-majority nation for the first time.

The youth wing of a hardline opposition Islamic group had earlier called for the show to be canceled, saying Lavigne's performances were too raunchy for youths.

Malaysian Western music fans are often forced to travel to neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and Singapore to catch their favourite stars due to strict guidelines imposed on performers.

Last year, R&B singer Beyonce moved her show from Malaysia to Indonesia, and Christina Aguilera skipped the country on an Asian tour after a controversy erupted over a dress code for foreign artists.

Malaysia requires all performers to wear clothes without obscene or drug-related images and to be covered from the chest to the knees. They must also refrain from jumping, shouting, hugging and kissing on stage.


Not too long ago Avril performed somewhere around here. Some of the teenage girls who work at the local grocery store went to the show. They said they had a great time.


I kind of like the whole silly makeup and silly clothes look.

If I ever get my successful supervillain persona up and running I’ll be needing a pretty young woman to be my sidekick. I’d give Avril’s resume a close look if she dumped her husband and was looking to be somebody’s moll . . .

(However, I would first try very hard to recruit Skye Sweetnam.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Twilight Language—Decapitations, Bigfoot And Psychopathic Movies

Does anyone really know—does anyone
really want to know—what goes on after dark?

After Dark

While I have been just chatting about Bigfoot and psychopathic movies, a very accomplished Forteana researcher named Loren Coleman has been looking into recent news stories and finding actual expressions of the Goblin Universe—the darkest shadows of it—manifesting themselves in our world.


Loren Coleman maintains a great blog, “The Copycat Effect.”

The particular topic thread I’m posting about today begins with a news story from the end of July. A passenger on a Greyhound bus in Winnipeg brutally murdered and beheaded another passenger. The mainstream media reported the event, but there was little follow-up:

Police don't know what prompted vicious bus attack

Loren Coleman has done extensive follow-up.

The most interesting way to read Loren Coleman’s take on this story is just to go to his blog’s home page, linked above, and drift backward through his postings. There are other posts unrelated to the Winnipeg attack, but they can be ignored, or just skimmed.

But here are Coleman’s particular posts about the Winnipeg attack:

Monday, August 11, 2008: Windigo Decapitation and Cannibalism

Thursday, August 07, 2008: Joker's Card, Jokawild and Decapitations

Tuesday, August 05, 2008: The Dark Knight Curse

Sunday, August 03, 2008: Decapitations: Greece and Canada


It’s a wild world.

It’s best to have secret ways in and out of it. And when you discover secret ways in and out, it’s best to keep them to yourself.

Monday, August 25, 2008

After Dark

Last night just after dark I walked through the house
getting things ready for night. I closed windows,
locked doors, switched on some nightlights, that kind of thing.

Alone in the living room Fluffy the cat
was sitting on top of the big couch twisting
into odd positions as she groomed herself.

I locked the porch door, put down the glass windows.
Alone in the back yard grass a big rabbit
was twisting into odd positions, grooming.

For all the world it looked like Fluffy the cat
and the big rabbit from out in the back yard
were getting ready to go out on a date.

But Fluffy’s a house cat. She never goes out.
And the house stays closed at night. Unless she knows
secret ways in and out she keeps to herself.

I sighed, reminded myself it’s a wild world.
Does anyone really know—does anyone
really want to know—what goes on after dark?

Friday, August 22, 2008

A TV, A DVD Player And A Cloud Somewhere Above Me

By my bed I have three remote controls.
One is an all-in-one that is designed
to replace the other two. However,
each of the other two has one or two
special functions the all-in-one can’t do.
So for most things I use the all-in-one
to save wear-and-tear on the good remotes.
But I can’t put away the good remotes
for safe keeping because I always need
some obscure function only they can do.
Throughout the day, then, when I move around
I try to keep all three remotes with me
because if I just have the all-in-one
something always will come up and I’ll need
to access some obscure special function
of the TV or DVD player.


I sometimes suspect my life is messed up
because somewhere above me on a cloud
an angel is sitting back, looking down
and next to him he has a whole table
piled high with remote control devices
and as I go through my day my angel
is up on his cloud watching over me
but when I get to key situations
he grabs a remote and points it at me
but when he presses a button nothing
happens because he grabbed the wrong remote.
So I don’t get the job, don’t get the girl,
don’t find my shoe, just miss the lottery . . .
And my angel is up there on his cloud
pressing buttons, tossing aside remotes,
grabbing new ones and pointing them at me . . .
I suspect, too, he might be not changing
the triple-A batteries when they’re low.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hanny’s Voorwerp

Sometimes it’s tempting to think that time spent on the internet clicking around the web, staring at pictures, is wasted. For at least one person, however, doing just that—clicking around the web and staring at pictures—has caused a global sensation:

Dutch Teacher Discovers New Space Object

August 6, 2008, United Press International

A Dutch schoolteacher taking part in an online research project has discovered a gaseous object that astronomers say is of unknown origin.

Hanny van Arkel was one of more than 150,000 volunteer amateur astronomers who last year helped classify more than 1 million images on the Web site She reported she was unable to classify an irregular, green, glowing object.

Yale astrophysicist Kevin Schawinski and colleagues at Oxford University say van Arkel might have found a new class of astronomical object that's become known as Hanny's Voorwerp -- Dutch for "object."

Schawinski asked astronomers around the world to examine the Voorwerp with ground- and satellite-based telescopes. He and his colleagues say they believe the Voorwerp is illuminated by a quasar that was once active at the center of a nearby galaxy.

Schawinski explained that "light from that past still lights up the nearby Voorwerp, even though the quasar shut down sometime in the past 100,000 years." Scientists will soon use the Hubble Space Telescope to obtain a closer look.

A manuscript of the team's observations and analysis has been submitted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Hanny’s Voorwerp has it’s own web page!

Hanny’s Voorwerp’s Wiki page

And here’s
what it looks like:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bigfoot Update (Cops Lie?!)

So, the week started pleasantly enough with a story about a Bigfoot apparently eating Michelle Wie. Or something like that. Now we see it was all a hoax put together by a cop—now ex-cop (good way to lose your job, Einstein!) and his car salesman buddy. Oops . . .

Bigfoot’s body a hoax, California site reveals

And the Clayton County Police officer has lost his job

By BOB KEEFE, Cox News Service

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Can you believe it? Georgia’s “Bigfoot” was just a big hoax.

The body of a supposed ape-man found in the North Georgia mountains was nothing but an empty rubber monkey suit embedded in ice, according to California Bigfoot enthusiasts who finally got a chance to examine it last weekend.

The two Atlanta men who stood up at a news conference in California last week and tried to convince the world they had found Bigfoot now apparently can’t be located — just like the real Bigfoot.

Calls to Matthew Whitton, a Clayton County police officer — make that former police officer — and his car salesman buddy Rick Dyer weren’t returned Tuesday.

The answering machine on a “tip line” connected to the pair’s Web site, which still advertises $499 Bigfoot “expeditions,” says they’re still out searching for Sasquatch — as well as leprechauns, dinosaurs, unicorns, Jimmy Hoffa and Elvis.

Searching for Bigfoot Inc., the California outfit that paid an undisclosed sum to Whitton and Dyer for rights to their story and their find, says the pair checked out of the hotel where they had been put up over the weekend.

According to a news release on Searching for Bigfoot’s Web site, the whole scam unraveled when a block of ice containing the “body” melted over the weekend. Whitton and Dyer later confessed that it was just a costume, according to the release.

Why the two Georgians contrived the cross-country con isn’t clear.

What is certain is that Whitton, 28, on medical leave after being shot in the wrist by a robbery suspect earlier this year, won’t be going back to work at the Clayton County Police Department.

As soon as he heard Whitton’s Bigfoot was a big fake, “I terminated him,” said Police Chief Jeffrey Turner said Tuesday.

“He’s disgraced himself, he’s an embarrassment to the Clayton County Police Department, his credibility and integrity as an officer is gone, and I have no use for him,” Turner said. “His behavior is unbecoming of that of a police officer.”

“This turn of events from hero to someone who defrauds a nation is just baffling. I don’t know how he got from one point to the other,” Turner said.

The chief said he wants to send Whitton his termination paperwork and get his uniforms back. However, he said, “We haven’t been able to get in touch with him.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hollywood Makes Psychopathic Movies?!

I’m not a fan of anything about Roseanne Barr. Not anything about her as a person, not anything she’s done in her ‘career.’ However, recently she posted something on her blog that I think is worth propagating through the blogosphere. So today I’m doing my part:

“. . . jon voight your evil spawn angelina jolie and her vacuous hubby brad pitt make about forty million dollars a year in violent psychopathic movies and give away three of it to starving children trying to look as if they give a crap about humanity as they spit out more dunces that will consume more than their fair share and wreck the earth even more. (just sayin').”

Roseanne World, August 15, 2008: “Jon Voight

I like this quote so much I’m going to number a few of the reasons:

  1. It’s interesting that even stupid Hollywood people have noticed that work seems to come to performers who understand the ‘kick-back’ principle of charity.

  2. It’s interesting that even stupid Hollywood people recognize the relatively big budget movies Jolie and Pitt crank out are worthless.

  3. It’s interesting that other people must think stuff similar to this, but the only person saying it publicly is a lunatic fringe has-been like Barr.

  4. It’s interesting that even a lunatic fringe has-been like Barr only says something like this in the context of a crazy political rant.

  5. It’s interesting that anyone in Hollywood would first understand and secondly admit that it is even possible for a movie to be “psychopathic.”

That last point is my favorite.

The Goblin Universe view—of course!—is that the really smart people in Hollywood have understood for decades that a movie can be psychopathic.

Why would anyone want to make psychopathic movies?

I’ve been touching on that topic for as long as this blog as been around.

For instance, in: Return To The Other Way Of Making A Frankenstein’s Monster

Monday, August 18, 2008

Michelle Wie And Bigfoot

Both of these stories would be more interesting if they were intertwined.

I’d be starting out the week happier if I could report that Michelle Wie had been attacked and eaten by a Sasquatch and then, in a Jaws-like sequence of events, hunters had tracked down the creature, shot it, hung it upside down from a tree, sliced open its belly and watched Michelle Wie’s head drop out and bounce along the ground.

That would be cool.

But I can’t report that.

However, there is news about Michelle Wie and there is news about Bigfoot and I wanted to get these up while they’re reasonably fresh.

(I also want to do a post about the fighting in Georgia, but that can be later in the week. First the important stuff . . .)


As of yesterday, Michelle Wie stopped being a professional golfer. She played in so few LPGA tournaments and played so poorly in the tournaments she appeared in that she failed to win enough money to qualify as a professional and carry a tour card to get into LPGA events next year. If she wants to play next year, she’ll have to participate in a qualifying tournament. Just like a real person.

Wie Fails in Bid for Tour Card

Brent's Golf Blog, by Brent Kelley

Sunday August 17, 2008

The Canadian Women's Open concluded Sunday with Katherine Hull claiming her first career LPGA Tour win by a stroke over Hall-of-Famer Se Ri Pak.

And outside the Top 10, tied for 12th place, was Michelle Wie. Wie played well in Canada save for her opening-round 75. And she earned $36,475, her biggest payday of 2008.

But far, far less than she needed. Wie was trying to win enough money to earn an LPGA Tour card for 2009 without having to go through the LPGA Qualifying Tournament. She needed to finish at least fifth to have a shot. She needed at least $110,000 in total 2008 earnings.

Instead, she finishes her seven LPGA appearances with only around $60,000, a total that will likely rank around 115th on the money list at the end of the season.

And that means that if Wie wants LPGA membership in 2009 - which she has indicated she does - she'll have to get it the old-fashioned way: Q-School.

But will Wie enter Q-School? There have been conflicting indications. A couple months ago Wie pointed out that Q-School dates conflict with important Stanford University dates, and she plans on going back to Stanford the Fall semester. That was before Wie realized she wouldn't make her money goal, however. Lately, she has demurred when asked about Q-School, saying she hasn't made a decision yet. Her father, earlier in the year, suggested that Wie would enter Q-School if necessary.

What do you think - will Wie enter Q-School? I think she will. I believe her agents plus her coach, David Leadbetter, will prevail upon her to do so, stressing the importance of earning LPGA membership the "right" way.

So I think Wie will enter Q-School, and that she'll easily get through Q-School. And in 2009, we'll finally get to see what Wie can do with a schedule that doesn't rely on sponsor exemptions.


This intriguing Bigfoot news broke last week, but I was waiting for confirmation before posting it. However, I don’t see anything happening on the net, so I want to get this up before it disappears, just in case it gets interesting again a few weeks from now. Sometimes Forteana works that way.

Body Of Sasquatch Found?

Reported by: Chris Jones, KUTV

Last Update: 8/16 6:53 am

Two men claim they have definitive proof that Big Foot exists and they say they have a hairy corpse stored in a freezer to prove it.

Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer say they stumbled across a dead Sasquatch while in the woods of northern Georgia. They say it is a 7’ 7“-tall big foot weighing in at 550 pounds.

"What it looks like to me is like a human-ape type creature. It's not a human and it's not an ape, it's definitely something that we've never seen before," said Matt Whitton.

They are not winning over many skeptics. The country's most prominent Big Foot researcher, Jeffrey Medrum of Idaho State University, says it just looks like a costume with some fake guts poured over it for effect.

But not everyone is so sure the picture is a fake. Utah is home to a pretty well-known Sasquatch scholar who speaks all over the country to groups who believe Sasquatch is real.

Darrell Smith of Sandy says he's not convinced that the picture is the real deal, but he also has a sense of wonder that makes it almost impossible for him to discount the claim.

Few people have looked as hard or documented as much as Smith. He’s been out on many expeditions and has lots of pictures of tracks.

He's collected stories for decades and plaster casts of big feet that he says came from the mysterious beast.

“Here’s one. 1977 Fish Lake in the Uinta Mountains.”

There’s a lot of skepticism surrounding the Georgia big foot picture but Smith has an open mind.

“Can’t see the nose very well. It could be a Big Foot’s face. That could be one.”

He's found what he thinks is evidence and he listened to what he believes are true Sasquatch stories. And although solid proof of the Big Foot sometimes runs away from us, Darrell Smith is a believer who will likely never slam his foot down on this enduring mystery.

“I’ve seen tracks just about every time I’ve been up there.”

What do you think? Does Big Foot exist? Vote now in our poll at the top of the page.

Copyright 2008 Four Points

Friday, August 15, 2008

Deviations And Norms #1: Numbers

My mathematical intuition
just isn’t sophisticated enough
to appreciate all the differences
between the number you get by taking
the regular standard deviation
of a set and the similar number
you can get by simply calculating
the mean of all the absolute values
of the differences between each member
and the mean of the set. No squares or roots.

I used to create a function my way
just so that I’d always know how and why
all my figures came to be. Now I use
normal standard deviation functions.

The end result is similar numbers
so it’s just me being a conformist.

But now I have this pending mental note
that the next time I emergently meet
a friendly, pretty mathematician
I’m going to ask her out for ice cream
or a bowl of soup just so I can ask
what the mathematical differences
are between these two similar methods
for codifying differences by rules.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Not Britney, Not Even Mischa

Moss roses are blooming out back.

The beautiful little flowers
open in sun, close in shadow.

In sunlight they are bright colors—
yellow, orange, red and purple.

They are almost invisible
in shadow when the blooms are closed.
The petals wrap around themselves,
twist tight, hide their color inside.
The blossoms, then, just look like bumps
on the curly, reddish-brown stems,
lost among the pointy, green leaves.

In the sun the flowers open,
the colors shine. You don’t notice
the plants even have stems and leaves.

Yellows, oranges, reds, purples—
It’s all too beautiful to waste
as a metaphor for something.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wrinkled, Lined And Flabby (Reprise)

Back when I used to visit my Dad and my Mom in the hospital, I often noticed that a great many of the patients admitted to the hospitals were either old people or fat people.

It seems then, at least anecdotally, that two key methods for avoiding serious illness are: 1) Don’t get fat; and 2) Don’t get old.

Both methods are difficult, but one is harder than the other.


Incidentally, at the hospitals I don’t remember ever seeing a patient who was fat and old. Logically, it seems then that either fat old people are extraordinarily healthy or fat people have worked out a sure fire way of not getting old: they die young.


My favorite book about not getting old is:

Zone Diet site


Let’s all be eternally free and eternally young.   Oooh . . .

Standing tough under stars and stripes
We can tell
This dream's in sight
You've got to admit it
At this point in time that it's clear
The future looks bright

On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
Well by seventy-six we'll be A.O.K.

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

Get your ticket to that wheel in space
While there's time
The fix is in
You'll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky
You know we've got to win

Here at home we'll play in the city
Powered by the sun
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
More leisure time for artists everywhere

A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We'll be clean when their work is done
We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young
Oooh . . .

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Big Machine On The Table

Last night there was a big machine

on a wooden table. The room

was full of people. A grim-faced

young woman stood by the table,

touching the front of the machine.

For some reason, I was standing

behind the table by the back

of the machine. The young woman

pressed something on the machine’s front.

Water gushed out through a small tube

protruding from the machine’s back.

I said, “Hey, the machine’s leaking.

Water’s pouring out all over.”

I tried tipping up the machine

from the back. The stream of water

continued to pump through the tube.

I hurried around the table,

studied the front of the machine.

“What button did you press?” I asked

the grim-faced young woman. She shrugged.

Somebody across the room said,

“The orange button on the left.”

There were half a dozen orange

rocker switches on the machine.

I started to asked which switch, but

I noticed that one rocker switch

was pressed up, all the rest were down.

I pressed down the one that was up.

Water stopped gushing from the back

of the machine on the table.

I lifted up the whole machine,

put it on another table.

On the table where the machine

had been there was a big puddle

of standing water on the wood.

I said, “The water might ruin

the table.” No one seemed to care.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Plum Island Monsters

When people like me [‘people like me?’] think of intense weirdness on the east coast, we typically think first of Miskatonic University and small town denizens devolving to worship of the elder gods of the Cthulhu Mythos. It’s great stuff, but more or less fictional stuff created by H.P. Lovecraft. Or, in a more contemporary mood, we think of the Montauk Project and the Philadelphia Experiment. That’s also great stuff, but it’s also more or less fictional, apparently being one of the government’s cover stories to hide advanced technology that grew out of studying very high voltage capacitors at shipyards during World War Two. [winks]

However, there are real, functioning bits of intense weirdness on the east coast.

I’ve already put up links to Cold Spring Harbor. [A James D. Watson Skinhead Thug Goodbye ] That place is still around. They’re still doing what they’ve always done.

And not too far away from Cold Spring Harbor is a place called Plum Island. Sometimes it’s called Lab 257.

If they weren’t making real monsters on Plum Island, would the Wonkette [!] be making jokes about mutant hybrid armies?

'Montauk Monster' Has Hamptons in a Tizzy

Thursday , July 31, 2008
By Paul Wagenseil, FOX News

What's brownish-purple, goes to the beach and stinks of rotting flesh?

New York's celebrity-obsessed Hamptons summer season got even sillier this week when a strange-looking, very dead creature washed up on a beach in Montauk at the far eastern end of New York's Long Island.

On Tuesday afternoon, a photo was posted on Gawker, the Big Apple's reigning gossip blog, which treated the Montauk monster with characteristic respect: "Good Luck With Your Hell Demons."

The animal looks like a bloated, hairless dog, except that it's got an eagle-like beak, a prominent brow ridge and a curiously elongated front paw.

Speculation immediately arose that it might be a hitherto unknown marine mammal, a sea turtle without its shell, an artful Photoshop creation or — cue the " X-Files" theme — an escaped experiment from the government animal-disease research facility on Plum Island, just offshore from Montauk.

The animal's resting on sand in the photo, with no other indication of location or scale except for what appears to be a large fly on its back.

Gawker itself thought it had broken the case late on Tuesday, when it noted that the woman who'd e-mailed in the photo worked for a viral-marketing firm.

It all tied in neatly to "Cryptids Are Real," an upcoming Cartoon Network show about mysterious, scientifically undocumented animals such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Chupacabra.

But the tipster, whom New York magazine identified as Los-Angeles based Alanna Navitski, denied that her efforts were part of any campaign.

She said she'd gotten the picture from her sister, who'd gotten it herself from a friend in New York who actually saw the darn thing.

"I saw the monster," said another witness, a waiter at a nearby restaurant, to New York magazine. "I just came walking down the beach and everyone was looking at it. No one knew what it was. It kind of looked like a dog, but it had this crazy-looking beak. I mean, I would freak out if something like that popped up next to me in the water."

Plum TV, a sort of upscale public-access network carried on Hamptons cable TV as well as in other tony summer resorts, promises an interview Friday with the original photographer as well as two other women who say they saw the animal. thinks one commenter on the Plum TV Web site may have figured it out.

The short beak-snout and long, flipper-like paw certainly don't belong to a dog, but they could easily belong to a young raccoon whose fur and nasal cartilage rotted away in the water. Check out images of raccoon skulls here and here, and this image of a raccoon's paw.

To complicate matters, no one seems to know exactly where the mysterious beastie is now.

It's no longer at the beach where it was supposedly found; then again, the sand it's resting on in the photo could be anywhere in the world.

"They say an old guy came and carted it away," Navitski told New York magazine. "He said, 'I'm going to mount it on my wall.'"

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Picture Manifold

There’s paint from the store
and there’s paint on the canvas.
There’s paint that gets wiped

on the painter’s clothes.
Paint that gets washed off the brush.
Paint on the palette

that dries and hardens.
There’s paint that never gets squeezed
from the tube of paint.

Paint on the canvas
is the only fucking paint
people care about

but the other paints—
new paint, unused paint, tossed paint,
the infinite paints

are the canvas paint
extended in dimensions
we don’t always see.

The paint-on-clothing
dimension. The used-up-tube
dimension. Paint space.

Painting’s a space warp,
it’s everything, everywhere.
Paint on the canvas

is paint space collapsed
to the picture manifold.
The infinite paints

are there but unseen.
Paintings are not photographs.
That’s what painters know.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wrinkled, Lined And Flabby

“Don’t you understand anything?”

“Like what?”

“Like Eunice.”

“No, I don’t understand Eunice.”

“She will be here any minute.”

“You have got to stop repeating yourself.”

“I am not repeating myself. I am not repeating myself. Oh, God, I’m repeating myself.”

“Steve, you don’t want to marry Eunice.”

“I am not Steve. I am Howard.”

“Neither of you wants to marry Eunice.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you don’t want to marry someone who is going to get all wrinkled, lined and flabby.”

Everybody gets wrinkled, lined and flabby.”

“By next week?”

The weekend before last, I had something like an epiphany. I don’t have a lot of epiphanies and that’s too bad because there are a lot of things I’d like to figure out. But the weekend before last I had something like one.

I was watching a tennis tournament. This time of year tennis buffs like me think of as the US Open season. Almost every weekend there is a little tournament leading up to the final Grand Slam event of the year.

This time of year is always important to me because, over the years, I’ve used the US Open to start planning my next year, to put stuff from the current year into my past, to evaluate my life and to try to get on with things. Back when I dropped out of college I made the decision to do so during a US Open. When I was in the corporate world I made some key job decisions during US Opens. Now, whether I want to or not, I’ll be making some pretty big decisions during this US Open season, too.

What I’m saying is I generally get a little thoughtful and introspective during this time of year.

The weekend before last I was watching a couple of the warm-up tournaments leading to the US Open and one of the commercials—of all things!—hit me like a sledgehammer to the back of the head.

It was a USTA commercial featuring young hotshot Rafael Nadal and old has-been John McEnroe. The idea is that Nadal is driving a bus from tournament to tournament and McEnroe is in the back of the bus playing guitar and making noise, bugging Nadal.

Now, beyond the fact that Nadal is an active player and McEnroe retired something like two decades ago, what really bugged me about the commercial was the age thing: Nadal just turned twenty years old. McEnroe soon is going to turn fifty.

McEnroe looked stupid banging away on the guitar, acting obnoxious.

I sat there watching the commercial thinking, “This is ridiculous. The USTA really needs to get rid of McEnroe. He’s not a player any more. He does awful commentary. Why do they keep him hanging around? And why do they do a stupid commercial like this where they show this old guy hanging around with the youngsters? Don’t they—doesn’t he—realize how stupid he looks?

Then—and this was the sledgehammer part—it hit me: McEnroe is just one year older than I am.


I know some people who are twenty years old . . .


I’m obnoxious and bang away on a guitar . . .


I’d thought about McEnroe: Doesn’t he realize how stupid he looks?


Yeah, so, this age thing is tough for me. I’ve never been afraid or worried about the whole wrinkled, lined and flabby part of getting old. Everybody gets wrinkled, lined and flabby.

I’ve always been afraid of becoming irrelevant.

Most old people I know have completely given up on playing an active part in society-at-large. They are not creating anything, they are not contributing anything. They are not even trying to be a dynamic element within society-at-large.

Beyond simply not creating or contributing anything in any way to society-at-large, many old people I know are actively dragging down, holding back, society-at-large. They reinforce pointless old crap. They require young people to spend time and resources to maintain them. They consume resources that dynamic people could be putting to better use.

I’ve never wanted to become that kind of old person.

And I’ve often tried to hang out with younger people because—I think, even though I know it’s a mistaken belief—I tend to think of young people as relevant by their very nature as young people. I tend to think of young people as dynamic and contributing even though I know many young people are just going through the motions of life in the same way as are many old people.

So it occurred to me that, just like McEnroe in that dumb commercial, I must have looked pretty stupid at times.


I can’t say that I feel any new imperative to act my age.

But I do feel a new imperative to police my behavior better so that I don’t look stupid in that particular way.

I’m sure I’ll find new ways to look stupid.

But I will be more careful about hanging out with young people, banging away on my guitar and acting obnoxious.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Crying (A Loose End)

Today’s post is about tying up a loose end.


I’m accumulating quite a few loose ends on the blog. I even have categories for them. Some loose ends I specifically plan on never tying up. Some have a priority and every day I try to think of ways to get them posted. Other loose ends just kind of percolate until I’ve got some time on my hands or think of something unexpected.

Incidentally, the last time I tried to tie up a loose end I ended up taking down the post. I’ll tell that story another day. That loose end attempt has itself become yet another loose end.

Today’s loose end is of the third variety. So far as I know, this isn’t a trouble making loose end, it’s just something I have taken a long while to get around to.


Last year in “My Favorite Zombie Movie” I mentioned that the ending of “Return of the Living Dead #3” always makes me cry. I wasn’t just being melodramatic. The ending really does make me cry. Something about the combination of the zombie theme and the star-crossed lover theme gets to me.

But there are two things from pop culture that always make me cry.

Ever since the March before last I’ve been waiting to get an idea for how to bring up the second pop culture thing that always makes me cry.

Yesterday’s post about petting butterflies and my post from a couple of months ago about the season’s first Monarch got me thinking about how many butterfly references I’ve made in the blog. It’s entirely emergent—butterflies aren’t one of the themes/concepts/things I’ve mentally set aside to talk about or think about.

I believe the butterfly references have a strong subconscious component. Because for many, many years now the second pop culture thing that always makes me cry has been the Heart song, “Dog and Butterfly.”

Sometime in the future I’m going to come back and talk about butterflies at some length—the whole topic, now, has become a loose end!—but for today’s post I’m just going to put up the lyrics to “Dog and Butterfly:”

There I was with the old man
Stranded again so off I’d ran
A young world crashing around me
No possibility of getting what I need
He looked at me and smiled
Said, “No, no, no, no child—

See the dog and butterfly.
Up in the air she like to fly.
Dog and butterfly.
Below he had to try.
He roll back down
To the warm soft ground
He don’t know why.
He don’t know why.
Dog and butterfly.”

Well, I stumbled upon your secret place
Safe in the trees you had tears on your face
Wrestling with your desires
Frozen strangers stealing your fires
The message hit my mind
Only words that I could find—

See the dog and butterfly
Up in the air she like to fly
Dog and butterfly
Below he had to try
He roll back down to the warm soft ground
Up to the sky
Up to the sky
Dog and butterfly

We’re getting older
The world’s getting colder
For the life of me I don’t know the reason why
Maybe it’s living
Making us give in
Hearts rolling in
Taken back on the tide
We’re balanced together
Ocean upon the sky

Another night in this strange town
Moonlight holding me light as down
Voice of confusion inside of me
Begging to go back where I’m free
Feels like I’m through
But the old man’s words are true—

See the dog and butterfly
Up in the air she like to fly
Dog and butterfly
Below he had to try
He roll back down to the warm soft ground
A little tear in his eye
He had to try
He had to try

Dog and butterfly

Up in the air she like to fly
Dog and butterfly
Below he had to try
He roll back down to the warm soft ground
He don’t know why
But he had to try
He had to try
Dog and butterfly

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Petting Butterflies

It’s good to have fun. Because sometimes when you are having fun the people around you are having fun, too—second hand!

Checking Out Mirror Neurons At The Grocery Store

A couple of mornings back I saw one of the biggest butterflies I’ve ever seen.

It was a tiger-stripe swallowtail. Beautiful, bright yellow. And very large. With its wings spread it was as large as my hand, fingers spread, from thumb to little finger.

It was fluttering around the potted flowers outside our local grocery store.

I stopped to watch it and, as I watched, it settled on a large bunch of small purple flowers right in front of me.

I kneeled down to get a closer look.

As the swallowtail inserted its proboscis into the little purple flowers, it basked with its wings spread wide and flat. (It was a cool morning and I guessed it was trying to let the sun shine onto its darker body and warm up. Butterflies use their wings to help them thermo-regulate.)

Butterflies have a kind of soft fur on their thorax and abdomen. The tiger-stripe swallowtail has dark body fur counter-pointed by bright yellow patches of fur. It’s very beautiful.

Because the swallowtail was basking with its wings wide, I decided to try something I’ve done three or four times in my life.

I very, very gently and very, very slowly extended my right index finger. I very, very gently touched the swallowtail on the soft fur of its thorax and very, very gently petted the butterfly down along its back.

The swallowtail’s wings shivered a little so I knew it was aware I was touching it, but I just petted it and then took my hand away. The swallowtail flexed its wings slightly, but remained in place feeding at the small purple flowers.

That’s pretty cool, I thought. How many people get to start their day petting a butterfly?

I stood up, took a last look at the yellow butterfly and then turned to enter the grocery store.

A tall, heavy-set middle-aged guy was standing just outside the door. He had bulging grocery bags in both hands but he was staring at me.

“Did you just pet that butterfly?” he asked.

I smiled, nodded.

“That’s pretty cool,” the man said. “And it’s pretty weird, too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone pet a butterfly before. How did you do that?”

I explained that I just moved very slowly and very gently, always trying to look to the butterfly that I meant it no harm at all.

“Sometimes it works,” I said, “and sometimes they fly away.”

“That’s pretty cool,” the man said, again. “I never knew you could do that. Pet a butterfly. I’m going to have to give that a try.”

He didn’t look like the kind of guy who’d be interested in touching a butterfly. But that’s a strange thing about strange things: You just never know about things until you actually find out.

Monday, August 04, 2008


With the rain around us we walked for hours
That night you told me
Your parents had flown off to France
And Grim
I thought the girl in the dress store window
Flew with seraphim

Watching TV
Grim whispers ancient stories
Watching TV
Lights deceive me

People with tea cups said you were too thin
That day you let me
Pretend we both knew how to dance
And Grim
I thought the girl in the book store window
Flew with seraphim

Watching TV
Grim whispers ancient stories
Watching TV
Lights deceive me

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

Many years ago a jazz musician I knew said something like this to me: “Mark, did you ever notice some people make fun of Paul McCartney’s music, but a lot of his Wings songs sound kind of like fusion?”

In fact, I had noticed that. I like fusion. Fusion is cool.

Paul’s song, ‘Letting Go’ is on “Venus and Mars” and Paul’s song, ‘Jet’ is on “Band on the Run.” They’re both three verse songs, but I prefer an AB-AB structure with an extended solo in the middle.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Checking Out Mirror Neurons At The Grocery Store

A mirror neuron is a neuron which fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another (especially conspecific) animal. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of another animal, as though the observer were itself acting. These neurons have been directly observed in primates, and are believed to exist in humans and in some birds. In humans, brain activity consistent with mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.

Some scientists consider mirror neurons one of the most important findings of neuroscience in the last decade. Among them is V.S. Ramachandran, who believes they might be very important in imitation and language acquisition. However, despite the popularity of this field, to date no plausible neural or computational models have been put forward to describe how mirror neuron activity supports cognitive functions such as imitation.

Furthermore, it is generally accepted that no single neurons can be responsible for the phenomenon. Rather, a whole network of neurons (neuronal assembly) is activated when an action is observed.

The function of the mirror system is a subject of much speculation. . . .

“Mirror Neurons” at Wikipedia

One of the most fun and interesting things about doing these posts every day is that sometimes I will be hashing out different ideas for future posts and, sometimes, all by themselves, posts that have no connection to each other will somehow come together in my unconscious and pop into my conscious as almost fully formed single posts.

That’s what happened with today’s post.

For a few weeks I’ve been trying to think of something to say about mirror neurons. And also for some time I’ve been trying to think of something to say about flirting. It never occurred to me, consciously, to link the two ideas. But a few days ago when I was mentally going through a list of possible flirting stories it occurred to me that one of the stories also could be a mirror neuron story.

Here we go—

At our local grocery story, the checkout girls are all very beautiful. Not just the young ones, but all the checkout girls. I mean, they are gorgeous.

Not too surprisingly when I’m paying for my groceries I also do my share of flirting with the beautiful women.

It’s 2008. Flirting is the only real safe sex there is!

Every now and then there will be a senior citizen woman in line ahead of me or behind me. I’ve noticed, almost every time, that the senior citizen woman will get as much enjoyment out of watching me flirt with the checkout girl as—presumably, hopefully—the checkout girl gets from me flirting with her.

The checkout girl smiles, laughs, blushes. The senior citizen woman smiles, laughs, blushes.

I bet this is mirror neurons at work. I bet the senior citizen woman, watching the checkout girl flirt and react to flirting, is experiencing almost all the same brain chemical releases that the checkout girl is experiencing.

It’s good to have fun. Because sometimes when you are having fun the people around you are having fun, too—second hand!

And that let’s me close this post with the lyrics to a cool BTO song, “Second Hand:”

No reason to get excited
But I feel a change coming in the wind
Everything’s filled with confusion
So let’s start the world over again

And get it second hand
Slightly used
Get it second hand
Carelessly abused

I see you’re looking to find new horizons
But there are footsteps everywhere you go
Somebody else has been before you
Now the sunshine is wilted and froze

I’ll get it second hand
Dazed and confused
Turn back the second hand
I paid all my dues
I got rid of my blues
I’m all fixed up
Watch me talk about it—

[guitar solo coda]