Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Never Having Kissed Amy

I can’t imagine
never having kissed
Amy Winehouse

which is pretty strange
since we’ve never kissed
or even met.

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

Amy Winehouse to be executed?

Back to Whack: Amy Winehouse Decks Dancer

Amy Winehouse's Friends Worried About Leaving Her Alone

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Almost New Moon In Black And White

Today is the new Moon.

Last week I got to watch the Moon edge closer to the Sun every morning. Friday was the last day I was able to check it out. I’d hoped to try to see it Saturday, too, but the sky got cloudy.

Now the Moon will be hidden in the Sun’s glare for a few days, and then emerge as an evening object, a thin crescent getting larger.


Friday I had a great view of the very late Moon—just three days away from new. Following the late Moon is a pretty fun thing to do. Sometimes you get to see a wildly beautiful sight.

I’m posting a tiny black and white ink sketch I made of what I saw Friday, the late Moon above the trees across the alley.

I’m kind of sighing as I post this because this image is two things I’ve been trying hard to get away from: I’m trying to get away from working so small; and I’m trying to get away from working in black and white. This was done with Pigma markers on a 3" by 5" index card. But I have trouble thinking in color. And I have trouble thinking with a brush in my hand. So I have to force myself to get away from pencils and pens and tiny pieces of paper. Sometimes I struggle with myself and lose. Like I did last Friday.

But because I’m still formulating my thoughts on the way astrophotography has taken over astronomy, I want to put up all the hand-created astronomy images I can so that I’ll have stuff to talk about when I figure out more about what I want to say.

And someday, too, I will return to the sight of the new Moon in color.

When you observe a very late new Moon, sometimes you see something almost magical.

Physically, what’s happening is this: The thin crescent of the Moon is illuminated by sunlight. So the crescent of the Moon is a warm, orange kind of color. But because the crescent is so thin, the illumination isn’t strong enough to physically activate very many of the color receptors in our eyes. At the same time, the dark disk of the Moon isn’t completely dark at all. The dark disk of the Moon is being illuminated by Earth-shine. Earth-shine is sunlight that reflects off the Earth’s oceans and clouds and shines back at the Moon. So, the disk of the Moon sometimes gets this shimmering, ethereal glow of cool, blue-white light. But, again, the overall illumination levels are so low that the color receptors in our eyes either don’t get activated or get activated just a tiny amount. If everything works just right, if everything is just bright enough to activate enough of our color receptors, when you look at a late Moon you see this jazz-kind-of-cool contrast of warm orange and cool blue and it is as if God is putting on a light show just for you up in the sky.

I’ve never seen the effect captured either in photographs or a painting, but it is very cool.

I almost attempted to capture it Friday, but that’s one of my troubles when trying to think in color—I have no self-confidence. For tricky stuff like that I really need to brace up and force myself. Last Friday I didn’t have the energy so I just did a tiny, black and white sketch.

But someday I’ll be brave and give it a try!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sometimes The Stars Move Backwards

The Moon is a morning object again,
a beautiful, thin crescent, almost gone.
It’s Friday now. The new Moon is Monday.
I like this time of month. The crescent Moon
greets me in the back yard every morning.
I know I won’t see it for a while, but
I know it will be back again, next time
the shadow line gets to the Sea of Clouds.
The Sea of Clouds is completely dark now.
It’s dark on the Moon. It’s dark in my mind.
I wish that I could feel as confident
of seeing the Sea of Clouds in my mind
illuminated again by the Sun
as I do of seeing the Sun return
to the Sea of Clouds on the lunar face.
The sky is a clockwork mechanism,
ticking, absolutely dependable.
My mind is gears and springs, rusted, bent up,
moving, then stopped, grinding, then spinning free.
I’m sailing the Sea of Clouds in my mind.
I’m hoping to see the sunrise soon, but
in this sky sometimes the stars move backwards.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

“The Ancient Art Of Knowing The Sky”

There are a lot of specific astronomy topics I’m interested in. The outer system. Planet formation. How small can a star be? Plasma universe topics.

In the most general sense, however, there are two kinds of social aspects of astronomy that I think about a lot. At some point in the future I’ll be posting more about both of them. Today I’m just going to introduce one of them. (The second topic is the way astrophotography has seemingly come to dominate amateur astronomy. I don’t know if that is really true or if it is only the impression I get from magazines and the net. I’ll be posting more later on the way astrophotography seems to have taken over astronomy.)


Today I’m going to talk about what Bob Berman has recently called ‘the ancient art of knowing the sky.’

I’m going to tell one story from my own past, and then post a short excerpt from Bob Berman’s column in the current (October) issue of Astronomy magazine.

This pair of anecdotes is about a pretty big change in the world of astronomy. It’s futile to fight the future. It’s futile to be sad about how the young are different from the old. But, nonetheless, futility gets to us all. Sometimes.


About a year ago I described how a young woman grad student and I shut down and closed up an old observatory one weekend at Northwestern University. Before we closed up, we used the telescope to observe Saturn and the Pleiades. [Saturn and Titan, And The Pleiades ]

Today I’m going to describe how that young woman grad student and I got the observatory set up for the evening.

An astronomy professor was going to be giving a public lecture about Mars that night. (This was sometime back in the 70s. I was a junior high student at the time.) The old observatory wasn’t used for active research, just for public out-reach kinds of activities. Before the evening got underway, I helped his grad student get things ready.

“How high is Mars?” the grad student asked me.

I went outside and checked. “About fifteen degrees above the horizon,” I said. (If you extend your hand, fingers spread, from the tip of your index finger to the tip of your little finger is about fifteen degrees.)

“Should be high enough to get started,” she said.

She showed me how the old observatory operated.

First—if I remember right—we pulled some chains [!] which manually opened the shutters on the dome’s slit. Then we used a big hand-held control unit to press buttons that operated electric motors to rotate the dome counter-clockwise until Mars was visible in the east. Once the slit was positioned, the electric motors kept it slowly turning clockwise to keep Mars visible.

Then we used the hand-held control unit—connected to the observatory by a heavy cable—to press different buttons which slewed the telescope mount through right ascension and declination until the telescope was pointed roughly toward Mars. Then the grad student climbed up a platform [!] and used a guide scope mounted on the main telescope to carefully center Mars in the big scope’s field of view.

We both used the platform to look through the main telescope, focus and enjoy the view of the red planet. Once Mars was centered, electric motors in the mount kept the telescope tracking on the planet.

It was a pretty simple system and it worked reasonably well.

But it required the person operating the telescope to know the sky. You had to know where your target was in the sky and you had to know what it looked like to recognize it in the guide scope.

Back then, it never even occurred to me that this someday would be an issue.


However, even back then times were changing quickly. Telescope mounts soon would be completely computerized. Telescopes themselves soon would have eyepieces replaced by electronic cameras. As computers—so to speak—infested observatories it became less and less important for astronomers to know the sky.

And when knowledge isn’t required, people—certain kinds of people—lose the incentive to acquire that knowledge.


Not long after my pleasant experience at Northwestern, Bob Berman—then a young man but an old type of astronomer—began accumulating experiences like this one:

In 1980, the Indian government invited me to use its largest telescope, located near Naintal in the Himalayan foothills. A staff astronomer accompanied me. I was visiting for fun, not research, so I suggested some visual targets, starting with the Trapezium sextet of stars in Orion.

The 40-inch Cassegrain whirred and slewed, the dome rotated, and then everything stopped. My host peered into the eyepiece, and peered some more. I gazed up through the dome’s slit and immediately saw we were nowhere near Orion. But was it my place to tell him he’d blown it? I stayed quiet. Turned out, a power failure earlier that day—which in India are as common as mangos—had thrown all the electronics into never-never land.

When he realized the problem, he thought all was lost. As in another observatory when the same trouble arose, the staff was reluctant to release the axes and manually find the object. To them, visually locating anything seemed as intimidating as hand-steering a spacecraft to the Moon. Gone was the ancient art of knowing the sky. But I diplomatically said nothing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Frustrating Skies: Neptune At 50mm

Last year about this time I posted about observing Neptune through my 60mm refractor—Starhopping Through Capricornus To Neptune

That was a pretty cool thing for me, one of my favorite astronomy memories of all time. Neptune is—in classic Sagan-speak—billions of miles away. It’s the farthest thing in the solar system I’m ever going to see. And for my 60mm refractor it completed the planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

However, last year I wasn’t able to observe Neptune through my 50mm binoculars. I tried, more than once, but never could see it. Neptune would complete the planets for my binoculars, too.

However—again—last year I was handholding my binoculars. Since then I bought a tripod adaptor for my binoculars and the difference can be amazing. I wrote about the difference observing the Beehive through tripod-mounted binoculars in Mars Almost In The Beehive.

So, since this is such a perfect time of year for observing Capricornus—Endings And Beginnings—I decided to spend time in Capricornus but only with my 50mm binoculars on their tripod.

Sky & Telescope has a PDF finder chart available online for Uranus and Neptune. It’s not a very good chart, but if you have a reasonably good star atlas, the chart should be enough.

Right now Neptune is at magnitude 7.8 in eastern Capricornus, just north of where I observed it last year. The distinctive three field stars above Delta Capricorni are about magnitude 5.5. There are two dimmer field stars just west of 42 Capricorni that are magnitude 8 or 9.

Since I’ve gotten the tripod adaptor for my binoculars I’ve casually looked through Capricornus, without looking for Neptune, and on good nights I’ve been able to see those dim field stars at magnitude 8 or 9.

So with my tripod mounted binoculars I should be able to see Neptune. (In fact, I may have glanced past it without knowing it when I’ve scanned through Capricornus.)

But the skies here south of Chicago haven’t been cooperating.

We’ve had a few clear nights recently, but it’s been a strange kind of clear. Bright stars—Arcturus, Vega, the planet Jupiter—have been easy to see. But high, thin clouds or low, thin haze have been blocking out dimmer stars.

Looking through Capricornus with my tripod mounted binoculars I easily find Alpha and Beta Capricorni. I can scan east easily enough and find Delta. But catching the distinctive three field stars 42, 44 and 45 Capricorni has been the limit of what I can see. And they’ve been tough.

So—damn it!—I’m pretty darn close to seeing Neptune through my binoculars.

I can see where Neptune is.

But I haven’t seen Neptune yet at 50mm.

This has become my Autumn project.

I’m doing my part. I’m trying. Now Nature has to do Her part and clear away these darn high clouds and low haze.

I’ll report back after a really clear night.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And Now A Musical Interlude With Judas And Jesus


Peter will deny me
In just a few hours.
Three times he’ll deny me.
And that’s not all—
I see one of you here dining
One of my twelve chosen
Will leave to betray me.


Cut out the dramatics!
You know very well who.


Why don’t you go do it?


You want me to do it?


They’re waiting.


If you knew why I do it...


I don’t care
Why you do it!


To think I admired you.
Well now I despise you.


Liar. You Judas.


You want me to do it!
What if I just stayed here
And ruined your ambition?
Christ you deserve it.


Hurry you fool.
Hurry and go.
Save me your speeches
I don’t want to know.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ode To “Smallville”

“Smallville” on TV—
You’re a show that once was great
but now just goes on,

three seasons beyond
an episode anything
like what you’d call good.

I see commercials
for your latest plot gimmick
and sometimes tune in.

But now you’re just sad.
Characters don’t seem themselves,
others gone missing.

Now the strange clothing
is bad wardrobe. The banter
is bad dialogue.

The complications
just make me shrug, not wonder
how you’ll work things out.

I’d like not to see
commercials for next week’s show.
Who needs reminders

that what could have been
never was, never will be?
Be happy, “Smallville.”

I wish you the best.
I hope everything works out.
Good luck with your fans.

But your new stories
will be stories without me
along for the ride.

Try to understand.
We made a go of it but
it didn’t work out.

Be happy, “Smallville.”
I don’t wish we’d never met,
but let’s stop meeting.

And when you’re cancelled
I’ll watch your old DVDs,
remember good shows.

You could have been more.
But you could have been less, too.
Be happy, “Smallville.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

Oh-Oh. If Cats Could Fly... (The Poem)

My cat’s been flying
around the house recently.
She has me worried.

Not just the flying.
I took a bath yesterday.
Lying in the tub

I saw the kitchen
reflected in the mirror
by the bathroom sink.

Fluffy was flying
above the kitchen table
trying to lift up

the toaster. The cord
couldn’t reach the bathroom but
I’m worried about

what kind of cat thoughts
have been prowling the neurons
of Fluffy’s cat brain.

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

Oh-Oh. If Cats Could Fly...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oh-Oh. If Cats Could Fly...

Winged-Cat Causes Sensation in China

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

While most cats are known for their ability to land on their feet, some in China may soon be able to glide to safety on their mysterious wings.

A tabby from the Qingyan province in China recently sprouted a pair of fur-covered wings on his back during a hot-weather spell, the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported.

Immediately, the unique kitty became a spectacle to behold, as visitors flocked to see the unusual feline.

One cat owner, identified only as Feng, claimed her pet’s wings were the result of stress from too many females desiring to mate with him, the Mail reported.

“At first they were just two bumps,” she told the Mail. “But they started to grow quickly and after a month there were two wings.”

But the owner later grew fearful that the tabby would either be stolen by envious admirers or that it would fly away and decided to cut one of the two flappers off, World Entertainment News Network said.

Cats with wings can be explained through several scientific explanations, including leg deformities, huge mats of hair or a condition known as feline cutaneous asthenia or FCA, which causes the cat’s skin to grow in heavy folds on its back or shoulders, online magazine Cryptozoology reported.

Do Winged Cats Exist? (Jill Stefko’s Cryptozoology story)

Jill Stefko’s Cryptozoology main page

Loren Coleman’s Cryptozoology main page

The winged cat story is there, under weird cat news.
With other winged cat photos:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Tache And The Touche

“To record one’s thoughts every day is an excellent idea; nothing forms one’s style more effectively. And by that I mean not the habit of turning out fine phrases but of putting one’s thoughts into words. It even seems to me that we ought to be very lenient, to condone lack of correctness, provided that the feeling is real, and that the ideas are personal.”

Berthe Morisot advising her niece on the benefits of keeping a diary

Throughout their careers [Cézanne and Pissarro] , a principal tension characterized the novel conception these artists gave to their métier. The axis of this tension centered around the opposition between tache and touche. Both artists used these terms often, and for this reason they need clarification, especially since each term has been translated in a variety of ways, depending on the translator. Tache has been translated as stain, patch, and even stroke. To add to the confusion, touche has also been translated as stroke (as in brushstroke) and as touch. For the sake of clarity, I have chosen to translate tache to mean “patch” and touche to mean “touch.”

The term tache in everyday French refers to an area of color that is distinct from its support or background, for instance, a spot of color that is bleeding out on a surface, as in une tache de vin sur une serviette (a stain of wine on a napkin). The term touche (unlike tache) implies a certain action and control and suggests a small area of color applied by means of a device or a tool (a brush or a knife). Briefly stated, tache suggests a passive state while touche suggests an active one of control. Additionally, tache (especially in Cézanne’s and Pissaro’s vocabularies) refers to the presence of color that is there, beyond one’s will. A “patch” of color calls for an act of vision to observe it. A “touch” of color, on the other hand, refers to a willful action and an act of construction. One thus understands differently the passage quoted above: “Your eyes should see patches [taches]; your craft [métier] means nothing: impasto and a perfect pitch—this is the only goal you should strive for.”

The artists’ eyes have no control over the patches of color they see; their craft (i.e., the traditional technical skill learned at school) is unable to “transliterate” those patches. The artist needs a new language that will resort to impasto (the physical, creamy matter that comes out of the tubes of color) and a perfect pitch. This targeted act of control to pick up whatever amount of paint the artist needs out of his small mounds of color, laid on his palette, before transferring it on the canvas, is called a touch. At each instant, everything can go wrong: the touch (touche) is the act of objectivation of the patch (tache). Maurice Merleau-Ponty has best analyzed and expressed the nature of this paradoxical tension: “Quality, light, color, depth, which are out there before us [that is, patches] are so only because they awaken an echo in our body [that is, touches], because it makes them welcome.” From this inner stimulus—what Merleau-Ponty calls “this fleshy formula of their presence that things evoke in me”—comes the act of construction (building up the canvas “touch after touch”): “a trace, visible in its turn, where every other eye will rediscover the motives which support its inspection of the world.”

Both Pissarro and Cézanne established a system of research—striving to build up a harmonic network of chromatic relations that would allow them to catch what they found (patches) before their eyes. The difference between the two artists is that Cézanne brought his viewer more openly into the process of building up his surfaces. He announced on his canvas how he worked. Pissarro, while following the same premise, was probably more concerned to reach an effect of smooth unity than Cézanne was. If, to resume Merleau-Ponty’s language, a painting is “visible to the second power,” one could say that the difference between Cézanne and Pissarro is that the gap between “the visible” and “the visible to the second power” was more extreme in Cézanne’s work than in Pissarro’s. However, in the formula they both sought, the terms they chose to express, their research was identical.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

“A Vaguely Fantastic Truth”

“Whenever she works she has an anxious, unhappy, almost fierce look. This existence of hers is like the ordeal of a convict in chains.”

The artist’s mother describing Berthe Morisot painting

Berthe Morisot, “Woman and Child in a Meadow,” 1871, watercolor

I’m not going to talk about this—my favorite watercolor of all time—the way I talked about Morisot’s images during Berthe Morisot Week (The Landscapes With Figures Of Berthe Morisot: Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday).

I’m just going to mention one thing . . .

In the very foreground of this image, right at the bottom of the picture, there is a closed, black parasol. It is pointing to the left. In the very far background of this picture, right on the horizon but lined up above the parasol, there is a black ship.

Even though this painting is a textbook example of atmospheric perspective—as elements of a landscape get farther away the color intensity diminishes, value contrasts neutralize, diminish and details diminish, even disappear—Morisot took care to paint the distant ship on the horizon in plain black. And she carefully depicted the tiny details of the masts tipped backward and a wave breaking against the ship’s stern. Why? Because the black ship is moving to the left. In the same direction the black parasol is pointing.

Black only appears in three places in this painting: In the parasol in the foreground; In the woman’s hat in the mid-ground; And in the ship far away on the horizon.

There is a lot going on between the parasol and the ship. I mean, a lot.

There is a lot going on between the parasol and the ship and none of it is dogs playing poker.


The most comprehensive exhibit of Berthe Morisot’s paintings during her lifetime happened in 1892. She had turned fifty the year before.

A journalist friend of Morisot’s wrote the introduction to the show’s catalogue, describing her painting as, “delightful hallucination, a vaguely fantastic truth.”

Morisot, not a happy person, enjoyed the show. She wrote to a friend, “I shall tell you frankly that the whole seemed to me less bad than I had expected, and that I did not dislike even the very old pieces. Let us hope that twenty years from now the new ones will have the same effect on me.”

At fifty Morisot was making plans for the next twenty years of her career . . .

Just three years after that exhibition Morisot developed something like pneumonia and passed away.

Pissarro attended Morisot’s funeral and wrote to his son, “You can hardly conceive how surprised we all were and how moved, too, by the disappearance of this distinguished woman, who had such a splendid feminine talent and who brought honor to our impressionist group, which is vanishing—like all things.”

All quotes are from,Berthe Morisot: Impressionist

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rendering Golems

I’m surprised Pixar
hasn’t made a film
about what happens
in a grocery store
after closing time
when all the pet toys
jump down from their hooks
and out of their bins
and all the cat toys
fight all the dog toys.

I’m surprised Pixar
hasn’t done that yet.

They could even show
an adult subplot
depicting canned goods
and packaged products
exploiting the war
by using the fight
between the pet toys
as a distraction
to secure better
shelf space for themselves.

I’m surprised Pixar
hasn’t done that yet.

Why hasn’t Pixar
made an artifact
about artifacts
fighting artifacts
while at the same time
other artifacts
scramble for profits?
I’d buy a ticket
to see that movie.
And I’d take a date.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hunting The Storsjöodjuret

Sweden's 'Loch Ness Monster' captured on film

Filmmakers claim to have captured footage of Sweden's mythical Storsjoodjuret or Great Lake sea monster, the Scandinavian country's equivalent to the legendary beast said to lurk in Scotland's Loch Ness.

By Bruno Waterfield
Last Updated: 4:06PM BST 28 Aug 2008

Svergies Television, which set up cameras on Sweden's Storsjon or Great Lake, has released images of a blurry, long and narrow silhouette moving in the depths said to be the famous Swedish sea monster.

"It clearly shows that it's warm and is made up of cells, otherwise our cameras wouldn't indicate red, so it can be a sea snake or some other kind of sea animal," said a member of the film crew.

Efforts to find the monster are being stepped up amid international TV interest and by summer 2009, 30 cameras will be monitoring the lake's waters and islets.

Hunts for the Storsjoodjuret are controversial after Swedish authorities tried and failed to protect the creature as an endangered animal three years ago.

The monster was first mentioned in print in 1635 and 500 people have reported 200 sightings since then.

Spotters have variously described the creature as a three-humped serpent, anywhere between 50 to nine feet long, with a dog's head and fins on its neck, with black, grey, red or yellow colouring, making a wailing, or rattling, noise.

Hunts for the Great Lake sea monster have regularly taken place since 1894 when a Swedish sea captain created a stock company with the purpose of catching the legenday beast.

Storsjöodjuret’s Website

Storsjöodjuret’s Wiki Page

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Petting Katydids

Katy lies
You could see it in her eyes

Yesterday afternoon I was walking home from the grocery store. It was the same grocery store where I got to pet a tiger-stripe swallowtail. The street was quiet, shadowed by tall trees along both sidewalks. It was a block away from where I saw the season’s first monarch.

As I walked along, from behind me a big bug flew past my head so close that I heard its wings thrumming. I instinctively ducked aside. The bug flew in front of me and it was so big that not only could I easily follow it through the air but I could tell what kind of bug it was while it was flying.

It was a katydid.

It looked just like this picture I found on the net.

It landed on a tree right at my eye-level a few feet away from me. I walked over to get a close look at the pretty bug. Very green. Looked almost exactly like a leaf sticking to the side of the tree.

And it was big. I extended my left index finger to assess the size of the bug. The katydid was as long as my index finger from tip to knuckle.

With my finger out there to measure the bug, I thought back to my encounter with the tiger stripe swallowtail. So I very, very gently touched the katydid’s back and stroked down, petting it from shoulder to tail.

The katydid tolerated one stroke, but as my finger got to its tail it opened its wings, pushed off the tree and flew down the block to the next tree.

I didn’t follow the pretty bug. I’d gotten to take a close look at it. I’d gotten to pet it. That was pretty cool.

Bug-wise, this has been a good summer.

Then I took my groceries and went home and listened to the cool song about what Katy did from the CD with a picture of a katydid on it.

Katy tried
I was halfway crucified
I was on the other side
Of no tomorrow

You walked in
And my life began again
Just when I'd spent the last piaster
I could borrow

All night long
We would sing that stupid song
And every word we sang
I knew was true

Are you with me Doctor Wu
Are you really just a shadow
Of the man that I once knew
Are you crazy are you high
Or just an ordinary guy
Have you done all you can do
Are you with me Doctor

Don't seem right
I've been strung out here all night
I've been waiting for the taste
You said you'd bring to me

Biscayne Bay
Where the Cuban gentlemen sleep all day
I went searching for the song
You used to sing to me

Katy lies
You could see it in her eyes
But imagine my surprise
When I saw you

Are you with me Doctor Wu
Are you really just a shadow
Of the man that I once knew
She is lovely yes she's sly
And you're an ordinary guy
Has she finally got to you

Can you hear me Doctor
Are you with me Doctor

Can you hear me Doctor
Are you with me Doctor

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Endings And Beginnings

This is an interesting time of year to pay attention to the Zodiac constellations.

In the hours immediately after sundown the traditional ending of the Zodiac, the ‘final’ three signs, make their way into the southern sky—Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.

In the hours immediately before dawn, the traditional beginning of the Zodiac, the ‘first’ three signs, make their way into the southern sky—Aries, Taurus and Gemini.

Depending on a person’s mood, you can go out right after dark and contemplate the same stars, the same patterns, humans have contemplated for thousands of years as marking the end of an old cycle or you can get up a little early and contemplate the same stars, the same patterns, humans have contemplated for thousands of years as marking the start of a new cycle.

Putting the past behind us, embracing the future . . .

I’ve called these constellations the ‘traditional’ ending and beginning of the Zodiac because over many thousands of years, the spring equinox has slowly shifted from Aries into Pisces. However, most astronomers and many astrologers still refer to Aries as the ‘first’ sign.

The precession of the equinoxes, however, is an amazing topic to examine historically. It is a tricky and reasonably difficult concept to understand, however there is persuasive though indirect evidence that humans have known about the concept far back into prehistory. The classic book on the topic is, of course, “Hamlet’s Mill.”

There is also an obscure theory among some Christians that the Zodiac, in fact, is a Judeo-Christian ‘revelation.’ The theory is that before Moses created Scripture, God through the Holy Spirit help humans understand the basic Messiah story through pictures in the stars. The revelation, however, has been subsequently corrupted by secular astrologers. This is an interesting and intriguing theory, but I’ve never found it summarized in a book or on a website. I mention it just for completeness. If anyone clicking through here knows of a good reference for it, please post a comment or drop me an email (goblinStudies@gmail.com).


Beyond being a philosophically interesting time of year, there are a couple of pretty cool things to see in the evening and morning skies.

I made a couple of tiny watercolor sketches this morning (on watercolor paper!) of two things I checked out after sundown yesterday and before sunrise today. (I didn’t stay up, I got up early.)


Just after sundown, Capricornus is visible in the southeast sky. One of my favorite celestial sights is Beta Capricorni. This is a wide binary star that displays remarkable colors. The brighter component is a golden-orange tint, and the dimmer companion is cerulean blue. The stars are far enough apart so that at 50x you see a couple of dim field stars in the same view. The white field stars accentuate the remarkable colors of the binary system. Very beautiful. I checked it out around 8:30pm yesterday and did this watercolor sketch this morning.

Just before sunrise, Aries is visible in the southeast sky, almost exactly where Capricornus was hours earlier. Gamma Arietis, the third brightest star in the little constellation, is a binary star. It is not colorful, but it is a bright double much closer together than Beta Capricorni. I’ve read some descriptions where observers see colors in these stars, but with my little scope (60mm) at 72x I saw both components as white. Very pretty, but white.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Unfinished Image

I started working
on a watercolor sketch
on plain bond paper.

After three washes
the paper began tearing.
It’s unfinished but

it can’t take more work.
I knew the paper was thin.
Now I’ll never see

the image finished.
I should have used good paper.
It’s not that costly.

Start things properly.
You want to go all the way
and finish intact.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Keeping A Vampire As A Pet Always Ends Badly

Harry: Oh, shit. Shit! What the fuck did you do?

Tatiana: What I’m supposed to do. I’m a vampire, remember? This is what I do. This is what I am. I told you to get me a victim. Somebody that nobody would miss. But no. No, you couldn’t do that. So this is what happens.

Harry: I bought you the rabbits!

Tatiana: Know what? Fuck the rabbits! And fuck you, too, Harry. I need human blood. You want to feed a rabbit to something buy a snake. From now on you’re going to get me what I need or I’m going to wither away and die. And I’m guessing you don’t have the stomach for that.

Harry: Okay. Okay, okay.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ashes To Ashes

TV’s a rainbow
that has a remote control
and stereo sound.

TV’s a full Moon
that has a remote control
and stereo sound.

TV is the Sun,
laughing, burning us to ash
while we push buttons.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Word Monster

To the word monster
words are like clouds: No substance.
Vapors. Here, then gone.

To the word monster
words are like clouds: Some cool shapes,
some dull, but just shapes.

To the word monster
words are like clouds, not human
thinking: Spit, not thoughts.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Primal Forces Of Nature

Behind the castle
a spaceship goes up and down.
The mad scientist

also has cool stuff
inside the castle. Sparks flash
from windows at night.

Town folk ignore it,
go about their business. But
I want to live there.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Old Gypsy Woman Said Dirt Is Coming My Way

I bought an extra
three-bar package of Coast soap.
Now I’ve got three bars

in the bathroom—one
in the shower, one by the sink,
one under the sink.

And I’ve got three bars
in the closet. I’ll be clean
for at least six weeks.

Monday, September 01, 2008

What Is Love? 5—Godzilla

Oh no!
Look out Tokyo!
Here comes

I think Godzilla
loves Tokyo. Stomping it,
breathing fire on it

and walking away
from the wreckage basically
is what lovers do.

I think Godzilla
is a global metaphor
for modern romance.

What Is Love? 4—Forbidden Love

What Is Love? 3—Gorilla My Dreams

What Is Love? 2—Ayn Rand

What Is Love? 1—The Mole People