Friday, December 31, 2010

Digging Britney Redux

If I deleted every word I’ve written
about Britney the revision would create
a hole, a polar opening leading straight
down aesthetic space an airship could fit in—

a dirigible, pterodactyl-bitten
above jungles where volcanoes percolate,
impossible beasts in shadows salivate
and men and women quest by the wild smitten.

When all my words about Britney disappear
a woman remains—stripped because of the heat,
curious, looking up to see what’s coming,

on guard, crouching with her cat and with a spear.
Above, there’s sound, like a song, musique concrète—
That sound is dirigible engines humming.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sway Me More

Like a lazy ocean
Hugs the shore
Hold me close
Sway me more

Tomorrow, of course, is New Year’s Eve. I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing in real life tomorrow and I’m not sure what I’m going to post here on the blog tomorrow, but I do know what I’m going to post today so I’m not completely hopeless.

(One reason for my uncertainty is that the most interesting aspect of 2010—for me individually, I mean—is still in progress, still sort of breaking news around me and I don’t want to talk about it while it is unfolding. So, sort of, the one topic that is occupying most of my thinking now is, sort of, the one topic I don’t really want to talk about right now. If my postings recently have seemed a little discombobulated it’s because at some point next year I’m going to have a whole sequence of—I hope—bizarre and unexpected posts to put up.)

Meanwhile, today—

A few hours ago I looked back at what I did last year for New Year’s Eve and I saw the link to that wonderful Jennifer Connelly video from the director’s cut of “Dark City.”

That is one of my favorite musical performances of all time.

If the nightclub from “Dark City” existed in real life I’d always know where I’d be every weekend evening.

But, anyway, the director’s cut of “Dark City” included a second Jennifer Connelly song. It’s much shorter than “The Night has a Thousand Eyes” but it is still very, very cool. It’s Jennifer Connelly singing a verse or two from an old song called “Sway”.

FYI, YouTube has a video of the Pussycat Dolls [!?] doing a version of “Sway” and it’s like a nightmare, it’s like something the sadistic aliens from “Dark City” would use to torture humans.

It’s amazing to me the way music can be arranged in such an infinity of ways, with such amazingly different results. It’s something like real magic.

So, here’s the great but very short clip of Jennifer Connelly singing “Sway.” Also just fyi, it’s a pretty fun song to play so, someday, I may try to do my own version. I certainly couldn’t be worse than the Pussycat Dolls.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Men, Women, The Hollywood Promise

Only a fool like fools before me
I always think with my heart
Only a fool that same old story
Seems I was born for the part
It's a lesson to be learned
And a page I should have turned
I shouldn't cry but I do
Like an ordinary fool
When his ordinary dreams fall through

The days slide by
Should have done, should have done, we all sigh
Never thought I'd ever be so lonely
After such a long, long time
Time out of mind
We made mad love
Shadow love
Random love
And abandoned love
Accidentally like a martyr
The hurt gets worse
And the heart gets harder

No I’ve never known a sexy French spy
who had me perform at her north side club
and then promised me a small movie role
if I’d let her pretend to manage me

and book me in another north side club
the next weekend. And no I do not know
why the manager of that other club
‘killed himself’ out back while I was playing.

And if a sexy French woman vanished
from her club after the guy ‘killed himself’
and never showed to take me to LA

I wouldn’t break out the blues riffs because
I’d have gotten ticket cash in advance
and just banked it, never bought the tickets.

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

French Guns Come Out Of Little Purses

The Application Of Beyond Understanding

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What You Play And What You Play With

This month I’ve posted a few news stories and web links that I’ve had hanging around for a long time and, keeping up with that theme, today I’m going to put up a quote I’ve had for a long time.

I’ve wanted to write something to go along with this, but I’ve never gotten around to writing anything. Someday I’ll get back to this.

Today’s post is a quote about guitars.

I did a post a while back about some of the things I think about when I pick out a guitar.

Quasi Una Red Guitar Fantasia

I do get attached to things, but I don’t get, so to speak, religious, about my attachments. I like my guitar very much, but if I could afford it I’d almost certainly replace it with one of the new Moog guitars or a semi-custom Carvin synth access guitar.

Today’s post is a quote about equipment from a punk guitar player.

Now, I read a lot of interviews. I love talking to people and I love listening to people talk. (With some very rare exceptions.) But these days—especially in mainstream magazines—you read a lot of really stupid things. Almost everything that appears in mainstream publications (or at mainstream websites) is idiocy crafted to support mindless fashion and mindless consumerism.

I’m not particularly a fan of the punk world—although I certainly liked the movie “Sid and Nancy”—and I never would have expected a punk musician would say anything I’d want to put up on my blog. But that’s one of the weird things about reading a lot of interviews: Every now and then—once or twice a year?—someone completely surprises you and makes the whole endeavor extra interesting.

So here’s Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols answering 06/10 Guitar World’s insipid question about his equipment.

What is your favorite piece of gear?

I haven’t got one because I don’t get attached to things like a lot of people do. A lot of guitar players collect loads of guitars and all that, but that is not my thing. If someone offered me the right price for my Les Paul, I would fuckin’ sell it. At the end of the day, it’s how you play that matters, not your gear.

Inquirer: Steve Jones
By Joe Matera
Guitar World, June 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Dragons Of Saturn

Interesting astrophysics keep appearing in the outer system.

Just for completeness, I want to post a news story and a web link about Saturn. The news story is a current story about a giant storm appearing on Saturn. Large storms like this appear from time to time on Saturn and their twisting, turbulent shapes have gotten them the nicknames of “dragon storms.” The web link is about a dragon storm on Saturn from a few years ago that electric universe believers analyzed a bit from the point of view of plasma dynamics.

I’ve already posted a news story about the solar system itself apparently drifting through an area of the galaxy with a stronger than expected magnetic field.

Shrugging Off My Cosmology Guilt

And I’ve posted about Jupiter’s cloud belts acting odd.

The Difference Between Clouds And Conquistadors

And I’ve posted about asteroids in the asteroid belt flaring up and acting like comets.

Is Asteroid Scheila Really Comet Scheila?

Asteroid Scheila/Comet Scheila Update

Nobody—for the most part that means serious, level-headed astronomers and astrophysicists—draws any kind of cause-and-effect connections between these phenomena. But the electric universe people tend to see similar dynamics at work.

I don’t have strong thoughts on this right now, but I do think it’s intriguing that all these things are happening at the same time. And it would certainly be interesting if the electric universe people are accurate in their interpretations of plasma dynamics having visible, large-scale impacts on the solar system.

The Earth, too, has been experiencing some very large storms as well. Hmmm.

If these are electric universe, plasma dynamic issues, then things will probably get more interesting over the coming months. And these are all such large scale phenomena that if things do get more interesting, everybody will know about it.

Saturn's New Bright Storm

The two largest planets in our solar system are now putting on an exciting show for observers — and they're perfectly placed for those of you hoping to try out that new telescope or eyepiece holiday gift.

On Jupiter, the revival of its South Equatorial Belt has spread to almost completely encircle the planet. Jupiter is a snap to find high in the south at nightfall.

Meanwhile, a new storm has burst forth on Saturn that rivals the brightness of its famous ring system. Perhaps the ringed planet was feeling neglected due the attention heaped on Jupiter recently.

First spotted by amateurs in Japan around mid-December, Saturn's storm now spans roughly 100° of longitude in the North Tropical Zone (roughly 34° north). The bright "head," or leading edge, is located at System II longitude 157° (293° in System III).

Saturn is now well up in the eastern sky before dawn. Be on the lookout for rapid changes to the feature's shape and extent. It will next be positioned in the middle of the planet's disk on December 28th at 3:03 UT and 13:42 Universal Time (the latter favoring western North America); on the 29th at 00:21, 11:01, and 21:40 UT; and on the 30th at 8:19 (favoring eastern North America) and 18:59 UT.

This disturbance is not the same one noted by amateurs earlier this year, which appeared at a dynamic southern latitude band nicknamed "Storm Alley."

Veteran planet-watcher Thomas Dobbins notes the last time such a large storm appeared on Saturn was 1994, but that one had much lower contrast with its surroundings than the current event. This disturbance is easily the brightest feature on the globe — it even rivals the brightness of the planet's ring system.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has a "ringside" seat for the roiling clouds, as seen in the snapshot at right, [ more images at link below ] which was taken three days ago and transmitted to Earth earlier today. Check the mission's website for other high-resolution images targeting the planet.

Jul 14, 2006
Saturn's Dragon Storm

The mysteries of Saturn’s atmospheric behavior continue to mount as scientists puzzle over a massive "thunderstorm" that has remained fixed in place since it first appeared in 2004.

Most people assume that meteorologists understand the weather. But this is not really so. For instance, if one were to ask a meteorologist what causes lightning on Earth, the only honest answer he or she could give would be, "We're not sure." Dr. Martin Uman, author of numerous books on lightning, takes the conventional view that charge buildup required for lightning comes from vertical movement of droplets in a thundercloud. But he confesses that the process occurs "in a way or ways not yet fully understood."

If meteorologists don’t “fully understand” terrestrial lightning, what are the chances they can explain the “surprise” of lightning on other planets? As Dr. Bill Kurth of the University of Iowa says, " we have some preconceived notions about how lightning works at Earth and we can go to places that don’t have an abundance of water like we have in our atmosphere and if we happen to find lightning there then we have to explain what it is that makes lightning work there if we don’t have water."

In November 1980 and August 1981, two Voyager Spacecraft observed an intense storm near Saturn's equator with high winds (1,100 miles per hour) and continuous lightning. More than twenty years later, in 2004, NASA's Cassini spacecraft spotted an electrical storm with lightning bolts that are 1,000 times stronger than those on Earth. The charged storm was detected in Saturn's southern hemisphere, in the appropriately labeled "storm alley" region. The storm (the size of the continental United States) stretched 2,175 miles from north to south.

The storm presented Cassini scientists with a number of enigmas. It is apparently a long-lived storm that has attached itself to one area and occasionally flares up dramatically. But why one area, which is hardly to be expected if Saturn is a mere ball of liquid and gas? The investigators could not explain why the radio bursts would always start while the Dragon Storm was below the horizon on the night side and end when it was on the dayside. Intriguingly, the Dragon Storm arose in an area of Saturn's atmosphere that had earlier produced large, bright convective storms. Mission scientists concluded, "the Dragon Storm is a giant thunderstorm whose precipitation generates electricity as it does on Earth. The storm may be deriving its energy from Saturn's deep atmosphere."

From an Electric Universe perspective, this conclusion simply repeats the inversion of cause and effect in standard explanations of terrestrial lightning. In the EU model as elaborated by Wallace Thornhill and others, thunderstorms themselves are electric discharge phenomena driven by the circuits that link planets to the Sun and the Sun to the galaxy. (See Thornhill's analysis of the Dragon Storm here.)

It seems inexplicable under a traditional meteorological model that a storm would attach itself to one place (particularly on a planet that is thought not to have a solid surface) and sporadically burst to life. But as noted by Thornhill, “the Electric Universe model of stars and planets provides the possibility of a solid surface on the giant planets. And as we find on Earth, a solid surface allows for regional electrical differences that favor electrical storm activity in one region over another. A good example is ‘tornado alley’ in the southern U.S.A.”

Thornhill describes the twin spiraling formations as miniatures of “spiral galaxies,” and he sees these as “the effects of the interaction of Birkeland current pairs,” just as was demonstrated in the computer simulations of spiral galaxy formation by Anthony Peratt described in an earlier Picture of the Day. If this is so, the megalightning discharges are occurring within the Dragon Storm.

Thornhill argues that the enigmatic switching off of the radio bursts as the storm enters daylight mimics the morning appearance and subsequent fading of the mysterious "spokes," seen occasionally in Saturn's rings. In the EU model, the two phenomena are connected because the spokes are formed by radial discharges to a huge current ring circulating beyond the rings. The discharges travel across the rings at the speed of lightning from the ionosphere, where they draw electrical energy via the storm. The discharges shoot charged ring particles out of the ring plane, in a form of thunderclap, throwing a shadow on the rings. The fading of both the spokes and the storm signals as Saturn rotates into daylight are probably a result of the circuit, which links the morning and evening terminators.

The significance of the storm’s title will not be lost to those familiar with the Thunderbolts group’s exploration of ancient myth and folklore relating to plasma discharge configurations in the ancient sky. Dragon-like monsters soaring across the heavens rank among the most enigmatic and fanciful icons of the ancient cultures. These mythical reptiles come adorned with feathers or wings, sprouting long-flowing hair and fiery, lightning-like emanations. Every detail of such beasts defies naturalistic reasoning. Yet accounts from widely separated cultures attribute many identical features to these biological absurdities.

The spiraling shape of dragons and serpents in mythology and ancient art are strikingly similar to plasma instabilities in the laboratory and in space—all reminding us of the metamorphosing, life-like qualities of plasma phenomena. And it should be no surprise that ancient images of the dragon are intimately associated with the same configurations of electrified plasma that we see in megalightning on Saturn today.

[ an electric universe site ]

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Witches: Ogres And Showgirls

“Are the three of us a postmodern take
on Grendel—I’m the old ogre singing
but instead of running, your screams ringing,
the young girls say my song a hit they’ll make?”

“Wasn’t Grendel,” the red witch asked with fake
puzzlement in her voice, “Gardner bringing
Beowulf out for postmodern zinging?
Are we postmod icing on postmod cake?”

“Shut up,” the green witch said. “Beowulf’s gang,
heroes, has no place—even as jokers—
when fake monsters and fake virgins fake fight.”

The green witch laughed. I struck a chord. She sang,
“It’s nobody’s business what the ogres
and showgirls do when they’re alone at night.”

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

‘Now Sing Of Walls! Sing!’

Something That Sets You Apart

Christmas Witches I Mean Wishes

Christmas Witches: A Present Of The Past

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Asteroid Scheila/Comet Scheila Update

The Strange Tails of Asteroid Scheila

In the wee hours of December 11th, University of Arizona astronomer Steve Larson was on cosmic patrol, taking images in northern Leo with the Catalina Sky Survey's 26-inch (0.7-m) Schmidt telescope.

That's when he noticed something odd about the appearance of the main-belt asteroid 596 Scheila. It didn't look like its expected starlike pinpoint. Instead, the asteroid was clearly fuzzy, with a soft glow extending a few arcminutes to the west and north. Other astronomers quickly confirmed the cometary appearance, spotting a distinct arc of matter to the north and a smaller one to the south.

In the week since Larson's discovery, the mystery concerning Scheila has only deepened. Past sightings of this main-belt body, which averages 2.9 astronomical units (about 270 million miles) from the Sun in an out-of-round, 5-year-long orbit, showed nothing special. A series of carefully taken images in 2005-06 by Brian Warner reveal a well-behaved object that spins every 15.9 hours.

But something has definitely happened to Scheila in the past month. Alex Gibbs, a member of the Catalina team, rechecked images taken in November and found that the asteroid had already brightened by a few tenths of a magnitude. By December 3rd, it was showing signs of diffuseness and shining a whole magnitude brighter than normal.

Over the last week the mysterious cloud has dissipated considerably. But even though Scheila is currently 225 million miles (365 million km) away, a number of amateurs have acquired praiseworthy images of the strange development. A few examples are here, here, and here (all taken December 12th).

"We are studying the evolution of the dust cloud to determine if it is the result of a single impulse, or a more sustained process," Larson says. In principal, spectra of the outburst could distinguish between those two possibilities.

So Maryland amateur John Menke and his 18-inch Newtonian gave it their best shot on the 16th, recording a spectrum that was unexpectedly dimmed at the red end and displayed a few provocative emissions near the blue end. "Sure looks like more than dust to me!" he comments.

An earlier spectrum of Scheila suggests that it's a rare T type asteroid, which have dark surfaces that are a close spectral match to that of a bare cometary nucleus. If Scheila is truly a long-dormant comet, then it's a big one: current estimates put its diameter at 70 miles (113 km).

Cometary specialists David Jewitt (University of California, Los Angeles) and Hal Weaver (Applied Physics Laboratory) have snagged some discretionary time on the Hubble Space Telescope later this month to try to determine what's going on. Meanwhile, large ground-based telescopes are attempting to detect emission from CN, a molecule that would unambiguously point to outgassing from the object's interior.

"It's a main-belt comet, although I don't know what type yet," Jewitt explains. He says it could have resulted from an impact (as occurred earlier this year with P/2010 A2) or outgassing (as occurs on 133P/Elst-Pizarro).

One other kind of observation might distinguish a cometlike gush from an accidental whack. If it's the latter, notes dynamicist David Nesvorny (Southwest Research Institute), Schiela's orbit and/or its spin rate might undergo "a measurable change if the impactor was massive enough." For example, he calculates that a 1-km object with one-millionth of Scheila's mass, striking at 5 km per second, would tweak the orbital semimajor axis by about 50 miles (75 km) — 50 times larger than the orbit's current uncertainty.

Learning the source of Scheila's shroud now falls to professional observers and their big guns, and I expect they'll have news for us in the next week or two. So stay tuned!

Sky & Telescope Online
Kelly Beatty
December 18, 2010

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

Is Asteroid Scheila Really Comet Scheila?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Love Sonnet With Piano Wreckage And Worms

My two favorite supervillains:

That’s Lex Luthor spending an afternoon sitting at one of his grand pianos playing Schubert’s “Impromptu No. 2 In E Flat.”

Talking to Lex, that looks like Lana Lang but it is only her body. She is possessed by the spirit of the seventeenth century French witch Isobel Thoreaux.

Isobel was only human. She didn’t have superpowers like Clark Kent, because he’s an alien creature from another planet. But because she cultivated her understanding of the powers of magic—and because the occult world is even more powerful than Superman’s superpowers—Isobel was able twice to almost defeat Clark. She never lost to him because his powers were superior to hers. She lost because even though she had clues to his connection to the stones of power—“And you think they were meant for you?” she asks him—she never realized that in fact they had been left for him and in fact they were the very key to his abilities.

Supervillains must never let down their guard, and they always must give consideration to even seemingly unthinkable contingencies.

Isobel possessed Lana Lang’s body again when everybody was in China looking for one of the stones of power. Only Isobel was smart enough to interpret the ‘map’ as a simple drawing depicting the location of the stone. When she recovered the stone, Clark tried to steal it from her. Isobel put out her hand and a ball of energy blasted Clark away and knocked him unconscious.

Supervillains take care of themselves.

from “Spell” and “Sacred”
Smallville, Season 4

If I were a supervillain who played
classical pieces on a piano
and loved a supervillain witch, I know
even if our villainous love were made

of operatic stuff, still, nerves get frayed
and at least once or twice a week or so
she would use her magic-blast hand to blow
my piano to bits in some tirade.

A piano here, a piano there,
is a small price, in supervillain terms,
for an operatic love to savor.

I’d keep fresh keyboards in stock everywhere
for this love, this witch, who’d go to the worms
rather than ask—allow!—me to save her.

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

Superman And Magic

A Supervillain Refresher

LuthorCorp Experiments: The Hero’s Commitment

This Scary, Pumpkin Time Of Year, Part Two

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

All The Ears Of Cerberus

“In all the conservatories, including my own at the Peabody Conservatory and the Curtis Institute, the kids are extremely competitive—they want to play louder and faster than the pianist in the next studio. Most of them can play the hell out of the piano in a way that their elders never could. But they belong more appropriately in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It all has very little to do with making art. They have a lot of work to do, but it's easier just to pump plastic.”

Leon Fleisher
quoted in the WSJ review
of his book,
“My Nine Lives: A Memoir
of Many Careers in Music”

I’d like to see a superhero play
a guitar or a piano slowly.
When a musician plays slowly you see
and hear what each note and rest has to say

to you and show you, what sound can portray.
When a performer plays music quickly
you see not sound but a hand that’s tricky,
a hand that’s waving the music away.

Would anyone but a superhero
think not of themselves but of the damsel
in chains, in need of rescue like music?

A superhero can ignore fear so
they break chains in the dark, save the damned soul,
return her to the light. That’s the true trick.

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

Headphones And Crucibles

Hell Is The Eclipse Of Art

The Coolest Superpower

Ancient Cities Of The Moon

Monday, December 20, 2010

LuthorCorp Experiments: The Hero’s Commitment

CHLOE: “LuthorCorp experiments never end well.”

Supervillain experiments never end well,
viewed from the perspective of the hero’s girlfriend
and it’s always been a mainstream media trend
to feature that belle when there’s a story to tell

of a supervillain dragging the world to hell
in his mad plan—dream, design, scheme, quest—to transcend
the world on which the hero and girlfriend depend
for assurances they’re free, not locked in a cell.

The supervillain’s learning—he’s a scientist!—
whatever the outcome of an experiment.
The hero’s girlfriend can’t or won’t see his craft. Her

whining about him the experimentalist
and the hero listening—the hero’s commitment—
must be the fons et origo of mad laughter.

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

Fons Et Origo

The Mad Scientist Is Always Laughing

Big Glass Views Of The Heavens

Friday, December 17, 2010

Headphones And Crucibles

You will not make love tonight, you will not feel sorry for yourself, you will not even be surfeited, you won’t get real drunk, you won’t even shed blood, and you’ll have undergone a fit of sterile frenzy. You will leave a little worn out, a little drunk, but with a kind of dejected calm, the aftermath of nervous exhaustion.

Jazz is the national pastime of the United States.

Jean-Paul Sartre
writing in 1947
quoted in
Robert Gottlieb’s “Reading Jazz”

A man puts on a pair of headphones.
A woman’s sleeping across the room.
He presses a button. Green lights bloom
under his hands, real flesh on real bones

playing plastic keys, digital tones.
“Molly Malone” surrounds him, a womb —
or is a song a counterfeit tomb?
The notes are like ghost chains or ghost groans.

Three choruses and out. Of the song.
Whatever it was. He looks around.
Not wombs or tombs, he thinks. Crucibles.

The world’s changed, he thinks. Everything’s wrong.
She’s gone. Took the stilyagi sound.
And books. My heart. And dirigibles!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is Asteroid Scheila Really Comet Scheila?

I started the month with a couple of news stories and a post about how I didn’t want to let interesting news stories “get old” just because I didn’t have anything in particular to say about them. Today is an example of that.

This is a picture and news story about an asteroid that astronomers have discovered acting like a comet:

When is an asteroid not an asteroid? When it turns out to be a comet, of course. Has this ever happened before? Why, yes it has. In fact it was just announced December 12, 2010 that the asteroid (596) Scheila has sprouted a tail and coma! This is likely a comet that has been masquerading as an asteroid.

Steve Larson of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL), University of Arizona first reported that images of the minor planet (596) Scheila taken on December 11th showed the object to be in outburst, with a comet-like appearance and an increase in brightness from magnitude 14.5 to 13.4. The cometary appearance of the object was confirmed by several other observers within hours.

A quick check of archived Catalina images of Scheila from October 18, November 2 and November 11 showed Scheila to look star-like, which is what asteroids look like from Earth. They just happen to be moving across the field of view in contrast to the fixed background stars. The image taken by Catalina on December 3rd shows some slight diffuseness and an increase in overall brightness. So, it appears this event began on or around December 3rd.


This is really interesting stuff and I’ve briefly mentioned volatile material in the asteroid belt once or twice before.

Pluto And Beyond #3: The Golden Age of Outer Solar System Studies

Solar System Formation And Really Odd Explanations

It’s remarkable because so far as anybody knows, there is no mechanism for new material to enter the asteroid belt. It is believed to be made up of material from the very birth of the solar system. If the solar system is in fact billions of years old, then how can there still be volatile material in the asteroid belt? Even if the material only flares intermittently, over the course of billions of years models suggest there should be no volatile materials left in the asteroid belt.

This has been an issue for a number of years because it has—of all things!—religious implications.

So-called Young Earth Creationists believe that the solar system is only thousands of years old. Therefore it is not—to their way of thinking—unusual or unexpected to have volatile material in the asteroid belt or anywhere else.

Almost all astronomers and astrophysicists reject that thinking as ridiculous and accept “deep time,” a solar system that’s billions of years old, as an established fact or even as an axiomatic truth.

But comets have always posed a problem to the accepted viewpoint. First the high number of existing comets led astronomers to predict a thing called the Kuiper belt, a vast collection of comets at the outer fringe of the solar system. When that didn’t seem to create an appropriate reserve of comets, astronomers predicted a thing called the Oort cloud, an even more vast collection of comets in something like a sphere around our solar system.

Scientists kind of try to have their cake and eat it too in this instance. On one hand these new and newer mechanisms for generating comets are seen as science being self-correcting and explaining new data using elaborations of well-understood models. On the other hand—mostly in private—scientists are a little uneasy depending on what are basically kludges, possibly a modern example of epicycles, to explain a common phenomenon like comets.

Because amateurs have such great telescopes these days, and because so much professional data goes almost directly to the web, this intriguing situation is playing out in public—although the mainstream media almost never discuss the religious issues—and it is going to be interesting to see what new surprises the asteroid belt and comets provide and how scientists and creationists deal with the data.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This Evening At The Stilyagi Bar®

I stopped at the Stilyagi Quick Mart®
and filled my car with Stilyagi Gas®.
I paid fast with my Stilyagi Pass®
feeling young and loved, attractive and smart.

Stilyagi Snacks® are good for your heart —
“Proteins, carbs, fats / A taste none can surpass!” ® —
so I bought some. Stilyagi Judas ®,
the girl group, was singing their hit, SexArt ®.

I love shopping in that magical store
but I had to come home, change clothes and write.
Tonight’s theme is Rebellion Gone Too Far ®

and the last thing I’d want to do is bore
the gang at Cold Blue Jazz Poetry Night ®
this evening at the Stilyagi Bar®.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Ice Odyssey And The Short Pants Guy

Yesterday my car was frozen.

I don’t mean just the locks were jammed. I mean snow had settled so thickly over my car that the bottom layer had turned to ice over the edges of both the driver side door and the passenger side door. Yesterday my car was not going to open up. It was like,

So I had to do without my car for the day. But I’ve lived with Chicago weather my whole life and frozen cars are pretty easy to deal with. Late yesterday afternoon I brushed off the snow and scrapped off the surface ice from the windshield, the driver side window and the T-top. This morning when the Sun came up, the light was able to shine into my car, warm up the black upholstery and the hot air in the car was able to melt the ice around the edges of the doors. I had to spray de-icer into the driver side door keyhole to unfreeze the lock, but that was pretty easy.

Now everything is back to normal. I never had to try the emergency airlock without my space helmet and expose myself directly to the hard vacuum of deep space.

Legend has it that astronauts have a lot of groupies and I’d bet that an astronaut who did that Dave Bowman thing and braved the vacuum of space without a complete suit would, you know, always have a woman to, you know, talk with about physics. So to speak.

I was wondering about tough guys recently because during the most intense part of the freezing blizzard that covered up my car I took a walk to a nearby store and there was a middle age guy there buying ice tea and the guy was wearing short pants. He was in line ahead of me at checkout and after he paid and left, I talked to the pretty young woman working the register.

“When a woman sees a guy in weather like this wearing short pants,” I asked, “does she think he must be a real tough guy and does she feel attracted to him, do short pants in cold weather make a woman swoon?”

The girl smirked then laughed and said, “When I see a guy wearing short pants in cold weather it always makes me think he’s psychotic and it tells me to keep my distance.”

Everyone in line behind me laughed, and people chatted about how almost everyone had seen a lot of guys this year wearing short pants in freezing weather and everyone agreed the ‘fashion’ just makes them think the guys are either incredibly stupid or just insane.

So my ice odyssey was a short one. I’m back to getting into my car whenever I want. In the course of my ice odyssey I didn’t witness many strange places and strange people, but I did see an oddball guy wearing short pants during a blizzard.

I don’t, right now, have more to say about this. But I have a feeling someday I’ll think of something more to say. This business of guys wearing short pants in freezing weather is weird. Maybe these are the guys that go out with the women who wear pants with letters and words emblazoned across their butt?

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

Another Venus

Yellow Dress: A Keyboard Odyssey

Mathilda And Nicole: A Bra Odyssey

Monday, December 13, 2010

How To Shop With Beethoven

You’re in a grocery store with Beethoven
looking for cage-free, omega-3 eggs
and he opens his ‘conversation book’
and scribbles and shows it to you. You read,
“What’s the store playing on the sound system?”

You’re so tired of all the scribbling you write,
“It’s Creatures of Prometheus. Someone
did the overture for guitars and drums.”

Beethoven yells and snatches back the book.
He furiously scribbles big letters,
“No, this time you will not fool me like that.
I checked my residual sheets. Muzak
never licenses my work any more.”

So you look all chagrinned and nod and write,
“Yes, it’s really The Barber of Saville.”

Beethoven yells and slaps the book and writes,
“Rossini, that Italian hack bastard!”

Then he gets to muttering to himself
and making punching and throwing gestures
with his hands and spends the next hour cursing
embarrassingly loud but at least now
he leaves you alone to do the shopping.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hooking Up Is About Love

When the Sun goes down in the west, or north,
or whatever direction it goes down
these days, at the opposite horizon,
whatever direction that is, I mean,
whatever people call that direction,
the blue sky turns a beautiful purple.

It looks so peaceful and so far away
I’ve come to think of those things together.
Far away, that is, looks like it’s peaceful.

I think a good argument you can make
for somebody faking the Moon landings
is more than forty years have come and gone
and no one, I mean, no corporation,
has put up wires from the Earth to the Moon.

Obviously the wires want to go there.

The Moon is like a street light just waiting
for someone to build a pole under it
with transformers and wires and connections
so that everything out there, far away,
can be plugged in here and current can flow
from here to there where it looks so peaceful.

Of course the Moon rotates around the Earth
at a different rate than the Earth revolves
so wires connecting them would get tangled.

But scientists are always fixing things.

If somebody had landed on the Moon
scientists would have fixed the Earth and Moon
by now and hooked up wires from here to there.

Obviously the wires want to go there.

It’s peaceful and far away. Wires love that.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pretty Crates Above Train Tracks

In the long history of art materials, acrylics are fairly new. Oil colors date back to the fifteenth century. Tempera and encaustic have pedigrees that are counted in the thousands of years. And watercolor was the result when prehistoric visionaries developed the basic model for paint that still serves today: a combination of pigment (earth colorant), vehicle (for the earliest artists, saliva), and binder (prehistoric animal fat).

Acrylics were first developed as a solvent based artists’ color in the early part of the twentieth century. The first water-borne acrylic (the kind we use today) was developed and launched in 1955. In that year, a company in Cincinnati, Ohio called Permanent Pigments that had been milling oil colors since 1933 (and run by a man named Henry Levison, who lived, drank, slept, and breathed artist’s colors) launched a new product. This new artists’ color was formulated with an acrylic polymer resin that was emulsified with water. The new color could go from thick to thin and everywhere in between; it would adhere to just about anything—from canvas to paper to metal to wood to plastic–and it dried quickly for easy re-working, layering, and masking. Most important, it could be thinned and cleaned up with water.

Levison tried to come up with a name that would capture the essence of the medium and the fact that it could go from fluid liquidity to heavy texture. He called his new product “liquid texture,” or Liquitex®.

“The Acrylic Book”
Liquitex Literature

Quantum entanglement is a property of the quantum mechanical state of a system containing two or more objects, where the objects that make up the system are linked in such a way that one cannot adequately describe the quantum state of any member of the system without full mention of the other members of the system, even if the individual objects are spatially separated. Quantum entanglement is at the heart of the EPR paradox that was developed by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen in 1935, and it was experimentally verified for the first time in 1972 by Stuart Freedman and John Clauser.

At a thirty frames-per-second frame rate
a ninety minute movie will project
a hundred and sixty thousand select
pictures one after the other like freight

on a train of flatcars each with one crate,
pretty crates for the viewer to inspect,
pretty crates above train tracks that connect
the railroad to the viewer’s brain substrate.

Borgy’s boyfriend wants to film a movie
about a painter who creates a scene
a single image on a rectangle

of canvas then is tortured by spooky
ways the scene changes and what it might mean
when an image and viewer entangle.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

In Which I Do Something Almost Like A Craft!

Today I did something like a craft project!

I like notebooks. I’ve talked about that before.

Good notebooks come with a little bit of ribbon to mark the current page you’re working on. I have four good notebooks like that, but I have a heck of a lot of inexpensive notebooks, too.

Normally I just stick in a blank sheet of paper to mark my current place in a notebook, but that causes trouble. When I open the notebook and go to work I always misplace the blank sheet or I write on it then I need to keep it in a folder and find another blank sheet somewhere. Blank sheets work as page markers but they’re trouble.

A normal bookmark like the kind libraries give away doesn’t work for me because I lose them, too, or they’re so thick they leave an embossed mark on the pages of a notebook if you leave them in there.

So the solution, obviously, is to make a little ribbon-like arrangement for inexpensive notebooks just like the kind of thing that comes built into good notebooks.

And that’s what I did. Just like a real arts and crafts person!

I went to the big arts and craft store around here and bought some cool, hippie-approved multi-colored yarn.

Then I cut a piece to length and secured its middle to the outside arc of the top spiral metal loop of my big inexpensive drawing notebook using a binding type knot called a constrictor knot.

Then I tied a stopper type knot called a figure eight knot into both ends of the yarn so the pieces wouldn’t fray and unravel. I cut the ends a little long so that above the stopper knot I could fray that little section on purpose so that it looks fluffy.

Then I did the same thing to my inexpensive watercolor notebooks and smaller drawing notebooks.

Now I don’t have to worry about losing my place in my notebooks.

When civilization crumbles and we all have to live by our wits and craft skills, I am set — just so long as survival is predicated on cutting yarn and tying two or three different kinds of knots. And, to be very honest, that is the kind of post-apocalypse I am very much hoping for.

I’m ready!

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

I talked about the three main kinds of knots before. But there are specialty kinds, too, like binding knots and stopper knots.

A Craft Of Knots

That book in the background is “The Craft of Sail,” by Jan Adkins, and I’ve talked about that before, too. Since my local library got rid of its copies I bought my own copy.

An Embrace On The Past

I don’t know if I would have done this if I hadn’t met the one-who-isn’t-Jamie and heard about her bird-seed-candle-holder. At least my craft doesn’t cause poor freezing, starving birds to go hungry.

The Damn Punk Human Who Isn’t Jamie

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Donut Shop Parking Lot Necropolis

A necropolis is a large cemetery or burial ground, usually including structural tombs. The word comes from the Greek νεκρόπολις - nekropolis, literally meaning "city of the dead". Apart from the occasional application of the word to modern cemeteries outside large towns, the term is chiefly used of burial grounds, near the centers of ancient civilizations, such as an abandoned city or town.

There are a couple of stores around here
that sell DVD’s for about five bucks.
They’re general merchandise stores not stores
devoted to entertainment business.

Five bucks for a movie means that movies
are a disposable commodity
to the business world decision makers.

The magazines nobody buys cost more.

I guess soon enough nobody will buy
movies. They’ll die like magazines and books.

Since movies only cost five bucks I bought
an old zombie movie because it starred
a cool actress named Aimee Lynn Chadwick.
I’d seen it before—of course—but five bucks
is cheap enough for me to pick it up
to enjoy Aimee Lynn Chadwick’s acting
and to see if the movie was as bad
as I remembered. After watching it
and enjoying Aimee Lynn Chadwick’s parts,
I figured, Yeah, it’s as bad as I thought.

So I just threw it out, wrote off five bucks.

When I tossed it, I left the DVD
on top of the trash container out back.
For two or three days nobody walking
through the alley took the DVD home.
When the garbage truck lifted the trash bin
the DVD got dumped into the back
of the truck with the rest of the garbage.

Not only are movies disposable,
but nobody wants them even for free.

“Necropolis” means “city of the dead.”

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The Donut Shop Parking Lot Is Not Enough

Rave To The Grave: Return Of The Living Dead #5

Pictures Of Lily As A Zombie

Monday, December 06, 2010

Thin Lines Spread Out Into A Grid

“Be careful with that! All right, check the gauges on the regulator and watch out for overdoses. Oh, and look out for potholes and puddles. And watch out for power lines!”

I don’t think power lines care if there’s a storm coming.

If anything, when the sky goes purple and the last
patch of sunlight disappears I suspect power lines
think of it as a chance to show off what they can do.
Lightning flashes every-which-way illuminating
everything, flashing on everyone, like rock and roll.
But power lines are like jazz, controlled, the same magic
but stretched out into thin lines, spread out into a grid,
only illuminating those who are connected.

Sometimes lightning strikes a pole holding up power lines.

One time a woman described all the tribulations
her boyfriend was putting her through, her grief, his wild ways.

“Sounds like you’ve got yourself,” I said, “a real Charles Manson.”

Her head tilted. Her voice took on a low pitched rumble.
She said, sparking, “What the fuck do you know about it?”

I don’t think power lines care if there’s a storm coming.

Power lines are like a song made out of lightning but
jazz players know rock and roll always will make more noise.

Friday, December 03, 2010

What Is Love? 7—“Beyond Apollo”

“It’s true,” I say, “it’s been verified.”

“Oh, I know they tell us it’s true,” Leneh says with a small laugh, “but how do we really know? It’s hard to be a scientific wife and have all your illusions taken from you. That’s the real thing I couldn’t forgive you, you know. The other reasons were just made-up bullshit. I couldn’t stand all that factuality. Is there anything alive down there?”

“I don’t know,” I say, peering with her through the gases; seeing small gray shapes whisking in and out of the line of vision. We are very close to Venus now, some five hundred miles or less above the planet and the thin, high scent of the atmosphere causes our ears to ring, although we seem otherwise to be doing very well without breathing apparatus or shielding of any sort. Perhaps we could have withstood space travel all the time; it was only our innate sense of caution which made things so difficult. “Do you care for me, Leneh Venas?” I ask her, putting an affectionate arm around her shoulders, letting my fingers ease down to her breast as the two of us, five hundred miles high, look at the green and gaseous planet. “Do you?”

“Well,” she says, “you took me on this interesting trip and have shown a lot of concern for me. I think that’s nice.”

“But do you love me? That’s the question which I asked you.”

“Well,” she says with a laugh, her fingers catching mine and drawing them subtly toward an arched nipple. “Love is very hard to decide. This is just our first date, you know. You have to give these things time.”

“But could you love me?”

“Maybe,” she says with a giggle, “and maybe not, but probably maybe,” and detaches herself from me, makes a little girl’s twist of her body, and smiling, sinks toward the planet. I make swimming gestures and find that I can follow her easily, the ozone supporting me; a strange and invigorating feeling of buoyancy working itself through various levels of the body. Interplanetary travel in this fashion is excellent; when the solar system is invented again they will have to try that alternative. “I have to tell you something, Leneh Venas,” I say, catching up with her near a cloud formation, the cloud orange and shaped somewhat like a child’s stuffed animal, “I hope that something can develop between us because I’ve been very hurt. I was married once, you know.”

“I heard something about that,” she says, vaguely, extending an arm so that I can float against her, then gathering me in and running her fingers down a forearm. “You don’t have to talk about that. Isn’t this pretty? It’s hard to believe that Venus is something made up when you see it like this.”

“It isn’t made up.”

“Well, if it isn’t, it could be,” she says. “Let’s not talk of that.”

“I was once married,” I say. “That’s what I was talking about. It was very unhappy. It was terrible. She understood nothing and it came apart in pity and terror. She left me, and in doing so, denied everything.”

“I’m sorry,” she says. “It’s very common nowadays, isn’t it? People not understanding each other. Let’s not talk about it. Let’s just enjoy the day and let what will happen happen.”

“But we can’t,” I say, recalling something, remembering the conditions under which we have been permitted to make this voyage. “We can only go for a little while and then we have to come back. And we have to reach some kind of a resolution, Leneh. We have to decide between ourselves today what will become of us. It’s a decision.”

“That’s so tiring,” she says, shaking her head. “I can’t make any decisions. I just want to look at Venus and dream that it’s real. Can’t we do that?”

“No,” I say and exert pressure on her: it pains me to do so but I dig my fingers into her ribs, make her eyes widen with an oh! of surprise, draw her into me, see comprehension beginning to filter through her cheekbones as if poured from a vial somewhere above. “We can’t do that: we have to reach a decision today. Right now, in fact.”

“I don’t even know you.”

“You have to know me. You have to take risks, make judgments. That’s what they wanted—”

“No,” she says, shaking her head, not withdrawing her eyes from me. “I can’t do that. If that’s what they want, they’ll have to find you someone else because I can’t be rushed like that. I don’t know—”

“You’ve got to know,” I say. The cloud dissolves convulsively under us; I find myself suddenly in an uncomfortable position. Pinned against her, arms and legs now awkwardly intertwined, we are falling rapidly toward Venus. “You’ve got to make a decision,” I say as thick, foul currents of atmosphere in the lower regions begin to sicken me, giving my head a stuffed sensation. “You can’t live this way all your life. You have got to come to the point. Do you—”

“No,” she says, crying. “I don’t understand you; I don’t understand any of you, you’re all the same, all that you want are immediate decisions, easy answers, and there are none: you have to let some things develop, take their time, get away from me,” shrieking out all of this in sudden bubbles of sound as we fall and fall. Now we are approaching the land; it appears to be a thick, gaseous, vile swamp, not at all like the Venus of which I have dreamed and without signs of intelligent life as well, although strange convulsions and twitches of the mud beneath indicate that there may be large beasts in hiding. “Nothing, nothing; it can’t be that way,” Leneh Venas says, and falls away from me; her body detaches fully and bones seem to break; she is coming apart, head flying from the neck, shoulders from joints, joints from trunk; and I am falling toward Venus, completely out of control and surrounded by a constellation of human anatomy, all broken and spattered with blood. “You can’t do this to me!” I cry, just before I hit the swamp, “you cannot possibly do this to me; it’s not allowed, it isn’t fair!” but then the dismembered body of Leneh Venas and I, the two of us—both of us, that is to say—come to land with an unseemly roar and topple; smiling, the beasts pad from their groves to devour us, and therefore it is difficult to say if we were able to make much out of our relationship or whether, in the long run, we were able to work out some kind of meaningful emotional interconnection.

I know a cool woman who went to France
and when some Parisian guy asked her out
she took a picture—he sat with a pout—
with her phone of the first course contrivance

their waiter built of sugar like a dance
of dark and light chocolate. She didn’t shout
for joy, just blogged the pic, leaving no doubt
with   OMG!   and a happyface glance:   :-D

This woman’s watch is like the Moon rockets
astronauts in the Apollo program
rode into space so matter-of-factly.

Her cool watch doesn’t care if you mock its
analog face—gold, onyx, diamond glam.
Her cool watch knows the real time exactly.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Digging Britney

I think if a paleontologist
dug into Britney Spears like the Badlands
the scientist would find Britney-shaped bones
and wonder if the creature walked upright
and decipher from its teeth what it ate
and speculate about what type of sounds
would have resonated in the hollow
of the Britney skull’s sinus cavity.

Musicians sometimes describe a sequence
that goes piano —> saxophone —> guitar
and then tip back a drink mischievously
and say the cool instrument of today
is a computer program called ProTools
and if you want to get the good groupies
learn to play the studio-in-a-box.
Silicon chips. Silica is crushed rock.

Scientists and drunken musicians try
to unearth a deep truth, something hidden
by rock. We might need drunken scientists.
Jazz musicians can play anything cool
but there’s a sound—it’s something like a song—
that’s not under any jazz player’s hand.
Piano. Saxophone. Guitar. And now
there’s only the sound of Britney laughing.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Shrugging Off My Cosmology Guilt

Sometimes I put aside a link to an interesting website or a news story with the intention of writing something about it and doing a blog post but then I keep putting off the writing part for one reason or another. Then months can go by and I’ll have this web link or news story around day after day and I’ll feel guilty day after day for not writing something and it really starts to bug me.

I’ve got enough stuff to feel guilty about without feeling guilty about old news so I’m trying to stop putting stuff aside for more than a few days at a time.

So I’ve got one old news story that I’m going to link to today, and one recent news story that I’m going to link to just to get it up.

Someday I hope to come back to both of these news stories, but today I’m just looking forward to deleting these links from my folders of random stuff.

These are both astronomy stories, but they’re about two different astronomical ‘neighborhoods.’

This first story is about galactic space, and the motion of our solar system through our Milky Way galaxy. Scientists recently discovered that the galactic spiral arm our solar system is within has a stronger magnetic field than traditional thinking about astrophysics would predict. This has lots of interesting implications. First of all, there is a comparatively new astronomical paradigm built around plasma physics called the ‘electric universe’ which does expect strong magnetic fields throughout galactic space. Second, if a stronger than expected magnetic field in galactic space does turn out to be an indication that plasma physics plays a larger role than expected in astronomy there are a lot of other predictions the ‘electric universe’ paradigm makes that will be fun to look at in detail.

Holiday tidings come from NASA's Voyager 2 this week, offering a view of deep space beyond our sun's solar system.

Now speeding through space at more than 34,000 miles-per-hour, the 1977 space probe resides more than 8.3. billion miles away from the sun. That is twice as far as Pluto. Two years ago, Voyager 2 passed into the region of space where the sun's solar wind peters out as it plows into the interstellar gases of our Milky Way galaxy. And now it's giving us some news from this region, called the "heliosheath," by astrophysicists.

"This is a magic mission," says space scientist Merav Opher of George Mason University. in Fairfax, Va.. "After all these years, Voyager 2 is still working and sending us first hand (on-site) data."

Voyager 2's vantage, revealed in the Dec. 24 Nature journal in a study led by Opher and colleagues, shows that beyond the solar system, the galaxy's magnetic field is unexpectedly strong, about twice as much as expected, and unexpectedly tilted.


This second story is about solar system space. Astronomers and astrophysicists are always predicting what they suspect might be happening at the outer edge of the solar system. This is the latest prediction. Modern technology makes it possible to study the outer system like never before in history and it must be the greatest feeling in the world to be young and doing post-grad astrophysics work right now because there are a lot of discoveries to be made and lots of interesting mysteries to resolve.

A century of comet data suggests a dark, Jupiter-sized object is lurking at the solar system’s outer edge and hurling chunks of ice and dust toward Earth.

“We’ve accumulated 10 years’ more data, double the comets we viewed to test this hypothesis,” said planetary scientist John Matese of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “Only now should we be able to falsify or verify that you could have a Jupiter-mass object out there.”

In 1999, Matese and colleague Daniel Whitmire suggested the sun has a hidden companion that boots icy bodies from the Oort Cloud, a spherical haze of comets at the solar system’s fringes, into the inner solar system where we can see them.

In a new analysis of observations dating back to 1898, Matese and Whitmire confirm their original idea: About 20 percent of the comets visible from Earth were sent by a dark, distant planet.

This idea was a reaction to an earlier notion that a dim brown-dwarf or red-dwarf star, ominously dubbed Nemesis, has pummeled the Earth with deadly comet showers every 30 million years or so. Later research suggested that mass extinctions on Earth don’t line up with the Nemesis predictions, so many astronomers now think that object doesn’t exist.