Friday, April 30, 2010

Coming Attractions





This is the beautiful herpetologist in her sexy tee shirt walking away from the Big Explosion at the end of “Anaconda 3.”

The last video store in the neighborhood is closing so I was able to buy another monster snake movie for $5.

*

Normally on Friday I like to have something special but today I don’t have much.

*

This was a big week for me because I did my very first animation ever on the blog Wednesday. There will be more of this in the coming weeks.

But I’m taking my time.

I’ve got a bunch of other things pending, too, but one of the problems with doing stuff out there in the real world is that it takes time and if I’m out there in real life doing stuff I have less time for writing about stuff. Normally I can get something like a reasonable balance. But lately I’ve had a chance to do a lot of cool things and although I’m going to be posting about most of them I want to get the posts right.

So I’m taking my time.

Last Friday’s post was important to me. [ The Occult Technology Of Lost Songs ] A lot of the stuff I’ve got coming up will be further elaborations and explorations of all the content from that post. Especially more stuff about the studio as a compositional tool. Brian Eno said a lot of interesting things back then. That was like thirty years ago! Of course Frank Zappa was actually doing all those things, also, but nowadays when you look around the web on this topic Brian Eno is the conceptual focus for the topic. (One could make the case Ray Harryhausen was doing stuff like that, too, but in a visual media context rather than a music context.) All that really matters, however, is that the reality of that kind of thinking is very cool, and technological resources supporting such thoughts—for everyone, as in mumblecore—have never been richer.

I’m taking my time because now is a good time to do this stuff right.

*

I am surrounded
by a mad scientist’s lab
that’s a studio.

It seems to stretch out
as far as the eyes can see.
Beautiful women

in sexy tee shirts
have explosions behind them.
Coming attractions.









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Primal Forces Of Nature


Candles














Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fire Maidens From Atlantis Via Russia


Okay, today’s post isn’t going to be anything world-shaking, but I want to get a couple of things up here on the blog so that someday in the future I can talk about them all some more.

This poster—which is for the most part far more entertaining than the movie it advertizes—is for a 1956 low-budget British science fiction film.

The plot of this movie, “Fire Maidens of Outer Space,” is that a spaceship from Earth visits one of the moons of Jupiter and discovers humans living there. The humans are survivors from an ancient outpost of Atlantis. [!]

So the theory is that people from Atlantis not only colonized locations here on Earth, but also other bodies in the solar system. The movie is all very low-budget and it’s not so much a theory about Atlantis as it is an excuse to show pretty young women in revealing outer space dresses.

I’m mentioning this old film for a couple of reasons. First it’s a reference to Atlantis in space and someday I’m going to come back to that. There are tin-foil conspiracy people who take that thought seriously.

The second reason is because of the music in the film.

For some reason, the filmmakers used a score derived from the opera “Prince Igor” by Borodin.

I have no idea why the filmmakers did that, but this is interesting music to link to a weird theory of Atlantis.

The music has also been adapted to a much more well known play and movie, “Kismet.” And one of the songs, “Stranger in Paradise,” has become a Broadway standard.

The word Kismet comes from Arabic culture and refers to destiny or fate.

You don’t hear it that much nowadays, but it pops up now and then. In season three of “Smallville,” in the episode “Slumber,” when Lana Lang discovers that she and another girl both like the same kind of flowers (lilacsblue-violet flowers), Lana shrugs and says, “It must be Kismet.”

I’m not sure if this is true literally, but in my subjective experience, music from “Prince Igor,”—the “Polovtsian Dances”—is the most adapted classical music I’ve ever heard. The theme is instantly recognizable but it’s so beautiful that it hasn’t become cliché.

And, among the many performances of the music on YouTube, here is a woman who tucked a stand-up bass under chin to play the piece. (It’s not a stand-up bass it’s a viola I think but it looks like a stand-up bass.)

This is wildly beautiful stuff. The music has been around for more than a hundred years. It’s popped up in all sorts of weird places you’d never expect classical music to pop up. And I bet it will continue to pop up in weird places where you might not expect it.

Here is its appearance at Impossible Kisses:












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The Occult Technology Of Lost Songs















Wednesday, April 28, 2010

When Any Woman Visits My Studio




“I’m thinking of doing a puppet show.”



Real Estate Gothic






video







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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Real Estate Gothic


“I don’t know about those houses,” the young woman said.
“The construction company didn’t level the land.
They built a kind of mound and put the houses on top.
Now it’s like their rain water runs down on all of us.
And now it’s like we always have to look up at them.”

“Is it like those new houses are the kind of houses
vampires would choose to live in so that they could swoop down
on the unsuspecting common folk living below?
Do the new houses make you feel like you are livestock?”

“Umm, no,” the young woman said, “I never thought that, but
now that you said it every time I walk around here
I’m going to be thinking of vampires swooping down
and I’m going to be jumping at every shadow.

“It’s good to be on guard,” I said. “Can’t be too careful.”

“I think,” the young woman said, “that I should be careful
about talking to guys who will make me terrified
when I look up at the new houses every evening.”

“Look at it this way,” I said, “the houses are so high
if a Godzilla-like creature ever comes to life
and stomps around Chicago destroying the suburbs
that mound of new houses will stand out and catch his eye
and I’m sure the creature would make a point to crush them.
Even if there were vampires living in the houses
if the houses were crushed that would destroy their caskets
and the vampires would have no place to hide from the Sun.
Nature works that way. There’s always balance in nature.”

“That’s quite a world-view you’ve got there,” the young woman said.
“Be on guard against vampires and hope for salvation
from a dinosaur trying to destroy the city.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’m thinking of doing a puppet show.”









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Coherency Marionette — A Word Sonnet


Coherency Marionette — Gravity Laughing


Thunderbirds Are Still Go



Anna Kournikova Gothic #1


Anna Kournikova Gothic #2



Elevator Gothic


Elevator Gothic #2


Elevator Gothic #3
























Monday, April 26, 2010

Yellow Dress: A Keyboard Odyssey



“The keyboard is as many sorts of places as there are activities to be undertaken with it, a rather different–looking place to the cleaning lady than to the musician who in the course of play may see past it into the music with a look that is hardly looking at all.”






... from the 1978 first edition.
I have heard David has
gone through his book and totally
re-written it. I haven’t yet read
the 2.0 version.








This girl’s yellow dress
is many sorts of places.
I’m looking past it

and hardly looking.
There are activities here
and this yellow dress

is activity.
I’m staring at the keyboard.
It is staring back.











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He who fights with monsters
should look to it that he himself
does not become a monster.
And when you gaze long into an abyss
the abyss also gazes into you.


Nietzsche



Yellow Dress! Yellow Dress!


The Apocalypse Of Her Yellow Dress




I read “Ways of the Hand” in 1978. It helped
me become a better typist. And when
I started approaching the guitar seriously
it helped me become a better guitar player.

I’m sorry David has re-written this book.

The first edition is one of the most
unusual books I’ve ever read. I can’t
imagine re-typing it will either
clear it up or make it “better” than it was
because it was so clearly, as the phrase goes,
a
Thing-Unto-Itself.

I probably won’t read the new edition.

But I am re-reading the first edition.

I’m trying to get better at some things.















Friday, April 23, 2010

The Occult Technology Of Lost Songs





Sailors call it the Atlantic Circle.

Everyone sails the Circle their own way.

Sarah’s favorite route left from Long Island,
paused at Bermuda, then sailed for England,
Spain, Morocco, the Canary Islands,
then to Brazil, Florida and back home.
She had sailed the route twice, single-handed.
On her third trip, also single-handed,
her thirty-five foot ketch, Gogo, set sail
from Morocco but never made landfall
in the Canary Islands. Nobody
ever saw Sarah again. It’s believed
a rogue wave swamped Gogo, taking her down.

Sarah’s former band-mates revealed she’d planned
a concept album, a double album
solo release built on a song cycle
she was writing called, Songs for Atlantis.

Her bass player believed in her travels
she had met old-time sailors who told her
stories, legends passed sailor-to-sailor,
that led Sarah to discover the truth
of the real location of Atlantis.
He believes Sarah had planned to reveal
the truth about Atlantis in her songs.

No notes exist. No studio sessions.
No one claims to have heard her sing her songs.

Sarah left one page with her producer,
just the route of her Atlantic Circle.

No double album ever was released.
Sarah’s guitar player did one album
before disappearing into the life
of a successful session musician
playing movie soundtracks and commercials.

I never met Sarah but I studied
music theory with her guitar player.
I saw the actual sheet of paper
she left with her producer where she drew
a rough sketch of her itinerary
sailing around the Atlantic Circle.

I think Sarah knew about Atlantis.

And I think that note to her producer
is something like a song. With something like—
to borrow the labels from the key tops
of an arranger keyboard—an intro,
an A part, a B part, and a repeat,
Da Capo al Coda to an outro.

I’m working for a small boat of my own.

I want to sail the Atlantic Circle
with my guitar, my arranger keyboard,
searching for the lost songs of Atlantis
that Sarah found. When she found Atlantis.









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Blue Rose at Wikipedia


“The Studio As Compositional Tool,”
Brian Eno in Downbeat, 1979






Something Like Fear Whispers Over Tea



Christmas Witches I Mean Wishes


Christmas Witches: A Present Of The Past



Planetary Colors And The Grail Quest



Imagining My Lost Blue Umbrella

















Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Shanghai We’re All Dramatic Chipmunks


I get suckered by cool advertising imagery. Well, I get suckered by cool imagery and, these days, the only cool imagery anyone is likely to see comes from the advertising world.

Which is not to slight YouTube. Dramatic Chipmunk is pretty cool imagery.

But the advertising world often is even better than wide-eyed prairie dogs.

I mentioned that I bought Tascam’s little guitar digital assistant for the most part just because I think the Tascam Girl is so sexy.

My favorite image from the ad world right now is this one:





The beautiful woman is French actress Marion Cotillard. I don’t know who the guy is. The beautiful city in the background is Shanghai.

This is part of a giant, monster-budget ad campaign from the high-fashion company Dior. They have a website about the whole deal at www.ladyDior.com. The website is full of great images, but it is all Flash-based so if you don’t have a high-speed connection the site is about as fun as getting hit in the head with a hammer.

There’s a quick summary of the campaign here: Marion Cotillard continues her role as the face of Lady Dior ...

Apparently the whole campaign is built around some new product introduction next month. There even will be a 12-minute movie shot by David Lynch. (Or I suppose since kids know nothing about the past: David Lynch.)

Yeah, well, to my eyes Shanghai looks like the most beautiful city on Earth and I have never fallen out of love with Audrey. If I could take Audrey to Shanghai, adventure would be waiting just ahead.

Shanghai looks like the future. The future looks pretty cool.








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Dramatic Chipmunk at Wikipedia



Adventure’s Waiting Just Ahead


Empty Lots


Hypnotized By Advertising

















Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Understand, But Then There’s Joss Stone


This is one of those posts that has very little—if anything!—to do with the theme of this blog. But since this is my blog and I don’t have to get approval from an editorial board I hereby give myself (another!) free pass to make an exception.


Jeff Beck has become my hero.


Now I want to point out that I never really heard Beck play guitar when I was growing up. I know that’s weird, but I was never into British blues. I’ve even poked fun at British blues here on Impossible Kisses. [ British Blues ]

But a few months ago I put up a post about the incredible young bass player Tal Wilkenfeld who has become Beck’s go-to bass player. That was the first time I heard Beck play. [ I Understand, But Then There’s Tal Wilkenfeld ]


I just thought it was so wild that there’s this funky-looking old guy with this super hot young woman musician. It’s good to be the king. And Jeff Beck along with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page are something like guitar kings. Personally I’d pick Jimmy Page out of that threesome, but Beck seems to get the cool young women who kick ass at music.

And Beck is married [!?] too. What?!

So as if Tal Wilkenfeld wasn’t enough, the June 2010 issue of Guitar Player magazine has this from Jeff:



... So Joss Stone was around and she’s fantastic, so I said, “Look, just come in, you can’t lose—we’ve got a track that’s smoking, and it’s wide open for you.” So she sat there and about an hour later she’d written these lyrics. And what a performance! I was sitting down watching her because I didn’t want to get in the way, and she had a backless dress on. And I’m telling you, that was the most erotic, beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. The muscles she was using, and everything about her breathing—it was just an amazing sight. I wish I had filmed it. I can’t wait to play it now, which means we’re going to have to carry her on the road.



Jeff Beck on, “There’s No Other Me”
Guitar Player, June, 2010





Jeff Beck! Every old guy’s patron saint!


It’s good to be the king.


Or a famous old rich British rock guitar hero.


Yeah.


So, anyway, I looked around a bit and found a YouTube clip of Beck and Joss Stone playing one of my favorite songs. I believe Tal Wilkenfeld is playing bass, too.

Tal and Joss.

Oh yes. Jeff Beck is my hero. And my patron saint. Forever and ever. Amen.


Here’s the clip:



















Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Consolation And An Inspiration



“... a diction and a message,
a consolation and an inspiration,
that was once our relationship to gods.”





Julian Jaynes






I’ve deleted most
of my so-called “favorites”—
common browser links.

I don’t want to know
what came before this picture
or what comes after.

This isn’t a ghost
from a scary haunted house.
Butterflies don’t bite.







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Butterflies don’t bite!
It isn’t a butterfly
if it—ouch!—bites you.




Petting Butterflies


This Scary, Pumpkin Time Of Year


Keeping A Vampire As A Pet Always Ends Badly


Mischa: Sexy Things About Physics


Ghosts Are Us


















Monday, April 19, 2010

Mathilda And Nicole: A Bra Odyssey


At night when Mathilda takes off her bra
she tosses her bra onto her pillow.

Mister General Patton Purr Machine,
Mathilda’s calico cat, drags her bra
to the foot of the bed, bunches it up,
walks on top of it in a tight circle
and then curls up on it and goes to sleep.

“You should get that on video,” I said.
“That’s a million hits on YouTube. Bra Cat.”

Mathilda said, “But I don’t want my cat
to be a star. I like him here with me.
If he became a star like Britney Spears
I’d think of him somewhere else. In her world.
Am I selfish? Am I holding him back?
Am I missing a chance at fame myself?”

“Pretend it already happened,” I said.
“Mister General Patton Purr Machine
got famous, used up his fifteen minutes,
retired and now is back sleeping with you.
And now you can focus all your thinking
on trying to work out the next big thing.”

Mathilda said, “And I’m older, wiser.
Now when I struggle with the next big thing
remembering his fame will keep me real.”

“It’s all about keeping it real,” I said.








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Mathilda And Nicole

Mathilda And Nicole: Perfume, Things Like That





















Saturday, April 17, 2010

Big Glass Views Of The Heavens



... And, while the scientists are working away in their laboratories, I will be in my office somewhere deep in the heart of the complex plotting away at my supervillain schemes. And sometimes late at night I will take my supervillain-type beautiful sidekick into the main dome and raise the floor to the big refractor’s eyepiece and dazzle her with big glass views of the heavens.






Today is a special day for Impossible Kisses.


Today is April 17, 2010, and ...

        It was twenty years ago today
        Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
        They’ve been going in and out of style
        But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile

... it was four years ago today, April 17, 2006, that I put up my first ever blog post. My first post was a four-part sequence:

Impossible Kisses: The Empty Lot Behind My House

Impossible Kisses: I Thought It Was Wood

Impossible Kisses: The Moon In The Field Behind The Old Post Office

Impossible Kisses: The Turtle At The Center Of The World



Today would be a good day to end Impossible Kisses and move on to a new blog. It would be like graduating from a four-year program. But I think I’m not going to do that. I was never any good at four-year programs in real life, so why should I be any different in cyberspace?

I think I’m going to stick around a bit longer.

I haven’t given up on one or two of my old supervillain schemes. And I may have one or two new supervillain schemes to try out. I mean: “... to launch on an unsuspecting world!” And—what the hell—Skye Sweetnam I think is still available if I ever get around to funding a sexy young sidekick.

So there’s that to look forward to.

And I really would like to tie up the loose end of my “Year of the Cat” fantasy. I can play my part. I want to meet a woman who can play her part. I want to tape that and post it. Tori Amos. Skye Sweetnam. Alyson Michalka. Someone.

I’m working on it.




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“I’m starting to get a complex. It seems all the women I find even remotely appealing turn out to be psychopaths.”







“Hmm. Birds of a feather.”








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Friday, April 16, 2010

The Bright Lights Of The Finished Show



...it is worth reporting that long before the circus comes to town, its most notable performances have already been given. Under the bright lights of the finished show, a performer need only reflect the electric candle power that is directed upon him; but in the dark and dirty old training rings and in the makeshift cages, whatever light is generated, whatever excitement, whatever beauty, must come from original sources—from internal fires of professional hunger and delight, from the exuberance and gravity of youth. It is the difference between planetary light and the combustion of stars.



E. B. White, “Ring of Time”
Planetary Light And The Combustion Of Stars







Mercury is the planet nearest to the Sun.
Through binoculars I saw the planet today.
Planetary light is a reflected display.
Mercury reflects the nearby Sun’s combustion.

Electric lights, here—for safety, business and fun—
push the night away, push planets and stars away,
push everything out there away so we can play
just here, just now, play with just this, no distraction.


I couldn’t see Mercury with my naked eye.
I had to tell someone, “Start there, look down, then right.”
Then with my binoculars she could see it, too.

Mercury, so close to the Sun, cannot defy
the electric lights, here. They have destroyed the night.
We play, just here, just now, with this, lost to what’s true.










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“Are you a witch?”


Squirrels Of Chaos And Delight


Planetary Colors And The Grail Quest



Imagining My Lost Blue Umbrella








“Reading With Green Umbrella,” Berthe Morisot













Thursday, April 15, 2010

“Are you a witch?”





The universe is so fucking fun. Even when it screws with you it’s usually a good time. Mystic rhythms.


Today was potentially a very cool Thursday for astronomy buffs. Yesterday was a new moon. But because of the details and timing, today, just one day later, the new moon was due to be visible just after sunset if you had a clear view of the western horizon and if you knew where to look.

Now where I’m living right now I don’t have a clear view of the western horizon. But I knew where to look and I decided to go for a walk around sunset and see if I could grab a view between buildings or find a particular vantage point that somehow offered me a clear view of the western sky.

There were two bonus reasons to look to the west after sunset this evening. Venus would be very bright in the evening sky right after sunset. Venus would more or less provide a reference point for where to find the moon. The moon would be just to the right and just down a little from Venus.

The second bonus reason to look to the west is that just below the thin crescent one-day-old moon would be the planet Mercury. I’ve only seen Mercury two or three times in my life. The tiny inner-most planet never rises more than a few degrees above the horizon and I’ve seldom had the opportunity to get a clear view. But right now Mercury is reasonably high, and Venus and the moon would be like a diagram in the sky marking the location of the little planet.

So just after sunset I went for a walk and kept my eye on the western horizon.

As the sky slowly darkened Venus became visible first. But at the same time Venus became visible, thin dark clouds began moving up into the sky from below.

I kept walking, kept looking for an area between street lights and between buildings.

At an intersection I was trying to estimate how far the clouds were from Venus when I saw the moon!

This might have been the thinnest crescent moon I’ve ever seen. I posted once about seeing the moon three days before it disappeared. [The Almost New Moon In Black And White] But this evening it was just the day after being new.

And I got a practical lesson in how hard the moon was to see today.

Once I saw the moon I began looking for Mercury. The sky was still light, still phasing out of dusky twilight. But the clouds were moving up quickly and I was afraid I would only have a few minutes to see Mercury.

So I began to use my hand to judge degrees—holding up first my index finger and little finger spread to judge the distance from Venus to the moon. Then holding up first my clinched fist, then three fingers to judge distance below the moon looking for Mercury.

Even if I couldn’t find Mercury today, I wanted to familiarize myself with the Venus/moon distances for tomorrow in case the sky is clear tomorrow. The moon will have moved, of course, but Mercury will be, more or less, still down and to the right of Venus.

So there I was holding my hand up to the sky and a woman’s voice next to me asks, “Are you a witch?”

Now I just mentioned that I’m pretty comfortable talking to strangers and I’ve had, probably, more than my share of odd conversations with people, but that was the first time anyone has ever asked me if I was a witch.

The woman was smiling so I asked, smiling too, “Why would you think I might be a witch?”

She pointed at the sky. “You were making weird hand gestures at the sky. It looked kind of like the hand motions the guys made at the end of ‘Close Encounters’ when they were talking to the aliens. Is that Wicca stuff? Were you communing with the nature gods?”

I pointed west and showed her Venus, and the moon.

She said, “Oh my God, I didn’t even see the moon there. It is so thin.”

I explained it was only one day past new and how that’s a big deal to some religions but, no, I wasn’t into Wicca. I showed her how hand shapes could be used to measure degrees of distance in the sky.

“That’s very cool,” she said.

“It’s not as cool as being a witch,” I said.

“It’s not,” she said. “But it’s still cool seeing the moon like that. I never would have seen it if you hadn’t been out here doing the weird hand stuff.”

So we talked about astronomy for a while and I pointed out the clouds, by then, obscuring the moon and Venus before the sky had become dark enough to see Mercury. I said I’d have to come back tomorrow night, if it was clear, and I’d bring my binoculars.

“Cool,” she said. “Maybe we’ll talk again.”

So I was bummed that I didn’t get to see Mercury. But I did get to see Venus and the one-day-old crescent new moon. And I got to talk science with a woman wearing one of those tee shirts with cut-away shoulders that showoff her bra straps. I was pretty proud of myself for even being able to put sentences together.

And I might get a chance to see Mercury tomorrow if the sky is clear. And maybe talk science some more. Or talk witchcraft some more.

Witchcraft might be more fun for a Friday night.

Sometimes even when things don’t go right they still go cool.

Mystic rhythms.


















Wednesday, April 14, 2010

“Don’t think! Just Pick Up The Phone...”



“I need this building evacuated and cleared out
in ten minutes. I need you to get on the phone
and tell the fire department to block off
the city center in a one mile radius around
the building. Don’t think! Just pick up
the phone and make it happen!









I remember how
Fox and Dana saved the world
by talking out things

on their telephones.
Now everyone constantly
talks out everything

on their telephones.
Everybody’s on the phone
making things happen!








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How Many Naked Teenage Girls Does It Take


Cell Phones, Street Lights, Something Like Honey

There’s A Hand Raising A Phone


Ancient Cities Of The Moon




















Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Imagining My Lost Blue Umbrella


I hated the thought
of going back to that place.
But I hated more

just imagining
my lost blue umbrella there
lost among strangers.

So I went back there
and found my blue umbrella.
Lost is worse than dead.










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Umbrella Button: The Movie


Lost Pieces


Lost Gloves



Lost (For Brittany Murphy)



















Monday, April 12, 2010

Not For The Faint Of Tongue





Damn it I forgot to buy mouthwash.
I still have Listerine but I’m out
of Dr. Tichenor’s rocket fuel.
I meant to go to Walgreens today.
Now I will have to go tomorrow,
maybe when I go to the Redbox.
I think they’ve got a new monster film.

I’m not someone who is faint of tongue.
Today I chatted up a woman
with red hair—I mean cherry-red hair.
I don’t do drugs, almost never drink.
Chemicals like Dr. Tichenor’s
rocket fuel mouthwash flush out my brain.
Strange hair girls like a clear brain, brave tongue.







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Dr. Tichenor at Wikipedia



Forgot To Buy Soap (Distracted By Fantasy)


A Snail Relaxing




















Friday, April 09, 2010

Something Like Fear Whispers Over Tea


It’s where butterflies come from. I know.
Not everyone is looking for it.
Some people look a bit and then quit.
Some people talk, talk, talk. But don’t go.

It is still sinking. You can’t be slow,
although it’s tempting to rest, to sit
and talk over hot tea. Dreams don’t fit
on the table top where shadows glow.

I’m gone. Gone away. Not even here.
Like an alchemist looking for gold
that isn’t really gold. Or a kiss

that’s not still a kiss. Something like fear
whispers over tea. But I’d be bold.
If I were looking for Atlantis.







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Petting Butterflies


The Season’s First Monarch



Christmas Witches I Mean Wishes


Christmas Witches: A Present Of The Past



An Embrace On The Past



Crying (A Loose End)























Thursday, April 08, 2010

Dumbbell And Gobbledygook


This is a pretty cool photo from an image gallery at the website of a well-known telescope maker called Meade Instruments.

This is a deep sky object called the Dumbbell Nebula, also known as Messier 27. Below the photo is the description of how the amateur astronomer created the photo:



M27 by John Graham. LRGB (L:80x30sec, RGB 30x30sec each, high gain) taken with a Meade DSI Pro at the prime focus of an LXD75 SN6. The source images were saved as FITS, aligned in ASIP, combined in Drizzle, LRGB assembled in Photoshop. The color balance was set using an RGB response ratio of 2:1:1.2.




Now the photo is beautiful but a lot of that description looks like gobbledygook. I’m going to quickly review what much of that description means because I think it’s interesting that such a beautiful picture involves so much, to put it bluntly, grunt work.


Meade LXD75 SN6 & DSI Pro. First of all, one very cool thing about this picture is that is was taken with a very simple telescope, like this one. This telescope is small enough to be easily carried in and out of a house, and the telescope/camera combination only costs about a thousand dollars. Both are Meade products.


LRGB (L:80x30sec, RGB 30x30sec each, high gain). The camera, the DSI Pro, is an electronic camera that connects to a computer. The letters “LRGB” stand for luminosity, red, green, blue. The camera is a black and white device, so to create a color image an astrophotographer takes multiple pictures and then combines them. Some photos are taken through filters—red and then green and then blue—and some are taken without filters—luminosity. For this photo the astrophotographer took 80 photos without filters, each photo 30 seconds long. Then he took 30 photos through a red filter, each photo 30 seconds long. And 30 photos through a green filter, each photo 30 seconds long. And finally 30 photos through a blue filter, each photo 30 seconds long. That means this one pretty photo is really a composite of 170 individual images. Although each photo was only exposed for 30 seconds, when you add them all up that comes to almost three hours of exposure time. Since it takes time to switch filters this one image required either a full night of picture taking or the individual images may have been taken over more than one night.


The source images were saved as FITS. FITS is just the name of an image format. The software that operates the camera controls stuff like that.


Aligned in ASIP. When you take many different pictures of the same object, inevitably there will be some differences in the orientation of the telescope. ASIP stands for “Autostar Imaging Processing” and is just the trade name of the software Meade includes when you buy one of their cameras. The software evaluates the content of multiple images and creates output where all the images line up properly.


Combined in Drizzle. “Drizzle” refers to a software procedure for image processing. Astronomers created Drizzle routines to process images from the Hubble Space Telescope, and the routines have been released and adapted by amateurs all over the world. Basically what Drizzle does is look at every image in a collection of images and creates statistical maps of the data, then evaluates the numbers to ‘decide’ which bits are genuine information and which bits are noise. The results of ‘cleaning up’ an image stack with Drizzle can be amazing. The modern theory is that taking many fast photos creates a higher quality final image than one long photo because each fast photo will include different errors and software can use statistics to make sense out of those differences.


Assembled in Photoshop. The color balance was set using an RGB response ratio of 2:1:1.2. Photoshop, of course, is Adobe’s insanely expensive but also insanely powerful image-processing program. Photoshop takes all the ‘cleaned up’ images and adds the colors—red, green, blue—based on the ratios chosen to create the most ‘natural’ looking image. There is some debate about what is natural for astronomical images. When you look at something like the Dumbbell Nebula in real life—I’ve seen it!—through all but the largest amateur telescopes it appears mostly as a white and gray blur. Colors are usually chosen to represent what an object might look like in the judgment of the astrophotographer if you could somehow transport yourself out into space and observe the deep sky object from just a few light years away.

*

So all that goes into creating one “simple” looking beautiful image. It’s a lot of work, and there are quite a few choices the astrophotographer makes. The same deep sky object can look very different depending on who takes the pictures and processes the images.

It’s interesting to compare the pleasure of looking at an image like this and the “real life” pleasure of looking at a deep sky object with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. They’re really two different kinds of pleasures, two wildly different experiences. At some point in the future I’ll talk about this more, but for this post I just wanted to discuss this sequence, all this work, of creating a “simple” image.




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Saturn and Titan, And The Pleiades


Cosmic Fireflies


Cosmic Butterflies


Cosmic Swarms


Stars And Bugs















Wednesday, April 07, 2010

An Embrace On The Past


This is one of my favorite books in the whole world.

I suspect that this relatively thin book covers so much so well about the basics of sailing that—even though it is just a primer—if a person more or less memorized every page, took the time to really understand the basics presented here, they could cope handily with coastal sailing almost anywhere in the world.

I’m hoping, someday, to put this theory to the test.

In the meantime, today, I’m going to use this book to, sort of, say goodbye to books.

This book was written by an amazing writer named Jan Adkins. He not only wrote the book, he also drew the illustrations and designed the book. Because he designed the book himself, the text and drawings and the layout of the pages work together. Just flipping through this book is an experience quite unlike turning pages in a mass-produced, production-line kind of creation.

And it almost goes without saying that there is no Kindle edition of this book.

The book was designed to be a certain size, to be held at a certain distance, to look a certain way to the person holding it and experiencing it. It will, of course, someday be available in an electronic edition. Looking at it, on a screen, will be an entirely different experience from holding it and experiencing it as a book.

My local library used to have two copies of this book, one copy with the kid books and one copy up with the adult books. It’s a very good book.


But this book isn’t about celebrities or corporations or politics so my local library had no use for the book and they threw away both copies.


That’s life.

And that’s just another sad moment from the death of books.


Everything comes and goes. Pleasure moves on too early and trouble leaves too slow . . .


The wind picks up and the wind dies down.

Sailing is, possibly, the oldest human activity. Often people say agriculture is the activity that “civilized” human beings, but I strongly suspect sailing is the real fountainhead of civilization. Sailors were able to hunt-and-gather carbs and catch fish for protein and just sail away from problem areas. Farmers were tied to the land. And, of course, sailors had to learn about the stars to get around. Astronomy is a pretty cool and comprehensive skill that leads to very careful thinking.

Anyway. I love this book.

Jan Adkins has written a lot of great books. He almost always illustrates and designs his books himself so they are all wonderful experiences for people who love books.

Jan Adkins also does some magazine writing. Here is an essay he wrote for a magazine. It’s not about books, but it does have something to say about technology and change and people who maintain an embrace on the past. Some people maintain an embrace on the past not out of fear of the future or discomfort with change. Some people maintain an embrace on the past because there is so much there to love.




ENGINE ANGST

by Jan Adkins

(for CHESAPEAKE BAY MAGAZINE)




Yes, I’m a sailor. Guilty, your honor, even though several friends have declared against sailing. One announced that he had conquered his sailing neurosis and no longer gave a damn where the wind lay. He wants a boat that says budda-budda-budda, every time you turn the key. Budda-budda-budda. A blunt, Vise-Grip of a boat you drive way over its hull speed with a steering wheel from a big cushiony chair. And it says “budda-budda-budda” like a Russian operatic bass with a lobotomy.

Perhaps there is hope for the rest of us. We have Zoloft to dispel depression and Viagra to dispel frustration. Surely Pfizer is working double tides on Quixotrin, a psychopharmaceutical effective against romantic illusions. Of course, it’s a political hot potato. If it works, the sales of sport utility vehicles and health foods will plummet. The Hair Club, Psychic Friends, Victoria’s Secret and the Rainbow Coalition are already preparing a class action suit to ban its use.

I’ve never had an engine that said “budda-budda-budda.” The engines in my six sailboats have most often been mute, like cloistered monks or the guards at Buckingham Palace. Heroic persuasion couldn’t beguile them to whine, cough, sputter, wheeze or otherwise contribute to the propulsion of the boat.

I am owned by a double-ended ketch designed by the arch-romantic, L. Francis Herreshoff. He called this class of boats Rozinante, after Don Quixote’s spavined steed. It was originally designed to be propelled with a big oar, so my Groucho was fitted with the only engine that could wedge into its narrow, deep bilge — a tiny single-cylinder, two cycle engine manufactured in Finland as revenge for the lack of Allied support in the Russo-Finnish War of 1919. It doesn’t “budda-budda-budda.” It sounds more like a dying chainsaw, “yadda yadda, bagga ragga, ratta tatta.” At the end of last season it had lapsed into silence and Groucho was towed into the boatyard.

I asked the boatyard mechanic to commission the engine this year. Yes, I have many expensive tools and a great store of experience but most of it is in the failure line. You pay a marine engine mechanic for an attitude of cool detachment that you can’t achieve as you’re staring down into the silent pit of your engine space with smoke coming out of your ears and blood oozing out of your nose. My mechanic doesn’t have an investment in dreams, romantic illusions, success or failure; he threw in a new spark plug, for the hell of it, and it ran.

On a pleasant afternoon I loaded Groucho with all my flares and charts and PFD’s for a three mile trip to my friend Abercrombie’s. The Pride of Finland commenced its stuttering tenor and, with my friend Vickie for company, I motored out of the boatyard and made sail.

What a lovely moment, when the boat you love begins its tango with the wind and you silence the engine, knowing it will start anytime you ask. Toward afternoon’s end we tacked into the narrow gut off Galesville, five hundred yards from our destination. I furled the sails and the engine thrashed into life, complaining about its digestion but pushing Groucho right along. I cast my eye about with peaceful satisfaction and noticed the choke was out all the way. I eased it in a trifle. The engine stopped.

Forty minutes later, the batteries were almost dead but the engine had not started. Nor sputtered, nor coughed. Groucho had drifted up against a sandbank. I was silent for a time. Vickie asked the inevitable, infuriating question: “What’s wrong with it?” I looked at her hard. “Its juju is frightened. It needs to be reassured and strengthened. The wise technical procedure would be sacrifice. The Engine Gods particularly favor the sacrifice of red-haired women who ask inane and useless questions at trying times. Reach down into the cabin and hand me that obsidian knife, will you?” Another silence. At length she mentioned, “You sure know how to show a girl a good time.”

I made sail and attempted to manage Abercrombie’s channel. Half an hour later we were hard aground. I was thinking about Herreshoff’s big oar. A small Whaler haphazardly directed by two country-music fanciers did not possess the horsepower to pivot Groucho off the mud but took Vickie ashore. Abercrombie, no fool, had left his house. Enterprising Vickie simply walked down the road and knocked at all the doors until she found a large, family gathering. Two delightful teenagers, Lee and Kate, were dispatched in one of the family boats. They had local knowledge and an upbeat outlook, better than the Army Corps of Engineers in a case like this.

A powerful Bertram sportfisherman had come to assist me. Its skipper regarded both my boat and his own with a kind of suspicion. He seemed resentful of the floaty nature of water. He would have been more comfortable if these boats had all-weather tires on good pavement. When Vickie and the young engineers arrived, the Bertram had freed Groucho for the first time. The little ketch leaped into open water and ploughed directly onto the next sand bar, rather more firmly this time. The Bertram’s skipper wanted to attach more lines. He seemed to feel that more lines would pull harder. He pivoted Groucho off the second sandbar but hadn’t noted the position of the first. He towed me onto it again, and ran aground, himself.

Lee doffed his shirt and jumped into the shallow water to heave at Groucho . I hate cold water but it was manly challenge time. I took off my shirt and shoes and jumped in beside him. By lifting this way and that with our backs up under the boat, we were able to liberate the little ketch. It was a hundred-yard tow to Abercrombie’s dock. Nice kids. Abercrombie was back home, now that we didn’t need him. He sat on a piling stoking his pipe, looking smug and thinking up witty things to say about my predicament. I only pretend to like him. It was dark by the time we had Groucho snugged down, buttoned up, and my pants were in Abercrombie’s dryer.

As for the engine, I’m going to sit and look at it a while before I start it again. I may also put in a new sparkplug; I hear that does wonders. Unlike my healthy friends, I’m not cured of sailboats, yet. Until Pfizer brings out Quixotrin, windmills will still look uppity to me, my Rozinante will still please my romantic eye as much as Don Quixote’s cart nag pleased his, and I am still not free of that dance with the wind.



from Jan Adkins’ website









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Paris Hilton And The Butterflies From Atlantis #1: Et In Arcadia Ego

Paris Hilton And The Butterflies From Atlantis #2: Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton And The Butterflies From Atlantis #3: Fons Et Origo

Paris Hilton And The Butterflies From Atlantis #4: Atlantis

Paris Hilton And The Butterflies From Atlantis #5: The Butterflies From Atlantis


Looking Back At Butterflies From Atlantis


Where There Are No Butterflies























Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Farther



Far away things do look close
when I look at them through her



Talking Back To Galileo





I am far away
but I am not far enough
because I saw me

reflected through her,
flipped side-to-side, upside down,
out of proportion

and out of context
but I still recognized me.
I’m going farther.










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Looking To Fall Into The Bear’s Spirals













Friday, April 02, 2010

“Organic Chemistry Is So Hard!”


The girl on the phone
at the last video store
will never again

gossip with her friend
while ringing up my rentals.
Death the monster snake

swallowed her business.
Now she can gossip all day
from inside the snake.





* * *




Last year I wrote a bunch of posts about the video store near my house closing.

Well right now the very last video store in the whole neighborhood is closing.

This last video store had the most annoying young woman working there—she was an assistant manager or something. She would stand behind the counter TALKING ON HER PHONE while she was checking people out.

One time I was flirting with a pretty woman in line ahead of me and we were both laughing at how stupid the young woman looked switching her phone from hand to hand while she tried to operate the cash register at the same time. The young woman heard us and got all red in the face embarrassed. She hung up and checked out the woman in front of me. When she check me out, she was almost crying, she was so upset by me and the pretty woman making fun of her.

So I felt bad and angry at the same time. Angry that she treated me and the other customers so rudely and sad that I’d driven this young woman almost to tears. I’d heard what she’d been talking about to her friend—studying for a chemistry test—so as I was leaving I wished her good luck on her exam. She got all wide-eyed and thanked me for wishing her luck and said, very passionately, “Organic chemistry is so hard!”

The last time I was in the store—they’re selling their whole stock and I bought the three-disk set of “The Lone Gunmen” for $20—she was on her phone talking to her friend at the same time she talked to me about the store closing and took my money and rang up the sale for the three DVDs.





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Conspiracy Theories And Masturbation

Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy! — 1945 Version


Dead Butterfly Flapping

The Year Winds Down #2: Buying Junk

The Dead Movie Store Epilogue


My Two Favorite Monster Snake Movies

Monster Snakes And Sexy Tee Shirts

The Sexy Herpetologist Returns! (Sans Sexy)


Red Granite (Updated)


“Hardly Anyone Visits; No One Stays”


Meanwhile, In An Abandoned Strip Mine...



















Thursday, April 01, 2010

2010 1st Quarter Index


March 2010


Wednesday, March 31, 2010 -- There’s A Hand Raising A Phone

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 -- Writers Versus Painters By The Perfume River

Monday, March 29, 2010 -- “You Watch Television To Turn Your Brain Off”


Friday, March 26, 2010 -- Stuff Goes On In Outer Space

Thursday, March 25, 2010 -- “This Was A Different World”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 -- RIP Robert Culp, 1930 - 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 -- A Long Walk

Monday, March 22, 2010 -- Claudie Haigneré As The Paris Of Tomorrow


Friday, March 19, 2010 -- Thunderbirds Are Still Go

Thursday, March 18, 2010 -- Big Chair And Three Women: (2) Big Chair

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 -- Big Chair And Three Women: (1) Three Women

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 -- Being A Writer In Drew’s World

Monday, March 15, 2010 -- Mischa: Sexy Things About Physics


Friday, March 12, 2010 -- I Hear Dinosaur Music. It’s Beautiful Music.

Thursday, March 11, 2010 -- The Catastrophic Glow Of Jenny’s Shadow

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 -- No, Monsters Won’t Learn To Dance

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 -- “Sexy As The Dead Bridges”

Monday, March 8, 2010 -- The Synchronistic Glow Of Jenny’s Shadow


Friday, March 5, 2010 -- The Metaphysical Glow Of Jenny’s Shadow

Thursday, March 4, 2010 -- Genesis 2:20-25 Also

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 -- A Cartoon Can’t Buy A Yawn

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 -- The Quo Vadis? Question

Monday, March 1, 2010 -- “Expedition” Versus “Going Out”



February 2010


Friday, February 26, 2010 -- Planetary Colors And The Grail Quest

Thursday, February 25, 2010 -- Beautiful And The Damned, Emo And The Glammed

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 -- Adventure’s Waiting Just Ahead

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 -- Neptune Light

Monday, February 22, 2010 -- Naming Things


Friday, February 19, 2010 -- Madonna Di Loreto

Thursday, February 18, 2010 -- “Echelon Building Destroyed in Plane Crash”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 -- The Built World Before The Wrecking Crew

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 -- Squirrels Of Chaos And Delight

Monday, February 15, 2010 -- Editors Comma Having Been Cut Down Comma


Friday, February 12, 2010 -- Veiled

Thursday, February 11, 2010 -- In The Shadow Of The Mouse Ears

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 -- Everybody Knows Who They Are

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 -- The Way Of The Intercepting Fist

Monday, February 8, 2010 -- The Writing On My Hand


Friday, February 5, 2010 -- Freedom From The Wild

Thursday, February 4, 2010 -- Adam And Eve And Keith Richards

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 -- The Apocalypse Of Her Yellow Dress

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 -- Yellow Dress! Yellow Dress!

Monday, February 1, 2010 -- Dining At Impossible Kisses



January 2010


Friday, January 29, 2010 -- Expedition To Amy

Thursday, January 28, 2010 -- Narrative, And Creatures That Take Us Away

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 -- Damsels And Werewolves

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 -- Putting On The Stars

Monday, January 25, 2010 -- Mischa Barton As The Burgess Shale


Friday, January 22, 2010 -- Beth Plays Pinball

Thursday, January 21, 2010 -- Paint Versus Ink

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 -- The Metaphysics Of Elle

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 -- Children Of Legend

Monday, January 18, 2010 -- A Ladybug Looking Out At Winter


Friday, January 15, 2010 -- Rocket Summer People

Thursday, January 14, 2010 -- What Love Looks Like In Words

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 -- Is Iowa Seeking A Diane Monopoly?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 -- Indecision — Death By Dagny

Monday, January 11, 2010 -- Taylor Swift With No Makeup


Friday, January 8, 2010 -- Crown And Tiara

Thursday, January 7 2010 -- The Clock That Laughs And Loves

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 -- “Simple Twist of Fate”

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 -- What Malcontent Yellow Pencils Are Thinking

Monday, January4, 2010 -- 2009 Complete Index


Friday, January 1, 2010 -- Maybe The Fuzzy Green Balls Are Monsters

Friday, January 1, 2010 -- The Fuzzy Green Balls Aren’t Monsters