Monday, February 28, 2011

Violence Of The Sun In My Kitchen

I opened my refrigerator door.
My refrigerator yelled, “You fat pig!”
I closed the door and shuddered at the dig.
But I was hungry so I braced for more

and went in again. “I will not ignore
that roll of fat above your pants! Zaftig?
Fat! Calculus, geometry and trig
couldn’t count your calories, sugar whore!”

I grabbed some veggies and a chicken breast
and shut the door. There is a roll of fat
bulging above the waist of my new pants.

Lean meats. Fresh veggies. Healthy fat. This quest
is my odyssey—return to abs flat,
to silence from refrigerator rants.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ghost Behind The Scenes

Those are more screen grabs from “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.”

That’s actress Heather Langenkamp playing actress “Heather Langenkamp” and the man is the president of New Line Cinema Robert Shaye playing the president of New Line Cinema “Robert Shaye.”

“Robert” has called “Heather” into his office to tell her that New Line is going to make another “Nightmare” film and they want her to star in it. When “Heather” learns they’re making the film she asks “Robert” if his reality has been crumbling, too: “...Since you’ve been thinking of making it, has anything funny happened?” He asks her, “What do you mean?” She answers, “Like weird phone calls.” And at that second, the phone on his desk rings. He looks at the phone but he pointedly doesn’t answer the phone. “Heather” asks, “Or nightmares?” “Robert” neither answers her nor answers his still ringing phone. “Heather” asks, “Why don’t you answer your phone, Bob?”

“Why don’t you answer your phone, Bob?”

But of course she knows why he won’t answer his phone.

We know things, and don’t,

and everything in between.

Between stuff haunts us.

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

Oh-Oh, Ghosts

Do Ghosts Play With Toys?

Ghost Of A Different World

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ghost Of A Different World

That is actress Heather Langenkamp from the film “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.”

Heather Langenkamp as a teenager was the star of Wes Craven’s original “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

In the newer film Heather Langenkamp plays actress “Heather Langenkamp” trying to deal with her experience of Los Angeles reality falling apart and gradually being replaced by the reality from the old film.

Wikipedia characterizes the newer film as a ‘metafilm’ because of the way it juxtaposes fictive elements with actual reality.

In the scene from the screen grab above, “Heather’s” son tells her that a mean old man with knives comes to his room at night. The man lives, her son says, in another place, a place somewhere under his covers, somewhere by the foot of the bed.

“Heather” tells her son there’s nothing under the covers, and crawls under the covers with him. The two of them crawl to the foot of the bed and lift up the covers, revealing only the floor of his bedroom by the foot of his bed. “Heather” looks at her son and says, “Look. See?” Her son is unfazed, and simply tells her, “It’s different when you’re gone.”

I love that.

“It’s different when you’re gone.”

I wonder about things like that. I really do. What a great scene.

Is the world we are in when we are with someone we love the same world we are in when we are alone?

I don’t know.

Is the world we are in when we are looking straight ahead the same world we are in if we stop, turn and look behind us?

I don’t know.

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

A Place To Read Books I’ve Never Read

Ghost Fishing In America Freddy

I’m Standing At A Broken Window

Tina At The Window

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Beethoven, Britney Spears And A Ghost

Beethoven, Britney Spears and a ghost were sitting at a table in a bar drinking beer.

The ghost said, “It’s interesting that you two are both musicians. Because I am the ghost of a piano.”

Beethoven asked, “An upright piano or a grand piano?”

Britney sipped her beer and asked, “What difference does that make?”

Beethoven said, “Well, after a few beers, is the ghost going to come with me to the men’s room or is the ghost going to go with you to the ladies’ room?”

Britney tried to swallow her beer but she laughed at the same time, choked, coughed and beer came out her nose.

Beethoven reached across the table and handed her his napkin.

The ghost got up and walked away from the table.

A Pointless Addendum:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This is the sequence that got me thinking about ghosts recently —

It started a few weeks ago when I did the soundtrack for my stop-motion post Dinosaur And Woman: A Puppet Show. As I described in my Sunday post, February Ketchup, my microphone picked up stray percussion noises and I liked the sound and that got me thinking about music workstations and how that type of workstation is built around creating new sounds.

Then a while later, as I described in La Seule Chose Que Je Peux Faire, I tried out some music workstations in real life and a fellow told me about a new machine coming out from Korg, the Korg Kronos. When I looked up the Kronos at the Korg website, it contained this bit of interesting and passionate advertising on their page two:

In addition to being Korg’s premier workstation, KRONOS has it in its blood to satisfy the programmer, sound designer, and synthesizer enthusiast; the musician who dreams of turning visions of the cosmos into sound, of tweaking parameters to conjure invisible sounds from the ether. KRONOS rekindles Korg’s founding dream that is at the core of synthesis: the exhilaration and enjoyment of creating new sounds, sounds never before heard!

That reminded me that not too long ago there was a lot of energy among some musicians to put aside things of the past, old ways of doing things, old sounds, and focus on new sounds. As Korg put it, “ the core of synthesis: the exhilaration and enjoyment of creating new sounds, sounds never before heard!

That’s true, new sounds once were “at the core” of synthesis. Young people might not remember it. Nowadays in general most people basically use keyboards to conveniently emulate other instruments, but a few decades ago some musicians were passionate about the synthesizer being the instrument of the future because it could make completely new sounds.

So that reminded me of the book “Analog Days” which I knew existed but had never read. It’s a biography, of sorts, of the late, great Bob Moog, one of the pioneers of synthesized sounds. I looked up the book in the catalogue system shared by the libraries here south of Chicago and the only copy of the book was at the Oak Lawn Library.

And a long time ago, not long after I started doing this blog, I wrote that poem about ghosts at the Oak Lawn library for Jamie and ever since then when I think of that library I think of ghosts.

Anyway, I started this week by driving over to the Oak Lawn library and taking out their copy of “Analog Days.”

I ran in and ran out before there could be any trouble with the ghosts.

That’s the sequence that got me thinking about ghosts recently.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Do Ghosts Play With Toys?

“The very idea of a universal stability, an eternal firmness of principle out there that can be sought for through the world as might an Arthurian knight for the Grail, is, in the morphology of history, a direct outgrowth of the search for lost gods ... ”

Julian Jaynes
quoted in The Mythologies Of Facts

“A toy is an abstraction distilled into concrete form. A drawing that becomes real, that enters our three-dimensional world and leaves the two-dimensional surface behind. Our response to this solid expression of hypothetical concept is a powerful one: at a deep instinctual level our imaginations recognize a dream made corporeal—a magical translation of idea into object. The more faithful the translation, the stronger the toy. The ability of a toy to reduce, whether by being a scaling down of a much larger real thing, or by being a representation of an idea that couldn’t exist, is what makes it powerful: a hypothetical concept has become a tangible symbol you can hold in your hand. ... If a toy is a solidified concept, a journey from wishspace to reality, it also acts on the imagination to pull the user in the other direction, to complete the circle from real to unreal, by making the user identify with or through it. To play with a toy is to enter a representational space; the toy becomes an avatar—the embodiment of an idea.”

Woodrow Phoenix
quoted in What Is A Toy?

If I’ve known a ghost, that ghost worked hard
to convince me that ghosts are not real
and even if ghosts were the real deal
they’d be like kids playing in their yard,

games without frontiers and no scorecard,
like kids they’d have nothing to conceal,
their play, their fun, their love we would feel
and we’d be toys they’d cherish and guard.

If I’ve known a ghost, as I look back,
as I think it through, I’m terrified.
That toy business is what scares me most.

I’ve seen kids take a hammer and hack
toys to pieces, then smile, satisfied.
I’d never play. If I’ve known a ghost.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Oh-Oh, Ghosts

At the Oak Lawn public library
where Jamie works
there are big rooms and small rooms,
doorways, windows and ghosts.

Where Jamie works
from the corners of her eyes
she sees things that are not there
when she looks straight at them.

At the Oak Lawn public library
ghosts are looked through and walked through
like doorways and windows
to places you cannot go or even see.

Ghosts are like the big rooms and small rooms
but they are shadows of rooms locked forever
at the Oak Lawn public library
where Jamie works.

I’ve heard from people I more or less trust
that true ghosts, ghosts we meet from day to day,
aren’t fleeting shadows in any way
but appear real and are solid, robust—

a ghost finger can draw pictures in dust.
It’s what a drawing in dust can portray
and be real, solid, robust—work and play,
know and say wonderful things, laugh, sigh, lust.

All this heavy machinery provides
cameras and lights to fashion a stage
of sorts under an actor or actress

to study what he or she shows and hides.
Words, or dialogue read from a script page?
A costume, or a beautiful white dress?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Louis Lumière’s Beautiful Beast: A Puppet Show

The Lumière brothers were born in Besançon, France, in 1862 and 1864, and moved to Lyon in 1870, where both attended La Martiniere, the largest technical school in Lyon. Their father, Claude-Antoine Lumière (1840–1911), ran a photographic firm and both brothers worked for him: Louis as a physicist and Auguste as a manager. Louis had made some improvements to the still-photograph process, the most notable being the dry-plate process, which was a major step towards moving images.

It was not until their father retired in 1892 that the brothers began to create moving pictures. They patented a number of significant processes leading up to their film camera - most notably film perforations (originally implemented by Emile Reynaud) as a means of advancing the film through the camera and projector. The cinématographe itself was patented on 13 February 1895 and the first footage ever to be recorded using it was recorded on March 19, 1895. This first film shows workers leaving the Lumière factory.

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Robot By Television Light: A Puppet Show

Dinosaur And Woman: A Puppet Show

Real Estate Gothic

When Any Woman Visits My Studio

Thursday, February 17, 2011

La Seule Chose Que Je Peux Faire

Battered by competition from Internet retailers and burdened with too much debt, Borders Group Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection Wednesday with plans to close about 30% of its stores and emerge with a new focus on e-books and non-book products. ... Last year, Barnes and Noble dramatically expanded its offerings of educational games and toys.

Ils ont changé ma chanson, Ma
Ils ont changé ma chanson
C'est la seule chose que je peux faire
Et çe n'est pas bon, Ma
Ils ont changé ma chanson

“Look What They’ve Done To My Song”
Melanie Safka

Books were the only thing I thought I’d ever be able to do half right and it’s turning out all wrong.

I’ve just got a fairly pointless bit of personal wandering around to talk about today, but before I get to that I want to say one thing about the Borders bankruptcy.


I hope everyone notices that this is at least the third example of a particular business dynamic at work.

Two generations ago, every neighborhood had a family-run grocery store on almost every block. Then national chains opened up stores in every neighborhood and put the little family stores out of business. Then the national chains closed their neighborhood stores and opened up big warehouse stores.

Similarly, one generation ago every neighborhood had two or three independent video rental stores. Then the national chains opened up big stores that drove the independent stores out of business. Then the national chains all closed up.

And now the national bookstores have driven the independent bookstores out of business and the big warehouse stores are closing up.

All of commerce is being reduced to Wal-Mart shopping at two or three stores per city.

Who can fight this craziness? How can anyone fight this craziness?

A while ago I did a story touching on some of this:

T. J. Pughe: Chip-Making Fool


Books were the only thing I thought I’d ever be able to do half right and it’s turning out all wrong.


I just have a quick story to tell today. I’m only telling this because it’s a keyboard story that kind of mirrors something that happened to me with a guitar nine billion years ago.

Normally when I’m out there, you know, in the real world, mingling among people, I usually just assume that the people I’m mingling among would rather I was somewhere else. Every now and then, by some twist of fate, I manage to make myself useful somewhere. And it feels kind of cool.

A long time ago here at the blog I recounted a fun experience I had in a guitar store trying out a new model Steinberger guitar. The manager actually invited me to stay and play as long as I wanted because he said I was the kind of guitarist they wanted to have playing in the background. I told that story here:

Get Well Soon, Marianne Faithfull! #4: The Twenty-Six Muscles Of The Human Face

That was decades ago. But something like that happened yesterday. With keyboards.

I stopped in at a Guitar Center to see if new music magazines were out. While I was there, I wandered over to their keyboard room and checked out all the music workstations.

I’m not buying a second keyboard. I just wanted to try out the machines.

There was nobody in the room, so I started on the right and worked my way around the room counter-clockwise, turning on everything and trying out everything, playing what little I could play. Old movie music. A bit of jazz. A bit of pop.

After I’d worked around the room, I looked up from the last machine I’d tried—a Korg R3. There were four or five other people in the room now, also trying out various keyboards. I saw the manager standing in one of the entranceways, his arms folded. He was smiling.

I approached him and apologized for turning on everything and trying out everything. I said when I got there nobody else was in the room.

He laughed and said people came in to hear me play. He said I did good demos of the equipment.

I thought he was joking, but he was serious because he stood around talking with me about how sometimes they get people coming in and blasting out raucous crap that drives other customers out of the room.

We talked about workstations versus arranger keyboards and he gave me some inside info. He said if I was interested in workstations I should wait a couple of months or so. He said this spring Korg was going to release an entirely new machine, the Korg Kronos, and the feedback from musicians who have beta tested the unit has been extraordinary.

When I got home I looked up the new machine. Instead of having one or another modeling engine to drive the sounds, the Korg Kronos will have nine modeling engines, essentially the entire Korg array of synthesizer technologies in one machine. It looks like very fun technology but, of course, it costs as much as a used car. Click on the image to visit the Korg Kronos site:

I’m pretty happy with my Yamaha arranger keyboard.

But it was fun to think that some customers enjoyed listening to me trying out workstations.

I’m guessing that between now and spring I’m not going to be selling any novel manuscripts—since books are effing dead!—to boost my bank account. But if I can figure out anything else I might be able to do half right, it’s nice knowing that there will be wild technology out there like the Korg Kronos to play with.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Perfect Day For Love And Squalor

Esmé stood up. “Il faut que je parte aussi,” she said, with a sigh. “Do you know French?”

I got up from my own chair, with mixed feelings of regret and confusion. Esmé and I shook hands; her hand, as I’d suspected, was a nervous hand, damp at the palm. I told her, in English, how very much I’d enjoyed her company.

She nodded. “I though you might,” she said. “I’m quite communicative for my age.” She gave her hair another experimental touch. “I’m dreadfully sorry about my hair,” she said. “I’ve probably been hideous to look at.”

“Not at all! As a matter of fact, I think a lot of the wave is coming back already.”

She quickly touched her hair again. “Do you think you’ll be coming here again in the immediate future?” she asked. “We come here every Saturday, after choir practice.”

I answered that I’d like nothing better but that, unfortunately, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to make it again.

“In other words, you can’t discuss troop movements,” said Esmé. She made no move to leave the vicinity of the table. In fact, she crossed one foot over the other and, looking down, aligned the toes of her shoes. It was a pretty little execution, for she was wearing white socks and her ankles and feet were lovely. She looked up at me abruptly. “Would you like me to write to you?” she asked, with a certain amount of color in her face. “I write extremely articulate letters for a person my—”

“I’d love it.” I took out pencil and paper and wrote down my name, rank, serial number, and A.P.O. number.

“I shall write to you first,” she said, accepting it, “so that you don’t feel compromised in any way.” She put the address into a pocket of her dress. “Good bye,” she said, and walked back to her table.

I ordered another pot of tea and sat watching the two of them till they, and the harassed Miss Megley, got up to leave. Charles led the way out, limping tragically, like a man with one leg several inches shorter than the other. He didn’t look over at me. Miss Megley went next, then Esmé, who waved to me. I waved back, half getting up from my chair. It was a strangely emotional moment for me.

“For Esmé —With Love And Squalor”

That’s a small part of a beautiful short story I re-read recently.

I was thinking about it because Miley Cyrus’s father has a pretty sad interview in GQ magazine now, talking about how the Disnification of his daughter destroyed his family and, for the most part, ruined his life.

The Disnification and destruction of young women and, through what I guess could be called a Sombrero Fallout-like effect, the Disnification and destruction of the people who love the young women, is my pick for one of the defining dynamics of the modern world.

When I first re-read “For Esmé —With Love And Squalor” I was thinking that even if any magazine published short stories these days no magazine, these days, would publish such a beautiful story, such a sweet story. And I wondered if J. D. Salinger, were he still alive and writing in the present world, I wondered if J. D. Salinger would write such a beautiful story, such a sweet story, in the world around us today.

But then I remembered that Salinger was certainly not a naive writer. And he certainly didn’t close his eyes to what the years and the world do to people, men and women. I remembered that the same short story collection that contains “For Esmé —With Love And Squalor” also contains, of course, “A Perfect Day For Bananafish.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hot Rods, French Girls, Monster Lizards

LISA:   “When I was serving dinner to Mr. Wheeler he became very angry. He said if I saw you again he would have me sent back to France.”

Even though I’m not a car kind of guy
when I watch The Giant Gila Monster
I’m usually looking at the cars.

Hot rods. Cars made from the bits and pieces
of other cars, but only the cool parts.

When the giant Gila monster attacks
its first two teenagers it attacks them
by knocking their car into a ravine.

When Chase kills the giant Gila monster
he loads nitroglycerin in his car
and drives into the creature. Chase jumps out
just before the car and lizard collide
and his hot rod sacrifices itself
so that the teenagers can be heroes
and Mr. Wheeler will give Chase a job
and Lisa won’t have to go back to France.

Those were the days when cars took care of you.

Hot rods aren’t a culture thing these days.

Parts from one car won’t fit another car.

I bet that’s why now the pretty French girls
come to visit but then go back to France.

Now we’ve got no cool cars and few cool girls.

But we’ve still got these damn monster lizards
hissing and crawling all over the place.

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

Big Lizard Bad France Lisa Wants In Chase’s Pants

Monster Lizards And A Young Woman’s Mind

Thinking Of Mountains

Monday, February 14, 2011

Beautiful Impossible Math Thing

This calculator has a lot of keys
and the software was developed in France.
It comes with no instructions. Your best chance
is to embrace France and try hard to please

the mysteries French thought managed to squeeze
into this pretty thing. Trip out and trance,
let the Muses here take you to their dance.
You can’t work them. Their goods you cannot seize.

Once a French girl asked me to join her cult.
She was fun to talk to and wore her shirt,
without a bra, unbuttoned at the top.

I didn’t join. Her pitch ground to a halt.
She found someone else to lean toward and flirt.
This machine wants me. So far it won’t stop.

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

I’m not recommending this machine. It’s just so Byzantine and freaky and weird that nobody in their right mind, really, would want to use it. I mean, if you leave it off for a few days and turn it on you have to wait for its operating system to load. It’s calculator with an operating system. It handles lists, but you must write your own MemberQ function. It sorts lists, but if you want to sort inside a function you must write your own sort routine. It has a big screen, but since it insists on doing two or three things at once, you often only get a tiny section of the screen to work on. And so on. Endlessly.

All that having been said, a few months ago I bought one. They cost less than $200, and along with the handheld you get an emulator version that runs on a computer and which can link to the handheld to share data.

Now, if you like weird stuff—weird math stuff, weird handheld technology stuff, weird French stuff—then this is the kind of thing to look at. I mean, heck, some of the stuff this little machine can do—if you can figure out how to persuade it to do anything—are things that even Mathematica cannot directly do, I’m thinking of the Cabri geometry application. (The handheld has a variation of Cabri built-in.)

So there you go. It’s a world to itself. It doesn’t really work like a computer and it doesn’t really work like a calculator but, in its own way, it does work and it’s not an entirely unpleasant world.

It’s just a world apart.

(FYI: I find the ten year old or more documentation to my old TI-92 very helpful in getting this state-of-the-art little device to do things.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February Ketchup

Before I start a new week of posting, I want to catch up on a few little things that have been on my mind.

Dinosaur News

Two weeks ago I did a week of posts where every post said something about dinosaurs.

That whole week—starting from Monday—I’d intended to build toward a post around a recent news story about Japanese scientists trying to clone a mammoth. I put the story aside in my OneNote folder and every day I glanced at it but—somehow—the whole week got past me with a dinosaur post every day and without me ever mentioning the scientists in Japan trying to clone a mammoth. So, here’s the news link I was going to use.

Will the woolly mammoth be lumbering back? Japanese scientists 'to resurrect extinct giant from frozen DNA within five years'

It’s an interesting story. Many people take it for granted that by the time a technology gets mentioned in the mainstream media it must already have been implemented numerous times in black-ops military labs and cutting-edge hush-hush industrial research facilities. If there is any truth to that thinking, then with the mainstream press now getting around to talking about mammoth clones, somebody somewhere must already have done it. I don’t know. It’s interesting to think there might be mammoths walking around somewhere. And if there might be mammoths, there might be dinosaurs walking around somewhere. Who knows?

Stop-Motion Animation Music

I really enjoyed doing those little stop-motion animation movies this month, “Dinosaur And Woman: A Puppet Show” and “Robot By Television Light: A Puppet Show.” Because they’re so short—less than a minute—they can be made in a few hours, but they have all the elements of a little movie. Acting. Cinematography. Special effects. Music. Words. They feel to me like fun little poems, but with light and sound along with the ideas, what I—had I ever become the cloistered academic I’ve sometimes dreamed of being—might have called the pan sensual immersion of multimedia. (Part of me would have loved living on a secluded campus somewhere teaching kids about Robert Frost endlessly, but I strongly suspect had I become that guy some teenage girl would have shot me dead by now.)

Anyway, I like doing those little stop-motion things and I’m going to be doing more but one aspect of the music is annoying to me right now.

When I think of a melody and harmony, whether it’s an old song or something I make up, my first mental pass through the tune is always built around a melody harmonized with seventh chords—majors, minors, dominants and half-diminished. These sounds come very natural to me and on guitar I can play them very easily. In fact on guitar the sounds, the seventh chords, feel so natural that it always seems a little strange when I work with some traditional song or “plain” melody that sounds better with simple major or minor chords or with just a melody note and no harmony at all. That happens now and then. With music you always go with what sounds good and sometimes “simple” stuff sounds right.

But on the keyboard my hands aren’t comfortable yet hitting the seventh chords. I can do it, but I can’t sing and play and grab seventh chords on the keyboard keeping a rhythm all at the same time.

And on those stop-motion animation things even though I record the soundtrack separately from the visuals I still like to make the music a recording of a live performance. So I record me playing and singing something live, just like the videos I make of me playing guitar.

On guitar that’s no problem but on keyboard, well, it’s a problem.

On keyboard my hands just aren’t practiced enough yet to perform—in real time—what I can hear and want to play. So on the keyboard instead of seventh chords I reduce everything to simple majors and minors. And instead of a rhythm to the harmony I just (try to) keep time.

Now, my robot keyboard can elaborate on that simple playing if I want to. I could—if I wanted to—create a midi sequence of me playing the proper seventh chord arrangement and fix any mistakes I make. Or I could play “simple” chords and let my robot keyboard elaborate a style accompaniment along with my playing. But although that stuff is a lot of fun—and it greatly helps learning to play keyboard—it’s not a real performance of me playing, so I don’t want to do that. At least not because I have to, not because of my limitations. Someday I’ll do it because it’s fun and fits with some scene, but only after I’ve acquired the ability to play it right by myself without the clockwork musicians helping out.

Anyway I have two points about this.

One is I know the music for these little films can be better than what it has been so far. I like the music I’ve done, it seems to fit the two little films—the simple melody notes for “Dinosaur And Woman” and the simple chord background for “Robot By Television Light.” Both arrangements seem right for the visuals so I’m happy. But I think both could have been better. And I’m working to get better. It will happen.

The other point is something that took me completely by surprise.

Both soundtracks on those little movies were recorded live and both captured some, umm, extraneous percussion that I hadn’t intended. But I liked! I left it in on purpose. I’m not a big drum person, not a percussion kind of guy. I normally think of melody and harmony and my approach to rhythm is to break up the harmony into chords and arpeggios and chord fragments. (On guitar I can do that.) But when I did those two soundtracks, percussion kind of forced itself on my hearing and I liked both bits and left them in. Now I’m thinking about ways of doing stuff like that on purpose.

What happened is, on the “Dinosaur And Woman” audio track when I tested out the microphone I put the microphone too close to my keyboard rather than my speakers and the microphone—because of simple proximity—captured the physical sounds of my fingers hitting the keys and the keys hitting the felt pads. (I was banging away at the keys because I was too lazy to reach over and adjust the volume. Gads!) Anyway, when I played back the test audio track I heard the banging away sounds and I thought it sounded cool, kind of a nice sound along with the simple melody, so I just used that as the soundtrack. Then on “Robot By Television Light” as I was playing the IV-III-V part of the intro I was shifting around on my chair and my wood chair was creaking and popping and the microphone captured the cheap furniture noises of my chair and again I kind of liked it so I just left it in “as percussion” rather than a stupid recording error.

And ever since I’ve been thinking about percussion and how cool it would be to have percussion sounds mixed in with “regular” melody and harmony sounds. Or as a unique synthesizer sound, a tone with pitch and percussive elements at the same time.

Now, my robot keyboard—an “arranger” keyboard—can make just about any sound a person can imagine, including of course drum sounds. However, an arranger keyboard is not a music workstation. Two things an arranger keyboard specifically can’t do are sampling and custom waveform creations to generate a whole new sound from scratch. I never thought I’d miss that kind of stuff but after doing those two little soundtracks I think it would be cool to make a new sound that included a percussive element within the waveform.

I’m not going to buy a second keyboard—damn it!—but now I can see how musicians end up with racks of equipment. I guess there’s always some little thing that you want to do that isn’t on this or that piece of equipment you already have. I’m not going to get suckered in to that thinking and clutter up my studio, but it is tempting. It would be fun.

But I’ve got lots of other fun stuff to do!

(And I think Yamaha's top-of-the-line arranger keyboard can do some of that stuff but it costs six or seven times more than my Yamaha arranger keyboard cost.)

Photography and Drawing

One other thing that’s on my mind is that since I buckled down and bought a new camera I haven’t done any drawing or painting. For those power line posts I considered doing a watercolor of the horizon but it was so much quicker to just take some photos. For the high heel image I thought of doing a drawing but it was so much quicker to just modify and crop an image off the net.

This morning I wanted to do a watercolor of a ketchup bottle but it was so much quicker to just take a photo.

All the time I bump into this drawing versus photography thing. And I always go with photography.

It bugs me. I love technology but the combination of “technology” and “lazy” makes for less art in the world. Or, more to the point, less art in my life. That can’t be good. And I know I’m not going to get less lazy. And I’m not going to push away technology. So now I’m wondering if I’ll ever draw or paint again?

Is this how the world gets you?

Seduced by the lazy.

Bringing Back Extinct Things

And now because the internet is so effing cool, here are a couple of kids bringing the past back to life somewhere in the world by playing Paul McCartney’s ketchup song!     Ram on!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Robot High Heels

We have designed and constructed an amphibious fish robot capable of swimming and crawling. The goal of the project is two-fold: (1) the robot serves as test-bed for our locomotion controllers based on systems of coupled nonlinear oscillators (CPGs) and (2) the robot is used in an interactive exhibition at EPFL, the Forum Decouvertes. The robot is constructed using the same elements as our salamander robot Salamandra robotica.

The control architecture of the robot is constructed around a central pattern generator (CPG) implemented as a system of coupled nonlinear oscillators, which, like its biological counterpart, can produce coordinated patterns of rhythmic activity while being modulated by simple control parameters. Using the CPG model, the robot is capable of performing and switching between a variety of different locomotor behaviors such as swimming forwards, swimming backwards, turning, rolling, moving upwards/downwards, and crawling. These behaviors are triggered and modulated by sensory input provided by light, contact, and water sensors.

I bet there is a secret lab somewhere in France
where scientists are working on robot high heels—
shoes that sense a woman’s body temperature
and the components and proportions of hormones
coursing through her bloodstream and adjust their heel height
accordingly, going low when she’s business-like
and extending a few inches when the woman
is in the frame of mind for having a good time.

Some evening I’ll be playing a robot guitar
that adjusts its own string tension to stay in tune,
and looking out the window into my backyard
I’ll see my robot observatory dome turn
as the telescope skews to take a photograph
of some asteroid that has started acting strange,
and the woman on the other side of the room
looking at a colorful drawing created
by the computer program Aaron will enjoy
the song I’m playing and the moment and she’ll grow
a couple of inches taller. She’ll glance at me
and blush, smile, then look away and say, “Excuse me.”

I’ll politely keep playing and say, “Hey, nothing
to apologize for. This date is working out.”

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

Gibson’s New Robot Guitar

Robot Observatories

Computers, Language And The Goblin Universe

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Robot By Television Light: A Puppet Show

The love I make
Is the only love I get

“Robot Love Song”

It’s why people make robots

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

Dinosaur And Woman: A Puppet Show

Real Estate Gothic

When Any Woman Visits My Studio

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Robot Above The Clouds Of Saturn

When I was thinking of walking in the rain
with a robot that would walk alongside me
holding an umbrella to keep rain off me,
a real-life robot, the Cassini spacecraft,
was orbiting by itself above Saturn
and took a picture of what it saw below,
turbulent clouds of a storm larger than Earth.

That’s a big storm and I’m glad the robot’s safe
above the storm far away in outer space.
If the robot isn’t safe we can’t open
a high-tech umbrella that would protect it.
It’s a big storm and if big lightning threatens
the robot orbiting by itself in space
an umbrella might not protect us, either.

I don’t know how big storms can get. Or lightning.
I have a big umbrella but at some point
you stop asking technology to help you.
I don’t know how big storms can get. Or lightning.
But these words are like a song that I’m singing
to the robot called the Cassini spacecraft.
A song’s not an umbrella. But it’s something.

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

I got the great Cassini pic from Emily Lakdawalla’s post at The Planetary Society blog. She compares the space-based picture to some great amateur images people have taken.

I got the Saturn/Earth comparison from Wolfram|Alpha. You just type, “compare earth to saturn” and Alpha generates a whole interesting page of data. Works for just about any comparison.

Cassini–Huygens robotic spacecraft at Wikipedia


Robot In The Rain

The Dragons Of Saturn

Umbrella Button: The Movie

Tears From The Heart Of The Sea

Pluto In Magic And Alchemy

All The Sunlight Is For Laughing

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Robot In The Rain

If I had a robot that could play violin
I bet that robot could open an umbrella.
I would never hire a young woman or fella
to carry my umbrella when the rains begin

but a robot is just motors and gears that spin
and I don’t think I’d feel like a male Cruella
if a robot kept the rain off my medulla
when it didn’t have a fiddle under its chin.

I’d still play music with my mechanical man.
I’d come inside, dry, from walking in the real rain
and with my wet robot put on a little show.

With me playing synthesizer the best I can,
Molly Malone’s pretty ghost would sing her refrain,
selling cockles and mussels, alive, alive-oh.

Monday, February 07, 2011

High Heels, But Not Sweet Polly Purebred

We’ve had a lot of snow around here. A lot. Basically just a typical Chicago blizzard but the last few winters have been pretty mild so a blizzard like this feels extra intense.

Anyway, most of the streets have been cleared and many sidewalks are clear but there are still giant piles of snow everywhere and getting from one cleared area to the next sometimes is a little difficult.

Yesterday afternoon before the Super Bowl started I was walking home from a store and I was walking in the street because some sidewalks are clear and some are not so, generally, it’s easier just to walk in the street.

As I approached an apartment building, a woman got out of a parked car. She was wearing some kind of short, fluffy fur jacket over a mini-skirt and high heels. Like three-inch heels. She walked—slowly, looking very sexy—across the street then stopped in front of the mound of snow between the street and the sidewalk. She just stood there.

Some guy—I guess either her boyfriend or her sassy gay friend—opened the door of the apartment building and yelled, “Come on, what are you waiting for?”

Obviously she was trying to figure out if there was a gap in the snow mound or a particularly hard area she could step on.

I thought, “This guy isn’t going to come out and help her. Should I go over there and help her over the snow?”

As I was wondering if I should help her, she looked up at the guy holding the door and she yelled, “I’m wearing fucking heels here, asshole, give me a fucking second!”

So I thought, “No, I’m not going to go help her. Her boyfriend or her gay friend can deal with that.”

I just walked past.

When a woman wears high heels, she looks cool. It’s the whole Sweet Polly Purebred look and everyone loves it.

But high heels only work on a woman’s butt. Somebody needs to invent something that will make a woman’s brain as attractive as her ass.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Real Reason Dinosaurs Eat Electricity

With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
He pulls the city’s high tension lines down


Dinosaurs eat electrical lines.
Godzilla always pulls the wires down
before crushing the buildings downtown.
Scientists say the monster’s back shines

and it’s as if the dinosaur “mines”
energy from the wires, but they frown
because raw current should fry him brown—
wires are not how biology dines.

I think the scientists have this wrong.
I think it’s old age having a go
at youth when the dinosaur grabs at

wires, roaring like a dinosaur song.
Kids can’t make electric sounds if no
current flows. So the old thing stops that.

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

Thin Lines Spread Out Into A Grid

Thinking Of Mountains

Real Estate Gothic

What Is Love? 5—Godzilla

The Golden Voyage Of Susan Complains

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Extinct Entertainment And Dinosaurs

Do you ever think about dinosaurs?

No. Can’t say that I do.

It’s amazing to think that our entire world economy is based on them, you know?

As in over the last hundred million years their remains have been geologically transformed into crude oil? I suppose that’s true.

Actually, when I say dinosaurs, I’m referring to the oil companies. As in, ‘Though huge and lumbering, we have sharp teeth.’

That’s an oil company functionary trying
to scare independent mercenary Yves Adele Harlow
in the episode ‘Like Water for Octane’ of
the TV show, “The Lone Gunmen,” from 2001.

Most dinosaurs, of course, were not huge
but rather, on average I think, about ostrich size.
And modern thinking, also of course, is that
dinosaurs weren’t lumbering at all, but agile
and quick, in fact probably very bird-like
in their movements.

When entertainment does not
sweat the details, gets little things wrong,
I wonder, does that contribute
to it going extinct?

I know that folksinger Joni Mitchell
was never a crazy king of England
and Mad King George of that little island
didn’t sing jazz that for a time could sell.

We all die, of course, get heaven or hell,
but some like a rock from dinosaur land
get dug up, broken open, kept at hand
as if shaped rocks had secrets they could tell.

Jazz and crazy are kind of relations
to details. It’s handy having this pair
because the distinctions are so succinct.

Crazy dinosaur singing sensations
that had picked cool chords, wrote lyrics with care,
would be dead, but they wouldn’t be extinct.

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

Joni Mitchell And King George #1: The War On Terror

Joni Mitchell And King George #2: An Epistemology Of Empowerment

Conspiracy Theories And Masturbation

(I know—of course!—Joni Mitchell’s not dead.
But since her career is past tense I’m using
her as a memory. I am not doing
to poor Joni what Pete Townshend
did to Doris Day.
And: Pete Townshend lyric names Doris dead!)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Dreaming Of A Dinosaur In A Maidenform Bra

The Tully Monster was a soft-bodied animal. It is preserved as outlines and flattened forms in nodules of ironstone from several areas in Illinois. It lived in the ocean that covered much of Illinois during the Pennsylvanian Period (about 300 million years ago). It was probably an active, swimming carnivore. The flexible body was probably round or oval in cross section. It may have been segmented, but some recent work suggests that it was not. The tail had horizontal fins and a dorsal fin; all three of the fins were triangular.

The Tully Monster had a long proboscis. At the end was a jaw that contained eight small, sharp teeth. There is no evidence that the throat went down the proboscis. It seems more likely that the proboscis was a muscular organ used to pass food to the mouth. Near the middle of the body was a transverse bar that passed through the body. The bar had swellings on the end. These may have been the animal s sensory organs. Scientists do not know to what other animals the Tully Monster is related. Some scientists have speculated that it is related to snails and other molluscs.

The Tully Monster was first found by Mr. Francis Tully in 1958. He took the specimens to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. The specimen defied identification and became known as the Tully Monster. The name stuck. When Dr. Eugene Richardson formally described the new animal, he gave it the name Tullimonstrum gregarium. The species name gregarium means common. This refers to the fact that Tully Monsters are fairly common fossils in the Mazon Creek deposits. More recently they have also been found in open-pit coal mines in central Illinois.

The Mazon Creek deposits are located in Will and Grundy Counties. They are some of the most important fossil deposits in North America because the soft parts of many organisms are preserved. The deposits contain the remains of both plants and animals. Some of the organisms lived in the ocean; others were washed in from the nearby shore. The material is preserved in concretions of ironstone.

More uses than Duct Tape

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They were in Toronto. He bought his clothes
from the Tilley Endurables main store
and she’d come along to help pick his stuff.
She said she’d never wear such clothing but
for fun she tried on a skirt and top and
liked them so much she bought them for herself.

That started what she called her Matt wardrobe.
She couldn’t believe she liked the clothing.

Tully Monsters are foot-long fossils
from three hundred million years ago
that are found only in Illinois.

Tilley Endurables is clothing
that’s found in a store in Toronto.

The fossils have endured a long time
and Tully sounds a lot like Tilley
so I’ve always thought it would be cool
to drive up to Toronto and shop
for pants and a hat that can endure
and then drive to some open-pit mine
in downstate Illinois where tourists
are allowed to hunt through blasted rocks
and find the fossil of a monster
whose name sounds like the name of my clothes.

This has seemed like a good idea
to me for years but I’ve never owned
a car that could endure all that work.

It still seems like a good idea,
my desire continues to endure.

I dreamed I found a Tully Monster
in my Tilley Endurables clothes.

It’s a good dream for me but since guys
don’t wear bras I know it won’t be big.

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