Friday, April 29, 2011

Insect Pathology And You: The Musical

Duluth! Tricia taps, love it or loath it, you can never leave it or lose it because no matter how blunt with insectivorous time your mandibles become those myriad eggs that you cannot help but lay cannot help but hatch new vermiforous and myriapodal generations, forever lively in this present tense where you—all of you—are now at large, even though, simultaneously, you are elsewhere, too, rooted in that centripetal darkness where all this was, and where all this will be, once the bright inflorescence that is, or—now for that terminal shift, Tricia; press the lever!—was present-day human Duluth has come to its predestined articulated and paginated end. Yes. Duluth! Loved. Loathed. Left. Lost.

Gore Vidal
writing in “Duluth”
quoted in ‘Bankrupt Centipedes From Outer Space’

Thursday, April 28, 2011

“The Piano Singing Back To You”

Today is a sort of half-and-half day. It’s almost a day where I have nothing at all to say, but I do have a little bit of stuff to say.

But not much.

Okay, I’ve still got synthesizers on the brain. For some reason I can’t stop thinking about oscillators and filters and amplifiers and harmonic analysis and all that stuff. I don’t know, really, what it has to do with music (or writing, for heaven’s sake!), but, nonetheless, I can’t stop thinking about it.

I described how I started thinking about it in February Ketchup, when I accidently recorded ambient noise along with some music.

My arranger keyboard can do a little synthesizer stuff, but so far as I know I can’t actually access the oscillators themselves. I can select a classic synthesizer as a voice. Or layer different sounds on the same keys. Or wildly alter the effects applied to voices. But no actual sound-shaping.

A while ago I mentioned a little synthesizer called the Korg MicroStation. Then, as a kind of counter-point, I talked about the Roland Gaia.

I really like the Gaia. I suppose, someday, I’m going to buy one. To my eyes it strikes the perfect balance between being complicated enough to do interesting and involved stuff—like generate artificial sounds which mimic the harmonics of real-world, emergent sounds—but it cuts away the frills and pointless complexity, the, so to speak, bells and whistles.

On the other hand—here we go for today’s sort of counter-point—there is this beautiful bit of endless complexity:

Many people consider this the very best synthesizer in the world. It’s made by a German company called Access and it’s called a “Virus.” They have three or four different models, but they’re all the same sound engine.

They have oscillators and filters and amplifiers just like all synthesizers. They just have a lot of them. And they have everything else, too. They have a lot of everything else.

These machines are expensive as all get out but they are used on a lot of pop music. I’ve heard—and I don’t know if this is true but I strongly suspect it is at least true-ish—that when people like Shakira or Katy Perry put out an album there are some songs where every sound you hear, except for their voice, every sound you hear was created on an Access Virus.

They’re very cool, very powerful, very beautiful.

I suppose I’d love playing with one. But the thing is, sound is sound. And synthesis is synthesis. Even though these fancy machines have many, many more bells and whistles than the Roland Gaia and cost about seven times as much, the Roland Gaia can do the same kinds of things the Access Virus can do. And—I strongly suspect—many people listening over cheap ear buds to, say, a YouTube video created with Roland Gaia sounds might not be able to tell the sounds apart from a video created using Access Virus sounds.


Telescopes. Cameras. Computers. Musical instruments.

The real fancy, expensive stuff is seductive. It’s pretty and powerful and fun. But it’s always good to remember that—somewhere—there’s a point, a kind of plateau or cut-off point, where the functionality kind of levels off and all the extras are only bells and whistles.


Pretty stuff. Pretty expensive stuff.

I strongly suspect someday I will buy a Roland Gaia. (Thanks to MIDI, I could use my keyboard to play any sounds crafted on a Gaia.)

Here is a quote from back in the day—ancient history times—when synthesizers were first starting out and entire albums could be recorded without any synthesizers at all. But the people still used technology to make interesting sounds:

...So we moved smartly on to a second idea: a gigantic piano chord. You get a wonderful sound from a piano if you let the overtones work. Try it for yourself: if you have a piano in your house, open the lid wide, press down the sustain pedal (the right one), lean over, and shout. You will hear the piano singing back to you all the little notes that are in your voice. When there are many of those overtones working against each other, they generate extra frequencies, so-called ‘beat’ frequencies, which give a wonderful kind of rolling effect. Now multiply that a thousand times . . .

We managed to scrape together three pianos. After a few hilarious practice shots, Paul, John, Ringo, Mal Evans and I crunched down on the same chord as hard as we could. You can hear my voice on the master tape counting in to the chord, so that everyone hits it at exactly the same time.

If you recorded a heavy chord strike like that on a piano without any compression, you would hear a very, very loud note to begin with, but the die-away would be very quiet. We wanted the first impact of the chord to be there (although not overbearing), but the decay to be very loud. (Compression takes the impact of the note, absorbs it like a shock absorber, then brings the volume back up quickly to compensate.) As the chord started to fade, Geoff Emerick raised the gain gradually, to keep it singing on. At the end of the note, forty-five seconds into it, the volume level on the studio amplifiers was enormous.

Everybody had to be terribly quiet. If anybody were to have coughed, it would have sounded like an explosion. As it is, on the special Ultra High Quality Recording edition of Sgt. Pepper, you can hear the Abbey Road air-conditioning system purring away in the background as Geoff opens the volume faders to the stops at the very end of the die-away. That’s how we got the famous piano chord.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Everything’s Happening In Parking Lots

At the edge of this parking lot I know
where the black asphalt meets the beige concrete
there are little sprouts of green where plants grow
between the two building materials.

In one spot I know about puddles form
and cracks in the asphalt carry water
to plants pushing up from the ground below.

Yellow lines of paint direct parking cars
into ordered slots. Cracks in the asphalt
direct rain water from puddles to plants.

Everything’s happening in parking lots—
everything is going from place to place—
and at night when the stars turn overhead
the parking lots shine back at outer space.

But right now there’s a beautiful, gentle
yellow flower leaning against a rock
and the tiny yellow blossom is bright
so bright above the simple gray boulder
the flower looks like a star out in space
and the stone looks like a rocky planet
illuminated by the golden glow,
a star and planet, a solar system,
and whether galaxies explode, collapse
or crumble between the fingers of God,
right now there is a beautiful, gentle
yellow flower leaning against a rock
and right now that passing scene is enough
to push away the universe itself
as the stupid fucking good for nothing
cosmos tries to die its entropic death.
The wildflower and the boulder just laugh
and say, “No. Not right now. Come back later.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Exciting Waveforms

There’s a storm coming. I’m going to sleep.

Before meeting Pam for lunch, I spent time
talking about music technology
with a recording studio owner.

He told me he’d be willing to sell me
his Yamaha Motif synthesizer.

“It’s in perfect shape,” he said. “Nobody
ever uses it. All of my clients
either just play real instruments and hate
the technology stuff, or they’re experts
at the virtual studio programs
running on computers so they don’t need
the fancy keyboard workstations at all.”

I’m reasonably good with computers
myself and I’m trying to get better
at playing what he called ‘real’ instruments.

So I didn’t buy his fancy keyboard.

When Pam got out of her car a strong wind
blew a visible cloud of dust at her
from off the asphalt of the parking lot.

Pam closed her eyes. She turned away briefly,
then opened her eyes, looked at me and smiled.

“Fucking wind,” she said. “Is a storm coming?”

“On radar,” I said, “it looks hours away.”

“Well,” Pam said, “the fucking wind is here now.”

It’s later and the storm is much closer.

In my room, there’s a guitar over there
and my keyboard doesn’t give me access
to oscillator-level sound shaping.

But I can still play songs, still sing to Pam.

There’s a storm coming and lightning will flash
like exciting waveforms against the sky.

I’m going to sleep. Somehow tomorrow
I’ll find a way to make music for Pam.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Girl Who Talks To Dinosaurs

“Tell them we’re busy,” Levine said, and bent over the carcass again.

But the men kept shouting, and suddenly there was a roaring sound, and Levine looked up to see flamethrowers igniting, big red jets of flame roaring out in the evening light. He ran around the carcass toward the men, shouting, “No! No!”

But the men paid no attention.

He shouted, “No, this is a priceless—”

The first of the uniformed men grabbed Levine, and threw him roughly to the sand.

“What the hell are you doing?” Levine yelled, scrambling to his feet. But even as he said it, he saw it was too late, the first of the flames had reached the carcass, blackening the skin, igniting the pockets of methane with a blue whump! The smoke from the carcass began to rise thickly into the sky.

“Stop it! Stop it!” Levine turned to Guitierrez. “Make them stop it!”

But Guitierrez was not moving, he was staring at the carcass. Consumed by flames, the torso crackled and the fat sputtered, and then as the skin burned away, the black, flat ribs of the skeleton were revealed, and then the whole torso turned, and suddenly the neck of the animal swung up, surrounded by flames, moving as the skin contracted. And inside the flames Levine saw a long pointed snout, and rows of sharp predatory teeth, and hollow eye sockets, the whole thing burning like some medieval dragon rising in flames up into the sky.

from “The Lost World”
by Michael Crichton

When professors and students dig into the Badlands
on their knees, bending their whole body into the task
of rescuing from the rock another precious bone,

do they ever ask—do they ever look past their hands
and wonder, maybe just for fun—do they ever ask,
What if there’s a reason the creatures are in the stone?

There’s a girl walking in a parking lot.
Is she nineteen or twenty? I don’t know.
She’s a girl, she’s a young woman, walking
on the black asphalt of a parking lot.

There’s a dinosaur in the parking lot.

It’s a deinonychus and it’s longer
than a crocodile but standing upright
on its hind legs makes its body angled
and its head is level with the girl’s head.
The dinosaur looks shaggy. Are those marks
strange pigmentation patterns on its skin?
Does the creature have feathers? I don’t know.
More dinosaurs, other deinonychus,
are scattered around the fringe of the lot.
They are vocalizing, growling, grunting,
kicking at each other, running about
in small, jerking patterns outside the lot.

There’s music coming from somewhere nearby.
A nearby house or apartment building.
It’s not coming from a car’s radio
because the cars are smashed, lumps of wreckage
scattered around the parking lot, scattered
around nearby yards and sidewalks and streets.

The music is electric, a guitar,
or a synthesizer playing a sound
that emulates a guitar’s harmonics.
The music’s electric, but uneven,
playing to a rhythm that won’t keep time,
a rhythm that slows down and then speeds up.
It’s music being performed, not replayed.

The girl says something to the dinosaur.

The girl speaks softly. The deinonychus
moves closer to hear what she is saying.
The girl gestures with her right hand, pointing
toward the music, toward where it’s coming from.
She says something else, something quiet but
her words are a whispered imperative.

The dinosaur steps back, raises it head.
It roars. The sound echoes off surrounding
buildings. The creature drowns out the music.
The other dinosaurs outside the lot
stop what they’re doing. They look toward the roar.
Some lower their head. Others raise their head
and roar along in brutal harmony.

The dinosaur with the girl in the lot
turns away and runs across the asphalt
and out of the parking lot. It runs toward
the music, where the music’s coming from.

Now that the dinosaurs have stopped roaring
the music again is loud in the air.

The other dinosaurs turn and run, too,
taking up the form of a staggered line,
running in a dynamic formation
like a line of birds flying in the sky.

The girl watches the dinosaurs run off.

She’s smiling. She’s enjoying the music.
She’s enjoying watching the dinosaurs
run so beautifully away from her,
toward the music, toward where it’s coming from.

I know the dinosaurs are coming back.

Now the creatures have someone to talk to.

And she has wrecking she needs them to do.

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

Parking Lots

The Time Of The Dinosaurs

The Beautiful Parking Lot Without Mercy

Friday, April 22, 2011

Moon Dust In Waltz Time

On the Moon dust can rise like a low mist
lifted by electrostatic charges
interacting with magnetic field lines.

The dust will scatter sunlight when the Sun
is rising or setting, a dawn or dusk
made from rock dust rather than atmosphere.

Maybe the dust dances when the Sun shines
and we talk about electric charges
because that’s what our dance has come to here.

Orson Welles didn’t write “Citizen Kane,”
Herman Mankiewicz wrote it but got paid
to allow Welles to put his name on it
because Hollywood people like the phrase
“triple-threat:” Writer, director and star.

Miles Davis didn’t compose “Blue in Green,”
Bill Evans composed it but show business
is a business about selling a star.

And Bill Evans composed “Waltz for Debby.”

I suspect that many of the people
who know who Bill Evans was and who love
the song “Waltz for Debby” know the ‘Debby’
the waltz was written for was Evans’ niece.

Some people still believe Orson Welles wrote
“Citizen Kane” and some people still think
Miles Davis composed the song “Blue in Green.”

I suspect that many of the people
who know who Bill Evans was and who love
the song “Waltz for Debby” know the ‘Debby’
the waltz was written for was Evans’ niece.

There’s no business like show business, I know,
but there are people who somehow know things
beyond the things that show. I think that’s jazz.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Little Complicated Things And Stuff

Today I’ve got just a few random things I want to talk about. I’m going to try to have something more interesting for tomorrow, but today is just a few little things.

Little Complicated Things

I like things that are complicated. They’re fun trying to figure out. They’re fun trying to imagine how they might have been better. And complicated things, usually, do something worth doing just in itself.

I mentioned my complicated little TI-Nspire calculator here: Beautiful Impossible Math Thing

And I talked about the Tascam GT-R1 in Hypnotized By Advertising. I still use this thing almost every day with my guitar. And my GT-R1 has recorded many of the soundtracks for the videos I’ve posted here on the blog.

A couple of week’s back I mentioned a little Korg keyboard called the “Korg MicroStation” in Is The Key The Little Key?. I like that little thing because of its little keys, but I’m not really tempted to buy it. To my eyes it looks a little too complicated for its size. Maybe it’s cool, maybe it’s okay plugged into a computer, but it just seems too complicated to me.

On the other hand, there is this little thing:

That is a Roland Gaia synthesizer. I’ve mentioned before that Roland seems to have really embraced the whole “battery-operated” imperative in Quasi Una Atomic Octopus Fantasia. The Gaia is a digital copy of an old analog synthesizer and it’s battery powered and it doesn’t have any screen at all.

All the functions have their own buttons and switches and sliders so it is an actual, hardware what-you-see-is-what-you-get device. (Or what-you-see-is-what-you-hear, in this case.)

I’m not really tempted to get one of these, either, because it’s kind of expensive at around $700.

But I wanted to mention it since I mentioned the Korg MicroStation.

The Gaia is battery powered, all the controls are visible, nothing is hidden under a tiny LCD screen, and all the functions of a classic old synthesizer are there—oscillators, filters, effects and performance tools like a phrase recorder and the like.

It’s only a three octave keyboard, but, really, the range of most instruments is just three or four octaves. (How many people play their guitar above the twelfth fret?)

If I were going to buy another keyboard—I’m not—I strongly suspect I’d buy one of these Roland Gaia keyboards.

They look fun.

Blog Statistics

I try to write stuff I like for the blog. I try not to look in at the statistics Blogspot makes available. But every now and then I glance in at the numbers.

One weird thing in the stats right now is that the most popular page on my blog is a page I’ve almost never referred back to.

Right now the most popular page on this blog—and I have no idea why—is a Taylor Swift page. [?!?]

I’m Picturing Taylor Swift Naked

I hope people aren’t getting mad at me, going there and discovering that I don’t have any naked pictures of her.

I don’t know why that page gets a lot of hits. Personally, I’m much happier with some of my Mischa Barton or Anna Kournikova pages, like—

Mischa Barton, Mischa Barton

Anna Kournikova’s Face

The Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Judging from the mainstream media, it’s very tempting to think the Gulf of Mexico is getting better and the oil spill is a thing of the past.

I don’t believe that’s true. I strongly suspect there were multiple leaks and I strongly suspect one or two leaks never got successfully plugged.

I think that disaster is still unfolding. There are “amateur” journalists and investigators still reviewing all the released data, trying to document the inconsistencies and outright lies connected to the Deepwater Horizon explosion. I strongly suspect they will never accomplish what they hope to accomplish—getting the mainstream media to re-focus all their attention on the Gulf again. But they will keep working. I get e-mails from some of these people, updates and reports that they share among themselves.

Of the established internet sites which still pay attention to the Gulf of Mexico I recommend Linda Moulton Howe’s site, Earthfiles. She is an old-fashioned investigator who looks into things herself. She interviews people and asks intelligent questions. She clutters up her site with absurd, bad science fiction stuff about “aliens” and bogus documents connected to the Kennedy assassination and other such nonsense, but when she turns her attention to real news, she does a great job of dealing with it in a button-down way.

Her latest update on the Gulf of Mexico is here:

Corexit and Crude Oil Still in Gulf A Year After BP Disaster;
Marine Life Dead and Some People Sick

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Five Student Colors Of L. S. Lowry

"They have a naivete and an approach," he said, "that the professional, or the amateur that becomes professional, loses after a time. I find far more pleasure in an amateur's work, or a local art society, than I do in a proper show. With the amateur you don't know what you're going to see ... but in the art trade you've a pretty good idea."

L. S. Lowry
on enjoying amateur art
quoted in
The proud provincial loneliness of LS Lowry

(That painting is Lowry’s
“Man Looking At Something.”)

"I am a simple man and I use simple materials: Ivory Black, Vermilion, Prussian Blue, Yellow Ochre, Flake White and no medium. That’s all I’ve ever used in my paintings."

L. S. Lowry
quoted at Winsor and Newton
The Colour Palette of L.S Lowry

A British company called Winsor and Newton
makes paints. They’ve made paints for almost two hundred years.
Their line of artist-quality oil paints contains
more than a hundred colors and many artists
consider it the best oil paint in production.

The Winsor and Newton website includes features
on famous artists who liked Winsor and Newton.

This British company whose artist-quality
line of carefully crafted, world-class fine oil paints
contains over a hundred colors doesn’t mind
pointing out L. S. Lowry used just five colors
and picked those five colors from Winsor and Newton’s
inexpensive line of student-quality paints.

Sometimes the Brits are so cool they seem almost . . . French.

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

L. S. Lowry at Wikipedia

Winsor and Newton website

This is Lowry’s painting, “Portrait of Ann.”
It may or may not be a portrait of a person named ‘Ann.’


Fripp began playing guitar at the age
of eleven. He says he was tone deaf
with no sense of rhythm when he started.
His comment on dealing with the obstacle
is “Music so wishes to be heard
that it sometimes calls on
unlikely characters to give it voice.

from Robert Fripp at Wikipedia


Jeanne Hébuterne — Art As A Grail

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Time Of The Dinosaurs

The room was silent. At the podium, Malcolm frowned. The eminent mathematician was not accustomed to being told he had not thought through his ideas. “What’s your point,” he said.

Levine appeared indifferent to the tension in the room. “Just this,” he said. “During the Cretaceous, Dinosauria were widely distributed across the planet. We have found their remains on every continent, and in every climatic zone—even in the Antarctic. Now. If their extinction was really the result of their behavior, and not the consequence of a catastrophe, or a disease, or a change in plant life, or any of the other broad-scale explanations that have been proposed, then it seems to me highly unlikely that they all changed their behavior at the same time, everywhere. And that in turn means that there may well be some remnants of these animals still alive on the earth. Why couldn’t you look for them?”

“You could,” Malcolm said, coldly, “if that amused you. And if you had no more compelling use for your time.”

Michael Crichton
“The Lost World”

The front of the donut shop parking lot
has an entrance and separate exit
connecting to this suburb’s largest street.

The back of the donut shop parking lot
has a single exit to a side street.

People often drive in through that exit
at the back of the parking lot because
it’s near the donut shop’s drive-thru window.

But before people drive in the wrong way
they always pause on the side street to check
if there are any police in the lot.

There are times, a kind of daily rhythm,
when the donut shop parking lot doesn’t
contain even a single police car.

Some people take advantage of those times
to drive in through the parking lot’s exit
in the back by the donut shop’s drive-thru.

I wonder if there are times, I wonder
if there is a kind of daily rhythm,
people in the donut shop parking lot
could take advantage of when driving out?

I wonder if there are times, I wonder
if there is a kind of daily rhythm,
someone might notice if they pause to check
before driving out through the back exit?

I wonder if there are times, I wonder
if there is a kind of daily rhythm,
where if you time it just right you drive out
onto unpaved ground where dinosaurs walk?

Tricky rhythms on odd time signatures
can create an odd beat and an odd beat
can play melodies that take you places.

I recently bought a complicated
metronome able to superimpose
tricky rhythms on odd time signatures.

This metronome runs on batteries so
it will work even off the beaten path.

I wonder if there’s a tricky rhythm
a wild melody could be built on for
playing in the time of the dinosaurs?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Beard Tangled With Headphones

In the First Circle (В круге первом, V kruge pervom) is a novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn released in 1968. A fuller version of the book was published in English in 2009.

The novel depicts the lives of the occupants of a sharashka (a R&D bureau made of gulag inmates) located in the Moscow suburbs. This novel is highly autobiographical. Many of the prisoners (zeks) are technicians or academics who have been arrested under Article 58 of the RSFSR Penal Code in Joseph Stalin's purges following the Second World War. Unlike inhabitants of other gulag labor camps, the sharashka zeks were adequately fed and enjoy good working conditions.

The title is an allusion to Dante's first circle of Hell in The Divine Comedy, wherein the philosophers of Greece live in a walled green garden. They are unable to enter Heaven, but enjoy a small space of relative freedom in the heart of Hell.

I didn’t dance with this woman,
just passed her in a parking lot
both of us walking on asphalt.
She was bundled against the cold
in a dark blue jacket like mine.
We walked toward each other. She edged

to her left, passing on my right.
I wondered, Was she from Europe,
used to sitting on the wrong side
of cars, driving on the wrong side
of streets, passing on the wrong side
when walking through a parking lot?

Her lips were tight, she was squinting,
but her face was expressionless.
We passed each other, both bundled
against the cold in dark blue coats.
She looked so beautiful—tough, hard,
expressionless in the cold wind.

I couldn’t bring myself to speak
to strike up a conversation
because I’d rather pretend words—
I mean the English words I’d use—
would be unintelligible
to her because where she comes from

they speak Russian about physics
and politics and poetry.
We walked toward each other. She edged
to her left, passing on my right.
I tried to look expressionless.
I tried to look hard. Politics.

Physics. Poetry. The cold wind,
I pretended, blew through barbed wire.
When the lights are out I scribble
these words by moonlight on paper
I steal from somebody’s office.
Someone will read this, I pretend.

Working with Dudley in the acoustics department, [of Bell Labs] Schroeder would consult The First Circle while developing his own voice-excited vocoder—the first of these machines to actually sound human. Demonstrating for his associates, Schroeder assumed that his vocoder could be understood, only because he’d been listening to it all day, the same pratfall that occurs in The First Circle. Struggling between intelligibility and just hearing things, he noted its annoying habit of turning a phrase. “How to recognize speech” sounded like “How to wreck a nice beach.”

“People will go to any length (and width) to be unintelligible,” wrote Schroeder in his book Computer Speech: Recognition, Compression, and Synthesis. So much for the Language of Maximum Clarity.

In The First Circle, Solzhenitsyn compared speech encoding to disassembling a beach and then re-synthesizing it at another location—essentially transposing a summer getaway as if it were a Soviet munitions factory on the run. He called it “an engineering desecration,” the equivalent of pulverizing a southern resort into grits, sticking them into a billion matchboxes, shaking them up and then flying them to a different sector for reconstruction. “A re-creation of the subtropics, the sound of the waves on the shore, the southern air and moonlight.”

The sand in your shorts, the bad radio reception, the copper tonality, the jellyfish parachute squishing between your toes, the effervescent fizz of unvoiced surf. The burning red sun. For the zeks at Marfino the vocoder could make getaways out of sentences, if only inside their heads. A gulag prison term, an imagined escape. The last re-sort, a desperate scramble. As if Solzhenitsyn had burst from his lab table in a flock of schemata, his beard tangled with headphones, denouncing the artificial beach. Somebody had to say something.

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

This Evening At The Stilyagi Bar®

Headphones And Crucibles

This Airship, This Woman, This Dream

Digging Britney Redux

Friday, April 15, 2011

Harps And Flutes, Swans And Monsters

Everybody is running away from the monsters.

Everybody is running away from the monsters.

In order, they’re running away from the giant, radioactive dinosaur from “Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” and they’re running away from the giant, radioactive octopus from “It Came From Beneath The Sea,” and they’re running away from the giant but strangely not radioactive scorpions from “The Black Scorpion,” and they’re running away from the giant radioactive mutant iguana from “Godzilla,” and they’re running away from whatever the heck Cloverfield was from “Cloverfield.”

“Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”

Revelation 13:4

“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.”

Revelation 13:11-12

I’m not running away from the monsters.

The book of Genesis from the Bible is one of the oldest books on Earth. Music gets mentioned very, very early in that book.

I’ve posted that if we count birds—because they sing!—music gets mentioned at the very beginning: Singing Is For The Birds

Actual human music is mentioned in chapter four:

And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute.”

    — Genesis 4:20-21

Harp and flute! Harps and flutes both are still around!

Now, I can’t play a harp, but a guitar, sort of, is just a six-string harp and I can, sort of, play guitar.

I don’t know what the beasts are up to. And I don’t know who is like the beasts and who can make war with them.

But I know what a melody is and I’ve just ordered a really good metronome (yeah, I bought one) so I’ll be able to practice keeping the beat.

Harps and flutes have been around for a long, long time. Almost since the beginning of time.

Harps and flutes must be good for something.

I’m getting better with melodies and keeping the beat and I’m going to find out. About the harp, at least. (And I’m always on the look-out for a flute player.)

Look! Other people are giving it a shot, too!

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

Two Swans

This Makes Me Think Of “The Swan”


Sense Of Place

Moths, Scorpions And Unreal Women

Thursday, April 14, 2011

King Solomon, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Laurie Strode

The Hebrew Bible credits Solomon as the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem, and portrays him as great in wisdom, wealth, and power, but ultimately as a king whose sin, including idolatry and turning away from God, leads to the kingdom being torn in two during the reign of his son Rehoboam. Solomon is the subject of many other later references and legends.

“Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin. Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?”

Nehemiah 13:26-27

Deep in the Apocrypha, one of the lost verses of an alternate Song of Solomon contains text that roughly translates as:

“My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon’.”

In the 1978 horror classic “Halloween” after Laurie sees The Shape by the bushes, Annie teases her that she scared away another one.

ANNIE: “It’s tragic. You never go out. You must have a small fortune stashed from babysitting so much.”

LAURIE: “Guys think I’m too smart.”

Moments later, after Laurie sees The Shape in her backyard, Laurie gets a phone call from Annie. While she’s talking, Laurie looks directly at the camera, directly at the audience. For just a few frames, Laurie makes eye contact with us.

At the end of “Halloween” when The Shape attacks Laurie, somehow she is able to survive.

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:23-29

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Halloween at Wikipedia


Repurposing Vicki

Creatures Of Darkness And Light: The Movie

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

There Are No Pianos In The Bible

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘You have seen all the calamity that I have brought on Jerusalem and on all the cities of Judah; and behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke Me to anger, in that they went to burn incense and to serve other gods whom they did not know, they nor you nor your fathers.’”

Jeremiah 44:2-3

Today is another day where I’d intended to put up something but I never actually got around to creating what I wanted to put up. Ooops.

So I’ve got a couple of random things for today, things that I’ve been meaning to work into a post but never got around to doing.

God and Keyboards

First of all, that quote from Jeremiah—and, in fact, many of the Bible’s passages about people falling away from true faith and worshipping strange gods, gods “our fathers never knew”—always makes me think about keyboards. (Keyboards were invented relatively recently, set against the long sweep of history, and keyboards are things, again, set against historic time, “our fathers” never knew.)

I know it’s absurd, but today is a kind of random day.

The thing is, the Bible speaks about many kinds of musical instruments. Percussion things, stringed things, horns of various kinds. Here’s a great reference to Bible passages about music:

What Does the Bible Say About . . . Music, Songs and Musical Instruments

But the Bible doesn’t have much to say about pianos and synthesizers and keyboards in general. Of course, keyboards weren’t invented until just about three hundred years ago so that probably has something to do with their omission from scripture.

But I wonder if God does have an opinion about keyboards, and what His opinion would be?

The way I look at this is that all the kinds of instruments the Bible speaks about—classical instruments—create sounds directly from human exertion. Hands bang drums. Lungs blow into horns. Fingers pluck strings.

So, if a person wanted to get absurd, a person could say that modern guitars, for instance (and, of course, I’m speaking from the perspective of a guitar player who is learning keyboards) modern guitars could be seen as elaborations of harp-type instruments.

But keyboards are quite different. Keys are mechanical devices which separate human activity from the actual creation of the sound. Pianos even have “escapement” mechanisms which separate fingers even farther from the sound creation than synthesizers.

So, you know, in a stupid kind of way, I’ve always wondered if God frowns on keyboard players but smiles on guitar players?

Synthesizer Book and Metronomes

I’ve mentioned the book “Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer” a couple of times. I liked this book a lot. It was really fun to read, and, for me, really thought-provoking. So today I went over to Amazon and bought myself a copy.

This weekend I’ll be reading through the book again so next week I’ll probably be doing some more posts about synthesizers.

While I was over at Amazon a few days ago looking at music books and stuff, I saw this thing.

Holy cow! It’s a metronome that costs about $150!

WTF? Now, I don’t much like metronomes but I was struck by the fact that everybody seems to love this wildly expensive device. All the reviews except one rave about what a great device this thing is. Some people have bought more than one!

I didn’t buy one, but now I’m wondering if maybe I should. I mean, maybe I don’t like metronomes because I’ve just never used a really good one? I mean, maybe I don’t like metronomes because I’m lazy and a really good metronome would inspire me to buckle down?

I have no plans to give in and buy one of these things, but having seen it, and read all the wildly positive reviews, I’m having trouble getting this thing off my mind.

I wonder what God thinks about a metronome that costs $150?!

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Beethoven, Britney Spears And A Ghost

I Can’t Sleep In My Kitchen

February Ketchup

When You Press Down A Piano Key

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fukushima I Nuclear Accidents

Tokyo is 6,313 miles from Chicago

“The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Luke 17:20-21

I wish I was walking past
the Harajuku station forever
and somebody was smiling
and somebody was laughing.

“Remember Lot’s wife”

Luke 17:32

I remember a song called “Windy”
about a girl who had stormy eyes
that flashed at the sound of lies. Lot’s wife
witnessed the saving grace of angels
but couldn’t look away from this world.

I remember a song called “Windy”
about a girl who had wings to fly
above the clouds. I took a photo
of a storm cloud forming and later
rain fell on these electrical wires.

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The song “Windy” was written by
Ruthann Friedman. On her website,
she singles out this bit of anime
as a visualization of her song
that she likes very much:

Fukushima I Nuclear Accidents at Wikipedia

J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) about Lot’s Wife


Thin Lines Spread Out Into A Grid

Mischa: A House That Can’t Be Fixed

“Falling in love with you girl is just like dying”

The Built World Before The Wrecking Crew

“Now I Dream Of The Plum Rains”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ayn Rand, The Tower Of Babel, Breakfast

Ellsworth Toohey was displeased. “It was most unwise of you, Dominique,” he said in the privacy of her office. His voice did not sound smooth.

“I know it was.”

“Can’t you change your mind and refuse?”

“I won’t change my mind, Ellsworth.”

He sat down, and shrugged; after a while he smiled. “All right, my dear, have it your own way.”

She ran a pencil through a line of copy and said nothing.

Toohey lighted a cigarette. “So he’s chosen Steven Mallory for the job,” he said.

“Yes. A funny coincidence, wasn’t it?”

“It’s no coincidence at all, my dear. Things like that are never a coincidence. There’s a basic law behind it. Though I’m sure he doesn’t know it and nobody helped him to choose.”

“I believe you approve?”

“Wholeheartedly. It makes everything just right. Better than ever.”

“Ellsworth, why did Mallory try to kill you?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea. I don’t know. I think Mr. Roark does. Or should. Incidentally, who selected you to pose for that statue? Roark or Mallory?”

“That’s none of your business, Ellsworth.”

“I see. Roark.”

“Incidentally, I’ve told Roark that it was you who made Hopton Stoddard hire him.”

He stopped his cigarette in mid-air; then moved again and placed it in his mouth.

“You did? Why?”

“I saw the drawings of the temple.”

“That good?”

“Better, Ellsworth.”

“What did he say when you told him?”

“Nothing. He laughed.”

“He did? Nice of him. I daresay many people will join him after a while.”

“Be careful,” she said, “I think they’re going to fall.”

“No,” I said, “this is solid. This is the best kitchen table Tower of Babel ever.”

“I think they’re going to fall,” she said, again.

“No,” I said. “I thought this through. The bottom rows are oranges. They’re firm, but they have a little give in them. Then apples. The apples are hard and tall. On top of the apples, the green peppers aren’t that strong, but they give a lot of height. The tomatoes on top of the green peppers are the perfect top, like red aircraft lights on top of an electrical tower. Look at that.”

“I think they’re going to fall,” she said, a third time.

“Maybe I should get my camera,” I said.

She put her spatula—very carefully!—against one of the bottom oranges. Then she roughly pushed the orange out of position. The apples above that orange fell, pushing the other oranges out of position. Then all the apples, green peppers and tomatoes fell. The kitchen table Tower of Babel collapsed. Everything scattered.

“Why would you do that?” I asked. “You just destroy for the sake of destruction. You’re some kind of monster. You see, that’s the kind of thing, that’s the very kind of thing, that Dominique Francon would never do to Howard Roark.”

“Come on,” she said. “Clean up my kitchen. Breakfast is ready. And Dominique Francon didn’t do that to Howard Roark just because she was always too tired from sleeping with every other guy in the novel.”

“That’s so not true,” I said. “You’re just being vicious. She never slept with Steven Mallory. Hell, she posed naked for him but she never slept with him.”

“Dominique didn’t sleep with Steven Mallory,” she said, “because Steven Mallory was gay.”

“I can’t believe you would say that,” I said. “How could those words even come out of your mouth?”

“Think about it,” she said. “Of course Steven Mallory was gay. That’s why Howard didn’t mind Dominique posing naked for Mallory. He knew that Mallory was hot for him, not her. And that’s why Mallory tried to kill Toohey. Mallory and Toohey were some kind of gay lovers. They had an affair, but Mallory was a real artist and realized what a scumbag Toohey was, so he left him. But it was a lovers’ spat. Mallory was all pissed off at having been lied to and manipulated. So he tried to kill Toohey. It all makes sense.”

“I can’t believe you would say these things,” I said. “I can’t believe you would think these things. Look at me. I’m having breakfast with a monster.”

“Come on,” she said. “The tomatoes fell on the floor. Pick them up, wash them off and meet me in the dining room. Food’s ready.

I started my day playing with a monster’s tomatoes.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Creatures Of Darkness And Light: The Movie

How long the night
How cold the thought
Of living without you
Now that we’ve touched

How long the night
How cold the thought

from “End of the World Things”

In this atomic age
We get our energy
From fracturing atoms

The monsters do their best
Ripping apart the world
To keep us together

But this atomic age
We must emit ourselves
To power the future

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Repurposing Vicki

In this atomic age
We get our energy
From fracturing atoms

The monsters do their best
Ripping apart the world
To keep us together

But this atomic age
We must emit ourselves
To power the future

Vicki doesn’t know it but I’m at work
writing a story about a monster
and when the goings-on turn sinister,
when the shapes in the shadows start to lurk,

she’ll be “the girl” making “the thing” berserk,
making it chase her into disaster,
but she’ll be smart—and a little faster—
so she’ll survive. That’s the heroine’s perk.

Vicki doesn’t know it but I’m afraid
when she realizes she’s been my muse
she won’t be amused that I made her smart

rather than a helpless, pretty, young maid
saved by a strong, tough guy. That’s what she’d choose.
That’s the monster. This is me. Fear is art.

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Big Chair And Three Women: (1) Three Women

Big Chair And Three Women: (2) Big Chair

When You Press Down A Piano Key

Jeanne Hébuterne — Art As A Grail

Quasi Una Atomic Octopus Fantasia

This post is a nice round number. This is
my blog post number 1,300. Scary number!

The only thing I’ve done as a kind of
celebration—just for me—is I’ve
made this post straight text.
No graphics. No sound.

I know writers don’t exist
anymore, but I’m still here.

And I can’t shake the feeling
however insane it must be
that adventure’s waiting just ahead!

Adventure’s Waiting Just Ahead

Quasi Una Petroleum Fantasia

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Is The Key The Little Key?

How long the night
How cold the thought
Of living without you
Now that we’ve touched

How long the night
How cold the thought

from “End of the World Things”

Today’s post is a kind of mish-mash.

I’d intended to have something special to go along with that lyric above, but that never happened exactly as I’d intended. It will happen at some point in the future. I didn’t want to rush it.

I’ve got music and other stuff to go along with the bit of verse, but it is taking time to get together.


So, in its place is a generally unrelated bit of content that is kind of random, but, nonetheless, stuff that’s on my mind a lot.

Hell. It’s just my blog.


“Forgive me. A fallen horse
in Piccadilly caused a terrible congestion.
How the traffic will flow
when it is all motorized.”

That’s actor Telly Savalas as the villain in one of my all-time favorite movies, “The Assassination Bureau.”

He’s arriving late for a meeting with some businessmen. It’s early in the twentieth century and he is a forward-thinking man, a man of progress, a man who believes in sound management principles. Like I said, he’s the villain of the movie. He will be killed at the end by the hero of the movie at the climax of a fight in a dirigible. [!]

Anyway, I’ve always liked the joke that some people surely must have thought that mechanical cars would create less fuss than horses.


Anyway, again, by way of an entirely random jump of thoughts, I’ve often wondered if inventions we think will have a great impact on the future won’t have such a great impact, and inventions we hardly give a second thought to might end up, in fact, having a large impact.

That’s a picture of a Korg “MicroStation.” It’s a little music workstation that does almost everything a big music workstation can do. Korg has a whole line of products with the “micro” prefix. One of them, the MicroKorg, is already one of the most successful keyboard products ever made.

I wonder about those little keys.

I don’t own any Korg products, but I’ve talked about the MicroKorg XL a long time ago, in Video Cuddles Gently Weeping. Those little keys are interesting to me.

At some blogs, some people have said very mean things about Korg and those little microkeys. But I wonder if those people have every actually played them?

I have played microkeys in stores and they are, in fact, reasonably easy to play. Korg researched the proportions of the widths of the keys very carefully. Scales and chords—even those involving half-step intervals where you have to plays keys right next to each other—are in practice pretty easy to play.

For a person who is a good typist and used to even smaller keyboards, the microkeys are an easy size to adjust to.

I wonder about the future of Korg’s microkeys.

I suspect—not strongly, but I suspect—many years from now small, wildly powerful keyboard devices controlled by microkeys might be all the rage and people might look back at us, now, and wonder if we were all excited by those amazing little keyboard designs.


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Even Puppets Yell At Me!

Two Swans

Cars Are The New Birds

No Bird Shadows On The Analemma

Quasi Una Flying Car Fantasia

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Two Swans

I enjoyed the non-fiction book “Black Swan.”

When I heard they—they being Hollywood—
were making a movie with the title
“Black Swan” I wondered what kind of story
a mainstream studio could derive from
what was basically an essay on the
epistemology of randomness.

I found out, of course, the movie “Black Swan”
began its Hollywood life as a script
called “The Understudy” and wasn’t drawn
at all from the non-fiction book “Black Swan.”

In the book, Winona Ryder never
asks anybody, “Did you suck his cock?”

As non-fiction books go, the book “Black Swan”
was a popular and talked about book.

In the movie, the actress confronted
by the question from Winona Ryder,
“Did you suck his cock?” was so popular
she won the year’s Academy Award.

I read the book “Black Swan” and I enjoyed
its speculation about randomness
and rare events and the impact they make.

I never went to see the film “Black Swan”
even though I like Winona Ryder.

Somebody needs to combine these two things
and do a film with Winona Ryder
playing a thoughtful mathematician
who for some reason confronts another
thoughtful mathematician and asks her,
“Did you suck his cock?”   I’d go see that film.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Flying Saucers And Beethoven

Their view is based on the unexpected revelation that microscopic particles become statically charged and levitated above the lunar surface, particularly at times near local sunrise and sunset. (No one knows why this happens, but it does.)

Once lofted, these ultrafine particles can be moved around by electric fields created within the localized magnetic bubbles, lateral shuffling that removes dust in some places and deposits it in others. The dusty topcoat would have to be at least a foot thick, based on calculations just published in Icarus. But they can't be thicker than about 30 feet (10 m), notes Garrick-Bethell, because the swirls' bright lanes show no vertical relief in low-Sun-angle images.

The design for the saucers was based mostly on what people expected. My research had covered all the concepts, some of which looked too earthly, for example portholes, which didn’t seem right. My solution was to make the exteriors of the saucers as smooth as possible, although I did include three semi-circular bumps beneath the lip of the saucers. Aside from their ‘authenticity,’ being based on photos, they also broke up the smooth design of the spacecraft and served as anchors for the overhead wires that suspended the miniatures in front of the rear-projected live-action plates. Prior to magnetic tape, most recordings were made on wire, so when tape came in, I found myself with loads of this old recording wire, which I utilized for aerial shots. Whenever I look at the film I wonder if the saucer is being supported by an aria from La Bohème or perhaps something from Beethoven!

On the Moon dust can rise like a low mist
lifted by electrostatic charges
interacting with magnetic field lines.

The dust will scatter sunlight when the Sun
is rising or setting, a dawn or dusk
made from rock dust rather than atmosphere.

Maybe the dust dances when the Sun shines
and we talk about electric charges
because that’s what our dance has come to here.

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Sense Of Place

Hot Red Earth, Cold Blue Jazz

What Is Love? 7—“Beyond Apollo”

Quasi Una Petroleum Fantasia